Tuesday, March 31

Holiday preparations

My knitting preparation for any kind of trip away from home often takes the following form...

It usually begins the morning of the day I'm going, or the night before if it's going to be an early start. If I'm mid-project (let's face it, that's most of the time!) I make a pile of the stuff I'm going to need for that project - a couple of spare balls of yarn, any additional needles, and my 'knit kit' of measuring tape/scissors/pins/needles/stitch markers/bits of spare yarn for provisional cast-on/stitch holders and a bundle of sock needles.

But then the FOKB factor sets in. That's Fear Of Knitting Boredom. How can I possibly go on a five day trip to the USA, which as well as transatlantic and internal flights, includes airport waiting time and lone hotel stays - with ONLY ONE PROJECT?!

So then I start panicking - got to take a sock project. But which one? And have I got the right yarn? There ensues the printing of many different patterns from Knitty, followed by annoyance because the sock pattern I want to do is actually in a big hardback book and I haven't got a scanner or photocopier to hand so I'll have to take the whole book because this one is DEFINITELY the one I want to do and none of the others will suffice. I'll admit, once I did actually start copying out a pattern onto a piece of scrap paper half an hour before I was due to leave the house. Luckily I realised the futility of it by the second row.

So let's imagine I've settled on a pattern that's not in a hardback book. But will I be able to remember how to do Judy's magic cast on? Oops, better print out a crib sheet for that too. What about the sewn cast-off or a picot edging? Got to go back on the internet and look for a simple crib sheet I can print for those two.

By this stage I have become something of a nervous wreck and am gathering up most of my stash, a whole set of Denise needles and a box of sock needles as back-up. This is the point when I usually toss some random items in my suitcase and add book and Ipod as a back-up. Despite the FOKB factor, it usually does the trick.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Isle of Wight for a week with the Curse. It will be the first week we have been away together for a week since Devon in September 2007. Family commitments mean that we have been spending most of our weekends apart since then, so these coming seven days seem more valuable than ever.

We are planning nothing more than a bit of walking, some food and drink, perhaps a hunt for red squirrels (inspired by Jane!) and possibly some easy cycling. There may be swimming, but there will definitely be knitting!

The extent of my excitement about the holiday is obvious from the fact that I've been planning what projects I'm taking for several days now! Yesterday I made a trip to IKnit to stock up with sock yarn for a couple of Pay it Forward gifts I'm planning, an Ipod cosy I promised, and an upcoming teacosy birthday present.

I've checked the sock needles (straight AND circs, to suit my mood!) I've got a stock of pattern possibilities (some new to me, some I've done before) and I've even got a few things lined up to take to the photocopy shop tomorrow morning. And we're not even planning to leave till early afternoon!

Are you more organised than me, or does my normal planning phase sound horribly familiar?!

Sunday, March 29

Weekend of luxury

A pleasant night at the Billesley Manor spa hotel near Stratford on Avon - unfortunately no knitting progress to report, but I have come back refreshed and demob happy, ready for my holiday on Wednesday!

If you like the look of the hotel, you might be interested to know that the special rate we took advantage of has been extended to April....prices are per room so for a couple you can have a very posh night away for very little. Spa treatments are extra but we could have used the sauna, steam room, pool and gym for free as part of the stay.

Friday, March 27

Slow and fluffy

Progress on Lucetta is slow - not because it is difficult, just because I keep getting distracted by other things. That being said, I've finished the back and one sleeve, so I guess I'm about half way there.

The purple colour and the fluffiness of the Kidsilk Haze makes it difficult to photograph, but here's a pic just to prove that things are moving on, however slowly.

Most of this week's knitting time got sucked up by my notion that I should make something Eastery for the niecelets, whom I'm visiting tonight. What about an egg cosy, I thought? The Lion Brand yarn site has lots of free amigurumi-style egg cosies (go to lionbrand.com and search egg cosy, I'm afraid I can't give you a link direct to the pattern because you have to register for the patterns).

They look really cute. So why were mine total pants?

Here's my assessment: wrong yarn (slightly too fluffy and slightly too thick); wrong size crochet hook (by about 0.5mm but combined with thicker yarn - disaster!); didn't crochet tight enough. Who da thought it would be so difficult to knock up a last minute Easter gift?! The cosies are frogged, the niecelets will have to make do with my presence, rather than my presents...!

Meanwhile I am craving socks. During the visit of the folks last weekend, I started teaching my mum to knit socks - we cast on the four needles, joined them and started down the leg of the sock before it was time for them to leave. On the way home, the train was half an hour late getting to their destination but my mum reported that while dad fumed and grumbled, she just knitted calmly on!

Friday, March 13

Life's little ups and downs

It has been a strange old year so far. The first couple of months of 2009 were unsettling; a total IT breakdown at work reminded me how much we depend on computers to put our publication together, and the heavy snow in the south east of England which brought all transport to a standstill for 24 hours underlined the fragility of our systems. My neighbour broke her hip and spent a month in hospital, and now she is back home but not very mobile.

Just when I was beginning to lose hope that this winter would ever pass, the days began to lengthen. I didn't need my bike lights in the morning any more, and in the evenings there was still a faint glimmer of light in the sky as I left the office. Snowdrops and daffodils started to appear, the chives on the balcony began to sprout new leaves. I started to feel a huge sense of relief, it was as if we'd survived another year, against all odds.

The last week has been another difficult time, bringing news of the sudden death of a good friend's son; two of my friends losing parents to cancer, and a colleague struggling with a relative's terminal illness. It seemed like the darkness of the winter was about to return.

I am very fortunate in that I am not prone to depression, for which I am eternally grateful. I try to see the best in everything and everyone, to believe that better times will come and to take my enjoyment from even the smallest pleasures. Being an aetheist I do not have a higher power to look to for reassurance or guidance, I have to rely on my fellow human beings and myself.

The arrival of the wonderful socks from Pixlkitten, who sent them as a 'pay it forward' gift, had much more resonance with me because of all the recent gloom. The care which had been taken over the knitting (Kristy's knitting is NEAT, let me confirm!), the thought that had gone into the choice of pattern and yarn, and the touching words that were included in the card, all combined to banish any pessimistic thoughts.

The fact that someone so far away, who has never met me, would spend time, money and effort producing a gift for me without any expectation of reward, is very gratifying. The delight it has given me will offer a useful kick up the backside to get me working on my own PIF gifts, which were promised some time ago (oops, July! At least I gave myself a year to complete them!).

Hopefully enough time has elapsed that they will be a nice surprise for the recipients!

*Another little up - Spring Knitty!

Wednesday, March 11

Sneak preview

Something really special arrived for me in the mail.

I can't fully communicate my joy right now since I have a deadline to meet, but here's a few links to help you appreciate.

The crafter.

The yarn. (Black Onyx colourway)
The pattern.

Tuesday, March 10

Vodka with ice

One of the highlights of a just-over-24-hour work trip to Stockholm was the ice bar at the Nordic Sea Hotel. Very cool, in more ways than the obvious!

One of the other highlights was walking round Gamla Stan in the snow before breakfast. I was interested to see that even several inches of snow does not phase the Swedish cyclists.

The travelling there and back gave me plenty of time to work on Lucetta; I've now finished the back and started on one sleeve. So far the knot count is one per ball of yarn. The cabin staff warned me to put my knitting down as we touched down, to ensure that I did not stab myself if it was a rough landing. I pointed out that my Denise needles were no more dangerous than a pen, and no-one was being warned to stop writing as we landed, but I think some of it got lost in the translation.

Sunday, March 8

More felted slippers

This is the second pair of felted slippers that I made in the space of a couple of weeks - this time for my friend Lisa's birthday.

It's the same pattern and yarn as the ones in the last post - a different colour choice of course, and a size 5/6 rather than 8. I really had to guess the size this time, but got a colleague to try them on at work to confirm they were close enough.

Sewing the leather patches on for the soles was much easier this time thanks to a very sensible suggestion from Cosmo's mum that I use a hammer and nail to punch the holes before trying to do the sewing. Saved a lot of pain for my RSI-riddled wrists.

My current project is Lucetta (Ravelry link) from one of the Rowan Studio books - I'm making it in a really beautiful, deep purple colourway of Kidsilk Haze which I bought half price in the sale at Liberty a year or so ago. I'm about halfway up the front piece at the moment, the only thing that slows me down is the fact that it's made with two strands of the yarn, which means you have to take care not to split the stitches.

I'm not very happy with the way the pattern is written though - I consider myself a seasoned knitter and was disappointed to have to scratch my head for some time before I could work out what I was supposed to do in terms of swatching and in some of the instructions. You are supposed to swatch in the eyelet pattern, but there is no chart or separate instructions for the pattern - the instructions in the first part of the pattern include decreases, so it is difficult to work out what you are supposed to be doing to start with.
Also I've just read the errata on the Ravelry page and not only did the errata make no sense to me, I was also annoyed that they were so fundamental to the pattern! I'm not sure if this is a problem with the original pattern or with the editing, but it's disappointing in a book from a yarn company.

Which brings me to my usual moan about Rowan yarns. So far only one knot, but I've still got another six balls to go - plenty of time for more!