Monday, April 30

Two's a crowd?

I never really saw the point of tandem bikes (although I loved the three-seater they had on the Goodies way back when..). You both have to go at the same speed, in the same direction; the person on the back gets to stare at someone else's backside all the way (although admittedly not always a bad thing, depending); if you have a row you can't storm off and sulk on your own; and what the hell are you supposed to do when you need to go down the shops on your own, or want to go out when your co-rider is ill/busy/has left you?

I was pondering this on the way to work, prompted by seeing a bloke cycling past, on a tandem, alone. I wanted to shout out 'hey! you've lost someone!' and I'm sure I'm not the only one who got this urge. I suspect there are plenty of jokers around who thought it amusing to give in to this urge. And why not?!

Thursday, April 26

Trend setter

Two days ago I started a project I have been meaning to start for at least six months - cutting up some of the mountain of plastic bags we have at home, and crocheting them into a new, stronger shopping bag.

Today I see that the Daily Mail (sorry for uttering such profanities on what is intended to be a relatively family-friendly site) has jumped on my bandwagon with this article.

Actually I can't take any of the credit for the knitted/crocheted bag idea; as many of you know it's been floating around for several years. I'd been put off by the thought of having to cut up all those plastic bags to make the 'yarn' but when I found this link, thanks to Lixie I realised it wasn't as labour-intensive as I thought. I've adapted the method a bit - no need to unroll the 'fringes', just cut through the unfolded bit at the top and when you start to ball up the yarn, the fringes will unroll easily enough.

Anyway, my own version is crocheted, and at the moment I'm using some very handsome purple Ocado bags. I have some other orange and green Ocado bags in reserve for stripes, and will be using some of the thousands of white ones in our house of the bits inbetween.

The Mail's effort looks distinctly small for a shopping bag - how much are you going to get in that, my dear? Two tins of baked beans? Perhaps she was on a short timetable and had to whip one up in time for the arrival of the Mail's photographer. Must try harder, I say.

The media coverage has all been sparked off by the arrival of some 'designer' eco shopping bag which has prompted some people to queue for hours outside Sainsbury's in order to obtain one. Don't ask me why. However I will admit a certain grudging admiration for the Mail's headline..

Pics of my own effort ...

Tuesday, April 24

Finished so I'll start

My subtle socks are finished and currently keeping my tootsies nice and snug. This is a standard toe-up sock pattern, with a few minor changes made by me. Yarn is a lovely semi-fluffy sock yarn - I think it's alpaca/merino - from the Natural Dye Studio on Ebay.

And what better way to celebrate than to cast on some Monkey socks!

Weekend away

Wonderful weekend in the Isle of Wight with my friend Gaz; we walked and walked, taking advantage of the fantastic weather, and making the most of the beers and food. Every pub in the Isle of Wight seems to have real ales, and many of them serve good food. I didn't get chance to sample the local crab, but I enjoyed skate, salmon and shell-on prawns during the weekend, as well as several pints of the local beers.

Sadly it wasn't really warm enough for a swim (even for me!). I had to satisfy myself with a paddle.

Look, no socks!

Thursday, April 19

Not-at-all secret pal

About ten days ago, visiting Natalie's blog at the Yarn Yard I discovered she was in Japan. To be precise, she was desperately seeking yarn in Osaka, having had a disappointing visit to a store she had lined up. I did a quick Google-around and found Avril, posted the link and thought no more of it, just tried to make a mental note to check back in a few days and see if Natalie had managed to find it.

Imagine my surprise, as they say, when I got an email about a week later from Natalie, asking for my address and saying that she had brought me back a small gift from Avril as thanks for the tip off! This has to count as one of the most wonderful and rewarding benefits of the internet - that total strangers can interact like this, and build relationships through nothing more than a chance encounter. Sometimes the anonymity of meeting people in this way can be a curse, allowing them to exploit or abuse one another without recourse; when it is used like this, however, it really brings a warm glow to my heart!

This evening I arrived home to find a package from Natalie - a beautifully-wrapped cone of the finest, most fascinating yarn I have seen for a long time. To call it eyelash yarn would give you all the wrong impression of it, however. It is not garish and vulgar in the way we think of eyelash yarn - it is fine, graceful and subtle in its colourways. I think I will combine it with some other yarn, as Natalie suggested, to produce some kind of drapey scarf or somesuch.

It was a really lovely surprise, a generous thought, and something I will remember for a long time!

Tuesday, April 17

Subtle socks

Here's one of each - the Patricia mostly-acrylic that I picked up in Germany (left) and a lovely soft cashmerino (or something) blend hand-dyed by the Natural Dye Studio (I think; it was either them or the Knitting Goddess, the two Ebay shops I've bought hand-dyed yarn from previously). Both are quite subtle in their shades of colour, although I don't think I could get away with wearing them together, so I'm committed to knitting a second version of each!

I was rather pleased with the ribbing cast off, which isn't shown here. In the last couple of pairs I've made, I found it difficult to cast off the ribbing loosely enough, making them difficult to get on and off. This time I took the advice of Melanie (or was it Ellen?) and increased in the row before the cast off. I was doing 2 by 2 ribbing, so I just picked up a stitch in the middle of each rib, then cast them all off on the next round. It makes it ever so slightly frilly, very easy to get on and off but not noticeably loose or misshapen.

Sunday, April 15

Yarn matters - for a change!

I haven't really been posting much about my knitting habits recently, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the curse of the Curse's jumper is hanging over me. I have committed not to start anything else major until it is finished, and although I think this is a good discipline to impose, it makes for rather dull yarn blogging. The next stage is to knit the bands down each side of the front, onto which the zip will eventually be fastened. For this I need a 3.75mm circular needle, which I do not possess and which will require a modest amount of retail therapy.

It did cause a little confusion when I tried to work out how I'd done the ribbing at the bottom of the sleeves, which also require a 3.75mm circular - however they were small enough to knit on regular needles. The front bands are not, sadly. In the meantime I've been knocking out a few socks from my huge stash of sock yarn - I'm delighted with my new-found confidence in toe-up socks, and am looking forward to getting my Sock Pal match in the Sockapalooza 4 group that I've signed up to. Thanks to Nicola for the inspiration!

But just cos I haven't been writing about it doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it! Oh no siree! Thinking, dreaming, talking, musing, planning, yearning... oh I should stop now before it all gets embarrassing. So here's a few of the things I've been enjoying lately...

Podcasts: since Christmas, and the arrival of my beloved Ipod, I've been exploring the world of podcasts - and not just about knitting but art, music, and so on too. I have a few favourites, having listened to about ten different knitting ones; on the list at the moment are Lixie Knits It, and Sticks & String. These two are poles apart - quite literally as Lixie is a recent arrival on the scene, and is London-based while David Reidy, of sticks and string, has been broadcasting for some time and lives in Australia. But they are both a good mix of reviews, ideas, comments and humour, and both mastered the technology admirably, making their broadcasts very pleasant on the ears. David is an astrophysicist who loves knitting. For some reason this fact is pleasing in its randomness. Lixie meanwhile has a partner, Pooch, who seems to display the same level of interest in her hobby as the Curse does in mine - and an inversely-proportional interest in football. I can thoroughly relate to that.

I've tried quite a few of the other podcasts, but some are too long, some too freeform, and others I just can't identify with the podcasters for whatever reason (ie they get on my tits). I thoroughly admire their determination and tenacity - it must take a lot of hard work to put these things together so I am in no way criticising the effort they put in, I just think we need EVEN MORE of them out there! I have about an hour of walking every day in my journey to work, and it's great to have an alternative to music!

Take a look at the new edition of Crochet Me magazine, it's just out. This article could prove useful inspiration for how to use up all that leftover yarn. I estimate that at least 25% of my stash falls into this category, so I need to get serious about doing an afghan or something. I really like the idea of having some kind of 'patchwork' equivalent that would have lots of different yarns from previous projects that would remind me of all my past glories/disasters!

Thursday, April 12

Russian around

Sorry for lack of posting recently - a work trip to Moscow and a nasty dose of decorating were to blame. The two-day trip to Moscow was interesting - we made it to Red Square as you can see, although not until 11pm. Luckily it was quite pleasant at that time of night - just a handful of tourists and a lonely hawker trying to sell us fake-bearskin hats covered in communist badges. Lenin's mausoleum stood out as a particularly tacky-looking addition to the square, the marble structure reminded me of some vulgar Italian hotel. It looked like it should have shiny fake leather sofas in the corner.

A six hour stint at the airport waiting for the plane, followed by four hours back to Heathrow was rather dull, but productive in knitting terms. I tried to take a photo of the latest sock FOs, but it just doesn't work in artificial light. Will try and remember to do so tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's a snap of the glorious blackthorn blossom I found at the weekend on my walk around Trosley Country Park. The highlight was the wild garlic I harvested; we had some in our salad on Saturday evening, and the remainder in an omelette the following morning. Pick the young, light green leaves. They keep surprisingly well in the fridge, and add a delicious flavour to anything.

Saturday, April 7

O Solio mio!

We're enjoying a long weekend of sunny, glorious days (so far, fingers crossed!) Which means that the Solio charger I bought a few months ago is finally coming into its own. This little beauty sits in our south-west facing window all day, soaking up the rays and charging its battery. What a life! It comes with an array of connections that mean it can be used to charge my phone or my ipod - all for free (excepting the initial £50 capital outlay, of course). It's great for taking on overseas trips - to boost the phone or ipod while I'm away without having to carry x number of different chargers. You can also charge it from mains, or in the car, which is a good thing because in the short winter days it never seems to become fully charged.

Of course the cynic in me suspects that the energy required to create the Solio and all its accoutrements, not to mention breaking it back down at the end of its life, could never be outweighed by the energy savings I've made by using it. Great gadget though!

The Patricia sock is nearly done - I'm still loving the subtle colours of the yarn, and I've realised that the fact that it's quite considerably lighter than 100% wool means that I will probably get a pair of socks out of just one, 50g ball! Wahey!

News of the Curse's jumper: the end is nigh, I mean in sight! I've reached the top of the shoulders, now working along the (stocking stitch) collar before I move onto the (stocking stitch) front bands and finish off with the (stocking stitch) lower band. And it fits too - we had the first official trying on last night. I fear the Curse was underwhelmed, probably because the arm seams still need sewing. Don't worry, he'll learn to show his gratitude in due course....

And finally, decorating news. Good Friday was spent incarcerated in the bedroom, stripping away as if our lives depended on it. The last of the lurid blue wallpaper has now gone, and we are onto the next stage: tidying up the leftovers of the plasterboard, filling holes etc, before applying the Smoothover (for textured wallpaper) that is going to hopefully mean that we don't have to employ a plasterer. Today is officially a day of rest - football for the Curse and walking for me - and tomorrow we'll move onto stage two. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 3

Animal magic?

I realised the other day that my life as a knitting blogger is missing an important element; I have no pets! The Curse and I live in a maisonette which has no direct access for footloose felines, otherwise we would probably have a cat. Believe me, it has been discussed several times, but we just don't think it's feasible or fair on the cat, and I don't subscribe to the view that there is such a thing as a 'house cat'.

It's not really something that bothers me very much, I think the Curse feels the absence more keenly than I. But it seems that cats and dogs are useful as... another possible recipient of knitted goods! Two recent examples: Scout and Dobby. One of these is far cuter than the other, imho; can you guess which?!

So in lieu of any of my own pets, here's Eric, my sister's cat. Famous for leaving a dead rat under the spare bed the day before I went to stay. The following morning, returning from the bathroom, I thought I was responsible for the unpleasant whiff that lingered in the room. I was quite relieved when I discovered it was just a rotting rodent!!! He's also been known to crunch on the bones of baby rabbits while hiding under my sister's bed - not conducive to a relaxing lie-in. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be knitting him any garments - he would take a very dim view.

Whoops, nearly missed an opportunity to brag about the latest FO; simple toe-up socks from the Knitty pattern I mentioned before.

And finally, a gratuitous picture of the niecelets.