Welcome to the home of my musings about knitting :)

Friday, January 28, 2005

Secret Pals 4

Well, I've signed up for Secret Pals 4 in a fit of enthusiasm and excitement. I'm not a natural 'joiner' but I thought that given my recent post about the generosity of spirit of the knitting community, the least I could do would be to help share the love, right? So here are my answers to the Secret Pal questionnaire - good luck Secret Pal, wherever you are! Here's hoping that the following is of some use to you.

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer high- end/natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand? Or is it all the same to you?

I would love the answer to this question to be no. But sadly it is yes. I have tried knitting with the British equivalent of Red Heart. It's fine for knitting for kids and little fun projects. But I would never choose it for something for myself. Sorry.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?

Nope. I have one crochet hook that I regard with deep suspicion and use solely for fringing the many scarves that I currently seem to be fixated with. I do feel that I should teach myself how to do it sometime though. Spinning doesn't interest me at all for some reason. I think it's because knitting for me is more product than process.

3. Do you have any allergies? (smoke, pets, fibers, perfume, etc.)

Not allergic per se, but am a fairly rabid non-smoker and don't particularly like overpowering smells of any nature. Other than that, bring it on.

4. How long have you been knitting?

I learned how to knit when I was about 6 I think. I had a fairly serious spate of it in my early teens which involved producing pastel baby cardigans for various infants of my acquaintance but I only picked my needles back up in earnest about 18 months ago.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
I do, but it's full of really obscure things so I'm not going to link it here :)

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
I'm not wild about things that smell for no good reason, if you see what I mean. Or things with obviously artificial smells. But I like natural scents like citrus and lavender. And I have some vanilla L'Occitaine bubble bath that makes me smell of cake that I am particularly fond of.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth?

Nope. I am the queen of savoury. Give me something like cheese or olives over chocolate any day of the week.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?
I am fairly proficient at needlepoint, although that is a bit on the back burner at the moment. I am also a keen amateur photographer and I write when I can find the time to do so. My main creative outlet other than knitting is music though. I sing in a choir and am trying to get to do more concerts with other groups because I love it so much.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

I can certainly manage MP3's because I have a husband who is a techno geek. In terms of what I like, my tastes are pretty eclectic. A good slab of English folk & roots music, combined with a certain amount of 'world' stuff, plenty of classical, some classic jazz and a varied selection of rock and pop probably covers it. I currently have Rufus Wainwright, Keane, Franz Ferdinand, Eliza Carthy, Dinah Shore, U2, Julie Lee, Union Station, Mozart's C Minor Mass and Appalachian Spring sat in a pile on top of my CD player if that's any help.

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer?

I naturally gravitate towards autumn colours - chocolate brown, slubby greens, all kinds of purple, bluey greys, that kind of thing. Red makes me look like death warmed up so I actively avoid it. As does really bright blue. I have very pale skin.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

It's just me & my husband of 10 years, Mr A. No pets as we currently commute between 2 houses.

12. What are your life dreams? (really stretching it here, I know)

To use my working life to advance things that I believe to be true and important, and other than that to follow my bliss (as they say).

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?

I have a bit of a thing about Koigu. I also like Noro Silk Garden and Debbie Bliss's Alpaca Silk and Maya. Told you I was a yarn snob.

14. What fibres do you absolutely *not* like?

Not an acrylic fan. Also yet to conceive of a good purpose for chenille or eyelash yarn but I guess I could be persuaded.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?

Socks and scarves. I only learnt how to knit socks about 6 months ago so it still seems like a minor miracle that I can actually knit around a corner. Scarves & I just like each other. What can I say?

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?

My favourite patterns in the last 12 months (ie ones I would consider knitting again) were Rosedale & Clapotis, both from the knitty archives.

17. What are you knitting right now?

Red & black stripy socks for my husband to a pattern that I am making up as I go along and the Glenora throw in Mission Falls. Click the link on my sidebar if you want to see my progress on that one. I should have finished it really but i have currently misplaced the pattern in my recent move. Doh!

18. What do you think about ponchos?

I have nothing against them per se. However I do not believe that they are fundamentally suited to people of my body type, ie fairly voluptuous and curvy. It's something to do with having that huge point hovering over the backside I think.

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?

Circs. Every time.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

To be honest I'm not that fussed. Although I haven't really tried our bamboo needles properly so maybe they are a revelation waiting to happen.

21. Are you a sock knitter?

Yep. Definitely.

22. How did you learn to knit?

My mum taught me. Thanks, mum!

23. How old is your oldest UFO?

About 6 months I think. I only have 2 that I haven't been knitting regularly for a while and one of those is the Glenora Throw where I've misplaced the pattern - I don't think that's too bad, is it?

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?

What a strange question. Not sure that I have a particularly strong preference in either category to be honest.

25. What is your favorite holiday?

I like Christmas Eve. I love the sense of waiting and preparation for the next day.

26. Is there anything that you collect?

Nope. Have been making a serious effort to declutter over the last few years so collections are definitely not on the agenda.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wonders will never cease!

It's a miracle! My camera, laptop and I are on speaking terms again. This makes me very happy. Better yet I managed to persuade Mr A to take some new pictures to replace the blue tinted ones I posted about on Monday so you get to see not only my FO's but also me with my head cut off. How lucky you are.

So, without further ado I present my very own version of Clapotis.

Clapotis complet

Isn't she lovely? And versatile too.

Is it a scarf? Is it a wrap?

I have to say that I love pretty much everything about this scarf. I love how soft and snuggly it is. I love the fact that I can wear it either around my neck or round my shoulders. I love how warm it keeps me. And I love, love, love the colour combinations. Want a closer look?

It's me in yarn form :)

I used almost 3 skeins of Axelle's wonderful sport weight cashmere in this project, and modified the pattern to add two extra repeats in the straight section of the scarf making her a little longer than the original. I had plenty of yarn to do this. In fact it's possible that I might have enough yarn left over to have added another repeat but I think it would have been a close run thing. And what colourway did I use? Why,Atropos of course! What other choice could there be?

For my second FO I present ... wait for it .... another SCARF. I don't know why any of you are surprised at that. I have confessed my scarf problem on these pages before and I am learning to live with it. Of course, having scarves like these does help.

Debbie Bliss Maya ribbed scarf

So this is a basic K3 P3 rib scarf in Debbie Bliss Maya picked up on whim on one of my visits to John Lewis. This is another yarn that I absolutely love. The colours are fantastic (a bit more plums and reds than you see here - I think my camera was struggling with the colour reproduction) and it's unbelievably snuggly even though it's 100% wool. It's apparently made by the same people that make Manos. To which all I can say is that I need to get myself some Manos. Lots of it. And soon, too. Will have to do some research and find somewhere that is prepared to ship it to me.

Anyway, getting back to the FO, I used 4 skeins to make this project, including using a good part of the last one to make a fringe. This makes for a long scarf, as you can see from the first picture. I would guess one that's about 6 feet long in total although I haven't measured it. I can certainly wrap it twice around my neck to keep the cold out. And have I mentioned the fringe? I'm really proud of that:

Classy looking fringe

As you can see I've included pieces of satin ribbon in the fringe, blatently ripping off the idea from a shop bought scarf that my brother's girl friend was wearing at Christmas. I think it works well, don't you? I like the contrast of the textures and it also adds a little weight to the fringe, making the scarf hang nicely. The only slightly sour note in the whole process was discovering that you can't buy satin ribbon by the metre in John Lewis's any more. Nope - it all comes prewrapped on rolls of 5 or 10 metres. WTF? I have to say I think that's a move in the wrong direction. I see a new ribbon supplier in my future.

Anyway, I leave you with a gratuitous close up of the ribbing. Ta da!

Yummy yarn Posted by Hello

Monday, January 24, 2005

Random knitting thoughts of the week ... but sadly no pictures

Yes, I know. No pictures. Again. This time it's to do with a software issue and the fact that I can't go grovelling under my desk to connect my laptop to our dialup line without waking Mr A. As usual the story is far too long to bore y'all with.

It's not that I don't have pictures. I do. Both of a finished Clapotis and my own version of a long ribbed scarf in Debbie Bliss Maya. The fact that they all have a rather strange blue tint to them is neither here nor there. I will either take new ones or I will post the blue-ish ones and be damned later this week. For now you will have to content yourself with a selection of random knitting thoughts and observations that have been rattling around in my mind since I last posted.

* Firstly, my Jordana Paige knitting bag turns out to have been worth every last penny. I am so pleased with it. I bought the black one so that it would go with anything, and it has been to work with me every day since it turned up. It has just enough room for my day to day bits and bobs in one side, and plenty of room for my knitting in the other. My favourite bits about it are the fact that it has a really sturdy base with little feet so that it stands square on the floor and you can knit straight out of it (if you see what I mean) and it also has a little yarn feed loop in the knitting compartment so that you can pull yarn straight out of the bag without getting it in a tangle. I really love it, and it does make me feel just a little bit like a kick-ass corporate financier knitting chick :)

* Second, I learnt a valuable lesson in felting this Christmas, namely to turn down the temperature on the washing machine after you have finished for fear of inadvertantly washing a load of non colour fast clothing at 95 degrees. Doh! Luckily for me most of the things in the unfortunate pile of washing belonged to me rather than Mr A. I don't mind going out and replacing half my underwear because it has been dyed a fetching shade of grey but I'd rather not listen to a lecture on washing machine operation at the same time :)

* Third, have you noticed how knitting exerts an irresistable pull over non-knitters of all kinds? I did quite a lot of knitting on trains during the Christmas break and someone talked to me about what I was doing on every single trip. Anyone who has travelled on British trains will know how strange an occurance this is. Normally you could canter naked through the buffet car and noone would bat an eyelid, but get two sticks and some yarn out and suddenly everyone wants to talk to you. Luckily 99% of those folk have been very nice people. There was the slightly creepy drunk man who offered to hold my skein for me while I wound it into a ball but I managed to deter him by repeated polite refusal. What is it with drunk people and trains? I don't know.

The other aspect of the draw of knitting seems to be that as soon as you get it out of your bag someone totally unexpected decides that they want to learn how to do it too. We had a load of friends to stay with us in Norfolk over Christmas, including 2 other knitters. The click of the needles must have done the trick as one of the non-knitters has now seen the light and started on a jumper for the baby she is expecting in July. And remember the 10 year old recipient of the Liberty poncho? Not only has she learnt how to knit but she has taught her best friend how to do it too and they are happily knitting lumpy garter stitch scarves together :)

I love this craft. There's really nothing better than spreading the word to the next generation either.

So what's next on the needles for me now that Clapotis is finished? Some Dennis the Menace socks for Mr A. Sadly I have not been able to elicit from him exactly what he means by that request. I was hoping for some guidance on length and thickness of stripes but all I got was "you know .... Dennis the Menace socks". Being none the wiser I have hunted out some black and red superwash yarn and am preparing to cast on and knit them freestyle. I am currently fretting about calf shaping and how to eliminate the inevitable joggle at the colour changes. I know full well that Mr A is never going to notice either of those things, but I will. Any advice on how to deal with either topic gratefully received :)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Finally technology smiles on the inept

At last all the bits I need to communicate with you all in pictures are in the same place at the same time. I do believe there are herds of pigs flying past my window as we speak. But before they circle round for their next pass let me share some pictures of my Christmas knitting with you.

Firstly, the Vine Lace socks that I gave my MIL:

Vine Lace Sox

These are made from Apple Laine Apple Butter in a shade whose name I forget but which as you can see is a lovely lovely collection of pinks and purples. Try as I might I could not eliminate the eyeleting between the needle changeovers so I have just decided to live with it as a design feature. MIL is none the wiser and has been sighted wearing the socks on several occasions so I think these were a success. Next time I am going to try not doing a needle changeover at the same time as a YO and see if that helps.

Secondly, the baby blanket for my new nephew, finished approximately 4 days before he made his appearance into the world.

Baby blanket - a labour of love

This is made from Rowan wool cotton in two shades of grey/blue (although they look more grey in this picture) with a garter stitch border and a moss stitch centre panel. Take it from me, you do not want to embark on a moss stitch baby blanket unless you have a good strong knitting backbone to see you through the wasteland that is balls 3,4 and 5 of the centre panel. It's lucky that I've already got one nephew so I had some inkling that this one was going to be fun to have around, that's all I can say. Somewhere I have a picture of said nephew all wrapped up in his spiffy new blanket, which made the whole thing worthwhile. But I can't find it at the moment :/ If I locate it I'll post it - I promise.

Third, Petite eyelet rib sox for mother of nephews:

Petite eyelet rib sox

These are made from Koigu PPPM which was a dream to knit with. I am glad I have plenty more in the stash, is all I can say. This pattern was fun, easy to memorise and quick to knit up too (well, quick for sox anyway). A good one to try if you're relatively new to sock knitting and want to branch out.

Finally, a fuzzy picture of my Very Harlot poncho made in Rowan Polar for 9 year old niece of RLBF:

Poncho - blurry but cool Posted by Hello

I have named this the Liberty poncho. Betya can't guess why :)

So there we have it - proof positive that Christmas knitting really did happen rather than just get blogged about. I've lots more to talk about on the knitting front, including the wonders of my new bag, Felting Lessons I Have Learned, progress on Clapotis and success in luring new knitters into the coven fold. But I think I'll save it for another post so that you get to hear from me more than once in a blue moon :)

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Tricoteuses Sans Frontieres - the kindness of knitters

Yes, I know I only posted yesterday. So sue me - this is important.

One thing I really like about the OL knitting community is the enormous amount of goodwill and kindness that knitters show both to each other and to the world at large. I first started reading knitblogs through Ann & Kay's great afghan-o-rama over at Mason Dixon Knitting and I love things like RAOK and Secret Pals (although I haven't yet summoned up enough courage to join in). The recent tsunami disaster in Asia has received a number of responses from the knitting community but the best one I have come across is this, started by The Yarn Harlot .

TSF - the Harlot has started a movement Posted by Hello

If you haven't seen it go here to find out how it works, and join if you can. Every little really will help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.

I would also like to add a personal plea to Stephanies. I'm not sure how many of you know this but in RL I am the finance director of War on Want , a UK based development charity who work to eradicate the causes of poverty. We have a number of partners in the affected area and the news from them this week has been terrible - homes washed away, factories where only 200 out of 700 employees turned up for work on Monday - just general confusion and chaos. We are not a disaster relief agency. Instead we focus on helping people build up sustainable lives over the long term through things like securing more safety conscious working conditions or a decent minimum wage. This means we have a lot of experience of working in areas where the media spotlight has moved on but the issue still remains. So I know that there will be a heck of a lot that needs doing in these regions for years to come and much of it will be done quietly and out of the public eye.

What I'm trying to say is that once all the debris has been cleared up and the dead buried the people who have been affected by this disaster will still need support for a long time to come in order to put their lives back together. So as well as giving something today, if you think you might have some spare cash please find an organisation that you like which works on long term poverty related issues and send them something next month and every month after that. Regular donors are the lifeblood of most not for profit organisations and you will be doing something to tackle the causes of poverty rather than just its symptoms. Thank you.

If you've stuck it out this far I promise normal knitting-related service will be resumed shortly :)

Friday, January 07, 2005

I'm in love!

So there I was, wandering round my favourite yarn site (possibly ordering some Debbie Bliss Aran Cashmerino to make this - I couldn't possibly comment) when I saw a new link to knitting bags. So I clicked on it expecting, you know, an ordinary kntting bag. Instead I came across this vision of lovliness. Look!

Jordana Paige knitting bag

Now I'm expecting all you US knitbloggers are going "Yeah, yeah - what's new about that?" But let me tell you that here in the UK, the land where bad ass knitters are still lone voices crying in the wilderness, this bag is something of a revelation. Look at the inside for heaven's sake.

Aiee! I am in knitting heaven Posted by Hello

This is clearly the knitting bag for the dynamic corporate chick who makes multi-million pound deals in the morning and then whips her needles out for a spot of light K2 P2 rib over lunch. Now that's not me any more. I gave all that dynamic corporate business up nearly 18 months ago and have been much happier since my move to the not-for-profit sector. But I still remember those days. And I sure as heck can still carry the bag.

So I ordered one. As a late Christmas present from me to me. Without even wincing at the pricetag. I can't wait. Now all I have to do is break the news to Mr A about exactly how much it cost before it turns up on my doorstep :/ Wish me luck!

And have I actually been doing any knitting rather than just lusting over knitting accessories? Well yes I have. And I may even be able to post some pictures this weekend, subject to the patron saint of lost things reuniting me with the cable that connects my camera to my laptop. I have been working on Clapotis in some of Axelle's wonderfully soft and snuggly cashmere. I love both the yarn and the pattern. Dropping those stitches is so liberating, and the stranded bars show off the different colours in the yarn to perfection. Wait for the pictures. They'll be worth it - I promise :)