Sunday, 26 December 2010

Merry Xmas

Merry Xmas!

I was quite upset about the fact that my Secret Santa swap parcel hasn't arrived yet -- I think my partner probably still didn't have chance to get it sent before the holiday. I don't know what happened. But I can understand there must be something important or serious coming up which makes her impossible to make a trip to PO. I just hope everything's fine and she's doing alright.

Anyway DH got two days off before the Christmas Day so we did spend some quality time together.

We had a very lovely "post-winter solstice celebration dinner" in Gaucho on Wednesday night. They certainly have the best beef steak in London, almost as good as those we had in Buenos Aires two years ago.

The best Bife de Lomo in London

On the following day, we took a lunch cruise from Embankment. I have been living in London for 1.5 year now but it's my first time to cruise over the Thames -- I am trying to live like a local and such cruising sounds a bit too touristy. But touristy or not, indeed it's a wonderful experience to appreciate the scenery on the riverbanks while enjoying festive Christmas lunch.

Xmas lunch cruise

Since Embankment is so close to Waterloo, I naturally took a quick detour to I Knit. I didn't buy any yarn though but just got what I need: another pair of 2.75mm circular plus the winter issue of Spin Off magazine. I am planning to knit more socks this year and want to do 2 patterns simultaneously to avoid SSS.


Then we went to John Lewis to shop for Secret Santa gifts which we were going to exchange with some other friends on the Christmas Day. I picked two little boxes of very challenging puzzles.

Secret Santa 1

DH picked a Maze ball which he adored and almost found it difficult to part with.

Secret Santa 2

On the Christmas Eve, we headed out to Westfield pretty early to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I managed to get two pairs of cord pants from Marks & Spencer, plus some skincare products from Boots. Then we found the newly opened Lego Shop where we got some brick box and figurines.

Figurine parade

We then went to Chinatown to have yum cha (Dim Sum lunch) and dessert with another friend. After that I took a little detour to Mitsukoshi bookstore. My new friend Eva is the one to blame. After she brought me to this Japanese bookstore, I am totally hooked and it has now become a regular spot to visit whenever I am in the area. I love Japanese knitting books. They have very stylish photos and have everything charted clearly and logically. But the books are quite expensive. This booklet (size similar to Rowan booklets) costs about £15, a bit over my budget. Guess I can have a pass... at least till my next visit.

Why Jap books are so irresistible?

On the Christmas Day, we went to a friend's place for a Christmas dinner. Interestingly, when he told us that party would start at 2pm, I thought we were going to play games or scrabbles or whatever till 7pm when the dinner really started. We were quite shocked to see a table of food ready when we arrived. Oh the British Christmas Dinner actually IS a Christmas Lunch.Friends and relatives treat it as a traditional gathering and start eating around noon till evening or whenever. That's how the lunch also becomes a dinner.

Xmas dinner in uk starts at 2pm

We just finished packing and I am leaving to Egypt in three hours. We will spend 9 days there and come back on 3rd of January. Am bringing my Java programming textbooks (the electronic versions that I can read on Kindle!) with me as I get three homeworks due by 15th of January. But I am also tempted to bring something to knit along on the road. Hum... Maybe a pair of mindless vanilla socks? Or my all time favourite Swallowtail or Ishbel?

Alright. Should try to sleep for two more hours before leaving home. See you all in January.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A lovely week

Just opened the 13th window of my advent calendar. Christmas is less than 2 weeks away!

I had a very lovely week:

(1) I had all the parcels sent out to my in-laws in Hong Kong and Australia. Two scarves and one shawl, if you cared to ask. It's a pain to meet the seasonal deadline. I swear I'll start doing Xmas knitting earlier next year. Maybe June or July.


(2) My Lopi Sweater is done! Have been wearing it for days. Love it. I call it Icelandic Michelin because of its bulky appearance, although it's quite light with only 370 grams in weight. A bit itchy but it's ok as I usually worn a turtle neck base layer underneath. Very warm. Very very warm. Will write a better FO post soon after I have chance to take some better pics.

(3) I went to Bristol last Wednesday to visit Cynthia (CrochetCynth). It's the first time we met in person after many months of messaging and talking on phone. Interestingly we did go to the same univ and we shared some common friends, but we didn't know each other till we met on Ravelry. We went to yum cha, which literally means "drink tea" in Cantonese.

(4)  We visited a farmers' market and bought some cheese and fresh pesto. Then Cynth brought me to Get Knitted, a lovely LYS located in the outskirt of Bristol. It's a lovely shop, with friendly staff and a VERY wide range of yarn collection from workhorse yarn to handpainted yarn. I am quite proud that I was quite well behaved and came home only with...

(5)  ... a ball of Flying Saucer plus a tiny bottle of sock stop.

(6) My reason for being able to stay frugal is... DH just got my a wonderful Christmas pressie: Blue Moon Rockin' Sock Club 2011. The photo below is a skein of Blue Moon Socks That Rock medium weight in my stash. Isn't it amazing? There will be 6 lovely skeins and 12 matching patterns arriving at my door next year. Awesome!


(7) And the legendary Cookie A's new book is finally here. It's one of the most beautiful knitting books I've ever seen.


(8) Some patterns are obviously too challenging for me, but I am very determined to finish at least 4 pairs from the book next year. Yes yes. I'll write it down in my Kniting Resolution list next week.


(9) At the moment, I am working on Marlene, another design by Cookie A. Have had lots and lots of frogging due to my exceptionally tight gauge -- I usually got about 8.5 spi with Wollmeise Twin and 2.75mm needles, but this time I got 11.5 spi. Lots of problems: Leg being too tight, heel flap being too long, heel fabric being too loose blah blah blah... But glad it's alright now. I have turned the heel and finished all gusset decreases. Guess it only need 3-4 more repeats before decreasing for toes.


(10) Ahem... although I've been quite successful in my yarn diet so far, I am not that good at keeping my fibre stash under control. A kilo of spinning fibre is coming on the way. There will be 64's Merino, Merino/Silk, Baby Alpaca, Shetland of 4 different natural colours and Massam. All are natural-colour ones from World of Wool. Very reasonable prices -- £19.4 for all 1000 grams of fibres. I got lots of plans with them. You'll see later. :)

 (11) Last but not the least, it's a sunset I saw the other day when I was walking back home after grocery shopping. The Winter Solstice this year will be on December 21. Hang in there! We've almost done half of the winter. There will be longer daylight hours afterward.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

SPIN011: Massam

For non-spinning readers, sorry to bore you with another spinning note. I promise it is the last one for a while. Will have more knitting related posts in the next few days -- I am hoping to have a FO so as a FO post by the end of next week. :)

In fact I think I hurt myself last night. After spinning about 600 yards continuously, my right thumb is in pain which extends to my forearm when I press my thumb down against my palm. Lesson learned. Shall never ever try spinning more than 400 yards in a day. I should be taking rest and staying away from my wheel for at least a week or so.

Anyway, let me show you what made me so obsessed last night. My November club fibre from Spunky Eclectic arrived on Thursday. The colourway is called Emerald City, inspired by The Wizard of Oz. Massam is a long wool with a very long staple (over 10 inches! wow. oh yes. I did measure it.). I heard lots of contrasting comments about Massam. Some said it spins like a dream or it just drafts by itself. Others said its long staple length makes it a bear to draft.

I divided the top lengthwise into two strips. Then I torn about 5 grams off to spin on my new Jumbo flyer. I used the slowest ratio which is 3.5:1. Couldn't handle it at all, so I switched my standard flyer back. My fault. I really should have tried the Jumbo flyer out with some scrap or undyed fibre first.

I then spun two bobbins of lace singles at 5.5:1. I have never spun any lace with such a low twist before! Guess it's the fun of long wools? Indeed it's a totally different experience to spin the long wool. As usual I did forward short draw (as I still don't have enough confidence to do long draw or properly prepare fibre for that). Usually my hands were only about 3-6 inches away (I am talking about the maximum distance between two hands, just immediately before my right drafting hand draw back to my left fibre hand). But to spin Massam, my hands were really far apart. It's about 12-15 inches. It really felt a bit strange at first, but other than that, Massam doesn't seem more difficult than other wool of medium length I've spun. True that it's not that soft. But the long staple makes spinning lace weight or low-twists easier. Even at a low ratio of 5.5:1, the single didn't really break as often as other fibre did during spinning. It's fairly relaxing and mindless to spin. And I'll definitely get some more Massam later.

Was tempted to ply them together to get a standard 2-ply. But I was curious to know if such a low-twist single can survive on their own without plying...

That's how I got two skeins of low-twist singles of Massam. They have 487m (533 yards) in total. In terms of yardage, they look like light fingering. But with a wpi of about 23-25, they should knit up as lace weight.

What to do with them? Maybe a Citron?

Friday, 3 December 2010

SPIN009 & SPIN010

I spun two skeins of standard 2-ply few weeks ago but didn't have the heart to wash and finish them till last week.

SPIN009: Wildcraft Superwash English Wool Blend. Colourway The Little Rainbow.

Originally I tried spinning directly without further division. I hope to reserve the distinct colour repeats and get a stripey yarn by Navajo chain plying. But then I noticed the colour repeats were quite short. Maybe 2 inches or less. After pre-drafting and spinning for about 5 grams, I found the colours blending in too much. All whites and  yellows were crowded out by reds. The single I got was predominantly pink, a muddied pink.

I then tried spinning from the fold. No luck. I simply couldn't get the hang of it. I then divided the top lengthwise into many thin strips. I spun a few grams and then chained plied it. The colours were indeed more crispy and distinct. Yet the colour repeats were very short.

After three failed attempts, I decided to return to my "usual practice": standard 2-ply. I intended to spin and plied tighter, hoping to get a sturdy yarn for my very first pair of handspun socks. All the yarn I previously plied tend to underplied, such as this monster, so I am quite happy about this one. Though it's still not very even, the plying looks tighter and relatively more balanced than my previous handspuns. I love the colours too. Pinks, yellows and greens. A very cheerful colour combo.

Unfortunately it only yields about 175m. Not enough for a pair of socks. Hum... maybe combining it with another skein of handspun or commercial yarn for a stripey sock or do contrasting toes and heels?

SPIN010: Scrap Yarn 2. Wow. It's the 10th handspun I made since October!

I almost wanted to name this colourway as Make It Or Break It because I spun it while watching the American TV drama series of the same name.

The fibre were scraps from Fibreholics Sample Bag which I got in summer. Last time I spun all the manly colours into Scrap Yarn 1 which has turned to be a Gherkin Hat. This time I spun all the remainig brights into two bobbins of singles.

Z-spun and s-plied, both at 10:1. 2-ply. 70g. 192m before finishing. 12-14 wpi after washing and drying. Fingering weight, sort of.

Again, there're pinks, greens and yellows. I guess I have told you enough about my colour preferences. :)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

FO: Crocus Echo Flower Shawl


Drumroll please... My Echo Flower Shawl has been blocked and ready to go!

I used 0.85 skein of Wollmeise Twin in colourway Ballerina which I got from a "We're Different grab bag" earlier this year. I was a bit puzzled by the name of the colourway as Ballerina always makes me think of baby pink. To me, the purples make me think of the crocus I saw in spring.

No matter what, it's a very pretty and sophisticated colourway. Look at the subtle gradual colour changes. Isn't it lovely?


At first I thought I got plenty of yardage. After all a skein of Twin has at least 150g and 500 yards, it's a lot compared with other fingering yarn. So I planned to make a larger shawl by doing nine Echo Flower Repeats instead of seven specified by the pattern. To my surprise, this pattern is a real yarn eater -- bet it's the "3 into 9" increases taking up loads of yarn. After checking some project notes written by other ravellers, I realized I might run out of yarn if I did the 8th repeat, especially I was using larger needles (size 7, 4.5mm) than many others. I only did 7 repeats finally. Though the size turns out alright, it turns out I still have 23g leftover after binding off. Should have enough to do the 8th repeat.


It's a shame that I don't have time to take some better photos of it before letting it go. Tomorrow will be the last posting date for Christmas. I have to get it wrapped and packed tonight. Hope my MIL will like it.

Am feeling a bit fed up with shawls. Guess I should go back to my Lopi Sweater...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Three Parcels

Before looking at the parcels, let's talk about weather. (People said Brits love to talk about weather. Though am not a Brit, do in Rome as the Romans do, right?)

We finally have had the first snow of the season here in London. It started at about 2am when I was binding off my Echo Flower Shawl. At first it was just flurry or very light snow. I took this photo at about 6am.


But it hasn't stopped snowing for the whole day. Became heavier too. It's another photo I took when I went out to PO at four. I haven't been in London for too long but I bet it's still a bit abnormal to have such a heavy snow in late November? I remember the first snow last winter was in mid Dec.

It was only a five-minute walk from the post office back to home. But I already got half buried by snow. Quite glad that I did put on enough layers before going out.

Okay. Have talked enough about weather. Time to talk about parcels!

(1) The first parcel is the one arrived this morning. Yay! Christmas comes early! It's a Sliding Jumbo Flyer for Ashford Traveller wheel. I also got 3 extra jumbo bobbins. They're from Sheila of She not only has the best price (among 6 online shops I've checked) but also offers super fast FREE delivery. I placed my order on Monday morning, they're already with me on Tue at 9am. Very very impressed. I think I'll try them out tonight. Wait... or am I supposed to wait till Boxing Day before I can play with my pressie?


(2) The second parcel is... sorry to disappoint you, it's not a knittery one. They are the textbooks I need for my study. Usually I use or Bookdepository for books. But I found them cheaper by two independent sellers sold via Amazon Market Place. The saving was quite significant. They cost £90 on Amazon but I only paid about £68 now.


However I found some light scuffs and bent corners on the front/back covers on both books. They look perfectly fine and brand new otherwise.Maybe that's why they were sold at discount? I don't really mind a few imperfections. I would still have bought them even if I knew it earlier. But I think it'd be a better business practice if the sellers have mentioned it earlier in the descriptions.


(3) The third parcel is the one I sent out this afternoon. It's for Socktopods Secret Santa Sock Swap. So if you're participating in the swap and haven't received your parcel yet, it can be yours! Please don't click into the following spoiler link to ruin the surprise. For those who aren't in the swap, feel free to have a peek... :)


I am quite nervous about the swap. It's my first time to do a Secret Santa Swap, I honestly don't know what to expect or what people are expecting. After seeing the photos of other parcels on Ravelry, I feel mine doesn't have enough non-knitting festive goodies. Have to admit I was a bit upset about it. Hum... Fingers crossed. I hope she'll love what I picked.

By the way, I really love the yarn I gave away. Almost can't part with it. I'll need to restash it as soon as I have chance.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Southbank Christmas Market

While many parts of UK had suffered (enjoyed?) with snow, we haven't had any wintery showers in London yet. But it's quite cold. Day time temperature was at freezing point. Honestly I won't mind staying at home, having a cuppa and then sitting next to a radiator, either to knit or spin, or simply watch some trashy tele.

But we did go out. DH has been working for 90+ hours a week lately. Today was the very first weekend in months that he didn't need to work. We felt obliged to go out to get some fresh air so we headed out to Southbank Christmas Market. We stayed at bed till noon so it's already getting dark when we arrived there at about half three.


The market was right next to The London Eye. There were only about 20-30 shops, all selling some very ordinary things that we can see in any Sunday markets. But I guess that's the best we can get in London unless we travel hundred miles to Bath or Lincoln?


Well. The market wasn't too bad. At least we got some festive food and drinks, which are always the highlights of Christmas markets. DH got currywurst, which was mildly curry-ish.


I got Käsekrainer, a cheese-filling sausage. YUM!


Then we got crêpe with Nutella, marshmallow and syrup. Soooo sweet. The melted marshmallows were simply divine.


Of course there's mulled wine. Am never a big fan of this spicy warm wine. But a journey to Christmas market can never be completed without having a sip of it.


That's all for now.

In the meantime, I am busy wrapping up a parcel for my Socktopods Secret Santa Sock Swap partner. Will talk about it later. My Echo Flower shawl is still happening, too. I finally have gained some momentum and am currently on the 2nd edging row. Only 6 more rows to go. Hopefully I can show you a FO next time.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

FO: Handspun Gherkin Hat

I finished it last night. No. It's not the Gherkin

It's a hat designed by Silja Devine. I first saw this hat in Spunky Eclectic group on Ravelry and instantly fell in love with this patten. It is simple but it looks very classic. The 4x4 rib also gives it a great deal of elasticity so it fits both DH's and my heads.


Haven't blocked it  yet so the stitches look a bit untidy. But who cares? I just wore it this afternoon to supermarket. It's sooooo warm. 

I used the chunky scrap yarn I spun up from some scrap fibre last week. The colourway is a mix of blues, dark green and natural brown. Quite a manly colour perfect for DH.


The pattern is easy and written very clearly. But I've made some modifications to accommodate my yarn choice:

(1)  my handspun is thicker than DK called for the pattern. So I cast on fewer stitches (only 72 instead of 144) and used bigger needles. I started with size 10 but didn't like the loose fabric. I ended up casting on with 9s before going further down to size 8 after about 10 rounds. Looks great.

(2) I started decreasing earlier because DH's head is smaller than an average man so the brim is shorter. The bonus of this mod is... I, with a bigger-than-average head, can also wear this head keeping the edge down without brim.

(3) I did a round of k2tog after the last round of k1p1 before cutting the yarn and threading it through the remaining stitches.


Sorry for the poor FO pic. Well... as a self portrait done in bathroom with a mirror, it isn't really that bad right? Will ask DH to pose for a better one and post it later!