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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Monkey magic

Being up north this weekend I was able to go to the civic reception for Bolton's latest Olympic hero, Jason Kenny, in the Town Hall square. I'm not sure how well it was advertised but we knew about it because my brother Ste was covering it for the Bolton News.

Jason Kenny and my brother Ste

Ste's the good looking chap holding the camera.

I don't have a fancy camera myself but managed to get close enough for some decent shots.

Jason Kenny

Jason Kenny, Amir Khan

You can't really avoid seeing Amir Khan (who I think is fantastic btw) if you're in Bolton on a Saturday - we saw him again later doing the half-time draw at the footy.

Whilst waiting for the Olympians I finished off Dad's Monkey socks (I tried but failed to get Jason Kenny's autograph for Katie on my Monkey pattern which was the only bit of paper I had on me) and got in another inch on Laurie's cable tank top.

FO - Dad's birthday Monkey socks

Monkey Magic

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A.
Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug
Needles: 2.75mm
Ravelled: here

Love the pattern, love the yarn, love everything. I can see there being a whole troop of monkeys by the time I'm done loving these socks. btw these are men's socks which I think should put to bed the whole debate about whether or not you can get a decent size pair of socks from a single skein of Colinette Jitterbug (although I will say that there's not much over for darning).

WIP - Laurie's cable tank top

Pattern: Cable tank top from Simply Baby by Debbie Bliss
Yarn: Baby Cashmerino
Needles: 3.25mm circ.

The only modification so far is that I'm knitting in the round to avoid having to sew side seams. It's a super cute pattern and the cables and rib in baby cashmerino make for the cushiest fabric imaginable.

Cable tank

It's a good thing that I love my niece and like cables (and that Ellen taught me how to cable without a cable needle) - I'm up to 198 cable twists and counting!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

FO - Clara's raglan cardigan

FO - Clara's raglan cardigan

Pattern: my own
Size: 12-18 months
Yarn: Rowan Classic Yarns Cashsoft DK
Needles: 3.25mm/3.5mm

Hope she likes it!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Barrelful of Monkeys

Monkey socks

There's been a bit of an Outbreak style epidemic of Monkey knitting this week. I finished the first sock (front) in the lovely Artful Ewe sock yarn from Washington yesterday morning and promptly cast on the first of another pair in Colinette Jitterbug (back). I'm making pretty good progress too, even considering that I got in loads of knitting yesterday at Katie's and today in the car to and from and whilst wandering around Bletchley Park. Turns out I can totally knit and pay attention to exhibits at the same time. I may end up like Miss Patty in Anne of the Island and look up at the Sphinx and knit.

Despite the fact that it's the August Bank Holiday weekend it's been warm enough to wear my hot-off-the-sewing-machine Barcelona skirt to Katie's tea party yesterday afternoon and whilst visiting Bletchley Park today. It was received with much acclaim although less surprise than I'd anticipated. In fact I got the distinct impression that I'd have been in trouble if I hadn't worn it. Either my friends know me better than I think or Aliki let something slip at knitting on Wednesday.

Anyway here's the FO.

FO - Barcelona skirt

And on me.

Harrier jet

I hope you're impressed that I'm holding up that Harrier with just one hand.

As well as all the regular Bletchley exhibits there was a bit of a James Bond tie-in going on to celebrate an exhibition about Ian Fleming's work there during the war. They had the Aston Martin owners club, a Sean Connery (late era) look alike, and Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice. I got to look inside the cockpit.


After all, you don't want to hit the flame thrower button by mistake for the odometer reset.

Amongst all the things I expected to see, like the Turing Bombe and the Enigma machine was something more unexpected.

Bletchley quilt

Bletchley quilt

It's a quilted representation of the facility at Bletchley Park and an absolutely fabulous piece. I love the herring bones on the roof of one of the huts.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My first skirt

In order to avoid becoming too intimidated by my fancy skirt pattern and lovely fabric and letting it gather dust due to cold feet I decided to follow an ancient Greek philosophy (much beloved of the goddess Nike) and "just do it".

Of course I'm not actually an idiot so by "just do it" I mean that I popped into King's after work, bought some £1.50 per metre polycotton and made up what in the UK is known as a toile and in the US as a muslin. Although I'm a Brit I'm going to be calling it a muslin, not least because I have great difficulties pronouncing the work "toile" (it usually comes out somewhere between toil and twirl). I have no such issues with the word "muslin".

Given how inexpensive the fabric was I had more qualms about cutting into my pattern pieces than into the cloth but I managed to get them all pinned on and cut out correctly with no mess ups. It is really a very straightforward pattern in the main (although the bit about the zip looks rather scary) but it's my first attempt at sewing from a pattern so I'm a bit scissor shy.

pattern pieces

Because it's a layered skirt there are an awful lot of pattern pieces to cut out, but because the layers end in raw edges there isn't a commensurate amount of hemming so I was able to sew up the muslin pretty quickly.

Barcelona layered skirt muslin

It fits extremely well, in fact almost a little too well, given that the real skirt is going to have a lining. I'll make a decision tomorrow, at an hour more conducive to rational thought, about whether my pieces should be cut a little larger or whether it just means that the skirt will sit a little higher.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marathon monkeys

It would be too boring to go into all the mishaps that befell the knitting of my Cedar Dancing socks over the weekend. Suffice to say that when, after I'd finally got the correct number of stitches to fit my foot and had knit about eight four-round pattern repeats, I realised that the pattern repeat should be in fact five rounds I decided that it was the yarn's way of telling me that it wanted to be Monkeys instead.

Marathon Monkeys

I think that the yarn was right in this case. These look fab and you've got to love a lace pattern that, whilst looking reasonably detailed and intricate, is straightforward enough that I didn't make a single mistake between casting on at the start of the women's marathon at 12.30am and finally going back to bed at 4.15am after the women's and men's medley relays.

Quiltfest '08

Phew, it'll be a relief to go back to work for a rest on Monday! We did the quilt show in fine style on Friday, I think we saw all the stands and nearly all the quilts. There were too many to remember or to describe in detail. Ruth and I loved the winner in the miniature category which had around 30 or so one inch sashed blocks containing tiny open umbrellas in different colours finishing with the final one half-closed. No pictures I'm afraid as we were very good and (mostly) obeyed the injunctions not to take photos. We also loved the Liberty Jack quilt which was made up of around 32 Union flags in different Liberty prints - just gorgeous.

ruth and ellen

Luckily there was no such prohibition on taking photos of Ruth and Ellen, although I did get a verbal warning!

Amongst the quilts on show on the stands we were all very excited to see not only the Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric but the made-up quilt.

v hungry caterpillar

I especially loved the panels showing the food that the caterpillar eats a hole through - I've always adored the water melon, which is slightly weird as I find water melon a bit disappointing in real life. It's probably because nothing can taste as good as water melon looks.

The first stand we spent any time at was Buttoncompany who stocked Amy Butler fabric, some great woollen felt and loads of Japanese prints including the robot fabric which Kim used for her fantastic messenger bag. She happened to have this with her at the show and it was promptly grabbed off her by one of the stand holders to show a customer what could be done with the fabric. I snapped up a fat quarter of the stuff and when Katie went back later to pick up some for herself they were still talking about Kim's bag!

i robot

My main objective for the show was to pick up a pattern and some fabric for a skirt as I really want to get started making clothes but I couldn't resist this roll of fat quarters from The Quilt Room especially as I was able to get a metre of the light blue print with white flowers as backing fabric.

roll of quarters

backing fabric

I should have enough for another crib sized quilt of some description though I've not even started to think about a pattern. The colours would be good for a swimming pool quilt but given the amount of fabric I have it would have to be more like a paddling pool.

By this time Ruth and Ellen and I had finally found the nice seating area near the teaching and Q&A rooms and everyone headed there to sit down and compare purchases. Katie and Kim had been to the Cotton Patch which had a large selection of Rowan and Amy Butler fabrics. Katie had got a lovely book of baby patterns which Amy Butler signed for her and Kim had bought a great dress/tunic/camisole top pattern so I thought I should get over there and see what else was on offer. I was really tempted by the dress pattern but it's somewhat out of my league for a first attempt at making clothes from a pattern so I went with the Barcelona skirts pattern and (after much consultation and dithering) a lime green fabric with a green/grey flower pattern.

amy butler stuff

When I got home I confirmed that I'd picked the right one by the age old method of wrapping it around me in front of the mirror - why they don't let you do that at the show I have no idea.

Trying on

My final purchase of the day was a metre roll of Lamifix from It's clear plastic film that you can iron onto fabrics to make them waterproof and can be used for making bags and mats etc. I thought I'd try ironing it on to my robot fabric to make a small bag or purse.


I had a fabulous day - it was really great to see Jaq and Kim again and to see Ruth who has recently moved away from Oxford so won't be making it to many Bluestockings meetings. The whole thing was topped off perfectly when I finally made it home to discover that my ticket to see the Yarn Harlot at the iknit day had come in the post. Only 20 days to go!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Capsule knitting

The football season kicks off on Saturday so I'm up off north tomorrow to watch the Wanderers' first match of the season against the mighty Stoke City. Tomorrow is also the second day of the Festival of Quilts at the NEC and I'm going along with Katie, Ellen and Katie's mum and sister. On the one hand this means that I get a lift as far as Birmingham, on the other hand it means I have to pare down my packing to something that I can tote around the exhibition centre all day without putting my back out.

Thankfully I am a past mistress of this arcane art (plus I'm going up to my parents' which means that things like PJs, shampoo and my spare toothbrush are already in situ) having in the past succeeded in fitting the contents of an overnight bag into a regular sized handbag and those of a weekend bag into a bag that would fit under my seat for the boyfriend's latest degree ceremony (he's a repeat offender). Given that most of the seats in the Sheldonian Theatre don't have legroom, let alone room for anything else, this is some feat.

capsule knitting

Clockwise from the top: ipod (stuffed to the gills with listen again Agatha Christie), toiletries, spare tops, underwear, lucky Bolton shirt, socks, knitting, printout of sock pattern.

Seriously, what else do you need?

The socks in question are the Cedar Dancing socks from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters. Aliki remarked a couple of weeks ago that it was slightly odd, given how eager we all were to get our sticky mitts on this book, that none of had actually knit any of the full size socks yet. Anyway, I'm going to be knitting these in the lovely lavender yarn from the Artful Ewe.

By the way - do you notice anything odd about the pair of socks below?

mismatched socks

They're not a pair - I've got one Monkey and one Elfine's sock! I thought that switching to all handknit socks was meant to stop this happening.

Progress on the raglan cardigan last night was patchy to say the least. I had to reknit the right button band (the one with the button holes) about 3 and 2 halves times (i.e. three times in its entirety and twice when it was half knit) and I made a similar number of starts on the first sleeve. I think it was worth it though - I'm pretty pleased with my two-row button holes and the sleeves are looking OK now. I'm knitting them back and forth rather than in the round in order to avoid jogging in the stripes and holes in the underarms.

Clara's raglan cardigan

On the minus side this means I have an extra 32 ends to add to the gazillion and one ends that I already have to weave in.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Non-woolly minded illiberalism (or yet another reason not to read the Guardian)

Aliki* pointed me in the direction of this somewhat vitriolic blog post on the "pointless" Ravelympics. Skipping over the inaccuracies, mindless hate, and sweeping generalisms (apparently all knitters are humourless and overweight - that's just like saying that all Guardian journalists can't spell*) this guy just doesn't seem to have got the point. Whenever there is a major sporting event, people who enjoy sport often like to do something to be more involved either with the participants or with the other fans. That something can be wearing team colours, having your once-a-year punt on the Grand National, joining the office sweepstake during the World Cup, or just discussing your new-found love for synchronised diving in the kitchen at work. In the case of the knitting community we celebrate (the same way we celebrate every other day with a Y in it) by knitting. I don't see what's so pointless about using a set period to focus on a particular project, or about using knitting and the Olympics to meet new friends. After all, if I'm going to be sat on my "fat arse" watching over 100 hours of sport (or at least I will be when the telly comes back from the shop) I might as well produce something warm and beautiful at the same time. You go, Ravelympians!

After this brief polemic we now return to our regular scheduled knitting content. I was so excited to find out that Aliki is knitting a pair of Hopscotch socks in a gorgeous blue shade of Oxford Kitchen Yarns. They look fabulous and we spent lunchtime cooing over how neatly the cables intertessellated (though I says it as shouldn't).

Despite a minor flirtation (if you can call casting on 236 stitches in the round a flirtation) with a tank top in an attempt to ascertain whether I could knit up my handspun alpaca and the last of the Jaeger Matchmaker 4 ply at the same gauge (I couldn't) I've made good progress on Clara's raglan cardigan.

Clara's raglan cardigan

I'm just ready to start the ribbing at the bottom then there's just the button bands and the sleeves. It's all looking very cute and well-proportioned, the fabric is lovely and soft and it's not too yarn hungry. I think if I was knitting this in a single colour it wouldn't take much over three balls.

* she knows I just love a bit of righteous indignation and impotent fuming.

** Sorry, I tried not to be cheap but that one just slipped out. Nice use of the less common double-L spelling of "civillisation" btw Steve!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sweater training

You might have got the impression that all this baby knitting is in aid of my bid to be aunt of the year but in fact I've got an ulterior motive. It's just practice for the one or two adult sweaters I want to design for myself this autumn.

Clara's cardigan  - first attempt

I've been getting to grips with using the EZ percentage system to calculate neck sizes and yoke lengths and after a false start (above - see the unusual letter-box style neck) I've been making good progress on the raglan cardigan for Laurie's little buddy Clara.

Clara's raglan cardigan

This needs to be done for September so I'm trying not to get distracted by other shiny knitting but I've been continuing to spin up the giant sack of biffle on my new wheel.

300g wheel spun biffle

Hopefully I'll be able to spin enough at a consistent enough weight to knit a sweater - nothing too fancy shaping-wise - I'm thinking a lace tube (happily I suit tube shaped sweaters) with reverse stockinette yoke.

My ambivalence to watching the Beijing Olympics lasted just until the first coxless fours heat yesterday morning. Of course, having decided that I will be watching the Olympics it's ironic that the TV should have packed up this morning - we have sound but no vision! Still, our first gold medal - Nicole Cook in the women's cycling road race - was just as exciting on the radio, in fact more so as I couldn't see whether she was going to hang on or not.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Plural for singular

I sat down at the spinning wheel after work today and after a little while of spinning a fluffy, bulky mess something finally clicked and I'm finally spinning something that looks like the singles I've been getting off the drop spindle for a while now.

bfl singles

It's by no means a full bobbin but I thought I'd stop before the slight muscle strain developed into the dreaded "spinners limp". I'm not at all sure how it happened but I've managed to get from having to draft everything in advance and then treadling to spin it and get it onto the bobbin to a place where I can draft as I spin and the fibre just seems to flow through my fingers.

It's a very satisfying feeling and I can tell that, once I've got a bit better, this is going to be just as addictive as spinning witha drop spindle.

I've also learnt that wearing a black t-shirt whilst spinning is not really advisable due to "the fluff of white wool which settles all over the spinning woman and tends to give her the appearance of a person who has slept in her clothes" (according to Dorothy L. Sayers in Five Red Herrings).

Despite the fact that I've been knitting hard all weekend I don't have much in the knitting line to show off as I seem to have been in hard training for the knit and rip event in the Ravelympics.

What I do have is a swatch for a raglan baby cardigan.


Yarn: Rowan Cashsoft DK
Needles: 3.25mm (border), 3.5mm main piece
Tension: 24 stitches and 32 rows = 4 inches

I rather like the picot edge but my sister, who has commissioned the piece, isn't so keen (I'll be saving that design feature for my own stripy sweater) so it'll be a plain raglan with ribbed edge rather like (in fact exactly like) this one, only for a 1 year old:

Top-down baby raglan

The deadline is September so I'd better sit down and get started on the maths.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Knitting is magic

Minimalist cardigan

There's always something slightly surreal for me about the first time I wear any handknitted piece, particularly with any item that doesn't need blocking (socks) or that has been blocked before sewing up (sweaters). One moment it's a project that you're working on, the next you've woven in that last end and it's part of your wardrobe. Part of it is that I'm still not entirely used to the fact that I can get new clothes without going into a shop and handing over my credit card* but it's mostly that I'm still stunned by the "ta da" moment when I realise that, with just a couple of bits of wood to help me, I've succeeded in turning the raw materials of spun yarn into a wearable garment.

It's at moments like these that I'm particularly glad to have a flesh and blood knitting group because no-one else quite gets how cool this is.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday!

* usually by the time I've knit something up that part of the business is so long in the past as to have faded from memory.