Crafting explosion

After a month of virtually no crafting, it seems to be Big Projects month. I finished a Little Waffles shawl/scarf with some handspun Organic Polwarth from Corgi Hill Farm. I’d spun a 3-ply sportweight and got 328yds that just kept on going. It got big when I blocked it.

Handspun shawl

Next project on the spinning wheel is 10oz of blue-purple Rambouillet, dyed by Corgi Hill Farm. My plan is to spin six bobbins, then ply up two 3-ply skeins that are hopefully even. Most of the way through the first bobbin and aiming for sportweight.

You’d think that a project described as "epic" and "a bit brutal" would put me off, but no. Hello Amortentia and your 603st beaded cast-on, got got past the ruffles and into the short rows so far and it wasn’t that painful. Who starts a ruffled shawl at the ruffle end and adds beads?

To take the edge off the mammoth cast-on, I have a sock project in progress, my Squishville Socks pattern for a friend.

Niobium Byzantine chain

There’s also a Byzantine bracelet in blue niobium I’ve been working on, it’ll be a double-wrap when it’s done and I’m two inches past the first full wrap. Niobium is heavier and a little stiffer than aluminium, the dark blue looks good.

Plans and Previews

I’m currently reading (and annotating the glitches in) my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel with a view to finishing the story. The last three chapters are missing and I need to tidy things up and put a pretty bow on them so I can put this project to bed. It’s odd to read something I wrote but have no memory of the specifics. There’s a third book to be written which will finish off the story arc and I’m planning that for my 2013 novel, because I’ve got a shiny new plotbunny for this year’s NaNoWriMo with an all-new story to write.

Finally got the second bobbin of baby camel/silk blend on the spinning wheel. The fibre is from Corgi Hill Farm, I’m hoping it turns out to be a nice light fingering weight yarn I can use for a lace scarf. The fibre is very drapey and the silk gives it shine.

My Etsy store, Albion’s Forge has gained a few new items for sale and I’m working on a second design to put up for sale. I lost the prototype to someone that was playing with it, so I’m counting that a success. Pink rubber rings should be in my hands in July so I’ll make something pink. But what colour to put with it? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white?

It feels like I’ve been knitting the Rill Scarf forever, and the yarn just keeps on coming. In reality I’m nearing the halfway point in the pattern (15 of 36 central repeats completed), I have 20yds more yarn than I need, and I’m convinced the yarn ball is growing when I put it back in the project bag. My plan is to finish the first ball of yarn and put the scarf aside until I finish my cropped cardigan. I like Rill, and I’m making it with a long-discontinued yarn made from mink, milk, and merino, which is amazingly soft when knitted up. Great Northern Yarns is the only yarn producer I know that uses mink fur from sheared mink (that image makes me smile every time) and the company experiments with new fibre blends. This one was sold for a while but didn’t make it into the long-term stable of yarns.

Polishing the craft

I practiced the proper way to close jump rings without leaving a gap while making a box chain. Bronze is a lovely material to work with, it’s heavy and a warm gold colour. The surprise is how different this piece looks in 1/4in rings compared to the same piece in 3/16in rings:

Box chain.

That’s a difference in ring sizes of only one sixteenth of an inch in internal diameter. One is compressed and locks up when it moves, the other looks like lace. Probably the ideal ring size is halfway between the two, a ring with a 7/32 internal diameter.

I’ve slightly altered the design of my ThinkMat and come up with a Mark II where the six corner rings are metal, not rubber. It jingles well and I’ve eliminated a possible point of failure. I have black and red for sale right now, and I’ll put up a green and blue hex soon.

ThinkMats by Albion's Forge on Etsy.

A friend with a purple ThinkMat says it has already saved the lives of several unsuspecting people at her office. I have mine acting as a protective shield to keep my programmers from dismantling the crystal skull 3D puzzle on my desk again. If someone just happens to pop the top piece off and unscrew the bolt holding it together, the skull falls apart into 47 pieces, and has to be reassembled.

Introducing Albion’s Forge!

My Etsy store is now open: Albion’s Forge. I am selling ThinkMats, pieces of rubber chainmail you can fiddle with, stretch, jingle, scrunch, rattle, and ponder. If you’re a natural fidget, this might be for you. If you’re surrounded by natural fidgets, having these around might keep them away from stuff you don’t want touched, like protective camouflage.


I have ThinkMat pieces in black and orange listed, the purple will go up shortly, with red, green, and blue coming soon. You can get the original ThinkMat hexagon, a strip, or a keychain. You can also ask for a custom piece, like a blue ThinkMat or a green keychain, and I’ll do my best to oblige.

They are made with EPDM rubber rings and aluminium rings (so no chewing on them), these are definitely NOT for children. This is an adult’s toy.

I’ll put updates on the store Twitter feed when I post new pieces.

(This is my 1700th blog post and I’m glad that number ended up as my shop announcement.)

Under the radar

Between the secret swap gift and some long-delayed half-finished projects, it’s gone a bit quiet around here, but I have been working on a few things:

There’s some chocolate cherry Finn wool on my spinning wheel that is almost done, I need to spin another half-bobbin and ply it. This is my first Finn and it’s got a texture similar to Wensleydale or Gotland, more hairy and silky than puffy.

I have a short story in the works for the April meeting of Fictional Authors, our post NaNoWriMo writing group. The prompt for the story sparked all kinds of interesting ideas. The 2011 NaNoWriMo novel is still about 5000 words from completion, and my two beta readers want the ending. They know this is now book #2 of a trilogy and I have to write book #3 to finish it all off. I like the world I created for this set of stories.

My knitting has felt like a slog because I’ve had too many projects in progress and not enough project completions. I need those regular wins to keep going, which makes larger projects hard. I’m planning to finish off a pair of socks and a cropped cardigan, then start something new. Given the erratic office AC system, I’m thinking my next project will be a Featherweight Cardigan in fingering weight yarn instead of the Amelia in worsted weight yarn I was planning. I’ll still make Amelia, but Featherweight has more immediate usage.

Chainmail has been made, a Full Persian bracelet for a friends husband in plain aluminium. I completed a Japanese Lace bracelet, like this one but with silver large rings and dark small ones, it completely changes the look. I also made myself a keychain because the USPS gave my subdivision lockable mailboxes (which is good) but put them in a place that is no longer on my way in and out of the subdivision (not good, and also means I can’t put my mailbox key on my regular keychain with the car keys).

And in the category of super-secret underground projects, I’m making stock for a future Etsy shop. I have a shop name sorted out but the product name is giving me fits. I need some quality time with a thesaurus, a good cup of tea, and some creative friends.

Can’t breathe, too busy…

February always feels like an absurdly busy month. The 5th is the anniversary of our first date back in 1994, which is now 18 years ago. Valentine’s Day is a mere three days before Hubby’s birthday, which is two weeks before my birthday. Then we get a break, event-wise, until the wedding anniversary in August.

I am still knitting hats. Windschief is going well, a second welted hat got ripped out after I got pattern gauge and realised the pattern was designed for an elephant. That’ll get a restart after some emergency gauge calculations and a new hem colour, making it a grey hat with a deep purple hem.

A piece of my chainmail made with rubber rings and aluminium took a very short turn in a tensile strength testing machine designed for testing steel. It did not survive, but it was fun seeing its first incarnation ripped apart with bare hands as a quick and dirty tensile test. Test #2 was supposed to be a more scientific test, but it broke under the pre-load (which for steel amounts to the machine saying "yep, I have something here I can hold on to, when do I start trying to break it?"). Rubber and aluminium are not the most durable of materials under extreme stress, but they are very good to fiddle with when you’re in a dull meeting.

With a week to go until the February meeting of Fictional Authors, our post-NaNoWriMo writing group, I finally have an idea for the writing exercise, which comes from Stephen King’s book On Writing. I have done this exercise before and it came out decently then, this time I’m taking a very different direction.


Spent some time working on more chainmail. Since I have smaller wrists, the only bracelets that will fit me are ones I make myself. Used two new chainmail weaves to make these two, first is Japanese Lace:

Japanese Lace with double hook clasps.

This is a very time-consuming design, but fantastic to wear, it feels smooth and slippery and it rattles ever so slightly when you move your wrist. It’s also very flexible, it rolls up into a small roll. I closed it with a pair of sterling hook clasps and made it only slightly longer around than my wrist. I also made a hexagon of Japanese lace using rubber rings as the larger ring and it’s fantastic as a flat stress ball, or possibly a waterproof coaster. It’s one of those desktop things you can pick up and fiddle with.

The other new creation is a bracelet using the Full Persian 6-in-1 weave, using anodized aluminium with a sterling hook clasp:

Full Persian bracelet

This one is a little more chunky than I was expecting, more so in contrast to the very flat Japanese Lace, but I love the bronze/caramel colour of the rings. It’s a fiddly weave to start, but I like the finished look.

I’ve made all the weaves from my Basic Chainmail book now, and a couple from the Advanced Chainmail book. I have a few more designs I want to learn and lots more things to make.

Looking back

In 2011 I knit:

  • 6 pairs of socks (all my own designs)
  • 3 neck-warmer scarves (one from unspun silk hankies)
  • 2 shawls (Larix and Citron)
  • 4 toys (two bats, a hedgehog and a bunny)
  • 2 lace scarves (both knitspot designs, Butternut and an unblocked Aria Delicata)
  • 2 tops (Eris, still waiting for a zip, and a Dew Point shrug)
  • 1 washcloth and one mouth guard holder

That’s a total of 21 finished objects, which is pretty good. I taught two people how to knit, which I love doing.

I also spun three good skeins of usable yarn, one fingering, one lace, and one sport, plus the little leftover skeins from the bobbin ends. Could have been better.

In the last week, I’ve made five Celtic Star pendants, three Celtic Visions bracelets, and two Helm chain flowers, plus a bunch of short practice pieces of Box chain, Byzantine chain, and Full Persian chain. I have plans to make other chainmail bracelets, since the only bracelets that fit me well are ones I make myself. Manipulating dozens of small wire jump rings into shapes is like building a three dimensional jigsaw, and you end up with curiously mobile piece of jewellery.

In November I wrote 58000 words on a novel which turned out to be book #2 of a trilogy, book #1 being my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel. I’m not quite finished yet, though I’m working on the last three chapters and I can see the end from here. The final book of the trilogy will be written next year, possibly for NaNoWriMo.

I changed job this year, leaving a company I’ve been with for nearly seven years. Not an easy decision to make, but I’m loving the new company. Got my green belt in Kenpo and started working on 3rd degree Brown Belt techniques. Brown belt is the first of the advanced level belts and the tests get more difficult now. Also you’re no longer allowed to have people watch your test unless they’re above you in rank.

I read forty books and watched twenty-seven movies. I wrote twenty-seven haiku, which is a good habit to keep up. So, what’s next?