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Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo - hard to say, harder to do

Well I was trying for a month of daily blogging. It hasn't quite come off but I think that 27 posts out of 30 ain't bad. The days when I didn't manage a post were generally those when I left it too late in the day and couldn't quite face the chilly computer room.

Although NaBloPoMo is now finished (or will be in 8 minutes) I'll still be trying for more frequent blogging through advent. I adore advent calendars so doing my own should be fun.

Baby Bhoy Sweater

I only realised halfway down the yoke increases that I was knitting a baby Celtic cardigan.

Felix's raglan cardi

Pattern: Felix's Cardigan by Jacki Kelly
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Rialto DK; green 2 balls, white 1 ball
Needles: 4mm circular needles

Aliki and I are knitting a coordinating pair of these cardigans (one each) for a colleague who's expecting twins in February. Friday is her last official day in the office so we're knitting against the clock. It's also an exercise in teamwork and self-restraint. I usually have no compunction about making little modifications to a pattern but as we're aiming for a matching pair any modifications have to be agreed on by both of us.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Good designer*, bad girlfriend

I've been neglecting the boyfriend all evening (although he appears to be reasonably happy in the other room writing reports and watching Family Guy) in order to do designer stuff on Ravelry. The pattern for the Skipton gloves is now available as a free Ravelry download and can be downloaded from this page. I've also changed the links at the top right of this page so that non-Ravelers can download the patterns without signing up. It's been ages since I last uploaded a pattern to Ravelry so it took a while and a question to the British Designers group (which I then answered myself) to complete the process. Hopefully I'll get the next design up there before I forget all over again.

In answer to Ruth's question, yes Kid Classic is perfect for lovely warm gloves. It's so cosy and it's knit up at a reasonably dense gauge to block out the wind. However, if you have problems wearing mohair then I'd suggest substituting another yarn as even if your hands can take it, your wrists can be very sensitive and these are snug fitting gloves.

Thanks for the feedback on referencing techniques in patterns. I know that I'm perfectly happy to go away and research a new technique and I'm lucky enough to have a lot of knitting friends if I need a demo but I wasn't sure how other people felt. I think I'll stick to just naming the technique if it's fairly standard and maybe giving directions to a good online tutorial if it's more unusual.

The other thing that took time this evening was putting up a corrected copy of the pattern for the Hopscotch socks. There was a small erratum in the directions for the heel flap where I had essentially repeated two rows in the process of copying and pasting. Oops! Happily I don't think that anyone was seriously inconvenienced by this as both knitters who pointed this one out to me have completed their socks. I think the nicest this about publishing patterns is seeing all the different ways that people can knit them up and at some point I'll organise a gallery.

* by which I mean morally good.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Do I need to spell it out?

FO - Skipton gloves

Skipton gloves

Pattern: Skipton gloves by Liz Thompson (available soon as a free Ravelry download)
Yarn: Rowan Kid Classic in Lavender Ice and Victoria (one ball each)
Needles: 3.25mm dpns

I wrote up the patten for these gloves this evening. It took rather a long time considering that these are such a small project but describing how to knit the fingers and thumbs turned out to be very complicated. I haven't knit very many pairs of gloves, in fact these are my first successful pair, so I wasn't really sure about how much detail to go into.

This is something I wonder about a lot when writing up patterns. Do I need to explain how to make a crochet cast on or is it OK to say, "cast on x stitches using waste yarn and crochet cast on" and assume that if the reader doesn't know how to do this already that they will look it up? Answers on a postcard please.

The pattern will be up on Ravelry in the next couple of days or so. I did want to publish it tonight but thought that I should listen to the part of my brain that's telling me to read it through again in the morning to check for daft mistakes. So unlike me I know.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I just got back from a lunchtime excursion to the LYS with Aliki where we each bought 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto to knit a coordinating pair of these for an expectant colleague (twins!), only to find yet more yarn in my pigeonhole.

[Crappy camera phone photo which in no way conveys how pretty (or soft) this yarn is.]

This is a skein of Buttersoft DK from Artist's Palette Yarns in gorgeous christmassy berry shades which Juliet has sent me as part of a little collaboration we're working towards. More later, but I'm very excited.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Will knit for gloves

A sharp dip in temperature has meant a sharp change in direction in my plans for these gloves. I just want them to be as warm as possible and to be finished as quickly as possible.

This means that the lovely lacy cables will have to wait their turn. Lace = yarn overs = holes = draughty fingers!

Instead we have a double thickness cuff to ensure a snug fit around the wrist and straightforward stocking stitch for the gusset and hand area. There'll be a reappearance of the dark purple for the fingers and thumb to match the edging and inside of the cuff.

Kid Classic gloves

I'll be writing up the pattern which will be available to download from Ravelry (should you too want some super toasty gloves) as soon as the feeling returns to my fingers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweet like chocolate

Paul's chocolat

It may just look like a cup of hot chocolate but it's actually the culmination of a 4 year ambition! I only realised that there was a Paul's on the top floor at London Paddington on my last visit to see Vics and Laurie. The nearest I'd got before was a sip of the stuff at Gare du Nord in Paris, that was all I managed before I knocked over the cup, spilling the stuff everywhere, and I was too embarrassed to go back for a second cup. It definitely compensates for missing a train.


I think that the London pigeon is one of the saddest specimen of wildlife around and I saw one of the sorriest specimens on the tube this afternoon. It hopped on (quite literally on its one good leg) the train at Edgware Road and pottered round the carriage until we reached Paddington where it flew off. That's what I call an integrated transport policy. It reminded me of a scene in You've Got Mail:

"Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one. It got on at 42nd, and off at 59th, where, I assume it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake - as almost all hats are."

Perhaps the pigeon was off to buy an orthopaedic shoe.

On a cheerier subject I worked up a swatch for a pair of mittens in a cable pattern I've been wanting to use for ages.

mitten swatch

The yarn is one of my absolute favourites, Rowan Kid Classic in a colour curiously reminiscent of the wrappers of Milka bars. I'll have to come up with some chocolately pattern names.

Friday, November 21, 2008

All eyes and teeth


I've got to say that he's a cheery little fellow, despite his disembodied state.

I took the day off work today mostly so that I could work on this design idea. The fact that I could sit on the sofa at the same time watching classic TV and film (last night's Little Dorrit - which has me absolutely hooked, The Champions, and Sense and Sensibility) and eating baked potatoes was just a bonus.

I also finished off Laurie's owl vest. It's blocking right now but I think I'll wait until tomorrow to take a photo as I may be able to get a modelled shot from the birthday girl herself.

Franco-American Pie

Chocolate and blueberry clafoutis

Pudding tonight was a chocolate and blueberry clafoutis. I used this recipe with the substitution of blueberries for the cherries and the addition of three teaspoons of Green & Black's cocoa powder. Although it looked very impressive, kind of like one of those posh Solitaire sets with the shiny blueberries peeking out of the chocolate batter, it wasn't an outstanding success. I liked it well enough (at least well enough to finish off the leftovers tomorrow) but the boyfriend said it tasted rather too much like a chocolate omelette! More baking tomorrow as I try to find something to do with all the oranges that I'm not eating at work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Maybe it was down the back of the sofa*?

There's been a bit of discussion recently of the evanescent nature of the knitting mojo. Now I've never really had problems with my knitting mojo. I mean sometimes I feel less than inspired but it's usually only sheer physical exhaustion that stops me from picking up the needles of an evening. My design mojo, on the other hand, has been a bit flaky of late. I haven't blogged about it, mostly because it seems rather presumptuous to proclaim that I had one in the first place especially when I'm surrounded by the fabulous work of so many other (presumption again) designers. Anyway, it's back (such as it is) and I think I've realised what was wrong. You, see around about the same time (around August) I also mislaid my running mojo. Various things were at the root of this, a succession of colds, a foot injury and a general lack of fitness that meant that running just wasn't much fun anymore. There was a period when I wasn't even going to the Tuesday night sessions at the running club and I wondered whether I would ever start up again. Enough wallowing, suffice it to say that I'm running again and I'm enjoying it too. I'm just getting back to the stage where it's fun rather than painful and on Tuesday night I had a breakthrough. Coming back from a shortish club run I started to think about a knitting a sweater for Laurie to take my mind off the last hill, 5 minutes later I realised that I had sprinted the last section, was nearly home and had a full blown idea for a design all laid out in my mind. It turns out that I do all my best thinking whilst running (and that I do a lot of my best running whilst thinking about knitting).

Enough of this introspective babble, what about the knitting I hear you say**.

You know that famous scene in The Birds where Tipi Hedren sits down with her back to a climbing frame and when she turns round it's covered in crows?

Owl Toddler vest

I'm starting to feel a bit like that with the owls. This is a 12-18 month old version of the same pattern knit in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino aran. All I've done is upped the weight of the yarn and the needle size to achieve a bigger gauge. This sizing lark is easy!

* the boyfriend thinks I should make it clear that this is a metaphorical sofa. The last time I checked down the back of the real sofa all I found was the boyfriend's khaki cap and a copy of Mostellaria by Plautus. I know, we're not like other people.

** note, must see someone about these voices.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nothing to see here

I'm working on a bit of a secret project at the moment so no pictures but I can show you my first Interlocking Leaves sock which I finished at the weekend.

Interlocking leaves socks

It's pretty.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

All my owls in a row

FO - Little Owl Baby Vest

Baby Owl Vest

Modeled, with great elan, by my stalwart childhood companion Edward bear (for want of an actual baby to hand).

Pattern: Owl Baby Vest by Jodi Haraldson
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (1.5 balls)
Needles: 3mm/3.25mm circular needles
Size: 3 months
For: baby Freyja

Don't think for one moment that I'm done knitting this pattern. There are going to be so many owls by the end, you'll think it's mail-time at Hogwarts.

For your earworming pleasure

Ellen - this is the song.

I've had this stuck in my head ever since I stepped onto the platform at Paddington on Thursday night on our way to iKnit. Still, could have been worse. Not that that's a not a great song too but I find the Kinks much more relaxing, especially at rush hour.

I would have sung/hummed/whistled the song for Ellen (whose knowledge of musical works based on the London terminii is a little patchy) at the time but whilst passing on your earworm to one person is forgivable, passing it onto a whole platformful of commuters is liable to get you mobbed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's your favourite?

The Winter issue of Twist Collective is up! I'm loving Sylvi by Marie Muinonen. Even if I don't make the coat (as a coat is a pretty big investment in time and money) I think I'll buy it just for the flower and leaf cable pattern.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Christmas calendars please - I'm sorted

Guys with Yarn

and it's a signed copy no less!

Signed copy!

Having made a post-work dash from Oxford for Franklin Habit's book signing at iKnit in London Ellen and I were a bit disappointed that there weren't quite enough copies of It Itches to go around but getting my paws on a signed copy of Guys with Yarn more than made up for it.

When we arrived at iKnit the knitters weren't quite spilling out of the door (yet) but almost every chair and free spot had already been taken and it got even more crowded as it got closer to Franklin's appearance. I think the towering presence of the somewhat menacing Great British Sheep really added to the feeling that the place was packed out to see Franklin.

Menacing knitted sheep

That sheep just looks creepier every time I see it.

Franklin read two pieces from his book (which is going on my Christmas wishlist right after Free Range Knitter) and then answered questions and signed books and calendars and was generally delightful.

Franklin Habit

Although there were only a limited number of calendars available I was able (through sheer nippiness) to snaffle one for myself and one for Ellen who says she only asked "Are you getting two?". To me it really sounded like "Get two! Get two!".

Franklin and me

Say "fleece!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A present from Great Malvern

Whilst visiting Ruth at the weekend I managed to fit in a lightning quick visit to her local yarn store*, The Knitting Parlour. I really did intend to just look (and maybe fondle) but all my resolution was swept away at the sight of a stunning display of Artist's Palette hand-painted roving and sock yarn in the middle of the shop.

Checking the label I nearly cheered when I noticed that it said "hand painted in Worcestershire" which meant that it came under the heading of a souvenir. It's not really yarn, it's a present from Great Malvern!

Sweet Feet sock yarn by Artist's Palette

Sweet Feet sock yarn by Artist's Palette

I love the play of colours in this skein. They go from a deep berry red to a vivid gold and completely capture all the fabulous autumnal colours that are just coming to an end. The base yarn is 80% merino 20% bamboo so it's lovely and shiny too.

You can see more Artist's Palette yarns at her website where she has laceweight, dk and aran weight yarn as well as the sock yarn. She also has "rescue yarn" which I think is a great idea. If you want to see some of the yarn knit up she's currently knitting some familiar-looking mittens.

* btw I love that not only did I not have to explain this to Ruth, but she even gave me directions before I asked!

O is for Owl

Knitting is a funny thing. Right alongside the bit of my knitting nature that prompts me to cast on or work on four new projects in a week is the bit that thinks on finishing a project "I enjoyed that so much I'm going to knit it again!". Of course it's a very good thing that the mind works like that to a certain extent otherwise I'd never knit any second socks! But to want to repeat a whole project, and then actually get the yarn and needles and do it is a bit rarer.

Must-repeat patterns for me include Cookie A.'s Monkey socks, Jennifer Little's Baby Sheep Yoke Cardigan and now the Owl Baby Vest by Jodi Haraldson.

O is for Owl

This one is for baby Freyja, the daughter of a colleague, and I'm knitting it in Baby Cashmerino on smaller needles and at a different gauge to get a 3 month old size (more or less).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ever decreasing octagons

I can't wait until this quilt is finished - it's going to be the cosiest thing ever and the colours are just fab-u-lous. Thank you again Felix for picking out such a wonderful bunch of fabrics.

Cabbage patch quilt

I dug the quilt out at the weekend to put in some long overdue work on it. I'd been a bit worried the last time I worked on it that, due to the backing fabric being somewhat shorter than it should really have been, there was going to be some really unsightly puckering. Looking at it now I'm not really sure why I was so worried. The puckering is nowhere near as severe as I'd remembered and it actually makes the quilt look more vintage-y.

Cabbage patch quilt

The quilting for this design is rather labour intensive. I'm stitching concentric octagons inside each block using the width of the machine foot with the needle set in the left-most position as a guide. It's taking a long time but I've now quilted 16 out of 24 blocks so I'm two thirds of the way there.

As always I've learnt a few lessons along the way. I wish I'd used a pink top thread to quilt the pink blocks. I don't know why but I can never remember that I can use different colours for the top thread and the bobbin thread. I also wish I'd decided to hand quilt this. It would have taken longer but there would have been less frustration over snapped threads and jammed bobbins, plus the effort of rotating a single bed sized quilt through the arch of a regular sewing machine, and I would have been able to sit on the sofa under the quilt whilst I did it.

Cabbage patch quilt

I still need to make a decision on whether or not to quilt the border and what to do for the binding. Abby suggested a wide satin ribbon which would be pretty but might be difficult to stitch in place. I'm really looking forward to handstitching the binding in place. It's just the job for a wintry afternoon with an old movie and a mug of hot chocolate.

All my owls in a row

FO: Wol

Baby Owlet vest

Pattern: Baby Owlet vest (I can't access Ravelry at the moment but if you go to patterns and search for baby + owlet + vest it should come up)
Yarn: Oxford Kitchen Yarns DK (2 skeins) in biscuit/latte
Needles: 3.5mm/4mm

I think this is going to be my new go-to pattern for quick baby knits. It's cute, it's really easy, there's very little shaping and virtually no seaming. The yarn was leftovers from my minimalist cardigan. I thought that this would be the perfect pattern to use it all up but there's still one ball remaining. Matching hat anyone?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Small deer, close to?

Large deer far away

Actually this is a large-ish deer far away. There were two of them but the other wandered off into the trees before I was ready with my camera. I suspect it's a roe deer (looking at the white bottom) but it's not easy to tell. Must have my binoculars ready next time.

One owl too many

I made a ton of progress on the Baby Owlet Vest on my daytrip to Great Malvern today. I was very excited to get to the owl cables bit of the pattern, in fact so excited that I knit an extra owl, making six instead of five. In my defense I was chatting to people at Ruth's housewarming all the time that I was knitting that section.

one owl too many

I didn't really fancy undoing and redoing all the owls so decided to just drop the stitches which made up the extra owl and reform them in stocking stitch. I even had a crochet hook on me for the purpose (that almost never happens). The place where the owl was looks a bit uneven but I'm sure it will block out.

The owl vest is the result of a flare up of my knitting related ADD which appears to be of the relapsing/remitting variety. I can knit monogamously on a project for days and then, probably in reaction, be unable to knit on the same thing for two days together, hence the recent proliferation of WIPs in my Ravelry notebook. In addition to the Owlet vest I've got three pairs of socks on the go all cast on in the last week plus various other sundries.

Of course some of them are necessary. It goes without saying that Laurie needs a new knitted garment for her birthday this Friday, although it would have been preferable to have realised that a bit sooner. Thank goodness for chunky yarn. I have a project on the go in Rowan Country which hopefully Laurie (or rather Laurie's mum who is the arbiter elegantiae in these matters) will like. It should be warm at any rate. Ravelry details are here.

Similarly last night I was inspired to cast on for a Mason-Dixon dishcloth in Debbie Bliss cotton dk as a housewarming gift for Ruth.

Knitted dishcloth

I had a splendid time at Ruth's housewarming eating her fabulous cake, admiring her fabulous view and visiting her fabulous LYS. I picked up a skein of Sweet Feet sock yarn from Artist's Palette yarns as well as a plait of roving from the same dyer. I'll post pictures tomorrow as this stuff really deserves to be seen in good light.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blenheim by night

I went out* tonight with the Woodstock Harriers. I don't know quite what I expected but they're a little bit hardcore by which I mean 5 miles, in the dark, around Blenheim park (which is an undulating** course to say the least). I've never actually been running in the dark before, i.e. at night without any lights close at hand. Although there are a few patches on our own club runs that are on quiet streets away from the main road it's completely different from running through woodland at night. I was surprised by how good my night vision was once I got used to it though there were still some pretty black bits. The freakiest thing was not having any warning that the running surface had changed (wet leaves, mud, puddles) until I started slipping on it. I really enjoyed the run though (with the possible exception of the bit where I was completely on my own for about 3 minutes on the darkest bit of the course) and I'll be back next week. It's really tough to motivate yourself to go out on your own in the evenings in winter and if I manage a weekly run with these guys I should be fit again in no time!


* to go out phr. (Running) = to go for a run. When a runner says he's been out four times this week it means that he, rather than his social life, is very active.

** undulating adj. (Geogr.) = hilly. When a race guide actually admits to a course being hilly you know you'll be going up a mountain!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sheep to shoe

BFL sock

My very first handspun sock is done and it's lovely. There's something incredibly satisfying about starting off with an amorphous cloud of fibre and turning it into something with a heel and toe that actually fits a human foot. I mean, seriously, this was just a bag of fluff!

Although I do have to say that when Ellen turned up to Bluestockings tonight with the mittens that she's making from handspun fingering weight I got a serious case of yarn envy. I really want to learn how to spin woollen (rather than worsted) yarn using the long draw method as at the moment my knitted up handpsun doesn't have a great deal in the way of drape. Maybe Ellen and I can figure out how long draw spinning works on the wheel when she's over at the weekend.

I also have the next item in my knitting queue all lined up after seeing Megan's beautiful Endpaper mitts. They're extremely covetable but as I've not quite sunk so far as half-inching other people's mittens I'll have to be content with making my own. Happily I already have one ball of Rowan 4 ply soft in a fabulous deep red and after trying Megan's on I know what size to knit too.

Toes crossed

Handspun socks

This evening I cast on for my first handspun project in which gauge kind of does matter - a pair of socks. Given that gauge is important (if I want to have two socks the same size) it might seem slightly perverse that I haven't knit a gauge swatch but I really just wanted some plain vanilla knitting to get on with whilst watching the first states being called in the US election. I was a bit nervous that the yarn might be too solid to get a good knitted fabric but it should be OK (it's a good sign I think that the socks don't stand up on their own at the moment) and I love the play of colour in the natural BFL fibre. It has a gorgeous sheen.

Handspun socks

Back to the election I really hope that Obama does win, not least because of my favourite election knit so far. It would be tragic to knit something that complex in support of the losing candidate, kind of like getting the name of your favourite player put on your replica shirt the day before they're transferred - but to the power of 10!

Monday, November 03, 2008

A darn good job

darn good job

I'm pretty firm with work colleagues who angle for me to darn their holey elbows and catch up the edges of their frayed cuffs but you can't really say "no" to family, in this case my brother, especially as I bought him the sweater in the first place. I'm a bit nervous about how it will hold up as the fabric surrounding the hole was fairly worn but at least it will keep out the draughts.

I actually really enjoy darning. Quite apart from the aesthetic pleasure of creating a neat criss-cross of tightly woven threads where before there was a gaping hole there's something deeply satisfying about rescuing a favourite garment, turning something worn-out into something that's wearable again. It's only practicality that keeps me from offering to patch Dave's elbows or sort out John's cuffs. In an office of seventy people if I let it get about that I enjoy mending other people's clothes I'd never have a minute to knit.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


No, no, I'm just kidding. Knitting a sock a day for a month would be insane, even for someone who loves sock knitting as much as I do. I will however be having a shot at daily blogging (for NaBloPoMo) this month. This is not just because I am a sheep (I spend so much time surrounded by fibre that it was bound to rub off sooner or later). Rather that I enjoy reading other people's blog posts so much and I'm always so pleased when new content appears in Google reader that it seems only fair to give a bit back.

That said, I do have a new sock to show and tell. I brought a skein of Katie's sock yarn in the bee-yew-ti-ful Light Plums colourway up north with me along with the pattern for Interlocking Leaves from the Fall issue of Knitty. I've made it to the gusset on the first sock and I would be even further along if not that, after finishing the toe, I knit as far as round 11 on the chart before noticing that I was meant to start at round 7! Cue ripping and a little mild cursing.

Interlocking Leaves socks

The only modifications so far are that I'm trying to incorporate the lace pattern into the gusset increases à la Cat Bordhi - we'll see how that works out!

FO - Baudelaire

FO - Baudelaire

Pattern: Baudelaire by Cookie A.
Yarn: Louet Opal Gems sock yarn (1.5 skeins)
Needles: 2.5mm

Another fantastic sock pattern from Cookie A. I love the way that the side cables snake over my ankle bone and the scalloped edges of the little leaves are perfect!

FO - Baudelaire

I did have thoughts of putting these in the Christmas gift basket* but decided against it as soon as I put them on. They're just so pretty and the colour - which does not come out at all in these photos - is fabulous, a something between jade and teal, think Erin's waltz dress from last week:

(purely gratuitous clip of Austin Healey's waltz for your viewing pleasure - check out the fleckerl!)

* note: this is a metaphorical basket. If only my knitting were really so orderly as to be stored in baskets.