Don’t like it? Break it and make it better.

I’m a great believer in not just leaving things alone – if something’s broken I like to fix it. In this case, this:

Original Silje jacket

The Silje jacket really never worked – whether the tension was just too tight, I don’t know, but the yoke was definitely uncomfortable for the recipient across the shoulders. Which meant it rarely got worn. So after it sitting in the to-be-frogged pile for a while I finally got around to ripping it to pieces a month or so ago. I already knew what I wanted to do with it. One of the most popular sweaters I’ve knitted her was the Starshine from the same company (GarnStudio) – this one:

 

So I thought the best thing I could do with the yarn was make another one, using some of the same colours from the Silje jacket. Completed today. As usual I have a scadload of ‘ends’ floating around inside the sweater, but what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over…

Blue Starshine sweater

 

She likes it because she says it looks like the big collars the ancient Egyptians used to wear. Whatever works.

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Making a sweater bigger

This sweater has a story. A saga, almost. The Too Long:Didn’t Read version: I began it, ran out of yarn, pursued a stranger over the internet until she agreed to sell me some yarn, but by the time all this had happened and I’d finished it, it was too small for its recipient. That brings us up to date.

I hate wasting yarn (plus I have no money for yarn just now), and in my view, yarn that hasn’t literally worn to rags still has plenty of life left in it. So the obvious solution is to

  1. rip this sweater back to its component pieces
  2. frog those back to balls
  3. begin again
  4. deal with ugly-head-rearing of exactly the same not-enough-yarn problem later…

Step one and two have been achieved, mostly.

Step three is in progress (former-front included for scale and to reassure myself that the new sweater will, in fact, be bigger)

Little sweater-front, bigger sweater-front

Step four. I have a plan…

An ex-sweater…

What a difference a finish makes

Exactly when you call something ‘finished’ can be a matter for debate. Some artists are unable to stop themselves poking at their work, tweaking here and there. Of course, if you’re George RR Martin then you simply assume that it’s never going to be ‘finished’ and carry on more or less forever.

But hypothetically, work shouldn’t be finished until it’s Finished. Which in the case of woodwork usually involves a great deal of sandpaper. I am not one of life’s Completer-Finishers (Google Belbin’s Team Roles if that’s not a phrase that’s familiar), I am a Plant. Which means I have lots of ideas and am dreadful with follow-through. But occasionally I do have the discipline to come back to something and get it properly signed off. Which means that the two stools I recently finished  (small ‘f’) have now been sanded, sealed, sanded again, oiled and generally anointed with a variety of unguents and solvents. Which brings out the grain something lovely.

As a reminder, this is how they looked before – much paler and more uniform. You can see how they look almost naked by comparison – the tulipwood of the taller stool really liked the oil. The wood is also completely unprotected like this and will show dirt, sweat, grease etc.

The legs are all ash, but some of them are the beautiful dark ash, which comes up almost like olivewood. I love seeing the grain patterns, in particular the ‘bullseyes’ on the rounded sections.

Because: Sean Bean

Much as I love the Crazed Scandinavian Cowl and it’s cheerful no-two-rows-the-same insanity (perhaps long Swedish nights need something bonkers to get you through them), there does come a time when I want something simple. Something I can knit while also mocking a Fast & Furious film. Or puzzling over exactly why, when Sean Bean’s Sharpe shows up at an enemy fort, they immediately accept him at face value and give him top-level access to all their plans.

SO – socks it is. I actually thought I didn’t have any sockyarn but then did a stashdive and found one skein. This is my fourth of the Lang Magic Degrade skeins – I absolutely love colour change yarns.

I’ve got two skeins in the browny-grey mixture that I plan to turn into a shawl, and I can quite see myself knitting the full deck (my sock drawer is ridiculous, particularly as I’ve now learned to darn and so old socks never die…). The turquoise shading into the dark blue shading into the green is just lovely.

The colours are exactly the way I would do them if I was making colour-change yarn and it’s always very satisfying to have a pattern reveal itself without you actually having to think about anything.

Moody socks

And the added bonus of getting to watch Sean Bean at the same time. 🙂

It was stupid and lazy and I did it anyway

When you’re making a chair – or half a chair, which is what a stool is – you make the tenons (the pieces that fit into the holes in the legs and seat) oversized. You do this so that when the stool is all hammered together there are three things holding any joint firm: glue; wood wedged into wood; and tension. Everything pushes against everything else (that’s why the underneath bracing pieces are called ‘stretchers’ – they literally stretch the legs apart so that they’re under tension).

So when I was putting this little stool together yesterday (for Youngest Boy who cannot get into his new bed without standing on something), and I accidentally cut a tenon too narrow because I was rushing, what I should have done was make a new side stretcher. I couldn’t be bothered. I thought glue and tension would be enough.

However, when I was putting the centre stretcher in, the glue failed on the narrow tenon of the side stretcher and the leg twisted. At that point I should have re-glued it at the very least. Instead I went ahead and legged up the stool, gluing and wedging the legs into the seat.

So now that stretcher and leg are held in by tension alone, and if the springiness fails, then that corner of the stool will come apart but the rest of it won’t and essentially what I will have to show for my several dozen hours of hard work is some highly decorative firewood, because you can’t replace just one quarter of a stool, you have to do it all.

It was stupid and lazy not to make a new stretcher – the easiest part to remake – and I knew it was stupid and lazy. And I went ahead and did it anyway. Because: human.

(Although apart from having to live with the now-constant fear that one day it’ll just come apart, I am actually very pleased with it. The top is slightly dished so your feet rest comfortably on it if you’re using it as a footstool, but not so dished that you can’t use it as a side-table and put a cup of tea on it. The legs are pleasingly dramatic, and it’s the right height for a little person to sit or stand on to reach something.)

It’s longer than I thought

So, I’ve had this Crazed Scandinavian Cowl on the go for a while now, and after a long pause to write an essay, a literature review, a briefing paper and a project initiation document, go on holiday, carve a turtle, make a stool and write 20,000 words of a book that is unlikely to ever find a publisher, I started to get back into it last week.

It occurred to me that I seemed to have done quite a few charts – and when I say quite a few I mean they’re alphabetical and I’m on Chart H – and that the length of the thing folded up on my lap was a very respectable 42 inches, which sounded scarf-ish to me, so perhaps I could start to think that maybe I was approaching the point where the words ‘home stretch’ might not be entirely inappropriate.

Then I looked up the rest of the pattern. I am not, categorically not, on the home stretch. The home stretch remains a blue-capped mountain in the very far distance. The charts go all the way up Chart R, and the estimated length of this thing is 83 inches. Who has an 83 inch long scarf?? (Quite possibly everyone – I don’t knit scarves all that often and although it sounds outrageous to me it’s entirely feasible that is a perfectly normal length for a scarf.) It took me by surprise, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, here are some pictures to keep us all going. It is very nice, which is a redeeming feature, but honestly I’m not even sure how much I actually want a scarf any more.

 

Polycraftualism OR – doing other things with my hands

As regular readers will know, I like to do a variety of things with my hands – although knitting is the main thing I also sew, and make chairs and quilts. The knitting has been in abeyance again during semester 2 of my Masters, and then it was simply too hot and sweaty to knit. But I did polish off making a stool:

made progress with a small footstool (still needs its stretchers and to be legged up):

and got around to painting and finishing the chair I made last summer.

And now I have a new hobby. Tried it for the first time on Saturday at a craft fair and I’m hooked. I’m learning to carve.

80% of a turtle

Now I just need some new tools. Oh, and some books. And another course. Happy days. 🙂