Conduit rosettes for a light shade

I’m still working on the light shade.  In fact, I’ve been sitting in the sun this week for an hour or so each day while sanding conduit slices smooth and sticking them together.  In the evenings, when I’d normally be knitting while watching TV, I’ve been sticking self-adhesive copper foil inside the circular slices, an incredibly fiddly procedure.

Rosette of conduit slicesI’ve glued together a number of rosettes on the beach ball, having first covered a small area of it with papier maché so I don’t have to worry about inadvertently sticking conduit to the ball.  And I stuck a plastic cap onto the papier maché to keep the central ring from sliding about while I stick oval slices to it.

Conduit rosettesI’m not sure yet how many rosettes I’ll need in total, I’ll have to make a few more and see what proportion of the ball’s surface they cover.  And I can’t decide whether to separate them with plain rings or try to cover the whole ball with only rosettes.  The weight is becoming a slight concern, given that I reckon I need something like 80-100 rosettes, depending on how big a hole I leave at the bottom to allow the bulb to be changed.

Fiddling with sticky foil tape doesn’t really fill the knitting void, and I had nothing to take to my knitting group the other day, so I’ve cast on a lacy scarf using the off-white viscose yarn I used for my last project, the Nightsongs shawl.

Nightsongs shawl

Nightsongs shawl

This scarf is called Vigneto Wrap.  I didn’t realise until I had already cast on that the lace is worked on the purl side rows as well as the knit side, which means 100% concentration is required.  No subtitled films for me until it’s done.

Progress is slow.  I haven’t even managed one of the 12-row repeats yet, and it’s not looking impressive.  But I’m heartened by the fact that my Nightsongs looked like an old dischcloth until I’d blocked it.

Vigneto wrapThe scarf is worked from the centre to one end, and then the stitches from the provisional cast-on at the start are put back on the needle and the second half is knitted.  As an added complication, there’s an applied edging.  This is all rather new to me, I’m just following the instructions and trying not to panic.

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Making a light shade from conduit

Stacked increases / decreases part 2

My attempts to create an interesting fabric using stacked increases and decreases are bearing fruit.  I’ve produced something with a lot of strange, teat-like structures, like the underside of a sow.

Stacked increases and decreasesThis might have possibilities for a ski hat, say, or a scarf, but it’s not what I’m looking for. But this is more like it – interlocking shapes in a flat fabric.

Stacked increases and decreasesMore work is needed to work out how best to fit such shapes together.

I was wrong, last week, when I said that the formulae used to derive the instructions for a particular number of increases or decreases came from The Interior of My Brain blog. No, I found them instead on the blog of the designer of Fox Paws, Xandy Peters.  Credit where it’s due.

Making a light shade

Since redecorating our bedroom last month (curtain hems not all finished yet, but let’s not dwell on that) I’ve come to the conclusion that the ceiling light needs a more exciting shade.  As a temporary measure, I painted the old coolie shade in a slightly darker shade than the walls – I knew all those tester pots of emulsion would come in useful.  The only problem is, I did exactly the same thing when we last redecorated the room in 2001 and never got around to replacing the shade.  Goodness knows what colour it was to start with, I can’t remember, but it must be more paint than fabric by now.

Well, I don’t want to be painting this shade yet another colour in several years’ time, it’s long past its ‘best before’ date.  With that in mind, I started work on a replacement this weekend.  We have a lot of PVC electrical conduit of various shapes and sizes in the garage (doesn’t everyone?), because it comes in long lengths and we only ever need a foot or two at most.  There’s also a nearly full pot of the solvent-heavy glue that is meant for sticking the conduit into elbows, bends, connectors and other fittings. Surely I could make something from these leftovers?

I turned to Instructables for inspiration and found this PVC Light Shade tutorial.  The author has used an inflatable beach ball as the former for a globe-shaped shade.  I bought a beach ball on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, all ready to make a start when the weather got warm enough to work outside.

Unlike the Instructables original which used only circular section conduit, my shade will be composed of flower-like elements made of slices of both round and oval conduit.  I also have some narrow, self-adhesive copper foil from a foray into making Tiffany-style stained glass creations circa 1994 – that needs to go too.  If I stick a length of the copper tape inside each circular slice of conduit, that should give the shade a bit of sparkle and make it more interesting.

I got out the Dremel this morning and tried to build a jig that would allow me to slide or swing it out of the way easily while I removed each slice and butted the remainder of the tube up to an end stop, ready for the next cut.  But I failed miserably, our hobby tool is actually a Dremel knock-off and it’s all curves with no means of clamping it easily.  My dear husband came to have a look at this point and, amazingly, offered to cut up the conduit by hand using a mitre saw.  I gave him a spec of 5.6-6.0mm slices (the copper tape is just under 5mm wide) and, after a few hours of sawing, he has produced about 30 round slices and 80 oval ones.

Flower arrayTo find out how many we’ll need, I blew up the beach ball and measured its diameter – 33cm.  Then I laid out a flower array of one circular slice and 8 oval ones and measured its diameter – 6.6cm.  For a rough idea of the number of such arrays required, all that was then required was to compare their surface areas: 4πr2 for the sphere and πr2 for the circle.  To my great surprise, the answer (4 x 16.52 / 3.32) came out to a very round number indeed, 100. Had I stumbled across an unfamiliar Pythagorean triple? But after a moment’s thought and realising that 33 is a multiple of 6.6, I saw why the answer was 100:

4 x 16.52 = (2 x 16.5)2 = 332

and 332 / 3.32 = (33 / 3.3)2 = 102 = 100.

That means the shade will need 100 circular slices and 800 oval ones, plus some extra circles to fill in the gaps between “flowers”.  I’m keeping quiet about that for now.  I have a nasty feeling I’ll need to buy more conduit, which rather defeats the purpose of this project which was as much to clear out Stuff as to make a new light shade.

Copper foil in ringI’ve tried sticking the copper foil inside a ring and it wasn’t easy.  But it doesn’t look too bad.

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Doodling with needles

Stacked increases & decreases

I do a lot of different crafts, but I nearly always have some knitting on the go.  When I don’t have anything that I’m making, I swatch to try out new techniques.  I call this doodling.  I just let my swatch develop as it wishes and make a few notes when it seems to be working, or becoming interesting.  I find knitting endlessly fascinating because of the infinite variety of fabrics that can be produced.  And all with – basically – two types of stitch, one of which is just the other reversed.

My latest discovery is stacked increases and decreases.  They create Missoni-like distortions in striped fabric.  The best known hand-knitting pattern using this technique is probably Fox Paws which appeared in 2014.  Although I’ve had Fox Paws in my Ravelry favourites list for some time, I didn’t know how the intricate, almost fractal design was created.

The thing that started me down this route was looking for a scarf pattern which would suit the pure silk, self-striping Debbie Bliss yarn I bought at the Harrogate Knitting & Stitching Show last autumn.  It seemed a shame to just knit a plain, stripey scarf, so I looked at slipped stitch patterns and other ways of making a more complicated colourwork design without stranding.  I stumbled across a bold Knitty scarf called Ribbon Candy (by the same designer as Fox Paws, Xandy Peters) and a blog called The Interior of My Brain in which the author, who has knitted several stacked increase/decrease patterns, explains the design principles behind them.  Those principles are quite mathsy, which suits me down to the ground.  I’m hooked.

In short, humps are created by stacking increases on top of each other using the KYOK (knit, yarnover, knit) double increase.  The KYOK is all worked in the same stitch, like a Kfb (knit in the front and back) would be for a single increase but only in the front leg of the stitch.  So far, so ordinary: one stitch has become three stitches.  But bigger humps can be made by working 4-stitch, 6-stitch or 8-stitch increases, as follows:

  1. Work a KYOK, then slip 2 sts back to the left needle (purlwise, ie without twisting – this is written as SB2). Now you have one st of the 3 produced on the right needle and 2 on the left one.
  2. Repeat step 1 one or more times, which means you are working a new KYOK in the yarnover from the previous KYOK. One repeat will give you a total of 5 sts (4-st increase), two repeats gives 7 sts, three gives 9 sts and so on.
  3. Finish by working a final KYOK and then knitting to the end of the newly created stitches.

To avoid fabric distortion, stacked increases need to be balanced out by stacked decreases in a subsequent row (or rows) to get rid of all the extra stitches, and they need to be placed judiciously if a harmonious design is to result because they produce downwards-pointing humps.  The multi stitch decreases are worked over a number of repeating steps, just like the increases:

  1. Knit to the correct starting point of the decrease.
  2. K5tog (or slip 2 sts together knitwise, K3tog, pass slipped sts over).
  3. Slip 2 sts back to the left needle, K3tog.
  4. Repeat step 3. the required number of times.

The Interior of My Brain provides a couple of useful equations for working out how many repeats (r) are needed to achieve a certain number of increases (i) or decreases (d).  They are:

r =  (i – 2) / 2             for increases, and

r = (d – 4) / 2            for decreases.

To increase, the pattern instructions would be (KYOK, SB2) x r, KYOK, Kr and to decrease they would be Kr, K5tog, (SB2, K3tog) x r.

So, for example, to create a 6-stitch increase hump:

i = 6, r = (6 – 2)/2 = 2, to achieve this knit (KYOK, SB2) twice, KYOK, K2

and for a corresponding 6-stitch decrease downwards-pointing hump:

d = 6, r = (6 – 4)/2 = 1, to achieve this knit K1, K5tog, SB2, K3tog.

The only other things you need to know are:

  • Keep changing colour, probably every other row, to make the stacked increases and decreases show up properly and produce the characteristic distorted stripes. Change colour on right side rows, as usual.
  • Every other row is worked plain (normally knit), with the increase/decrease rows alternating between the plain rows.  The increases/decreases could be on right side rows or wrong side rows.  Garter stitch works fine, but for stocking stitch you need to think about whether the knit side or the purl side is to be the right side.
  • Increases can be worked on top of increases in a row two below to make more complex designs. The same with decreases.
  • Similarly, increases and decreases can be worked in the same row (in different areas of the stitch repeat) to create a more interesting pattern.
  • Attention should be paid to where in the row the increases/decreases occur as well as how soon (in terms of how many rows) after the companion decreases/increases they occur.

Armed with this info, I started doodling and this was the initial result.

Stacked increases 1

Much of it is rather lumpier than it ought to be, because I’m still working out how to make decreases fit into the gaps between increases properly. And the acrylic yarn I use for my doodles isn’t as forgiving as wool.

Later, when I pulled out the (straight, single pointed) needle ready to start again, I had a moment of realisation.  The top edge wasn’t anything like straight, instead it looked more fractal, like a Koch curve.  The bumps produced by the stacked increases, and the corresponding valleys from the decreases, massively distort the working edge although the fabric evens out after a few more rows have been knitted.  This explained why I was struggling to slide the tight stitches along the needle – they want to follow a curve and I was forcing them into a straight line.  Things became much easier when I switched to a circular needle, with the added bonus that it’s now possible to see what’s happening because the fabric has more space to arrange itself on the needle’s cable.

For anyone who prefers to learn a new technique by following a pattern rather than doodling, it’s worth having a look at the free Stack Overflow cowl and mitts patterns.

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A finished shawl

I can’t believe how much this Gail aka Nightsongs shawl changed from its “off the needles” state when I blocked it.

Shawl after knitting

Off the needles

Shawl being blocked

Being blocked

It’s been on a circular needle for the last three or four weeks, once there became too many stitches for a straight needle.  The circular made it hard to see what shape it was.  I’ve only ever knitted one other triangular shawl, which was top down starting with a huge number of stitches and reducing gradually to the point.  This one started with a tiny number of stitches and gradually increased.  In my ignorance, I expected it to be a reverse of the top-down one with the cast-off edge forming the long side of the triangle.  So I was quite surprised when I was casting off to find that I was forming the two short sides of the shawl.

This shawl only weighs just over 50g, it’s light as a feather.  It’s still on the blocking mat at the moment.  It should be dry by tomorrow and I can’t wait to see what it looks like when I unpin it.  I can see why people get addicted to knitting lace.

New life for old curtains

I’ve found a home for the 30-year-old curtains I’m replacing in the bedroom we’ve redecorated.  They were made of linen union, which is my favourite curtain material because it’s weighty and hardwearing and it washes well.

After 3 decades and annual laundering the curtains were looking past their best but it seemed a shame just to put them in the recycling bin where they’d have ended up as roofing felt or possibly printers’ wipes.  I asked around and a friend of a friend has taken them.  She makes beautiful items like bags and cushions from second-hand fabric, selling them in local outlets.  I look forward to perhaps spotting part of a curtain in a shop window some day soon, or being carried through town full of groceries.

The new curtains are completely different: blue and white stripes with a little ikat for good measure.

Blue curtainsI pre-shrunk the cotton fabric, which is just as well because the length reduced by 6%.  Up to 3-4% is more normal, but I suspect that this fabric was woven somewhere fairly rural, it has that homespun look about it.  The ikat is genuine, not printed on – the warps have been dip-dyed in the hank – and I love the irregularity it brings to the design.  This blue-and-white freshness is definitely a change from the dark, heavy linen union, but I doubt these curtains will last 30 years.

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Final stretch of the decorating marathon

I’ve been a very poor blogger lately.  In the 3 years since this blog started, I’ve never had such a long gap between posts.  The fact is, for the last few weeks I’ve been so busy with work and redecorating a bedroom that I’ve had no time, energy or enthusiasm for anything else.

The redecoration project is nearly done, but there’s been something of a hiccup.  It appears that the company I ordered the wallpaper from over a month ago is experiencing financial difficulties and has stopped answering the phone and responding to emails.  And, more importantly, sending wallpaper to customers who have paid for it.  I’ve had to initiate a debit card chargeback via my bank – a first for me – and we’ll see how that goes.  If the supplier is going to go “belly up”, I wish it would get on and do so, then both I and my bank will know where we stand.  At the moment I’m in limbo, not knowing whether the company will pull itself round and send me the wallpaper, or whether my bank will be able to obtain a refund for me from the bank of a company which is, supposedly, still trading and therefore should be responsible for its own debts.

Papered chimney breastIn the end I bit the bullet and bought some more wallpaper from a different supplier so that we could make progress with the decorating.  With my luck, I’ll end up with twice as much paper as needed.  And it is quite expensive.  It’s the ‘paste the wall’ type, which we’ve never used before, and hanging it on our lumpy-bumpy walls was nerve-wracking because it doesn’t stretch like a traditional wallpaper that’s been allowed to soak after being pasted.  But we got it on the chimney breast over the weekend and it doesn’t look too bad.  Now all we have to do is gloss paint a built-in cupboard and a radiator and clean the carpet.  Oh, and I have 4 curtains to finish making.

Before we painted the ceiling I had to deal with some nasty looking cracks.  (After the plastering course I took last year, my dear husband now leaves all such tasks to me.)  I used mesh tape that we already had, bedded it into a thin layer of one-coat plaster and then skimmed over the top when it was dry, feathering out to some distance from the tape.  You can tell it’s there if you look for it hard enough, but it is so much better than the ugly cracks that we’ve lived with for years that I don’t care.



Until the wallpaper arrived, we couldn’t choose a colour for the other walls.  Then, when it did arrive I couldn’t find the right match, despite going along to the local paint mixing centre where they claim to be able to blend tens of thousands of different shades of emulsion.  Using their clever colour analysis tool on a sample of the wallpaper was a non-starter because the paper is mottled and the sensor apparently just picks a tiny sample – which may or may not have been the colour I was aiming for – rather than being capable of averaging over a larger area.

In the end, having got a test pot mixed of the likeliest-looking colour and deciding it wasn’t right once I got it on the walls, I bought 4 more test pots of standard, ready-mixed paint from a DIY store and painted squares of them on several different spots too.

Paint swatchesWho would believe that a colour that is basically a beigey, mushroomy shade of stone would be so hard to match?  I never thought I was so fussy about colour, but all I can say in my defence is that when it’s wrong, it’s wrong.  I plumped for one of the standard colours, thereby saving a fortune, and just got a gloss mixed to match it for the woodwork and the radiator.

Nightsongs shawl

My knitting has slowed to a crawl while all this has been going on, partly because I’m completely exhausted by the time the light finally fades and I have an excuse to stop filling holes – or sanding down, or washing walls, or painting, or whatever – and partly because my hands are so rough that they catch on the fine viscose yarn unless I take great care.  I’ve just started the edging section of  this little shawl.

Nightsongs shawlThe Gail / Nightsongs pattern is not clearly written, at least for a knitter like me who is not particularly experienced in lace work.  So many other people have struggled with it that there’s a huge amount of advice on Ravelry on how best to tackle it, some of which is equally unclear and/or contradictory.  I’ve been glad of my lifelines on more than one occasion.  But I’m nearly there now, it should be done by the end of the week.

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When will it end?

We’ve spent all week preparing the bedroom for redecorating. and haven’t even applied any paint yet.  Under the wallpaper we put up in 2001 was a lot of wallpaper paste, the stubborn remnants of the woodchip paper that we inherited when we moved in, odd areas of silver foil and some very fugitive ochre yellow paint that is probably distemper.  I’m starting to realise why we hung paper the last time instead of just emulsioning.

Before washing down


After washing down


We’re consuming sugar soap, green scouring cloths, sandpaper, filler and dust masks in industrial quantities.

Chimney breast in preparation

Work still needed

How is it in TV make-over programmes that they manage to redecorate a whole room in 24 hours? Supposedly, the secret to a flawless finish when painting and decorating is in the preparation, so I’m hoping that this is all time well spent.

Actually, I’m not in a great hurry because the wallpaper I ordered for the chimney breast a fortnight ago still hasn’t turned up, and until it does I can’t get the paint mixed to match one of the colours in it.

The ceiling is going to be white, but I can’t even get that painted until all the filling and rubbing-down is done and no more dust is being generated.

Nightsongs / Gail shawl

Bearing in mind I’m washing down walls and filling holes for a few hours each evening on top of everything else, with the result I feel pretty tired by the time I sit down to do a bit of knitting after supper, it maybe wasn’t the best idea to start a complicated lace shawl.  But I want to give a pretty, handmade present to someone who’s done me a favour recently, and this allover-lace design in some 2-ply, slubby viscose seemed to fit the bill.

Gail / Nightsongs shawlI went wrong at some point and, despite lifelines, ended up laboriously unpicking several rows stitch by stitch.  The pattern is a freebie called Gail (aka Nightsongs), and the instructions for how to manage the repeats are sparse, to say the least.  Now I’m back on the straight and narrow again with three pattern repeats under my belt.  It’s not looking very impressive at present, more dishcloth-like, but I’m hoping that blocking will sort that out.  The only problem is, I have no idea whether viscose is blockable.  Of course, a sensible woman would have found out the answer to that before casting on …

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