Disaster averted

I usually seem to finish up my knitting projects with at least a ball of yarn to spare, and sometimes a lot more. For one of my early sweaters I ended up with more than four balls left over at the end which I couldn’t figure out at all – it’s not like I forgot to knit a sleeve or something – and I’ve got more than three skeins of Rowan Kid Classic left from my Brown Bear pullover. At least that’s enough for a scarf.

I seem to have tempted the knitting fates with my Thwaite cardigan though, where I substituted yarns and bought what should have been just enough only to run out right near the finish line. Yikes!

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I’d bought the yarn at the Morris & Sons sale a year ago so it was with some trepidation that I headed into town today to see if I could at least find one more ball in the right colour. What a relief, not only a few balls left in my colour but one from the same dye lot.

I now have a new resolution – to always purchase enough yarn for the next size up, which should always leave me some to spare.

Bodie

bodie

Bodie is a stranded colourwork tote bag by Martin Storey from the Rowan book Nordic knits. It’s a gorgeous book featuring mostly patterns for accessories with some beautiful colour combinations, and this may be the first time I have ever knit a pattern using the suggested yarn and the suggested colours: Rowan Felted Tweed DK in “Pine” and “Gilt”. These colours remind me of the gilded screens with painted pine trees at Nijo Palace in Kyoto.

I hesitate to call the patterns in Nordic knits Fair Isle because, like all Rowan stranded colourwork patterns, they’re knit flat and I’d always thought that traditional Fair Isle was knit in the round. Knitting in the round would certainly be easier. It seems that most British stranded colourwork patterns are knit flat, and Australian patterns seem to follow their lead. For Bodie you knit the two colourwork side panels, then join together with a flat band in green “Pine” for the bottom, sides and handle, before lining the bag with a stitched fabric insert.

I’ve gotten the two handed stranding technique down reasonably okay when knitting but purling is a pain. I could do it, but the position of my left hand always seemed to be getting in the way when working with both hands so in the end I worked out a variation of thumb knitting for my left hand when purling, using a description of the technique from June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of knitting.

When I cast on a couple of weeks back I’d thought this was going to be a long-term project but got one side done in a week so then got bold and cast on for the second panel right away. I thought I’d got the second side panel done yesterday but it was only when I got to the very end, reducing for the garter rows at the top, that I noticed I had completely messed up the stitch count for the second panel. I got the first panel right, casting on 107 stitches, but only cast on 97 for the second one, and I hadn’t noticed because the pattern repeat still looked correct. Oh good grief.

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The second panel is now ripped out completely and I’ve started over today, having very carefully checked that I have 107 stitches and 21 pattern repeats this time.

I’m juggling a couple of other projects… my Snawheid hat is back on the go now that my new needle has arrived in the post after I snapped the first one. This is a lovely design, proper Fair Isle knit in the round using Jamieson & Smith jumper weight yarn in a lovely greeny-grey-blue and white. 

And my Thwaite cardigan has been languishing somewhat, which is ridiculous really because it’s almost done. I’m just knitting the button bands and then I can join it all together. I really should get cracking so I can wear it, we’ve had glimpses of warmer Spring weather and our almond tree is in bloom which is always the first sign that Spring is almost here.

I also need to get these projects finished because I have become ridiculously excited by the My Favourite Things scarf knitalong that Martine from iMake is hosting and I’m not going to start on that until I’ve cleared the decks at least a little bit!

Thwaite

For the last day of #blogjune in which I embark on a new knitting project.

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This is the men’s version of Thwaite, a cardigan designed for Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky yarn by Marie Wallin from the Rowan book British sheep breeds collection.

It’s a simple cardigan but with some neat detailing around the collar and the button closures. I would have been very happy to knit this in the Rowan yarn but this is one of those Rowan publications where they omit the smallest men’s size so those of us not built like rugby players are in a bit of difficulty. I wish Rowan would at least list the sizes they do have in their books.

I’m getting around the sizing problem by substituting a similar yarn with a slightly smaller gauge. The Rowan yarn knits to 13 stitches over 10 cm and I’m using Morris Norway which knits to 14 stitches which should come in at just the right size. I picked up the Norway on special at the Morris sale last year. It comes in a range of “natural” colours, mine is charcoal grey.

 

Special meals

For the second last day of #blogjune in which I mustn’t forget to order a vegetarian meal for the flight

It seems that I may be in the minority but I do love airline meals and have even been known to peruse airlinemeals.net when choosing an airline for my trip. It’s fun to browse the pictures of retro airline meals from the 1950s to the 80s too!

14193930839_4211647ba4_zSeeing as we are vegetarian we also get to order a “special meal” which does make you feel a bit special even down the back of the plane because you get your meal first. It’s amazing how often a fellow passenger leans across and says “I wish I’d ordered that”. I do wonder though why an airline meal can’t be as beautiful and tasty as what you can get on a Japanese train.

wpid-img_20140528_031945.jpgWe flew to Japan in May on budget airline Jetstar but you can still order a meal plan, which of course we did! Here is the vegetarian lunch on the way back home from Tokyo. In Australia I’d always choose to fly Qantas where I can. I prefer the service, I prefer the slightly more mature flight staff, and you get a meal! On an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Charleston last year the catering consisted of a glass of water.

I took a mid-afternoon flight on the way up to Brisbane last week so it was just a snack, but it was pretty good: a cup of coffee with a pack of almonds and cranberries, and cheese biscuits with dip. When the flight attendant came around later offering seconds I couldn’t resist.

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I flew home on Friday evening so scored dinner, a pretty basic pasta as it turned out. An Indian gentleman across from me had forgotten to pre-order his vegetarian meal and there were none to spare but the cabin staff tried their best and assembled a tray of bread rolls, biscuits, snacks and fruit. I think he ended up with more food than me.

You get a Rowie’s cake with the vegetarian option on Qantas, and Wayne loves them, so I always save the heart-shaped cake for him.

 

 

Trip to Brisbane

I seem to have fallen off the #blogjune bus somewhere around the half way mark but will try to rectify matters somewhat by getting in a couple at the end.

I’m just back from a two day work trip to attend Elsevier’s Asia Pacific Ebooks Forum which was held on Brisbane’s South Bank in remarkably mild weather for the middle of Winter. It was a very pleasant respite from grey and blustery Melbourne.

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There were librarians from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and Canada! I was asked to represent Australia and presented a case study on ebooks at my library, Swinburne. Even among the Australian librarians we all seem to be doing very different things with ebooks so it’s interesting to hear what librarians are doing in other countries and the challenges they face. I was surprised to hear that there are hardly any ebooks being used in Japanese libraries, mainly because there are hardly any ebooks being published in Japanese, so the two librarians from Japan were certainly facing a unique challenge.

This was the first APAC Ebooks Forum I’ve attended. I believe they’re held every two years and are quite unique to our region. One of the Elsevier representatives told me that there are similar meetings held in Canada and Mexico but not in Europe or the US (I think that’s right). On the second afternoon there was an interesting workshop on authorship for librarians and there was discussion on using blogs to get started, and I mentioned our library’s staff blog Ideas come from everything which was created with just that thought in mind. I really should write up my presentation for the blog.

The Forum closed after the authorship discussion but because I misread the program and got the closing time wrong I booked myself on a much later flight than I should have. That did at least give me a couple of hours at the end to contemplate what we’d talked about and go for a walk down to the Botanic Gardens and enjoy some blue skies and sunshine before heading back to the airport and blustery Melbourne – and a very bumpy landing!

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Finishing line! Mustard jumper and Garden vest

For #blogjune – Some knitting projects finished

I’ve finally finished two projects that have been hanging around for a while. The seemingly endless mustard jumper, that I seem to have knitted three times, was finished last weekend. My head fits through the neck! Even better,  the rest of it fits me too. Yay!!

Although I only decided to rip out the crew neck and reknit it with a v-neck to deal with the practical problem of my head not fitting, I’m now really glad with how things turned out. The v-neck is pretty handsome, will just now need to find some shirts to go with it.

(There will be photos but I  soaked and blocked it and, what with chunky yarn and cold damp weather, it’s still not dry.)

wpid-wp-1403166783028.jpegLast night I finished a vest and I’m really pleased with how this came out too, so much so that I wore it to work today without even washing or blocking it at all.

This is the Harrison vest by Martin Storey from Rowan Dalesmen. The pattern is for Rowan Alpaca Cotton but I knit mine from a little over six skeins of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran in grey-green colourway”Garden”.

This is the first men’s vest pattern I’ve knitted that includes waist shaping. In the smallest size you cast on 73 stitches and then gradually increase to 81 stitches giving you a 40 inch/100 cm finished chest size at 16 stitches to 10 cm. It fits me perfectly – although I may need to do just a little waist shaping myself.

The aran weight vest is actually a great layering item for cold days like today with a warm coat, and I even got to wear a scarf on the train ride home tonight.

Travel tips for Japan

I’ve missed a couple of days but I’ve decided I’m now just going to “blog every day quite often” in #blogjune

For today’s post I’ve been inspired by Steph’s blog post of travel tips for her recent trip to New York and thought I might do something similar for Japan. In May we decided to try out Jetstar’s new direct Melbourne-Tokyo flights for a two week holiday based in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Japan Rail Pass?

It worked out cheaper for us to fly in/out through Tokyo and pick up a Japan Rail Pass than to fly one way through Kansai International, the nearest international hub to Kyoto, so we figure we got the rail pass for free. One return trip on the shinkansen bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto will pay for a 7 day pass so any other rail trips you can work in after that are a bonus. You’ll need to purchase the pass before you leave home (we got ours from JTB Travel in Melbourne).

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You’ll be covered for free travel on most Japan Rail services. Seat reservations usually cost extra but JR Pass holders can make seat reservations for free at station service desks. You cannot use the premium shinkansen services, such as the Nozomi between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka, with the pass. Book yourself on a Hikari instead, just  a little bit slower.

Trains to/from Narita airport

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Jetstar lands at Tokyo Narita rather than the closer airport at Tokyo Haneda. If you’re travelling on a rail pass that will cover you for the JR N’EX Narita Express. It takes over an hour to reach Tokyo where most trains split and some cars continue to Shibuya and Shinjuku. Count on up to 90 minutes from the airport to Shibuya/Shinjuku. All seats on the N’EX are reserved.

If you don’t have a rail pass, the privately run Keisei Skyliner is faster, cheaper and more frequent than JR from Narita. It takes just 36 minutes to the Keisei terminal at Ueno. You can transfer to the JR lines at Nippori, but it’s not much fun getting on a rush hour Yamanote line train with luggage (ask me how I know) so if you’re heading for somewhere like Shinjuku or Shibuya you might want to take the N’EX.

Hyperdia

Hyperdia is a free web site that allows you to search for any JR or private train in Japan. The iOS/Android apps are by monthly subscription but we just used the free web version on a tablet.  Hyperdia is great for checking long distance train times, it tells you connection details (including platforms at major stations) and you can exclude the premium shinkansen services such as the Nozomi which you can’t use with a JR Pass.

It’s also great for when you need to make seat reservations. We used our tablet, pulled up the Hyperdia screen for the train we wanted to book and showed it to the ticket clerks at JR offices. Easy peasy.

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Luggage lockers

There are luggage lockers at all major stations. The ones at Tokyo took Y1000 notes but some only take coins. At a huge station like Tokyo there are thousands of lockers scattered all over the station. We took a photo of the lockers and also of one of the nearby “You are here” station maps. I’m not sure we would ever have found our locker again without the photo.

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Money

Credit cards are becoming more common but it’s surprising how many places still only take cash. We also had problems with some businesses that couldn’t process a debit card so you’ll need to have some money or be able to get some.

A lot of ATMs wouldn’t accept our ATM cards from home but we discovered that the ATMs at Seven Eleven stores not only take foreign issued cards but also have an English display. There are Seven Eleven stores everywhere all over Japan.

Google Translate

We also loaded Google Translate on the tablet. You can load a language dictionary so that it will work in limited mode when you’re offline, although I’m not sure how helpful it is. When Wayne got a blister we tried to ask for help at a chemist shop but nobody understood anything that Google came up with, not even the word “blister”.

Maps

As Steph wrote in her blog post, we loaded the offline maps for the CityPro app for Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka but the Japanese ones are a bit tricky to use. You can usually find large neighbourhood maps near major road intersections and train stations in Japan but don’t assume that the top of the map is north. Japanese maps seem to be oriented in the direction you’re looking, so north might be at the bottom or the side.

If you’re looking for a shop or restaurant, always try to get a screen shot of the little maps that seem to be on every business web site. Apart from major roads, most streets in Tokyo don’t have names and it’s all but impossible to find anywhere in Tokyo just by the address. But if you have the map and you’re in roughly the right area, show it to the staff at convenience stores who will try to point you in the right direction.

North/south or east/west?

In Kyoto, the signals at crosswalks make the sound of a cuckoo’s call if you’re crossing north/south and the sound of an owl if you’re crossing east/west. This may be helpful, but it is certainly delightful.