Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On the Eve

Celeriac and Apple Soup - Happy Christmas!
Recipe here.
7 days without an internet connection.  Did you miss me?  I missed you!
A salutatory lesson in digital reliance.
We are 8.5 kilometres of brittle unburied cable from the nearest Telephone Exchange.  The end of the line.  Every time someone gets connected further upstream, our connection dwindles and fades, until it dies.  Mr BT says there is nothing much he can do, unless we move house, but for now we are back online.
So  while I might declutter, I dare not "go paperless". That would be very very foolish indeed.
Meantime... I have been knitting.
This is the sock I cast on on Christmas Eve (Regia Colorations 3311).  I finished the first one in the hospital waiting room yesterday.
All is well.  More Pomalidomide.  That is ten months now.  Wow.

And The Girl got a new Stovetop hat in green baby llama Miski, when my first attempt at her Christmas hat (Skiff) turned out to be ginormous.  I am going to offer that one to The Boy, who has a headful of dreadlocks to keep warm.
I tested my new Turkish spindle and made some 2-ply lumpy red wool.
And then I cracked out some Norwegian wool / bamboo mix and managed this:
Oh yeah, baby, I made laceweight!
I am a very happy spinner!

I am halfway through my Infuscate Curl.
And on the final panel of my Kex Blanket.

I finished listening to Outlander, which my son says sounds like "Fifty Shades of Tartan".  I won't be bothering with the rest of the series.  Sorry if you are a fan.
I have The Paying Guests ready to go.
And I am reading Upstairs at the Party.

If this seems a little rushed, that's because it is.
If my internet connection is doomed, I don't hold out much hope for this blog.  Sigh.

And on that cheerful note:  Happy 2015 when it arrives!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Socking with Gingerbread Aliens

Happy Christmas Eve to all of you!
I have an unexpected Finished Object to share:  my Inge socks.
These were from the Rachel Coopey / Knitting Goddess Little Bit Club, September edition.
It is a lovely pattern, which reminds me of a summer seashore - just the thing to wear on a wild December night by the woodburner!
Those travelling cables caused me a lot of stress:  I couldn't seem to find the best way to divide the stitches across my dpns and kept dropping stitches.
I must have knit the pair twice before I finished.

So when it came to choosing a project for the Christmas Eve Cast On with Little Bobbins Knits, I was determined to keep it simple.
This is the Regia yarn I bought after seeing a pair of Susan B Anderson's socks (Colorations 3311).
These will be my first-ever vanilla socks - yes, really!
I can't wait to see the Fake Isle patterning start to appear, all by itself!

I have lots more to show you, but my internet connection has been sporadic and I don't want to push my luck.

So I will leave you with a quick taste of our Christmas Gingerbread aliens :)
Every one has a character all of its own.
That's Bartholomew in the middle. He's a bit of a bully.
Who knew raisin eyes could look so creepy?
They are delicious though!

The recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery, here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Twas The Knit Before Christmas

I had a wild weekend of scrubbing and vacuuming in the wake of our painters.
There was plaster dust everywhere.
Not good for FL's lungs, on top of a heavy cold!
But almost everything is shiny and clean now. 
Look at the glare from that fresh white gloss on the windowsill!
I just need to chuck out the dog on Christmas Eve and scrub the floor of paw-prints, so that for one day at least I can risk letting my ball of yarn roll off the sofa...!
Although I didn't have much knitting time over the weekend, I am making good progress on my Kex Blanket.  By Friday, I should be ready to start the final slice of tartan.  After that, I "just" have to work the border and it will be done - woo hoo!
I only managed to squeeze in one lace repeat of my Infuscate Curl.  This beast requires good daylight and maximum concentration.
It is going to be lovely!
In sock news, I ripped out more of Inge than I knit in the past week.  I had dropped not one but two stitches in the most meandering sections of travelling stitches.  I tried looping them back up, but got into a terrible tangle.  So I did the sensible thing and ripped back a week's-worth of lunchtime knitting.  I don't think I will finish this pair in 2014 after all.
But who can tell?  I might just decide to sit down and do it til it's done, so I can start 2015 with a whole heap of finished objects and new cast-ons - exciting!

Friday, December 12, 2014

And Lo, Pandora's Box was Opened...

Thank you everyone for your balanced enthusiasm / horror at my ruffle-tastic coat fever.
I think it may have been the paint fumes (we are having the front room redecorated right now - yay!)
The idea has not gone away.
It is still bubbling at the back of my consciousness, waiting to re-erupt.
But I decided to be "sensible" and try out a simpler Oki-Style pattern before throwing 2.8 metres of wool into the abyss.
So... I bought the patterns for this top and skirt:
 And these trousers.
And then I purchased two suiting remnants from Sherwood Fabrics (who sell the lovely green coat material) for the skirt and trousers.
And a piece each of forest green cotton lawn and  (ahem) burgundy silk to make the top, twice.
Because clearly that was the only sensible thing to do with two weeks off work over Christmas and no discernible fabric stash to fall back on.
Sensible, non?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Kick Up The Sew-Jo?

Somebody talk me down...

 This is the Arte coat pattern from Oki Style on Etsy.
Wouldn't it look amazing in this green wool check?
Has anyone used an Oki Style pattern?
Is this a very bad case of cold-weather-induced madness?

Or could this be exactly the challenge I need to get myself sewing again?

EDITED TO ADD:  I have since discovered that you can view the sewing instructions for Oki Style patterns before buying:  how clever!  So I now know that this pattern is (possibly) less scary than it looks, and requires 2.8m of fabric to make my size.
This facility is available on the main Oki Style website, where prices are in Euros and appear cheaper than on Etsy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Yokes and Curls and All The Things

We are barely into December, but already I am excited about planning for 2015.
This is probably Significant Birthday Whiplash.
2015 will be the year I knit from stash.  I know I have said that before, but this time it doesn't feel like a penance, it feels like a reward! There are so many lovely yarns in there, just waiting for the right project to come along, and there has been a recent avalanche of "right projects" added to my Ravelry queue.

You might recognise this project?  Yes, I have returned to my Kex Blanket.
If I persevere I could finish it this year :)
After that?

I mentioned to FL that there are 7 cardigans I want to knit.  He was puzzled:  "What are you going to do with 7 cardigans?"  Um... wear them?
No, he doesn't get it, does he?  So I muttered something about how it takes me 18 months to knit a garment, so not to worry.
But honestly?  I would definitely enjoy owning and wearing 7 handknitted cardigans!
Cockatoo Brae and Epistrophy top my "Yokes" list, and I have appropriate yarn at the ready, so I will commit to those for the time being.
Kolmarden Jacket
Although... I have a yearning to knit Kolmarden from the latest Knitscene, using black shetland wool held together with neon pink sock yarn...?

In Sock Plan Land, I still have several pairs of my 2014 Little Bit Club socks to knit.

Final instalment of the Little Bit Club
I changed my club to the SparkLynne base for the final 3 months, and now that it comes to it, I am reluctant to "waste" the sparkles on socks!
So I might shake things up and mis-match yarns and patterns.  Who says I have to use the "right" yarn for the pattern when I have an alternative available?
I am still working on my second Inge sock.

Second Inge sock
I had hoped by now to be immersed in test-knitting shawls for an up-and-coming designer, but I clearly have not played the game correctly, and after initial enthusiasm for my skillz, the designer in question ignored my Ravelry PMs.
I suspect my lack of social media activity may have marked me down as an Old Fogey.  And the designer in question probably noticed that I hadn't actually knitted any of their previous designs, and selected test-knitters from the existing fan base.  I guess that's fair.  Shrugs.
But yeah, I'm disappointed.  I will just have to suck it up and buy the patterns when they are released.
Totally worth it - they are fab.
Meantime, I have developed a serious thing for Hunter Hammersen's new Curls collection.
In my head, I will smash through my stash of luxury single skeins knitting through this book of delicious designs.
My first Curl:  Infuscate
Perfect gift-knitting too!  (Not for this Christmas obviously.)
I have the e-book.  I was all set to treat myself to the print copy, but the shipping cost was extortionate, doubling the cost of the book.  So I have printed out the whole thing to add to my ring binder of "2015 Knits"... because we all know that I ignore my Ravelry queue, but I can't avoid the folder on the window sill next to my knitting seat!
I started with the trickiest pattern in the book:  Infuscate.
It's a doozy.  For knitting in daylight only.
Prehistoric Barn-Raising Square
Other stuff
Who remembers my Barn Raising Squares blanket?
It is hilarious to think that I expected to knit one square a week and be finished in a year!
But I am besotted by blankets right now.  So who knows - I might get back to it, and clear out all my sock-weight scraps in the process.
This Time I Mean It.
Gosh - that sounds a lot like a plan!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

I have been stalking Etsy for weeks now, in the hope that Threads Thru Time would have a Turkish spindle update.  And kapow!
Mine all mine - thank you FL, you just bought me something a great deal more manageable than a giant spinning wheel :)
This is their "small" Turkish spindle, which weighs only 0.9 ounces and is therefore capable of spinning fingering weight yarn.  Unlike some other little spindles, it still has a 6 inch shaft, so holds more yarn than the really tiny ones.
And it is a beautiful colour too.
It would have been great if I could have sourced this within the UK, but the only makers I have found produce much heavier spindles.  My first Turkish spindle, from Kerry Spindles in Bridlington is great for spinning a thicker yarn, but my ambitions lie elsewhere.  Imagine if I could spin the yarn to knit a shawl or a pair of socks?!
Bounce bounce bounce...
So that's what I'm getting for Christmas.

In the spirit of the Yarn Harlot, I would like to  throw some gift inspiration your way, for knitters and non-knitters.  Because we all have bottoms.
I am not being sponsored for these links.

Ethical Pants!
I already knew about Pants to Poverty, and my self-stitched undies are based on the PtP basic pant design.  But I didn't know they offered a subscription scheme, Pants For Life.  Fresh knickers through the post every month of the year! That is the link for women, but they make man-pants too.  Cool beanz.
Man-Pants from Pants To Povery

In the same vein, but in somewhat slinkier fabrics and styles, I discovered Who Made Your Pants. This is a workers' co-operative.  Not only do they train refugees to make pants for a fair wage, their fabrics are sourced from big companies at the end of each season.  I am truly impressed by their business model.  They also offer a subscription scheme.  And if you are thinking "£21.50 for a pair of pants, WTF?!" think a little harder.  Your purchase is empowering another woman by giving her a job, an income, a training opportunity and a community.  Just saying.
They don't offer man-pants at the moment, but hope to do so soon.
Rosalind pants from Who Made Your Pants

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Myeloma Update: Keep Taking The Tablets

A glimpse of yesterday's sunrise.
FL was back at the hospital.
All is well.
He was prescribed another month of Pomalidomide.
We are so very very fortunate.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

FO: The Big Red Doily aka Old World Blanket by Abigail Phelps

2014 will forever be known as The Year of the Blanket.
First there was the Mysterious Crochet Blanket.
Then there was the Big Red Doily.
I won the pattern in a giveaway on Heather's Knitting Go Podcast.
This is the Old World Shawl or Blanket by Abigail Phelps, from her Hiraed Casgliad collection.
I was very excited but rather overwhelmed by the prospect of knitting a laceweight gradient-dyed shawl in this pattern. It would be beautiful, but I didn't think I would actually wear it.  What a waste of all that work!
Modelled shot
During one of several online quests to top up cotton supplies for my Mysterious Crochet number, I noticed that the shop also sold Cascade Eco Plus - ooh!  I fell for this glorious rich cherry red (Scarlet) and scooped up a couple of skeins, which I thought would be enough for a small blanket, or possibly a cardigan... either way it meant I could have free postage on my cotton order!
I can't quite remember what tipped me over into the decision to knit the Old World blanket. 
Partway through, I realised I needed a lot more than two skeins, and bought another three.
In the end it took three full 250g skeins plus 110g of the fourth (860g total).
(So I still have 390g left in the stash to play with - woo hoo!)
This is not Little Red Riding Hood
I used a 200m (edit: I meant 200cm obviously!) cable on my Knitpro Spectra interchangeables.  This was a good choice of needle:  it did not come undone, not even once, despite a lot of heavy stitch-shuffling.  I would not have welcomed a detached cable on that many stitches!
It is a really straightforward pattern, in the sense that the leafy lace flows steadily across the diameter in a logical way.  However, I went wrong at the top of the second chart on page 4 of the pattern.  Noticing that the final ten rows were labelled with two set of numbers, I assumed this meant you worked them twice.  Wrong!
It was only when I was contemplating my border chart choice (garter or lace) that I realised that neither progressed naturally from my row 183... and that there was another unlabelled chart at the top of page 5.
As each row was taking me about an hour to work by this stage, the prospect of unravelling ten rows did not appeal.
I PM'ed the designer on Ravelry and she confirmed my fears.  She suggested working the additional unlabelled chart before the border (another ten rows), or else realigning my lace by moving the stitch marker.  I thought I would go for option two.
However, it wasn't right.  It just didn't sync up properly.
Modified garter lace border
So instead I threw caution to the wind and came up with my own variation of the garter border.
And it worked!
Impossible to photograph indoors!
So here we have it:  the Big Red Doily.  Even unblocked. it is plenty big enough for a single bed or snuggling on the sofa.  It should save its recipient a small fortune in heating bills this winter!  And will be so much more practical than a hand-knitted jumper, which would require more frequent and careful washing.
Now, where's that Kex blanket I was knitting...?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bring Me Sunshine

Big Red Doily eats chair
I granted myself a two-day holiday to celebrate my birthday, albeit a week after the event.
I had maintenance issues to sort out:  winter tyres for the car and a haircut for me.
But mostly I felt like I really really needed some quality knitting time.
The Big Red Doily is tantalisingly close to being finished, at row 178 of 189.
Once blocked, it will be at least 6 feet in diameter, which is plenty big enough.
Reading ahead, there seems to be a row missing from the pattern, or else I have used the wrong chart. Eek!
I have a good idea of how I might manage the transition from the main chart to the edging chart, but have sent a PM to the designer on Ravelry, just in case I have missed something.  If she doesn't get back to me in time, I will do my own thing.  It will be fine.
I am really excited by the prospect of finishing such a large piece of work.
It reminds me that I have an unfinished Kex Blanket to get on with!
While tizzying about in chart limbo, I decided to start a new project.
This is the Skiff Hat by Jared Flood.  I am using the Miski baby llama from my ill-fated Brickless scarf.
It starts with a tubular cast-on, which was a new-to-me technique.  Ripping out the waste yarn was quite nerve-racking, as I could not visualise the tubular effect.
Surprise!  It didn't unravel!  I can see the attraction of this edging:  firmer and more finished-looking that an ordinary cast on.  But quite a palaver.

I also picked away at my crochet market bag.  I started this with such enthusiasm, as a gift for my mother.  But the more I think about it, the more I doubt that she will relinquish the waterproof joys of a plastic carrier bag.  Even before the 5p bag fine, sorry charge, my mother reused her supermarket bags.  She amuses the neighbours by periodically rinsing them out and hanging them on the washing line to dry, in all their rustling glory.
Ah well, if nothing else maybe she can use this as a bag for plastic bag storage...?!

You may be wondering how I am getting on with my spinning wheel?

I spent a long time watching youtube videos and looking at diagrams of how spinning wheels work.
I managed to attach a leader to the bobbin, run it past the flyer hooks and through the orifice.  But I could not get the bobbin to move independently from the flyer, and the foot pedal would not stay off the floor.
I finally worked out that there are two possible positions for the metal bolt (not a technical term) that attaches the pedal to the wheel, and the wood around the upper position is so badly worn that the bolt just drops to the lower position as soon as the wheel starts to move.
FL reckons I should find a spinning-wheel-maker who could repair it for me.
I strongly suspect I would be better off selling this wheel as a decorative piece.
I love that he wanted to buy me a wheel, but I don't want to spend my precious spare time battling with faulty equipment.
It would be better not to throw more cash at this thing.
But that's a difficult conversation to have so soon after he gifted it to me.

So, in the same way that I waited my time to buy brand new snow tyres instead of the second-hand ones FL recommended (despite himself suffering a flat within an hour of purchasing his "bargain" tyres!), I will wait for a suitable opportunity to re-home this wheel.
Meantime, I want to get back to my Turkish spindle.
Once the blanket is finished.

Everything is so grey and damp right now.
No hope of getting the washing dry unless I stick it next to the woodburner.
No sunshine.
Mud everywhere, including the kitchen floor.
But plenty of wool!
Regia 3311, from Germany via Amazon
This unassuming-looking ball of sock yarn is going to knit up into gorgeous self-patterning stripes that remind me of the foxgloves, lavender and borage in my herb garden.  As seen on Susan B Anderson's podcast.
I am dedicated follower of sock fashion!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Narrative Thread

It has been a long time since I wrote about what I am reading.
This is largely due to me taking an unbelievably long time (for me) to finish The Country of Ice Cream Star.
Because I did not want it to end.
If I finished the book, I would no longer have those characters in my life and I knew I would miss them.
What finally precipitated me towards The End was the fact that, having recommended the novel to a colleague at work, she suddenly overtook me.  She was reading one step ahead of me, and I was not happy!  She knew things I did not know about "my friends"!
So I sat myself down one weekend and powered through the final third of the novel until it was done.
As expected, I was immediately bereft.  And rather grumpy that things did not turn out as I had hoped.  I foresee a sequel.  Oh dear.
What was so great about this book? 
The language.  Funnily enough that was the thing my colleague liked least about the novel.  It is written in a sort of street-talk, post-apocalyptic amalgam of languages and dialects.
It reminded me of sitting on the top deck of the 56 bus from Leyton to Islington with the schoolkids chattering away all around me.  After a few trips, I was aurally fluent, but would not have dared attempt to join in the conversation.  Every so often, I would be startled by a new turn of phrase, in one case from a girl who was learning Japanese at an after-school club.
In Ice Cream Star, the linguistic flashes are Russian, French, Spanish:  not enough to bewilder, but sufficient to infuse the narrative with extra energy and sparkle.
I ought to say that this is not "my sort of book" - I am easily spooked by sci-fi and dystopias.  I have a recurrent nightmare of trying to escape some unknown threat through an end-of-civilisation environment.
But I loved reading this book.
What next?
This is perhaps an even more unlikely choice. 
It seems that every knitting podcaster is watching a US TV series called "Outlander".  This is not yet available on the UK networks.  It is a tale of time-travel from 1945 Inverness to the mid-Eighteenth century Scottish Highlands.  It is a romantic blockbuster of a family-tree saga with haggis and bagpipes and a fair number of ripped bodices.  Even the Loch Ness monster pops in to say hello.
This is absolutely not my sort of thing.
But I have it on audio book (28 CDs for the first volume of the saga alone!) and I am hooked.
You can listen to an excerpt here.
The heroine is a nurse in World War 2, so when she is catapulted backwards through time after an unfortunate encounter with a ring of standing stones (um, yes...) she is put to use as an apothecary and healer, with free run of the castle herb garden.
So far, so Roo-friendly!
However, before I started on this listening marathon, I had been warned that the book and TV series were not suitable for children.  Until I reached Disc 10 I was quite scornful of this assessment.  Ha!  Disc 10 cranked up the sex and violence quota to an eye-watering degree.  If it wasn't for the accompanying wit and intrigue I would probably not have persevered. 
As I have the audio-book version, it is not as easy to skip ahead as I might have done in a print copy of the book.
And actually, the narrator (Davina Porter) puts on a splendid performance - her nuanced range of Scottish accents is formidable!  I would love to have sight of her annotated copy of the script to know how she reminds herself who is from the West Highlands and who is from East Lothian!
So do I recommend it?
Yes, with certain reservations.
If you are listening in the car, please remember to turn down the volume while waiting at traffic lights, unless you want to shock a cyclist off his bike...!
And if you had any plans to gift it to your prim and proper elderly Scottish mother for Christmas...?  Don't.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

15 before 51 in 2015

Thank you SO MUCH for your lovely birthday wishes!

I may be 50, but that's only the beginning of another decade.  So many things to do, places to go and people to meet.
I'll settle for things to do.
Things that are inspiring me right now:

Oh Bara's approach to sewing like back then.  And her wonderful calendar for 2015.

Lucky Lucille's recent spate of simple dresses.
A Little Red Riding Hood tunic, layered up with cosy knits and leggings?  Yes, please, to the extent of ordering the same fabric from the US!

And as for the leggings... ooh these please!  Yes, I do mean the stripey long johns.  With my hand-knitted socks and Doc Marten's?  Yup.
I really really want to crochet the Tove cardigan from Inside Crochet Issue 58.
I don't have suitable yarn, so have struck a deal with myself that once I use a sweater's quantity of wool from the stash, I can buy what I need for Tove.
Tove cardigan - image copyright Tailor Made Publishing
Yesterday I decided to rustle up a crochet market bag for a Christmas gift (top photo).  It is taking longer than expected and using up more leftover cotton aran weight (from my crochet blankie) than I anticipated, so maybe I will just be making one of these, and not two or three.  That's OK.

Today I need to sit down with my spinning wheel and see what I can do...!
I am sorely tempted by this Wool and Tattoos Club.
Everything I have seen from Gourmet Stash has been inspirational.  No danger of anemic pastel colours from there!

November 2014 sock club in SparkLynne base
I am trying to avoid being sucked into another sock yarn club.  I still haven't touched most of my 2014 Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey packages even though I love the yarns and patterns.  I can see that one of my 2015 goals should be to knit my way through my Ravelry queue, or at least the items for which I already have yarn and pattern.

I am not quite ready to write up a fresh hit list of personal goals, but a new journal has been ordered and I have lots of ideas and a sudden burst of energy.
Maybe the fog is lifting :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

So This is Fifty

Shameless knitter in the workplace
So... here I am, half a century young.
I woke to find that FL had lain my birthday card on the pillow beside me.  It opened to reveal pop-up butterflies... or moths, we joked, now that I am old and moth-eaten!
And on reaching the breakfast table, still somewhat bleary-eyed, I found... a spinning wheel!
I don't know whether it is functional, or purely ornamental.
FL reckons "it works" but I don't yet know where he found it, (no doubt a story for another day) so it will require some basic checks to ensure it has all the necessary moving parts.
Wow!  A tad overwhelming, but wow!
Um yes, I always pose for selfies at lunchtime, sir!
Also awaiting me this morning was a wonderful handknitted gift from my BFF Christine.
It is Lush by Tin Can Knits - and it fits perfectly.
I love the buttons she and her daughter chose :)
I wore it to work today.
The best thing about a handknitted gift is that the Other Knitter is more likely than me to weave in all her loose ends - there are no mini skeins left dangling in either sleeve, unlike all of my me-made sweaters / cardis!  LOL
Is that a spinning wheel I see before me?
So... how did I get on with "49 Before 50"?
In the end, I drummed up 41 goals.
I fully achieved 16 of them.
I fully failed on 5 of them.
The rest were "partially implemented".
Not too bad!
The 5 failures were an odd mix.
Would you believe that I failed to Walk on the Beach?
No - just a time machine
Considering I can see the sea from the car on my drive to work, this is inexcusable!  I could probably walk there in my lunch break!  So that is what I must do, sooner rather than later.
That would also contribute to my fitness goals.
Yeah... those were failures too.
But there are lots of positives to report. 
Best of all, I was True to Myself.
 And... I Learned To Spin.
Which is just as well under the circumstances!
Performance art?