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?