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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Small luxuries

I'm a strong believer that it's the small things that make you happy and in making happy moments for yourself. Hence:


A cake, a cup of tea, a new book from the library* and international rugby on the telly - it doesn't get much better. Plus I have a new secret project (because I just don't have enough projects on the go at the moment) featuring the most lovely soft squishy yarn in lovely colours. I'm not going to post about it because it's secret, but Ravelers can check it out here.

Continuing the luxuries theme, we've been making quite a lot of these lately:

Biscotti pieces

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson's Feast and they're very easy to make. They also contain no butter (although that's somewhat negated by the chocolate chips!). They're called breakfast biscotti but I can eat these at any time of the day or night.

Tea and biscotti

The best bit (apart from eating them) is slicing the giant biscotti loaf.

Biscotti loaf

Imagine dunking that.

Last week I handed over a somewhat squiggly skein of hand-spun to Katie for winding. This week she handed this over.

Hand spun yarn

It looks like real yarn! I'm going to let it rest in the cake for a while as hopefully that will stop it springing back on itself when I start to knit with it. I've got a hundred grams which I think translates to around 300 metres (from my very rough measurement. I'm leaning towards a River stole which I think would be about the right size and also the right complexity of lace to show off the colour changes (although I have no idea how those will work out when I start knitting!).

* albeit one that made me put the chain on the door later on when it got dark.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the home stretch

More progress on the hopscotch socks, I'm now well into the fancy cable lace ribbing at the back of the leg and it's looking very nice. The stretchiness in the lace rib helps to compensate for all the cabling on the front of the leg so they're not too tight at all (which I was slightly worried about).

Hopscotch sock

Hat #9

Hat #9

Yarn: Artesano Alpaca
Needles: 3mm

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Works in progress

Despite spending much of the weekend sewing I still managed to get in quite a bit of knitting on the Anya sweater with the result that I'm already at the armhole shaping.

Anya sweater

On the one hand this is great as it means fewer stitches per row, I'm already working on 10 less over the row after casting off 5 stitches at each side. On the other hand I now have to combine decreases with colourwork and it's not straightforward knitting, certainly not something to be done whilst watching an especially gripping episode of Heroes.

Luckily I had some alternative knitting to work on.

Hat #8

Yarn: UK Alpaca DK
Needles: 3mm

The hat is worked in mistake rib and should be wamr enough to keep any smoothie cosy!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ahead of the game

As I'm planning to do some sewing this weekend I thought I'd better build up a bit of a buffer zone.

Hat #5

hat #5

Yarn: Rowan Cashsoft DK
Needles: 3mm

Hat #6

hat #6

Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug and Rowan Cashsoft DK
Needles: 3mm

Hat #7

hat #7

Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug
Needles: 3mm and 3.25mm

I'm good till Monday now!

Due to an accidental caffeine overdose (I can only take one or two cups of caffeinated tea per day) yesterday I woke up at 3 am this morning with my brain buzzing. After three-quarters of an hour trying to get back to sleep I gave up and went into the living room to watch videoed episodes of Brothers & Sisters and Studio 60 and to work on the Anya sweater the result being that I'm now over two-thirds of the way through the pattern chart.

Anya sweater

I have to say that this is knitting up really quickly and I love how it looks so far. And the yarn! This is going to be one of those sweaters where you don't need a coat on top. I think that all the Kidsilk floats from the stranded knitting are going to act like thrums in thrummed knitting making this a super warm, fluffy sweater.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Hat #4

Hat #4

Yarn: Fleece Artist sock yarn with sea cell
Needles: 3mm dpns

A plain stocking stitch hat which lets the yarn do the talking.

More progress on the Anya sweater.

Anya sweater

I've made a few teensy mistakes, a misplaced bead here, a missing one there (or not there as the case may be), a whole extra row on the back - actually that's quite a big mistake.


Tink back 20 rows of colourwork with beading (you can't rip KSH - not if you want to reuse it that is).
Knit the front as per pattern and finagle the making up so the extra row doesn't show.
Knit the front with an extra row.

Trouble is, the extra row turns the RS into the WS (and vice versa) which means I have to place a lot of beads on the purl rows (which isn't that easy).

And so, the real solution: Knit to the next colour change, move my knitting from one needle to the other so my RS becomes my WS again and continue knitting as though nothing had happened. I can do the same for the front too when I get to it. There's always a work around in knitting - one of the reasons I love it so much.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Autumn's harvest

Cherry Tomatoes

After months of wonering if the tomato plants were going to produce any fruit, let alone ripe fruit, they've suddenly come up with a bumper crop - or at least two of them have, the third never really recovered from being blown over during the storms. The question is what to do with them, it's not really salad weather anymore! I think they'd be nice roasted for a sauce (there aren't quite enough for a soup) or maybe in a tart.

Ta da

Hat #3

Hat #3 in RYC Cashsoft DK on 3mm needles with a seed stich rib pattern - the same one that was used for the Sock of Doom in Sock Wars.

Hat #2

No, really, it is a different hat.


More progress on the Anya sweater.


I'm finding it easier going than expected due to the absence of waist shaping (luckily I'm quite straight up and down figure-wise). Fingers crossed I'll have finished the colour work by the time the armholes come up!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A hat a day

The deadline for sending in hats to Innocent Smoothies for their anuual Big Knit in aid of Help the Aged is earlier than usual this year on the 22nd October as I realised when listening to Cast-On last night. I've been a bit behind with my hat knitting this year and so resolved (in the mad way that one does at 1 in the morning) that I would knit a hat a day (on average) until it was tme to send the hats in. This should give me a total of at least thirty hats which is more than respectable.

Presenting..hat #1

Hat #1

I need a slightly smaller circle template for my pom-poms, at the moment they're coming out larger than the hats.

Yarn: RYC Cashsoft DK
Needles: 3mm dpns

On the other end of the knitting scale I've finally made a decent start on the Anya sweater from Rowan 40. I had a go at casting this on months ago, got freaked out by the cable ribbing at the start (obviously Rowan don't believe in leading you in gently) and in the end ripped back because I wanted to use the needle for the Mystery Stole. One Mystery Stole later and I've completed the ribbing (which took the entirety of Shaun of the Dead) and made a start on the chart, which is worked mostly in KSH* and Kidsilk night stranded knitting with some beading thrown in for extra fun. At least the yarn is held double.

Anya sweater

OK, they're playing the national anthem on Radio 4 so it's definitely time for bed now!

* Brenda Dayne describes this as a 'gateway' yarn, but I think it's more like the hard stuff.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Each peach pear plum..

Some kindly person brought plums from their garden into work this week and so I made a plum and apple pie, using up the remaining apples from the ones we picked a few weeks back (apples really do keep well).

Plum and apple pie

Luckily I took a picture before serving the pie as it all fell apart rather on cutting!

and when the pie was opened

Still, all the constituent bits were delicious.

Today has been a day of small successes.

I've reached (and now finished) the heel on the second Hopscotch sock and there's still a sizeable cake of yarn left which bodes well for the length of the leg.

Hopscotch socks - heel

I've also finished (at long last) plying the hand-spun MoBair fibre which I bought back in May. It's currently hanging up in the shower to drip dry after which it's off to Katie's for the ball winder treatment (I've frankly had quite enough of winding this stuff around chairs!). It's worth it though, it's come out at a nice laceweight and I think I should be able to knit something very pretty in lace from it.

Hand spun yarn

Lastly I've skeined up some yarn which I had over-dyed in the leftovers from yesterday's red dye bath. This was Debbie Bliss cream merino dk which I had a go at hand-dyeing with Supercook food colouring back in May. The results were not so much variegated as blotchy.


Hand dyed merino yarn


Hand dyed merino

Cooking the yarn in the somewhat diluted red dye bath has softened out the over-concentrated aqua and filled in the undyed gaps with a dusky pink. The result is a variegated yarn in petrol blues and greys with some rose and purple. It's beautiful and I'm torn between being thrilled at having produced it and somewhat regretful that it was completely by accident.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I've been ticking nearly all the craft boxes this weekend as I've been knitting, spinning and dyeing.

This morning I headed round to Lara's lovely new abode to drink tea with her and Katie and to watch Lara wind wool. I've been making decent progress on the Hopscotch socks. The first one is resting with its stitches on some waste yarn and the second one is already knit up to the gusset. I'm very nearly (huzzah) at the end of the yarn that I have knit and ripped once before, which is always a good feeling. I have to say, though, that Katie's yarn stands up very well to being ripped back and re-knit which is a good property in a yarn given that all of us make mistakes from time to time.

Hopscotch socks

Last night I had put my found fleece (picked up whilst wandering about in the park) in a pan with 1.5 litres of water and 12 teaspoons of cream of tartar as a mordant. When I arrived home in the afternoon I split the fleece into two batches and mixed up two different red dyes using Supercook food colouring. I added the dyes to the fleece (still in its cream of tartar solution) and put them on to simmer for an hour.

Fleece in the dye bath

I just love this red colour.

While the fleece was cooking I put in some more time plying the hand spun. There's still quite a way to go but I can at least now see that the amount of single ply left on the bobbins is getting smaller. It's coming out at a laceweight and I'll definitely have enough for a lace scarf if not a small stole or shawl. If anyone has a good way of accurately estimating yardage that doesn't involve super precise scales I'd love to hear about it.

Hand plying

An hour after it went in I fished the fleece out of the dye baths and washed each batch separately. Floods of dye came out at the first wash, not so much thereafter and the colours are still satisfyingly deep and bright. I've ended up with two shades ofred, one a bright cherry colour, the other a rich blackberry.

Hand dyed fleece

I've not yet decided whether to spin them up separately and knit them as singles, whether to spin two different coloured plies and ply them together or whether to blend the two shades before spinning. I don't even know how this fleece will spin up as yet but I can't wait to find out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lemon squash risotto

I love making risotto, it's perfect autumnal* comfort food, and butternut squash is one of my favourite vegetables to add to it. I made this for tea on Friday evening.

Lemon squash risotto


Olive oil
1 onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (ditto)
75g Arborio rice
1 and a half sloshes white wine
1 chicken Oxo cube in 250ml boiled water
Juice of half a lemon (or equivalent)**
1 butternut squash (cubed and peeled)
Parmesan cheese
Black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C. Place the squash cubes in a pan of boiling water and cook for for ten minutes. Coat a wide bottomed dish or tray with olive oil. Drain the squash and tip into the dish. Drizzle some more oil on top and shake to make sure all the pieces are well coated. Cook in oven for half an hour.

Fry the onion in the butter and olive oil until soft, stir in the rice and cook for a further 2 minutes. Slosh in the white wine. Add the lemon juice to the chicken stock. When the wine has been absorbed pour in half the stock. Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent it sticking to the pan. Add more stock whenever the mixture starts to look dry. After about 20 minutes all the liquid should be absorbed and the rice should be cooked.

Take the squash out of the oven and use a slotted spoon to add as many pieces as you want to your risotto mix (the leftovers can be frozen for another risotto or as vegetable portions), fold in gently.

Put the risotto in a bowl and serve with black pepper, plenty of parmesan cheese and lemon wedges (although see **).

* unlike some I am perfectly happy that autumn's on its way, for a start it makes 18 miles training runs a heck of a lot more bearable!

** due to a grocery mix up mine came out of a bottle.

All cosied up

all the cosies

On Wednesday evening the Oxford Bluestockings headed en masse to Oxford Brookes university (OK it's just up the road really) to judge the Knitted Walking Stick Cosy competition. There were some very high quiality entries and you could tell that people had clearly put a lot of thought into their cosies. You can find out who won at the Missability website where you can also listen to the Missability Radio Show podcast. If you're in or around Oxford this week you can visit the Missability Shownotes Exhibition at the Oxford Centre for Enablement at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

We all had a great time, knitting, discussing the cosies and eating cakes and we got to see Kirsty's (she of the amazing Wonder Woman sweater - the sensation that's sweeping the nation) fab dress in the fabric. All in all a lovely evening, thanks to Felix our hostess and compere.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Right back where I started from..

I finally caught up to where I was before I started all the ripping back madness, in fact I've even overtaken myself a bit! The irony is that second time around, I've made pretty much all the same decisions as the first time. The short row round heel with flap is still there after I realised I'd messed up the maths for the square one (it would seem you don't need so much gusset) and didn't fancy the idea of more ripping. I did increase for the gusset on every other row, rather than on every row, but that's about it!

I'm sticking with the idea of a plain knit back ankle section as in the Birch Leaf socks and the Breeze socks with a lace rib section further up to give some stretch around the upper ankle/lower calf area. Of course, how much stretch is required depends on how far the yarn is going to go so pretty soon I'll be putting this sock on a holder and starting on sock 2. The other advantage of this method of knitting socks (a half sock at a time) is that I can write up pattern notes as I knit the second sock with the advantage of actually knowing what I'm doing!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Here's one I made earlier

I finally got around to finishing spinning up the 2nd ply from the MoBear fibre, prompted by my boyfriend who seemed to have some sort of problem with me buying more fibre before I'd made any yarn out of the first lot. After setting the twist on both plies (which involved a lot of skeining around two chairs) I wound each skein onto an improvised bobbin, OK, a loo roll. I then (invoking the spirit of Caron Keating) made four holes in a shoe box, stuck two 7mm knitting needles through with a loo roll bobbin on each and voila - my very own lazy Kate!

Lazy Kate

I then threaded the two plies through a hole in one of the chair backs, attached them to my piece of waste yarn and got busy plying.

Look - real yarn!

Plied yarn

Friday, September 07, 2007

My knitting hates me

I've had a frustrating time with the knitting this week.

First off, can you tell me what's wrong with this sock?

Hopscotch socks

Nope, I can't spot anything either. I'm therefore struggling to recall exactly why I ripped the whole thing out between Birmingham and Leamington Spa last Monday. It was something to do with the garter stitch in the diamonds pulling in lengthways and the cables pulling in sideways so that the sock foot looked really weird when not being worn. But who cares what it looks like in the sock drawer? After ripping back I tried a couple of variations on the diamond pattern (reverse stocking stitch, double moss stitch) only to find that it was the garter stitch which made the diamonds so diamondy in the first place. Spit!

Anyway, a week after I took the photo in the last post, I finally got back to the same place in the knitting and I'm now ready to start on the gusset, this time after taking care of some basics like measuring gauge and working out when I need to start on it etc. I don't usually do much planning when knitting socks, even made-up ones, since you can bung in a short-row heel just about anywhere without having to do any preparation - another reason why I love 'em.

Still, the heel flap does have advantages, like you can knit pretty stitch patterns into them. I'm planning a square turned heel (like for the Breeze socks only in reverse) which will wrap around my heel with some cables to give it a reinforced effect.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hopscotch socks*

The socks are progressing nicely thank you very much. They're a little bit hard work as there are some tight cables in there (must loosen up whilst knitting) but I like the way the pattern's working out.

hopscotch socks

I'll continue in the diamond pattern until the ankle and then I think the cables will meander off somewhere (though I haven't really worked that out yet). I am making notes as I go along and will write it up as a pattern** at the end.

The book (in case you hadn't guessed) is Atonement by Ian McEwan. I find that the making of books into "major motion pictures" is a great inducement to read them. Something about those glossy film stills on the cover. I seem to read a lot of books - The English Patient, Pride and Prejudice, Schindler's Ark, Jurassic Park(!) - the week before the film/TV adaption comes out. Luckily I'm a quick reader, at least I am when I'm not knitting. The knitting cuts a lot into my reading time, largely because it's difficult to find books which will stay open flat without a complicated system of coffee mugs weighting them down, and I find that I read a lot less now than before I took up knitting. Must take steps to curb this before I end up with a brain that contains nothing but fibre (at least metaphorically).

* Thanks to Aliki for the name. She used the word to describe the 1, 2, 1, 2 pattern of diamonds when trying to work out from me what it was going to look like.

** I don't know yet if it will be a "pattern" pattern or just a selection of charts with with add your own heel and toe. Depends on what I do for the heel I think. Of course even if it does turn out to be a "pattern" pattern then you're still perfectly at liberty to do that anyway!