Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve 2011

Oh my!  Today was such a washout.

FL has a raging sore throat and his bad tooth is hurting.

I have caught the cold he started brewing on Boxing Day, which I thought was going to take him to the emergency doctor for antibiotics... but he 's still not ready to admit it.

My version of this shared illness wiped me out today.  I have been bumbling around the house like a sad old lady and have been curled up on the sofa with my knitting, my book, and a box of tissues.  It totally put paid to my plans for a knitterly excursion to help a friend buy yarn - unforgivable!

Luckily for me, I had some wool delivered to the door, though.  This is the final instalment of my Crown Mountain Farms Sock Hop club.  I had forgotten the club had four installments - I thought it was just three - so this was a lovely surprise on a miserable day.  It's a perfect stonewashed denim-y blue. 

And the final instalment of my SkeinQueen club also arrived.  This colour is going to take a lot of getting used to.  Charcoal overdyed with moss green?  Hmmm... something for the man I think.

So, a woolly end to 2011. 

Tonight FL gets a glass of whisky and I get a Lemsip and we will be asleep before the Bells of 2012 stop ringing.  See you next year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

These are NOT Resolutions

Oh go on then – let’s make a list for the New Year! A plan?  Resolutions? Hmmm… a list of intentions may be a better way of putting it.

I have some very clear ideas about what I want to achieve in 2012... and a lot of mental fog.

1. To make up my remaining vintage Betsey Johnson patterns. Me and Betsey have something special going on.
So: the coat, the dresses, the skirts? Yup – all of them.

2.  To heed the advice of the Colette Sewing Handbook and slow down a bit:  to think a bit harder and make clothes that fit a bit better.  I am too lazy and expect patterns to fit me, straight from the packet. 

3.  Not to avoid things I have to learn to do:  bound buttonholes and piping, I am looking at you!  As above, laziness and the desire for a quick fix often lead me to rush my sewing projects.
That’s the hardest bit of my plan for 2012. Everything else is just candyfloss in the wind.
4. To sew from stash. No, really. It’s essential.

Bettie's pullover, IK Winter 2011
1. To knit at least one garment from a vintage pattern.

2. To get myself in training for (1.), I want to knit Bettie's Pullover from the latest Interweave Knits. Perfect in Albayarn from the stash!

3.  To knit from said stash. I am not saying I won’t buy yarn (because I know I will), but I am giving myself permission to use my best stored-away yarn instead of saving it for the apocalypse. This should mean some socks. No point in pretending I can knit 12 pairs in one year. 6 would be amazing.

4.  To design something and knit it. Because it is crazy that I don’t.

 Life, the Universe and Everything:

1. Try to plan further ahead than one month at a time. We lurch from hospital appointment to hospital appointment and it is dragging us down. We need to plan for some fun. Even if it is just me agreeing to eat a meal out at Wetherspoons.  FL and I went there last night and it was OK.  (Note to self:  you don't live in London now Roo, so put your great restaurant expectations awayFood snob!)

2. Healthy eating. Whatever happened to vegetarian meals? Experiments with the extreme vegan cookbook destroyed my credibility and scared off the diners. But we are in a rut again. I need to get back to baking bread (and the occasional cake) and spend some time planning interesting meals with a higher percentage of vegetation.
3. Exercise. This is the big one. I have got to do it. I am seizing up. If I leave it much longer it will be too late. I lack stamina, flexibility and energy. Sigh.

4. Get out there. Anywhere. Particularly if The Girl moves to London in 2012, I will have to boot myself out of the house and make connections with Other People. And travel south occasionally. Gulp.  I am making a start on this on 21 January with the Crafter's Ceilidh - woo hoo!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FO: Simplicity 2654: A Short Tribute to Jane

You know Handmade Jane don't you?

Earlier this year, Jane and I both developed an obsession with Christi's Rockabilly-esque Simplicity 2654 trousers / pants.  You can see them on Flickr here.  Christi made the shorts too.   Jane was a lot quicker off the mark than me, and sewed up a fab pair of navy sailor trousers which appear in her recent list of top 5 makes.  Urban Rustic also set to work to make several pairs of trousers using this pattern, with great success.  But oh - the mortification to see myself name-checked in her August post as a "ruminator"! ; )

So, yes, I admit I have been prevaricating.  I first started muttering about making a pair of shorts back in April.   I talked myself out of them on the grounds that my workplace is not ready for my knees.  Um... hello?  Roo?  Did you know you are allowed to sew clothes to wear at home?  Garments that are simply fun to have around the place, brightening up the farmhouse at weekends?  Can I just remind you about the pink trousers..?!

When I was tidying upstairs in preparation for my son's Christmas homecoming, I came across the ready-cut shorts and I decided to get them sewn up before I changed my mind again.  After all - what was there to lose?


 Pattern:  Simplicity 2654, view C, size 10

Fabric:  One yard of navy / black shadow-striped pure wool by "Givenchy Gentleman", bought on eeebaaay from British Fabrics as part of a pack of remnants, approx cost £4.  Gorgeous fabric!

Buttons:    Red!  A surprise in the post from Jane herself, after I loaned her one of my vintage patterns.  :D

Bias binding:  Red bandana print, to face the hems after I lost vital inches off their length...

Label:  "I am half agony - half hope" a quote from Jane Austen's Persuasion, found on Etsy from a UK seller.
The Making:

Ah, it should have been so quick and easy!  But smarty-pants here thought she would give her shorts a scalloped hem, to kick them into the 21st century.  This was my mistake, people.  (No fault of the instructions, which I recommend to you.)

I have no photos of the scalloping.  My shorts were rather longer at that point!

Because after cutting away the excess fabric, I discovered that my 2-inch-diameter scallops were too darned small to turn right-side out.  The gentle curves turned into pointy triangles and I looked like a staff reject from Santa's Christmas Toy Factory.  Believe me when I tell you this:  "elfine" is not always a good look!

I had no choice but to slice away the offending facings, taking my shorts northwards by several inches.  Gulp.

I faced the hems with red bandana print binding.
I think they are really cute!  I can't get a sensible response out of The Girl, which leads me to suspect she finds them a bit embarrassing.  Maybe she thinks I am imitating her shorts-and-tights style?  Perhaps if I promise not to wear them out in public with her...?  Anyway, I definitely won't be wearing them with suspender-tights or a band t-shirt.  Honest.

FL laughed.  A lot.  It doesn't bother me - he often laughs at my clothes.

They are warm, they are comfortable, they make me smile (red buttons!) and they have the curious effect of making me feel more energetic.  I hesitate to say it:  they make me feel younger than my years.
Would I make another pair?

Probably not.  Despite being what other sewists regard as "wide-legged", I find the pattern a bit too narrow for trousers for me, and I can't imagine wanting many pairs of shorts in exactly this style.

All in all, they are a bit of home-wearable fun.  They inspire me to run around and pretend I am young and fit and full of beans.  They make me want to wear bright lipstick, a big baggy boyfriend cardigan and sky-high ankle boots and call myself Keiko.  Now there's a thought!

Stylist's notes:
Red Percy shawl, blogged here.
Red vintage knitting needle bracelets from The Girl for my birthday (Etsy UK seller)
Boden cardigan
Camper ankle boots
Gap tights
Rockalily "Rockette Red" lipstick :D
Red book:  "The Marriage Plot" by Jeffrey Eugenides - my current reading matter.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Knitted Christmas in Pictures

On Christmas Eve, I read my family the Queen's Speech - no, not the Buckingham Palace woman, the Yarn Harlot woman!

If you did not instruct your family on the "Proper Way to Receive a Knitted Gift"  (Yarn Harlot, 24 December 2011), you missed a trick.

The Boy:  "OH WOW!"

What he was really  thinking:  "What is it?"

The Boy:  "It's VERY SOFT!"

What he was really thinking:  "What IS it?"
 The Boy:   "Actually... it IS very soft!"

The Boy:  "What are these holes for?"

The Boy:  "THANK YOU!"

 FL:  "It's a HAT!"
 Me:  "Oh shucks, boys, you flatter my knitting skills too much!  Next year I'll have to knit you some SOCKS!"

Me:  "Do you like my new dress?"

Me:  "No... I bought it."

Me:  "No, really, I BOUGHT it!"

(The Velvet Bird)
The Boy:  "I thought this would help you with your research...?"

FL:  "Hahahaha... huh?!"

The Girl:  "Don't take my picture!  No, I mean it, don't take my picture!"

The Girl:  "Ooh!"

The Girl:  "Thanks mum!"

It was a pair of Veyla Mitts in Fyberspates Sparkle Sock, colourway:  Blackberry.  Ravelled here.
I finished the Retro Rib Socks.  They are too big for me so I am putting them away for a future gifting opportunity - yay!  I'm ready for NEXT Christmas!

Pattern:  Retro Rib Socks from "Favorite Socks"
Yarn:  Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "S.W.A.K" colourway.
Done on 2.75mm dpns.

They look nothing like each other...
And this is what I knitted on Christmas Day.

Everybody Outta The Pool socks, toe-up, using Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in "Boughs of Holly" colourway.

It had to be done.

OK, time to work off Christmas dinner...  has anyone seen the dog?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crafter's Ceilidh - I'm In!

What are YOU doing a month from now?

Debi, Kirsten and Kerry are organising a crafters' meet-up in Edinburgh on 21 January.

And I have booked my train ticket! 

Here are the details, shamelessly swiped from Debi's blog:

SAVE the date! It's official, we are planning a Scotland meet-up of sewists, knitters and crafters in January. This is open to everyone--you don't have to be a blogger to attend.

Date: Saturday the 21st of January, 2012
Time: 11:00am start time until 5:30pm. And then why not stay on and join us for dinner and drinks if you can?
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Activities: We'll start by getting to know each other over a lunchtime nibble and then depending on how many people there are, we may split into groups according to interests (i.e. fabric shopping, yarn shops, vintage shops, etc.) We'll meet back up for a pattern/fabric/yarn swap and more merriment.

 To join in, email Debi at: myhappysewingplace[at]googlemail[dot]com.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: A Year in Stitches

Ginger 1 with Portfoilio blouse

Ginger 2

 It’s that time of year, when sewing bloggers start trawling their archives to count up the Finished Objects. In 2010, I didn’t prepare an Annual Report , which surprises me. Instead, I told you what my plans were for 2011. And did I stick to them? Nope!

But 2011 was an incredibly prolific sewing year and, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, it was the year in which I identified “my style”. Crikey!

In 2011 I sewed: 5 skirts (3 of them were Gingers); 5 pairs of trousers (4 wide-legged and 1 narrow), 10 tops (including 2 fails) and all 3 views of the Lisette Portfolio dress / tunic / blouse. Hidden in there is my first self-drafted pattern for a pleat-neck tee, and successful sewing of jersey fabrics – woo hoo!
From the sublime... the ridiculous!
Ginger 3

Lisette portfolio tunic

 Right now, it is hard to remember a time when my wardrobe was not dominated by wide-legged trousers, vintage blouses, Ginger skirts and Lisette Portfolio for home-wear!
In the world of knitting, my resolution to knit a pair of socks every month fell by the wayside pretty early on. I managed 4.5 pairs. If I try, I might manage that tenth single sock by the end of the year! But my big knitting accomplishments were finishing Audrey-in-Unst and Betty Jean McNeil: two fingering-weight cardigans in one year! (OK, so most of Audrey happened in 2010 – give me a break will you!)

And latterly I became obsessed by Weekend Hats, knitting 5 patterns from the book in quick succession. There was also a Man-Shawl, a baby cardigan, a huge cowl… and a tea cosy! And I crocheted a very cute pair of baby shoes.

Betty Jean McNeil

All in all, I am amazed by how much I accomplished in 2011. Not just in terms of quantity, but also in learning new techniques. It was a good year!

With 11 days of the year left to play with, I am going to see if I can finish my Seraphine wrap and that elusive tenth sock. I am not going to cast on anything new. That’s the plan anyway…!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

FO: Millwater, the knit before Christmas

That's it - no more Christmas knitting this year!

This is for a nineteen-year old girl cousin.  She lives in Scotland and enjoys outdoor activities like horse-riding, so I think this will go down well.

She usually gets a hand-knitted hat, but as I was already halfway through knitting this when I remembered, it was easier to finish this off and divert it to the Christmas Knits pile than to start something new.


Pattern:  Millwater by Beth Kling

Yarn:  Rowan RYC Cashsoft Aran, half of a £5 Lucky Bag from Kemps.  I only had 5 x 50g, which allowed me to knit 15 cable crosses.  The pattern specifies 17... and that extra 2 would be a good thing when it comes to wearing it doubled:  it is borderline too snug, definitely snuggly!


I reckon a near-beginner could knit this if they had a more experienced friend to call on at the beginning and the end.

At the risk of giving away all the designer's secrets, it starts with a provisional cast-on. That's the only hard thing really:  making it at the beginning and unzipping it at the end. 

Confession:  I am rubbish at provisional cast-ons.

The cable is a simple reversible rib, and you do a cable twist every x rows.  The bits on either side of the cable are plain knitting - easy!

The actual cable twist is a big fella, and if you don't already have a cable needle (with a kink in it) now would be a good time to get one as otherwise you are going to drop stitches.

Mine came free with Knit Now magazine and it is the kind of lethal implement that gets knitters thrown off aeroplanes.  But you will need it to keep this fella under control.


To my eye, it looks very "fashion-y".  Very "2011".  The pages of catalogues like Hush are full of these loops of luxury-fibre knitting worn by women with improbably perfect hair.

Is it an Infinity Cowl?  A Snood?  Who knows!

I will tell you this:  it is wonderfully warm, especially when it is doubled up.  I took my photographs at 11am this morning and it was minus 4 degrees out there.  The only bit of me that wasn't freezing was my neck.

I love the squooshy 3-D cable, which looks exactly the same on both sides - imagine that!
I will give this one away, because it is Christmas after all.

But the NEXT one will be for ME.  : )

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dear Santa

It is probably too late to send a letter up the chimney, but if you are still looking for presents for some of your special people, I have a couple more ideas to share.

Sleepy Owl from Ruth Robinson at Etsy
While scouring Ravelry for other Millwater cowls, I found a lovely specimen by a French knitter, Bergamote.

Best of all, she had a link to a UK-based Etsy seller of handmade ceramic brooches and buttons, Ruth Robinson.  Owls!  Whales!  Trees!

I can imagine these characters appealing to a wide age range and the neutral pallette means they would work well with so many colours.

Any of them would look great on "my" grey-green Millwater cowl (10 cables out of 17 done so far.)  I fancy a whale myself, Santa, if you are still pondering ; )
Except... I am going to have to give away my Millwater cowl!  I had not remembered "female teen cousin" in my Christmas gift list.  I think I thought we were quietly stopping that particular exchange now that she and The Boy are 19.  I was mistaken - eek!  Unless she has been lying through her teeth all these years, she is someone who appreciates hand-knits, so the cowl will be sent her way.  I should finish it this weekend.  Phew!  Don't worry - I will take a picture before I package it up!

Picture from Amazon
Something which I have already bought for someone else is a new recipe book called "Cake Angels:  Amazing gluten wheat and dairy free cakes".
Although I am fairly experienced at substituting ingredients to cope with my family's allergy to cow's milk, I know that it can be bewildering to a newbe.  The Boy's Girl has expressed a wish to learn to bake cakes, to which he added an indignant "That I can eat too!", so I was looking for a beginner-friendly book containing edible-sounding items, rather than recipes that sound like science experiments including weird expensive ingredients.  
Some recipes from the book can be found on the web:
Tempted yet?

And if you can't be bothered baking your own, and have a higher budget than me, you can mail-order Julia Thomas's ready-made cakes from her website here.

I sincerely hope that my Christmas list is now complete.

I just need to write some cards, buy some food, wrap the presents, send The Boy out to cut a Christmas Branch.... oh my!  Nowhere near ready!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Purpose of a Stash

Every so often I participate in seasonal self-flagellation concerning the size of my stash.
Ravelry tells me that I currently have over 22 thousand metres of un-knit yarn squirrelled away for a rainy day.
But this weekend I had an epiphany of sorts:  my stash serves a purpose.  It is the repository of knitterly dreams.  OK, I am not going to knit 23 pairs of socks in the next couple of weeks, but I might manage it in a couple of years.  And rather like my collection of Great Novels, it is lovely to be able to go to a box and pull out an old favourite, settle down by the fire and become absorbed in the words or the stitches.
All of my recent knitting has been "from the stash".  I have been hammering through the stored skeins at a most satisfying rate in the approach to Christmas.
On Sunday, grumpy with the Pinkness of the Man-Shawl, I needed to knit something to make it better, pure comfort knitting.
So I reached into the top box of yarn, now serving as my bedside table, and pulled out my last 5 skeins of Rowan Cashsoft Aran from a Kemps lucky bag.  I only paid £5 for ten balls of this yarn and it has provided 3 gift-hats already!
Millwater Pattern picture from Beth Kling
This is my gift to myself:  the Millbank cowl.  I could have improvised it without paying for the pattern, but that felt sly and underhand.  This was not my idea, and I wanted to acknowledge the designer:  Beth Kling.  I am sure it could be easily "made up" from looking at the pictures and descriptions on Ravelry.  I won't criticise you if that's what you choose to do.  Just saying.
That effing enormous cable has to be an inch deep in squooshiness.  I can't wait to sink my chin into it on a snowy day!
I really wanted to buy some ridiculously expensive MadelineTosh yarn to make this.  But I had £3-cost of £15-value yarn just sitting waiting for me to notice that it was in fact perfectly good.  Fit for purpose.  Here and now.  Instant gratification.  That is the purpose of a stash.

I mentioned that FL had a headache.  It took him two days to confess that the problem is not what he first described.  It's an issue with his mouth.  His gums hurt.  His tongue hurts.  His lips hurt.  He is taking Paracetamol but eating and speaking are both painful.  He winces if I try to kiss him.
He is due to see the jaw man on Friday, so it is ironic that this should boil up just ahead of the appointment.
He has self-prescribed two vaguely-likely medicines from his own "stash":  Daktarin in case he has oral thrush, Acyclovir in case he has cold sores... but really we both know he has neither of these.
I have instructed him to visit his GP this week.  But he will probably wait until Friday.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

FO: Bleeding Zauberballs Man-Shawl

 Public Service Announcement:  Schoppel Wolle Zauberballs are NOT colour-fast!
 So if you plan on making your manly son a shawl for Christmas, it is not wise to stripe cream with red... because what does cream and red make children?  PINK!
 I knitted my son a pink shawl for Christmas.
 The only bits which have stayed cream are the outer edges.  The central section is most definitely PINK!
 Not even the zombie slasher-movie design features can save this from  its PINKness.
Maybe I should leave the blocking pins in place.  Or add safety pins.  Punk it up a bit more?


Pattern:  Transatlantic by Stephen West, from WestKnits Two, or can be bought separately (that's what I did).

Yarn:  Evil Schoppel Wolle Zauberball sockweight yarn in Schokocreme and Cranberry.  I used 60g of the cream and 40g of the red.  A few yards of gorgeous golden Yarn Yard silk to crochet round the holes.

Process:  Easy enough once you get going.  Slip stitches do all the hard work.  Be sure to carry the yarn loosely up the side or you will get a lopsided shawl.  Mine is a bit tight across the top left because I didn't realise this until too late. 
I gave it a gentle bath in Soak for all of 5 minutes until I realised what was happening...

I am sulking.
It is PINK.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Weekend in Stitches

Today I finished knitting my Stephen West shawl project for The Boy.

I just have to crochet round the holes (deliberate design feature!) and block it.

So tomorrow I will be free to embark on another sewing or knitting adventure.  I might return to Seraphine and see if I can get her finished before the snow arrives!

Or make my navy and white dress?  Maybe.

Or knit some Christmas tree baubles?  Now that would be crazy... but not out of the question!

I had an unexpected treat in the post today:  my often-delayed pre-order of Rachael Herron's  book "A Life in Stitches". I have been dipping in and out of it all day.

Do you know Rachael's blog, Yarn-a-go-go?  I have been reading it for several years, long before she became a published novelist.  Her mother died of multiple myeloma.  Strange the connection I felt when I read about that.  Sigh.

FL is very tired today.  He says there is a tension in his head that only goes away when he closes his eyes, so he's been doing that a lot... and of course then he falls asleep.

The storms passed through here without doing too much damage.  We had a sprinkling of snow and lost a few branches in the wind, but we still have electricity and today was still and calm.  I walked the dog up in the top woods  but we didn't see our resident deer family.  There are four of them up there every evening and they don't seem in the least bit worried by humans or a big smelly dog.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Filling is the Best Bit

I've seen a few remarks around blogland that some of us are padding out our posts with pointless "fillers" because we have nothing new to show.

Personally, I rather enjoy reading other people's shopping lists and seasonal inspirations.  So if you don't like it, just move along quietly please, no need to make a fuss!

I have my new calendar for 2012 - yay!  It comes from Eirrean Lorsung. Last year's version graced my office wall and received frequent astonished / admiring comments from colleagues and visitors.  I predict further puzzlement in 2012 due to an increased level of whimsy in the illustrations.  Shrug - it keeps them on their toes!

In search of grandma-friendly gifts, I was delighted to see Mooncalf's latest selection of cross-stitched pretties.  In particular, I fell for this "tea wallet" with a distinctly European house motif:  perfect for Other Granny who flitted around the EU for many years and loves special teas!

For the younger women in the family, I am drawn to comic-book hair accessories from Janine Basil  They are perhaps a little pricey for what they are, and I have not yet succumbed, but they are definitely barking up the right tree.

And if I had a special niece or nephew or grandchild to give presents to, this Fantastic Fox Kit would be top of my knit-it-for-posterity list.  But I don't.  So I won't.  What a pity!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

KitKattery, Betsey-fication and a Book

My Stephen West Man-Shawl for The Boy is progressing well.  The two colours of Zauberball are fading in and out in a most pleasing way.
I could probably finish it this weekend if I dedicated myself...  but I'm sure you know how it is!   I might just cast on a little something for The Girl while she is away.  I could make serious in-roads on her Christmas knit before she returns on Sunday night.  Hi Girl!  We don't read each other's blogs, remember?!

Yesterday's talk of sewing a Jasmine blouse has once again come to nothing.  There is some kind of mismatch between fabric and pattern which causes me to pull this project in and out of the cupboard on a weekly basis.  I'm just not feeling it.
Meanwhile, my daily check on Etsy for vintage Betsey Johnson patterns paid off (late) last night, with the purchase of this little number:  Butterick 4088.  THIS is the pattern to use for my teal and brown plaid fabric!  I might de-puff the sleeves, but I love the front pleats, that little stand-collar and the fact that this dress / tunic is not just a shapeless smock - it goes in and out.  Yes, I am a Betsey Johnson addict - it's official!
And this month's SkeinQueen Club yarn arrived - look away NOW if you are still waiting for your package!
This is Stormy Seas, the semi-solid option.  It is a British Falkland Merino / silk mix and has an extraordinary ability to catch the light and shift before your eyes - truly beautiful!  My picture does it no favours.
This month's Club reading inspiration is Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch.  Once again my local library rose to the challenge, and book and yarn arrived together - woo hoo!
This is not a book I would ever have chosen for myself, but I have been totally swept up by the powerful story-telling. I read Part One last night:  it is an absolute riot of Dickensian characters, an all-five-senses immersion in time and place.  It has all the rush and verve of the very best of children's literature, a certain fairy-tale quality...and yet it is definitely not "childish".  I have ordered a copy for The Boy. He is not a great reader, but as a lover of Moby Dick I know he will totally "get" this book.  I will say no more for now... except "Read it!"