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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Patented tips for combating second sock syndrome

#1 Knit the second sock first

Pomatomus sock

Normally when I finish grafting the toe of one sock I heave a somewhat weary sigh at the thought of starting the second sock (and the inevitable 10 or so rounds of ribbing that that entails) but not today. The reason wherefore? I've already knitted half the second sock, well really it's the first sock.

Pomatomus sock

A few Wednesdays back I reached the start of the heel of the first sock and realised that I'd left my pattern at home. Whilst I didn't remember what Cookie A's directions actually were I did remember enough to know that they were a bit different from your regular heel and that there was no chance of my knitting the sock per pattern without that bit of paper in front of me. Having no other knitting with me* the only option was to put the live stitches on some spare needles and cast on for the cuff of the second sock.

Fast forward a few weeks and I'm reaping the reward of my forgetfulness as instead of having to psych myself up to cast on the second sock I'm already halfway there.

* obviously the idea of staying at the pub and not knitting never crossed my mind.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

TNA and Tikki

Yesterday the boyfriend had some business at The National Archives at Kew and I went along for the ride and to visit Tikki Patchwork which is just around the corner near Kew Gardens.

Tikki Patchwork

They have a lovely selection of fabrics and whilst the boyfriend was browsing among the rolls of parchment I was easily able to spend an hour browsing the bolts and fat quarters.

I picked out 1 metre of Kaffe Fasset Paperweight fabric for an A line skirt and a couple of fat quarters and one remnant plus some lengths of ribbon to make a crayon roll for Laurie and couple of tag blankets.

Fabric from Tikki

After shopping I pottered back to TNA to meet the boyfriend for lunch in their lovely cafe and to have a look round the gift shop. In fact we managed to have a really nice day out despite the fact that the boyfriend was actually working.


It would have been easy to go mad buying postcards reproduced from the archive images but I resisted and just picked up these two for Felix.

TNA postcards

I'm going to start on Laurie's crayon roll as soon as I find some (wax) crayons to put in it. It's been a while since I used them myself and I'm not completely confident of making the pockets the right size if I just go by my own judgment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Starting small

I'm so excited about knitting Arisaig that I couldn't even wait to finish spinning the yarn before I cast on.

Arisaig in handspun Shetland

The pattern starts off with 10 rows of 2x2 rib on tiny needles (2.25mm). I only have this size in a pair of Prym metal straights.

Arisaig in handspun Shetland

These are the suckers that the airlines have in mind when they tell you that knitting needles are dangerous objects. It's going to be a relief to finish my ten rows and move onto the relatively chunky size of 2.75mm I can tell you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Some fibre, a plan, a wheel, arisaig!

Ok so it doesn't have an internal rhyme and it's not a palindrome but it's a snappier title than "Nain otalgia sir, an arisaig Latonian"* which is the only palindrome I could devise containing "arisaig".

I've been wanting to knit this ever since I first started reading Knitty but I've never had enough of the right yarn at the right time.

Handspun Shetland

Then just last week I realised that I had more than enough grey Shetland fibre to spin the fingering weight yarn needed for the project and that I'd already spun up some gorgeous blue Shetland in the same weight for the tie and edging which are done in a contrast colour.

I'm really excited both at the thought of finally knitting (and wearing) Arisaig and at creating a whole non-sock garment from my handspun.

* It's English, Jim, but not as we know it. Nain (my own) otalgia (earache) sir, an arisaig Latonian (pertaining to Latona, mother of Apollo and Diana). I suppose Diana could be telling Apollo to stop playing music for a moment and admire the wrap cardigan she's knitted for mother. It does get nippy up in the Greek highlands.

Coat of many colours

Stripy BSJ

Nothing screams "stashbuster" quite like introducing two new colours in the last 8 rows of a project. Still, I think the picked up edging on the neck carries it off.

Pattern: Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Pattern source: The Opinionated Knitter
Yarn: Rowan Pure Wool DK
Needles: 4mm
Recipient: baby Peter

It's not traditional to blog something before handing it over but I might be seeing Aliki and Peter tonight and I'm hoping that the promise of knitwear will act as an added incentive for them to make it to the pub!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Best of the weekend

Best walk:

Richard at the arboretum

The boyfriend and I went for a walk round the Harcourt Arboretum between showers on Sunday afternoon. There were lots of trees (which we did expect) and a bit of art (which we didn't).

Encountering by Karen Purple

This was one of around 50 or so little insects tied on to a patch of nettles.

Best real insect:

Bee on lavender

Normally bees never stay still long enough for a really good shot but I think this one was a bit torpid after the rain. I love the tiny raindrops you can see on its fur.

Best window:

Cakes at Patisserie Valerie

Cakes at Patisserie Valerie. There's something very luxurious about buying a cake in a box for dessert and I just couldn't resist this beautiful display on Sunday evening.

Best yarn:

Superwash merino/seacell handspun

I finished spinning and plying this superwash merino/seacell blend from The Thylacine on Saturday morning in order to free up the wheel for the fleece to blanket day and by Sunday evening it was dry. This is just so shiny and lush, I want a really great sock pattern to show it off.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Down on the Farm

I had a great time yesterday at the OGWSD Fleece to Blanket day in Bledlow. The day took place at Gina's beautiful farm and we were spinning the fleece of her male sheep, Bo, a Blue Faced Leicester cross. Since Bo died at Christmas when only 20 months old we would be giving the finished blanket (or at least the knitted squares) to Gina to keep as a memento of him.

First of all Carole showed us how to grade a fleece and showed us where the coarsest and softest fibre was to be found.

Grading the fleece

After skirting the fleece she told us how we could feel the difference between the sides (quite coarse), the back (much softer), and the neck fleece (very soft). She also told us to watch out for kemp which the OED defines as "A coarse or stout hair..occurring among wool" and which is the thick, plasticky feeling, white or black hair that you sometimes find in fleece. A fleece with a lot of kemp is to be avoided.

Once Carole had explained what was what we all grabbed a handful and started spinning.

Spinning in the grease

Most of the group were sat under the big gazebo but there also was a group of four spinners (not pictured) a little way away under a tree leading to lots of jokes about break away groups and the main peloton. If it was a race then Megan was the winner as she completed the first knitted square with Kate second and myself third (yay).

Spinning in the grease

Whilst knitting my square I wandered over to see the sheep. They were very friendly and inquisitive. They started off over there.

Millie and friend

And gradually ended up here.

Millie the sheep

By the end of the day we didn't quite have a blanket but we did have a decent collection of 6" squares (I'm afraid that Gina is going to have to sew up her own blanket).

Knitted squares

My log cabin square is centre right. I really enjoyed spinning in the grease and it was quite a challenge to spin the uncarded fibre. I ended up with a somewhat lumpier but still knittable yarn than I usually go for. Knitting in the grease, however, is something that I can't really recommend. It's just so sticky. For that reason I've cheated a bit and washed my final skein of yarn which I hope to knit up quickly and pop in the post to Gina. I'll post a picture once it's dried so you can see the amazing difference in colour and feel.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Knit One (and Other)

One and Other

On Monday evening I went to see One and Other (aka "the plinth") in Trafalgar Square in company with Felix, Lara, Brenda Dayne and a bunch of other knitters. We were all there to see Marian Cinnamond who was up there knitting on what looked like a sleeve between 6 and 7pm.

One and Other

It was such a delight to meet Brenda who is the host of Cast-On my favourite knitting podcast. I've been listening to Brenda's while I knit for around four years now so it seemed perfectly normal to be sat alongside her in Trafalgar Square in the sunshine knitting and watching her swatch for another Liesl.

One and Other

Felix was also swatching but on the gigantic needles with the ultra-chunky Swaledale rope yarn from Prick Your Finger.

Felix at One and Other

Lara braved the very mucky floor and knit on her sock.

One and Other

It was really fantastic to see the people on the plinth and to feel all the energy and enthusiasm around the project. If you're in London in the next couple of months I really urge you to take an hour and head over there - it's really inspiring. In fact I was so inspired that I've just signed up for the ballot now.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Best of the weekend*

Best spinning:

Sock yarn fibre from The Thylacine

Superwash merino/seacell blend from The Thylacine. This is spinning up beautifully smooth and even and I'm already onto the second ply. You can get through a lot of fibre during a Tour stage.

Best plying:

Shetland in Moody

Shetland fibre in Moody from Old Maiden Aunt. I love this so much. I had a bit of a 'mare plying it because I broke the thread a couple of times and then couldn't find the end (argh!) but I managed it somehow (by dint of winding off little bits onto cotton spools) and have ended up with over 400 metres of fingering weight yarn.

Best jamming:

Gooseberry and ginger jam

The Co-op had yellow-stickered gooseberries when I went in to buy provisions for lunch on Sunday so I bought a punnet on impulse and made gooseberry and ginger jam in the afternoon. I think I had my best jam making result yet as I actually managed to heat the jam to the setting point for the first time after realising that I had to split it into smaller batches to avoid it boiling over before reaching 104 degrees C. I had some on toast this morning and it was yummy.

Best cake:

Larieux from Maison Blanc

I ran all the way to Oxford (just under 8 miles) for this cake and boy was it worth it. I even, despite having to run for the bus on the way back, managed to get it home in pristine condition which almost never happens. I ate it with a cup of Clipper decaf tea whilst watching Sunday's stage of the Tour (which I am enjoying hugely) and spinning the lovely sock fibre.

Best flowers:

Roses at Blenheim

Roses at Blenheim

Roses in the Blenheim Palace rose garden which is now in full swing.

Best surprise:

Lady Surprise Shrug

Lady surprise shrug

Half marks to everyone who guessed it was a baby surprise jacket. It's actually a lady surprise shrug. I didn't have to make any mods to the pattern on this, apart from knitting it on 5mm needles, but I have big plans for a lady surprise sweater in Garthenor organic yarn which will be amazing.

* idea shamelessly homaged/plagiarised from WordsandStitches

Thursday, July 09, 2009

It's not a race, but am I winning?

Felix and I were going head to head on our surprise projects last night in the pub. I was about 4 hours knitting-time behind her but Felix is working a larger size, with mods which means more ripping-out potential. Is it enough to compensate for (as Felix put it) my handicap of a nine-to-five job?


I'm about 6 rows (and they're long rows) from the end which might mean that I get to do the astound-your-friends flipping it right side out bit at work. That would be cool. The only downside about this whole project is it's taking far less yarn than I thought it would - so much for a stashbuster!*

In other news I plan to be in Lun-don on the evening of Monday July 13th when not one, but two knitters will be doing their fibre thing up on the 4th Plinth. I can't stick around for the second slot between 10 and 11 due to boring things like last buses but I'll be there between 6 and 7 for sure.

* but this is fine really because this yarn would make an a-ma-zing sideways garter stitch scarf for someone this Christmas. Lucky I like my garter stitch.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Like butter

I'm currently hooked on garter stitch on 5mm needles. When I've not been working on the handspun log cabin blanket I've been working on this.

The yarn is Artist's Palette Buttersoft dk (shade BS7009 in case you're interested) and it really lives up to its name. I am foolishly entranced by the colour changes which work so well in the garter stitch. If there is pooling going on then I've not noticed it.

As for the pattern - let's just say you'll be surprised.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sew Sunday

Having managed to score the necessary beads for the Amy Butler necklace at Jacksons on Saturday I spent a happy couple of hours on Sunday morning watching Emma on ITV3 and cutting fabric on the bias.

Liz at Blenheim

I found the pattern in the Rowan Newsletter for February which was handed out at UK Ravelry day but it's also available online here as a pdf. It's a really great pattern for practising cutting on the bias and for using up bits and pieces of fabric. The beads themselves were 7p each from Jacksons (and I'm sure they're available elsewhere) so with 22 beads in this necklace and 14 in my second it's a fairly inexpensive project too.

After finishing the necklace we headed off to Blenheim with the plan of having lunch and then walking it off. Sadly we only really managed the lunch part (yummy sausages and chicken pie from Foxbury Farm) as my legs were still shot from Saturday's long walk.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Jurassic Berkshire

I met up with Felix in Reading yesterday for and epic walk that seemed to take in most of north-west Berkshire! It's a bit tricky to plot on Map My Walk without the OS map to hand but it was at least twelve miles.

After a yummy lunch (sourdough bread, goat's cheese, gooseberry jam and salsa, followed by stewed rhubarb and yoghurt) at Felix's flat we set off eastwards along the Thames path to Sonning Lock

Sonning Lock

and on to Shiplake before heading north to our first pub stop at the White Hart White Hart for a much needed shandy and some tasty freebie bar snacks. After the White Hart we headed through some gorgeous forest and across Binfield Heath and started making our way south back towards the Thames. After another shandy stop we finally made it back to reading train station at five minutes past eight (we set out at two!) just in time for me to leap on the Oxford train.

As well as the wondeful walk the day included lots of crafty goodness. Before lunch we popped into Jackson's so Felix could exchange some yarn and I picked up some poly beads - just the thing I had been looking for for ages - for an Amy Butler necklace project. Then I introduced Felix to Bollo the bifflosaur (he's made from handspun bfl). I knit Bollo on Friday evening after receiving an email from Kirsty asking if anyone fancied knitting a dinosaur for a production at the National Theatre*. I didn't have a dinosaur pattern but just cast on at the tail and increased or decreased depending on what shape I thought the dinosaur should be at that point (Felix told me about this method for knitting fruit and vegetable) until I got to the head. Then I attached four stumpy legs and my favourite black beady eyes and voila.

Bollo the bifflosaur

Of course Bollo had to have an adventure whilst he was out with us.

Bollo the bifflosaur

He enjoyed sipping the Brakspear shandy and nibbling the bar snacks.

Bollo the bifflosaur

He was a bit scared by the Egyptian geese though and stayed in the backpack.

Egyptian geese

Finally I got to try out my make-do-and-mendy walking skirt which I made during the Murray-Wawrinka match on Monday.

Walking skirt

The skirt used to be a pair of coarse linen cropped trousers from Topshop. Always snugly fitting they had now become rather too snug around certain areas so they were a prime candidate for refashioning. I ripped up the inside leg seam to the crotch then sewed a straight seam down the back as far as I could and added a triangular insert to the front. I used some leftover Amy Butler cotton for the detailing. The skirt was extremely comfortable for walking in and as practical as trousers or shorts. I really love the large front pockets which held my camera or my suncream comfortably, much more comfortably in fact than when they were trouser due to the A-line.

* if you too want to knit a dinosaur for Matthew Robins production you can find his contact details here. And if you just want to knit a dinosaur I'll be putting the pattern for Bollo up as soon as it's written.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tea and garter stitch

Tea and banana bread

Both very soothing and very much required to counteract the tension of the Murray-Roddick semi-final. I'm knitting the flower to send to Anne Makepeace who will be knitting, and sewing knitted flowers onto a blanket on the fourth plinth on Sunday July 26th. I'm gutted that Murray lost, Roddick just played too well, but there's always the US Open and it will still be a splendid final on Sunday.

Project lunchbox* - week 1 review

After a very helpful discussion with Felix and Lara on the subject last Sunday I was inspired to pack my own lunch every day this week (I never usually manage this). The trick, apparently is to prepare things the night before whilst cooking dinner.

Project lunchbox - red pepper cous cous

Monday - potato salad with green beans
Tuesday - rigatoni in amatriciana sauce
Wednesday - M&S style fruity cous cous
Thursday - left over pork pie and pickled onion from the pub (this feels slightly like cheating but I'm going with it)
Friday - cous cous with red pepper, onion, sultanas and basil (above)

If anyone has any particularly exciting ways with cous cous that they'd like to share, I'd be thrilled to hear about them.

* I find that I stick at things better if I give them a title and commit to them in public.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ice cream, sunshine, and song

One of the summer traditions at my workplace is that once a year people gather in the small courtyard to eat ice cream whilst the choir sings madrigals. It's at times like these that I feel like I work for the Lever Brothers.



More of the lovely G&Ds ice cream.

It was an amazing day for listening to music and eating ice cream and having cold drinks in the pub after work. It's a less good day for baking but the hot weather meant that I had a glut of ripe bananas which would be good for nothing unless I acted promptly.

Banana bread

The recipe is from Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson and the recipe is online here. I omitted the sultanas and rum and made double quantities to use up all the bananas. I'm going to be popular at work tomorrow.

The extra heat in the kitchen is totally worth it as I can now slope off to bed with a glass of cold milk and a slice of warm banana bread. Heaven.

Random Wednesday


I saw this guy as I was heading out this morning. I didn't want to disturb him by putting a penny in for scale but he must have been at least 2.5" across. At first glance I thought he was a small bat! I love the dead leaf camouflage.

Hanging around to photograph the moth meant that I was walking up the hill as the same time as one of my neighbours. I hadn't really noticed that she kept looking nervously over her shoulder until she apologized for it, explaining that she wasn't paranoid, it's just that her cat has a habit of stalking her to the shop where she works unless she manages to give him the slip leaving the house. The hilarious thing is he doesn't actually follow her from the house but takes the shortcut up the gully then waits by the side of the road which he knows she has to come up. Smart cat.

Summer sky

This was one of the things I could see during my lunch break. I'd show you my other view but it's really difficult to take a picture of the inside of your eyelids. Yay for the siesta!

I perked up as soon as I got to the pub after work and was nicely settled with a half pint of Brakspear and a giants ploughman's platter. Felix and I amused everyone by secreting bits of our ploughman's into the tupperware* we had with us - that's tomorrow's lunch sorted.

Felix finished her day-glo Hopscotch socks.

Finished Hopscotch socks

She even modelled them despite the heatwave.

Finished Hopscotch socks

Come on, feet off the table now Felix.

After the pub Felix, Ellen, Abby and I headed to the Oxford institution that is G&Ds to initiate Felix into the ways of the G&Ds ice cream.


We got out just before a huge bunch of summer school students arrived and started queueing out onto the street and took our ice creams over the road to St Giles.

Abby, Felix and Ellen

More knitting.

* not the fact that we weren't wasting it - more that we just happened to have tupperware to hand