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.