Monday, December 31

End of year FOs

After a trip to the Kentish Weald to see Cosmo and his folks, I came away inspired by hats. Cosmo's mum was sporting a rather fine Urchin hat, which I decided to try making, with some of the yarn left over from my sister's christmas teacosy (Rowan chunky print, been in the stash about 14 months, discontinued).

Here's the teacosy (it ended up with a sprouting of i-cord on the top rather than a pom pom, and was very well received by its new owner!)

The leftover ball of yarn became the Urchin hat. Next one I make, I may adapt it to be slightly longer and a little bit looser fitting. The fact that I didn't have any 7mm needles didn't help, hence it was knitted on 6.5mm. And while I'm talking about Rowan yarn, I'll have a moan. In all my knitting experience, Rowan yarns are the ONLY yarns I have found knots in. Not just once, but more times than is acceptable. I had a particularly bad run a couple of years ago with a load of scottish tweed chunky. I got so annoyed after I found several knots in several balls that I complained to Rowan. What did they do? They sent me an apologetic letter and a free copy of their magazine, which was full of OTT catwalk designs that were of no use to me.

I was reminded of this episode last night, when I found TWO knots in a single ball of the Chunky Print. Am I the only one who's had this experience, or is it a common problem?

Mum if you are reading this, look away now!

Everyone else scroll down....

Despite the fact that they are Mum's christmas socks, she still hasn't seen them yet! Circumstances have meant that my folks still haven't got their christmas pressies, but I'm planning to remedy this situation very soon by tripping up home to see them.

The socks have been a long time coming, but are finally complete! Here they are hanging out on the balcony, drying out ready for wrapping and labelling!
They are my own toe-up pattern, I've included a rather nice Broken Rib Diagonal stitch along the front panel of the foot, and all around the leg. I picked the pattern out of the Harmony Guide 450 Knitting Stitches Volume 2. The yarn is Ophelia sock yarn from HipKnits - I like the variegated colour and the almost shiny texture of the yarn, which is 100% merino superwash, I believe.

I've also been busy with socks for myself - here's the first of a pair of basic toe-up socks knitted with the Halloweeny yarn I bought in the Yarn Yard a couple of months ago. Omigod the colours are gorgeous, and I am loving the way the colour comes out in huge diagonal washes across the foot. I also love the fact that my short row heel and magic cast-on toes end up with little thin stripes, it makes them stand out more.

They fit perfectly. I can't wait to get the second one done, and get them on! I've been modelling the first one with my Mary Jane shoes and jeans. It looks fab!

Just to finish off the new year, a Peculiar Fact about me. Am I the only person in the world who makes the effort to wind her yarn into centre-pull balls, then uses the yarn from the outside in?!

Friday, December 28

Christmas/New Year hiatus

Well thank goodness THAT's over with for another year!

If you must know, I had a fantastic birthday, and helped the Curse celebrate his birthday the day after, then it was downhill all the way to Christmas and beyond.

Looking on the positive side:

1. There are FOs! I finished mum's christmas socks, I also finished the first of a new pair for me, which are going to be the New Favourite Socks (at the moment it is New Favourite Sock). They are gorgeous, there will be pictures in the next day or two as soon as my free time and daylight coincide!

2. There are new possessions! A book about spinning, a niddy noddy (which the Curse bought for my birthday by craftily following the internet link I gave him and filling in his bank card details....he's so clever sometimes!), two skeins of the softest Mirasol 100% baby llama yarn, a gorgeous turquoise colour that I think is just begging to become a hat, and the Vogue Ultimate Sock Book (or Joy of Socks as I keep calling it!).

3. No-one was poisoned by my cooking, we didn't spend the night at Heathrow, nor did we get burgled. There is much to be thankful for when I look at it that way!

Roll on January...!

Saturday, December 22

Deadline met!

Quick beanie hat for a friend who has his 40th birthday on 3 January. And I thought it was bad having a christmas birthday! Imagine trying to whip up enthusiasm among your friends for a new year birthday!

Anyway the beanie is a very simple design: cast on approx 100 stitches (it's DK yarn on 3mm DPNs) rib two for about 10 rows, then change up a couple of needle sizes and stocking stitch until the hat is about 150mm long (you can add rows of colour if you wish).

Decrease starts with K7, K2tog repeated along round, followed by a K round. Then go down to K6, K2tog followed by a K round. Keep decreasing like this until you have six or eight stitches left in total. Cut thread and draw end through remaining stitches.

Nice huh?

Tuesday, December 18

First attempt

I am so chuffed! Look at this! My first attempt at spinning, all on my own without any help!

I took a trip up to the Handweavers' Studio in Walthamstow last week, and picked up some little sample bags of different types of wool; the white shown here is unnamed cheap mix (I think it was just labelled 'carded white wool' or something).

But I was also yearning colour, and luckily stumbled over Julieta's stall on Greenwich Market, which I had totally forgotten about. I don't go down there very often and only popped in to go to the healthfood shop... but luckily for me, I wandered round the stalls a bit and found her. And she sells little balls of merino roving in lovely colours - more appropriate for felting I think, but suitable for my initial attempts and enough to sate my appetite!

That's what the pink is. It was much more difficult to spin, but I found it easier if I made the effort to pull it all apart and fluff it out before starting.

What I was most pleased about was my success at plying - although I'd only seen it demonstrated the once, I found it very simple to do and it worked out brilliantly!

And now the big question; what to make with my little sample? Egg cosy anyone?!

Wednesday, December 12

It's curtains for you!

Did I mention how much I like my new curtains? The main curtains are thick, dark aubergine colour, and block out most of the light. And the thin layer (I hesitate to call them nets, it has such unpleasant connotations) makes a lovely pattern on the wall when the light comes through!

Monday, December 10

She's here to stay

I've resisted the temptation to give her a name, I'm just going to be content to refer to her as a being, not an inanimate object.

We only met last week, via Ebay - I was a bit cautious given what I'd read about buying second hand wheels and at first was not sure whether to commit myself fully. But given bidding was very low, and this was a chance to get a top of the range wheel for the same budget I'd set for my entry-level wheel, I gave in to temptation.

In fact it worked out very well - as the reserve was not met (I had stopped bidding at the limit of my budget) myself and her seller came to a private arrangement which meant I would be able to see, and try the wheel before handing over the cash.
This satisfied my naturally-cautious side, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Right now she's tucked down in the corner of the lounge, waiting for me to get out and buy some fibre so I can get on with it! I've spun up the last bits I brought home from the knitting & spinning weekend, and I'm starting to get the hang of the treadling, so hopefully it won't be too long before we are intimate acquaintances!

She's very compact, a modern style that I wasn't sure I liked at first, but I'm totally sold on now - I love the fact that every part of the wheel is so thoroughly detailed and carefully finished. I'm sure we will become firm friends.

The next Clapotis?

I've just seen the new Knitty.

My prediction is that this will be the next Clapotis. Even I might try it, although I'm actually scared of lace...

Sunday, December 9

Deck the halls!

Last week I received a very touching gift from the Queen of Crochet (who soon may have to be renamed to Queen of Fibrecrafts!). These glorious knitted christmas tree decorations are a real triumph - she managed to deal very well with the colourwork at her first attempt and produced these gorgeous little items for me.

To be totally honest we hadn't really thought about getting a christmas tree this year (especially after I saw the cheapest ones down at Sainsbury's were £22.99!) but we might have to relent now we've got such unique decorations for it!

I am always torn between the feeling that christmas isn't really christmas without the smell of a pine tree and a host of fairy lights in the corner of the lounge, and the sadness of throwing out the tree after a few weeks, its faded glory reminding me what a waste it seems.

I suspect we will be treeless again this year - the Curse is very good at moaning about wanting a tree, but not in the least bit proactive in going out and getting one so it usually falls to me to decide - but we will certainly have to have some kind of decorations so that the knitted baubles can take pride of place!

PS There will be more about The Wheel once I have calmed down a bit!

No comment

Wednesday, December 5

United front

This time last year, I was inspired by a posting from the Yarn Harlot to give my christmas donation to the charity Medecins sans Frontieres. At the time, her appeal had raised some US$120,000 and she wanted to double it.

Her total is based on a trust system - she just asks givers to email her with the amount they have donated and she will add it to her total. Naturally she knows we knitters are a trustworthy bunch, and even if there were a few people in there who thought it was ok to lie about giving money to charity, her total would still not be too far off.

I knew at the time that she was bogged down with hundreds of emails - for goodness sake it must take all her time just to read the comments on her blog, she regularly gets a couple of hundred a day! So I wasn't surprised not to get a reply or email from her, I realised that would have been asking a lot.

However by last week, I had almost completely forgotten about my donation, so it was a lovely surprise to get an email from her out of the blue! Imagine, an email from The Harlot! In my very own inbox! Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wrote to ME!

Granted it was only a short note of thanks, but still... and so I was prompted to check back and see how the appeal was going. Take a look guys, and be amazed! Nearly half a million dollars has been raised by knitters worldwide! And as the Harlot says, that's a lot of yarn funds!

If you were ever in doubt as to the power of the knitting community worldwide, I think this is a valuable lesson in Yarn Power!

And if you are inspired enough to want to join the appeal, you can donate online, then grab your 'Tricoteuses sans Frontieres' button, slap it on your blog, and let the Harlot know!

Tuesday, December 4

Totally smitten!

They are finished, they are lovely! And they garner many admiring glances wherever they go! Thank you Elliphantom!

Friday, November 30

Not knitting

Is this the ugliest bridge design in the world? It is being proposed as part of the Sustrans Connect2 bid for the 'People's 50 Million' lottery funding. According to the press release:
"Faber Maunsell in partnership with Holder Mathias Architects has been appointed by Cardiff Council to undertake an Options Appraisal for a proposed footbridge spanning the Ely River between Penarth and the International Sports Village in Cardiff Bay.
The bridge, which will be called Pont y Werin (‘The People’s Bridge’), will improve walking and cycling links between Cardiff and Penarth.
Sustainability has been a key focus in the design of the bridge which uses water pumped from the River Ely to act as a counter balance in order to open the bascule bridge. When Pont y Werin is closed, the stored water is discharged back into the river which drives a turbine that in turn activates the lighting system on the bridge."

I applaud the efforts to make it sustainable, and I am a great supporter of cycling, being a keen pedaller myself. However there's no way I can get my head around the fact that this bridge looks like it was cobbled together using oddments found in the bottom of a skip!

Thursday, November 22

Lower Shaw Farm

Last weekend, myself and two of my Meantime Knitter chums (Zaza aka Crochet Queen and Artisanelle) headed off to Lower Shaw Farm for a weekend of knitting and spinning. You might think that the outskirts of Swindon would not be the most promising location for a weekend away, but I have to assure you, this is a really magical place.

I was fascinated to learn about Emma's own sheep - one of whose lamb fleece she had brought along for us to use in class - and as well as talking about the welfare aspects of keeping sheep, and the different breeds and fleeces, we learned about washing the fleeces (very heavy by all accounts!) learned to card the wool, and to spin it on a drop spindle first of all.

We met the farm's own sheep, a mixed bunch of brown and white ones who were very keen to snack on the apples we brought them. Two of the farm's residents, Melissa and Claire, had several homegrown fleeces that they spent most of the weekend carding with Emma's drum carder - despite being easier than the hand carders to use, it was still tough work!

On Sunday, we spent the morning learning to spin on spinning wheels, and trying out the range of wheels that Emma had brought. At first I found it tough to get all the actions going at the same time, but after a while I got the hang of it, and then I was off! I think it was the same for all those of us who tried it!

This was one of the best parts of the weekend - sitting around for several hours doing crafty things with a laid-back bunch of women! We chatted and crafted leisurely, enjoying the freedom of having no other pressures, plans or requirements to be anywhere else, doing anything else. It was very liberating.

Eventually time ran out, so Emma plied together two of the yarns woven on two different wheels. As we'd all been moving round trying out the different wheels, it was something of a joint effort in the end, and produced a rather pleasing, random but colourful effect.

Only one question remains - what sort of wheel should I buy?!

Culinary diversion

I make no apologies for this brief diversion away from the subjects of learning to spin, knitting, curtains, and interior decor. It is That Time of Year, and if you haven't yet made your Christmas mincemeat, now is the time to do so.

What do you mean, you don't make mincemeat?! Why ever not? Why rely on that brandy-soaked, candied-peel-stuffed, over-sugared and under-fruited yuk that gets put on the supermarket shelves year after year?

In my opinion, alcohol (particularly of the spirit variety) should not be consumed via the medium of trifle, fruit cake, christmas pudding or any sort of dessert. It should be drunk, from a glass, and on occasion from the can/bottle, or if it is of the wine or beer variety, incorporated into savoury dishes.

And I feel much more strongly about the afore-mentioned candied peel. This is the devil's spawn, it should never have been invented and has no place in any kind of food intended for human consumption. Particularly teacakes and scones. I hope that is clear.

Which is why you will find neither brandy nor mixed peel in the following family recipe for mincemeat. This is my mum's recipe, which I assume is handed down from the Naylor side of the family. It's lovely, easy to make, and involves no cooking; make it now and give it time to mature before christmas. It should keep for many months without a problem (although it's not recommended to keep it too long if you use butter as the fat).

The following recipe is the full quantity; unless you have a large family or lots of people to give it away to, I suggest halving the quantities.

450g cooking apple (peeled and cored)
450g sultanas
450g raisins
700g sugar
juice and rind of a lemon
1tsp mixed spice
1/2tsp nutmeg
225g-340g vegetable suet (or butter, or beef suet which is the traditional version!)
one box of trifle sponges

Grate the apple into a large bowl.
Add the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and rind, spice and nutmeg. Mix thoroughly.
Add the suet, mix again. If using butter, soften it first.
Crumble in the trifle sponges, mix thoroughly.
Cover and leave overnight, then put into sterilised jars.

Leave to mature, ready for christmas!

Tuesday, November 20

All in a spin

Guess what I spent the weekend doing? It was fantastic, a really top experience. A full report will follow, just as soon as I've got a few spare minutes...

Wednesday, November 14

Progress report

Apologies on having been a bit remiss with my posting of late. There is quite a lot to report on the knitting front, but no pictures for various reasons. Some items cannot be revealed until the intended recipient has seen them; others cannot be shown as I haven't had a chance to photograph them in daylight yet. I intend to resolve this in the next few days, so please bear with me.

First news is that mum's christmas socks do not fit. Damn! Luckily I've 'only' made one so far, I got her to try it on at the weekend with her eyes closed, and found that although she could get it on, it was a bit tight around the ankle. I'm going to rip it back to the foot and do some gusset increases which I hope will solve the problem. I was relying on my usual short row heel without any gusset increases which normally works, but I think the pattern I've chosen is not very forgiving and the yarn is not hugely stretchy.

Secondly, I started some Dashing gloves for dad for christmas, using some Jamiesons heather yarn which I THOUGHT would make gauge suitably. In fact it was fine in terms of stitch count, but way out on the row count, which I only discovered when I finished the first glove and realised dad would look like he was wearing a pair of particularly rustic evening gloves if I left them like that! So I've hugely adapted the pattern in terms of rows, started on the second glove and when I've finished that, I'll rip back the first one and start that again. It will be interesting to see how much yarn I'll end up using - it might even be possible to squeeze a pair out of a single ball which would be very economical!

Other news is that the second mitten is on hold at the moment (pending completion of christmas knitting) and the Somewhat Cowl is progressing slowly and painfully. I'm hating the ever-increasing length of rows, and annoying both myself and the Curse by measuring the raglan after practically every row and then tutting because it is still not long enough! It'll all be worth it in the end, I keep saying...!

Two other gifts will be on show soon, I hope! One is currently on its way to the USA, the other is awaiting finishing touches before being gifted to a member of Meantime Knitters, so watch this space!

Wednesday, November 7

Tomatoes, green and red

Surely some mistake? It's November and I'm still harvesting ripening tomatoes from my balcony! The 12 plants have produced pounds and pounds of fruit, from cherry tomatoes to beefsteak, and they have been glorious!

And it doesn't end there! At the weekend I picked three pounds of green tomatoes and cooked up some green tomato chutney. This morning I picked the rest of the green tomatoes - another SIX pounds - and am in the process of trying to give them away to other chutney makers!

I'd leave them all there to ripen but I need the space and the pots to plant my bulbs in...!

Incidentally, the jars on the right contain Quince Jamalade, cooked up by myself and the Queen of Crochet a few weeks ago. We dubbed it jamalade as it's a delicious cross; quinces, pink grapefruit, apple and sugar!

Sunday, November 4


Another weekend in the bedroom :-(

Of course the weather has been at its most beautiful autumnal best, glorious sunshine and very mild, perfect for walking! Still, we have broken the back of the painting, soon we will be moving on to the more fun bits such as shopping for new furniture, curtains and carpet!

Wednesday, October 31

Some squirrel progess

Nearly finished the first squirrely mitten - I am struggling somewhat with the thumb, it's quite fiddly to do on four DPNs. If I had the right sized circulars I would be using them right now, believe me! In fact I might put them on the shopping list ready for the next mitten!

I'm very happy with the quality of the work on the main mitten, even though I think it gets a bit looser towards the top. It took me quite a while to get the hang of using both hands to hold the yarn, and I suspect my tension was a bit too tight at first. But it fits fine, and I think a bit of stiff blocking will do the trick to even it all out.

I've also been busy with other stuff - I've made some progress on the Somewhat Cowl, and I knocked up an eye patch for our piratey knitalong at the Maritime Museum. The latter was good fun as it's a nice space with good light, and there was a respectable turnout from the London Stitch n Bitch group, and the IKnit London group. The SNB ladies were glamorously attired in pirate and sailor gear, while the IKnit group brought along some wonderful props such as the knitted pirate doll with glittery nipple tassles and Craig's jaunty seagull cap. The effect of my eyepatch was diluted somewhat by the fact that I couldn't decide whether it should be worn over or under my specs! Neither really did it justice, and both made my eye hot and my vision even worse than normal!

Monday, October 22

Squirrel mitts

It seemed somehow appropriate to spend my travelling time in Austria working on these lovely mittens from Elliphantom Knits.

In my typical style, I've had the pattern (and even the yarn!) for more than a year, but my weekend away finally prompted me to cast on, and I'm now well on the way to finishing the first mitten.

I also took the opportunity to try a new technique for the stranded knitting - holding the two different colours in different hands! Since I've never managed to take to 'picking' rather than 'throwing' my yarn, it was not the easiest of transitions, but I think I'm getting the hang of it now! At first I started each round by deciding which colour featured the most, and would hold that colour in my right (throwing) hand. The other would reside in my left (picking) hand for occasional use. I'm now at the stage where I can more or less cope without doing this.

I love the mittens because they are damn cute, but also because they are forcing me to learn a new technique. I'm finding it difficult to get the fabric to lie flat, it is bunching up in places, but that's normal for me even when I'm not trying to use both hands. It's just something I'll have to live with.

People have been talking a lot recently about how many and what type of projects they have on the go at the same time. I think I'm at FIVE right now. There are two large projects (one so large it can't leave the house, the other still in portable size), one pair of socks (currently awaiting a fitting by the intended recipient. I measured her feet and the socks correspond to the measurements, but I still can't believe her feet are THAT long and thin!), there's a tiny gift project I've nearly finished, and now the mittens.

Last but not at all least, a quick bit of eye candy. Here's part of a recent consignment I scored from Natalie at the Yarn Yard. The pic doesn't really show the colours too well, but they are greys and black with swirls of bright orange. Very Halloweeny!!!

Snowy weekend

Fittingly, my weekend in the Austrian Tyrol was snowy. Very snowy! It started on Friday night and barely stopped all weekend.

Knitting news to follow.

Monday, October 15

Knitting nazis

During my two days at Ally Pally, I was unfortunate enough to meet some of those unpleasant individuals, the scourge of the yarn world: the Knitting Nazis!

Are you holding your yarn in a slightly awkward fashion? Do you tuck your needles under your armpits when you knit? Have you given up trying to turn a heel in the traditional way and created your own rather unconventional method?

Then WATCH OUT! The Knitting Nazis will get you! The Knitting Nazis are always on the lookout for someone carrying out the age-old craft of knitting in a non-proscribed fashion. Wherever you knit, they will be there, looking over your shoulder and tutting if they see you with tension that's too loose, a thumb that's not properly set in, or if you are using needles that are deemed too small or too large for that particular weight of yarn!

It wasn't the first time I'd encountered the Knitting Nazis - one of them confronted me on the train to work a couple of years ago. She sat next to me as I knitted, and glancing over at what I was doing, said: "You're not holding your wool properly". My hackles rose instantly, and I snapped: "Well it's done me alright for the last 20 years, thanks very much". After that she became rather contrite and started making complimentary comments about what I was making but it was too late, the damage was done! What sort of person thinks that is the right way to open a conversation?

Anyway, they were obviously out in force at Ally Pally, on the prowl for any wrongdoers. They were ready to come down swiftly and forcefully on any unconventional casting off, to stamp out the use of new-fangled techniques, and to put to rights any breaches of Traditional Knitting Etiquette.

One of them upset a good friend of mine, who is not yet particularly confident with her craft, by snatching her project out of her hands and proceeding to show her the 'right' way to do it. (And incidentally, since when has continental style knitting been the 'right' way on British soil? Not to get too jingoistic about it, but surely it is important that we preserve our own traditional style of knitting, as well as welcoming alternative techniques for those who find them easier to adopt?)

Another one was rather critical of one of our film-poster props, commenting how 'someone needs to show you how to set-in a thumb!' as she picked up the aforementioned item and examined it at length, narrowing her eyes and tutting. "Well madam, I'll be showing you how I execute a sharp kick up the backside in a minute," I felt like saying, but instead restricted myself to: "We weren't really aiming for technique in these items..." and then hovering menacingly at her side until she thought better of it, and went off to look for more unsuspecting victims.

I can only assume that the Knitting Nazis were scarred in childhood by being taught their craft by fierce schoolteachers who rapped their knuckles with canes every time they had to rip back their projects. In the same way that abused children often grow up to be abusers, the Knitting Nazis are just trying to pass on the misery that they experienced. They don't think we should ENJOY knitting, they still see it as a chore, and want us to hate it as much as they did.

Well I tell you, it won't work! We are liberated by our love of fibre! Hold your yarn how you damn well like - whatever's good for you is good for the world at large! As long as you enjoy your crafting, you can knit with your big toes, and use square needles and elastic bands for all I care! Love your own style, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise: it's always wise to listen if someone wants to show you a different way of doing things, but if they try and make you knit 'the right' way, just tell them where to go!

A model of restraint

Here it is! Yup, the ONLY purchase at Ally Pally! I was the absolute model of restraint, despite the fact that I was there for two whole days. I allowed myself to purchase this beautiful Hummingbird yarn from Artesano Alpaca as my sole treat - it will probably become a hat and gloves, or some such - but at the moment it's just nice to pet.

I attribute my success to two things; firstly, the Knit at the Movies champagne bar was outside the main exhibition area, so the temptation to spend was sufficiently distant for it to be a bit of a bind to get to the stalls.

Secondly, I did it in two steps; on the first day, I went into the exhibition without my purse. I browsed around, saw what was on offer, and was very annoyed with myself for not having money to hand. But by the time the following day came around, I had taken stock of what I had seen, and had decided that all I could really allow myself to buy was something modest, a little reminder of the show. I was looking for some 'manly' sock yarn for The Curse, but couldn't find anything suitable, so it had to be something for me! Ah, purple and green, my favourite colours!

I also managed to generate a finished object - this light scarf is made from a combination of two yarns: the strange cotton/felt combination that Natalie brought me back from Japan, and a ball of lovely turquoise alpaca/silk that I swapped with someone on Ravelry.

I've been looking for something to go with the Japanese yarn for ages, and it was great to be able to match it up at last. I did a simple garter stitch scarf with a few rows of drop stitches here and there for variety. I think it looks quite cute, and it's not at all itchy, although it looks rather hairy!

So what of the actual show? Our Knit at the Movies in the champagne bar was great fun - we taught about 60 under-18s during Thursday and Friday (the best were the school kids who kept calling me 'miss' and were wowed by my handknit socks!). Saturday and Sunday were less about teaching, more about sitting round knitting and chatting - I wasn't there but it sounds like it got pretty quiet at times, so perhaps a bit more in the way of shopping temptation!

I saw quite a few exhibitors whom I hadn't heard of before, so it was good to see who was doing what, to check out their wares and make a note to track down their websites when I NEED yarn! One that particularly impressed was Scandinavian Knitting Design - I met the lovely Birgitte who, along with husband Bruce, import yarn to the UK from Scandinavia and sell it by mail order from Reading at scandalously low prices! They have a superb range of colours, particularly in the mercerised cotton, which is something like £1.75 for 50g. They also sell a lot of mixes of yarns, so good for washable/baby garments.

Many other stalls, too numerous to mention, but I will be following up with one or two of them over the coming months, and will post when I do.

Now that the trauma of Ally Pally is behind us, it's onwards and upwards to our next event, a stitch n bitch at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, on Sunday 28 October, from 2 till 5pm. Dressed as pirates/sailors. See you there, me hearties!

Wednesday, October 10

Ally Pally strategy

For all those of you living outside the UK, or anyone who's been on Mars the last few months; a quick reminder! Tomorrow is the first day of the annual Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London. Yarn lovers of the London region (and quite a few miles around) spend weeks talking about this show in the build-up to the actual event, debating what they are going to buy, who is going to be there, and talking about strategies for everything from the actual shopping, to how much food and drink to bring and what to wear!

I will be there tomorrow and Friday working at the 'Knit with the stars' champagne bar where we will be teaching all comers to knit and crochet, as well as adding a bit of glamour to proceedings. I'm just back from several hours of preparation, putting up our fabulous posters and displaying our props so that the Hollywood theme will permeate throughout the champers area and might even reach as far as the fashion shows!

My local group, the Meantime Knitters, and the ladies from the London Stitch n Bitch group have spent several months coming up with excrutiating film-related puns, knitting props, photographing them and putting together some of the most fantastic posters around, all for these four days.

Have a sneak preview; the combined talents of Bojana (creater of knitted bikinis), her sister (Bond girl extraordinaire) and Rowan, whom I've mentioned before for her creative designs, have come together to visualise this awe-inspiringly cringeworthy Bond pun!

But the show is about more than glamour and puns; it's about SHOPPING! Thousands of pounds worth of yarn (oh and some card-making stuff if you're interested) right there beneath our very noses. Yet my stash is already out of control - and I am determined not to add to it. I have decided I must be very strict with myself so as to avoid having to move house in order to get more room for yarn, hence I have had to develop a Strategy.

My Strategy is:

1. Thou shalt not buy yarn (although it's ok to buy tools and books, oh and a bit of fabric if you see something cheap that you like...but no more than a metre or two).

Ahem. Er, that's it.

However I may go further (ie not being able to trust myself) and leave my cards at home. All of them. Except - hey I've just realised, I don't even have enough money for lunch so will have to take at least one card to get money out of the cash machine. Oh darn it ;-)

Alternatively, stick to the champers bar all day. There's nothing to say I can't spend my money on booze (except that it's bound to be stupidly expensive....)

Check back at the weekend to see how I got on.

But don't hold your breath!

Monday, October 1

Devon report

Beaches: many of them. We walked along them, and rose above them on the solid embankments that carry Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Western Railway along this beautiful and dramatic part of the Devon coastline. I won't go on about Brunel, except to say he is one of my all-time hero engineers. A knitting blog probably isn't the place for my ramblings about the creator of the Saltash Bridge, the SS Great Britain and the Great Eastern... suffice it to say I appreciated the fact that we were staying somewhere where Brunel had played a fundamental part in shaping the landscape and the history of the place.

Trains. After a couple of days I was forbidden from mentioning the T word. One day in particular, on which we walked for several miles along the beach next to the railway, I ALLEDGEDLY overdid it on the T word. Look, it was just that I was shocked by exactly how many trains use this stretch of the line - from the long, snaking First Great Western trains to the single carriages that chug between all the tiny towns and villages. There were many more than I expected!

I particularly appreciated the varied colours and textures of the train embankment. The Curse was just interested in building dams in the sand. I am sure there is a civil engineer inside, struggling to get out...

Meanwhile, Coldharbour Mill in Uffculme, north of Exeter.

I've bought yarn by mail order from this lovely place before, but decided to go and visit it while I was in the area. It proved to be just as lovely as I had expected - in fact perhaps even more so! I purchased a rake of yarn from the shop (10 skeins of aran for a jumper, and a couple of 4-ply for mitts or socks); I met Margaret, Margaret, Dolly and Chris in the stables, whiling a couple of pleasant hours away, knitting and chatting; and I got caught up in a school tour which was quite amusing. The chap acting as the manager of the mill, carrying out a 'recreation' tour with the junior school kids was so convincing in his strictness that he had a couple of them in tears!

And in knitting news... I am a circular needle sock addict! Finished the first of the pair in Regia Canyon Colour. The ball of yarn seems to have got no smaller at all during this process. Perhaps it is magic everlasting yarn? Anyway, I faltered slightly with the magic cast on for the second sock, having to rip it half a dozen times or so, but eventually got there and am now progressing smoothly!

I don't have pictures of the cream teas/local ales/excessive food, but I'm sure you can imagine!

Sunday, September 30

Just enjoying the feeling while it lasts

We're back! There is lots of fibre-related news to report, but I'm just going to spend a while relishing the week away from the computer. Meanwhile, a nice picture of the seafront which I took while walking back from my early-morning swim.

Saturday, September 22

Devon calls... me and the socks and the circular needles are off for a break. See you next week!

Wednesday, September 19

Papa's got a brand new pegbag!

Not strictly true - it's me that's got the brand new pegbag, but it didn't quite work in the title. Bit of a blast from the past for all you fast-approaching forty-somethings. All the rest of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about..sorry!

This tenuous link is courtesy of the new pegbag I knocked up over the course of last weekend. Inspiration from Cosmo's mum's own pegbag, now resident in deepest Kent, and yarn courtesy of the bottom of my stash box and the odds n sods bag.

Despite The Curse's misgivings, the pegs DO NOT fall out of the holes, although they occasionally peek out and say hello! Our previous two pegbags have consisted of small plastic bags which soon got ripped being pulled in and out of the cupboard, so this is a great improvement.

More knitting news is that, inspired by Kelley Petkun's excellent podcast, I am considering tackling socks on two (or maybe one) circular needle, as well as having another stab at the 'magic loop' cast on. I totally failed when I followed Judy's instructions from Knitty, but looking at the original instructions on her website, I now think I have identified the reason. There is one essential picture missing!

Without the FOURTH picture in the series, I was lost! At first I tried following the written instructions, but it wasn't until I studied the fourth picture carefully, and tried to replicate it, that I realised I was going wrong with that particular maneouvre! Once I could see what it was supposed to look like, it all came right. In my previous attempts I wasn't combining the two ends of the yarn in the right way, but now I after a few false starts, I THINK I've got it right and if all goes well, will share the results with you in due course!

I'm using this technique to restart a pair of stocking stitch socks for me, using Regia yarn. My first attempt was most unsatisfactory. Using my standard provisional cast-on and short row toe was clearly not the best solution for this particular self-striping yarn as it came out with thick bands of black and grey on each side of the toe, and a pink stripe on one side and blue stripe on the other side. Not only that, I had misjudged the gauge and by the time I got to the foot it was way too big.

I used this failure as an excuse to bully myself into trying the circular needle/magic cast-on route and hopefully I won't be looking back!

Friday, September 14

New Knitty alert!

Ooh, check out this gorgeous jumper!

And these little creatures are really cute...

Wednesday, September 12

Deptford's fibrey goodness

We have fibre arts! In Deptford!

Very cool, don't you think?

For those of you who don't know anything about my manor, this is Deptford, an area of somewhat faded glory on the south east banks of the Thames. In the 1700s it was home to the royal dockyard, and made its fortune from ship building and the slave trade. These days it is home to a vibrant mix of old-school working class, first, second and third generation immigrants of West Indian, African and Asian origin, and a healthy dose of students and artists who contribute to the cutting-edge arty feel of the area.

This work is by Katie Gilman and is part of this weekend's Deptford X festival:

"The anchor in Deptford stands as a much loved landmark and community meeting point and links Deptford's naval heritage with the busy street market of the present-day. Local artist Katie Gilman will transform the hard metal statue by meticulously wrapping it in soft fluffy wool, encouraging us all to see the world around us in a new light."

Monday, September 10

New shoes!

Purchased a size too big so that I can show off my hand-knitted socks in them!

Of course now, after a cold summer, the sun is finally here and it's too warm to wear knitted socks! Ho hum, I'll just have to be patient.

Other sock news is that I finally finished the Patricia socks I started WAAY back in April. I needed something mindless for two very long train journeys in a single day, and this fitted the bill perfectly. Granted, I had to spend a bit of time counting up the stitches in the first one and trying to work out exactly what size I'd made it, but once I got that sorted out I flew through it.

The Ally Pally show is taking up a lot of my spare time at the moment - we are now putting together the posters and getting the final bits sorted out. Thankfully I have excellent help from expert designer Rowan (Cosmo's mum) so it seems like the posters are going to be fantastic. I believe she has an MA in Silk Purses out of Sows' Ears.

You will get to see the posters eventually - if you are coming to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally, best to pop along to the champagne bar and see them in their full glory. If not, I'll be showing them here some time in the next few weeks...

Thursday, September 6

"268 ravelers are on line"

So where the heck are the thousands who were in front of me and were the reason for me having to wait so long? Tsk!

Plus I must add that 268 is one of the highest number I've seen for a while. The other day I went on Ravelry before the USA got out of bed, and it was about 45...

Monday, September 3

Thanks Nicola!

Apparently I'm a Schmoozer! (yeah, what's new?!). See my award, top right!

One of my regular commenters, the lovely, talented, and frequently overworked Notwithstanding Nicola has nominated me for a Schmooze award, as I am one of her most regular commenters. Plus I say nice things about her socks, not things like 'Check out this great poker site win $$$$$' etc.

'The award is designed to promote blog-friendships by rewarding those who are good Schmoozers, schmoozing being 'the natural ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection". Good schmoozers effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogsphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship'.

And so now it is my turn to bestow this honour. I have thought long and hard about it, and although there are many deserving bloggers out there, I have decided that the award will go to *roll of drums* Anna, of Anna's Yarn Mansion.

Not only is Anna a prolific blogger and a very talented knitter, she ALWAYS finds time to respond to any comment I leave on her site. She has just finished a gorgeous Lizard Ridge Afghan for which she won first prize at her local state fair, and besides which, she seems to LOVE buttons on her blog. I figured she's in need of another one. Well done Anna!

Friday, August 31

Socks and the city

I'm sure I'm not the first one to use that line, but I just couldn't help myself. The city in question is New York, I'm just back from a business trip there; a full-on trip including four hours' work on Sunday, 8am till 8pm Mon, 8am till 11pm Tues, 9am till 10pm on Wed and a full day's return travel Thursday. But don't worry, I found a few hours on Sunday afternoon to relax and pop into Purl Soho!

I was most surprised to discover that the aforementioned LYS was nothing more than a pocket-handkerchief-sized boutique that could handle no more than about five customers at one time. The selection of yarns was awesome, but they were all packed into unlabelled shelves; in order to find out make, material and price one had to extract each skein separately - quite a tall order considering how tightly and neatly they were stacked.

Despite the beauty and range of the yarns, I can't say I found it a relaxing retail experience. It is probably more of a place to go when you know what you want, rather than to browse. When I got there the place was packed (ie about five customers and a couple of sales staff). After a few people left it became easier to move around, but I didn't really feel like lingering. I hasten to add that there was no pressure or hostility from the sales staff, they couldn't have been nicer. It was just too small for a lass like me.

All the same, I managed to score a few skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas alpaca/silk mix in two divine colourways - a rich claret and a deep, dark mossy green. Also bought a great little book 'When bad things happen to good knitters' which I believe is written by one of the store owners. (Sorry, don't have it to hand - will post when I get the details).

The trip enabled me to finish the lacey socks and give them a peek out of the hotel window, down onto Broadway.

Which brings me to my love of New York.

Have you ever met someone to whom you are mysteriously attracted, but can't work out why? Perhaps they are twenty years older/younger than you, or they have a crumpled, lived-in face, they are not conventionally good-looking. But you suddenly find yourself very attracted to this person and just can't pin down the reason. You know that if one of your friends asked you to describe your latest infatuation, you wouldn't be able to make them understand why you liked this person. You just do. And you don't just like them, you fantasise about them and have naughty dreams about them and then wake up feeling a bit embarrassed.

That's how it is with New York for me. It's noisy and busy, it smells, people are rude, it's dirty, nothing works properly, etc etc. And yet every time I go there, I feel a real buzz that I can't describe. This time I decided to try and take lots of pictures to convey to friends who haven't been there the things that make it special for me. I realised there was no point. It's impossible because what makes it special for me can't be described in words or pictures. It just is.

Tuesday, August 21

Knitty woman!

Ooh, I tell you, when I finished this on Sunday I felt fantastic. I couldn't have been fuller of pride. I was tickled pink.

Yes I know, enough already. But here it is for all you doubters - the finished handbag! All the trauma was worth it - now I realise why I ripped about six different versions back. THIS was the image I'd had in my head right from the start and I was really proud that I'd had the tenacity and determination to get there in the end!

Technical details are a bit sketchy, although I may try and draft out a pattern in due course as I've got a few notes tucked away. The handles are just long lengths of stocking stitch that curled themselves into the right shape during their spell in the washing machine. The tab was made from the original swatch that I felted for a second time, and the garish button is for the photoshoot only. I have a nice tasteful black button as a replacement once we've done the pics for Ally Pally. It took just over two balls of Sheepshop's Wensleydale Longwool - I could have easily done it with two if I'd made a smaller swatch. The yarn is good and hairy, and felted beautifully - very difficult to see the detail here, but it looks great in the flesh!


Sunday, August 19

Mad hatter

Got to go to a party which has a 'hat' theme and haven't got a single hat in your wardrobe? Only found out this morning thanks to forgetful other half?

Get yourself down to Peacock's (cheap clothes shop whose doors I had never darkened before today); pick up a half price cowboy-style hat (£2.50) and knock up a few little crochet flowers using stash leftovers. A bit of ribbon laced through to loop under your chin, and that's the ticket! I was a bit disappointed that I didn't win the prize for best hat, but I'll concede I was fairly beaten by a 45 year old man wearing a homemade Bo-peep bonnet...

Friday, August 17

Socks away

Just to prove that my life hasn't been ALL handbags recently! (although it feels a bit like it). Here's the first finished Knit Nurse original sock; the second is approaching the heel, won't be long before the pair is complete!