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Thursday, October 30, 2008

You want to put the book in the freezer?

This Hallow'een I'll be mostly ... making cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes

I'd originally intended to make gingerbread zombies but I forgot to pick up a biscuit cutter in town this evening. The cupcakes were a bit on the small side for doing spider web icing (there wouldn't have been much cupcake left after I'd cut the tops off to create a flat surface) so I decided to go for scary pumpkin faces. It was easy enough to get a good orange icing (it's not Hallow'een without a few artificial colourings and preservatives) but the scary faces were a bit tricky. I tried dusting with cocoa powder through a stencil and moulding eyes and mouths out of dark brown icing without success and was giving up in despair when the boyfriend saved my reputation as a patissier by suggesting indenting the icing. He then proceeded to look at the ends of all the sharp implements we own before suggesting that one point of my giant scissors would make good eyes and noses and the smaller point would work for scary teeth.

Whispering secrets

These two look like they're plotting something. It's a good job they're shut away tight in tupperware.

... and reading scary stories

I picked up The Turn of the Screw by Henry James in the library and started reading it on the bus coming home. Not really a great move as I then had to try very hard not to get spooked by the noise of the pheasants rustling about in the gully on my walk down the hill from the bus stop. If you fancy something slightly less hair raising then there's All Souls' by Edith Wharton (very seasonal). I read this in a collection of her short stories called Souls Belated and Other Stories* which also includes Roman Fever which has some good knitting content. I know most people like to stay in with a scary movie on Hallow'een but I much prefer curling up with a book. Plus you can always put it in the freezer if it gets too freaky.

* in fact, flicking through, there are a good few chillers in there including Kerfol, The Eyes and Afterward.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If in doubt just knit socks


Socks are the default setting on my knitting dial. I usually have a pair (or two) on the needles at all times and when I can't decide what project to begin next I usually start a pair of socks whilst I think about it. There are as many reasons for knitting socks as there are fantastic sock patterns out there but the most pressing one just at the moment is that about six of the pairs currently sitting in my sock drawer are darned in one or more places. This brings me neatly to the argument I hear most against knitting socks - that they wear out so much more quickly than any other knitted garment. Why lavish so much care and money on something that's going to end up down at heel? This used to scare me a bit I admit, especially as I'm particularly hard wearing on socks. However, one of the reasons that I love knitting so much and the main reason that it took over from my various other crafty activities such as cross-stitching is that I end up (at least when I'm not knitting tiny woolly hats) with a practical end-product to be worn and to be worn out. I'd much rather have my darned but still toasty socks than any amount of fancy work safely preserved under glass.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I want to knit it all

Purple Monkeys

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A.
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock
Needles: 2.5mm

Now that I'm done with the two pairs of socks that I had on the needles I'm casting around for what to cast on next and wanting to knit everything at once. I want to knit with my handspun, I want to finish the Trellis cardigan, I want to knit something with my hand-dyed rainbow yarn, I want to knit fancy lace socks and a scarf and gloves and a sweater.

But, I've no idea what to knit first!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good intentions

Today is the first day of a regime of improved diet and exercise! Due to the exingencies of laundry I wore a skirt to work that hadn't been out of the wardobe for a few months and boy did I notice the difference. I've been off the running and swimming for a few weeks first with a sore foot, then a string of colds. Anyway the foot's better and I'm hoping that improved diet will sort out my immune system. Apparently there's this stuff called "fruit" that has vitamin C in it! I've never really been into weighing and measuring myself but I've got a couple of pretty unforgiving (as far as ease goes) items in my wardrobe so I'll be able to chart progress.

At least I don't have to airbrush my feet yet!*

FO Thelonious socks

Pattern: Thelonious socks by Cookie A.
Yarn: Louet Gems Opal sock yarn (2 skeins)
Needles: 2.5mm

* this harks back to some idle speculation at bluestockings a few months ago as to whether people were ever tempted to airbrush their arches for sock shoots. All I'll admit to is a very little brightness fixing in this shot to improve the accuracy of the colour.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Elementary swatch

Yarn: Artesano Alpaca Inca Cloud
Needles: 4mm
Stitch gauge: 28 stitches = 4 inches
Row gauge: 24 rows = 4 inches

A swatch and a little basic maths and we have the germ of a sweater pattern. I had the idea for this at lunchtime, mulled it over during the afternoon and picked up the yarn and needles for swatching from Port Meadow after work. Of course it is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data but I'm seeing a v-neck sleeveless cardigan, possibly with a pocket or two. Just the thing for striding around Dartmoor after spectral hounds.

You know you want to see the back.

Elementary swatch - back

So neat.

I worked up the swatch at the Jam Factory knitting group this evening and had a very jolly time although it wasn't the ideal project for group knitting as I had to keep breaking off from discussions of gauge and blocking to check that I wasn't mucking up the pattern which is deceptively tricky at first. At least with over 200 stitches to cast on I should get the hang of it after the first row or two!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Consolation prizes

The summer vegetables may have been a big flat failure - the green tomatoes didn't even grow large enough to make chutney - but there are one or two reasons for cheer out on the baloney.


This hyacinth pot which sprang into life a couple of weeks ago has now come inside to cheer up the kitchen and on Sunday I took advantage of the lovely weather to plant out the garlic that I bought at the CLA Game Fair back in July.


I really hope they come up OK as we get through a lot of garlic in this household.

Here's something that should be ready a bit sooner than the garlic.

Thelonious sock

I'm up (or down if you will) to the heel on the second Thelonious sock. Progress has been a bit slower than expected on this due to a) having to rip back nearly everything I knit at Bluestockings last Wednesday as I only knit the non-pattern rounds once rather than three times and b) spending a lot of time crocheting on a secret project. I'm really enjoying the pattern now that I'm well into it. It's an interesting pattern but straightforward enough to knit without reference to the chart whilst walking or listening to the classic Radio 4 adaptations of Sherlock Holmes with Clive Merrison and Michael Williams on the bus. Despite my recent Wimsey infatuation, Sherlock really is my first love when it comes to detective fiction and I have to say that the boyfriend is relieved that I've started I've given up droppin' my g's in casual conversation.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Feels like summer

Grey heron

I really wish I had a proper zoom lens on my camera. We saw this chap just 15 yards away enjoying the sunshine on our walk around Christ Church meadow this afternoon.

This is what he looks like uncropped.

Grey heron 2

I've not been in Christ Church meadow for some time. A lot of the dead climbing plants have been cleared away from the trees which means that you can really appreciate the wonderful patterns in the bark.


Despite the fantastic weather there were clear signs that autumn really is here.


There's no sight quite like that of a novice fresher crew taking to the water for the first time. Alas, a still photo doesn't really convey the sheer lack of coordination. Still it looked like they were having fun.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Quantum of Solace

Thelonious sock

In these uncertain times there really is nothing like using one stick to wrap a piece of yarn around another stick 8000 odd times to take your mind off things.

I'm not sure yet whether I'll be off to Ally Pally at the weekend (pros: I might be able to meet my niece and sister in Muswell Hill beforehand; cons: do I really need more yarn and/or fibre - although it would always do for loft insulation) but I'm still really enjoying this pattern (Thelonious by Cookie A.) and yarn (Louet Gems Opal) that I picked up at last year's show.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Banana Republic Hat Knockoff - free to good home

This was going to be a post about how the weather has changed so quickly from bright and sunny to cold and wet and how I saw this hat and thought it would be a fabulous quick knit to knock up in an evening so I would have a warm hat to wear when looking after my baby niece at the weekend.

The hat did knit up very quickly (about 2 hours knitting time I think) and looked great, even though I had to knit it on straights and seam it as I didn't have a pair of circs in the correct size. I thought it seemed a bit snug when I tried it on after finishing it and my suspicions were confirmed the next morning when, after wearing it for an hour, I took it off to brush my hair and discovered a neat pattern of garter bumps imprinted on my forehead.

I'm not ripping out as I have plenty of the yarn (I bought enough to make a poncho back in 2005 when a cream poncho in bulky wool seemed the height of sophistication) and frankly - although it's holding up very well - it's been through enough of that already!

So if the circumference of your head is 21" or less leave a comment in the notes or PM me on Ravelry and the hat is yours!*

Banana Republic Knockoff Hat

Pattern: Banana Republic Hat Knockoff
Ravelled: here
Yarn: Rowan Big Wool in Spun Sugar
Needles: 5mm/6.5mm

It really is very warm.

* Distance no object.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Quick catch up

I've not really felt in the mood for blogging this week, or rather I've not felt in the mood for sitting in our rather chilly study when I could be reading in bed or knitting in the much warmer sitting room. There's been a real nip in the weather since the weekend giving me an added incentive to knit more socks to make up for all the darned pairs.

FO - Marathon Monkeys

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A.
Yarn: Artful Ewe sock yarn (1 skein)
Needles: 2.5mm dpns
Ravelled: here

WIP - Purple Monkeys

I make no apologies for knitting yet another pair of Monkeys (aka The Most Popular Socks in the World). I need socks quick and I can knock out two and a half pattern repeats on my bus ride to and from work each day. Even if I only knit on the bus I'd have a pair in two weeks.

As I'm nearly down to the heel on the second sock of this pair I started casting around for sock yarn for my next pair and came up with another pair of Cookie A. socks. OK, it's more like 0.9 of a single sock rather than a pair.

The Loneliest Sock

No, I'm not going to rip it back to make Monkeys (that would be silly) but as soon as I've finished it I'll be using the leftover yarn (extremely lush Louet Gems Opal) for my next pair. I'll have at least one skein spare due to my thinking I needed three skeins rather than two for these when I was at Ally Pally last year - I blame the yarn fumes.