Friday, 30 December 2011

A cosy fireside


In a pair of socks, a work in progress. Fawkes socks knit in Violet Green's Socrates Supersock, colourway Duchess. I'm enjoying knitting these, watching the colours and pattern interacting. To me the colours are like looking into the heart of a fire, a good wintertime activity.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Little Donkey

Aren't the weeks and days leading up to Christmas manic? Though my "manic" is probably most people's fairly ordinary, but that's par for the course. I have socialised, wondered why I don't do this more often as it's really fun, then spent the next week slowly realising why as I gradually recover (still not quite there and it's been more than a week now). I have baked, since naturally it is not Christmas without home made gingerbread, among other things. I have done a lot of finishing on knitting projects, knitting is just delayed sewing, it gets you making the fabric, then the sewing sneaks up on you. I have yet again discovered that much as I adore choosing and giving presents, I'm no fan of wrestling the wrapping paper into submission. And I have helped rescue a fallen down Christmas tree, among other Christmas preparations.
There has been so much I have wanted to do but been unable to manage and I have found it hard telling myself to slow down and stop and admit that there are things I just can't do. I haven't made it to a single church service which is disappointing and even dozed through most of the "Carols from Kings" on the radio. This is the struggle I live with day to day but somehow it is twice as hard at Christmas. In an ideal world I'd like to hold a huge Christmas with a table full of family and friends, while I cook up a storm in my perfectly decorated house. Reality can be so different sometimes! Though not necessarily worse, I am trying to learn to celebrate what I have got and make the most of the present momentI think I must be a slow learner because I'm shattered and have had the same headache (from over doing things) for a good week now. Today I cracked and took the good headache pills so I can at least have Christmas day headacheless (I hope!). I am doing better than earlier in the week, when I had made myself so stressed and anxious that I could not sleep.
A number of times in all of this I have looked up at the little wooden decoration a friend sent me a couple of years' ago which shows Mary and Joseph travelling with their donkey and it has refocused me on the why of Christmas, which I find easy to loose in a welter of anxieties and preparations. Thanks to that reminder, a number of times I have been able to say that it does not matter, whatever it is I am worrying about, Jesus matters. He came and stooped to meet us and because He came we all have hope: hope for now and hope for the future. I will do my best to focus on that hope this Christmas and for the future and be glad that at least my Christmas does not involve a seventy mile donkey ride.

I wish you and your family a peaceful and joyful Christmas. I'll leave you with this lovely and local carol:
"Then why should we on earth be sad,
Since our Redeemer made us glad:
When from our sin He set us free,
All for to gain our liberty...

"All out of darkness we have light
Which made the angels sing this night"



Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sing Muse...

... of the frustration of the knitter, who having embarked merrily upon a project involving a great deal of duplicate stitch, did find that this duplicate stitch did tax her heavily, until it felt like a saga to rival anything by Virgil or Homer.

I, gentle reader, am that knitter. With insufficient forethought I embarked upon Argyle Socks by Veronik Avery; partly because my father had admired them in the past when looking through her beautiful book Knitting Classic Style and partly because they looked easier than knitting "proper" argyle socks, with all their attendant hassle of intarsia, knitting flat and bobbins caught in a merry tangle.
However, I had reckoned without duplicate stitch. The socks themselves I knit up with comparatively few mistakes and thoroughly enjoyed myself, the second sock in particular went very fast. Then came the adornment. Duplicate stitch is essentially sewing, an art with which, even in the enlarged surroundings of yarn and tapestry needle, I am not entirely comfortable. Thus this duplicate stitch has become a true saga, after two weeks' I am almost finished but it feels like it has been far, far longer. I could have adorned a third sock with all the stitches I have had to take out and do again. Nonetheless this project will have left me fully conversant with duplicate stitch, faster and neater in my work, though my socks will not bear close scrutiny!
So on the saga continues, one weary stitch at a time, while my knitting needles sing their siren call reminding me how I miss their company. At least I have hopes of finishing in time for Christmas on current progress and I should avoid a 3am on Christmas morning finish. Dad will have more of the socks he loves, because he is worth it and I have gained fresh understanding of the phrase "a labour of love". And we shall all live happily ever after, or something like that.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

There's no such thing as a perfect Christmas

My past couple of posts have been very upbeat about Christmas, this reflects my own excitement at its approach and love of all things sparkly. However, I am aware that Christmas is not entirely positive, for some it can be a horribly difficult time of year, when loneliness and sadness are intensified by the sense that everyone else is celebrating, or a time of family tension and argument. Christmas is held in that same tension as everything else on this earth between good and bad, it is as flawed as we are.

It was always so, some aspects of the original Christmas cannot have seemed too wonderful to the protagonists, especially Mary and Joseph. I doubt many NHS birth plans involve a 70 mile journey on a donkey in the last month of the pregnancy, followed a birth in a stable, surrounded by animals. Neither would a straw filled manger fulfil any of the health and safety criteria required by a modern (first world) baby's crib. Though sadly for a great many women across the world child birth is still not an experience too far removed from Mary's.

Therefore if even the first Christmas, with its angel choirs, miraculous conception, congregation of magi and shepherds and a guiding star, all so carefully arranged by God, was not perfect*, can any Christmas be perfect? This lie, peddled by a thousand magazines, newspapers and shops all desperate to get a sale, means that we can place ourselves under so much pressure for everything to be right. Exactly the right dress, the right present, the right turkey, cooked the right way, the right family gathering, the right décor, the right relaxed festive atmosphere in which the air sparkles with quiet joy. No Christmas is ever perfect or ever has been, just as this earth is not perfect; if everything were perfect there would never have been need for a Christmas.

Indeed, why having the perfect Christmas is held up as such an ideal is beyond me - imagine it, no Christmas would ever be as good again! Far better to let off the pressure and aim for a peaceful, fun Christmas, your Christmas, different from everyone else's, even if there are so many elements in common. Most of all this Christmas I personally want to remember why Christmas exists and remember that Christmas contains the greatest reason to celebrate we will ever know, whatever our circumstances, in the person of a tiny baby in an imperfect crib, come to perfect an imperfect world.

*At least not perfect in human terms that is.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Stir up Sunday

Today my dad and I marked "stir up Sunday" by making Christmas puddings, dad does love a good tradition. He loves Christmas pudding too! It was fun and lovely to spend some time together. He reminisced about making Christmas pudding with his mother and grandmother as a child and how his mother would put a bit of ale in and his grandmother finish off the bottle!
Pre-cooked

We made two puddings which should be eaten in 2012 and 2013, God willing. Everyone had a stir and made a wish and I've hidden plenty of money (wrapped in greaseproof paper) in both. While we were in a pudding frame of mind, and had the brandy out, Dad got this year's pudding down and "fed it" so that it will be plentifully moist and rich for Christmas.


The smell was gorgeous, particularly the spices, we used cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, a bit of ginger and a little ground cloves. I increasingly love spices, especially since reading Elizabeth David's brilliant book on the subject, their scents and tastes are magnificent; must use them more. I'm tired now but it has been a nice weekend, makes a lovely change, breakfast with knitting friends was a great start to the weekend and then the pudding making today, may there be many more weekends that are similarly nice, relaxed and happy.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The waiting bells of Advent ring

Already I'm gearing up toward Christmas, it cheers me through this often dark and gloomy time of year and the message of Christmas helps me to cope with this dark world. It's not just the festive atmosphere, good food, slightly better telly than usual and the general sparkliness I love, or even the fairy lights, but Christmas's message. Christmas says that things will not always be like this, that things will get better one day, that we have hope. Christmas turns the world upside down and says that there is hope outside anything this world says or offers. Hope came into the world at Christmas, from heaven, bringing with him a message of change and change that is possible for all.
The Christmas story brings together many disparate people, a young couple from a small town and very ordinary background, foreign Magi come many miles from the east, shepherds living their lives on the edge of society, a Roman governor, even the Roman emperor plays his part and at it's centre, a tiny baby. Both Jew and gentile are represented, rich and poor, men and women, people who are the first in society and the last, educated and uneducated. The supernatural world comes into contact with the world of men, heaven touches earth and God enters the world as a vulnerable baby, bringing with Him hope.


If this isn't worth celebrating what is? I love this yearly reminder of Emmanuel - God with us, the reminder that change is coming into this dark world, that one day things will be different, that we ourselves can change. As well I enjoy the more secular sides of Christmas, giving presents to those I love, sending cards, decorating the house, preparing food, knitting Christmas decorations - there is nothing wrong with these things, but it is not all of Christmas.

This Christmas I am endeavouring to start making a nativity set, using Jean Greenhowe's pattern, starting with Mary and Jesus, so that in the midst of the goodness of Christmas can be the earth shattering good news of incarnation, so that I don't forget Jesus in the rush of parties and decorations and rich food. So I will enjoy the anticipation of Christmas and remind myself of why Christmas really is good.


Pictures: Fiddle faddle star, Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitters' Almanac; Mini mittens, Alan Dart's Advent Calendar; 0-566 Socks with Christmas pattern, Drops design

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Heel flap

I've got to the heel flap on Dad's Christmas socks. So far I've been enjoying knitting them, Argyle socks from Veronik Avery's book Knitting Classic Style, a book I've had at least three years without knitting anything from it. It's good finally to knit from it, instead of just reading it.

The yarn is Drops Fabel which so far seems very good value for the quality of the yarn. It has a smoother and slightly less woolly feel to it than Regia. The colour is somewhere around forget-me-not with a slight tinge of grey and I'm going to do the accents in navy blue and sage green.

The leg pattern has been good to knit, almost mesmerising in the way the purl stitches travel in and then out forming the diamond patterns down the leg.

Now to do the rest of the heel.

Sorry for the quality of the photograph, there's so light at this time of year and when it is light, I'm not organised!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The march of the knitted monsters

Despite my best intentions it's yet another month since I last posted. Time just seems to drift past and I spend a lot of time reading other people's blogs and hardly any writing my own.

This week I have mainly been working on presents for Christmas, including my first ever Rebecca Danger pattern, which has been so enjoyable. I'd recommend her patterns, go and knit one! They're fun, well written, cleverly constructed and produce such cute results. I can't say which of her patterns I've made or post photographs because it might spoil the surprise for a very special person. But I am considering making more monsters.

I think they'd be a good present for a baby, particularly baby boys, I think her robot would be good for a baby boy. And I'd love to make Napoleon the nervous narwhal, how awesome is a knitted narwhal?!

More immediately I might try making one of the Chubby Chirps (free pattern) into a Christmas robin with a bit of duplicate stitch.

Her patterns are also available on ravelry. I'm going to go back to my socks and hopefully blog again before long. In the meantime happy knitting!

P.S. Happy 101st Birthday Nanny, miss you xxx

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Autumn

Time slips on, complicated hat has made way on the needles for complicated mittens, while in the past few days I have been enjoying finally being able to wear the complicated hat. When I finished it we were in the middle of our intense Indian summer and I had to unearth my sun hat instead. How glorious that was and how cold it felt yesterday by contrast.
Stepping outside today, despite the comparative warmth, there is a definite smell of autumn, of falling leaves and damp lawn and cooling earth and decay. It is the sort of day which inspires me to want to put on some wellingtons and do some digging or other essential autumn job in the garden. If only I had the energy.
Sometimes I regard this slow slipping into winter with dread, all those dark, cold days, but in my saner moments I just take each moment as it comes and watch all its changes and moods. This is a better way I think, it feels calmer. Watch the leaves slowly change, the birds, who all vanished during the heat of the Indian summer, return to use the feeders so lovingly set up for them, wash and drink in the bird bath and chatter and preen in the bushes, hopping around the branches of the big holly as though it were a green stair case, up and down, up and down. Watch a robin sitting apparently doing nothing, looking casually about him before diving to the ground for some grub smaller than I can see.

That robin is delightful, he always comes down when I am outside to see what I'm up to. I'll look up from my magazine or book, having heard the flutter of wings, to see him sitting on a branch two feet away watching me. I love the look of triumph in his eye when he has a particularly juicy worm or a good berry, a look that says "this is mine, back off". The blackbirds are just the same.
These trees were so golden, lit up by the sun, I half expected Aeneas to turn up, guided by doves, for his golden bough.

In between there have been blacker moods and darker times, part of chronic illness I suppose. But I am writing this almost to prove to myself that it hasn't all been bad. And time slips on, flowing past, while I nap and knit and watch.

Friday, 16 September 2011

A most complicated hat

Finally, nearly two years after my sister gave me the yarn, I have got working on mysnapdragon tam. It's the most enormous fun, sometimes there's something incredibly satisfying about knitting something complicated that requires focus and a chart that takes up a whole page. And I love seeing the chart materialise into stitches and pattern. The yarn, Colinette Cadenza in the shade Velvet Damson, is utterly gorgeous, velvety soft and with a wonderful semisolid depth of colour.
Not much more of it to go, which is good, as I can't wait to wear it!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rowan and Ravelry

I am frequently frustrated, when browsing Ravelry's immense database of knitting patterns, either while in search of something to knit for myself or while helping someone out on the forums, by the lack of Rowan patterns in the database. It frequently means that I simply do not knit the designs myself and do not have the opportunity to recommend the designs to others, a pity, since they have some extremely good ones. Rowan do have their own website on which some of their designs are pictured, but since the new site was launched it is no longer possible to view them closely enough to see the details, for example is it a dropped or set in shoulder? I have been lamenting this absence for a while now, but some interviews with Rowan designers, in their latest magazine (kindly lent me by a friend for me to read) have made me consider the subject again.

From what the designers were saying it was clear that Rowan are currently wrestling with how to approach the new realities of the digital age, where knitters from all over the world can communicate with one another instantly and self publishing has never been easier. Some of this phenomenon is not all that new - Elizabeth Zimmermann blazed a trail self-publishing through her Schoolhouse Press and her Wool Gatherings news letters as early as the 1950s. However, the realities of publishing, involving as it used to, the costs of printing and distribution, did mean that until the rise of the internet self publishing was not easy to accomplish. Now it can be done at the press of a button and yes, as Sarah Hatton cites "people like Ysolde Teague [sic] and Jared Flood... have just created themselves" and worked hard to create excellent professional brands and beautiful, stylish designs. These independent designers have used the internet to communicate directly with their customers and build up their brand, there is no reason why Rowan cannot do the same.

Indeed knitting always has been a very grass roots movement, passing from person to person and finding new ways to create. Knitters have always improvised, changed patterns to suit their circumstances and come up with innovative new designs - Kate Davies' excellent article on Shetland lace knitting a few pages earlier in the same Rowan magazine makes this point superbly. However, now instead of only being able to share their ideas with knitters in their immediate vicinity, or by post, we can share our ideas, our designs and put them out there. In terms of design there is little difference between the Shetland women's lace innovations of the early 19th century and a knitter today coming up with a design and sharing it for free or selling it via her blog or Ravelry. It is all part of the same creativity.

I can see how a more traditional company like Rowan could feel quite threatened by the internet, but actually it offers a great opportunity to interact with customers in a new way and to get your designs out there cheaply and effectively. And of course it is worth bearing in mind that important though Ravelry is to many of us, it is not the entirety of the knitting world. But at one and a half million members strong, it does represent a huge market for yarn and knitting companies and I feel it is a pity that Rowan has not yet made the most of this opportunity. Rowan yarns already have quite a profile on Ravelry, there are more than 15,000 projects listed using Kid Silk Haze for example. I have used the yarns far more than the designs and love their quality, a jumper I made in Rowan pure wool aran is still going strong after more than two years hard wear.

If more Rowan patterns were listed on Ravelry, together with pictures and tags to identify the techniques, used then more knitters would buy Rowan booklets and knit Rowan designs, very probably buying more Rowan yarn in the process. As Rowan is ultimately a company that exists to make money, this surely makes sense?

Personally I would also love to see at least some of the amazing Rowan back catalogue on sale as individual patterns, as Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting both do. Back copies of Rowan magazines and booklets often sell on ebay for eye-wateringly high prices, yet Rowan itself gets none of that money, why not put the back catalogue to work?

As the designers said again and again in the interviews this situation is exciting, things have been changing and bringing us all new opportunities and creative possibilities, so Rowan, please make the most of it!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Feminine Fripperies

I have treated myself to some awesome brooches and hair slides from colourful company Acorn and Will. They came beautifully wrapped up in tissue paper, making it a real treat to receive and the postage was extremely reasonable. I love the retro style and the detail of each brooch. While the prices make them very wearable for everyday use, rather than worrying about losing an expensive piece of jewellery. I think they would make excellent presents and should set off my winter coat or some of my shawls a treat.
I'm still eyeing up the Esme brooches and hoping more come into stock soon.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Inspiration

Found this awesome picture directory of blogs today and thought I'd share it, I've been clicking randomly on links and found some amazing blogs and lots of beautiful things people have made. Hope it inspires you to get making too.
Random photo of nasturtiums and geraniums with bee, because.

Today was better than yesterday.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Radio silence

I haven't posted for a while because there hasn't been a lot to say. It's just more of the same, more feeling awful, more waiting for appointments, more impromptu trips to the doctors', more things I need to do piling up undone, more depression, more antibiotics, or antibirockets as a fellow raveller put it.

I feel truly pathetic for getting so down, other people have things far worse than I do and manage to live with far more grace, although I know depression doesn't help me to do this. Life is just so hard, unrelentingly so and I'm trying so hard to hope. Being so isolated doesn't help either, particularly spiritually, being an isolated Christian with depression isn't easy, I'm trying to believe, trying to keep communicating with Jesus, keep worshipping, but not succeeding very well.

At least I've got an appointment later in the week to see Father Andrew, a lovely retired vicar or priest (he wears a dog collar so he must be something like that?) who is wonderfully understanding and one of those people who is so Jesus-like. Crucially he is also easy to talk to; I find even when I do see people that it's really hard to open up. I guess you're never sure how people will react and it's rare that any one's got the time and inclination really to listen. And I don't know how to start or what to say and I don't really have the energy to socialise anyway. It's that catch-22 situation of being lonely but not well enough to see people.


However, before this all gets too depressing for words, there have been a few other things going on. The loaf of bread I made overnight in the bread maker has come out very nicely, a light wholemeal loaf. But I have had to undo ten days' hard work on a cardigan I have been working on because of a simple mathematical error that means it was working out far too small. One of this afternoon's tasks will be to start the cardigan all over again. Such is knitting I suppose, one blessing is that the yarn doesn't seem overly bothered by being undone, some of it for the second time. It is a bit disheartening to see ten days' work reduced to a pathetic huddle of bundles of yarn.
I am going to go outside into the garden now, since the weather has changed once again, from November back to proper August weather.

Oh and while we're on the subject of the radio - Radio 4 has just started another of its modern production of lost Paul Temple serials, past ones have been superb, truly the BBC at its very best - you simply must listen!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sunday afternoon

A beautiful sunny afternoon, a shady garden, a comfortable chair, some good reading material, some knitting and that classic retro treat: a strawberry split. The birds were singing in various trees and bushes and next door's cat was fast asleep at the bottom of the garden.

Above me an awesome sky. Gloriously relaxing.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Destruction

Watching the beautiful William Morris wall paper in my parents' hall, in one of my favourite patterns, Willow Bough, being ripped off, so cracks in the plaster behind can be attended to, is making me feel most sad.
I know that soon Morris' masterpiece will be up there anew. But for now I feel sad.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Cable time

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven
Ecclesiastes 3.1
Now is my time for cables it seems. To date this year I have mainly been doing fairly plain knitting, vanilla socks, lots of garter and stockingette stitch. Now I have launched into a baby jumper full of cables and I'm just ready for the challenge. Soothing as mindless knitting can be, sometimes knitting that requires real focus and concentration can just hit the spot. It is absorbing and stops me thinking too much.
Then there is the feeling of achievement - knowing that you have followed these instructions and produced some fabulous looking cables. The yarn, Rowan Wool Cotton, is giving the cables beautiful definition, they really do "pop" (as they say), is so soft and has a gorgeous lustre. The pattern in question is Baby Poonam, one of Berocco's free patterns (ravelry link) and incidentally my first ever knit by the designer Norah Gaughan. It's such a sweet miniature aran sweater complete with shoulder buttons, which my friend and fellow knitter Cara introduced me to.

The knit so far has not been without incident, when I saw Cara's version last week I suddenly realised that I had somehow altered the textured stitch, producing more of a mistake or waffle rib rather than the texture originally intended. After much bemused head scratching and reading and re-reading the pattern I realised that I had misplaced the asterisk in the repeat, meaning I had neglected to p2 across the row. However, the pattern I've created is rather nice, I think it would make some rather awesome socks, will have to experiment some more.

I've just realised though that instead of returning to my knitting, I should probably wrap my mother's birthday presents, since it is her birthday tomorrow. Hope she likes the Garter Stitch Loop Through scarf I've made her.

P.S. I've also finally started an Ishbel, in Artesano Alpaca 4ply, more of that anon.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Glorious Glads


Image0580
Originally uploaded by foggyknitter

The late evening sun was just catching the gladioli in the dining room tonight, it was such a glorious sight I had to get a picture. Not a bad photo from my mobile either.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Thought for the day

"...I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods,
And made a push at chance and sufferance."

Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, Scene 1

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Gentle Sex

This afternoon I was able to indulge in spending the afternoon watching a black and white film, something I have always enjoyed doing. On this occasion Film 4 were showing a second world war propaganda number called *The Gentle Sex", which used seven women's lives to show the contribution women were making to the war efforts.

Like many such propaganda films of the period it was well made, well acted, and although it was no Brief Encounter it was engaging and gently educative. The periodic "set speeches" in which characters earnestly discussed the themes of women's role in the war and what the war was fundamentally being fought for did jar at times, and with the hindsight we now have over the seventy years that have elapsed since then gave some of their idealism a tragic irony. Despite the horrendous ills of Nazism, their defeat has not, alas, meant that the world has become necessarily a better place; new sources of evil have sprung up. Truthfully no human war could end evil in the war, it is too deeply in ourselves.

However, the film was right that the war would change women's place in society, it did, perhaps not quite as far as the idealists would have liked, but like their mothers in the first war, they had an impact. I liked the film's emphasis on how women were needed to win the war, were essential and showed them working alongside men in a variety of occupations: manning anti-aircraft guns, driving and mending lorries, working capably and hard.

So... why then, after a stirring finale showing our heroines helping to shoot down an airplane, were the closing credits presented the form of a cross stitched embroidery? I found the juxtaposition interesting and frankly startling. Perhaps one could argue that they were comparing women's peacetime, decorative, fairly useless role and occupation with their wartime, utilitarian, essential role? Perhaps it was just a lazy way of demonstrating the film's feminine subject matter? Certainly in that portion of the film I saw no woman embroidered anything, though many knitted and this is by no means the first time I have seen knitting stand for the new role in society that the war had given to women. For example, in Daphne du Maurier's 1943 play The Years Between there is a contrast made between the main protagonist's pre-war embroidery, when she was "just" a wife and wartime knitting, when she is active in politics. Interestingly du Maurier's play was written in the same year as this film was released and both share a pre-occupation with winning the peace as well as the war.

To the women of World War II

One could question why this film was felt necessary in the first place, but then to expect women's role automatically to be considered as important as a man's, particularly back in the 1940s, is perhaps to be as hopelessly idealistic as the film's characters were about the purpose of the war. Its very title says a great deal about the attitudes the film was seeking to challenge. To an audience today the sight of a woman in military uniform is everyday; in 1939 it still had the potential to shock, although as the film points out, through the memories of an elderly lady of driving an ambulance in the first war, women taking an active, rigorous role in war was not new to this conflict. Yet the contribution of these women to the war effort is still little discussed and it is only comparatively recently that any kind of memorial to them was erected in London, so perhaps this film should have shouted louder?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Red Mittens of Happiness


I've been knitting a pair of child's mittens in bright red Drops Karisma Superwash wool the past couple of days and they have been making me feel so very happy. It seems to be a combination of the cheery red colour, the delightful soft sproingy wool and the magic of mittens. Mittens are somehow soothing, reminiscent of my own childhood, they represent warmth and being well wrapped up and cared for and snug despite the cold all around. They are a frosty winter's morning with everyone's breath emerging as mist on the cold air or the riotous fun of a snow ball fight or the careful construction of a snowman.

They are also a fun thing to knit, fairly quick, especially in a child's size, following a definite rhythm and pattern all of their own. While cotton, silk and even alpaca have their merits there is something satisfying about a good smooth, soft, classic wool yarn, the ribbing has a distinctive springy stretch, the little "v"s of the stockingette stitch have a neat uniformity and definition to them. I think I am going to have to make myself a pair.

Now I will return to knitting the second mitten and hope that whoever eventually owns these mittens is as happy wearing them as I have been knitting them.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Shaking off the black dog

I've been meaning to write a less "heavy" post for a while now, but haven't quite got around to it as I've been feeling a bit down and apathetic and lethargic, which is not me: I hate it. So I'm trying to shake it off, remember the good things.

Spring and early summer are particularly easy times of year in which to find good things to celebrate, even when it's been raining constantly as in the past few days, especially as we have needed the rain so very much. There have been plenty of birds in the garden, yesterday a wren was making a disproportionate amount of noise for a bird so tiny while feeding its young and a fledgling robin has been making his fluffy first attempts at solo life and visiting our bird feeder. So birds and their song: there is good thing one.


Then the plants, oh the plants, coming up in merry profusion and confusion, self seeding, growing back from apparently lifeless twigs, we have had a baby cherry tree, several cow slips and a single rogue daffodil coming up in the middle of the lawn, plenty of nasturtiums growing from last year and flowering gloriously, with a golden colour that looks like condensed sunshine and roses, so many roses. Around the roses, which are past their first flush of glory, are two flowering Jasmines, which are smelling heavenly - I go out into the garden and stand by them and inhale! Our garden is starting to look like a garden and less like an untidy patch of ground. The vegetables are coming along nicely too; the runner beans in particular, appreciating the rain and having astonishing growth spurts. Bees of many varieties (hard to identify as they do not stay still long and are very small!) are busy all through the day on all the flowers, particularly around the Hebe hedge by the front door.


Inside there have been some good plays on the radio lately, including some on the Plantagenet kings and a Terrence Rattigan season celebrating his centenary. Some good books, though the only one I can remember having read recently is Dorothy Whipple's High Wages, an engaging and interesting novel about life in a Lancashire in the early twentieth century. The protagonist, Jane, is a very likable character with real spirit, at times when reading I found myself 'cheering her on' as she took on the attitudes and set ways of the community around her.

Naturally I have been knitting still too, socks, baby items for the ongoing population explosion among my friends, hats, a cardigan, the usual things. But my heart is not quite in it just now, I am not sure why, but I can't quite settle or focus. My concentration is not good, yet I am bored of simpler patterns. Though looking through my recent photographs I have finished a couple of major projects recently, including a baby blanket, so I should perhaps expect a bit less of myself?

Were I physically well the depression would be so much easier to shake off through keeping busy and doing new things, changing things, exercising. I can do so little of any of that and it does get to me sometimes. I am trying to keep going and battle on, keep trusting Jesus and staying positive, but goodness me there are times when it is hard!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Unbecoming Victor[ia]

Lately I have been feeling in increasing sympathy with Victor Meldrew (the 'hero' of One Foot in the Grave), feeling incredibly intensely angry with just about everything. I have found myself ranting and shouting at the television, losing it over the slightest thing, tense and overwhelmed by anger. A lot of it to do with feeling out of control and unable to change things, like the government or the benefits' system or the way we human beings treat one another.

Of course I know that anger is not always a negative thing, that Jesus was righteously angry, most famously when he took a whip to the sellers in the temple courts. However, although a very small proportion of my anger could perhaps be construed this way - at injustice in the world and my own sin - the majority of it cannot. Moreover it is not even useful anger, of a sort that spurs one onto change something in the world, to do something about it, instead it leaves me exhausted and drained, which is not a good use of an already scarce resource.

This weekend, having shouted and ranted my way through most of an edition of Any Questions on Radio 4 I realised that I needed to do something to change this situation. In classical Christian parlance I felt convicted, in particular by Jesus' words in the sermon on the mount:
"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5.22 NIV)
In particular by the word 'Raca' from this passage and I hated feeling so bitter, angry and out of control. It is the feeling that there are major aspects of my life, such as my health care provision or my income and general government policy, over which I have no control. I have been enraged by the government's attitude towards the vulnerable and their demonization of the sick and disabled; and worse still felt powerless, too tired to protest and generally overwhelmed, invisible and not heard. Listing all the things that have been making me angry would take a long time and it was alarming how unloving, ungracious (in the godly meaning of the word) and hateful I was becoming, the opposite of Jesus in so many ways.

But then as I was praying and mulling over how to deal with this, begging God to help me not feel so angry or be able to use this anger to some effect, it came to me. I may not have the ear of government ministers or the media, but I do have the ear of one who is far more powerful: God "for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing" (Romans 13.6 NIV) and He always listens (Proverbs 15.29; Luke 18, among many others).

Prayer yet again is the answer, as I have found many times before (why do I always seem to forget?!). It is doubly powerful because it can change a situation (e.g. 1 Kings 18) and change me: changes my heart and my mind and my attitude about people and situations as it brings me closer to God as I spend time with Him. So I've started praying, starting with David Cameron and continuing with others and situations which have made me angry, and already I feel calmer and more at peace with the world. Naturally it is not quite that simple, I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I am on the right path: knowing that I have someone I can turn to, who listens and is infinitely powerful, helps so much.

Before I feel too self-congratulatory I should thank God, for once again forgiving me and drawing me close to Him, for His patience and His love and His grace.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philipians 4.4-7

May we all know God's peace.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Avoid direct sunlight

Warning: this post may contain traces of self pity

So after a couple of years of recurring skin infections, over the details of which we shall draw a delicate veil, I have been put on a three month long course of antibiotics to see if we can clear up the problem. As usual the leaflet accompanying these pills is thoroughly terrifying, though comfortingly death isn't listed as a side effect, which I have seen before, so that's a start. However, aside from the stern instruction to drink a full glass of water when taking this pill (why? is it that bad for the insides? And what exactly is a glass of water - how big?), the instruction that has thrown me the most is "Avoid direct sunlight".

This is written on the pharmacist's label on the box and repeated inside and given it is now May and that the three months will then take in June and July, dismays me considerably. You see, until a couple of years ago any sort of warm weather would leave me limper than last week's lettuce, trying not to move and seeking out coolness where soever it could be found. However, bizarrely at the start of the winter a couple of years ago I suddenly discovered that I could not get warm, a problem that has continued subsequently, to the point where the woolly sock and fingerless glove season now stretches from September to May, with the summer months only offering temporary respite. Great news for opportunities to knit, but not so good for pain levels or comfort.

Conversely now I find that not only can I tolerate really quite warm weather, I even enjoy it, soaking up sunlight and warmth like a salamander or lizard, loving the feeling of relaxed comfort it brings to my muscles and joints after the painful cold of the winter. I have loved the sunlight of the last month, sitting out when I can and letting the heat soak into me, while being careful to avoid sunburn and skin damage. Sunlight has become one of the simple pleasures of my life, even in winter when I enjoy it streaming onto the sofa in the bay window.

Now it seems that this pleasure too is gone and I have to admit to feeling sad. In fact I have felt sad all day, ever since reading this pronouncement, even the purchase of a new covering up linen/cotton blend cardigan from Boden in an eye-wateringly bright turquoise has done little to alleviate my sadness. Yes, this is self pity: I admit it. However, it is also yet another adjustment to new conditions, yet another loss to mourn, albeit hopefully only temporarily. There are things I can do to ameliorate this situation - linen long sleeved tops, high factor sun cream, discovering what exactly avoiding direct sunlight means, shady hats, pretending I am a high status ancient Greek lady using my paleness to advertise my wealth and freedom from having to perform outdoor work in the sun. (I was scraping the barrel rather with that last one I know). But it will reduce the amount of time I can spend in the garden, a much needed haven, since sitting in the direct sun has been the only way to stay warm enough while sitting outside; in the shade certainly so far this year I have often felt too cold. It feels at this moment like the one time of the year when each day is not just about staying warm and trying to get through the day, the time of year when I have a slight chance of living a little, has been taken away too and I'm left with nothing to make up for the misery of winter. Melodramatic maybe, but it's how it feels.

So I will try to adjust and hope and pray that I escape the side effects of this medication and that it works to solve the problem in hand. I will try to remember that in the context of the suffering going on all over the world at this moment this is nothing. And of course I shall seek Jesus, who is as good, patient and kind as when I got up this morning, who has not changed and who ultimately offers true hope that things will get better, sometime.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

May flowers


The first thing I saw this morning when I edged my curtains apart - the curtain rail is somewhat stiff so the usual "flung" would be utterly inaccurate - was that more roses had come out on the bushes in the garden. As I had been admiring the buds last night I simply had to go and take a look and inspired by my good friend Beckie's garden photos I took a camera with me. So here we have a few gratuitous pictures of flowers. But who can have too many flowers?
There are more on my flickr page.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Day seven (extremely belatedly) - your knitting and crochet time

Sorry for the delay in this post, still better late than never? I wasn't quite feeling up to blogging.

I do have an extraordinary amount of time available for knitting and crochet, although often very little energy - mental and physical - for it, which means that my actual output is not a great deal higher than many prolific 'well' knitters out there. Most of my knitting and crochet time is spent at my desk, where I have a big comfy chair, ravelry open on the computer, something from radio iplayer such as comedy from "BBC Radio 4 extra" (the artist formerly known as BBC Radio 7) to listen to, a glass of cordial to my left and vital items such as tape measure, scissors, pencil and tapestry needle close on hand. My desk, due to a mixture of exhaustion and "creative working practices", is much, much too messy to photograph. You may think you know untidy, but I tell you, you would be genuinely shocked.

My second modus operandi is knitting on the sofa in the sunny bay window of the living room, with or without the television or a DVD to watch. This bay window catches the sun brilliantly and is a delightful spot on a sunny day - had we a cat this would be where you would find him or her - instead I bask alone. There are a variety of flowering plants here, including my beloved poinsettia, a nice big cushion to lean against, a blanket for colder weather and the vital kit of tape measure, scissors, pencil and tapestry needle on hand.

Since the weather started to improve I have begun taking my knitting
and crochet out to the garden, to bask in the sunshine, without the hot house effect of all that glass, and enjoy the relative tranquillity. I say relative since our proximity to the centre of town and in particular the police station can make it a little loud at times, but it's mainly a low hum in the background and happily drowned out in birdsong. Outside, without the distractions of the computer, or downstairs on the sofa, I do tend to get more done, than at my desk. In particular I will often take a dull bit of knitting, or one which does not seem to be getting anywhere, downstairs with me, to get it done while occupied with a good film.

Likewise I often use meeting up with people, either at knitting group or just out and about in general as an opportunity to get simple garter or stocking stitch done, enjoying the process with my hands while my brain is occupied socially. Indeed I have found it folly to take anything more complicated with me to knitting group, as it inevitably leads to disaster. As women have done through history I keep my knitting with me most of the time to fill in those little gaps in the day - while the food is cooking, in the doctors' waiting room, on the train etc. - which would otherwise be idle and dull. The sheer portability of knitting and crochet is a major factor in my adherence to these crafts rather than others involving more setting up and preparation.

My knitting and crochet time is of infinite value in my life, it gives me interests beyond the bounds of myself and my illness to think about and an occupation, something that gives me something to do while consuming little energy. Through knitting even the worst day can have its achievements, however small, I can learn new skills, meet new people and gain a sense of purpose. It is something positive to think about and means that the days are not entirely empty, there are small goals to achieve, the turning of a heel, another inch on a jumper, another granny square. The very act of knitting or crocheting is positive, distracting me from pain, calming me, cheering me, distracting my mind from dismal depression.

Thank you to the wonderful Eskimimi for organising this week (or several weeks in my case) of blogging, it's really great, has been wonderful seeing the knitting and crocheting world from so many different perspectives and coming across new blogs. It has also been a great incentive to blog more: hopefully I will keep this up.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Day six (belatedly) - Something to aspire to

The main area of skill I aspire to improve is designing. As has already been seen here I've done a little dabbling into design, but not yet taken it as far as I would like: I have not yet tried a full garment design for example. I have to admit that I never dreamed that I would ever have designed and written the pattern for an item of knitwear, though at one time I did not see that knitting itself was something I would ever do, so times change.

The principal thing that gets in the way of this designing aspiration is the sheer quantity of brilliant designs by other people that I want to knit up, my mental queue is forever extending and I have projects and projects clamouring to be made. Rather than learn from books, straight or "dry", I have learned most of what I know about knitting from knitting other people's designs, looking at how they have achieved different effects and soaking up the technical information that way over the whole of the time I have been knitting. Although all this said, often the act of designing has come out of not being able to find a pattern that exactly meets what I want to make and needing to fill this gap.

Perhaps bizarrely I love writing up patterns and the act of communicating in such a way that my idea can be understood and used by others. Working out how best to convey the combination of creative ideas with the technical information needed is a process I find very deeply satisfying. Even if it involves having to admit that my maths teacher was right - maths can be useful!

So this coming year I aspire to design more, I am still fascinated by colour-work but also more generally by the traditional styles and techniques of knitting, particularly as practised in this country in the past and using these ideas and taking them into the present and the future, re-casting them. At least my training as a historian is not going to waste, just being used in a very different way than I would ever have envisaged.

2KCBWDAY6

I know that technically Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week ended yesterday, but I got rather behind over the weekend, life sometimes overtakes even the best of intentions.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Day five - And now for something completely different

Only I'm afraid there's nothing that different happening here folks. I lack the energy to work out something vastly different and imaginative. Instead I'm going to say thank you.

Thank you to Jess and Casey Forbes, the imaginative geniuses behind ravelry.com, a website I believe I mention very occasionally on here. Their site has enriched my life in so many ways, in bringing me friends, knowledge, support, inspiration, joy and even laughter. Anybody who thinks up giving everyone's avatar a little hat (or other piece of headgear) for April Fools' Day richly deserves the title of genius. Today ravelry has been peppered with shining toppers, William Tellesque apples, witches, wizards, crowns, cowboy hats, halos and many more, even some penguins.

I myself had a bright parrot perching upon my head for the day, which cheered me up no end, the whole thing did. Thank you Casey and Jess for helping me to laugh on a day when I woke up feeling awful and thought it was just another of those days, thank you for turning it around. Thank you for your creativity, hard work and humour.

2KCBWDAY5

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Day four - Where are they now?

Where are they now? – 2KCBWDAY4
Whatever happened to your __________?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project. Whether it be something that you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person. An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.
A long time ago now I made my first attempt at socks, a veil is best drawn over that first attempt, so awful were the results of that first pair. Unwearable is probably the kindest term for them. Nonetheless it seems I am not easily deterred and this pair was slowly joined by two further pairs of socks, one a bit big, the next finally just right, as Goldilocks would put it. The stage was set for my first foray into patterned socks.
For these socks I chose some Colinette Jitterbug I had obtained in a yarn swap (or in my case yarn buy) we had held at knitting group, in the eye-wateringly bright colourway of "Mardi Gras" and the pattern Broadripple from knitty.com. How I love those socks, the combination of yarn and pattern is just right, in my opinion at least, the yarn is soft and smooshy underfoot, snuggly and warm to wear and wear them I have. They were for a long time my favourite socks, until my first pair of Monkey socks came along (on that front let's just say there's a reason it's the most popular sock pattern on ravelry). The sight of them peeking out of the "window" in my Mary-Janes never fails to cheer me up and I save them for days when it is especially cold.
My main gripe with the yarn was that they have never ceased bleeding colour when washed, even after two years, only cold water and attempts at fixing the colour with vinegar that made the whole house smell like a chippy. For merino socks knit not at a particularly tight gauge they have worn astonishingly well. Until a week or so ago, when to my horror I noticed a hole in the heel. I was devastated. They yet await mending, which will be a difficult task given how thin the fabric has worn across the whole of the heel. I was aware that they were reaching old age in sock years, which come round considerably faster even than dog years, and had been reserving them for days when I would not be walking in them except around the house, but alas in the end Time's winged chariot has proved too much for them.

I am sadly aware that we may not have that much time left together, we shall have to make the most of it once I have succeeded, with the help of a reprint of a wartime "make do and mend" pamphlet, to darn my beloved socks. They say your first love is always the most special: I shall never forget my Jitterbug Broadripples.

Day three - Tidy mind, tidy stitches

Anyone who knows me very well, certainly my family, would laugh uproariously at the idea of my knitting being organised. Indeed were it not for ravelry my knitting would be in a state of unworkable anarchy. It is bad enough that my yarn is stored all over the place, from individual skeins in among books on the bookshelves, to piles of knitting books in unsteady piles on the floor, taking in bags and boxes of yarn stored all over the place, myriad pieces of paper and a needle roll that has *never* been closed.

I make some attempts to be organised - my projects page on ravelry is organised carefully, because I enjoy organising it and it requires no more physical energy than that of manipulating a mouse and doing a little light typing. Where I fall down is on needing to put things away or find them places to live in the first place. I was never good at it in the first place; now I'm just too tired to have any energy to expend in tidying and sorting. Some attempts have been made: broadly speaking my knitting needles reside either in the top drawer to my right in my desk, in the aforementioned needle roll (kindly made for me by a friend) and double pointed needles (mostly) in a mug. Likewise some of my yarn is organised into clear resealable bags, a few of which are even labelled with what should be in them.

My rough and ready system, if it can be graced with such a term, does work most of the time - I have an idea of where most things are. However, there has been the odd incident, such as selling someone a ball of yarn via destash, then realising I didn't have a *clue* where it was (fear not gentle listener, it was recovered after an exhausting search), which has made me wish I were more organised.

It would be good, if potentially scary, to have all my stash on ravelry, so that I know what I have and so that I can use more of it instead of buying more yarn. I would like the physical storage of the yarn to improve too, such as it all making it into bags and once catalogued finding a place in my big cupboard. It would be fairly pointless to wish that the books could get their own places to live, I suspect that my books:bookshelf ratio is never going to be quite balanced: I'm just one of those people.

Another problem I face is that my living arrangements are far from ideal; my belongings have to try to squeeze into one room, which by your mid-20s can be tricky. This room is not endowed with very good storage, my mother came up with the design of the cupboard and it is unworkable, hard to access, too deep and only really designed to hold those large unlovely plastic crates. I find it impossible to find anything in large plastic crates and too hard to get things in and out of them when I'm exhausted and sore. If I ever (please dear Lord, please!) get my own place I would design the storage with far more care and ingenuity, to enable everything to have its place, with the things I use most often easily accessible. Then all I'd need is some will power to put things back where they belong. Hmm only one small flaw in that cunning plan then.

Anyhow, my thoughts on organisation, not the cheeriest I'm afraid. But thank you Casey and Jess for ravelry - without you my knitting would be lost!

2KCBWDAY3

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Day two - skills

It seems almost incredible to reflect that I've been knitting for over four years now; it seems both like forever and an astonishingly short time. Looking through my projects on ravelry I can see how my skills have improved year on year and this ongoing learning process, refining and increasing my skills and knowledge that makes knitting and other crafts so satisfying.

Crochet has been the biggest skill breakthrough of the last year, thanks in part to my good friend Fran who kindly spent most of a knitting group session teaching me to make a granny square, which gave my flailing crochet skills enough of a boost to get going properly. I have not taken to crochet in quite the same way as I took to knitting, it was not quite as easy to get my head around and has not come as naturally. It took me a long time to be able to rows of double or treble crochet without it becoming narrower and narrower; and my first attempt at a crocheted dishcloth resulted in a most odd, tight fabric, unintentionally made of slip stitches throughout! Likewise my first attempt at Lucy from Attic24's hexagon pattern resulted in a shape with six and a half sides (due to my own incompetence, no reflection on the quality of the pattern).

While knitting will always be my first love there are some things for which crochet cannot be beaten, first among these the classic granny square. They are versatile, quick, fun, practical and can be wonderful vehicles for playing with colour, as well as being a fashion trend for the coming year, according to the knitting magazines (which of course means it must be true). Last month I honed my granny square skills making a square a day for Sarah London's Knit a Rainbow project, which was a good challenge and has improved both my crochet stamina (I can find it hurts my hands quite quickly so need to do small amounts often) and speed.

My crocheting beyond the granny square has resulted in various motifs, flowers, snowflakes and a star. The second "thank you" owed for help with getting into crochet must go to Lucy of Attic24 for her clear photo tutorials, which enabled me to make various small projects before I had got the hang of following a normal crochet pattern.

Now I have moved on to my first major crochet project, a scarf made along essentially granny square principles in the most stunning Natural Dye Studio yarn. After one false start which resulted in one stitch too few attempt two is going along slowly but well and will hopefully be perfect for all this gorgeous spring weather we've been enjoying.

Looking into the future I am hoping to get better at increasing and decreasing in crochet and to make myself a full sized crochet blanket. Here is to the next year's skills.
2KCBWDAY2

Monday, 28 March 2011

Second Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week - day one

I have somewhat belatedly decided to join in with the 2nd Annual Knitting and Crochet blog week, organised by Eskimimi, which started today so without further ado I shall crack on with day one.

Day one - "A tale of two yarns"

When I first started knitting, just over four years ago, I paid little or no attention to what my "wool" was made of; so far as I knew "wool" was "wool", be it acrylic, wool, whatever. There was very little range available in Durham, most of it originating from petroleum. It took the discovery of ravelry and the subsequent widening of my knitting horizons to introduce me to fibres which were more natural in origin. Since then a gradual transformation has taken place in the yarn I knit with, starting with wool or cotton blends and gradually getting further and further into what is sometimes called "the good stuff". My bank account has not enjoyed this process as much as I have.

However, with the help of people at knitting group I have discovered that sheepy goodness does not have to break the bank. Britain abounds in traditional companies making inexpensive super-wash wools, mostly in DK, that provide excellent value for money. A jumper's worth of these yarns, even for one who, like me, takes a somewhat larger size, can be bought for no more than the cost of a pure wool jumper in a high street store such as Marks and Spencer's. They are very versatile, so far I have made cardigans, baby clothes, a tea cosy, letters for knitted poems, hats, toys and fingerless gloves. Brands I like include Cygnet Superwash DK, King Cole Merino Blend DK and Drops Karisma Superwash and one of my plans for this year is to make a crocheted blanket big enough for my bed out of various greens and blues from this range of yarns.

The second yarn I will mention today is another inexpensive favourite of mine, which I believe deserves to be better known: Drops Alpaca. It is a light, lofty yarn, that works at a range of different gauges to produce fabrics with different characteristics. Knit with large needles it makes an elegantly draping shawl, knit more tightly it becomes a dense warm sock or glove. Although fuzzy, as you would expect from alpaca, it still has good enough stitch definition for lace and it comes in a dazzling array of colours. What is even better is its value for money - 50 grammes of yarn yields 200yards or 180metres for the princely sum of £3. Drops have recently introduced a "sister" yarn, Drops Baby Silk Alpaca which looks similarly lovely, although it comes in a more limited palette, and I am keen to try it. Another of my knitting ambitions is to make a jumper or cardigan in Drops alpaca.

The main stockist for Drops yarns in the UK is Scandinavian Knitting Design, a very reliable company, however, the yarns are becoming more widely stocked. My only gripe with Drops is that although they have many free patterns, the majority are simply translated straight from Norwegian, meaning that they can be extremely difficult to follow. They generally require completely re-writing into an intelligible English pattern since they follow little of the standard style in which English and American patterns are generally written. This is a tremendous pity because they are good designs and there are a lot of them, I suppose the phrase "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" comes to mind, since they are free. But it makes me sad that such a great company are not succeeding as well as they could - many people do not want even to try their patterns as they see them as too difficult to follow. In my more daring moments I have considered contacting Drops and offering to re-write some of their designs into the standard English pattern style. We shall see.

Anyhow, while I could write about yarn for a lot longer I shall leave it there for day one: tomorrow we tackle knitting skills.

2KCBWDAY1

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Can you tell what it is yet?


So... can you tell what it is yet? I've been on a bit of a simple, vanilla knitting kick lately and enjoying the soothing nature of the garter stitch. It becomes a bouncy, springy, pleasantly thick fabric with good elasticity. I'm especially proud of the provisional cast on - the first time I have been able to learn a new technique after watching instructions online. The yarn is Cadenza by Colinette in colourway Slate, I love the flashes of colour in amongst the blue grey of the background, most cheerful and they mean that the yarn "goes with" quite a range of my clothes.
The picture above should have made it clearer, I've been making Garter Stitch Mitts by Ysolda Teague, one of the best written and most ingenious patterns I've knit in a long time. As you can see they are knit from side to side, starting with a provisional cast on and forming the thumb and wrist shaping through judicious use of short row shaping. My only modification to the pattern was to do six rows of thumb stitches instead of four to add slightly to the size. The mitts are then closed by undoing the provisional cast on and grafting the stitches together using Kitchener Stitch. Indeed this was the hardest part of the operation, although it went more smoothly the second time thankfully. The finished mitts are lovely to wear, soft, warm and sufficiently closely fitting so as not to get in the way while doing important day to day things (such as knitting!) but not so closely fitting that they impede movement. I would definitely recommend both yarn and pattern; it's especially fun confounding non knitters with what on earth you are making.
They are a good addition to my growing wardrobe of fingerless mitts, mittens and gloves - there's got to be an upside to Raynaud's right?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A granny square calendar

The photos in this post show February mapped out in granny squares. I'm delighted that I managed to reach my personal goal of a granny square a day and my crochet is vastly improved for it. Hopefully they will make a difference in the lives of those affected by the floods in Australia; in the meantime I'm moving on to making squares for earthquake victims in Christchurch. It's only a small gesture of help in the face of the devastation, but lots of small actions to make the world a better place do add up: there's more information here on facebook.

In general I am not doing too badly, rubbing along, tired, I'm struggling to
sleep for some reason just lately, but enjoying all the signs of spring that are all around and the sunshine we have had this week. Amazing what difference a bit of sunshine makes, everyone seems to brighten up.

Also pictured sitting on one of the squares is a new arrival to the house, a small macaroni penguin named Samuel, sent to me by a wonderful raveller. I really am most especially thrilled by him, he's a great little companion.