Wednesday, January 31

Loving London II

Tonight I walked along the north side of the river. And I had my camera with me! (It's the London Eye, for those of you not familiar with central London)

Project spectrum..

..start date is fast approaching *ahem* and I need to seriously get my arse in gear to decide what I'm going to do. I have been surfing knitting blogs too long, and I've got way too many ideas, so I need to go home, empty out my stash and see if there is any yarn in there that would suit.

From memory, I think it's a choice between the cashmerino aran I splurged on at John Lewis' sale (enough for a jumper) or a couple of balls of merino DK which could make a pair of gloves or scarf or something similar. I will be ploughing on with the Curse's jumper to start with, hurrah!

The things we do for love

Yeah, like struggling on with the Curse's jumper despite the risk of losing the will to live. Actually I have to be honest, it's a great project to take to the pub, very easy to chat and knit on this one, and dead easy to spot the mistakes before it's all gone too far!

If you are looking at the picture and remarking to yourself that I don't seem to have got very far considering the amount of whinging I've been doing about it, please rest assured that this is the start of the first sleeve, the lower body is all finished and waiting on the circulars at home for the two sleeves to be added. I have to admit I'm not particularly relishing this moment, as it will mean EVEN LONGER rows and EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO MANOEUVRE lump of knitting. Oh well, it will be worth it, I hope, when it's finally finished.

Since I started this blog, I have received many queries as to why I refer to my treasured live-in lover as the Curse. It's nothing to do with his vocabulary, although I admit his language can be very colourful during stressful, often football-related incidents. Neither does it refer to my feelings towards him; he has both cheekiness and good music taste in large measure, as he has just reminded me (although they had obviously run out of modesty by this stage in proceedings) by which means he endears himself to me. In fact his name originates from his chat-room handle The Curse of Millhaven, title of a rather gruesome Nick Cave song. Read the lyrics here if you wish; I'm not sure what it says about him that he chose this song, but somehow the blog name just seemed to work!

Monday, January 29

Loving London

My journey to work involves crossing the River Thames, living in the south east as I do, and working just north of the river. When the weather is bad, or I've got a lot to carry, I get the train from Waterloo to Vauxhall and walk or get a bus across the bridge. But when the weather is good I try to walk from Waterloo to work as often as I can, for a bit of extra exercise and some mental space. It's about 25 minutes' walk, most of it along the river, and can be a real delight.

A couple of months ago I started taking the same route home whenever possible - leaving on time from work it was a rush to get to Waterloo in time for the early train, and usually I ended up waiting 20 minutes or so for the next one. So better to take the long route, and make the most of the views. I've been meaning to take a photo of this spectacular sight for the last two months - tonight I actually had my camera with me. This kind of view of the Houses of Parliament is one of the things I really love about living in London. Even after 20 years here I never get tired of the river.

Second coming

Just to prove that I haven't given up on the socks, here's the beginnings of the first Jaywalker as promised last week. It grew considerably last night while watching Dawn of the Dead. I pretended the pattern was really difficult so that I didn't have to look at the screen too much, and hence attract jeers from the Curse for being a wuss. So far so good, and it's much easier than having to wrestle with a cable needle every eight rows.

Killer on the loose

True to my word, here's the Flooze's Killer Tea Cosy, knitted up on Friday night over a few cups of tea. Much admiration was directed towards the new tea cosy, particularly the crafty way in which it was designed so that the tea could be poured without having to remove the tea cosy. Ooh, these new-fangled ideas!
Some may mock, but when you see the poor excuse for a tea cosy that the Killer has seen off, perhaps you can understand!

Thursday, January 25

Make your own!

Just a quick update - I've put together a pattern for the yoga/pilates mat bag, called Stringalong. It's available as a pdf and you can access it at our yahoo group Meantime Knitters. If you can't find it, email me at helenarussell at ukonline dot co dot uk and I will send it to you!

It's a small file, only about 250kb but it includes photos too, so should be quite easy to follow. Happy crocheting!

What's on the needles at the moment? The Curse's jumper is still progressing, albeit slowly; I'm nearly at the stage where I have to start the arms - the excitement is almost unbearable! The second version of Widdershins was frogged last night in a fit of pique, I was annoyed with the fact that it looked nowhere near as neat as it had done the first time (because it was on larger needles and looked raggy) and I decided instead to use the yarn to make some of Grumperina's Jaywalker socks. So far so good; the first few rows of rib that I did on the train this morning are looking neat and tidy, but I think it could be a long time to completion. And why do none of my dpn sets contain five needles? I've never really noticed until now, and I'm reduced to scratching around in my dpn needle box to try and find the nearest I can for the fifth one. In this case it's a rather grotty dpn that looks as if it's been knocking around with the Wrong Types for the last couple of years. Think a bit of retail therapy may be needed.

Bejewelled is getting close to finished, but I'm kind of having second thoughts about the yarn. I think I want something lighter. I'm going to finish it anyway and see what it's like - but there's still a chance I may be frogging that too. *sigh*

Monday, January 22

Cold hands, warm heart?

Here's just a peek at the last-minute gift I'm knocking up for Flooze, whom I am planning to descend upon this weekend. The Killer Tea Cosy I mentioned in my previous post will be cobbled together, er I mean lovingly crafted, during my stay so that I can make it fit properly.

But this shows the start of some gorgeous Fetching fingerless mittens that I will take as an extra gift, to keep her hands warm while minding her bookshop. Flooze is a very lovely woman, whose customer service in the bookshop is second to none. But do not abuse her or you will feel her wrath! I can exclusively reveal that the Flooze's wrath has been felt far and wide in the Somerset area, although I regret I am not at liberty to discuss the details of these events.

Anyway, where was I? The pattern for the mittens calls for a single ball of Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran; a quick rifle through my stash on Sunday night revealed that I did in fact possess the aforementioned item, leftover from a scarf I knitted for my mum last year. What's more, the ball was a lovely shade of heathery purple, one of the Flooze's favourite colours. I love it when things work out like that!

The only slight worry in my mind was that I might have to rush out at the last minute and scour the land for a second ball - the pattern does stress that you may need a little more, saying that the pattern as intended leaves only about a yard of yarn remaining. *Gulp*

I love the final chapter in this tale because it underlines the fact that I am SO RIGHT to save every leftover bit of yarn! The only bits that get thrown away are what I cut off the ends after I've woven them in (and even they get saved sometimes!)

Yes, you guessed it - I need about a yard more to complete the thumb on the second glove. And rifling through my bag of beginners yarns I found the leftovers of the scarf! I am a hoarder and I'm not afraid to say it!


The picture says it all! Now to get the pattern written up....

Sunday, January 21

St Pancras goes posh

For more than 20 years, St Pancras train station in London has had a very special meaning for me - it's the connection between my adopted home of London and my northern roots in Chesterfield. It started when I was in college, this was where I came to take the train home to see my folks, or to 'go down' for the summer holidays. It's still the same now - every time I pull out of St Pancras on the train I get excited about going back to Derbyshire; often I'm leaving on a Friday and have the weekend ahead of me so there's all those emotional connections too. And when I come back, I slip easily back into city life, the hustle and bustle, cut and thrust; tutting at anyone who's not moving quickly or decisively enough, and cutting a swathe through the meandering tourists.

St Pancras has always been the poor relation to the capital's other mainline stations; despite the fact that it has intercity trains travelling up to Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham, it has never even had its own tube station. For years there was a big tube sign right next to a flight of stairs at the back of the old train shed - but when you went down the stairs you found yourself in a nasty pissy tunnel that just led to King's Cross underground station. The beautiful station building and the hotel that fronts it were neglected for many years, even the glorious ticket hall became shabby and dirty.

But soon all that will change. After several years of building works, different routes - even different platforms! - every time I went to get the train, the final shape of the station is now emerging. Later this year, St Pancras will become the terminal for Eurostar, with travellers from the continent arriving in the north of the city rather than at Waterloo. It will be known as St Pancras International! The train shed has been cleaned and painted (destined to become a shopping area, I think) a new set of platforms built at the rear, and I can't wait to see what they've done with the old ticket hall. The only downside is that the platforms for the Midland Mainline trains have been tucked away neatly in the corner - at least 5 mins longer to walk from the tube station. The new signs at St Pancras make me wonder whether the tube station Kings Cross St Pancras might be renamed St Pancras International with the words 'for Kings Cross' in small letters underneath?! Hee hee!

Thursday, January 18

Pre-project excitement!

So, the yoga bag is finished and gift-wrapped, the Widdershins has been frogged and started again *yawn* and the Curse's jumper is still growing slowly. Yeah, I haven't mentioned that before, simply because it's so b..o..r..i..i..i..n..g! It wouldn't be quite so bad if he'd let me do the cable pattern on the bottom band of the Avast but it got vetoed along with anything of any interest to a knitter. So I am resigned to going backwards and forwards in stocking stitch, navy blue rows of about 200 stitches on a circular needle.

I'm the sort of girl (apparently it's a northern thing) who likes to tuck the right needle under her armpit at the start of each row, leaving one hand free to fiddle, adjust, bodge etc - and for obvious reasons, circular needles drive me crazy. I can just about cope with dpns, since they are usually on a small scale, but circular?!

Anyway, back to PPE; decided I need something modest but fun, on a small scale suitable for lugging up to Derbyshire at the weekend and possibly something that I could bring back complete! Enter the lovely Bejeweled scarf - thanks to Lolly for pointing it out and Shobhana for designing it and sharing it with us.

Luckily my sale purchase of two packs of Jaeger Extra Fine Merino Aran in a lovely turquoise colour from John Lewis a couple of weeks ago meant that I had gorgeous yarn on tap. I have been vindicated! I knew that there was a reason for buying at least five balls more than I needed for a jumper!

Wednesday, January 17

Something from the archives

Some time ago, when Jose Junior was just a gentle wrinkle in Steph's maternity trousers, I started thinking about something small, complex and washable that I could give as a gift when he finally made his debut. But since he was planning to emerge in the middle of summer, and I wanted to make this gorgeous little Trellis cardie, I thought it best to make it for the 12 month size.

This is the scale at which I think cable patterns really come into their own. Big enough to handle without too much fiddle (still sore about Widdershins!) but not so big that they take forever to finish. I really enjoyed doing this project, and now it seems that it's Joselito's favourite outfit. This picture was emailed to Jose senior this morning by Joselito's grandparents in the Lakes where he's enjoying a little jaunt. It was probably in response to our conversation about it yesterday, but I like to think it was a complete coincidence and that the cardie is real famous.

Incidentally, if you want to hear someone cooing and clucking over babies and lambs, you're on the wrong blog. Knit Nurse only coos over finished projects and yarn.

Tuesday, January 16

It's my baby!

Well no, it's actually my mum's birthday present, a bag for carrying her yoga mat in.

But it's my first 'real' design, and the first I've felt sufficiently proud of to brag about. We won't mention the flip-top mittens with the mismatched thumbs, currently lurking in my knitting bag waiting to be frogged. They are like something a 12 year old would design.

This, on the other hand, is a real, grown-up design. It looks good, and is practical. She says, fingers crossed - I will report back in due course but it HAS been hurriedly measured against a yoga mat in John Lewis. I didn't go to the extent of actually putting the mat inside and slinging it over my shoulder, for fear of attracting the attention of the security staff, but I'm as sure as I could be that it will suit! What's more, it has a minimum of 'bodges' in it. The bit I'm most proud of is the strap - I managed to make it up so that it's a single piece, but splits at the top and is threaded through the 'holes' in the crochet to form a design that pulls tight as you pick up the main strap. I think I woke up clever the day I thought that up. Too bad I've been asleep again since.

Anyway I'm sure, given time, I'll be able to write down the pattern for it and post it somewhere on these pages. Just don't hold your breath! If you can't wait and you're good at crochet, the general idea is: chain 4, join chain then 11 triple crochet in the ring. After that you increase on each round (by doing two triples into alternate triples) until you have the right diameter, then carry on in rounds without any increases until you are at the right length. I did a couple of rounds of double crochet at the top to make an edge. The strap starts from the bottom, chain about 120, slip stitch back the last 50, then dc up and down again to finish off one of the top bits. The chain another 50, slip back to the join, then dc up and down again. The main part of the strap is just slip st to the bottom, then dc up and down until it's a suitable width.

Monday, January 15


Take a good look. This is the Knit Nurse Widdershins attempt. Take a good look because this evening, when I get home, I intend to joyously frog this little bugger. Seeing me struggling with turning the heel a few days ago, the Curse remarked that it looked as if I was torturing the poor sock. Believe me, it was definitely the other way round!

Now I'm no sock virgin, I have turned out quite a number of beautiful examples in my time, but all have been knitted from the top down. This time I decided that it was time to try a toe-up, just for the technical challenge you realise, and I quite liked the look of this pattern from Knitty. I had some lovely yarn from The Natural Dye Studio on Ebay, and I was quite looking forward to stretching my abilities a little and producing something of beauty to soothe away any stress.

Harumph! I should have known when I couldn't work out how to do Judy's magic cast on without leaving holes or lumps that the project was doomed from the start. Having consulted my fellow Meantime Knitters (none of whom could do JMCO either) I decided to use a different method, the link for which now eludes me, but which involved using some waste yarn to start one side, go over the toe, and then back down the other. Or something. It's now so long ago and lost in the mists of time and other frustrations, that I'd have to dig out the printout I've got somewhere at home.

(Here it is - may fortune shine on Wendy!)

Well the ensuing frustrations went something like this:
- main part of foot was fine, cable pattern easy if rather fiddly at this scale
- turning the heel - VERY fiddly. I've already admitted my shortcomings when it comes to 'wrap & turn' and this was no exception. Let me pick up stitches any day rather than wrestle with what seemed like a dozen dp needles. This was the point at which the Curse claimed I was breaching the Geneva Convention.
- ankle: failed to read the line of the pattern that mentioned extending the cable pattern around the full circumference of the sock over the ankle section. Noticed after about 10 rounds and decided that I did not have the energy to frog it, and that no-one would think it strange. Possibility of Getting Away With It was rated at about 95%, good enough for me.
- decided I wanted some ribbing at the top of the sock: didn't pay enough attention on the first round and somehow ended up with two adjacent knits on one side of the sock, and hence two adjacent purls on the other side. GAWI rated at about 80%, hence no frogging required here either.
- cast off
- couldn't get sock over foot
- frogged casting off
- cast off as loosely as I could
- couldn't get sock over foot - this time the top of the heel was to blame. That's why I'm modelling it on my hand in the picture.

Oh sod it! The sock must die!

It's all my fault, I freely admit it. This pattern is not at all stretchy, not like the last socks I knitted, which were in a lace pattern and very forgiving. What's more I *mumble* didn't make a swatch. I have only myself to blame.

(SHORTLY AFTERWARDS - couldn't wait till this evening)

I can't tell you how much better I feel. Normally I am crying at this point.

Sunday, January 14

A learning process

And I'm not just talking about the toe-up socks that I've been struggling with, this whole blogging business is proving a bit more challenging that I originally expected. The Blogger home page boasts that editing your blog is essentially a piece of piss now that they have their new system. It makes me wonder what it was like before, or am I just being penalised for having a Mac? *sigh*.
To be fair, things like posting an entry are pretty easy, although I had to get someone to show me how to put a hyperlink into the text using html. I've now realised that was because I was viewing Blogger on Safari (the Mac browser) rather than Internet Explorer or Firefox. But it turns out that little lesson was quite helpful when it came to putting a new button on my sidebar. I had decided that no knitting blog can be complete without being part of a knit-along type thing, so I thought I would join Project Spectrum. The scheme is all about exploring different colours in your creative meanderings, rather than sticking to the same old favourites. I am hellishly guilty of this.
So I chose my button, copied it to the desktop, and then went into Blogger to find the easy peasy command for 'upload button to sidebar'. Hmm, they must have forgotten that one. Two days of head-scratching and experimentation have offered the following solution: create a new post, upload picture (button) to this post, making sure you tick the box to place the picture in the centre, and save the post as draft. Copy the html code for the picture, then go into templates, tick on 'add html code', paste the code into the box, and save. Hey presto! And my lesson from the other day even enabled me to alter the code so that when you click on the button, you go to the Project Spectrum page, OPENING IN A NEW WINDOW!
That's enough geeky stuff; apologies but I just wanted to brag a bit, I feel so proud! Go on, what are you waiting for? Click on the damn button now it's there!

Friday, January 12

Oops, fell off the wagon again

So much for the attempted stash diet in January. In fact I think I'm on something of a stash binge at the moment. I won't elaborate, just in case the Curse is reading this, but there have been a few Notable Incidences since the start of the new year and I seriously need to get working on some new projects.
Here is the outcome of the latest Incident, which was aided and abetted by I Knit. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Craig and Gerard's lovely shop is just around the corner from where I work. I've been very good so far, and on this occasion no-one could argue that it wasn't money well spent..could they? And what's more, it wasn't just a random splurge - well, only the glittery crochet hook was an impulse buy, but it would have been rude not to when it was only £1.99.

The Colinette is destined to be another Killer Tea Cosy for my friend Flooze. I'm off to visit her in Somerset in a couple of weeks, and she's brought it to my attention, quite rightly, that she has not been the recipient of any Knit-Nurse products, despite the fact that they've been rolling (ahem, crawling) off the production line for several years. She is fond of a cup of tea or seven, and in dire need of a new tea cosy to oust the outrageously kitsch WI-produced effort that currently graces her capacious pot. Speaking of which, I may have to get a picture of the aforementioned cosy, just to prove my point. Cheers, Flooze!

Go on, label me.

Shocking how much joy can be bought for a tenner. I was really thrilled when these labels turned up in the post yesterday. I hope it will give me a bit more impetus to finish some of the works-in-progress (or should I say works-in-waiting) that are lingering around at home. Check out Woven Labels UK for your own version - there's a link in the sidebar (apologies, I'm still new to this blogging thing and haven't yet bothered to work out how to put clickable links in here). I'm working on the assumption that even if my finished project doesn't quite cut it, the label will make the difference!
Incidentally, in case you give a shit, the glorious brown item on which the labels are displayed is the unfinished object that will be my mum's birthday present. Her birthday is now less than a week away, but I have a whole week in which to finish it since I won't be seeing her until the day after, phew! It's going to be a bag for her yoga mat, crocheted in DK cotton to a pattern devised by yours truly. If and when it is finished, and if and when it proves the right size, I will post more details.

Thursday, January 11

Latest convert

In many ways Lotte and I are poles apart: while I write about bridge design, she tackles the world of corporate clothing and traffic engineering, although not in the same publication. She believes in dragons, is intimately acquainted with the world of Harry Potter, and is addicted to poker. But now she has a new passion: knitting!
I have been boring her with tales of my ongoing projects for some time now, and just before christmas I noticed a flicker of interest taking hold. Perhaps it was the trip to the yarn department of John Lewis that finally did it; she went on a mission to buy me a birthday present (the yarn that became the Killer Tea Cosy) and came back with wide eyes and the thrill of discovery in her voice.
So this week I brought in some yarn (leftover Alpaca from the last felted tea cosy I made) and some needles, and taught her to knit. I cast on 30 or so stitches (plenty of time to learn that when you've mastered the basics) and showed her how to knit. A few rows later she was confident enough to learn how to purl, and with that I sent her home to practise.
What happened in the intervening days taught me that Lotte and I have much more in common than I previously thought. She wasn't afraid of the stitches; having bored of stocking stitch, she decided to try rib. But not realising that you have to move the yarn back and forward between the knitting and purling, she made up her own version and somehow ended up with twice the number of stitches and some rather fetching 'lace' holes. They were all evenly spaced, however, and very neat, so it actually looks like it's intentional.
It's very flattering to have such a skilled and enthusiastic student; I am predicting great things for Lotte's knitting future. Watch this space for future progress.

Killer tea cosy

Takes about two hours to complete; needs about 100g of something chunky plus a bit extra for the pom pom, depending on how big you want it; in my opinion, the bigger the better! I knit this up on 12mm needles because they were the biggest I had to hand. Pom poms are best made with a kit - forget what you learned at school about two bits of cardboard with a hole cut in the middle. You'll never get your 100g of Rowan Biggy through the hole!
The Curse hates the new cosy, he says that it looks like the monster out of some crazy 50s sci fi film: Attack of the Killer Tea Cosies. He could have a point, but I love it all the same.

Tuesday, January 9

The lurking is over

After several years of lurking in the shadows of various blogs, my favourites of which you will soon see posted on the sidebar, I decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon. Just about the same time as all the trendies are jumping off it. But what the hell, I've never been one to move with the crowd - with some things I'm an 'early-adopter' (CDs, Oyster cards) and with others I'm well behind the rest (mobile phones, Ipods). So welcome to my blog; if you stick around and if I stick it out, we'll weather the storms together. Hopefully there will be tales of stash enhancement, project completion, foreign travel (to yarn stores), love affairs (with new Rowan products) and possibly even a few yarns that are not about yarn.