Saturday, December 24, 2005

adoration of the moggy

In reality, adoration of the prime radiator spot in the house, but bad puns help me feel the xmas spirit.

To those who celebrate this time of year, in whatever shape or form, have a splendiferous time, all spangly and sparkly and special.

Love, susoolu.

Friday, December 16, 2005

goo-goo ga-ga

bad photo of cute baby things,
aka EZ's BSJ and Anouk, pre-blocked
(well, they were cute in the pattern)

But I haven't got much time at the moment to try and take better pictures, for not only is it that time of the year, but a friend, in her infinite wisdom, brought her wedding forward to the week before that time of year (also, I think she didn't want her unexpected but much longed-for babies to be born b******s). (And I say, nothing wrong with being born a b******, as technically, I was. And I'm being mean and grumpy about it, and nobody is allowed to get married/have parties/have fun of any kind ever again, or at least for the next five years, if it involves me having to go shopping for something to wear.) So what with the shopping, and the shopping for something to wear, and the shopping, and the finishing of gifts, and the head-in-sand attitude towards all things seasonal, and the stress and the... Again, you know how all this goes.

But seriously dudes, baby clothes. So unbelievably cute, makes me almost want one of my own. (By the way, asking people 'how large is a baby's neck?' results in some quite strange and possibly slightly disturbing gestures.) And quick to knit. Ultimate gratification, brownie points for using stash, and all official gift knitting finished.

Things I have learned - Anouk

Anouk is clever, french-baby chic, just right for a Continental European baby. But I'll say it again, and maybe I will remember this time, that cotton is a pain for showing errors, no matter how cheery the colours. However, I have decided that those odd little tension kicks - when a stitch just doesn't sit quite right, when it is a little loose, or a little tight - are not my fault. They are the fault of all the people/cats/telephones/cats/doorbells who interrupt me mid-row.

If I made it again, I might adjust the shaping at the bottom, as the moss/seed stitch border does tend to pull in a little.

For a really quick knit, you could leave off the pockets altogether, or knit them plain. To avoid sewing pockets on, you could always experiment with making a double knit pouch (which one day I might just do).

I cannot sew. I cannot even do a simple duplicate stitch, with instructions in front of me, and make it look even half-way acceptable. Anything that expects me to sew is doomed from the start.

Things I have learned - Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket

Thank you, thank you, thank you - to all the bloggers I have discovered in recent months who kept mentioning EZ, which finally prompted me to go and have a look and see what all the fuss was about. She is so much fun, and I firmly believe in a woman who roamed far and wide in her attempt to eradicate seams. And the BSJ is such a hoot to make.

What else? Well, you can make 'interesting' seams if you attack them with a crochet hook, and make it up as you go along. Anyway, it's for a baby, so no-one will be looking at the seams.

Jamieson & Smith (ah, how do I love thee, let me count the ways, my passion for J&S is running out of control at the moment) smells ever so faintly of the farmyard when wet, of small baby lambs and mucking out stables and unpasturised milk, healthy and fertile and fun (a nice organic farmyard, not one of your battery places, no thank you). Which is a good thing if you dreamed of having your own pony when you were a little girl, and would spend hours starting at ungodly hours in the morning working as slave labour just so you could be near a horse. But standing at the kitchen sink inhaling wet wool and dreaming of My Friend Flicka does not get the cat hair out or the blocking done. And the mother of the baby did have a pony when young (hiss, hiss, spit, spit, gently turning green), so faint farmyards won't faze her at all.

Now I'm off to stand over wet wool, and day-dream. And pretend I don't have to sew on 8 buttons.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


bucket hat

There is something about short and cold days that makes me come over all traditional. Hot one pot stews, hot chocolates, hot water bottles, hot toddies, and having hot hands and heads. So I suppose it is lucky that I bought out the Jamieson & Smith stand at the Harrogate show the other week, as shetland spun, for me, falls oh so neatly into the traditional category.

Above is my second attempt at a new winter hat. Inspired by Elizabeth Zimmermann's pillbox, and using a Barbara G. Walker mosaic pattern, I have managed to make a hat which is almost perfect, if just ever so slightly too big. (Seeing as the first hat was too small, I'm feeling just a little bit Goldilockish.)

Jamieson & Smith 2 ply soft spun.
Size 4mm needles (but they could have been 4.5mm, my note taking is non-existent).
Provisional crochet chain cast on (my new favourite) - finished off with a couple of crochet rounds to stop the bottom from curling.
Odd mods 1 - slipping stitches knitwise, which gives (I think) a little bit of interesting texture to the pattern.
Odd mods 2 - using a left-slanting decrease on the hat top, 'cos I think it looks pretty.

Things I have learnt.

Mosaic patterns seem to work really well in the round - and the colour jog isn't that noticeable.

Remembering that unless 'they' say otherwise, stitches are meant to be slipped purlwise. I like the slight textured effect slipping knitwise has given, but if I were to do it again, I would twist a couple of stitches in the non-patterned rows, in order to stop them pooching out.

Left-leaning decreases can look quite pretty, but when knitting in the round, they do pucker the fabric.

My head is too short for a 6 1/2 inch tall hat.

Paint pots do make very good head substitutes for blocking, but if you leave the handle on, the hat develops an interesting lump.

But the two best things? My head is warm, and a very cool friend (you know, the kind who does indie bands and vintage port, and doesn't laugh at you for not knowing music, and still invites you over to drink the port) said it was a cool hat. My head might have swelled just a touch, and now I have a perfectly fitting hat.

Thanks for all your kind comments on the stash haul - I am feeling considerably less guilty about it. Trouble is, now the yarn has been exposed, the list of projects is increasing exponentially. And then today the Habu kits arrived. Maybe I could teach the cats to knit?

Friday, December 02, 2005

err ... umm ...

*photo by Puplet - whose camera has a seriously good flash

So, I went to Harrogate last week, with a recently brought over to the yarn-side friend (even though she prefers wire), to see what I could see at the Knitting and Stitching Show, and it seems that some yarn came home with me. I'm only mentioning this, because a certain other friend (yes, that would be you, Blueadt), who has been showing off her refined and restrained purchases, has been badgering me to name and shame my own haul. I think, on reflection, I may have been solely responsible for clearing out the Jamieson and Smith stand on the first day, and I'm pretty certain I got the one and only copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's 'The Opinionated Knitter' to be had anywhere in the show.

Lorna's Laces lulled me into a state of reverie, and some how I bought so much, in Lion & Lamb and Shepherd Sock, that the stall holder gave me a whole, wait for it, *free pen* (whoo-hoo). And then, of course, having started on the whole it might be lace, it might be sock thang, there was the Cherry Tree Hill supersock vs Fyberspates laceweight mohair debate. Which, of course, my credit card lost.

For the almost finale (and, as it turns out, self and EZOK protection - disappointed knitters can be awful persistent with the whole 'are you sure you want that book?' stalking) some extra extra large needles and hook, from the lovely people at Wool'n'Boats. (I have been secretly lusting after these ever since Woolywormhead mentioned them.)

The actual finale is somewhere mid-Atlantic, but might just involve the word Habu.

Now, I could try and tell you about the show, but I don't know what else I could say apart from it was crowded, with many stalls, many beautiful textile displays, anemic coffee, bloggers to recognize (hello, Yvonne), and I didn't bring my camera. But it was my first really big show, and I'm still a little shell-shocked.

I'm also a little appalled at my avarice.

I was going to go off on one about how embarrassing I've found this display of conspicuous consumption, how I've been not quite hiding the haul, but still not bringing it all out to play, how I feel guilty that I was so self-indulgent, because even though most of the yarn is marked for presents, in reality it is all for me, to feed the pleasure I have found in rediscovering knitting.

But bringing it out tonight, I looked, and saw that it was good, that the second hat is nearly done, the shawl is started, the first hat has already found a new home, and I've reduced the storage crisis pressure (and reminded myself that a slight yarn fetish is a somewhat innocent pleasure - I could be out there clubbing seals, or playing traditional polkas to thrash metal fans), and I promise that I won't buy any more yarn until at least 2006.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

feeling blue?

then ...
knit yellow

I thought I would knit the clever little 'I'll grow with you' Anouk for a friend's daughter - and after a couple of false starts, I settled on Jaeger's aqua, in 'please, please no more pink, I'm in the 7th circle of candyfloss hell' colours. So it isn't finished, and cotton is an absolute quean for showing any boo-boos (see, practising baby language for when I meet Anouk's wearer-to-be), but I desperately wanted to try and take a photo of that yellow.

Because, up here, once the days get shorter, and official winter comes nearer, the sky seems to fall, and the world collapses to closed-in grey, highlighted only from below by wet decaying 'we really did try to reach glorious autumn-colour honestly' leaves. And life can feel a little flat. But the other day, with a spare afternoon, and side one of Anouk started on my lap, I felt a little strange. It wasn't the many coffees, or the unaccustomed quiet that comes when cats finally stop trying to kill each other and go to sleep, or even that I had captured a spare, stolen hour. It was a feeling of light, of once identified undeniably spring cheer and warm new hope, a feeling that came from having my hands dripping with daffodil gold.

Now I've heard of knitting as therapy, and I've read the stories of knitting through adversity, and I know I relish the sense of accomplishment when I get a pattern down pat. But I never expected that such a little yellow ball would unwind and loop into such a piece of anti-S.A.D. happiness. So I shall horde the remaining yellow yarn, and when it is all too grey, I shall bring it out to play.

It is enough to make me come over all Wordsworthian cloud. (Well, almost, for my heart belongs to a metaphysic sun.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2005

from the sublime to the ridiculous

the divine miss l m

Lettice Maud has been here for a few weeks, but is only now feeling ready to 'go public'. Her journey to the north was somewhat traumatic, as she found the postal service just a little rough - some nasty, nasty man put a hole in her suitcase. Still, once unpacked, and unruffled, and after some Earl Grey (in bone china, thank you very much), she quickly realised no harm was done. She misses her flatmate, and their walks through the Hampshire countryside, looking for Mr Darcy and Mr Wentworth, but is coming to realise that exploring wuthering heaths could be quite an adventure. (I, however, think that if she actually met a Heathcliffe, she would, in a distinctly ladylike fashion, run a mile.)

Lettice Maud has enjoyed making new friends - the ladies at the nearest craft guild particularly appreciate her ways with a bakewell tart - though she has found the accent a little difficult to understand. And she was delighted to discover a fairly close Capability Brown garden. Feeling daring, she decided to venture outside today - but not again, until spring, as it was just too cold - and explore the local flora. Altogether, Lettice Maud feels she may indeed like the north (although her heart will forever belong to Jane, and Hampshire), but just for now, she wishes it were a little warmer.

(Absolutely none of the above will make sense if you don't run over and visit Yarnstorm - and I strongly recommend that you do.)

would you believe they are socks?

At a local craft fair (Lettice Maud wanted to go), I found these bizarre looking items. Made from handspun Jacob's fleece, I was told by the spinner/knitter that these are one size fits all socks. Made for World War (1? - I wasn't listening that carefully, too busy stroking the wool) soldiers, one is meant to try them on, identify the heel, and then darn for strength. A friend, who knows the maker, calls them 'banana socks'. They aren't pretty pretty, but they are practical, and in good function there is always an aesthetic beauty. They look simple to make - a few longish rows of garter stitch (for the length of the foot, and up the calf aways), then a few longish rows of stocking, with decreases thrown in, all done flat, and seamed up the top. (I would properly reverse engineer them, but I don't want to take them apart!) No sock wool, no tiny needles, no complicated heel flaps, kitchenering, or tricky shaping. And they make the best bed socks ever.

The lesson for today? It is fun making your own things (with the added bonus of feeling all clever about it), but sometimes, you can get far more pleasure from the work of others. So thank you Yarnstorm, and spinning lady whose name I have forgotten, for the pleasure I have found in Lettice Maud and the banana socks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

kitten's smitten

What, would you have preferred knittin' a mitten for a kitten?

Regardless of bad wordplay, I have learnt from my first (finished) mitten attempt. And, obviously, I thought I would share.

A mitten is something to keep your hand warm. Alpaca is warm. Ergo, mittens made from Alpaca should be warm. But, as it turns out, that is still only a theory.

Mittens are traditionally made with itsy-bitsy sharp little pointy things, that some may think are getting close to toothpick size. 2.5mm (somewhere between a 1 and a 2, for you lot over there) seems just about sharp and pointy enough.

Stash Alpaca's ballband says to use 4mm (aka 6 - getting confused yet?). Tctch - who ever paid attention to the ballband.

Mittens are a quick knit. Estonian mittens, while very beautiful, are not.

Estonian braiding is lots of fun. Estonian braiding with two strands of too thick for the needle yarn is not.

As the temperature drops, and mitten-need moves from desirable to imperative, giving up on Estonian is NOT a sign of weakness. (After all, if you do ever want to knit Estonian, then your hands need to be not numb with cold.)

Some picking up/fixing of holes is unavoidable, even in mitten knitting (think thumb). Warm and fuzzy may hide some holes, but DOES NOT mean you can avoid picking up properly.

Doing a jogless join is great, but looks really silly if you change colour twice, and jogless only once.

Sharp and pointy needles are indeed very sharp and pointy. So sharp and pointy that they wear painful little chasms into fingertips.

Knitting through pain is possible, but sometimes a bandage and a single malt is better.


The last thing I learnt? Kittens like mittens.

Actually, I learnt some other things too. For example, if you try them on as you go, and they are too narrow, just making them longer doesn't fix the problem. And I learnt to remember to look in the winter drawer, and pull out the bought in Iceland Icelandic mittens.

The moral of the story is - make the wrong mittens, and make a cat happy.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

something happened

Nothing to worry about, nothing serious, just a re-shaping of my world.

You see, I used to watch a movie, and focus on the story, the acting, the editing, the special effects, oh you know, the usual stuff. And I would rewatch a movie, because it had a special little something. And sometimes a movie would make it into my collection, because you never know when you might want a whizz-bang blockbuster, a tearful documentary, or a rollicking comedy. Because I'm a firm believer in doing something again, if you enjoyed it the first time around (knitting, anyone?). And there is something comforting in the anticipation of the known.

So, feeling in a 'I want a bit of nothing too dramatic, but with subtle deep currents', and possibly feeling just a tad peckish, I thought the starkly beautiful Babette's Feast would fill the hole. (A word of warning - if you are a little squeamish about your food preparation, or if you don't eat the animals, then this may not be the film for you.) I've never read the original Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen story, of life in an isolated late 19th century Jutland village relentlessly, but tenderly, colliding with the wider world, but I've always found the film entrancing, as it carries me to times past and times lost.

Previously, I've waited for the feast, the pay-off as it were, and let the opening acts wash over as they set the scene. But not any more. Because now the film (at least the first half) is all about knitting. Want to see shawls in their natural habitat? Here they are. Want to see no-nonsense matter-of-fact every-day dpn use? There they are, worked casually in a lap, or left for later use in a dpn(not)fruit bowl. And I watched, yarn and pattern and idea spotting. A simple lined mainly garter-stitch faroese-type shawl - with the dove-grey lining showing through the lace panel on the deep warm brown topcoat. Okay, hit the pause button, crawl up and press nose to screen, taking mental notes. Oooh, an open work stole - now is that knit, or crochet? And how thick is that yarn, being worked into socks, or are they mittens? And the feast? Still enticing, but tempered with just a hint of disappointment, as the knitted lace was left at home in favour of the bobbin kind.

Is this what happens? Does the yarn tangle down into your soul? Do you watch a movie for the handknits, rather than the actor? Do you cheer when Gromit whips out his needles? Nod in approval (and recognition) when Dumbledore mentions reading old knitting patterns? Is everything about the yarn? The pattern? The knit? So tell me, did Copernicus and Gallileo get it wrong, and just when did they make the sun out of wool?

On the actual I might actually have been using needles front. Well, although mother no. 1 might have said she didn't want anything in your traditional pastel baby colours, I don't think she meant she would be happy with something that looks like it came out of a diaper. So froggy went a courtin' there. And cold hands the other morning pushed mittens to the top of the list, but I went for Estonian, rather than finished, so I'm barely off the 'lets try that again' braid cuffs. Still, tonight I have the night off from the world, a bag of yarn at my feet, and ideas.

Happy knitting, to each and every one.

Friday, November 04, 2005

oh, good grief

I am, I have to admit, a slovenly hedonist. I could show you pictures of a dishevelled house, just to make my point, but halloween has come and gone, and who needs to see an unswept floor. Instead, a picture of my new pretty-pretties, which I have been petting and petting and petting, because it makes me feel good, in a way that hoovering never does.

The other day I had to sit on a few trains, for a few hours. Being peculiarly efficient, I managed to drag myself to the train station early. (Well, no, I got there early because I had heard whispers that a certain store opposite the station had good - read expensive - yarn, AND a bargain bag of even better - read was once expensive and is now cheap - yarn.) A spat of innocent browsing, just the thing to pass the time.

My bag was already packed with goodies to help pass the time. A perfect opportunity to drag socks to their heels, I thought, and catch up on a Pink Martini or two. And yet, oh yet, someone, somehow, had packed a couple of unadorned needles, in useful sizes, and a pattern book, just in case. At first, I was good, and stuck to the money-off selection, where four little balls of jaeger baby merino 4ply came out to play. Soft, baby colours too. But then I remembered that mother no. 1 had specified an anything but baby colour item, so back they went. But surely mother no. 2, or even no. 3 would approve, so out they came again. Now, I could have stopped there, and escaped cheaply, and I swear I walked towards the cash-desk. So how did I find myself by the cashsoft? And how did I manage to pick up six? I think, in a trance, I might have burrowed ever so slightly into the stack. Six balls were stuck like burrs, cradling gently in my arms. I kindly suggested they wanted to return to their lot mates, but they explained it was cramped and crowded in there, and their little cashmere fibres were being crushed, and wouldn't some fresh air be good for them, and how they just always, always dreamt of growing up one day, and becoming a scarf, so they could twizzle in the coming winter winds. And being soft, and because they are soft, I might just have rescued them. But I am sure I explained that they would all have to wait quietly, in their plastic bags, until the socks were done.

And I was doing so well, as I moved towards the door. But the yarn asked so politely if it could see the pattern book (and might had made rude comments about having to spend the day in a plastic bag, and wasn't I evil, to have promised the open road, and then keep them locked up, unable to breathe), and there wasn't enough room for everything to go in one bag. And didn't the store just happen to have a hand-bag display by the door (so sue me, I went for the hand-bag door, and not the men's novelty cuff-link section door). And didn't a little dog shout out 'take me walkies'.

And what was meant to be a quick hit-and-run cheap shop turned into a totally self-indulgent over-the-top shop. And do you think the socks got a look in? Or did I spent an hour and a half fondling yarn and sniffing new leather?

Not to worry, though, I got my comeuppance the next day. (Although I prefer to think I was being prescient - and arranging rewards in advance.) For as little Fran has been discovering the house, she has stolen a voice. Each day Fran seems to develop a new little chirrup or quack or meow, while Sootie, who used to be the very vocal baby of the family and is now suffering the torments of being a middle-child, has lost her meow. There is nothing more pathetic than a cat who can barely croak. Particularly when piteously croaking in the cat-box on the way to the vet. And my payback? In the shape of cat claws left embedded in my hand when the injection when in. But the vet found my dripping blood funny, especially when he realised he wouldn't be rostered on when I take her back tomorrow for her second shot. Oh, the shame, to have a cat whose record comes up on screen with flashing warning signs. (And that little piece of sardine that was waiting in the fridge for her, when she got back from the torture-shop? Do you think she got that? Well of course she did.)

For my next post, after this oh good grief, what is she wittering on about session, I will be asking you 'how large is a baby these days?'. No, seriously, I have baby clothes to knit, and the wrong yarn, and a whole set of gauge issues, and I might just be winging it on a pattern or two, and children are lovely and all the rest, but I don't do babies, and I don't know if my knitting would fit a mini-munchkin or a geheffalump.

Friday, October 28, 2005

why meme

No, seriously, why me? I'm not very good at things like this, and even worse at passing them on, as I am with all correspondence (xmas cards get posted in January - familiar to anyone?). But, just because Blue'I'vejustfinishedmyfirstsockgenius'adt and mary'mathgenius'-lou asked sooo nicely, I'll give it a go.

Ten years ago:
I just got back from a highly top-secret mission to the international space station, where I ran experiments on the effects of weightless on knitting. The results showed that gravityless yarn, contrary to all previous earth-bound evidence, behaved perfectly. No knots, no tangles, no dropped stitches, no missing yarn-overs, no miscounts, kitcheners that grafted themselves, dpns that stayed put, bulgeless seams, and most miraculously of all, gauge that always matched and garments that fitted.

Five years ago:
I was in a witness protection programme, hiding out disguised as a stud llama in Outer Mongolia, with Sven and Micki 'boy' Delft, two ex-SAS camels, acting as llamaguards, following threats made by a secret cabal of yarnies. The yarn industry didn't like anything that implied yarn might behave badly, IASA were worried that they would be overrun with knitters demanding space on the next shuttle, and knit-bloggers were worried that they would run out of blogging material. I would name names, but you know how ornery those k-bloggers can be. (ps, a tip, fermented horse milk is definitely an acquired taste.)

One year ago:
After having won elGordo for the third year running, I was able to pay off the yarn industry (a certain company, whose name rhymes with flagellated protozoan - minus 6 syllables - drove a particularly hard bargain). Following major reconstructive interspecies surgery, for myself (cloven hooves back to opposable thumbs was especially tricky) and Sven and Micki 'boy' (who now service my every need, although they still have a slight tendency to spit), and after signing a cast-iron contract, agreeing to keep my identity secret (or else I'm on the addi blacklist), I was allowed to re-integrate back into the knitting world.

Five songs I know all the words to:
The twelve days of Christmas (how far can you get?)
Happy Birthday
10 green bottles
And once, when I was young and foolish, I learnt the lyrics to Tom Lehrer's 'The Elements', so when I am old and senile, I shall recall them with perfect, but out of date, clarity.

Five snacks:
Alfalfa and a salt lick are strangely appealing
Coffee (to my dying day, I will swear that caffeine is a legitimate, and necessary, food group)
Cold baked beans
Cottage cheese

Five things I would do with $100 million:
Set up an international yarn donation scheme
Book a space flight
Family, charity, a bit of fun etc. You know how this goes.

Five places to run away to:
Having been on the run for the last 9 years, I'm happy where I am, for now.
But Iceland is cool, as long as the sulphur in the air doesn't get you.

Five things I would never wear:
Puff ball skirts
Meringue wedding dress
Strappy tops without chicken wing protection
A ducking stool

Five favourite TV shows:
Bremner, Bird and Fortune
West Wing (the Sorkin years)
Sapphire and Steel
The Book Group

Five biggest joys:
Cats (because otherwise they will destroy the yarn, they said)
Sleep - specifically, the Sunday morning back to sleep, after breakfast in bed and newspapers
BBC Radio 4/The World Service

Five favourite toys:
Credit card and secure internet access
Coffee machine
Knitting needles

There, now wasn't that fun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

raglan filed

Officially, Cabled Yoke Pullover - Ann Budd, The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns (available from all good bookshops - you know who they are).
Jaeger Shetland Aran - shade 34, claret (apparently, a never officially released colour, but available from Jannette).
Just broke into the 6th ball.
Started 30th September, finished 20th October.
For a size 40", with some modifications.

And now, let me sing a hymn of praise to Ann Budd. Her handy books, from Interweave, may not look all rings and bells on first glance. No stylish sets nor antiqued accessories, no windswept winter landscapes nor summer sunshine shots. (I asked you to stop me alliterating - but do you care? No.) Pages upon pages of numerical charts, with simple, indoor, ordinary-people models, and even, shock-horror, clear photos of the actual clothes, unadorned, and elegant in their simplicity.

But if you have a hankering to pretend that you are designing your own, or if you want to use a different yarn, with a different gauge (being good, and stash-busting? Being fickle, and fallen for something new and shiny?), she will walk you through the changes. Want to make the cabled yoke pullover, but using Jaeger, rather than Rowan? Well, swatch, baby, swatch. (And boy, am I beginning to understand just how important those little squares are - and the cats have a growing range of cat-nip filled things.) Work out your gauge, read down the chart, and away you go.

And the best, best, best thing. Guess how many stitches needed sewing together in the in-the-round-raglan? 40. Yes, 40, forty, four zero, 40. 10 little stitches under each sleeve needed joining with 10 little stitches under the arms, 20 a side, 40 in all. And the stitches were all happy and snug to meet their mates. And I was happy. And after re-doing the neck (because, as I might have said before, someone has an over-large head), the wearer is happy.

I have 4 and a bit balls left over - matching hat/scarf/gloves? Or would that be a little too 5 year old for a man approaching his 30s?

Now, for the kitten news. Fran is currently missing somewhere in the house, probably under a bed. (Good tip - if cleaning is not always the most important thing in your life, and underbeds come bottom of the list, send a kitten in. They make very good dusters, with the added bonus of being self-cleaning.) Because Fran is beginning to explore the world outside her safe-room, and it is all *very exciting*. No doubt she will return when she wants something. In the meantime, a shot of intense kitten concentration. Ribbons can be hypnotic, you know.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

arsenic and new lace

I'm a sucker for a Cary Grant movie, and Arsenic and Old Lace is one of my favourites. But for a few days, I've been working on a bit of new lace. Nothing too exciting at the moment - although working the first few rounds on two circulars made for some interesting tangles. But I have grand ideas for the edging and border, and I'm hoping that a few more thousand stitches will get me well and proper used to sillyly thin yarn. I know some people hate variegated lace, and truth to tell, I'm undecided, but I have a winter wedding to attend, my posh frock is purple, and I really want to spend the evening doing the Tango two-step with new lace and perfidious Manolos.

The arsenic, however, is being saved for a certain cat. A new cat to you lot, is Sootie. And an awful photo (night-time, flash, etc.) of a finished object being blocked. The raglan is finished, woven-in, blocked, dried, the bind-off redone, as the new owner has a ridiculously large and misshapen head, and now worn (if just a tad tightly). But we came perilously close to major cat destruction. Whilst doing the 'sweater straddle' - a highly sophisticated blocking manouevre that involves pinning the bottom and sides of a sodden wet jumper down with feet and legs, and, at the same time, stretching out the yoke and shoulders, accompanied by a grim-mutter chant of 'you will stretch, I will win, you will stretch' - shadows were being cast. Sootie is a sucker for a shadow. Shadows are deeply threatening, and must be destroyed. Any shadows cast on any items on the floor live in said items (the fire-side rug has long since given up). Said items must be clawed, mauled, and given the death kick. Clearly, a new shadow had taken up residence in the raglan. Not to be deterred by wet wool, screaming knitters, or the offer of food, the shadows were attacked, and temporarily vanquised. But just to be safe, Sootie sat and guarded. And then, just to make absolutely sure that the shadows understood who was in charge, Sootie sat on wet wool, and licked certain bits. Seeing as the raglan survived, the cat has too - but I have had to have a long conversation with young Soot over the fine line she paws between cute and and just too much. I'm sure she understood.

Photos, proper, and details, proper, of the raglan another day.

And if you want a fix of feral Fran, our new kitten, pop over to Puplet. (Alliteration avoidance advice avidly accepted.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

yarn training


On Sunday, Fran was brought home from the shelter. She is a tiny thing, but so far well-behaved, if a little nervous. She knows where her litter tray is, likes her food, doesn't hiss or spit, bite or scratch (but that could just be because her claws are still little). She prefers under the bed to her fancy new basket and blanket (typical). She has played just a little, with paws coming out to snag the dancing feather. She has discovered that she can get up to the pillow on the windowsill - but only when it is dark and she thinks no-one is looking. And we have discovered that she has discovered purring.

But she is in training - yarn appreciation training, for cats. Because the best place in the world, once she realises that she is coming out from under the bed, is down a sweater sleeve, and preferably one already occupied. And yes, it is very cute, but me, I'm thinking ahead, to when she is older and bigger and braver, and possibly showing too much interest in dangling threads. So, although there is a range of sweater sleeves around, in a range of fibres, I am trying to encourage Fran in her liking for Acrylic sleeves, in Acrylic jumpers. Acrylic will be safe, cosy, welcoming. Acrylic will be fun, happy, and will not cause apoplexy in cat looker-afterers. Fran will not want to play with any kind of wool, mohair, angora, alpaca, or cashmere (and not that I have a stash filled with such exotic fibres, but I can dream). Fran will encourage me in my desire to be a yarn snob, because Fran will not want to play with anything other than Acrylic. (Acrylic is starting to look just a little strange - go on, you type it out five times, and see if it looks right to you. See, it doesn't happen with lambswool et al.)

What do you think of my chances?

In other news, the raglan is so close. To being finished, and to being perhaps just a touch too close-fitting (hoping that washing brings a little relaxation, as irritatingly, friend was, still is, and always will be skinny, so I can't blame them for having changed shape). Perhaps tomorrow, there might just be a photo or two of not-cats. But remember, cats down sleeves makes for a very slow knitter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

hit and run posting

Fifth kitten found ... in with litter mates at shelter ... mum still around ... cut hole in garage door ... bed in garage for mum ... tasty mice sighted in garage for mum ... mum living in garage for now, we think ... much knitting ... UK national knitting week ... making blankets ... arms on raglan done ... yoke and neck to come ... modem problems ... back soon ... with pictures ... of new kitten in house ... and maybe knitting ...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

stray cat st(r)utt-er

The good news is, four kittens are rescued. They spent their first night warm and safe, down at a local animal shelter. The bad news is that it was their first night without mum or one of their litter-mates. Yesterday, we had to make a move. Mum was losing interest, she wasn't protecting them from humans, and she wasn't going to play the food game. She did show up a couple of times, but didn't go to the nest, or eat the food, whereas the kittens had been very interested in sardines. So, with three friends, and after asking the advice of local cat rescue people, we went for it. Damn, but do little 6 week old kittens move. An hour and a half later, scratched, stung, soaked, we pulled up at the shelter, and handed them in.

The fifth escaped into a neighbour's garden, no way were we going to find him, so we had to leave him behind.

Much later that evening both mum and the kitten were back, together, but early this morning both the food and the cats are gone. We will keep feeding, just in case. We have the loan of a proper cat-trap, just in case. But just in case is more likely probably not.

And I am telling you this not because it is that interesting, but because I feel guilty and full of doubt. Did we move in too quickly? Will the kitten die, as the weather gets worse? Will mum be out there, breeding again, nesting elsewhere, and more scared of humans who are trying ineptly to help? But four are safe. Four is better than nothing at all.

By the way, if anyone wants to see, Puplet has more pictures.

Normal knitting content will be resumed next week. At least yarn isn't quite as traumatic as stray cats.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

2 + 6 =


= trouble

Yes, another post about those pesky critters. The dreadful picture at the top shows one of the cats who regularly uses our garden. Nothing unusual there, quite a lot of cats pass through what I have named our 'wildlife haven' (but what our neighbours would call a mess). Our cats, being relatively new on the block, tolerate them. Only the occasional hissy fit, so far only one trip to the vet for cat fight repairs. As I said, nothing unusual. The cat at the top, a tiny little black and white creature, has been around quite a lot recently, not looking in the best of health, but hey, we have two cats already, and they don't always take kindly to strangers, so what can you do. But, it turns out she had a reason for visiting. For in the back of the garden, in an over-grown bramble infested corner, she has had a litter. Five kittens, draining their mother dry. Six cats to catch.

So, for the past two days, an intensive feeding and taming programme has begun. The supermarket, having institued a multi-buy policy (no more than 6) has given special dispensation for bulk purchases of sardines (apparently very good for lactating mums). The sardines have gone down a treat (off a fork, no problems, 'and by the way, while I'm here, shall I just like your fingers clean of that tasty fish oil?'). The kittens are curious, and not afraid. The local animal shelter is primed, and will make room for them, once they are caught. All systems go.

But, my own 'sweet' moggies are not impressed. For the magical magnetic door to the garden is locked and blocked, and 'why the hell is she taking our food outside?'. (A magical door, but mysterious, as human presence somehow stops it working, so the big door must be used. Except, of course, when food is around, at which point nothing will stop a cat getting in.) One, the wuss when it comes to weather, doesn't mind too much, as she hates a touch of wind up her bottom, and would rather use a litter tray. The other has taken to threatening my laptop. And the cats at the bottom of the garden are slowly acquiring names.

Still, sitting outside in the cold and wet, getting Mum (Weezer, well, I did say, and she looks just like a weasel from the side) used to me being around, makes for ideal knitting time, and raglans are indeed warmer than lace. So the jumper is storming, up to the armscyes and nearly a sleeve. But could someone make me a hot toddy now, please?

Monday, October 03, 2005

osmosis anyone?

Sponge? Weird sea anemone? Or upside down kitty-pi bed?

Osmosis is one of my favourite words. Not because I use it that often, and certainly not because I have any real understanding of its scientific meaning (apologies to any biologists and chemists). But because I just love the notion that through no active effort on my part, I might just learn something. And because I am also a firm believer in the practice of inactive effortlessness (lazy is such an unattractive word), I will insist on filling my life with books. Because, of course, as we all know, knowledge is magic, and words will insist on leaching out into the air, desperately looking for new - living - homes. Because, you see, if I have enough books, a critical mass will be reached, and somehow, without realising, what is in those books might just find their way into my sponge-like brain and soul, and I will have learned.

Tragically, the theory is flawed. For sometimes, some actual work might be needed. And all the lace books in the world, all the websites and forums and well-practiced experts, cannot cast on a single strand of lace-weight merino and knit it for me. So the weekend has been spent making tangled cobwebs to match the work of autumn spiders. And remaking and remaking, until somehow heavy hands can match those tiffany threads.

Meanwhile, my comfort knitting is comforting itself, as I wait for supplies. Tell me, is there some kind of knitter's law (lore?) stating that however many needles you do have, you never have enough of the right ones?

(And for Jane of the beautiful blog, I am sure that I have an infestation of little keyboard imps - cousins of the fat fairies - who creep in and add mistakes to what I am sure is proofread prose! I could grow fond of them, but oh, they are evil little so-and-sos.)

Friday, September 30, 2005

comfort knitting

After all that lace, something soothing for the hands and mind.

I tell you, it has been deeply refreshing to work on a nice, simple knit. (Once, of course, the tubular cast on had been mastered - what, were you meant to have one stitch less? Where did that extra sneak in from? No, of course I can divide by 2. Ah, no I can't. Oh, and I should have joined it into a circle before I picked up? Well, why didn't you say!) A nice little bit of rib, ktlb and ptbl. (No, no, no, never, ever, ever make me do purl through back of loops on half of 180 stitches. Whose foolish idea was that?) Go back a bit, start again. Go back again, and remember to knit through back of loops. And no, now is not the time to practice knitting backwards. Why? Because you are knitting in the round. Still, a little bit of thought, and then 14 inches of pure, unadulterated knitting-and-nothing-but to come. (I'll ignore the math that I will have to do for the yoke with cable detail, because if I ignore it for a few days, then I'll have forgotten that I can't do math.)

A raglan in jaeger shetland aran, for a friend. In deep winter-rich colours. Makes you forget that some of the windows let in draughts, and that you live in a land of long, low, grey days.

But what's that? Can you hear that gentle, insistent sussuration? Listen, the muffled calling of languishing unfinished objects, being drowned out by the siren sounds of laaace, laaace, laaace, laaace. So instead of knitting on, knitting on, out come the books, and maybe a purchase or two more, and a working theory that 1,000s of yards of really, really thin wool will be just as cosy as a man's raglan.

I may have taken leave of my senses. Still, before they wander off completely, a message for Betty.

You asked about the Jamieson & Smith jumperweight I used for the puzzle wrap. Because it is a Scottish yarn, even though it is down as a 2ply, I was told that 'you people' (I think he meant soft English southerners, but in the most polite way) call it a 4ply. Yarndex (a most wonderful resource) has it down as a worsted weight. About the keeping the decreases in the same direction, weeellll, I would say you should. But, it sounds like you are a combination knitter, and for that, I would go and visit the queen of combination, Annie Modesitt, or pop in on the (she doesn't seem very grumpy at all to me) Grumperina, and check out the very clever combination table she devised.

By the by, do you think, one day, knitting nations will all speak the same language? Or would that spoil the fun? Imagine the goodies we could come up with, playing Chinese whispers as we translate from Norwegian to English to French to American (or Spanish to German to Icelandic to Turkish). Just a thought.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

and now, for something, completely different...

(no, let's not all sing Aquarius)

My hair and I have a strange relationship. I'm very proud of my hair, even though I don't look after it. No fancy product for me. It's long, mainly because I don't go to a hairdresser (childhood trauma involving hairdresser and horrified scream-whispers of 'she's got nits!'. Long story, deeply scarred, can't talk about it, noooo scary scissors), and only cut it myself every few years. It has a vague wave, but only if I wash it everyday (greasemonsters live here). I can't even do anything with it, apart from maybe wrap it round a pencil, or use a crochet hook to make a bun (another long story involving a wedding, collecting people en route, not enought sleep, too much coffee, foolish attempt to use hot curlers, and swiss army penknife curler excision while driving).

But the main reason I like my hair is because I am beginning to go grey. I like that my hair is losing its pigmentation, and that I still get spots. I like that my laugh lines are getting deeper, and I still get giddy enough to giggle. I like the fact that I am getting older, and getting closer to purple and ill-suiting red hats.

Most especially, I like that I have stopped worrying about what I will do when I grow up, because I am growed up, and am doing things, and my only plan is to try and be happy. And I like that I now feel confident enough to say when I don't know something (oh, little students are back, many so confident with their youth, bursting with opinions, just busting to be the one who will say and do it all), and that doesn't matter, because I still have the desire to learn. And I like that I know that I will bounce back, that I have found my even keel, my default position, my balance.

It was my birthday recently, you may have guessed. A very nice day, with knitting and curry and friends. But the best thing about a birthday is liking getting older. Just thought I'd say.

And if you came here for knitting, well there might be some needle action, but nothing ready for show and tell yet. Sorry! (And did I say, I like getting older?)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

puzzle filed

The outdoor flower drape.

The close up.

My favourite.

Puzzle Wrap - Sharon Miller, Heirloom Knitting.
Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumperweight, shade FC47.
193gm - roughly 7 3/4 balls.
5mm needles.
29 inches wide, 75 inches long.
1 dropped stitch, 3 transposed yarnovers/knit2togs.
Started and completed September 2005. (No, I checked, and lied - I started it in August, but I did finish it within a month!)
A lovely, fun knit, that makes me do the happy dance, happy dance.

Friday, September 23, 2005

gonzo blocking*

Take 8 balls Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumperweight, mix with needles and beautifully lucid pattern, make lump.

Atone for any possible bad language directed at lump during construction by offering trip to spa.

After gentle spa treatment, address yarn. Swear. Repair hole with safety pin. Fend off cat interest in blocking wires. Take break.

Return upon hearing threats issued to damp wool. Give in to blackmail. Produce cat-distracting treats.

Pin unlump to blanket. Realise blanket needs pinning to floor. Realise have no more pins. Swear. Ransack room for heavy objects. Realise alcohol more useful when not occupied in holding down blanket. Remove (most) bottles and replace with books.

Realise that, unlike Blue Peter presenters, do not have one already made for demonstration and consumption purposes. Swear. Realise have been pinned into corner of room not near door. Swear. Use bottles.

Watch dry. Use bottles. Watch dry. Repeat to end.**

* apologies to Bill Cardoso and Hunter S. (hope you're having fun among the stars)
** apologies to bloggers whose work may have inspired this post

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Any Signs of Life?

This, my friends, is my current work situation.

Before you shout opprobrious epithets at me (and if anyone can trace that quote, well, I don't know what I would say), about working not just from home, but working from in bed, please let me explain, there are very good reasons.

I've got a bit of a trick back, and sitting at a desk for long hours - even with ergonomic chairs, and health and safety adjusted monitor heights, and footrests, and wristguards and all the other office junk - has a tendency to make my back go ow, loudly and repeatedly. And the loud and repeated ow causes the expenditure of vast sums of money at the osteopath, money which could be better spent on, oh, let me think, more yarn. So sometimes, when I have a lot of reading to do, I find that a tasteful arrangement of limbs and draping of hand-knit blankets, on something which I can pretend is a day-bed, makes life easier.

But at the moment, I've resorted to full blown comfort, because at the moment, I am enduring torture, of the academic kind. For mysterious reasons, I am doing some copy-editing on a little collection of papers. Now I'm only a lowly postgrad, but I like to kid myself that I have a reasonably amicable acquaintanceship with 'good' writing. (Most of which, I must point out, I learned from Helene Hanff and Q.) So why do professional - paid - academics try to get away with a pile of complete and utter squit? It's wrong, I tell you, wrong! They have PhDs, and research funding, they have jobs, and reputations, yet with all that, they can't bloody write. Spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, illiberal uses of commas and colons (yet they can all use an apostrophe - huh?), unintelligible referencing, all wrapped up in an inability to come up with a coherent argument and stick to it. It's wrong, I tell you, wrong!

So for self-preservation, I've gathered all necessary supplies, including 'zle, and taken to my bed.

The good news is that 'zle is done, and puz' is almost finished. And with a push tonight, I shall polish off that last final zee. A finished object, an actual finished off the needles washed and rinsed and wrung out all pinned, almost ready to wear tomorrow object. Frabjous days ahead.

Finally, on a blog etiquette note - what is the best way to reply to people who have wrestled with word verification and left comments/questions? Until I know better, I'll just answer here.

So, for Daisy, I think I used just over 5 skeins of Maya. (I say I think, because I am crusin' for a bruisin' from the knitting gods, and have 'misplaced' my clapotis notes. So I weighed it on the kitchen scales, and it came out at 521gms. Now, if each skein is 100gms, oh, you do the math!)

For Becky, how exciting, moving to Oman. But surely a light delicate clapotis in a linen, or silk, or linen and silk mix would be very pretty, and very useful, and not too warm?

Littlelixie and Andrea and ra (whoever you are), thank you for the welcome.

Hazel, go for the wrap, it is so much fun to knit.

Anonymous rootbeer guy - the answer is yes (with credit!).

And Judy, don't you just want to run away with Roger Livesey's voice?

(ps any mistakes on this blog are not the fault of the operator, but are solely caused by brain-curdling academics)

edited 23/9/05 because I can't use an apostrophe. Thanks, pup! You know, I could say I was making an ironic point, but no, I was just wrong.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Can you tell what it is yet?

Absolutely no points for knowing it's a Clapotis!

Is there anyone in knitting blogland who hasn't seen this pattern? Is there anyone who didn't look look at the knitty pictures, and say I want that life, I want to be sitting at a Parisian table, in a Parisian cafe, on a Parisian pavement, drinking Parisian coffee, and dripping with Parisian chic?

But the next best thing is to be there all tucked up in bed, doing some late night knitting, catching up with the latest knitcast, and slowly realising that your shoulders might just be a little chilly. And that isn't a problem, because you have the solution - bring your Clapotis out of summer storage!

A Clapotis made with Debbie Bliss Maya isn't necessarily the most chic - it doesn't have the sophistication of a touch of silk, or the finesse of cashmere, and the loosey-goosey handspun makes for a bit of a lumpy-bumpy drape, but oh, it is warm.

And warm works, because how can you beat being wrapped in warm. It's a bit like having a very lovely friend, who mentions you in her blog, which brings you lovely visitors, who leave you lovely messages. So, from now on, my Clapotis shall evermore be known as The Blueadt Wrap of Warm. If you don't know her, go on, visit, and spread the warmth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

happy days are here again

celebratory indecipherable lace waving - if lace looks bad pre-blocking, make sure no-one can see it!

Life is sweet right now, literally, with the puzzle wrap, or 'zle as I shall call it, officially off the needles
, and a glass filled with sweet, sugary, memory inducing goodness, which is also sometimes known as root beer.

'Zle (rhymes with glee) went like a dream, despite my bad-mouthing it in earliers posts. I didn't use a lifeline, but instead relied on stitch-markers between each pattern repeat, making it a doddle to keep the stitch count correct. The odd mistake, a forgotten yarn over or two, was easily corrected on the next row, but 'zle could be holding out on me, and take revenge in the next half. I can't tell yet how it will block out, but I'm hopeful, as everyone says that lace looks bad until fully finished.

But better than the anticipation of putting together puz' and 'zle, is the joy in discovering a local, if intermittent supply of root beer.

When I was little, as an occasional special treat, and only ever on a Friday after school, my mother would take me to a certain hamburger chain, that had recently begun its campaign to educate the British taste. My mother was American, you see, and missed burgers. When she first came to England, she scandalized her local butcher by asking him to mince up prime steak, so she could make burgers (she then went and bought a mincer, as it didn't pay to upset the butcher). She also joined what is, I am sure, a very worthy organisation, the American Women's Club of London (and I just found them online, so I'm linking to them, seems only fair), even though it really wasn't her scene. She joined because back in the '50s the AWCofL was the only place you could get a decent burger, and sometimes you just want to eat your burgers out.

But as she rediscovered burgers, I discovered root beer, and life was filled with a certain bubble gum and medicine and thick sugar but ultimately indescribable taste. And then the certain chain stopped selling root beer.

I found a bottle of root beer years later, and shared it with my mother not long before she died, listening as she told stories of hunting up sarsaparilla root, and brewing her own as a child.

But joy of joys, I found root beer again the other day. It isn't my favourite brand, and it is ridiculously expensive, and at the checkout you do have to have long conversations about 'what is it?', and 'why have you bought 12 bottles?'. And I'm not entirely sure that I actually like root beer, but it is my drink with history, and I'll stick by it. Cheers.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

toe warmers or cat toys

The trouble with knitting socks in bed, now that the nights are beginning to get just a little colder, is that you want to try them on all the time. It does so slow down the knitting process, because recent nights out, and associated alcohol consumption, can't possibly explain my inability to finish a simple pair of socks.

Now, last year I got rescue cats, because I had inherited mice. So, of course, the cats are going to be used as fodder every so often. (By the way, I never used to do 'cute', but I swear there is something in cat food which can turn a brain. And if this doesn't register on your cute scale, just remember that 'I've come a long way, baby'.)

One cat came with some strange habits, among them a death-defying craving for raw potato peelings (I know, bad for cats, but she steals them out of the sink), and the ability to survive burying her head in smelly trainers. She really likes her feet, that one. She also really likes her string. So, half-finished socks are irresistibly, implacably, indubitably cat toys, and any resulting tangles can't possibly be her fault. Is this another reason why the socks aren't finished?

Hey, I've just come up with yet another specious reason as to why nothing is finished. It's because I keep stopping to stage these silly photos. So now its time to blog off and knit.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

half done

would you believe this will be something you can wear?

Well, the photos of lace in progress didn't work too well, so instead I went for 'the art shot'.

Once again, something not complete, a north sea folk shawl (oh, if only the North Sea really did have those colours), but as the days get shorter, some brightness for the evenings.

If I work hard, I might finish this in time for those crisp blue winter days, when you remember that there is light to be seen, and the wisp of lace echoes Jack Frost etchings. But will it be warm? Who cares, when it will look even better draped over the back of a chair, drawn up in front of a pub fire.

In other great works, the puzzle is nearly half-done, the back of a child's jacket is almost done, and, shockingly, something is done. They may only be sock toes, but I'm into the patterning, and heading fast towards the heels. (Socks are bedtime knitting, ideal for listening to the poetry of the shipping forecast.)

In the rest of my life, I'm feeling half done-in. Those beautiful empty pages in my diary have become over-full, and I'm losing my knitting time. And, of course, there is the usual back to school not quite ill but not quite well feeling. Still, if I'm really quiet, and fold up really small, I might just be able to burrow into my stash, and no-one will find me in there.

Finally, the obligatory close-up lace shot. Pre-blocked, so think softly of it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

beginnings and the 3rd age

Kaffe Fassett's cones.

photo by Puplet*

When I was about 15, I taught myself to knit. I don't know why, as no-one I knew knitted, or did any kind of crafting. I don't make cards, hate sewing, and would be dangerous let anywhere near hot wax. All in all, I'm pretty much cack-handed - but I have become very good at avoiding dropped knives, and have yet to spear my foot.

But, when I was a teenager, I picked up a pretty basic how-to knit book (long lost, never mourned), bought some cheap yarn, cheap needles, and cast on. I didn't make much that first time around, but I do remember an aran hat, which must have been okay, as it was stolen by a family friend. The age of cables and bobbles. And then I stopped.

In my second age of knitting, in my twenties, I discovered Rowan, and Kaffe Fassett. And still not knowing any other knitters, and not knowing any better, one of the first things I decided to make was the waistcoat shown above. The seams are horrible, I didn't believe in blocking (then), none of the ends were woven in (well, who sees the inside), the buttons don't match each other, and are too big for the buttonholes, but I wore it for years. The age of Fair Isle and intarsia. And then I stopped.

Recently, I started on my third age of knitting (yes, in my 30s), inspired by the internet. And so far, this age is one of colour (aren't variegated yarns wonderful) and texture (deliberate holes, aka lace) and comfort (can you beat home-made socks?). And I am consuming with a passion - consuming techniques, patterns, ideas, consuming needles, blogs, forums, and, of course, consuming yarn. I've joined groups, both real and virtual, I've made a stash, I've even encouraged others to learn. I've made gloves and socks, felted and fulled, I've made things for friends, and made them wear them. I've even been brave enough to go 'off-pattern'.

But I wonder, will this age last? So I dug out my oldest existing knitted item (which isn't too bad for a beginner), and realised that I've never stopped knitting, even when I wasn't, because I realised that I liked knitting, even when I wasn't.

So maybe, just maybe, I'm always working on my thesis, and maybe, just maybe, I do still like work.

* Many, many thanks to Puplet for his sterling efforts behind the camera. Apparently, photographing yarn is a great challenge, involving many, many calculations, and providing hours of fun on a dull Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

anyone expecting?

My friends went to France, and all I got was this ***** wool.

They got to eat, drink and be merry, and now I get to practice my French on Phildar Magazines. Anybody know any babies who might be feeling the cold?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

good lace, bad lace

With the aim of lightening tone, and after looking over previous, rather depressing posts, a return to knitting-only content.

On your left a pretty little thing, Paws to Remember, Margaret Stove doubled up, and just about properly blocked. 2 strands of Margaret Stove held together, and just about properly blocked.

My first piece of lace. And as it turns out, my first piece of lace knitting, because each patterned row is alternated with a plain (knit) row.

But coming up on the right - shield your eyes, it's not a pretty sight - is a piece in progress of knitted lace.

Now, listen carefully, because the Puzzle wrap is a thing of beauty, as is everything that Sharon Miller designs, but this thing? Knitted lace is dangerous in the hands of an amateur. Particularly one who won't cough up for the recommended yarn, and instead decides to use stash of a much thicker bent. With severe blocking, and apologies to Jamieson & Smith jumperweight (which is a lovely thing, but is perhaps better suited to jumpers, as it feels exactly like sproinging spring lambs ought to feel), I might just end up with a short, fat, no the holes aren't mistakes scarf.

If you make fat, and very possibly ugly, lace, shouldn't it be called something else?

Sunday, August 28, 2005


A wall. A very nice wall, old, fertile, missing bricks here and there, no longer quite even and straight, with colour and texture and interest. But a wall nonetheless.

It's a wall, because there is nothing new, or finished, under the sun. Green socks are slowly growing, because anything knitted on 2mm takes its own time. The puzzle is behaving, but is clearly saving its mysteries for the blocking future, when with water and pins it might just stretch to something sensible. Baby jackets and lace stoles and entrelac scarves are hanging around, hanging around.

And the wall is there because if I don't actually open a computer file, and start work-writing, well then, the wall still stands. And as walls go, it seems quite a nice one. But the wall needs to go, or I need to throw a crash mat over, and find a ladder.

Now, I've seen friends finish their PhDs, and I've helped along the way. I've held hands, cheered on, gone 'what the ...?', and proof-read. I pay my fees, go to meetings, do fieldwork, read, ask questions, take notes and notes and notes, and think about it all the time. It is there, hovering, within eyesight, within earshot, at the corner of my eye, screaming into my face. Sometimes, it even behaves nicely, kindly, entrancingly. But mainly, I watch. Because doing is hard. But with practice, I'm hoping, it becomes easier, just as old walls crumble and fall into interesting piles of brick.

Friday, August 26, 2005


Green socks and bananas (no ham in the house) - what could be better?

Because just in case I didn't have enough to do already, I decided to figure 8 cast on (but without the figure 8, it works, Gathering of Lace explains all) for a pair of socks. The gen-eric-ius Wendy provides the basis for the generic pattern, the sock wool is part shhh-silk,
and the bananas are because how else could I afford shhh-silk.

Now, I know the flavour is for multi-coloured, and the smart favour intricate, but me, I'm still hooked on the novelty of a sock that actually fits. So I'll work out a pattern when I short-row the heel, and in the meantime I'll dream of silk-clad green toes.

So why did I decide to add to my pile of I must finish this? Well, gangrenous feet are my reward (yes, that shallow that I respond to bribes) for having cleared a treasure trove of paperwork today. For over 6 months, I have been making little stashes of filing, but today was the day they died. Hands up all those who hate filing, now eyes down to pick up stitches.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

no knitting today*

because somebody has been trying to do some work. Notice the book title on top of the pile (squint a little). Notice the irony.

I'm bogged down in this pile of leisure - there is a theory that it probably should be turned into a chapter in my thesis - which seems to have sucked all the fun out of having fun. (I know, I know, 'leisure' isn't only about fun, but honestly, couldn't someone, somewhere, remember that enjoyment, which just has to be fun's kissing cousin, is an important part of that thing which is not work, but nor just play, nor sheer idleness.)

Nor is work helped by being surrounded by some small furry creatures, who show amazing dedication to the art of generally lounging around, with a speciality in sleeping. Surely, surely, the creativity they show in idleness is an indicator of enjoyment, of fun. The pleasure vocalized in getting the bedding just right, the padding and prodding and pushing of wrinkles and crinkles and bumps. The pleasure taken in roaming from potential sleeping spot to potential sleeping spot, to find the one that is just right, right now. The rise into almost awake, as the ear twitches to a 'was that the sound of food being prepared?' beat. The mid-nap, still asleep stand-stretch-and-switch-sides dance. Who knew that sleeping could take so much work?

But their work does not help mine, as my irritability with my inability to find the right way to write grows, and the word-count drifts again. Still, there is evening left, and an empty house apart from those dreaming, so time to work some more.

* You shouldn't believe the whole not knitting thing, but I'm trying to re-categorize it as a reward. Or, I could just be collecting many many different styles of works-in-progress.

Monday, August 22, 2005

wasting time

The sun was shining, so it was time for a puzzle or two. Accompanied, of course, by the ubiquitous cup of coffee. Now why would anyone want to be inside, working, when they could be outside, playing?

Puzzle number one could go horribly wrong, the pattern calls for Rowan's Kid Silk Haze, but being ornery, I'm using a Jamieson and Smith jumper weight. I'm also being cheap, as I had a little stash of J&S, and didn't want to fork out for KSH. Still, things seem to be going okay so far, the lace is readable, and it should be nice and toasty for winter, when I have to stay indoors, sitting at my desk, and pretending to work. The big question is, will there be enough yarn.

But that problem can wait for another day, as right now I seem to have an empty cup.

Friday, August 19, 2005

These boots are made for...

crawling. Well, what else does a baby do? From the infamous '50 baby bootees' by Zoe Mellor.

Hopefully, the baby will at least not chew them to bits, and the mother will like them. But I DON'T CARE, because they are SO DAMN QUICK TO MAKE. You do understand just how satisfying it is to complete something, don't you? And these were a gentle evening each. (Even if I might be smudging the truth just ever so slightly, as I haven't sewn them up yet, but that doesn't count.)

To emphasise just how small these boots are, here they are sandwiched between my (European 36) feet.

And why the different not babyboot socks? Well, because I can, because I can, because the day I turned my first heel was a day of true jubilation, so much so that I bored a psychologist, a philosopher and a real author (published books and all), as well as assorted friends, with much, much information about this magical thing called sock-knitting, when we were there to listen to the real author talk about his latest book. (And a very nice author he is too, who expressed an interest in the sock-making process, and I am sure that his question 'So do you actually wear your hand-knitted socks?' was one of genuine inquiry, not at all one laced with get-away-from-me-you-freak horror.)

And now, I can make toe-up, short-row heel, 2 socks on 2 circs socks. Nothing is impossible. (Except maybe doing the hoovering before the little fluff ball monsters on the carpet start building themselves semi-detached houses. And hitting my work word count for the day.)