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!