Sunday, 28 June 2009

A gentleman's nightcap

I'm way behind on my blogging, but with holidays out of the way, I can finally reveal the top secret project that I've been working on for the past couple of months. Well, when I say 'top secret', those who know me in person saw me working on it, but I've avoided blogging anything as the intended recipient reads this blog.

Last year, I spied this pattern on Knitty for a 1840's gentleman's nightcap.

If you look at the link, you'll see that this pattern was originally published in The Workwoman's Guide in 1838, by an anonymous author who signed herself 'A Lady'... Franklin Habit (who's blog often features the adventures of Delores the sheep) reworked the pattern for the modern knitter, suggesting it as an example of 'manly' lace. From his blog entries on the subject, he thought of it as a historical curiousity, possibly of interest for the lace brim or as a baby's bonnet...

But there are those of us who do know potential Victorian gentlemen who might have a cold head, hence the reason we might want to knit it.

This is Richard, who likes hats.



Richard also has the LARP bug and is something of a re-enactor, which means he has a reason to collect hats of all sorts for costume purposes. I saw this pattern last autumn and immediately thought of him. Sadly, my Christmas knitting list was already very full with items for my numerous relatives and I didn't see me managing to make it in time for December, so I decided to try to make it for his birthday which was earlier this month.

I queued the pattern on Ravelry and watched carefully as other knitters attempted to make it, with mixed success. The main problem seemed to be gauge, with quite a few people's efforts resulting in a hat of elephantine proportions. Franklin himself commented on the problems on his blog, reminding people that this was a lace weight project intended for tiny, tiny needles and that if you made it from a heavier yarn, you'd need to gauge up.

This seemed sensible, but after thinking about it (and after all, I had plenty of time to knit it) I decided the thing to do was to find the right yarn, find the size needles it knit up well on and then re-gauge accordingly. i.e. work out the correct gauge for the yarn I wanted to use on the needles which suited it best.

I had a plan.

After much thought, I decided on a crochet cotton I'd seen Steelbreeze using for her Blusa Queen (yes, the pattern is in Portuguese - Steelbreeze is a brave lady), a sort of lacy cardigan she's been working away on. This cotton is very soft and wearable, not like many crochet cottons that I seem to see for sale which while shiny, are a bit scratchy.

The cotton in question is a No. 10 called Clea 1000, from Circulo, bought from Yarnstick who is a small trader based in Birmingham.

After a bit of playing around, I decided it knitted up in stocking stitch nicely on 2mm needles, to a gauge of - 38st x 60rows = 10cm.

Next, I needed Richard's head measurement and despite sneakily trying to measure his hats at events, I wasn't doing very well. I discovered that Richard often buys hats because he likes them, rather than because they fit him very well. So, I guestimated that I'd need to size the brim at about 60cm, working on the basis that if I'd sized up, then a loose night cap was much better than a very tight one which would cut off the circulation to his head while he slept (yes, I kept its original function very much in mind).

The lace border on this hat has a 13 stitch repeat, meaning I needed to cast on a multiple of 13 stitches to make it work. So I cast on 221 stitches on my 2mm needles, bought specially for the job, which gave me an expected brim circumference of approx 59cm.

I started to knit, only to discover nine rows in that while I'd checked and double checked that there was no twist when I joined for circular knitting, somehow I'd managed to knit one in. I ripped the whole thing back and restarted... And did exactly the same thing again!

The third time, I became paranoid, checking there was no twist at the end of each round. I was using a very long (150cm) 2mm needle, with the magic loop method and the only thing I could think of was, that I must somehow be pulling the needles up on the wrong side of the knitting.

This time it worked and the brim knitted up fairly quickly... Then I entered some sort of weird temporal dimension where no matter how much I knit this hat, it never seemed to grow at all.

I plodded on determined to finish this hat and after starting it on 14th April, I finally cast off on 12 June! There followed a hurried scramble to add a tassel (my first ever) and wash and dry the hat, finishing it mere hours before I handed it over to the birthday boy.


I am happy with the result and think that all things considered it came out well, but I am relieved that it is finally done. And I do not want to make another one any time soon!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Our first proper holiday, ever...

Dave and I are back in Coventry, after a week on holiday with Richard in the North Yorkshire Moors. We had rented a little cottage in a pretty and isolated location and were looking forward to a restful week. In my case, this was my first proper holiday since I was seventeen, so my expectation levels were high!

The weather wasn't great, with only one really nice day and I was ill for some of the week, but otherwise it was a nice break and we did our best to take in the sights.

On our one sunny day, we visited Robin Hood's Bay, taking in a walk to Boggle Hole where Dave indulged in some fossil hunting. He persuaded Richard to help him, but the latter backed off when part of the cliff face came crashing down... Dave of course, rushed over for a closer look.

It was very pretty, with clear views out over the bay and lots of dogs and people playing in the water. Very hot too and after lunch we climbed slowly back up through the village, looking in the little shops.

Eden Camp was well worth a visit and definitely worth the £5 entrance fee. There was so much to see, we didn't get time to do the whole museum and the nature of the place meant that even when the heavens opened (and boy did they open) there were lots of huts to shelter in.

Whitby is another town built on a hill, with a serious trend towards New Age or Goth type shops. Dave tells me this is because of Dracula's connections with the town, but I just marvelled at the number of shops selling spell lists!

We walked the 199 steps, Richard said there was one missing as he counted 198, which seems to tally with the debate on Whitby's website. At the top of the steps, is St Mary's Church, which looks like a mish-mash of at least three churches stuck together.

Very odd looking building, which looked much prettier from a distance than close up.

There were also some very weird corrosive effects going on with some of the gravestones.

Despite searching the town as thoroughly as I could, alas I did not find a yarn shop in Whitby, despite the tour guide saying there was one.

We also visited the Danby Moors Centre, which was very interesting and had a tea shop I'd definitely recommend, if anyone is in the area. No photo's I'm afraid, but while out on the moors we did see plenty of wild life. There were rabbits and lots and lots of sheep, of so many different kinds that I lost track. Richard bought a book - Know Your Sheep - but I still couldn't identify the many breeds we saw ambling along the side of the road, or munching away on grass verges.

I did manage to get this picture of a moorland bird and chicks of some sort. I'm afraid I don't know what she was, but we'd pulled over to let another car pass and I noticed some bits of fluff moving in the verge. It took me a few seconds to realise I was looking at a hen and chicks, which she quickly rounded up and hurried away from the car as Dave tried to find the camera. I took this picture at maximum zoom, seconds before the whole brood disappeared into the grass.

Friday, 5 June 2009

A new fireplace

Yesterday, I took this picture of the 'fireplace' in my living room just before setting off for work, as we had workmen coming in to fit its replacement.

The fitters arrived around 9:30am having rather optimistically saying they'd be gone by 1pm... I think perhaps they underestimated how much work was involved as they didn't escape until 5:30pm! Dave was in charge as I couldn't stay home all day and reports they worked steadily all day, but he was shocked at how much tea two men could drink and how much sugar we got through.

The problems started when they removed the old fire and realised just how tiny the original fireplace was and that it wouldn't house the new fire. This meant they had to enlarge the chimney, which highlighted problem number two, namely the chimney breast had no lintel. A lintel (as I understand it) is a reinforced crossbar which is inserted into the chimney opening so that it doesn't collapse into the fireplace. Fortunately, the fitters had one in the van and work continued.

After drilling out the bricks to fit the lintel and more drilling to enlarge the fireplace, they had to dismantle the living room so they could roll back the carpet. Which was when they discovered they'd need to cut through the floorboards to get to the gas pipe. Then, they had the fun of discovering the original hearth which needed a channel drilling in it before they could lay the new gas pipe for the fire.

I'm imagining that by this time, they were sighing heavily.

Ah well, they plodded on. Dave helped them where he could and mucked in with removing wallpaper (discovering probably the best bit of plaster in the house in the process), keeping them topped up with tea. They seemed happy enough.

By the time I came home from work last night, the fireplace had been transformed into this...

Doesn't it look all grown up?

For those who might be interested, we bought the fire and new fireplace from The Heating Centre in Coventry, who have a large showroom of such things. They were helpful, reasonably priced and arranged the fitting. Even though there was far more work in the fitting than originally thought, the price for the fitting itself did not go up, although we did have to pay extra for the lintel.