Sunday, December 24, 2006

merry, merry, happy, happy

'Tis hoovered, 'tis swept, 'tis dusted, 'tis cleaned (well, only the bits you can see, let us not be over-ambitious). The supermarkets have shut, there is no more shopping to be done. The loaves are baked, filling the house with spelt flour goodness at 2am, and only one ancient loaf tin has died, because I didn't grease it (I know I have more, newer, somewhere, but somewhere is somewhere, and not here). The drinks are stocked, the fridge is full. I am (nearly) booted and suited, all ready to go out and start the actual festivites, having lain in a lowly bath while listening to angelic (ha! I've known a few choir boys in my time) choir boys start the King's College Nine Lessons and Carols.

The tree went up, and came down - cats, shiny glittery things, and climbing opportunities, predictable, of course. The presents are wrapped, with only one little thing left to make (why yes, it does involve yarn). And not even nemesis mouse is around, to stir through the house, on the night before Christmas.

And now, I must go and lie down on the kitchen floor. Because I think I dropped an apple yesterday, and I think it rolled under the washing machine (the kickboards are up, because the cats are convinced something ghastly lives under there - dust balls, mainly - and it is somehow easier to let them roam, than listen to the nightly yowls), but I'm not entirely sure, 'cos I might be imagining it, but then again it could have rolled back and behind and round the corner, and out of reach to rot delicately over the coming weeks. And I shall start my Christmas having quiet hysterics, again, as the world turns on.

To all friends, old and new, real and virtual, to those who do, and those who don't, happy, happy, merry, merry.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

please, is *it* over yet?

Yes, yes, so I may in fact have got the 'puter back a couple of weeks ago, but I haven't really been meaning to be so deeply neglectful in my blog feeding. Just that, you know, it is one of those times of year, when everything builds up, and there is too much to do, and then on top of that people keep expecting you to go out and be social. Like buying the evil fake xmas tree for the xmas party wasn't enough (the buying of which involved 2 trips to the same shop, and because the first trip went so horribly, tormentingly wrong, and somehow I managed to emerge bereft of fake tree, but carrying smoke alarms, unbelievably cheap and nasty acrylic yarn, and glitter glue, which is now all over the patio, after 3 hours wandering lost, feeling just a little like a hamster finally released from a laboratory maze, after having defiantly failed to press the red button in order to get the treat, which meant that the second trip saw me being accompanied, for my own good, apparently, by someone who would probably have preferred to have put me in some kind of child's training harness, but instead decided to resort, despite repeated threats of violence involving tinsel sprinkles and wrapping paper, to chanting 'spit, spot' at me). Because then I'm expected to go and decorate it, and the tables, and serve the food, make tea and coffee for 30 rapacious women, and stop our dearly beloved but somewhat exasperating president demand the continued participation of members - average age 79 - in the game of musical statues to a rousing chorus of 'Here we go round the Looby Loo' (for the third time that evening).

But at least I have missed the last post for xmas cards, so I can now throw that annual guiltfest out the window, and resort to the whole hand-delivered only thing (and don't you dare mention that they haven't been written yet, that isn't fair - because the most important card has gone, which is, of course, the one for that delight of a chap who delivers my morning newspaper, regardless).

And of course no xmas knitting will have been done in time, but seeing as intended knitting giftees live on in blind ignorance, it doesn't matter one jot, and I get to work on MY shawl, for MY present to ME.

Oh, and another reason for not feeding the blog - although the computer no longer sounds like a didgeridoo (which I sort of miss), some of the software has gone walkabouts, and until a certain person (who might earlier have been beaten with a swathe of xmas themed tissue paper, for quoting Mary Poppins in inappropriate locations - and when was the last time you read Mary Poppins? One scary lady, scarier even that Dick van Dyke's cockernee accent - finds the disk they borrowed, and photo software is reinstalled, there will be no pictures. Which is a little sad, because that means no pictures of the beauteous and righteous stitch markers that Mary-Lou sent me.

But there has been some action here, when I was still computer-less. The main delight of which is a story involving a bath, tiny, tiny little screws, back spasms, and mass destruction in the house with garden saws. A story to be told another day, when you are all good and quiet little children.

Oh yes, I promised tales of mice and other things. I am sad to say that nemesis mouse has met his end. Because he pushed his luck just once too much, was caught again, lost again, caught again, lost again, formally identified as nemesis mouse - same cocky tilt to his snout, and a butter wouldn't melt twitch to his tale - and I was prepared to give him a third chance. But this time, he chose to hide in a bag of roving (because yes, I am still trying to learn to spin), and that was a step too far. Mice widdling up the curtains I can take (just), but when he sets up shop in hand-dyed roving gifts from the glorious Woolly Wormhead, well, something snaps. And a quick dispatch with the back of a shovel is the result. Warning notices have been posted by the back door, at mice-height.

But, enough. And the sofa and spiffy clean, just been washed, and that evil bastardly washing machine went and slightly felted it, crochet blanket are calling.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


and I had all these tales of nemesis mice, farting shoes, roving, channelling teenagedomhood, and knitting that just won't do what it is told.

Instead, my poor little 'puter is on borrowed time, is feeling very poorly, and needs to go away to have its hard drive seen to. Because hard drives aren't meant to sound like a didgeridoo, no matter how sweet they sound. And waving the laptop around, to make didgeridoo tunes, isn't a good thing.

See you soon.

Friday, October 27, 2006

please, is it Friday yet?

Because this is the third day since Monday that I have been absolutely convinced that it is Friday, and I just can't be wrong three times, not when I have already spread my everlasting stupidity over a period of weeks.

Evidence of said inane mental babbling? Look no further than eternal gansey. (More examples of general must not be let out in the world alone - I have just not only missed my mouth with the coffee, but in putting the coffee cup down, I watched as in delicate, graceful slow motion an arc of black nectar landing on the keyboard. A tragedy because we are awaiting the next coffee delivery, and are on short rations until I get to mug our rather nice looking parcel delivery man - who has sweet little sideburns, and a dashing ponytail - which saw me close to just using my tongue as a mouth. Enough. Just be thankful that for reasons unknown I hoard keyboards.)

The eternal gansey, which has travelled and been petted by many, seemed to really be pushing at the boundaries of infinity. And the reason? One which you have no doubt already answered. 'Cos yes, as I gave up on the dangerous to myself and all others within a 5 metre radius long and pointy steel dpns, I managed to move down a needle size. And there was I thinking that the gansey was just doing weird things after the ribbing (yeah, 'cos knitting always pulls in after ribbing, and when you increase the overall stitch count). And who would have thought that there would be such a difference between 2.5mm and 2.25mm needles. And I would tell you how far off my tension is from the suggested, but I also appear to have misplaced the pattern. Yippee. But seriously, it was small already, and I'm now working at about 40 x 48, when 30 x 40 would have been fine. Ah, it will fit someone. Even if I have to perform surgery (on them, of course), it will fit someone.

And the worst of it - even though I checked all the ball bands, and checked the dye lots, they were lying to me. Because there is the most distinct colour shift. Look.

But at least it is accompanied by an almost complete sock.

And in other news - I bring you the Mouse Count. Mice caught: many. Mice caught and lost in the house: four. Mice caught and lost in the house and caught again: three. Mice presumed missing in action: one, which has got to be somewhere, and according the to cats is either up the chimney, or under the oven. Mice caught, lost in the house, caught again, lost again: one. And that one mouse, caught, lost, caught and victoriously lost again? That mouse which beat the system? It is the mouse which climbed the bedroom curtains, which caused kitten to spend all day, and all night sitting by the curtains, purring at the curtains, attacking the curtains, and climbing the curtains. It is the mouse, which caused me, at 2.30 am, to try and prove to kitten that there was no mouse in the curtain, by unhooking the full 8 foot curtain, shaking it out, pushing the kitten under the lining, and rehanging it. And then at 3.30 am, taking the kitten, holding it under one arm while crawling up the lining again (remember, curtain had been rehung by now), screaming and dropping the kitten as mouse was seen, frantically unhooking the curtain, again, bundling it up, taking it outside, going back in to collect kitten, chasing up other cat reinforcements, turning curtain inside out, finding mouse, showing cats where mouse is, preventing cats from killing mouse while on curtains (blood and pale green silk blends not a good mix), showing cats again where mouse is, preventing cats from taking mouse back inside (this is one smart mouse, the cats are not showing any great evidence of intelligent mouse catching), and then finally watching as mouse escapes. And I am sure that mouse gave a jaunty salute as he disappeared under the fence. Kitten has returned to just leaving half-eaten worms in my bed. Mouse is laughing at us all.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

so I went to Ally Pally too,

and all I got was this, and this, and this, and this, and some other things as well.... and I may have also fitted in a trip to the elegant and helpful Stash Yarns too. (And this is long and rambling, but if I don't show the haul, I know I will be mugged by some people. You know who you are.)

So first there is the sock yarn. And this year the theme is breadth - in a campaign to trial as many sock yarns as possibly, all different (and let us not mention that some may already reside in the sock yarn box, for they are in different colour ways, and yea, that does not count). From left to right, bottom to top, with names and all (because some people will insist), Koigu KPM, no.2, Lorna's Laces in Douglas Fir, Cherry Tree Hill in Water, Hipknits (cos it is cashmere, and after day 1 at Ally Pally, my feet were threatening a coup), Trekking XXL, no.66, and finally Fleece Artist, in the colourway without a name.

And then there was the must get things for lace and such like, and isn't some gift-giving season approaching, and of course I can knit up this much between now and then, and finish everything else too.
Lounging across the bottom, Cherry Tree Hill's Cascade Fingering, in Spring Frost. A pretty pastel 2200 yards (just about 2000 metres) laceweight, again from Hipknits, and again because it is cashmere - which I am strongly thinking should just be made into a portable pillow, permanently attached to my head, so any time I am out and about, and maybe feeling just a little stressed, I can just pet it and pet it and love it and pet it, and rest my weary head on it, and then everything bad will go away. And finally some more Fleece Artist, this time Handmaiden's Sea Silk, in Vintage, with a matching skein of silk Rumple. I see scarves in my future.

But then, I made the mistake of being a sheep, and visited Piiku, because Ruth said so, to get some grey roving and some undyed carded fleece. And because I will not be beaten by a spindle.
And I compounded the sheepishness, by following Yvonne to Catalina and their shawl pins, and then to Taj and their Wagtail mohair (which is so soft it would make anyone wag their tail).

You think this is enough, don't you. But I found the Habu stall. At which point a hazy mist comes down, and I come over all wonderment at what the Japanese spinners can do with cotton and silk and bamboo and wool and copper. And I have to have it, all.
(When even serious stashers were impressed by my Habu haul, do you think I should be worrying? And please don't ask what I am going to do with this, because I think it is rude to ask people questions when you know they don't know the answers.)

And yes, there were some other bits and pieces, including knitting needles, because I am stupid enough to go to a show, in order to buy yarn, in order to facilitate yet more playing with yarn, and then remember that in an effort to pack light (more room for yarn, you see), I had decided to leave all needles at home. Well, faced with a week away from home, brand new and interesting and gorgeous yarn, and no needles, what would you do?

There was much to do, and much to see. There was helping out on the Relax and Knit stand (where I did try to be helpful, really I did), and the strange refusal of a ball of Possum yarn from Yvonne, who is truly a goddess of all things good and fibre-y (I have no idea what happened, I think I had just shut down by then). There was the meeting of many, many people. And the meeting of many, many bloggers. (What is the collective noun for bloggers, by the way? And is there a separate noun for that strange sub-group, knit-bloggers?). I finally met Mary-Lou, and have solved the mystery as to why I knew I liked her (well, I like her for other reasons, but she knows what I mean), bought some of her stitch markers - which arrived home before I did, and in considerably better shape - and generally discussed all matters of the world with her. I finally met the absolutely irrepressible WyeSue, who should have been a gibbering wreck, after all the shows she has been at recently. But she wasn't, and I don't think she ever is, and I think under her direction short people should rule the world (cos I'm short too, and we rock).

I met Jan who is extraordinarily generous, and a wicked hat fighter, and another Sue, who sat there all composed and helpful, despite sacrificing some of her crochet hooks to Relax and Knit beginners, and despite being tormented by a certain yarn manufacturer's fashion show. And there was Fred, who would come and tell us we were all knitting too slowly, seeing as he was supervising the Speed Knitters. (And I saw the fastest knitter, who works continental and on circulars, though on straights for the trials, and it just shouldn't be possible.) And I know there were many others, and at this point I would just like to remind you that I am useless at being organised to keep a track of names and faces (and I would refer you to those who are far more together), in the presence of so much fibre, so many knitters, and so, so many people with inexhaustable supplies of good humour. It may not be considered the coolest pasttime, to play with fibre, but it surely makes those who do deeply happy.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Ruth, who took me in, got her angel partner Tom (a handsome angel too) to rescue us from the train station, fed me pizza and wine and coffee (real coffee, proper, real, thick, strong coffee), let me play with her cats, let me sleep on her sofa, let me talk fibre until far too late in the night (she talked, and I listened - she knows what she is talking about, I am just very, very good at the bs), showed me her cat and dog hair blanket, but wouldn't let me steal her Hitchhiker, and all while all she wanted to do was play and experiment and design new and beautiful hats.

And now I have to go and finish with the laundry.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


*It* has arrived. My nemesis, my humbler. The mechanical, electrical thing that both reduces me to a quivering, jibbering wreck, and yet enables the spending of vast amounts of money. Oh, yes, even though it actually arrived last month, it has taken until these last few days to get it out, and play. And then realise there are only so many old sheets that one can play on, which means a trip to a local haberdashery, which means causing chaos as everyone in the department has to help me (can I have 5 metres of 10 different ribbons, and no I have absolutely no idea what I need 50 metres of assorted ribbon for), and answer my really, really stupid questions (including which scissors to buy), and then cause further chaos and much seething, and reducing small children to tears, as I hold up the queue at the checkout (not my fault the store wouldn't open another checkout, and the small child started crying because small children sometimes do for completely unfathomable reasons, and I did apologise...)

And I even drafted in reinforcements to show me how to work the thing (many, many thinks Piglet), and try and convince me that the thing is not evil (though it tried to bite me when I was tenderly following the instructions and cleaning out the lint), which I'm not entirely sure of yet. And so what is my first sewing chore, with all that fabric, and ribbon, and needles and thread and scissors and bobbins and yes even velcro and zips? Why, taking up 3 pairs of trousers. Things which are easier done with that clever, clever iron on bonding tape. Something has gone wrong in the state of machinery.

But there has still been some knitting - and, as usual, not of all the things I should be doing, but of something completely new. But you see, I needed a present, to take to my Aunt, who would be putting me up in London, so I could go to the Knitting and Stitching Show (where Ruth has promised to look after me, so I'm sure I'll be safe, unless someone waves a BFL fleece at her from across the way!) So a quick moebius scarf, in Lion and Lamb, with a picot cast-off edging which actually worked. And though I know alcohol is a traditional and much appreciated house-guest gift, surely a luxurious, one-off, made of silk and wool, keep you warm and chic in London scarf will be just as appreciated. (But I'll get her a bottle of something anyway, because she is a good Aunt.)

And later, if you are really good, I have a story of mice and cats, curtains, and 4am trips to the garden to tell.

Monday, September 18, 2006

in motion

Strangely, for me, this past week has been one of great motion. Of exciting tales and derring-do - well, actually more just of leaving the house and being sociable - of sights and sounds and travelling knitting. So a very quick catch up, not for you, but for me, and my dodgy memory, now that I am 38 (which is a very good time to read A.A. Milne again, I think).

There has been knitting in public, working in the sun, working on a jumper promised to a 3 year-old boy (which he might just get by the age of 4, mea culpa). So a trip to the local park on Sunday last, to eat and drink, and knit sitting on the grass, while watching local bands play in our local Mela. And then, what with the houseguests of the two-legged kind, who are good, and bring bottles of single malt, and clean up after themselves, and the houseguests of the four-legged kind, who I really could do without, thank you so much cats, and if you think you are getting fed after setting a live mouse loose in my bed while I'm trying to get to sleep you can think again, you would think there had been enough to do.

But no - for other knitting went travelling, when a friend who works at the local history section of the library borrowed the gansey in (eternal) progress for a talk she was giving on the history and symbolism of ganseys. So not only did my knitting get petted and patted (and returned with mighty swollen head), but I can get to find out what all those combinations of knit and purl stitches mean.

And then, and then, just to add that always needed touch of WTFness, I went to hear a Theremin played. By Pamelia Kurstin, who is an absolutely delightful member of the screw, nut and bolt loose club. And I swear she escaped from the Sesame Street cupboard. And I never in my life thought I could say I went to a Theremin concert in Hull.

Andthenandthenandthen, my brand-new-birthday-present-to-myself sewing machine arrived. A thing, which I had been given last year, or 10 years ago, or even 30 years ago, I would have jumped up and down on in horror and disgust and childish tantrum how could you how could you I hate it I hate it mode. A thing which I actually decided I wanted (I think), a thing which is sitting there, still, virgin of thread, because I am ever so slightly scared of it. But soon, when I am feeling brave, there may be tales to be told of running stitch and 4 kinds of buttonholes and zig-zagging and scallopping and, and, and.

Andthenandthenandthenand finally. I fixed the toilet. I fixed the toilet by removing the tiny, tiny piece of brick from the washer that sits in the inlet valve (don't ask me how it got there, I really don't want to know why bits of brick are floating through my pipes). Not by replacing the whole unit, or indulging in any kind of major re-plumbing, or cutting and soldering of copper pipes, or having to call in an emergency plumber. Or following any of the really really not useful advice from the man at the DIY store. Admittedly, I have left the toilet with a slightly different quirk in the flush, but at least it no longer dribbles all
night long.

Because I am feeling all-conquering and perky, and these hands can do anything, apart from maybe finish something. (Oh, and thank you, the socks that rock have become gravel, and are now sitting meekly, until I can work out how to re-work them.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


... myself, of being an idiot. Because I know, now, just about what number of stitches I need on a sock for me. And I know how many to decrease down to on a short row heel. But more than that, I also know how easily seduced I am by pretty colours, and when something yarny gets compliments from knitters and non-knitters alike, and when that something yarny gets told how very, very lovely it looks and feels, I should know now that it is time to listen to the inner claxon.

Socks that Rock is gorgeous stuff - I may have mentioned this before, just once or twice - and I am eternally grateful to Snow for giving me the heads up about joining the Socks that Rock club. And the most recent skein I received, in Peaseblossom, is a stunner. And their suggested sock pattern looks as if should work. Well, look at the photo - don't you think those soft pastels really marry well with Barbara G. Walker's 'subtle mesh'?

(the colours are just about true on my monitor, maybe a fraction warmer in real life)

And I love that Socks that Rock have really been pushing different patterns, and pushing you to experiment with techniques (the Socks that Rock club blog tells all).

But I knew, as I cast on, and I knew, as I read the pattern, and I knew, as I came to the heel, and I knew, as I went along the sole, that they just weren't going to work for me. 'Cos the pattern is lovely, but gives no opportunity for ankle definition (not that I am that vain, but if your legs are short, and somewhat stout, but you know that you did once have an ankle, you do quite want to give the ankle an opportunity to still be seen). And I love a short-row heel, but I know I need to decrease down to 8 (or maybe 10) stitches, and stopping at 12 leaves funny little heel ears. And thought I may have big broad peasant feet, they are still comparatively small, and 70 stitches round is just too many, too many, too many. So the sole is all baggy and wrinkly. Look, photographic evidence!

So, guys, what should I do? Persevere, and give them away to someone else? (And if any of you say yes, I may just have to come round and do something nasty to your stash.) Rip back, redo the heel, and reduce the stitch count on the sole? (But that means I am still left with the no-ankle problem.) Rip completely, start again, having rejigged the pattern? (Am I up to the jiggling?) Or rip completely, make some little wrist warmers using the 'subtle mesh' pattern, because it is so very, very beautiful, to be worn when it starts getting chilly (unlike those of certain teenagers) and then make a pair of simple little toe-up footies with the remaining yarn?

Decisions, decisions, most of which involve the delaying of actually finishing the dratted things.

Oh, and thank you for all the offers of help with sewing. I will, no doubt, be demanding further advice from you all. Because I think I am this close to buying my very own sewing machine. Something which would have my old sewing teacher from back in primary school rolling in her grave...

Friday, September 01, 2006

coffee knitters unite

Because I have a cunning plan. So cunning, that it could very easily go stunningly wrong. Because it is a plan that involves ... sewing.

Now, for some background. A while ago, I got the very lovely Ruth Woolly Wormhead to make me some hats, for a friend and her brand new daughter. And one of the joys of working with Ruth, is that she spun me up a couple of yarns to choose from. So I chose one, and the other skein went back into Ruth's stash. Only to recently reappear, looking for a new home. And so, the sumptuous Silky Flame became mine (though I have had to grovel to Piglottie for having stolen her yarn, but hey, all is fair in love and yarn purchases.)

And I looked at the skein - it looked back. I took out some needles, and started to knit, and the yarn started growling, every so slightly, not being entirely convinced that I knew what I was doing. So aripping we did go. And out came the crochet hooks (bag, I thought, it wants to be a bag). And the yarn sighed, a deep, tortured, resigned sigh, carrying with it an unfailing sense of 'you've missed the point there, kiddo'. Yes, it did like the idea of being a bag, but the design was wrong. The crochet was wrong, the shape, the altogether drape was wrong.

So I thought some more. I though about my friend - and my poor descriptions of her to Ruth - who had inspired the yarn. I thought about all the times my friend and I sat and drank coffee together (and may have put the world to rights at the time), and how my friend had spent years living in India. And I had a cup of coffee. And then, I thought, coffee bags. Wouldn't a bag made out of a coffee sack, one that had travelled the world, survived tempestuous seas, heat and rain and cold, being stuffed into a shipping container, survived being dragged out and carried and emptied, to be thrown aside, bereft once its purpose had been fulfilled, well wouldn't a bag made out of a used coffee sack be a good thing. So I called my coffee supplier (doesn't everyone have a coffee supplier), and the star that he is, he found me three beautiful bags, which smell of far-off places, and seas, and coffee.

And the yarn, it unwrapped itself, and drapped, and declared that this could, indeed, be good.

But you see, here is where it can all so easily go wrong. Because to make the coffee bag, I am going to have to:

cut the bag, preferably using straight lines,

sew the bag, preferably using straight lines.

And this means sewing. (Well, it also means cutting, and I've never been very good at that either, but the sewing is worse.) Which means finding a sewing machine. And remembering how to use a sewing machine. And how not to injure oneself using a sewing machine. And how not to destroy things using a sewing machine. And how not to destroy a sewing machine.

But, don't you think it could work, a bag, which came all the way from India, sitting side by side with yarn inspired by India, spun with delicate strands of recycled sari silk. A simple, homestyle (yes, and lined too, we want this thing to last), delicious smelling bag, banded round the top with knitted loop stitch silky flame. Wish me luck, folks - but don't hold your breathe, cos it could take me some time.

Oh, if anyone wants, I can try and write up the pattern for the ribbon twist socks. Which you can have, if you promise to throw a bit of money a charity box. And if you promsie not to shout at me, because I can't write a pattern. Just email me (address in, guess where, the sidebar).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

red ribbon twist socks

Yet more finished knit things. And these, although they aren't posed well, I am inordinately proud of. For these are my very own, I made them up all by myself, Red Ribbon Twist Socks. Made for a very dear person, and given to her, on the day of her retirement, while still slightly damp (look, I made the deadline). And with a red twisted ribbon, because in the 5 or so years I have known her, I have never seen her without her AIDS ribbon.

Red Ribbon Twist Socks:

In Cherry Tree Hill supersock, in the Wild Cherry colourway. (Which is shades of RED, because unless things are for a small child, I do not knit pink, no matter what anyone might say, and these are not in shades of pink. So there, you know who you are, you pink-sayers.)

Toe-up socks, using the Turkish Cast-On (what is the T C-O? You can do no better than check out Fluffy Knitter Deb's tutorial on this, and then virtually stroke her P-man while you are at it.)

With short row heels, ribbon twist (left over right 2 stitch crossed cable, and matching right over left, yes, I actually put some thought into it) clocks on the instep, and the really, really clever bit, is a travelling ribbon twist from the heel up - so it starts at the centre back, and travels over and up to meet the clocks on the instep, ideally, if I've got it right, just above the ankle bone. Finished with some 2 by 2 rib, and then kitchenered cast-off.

Started on 2.25mm, then switched up to 2.5mm for the last couple of inches, for that calf ease.

Invaluable, once again, was Priscilla Gibson-Roberts's 'Simple Socks', for the short row heels, while Fiona Ellis's 'Inspired Cable Knits' talked me through travelling cables.

So why no better pictures? Because the rightful owner and inspirer of these socks has long, but crazily narrow feet, so no way could anyone else model them, and I couldn't really ask her to whip off her shoes, on a hot summer day, and pose.

What else, what else. Well, the Cherry Tree Hill is lovely to work with, held up to being reknit post heel many, many times (yes, I took notes on the first sock, and obviously my notes made absolutely no sense when it came to knitting the second sock) and softens up beautifully. But, even though CTH may say their supersock is machine washable, cold water, I wouldn't trust them not to still give off dye, because the water coloured RED (not pink), muchly, in the hand-washing.

And I will knit these socks again - because the other clever thing, if you want them for wider feet (or shorter, or any combination), all you need to do is increase the number of stitches in the plain old stockinette bits. Because the pattern bits stay the same. Woo-hoo. And they were quick, and cute, and work well in variegated, because they aren't overly-complex, and even look good inside out. So yay, I'm feeling clever. (Boast, boast.)

There is also plenty of other knitterly action going on - the large and now in the boring stage gansey (miles and miles of stockinette) is growing, and has found an owner, a wonderful woman who runs a volunteer programme managing gardens (including vegetables) in an inner city area, and needs something warm for winter. A winter sweater has been started for my godson, and the yarn bought for his warmer weather next year sweater. Socks are being made, for me, in Socks that Rock, in the most eatable colours (seriously soft yummy Midsummer Night's Dream inspired pastels, go STR club). Which also means that I have things to photograph in the future.

And the biggest news, there has been small, but significant progress on the WRS. In that it has been picked up again, and knit again. And the FotRS is not defunct. though it may be moving through treacle for a while. (But if you want real WRS progress, check out the other members of the WRS ring - look in the side-bar, you know what to do.)

Enough witter - back soon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

communal yarn

A few weeks ago, before Ruth ran away to The Big Chill, she sent me a present. Now, because Ruth is lovely, I'm sure she sent it with the best of intentions. But, it is a present designed to make sure I stop doing all chores around the house, stop being at all a useful member of society, and in fact stop leaving the house at all, except to make the occasional fibre raid.

For Ruth sent me a spindle. And Ruth sent me fibre.

She also sent me instructions to go and pester Zoe (hello, mango!) - fortunately before Zoe decided to play hockey puck with her knee - and get some help in the learning to spin.

So I took my spindle, and the beautiful fibre (a batch of hand dyed Blue Faced Leicester, in soft salmon pinks, and a batch of hand dyed Wensleydale, in sun-faded blueberry) to a meeting of our local knit club.

And everyone span. So thanks to Piglet, Piglottie, Blueadt, Sarah, Pepe, Marie, Kaz, Kath, and of course Zoe, yarn was made. Not the best yarn, but wonderful, communal, laughter-filled beginner yarn.

Which has now been washed, and set, and weighted, and skeined, and sits there crying 'I need some more hand-spun friends'.

Ruth, thank you. And I promise to learn to spin better, too.

Now, in other news. Well, actually just to apologize to Teresa, who justifiably asked for better photos, for the complete failure to produce photos of finished items on actual live people. Part of the problem is I don't have a full-length mirror, or even a half-length mirror, so I can't take self-portrait shots. And the other part of the problem is that I am congenitally camera-shy. But I will try and be brave enough to do better in the future!

And now to make you all jealous - yes, the Elsebeth Lavold was bought sight unseen. But it was bought by a friend, who came across a ridiculously cheap supply of yarn, in a warehouse sale, last year. She rang me from the warehouse - sometimes mobile phones are good things - to describe some of the goodies she had found, I gave her a budget, and I trusted her. And she came through, for I got a cone of the silky tweed, just over a kilo of it, for just over 10 shiny English pounds. Now sit and weep!

Oh, and if anyone has any really useful tips on spinning? Send 'em in. In particular any useful tips on how to improve my patience, so I prepare the fibre properly, rather than just diving straight into the whole I want to make yarn now, now, now, deal.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I finished something!

Astonishingly, I actually managed to finish something - a sweet little boxy cardi for the summer. Now that it has started raining.

The pattern is Angel, by Kim Hargreaves, from Rowan no.21. With modifications. 'Cos I used a different yarn. Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Tweed, in a gorgeous warm golden oatmeal colour. The yarn is odd to work with, as there is very little twist holding the separate strands together - it could be very splitty - and gives off little papery wisps every now and then. But the drape is lovely, and it feels like being wrapped in ancient soft buttermilk parchment.

What I have learned:

Yarn substitution is fairly simple, as long as you aren't making a deeply fitted item - this cardi is designed to hang a bit loose, and although there is some waist shaping, being out a little bit in gauge is no great matter.

When they tell you to do the pattern detail at the bottom of the cardi and the sleeve cuffs in a smaller needle size, it isn't just so they can sell more needles. It really would help with the shape, particularly around the cuffs, which hang a bit wide and loose. But hey, I'm lazy, and who wants to reknit. (Although I am debating redoing the cuffs, but the chances of that actually happening are close to zero.)

Taking your time over the sewing up really does matter. Even if - especially if - you hate sewing up. But hey, my first mattress stitching ever, and it doesn't suck.

Sleeves can be knit in the round, to minimise sewing up. Even though it may make setting them in more difficult.

I need more buttons - I think I lucked out here, but a random collection of mainly old school uniform shirt buttons really doesn't give me much choice.

I really, really prefer knitting in the round, and so one day I must get brave enough to steek.


Thank all for your comments on the last post - and I promise I won't get soggy sentimental too often.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

20 years ago

Today, it turns out, became a different kind of day. It was meant to be a day for taking pictures of finished objects (I know, I'm as shocked as anyone) and of yarny gifts.

Instead, it became a day of soft summer memories, and things long past. I love peas, beans, food, that if you are lucky, can be picked straight from the ground, or the vine, the dirt brushed off, a sugar sweet explosion when you squeeze a fresh pea to popping between tongue and palate, that juicy crystal crunch of mange tout, the splitting open of a pod, and picking a broad bean out of its cradle of iced white fur. But it seems I love beans and peas more because the very action of taking a bowl and a bag of pods outside, to sit and shell, takes me back to my childhood. For somehow, as much as it was a chore, it was also a treat to sit outside, at the warped wooden table, on the warped wooden bench, and help make dinner. There was always the fight over who got the bean stringer first, and then the call for a bandage, as a tiny childish finger would over-enthusiastically bump up against the little blades. The competitions over who could shell the fastest, the most, who could find the fullest pod, or the one which promised so much but was empty. There would be other food to prep - tomatoes to be sliced, potato salad to be mixed, meat to be marinaded (and yes, of course the men would man the fire, what do you expect), and after there would be the coin toss, to see who had to dash barefoot across the gravel to the cold dark garage to get the ice cream, which, if we were lucky, would go with the picked that morning made today blackberry and apple crumble.

And it seems that podded peas and beans are among the last of the truly seasonal foods, foods so intrinsically linked to time and place, and memory. And it seems it took me a while to realise why I love them so. But today I remembered. Today I remembered those summers, those golden moments. And today I remembered that my mother died 20 years ago, today.

And as I sat outside, with a bag of pods, a bowl filling with fresh, fresh peas, I thought about all the things she had never seen. How she never saw either of the women my brothers married. How she never saw the first 3 in the Star Wars sextet (and I remembered how she used me as an excuse to go and see the last three, which came out before the first three). How she never saw me leave home. How she never saw Schwazenegger become a politician - what would she have made of her home state? - though she did go and see him in 'Pumping Iron' (and I remembered how she and Dad made a deal over that; she could see over-large oiled up muscles, if he could see 'Goodbye, Emmanuelle'). How she never saw her grandchildren. How she never saw a reality TV show. How she never saw my god-children. How she never saw Sylvie Guillem dance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (and I remembered how she used to call school, tell them I was sick, and take me to dress rehearsals there when I was little). How she never saw me graduate college. How she never saw me cook a meal for her in my own home (and I remembered hunting through London with her, looking for that elusive fresh garlic, or bottle of olive oil, as we walked back from the ballet, through 1970s Soho, delighting in the contradictions that the day brought). How she never, how she never, how she never. And today it is 20 years of how she never.

And it isn't that I miss her, for of course I do, but on a day like today, which came flooding through with remembrances, her absence is not so strong. And any threatening tears are chased away with a smile. Because I see her presence in the memories that come with shelling a peck of peas. Because I see her presence in the gift she gave me, to remember those moments, of sitting side by side, just being, while we would shell a peck of peas.

Monday, July 31, 2006

well, that was fun

Looks promising, doesn't he. Lying there, bathed in cool, clean water, dappled in sunlight, good pec definition, the requisite six pack. Growing impercebtibly, with only tiny little glistening air bubbles drifting to the surface every now and then.

And after a week (I even gave him longer than the suggested 72 hours - maybe he is a bit of a late developer), look at him now. Some Da Vinci man, he. Now is the time to insert all your standard anti-man jokes, cos this, my friends is as good as it gets.

But I promise, if you come back soon, that there will be actual fibre content. Real, live, actual things made of knit, and things that could one day be made of knit, once I stop laughing hysterically.

Monday, July 24, 2006

goodie bag

Don't you love it when you get things? When your stash has started to reach the epic proportions, when trading is not only possible, but necessary, and so you swap something that seemed like a good colour at the time, but probably isn't, for some pretty Fyberspates sock yarn, so that your feet can dance like foxgloves, and at some point in your future you can imagine coming over all Jemima Puddle-Duck. Many thanks, Blueadt, for the swap.

Don't you love it when you get things? When you know that your latest cardigan needs a something, and you have a feeling that that something might just be a brooch of some kind. But you don't want anything hard, angular, pointy, instead you think something soft and dream-like, something inspired by star-gazy reverie, by moon-struck wondering and night-sky wandering. And it just so happens that Hello Mango, has the perfect little hand-spun hand-made crocheted flower, as inspired by the Horsehead Nebula. Many thanks, Hello Mango, for the brooch.

Don't you love it when you get things? When you are working on a gansey, but you've been playing with the size, and need to remember that you've added bits, and to pattern accordingly, and could do with some deeply funky stitchmarkers, to help you remember. And then, because they say you've been helpful, you get given the most envy-creating little set of four (wave them in front of a teenage knitter, and watch their eyes grow wide with desire), of long, dangly, they look all dangerous and spiky but are touchable squeezable soft squadgy rubber stitchmarkers in pink and black, which work just perfectly. Many thanks, Piglottie, for the stitchmarkers.

And don't you just love it, when you unpack your little man, prop him up for size, and prepare him for his bath. My friends, he is starting to grow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

grow your own

Too hot (delicate English flower, here), brain in meltdown, can't remember names, things that need doing, or to take house keys with me when leaving the house. But when friends bring you back gifts from Canada, action is required. So I'm going to stick his feet in water, and cuddle up. Good, non?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

woolfest part last - the people

For La (the closest I have ever knowingly come to someone reenacting, but he needs better socks)

Happiness is infectious




Concentration (how can she not look to her left?)

"I am woman ...

hear me roar."

Woolfest is run by Woolclip - a cooperative of farming women and craftswomen based in Cumbria. See you 29th-30th June, 2007.

Photos by Puplet, cropping by Susoolu

woolfest part 3 - the things


pure inspiration

more colour


feeling the felt pig

eat me

I wish I could - one day I will

Photos by Puplet, cropping by Susoolu

woolfest part 2 - the animals

For Jen

Privacy please, we're nekkid

I can't do a thing with my horns today

You come in here and say that

(whispering) You've got some hay in your hair

I want to be a rug

Make sure you've got my best side

I won't attempt animal identification - but I do know that among the selection are some Wensleydale, an Angora Goat (who would not stop posing), and an Alpaca. And if you click on them, they should get bigger.

Photos by Puplet, cropped by Susoolu

Monday, July 03, 2006

woolfest part 1

Ah, Woolfest 2006. So, the practicalities. I drove 360 miles. I went, with blueadt and Puplet. I met Piglottie and Ruth woolly wormhead (and some others, I am sure). I looked, I fondled, I had a shopping list, I talked, I ate, I bought. I even wore a new cardi - but not the one I was never going to finish in time, because I need to rework the sleeves (sorry Carrie K!), but the habu kit finally badly blocked and sewn up so it looks nothing like it is meant to look, but it is still a finished object. I took a camera, but absolutely no pictures (I'll just steal puplet's when he isn't looking.) And I came away saying how did I miss that, and that, and that. And why didn't I ask this, and talk to them, and see those. And the shopping list might have been forgotten, and other things found instead. And I spent the day after feeling hungover (was it the sun, the driving, or the heady aroma of lanolin and sheep bottoms that sent me over the edge?).

And Ruth is wonderful, and her knitting is so very beautiful and even and fondle-able, and even if she can't remember where she has put her phone, her knitting goes away just so (sweetly, she didn't thwack me for mis-folding the Hat in progress, just calmly unpacked it and put it away properly - such a perfectionist!). And I would have mugged her for her new Hitchhiker, but a) I don't know the first thing about spinning; and b) she looked so very, very happy with her (yes, the wheel appears to have found its gender, but is still unnamed), that I couldn't have been so mean.

But you want to see what was bought. Well, there were books, and needles, and chibis (yippee, a pink one, and seethrough one, to match the green), and I wanted to find presents, but didn't find anything just right, so I was selfish and it is all for me, me, me. And of course, the yarn. Cones from The Natural Fibre Company, in grey, greyer, and white (as it turns out, all from Sue Blacker's own sheep) - labelled as DK, without yardage but much, and I have no idea yet what to do with it. A skein of Jacob grey-brown chunky from Garthenor Organic Pure Wool, which will be the swatch for the 'at home' winter cable cardigan. And the Jamieson and Smith. I hear the Shetland accent, I see the pretty, pretty colours, and a rainbow haze comes down, the card comes out, and I am lost.

I am lost in a maelstrom, and the lace is still there, in my heart, but my fingers are delirious with the thought of fair isle (by the way, more colours underneath).

More to come - aren't festivals great for giving you something to post about. Meanwhile, I must find steal some space from the great yarn void, and re-order the stash.

For those of you who haven't been to Woolfest, do go, it is such fun. And for those of you who went, didn't you have such fun!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

okay, so it's a cat

The face of a cat interrupted mid-canoodle with her snowman. Yes, I've told her it's Summer, and Santa isn't coming for another six months, and she will not be rewarded with an imminent shower of kitty treats, but what can you do with a cat who can't read a calendar.

Don't you hate how long sleeves take. And I'm not even thinking about button bands. Bets on to finish a cardi by Woolfest?