Friday, 27 March 2009

Rays of sunshine

I used to do a lot of international pen palling when I was a kid and later during my teenage years. I really loved it. I still do! But then I grew up! And so did the mankind. My teenage years where some of the history’s last internet–free years. Soon, almost everything became an “e-something“. Including letters.
I love internet and the fact that an e-letter can reach my pal within a few seconds...but if there's one thing I regret about this era, it's that there are no old-fashioned letters any more (for me or from me) and that my stamp collection has stopped growing. The snail mail is alive all right. My mailbox has never been fuller…of junk mail. It’s only the letters that have been kicked out of the game.
But I'm still in it: forums, communities. blogging, ....and have recently managed to find a shortcut from the new era to the old, written letters - ancient times. The shortcut is called the Ravelry swaps! Not the fancy ones- naaaah, don't like those. It's not the money- it's just that those travelling boxes don’t turn me on at all. I believe a lot more spirit can fit into a small envelope. I know it can- I used to be a pen pal. :) So, if there's an envelope swap gathering old pen palling addicts like me- I'm in!

I'm currently participating in two such swaps.
The Envelope swap- an already "established" swap group, where a new swap round is organised each month and everything or anything you send should fit into a small, letter sized envelope. One swapper and one swappee... that's all. My envelope for this round is (hopefully) flying across the Ocean as we speak. It's going west. That's all I'm going to tell you for now. :)))

The second swap I'm participating in is a «new born» envelope swap called «Sending some sunshine” and it has already become so much more than just an internet group for me. It's a place where I've met more lovely people in only a month than I could have ever hoped for.
The rules are simple- the envelopes are letter sized again, only this time there’s more than one and they’re sent out every now and then during the period of 2 months. Small surprises, even just postcards, patterns, handmade gifts...rays of sunshine. One swapper and one swappee again. Only, when you meet so many lovely people in one place- before you know it, you're receiving the envelopes from people who aren't even your pals and putting additional envelopes together for some dear people yourself. My first envelope has already left The Old Continent as well. And needs to travel a long, long way to reach my pal (my lips are sealed :)) Wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, my pal still doesn't know who I am)! And as for the first surprise for me – it’s already here. :)

I only hope that these swaps will keep the Message in a bottle and crafty spirits (or “creativity among creative people” spirit as some would say) for a long time and that they wont turn into a plain chocolate bars and tea bags exchange. I’d hate to see that happen as I’m quite enjoying this game. As for my wishes- I collect stamps- I’d be happy to receive an empty envelope with a pair of nice stamps on it every now and then. ;-)

In the mean time, I’m enjoying in my first ray of sunshine! Do you know what I said I wanted- I wanted a pal from the South or from the North pole. A penguin or a Santa, if possible. And d’you know where my envelopes are coming from – from the home of Santa Claus, Finland. From a dear girl called Piia!

I’ll even let you peek into my first envelope a bit!

Just look at these stamps! A red Lilly and a picture of Finnish nature covered with snow. Like I said- I don't need more! :)))

The envelope was sealed with a bunny sticker! Ohhh....

And though I said I didn't mind receiving empty envelopes - this one was full. :))))

A package of lovely glass seed beads; an amazingly beautiful paper card with "golden" seam-like decorations, a beautiful wish printed in Finnish and my pal's note on the other side; a package of Barley seeds for this years' Easter grass; a package of her homegrown chilli-pepper seeds (I love growing those from seeds) and, finally- a Sarah Kay sticker board. How on Earth did she know I loved Sarah Kay?!?! Not many people know that (you don't just go around saying you love "childish" stickers when you're almost 30, do you?! :))) But, they're here!

It's my first ray of sunshine! From my own Santa!

You don't have your own Santa, do you?! :)))

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Mohair on my skin

See this? (Not the minneolas and bananas!!!) It's 150 grams! It only takes that much to make me a very happy person! And for who knows how long!

ZOOM out!

Yes, I'm still talking about my Luna Moth mohair shawl! I'm deeply in love with it! Now I know why I wanted it so badly! Only I don't know why I didn't make it a least one century ago!

I can understand silk addicts now! I touch it before I go to bed and touch it again when I wake up and dream of it touching my neck in the meantime. It's not a sweater, or a dress... I can always have it with me. In my lap, under my arm, around my neck....

I really have no talent for "girlish advices" but this, ladies, this something you MUST own. It is the best gift a woman's neck can get! And, if you're a man and reading this, you'll know what you need to do (buy your wife/girlfriend a pair of needles and 2 skeins of yarn and ask your grandma to teach her how to knit :))) She'll love it!!! ).

It's so light and delicate...And beautiful.

And than the glass beads! They're transparent and constantly hiding. Just like I wanted. They're only visible when the sun reflects into them. That's when they start sparkling. One by one. Sometimes a few at the same time... I added them randomly and you can never know which one is going to make friends with the sunshine and turn into a dew drop.

If there's no light- they're invisible and no one knows they're there. Except for me. When I feel the touch of a cold miniature glass bead on my neck or hand... A secret beauty; not visible to everyone, only to those who can chase sun beams. Like a hidden tattoo. (Oooops! See? That's what this shawl can do to you!)

Please, do yourself a favour and make a nice mohair shawl!
I've got at least a dozen great reasons why you should do it in my sleeve.

150g? remember? It's only 100g of yarn. I used 50g pckg of beads.

Mohair blends are very cheap in Europe. You could have one of the finest things in your closet at the price of a bottle of (not so precious) wine. (But then buy that bottle to celebrate!).
There are beautiful Italian mohair/cashmere blends at very affordable prices. After all- it's only 2 skeins. That way- you won't be sorry for not buying pure cashmere. Who could be angry with Mohair? On the other hand- you won't regret not having a pure mohair shawl- cashmere is something you don't say "no" to!

You can easily find silk/mohair blends that come in 25g balls but, hey- the yardage is more or less the same as in an average 50g ball of mohair/acrylic blend. A 50g shawl!!!!

Everyone will notice it, believe me! They won't care you're wearing a pair of old jeans. You won't care either.

Your evening dresses will not be "too simple" any more!

Are you too skinny? Skinny is called SLIM when warepped in a mohair lace shawl!

Too fat (god forbid!!! :D )? Really? Haven't noticed! Probably because of that that beautiful shawl you're wearing.

Got nothing to wear? What about that beautiful lacy shawl??? hmmm...hmmmmmmm...:))

It sheds?????? OHHHH, come on, as if you have never deliberately stopped breathing for 5 houres just so that you could survive through a dinner dressed in your "drop dead sexy but 3 sizes too small" gown?! What's a hair or two compared to that?! It won't turn into a goat (for a while!) :)))

People love these old fashioned yet new things. Old symbols of feminity. But, it doesn't need to be white! Use apple green! Or red! Or orange.... It looks beautiful in other colours. Check the pattern page on Ravelry!
And having said that, I believe one of these skeins just winked at me. :)))

Two skeins????A pair of needles??? How hard can it be?

Patterns??? It doesn't have to be Luna Moth! Find yourself another one (this one is mine :D). There are plenty more patterns for lacy triangular shawls and stoles designed by Shui Kuen Kozinski out there! And beautiful ones too (and by this I mean BEAUTIFUL!!! she is my Nr. 1) For free! !!!

Just look at this Coin lace stole... Shining Bird's Eyes....Sun Ray Shawl...Gold Nugget Shawl...Forget Me Not Shawl...Moonlight Sonata Shoulder Shawl...or you could make Heartland or Swallowtail lace shawls designed by Evelyn Clark... Or make your own design....

Y.O.U. W.A.N.T T.O. O.W.N. A M.O.H.A.I.R. S.H.A.W.L. !!!!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Taming mohair

Every February I experience a severe creativity breakdown. From January 31st to March 1st - Collapse! Nothing! The ideas keep on popping out but I find it absolutely impossible to «teleport» them into real projects. No change this year! Zero!
Only this February was kind to me! It gave me no fruitful ideas but it did give me something else – something I've wanted for quite a long time!
A nice mohair shawl. I've got more than 2kg of mohair yarn at home and not a single mohair shawl? Why? I don't think I have a good answer to that question! Orenburg shawl, which I promised to myself at least a year ,is obviously such a sacred project that I'm almost scared to even start working on it. For now, I choose to continue dreaming about it and making thousands of sketches and swatches.
A nice triangular shawl was always the second option. I wanted to own one and to make one. Making it is a great opportunity to grasp the system of top-down triangular knitting; it's only one step away from designing my own shawl which is yet another thing I've wanted for quite a long time. But they need to be severely blocked and mohair can not be successfully blocked! Can it? Well, they say it does not respond well to blocking!
Only, I'm soon to find out it is only one half of the truth. The half that is, actually, not at all important for my project!
Here's the thing- knitters often use blocking method to adjust the size of their (finished) projects; when exposed to steam or water, some fibre types stretch (and keep the shape after the process is finished) and increase the overall size of the project. The results are not always the same of course . How much the work will actually stretch will depend on the inherent stretchiness or elongation of the thread treated which is generally determined by the fibre type. And, scientifically, this is where mohair says :”No knitter ain’t going to stretch mi thread!”. :)))Mohair blends with 30% + other natural fibres are more promising but with my yarn being 65% mohair and 25% acrylic the situation looked pretty hopeless. Well, at least as far as the first half of the truth is concerned! But that is only one half!
The second and newly discovered half says that - while the thread itself can not be stretched (I don’t need it to stretch after all), the work will stretch all right! Now, that I do need! I need it to present itself in its original size! If you have ever worked with mohair yarn than you have probably noticed that it looks somewhat wrinkled and shrunken when finished! It can be hard to determine its real size. And, if you have ever seen a triangular scarf :)))) than you have probably noticed that - it is flat! Like a pancake! Well, blocking can mend that! It is now official!

I opened the just to take another look at Luna Moth shawl designed by Shui Kuen Kozinski. I’ve been in love with this shawl ever since I fist saw it! It is absolutely gorgeous! But, accidentally, I clicked on the “wrong” link and, instead of that lovely “Luna Moth” in grass green I expected to see - the pattern page for Mohair version of “Luna Moth” opened! There it was! Snow white, all hairy and soft, lovely mohair triangular shawl in all its glory. And it looked VERY much blocked! The yarn used- mohair/nylon blend! So, than it works. But to start a project like this one without being sure you will actually get the result you’re hoping for would be a very stupid idea! Finally, HOW should I block it to make it look like the one from the picture!? There was only one person to ask- Shui Kuen.. So, I dropped her a note and in no time, her answer made me a very happy knitter/future owner of a triangular MOHAIR Luna moth shawl (and all that in February). It was wet blocked! And successfully too! She also gave me some great suggestions on how to shape it. Quote: “A well-proportioned shawl should have a ratio of 2:1 (width: height). The angle of the tip is 90 degrees (right angle). If the angle is less than 90 degrees, it will look long at the back but not wide enough.“ – keep that in mind, will you?! :) I don’t think I’d pay any attention to that if it weren’t for her inputs!

Lovely, so,


I CO my first stitches.

Following the instructions written by someone else came as a huge relief. I only had to adjust decreases to my Eastern knitting style - it took me about a second to do that! :D No additional calculations, no thinking, no need to try it on, no thinking, no modifying, no thinking... I even decided I'd follow the written instructions and use slide markers(doing things I have never done before!:) )...I looked like a real school girl. Oh, but, no thinking also means lots and lots of tinking! :( Having someone else do all that math and chart drawing for you can really send your brain cells on a long vacation, can't it?! Which is not at all a problem if you like frogging mohair, frogging lace, frogging mohair lace, tinking 200-300 sts long lace mohair rows (all at once). I don't!
I had a huge fight with Mr.Row 49. I said some very bad things, too! But we're O.K. now! :)
That was it, my brain cells had been sunbathing for too long- I switched to the charted instructions and started controlling my work as I knit along, always checking the previous row. That's the only way to knit lace and avoid making (too many) mistakes.
A top-down triangular shawl is one TRICKY species! IT NEVER STOPS GROWING!!!! Three repeats in one day and then one repeat in 3 days! My brain cells say: "Add some beads." Almost invisible ones! Done!
Only one row! But a long one too! The rows are 300+ sts long at this point.
DAYS 5 and 6
Walk on the by the see...a very hansome waiter makes a picture of a palm tree in my macchiato foam...watering plants...finding out that some mimosas have already started blooming...(washing the floor, doing loundry, cooking and sleeping)...
No knitting! :)))
Late at night! Finished! O.K. now I'm REALLY excited!

I only had to attach the thread from a new skein twice but there are 7 knots on the WS of the work. Beads!!! Though it was an optimal combination of the thickness of the string and the size of the bead hole, sliding the beads up and down the thread many times causes it to break easily. While sliding along the string, the beads collect mohair hairs and form small tangled hairy clouds- the knots are the result of several unsuccessful attempts to untagle those.
I'll just have to weave them in!

But, like expected, it is all wrinkled!

It's bath time!

It looks so small! (And blurry! :) )
It's swimming!

Has it been 20 min? I think it has!!!

I rinsed it and than hanged it to check if all the excess water had come out. Still soaked!

So I spread it over a huge terry towel again and covered it with another, smaller one. Then I rolled them into a pancake. The European one, of course! With mohair shawl filling! :)))
Now it's cool and ready for blocking!

ALL STABBED with pins!
(Is it normal for a person to enjoy stabbing at a garment like I do?! I REALLY ENJOY doing it! I want to do it every day! I especially liked the sound of a pin going through the nylon layer inserted under the towel.)


I unpinned one corner! It's working!!!!!!!!!! But than I put the pin back to where it was- still not ready for this! :))))


My dream has come true! It's a stretched triangular mohair Luna moth shawl. With a scallop edge! A wearable one! And, oh, SO SOFT !

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