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Misadventures of a Nomadic Knitter

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June 25th, 2008


12:22 pm - Somalia rabbit keeping
Oh dear. The team in Somalia are so bored that they have recently taken to the idea of having small livestock in their compound. The recent chatter between me and the French logistician on base:

Logistics Officer: I have the great pleasure to announce that the building of a small livestock shelter started today in our guest house compound (no picture attached, you will see it by yourself huh?).

Me: I am HIGHLY excited about the thought of having livestock!!! But we are not allowed to have poultry (chickens, ducks, geese, etc) on bases because of the risk of bird flu. Even if there is NO RISK in Africa!!! Christelle said that she was made to kill 14 chickens in Nepal! So I think we will need to plan on rabbits instead. What do you think? There are special types of rabbits called Angora rabbits that have very long fur and I can spin and knit that!!!

Logistics Officer: I already booked a couple of rabbits with the UN guys, but will the rabbits appreciate a shelter originally dedicated to poultry? Knitting ... You will check that by yourself huh, I am not sure I have the required skills to assess UN rabbits wool quality.

Hahahahahahahahaha... *snort*. I head there on Monday.
Current Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Current Mood: bouncytee hee!

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June 15th, 2008


06:14 pm - Basket weaving in Somalia
Whilst in Somalia, I did try basket weaving, under the guidance of this lovely woman who is a health educator in a therapeutic feeding centre. This is where people bring their severe acute malnourished children for treatment. Whilst the kids are getting treatment, mothers keep themselves occupied with weaving.

I think I'm going to buy a whole lot of yarn for them from Nairobi, and send it to Somalia. So that they can continue with their beautiful brightly-coloured baskets.

Current Location: Nairobi, Kenya

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June 2nd, 2008


10:28 pm - Nomad knitting
So I've been doing a bit of knitting. Knitting in Madrid, knitting in Paris, knitting in Addis Adaba, knitting in Nairobi. And yes, I did knit on the lawn in front of the Louvre. And in the Paris metro. And on various airplanes. Yet, there have only been two finished objects: a hat and a pair of socks.

This hat (named Guinan by its originator) is a great one. Doubles as either beret (as shown) or slouchy. I finished it in Paris, and posted it to my friend Dee in Sydney. And here she is modelling it. So pretty!

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April 30th, 2008


09:52 pm - Packing and spinging
So I'm leaving for a year in Africa on Friday. Packing has been tough. There have been far too many decisions to make about which yarn I take along, and which I leave behind. To worsen matters, my mother threatens to use whatever yarn I leave behind. Also, do I bring my spinning wheel? It weighs a hefty 6kg, and I only have a 20kg allowance for accompanied luggage, though thankfully another 15kg of unaccompanied luggage!

After almost two weeks of anguish, decisions have been made. The spinning wheel is coming with me. As are many skeins of yarn and braids of roving. And I don't care how much it costs! *foot stamp*.

--

On other matters, I have been on a spinge (spinning binge). This is what I have spun since I returned from Aceh:


Handspun Merino 'Java Jive and Smudge': This is a two-ply yarn spun into aran weight. One strand is 'Java Jive' merino roving purchased from FreckleFaceFibers. The other is 'Smudge' (dark brown) merino from Treetop Colours.

And there is more! Much more!Collapse )


Believe it or not, I have spun two more skeins, but they are still drying. Photos will come later.

(Edited version x-posted to weekend_whirls)
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
Current Mood: bouncybouncy

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April 6th, 2008


04:38 pm - Only one FO, but lots of progress
Back in Australia now, and I will have to confess only finish one project during my trip. And that is a green cable beanie using some reclaimed lace weight yarn which I plied into a fingering weight yarn:


The other two projects are making progress though. The front of the Jo Sharp rib and cable is almost done!

Since I have come back, I have been going on a spinge. Yep, a spinge. That's what my freshly-married husband calls a spinning binge. Result of the spinge? Five skeins of yarn...
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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March 27th, 2008


07:57 am - Obsession disclosure
Whilst here in Banda Aceh, I have recently had a phone interview for a job:

Interviewer: Juba [capital of South Sudan] can be a stressful place. So what do you do to relieve stress?

Me: Well, I knit and spin.

Interviewer: *pause*. Er, when you say spin do you mean in a gym on an exercise bike?

Me: No, I mean I take fluffy bits of wool and turn it into yarn which I then knit.

Interviewer: *long pause*.

Me: Not just that, but I also teach others how to knit. Well... except when I was in Afghanistan where Hazara women taught me how to spin.

Interviewer: *pause*... Oh, I see.

*sigh*. Oh dear. That will learn me. I really shouldn't disclose my obsessions in interviews.
Current Location: Banda Aceh
Current Mood: amusedheh

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March 4th, 2008


06:09 pm - Nomadic projects
My mother is a quilter. But I'm a knitter. Why? Because quilting is a space hog (as about_right put it). Also it's not portable. You got your sewing machine. Your ironing board. And quilts are massive. Knitting fits into your bag.

But even within knitting, there are projects that are more portable than others. Colourwork is bad for travel. Balls of wool everywhere! Getting tangled and knotted up! Jumpers (pullovers) and cardigans are too bulky to carry around. Lace gets snagged. Large gauge projects get completed too quickly.

So yeah, it's small projects with finer gauge. My three projects of choice for my 25-day trip to Indonesia:

1. A cable beanie using the reclaimed laceweight to fingering for me

2. Circle socks with Claudia Hand Painted Yarn for a friend

3. Jo Sharp's Cable & Rib Vest from Knit Issue 3 in See Jayne Knit's Chocolate Berry Truffle soft wool sportweight for me

Alas, all of them are new projects. But don't worry, they'll get completed. Here's a photo of the lovely planned vest. I will be shortening the length by 10 cm (30 cm until armhole shaping) since I'm only of hobbit height.


Current Location: Canberra, Australia
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February 28th, 2008


08:14 pm - Stashy goodness
Okay, almost all my yarn stash is now on Ravelry. Mostly, it's beautifully textured yarn in pretty colours. But then, there is one certain article that I call The Yarn of Shame - Frogged Synthetic Evil. *head hang*.

Then there is also a yarn that used to be a laceweight yarn. But as I knitted a lace stole with it, the yarn grew furrier and furrier. And I realised that this bastard was going to felt the moment it hit water. I was never going to use it as a laceweight yarn. So I frogged it and Navajo-plied it into a fingering weight yarn. The twist is a bit too tight, but it'll have to do. The result:


And my most treasured item in my stash? A roving from Freckle Face Fibers:


So pretty! Ah, it gives me so much joy just to look at it!
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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February 26th, 2008


02:10 pm - An overdue vest
Okay. I finished this over a month ago, but was too damned slack take a photo of it. But here it is at last! Jo Sharp's v-neck vest from Knit Issue 1 with superwash sportweight from StringTheoryYarn:



It's the third time I've done this pattern, but the first time I have kept the vest for myself. More photos and details on Ravelry.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
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February 21st, 2008


04:12 pm - Ravelry and a beanie FO
Oh dear. Within 24 hours of getting my Ravelry account, and I have already gone apeshit. *sigh*. I need a job. Something to take me away from yarn pr0n and knitting needles! Anything!

On other matters, this is the beanie that I knit for the freshly-married husband:


My brief was that I was to make a beanie that looked rustic and earthy. You know, something that would be worn by a self-respecting tofu-munching hippy. Nothing twee or pretty.

So I chose three fibres in my stash: a rust coloured merino, dark brown merino and undyed brown alpaca. I first hand-carded it to blend the fibres, then spun the yarn from big fluffy rolags in the 'woollen' (vs 'worsted') style. It took forever, and is quite a different experience from spinning from commercial sliver. It's worth it, though, and the yarn was distinctively different. Much more loft and a 'spongier' texture.

(edited version x-posted in to weekend_whirls)
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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February 20th, 2008


02:24 pm - That sinking feeling
You know that sinking feeling that you get when you are like... a third of the way through the second sock... and you know you aren't going to make it?


I was too slack to frog the bastard. So instead, I used some leftover yarn. I figured that the lad it is for will be loving taking off his shoe to show off the toe. Heh.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
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February 12th, 2008


10:41 am - Stitchin' and bitchin'
How strange is it to be amidst ten knitting women in a cafe? Starbucks, at that. I have only known two knitters in my life -- my mother and a Canadian aid worker friend that I met in Indonesia. Thusly, knitting has mostly been a solitary experience. In contrast, the communal clicking of needles is quite extraordinary!

I would guess that the youngest knitter was in her early twenties, and the oldest in her sixties. And the rest were evenly spaced in between. Most appeared to be intermediate knitters, and some more experienced knitters. But they didn't seem to be so fixated with establishing any knitcred (aka knitter's street cred), but appeared to be happy in the company of others who shared their passion. I like 'em.

On other matters, the long-awaited KnitPicks interchangeable needles have arrived. Now, I can't stop knitting...
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
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February 7th, 2008


11:58 am - More yarn
When I bought my Ashford Joy spinning wheel, I picked up a bag of corriedale with alpaca roving. I spun it over a year ago, but hesitated to set the twist in a uber humid climate where all yarn seemed to go mouldy. And now here it is, set in the dry Canberra climes:


It now awaits its destiny -- a cable sweater for Tofu.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
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February 5th, 2008


03:41 pm - 'oles in me mitts!
A friend of mine is a jeweller, and made me my wedding ring. We wanted to pay her for it, and she sweetly asked if she could have the payment in knitted goods! These are one of the items that I made in payment:


These are the Dashing fingerless mitts in Traveller Mali yarn.


But alas, I can't seem to get rid of the hole in the thumb when I pick up stitches! I tried a few times to rectify the situation, but regardless, the hole remained! Any ideas?
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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February 4th, 2008


02:04 pm - Twisted Sister wisdom
The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook tells us, "An ugly roving can make a beautiful yarn!". But I was skeptical. Thusly, when this soysilk roving arrived by mail order, I was ready to throw it out. Unlike the rich and dark colours in the website photo, these were garish colours, including cotton candy pink! Not my style, I thought.


It was my mother who convinced me to spin it. "If it turns out really bad, you can always just make some bed socks with it," she said. So I spun it in a really half-hearted manner. Then lo and behold, after plying and setting, it turned out to be quite a sweet yarn:


And the contrast. Note how the colours of the yarn are much more muted and pastel than the colours in the roving. This experience has certainly been instructive for me in learning how to select roving.


(x-posted to weekend_whirls)
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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February 1st, 2008


08:11 pm - What got done in January 2008
Alas, January was a slow month for knitting and spinning. I blame it on apartment hunting, moving and a general malaise. Perhaps February shall see more completed. Perhaps.

What got completed in January:

- Jo Sharp woman's vest in sportweight yarn from stringtheoryyarn
- A pair of Knitty's Dashing fingerless mitts in Traveller Mali yarn from The Sanguine Gryphon
- Spun one skein of soysilk yarn in DK weight

What's in the knitting and spinning baskets (carryover projects):

- Laceweight stole in a Japanese pattern (still a third of the way through)
- Socks in 'Indian Corn' colourway (still on the bloody second sock and dying of boredom)
- Jo Sharp man's vest in doubleknit yarn (almost completed the front)
- A rib scarf with remnant doubleknit yarn (almost there...). This was a fossilised project that I discovered in my storage unit
- Spinning more soysilk yarn in doubleknit weight
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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January 31st, 2008


06:28 pm - Interchangeable needle lust
So I've been wanting a set of interchangeable circular needles for a while. Then alas, I foolishly bought the Denise Interchangeable Knitting Needles (pictured below) without consulting the knittersreview.com's review. A grave mistake.


When they arrived, I realised that the grey needles weren't metal, like I thought, but plastic. The cables were stiff and icky. Fortunately, my mother liked the look of them, and quickly commandeered them.


So now I'm looking for another set. And my eye is on the KnitPicks set. They come in hollow metal nickel-plated (kinda like Addi Turbo circulars) or laminated rainbow-coloured birch. Despite, the noisiness of the hollow metal, I think I prefer it. The only reservation I have about it, is the sharpness of the point. It's sharp!

Rambling about dramas getting Knitpicks Options in Australia...Collapse )

So anyhow, after much browsing, I'm settling on PrestigeYarns.com who sell an 'entry kit' for $43 and then all parts separately. Total price of kit I want? AUD78.85. Sweet. Only problem is they won't reply to my email order. *tsk*.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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January 30th, 2008


02:09 pm - Life before stitch markers
Prior to last year, I hadn't used stich markers. I hadn't seen the point of them. I can follow a pattern without them, or figure out where the start of the round is. They only get in the way, I thought. And besides, the only ones available in Australia are these yucky plastic ring things.

And then, I found these by SeeJayneKnit...


Awww, aren't they pretty? Plus, Jayne also gives a free matching* stitch marker with each skein of yarn she sells.

So, lo and behold, before I knew it, I was finding any excuse to use stitch markers... not just marking the start of a round. But also counting stitches when casting on. Or marking repeats. Now, I have bought stitch markers of three different sizes (for sock, normal and bulky knitting, of course). *sigh*. Crazy things we spend our money on.

* Yep, Jayne actually diligently finds a beautiful bead that matches the colour of the yarn you buy. They are so pretty that sometimes, it makes me want to knit the stitch marker into the knitting.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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January 29th, 2008


07:06 pm - Gryphon's effort
After a wait of almost two months, my yarn and roving stash has finally arrived from my former home in Indonesia. Why did it take so long? I don't know... ask the logisticians in the office. Anyhow, most importantly, I am mortified by the sheer volume of my stash. My yarn would fill one archive box, and my roving would fill more than one...

Now given the ludicrous size of my stash, it is somewhat irresponsible of me to have purchased yet more yarn. But alas, I have. I have been a bad Nutter. But it is in a good cause. You see, a knitting shop has burnt down, and it was uninsured. The Sanguine Gryphon, being an angel cunningly disguised as a fibre artist, is giving half of her sales income this month to the knitting shop owners. As of today, Gryphon's collected USD703.80.

Now, to be honest, it was just a good excuse to enjoy some of Gryphon's yarn. She always chooses good quality yarn to dye, and has a good eye for colour. I've knitted with her Dance (silk noil fingering), Little Traveller (superwash wool fingering) and Traveller (superwash wool DK), and would highly recommend all of them. These are the two little Traveller gems I got:

Warning: yarn pr0n withinCollapse )

Quick! Go get some!
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
Current Mood: hyperyarn happy
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January 23rd, 2008


11:19 am - Researching the local knitscene
At first, I thought we would be moving to sub-tropical Brisbane. But now we have settled in highland temperate Canberra, Australia's bush capital. And an advantage of being stationed in the middle of sheep country and in chilly climes is that the local inhabitants knit!

After some research, I have decided to give the local Canberra Stich n Bitch a go. They meet five times a month! Denise Sutherland, the contact person, seems to be a total knitting nutter. To the point that she even paints pictures of her knitting! I kid you not:


I like 'em. I reckon when I win Lotto, I shall have to buy a couple of her paintings to put into The Knitters' Nook (which too, will be created when I have won Lotto).

And then, to cater to my newfound spinning and weaving proclivities, I'm considering joining the Canberra Spinners and Weavers' Guild. My ma had visited the spinners and weavers, and summed up that they were a whole lot of 'old biddies'. She's not so sure if a young (ahem, at 34 years old) lass would fit in. But I reckon we will transcend the generational gap. After all, I've always been an old lady for a cup o' tea.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
Current Mood: amusedamused
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January 13th, 2008


08:39 am - Setting the twist
In Nias, I did a lot of spinning. But it was so humid, I hesitated to set the twist. You see, setting the twist involves putting skeins of yarn in mildly soapy hot water and waiting till the water goes cold. Then washing it out, thwacking it, then drying it.

I figured if I tried to do all that in Nias, the yarn would go mouldy before they could dry. Thusly, I had skeins of yarn waiting for their return to Australia. And what a pleasure it was to set the yarns!


Autumn leaves colourway merino being plied.


Burgundy colourway merino after it's been plied, waiting to be skeined and set.


Seagreens colourway merino after it's been set, waiting to be posted to congogirl. And oh, the green bits are a much brighter (ie., less dull) colour than seen here.

Current Location: Canberra, Australia
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
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January 1st, 2008


09:29 am - The December 2007 report
What got completed in December:

- Cable beanie using sportweight handspun
- Handwoven scarf using laceweight 'autumn leaves' merino handspun
- Tudora ruff using commercially-spun aran yarn
- Tudora ruff using sportweight handspun
- 'Dashing' fingerless gloves using sportweight handspun
- Handwoven Richmond Tigers scarf in yellow and black
- Spun and plied 100g merino roving in 'Sea Greens' colourway by Fibreworks into fingering weight yarn

What's in the knitting basket (carryover projects):

- Jo Sharp woman's vest in sportweight yarn (only waiting for more yarn to finish neckband)
- Laceweight stole in a Japanese pattern (approximately a third of the way through)
- Socks in 'Indian Corn' colourway (onto second sock now)
- Jo Sharp man's vest in doubleknit yarn (only just starting!)
- Spinning some uber fugly soysilk yarn in doubleknit weight

Alas, I'm still waiting for the mega stash to return from Indonesia. The last I checked, it is still in Medan. In the meantime, I shall have to play with my mini stash that travelled with me. *whinge*.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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December 22nd, 2007


12:51 pm - Medieval Trekky top
Oh yeah, how much do I like this top from a back issue of Interweave Knits?



I hate to say this, but it's kind of like a cross between some Star Trek alien clothing and something funky one buys on Brunswick St (Melbourne). Though the magazine claims it has 'a hint of medieval intrigue'. Hmmm. And I hope I don't have to wear it with my head tilted like that all the time. Not ergonomic and that.

Anyhow, I have sent for a copy, and shall be knitting it in Fina sportweight alpaca yarn that I got from Elann.com. I bought a truckload of the stuff in natural, and shall be attempting to attack it with some Ashford acid dyes.

--

On other matters, I have finished my first Tudora ruff. Will shortly be balling up yarn for the next one in handspun. Shall knit it on the train back to Sydney tonight.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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12:07 am - Ruff!
In amongst getting married and stuff, I had forgotten to check Knitty.com for a while. Then lo and behold, the winter edition is out!



Some hours later, I'm three quarters of my way through a pattern. Tis called the Tudora ruff. It's a 'ruff', apparently. Though larimeloom on Etsy.com calls her weave and crochet version of the same a 'cowl scarflette'. I particularly like this one. What a bewdy!



Anyhow, one shall be ready as a Christmas present shortly. Then another one planned with some handspun.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia

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December 19th, 2007


12:47 pm - Looming
I'm now back in Australia. But alas, I have been a wayward knitter, and have succumbed to the siren calls of the Ashford Knitters Loom. Perhaps I am now The Knitting and Weaving Nutter.



The loom has now made two scarves. New projects await it. Two early reflections on weaving:

1. It's much faster than knitting.

2. It uses much less yarn than knitting.

Hmmm. This could explain why weaving and the modern loom is regarded as one of the great advances that led to the industrial revolution. But don't fret, I am not one for efficiency. Knitting shall always be the great love, methinks.
Current Location: Canberra, Australia
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November 24th, 2007


08:18 am - Not a hobby, luv
Yesterday, whilst I was knitting a beanie at a party, a woman leaned over and asked me if knitting is my hobby. I paused. A hobby? No... I think it's more than that. It's a way of life. Heh.

Oh yeah, I bought the Indian Corn yarn. Toaf made me do it.
Current Location: Nias, Indonesia
Current Mood: chipperchipper
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November 23rd, 2007


07:44 am - Jo Sharp vest
Jo Sharp is an Australian handknit designer from my home town of Perth. And there are some Jo Sharp patterns that I absolutely love.


This classic v-neck vest pattern is from Jo Sharp's Knit Volume 1. I have made two vests of these already -- one for my mother in burnt orange, and the other for my step-sister in green tea. The fit is great, and they look fantastic with a shirt underneath.

I have found that pretty much any sportweight yarn substitutes well in this pattern. But my favourite would have to be a sportweight wool called Devon from Elann. Currently, not so many colours are available from Elann, but SeeJayneKnitYarns has a stash of undyed Devon and custom dyes it on request. It only takes two skeins (USD42 total). And I've got enough of her Green Tea and ChocolateBerry Truffle colourways to make two more vests. Heh.
Current Location: Nias, Indonesia

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November 22nd, 2007


10:59 am - A late pair of socks
Last Christmas, I promised a friend a pair of socks. I gave him a ball of yarn, and promised to make them for him.

And yep, it's taken me 11 months to finish making it. I have the attention span of a gnat and was distracted by numerous other projects. But here is the end result modelled by Toaf:


And a close-up:


Current Location: Nias, Indonesia

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November 20th, 2007


09:13 am - A semi-solid obsession
I am developing an unhealthy obsession with 'semi-solid' yarns. Not quite solid colours, but not multicoloured either. You see, multicoloured yarns are too busy and too distracting for cables, lace or other patterned stitchwork. Yet, solid colours are often so... so... boring and flat!

So here's the photo of the first semi-solid yarn I bought earlier this year from The Sanguine Gryphon.



And then the second:

And then my favourite sportweight yarn in colourway called Green Tea by SeeJayneKnitYarns.


And recently, I have discovered the pure genius of StringTheoryYarn, who seems to have mastered the art of dyeing semi-solid yarn. But alas, I buy faster than I can knit. So back to knitting it is.
Current Location: Nias, Indonesia

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November 19th, 2007


09:55 am - Sari silk mould and soil noil beanie
It was a productive weekend. Though nothing compared to Heather's efforts!!!

I finished a pair of socks from the Favorite Socks book, as well as a simple shawl made of recycled sari silk. Socks are good (photos tomorrow), but the recycled sari silk shawl is spectacularly fugly. I'm not sure what happened, but it looked like the sari silk went mouldy in the Nias tropical humidity. I'm going to wash it, but don't am tempted to disown it...

The picture below is of a lace silk noil beanie I made for another nomadic knitter who is currently in Jamaica. Silk noil (also called raw silk or bourette silk) is vegetarian as they wait for the silkworm butterfly (or moth?) to emerge before using the silk. This is contrary to normal silk where they kill the worm. The result is a more textured and less shiny yarn. This yarn was hand-dyed by The Sanguine Gryphon.


Current Location: Nias, Indonesia
Current Mood: chipperchipper

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