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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Arithmetic for idiots*

Last night in an effort to stop me fretting about whether I would have enough time remaining to finish the Peacock Feathers shawl before December 9th the boyfriend demonstrated how to calculate how many stitches remain in a triangular piece of knitting.

Take the number of stitches on your current row (A) and subtract from the number of stitches on your final row (B). Divide this number by 2 and add to (A). Multiply this number by the number of rows you still have to knit (C).


((B - A)/2 + A) x C

In my case:

A = 346 (number of stitches on current row)
B = 495 (number of stitches on final row)
C = 75 (rows left to knit)


495 - 346 = 149

149/2 = 74.5

346 + 74.5 = 420.5 **

420.5 x 75 = 31537.5 stitches remaining.

I think I was happier not knowing!

You can also use this to calculate how far you are through a triangular piece percentage-wise (no more guessing on Ravelry). So:

Starting number of stitches = 3
Final number of stitches = 495
Total number of rows = 250

((495 - 3)/2) x 250 = 61500

(31537/61500) x 100 = 51% left

I've not even reached the halfway mark - should I just give up now?!

By my reckoning I need to put in at the very least 20 hours of solid knitting in the next ten days. The only chink of light is that it looks like there may be an option to skip rows 191 to 222 of chart 7, curtailing the "big feathers" portion of the shawl and move straight onto the edging chart. Luckily it's my lace-knitters anonymous (a.k.a. the Oxford Bluestockings) meeting tonight so I can get some expert advice and find out if this is really a viable option.

* by which I mean a knitter who takes on a complex piece of lace knitting to a tight deadline without checking how many stitches she will have by the final row of the piece.

** this is your average number of stitches per row (in case you're interested)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Felted goodness

So after boasting about my display of good behaviour in John Lewis the other week (where didn't buy so much as a button!) I promptly fell down hard in said store twice in one week.

Last Wednesday I executed a lightening raid on the Oxford Street store coming away with seven balls of Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4-ply clutched in my grubby little fingers. It's going to be discontinued, alright!


This Sunday I visited the Trafford Centre store and, whilst assuring the lady next to me that Kid Classic would indeed "felt like crazy", picked up 6 balls of Rowan Felted Tweed with which to knit Christmas socks.

Felted Tweed

Of course whilst the excuse that "it's not for me, it's Christmas shopping" is a good and valid one, it doesn't quite stretch to explaining how I'll have time to knit three pairs of Christmas socks on top of the Christmas something I already have planned, and the Peacock Feathers shawl (deadline December 9th), and the Anya sweater which I really did want to have done in time for this Christmas.

Still with socks at least I'm on home territory and I can hopefully whip these babies up on 3.25mm needles which should make them a relatively quick knit.

Meanwhile the Peacock Feathers shawl (aka the shawl that time forgot) is still progressing at a steady rate although I was somewhat relieved to realise that it's not because I'm a particularly slow knitter or that I'm finding the pattern especially taxing. It's just that it's huge. There are already around 320 stitches per row and there'll be nearly 450 by the time it's done. I really should have read through all the charts before starting! I'm halfway through chart 6 and there's just under a fotnight left - it's going to be close run thing.

Peacock feathers

Friday, November 23, 2007

Something for the weekend

Peacock feathers schawl

Compared to my lightening progress on the Kiri for Aliki's sister's wedding progress on the Peacock Feathers shawl has, quite frankly, been a bit on the slow side. I cast on just before I set off for Dublin and I'm still ploughing through chart four of eight (and chart seven, let me tell you, is a monster). Partly it's because I've been distracted by baby knitting - so much more fun really - and partly becauseit's not friendly knitting for the evenings (dark wool and lots of pattern stitches) or for company, the only knitting I've really managed on it on Wednesdays has been before everyone else has turned up.

Drastic times, drastic measures and all that. I have made the decision that the shawl is the only knitting that's coming up north with me this weekend. To that end I've transferred it from the Brittany birch 3.5mm straights (a delight to knit with but a tad unwieldly and not at all friendly to any person sitting near me on public transport) to a bamboo circular. Hopefully 8 hours on a train there and back will see me well into chart 6 (if not the black hole of chart 7)!

Hopscotch socks update

The pattern is currently being test knitted by Katie. I squee'd out loud when I saw the picture of my sock being knit by someone else. Actually my reaction pretty much mirrored hers back when I started knitting my first Hopscotch sock with her yarn.

Anyways, once I've got feedback from her I'll make any corrections, gussy up the charts, put in some better photos (which I hope to take this weekend) and pop it online for your knitting pleasure.

Introducing BP

In the middle of what has been a slightly hassly week at work (crises all of my own making) I had a wonderful day trip to the big city to see my brand new baby niece:

no paparazzi!

I was running rather later than intended so didn't have much time to sample the yarn delight of London. However, I did manage to snaffle a few balls of Jaeger Matchmaker 4-ply in John Lewis (there's still plenty left guys) to make a top for me and a cardigan (or something) for BP.

As it turned out my timing was perfect as BP had just been got up and changed as I arrived and was then awake and doing cute baby stuff and being very very good for the rest of my visit - she's a total charmer.

I'm not sure that Elijah really enjoyed his trip to London..

Elijah waiting for train

..but he looks much happier now:



He wasn't quite ready in time for me to present to BP on Wednesday (still missing most of one ear) but I finished knitting on the bus on the way home and he's waiting to be sent off as soon as I#ve taken the photos for my competition entry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

WIP - Elijah


I got in some good progress on Elijah whilst watching the final episodes of Heroes (season 1) with Ellen and Helen last night. It's not at all suitable viewing for a young elephant - lucky he's not got ears or eyes yet then!

I'm very much enjoying this pattern - the lack of sewing up is a joy and it really uses very little yarn, I may end up with a whole herd of elephants.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I'm struggling to stay faithful to the Peacock Feathers shawl at the moment. It's not handy bus knitting due to the long needles it's on so if I want to knit it while travelling the boyfriend has to sit on a different seat which seems a tad anti-social.

Plus there are too many other temptations. I came across Oliver's blanket on the Mason-Dixon blog and discovered that it's actually a UK based project to raise money for equipment* for Oliver - a little boy with cerebral palsy whose mum blogs here. Blanket squares should be knitted from leftover sock yarn (of which I have more than my fair share) and should be 4 inches square. You can send comkpleted squares to Michaela until the end of November. Michaela is making all the squares up into blankets which will be raffled at the end of the year. Kay at Mason-Dixon knitting is also collecting squares for a US blanket.

Oliver's square

Oliver's square

Pattern: see here (note the squares are garter stitch. Initially I knit mine in stocking stitch and ended up with more of a rhombus.
Yarn: Fyberspates sock yarn in Ocean Forest
Needles: 2.75mm

Even if you're not knitting for Oliver's blanket this is a great way to make squares more interesting and completely side steps the thorny issue of how many to cast on.

Meanwhile I also succumbed to temptation in the form of a little blue elephant who has been having the most exciting adventures over on Ysolda's blog. The final straw was finding out that Felix was already knitting the pattern and that I had the specified yarn in my stash (that almost never happens).

Introducing Elijah


Pattern: here for the grand sum of £2
Yarn: Rowan RYC Cashsoft baby DK
Needles: 3mm dpn

So far I'm progressing on the head at a steady pace but should speed up once I hit the trunk decreases. I need to hunt out some stuffing too as it's one of those projects where you stuff as you go so he should start looking more like an elephant pretty soon (although first he'll be resembilng a parsnip).

More knitting on Peacock Feathers at the weekend - I promise.

* Example a regular car seat costs around £20-£40, Oliver's costs around £1600!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Happy Birthday baby Porter

Yesterday lunchtime I received the very exciting news that I now have a niece. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I was able to see photos shortly after that and she looks incredibly cute if a little grumpy. Of course that's hardly to be wondered at given that it's turned seasonably frosty outside - luckily the latest batch of baby knits is all ready to keep her cosy and warm.

Classic Cardigam

Classic Cardigan

Pattern: Classic Cardigan from The Baby Knits Book by Debbie Bliss
Yarn: Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK
Needles: 3mm and 3.25mm
Modification: Pattern knit at 24 stitches/32 rows = 10cm instead of 18 stitches/24 rows = 10cm to make newborn size.

Posy bootees

Posy Bootees

Pattern: Posy bootees by Martin Storey from JB29
Yarn: Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn
Needles: 2.25mm dpn
Modification: Pattern knit at slightly smaller gauge, tubular bind-off added at top.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Baby knit-o-rama

Baby Porter - my first niece or nephew (we're fairly sure niece) - is due any day now and so baby knitting has reached near fever pitch. I sent off the first batch of crafted stuff (plus some very bought cute toys and clothes that I couldn't resist) last week and I'm now working on the next lot - a newborn size cardigan in Rowan Cashsoft DK and some Posy bootees in Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn.

Posy bootees

I love this pattern which is one of many beautiful patterns from Jaeger Handknits JB29. They may or may not be named after Posy Fossil from Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (one of my favourite children's books) but I couldn't resist the photo opportunity. Sadly the lighting isn't great but I'll take more pics when I've finished the i cord drawstrings. I used 24 grammes of Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn in Raspberry and 2.25mm needles. Otherwise I've followed the pattern as written right up to the top of the cuff where I've added a 6 row tubular bind-off to match the piping around the foot.

Although I've been trying to knit the smallet sizes in baby patterns even the 0-3 month sizes have come out looking huge. I can understand why pattern designers don't want to give small pattern sizes - babies come in a varying range of sizes and grow very fast so you could end up with some very disgruntled knitters. Still, I really wanted to knit something that that baby could wear right away and so knit the classic cardigan from The Baby Knits Book by Debbie Bliss using DK weight yarn instead of aran and size 3.25mm needles instead of 4.5mm. The result is a cardigan which is three-quarters the size of the 3-6 months size and which looks a pretty good fit for a newborn (fingers crossed). The yarn is Rowan Cashsoft in a very pretty lilac.

Classic cardigan (newborn size)

The bear transfer was my one purchase (for all of £0.99) at Hobbycraft this weekend - so sweet!

I was similarly restrained at John Lewis where Mum and I went to pick out my very exciting Christmas present (which is sadly staying firmly in its box and under wraps until December 25th - it might as well be a surprise for someone!). I think that my urge to buy yarn - even when confronted with exclusive to John Lewis alpaca and soon to be discontinued Jaeger (the Rowan rep said they still had plenty in stock) - was somewhat appeased by my Mum's purchase of 8 balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino aran for a moss stitch baby blanket (also from The Baby Knits Book which I had luckily brought up with me). Mum wanted me to be around to remind her how to cast on and change colours etc. but she really needn't have as she's picked it up again like the proverbial bicycle and after just one evening she's already 2 inches in!

That's all the knitting news for now - I can't wait to get back to Oxford and hear all about how the various Bluestockings got on at the i knit Stitch'n Bitch day. From the small snippets I've heard it sounds like everyone had a great time. Katie's put a small preview up on her blog - I can't get over how great her knitted banner is!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guy Fawkes night

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

I've always preferred bonfire night to Halloween*. It was always a big deal in our house with us and our next door neighbours from either side getting together for a big shared bonfire. My main memories are of the wet bonfire night at Brynn's (next door up the street) when we sheltered from the rain under a make shift awning made from sheet plastic and the year when we burnt the old table tennis table at our house. We retreated indoors because of the fumes from the paint and stood in the kitchen worrying whether the intense heat from the bommy was going to crack the windows. I have great memories of the food too. Sausages in rolls with onions and ketchup, baked potatoes in foil and kitchen towel, Brynn's special black peas (although I'm not sure that I ever ate any), rock hard treacle toffee which my brother and I made with Mum and then smashed into pieces with a mallet on the patio table.

There was (sadly) no bonfire for me this year but we did go to the Somerville college firework display which was a fantastic spectacle and I did get to have sparklers and treacle toffee (albeit from Thornton's).

Guy Fawkes night

I knit the fingerless mittens especially for bonfire night. The hand dyed yarn is a perfect autumn/bonfire colour and the stitch pattern is Flickering flames from the Harmony Guide to Knitting Stitches vol. II. The lack of fingers make them ideal for lighting sparklers and fishing sticky toffee out of a bag!

Flickering flames mitts

Flickering flames mitts:
Pattern: 10 rnds of K1 tbl, P1 rib. 2 repeats of Flickering flames pattern, afterthought thumb and another 10 rnds of K1 tbl, P1 rib.
Yarn: Hand dyed Debbie Bliss merino dk
Needles: 3.25mm dpns

*Actually Halloween and trick or treating was pretty much banned in our house due to all the evil.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Yay, go me! The above is my "chip time" (sadly nothing to do with deep fried potato products) for the Dublin marathon which I ran in last Monday. I led up to the race feeling deeply under prepared due to a bad cold which had forced me to skip three weeks of training (including my 20 mile run and my 10 mile rehearsal run) right at the end of my training schedule which basically meant that I hadn't run more than 6 miles at a time for over 5 weeks before the race.

It wasn't even until I turned up at the registration Expo in Ballsbridge on the Saturday before the race to pick up my number and kit bag that I faced the reality that I would be attempting to run 26 miles on Monday. As at London the "Impossible is nothing" whiteboard on which runners and supporters scrawl their messages of good luck proved very inspiring.

Impossible is nothing

Only 26 miles to go!

I hope Ciaran made it!

Also inspiring (as it turned out) was the lovely new kit that I bought for myself - a reflective Dubin 2007 jacket, my very first pair of running tights (which should help reduce the effect of my runner's tan this winter), and a lovely Hilly water bottle holder with zip pockets (finally, hands-free running). One of the things that kept me going in the tough miles between 20 amd 24 was the thought that I would feel a complete fraud wearing my gorgeous jacket if I didn't finish the race.

The race day itself was gorgeous, freezing on the start line - luckily we were packed in like sardines - but with bright sunshine which never got too warm thankfully. The worst thing was the stiff breeze which was troublesome on the higher portions of the course, especially between 12 and 13 miles where we seemed to be running straight into it for almost the whole mile, but mostly conditions were fine.

I was a little more worried in the early part of the race (1 - 6 miles) than I would be normally due to the lack of training but once I'd realised that I wasn't going to break down in a heap at three miles I really got to enjoying it. Miles 5 through to 8 in Phoenix Park were really nice (pretty trees, fresh air, nice views).

Although the crowds were nothing like London (which was overwhelming in both positive and negative ways) there were little knots of people here and there and larger groups in places and they gave out very warm and encouraging support. There were lots of little kids holding out their hands for low fives as the runners went past which I was much more inclined to do than in London where I was so hot and exhausted for so much of the time that my main reaction was "are you kidding? do you know how much energy that'll take out of me?". Lots of people held out sweets (btw jelly babies and wine gums: good; boiled sweets, especially ones which you have to unwrap: v v bad) and orange quarters. The water stands were really well organised and well supplied and they even still had enough of the energy drinks remaining when I went by although I only tried that once as it tasted worryingly like Sunny Delight and made Lucozade seem low-sugar.

The general trend of the course was uphill until 15 miles and downhill thereafter which was a good thing as I faded pretty quickly after 18 miles. 18 miles is a magic distances for me in marathon running. It's the point at which I can be fairly certain that I'm going to get home, no matter what. After all, it's only 2 miles after that until 20, and then only 3 until 23, and then anyone can run, or, worst case scenario, walk 3 miles. When you break it down like that it sounds like you're almost there at 18 miles. In reality there's still 8 miles to go (that's almost a third of the race) and it was a long hard slog. From 20 to 24 miles I really took it just one step at a time. When you start running people will tell you that it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and it's true. The tricky thing is to keep making yourself do it, even when you're too tired to think about getting to the next mile marker. The great thing is that if you can keep doing it, and keep doing it at a reasonable rate, you know that in a certain number of hours or minutes it will be over and you can stop it.

All this doesn't sound like too much fun but I really did run round with a smile on my face for most of the time and the finish makes it all worth while. As soon as you pass the 24 mile marker you can see people all around you lift up their heads and pick up their feet. It's partly to do with the larger crowds near the finish line, cheering you all on, but mostly to do with the knowledge that you're so close. One last effort and you're done. By the time you get to 25 miles people who were struggling to step onto the curb 2 miles back are running like they were at the start of the race and runners who looked dead on their feet are going for the sprint finish, arms outstretched. My primary school headmaster used to say that if you could sprint at the finish then you weren't giving enough earlier on. He has a point but I feel that the effort that I give at the finish comes from a different place than the effort I put in during the race. It comes from knowing that I can give everything for the last mile, that I can run on empty because there's no more distance to run.

After the race I got a lovely shiny (heavy) medal on a red ribbon which physically hurt everytime it banged into me as it swung around my neck (I had to hold it away from me as I was just too sore already after the race!) and a goody bag which - if light on the edible stuff (luckily I had brought my own Kit-Kat and banana) did have a lovely long-sleeved t-shirt in the right size (London organisers take note, most of us are not XXL).

Copy of dublin_marathon_2

I don't think I will run Dublin again (too hilly) but I did enjoy the experience on the whole and I'm still chasing that sub 4 hour time. I'm in the ballot for London next year so fingers crossed for that and for a cool April 2008.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Halloween

I have two possible routes to work from my bus stop - one takes me through the Day of the Triffids/28 Days Later style deserted hospital, the other takes me the scenic route, via the Maison Blanc patisserie window. Guess which one I usually choose.

Pumpkin pies

I have lots to post about my Dublin trip and the marathon and I'll do it when I have a little more time at the weekend. In the meantime, here's a shot of the progress on the Peacock Feathers shawl.

Peacock feathers shawl

I'm into chart 3 and it's going along quite nicely. I'm really glad I bought all those stitch markers at the Knitting and Stitching show though!

And, talking of shows..

Katie has just announced that she is going to have an Oxford Kitchen Yarns stand at the Stitch 'n' Bitch day in London. You can find out all the details over on Katie's blog.