Monday, July 30, 2007

Big Ben? Covent Garden? Museums? Musicals? No!

How about...


While I was in London with my friends earlier in the month (and again this past weekend with Mr. Tall and my brother-in-law), I took the opportunity to seek out Local Yarn Stores (LYSes) and bead shops.

What? Bead shops? Aren't you still learning how to knit?

Erm... well... yeah. Doesn't mean I'm not ready to try anything new though, right?

I first came across some of Rosemary's patterns on Knitty before I really had the confidence to call myself a knitter. The knowledge that such patterns existed lurked in the back of my mind. For those who aren't familiar with her designs, they include beautiful knitted/beaded napkin rings, bracelets, and chokers. Occasionally I would reconsider them, only to decide that I wasn't ready yet, or that finding the materials would be tough in this area.

Perhaps it was the (late, but welcome) arrival of summer, but I decided it was time to gather materials. After all, knitting with wires and beads in the summer has to be better than using wool, right?

I first found The London Bead Company. I really enjoyed browsing the store. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the store also sold some yarn and needlecraft supplies - great! I ended up getting some purple jewelry wire and these beads:

Beads from The London Bead Company

I then found Creative Beadcraft. I found the shopping experience here to be a bit more pleasant than at The London Bead Company, due to it's layout and arrangement of merchandise. The store - located off Regent street near Carnaby Street - was easy to find and very central to where most visitors to London will be already. I snagged some more beads that caught my eye:

Oblong beads

Round beads

Iridescent beads

Seed Beads

I also found Buffy's Beads, which is located about a 5 minute walk from Creative Beadcraft in Kingly Court, off Carnaby street. The shop was gorgeous and fun to walk through - I was wondering how two bead shops could survive in close proximity, but the answer was clear as soon as I walked in. Buffy's Beads focused much more on gemstones and higher-end beads than Creative Beadcraft. Consequently, I didn't feel prepared to buy anything there, but the thought of incorporating gemstones will incubate a bit further in the nether recesses of my mind...

I'm really itching play with these gorgeous colors, but I think that will wait. Mr. Tall and I have a couple trips lined up - and I think I'll hold off until I'm not too concerned with the portability of a project.

I did also buy some yarn while in London. I'll save that (and notes on the shops I visited) for a later post.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

FO - a very Harry Week!

As almost everyone is aware, the past couple weeks have been busy for Harry Potter fans. First, the release of the fifth movie, Order of the Phoneix, followed by the release of the seventh and *sob* final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (don't worry, this post is spoiler-free!).

I was very honored to have two of my friends from the states come out to enjoy the festivities in the UK, and was very glad to finish both of their scarves on time!

Gryffindor House Scarf for Suzi

Start Date/Finish Date: February 15 - July 11, 2007
Pattern: Prisoner of Azkaban scarf by Lauren Kent
Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver in Claret and Gold.
Needles: Addi Turbo 5.0mm (US 8) 16" circular
Notes: 9" wide, 8'7" long. 12 pattern repeats, 70 stitches/round yields 33,810 total stitches.

This was actually the first of three scarves I started, and the second finished. It ended up a lot bigger than I thought it would (especially in comparison to my shorter friend). Due to it's size and time constraints, I left the scarf at 12 pattern repeats instead of the called for 14.

Sadly, the night before we were due to see the movie premiere, Katie called telling us that one of her flights had been canceled due to weather :( This meant that there were only 2 of us weirdos who would be showing up to the theater in robes and scarves on opening day. As the tickets were already purchased, Suzi and I went along to the movie, which we pretended not to have seen until we went with Katie the following day.

Leicester Square Odeon Cinema

Suzi and I outside the cinema

While in London, I was able to catch a couple musicals - Mary Poppins and Avenue Q. Both were very good, for very different reasons! We also did the usual sightseeing, and some shopping.

After spending time in London, a change of scenery was in order, and so we took the train up to Yorkshire. Suzi and Katie stayed with Mr. Tall and myself for a few days - one of which included an expedition to York to pick up the final book.

Ravenclaw (movie) House Scarf for Katie

Start Date/Finish Date: June 25 - July 12, 2007
Pattern: Prisoner of Azkaban scarf by Lauren Kent
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft in Dark Country Blue and Grey Heather
Needles: Addi Turbo 4.0mm (US 8) 16" circular
Notes: 7" wide, 6'4" long. 11 pattern repeats, 70 stitches/round yields 31,150 total stitches.

I initially started this scarf in March on 5.0 mm needles. It was a good deal wider, but unfortunately, I was not going to have enough yarn to finish the scarf. Well... I could've had enough, but the two different shades of the "no dye lot" blue I had were different enough that I decided against it. I frogged and restarted on 4.0 mm needles. Even then, I was only able to do 11 pattern repeats. While I would've loved to have it be longer and wider, like the above Gryffindor scarf and my Ravenclaw scarf, I figure it's for the best. Katie (living in New York) is the one most likely to wear the scarf in the winter to keep warm, and the longer, wider scarves are just too troublesome for "regular" wear.

For fun, we laid the scarves out side-by-side:

House Scarves

The Borders we bought our books from had a great atmosphere - there were costume contests, activities, and best of all - staff costumes. Each staff member was dressed as a different character. All throughout the night we would hear things such as "Harry Potter, call 222" over the intercom. Our place in line snaked through the music section:

Waiting for the book

Truth be told, I haven't finished the book yet. This isn't due to lack of interest or excitement - quite the opposite. I only have one time to read this final book (for the first time) and I am trying to savor it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: Book Edition

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

No spoilers, please. See you in 607 pages!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: Feline Edition

I have a very lovely cat, Caiomhe. Despite her loveliness, she's not necessarily easy to photograph. She has that teasing feline aloofness that tricks you into thinking she's going to be cooperative. I, in my unconditional love, always fall for it.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I was able to snap this shot:


She is a truly lovely cat. Very friendly and affectionate. I could go on and on about this (trust me), but not today.

I would absolutely love to find a hand-spun fiber dyed in her colorway - the green of her eyes, orange and grey of her fur.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: Woolfest additions

Following a gentle reminder from Susoolu, I felt that it is my duty and obligation to share part of Woolfest with you all. While I took a ton of pictures (and some video as well!), I think I'll focus in on the Newly Acquired Stash for this post.

530g 100% wool sock weight (I think)

I really couldn't resist this. I've been meaning to add some non-solid color yarn to my stash, but have almost been afraid to. What if the colors pooled? What if I can't find a good pattern to show the colors off? In the end, I decided that it was worth the risk.

While visiting Woolfest, I took a great class on hand spinning. This was taught by Carol and Pete Leonard. If you have the opportunity to take a class from them, don't let it pass you by! I won't say that I'm a natural yet, but in my defense, I knew NOTHING about spinning. After an hour of spinning and plying, this is what I had:

First spinning attempt

Apparently, spinning in such an uneven manner is in fashion now. If that's the case, it's the first time in my entire life I've been "in fashion" - especially with so little effort. I think I really like spinning *evil grin*.

Lumpy-bumpy spinning

I had secret hopes that I would pick up the spindle and magic would happen. Long, gossamer filaments would almost just appear without any effort. Of course that didn't happen, and I wasn't surprised in the least. As a consolation, I was told that most experienced spinners can't spin this "in fashion" style because they're just that good at spinning the long gossamer filaments that I covet. Personally, I think it's a small consolation - there's something a bit uncomforting about the fact that I spin so poorly that people with years of experience can't even intentionally spin that bad. But I will get better in time.

Despite this, I made a beeline for a stand that had some beautifully dyed roving I had my eye on. The booth was run by the dyer, Freyalynn Close-Hainsworth and all her colors were absolutely gorgeous. She noted the colors I kept picking up (blues and greens and purples), and suggested her Wisteria colorway. I'm saving this for a time when I know I can spin it very well.

Hand dyed roving

I also grabbed some solid color merino for extra spinning practice.

100g balls of Merino from Scottish Fibres

500g Blue faced Leicester

Now, if you're a spinner (or highly intelligent), you have got to be wondering about how I plan on spinning all this fun new stash...

Zebrawood Bosworth Midi Spindle

I knew I wanted to get a spindle while at Woolfest. I was torn between getting something "cheap and cheerful" and splurging a bit on this one. In the end, the splurge won out, and I grabbed this Bosworth model. My rationale? It's a late birthday present to myself... yeah, that's it.

As a final note, I must thank Mr. Tall for accompanying me. He was such a champ and super patient with me, and even carried all this swag around for me like the sweet guy he is. Awwwww :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

FO: Petunia the Purple Pachyderm

Petunia the Purple Pachyderm

Start Date/Finish Date: May 27 - July 3, 2007
Pattern: "Lovable Toys" from Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly DK in lilac (doubled throughout)
Needles: KnitPicks Options 4.0 mm
New-to-me Techniques: Mattress stitch, Kitchener stitch, picking up stitches, provisional (crochet) cast-on, magic loop

My sister-in-law's shower is scheduled for July 14. I think I have this finished in time to get it shipped back to the states. For me, this means it's not quite as last minute as I'm capable of. Go me!

I've heard of people a little less than happy with this pattern. I didn't really have any problems following it, but I also read the directions for finishing and stuffing the elephant, ignored it and did it my own way. I reasoned it would be a lot simpler to sew on ears and arms if the body wasn't stuffed, which it was. Furthermore, the state of un-stuffedness meant that symmetry was a bit easier to accomplish, though it still eluded me to some extent.

At this point, I can't say what I think of the yarn. I bought 4 more balls of this yarn in the pink colorway so that I could make the NIP a sweater, so I'm reserving full judgment until I've worked on that a bit. For the purposes of this project, I felt it was a bit splitty (is that a technical term?). Perhaps it was because I was holding the yarn doubled, perhaps it was just the pointy-ness of my pointy sticks, but we shall see.

Perhaps I've been to the Build-A-Bear workshop one too many times, but I couldn't allow myself to seam up a hand-knitted toy without including a heart.

Petunia's Heart

Ok, stop laughing. That really is a heart. At least, it's as much of a heart as I could try to do on my own without a pattern. Don't you know that knit elephants are supposed to have V shaped hearts?

Now all that is left is to obsessively finish up my Hogwarts Scarves as the movie and book release are fast approaching!