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!


Yes I know, hard to believe eh? But keep the faith, I have BIG PLANS for this unseemly felted mess!
I really wish I had taken a photo of this before I put it in the washing machine. I'd already done a large test piece that had been felted, it turned out NOTHING LIKE this! But I've attributed that to a number of reasons; the main one being that the first swatch went in a full wash of relatively light clothes whereas this one got an exclusive trip in the drum with just a pair of jeans and several pillowcases!

I knew that the yarn - Wensleydale Longwool from the Sheepshop - would felt well as it has been shedding fluff all round our house since its arrival. It has created a lovely nubby texture and a thick, solid material that stands up all on its own. Honestly, you wouldn't believe it if you had seen the original floppy thing that I knitted.

I made it on largish needles (6mm) and it's aran weight so it was quite loosely knit. While I was creating the handbag I was thinking that it would make a lovely light jumper for the spring or autumn, might put that on my list (ahem!).

Anyway this slightly jumbled item will soon be transformed into the handbag of Knitty Woman (for the Ally Pally show). All I need now is a large, garish buckle (Deptford High Street here I come!), two handles (still to be knitted and felted) and perhaps a tab to close the top (I will probably cut that out of the original swatch). I'll admit I am pleased and relieved with the felted results, much better than I had expected!

Monday, August 13

Helping hands

Have you ever tried to take photos of your own hands? Impossible, no? Luckily I had my pal Lisa staying for a few days last week, just in time to help me out with a photo shoot for the forthcoming Ally Pally gig that I mentioned a while back.

One of my tasks was to create a crib sheet that people could take away with them from our 'learn to knit' area. My first idea was to find a website with some nice sketches or photos and get permission to reproduce them.

Then I remembered I had a digital camera and it might be more fun to do the pics myself. Can't be that difficult eh? Well to be honest it wouldn't have been so bad if only there weren't so many ends of yarn to position so that it didn't confuse the readers, or if Lisa hadn't suffered a bit of a brainstorm halfway through and found herself unable to frame the shot properly.

To be fair, we were both crouching awkwardly on the floor over a white duvet cover in the spare room, trying to get the natural light right, and trying to remember to make the pics consistent from one photo to the next. I don't think we did a bad job - luckily the camera took care of most of the tricky bits for us - shame about my porky mitts, I'll never make a professional hand model! I think my nails have taken care of that already. At least they were relatively clean though!

Friday, August 10

I made it!

I've found a few of you already - if you're there, come and find me at Ravelry - I'm theknitnurse seeing as someone had got there before me and bagged knitnurse :-(

Don't expect to see much there for a while though - I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and it may take me some time to perform such tasks as photograph all my stash. Or I may just not bother. Sorry if that's not in the spirit of things, but a) it could be rather embarrassing and b) that's valuable knitting time!

However I will be uploading some of the pics I've already taken, and a few patterns I'm working on, so I'm not being a total curmudgeon!!!

Feel the sock love!!

I have been a little remiss in posting about my Sockapalooza exchange, due to my stream of visitors this week. It has been a lovely week but has meant I have had to wait until today to offer heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the wonderful Laura!

Above you will see the contents of the parcel of beauty that turned up on my doorstep on Wednesday! I had just got out of the shower when I heard the postman knocking on the door. I called out to him to wait, because I was certain it would be Sockapalooza - he got a bit of a surprise when I opened the door in my bathtowel, but all credit to him he was very polite!

As you can see it was worth the brief embarrassment - the parcel contained a lovely pair of socks which it turns out were not only knitted, but also DESIGNED by Laura; a beautiful little bag and matching purse; and a bar of hand-made soap. She also sent two cakes of yarn; the purple and the variegated from the socks, so I can use them for another project! What a haul! The socks fit snugly and look absolutely beautiful - I particularly like the way the variegated yarn has created a graduated look, and how the solid purple pulls the whole lot together into a pleasing unit.

They will be worn with pride Laura, thank you so much. This is the first time I've been involved in a sock exchange, and it has been fantastic!

In the meantime, I also received an email from my sock recipient, Kristy, telling me how much she loved her socks!

I can't describe how exciting it is to see those very socks being worn by someone else all that distance away! It's a strange pleasure that I didn't really anticipate. All the time I was choosing the pattern and the yarn it seemed like more of a theoretical exercise than a personal one. Now that I have 'met' my Sockapalooza pals from both sides, it has all wrapped up in a really pleasing way.

Monday, August 6

Latest creation

I know I know, I've been absent for a week now - the crush of deadlines at the beginning of last week was followed by me taking a breath before having to clean the house from top to bottom for the arrival of guests.

Just had the folks down for a very pleasant weekend, the first bit of real sunshine all summer which was a bit of a pain for my mum as she has very sensitive skin and has to keep herself covered up in any sunlight, never mind the scorching weekend we just experienced! But it didn't stop us doing lots of fun things like the London Eye, a trip on the river, and a visit to the Red House in Bexley, which was the home of William Morris and birthplace of the Arts & Crafts movement (how appropriate!).

I've not been idle with the knitting either; here's the first of a new pair of socks that was originally destined to be my mum's christmas present. I conscientiously measured her foot, did a swatch, worked out the right gauge etc, and then went and ruined my careful planning by forgetting how stretchy lace patterns are. Be gentle with me, it's my first original sock design! I picked a lace pattern I liked out of one of my stitch directories, added in a moss stitch border (just to make it even bigger as it turns out!) and now the sock is large enough for me, way too big for my mum. Back to the drawing board on that one!

I think I have to either use a cable pattern, which won't be stretchy, or cut the number of stitches by about a third if I want to add in some lace. Harumph! I'm not downhearted though - I'm going to finish these socks for myself, then try again for mum's present. Still got a few months to play with, after all!