Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Knitter Issue 5

You may have noticed my conspicuous silence on the subject of "The Knitter" Issues 3 and 4. I really really want this magazine to be worthwhile and to succeed, but the ugliness of some of the projects has left me speechless. Issue 4 redeemed itself with one pattern, which I might actually knit, but I have been feeling quite deflated by the content otherwise.

So when Issue 5 arrived, I opened it with bated breath. I was simultaneously excited and horrified! I cannot believe that one editor can be selecting such mind-bogglingly diverse patterns!

On the one hand, there is a stunning cardigan in Manos Silk Blend. I want it. I must knit it!

But then you get this extraordinary “Breakfast Set” in the most depressing colours I have seen in a long time!

Or a desperate camouflage jumper for a man – why would anyone bother?

And then the mood picks up again with a glorious riot of colour in the “Curve of Pursuit” blanket.

But… it takes 27 balls of yarn at £9 a skein to knit in the “ethical version” alpaca! Do the maths – wow!

A truly ethical option would involve ripping out that hideous camoflage sweater and reusing the yarn... or use odd balls to make a crazy patchwork version – that’s my plan anyway!

I like the stitch pattern on this Rowan Pure Life cotton sweater - but that poor model looks awful in that colour! And "square" is not a "classic shape", it's just plain unflattering.

I won't talk about the pastel cardigan that looks like a bed-jacket - except to say it is made from recycled sugar cane , which is an intriguing thought.

Or the "Morrocan" cover sweater which has more bells and whistles than is strictly necessary. And is beige. Funny that - Morroco being a blaze of colour etc.
Or the fussy cotton dk socks? Nah.

But I rather like this lace cushion.
And the Bird's Nest Shawl reprinted fom the book "Folk Shawls" which I hadn't heard of and now feel inspired to look up on Ravelry. Though why they chose to substitute cashmere with an acrylic blend is another question!
The whole issue is dedicated to ethical knitting and I think that is a laudable concept. There's plenty to read, and plenty to look at. Lots of inspiration.
And I MUST knit that Manos cardigan!
So yes - a good issue!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

FO: Loo Roll cube!

Who would have believed it? I made a storage cube for toilet rolls! My mother still has a knitted crinoline lady atop her cistern, and it makes me cringe every time I visit her.

But the untidiness of a cascading heap of plastic bagginess on our bathroom floor was getting me down.

So I adapted the Anna Maria Horner "Soft Cube" pattern to fit eight Lidl "Recycling" loo rolls. This will also ensure my brand loyalty for what is a cheap and eco-friendly tissue solution!

Of course, I mis-read the instructions and ironed-on the double-sided cardboard-like interfacing to all five liner squares, making them impossible to turn right way out without unsticking - aargh! So it became an unwieldy and over-complicated project. The result, however, is practical if not entirely professional-looking. I have deliberately turned it this way round so you can't see the crumpled corners on the other side!

The fabric is a mix of: Anna Maria Horner "Good Folks" in Cathedral Window; Robert Kaufman "Carnaby Street for Project Runway" in Trees; leftover Liberty Millie; and some fabulous house-print fabric, designer unknown to me, which reminds me of Amsterdam / New York and which I would like more of if I can track it down. I used Fast2Fuse interfacing from Nerybeth Fabrics.

Would I make it again? Yes - but with greater attention to the detail of the instructions!

Friday, April 24, 2009

New project: Dead Simple Lace Socks

I cast on for my first pattern from Wendy’s book: the Dead Simple Lace socks. They were going to be for my daughter, but seemed large. I checked my gauge and it is fine, (even though I am using 2.5mm rather than 2mm dpns) but when I tried them on they are definitely too wide for me, never mind the girl. Wendy gives an 8 ½ inch unstretched width as “medium”, which is bigger than I am used to. So these will be for FL’s birthday (also in June). He has agreed to ignore me knitting them! The Goth Socks yarn is delicious – very “squooshy” and I really love the stripes, which the lace doesn’t disturb at all. Those little white “stars”? Mmm! And not too lacy for a man either!

They are knitting up so quickly – woo hoo! I learned a new (to me) way to do toe up which is speedy and simple, involving short rows, although I didn’t understand what I was doing until it was complete! I would definitely recommend this book as a compendium of toe-up techniques: the diagrams and written explanations are really clear. Wendy has included a series of “vanilla” patterns for really mad variegated yarns, as well as more interesting lace and cable numbers for plainer colours. I can imagine this becoming my “standard” sock pattern book, despite Wendy’s affection for 2mm needles! The only problem is that my kitchen scales are too unreliable to split a 100g ball evenly for two socks. Despite my best efforts, one ball is definitely bigger than the other – sigh! Oh well – handy to keep the leftovers for darning.

Thanks for all the positive comments about Pioneer. I am really pleased with how it turned out. There were moments when I feared it was going to be too small but I didn’t have a long enough cable to try it on mid-knit. My daughter thought it was for next-door’s baby, and fell about laughing when I said it was for me – so ha ha, the last laugh’s mine now, honey! ; )

Project 13 is almost complete. I ran out of yarn for the bands so have had to order an extra ball of wool when all I need is about 15 yards. Not to worry - I can use the rest for something matching for Christmas. I have had so many supportive comments from fellow-Ravellers / blog-readers that I have stopped stressing about the colour. Thanks for that everyone! Because, really, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I would have to wear it myself? Oh dear, how sad, never mind, eh?! And the boy thinks it’s “cool” – phew! Actually, what he said was “I thought you were going to knit that for ME!” So I have another big project for the queue. His birthday is in January… I foresee black, fluorescent orange and neon green. OMG. I may have to hit the acrylic to get colours he likes!
This weekend I really must cut out my daughter's dress... but I have another little sewing project from Anna Maria Horner's book which I want to get finished first.
Wait and see!

Monday, April 20, 2009

FO: Pioneer, Knitty Spring 09

This FO kind of sneaked up on me. I was knitting away at it, a little bit every day, and suddenly realised that actually it was so very nearly finished I should abandon all thoughts of sewing and just get it finished, ready for the spring sunshine.

Stats: Pioneer from Knitty, Spring 2009, size 32.5 inches. I used 2 skeins of DK wool from handpaintedyarn.com: really, it only took 200g of wool! On 3.75mm Denise circular needles.
My first top-down garment on circular needles!

I really like the simple cable that appears on the back and down the sides and the sleeves. And the y/o increases at the raglan add a little laceiness.
But best of all, there's that scalloped crochet edging at the neck, which just adds a touch of prettiness without being too fancy- schmancy.
I like it so much I might even knit another one!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring growth

We returned home last weekend (a week ago already?!) to find that spring had arrived. The larches are in bud and there are daffodils absolutely everywhere – I took a bunch to work to cheer up my office desk, and what a difference it made to my mood!

I hung my tweedy skirts on the washing line for a blow of fresh air before I packed them away for a few months.

And I emptied out the bag of “clothes to grow into” for my daughter to rummage in… only to discover that she had overtaken it while I wasn’t looking! Luckily, none of it had cost much (it was a second-hand ebay bundle) but she was quite disappointed. She went away with two items from my wardrobe which are mysteriously too tight nowadays. She is thrilled with a thin red pullover, because the arms are too long – I suspect she will make thumb-holes at the cuffs for that indie-girl vibe.

I sent her off to go through her own chest of drawers and make a pile of all the things that don’t fit. Gulp. But to be fair, she hasn’t made many demands for clothing over the past few years – unlike so many girls of her age!

I have promised to make her a dress from that 1970’s Betsey Johnson pattern I bought, in black broderie anglaise. That’s my plan this weekend. She doesn’t own a dress, and I expect she will wear this one over her skinny jeans – but that’s OK!

So it's all about clothing the girl right now.

Project 13 awaits its top-most section. And I have been tying myself in knots about it being in the wrong colours - errgh! You can see it over at Ravelry. Is it ugly? I reached the point where I couldn't tell. FL is "dubious" which is always a bad sign! But Roo and Bryony have both given the colours the thumbs up, which is a big confidence booster - hooray! Monday is a local holiday here (I didn't get "Easter Monday" off) so I will be aiming to complete the knitting of this item then. The kids will be at school because they are in the Shire, not the City like me - tee hee hee!

P.S. Have you seen the latest Loumms pattern? The Bo-Peep fingerless gloves? I know someone who will LOVE these! Especially if they were knitted in purple Fyberpates sparkle sock yarn!

Photo credit: loutheperson and erqsome knits

Friday, April 17, 2009

All about socks

There hasn't been enough socky goodness in my life recently.

Those red and black Gothic Yarns socks just aren't filling me with joy. I think it is best that I rip them out. Again. I think my gauge is too tight this time - they have no life to them.

Instead? Ah well, my first Goth Socks Club package arrived while I was away - woo hoo! The colourway is "Night", and it promises to knit up in 4-5 row stripes of black interspersed with purple / midnight blue handpainted loveliness. If you look closely you will see there are even little "stars" of white in there - mmm! It came with a skull stitchmarker (good, because I sold all the ones I made a while back!) and the poem "Night" by Percy Bysse Shelly, printed on gloriously tactile parchment ... because this is officially the Dead Poets Club! I am tempted to frame it. (The poem that is, not the yarn.... although....maybe!)

And my pre-order of Wendy's "Socks from the Toe Up" just arrived too. A good range of patterns with plenty of technique tips to get me moving on toe-up socks. I like the concept, because you can use every last scrap of yarn and not worry about running out before the toe, but in practice I have found myself a bit ham-fisted in the execution.

I think I will use the Dead Simple Lace (Ravelry link) pattern for my Goth Socks yarn!

But where oh where is my copy of Cookie A's new book? Amazon was dragging its feet so much on my so-called "pre-order" that I cancelled in a fit of pique. I re-ordered at the Book Depository - and then they cancelled my order for me because they couldn't get stock (eh?!). I found it at Loop but was too tight-fisted to pay full price plus £4 postage. I eventually tracked it down "low stock" at Waterstones... and got free postage and a discount for having a loyalty card that I had forgotten about - even better! But then I got an email saying they didn't have it after all - but unlike the others, they are "striving" to obtain a copy for me! And since I will be saving £9 on the Loop cost, and £5 on Amazon's I suppose I can wait.
Remember my stash of Hazel Knits Artisan Sock? It's due to be Cookie-fied! ASAP!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The things that sustained us

It wasn't all endurance and outward-boundiness on holiday!
I sipped the perfect hot chocolate at The Cocoa Mountain in Balnakiel craft village. That's a marshmallow froth and real melted chocolate on top - mmm!

And we ate delicious freshly-caught fish at the Shorehouse in Tarbet. This is the view from the table!

And on our last evening, we had dinner at the Old School in Inshegra. Oh wow! They do B&B too - if you are ever in that part of the world you have to go there!
Despite collapsing their bookshelves in my eagerness to read the old school inspection reports from the 1880's, it was a perfect end to a lovely holiday!
And this was the view as we stepped outside!

Monday, April 13, 2009

I would walk (500 miles?)

Every second day, my darling FL goes golfing. He averages 4 miles each time, his clubs on his back. He doesn't use a caddy car, never mind a motorised buggy. So despite 2 collapsed vertebrae (due to the Multiple Myeloma) and the need for an asthma inhaler from time to time, he is a practiced walker.
Me? I drive to work, sit at a desk all day, and have only managed to do my fitness dvd twice this year.
So when I suggetsed we walk to Sandwood Bay, he blinked at me and asked if I was sure.

Sure? Why not? What could the problem be?

I didn't see the sign on the gate that said it was 4 1/2 miles (each way). And somehow I hadn't realised it was a long hard trudge through boggy, rocky, sandy terrain. All I knew was, it was a lovely beach. So lets go!

2 hours of hard walking later, we arrived at the bay. We had passed several families with toddlers in tow. Toddlers on foot. And every time, FL said to the parents that they were very brave. And I wondered why. Oh silly silly me!

The last half hour involved much talk of the chocolate I had left in the car, and the picnic we had neglected to pack. We arrived at the sand dunes and I was too tired to care that it was beautiful. We saw what there was to see, caught our breath, and started back. Uphill. And then it started to rain. Really rain. Those poor poor toddlers!

FL pulled out all his teacherly tricks, pointing out the geology of the rocks, the cloud formations, the botany. Anything to distract me from the business of putting one foot in front of the other. It was a true test of my stamina. In many ways I failed, because by the end I was a mumbling, stumbling wreck. But I didn't complain - not once! (Well, maybe once when I realised we were going to share one Topic bar between us!)
The next day, I could barely walk. Seriously. I spent the day on the sofa knitting, while FL went golfing - golfing?!

But the day after that, we went on a shorter walk to a waterfall near Achfary.
Just the 5 miles this time.

But I have resolved to do something about my lack of fitness. I am almost bleep years his junior, and he is terminally ill, with a fractured spine, and yet he left me standing as he strode off across the hillside with his shambling lopsided gait.
Talk about a wake-up call!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

We're back!

Back home after a week in Badnabay Cottage, near Scourie in North West Sutherland.

This photo was taken at the Burial Chamber in the bog behind the cottage. That's Ben Stack over FL's shoulder.

It was a wild and wonderful holiday. We walked for miles and discovered that I am extremely unfit. Ahem. Seriously, I need to do something about it fast!

While sofa-bound after a difficult but beautiful 9-mile walk (more on that another time) I knitted and knitted and knitted some more and have made enormous progress on Project 13. I hope to get pictures up on Ravelry tomorrow.

Happy Easter!

P.S. FL insisted on trying out the Burial Ground for size. he declared it to be the perfect fit.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Vintage sewing patterns

I thought the sew-ers amongst you would be interested in a link to an amazing purveyor of reproduction dressmaking patterns from the 1920's to 1950's.

Decades of Style are based in the States, so I am waiting for the exchange rate to improve before I have a spending spree!

But look at these (pictures borrowed from their site - I hope they don't mind!) - oh gosh oh wow! As I have been reading F. Scott Fitzgerald recently, I was particularly taken with these from the 20's and 30's.

This "Bridge Jacket" is probably the one I am most likely to wear. I love the Isadora-esque scarf tie at the back! Hoodies? Who needs them!

And I could definitely fall in love with a cloche hat! I was looking through old family photos the other day and saw my granny in some fantastic cloches. The only modern one I have come across is this one at Etsy - mmmm! Love it! But again the exchange rate is an issue.
My granny is the one on the top left, with my mother sitting at her feet!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Checking out

Just checking in before I check out for a few days.

I might surprise you mid-week with a pre-prepared post (don’t you love “scheduling”?!), but I will be off the web for a week.

FL and I are off to the wilds for a holiday. The kids are off to London, so it is just the two of us.

I managed to find a holiday cottage with running water, a heating system and electricity! FL says there had better be electricity because he was one of the labourers who took “the electric” to the Highlands in the 1950’s and he distinctly remembers being in that village! That’s one of the reasons we are going there – nostalgia. I have never been there, so it is all new to me.

On the way up, FL plans to golf at Tain, so while he does that I will be digging around the graveyards of the Black Isle looking for my maternal ancestors. I am hoping to visit Balnakeil craft village while FL golfs at Durness. (You may be forgiven for thinking this is a golf tour of northern Scotland!) Other than that, I am aiming for a relaxed week of knitting (Project 13), reading, and walking on isolated beaches and hillsides.

On the health front, FL is finding golf increasingly difficult. He says his swing “collapses” without warning mid-stroke, and he misses the ball or sends it flying off in unexpected directions. I have no doubt that this is due to the deterioration of his vertebrae: he is noticeably shorter too. For the past 3 weeks, he has lost every game he has played, which he is finding disheartening. He has talked about giving up the game altogether, which is ominous, because it is absolutely central to his life. I am trying to encourage him to keep going, because it is his main source of exercise and the focus of his social life.

But enough of this - I have my bags to pack!

Bye for now!


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Knitting update

I think we all knew this would happen: Diagonal Lace is the wrong pattern for a self-striping yarn! I had knitted a couple of inches before I gave in and ripped it out.
I have started again with the Staccato Sock from “Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn”. It is looking fine: nothing startling, but fine. Staccato is meant to be knitted using stripes of odd balls, so knitting it “plain” turns out a little bit flat somehow. Narrowly self-striping yarns are so hard to judge. I actually prefer the look of the stocking stitch sole. Sigh. Maybe I should have gone for pure vanilla after all. Will I rip again? Not sure…

Pioneer is a much happier project. I am now working my way down the body, after dividing for the sleeves. This is my first top-down sweater and I am very pleased with how it is going. My only worry is that I am using my Denise circulars…. and I need them for Project 13! Can I finish Pioneer this week? Or will I have to transfer Pioneer onto spare straight needles for safe keeping so that I can get on with Project 13 during my child-free week (which starts on Friday)?

I am bubbling with anticipation for Project 13! I don’t expect to complete it in the space of a week, but I should get a long way into it, leaving a manageable portion to finish off on Friday evenings when my daughter is out at her tap dance class.