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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Victory is mine

new sports bras

For I have nabbed the last two 34B high-impact sports bras in the whole of M&S Oxford. I decided that I needed a new sports bra when I forgot to take my running t-shirt to work today (it was OK - I wore my jacket) and realised that even if it had been the height of summer and I had a stomach like Erin Boag there was no way on this planet that I could go running in just my skanky, grey (originally white) sports bra. New support was definitely required.

I really do like that M&S stocks proper sports bras (no more changing in a tiny cubicle in JD where you have to be let in by a fifteen year old) but they do suffer from the typical M&S phenomenon of being sold out of all sizes smaller than a 36C or D. After searching through 4 racks of bras in every size from 34FF to 40G I finally came up with two that I could wear. I know that women of all shapes and sizes play high impact sports but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that maybe a larger proportion of them are on the smallish size and that maybe they should order in more. It's almost as annoying as the one-size-fits-all policy adopted by the London marathon organisers when it comes to post-race souvenir t-shirts. Whilst I might fit *inside* an XXL t-shirt it most certainly doesn't *fit* me. Even if they can't manage the enlightened policy of some race organisers (thank you Dublin and Manchester) of handing out goody bags by size couldn't they order them just a couple of sizes smaller. Surely even the largest runners will have slimmed down to an L by the time they've run 26 miles.

OK, enough grousing. The main thing is that I have my lovely new bras - there's nothing like new kit to motivate you to get out there.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Posh tea break

I received a lovely parcel in the post yesterday from Kate containing not only my beet heid (which she had been photographing) and a sweet little card but also some gorgeous pink champagne truffles and some posh leaf tea which is apparently a Newcastle specialty.

Posh tea break

I was so excited to find out that the truffles actually are pink and so yummy. I shall be having posh tea breaks all this week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Z" is for zipper

Striped zipped cardigan

I finally got around to putting a zipper band and zip onto Laurie's striped cardigan this weekend, just in time for her to take it back with her. This was my first zipper and it wasn't terribly easy. I managed the first side OK using the sewing machine but the second side was a nightmare. On my first attempt I broke the needle (turns out I was stitching over the teeth). On the second attempt the tension was completely out and I had to take it all out. For the third attempt I stitched it on by hand and made such a good job of it that I was nearly tempted to take out the first side and redo that by hand too.

Doesn't she look cute in it? I hope she'll enjoy zipping and unzipping the zipper too.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On a little dishy

Handwoven fish scarf

Here's my finished item for the six counties project. I was so pleased to finally find a use for some of these beads that I picked up at Ally Pally two or three years ago.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My first weaving

I borrowed Megan's rigid heddle loom on Saturday. I've been wanting to try weaving for some time and I have a bunch of stash yarn that I think would work better as woven projects than knitted ones.

First weaving attempt

This is my first go - I warped the loom with purple Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock and used the same yarn for the weft at first and then some plain light purple Jaeger Matchmaker Merino dk. I really liked the lighter weft against the darker variegated warp. It also seemed a bit easier to get an even weave with the heavier weft yarn.

Second weaving attempt

This is my second go using Helen's Lace for the warp and some more Matchmaker in 4 ply for the weft. I've had this yarn hanging around in the stash for ages and it felt really good to use it up. I rather messed up the finishing as I put it in the washer to neaten up the selveges and completely felted the fringe. I managed to create a not-too-bulky edge by cutting off the felted fringe and folding the edge under and hemming a seam. It's even purple so I can put it into our guild's display for the 6 Guilds Challenge. Our guild's colour is purple and we have an under the sea theme which I fulfilled by stitching a little purple fish bead and some glass bead air bubbles onto one corner. Photos when I have some decent light.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kicks and flicks

I'm very excited! It's jive week in Strictly and I have new shoes.

New shoes

They're ecoSneaks from Simple Shoes. I came across them in Schuh this evening and I was rather taken with their ethical policies and use of recycled materials (including old tyres and milk cartons). However, I have to confess that although I love the idea of ethical shoes the main factor was that I loved the pink laces against the grey suede and thought that they'd look rather fabulous with my collection of knee length skirts.

New shoes

Now all I need are the fabulous stripy grey tights I saw in M&S earlier.

I'm also very excited about the OGWSD guild meeting tomorrow. It feels like ages since the last guild meeting in the summer so I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone and settling down to some quality time with the wheel. I've got some Shetland singles on the wheel which I'm about halfway through plying and I think I'll take along the Welsh grey and Massam fibre to go into my British sheep breeds handspun blanket. This isn't because I'm running out of Shetland fibre, in fact I think I might already have enough spun and plied for the rest of my Arisaig cardigan and I don't want to have too much two-ply left over - I have already have enough leftovers in my stash.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Autumn days

We had the most glorious October day yesterday. It was so sunny that I was almost too warm sitting outside with my knitting at lunchtime.


I'd been a little concerned that I might struggle a little to find my bearings when I picked up the left front of the Arisaig cardigan after a break of a couple of months but the simple lace pattern and the fact that it's easy to count the increases and decreases by the repeats of the lace meant that I was able to carry on as though I had never left off.

The very steep decreases for the front neckline meant that every row was a little but shorter and I was able to make really good progress before the end of the day. I would have made even better progress if I hadn't got so carried away that I knit about 2 inches past the start of the armhole and had to rip back to the right place (oops!). Having had sizing issues with lace cardigans in the past (yes, I'm talking about you here, Katharine vest) I thought that this would be a good moment to block the back and check that the lace and ribbing really would stretch out to the required dimensions.


Yay! I even held a real piece of clothing up against it to make sure and so can now knit on with confidence.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cookie monster

Milk and cookie

The boyfriend was keen for me to blog the oatmeal and raisin cookies he made for dessert this evening. Despite us substituting white granulated sugar for brown sugar and not quite knowing what was meant by "1/s tsp" baking soda they turned out splendidly - nice and squidgy in the middle and crispy around the outside. The recipe is from Lucy's Kitchen - our go-to blog for North American cookery - and I'll be making them again for a quilting or knitting get together in the not-too-distant future.

Talking of quilting I met up with some of the other members of the quilting group this evening for a mammoth cutting session. I cut the remaining fabric for the Carolina Lily block and also the fabric for a new block using Celtic applique. I'm very excited about doing some more applique - it's really great to stretch my hand-stitching muscles. I'll do a post soon to show off my beautiful hand sewn seams when I have a chance to take some photos in good light.

To market, to market

Oakford Social Club

I spent yesterday with Felix and Ruth (who came along for moral support and the knitting) at the Sunday art and craft market at the Oakford Social Club in Reading. I was so pleased with the lovely display that we were able to make for the owls using the luggage tags and stamps that Felix had brought along.

Little Brown Owl

I like that the stamping prevents any of those awkward questions about "what is it supposed to be?". Business was pretty slow for most of the afternoon - I think largely due to the absolutely miserable weather in Reading for all of Sunday lunchtime (constant drizzle is not good going out weather) - but Felix made quite a few sales by the end of the afternoon and I sold two owls (one of them to a complete stranger).

At least the fact that we weren't rushed with customers gave us lots of time to get on with our projects. I finished the big moss stitch scarf (one mass of bulky yarn moved from the stash to the FO box) and got started on a simple hat in Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds chunky in Grey Suffolk. I had purchased a single ball of this along with some needles in John Lewis as I realised by the time I reached Oxford the station that the remainder of the scarf would not keep me busy for the whole of the day. I cast on on 48 stitches in the pub with the intention of making either a neck-warmer or a hat - depending on whether or not it was fitting over my head after a few rounds. Felix was working away on the mansweater - luckily Mark was on hand for occasional fittings - which is now looking excitingly close to being finished. By the end of the day Felix was raring to be getting home in order to check out the instructions for steeking the placket.

I really enjoyed my afternoon at the art and ctaft market. The guys in the pub and the other artists were really friendly and I had a lovely time sitting and knitting with Ruth, Felix, Mark and Phil (the latter two not knitting) and eating the Oakford Social Club's yummy sandwiches. I might go back again before Christmas but in the meantime I will be taking the owls along to the OGWSD meeting next week for the sales table and also looking into a way to sell them online via the blog.

I'd finished the hat by the end of yesterday evening (hats in chunky weight yarn take no time at all) so there will be pictures of hat and scarf and probably a pattern for the hat coming your way in the next post.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Craft market research

I'm sitting here (in the lovely new computer chair that the boyfriend bought at the weekend) feeling pretty smug that I got in from Bluestockings this evening and did all the laundry before either doing any blogging or yet more knitting. To be honest, laundry was fairly necessary after a ketchup related incident at the pub. Amazingly and in defiance of all the laws of knitting physics the only place that the ketchup didn't go was on new knitter Amy's cream lace project. I'm not sure she'd have come back if that had happened!

We had a really great knitting night. There were 4 (four!) new knitters - Amy, Jenny, Jen, and Meryl - Felix came over from Reading and Helen arrived with her new dog Poppy who instantly became the centre of attention. She is a German Spitz and is just the prettiest dog ever and very well behaved. It was our first night in the new reserved spot by the bar and I think it was a success. There was lots of light all evening and enough space for all the knitters. There was even a little spot for Poppy to zonk out - I think she was exhausted by all the petting.

I took advantage of all these knitters to conduct a little market research on my owl brooches ahead of the craft market on Sunday and I'd like to ask you guys the same questions.

First question: do you prefer the goggly eyes?

little brown owls

or the sleepy eyes?

little brown owls

Here's a picture of the two owls side by side to help you out.

little brown owls

Bear in mind that these are actually little brooches so do think about what you would prefer to wear.

Second question: how much would you pay for a little owl brooch at a craft market? (Assuming you wanted a little owl brooch that is.)

For this one there are a few points to think about. The brooch is handmade (each one takes about an hour to make) and I don't want to sell myself short, or undercut other artists and crafters at the market some of whom will be doing this to make or supplement an income (rather than just as a hobby). On the other hand, I know from experience (my own and that of others) that very few people will pay an amount that would be a fair recompense for the time, skill, and materials that go into making a handmade item.

I have a figure in my own head which I think I'm going to charge but I'd be really interested to have your comments on this.

Edited to add: Thanks for all your lovely comments so far. One or two people mentioned that pricing might depend on the size of the owls - they are around 2 1/4 inches high (5.5 cm).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A blast from my (knitting) past

I had an hour and a bit to kill between work and an athletics meeting so I holed up in one of the Oxford Bluestockings' old haunts, Oxford's Jericho Cafe, for tea, knitting, and a little bit of something.

tea and flapjack

I've missed the date and ginger flapjacks (nom nom nom) although not their custom of flicking the dimmer switch at 6:30pm.

little brown owls

All this week I've been working on these little brown and white owls. I ran out of knitting (!) on the train back from Bolton on Sunday so started experimenting with the leftover yarn from the striped fliptop mittens. A magic cast-on, a few rounds, try one thing, try another thing, a couple of decreases and all of a sudden I had something that I could take to the Oakford Social Club art and craft market this Sunday. I'll be there from noonish with Felix and a whole parliament of little owls.


I have been biting my nails this afternoon - FAIL
I had my first driving lesson today and it went really well - WIN
I've finally packaged up beet heid to send to Kate - WIN
And I found the needles that I thought I'd lost - WIN
But it would seem that I've lost my lovely Radley brolly - FAIL
I bought a chocolate brownie this morning and left it in the cafe - FAIL
The shop at work sells choccy digestives though - WIN
I'm off for a run now - AND A GOOD THING TOO!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

On fire

Last weekend I sorted out my stash. I bought four under-the-bed storage boxes from the local supermarché and put all the yarn, fibre, and half-finished projects into them. I even had a system - box one is for stash yarn (surprisingly this is the fullest box), box two contains fibre and handspun, box three has WIPs and UFOs*, and box four is the location for finished objects (mostly as-yet-ungifted items and my shawl collection). The main aim behind the operation stash was to clear up some space in the corner of the living room which had been pretty much taken over by plastic bags of miscellaneous yarn and to ease my lurking fear that the carpet moths** which haunt our bedroom would tire of the all-carpet diet and seek out new prey.

However the exercise has had some unexpected benefits in that seeing all my WIPs and UFOs (and there aren't quite as many as I'd thought) in one place has really motivated me to work on them. Just this week I have finished off two pairs of socks, nearly finished the striped yoke baby cardigan, finished one mitten, and made really good progress on the second.

Monkeys and Pomatomi

Remember these guys? I last knit on the Pomatomus socks (below) around the time of Woolfest. I had got as far as the heel of the second sock when I got so enthused by the whole British wool thing that I put them down for a while and then they always seemed just a bit too tricky to take up again afterwards. In fact it took just two days' knitting to finish them off and I was weaving the ends in by Thursday evening this week.

The handspun Monkey socks (above) were spun and knit on a schedule to be displayed at Megan's stand at FibreFest at the end of August. I was so pleased when I finished them a whole day before I was due to hand them over to Megan, then slightly less pleased when I realised that I'd somehow missed a whole repeat out of the second sock, d'oh! They might have been good enough to display but they weren't good enough to wear and they hung around in a paper bag with the leftover yarn for a whole month before bringing them out into the light motivated me to sort them out. These took only a couple of hours to finish off.

Striped yoke baby cardigan

This baby cardigan was heading towards UFO-dom as I was afraid that I would run out of the cream yarn before I reached the cuffs, let alone the button bands. However, I faced up to my fears, ripped out my swatch and managed to finish both sleeves with the remaining yarn, phew! I don't think that there's enough left in the ball to make a button band so I plan to find a zipper in either pink or brown to match the stripes and finish the front edges in that colour. My niece just loves zipping and unzipping the zippers on anything from mummy's fleece jacket to her own sleeping bags so I think she'll be thrilled to have her very own zip-up cardigan. I just need to find a nice big zipper with a chunky toggle that her little fingers can grab onto.

Flip top mitten

Finally I popped these flip top mittens into my knitting bag along with the striped cardigan to work on on my trip up north this weekend. I started the first mitten in Geneva at the end of August and had started the second by the time our plane landed at Heathrow but I had to suspend work on them as soon as I got home in order to work on the Sheep Yoke baby cardigan for Clara. Now I'm down to the cuff on the second mitten which just leaves around twenty rows of ribbing, the thumb, and the finishing to go.

The really exciting thing is that once the mittens and the zipper for the cardigan are done this only leaves a Trellis cardigan to be sewn up and a fingerless mitten project to be completed before I can concentrate on the WIP I really want to get back to, my handspun Shetland Arisaig. Either that or I can create a whole new load of WIPs.

* the difference between WIP (work in progress) and UFO (unfinished object) can seem a subtle one to non-knitters but if you've not picked up the needles for a month or more then you're definitely heading towards Area 51.

** this is a big admission for any knitter to make as fibre-eating beasties are the STDs of the knitting world.