Tuesday, 26 February 2008

D Is For Dragon

I have posted this picture before in the quest for dragons, but this photo gets a second airing, as it is one of my all time favourites.

It's hard to say why, exactly. Possibly because it was literally a "parting shot". I had taken several photos of this dragon and was heading home, when I looked back and saw the sky had changed. I just had to take one more photo!

And possibly because it reminds me of a Terry Pratchett novel. 'Guards, Guards', I think it is. Where the dragon lurked on towers and wasn't noticed unless you looked up or until it moved.

Although I cannot say I am an avid collector of dragons, a few have crept into my life anyway.

This crazy little creature came into my life more than three decades ago. I was in a gift store and a chappie came in, trying to get the store owner interested in selling the clay animals he had made. The shop owner didn't seem interested, but I asked to see them as the chappie was walking out. I couldn't resist this little one, sooo cute, licking his toe. The store owner was wrong to pass them up!

The dragonlet doesn't have a name. He was just clay colour when I got him. He's had various coats of paint since, as the mood takes me. The current metallics suit him. But I swear it wasn't me who painted his feet green and his tongue purple! JJ? COME HERE!

Most of the dragons that have come my way since have been oriental style.This one is a plate my sister made and decorated for me. She has been a very talented potter, making whole dinner sets, but she hasn't done any for a while.

And this one from Hong Kong definitely looks as if he's laughing at us all. When you're a dragon, anything you deem to be funny IS funny.

Another oriental. I don't seek out books about dragons (eg, Anne McCaffrey), but I'm quite happy if they show up in the stories. I wrote a story about a dragon as a bedtime story for JJ when he was young.

And yes, I must confess to being a bit "dragonish" myself at times, although not so much these days - mellowing with age, maybe. Just let sleeping dragons lie ...

Friday, 15 February 2008

C Is For Cutie-Pie Cynthia Cloche, Part 2

The next challenge was the welts.

I couldn't get a colour I wanted in the Cashmino, so rather than wait for a special order to come in (what, me, impatient? Never!), I used a 4-ply held doubled. I purled a few rows and then knit-joined them, just like the hem. Well, actually, I didn't really purl those rows. I did a wrap-and-turn and knitted those rows, with the inside facing the outside, so the purls would later be on the public side. Then another wrap-and-turn to go back the original way for the knit rows in between the welts, and after them as well.The welts didn't shape themselves quite how I wanted - they droop down a bit. Maybe I should have used fewer rows, or put a bit of foam stuffing in them. Oh well, they are what they are.

I started doing a spiral pattern decrease for the crown, but ripped that out as being too busy and fussy, and settled for a six-pointed star. I did this by doing a double decrease at the same spot every second row.I then knitted a rosette from the cream yarn, and stitched it on a brooch pin. It can be positioned anywhere, to hold a turned-up brim, or popped on the welt bands.

I needed to block the hat to make those double decreases lie a bit flatter. This was A Really Bad Mistake. The part of the hat that I wetted went as limp as a soggy noodle!
It also grew a bit. Very disappointing. The brim is still okay - possibly because I didn't wet it, and possibly because it is double-thickness.

I've since read on Ravelry that other people have not been happy with this yarn's performance. It would be great if you wanted something soft and drapey. Not so good for a "tailored hat". Sigh. It's still okay to wear.

C Is For Cutie-Pie Cynthia Cloche, Part 1

Here is a hat I designed last year. I started it late July and finished it late August.

I had been knitting for about two months, when I went looking for a cloche-style hat to knit. I couldn't find one I liked.

Most of the ones I came across on the 'Net were felted, and that wasn't the look I wanted. This was way before I joined Ravelry.

I wanted a very tailored look for this hat, with no colour variegation or fluffines. So, for the yarn, I chose Heirloom 8 ply cashmino in a lovely rusty colour, with a contrast band in a beigey-cream.As usual, I started by knitting a swatch for gauge. This hat was knit from the bottom up in the round. Once I had my gauge, I knew how many stitches to cast on. It was a number divisible by six - 120, 132 - can't remember.

It has a hem. Now, I've found out since then that the turned-behind part of a hem is usually knit with smaller needles or something to make it less bulky. But I wanted the bulk to help make the brim a bit firmer and stand away from the head a bit more.

I increased by 6 stitches every three or four rows. I think I did about 12 rows - my notes are sketchy at best.

Then the turn. I knew about doing a row of purl in stocking stitch to form a turn. I looked at picot turns but they were a bit fussy. Then I experimented with a stitch pattern which was the right side row of the famous "My So Called Scarf" by Stacey. I knitted an ordinary purl row, then the scarf row, then an ordinary knit row after that.
back hem unturned and first few rows of pie-crust edge

At first, I thought it wasn't going to work. That row and the next couple seemed very loose and open.
hem turned back and first few rows of pie-crust edge

Then suddenly it seemed to pull itself together, and formed this delightful edge, which reminds me of a pie crust. Hence the "Cutie-Pie" part of the design name.I knit some more rows till the length and number of decreases matched the first part of the hem, then knit-joined the two. (like a three-needle bind-off without actually binding off.)

More in Part 2

Thursday, 14 February 2008

C Is For Cameras

Yes, that's plural!

Cameras are important to me. I have been taking photos since I was a kid, and that’s too many years ago!

My dad always had good cameras: I remember a Rolleiflex; but we didn’t, and we weren’t allowed to touch his. I started off with a Brownie. It wasn’t mine, it was a family camera.

The first camera which I bought for myself in 1974 was a 35mm SLR Soligor. Soligor is better known as a lens maker, but they had a brief foray into making cameras. I still have that camera. It works without batteries – can you imagine that!
It actually does have a battery-powered exposure meter, but that battery went flat decades ago and I didn’t replace it. By then, I pretty well knew what settings to use under what conditions. And I usually got it right – no checking the image on the back of the camera in those days.

Here is a rogues’ gallery of cameras lurking around my place. The old ones were picked up in a job lot at auction, when no-one was bidding on them. They just had to go to a good home – mine! Besides which, I had in mind to use them as part of a shop window display at work. I never did.

The big old wooden one at the top is a Thornton Pickard, English, circa 1905. It comes with a couple of extra lenses. I don’t know how to use it.

The bellows camera above is an Eastman-Kodak, circa 1917-23. I closed it up after taking this photo and now I can’t get it open again. Sigh.

From left to right in the photo above:

The one on the left is another English camera, a pop-top Ensign. The best dating I can find for it is circa WW2.

Next is a baby Brownie, age unknown.

Then the Soligor, mentioned above. On the right is an Olympus 35mm zoom camera.
I got this about 2001-2002, but I'm not sure how old it was before I got it. it was my first "automatic" camera. Motorised film winding - sheer luxury!

In this photo, from left to right, a disposable underwater camera, film half used - there's probably dolphins and stingrays cavorting unseen on there. One day I'll finish off that roll of film.

Next is my Nikon F55, a 35mm SLR. I got this some time after the Olympus film camera. This one came with a couple of lenses, and I just love the 300mm zoom!
Those lenses were the main reason I went for the Nikon D70 digital SLR, which I bought in 2004. I was a late starter in the digital camera game. It's the D70 which took these photos, so it doesn't appear.

Then there's the JVC video camera. Although it's quite compact, it's definitely "old school" with a tape inside, not a hard drive. I haven't done much with it, as some parts of it don't seem to work well. Or it could be the operator, getting too old to learn all this new-fangled technology.

Last but not least, my baby digital Olympus with 10x optical zoom (love that zoom!).
This was a necessity when it became obvious that lugging around the big SLR digital was not always easy, or possible.

I use the D70 and the Olympus mostly, but I have been known to grab whichever camera is closest, including Mr M's Canon (formerly a Sony, till it got dropped once too often) and JJ's Canon. They use my cameras too, if it suits them. Especially with the big lens on, for getting up close and personal.

I've never been too techie about cameras and settings, all that f-stop stuff. I'm more about getting the look I want. I do remember enough to know what 'depth-of-field' is, and I like to play with that.

If I didn't already have a suite of lenses for the Nikon, and was buying a digital SLR from scratch, I'd probably get a Canon.

The urge to take photos comes and goes - it got a huge boost when I bought my digital SLR. I love photographing waves at the beach.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

B Is For Bag

This is NOT the bag for the Australian Knitters group’s Bag Swap (on Ravelry).

But as I hadn’t knitted a bag before, I thought I should at least try one before choosing a pattern for the swap. Neither the colours nor the style are what I think my swapee would like (but I could be wrong)

I started this on Boxing Day and finished on 3rd Jan.

This IS my first ever bit of (deliberate) felting.

The yarn is Cleckheaton Vintage Hues.

The base was knitted in the round on circular needles; I used two circs when the centre diameter was small. An increase of 8 stitches every second row makes a flat circular base.

I made a welt of three rows of reverse stocking stitch, for the turn for the side.

I then knitted the side, and the second-last row has eyelets. I threaded a non-felting nylon cord through the eyelets before felting, to preserve the holes.
The unfelted diameter was 27 cm (10.5 inches) before felting, and 22 cm (8.5 inches) after felting. The height was 18 cm (7 inches) and shrank to 11.5 cm (4.25 inches).

I gave the bag a very light rinse before felting, checking for colour run. It didn’t seem too bad – a slight red tinge in the water. I have a front-loader washing machine, so it really was a case of "chuck it in and hope for the best”. I was pleased with how it felted.

I popped it on the open-mouth end of a bucket to dry it.

While it was drying, I knit the top part longways like a scarf.

I was going to pick up stitches and knit upwards, but decided against that. The felted part was a bit heavy and bulky, especially for the hot weather we've been having.

It is kind of like a sampler; I was experimenting with different stitch patterns and tried to make the panel lengths match the colour changes. I only had to undo one panel to get the colour right, and one other because I didn’t like how the stitches looked.

I joined the "scarf" with a three needle bind-off, seam to the back. Then I sewed the top to the felted side. The finished height of the bag is 25.5 cm (10 inches)

I didn’t felt the top part. I wanted it to stay soft and flexible for ease of opening. Both edges had a row (column) of eyelets. One row was to make it easier to sew the top to the bottom, the other became the casing for the drawstring cords.

Each drawstring cord has two wooden beads – different colours on each cord. These make it easy to close, and easier to open. Instead of having to push or pull apart the top to open it, a gentle pull on the beads will loosen the top enough for an easy opening. A pull on the opposite beads will close it again.

One thing I didn’t take into account was the height or width needed for stowing straight needles. You see, I usually use circs, even when doing straight knitting. Doh. Currently a pair of straights is poking out the top – dangerous! The bag is big enough for one project, because I usually knit smaller items, or part of a jumper project.

The design of the bag is my own, although I’m sure you knitters out there will see similarities with other bags out there. I thought it looked a bit like a circus tent, but Mr M called it a yurt as soon as he saw it, so Yurt Bag it is!