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.