Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas insanity

Today, I give you

Exhibit A: The Last-Minute Scarf in Farrow Rib

Got out all the presents yesterday and realised that my Dad's looked a bit meagre; so having ransacked my stash for something suitably male and neutral without any success, I ended up buying two balls of Felted Tweed at the local John Lewis in my Charmed Shopping Trip yesterday. (Capitalisation is rampant tonight; could be consuming a good share of a bottle of wine at teatime, accompanied by cake and good people who brought me vegetables, and a present...) The shopping trip was charmed because I got more-or-less everything I wanted in the space of an hour and five minutes; and some of it was at sale prices... Starting another piece of Christmas Knitting is evidently because I thrive on stress; can find no other explanation.

Exhibit B: The Possessive Cat

Because every present brought into a house inhabited by a cat belongs to that cat.

Exhibit C: The Christmas Tree

I love real trees; if I had a car, I'd bring a tree home and deck it out with all the trimmings. But I nearly killed myself carrying a relatively small one back from the local tree place a couple of years ago, so last year I ordered one of these metal ones from [a trusted supplier in] the US for me, and one for a friend. They took 2 months to arrive, and eventually turned up on January 4th, in a box entirely without padding which looked as if it had been repeatedly savaged by large wild beasts, and then stomped on by large wild humans (thanks, both US and UK Customs!) , and then inserted into a plastic bag by the Post Office. Miraculously, both were still intact. I've got it on the worktop which sticks out between the kitchen and the dining room, as that's where I, and guests, spend most time in here.

Here are a couple of the decorations: first one exquisitely stitched by Nina in Texas

then a beaded one on perforated paper I made a couple of years back

and finally one my Mam got from a penfriend at least 50 years ago.

There are also a couple of glass ones on there from my grandparents' first Christmas tree in the 1930s, and other ones stitched by friends. The nice thing about having a small tree is that you can put up just the ornaments with memories and associations... The most recent are some Ikea gingham hearts contributed by the next-door neighbours who moved out last week...

And yes, that is a Clanger in a tutu on top. It's finally starting to feel like Christmas here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The Christmas knitting is accomplished. (The rest of the Christmas preparations, not so much.) This is the earliest I've ever finished it so I'm waiting for the realisation that there's something Huge on the list I haven't started yet. I can't post pictures yet, because some of the recipients have the address of this blog; but have taken pics as I'm wrapping things up, to post after Christmas.

Otherwise, am still waiting for two major gifts to arrive from internet suppliers and am completely devoid of ideas for my brother and his wife... Tonight the cats go to the vets for their annual checkup and boosters so I'm on tenterhooks wondering exactly how expensive it's all going to be... Only five and a half days at work left till the New Year...

Tuesday night was knitting night at the Regal. I didn't take my camera, but Anne did, and has photos of us on her blog - her Dryad hat on the same page is gorgeous ...

Saturday, December 03, 2005


This photo was taken standing on my front doorstep just now - they lit the Christmas lights round the green last night, and brought the tree in today.

The tree is a heroic gesture - often, by the second week of its sojourn, it's held up only by police hazard tape and goodwill. One year it was scythed down completely by joyriders and patched back together with wire; one blustery year it blew over more or less every night and eventually was held up by many guyropes. But every year, there it stands, and someone watches out for it and keeps it standing. The lights are beautiful, just plain coloured lightbulbs but somehow they bring a real feeling of tranquility to the space.

Christmas is coming...

Better finish that last sock.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stuff on my cat

Wondered idly last night how much of the Christmas knitting I could get piled on top of Amelia before she protested. Most of it, as it turns out...

One and a half socks to go before Christmas...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


... was fun! I spent longer than I'd anticipated stewarding our stand, but we still had time for a little recreational shopping, and a proper look at the exhibits. Being a Bad (and shy) Blogger though, I didn't take many photos at the show itself (this one is an exception - we hijacked this lady and took photos of her sweater despite not asking her name... She told us it was a Colinette pattern - if anyone's reading this and recognises it could you please give me details as one of my colleagues would really like one? )

The Ally Pally photos give you an idea what the stand looked like although we rearranged a little for Harrogate. The editor of Workbox Magazine came by and took photos, and we also talked to the ladies from Classic Stitches about articles two members of the group are doing for them, so that was cool. Disappointingly, I only spent half an hour or so at the Relax and Knit stand, near the end of the second day, but met Fred again, and saw Yvonne teaching people to fingerknit.

While stewarding, I crocheted a curly whirlie scarf, modelled here by Sandra; this one is made in Lion Brand Homespun from the Tajcrafts stand; quite heavy (about 250-300g of yarn) but very warm... Treated myself to a very cool 8mm sparkly Addi hook to make it with...

Also did some stash acquisition: first some sock yarn - the centre ball is Opal Rainforest in Chameleon (socks for the friend-I-went-with's partner), and the surrounding ones are Socka; I love this stuff...

Then some laceweight from Kaalund, and some Debbie Bliss Maya (which was £5 because unlabelled)...

And some random bargains from Linton Tweeds (who only sell these at shows) - £1/ball. These are destined for items to be sold at Textiles in Focus at Cottenham in February. Better get knitting for that!

The journey home was somewhat... interesting. At Doncaster, someone broke door locks and sounded the emergency alarm on the train in front of us, so we spent 45 mins in detailed scrutiny of the platform while the train manager fell repeatedly on his sword apologising at approximately 4-minute intervals... Then at Retford, we spent more time staring at vending machines and photobooths while the track ahead of us was examined; eventually we took a 'pilotsman' on board to steer us over a broken rail... Halfway through this, we decided to take up my companion's partner's offer to pick us up at Grantham, and got home only an hour and a half later than scheduled in some degree of warmth...

Back to reality now until Christmas though; happy Christmas knitting, all...

Monday, November 21, 2005


Long catchup post... due to trips to London (one to see Show of Hands who were as usual superb; and one to the Science Museum with the Fibrefusion group and to meet Jan), general autumnal lethargy, teaching myself Mountmellick to teach to classes, joining new team at work and shifting desks and seeing the odd friend or two around here, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Yesterday, I braved the Special Circle of Hell reserved for small shopping centres at the Grafton Centre, Cambridge; but also saw the Harry Potter film and went for a pizza. Today, I've done an Augean Stables job on the house between whitework and online Christmas shopping sessions, and have declared it's now officially Evening and a Weekend Well Spent. So, some pics.

First, some baskets, made on the course at Cambridge Botanic Gardens on November 2 and 3.

The plain one with the handle is made of yellow Flag Iris leaves, and the greener one with the sparkly bits is made of Iris siberica with a strand of Louisa Harding's Sari Silk plaited in. They're both made with a strand of 5-plait which is then wound round and stitched with jute, and a viciously sharp sailmaker's needle (knitting gauge included for scale).

It was really good fun and although I loved dealing with the leaves, I can see lots of uses for weird materials in this technique. I'm wondering about plastic carrier bags to start with (if I can bribe someone to cut them into strips for me. I really don't know enough biddable and desperate children)... The tutor on the course was Tricia Lilley (highly recommended), and the technique is a traditional East of England one for making useful baskets.

And a couple from the Science Museum trip. Shamingly, this is the first time I've been in there although I've been to both the V&A and the Natural History Museum many times. The thing which caught my (and the whole group's) attention was the 'Challenge of Materials' section, which pointed out how high-tech some of the materials we take for granted are; and how simple some of the things we think high-tech. Some of the recycled materials were also fascinating. A couple of little things though; this sent a bit of a shiver down my spine

[The caption says: The Negative of Glory. Metal shavings produced during the process of making medals. With thanks to the Royal Mint. Cornelia Parker: Artist in Residence]

And I loved the display of casein items, having fallen in love with the Swallow knitting needles this year. Haven't been to a UK museum where they're so laid-back about taking photos too; including with flash (yes, permission was asked...)

And some knitting. The MW jumper went back from being a Finished Object to this

yesterday evening. Took forever to unpick - hadn't realised my finishing technique was that... erm... permanent... think the likelihood of wearing this at Harrogate is somewhat remote; although it was quick to knit up last time.

Meanwhile I've finished the final pair of Christmas socks, and also knitted this, for my mother-in-law (Cloud scarf/wrap pattern; used twice the no. of stitches recommended for the scarf, in Cherry Tree Hill merino laceweight, colour Peacock, from Woolly Workshop; pattern from Get Knitted; still needs blocking);

and this; which I may well just keep (Socka Color sock yarn, shade 2419 bought from Web of Wool at Ally Pally). I need more of this yarn. And I've knitted up everything I bought from them at Ally Pally, so I reckon I can justify some, too! One ball makes a scarf about 130cm long on 4mm needles. This one also needs blocking.

Am already having 'are we nearly there yet?' feelings about Harrogate. Three days at work, a Fibrefusion session, a Mountmellick class and a 3.5 hour train journey to go...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The week that was

It was a heck of a week. I had a really good couple of days on Weds/Thurs, doing a day school; but I haven't taken pics of the results yet so I'll leave that for the moment. However, the course was at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge, so here are some pics of some nerines

some autumn colour

and an oak.

I forget what kind of oak it was, sadly. Something quite exotic anyway. I'd left my handy notebook in the classroom and was just wandering round with my camera.

Otherwise work was hell; haven't been sleeping (winter time; bah!) and have also developed a raging fixation on The West Wing (haven't lived in a house with a TV since 1992 so have caught up on this one late via DVD and been hit badly) which has taken up most of my sitting-at-the-PC time, but have discovered that Christmas-present socks are mindless enough to knit while watching, as long as you're not attempting to turn a heel while any of your favourite characters are having a particularly traumatic time...

Finished the Mexican Wave sweater. It looks OK (well, not particularly in these photos but that would involve me learning how to use the camera correctly), and I like the neck stuff particularly and that suits me;

but generally it doesn't look that brilliant on. The semifitted sleeves were a Bad Idea - once I put it on there's a weird batwing thing going on with lots of extra fabric where I really don't need it. I think I'm going to have to disassemble it, pull back the sleeves as far as the shaping and the body down to the beginning of the armholes and make it properly drop-sleeved or properly shaped in... I suspect this scuppers my plan to buy yarn at Ally Pally and have it knitted into a sweater before Harrogate...

One of the stressy things about this week was that on Saturday I was exhibiting and demonstrating at the Lacemakers Fair at St Ives (the Cambridgeshire one); here's a pic of my stuff on the stand on the upper balcony

and one down over the suppliers' room (nope, no yarn to speak of...

I was terribly good. Bought a couple of water soluble markers from the brilliant Wendy at Mace and Nairn but that was all. If you do traditional embroidery, she's your woman; and her customer service is wonderful.

Think I made some contacts for some more teaching, and met an interesting environmental artist and am hoping we can collaborate on something. I was sitting at a table doing machine embroidery all day; usually gets people interested. There seem to be a lot more men wandering around lacemakers' events than at knitting or embroidery fairs and they seemed to be particularly drawn to it.

If they invite me back, maybe next year I'll finish packing for the fair more than 5 hours before it starts...

Sunday, October 30, 2005


It's been a weird couple of days for fancy dress. Friday morning it started raining on the way to the station and by the time the train had been delayed for 10 minutes everyone on the platform had taken on that defeated drowned-rat look. At Cambridge, grim-faced end-of-the-week commuters were met in the entrance hall by poor unfortunates who'd decided to dress up in big furry animal suits to collect for a children's charity. I think they realised they were on a hiding to nothing as we all charged snarling through the ticket hall, dripping with rain and lacking any benevolence whatever...

Last night there was a fancy dress party somewhere nearby. On the way over the Green to the village shop, I met a man clad in boxer shorts and an apron, wielding a cardboard meat cleaver; Jin at the shop had spotted two Morticias, a Frankenstein's Monster and a guy dressed as a huge pumpkin who'd had to stand outside and shout his order in through the door... it had all calmed down again by about 3am...

OK: knitting. Thought I'd block the couple of scarves I finished this month, both Christmas presents although I'm not sure who they're for...

Here they are pinned out on the bed (on manky blocking-sheet):

On the left, Branching Out; and on the right a Traveling Vines scarf, made longer than the original pattern suggested. I've gone on about the yarn for Branching Out elsewhere; Trailing Vines is Patons 3-ply Baby Wool, which I dyed turquoise originally, and then overdyed in purple. It makes a good laceweight if you live in a relative yarn desert and own some dye...

Stitch detail of the Traveling Vines:

And a close-up of a Favourite Thing, a Clover forked blocking pin.

I have two dozen of these babies, and if anyone who might read this has any influence with Clover Europe, we need to start a lobby to persuade them to make the pins available this side of the pond along with all their other lovely stuff... they're just so much easier to work with than any other type of pin...

The audience for this process was quite keen and alert to start with, but as the several-hundredth pin went in they lost interest somewhat.

Serves me right for leaving my sweater on the floor last night...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I got Memed...

Thanks, Hazel!

Ten years ago
In the first lot of doing-up-the house; getting used to being married and living in a village; working in the same company I'm in now but doing a different job...

Five years ago
Finishing the first stage of embroidery City and Guilds; finishing the house renovations and enjoying having a Real Kitchen.

One year ago
Adjusting to living as a single person again (ongoing...); joining UKHK and marvelling at What Was Out There; teaching evening classes.

Five yummy things
Confit of duck; dessert wine; Heron Farm's pork and sausages; home-grown tomatoes; a can of Coke drunk very quickly after a truly evil meeting.

Five songs I know by heart
Country Life by Show of Hands; Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen; Rat Trap (and more or less everything else) by the Boomtown Rats; Love Minus Zero/No Limit by Bob Dylan; The Queen and the Soldier by Suzanne Vega.

Five things I would do with a LOT of money
Pay off my mortgage and that of anyone I know; Put enough aside to make sure my parents are OK in whatever circumstances; Open a savings account and put enough in it to cope with everyday emergencies like the roof blowing off; Buy a flat in a small city in France; Find a good charity for the rest.(if I've assured the above, anything else is Up to Me. Catholic sense of guilt/responsibility? Moi? Surely not)

Five places I would love to escape to
Someone else's head, just to see what it's like... otherwise... Flat in small city in France; Cottage on the beach in Northumbria/Norfolk; Serious Penthouse Flat in London; Friends' ranch near Dallas

Five things I would never wear
Anything made of an animal I wouldn't eat; Anything made by a company I distrust; Boob-tube; 4" heels; Digital-display watch (it'd just take me too long...)

Five favorite TV-shows
Don't have a TV; but based on ancient memory, DVD and watching other people's occasionally...
The West Wing (complete obsession at the moment but have only got to end of series 2 on DVD; I'm in the queue for series 3 from the library); Hill Street Blues; Inspector Morse; Messiah (have only seen The Harrowing); Blackadder

Five things I enjoy doing
Knitting; Hardanger embroidery; Being obsessively picky about spelling and grammar; Cooking when others are around to eat it; Sitting in pubs ranting with friends

Favorite toys
iPod shuffle; Nikon Coolpix 5600 camera; Swallow casein needles; Clover forked blocking pins; Raleigh Carlton Dutch town bike

Five people who get this meme
I'm just too new to this; anyone who reads this, please pick it up if you'd like??

Another day, another WIP...

I started this today:

it's the Branching Out scarf pattern from Knitty , and due to it being my day off and also being half-term, so I don't have an evening class to prepare this week, I spent three or four hours knitting and have finished 20 repeats of the pattern; I think it probably needs 36 or so to get to full length... I'm using Sirdar Balmoral (now sadly discontinued), a DK/aran weight wool, alpaca and silk yarn from stash, left over from a sweater made for a colleague years ago. It started life as a cream/grey twist until I dumped it into a vat of purple dye. It's destined to become a Christmas present but I haven't quite decided who's getting this one yet...

Meanwhile the Mexican Wave sweater has acquired a fan club. Both sleeves and the back done now...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Taking stock...

Not much knitting went on today - the first sleeve of the Mexican Wave sweater got finished and the second one started, and late last night I finished a sock. Most of today was spent cleaning, tidying and generally removing the swathes of assorted dross (and several kilos of assorted yarn) I seem to have assembled in the dining room over the last couple of months since I paid attention to it. The tipping point was the arrival of these:

ex-library filing cabinets. They look as if they ought to be in a display at Bletchley Park containing vital code-cracking information, but in fact they came with an archive (unrelated to defence) we acquired for microfilming at work, and apparently the organisation didn't want them back once they'd been filmed so they were offered to staff. I think the manufacturer's mark on each drawer is particularly fine

and will use them for storing bits of embroidery kit, tools etc. Each drawer is 20cm wide by about 40 cm deep by 15cm high, so there's quite a lot of space there... But this whole plan does centre on being able to get them into the back bedroom... so that's tomorrow's job...

(You can see by the first photo that Tilda likes the cabinets just about as much as she liked the scarf yesterday. She's difficult to please. She likes Whiskas, Greek yoghurt, sleeping on people's feet at night when it's really, really hot and sitting on knitting patterns. Anything else is beneath notice.)


I'm not a crocheter. I'm a left-hander who learnt to knit, use scissors, etc. right-handed, and this has never posed me a problem in everyday life (I don't count school art classes as everyday life; they were some sort of weird training in ritual humiliation) except with two implements: a carving knife and a crochet hook; which hand to use is a perennial puzzle. At least my travails with a carving knife result in something which is still vaguely useable; I can't say that about most of the crochet, although the smaller cat approves of the wobbly superchunky doormat I made earlier this year.

But all this talk of curlywhirly scarves on UKHK, and the acquisition of a couple of balls of gorgeous DK/aran yarn at Ally Pally, and a friend's impending birthday (the birthday is past; the gift-giving is impending), and a present of a stunning set of crochet hooks from friends in Texas, and the I'm-not-going-to-push-you-but one of-these-days-you'll-fall-and-happen-to-grab-a-crochet-hook-on-the-way-down attitude of a friend, and finally Pixeldiva's photos got me started. So, ta-da

a pile of crochet. And because I have no human model to show it on and haven't managed to get a proper photo of myself wearing it, here's Tilda; I may also post this pic to My Cat Hates You...

I hope Suzanne likes it more than Tilda does; because otherwise I'll have to wrest it from her and take it home again. The yarn is Limbo Color (colour 2539) by Schoeller and Stahl from Web of Wool and it took nearly 2 balls. And I'm a right-handed crocheter. I think...

It's generally been a crappy week, so a finished object to round it off is wonderful...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

17 degrees and clear...

... was what they said on the radio this morning. Bah. Thought bitterly of this as I cycled to the station after work battered by Malteser-sized hail and assailed on all sides by post vans driven by homicidal maniacs. However, the station was dealing with the aftermath of this so I then felt very lucky to catch a train at all...

But some knitting now.

First: a warning. If you're of a delicate constitution you may want to skip the rest. I'm aware that there are many, many people out there with a deep and abiding love of natural fibres for whom this

may cause distress. But I'm loving this sweater so far. This is Elle Mexican Wave. Long, tweedy variegation and wonderful oil-on-water type colours. It came from here, although they haven't got it on their website at the moment.

I started this on Saturday night after Ally Pally, and have finished the back

and started on a sleeve.

I'm intending to try and keep the big cables (the Saxon Braid variation used on Samus in this time's Knitty, if it looks familiar) going through the neckband by carrying straps over the shoulders; but as this is the first sweater I've worked out from scratch, this may be a little ambitious... Not quite from scratch; I'm using this book (thanks, Jan!) and then adapting for the shoulder straps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Okay, here goes...

Inspired by the posts from Ally Pally, I'm dipping my toe into the ocean of blogging...

First: the Ally Pally stash -

Clockwise from the top; 6 balls of Elle Mexican Wave for a home-designed sweater; a ball of Schoeller and Stahl Fortissima Colori Socka; two of Limbo Color in the same colourway but DK; a ball of Louisa Harding Impression; and a Thing of Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon.

Ally Pally was fantastic; this is the 7th or 8th year I've been, and there so much more yarn there than previous years, and from all over the world. Special mention to the Alchemy people who were so friendly and enthusiastic at 9 in the morning while I was rambling round the traders' hall before it all opened.

A couple of other pictures of the stand I was stewarding (our embroidery group Fibrefusion).

Pauline, the group leader among the cards and samples; and a general view of the stand.

And this is my contribution; a mask based on Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence (fantasy for children/young adults); this all came out of a conversation in the spring with a friend who also read it as a child; put him off masks, and switched me on to them...

Tomorrow, photos of WIPs and I'll attempt to find out how all those clever things like links to other blogs work...