Friday, March 30

Wolle und polyamid

Another work trip - this time to Stuttgart - and guess what? Who's this with their nose pressed up against the window of a yarn shop? I'll come clean here - I had done a little research before I got there and marked one or two on a map for the first evening. Wolle & Tee is a rather cute looking little shop that I found only a few minutes' walk from my hotel. Sadly it was closed - by the time I had chance to go on the prowl, it was about 6.30pm and too late for the little independent shops.

Mind you, I was rather peturbed to see the example below in the other window of Wolle & Tee; no matter how much you hate finishing and no matter how bad you think you are - surely you would never stoop to putting this item in the window?!

Perhaps they are being ironic? But by the look of the colours of the sweater, I fear not. Perhaps it was just as well that it was closed otherwise I might have felt pressured into buying something gaudy and unnecessary. I already have gaudy and unnecessary in spades at home.

Just around the corner; Wolle Rodel. Large shop selling yarn and needlecraft supplies - just closing as I arrived. I did manage to come back the following lunchtime and had a good snoop around, but I didn't buy anything! I think it was the colours that put me off - there was plenty of yarn of many many colours - sock yarn by the sackful; cotton; merino; acrylic even - they have no fear of acrylic in Germany. Let's cut the snobbery and admit that it does outlast everything else. Not good news for landfill sites, but if you manage to knit something you love in acrylic, you'll never have to face it wearing out!

So what DID I buy? I made it into the nearby Karstadt department store and bought two skeins of el-cheapo sock wool. A nice subtle striping yarn, difficult to find subtlety among all the Regia and the like. At the risk of being controversial I will state here and now that I really don't like the majority of the self-striping sock yarns. Most of the colour combinations just don't do it for me, and those ones that are supposed to come out stripy and spotty? YEUCH! I was rather taken by Patricia's modest dark blues, greens and reds - I liked her unashamed mix of 40% wool, 40% 'polyacryl' and 20% 'polyamid' - and most of all I loved her price - 1.95 Euros per 50g. A grand total of £2.65 for a pair of socks!

Wednesday, March 28

Getting the needle

Harumph! Well I found out why the Bamboo needles were so cheap - not a single set is of a consistent size! The worst ones are the ones marked 2.25mm, which are in fact nearer to 2.75mm. Ironically this worked in my favour - I needed some 2.75mm for the socks I'm right in the middle of knitting.

Having discovered this, I set about measuring all the others, and found the most crazy results. Most sets have one or two needles that are close to the right gauge, the rest are mostly larger than what they are marked as. Some are the right size at one end, and a different size at the other! When you put the sets together and scrutinize them closely, the difference is just about noticeable. Obviously made in a factory where the tolerance is set as a few millimetres, or perhaps they just guess!

I contacted the seller to alert them to this fact - and to be fair, they were very apologetic and have offered to send me something by way of compensation. I didn't ask for a refund - I need the needles right now and am happy to work around their idiosyncrasies. My reckoning being that if you're using five needles, the size difference will even itself out over the rounds, and it probably won't make any difference at all on the large sizes.

If you're buying, just be warned - check with a needle gauge before you start!

Monday, March 26


With several flights coming up soon - a couple of them transatlantic - it made sense to ensure my knitting would not be interrupted for lack of airtravel-friendly equipment. These babies will help my socks grow during those dull hours; purchased a job lot on Ebay for about twelve quid. Not sure how much use the larger ones will get - they go right up to 10mm - but the smaller ones are already in service.

I suspect they are of questionable durability, and one or two may prove slightly rough to the touch, but so far so good! They arrived, as described, in good condition and in good time.

hee hee

(I've taken it off because the sound-track was starting to annoy me!! Click below to see it)

This makes me think of my local pool, which can be very cold sometimes. Especially at 6.30am. I reckon the council is trying to save on fuel - a noble gesture in the current climate.

If you can't see the clip, go to this page where you can enjoy all of Shaun's antics.

Friday, March 23

Learning to love short rows

The new socks are coming along; I like their simplicity and the colours, plus the fact that it's my very own 'design', with a little help from Amy. Those who have been reading my blog for a while will recall my ongoing struggle with toe-up socks; the 'magic' cast-on I tried first, turned out to be a 'mystic' cast-on for me as I couldn't work it out at all, and instead converted it to the crochet cast-on short row version, which worked ok if ending up a little messy down the sides of the toe. The sock itself was eventually frogged after a number of other frustrations, including the fact that it didn't fit when it was finished. Rather basic problem.

So I just want to say THANKYOU to Amy, hers is the first toe-up sock I've made where I've been proud of the finished toe. Her instructions were thorough and clear, they don't seem to miss anything out and enabled me to knit the toe very quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Sometimes more is more, particularly in terms of knitting patterns; now I am a convert and LOVE the toe-up sock (albeit still with the crochet cast-on - I think it will take a hands-on demonstration to convert me to the figure of eight/magic version).

Oh, and it's also my first short-row heel - normally I do heel flaps, but I have to admit the short-row heel was much easier and quicker.....!

Next design is going to have a pattern of some description...when I've finished the second sock of this pair, natch!

Monday, March 19

Spring flowers and other things

On Saturday I did something I've been planning to do for about six months - it was supposed to happen on my 40th birthday, but it just didn't work out, so my partner in crime - ex-schoolmate Lisa - came to stay for the weekend with the purpose of fulfilling the original plans. The Tate Modern has a series of huge slides in the main turbine hall at the moment - an installation by Carsten Holler - which visitors can ride on for free. Lisa and I had a fantastic morning there - the anticipation, the whole build-up, and the exhilaration of the ride itself. We sampled three slides, from smallest to tallest, and all were pure experience.

Sunday, the mo'ah did its first stint - accompanying me out of London for a few hours to see the spring flowers (and slightly early April showers too, although thankfully not till I was nearly back at the car!). I drove to the beautiful Knole House then walked through the park, and all the way to Ightham Mote a few miles away. Spring flowers such as anemones, violets, primroses, blackthorn and wild strawberries were strewn all along the sheltered ridge I was following, and the views across the Weald of Kent were astonishing. It was worth the year's car insurance just for this! Made a mental note to return in a few weeks for the same walk; the bluebells will be spectacular judging by the leaves that were emerging.

Now knitting news. Here is the Curse's jumper. You can see that it's starting to look like your actual garment, but the detail at the bottom shows the bit that's driving me mad. How to fit almost 80 stitches into the space left by binding off four. Well it's not the fitting them in that's the difficult bit, it's the knitting and purling them when they are all crushed up together like that! I'm consoling myself with the fact that every other row I'm losing two stitches to the decreasing, so eventually it will all get easier (if the stretching doesn't give way to ripping...!).

A small contingent of the Meantime Knitters headed up to the Phoenix pub on Sunday evening to sample the IKnit club night, courtesy of Gerald and Craig at I Knit London. The cakes were divine, the music very retro and we made some new knitting friends from Plumstead. Hello Roy and Jon!

Thursday, March 15

Me mo'ah!

Or 'my car' in SE London parlance. It's red. And it goes! Actually it goes like the proverbial doodah off a shovel on short trips, although I fear it may be a little slow on the longer trips. But it was free and will serve me for walks in the country at the weekend, and perhaps trips to the beach in the summer. (Do you like the way I blanked out the number plate? Cos I'm so famous that obviously I don't want the paparazzi following me)

Now that I am a bona fide car owner (about 15 years since I last owned one!) I promise that I will not complain about:
1. The Congestion Charge
2. Parking (lack of or cost of)
3. Fuel prices
4. Road tax
5. Traffic jams
6. Cyclists
7. Bus/taxi/lorry drivers
8. Pedestrian crossings


I will, however, just mention that after having the luxury of driving only hire cars for a decade, I'd forgotten how much hard work it is without power steering!

For me, owning a car is an unexpected bonus and one which I intend to enjoy until the car gives up or costs too much. I appreciate the freedom this will give me, but I still intend to keep short trips to foot, cycle or public transport unless I am buying heavy things. Let's see how it goes!

Wednesday, March 14

Yarn inheritance

A haul of colourful but unidentified yarns; the outcome of a little house clearance being carried out by my boss Carol in anticipation of the imminent sale of the London pad. Carol used to be an avid knitter - very fond of intarsia by all accounts - and since she no longer has the inclination or desire to knit (yeah, how does THAT work?!) she is donating her leftovers to me.

This is the first batch, and an intriguing mix it is too; all the same fibre and type of yarn, a whole range of colours but mostly only a single ball of each. I can't even begin to imagine what she intended to knit with this. None of the two-dozen odd balls still has its ball band, so I have to carry out a little experiment to try and gauge (haaaa!) the size and type.

This is the only 'clue' I got with the yarn. As useful as a chocolate teapot etc.

My guess is DK in 50g balls, and probably 100% wool by the feel of it. I think it was in the days before merino...! So I'm knitting up a swatch which I will then wash just to check. I'm thinking of socks, and I'm going to try and adapt this pattern to make my own design, perhaps a bit of colourwork in the top. If you hear no more of this project, assume it all went horribly wrong. Hopefully I'll be posting my results here in the near future.

Talking of horribly wrong, I have just done the first couple of rows for the Curse's cardy where you put all the pieces - sleeves and body - on the same circular. What?! Surely I'm not doing it right? More details tomorrow when I have stopped cursing the Curse.

Tuesday, March 13

Seriously talented

Picture the scene; I am down the local housing office, undergoing the second stage of the outrageous rigmarole necessary to obtain a residents' parking permit (I won't elaborate, it will only get me annoyed again). I am sitting in the waiting area, due to be called to the desk, when a large, pregnant-looking woman enters the room and starts hovering at the desk in that 'I'm-pregnant-therefore-I-deserve-to-be-dealt-with-before- everyone-else' kind of stance. The woman behind the desk is having none of it, and calls me up in turn, but she recognises the pregnant woman from somewhere else, and acknowledges her at the same time.

Woman behind desk (widens eyes and nods knowingly at the customer's huge belly): Are you?!!!
Customer: No!!! (laughing somewhat nervously)
Woman behind desk (admirably swift recovery): Why not? You is still a young woman!!!

You've got to hand it to her, she's a pro! With no noticeable effort, and in a matter of seconds, she recovers from a position of having insulted the customer, to having flattered her beyond anything she's experienced for the last five years. Where you and I would be writhing in embarrassment and wishing for the floor to open and swallow us up, our public servant here is brazening out this hideous faux pas with the kind of grace that most of us can only dream of.


Ok, just bear with me while I have a bit of a rant. It's bad enough when you go shopping for some new clothes in January, only to find that the shops are stuffed with flimsy summer tops and swimming costumes; woe betide you if your warm coat falls apart before the end of the winter season, you will have no choice but to wear half a dozen layers.

I was faced with a similar situation yesterday - nipped out at lunchtime to buy a couple of balls of something arany and tweedy to make a pair of Dashing mittens for my friend's birthday present, and was faced with shelves of DK, cotton, cashcotton, 4-ply etc etc. In fairness, I probably didn't give myself the best of chances by going to John Lewis' rather minimal yarn department, but it was chosen purely in terms of accessibility from my office. The IKnit store, which is the closest to my workplace, doesn't open on Mondays so I thought if I trekked up to JL I'd be able to get a head start on the gift. Looks like he'll be getting a book instead.

Such yarn stock policies are fine for those who want to make small gift items (except anything wintry, ha!) but I don't think I'm bigging myself up too much by saying that I am probably the nearest you could get to an average knitter. I'm fairly quick and reasonably experienced and I spend quite a lot of time knitting while still holding down a full-time job, a relationship and a healthy number of other demands on my time. I would be quite likely to want to start knitting a jumper NOW for next winter, as I estimate that I would need at least six-eight months to finish it, unless I was to work on it exclusively. And we all know that just doesn't happen, what with new sock patterns etc! Having a 'winter' and 'summer' stock is all very well, and when you buy that nice cotton yarn you might be looking forward to wearing it...but if you're anything like me, by the time your little strappy top is finished you need a big woolly jumper to go on the top of it!

I trust that this is only a fault with the department stores (I know Liberty's is the same), and that specialist yarn shops know better than to pursue such silly policies. I will be continuing my investigation....

Monday, March 12

Great fit

Here are the Jaywalkers, on their intended recipient. Luckily Dee has approximately the same size feet as me! Colours shown here are much nearer to the actual than on my previous posts. I think this yarn came from the Natural Dye Studio on ebay which has a great selection of colours, particularly in sock yarn. Hopefully they will keep Dee's feet warm while she's playing her new guitar...!

Saturday, March 10

Bits and bobs

This was a bit of an experiment to see if I could knit a teacosy in the round rather than having to stitch it together afterwards. Well it came out ok, ended up being a single piece, but I had to go backwards and forward on the sides to create the holes for the handle and spout. I'm a great believer that you should be able to pour your tea without removing the teacosy, so all those I've made so far have been in two pieces. It just needs something around the bottom to stop it from rolling up - I'm thinking about some crochet edging or something.

Just when I was struggling for inspiration, along came the new issue of Knitty which has some lovely designs in it. So I started off with the Lucia Croon yarn to create Palette - I've got just the right amount of yarn and it's just the kind of design I was looking for. The only problem being...have I got the stamina or will it end up being a place mat?! I'm not sure lace knitting is really for me - the thing I hate most is that you can't tell where you are just by looking at it (perhaps this comes with experience). I have to make sure I stop somewhere logical so that when I go back to it, I know which row I'm on. Normally I can tell that just by looking at the last couple of rows.

However I have learned that variegated yarn is very good for this kind of pattern - makes it much easier to tell which bit of the stitch you are meant to be knitting into, as you can see which is the last row and which the current one because the colours are different. Watch this space to see if I ever finish it....

The mittens are done - a gift to be bestowed shortly. I am also planning to whip up some of the new Dashing version for my male friend whose birthday it is next week. Yes, I'd better step on it!

Also loved the shaping on Ribena, although I'm not sure I'll be making the removable arms to go with it. So many patterns, so little time!!!

Wednesday, March 7

Long time no see!

Well it's been a good few days since I last posted - various nice reasons and annoying frustrations that I will do my best to catalogue:

1. A few days off work, the last two of which turned out to be lovely spring days that really raised my spirits. I have a box of lovely purple crocuses (croci?) on the balcony which were almost translucent in the spring sunshine.

Also I managed to get my washing out on the line - always nice when you climb between those wind-dried sheets of an evening. I love the stiffness and fresh smell you get from them.

Too bad that the Curse and I spent the last two days stripping in the bedroom. It was nowhere near as much fun as it sounds! We are working towards redecorating our bedroom, which badly needs it. For the last two years since we moved here, it has been like living in a student bedsit.

2. More mittens; the colour is much deeper than shown here - it's Rooster Almerino and is a lovely deep turquoise.

3. My friend has kindly just offered to give me his car, as he is upgrading to a newer version. I have been agonising over it for the last couple of days - having lived without a car for about 15 years, I have become rather proud of my ability to do without one, and the fact that I can get almost anywhere in the UK without one. But I'd love to be able to just take off on Sunday mornings, and drive out into the countryside for a walk, without having to plan around the rather slow Sunday train services, the myriad of engineering works and bus replacement services, and the fact that many rural train stations have no services on Sundays. After an evening of looking for insurance quotes (and finally finding one that suits my budget) I am ready to take the plunge. Either I will become a total car fiend, or the poor vehicle will sit unused and unloved in the car park outside our house. I hope it will be somewhere in between.

4. Frustrations with our broadband service revealed that our 'wireless' router has suddenly decided it doesn't like being wireless, and requires a connection in order to offer us any kind of reasonable service level. Having sat here for what seems like hours on end waiting for pages to load for the last 24 hours, we have given in to its whims. For now.

5. And finally... a trip back to my roots last weekend, with a couple of days in the Peak District village of Youlgreave, Derbyshire (not far from Bakewell, home of the puddings - NOT tarts, thank you very much). Em and I had a lovely stay in a small cottage in the village, enjoyed its open fire and cosy situation, and got out walking both days with varied success. The first day we teamed up with Lisa to step out on a 10 mile yomp which ended with us knee-deep in cow crap, injuries from the barbed wire fence (grabbed at blindly to try to stop us sinking deeper into the cow crap) and dodgy knees and hips. Anyone would think we were pensioners! This picture shows the view about halfway round that walk, and one which embodies many of the visual aspects I love about Derbyshire. The dry stone walls are a particular favourite; the undulating hills and the varied scenery make it rather special. Forget the cow crap, it was totally overshadowed by with snowdrops, skylarks and sunshine in ready supply.

The second day we managed a few miles before the rain set in, but had craftily planned a route that allowed us to cut back to our cottage halfway, avoiding prolonged exposure to the rain.

And just to add: Em became the proud new owner of the hat. She has, however, requested a pom pom to sew on the top, which will be sent to her in due course!

Thursday, March 1

By hook or by stick?

Click here to enjoy a little YouTube spoof about the rivalry between knitters and crocheters. I am a fan of both disciplines and can't really understand why people get so snobbish about it. It's like looking down on other people for preferring white wine to red wine.

Thanks to the Knitting Activists at Glittyknittykitty for posting it first!