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.