Tuesday, 30 December 2008

And more fingerless mittens

This morning I headed into town for my regular contact lens checkup with the optician. Thankfully, all is well with my eyes, except of course for being as blind as a short sighted bat if I don't have either my glasses on or my lenses in.

While I was there, I poked around in the sales until I got bored with the sameness of it all. I didn't think too much of the pickings although if I was super skinny, i.e. a size 6, I'd have had plenty of choice. I eventually came home (OK, I did pick up a cardi - it was made of alpaca and just called to me with it's softness - and two pairs of trousers, but at the silly prices on offer I'd have been remiss not to take advantage) and I'm sitting here, typing away, sipping tea and trying to defrost (it is bitter out there).

I'm also wearing these...


These are Fetching, the elder sibling of Dashing (posted about yesterday), also from Knitty and made entirely for me! That sentence required an exclamation mark as this is only the second project I've finished this year intended entirely for yours truely.

They're modelled here by Dave, who I had to fight to retain possession of these gloves. The more feminine version they might be, but I was informed that when knitted in mossy green they're 'manly' and Dave has a keen eye on manly knits, considering them to be automatically for him.



I used up about 3/4 of a 100g skein of Katia Azteca in colourway 7803 (Ravelry Link) which I picked up during last Christmas's trek to Penzance. I love the way the colour worked out, although it did mean that I've ended up with two gloves which while they're definitely related are in no way identical.

Katia Azteca is an underspun aran weight, 50% wool and 50% acrylic. These mittens were knitted on 4mm needles (as per the pattern) which resulted in a thick, dense fabric, which I have to say (since I'm sitting here wearing them as I type) is very warm and cosy.


I did make a few mods to the pattern as follows...
  • Added an extra set of cables at the cuff.
  • Added an extra five rows of rib between the cuff cables and the thumb.
  • Added an extra set of cables at the knuckle.
  • Used a standard bind off rather than the picot bind off listed in the pattern.
  • Added an extra four rows to the thumb.
These changes were mostly to accommodate my hands, which are long with equally long, artistic and crafty fingers. I wanted each mitten to be tighter across the knuckle as well as a little longer, so they almost reach the first joint in my fingers, rather than stopping at the knuckles as in the pattern. Once I'd lengthened the bit coming over the fingers, I needed to lengthen the thumb as well to balance things out.

I ditched the picot bind off after reading other knitters comments on Ravelry; the consensus of opinion was that the pattern as written gave a loose fitting mitten across the knuckles, with the bind off designed to flair out in a lady like fashion. Lady like is all very well, but I've knitted these gloves to keep my hands warm while allowing me to retain the use of my fingers, so I decided on a conventional bind off... And I must say I'm very happy with the result.


I even like the way the thumb sits on these mittens, even though it was constructed in exactly the same way as the thumb on Dashing, it just looks so much more balanced... Like it was meant to be there, rather than having be stuck on as an after thought.

One day I will learn how to knit fingers, but in the meantime, I am a happy knitter with toasty hands.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Did someone mention mittens?

As mentioned in a previous post, with Christmas knitting finally out of the way (for the moment at least) I've been focusing on projects for either Dave or myself. The lace shawl is continuing to come along slowly, now standing at 208 rows and I've been working on smaller portable and easier projects alongside it.

I decided to have my first go at gloves or more specifically fingerless mittens picking something for Dave first.

These are 'Dashing' from Knitty which I started at the end of November and finished a few days before heading down to Devon for our seasonal visit. They're knitted in larger size even though Dave's not a large bloke, mainly because I preferred the look of the cables.

These gloves were a doddle to knit and a relatively quick knit, which was just what I was after. I used the best part of a skein of miscellaneous aran weight from my stash, picked up as sale yarn a couple of years ago. The colour is great and for an unknown wool mix, the yarn handled well while I was knitting it. Even better, Dave loves them.

The only thing I wasn't sure about was the thumb.

The thumb hole is initially worked in a waste yarn, which is later ripped out and the resulting loops picked up to be worked as stitches, forming the thumb. In this case, this meant the thumb ends up looking like it's been tacked on as an after thought, or at least it does while the gloves aren't been worn. Once on, the gloves look very good, so perhaps it's just me fretting and being overly fussy.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Is Christmas over already?

Christmas and Boxing Day seem to have passed in a flash, indicating they were both good days. Christmas Day was just Dave, myself and the cats - who begged to be allowed to help eat Christmas Dinner, which was a complete surprise as neither of them are the kind of cats who beg at meal times. We did the church thing, ate far too much, opened pressies and spent a good amount of time on the phone to various relatives.

Present wise, I had a good haul of knitting and crochet related books, including the Encyclopedia of Tunisian Crochet by Angela "ARNIE" Grabowski. Weirdly, I searched for this book on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, but it doesn't seem to be listed. So instead, I've linked to the Google entry and the author has set up a website called ChezCrochet.com which looks worth a look and is largely focused on Tunisian Crochet.

Dave also bought me some tunisian hooks, which look like a cross between a knitting needle and a crochet hook, so naturally Christmas Day evening saw me sat on the sofa trying to make sense of it all.

And here is my first ever Tunisian crochet swatch...

This is Tunisian Knit Stitch (Tks) AKA Stocking Stitch, Stockinette Stitch, Ribbing Stitch and Foundation Stitch. I worked it in a DK yarn on a 5mm hook and as you can see it is very prone to curling.

According to the author, Tunisian crochet has a very high tendency to curl and the only way to counter it is to go up several hook sizes, something I've taken on board although I'm still playing with my trusty 5mm hook at the moment.

Yesterday, Richard and Nat came over for the afternoon and evening to play lots of silly board games. We played Kill Doctor Lucky, Monty Fluxx and Munchkin Booty, all of which were great fun. We also ate a lot of nibbles, drank much tea (made properly from loose leaf proper tea in a tea pot) and I made chicken stew. There was also cake. It was a good day.

There were also more Christmas presents, including this hat which I made for Richard, who put it on as soon as he unwrapped it and kept it on all day!

This is Ribbed Cap from One Skein Wonders. I cast on 120 stitches and knitted it for 10.5 inches before starting the decreases, so it wouldn't be too small. It turned out great.

My other Christmas knits went down relatively well, I think. The feedback I've had so far has been warm and they sound appreciated, which is about all I can ask for really.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Border patrol

Today is Christmas Eve and I'm still trying to clear the laundry, which means that this morning I ventured outside to hang clothes on the line. It was vaguely nice out there for December and so I wasn't hurrying to get back inside before my fingers dropped off.

When I was done hanging out the laundry, I looked up and spotted this...

I know, it's not immediately clear but this was the view from my back step as I looked across at my neighbour's garden. I walked to the end of the garden and zoomed in a bit to get a better shot...

This is the notorious Ginger Tom sitting on our neighbour's bird table, presumably hoping that lunch will drop in. This is the same Ginger who is terrorising Missy and beating up Charlie who it seems is holding his own just lately.

What you're actually seeing here is Ginger sitting on the bird table just over the declared border to our cats' territory and deliberately ignoring Charlie who is guarding the premises.

Missy, having already been tree'd by Ginger once this morning was guarding the back doorstep.

Have a great Christmas!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Seasonal trip home

After a round trip of 650 miles, I'm done with my seasonal visit to the South West having covered numerous addresses in Tedburn St Mary, Plymouth, Bodmin and Penzance over the past few days. Needless to say that while I enjoy catching up with family members that otherwise I'd not see, the whole trip was exhausting. We arrived home at eight-ish last night and once the car was unpacked, my blood sugar levels fell, I had nothing I needed to stay alert for and my brain shutdown.

Today I'm more alert and I even braved the supermarket this morning, in an absolutely necessary foraging trip for food. I knew things would be bad when I had to queue to get into the car park and then spent ten minutes stalking shoppers returning to their cars, so I could nab their parking space the instant they moved.

Inside the store, negotiating past the little automatic gates next to the fruit and veg was bad enough - after that it was an exercise in extreme patience and trolley control. I survived and there is now food in the house, so we're not going to starve in the near future.

This afternoon, Dave and I sorted out the tree. We tend to opt for putting up the tree and seasonal decorations a day or so before Christmas Eve and keep them up until 12th night. Admittedly, if we're horribly busy they might linger for a day or two after that, but that is always the intention. This contrasts with most of my family who put their tree and decorations up by the 1st December and will have them down the day after New Year. Me, I guess I like them up later so they're more special... And I always feel kind of sad when I take them back down.

My brother drove up from Ilford this afternoon to collect the presents for his family that I'd retrieved during my Tour d'South West. It's the first time he's ever visited and was relying on a friends TomTom to get here, which coped admirably even if he couldn't remember any landmarks he might have passed. Navigating via SatNav tends towards concentrating on what it tells you, rather than your surroundings I guess. It was really good to see him, even if the rest of the family couldn't make it due to pressing Christmas shopping (this I understand and sympathise with, Christmas is the season of eternal shopping). My sister-in-law's parents are staying with them this year and they're determined to give them the full family Christmas experience. My brother is in charge of Christmas dinner and says that he's really looking forward to it.

So that's me about done on the Christmas prep this year. All presents have been delivered and all that remains is to wait and see what people think. I'm hoping my knitting and sewing goes down well!

By way of a final reminder for all of those who worry about Father Christmas as he works his way around the world, don't forget you can track his progress via NORAD.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Knit not in haste

That's me all done on the work front this year as I start my Christmas break proper. Today I'm at home, trying to get ready for an incredibly busy weekend. So far things haven't exactly gone to plan as I had to call an insurer with a query about a policy... After over two and half hours on the phone (they did call me back, I'm glad to say) I think it's all sorted, but oh my goodness am I glad I decided to wait until today to make that call. Quite aside from the problem of spending that amount of time on a personal call at work, cubicle living does not lend itself well to private telephone conversations.

Yesterday was the last meeting for the Coventry knitting group where we exchanged our Secret Santa presents and ate chocolate. My Secret Santa gave me a little book of wisdom by the Yarnharlot called Things I Learned from Knitting, Whether I wanted to or Not. I have yet to do more than dip into it, but on first glance it looks very good.

The chocolate came complete with little proverbs and wisdom... All written in French. Fun was had trying to translate said proverbs before handing them over to the resident native French speaking members who did their best to provide an official translation. Some of them came out a bit strange - I think they lost something in the translation.

With my Christmas knitting finally out of the way (last night Jane asked me when I started this year's Christmas knitting and I admitted to February) I've turned my attention to projects intended for either me or Dave. This years knitting has mostly been for other people and so next year I'm going to aim to redress this a bit, with at least every other project being for either me or himself. Stay tuned to see how I get on!

In the meantime, I've picked up the lace project I originally started back in July but put to one side as I tried to get all the other projects I had on the go finished. With the Christmas knitting done, it is very firmly on the front burner again, alongside smaller and simpler projects for when my brain is fried. Lace requires a lot of mental reserves. It is fiddly, needs to be concentrated on and doesn't do well when you have to keep up your side of a conversation... It certainly is not something I'd take to LARP event and it doesn't do well at the knitting group either.

The lace in question is my second project from Victorian Lace Today with the catchy title of Large Rectangle with Centre Diamond Pattern and with no further ado here it is as of this morning...

I know it doesn't look like much on the needles, but that's lace for you. It will continue to look very ratty until it is finished, washed and blocked out properly. In the meantime, let's see it under a little tension provided by pins and with some contrast behind it...

So far I'm one hundred and eighty rows in, that's the border and seventeen repeats of a ten row pattern. There are thirty six repeats in all. Now I'm working on this one again, it is growing steadily but I'm not in a lace mood every night and sometimes I'm just incapable of working on this due to the concentration needed, hence I expect it to continue to grow slowly. But it is getting there... Which is a good thing.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

A quick catchup

Christmas is only a week away now, can you believe it? Although I've been knitting throughout the year in preparation, I'm still shocked that it seems to have crept up on me, I mean where did Autumn go?

It's been all go for me the past week, which is of course why I haven't had time to update here. I did make an effort and post to the Knit-wits blog last week, having remembered to take my camera out for our Christmas meal (well I just about remembered, as we were about to leave the restaurant). Richard commented that there hadn't been anything posted there for a long while so I was stung into action... We are after all still meeting up regularly, we just have our own lives to get on with which means we don't always have time to post on blogs.

I also had my team Christmas Lunch last week, which saw us going to the Coconut Lagoon in Kenilworth. I didn't take my camera along as that would have gained me some odd looks I think. On route to the restaurant, I did spot a wool shop on Kenilworth's high street, which I'm going to have to return and have a proper look at when I get a chance.

Last weekend was the AscendancyLRP Christmas bash, held at Unstone Grange in Derbyshire. It was the first time we'd used that site, so I approached it with some trepidation. As it was, I needn't have worried - the house itself was a quirky, sprawling maze of rooms and staircases with a decent sized kitchen, heaters in each bedroom, central heating downstairs and blazing open fires in the main sitting rooms. The place seems to be run as a communal project, mostly maintained by volunteers and run on a shoestring budget. It's a lovely old house though.

I did have one mishap, in the form of mistakenly placing my boots at the end of my bed on Friday night as the heavens opened outside. As it rained and rained and rained, I slept on oblivious but in the morning, when I went to put my boots on I discovered they contained an inch of water! Closer inspection revealed the carpet and the dresser at the end of the bed to be rather soggy as well, so although I didn't see any drips the roof was obviously leaking. No one else had a similar problem, so I must have been really unlucky with where I chose to put my boots that night.

Fortunately, we were indoors and in a warm house with large radiators... I found a radiator in an out of the way place and my boots spent the morning drying out. By early afternoon they were dry and I had nice toasty toes.

The event itself was an interesting one; not at all upbeat or cheery in the way traditional for a Christmas party. Moral dilemma's abounded and I'm still not sure I fully understood what was going on.

I did however drink lots of tea and sit by the fire a lot. And I got some knitting done... Very unusual for an event, but I can sit and talk while I knit, which is what I spent quite a bit of the time doing, so in all it was a pleasant and relaxing weekend for me.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Commuting is not for me, I think

I'm back in the land of internet access, having survived a week of intense technical sessions courtesy of the UKOUG. The conference itself was as good as expected (from a techie perspective) with the usual mixed bag of lectures in terms of usefulness, but the majority well presented which always helps.

Commuting to and from Birmingham via public transport last week was, as it always is, an experience. I walked the two miles to the train station each day and a further mile or so to the conference centre at the other end, before hanging around for trains which didn't stick to the timetable but turned up when they wanted to.

Once on the train I did get a seat each day, both in the morning and on the way back in the evening, but... Why oh why, do people insist on thinking seats are for their bags, or feet, or stray body parts? Even in rush hour? Why do they look at you like you're imposing in the most horrendous way when you ask if the seat is free? Do they really need to sprawl into your seat after you've sat down, once they've grudgingly moved their bag of course? And shouldn't working toilets be kind of expected? And what's with the games the platform staff and train managers play, where they insist another train heading in the same direction is leaving the station first, only to pull away from the platform the instant a hundred or so passengers scurry from the first train to the second? (I wasn't caught out by this one, having fought through to my seat I wasn't moving, no matter what the train manager said!)

Ah fun...

I did get to poke around the German Christmas Market in Birmingham while I was passing through. I think my tolerance threshold for tat has dropped over the years, as while I admired the many knitted hats, sheepskin gloves and sweets on offer, I wasn't tempted by ornaments made out of junk, touristy 'African' carvings or smelly candles. I was upset on Friday afternoon to discover it was raining when I set off from the conference centre. I'd been walking past the many cakes and sweets all week and had intended to treat myself... But as it was, heavily laden down with conference bag and juggling an umbrella, I didn't have sufficient spare hands to manage a sticky treat as well.

This weekend was spent doing housework, tidying and then wrapping Christmas gifts, to the point where I didn't really have any spare time at all. It was telling, that on Saturday I didn't knit a single stitch on existing projects let alone achieve any real crafting. I am about sorted though. And the living room is looking a little clearer; I say a little because it's a small house and while I can move things from one place to another, there is only so much I'm willing to throw away.

Only seven more working days til Christmas, yay!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Saturday on the go

With only two free weekends left before Christmas (the curse of a busy life, where the LRP season never ends and relatives live a long way away) and family negotiations still ongoing for December/January, I needed to make this one count. So today we headed up to the big Tesco to do our Christmas food shopping...

Sadly, my drive to be efficient was thwarted. Nothing seemed to be where it should be and despite being a big store, the selections on offer were still very poor, so I guess I'm going to have to try again - possibly while roaming around Devon and Cornwall.

We did drop by Next and I bought a hat, so I have something to wear on my head when walking to and from the train station next week. I'm booked onto a conference Monday to Friday, so I'll be commuting to Birmingham each day where I will listen to all sorts of lectures about Oracle databases. I've looked at the agenda and can say hand firmly on heart that I predict a heavy week, long hours and an overload of technical information as I endure death by Powerpoint.

Naturally, while we were in the vicinity we dropped into Borders - drawn primarily by the Starbucks coffee shop. I browsed the magazines and noted the existance of 'Sew Hip' which is published by the same folks as Yarn Forward. As with YF, Sew Hip is not sealed in plastic so you can browse it before buying, is a British sewing magazine and definitely worth a second glance. I didn't pick it up as none of the sewing projects called to me and I'm not finding time to sew at the moment, but I was impressed by the amount of readable content - real articles which looked like they might be interesting! This is a mag I'm going to keep an eye out for in future methinks.

I did succumb and buy a single book - Vogue Knitting on the Go: Crochet Shawls. What can I say other than I picked it up and as I flicked through, suddenly found myself wanting to pick up a crochet hook there and then (Ravelry link). This is happening quite a bit lately as I've done quite a bit of knitting this year, but precious little crochet and I'm finding myself hankering after the hook.

Other than that, today has been about tidying; I bought some packing crates and I resumed trying to put things away. I can't say I threw anything away, but I've earmarked some things to go to charity shops and Freecycle, which is a start I guess.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Purpley goodness...

Today is a grey day out there and very smokey, as our next door neighbour decided to light a massive fire in his back garden last night. I'm at home, taking a well earned day off from work in compensation for working through the weekend two weeks ago. So far, that has meant I've spent the day doing housework, but I'm hoping to spend some time with my spinning wheel this afternoon...

In the meantime, I've popped online to catch up on the news and to post some pictures of another finished project.

Here is the second Stolen Moments Wrap.

This was knitted up using another ten balls of Paton's Funky Chunky, this time in an aubergine colour which I think has come out quite well in the photographs. I used 9mm needles since they'd worked well on the first wrap and wasn't disappointed with the result.

The wrap has been lightly blocked to open out the lace pattern and came out at 227cm x 48cm, so quite sizeable and equally snuggly as the first.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Summer once more...

I'm sat here pondering the significance of VAT being lowered temporarily to 15%, wondering if/how that is going to persuade folks to spend money the way the government want them to and if we aren't just storing up a whole lot more trouble for later. Tax cuts are one thing, but not if the deficit they provoke means tax hikes for years to come - but then, I'll admit to being largely ignorant of the world of big finance.

There was little sign of reluctance of people to spend money at the weekend, as we took to Coventry's high street to tackle the bulk of our Christmas shopping. A lot of the stores seemed to have sales of one sort or another on this weekend which Coventry's populace was out in force to take advantage of. There were people everywhere and the queues were frighteningly long, but in the end, after a day of fighting our way through the crowds, we just about finished tackling the list.

The rest of the weekend was spent wading through housework and trying to finish outstanding projects. I washed and blocked the wrap I've been working on, then spent some time staring at the cotton bag, started way back in July. It just looked too plain. The yellow and orange of the bag fabric weren't gelling for me and the bag just looked unfinished.

In the end, I decided to scatter some buttons across the front flap to see if they tied things in and after some more careful consideration, it seemed to be the thing to do.

This bag is loosely based on 'Flora' published in Let's Knit magazine.

I say loosely based, because other than the inspiration, I've changed pretty much everything.

The bag was supposed to be knit using moss stitch stripes, as a fold over bucket bag. I decided against the stripes as I wanted to use up stashed Peaches and Cream cotton, which (as you can see) was already very busy. The bucket bag meanwhile, was originally intended to be knit as a huge square and then folded in half lengthwise. This fell by the wayside when I lost the will to live half way through and decided to knit a large 'L' shape instead.

I kept the idea of a flower on the front of the bag, but didn't like the knitted one depicted by the designer so switched it for one from Crochet Inspiration.

The method of fastening the flap remained the same, being what drew me to the bag in the first place. It's a traditional method that I've only seen on re-enactment items before; two buttons with a cord sewn under one button and wrapped around the other. The cord is held in place by friction and gravity, aided by adding a weight (i.e. beads) to the bottom of the cord. In this case, I made a 'S' twist cord out of perle cotton and threaded on a couple of beads from my stash attached it as the 'stem' for my flower, as per the original design.

Finally, again differing from the original instructions for this bag, I decided to line it to minimise stretching. I scoured my stash until I found a suitable piece of pink cotton and used the finished knitted fabric as a pattern. Unfortunately, between measuring the unsewn bag and sewing it up, the knitted fabric relaxed meaning that by the time I got around to sewing in the lining, it was suddenly too big for the bag.

I tried re-blocking the flap, but no matter how much steam I threw at it, the cotton kept shrinking back to its new size. I considered taking the lining out and starting again, but given how long I've been working on this bag and that it's an intended Christmas present, I wasn't keen, besides which the main problem seemed to be the lining seperating from the flap. The only way I could see to fix it would be to use iron-on interfacing to permanently stretch or stabalise the knitted fabric, which kind of defeats the point of using a knitted fabric entirely.

This was my ulterior motive for attaching random buttons to the front of the bag's flap, I was borrowing on an idea from making quilts, where you sew through the multiple quilt layers at intervals, anchoring them together and sometimes, placing buttons at these anchor points. The decorative shell buttons (picked up from the Singer shop in Coventry) are not only pretty, they're helping to stabalise the lining on the back of the flap.

Overall, I'm happy with the finished result, but most of all, I'm happy that I finally finished this bag as it was turning into one of those projects which never seems to be done! But here we are... It's bright, cheerful, girly and completely at odds with the season. Finally.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A continuing theme...

Work has been the theme of the past week or so and will be continuing for the next few days, as I camp out at work (not really, but it seems like it sometimes) as I plod through a series of application upgrades. This is really fun stuff, which saw me work long days on Saturday and Sunday and means that I haven't had time to do much of anything else at all.

You can tell it too by looking around my house. Dave has done some cleaning, but we do things differently. I'm also currently refusing to acknowledge the massive pile of ironing which is waiting for me to be at home long enough to deal with it. I will be at home this coming weekend and see my days filled with housework, frantic Christmas shopping, calling home and trying to finish ongoing projects.

In the meantime, I'll fill the blog vacuum with pictures of Dave's creative endeavours in the form of his orks, which he insisted I photograph.

This fellow is actually a troll, or so I'm told. He actually has quite a sweet, pleading expression on his face...

Whereas this one...

... Just seems to be in a terrible rush to get somewhere. I love the little guy hanging on in there in the back.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

eBay Dodgy Geezers

I started poking about on eBay again looking for another water pistol after the previous one failed to materialise.

My hopes went up when I spotted a gun very similar to the one I'm currently borrowing from Claire and then I scrolled down the page to check the seller's payment instructions and came across this...
  • No refunds are given, PAYMENT WITHIN ONE WEEK NO EXCUSES.
  • I take no responsibility for any items lost or damage in the post, its up to you to claim compensation from the post office. So if you require recorded delivery please ask.
Which rather threw me.

As a customer who buys many things over the internet, if I pay for goods which I don't receive or arrive in a less than ideal condition, I'm going to consider it the seller's problem not mine.

I checked eBay's policy and it's clear - the seller is responsible for ensuring the goods get to the buyer (although they're free to charge exorbitant amounts for this service).

If good's don't arrive, are damaged or not as described, eBay advise you to talk to the seller and hopefully sort things out amicably. Failing that if you paid with PayPal they'll refund you providing you make a claim within 45 days (eBay then start investigating the seller).

If you didn't pay via PayPal your position is a little less clear cut, although if you bought directly with a credit card they'll hopefully refund the monies. If all else fails, eBay advise you to report the seller to the police!

All of which seems very definite to me - the seller is responsible for supplying you with goods you've paid for, anything else is theft!

I hasten to add that the eBay trader I was originally trying to buy a water pistol from gave me an immediate refund when I queried its whereabouts. No problem there at all.

As for the other trader with that oh so tempting super soaker... He's not getting my bid, that much is for certain!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

At least it didn't snow...

It's Armistice Day already and I'm wondering how it got to be the middle of November already? I had a moment of panic on Sunday night when I realised how few 'free' weekends I have between now and Christmas, with the same sense of panic intruding everytime I look at my diary at work. The end of the year is creeping up on us with frightening speed!

The weekend just gone was spent at Murton Park, in York playing in an AscendancyLRP game. It was the end of a mini campaign and a good event, if a little upsetting for my character who's family came under fire again (honestly, they're not exactly the luckiest bunch). There was also an odd moment when a big, gribbly type was throwing his weight around and I stepped back looking for the usual suspects to leap in there and deal with him... Only to realise none of the usual suspects were with us and *I* was going to have to step in in their stead!

The main problem of the weekend, as far as I was concerned at least, was how cold it was. The huts at Murton are very roughly put together and far more drafty than my garden shed with the added limitation of the dark ages lacking 'glass'. This meant that to be able to see inside your hut, you have to open windows which in turn means letting the elements in.

When there's a brisk, freezing cold gale blowing out there opening the window is a brave option and results in your contact lenses blowing off your finger tips before you can put them in your eyes... So perhaps it would have been better to try to put them in using torchlight. A lesson learnt there methinks.

Thermals were a must under my costume and four season sleeping bags combined with a stack of blankets meant we were warm enough at night once we were in bed. Meanwhile, my feet were cold all weekend, particularly my poor toes which I lost contact with on Sunday despite wearing proper walking boots and two pairs of socks. My fingers faired better inside their double insulated gloves, although one crew member did comment on how cold my hands were when I was administering 'medical' assistance.

On the plus side, I did make friends with a goat during the weekend, who apparently decided I knew how to scritch him just in the right place. More photo's here courtesy of Richard who made it to the event despite having a cold.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Dark, cold, wet and windy - where did the weekend go?

It's been a grey, cold, wet and windy weekend with barely a glimpse of the sun to lessen the gloom. We stepped outside the door on Saturday to nip to the local shops and it was bitter out there. The cats however loved it, dashing about with the wind up their tails and attacking any tree debris which landed in the garden.

It was a bitty weekend as far as crafts go. I wound the plied singles off my spindle and used two chairs to skein it up. I still need to wash the resulting first ever yarn before I take photos to record it for posterity. I want to see if the yarn 'blooms' (as Claire told me it should) and if that improves the whole thing. Otherwise, it's a yarn I describe as... er... full of character.

Not that I'd have got very far with the camera this weekend, it's been so dark that getting decent pictures would have been very hard.

I've also cracked on with the cotton bag, making up the lining and sewing the bag itself together. I'm still working my way around the edge of the lining, which I'm hand sewing in so I can keep the stitches small. Once I'm done, it's going to need another good pressing with steam to finish it off, but otherwise it's looking good.

Yesterday (Sunday) we headed off to the Living History Fayre with Richard, where I indulged in a spot of Christmas shopping and found some wool.

'Five Shades of Sheep' (no photo's as of yet) from Sally Pointer, was a packet of five 50g balls of undyed handspun wool in varying natural shades. It should knit up as DK and according to the label, has approx 120m a skein. I bought two packets and so I guess I'm going to need to think of a suitable project for it to add to the end of my never ending queue.

Mostly though I was good and just bought Christmas presents. I did pass on the snail slime creme though... While tempting, it was just too expensive as something that when I gift it, is likely to be thought of as a joke.

We came back via a pub for lunch, which turned into an afternoon of nattering so that by the time we made it home it was going on 4:30pm. Where did the day and the weekend go?

Friday, 31 October 2008

Winter warmer

Yesterday I worked from home, much to both the cats' delight, as I was expecting my new fridge/freezer to be delivered. Since the delivery time was set at between 08:30 and 14:30 I was taken by surprise when they knocked on the door at 08:20! So taken by surprise that I had only just emptied the fridge, the freezer having been defrosting for the past two days and was in the process of giving it a wipe out.

The delivery men were nice enough. They even unpacked the fridge/freezer and put it in the right place in the kitchen. Given the size of the thing (I'm still in shock at its hugeness) there is no way I could have moved it, so that was good of them - and believe me, not all delivery men will unpack large items and put them where you want them.

Dave arrived home last night and spent a lot of time with the door open admiring the spacious fridge. So much time, the fridge began beeping at him and flashing its light... It is fitted with an alarm to encourage you to shut the door, how excellent is that?

The only downside of yesterday was that working at home, I was bitterly cold. The house itself may not have been as cold as all that, but sitting still and typing is not a good thing when its not overly warm and you have bad circulation. I finally gave up and put the heating on... And I'm now thinking I need to knit some fingerless gloves for just such a situation.

I took the finished Stolen Moments Wrap (Ravelry Link) with me to the knitting group on Wednesday, where it was stroked, admired and passed the 'cheek' test with flying colours. The cheek test is when you hold something up to your face to test its softness... Something never to be done I hasten to add (unless you want the wrath of a knitter or store owner) with hand made things or yarn or fabric, if you are wearing makeup of any kind.

These first two pictures capture the colour of this autumnal yarn well, with the other two making it look more of a red, despite having been taken only a few moments later.

The pattern is the Stolen Moments Wrap by Amy Swenson (Ravelry pattern and designer) and I knitted it on 9mm needles, using Paton's Funky Chunky, a super bulky and very under spun yarn.

The pattern itself is a simple four row lace pattern, really consisting of two rows with every other repeat being displaced by two stitches which gives the diagonal lines you can see running across the wrap. It is a very easy pattern and once you settle into it, very quick to do and combined with super chunky wool, litterally flies off the needles.

Knitting with Funky Chunky is an experience, as the yarn has a high wool content and sticks to itself, making it difficult to correct any mistakes. The underspun nature of the yarn also makes it very splitty and easy to break, so the lesson here was to handle the yarn very gently.

That all said, it is a lovely yarn with a nice sheen. It is very lofty and sitting in my lap, the whole thing was very warm, while the finished product is cosy and soft to the touch.

I like it, so much so that I'm making a second one in a sort of purpley colour.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Winter is apparently here

Today I cycled in to work because it was dry and clear, except for the odd sleet shower which I dodged with some excellent timing.

It is now snowing!

Spookily and unheard of, the BBC's weather site were absolutely spot on with their forecast. I checked this morning as alarmed to see the Beeb's 24 hour forecast predicting snow at 3pm...

The snow started at 3:05pm.

That kind of accuracy will never be repeated.

In other news, the eBay trader I ordered a water pistol has just refunded my money after two emails to ask where the required toy is. It seems to be lost in the post. This means I shall have to trawl eBay again looking for another one I guess. Ho hum.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Lessons learnt

This weekend, we learnt not to soak the invading Ginger with water when our cat Charlie is watching. Otherwise, when Ginger turns tail to run away our normally passive, sweet natured cat will take this to mean that he's scared him off and leap on his rival, starting the fight you're trying to prevent...


Much blood and fur later, Charlie limped back into the house and spent the rest of the evening being quiet. This morning he seems no worse for his experience. I'm hoping the same can be said of Ginger.

The focus of this weekend (when not trying to break up cat fights) was Christmas shopping. I have an unreasonably large family and with only a few free weekends available between now and the date itself, I had to get cracking.

All of this means that I didn't really have much time this weekend to do anything crafty. I did start making up the lining for the cotton bag, cutting it out, lining the strap and making up a little pocket. I just have to starting sewing everything together now.

The Stolen Moment's Wrap has been transformed by blocking and I'll post about it in due course, with photographs - which means waiting for suitable light levels.

Oh and I had my first go at plying on a spindle this weekend.

We've rigged up a lazy kate from a plastic box with some knitting needles from a charity shop which worked, but may need some adjusting before I try again. I'd measured the holes based on the assumption that I'd be using bobbins, forgetting that I've wound my singles off onto the cardboard tubes found inside toilet paper rolls. Due to the vast difference in hole size, the cardboard tube drops onto the bottom of the box which means it doesn't rotate cleanly.

That aside, the lazy kate did work and I did get the singles to twist in the other direction, taking on the resemblance of plied yarn. I was working on my first spindle spun singles and the quality varied considerably, so trying to get a balanced finished product was never going to be easy.

I shall have to wind the result off the spindle and skein it up, wash and dry it... Then I'll take a photo for posterity.

Friday, 24 October 2008

The Siege Continues

Still no sign of the water pistol and the campaign of terror by Ginger cat continues unabated. Dave caught him on Wednesday night with the borrowed water pistol and reports that the invading cat ran away, but it hasn't stopped Charlie getting badly mauled this week.

One particularly nasty bite on the back of his ear had me particularly worried to the point I was threatening a visit to the vet. Fortunately, it responded to repeated thorough washing with Hibiscrub (fantastic stuff for cleansing skin around cuts on both humans and cats) and is now healing nicely. Charlie, sweet tempered lump that he is, is very tolerant, allowing me to examine his ear and wash the area, despite the soapy and inevitable sogginess.

I've just emailed the Ebay trader concerned, so I'm hopeful I'll have news of the water pistol soon, although it's not going to stop the maulings since Ginger obviously got him when he was in another garden.


Knitting meanwhile continues, as I try to get through my list of intended Christmas presents.

I've made good progress this week and can't sing the praises of chunky wool and big needles enough! True, the very lightly spun wool is a pain to work, but it grows very, very quickly, meaning I've managed to whip up a five foot (ish) wrap in about ten days! Some blocking is required, which I'll hopefully get to this weekend but for the curious, I've made the Stolen Moments Wrap (Ravelry Link) and it's a great pattern.

The only trouble is, that I think that to really finish it off I need to add a shawl pin. A nice big one. I've spent my lunch hour scouring Etsy and Ebay, but come up empty, so the hunt is on...

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The stash grows ever bigger...

It's been a good weekend, although more expensive than I had intended!

Yesterday (Saturday), I headed down to Long Buckby for a Knit and Natter meeting organised by the Machine Knitter's Guild. I took along Claire as my chief navigator (yay for Google Maps) and we got there in good time, with no serious mishaps other than a missed left turn which came up on us rather quicker than expected, with a distinct lack of signage.

The meeting wasn't just machine knitting, far from it. I spent the morning learning about Tunisian crochet, which was interesting. I was working on a very small stitch count so I could make my swatch on a standard crochet hook - which was just as well as there were only so many proper crochet hooks available to borrow and Tunisian crochet proved to be very popular!

Jane was there, demonstrating sock knitting on a machine and she seem to be surrounded every time I looked in her direction. A lady was there teaching some sort of hand knitting technique... Couldn't say what exactly as I was engrossed with crochet while this was going on. A trader was there selling second hand books and Uppingham Yarns were there selling the stringy stuff...


I succumbed to the lure of some reasonably priced James C Brett aran wool mix.

In the afternoon there was a talk on surface embellishment from Fiona Morris, a knitwear designer (Ravelry link) and teacher of what I'd call textile art. What can I say other than wow! The lady knows her stuff and is very talented... An afternoon of listening to ideas and techniques to aspire to.

Some time later, I dropped Claire home and borrowed a water pistol since mine is still in transit. I presented it to Dave a short while later, who immediately filled it and stalked around the garden squirting water everywhere. When I asked what he was doing, he claimed he'd seen a hint of ginger fur next door and began a barage of saturation fire across our neighbour's garden.

Today, I headed off to Web of Wool with Christina. I wasn't intending to buy anything, honest! But this sock wool called to me.

Other wool also called to me, but I did manage a tiny amount of self restraint and put it back.

I picked up some crochet hooks as well, then headed home before I bought any of the other wonderful things surrounding me.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Birthday roundup

Still no sign of the giant water pistol, although I'm checking the post here at work on a regular basis and I brought my bungee's in special today, so I can tote it home on the back of the bike. I hope it turns up soon as the weekend is looming and Ginger is bound to be out and about at the same time as my cats, so having a deterrent to hand would be nice.

Yesterday was my birthday and Dave (wonderful person that he is) took my heavy hints (I sent him links) and I am now the proud owner of a set of Knit Picks Harmony Options. He is now officially an enabler and is feeding my habit. :)

He now says that having got me the perfect birthday present, he is stuck on what to get me for Christmas. He is very happy with battery heated socks that Richard gave me to combat the evil that is my toes in winter. To me though, my frozen toes are obviously a sign that I need to knit more socks... And this time, for *me*.


Currently on the needles is a stole knitted in a thick chunky yarn and as the first time I've worked with such big needles/yarn it is growing remarkably quickly. I am having problems with the yarn though, which is very underspun - as a beginnings spinner, I actually know what that means now - and pulls apart very easily. It is very soft though and the stole, when sitting in my lap at least, is very warm. All of which means it should be a good gift, I hope.

When this one is done, I intend to make another, again not for me. I really, really do need to start knitting for me (and Dave of course).

I finally castoff the knitted bits for the cotton bag I started back in July. Here is, just off the needles...
I gave it a good steaming a little while after I took these pictures, so it's looking more regular and is ready to be sewn together. I searched my stash and I think I've a suitable piece of pink cotton that will do the trick, but it needs to be washed and ironed before I'll be ready to work on that, which is my excuse why I haven't started sewing up the bag.

I did make a nice flower though to go on the front...

This is from Crochet Inspiration and is a complete deviation from the original patterm which I abandonned half way through knitting the bag and haven't looked at since.

At some point soon, there will be some sewing up, honest!

And finally, I've been reading here all about the antics my brother is up to in China where he's been sent as part of a school exchange thing... Except the Chinese teachers aren't allowed to return the visit so I guess it's more about the cultural exchange of teaching ideas. While it is all very serious of course, Robert does seem to be enjoying sampling the local food. It's enough to make you very hungry!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Under Siege

Our house is currently under siege and has been for about the past week, due to a local tomcat who has upped his ongoing campaign to claim our garden as his personal territory. The cat in question is a beautiful ginger tabby and most likely a much loved pet, but he is also an absolute terror and is waging war on my kitties, which is not a good thing.

This has been going on for a while and certainly is not news in our house. Charlie in particular is being bullied constantly by this cat who was responsible for the wounds that saw us heading off for an emergency visit to the vet back in August. Charlie is rather timid at the best of times (except around us, because we are the best thing ever - after Missy of course) and easily spooked, so being beaten up every time he steps outside the door isn't doing wonders for his self confidence.

Missy is doing better as she is fast, very fast... And she is mean if provoked... And she is a very proficient tree climber. However, Ginger has taken to hanging around outside our back door hoping to jump our pair the instant they set foot outside the house, which has meant he's tree'd her far too frequently of late. And of course, if Missy is jumped, Charlie wades in to defend her (as she watches from a safe height) which means he gets beaten up again.

Things are escalating. I've even had to drive the ginger tom away from the back door as he tried to pursue Missy inside. Charlie is becoming reluctant to go out until I've checked the coast is clear and I'm fed up of having to dive out into the garden in my pajamas to break up a cat fight every morning.

I think the lady next door and her daughter are fed up with it too as this morning's fracas brought both of them outside as well.

So I've succumbed. I've combed Ebay and I've just bought a large water pistol so that Dave and I can defend our borders. I don't know if it will work, but if a good soaking every time he sets a paw in our (or next doors) garden makes Ginger think twice about hanging around, it can only be a good thing... So it's worth a try methinks.

Monday, 6 October 2008

A blanket and some berries

The weather deteriorated on Saturday night so that by Sunday morning, we woke to driving rain, much to the cats' disgust. Missy (being an extreme weather cat of some standing) sprinted out of the door, heading for the bottom of the garden at speed... Charlie went back to bed.

Things did improve by early afternoon and Dave spent a few hours out in the garden, digging things up, cutting things down and planting some sticks. The sticks were in fact a lucky find, in the form of heavily pruned redcurrent, blackcurrent, gooseberry and raspberry bushes spotted in the Poundshop in town, next to the halloween props (which we'd gone in to look at). Given our repeated dismal failure to grow anything of worth in our garden, bets are now being taken on whether they'll survive until spring let along fruit!

While Dave was getting creative in the garden, I got out my spinning wheel again for an hour or two. I haven't touched the wheel since last weekend, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that in that time, I seem to have finally got the hang of it!

I'm still concentrating on drafting and I'm happy to report that things were a lot easier yesterday. I'm still not producing a single of consistant thickness, but... the panic is gone. I seem to have loosened up and relaxed a whole lot which meant I could hold the fibrestore loosely enough to draw fibres from it. I even seem to be able to stop and start the wheel without everything going to pot and I managed to walk the single up and down the hooks on the flyer the way you're supposed to, producing a much neater looking bobbin. In short, after a tense first five minutes, I was actually enjoying myself, which can only be a good thing.

I'm also thinking about how to improvise a lazy kate, which I think I'm going to need soon as I prepare to tackle the heady heights of spinning, known as plying.

No photographs this time as the light was awful and I'm not sure that another bobbin shot would show much.

I do however have another finished project - hurrah!

I finally cast off the preemie blanket I started for jury service back in July.

This is a waffle stitch blanket, pattern here, although to be honest the pattern wasn't much help. The stitch count and instructions don't really cut it as the maths is completely wrong. If you do want to make this blanket, the stitch count should work out to 15 + a multiple of 6.

In my case, I made a largish blanket but kept it within the guidelines for blanket size for SCBU cribs, so it's 60cm square based on 135 stitches.

I like the blanket and the way it turned out, but I learnt a valuable lesson from this one. A knitted blanket, even if made for the tiniest of recipients is a major undertaking and will take a long time... This compares to all other blankets I've ever made which were crocheted and just seem to grow an awful lot faster rather than sitting there being knit on but never going anywhere for weeks on end. Not to say I'd never knit another blanket of course, just next time I need to remember how long it will take a slow, tight knitter like me!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Holiday Socks finally done

Today has been a welcome day off from work, which has been horribly busy the past few days and so (predictably I guess) I spent the entire day in town shopping. I bought sock wool (I shouldn't have really, but it was so pretty and so reasonably priced) and even picked up a few Christmas pressies, so I guess all is good. It's been a tiring and cold day, with autumn here in earnest and outside it's becoming stormy, with the wind doing some vigourous shaking of the trees out there.

To round the day off, a posting I was intending to write a couple of days ago but just haven't got around to.

I finally finished the socks I cast on to take on the weeklong AscendancyLRP game back in August.
Here they are modelled by Dave, but intended as a Christmas present for my father.

This is a plain sock knitted as per the basic sock recipe from the Yarn Harlot and detailed in Knitting Rules!. As such, there isn't a real pattern as such, I just worked on my guage (7 stitches per inch, slightly stretched on 2.5mm needles) and since my father's feet are about the same size as Dave's, used his feet as the guide.

These are knitted in Regia Jaquard 4-ply, colourway 5175, which as you can see is a sort of charcoal grey.

I'm still in shock at how long its taken me to knit these socks and I really don't have an excuse for why. I'm currently putting it down to having too many projects on the needles at the same time and not enough hours free to indulge in knitting. Anyway they're done now and I'm pleased with how they came out.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Spinning away the weekend

The autumn term has started and predictably, things are a tad busy at work and I've just started work on a new project. Thursday and Friday last week were spent in meetings, where I discovered that I'm unlikely to make it to the NEC for the Hobbycrafts/Crafts For Christmas show as I'll be working that weekend. It also seems I'll be heading off to Stirling in early November for a technical working group and I need to sort out some dates for training next year.

In the wake of all this, Dave abandonned Coventry for Ripley leaving me alone for the weekend as I was on call. On call means I 'volunteered' to stay close to a phone and able to respond within half an hour if there was a problem with any of the systems I support. Fortunately, it was a quiet weekend and I didn't get called, so after doing the household chores I decided to spend some quality time trying to get to know my spinning wheel.

I bought some Blue Faced Leicester from Wingham Wool Work last week and it is beautiful, with a lovely soft hand to it. The staple fibres must be at least 12cm long and it is a gorgeous blend of colours, described as humbug on their website. I tried to take a photo of a single fibre for this blog, but my camera fu failed me and the single fibre kept floating away, refusing to sit nicely beside the ruler so you could see how long it was.

Instead, I took a photo of the fleece itself so you can hopefully see the blend of colours.

I dragged the wheel out of its corner, dusted it down and unwound from the bobbin the semi felted fluff I'd spun up a couple of weeks ago. The single was of mixed quality, sometimes falling apart and at others, looking like properly spun thread which may have been saved. As it was, with only the odd meter of good yarn there, I threw the lot away and moved on.

I watched the DVD Claire loaned me and while it was interesting, it again lacked detail, sort of teasingly touching on all sorts of subjects but then quickly moving on. I think I'm going to go back and look at it again though, paying attention to the people's hands as they're drafting, which is still my problem area.

Having watched a DVD showing people spinning, I sat down at the wheel and tried again.

This time, my efforts were more successful although I seem to have a major battle for co-ordination going on there. The wheel puts spin into the drafted fibre but starts travelling up into the fibre store the instant my attention and grip lapses. This means that I end up holding the fibre very tightly to counter this, which I think is impeding the drafting process, since if the fibres can't pull past each other they can't be drafted.

Every now and then I did get into a rhythm though, with my grip relaxing and for maybe a few minutes, I'd be spinning properly. Then I'd lose it again, with the twist racing for the unspun fibre or the spun single getting too thin (I obviously have a repressed desire to spin laceweight). In the case of the latter, since very thin singles need a lot of twist to hold together, the single inevitably pulled apart on me.

At this point, I invented a little hooky thing for pulling the single off the bobbin and back through the oriface. Previously a paper clip, it worked a treat although the design may need a little refinement before I use the wheel again.

After spending about two and a half hours over Saturday and Sunday spinning, this is what I have to show for it...
Again, I'd not claim the quality of this single is going to be much good. The yarn is very thin in places, so probably won't hold up under tension and the thickness of the rest varies considerably.

In my defence, I wasn't trying to produce a nice even single at this stage. Instead, I was trying to get a feel for the hand movements and drafting, while keeping up with the wheel and controlling how much spin was in the fibre - all of which felt horribly complicated, rushed and a far cry from the relaxing action of spinning on a spindle.

In other words, much, much more practice is needed!