Saturday, January 28, 2006

you meet them in the oddest of places*

If you are a woman, you will know that every so often, you have to trot along to have a rather intimate part of your body poked with what can only be described as an instrument of torture (which is usually either too cold, or too hot, if it has been under the tap for too long), have bits of your flesh scraped away, and all while lounging in a truly undignified position, under a scrap of tissue paper, if you are lucky.

Now in the UK, your local health authority sends you a letter, suggesting you call in for this periodic humilitation. So dutifully, you call, book in with the nurse (GPs are far above this sort of thing), turn up, and are escorted down the hall to the one room which has a curtain over the door. Up you pop, dear, I'll be back in 2 minutes.

Now, I was ready. I got there on time, to be told there was a half hour wait. So out came the makings of the second Oriel sock (no, I will not succumb to the dreaded SSS), and I cast on, and knit a couple of rounds. I checked against the completed sock (told you I was prepared), and cast on again, getting the colour sequence right, this time. I even managed to co-ordinate being called in when I had just finished a row. But this will be over quick, I thought, so the sock got stuffed in the bag.

I 'disrobed', arranged the sheet of covering paper, and waited. And waited, and waited. So I hopped down, grabbed my sock, and was caught, deshabille (forgive the lack of accents), as the door opened. Oh, but sweet knitterly saviours, she was a knitter too. (As an aside, and after some serious googling, I could invoke the name of St Fiacra, who some claim is the patron saint of knitting - though Richard Rutt, in his 'History of Hand Knitting' disagrees - and, as it turns out, venereal disease and haemorrhoids, but I won't.) And she perfectly understood that I might have a sock with me, and we looked at the yarn, discussed the pattern, I fished out the finished sock, she admired, I blushed, we debated the merits of dpns vs circs, had a little natter about knitting baby clothes, the virtues of having something to do of an evening, how knitting has become so popular recently, where the best local yarn shops are, and on and on, and all the while I am trying desperately to maintain my modesty. But, in the end, what is modesty between knitters, anyway?

Olympic Training

Swatches are now being made of potential patterns, but due to yarn economy (and my fear that 2,000 yards may not be enough for the shawl), they are being made, stickily, in a found acrylic. Oh, my hands.

And for light relief, I am learning how to read Japanese patterns. Because if I have to go and be all cultural down in London that first weekend of the K.O. (I don't think they let you knit in a theatre in the West End) I want something spiffy to wear, and Habu kits of linen and silk mohair are surely spiffy enough for the great and good of them down south. I also figure that if I can figure out Japanese schematics (3 hours with pen and paper and mental maths to work out where I went wrong twice already, and that's only for half the back) then a bit of lace charting will be a doddle.

Hmmm. Memo to self, pride goeth before....

Have a fun weekend, folks.

* you didn't seriously expect a photo of this?

Monday, January 23, 2006

in which a variety

Well, I finished the first of the Oriel/Lorna's Laces socks, shown here stuffed and mounted on 'the knitter's chair'.

Things I have learnt - oriel sock

Variegated yarn and much stitch patterning really don't mix very well - both seem slightly diminished, and it seems more a marriage of convenience than one of true love.
Oriel is a nice enough lacy stitch pattern, but it does puff out somewhat fiercesome. Now I don't have the skinniest legs in the world, but nor do I have a chronic water retention problem - yet put an oriel on, and your ankles seem to swell. (Maybe if I had used a heel flap and gusset it wouldn't have pooched so much.)
Charlene Schurch's Oriel schematic is a 'generous' pattern - if you are knitting for a smaller foot circumference within a gauge band be prepared for a slightly looser fit.
Lorna's Laces shepherd sock, as a yarn, holds up well to mistreatment. I must have cast on and ripped 8 times before finally making up my mind - and the yarn showed virtually no sign of degradation.
Lorna's Laces shepherd sock seems a 'clean' yarn, but that lack of furze around the strand makes it more likely your holes, where no holes are meant to be, will show. The SSSPs and K3togs coming back up the short row heel are gappier than I would like, even if you make sure your yarn overs are tight, and you drop down to a size 2mm/US0 needle. (Speaking with vast (in)experience as a sock knitter - I've made a whole 4 and a half pairs so far, and I must be experienced, because I think I'm about to hit second sock syndrome - the Regia Silk sock yarn has that little bit of furze to it, which hides those holes better.)

Do I like the sock? It's okay, and I've learnt more through its making. Will I make the second sock? Well, yes, but maybe not right now, because I am in

...Olympic Training...

Training has begun, yarn chosen, swatches made, gauge is being calculated at this very moment, and charts are still in the mythical 'what if I try this' stage. Will I expire from all the excitement, and how many social engagements can I turn down during the K.O. MMIV? Does anybody have any ideas on how to explain to non-participants/non-knitters why you would just love to see them, and how it is wonderful of them to suggest that you all meet up in London for the weekend, do some shopping, catch some culture, eat a little, drink a little, before they fly back to Italy, but it's the Knitting Olympics, and you're just not sure that you have the time?

Oh, and to those absolutely fabulous knotty girls over at JenLa, thank you, thank you for the buttonmania you have created - you are welcome to come and ransack my home for anything your little warped hearts desire (just keep your Uncle Sam mits off my stash.) Just scooch your eyes on over to the side-bar, and you will see the little beauty they made for Team GB (and note, too, how they acknowledge the betterness of our disorganised team).

To all those nice people who have commented (not those nasty ones who try to sell me things, which is why I have gone all moderation for a while). Thank you. You make me go all warm and fuzzy inside. And you are teaching me to be a better blogger, and making me pay attention to the community that lives down my ADSL line. But I'm still not 100% there at getting back in touch with you to thank you personally (would you believe I get a little shy?), so I'll thank you publicly instead.

And finally, the 'Don't they grow up so fast' section.

Little Fran, pictured a month ago, who this weekend turned into a writhing, yowling mess of hormones. I've never seen a cat 'in heat' close up before, and it isn't pretty. She must be older than we thought (or else just very advanced for her age), as her op was scheduled for some time in February. It can't come too soon - the local toms are hovering, the cat flap is barricaded, we are tired of being presented with her bottom, and Susie and Sootie, resident spinster cats, are tired of being propositioned in their own home. Only last week Fran was playing hide the mouse, and now it is an entirely different mouse she wants to hide. (I'm really sorry for that last bit, but for a little cat she can make an awful lot of noise, and keep it up for a very long time - 4 hours of come-hither calling a night means I haven't had much sleep, and my judgment may have gone walkabouts.)

Right, back to the swatches.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

verus, insanus, profundus*

I slept, and hoped sanity would come. It didn't, my fingers walked on over to Yarn Harlot's (it could have been the cats walking on the keyboard, being the evil things that they are), and signed me up.

I know there are a few other Team GB entrants out there - will we uphold the honour of Torvill and Dean, or channel the spirit of Eddie 'the eagle'?

Will anyone be sane by the end? Will the build-up be too much? Will I peak to early, produce beautiful swatches, and then crash and burn (it doesn't start until 10th Feb)?

Why do I feel like such a 'suck-er'?

If anyone wants to know, I will be attempting some kind of hap shawl, based on a combination of the Litla Dimun Shawl from 'Folk Shawls', out of the Faroese Shawl from 'Gathering of Lace', with possibly a few bar sinister elements thrown in. For bonus points I will be attempting a lining. Being not completely insane (yet), this will not be in laceweight, but in a nice, cosy, recommended needle size 4mm/US6 alpaca.

Now, does anyone have any tips on how to knit while relaxing in the bath?

* truly, madly, deeply. I'll stop with the Latin now, I promise.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

lentus, infernus, flaccidus*

Surely everyone reads that crazed Canadian, who has issued yet another of her challenges to the blogging world.

I'm tempted, sorely tempted, and trying hard to resist. It would be all to easy to be sucked in, dreams of olympic gold hanging tantalisingly ahead, but I have a feeling that my ambition could get the better of me. So, for all those British bloggers who may be tempted, may I remind them of saga of 'Eddie "the eagle" Edwards. So brave, yet so very, very foolish (and the song was just so very, very wrong).

Now, if only Ms. Harlot would include a medal for those who try, and fail, in the grandest manner possible, I might just sign up - perhaps a medal for the largest yarnball splat?

* Or slower, lower, wimpier. I truly apologize to those whose Latin is considerably better than mine. Points for effort, though?

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I've been casting around in the dregs of my memory for that golfing do-over term - which I could have sworn was actually MacGuffin - to describe my current state of mind and knitting. I almost feel like I'm groundhog daying it (but I never really liked the film), given the number of times I have plotted, planned, cast-on, and then gone amphibian on both the items above. I've got to admit, though, that Lorna's Laces Lion and Lamb and Shepherd Sock are holding up pretty well with my inability to treat them well.

But at least now I'm an eighth of the way home, having finally sorted a pattern, and a needle size (2mm/0) for the socks, and made it all the way up to the heel on the first, without too many traumas. Using one of my xmas presents to myself, Charlene Schurch's 'Sensational Knitted Socks' (with heel help from my other xmas present to myself, Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts' 'Simple Socks', short rowing all the way, baby), I settled on the Oriel pattern*.

Now I know I'm breaking the rules, using a relatively detailed lace pattern with a variegated yarn, and risking losing the benefit of either or both. But the yarn said it wanted to be vaguely stained glass church window like, and the pattern said it was vaguely stained glass church window like, too. And so I put them both together, and I think they look quite pretty, even if a little busy.

But the Lion and Lamb, oh somebody put me out of my misery, and that poor innocent yarn out to pasture. I have 3 skeins, which seems enough for a wide scarf/narrow stole for a friend/colleague. And I know I could Clap along with it. And indeed I did start, but only got as far as one hand clapping, because I've already made a clapotis, and I want to try something new, new, new.

I've tried ribbon ribs, cobweb frills, leaning ladders, brioche ribs, seafoam patterns and vertical drop stitch ribs**. I've played with needle sizes. I've thought about long and thin, short and squat. I've put that poor yarn through torture, and nothing is quite right. It doesn't want to be too lacy, but it doesn't want to be too plain. It wants a bit of texture, but still wants to drape. I'm beginning to think that the dye job may have affected the yarn's brain, leaving it all of atwirl and incapable of making a decision. And I am sorely tempted to give up, and just give her the skeins, some needles, the clapotis pattern, and force her to reawaken her long neglected knitting skills. Now that would be a good present, wouldn't it?

Is anyone else's mind in that twittering state, or is it only me? Bring on Monday, I say, so I can force myself to make lists and do things.

* Barbara G. in her 'Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns' says, on p.289, that Oriel is a "very old and exquisitely beautiful lace pattern that has been unjustly forgotten within the past six or seven decades. This one is never seen today, because hardly anyone knows it. But it is very lovely, and easy to work as well...." I'm in hyperefficient housekeeping adding in extra unnecessary info just because mode today, and all because I went and cleaned the kitchen floor this morning, don't you know.

** Yes, I've got all 4 of the Barbara G. Walker books, and Mary Thomas too. I'm a knitting book slut, I am.

Monday, January 09, 2006

little bits

Things may have been quiet here, but there has been just a little bit of needle action. Acting as a cushion is a scarf for a friend, meant for xmas, but given for the new year, in Rowan cashsoft. A pair of green socks, for me, because they needed to be finished. And because I must have done something right, at least once, a gift from Crystal Webs, of a beautiful crochet wire necklace.

Things I have learnt - scarf

Cashsoft is very, very warm.
Cashsoft is a nice yarn, but even that little bit of microfibre makes my hands twitchy. Not enough to not use it, but enough to make me question using it for a larger item.
Brioche rib is wonderful, so quick, so 'I'm just that little bit more interesting and elegant than a plain rib', so bouncy (although the yarn could have something to do with it), and so rhythmic to knit.
Fringes are fun.

Things I have learnt - simple irregular rib socks

Socks should not take 6 months to knit (oh, the shame, I checked and I started these way back when).
As clever as 2 socks on 2 circs is, they grow so much faster, for me, knit one at a time.
Short row heels fit me perfectly.
Knitting through the back of the loops is not the same as purling through the back of the loops, but if the yarn is thin, the needles are thin, and the pattern is plain, then you can get away with it, just about.
A grafting cast-off works just fine around the cuff, but make sure it is loose (one sock is perfect, one has that pulling-in tight thing going on).
Regia silk is glorious stuff, and so warm, but will easily catch and pull (especially if you walk around in stockinged feet, on imperfect floorboards).
I am so, so close to making my perfect sock. Soon, my pretties, soon.

Things I have learnt - gifts

Luring friends into the needle arts pays off, as you get beautiful, one-off, custom-made gifts. And if I ever lend the necklace back to Crystal Webs (yeah, you think I'm letting that necklace go?), she can tell you how it was done.

Finally, just because there is a small kitten in the house, a picture of a small kitten doing the things a small kitten does.

Friday, January 06, 2006

because I have absolutely nothing else to do (not even my taxes)

And because I am just a little bit scared of them (although I am sure they are very nice really, they did threaten to hunt all non-compliers down and presumably do something unspecified yet no doubt unspeakably awful to them), here is my JenLa inspired avatar.

Yahoo! Avatars U.K. & Ireland

She may not seem that fugly, but she's the kind of woman who scares the bejebus out of me. You just know that sub-Mantovani is going to be blasting out of her handy portable stereo (which D.V.jr has to carry, as she couldn't possibly risk ruining her manicure), that perfect Ms. M. Stewart 'picnic food to serve at your daughter's playing off for third place football game' (well, clearly the referee at little Mandi-beau's last game was biased against the Twinkle-Bootie Stars, and I will be making an official complaint, just you wait and see) will be coming out of her matching tupperware, and that any dog coming anywhere near little Fi-belle is a nasty nasty great dirty brutish beast who should be locked up (well I know little Fi-belle is in heat, but I just couldn't leave her at home, and she just hates to be tied up, and how dare you imply that my little treasure is a slut), and that overall your life would just be better if you went and moved as far away as possible from that nails on a blackboard voice (I'm so glad those common people have moved, if they had lit that b-b-q and smoke runied my new hairdo I don't know what I would do, and it is such an old and greasy looking b-b-q that I'm sure it would send out sparks, and you just know how flammable nylon is, but isn't this the most darling little casual outfit for our little party, isn't it going to be so much fun, and it is so inappropriate to bring beer to a junior soccer match, don't you think, D.V.jr, and I think I should complain to the schoolboard about them). Don't you just love a woman who can suck all the joy out of anything.

If you want to play along, better be quick!

Monday, January 02, 2006


I have forgotten that each year I tend to go to ground over the whole xmas/newyear period. Well, why should I remember, when out of circumstance and choice it is a time of not even being busy doing nothing. But the days are rolling over now, and the outside world will start to push back in through the letter-box, and the car needs to be fixed, and the cards recycled, and cat litter bought, and people are returning from their own winter holidays, expecting things to be done.

But I have been quietly busy, with little, inconsequential things. A scarf gifted late, a sock heel turned, a trunk of old mementoes sorted and packed and pushed under the bed, a room cleaned and cleared and filled up anew. And walks in the snow, before it is salted and gritted into grey city sludge. And my mind has gone dormant, under its own flim-flam comforter of snow. And thinking is beyond possible, plans for the next and the new are iced-asleep. But the snow will melt, because it always does, and I will quietly wait, being busy doing nothing, dreaming sweet melted away snowflake filled dreams.