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I learnt the lyrics to Tom Lehrer's 'The Elements', so when I am old and senile, I shall recall them with perfect, but out of date, clarity.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.)