Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taking the edge off

Some people have therapists, some have a good relationship with their wine merchant - for me, knitting is what takes the edge off the day. *

My sister-in-law-in-law's (H's brother's wife) Christmas scarf currently looks like this:
Scarf 006
Half finished - I've needed a lot of therapy recently.

It is fair to say that the last couple of days have really kicked and full credit should be given not only to the lovely Germolene pink alpaca in the scarf (which is really very soothing to knit) but also to the Tuesday night knitting girls who plied me with chocolate biscuits last night until I felt human again (or rather until I started making cheeky comments at which point they wished they had stopped one biscuit sooner).

The scarf pattern is a Ravelry find and is a free download from here. When I saw it on Ravelry looking for something different it called out to be for C - this is after all a girl who hunted down the last available pink Nintendo DS in Edinburgh so I think I'm on safe ground with the colour and she's always been a girl for a bit of sparkle!

Having indulged in all this therapy it is only right that the universe should seek some form of balance and this morning a ball of yarn got its own back on me. [Warning: those of a sensitive disposition should arrange the tissues and sofa to hide behind at this point - it is Halloween after all].

I think I am fairly safe in announcing that H may perhaps be getting a pair of socks as part of his Christmas bundle. He either won't read the blog or he will read it and knows that he asked for more fluffy socks. Anyway, I digress.... sock number one has been completed in relative secrecy and is currently hiding (down a mitten - shh).

This morning, with a nice long train trip to London lined up I knit a little bit on the Monkey to maintain the cover story and then prepared to cast on. As I knit into the third round of the sock I noticed that although I had got the start lined up, the stripes were going the wrong way. [Bonus point for noticing this before 9am]. I considered the possibilities and fished out the centre of the ball of yarn thinking to knit it inside out to get the striping going the wrong way. [Bonus point for thinking of this rather than chucking the whole thing out of the train window]. I duly wound off to get to the starting point but the stripes were going the wrong way. So I checked the outside of the ball - yes, stripes going the wrong way.... and the inside of the ball; stripes still going the wrong way [ we will not dwell on the number of times I checked this - it was after all still before 9am.] I then poked around in the ball for a bit and noticed that the stripes reversed about three layers down so I started winding.

When I had a ball of yarn about the size of a satsuma wound off my fingers brushed up against a little something. It was a knot (I did tell you you needed a sofa to hide behind). Yes indeed - I know you're all there before me, I had half a ball of yarn going one way, carefully knotted to half going the other way. People of Regia - I am not impressed.

In the end I've undone the knot, hidden the half ball of yarn in another mitten and successfully started the sock. Luckily our story has a happy ending (unless I discover another knot!).

Now then, do I (a) finish the scarf; (b) finish Foxglove or (c) cast on something new?

It's November tomorrow - roll on NaNoSwMo - this year I'm going to do it (largely because I won't be knitting in KSH!)

* This is not to say that this evening's R&R did not include a glass of a very nice white - it did.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Foxglove - a progress report

Setting myself deadlines is always dangerous due to my continuing view that I can achieve double what can realistically be accomplished in any given period of time. I think it works a bit like this:

Today is Saturday (thought process from yesterday). I have a whole day free and then all of tomorrow too (and we get an extra hour because the clocks changed). In two whole days I can finish Foxglove.

This thought is possibly true but completely ignores going to town, doing chores and going to the gym which in the event took up most of Saturday.

However, I have made sufficient progress to be able to give you an idea of the finished wrap:
Sadly the whole gain-an-hour thing whilst great from a sleeping in point of view is rubbish in terms of daylight photography - nevermind. The colour is actually closer to this:
Which I took while playing around with a daylight lamp without any flash.

As you can see I have run chronically short of flowers and leaves so the crochet hook needs to come out again at some point. I have however, managed to darn the ends, seam the knitting and sew on all those flowers so I'm pretty pleased with progress.

The wrap does up with a button on the inside right-hand side seam but I'm adding few more for effect. The large leaf button fits perfectly through the crochet leaf on the bottom corner of the right front so I'm going to attach it to the outside for fastening. Then on the inside I'm going to put a button on the right side seam and also a button to fasten the fronts together as they cross over to stop it gaping apart as this is a bit of a low-v at present - hence why I was playing with the buttons - I think I'm going with the blue as long as they don't show.

The final touch is a belt/tie. The pattern suggests using the leaves end to end but I'm having 2nd thoughts - I love the flowers but I'm just not wild about the leaves so I think either a plain crochet belt or something pretty but not leaves might just be the trick - possibly a row of trebles with a picot edge at either end. Any suggestions?

All this not knitting has left me rather twitchy for knitting and this:
is currently the only thing on the needles. I'm going to go and rectify that now - have a good Sunday evening!

Saturdays child works hard for her living

And this past week has been no exception. My best work mate has gone on to pastures new and lucky me has inherited much of her case load (including a case I delegated to her 2 years ago - thanks a bunch). We'll still keep in touch and travel on the same train etc but all the same I'm sorry to see her go - we're not such a big team that someone can leave without there being a bit of a hole left behind. Anyway last week turned into a whirlwind of lunches, leaving drinks and handover meetings.

Still , this Saturday's child will attest that Saturdays are not for working (well not unless you really have to) and this Saturday was a day of fun, giggles and squee-noises thanks to a combination of arrivals.

Where should I start first....?

How about where yarn comes from - a sheep:

In my case, via a postman. When H and I were in Scotland we spent a fair bit of time trawling the grockle shops trying to find a shawl pin for me. We found a couple I liked but couldn't afford and a multitude of ones I could afford but wouldn't touch in a million years unless desperate for an extras role in a remake of Braveheart. I've seen Romi's shawl pins in my internet travels so I pointed H in the right direction and he choose this little ram, currently to be found in his natural habitat - my Swan Lake Stole:

The beads are copper coloured and the ram just sets them off nicely. I also have a little treat laid up for November (I think it will be my NaNoSweMo project) which fastens with a shawl pin and the copper of the ram will work beautifully with the blue/green/brown of the jacket.

So once you have the yarn, or the sheep - what next?... unless you have amazing natural skills (and you should see the things Susan is producing at the moment as an example of this) you need a pattern. Ever since I finished Kauni I've been craving fairisle and colourwork and beautifully multicoloured projects. If you want a bit of eye candy just look at Stranded on Fairisle for really beautiful examples.

Alice Starmore is known for stunning fairisle but due to a huge IP saga (check out the Girl from Auntie if you're curious), many of her books are out of print. Out of print they may be but Warwickshire Libraries have come up trumps and with a bit of pre-ordering, all four books in the catalogue turned up in my nearest library during the week. Saturday morning I hopped on the bike and went to rescue them:
So far I've read Knitting from the British Isles which was interesting from a history point of view but the patterns were frankly scary (or I could be polite and say that they pre-date me but you can see the front cover). I'm working through the Fairisle Knitting book which I'm really enjoying both for the background information and the details on how to construct your own fairisle. There are even a couple of patterns that I might use as a bit of inspiration - I'll let you know how I get on with the other two but from a glance the Celtic Collection has some patterns I might really have to add to my "to knit" list.

If pattern books form one side of a trinity of knitting then yarn must be one of the other two. The Christmas knitting is making good progress so I did a little shopping at Web of Wool for the rest. Some of the Christmas stash is clearly blog-barred for the moment but as I'm 99.9999% certain that my siblings-in-law haven't discovered the blog, you might get to see their presents in progress. If you are, or think you may be a brother, sister or in-law to my husband you are officially warned off the blog until Christmas. In any event - how on earth did you find it?

To complete the trinity (and make my Saturday) I had a little card from my postman - a parcel was waiting in the sorting office for me - do you want to see what it was?

I'm not usually a sucker for packaging but when I opened the box and saw this:
well the fact that I stopped to take a picture I think speaks volumes. Socktopus is starting a sock club in December using sock yarn that you can't get in the UK and I'm all signed up with needles at the ready. In signing up it is just possible that something accidentally fell into my basket:

I know the Tulips kit has been flying off shelves since the Yarn Harlot started a craze for them and I can see why - it's a sweet pattern and the yarn is slightly heathered and just lovely. Mum before you panic, I have a friend's baby on the radar for about March and if they have a little girl I might try to part with it. If they have a boy (and it's been all about the boys recently) I might knit a different colour variation. On a side note, if I even vaguely suggest that I might knit them a baby blanket you all have my full permission to come and take the needles from my hands and lead me away from the Baby Cashmerino to a safer place. (Please don't straightjacket me - then I won't be able to knit).

The bottle is of Lavender Euclan - a much-lauded wool wash which smells wonderful and the sachets are a little present from Alice - more Euclan!
Valiantly resisting the siren call of all of the above I even went to the gym and did some chores before falling prey to the call of the sofa - it was a great day
On yet another side note - can I count as cardiovascular activity the time I spent hopping up and down at H squeaking "look at this, look how cool it is, no look; H! actually look, it's knitting and it's really pretty and if you don't look right now I'm going to knit you this scary sweater and make you wear it"?
H now has a good grasp of the contents and importance of both a Baby tulips kit and an Alice Starmore book - one of the many reasons why I love that man

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Well I promised pictures..

Sadly - or perhaps it's a good thing - these are not of knitting but of trees - Westonbirt Arborteum in all its glory!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The knitting is progressing nicely - I now have finished all the knitting on Foxglove and I've done 5 crochet leaves - just another 47 to go and the sewing up then!!

I'm tentatively suggesting to myself that I might manage to get it finished this weekend and at the same time trying not to get myself backed into a self-imposed deadline as I'm going out tomorrow evening to celebrate/drown my sorrows as my best workmate moves on to pastures new and I MUST go to the gym this weekend. I meant to go on Monday but felt under the weather, Tuesday was knitting and today I didn't get back from meetings in London until 9 - grr. Saturday it is then - I will report on my progress in due course!

PS the Monkey sock is addictive - I'll try to snag a picture at the weekend if it doesn't rain too much!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Another week passes

And yet again I have been missing in action from the blog. However, all is well; I'm back and here is the news.

Exciting thing number 1:

Baby N was born on 14 October. He is very cute and new-born - babies are so sweet when someone else has to clean them! I have duly dispatched the blanket and booties and hopefully they will have arrived by now (fingers crossed) with apologies to M and J for spelling their son's name wrong - blame his Granny and Great-Uncle and the grapevine!!

Exciting thing number 2:

Christmas is shaping up nicely - I finished project Christmas 2 yesterday (yes Zee - it's yours) and project 3 is on the needles and being carefully hidden from all and sundry. I've not got too many more Christmas projects this year (after last year's sock bonanza) so I'm ticking along nicely.

Exciting thing number 3:

Foxglove is flowering. Not much progress made from last week - I've done about a third of the last sleeve and no more leaves but the end is in sight and I think it will look rather pretty. It is a coral/pink/orange type colour that photographs very pink and so is hard to show you. I think it will need a vest underneath to stop it being too revealing a top and I'm currently trying to decide which colour will show it off to it's best advantage - I'm thinking green because then I will have coral flowers on a green background.

Exciting thing number 4:

Casting on/swatching. I have swatched again for my tangled yoke cardigan. 3.75mm needles came out a stitch too big and 3.5mm a fraction to half a stitch too small. I'm going to go with the 3.5mm because (a) I have a wider range of cord lengths in 3.5mm circs and (b) I like the fabric better. I was going to start as soon as I could and the startitis urge is still there but as I know it would be all too easy to put Foxglove in a bag and forget about her until next summer I am trying to hold out for an FO - time will tell.

I also needed something new for the morning commute so I have chased, caught up with, and scrambled onto the last inch of the Monkey bandwagon and cast on in some purple/pink/orange/grey Koigu. I've popped a picot edge on the top for variation and so far (the edging) they look good. I would have done more this morning but I spent the journey curled up under H's coat feeling sorry for myself because I simply can't get warm. I'm writing this from work still wearing my suit jacket and my scarf (all hail the warming powers of Argosy) and with a fan heater full blast at my feet and if I move an inch out of the heater's range I feel all chilly - the temperature has obviously dropped and the office has been cold over the weekend so it takes a while to climb back up again!

Exciting thing number 5:

Yesterday H and I met up with my parents at the very beautiful Westonbirt Arboretum which is midway between us (well slightly closer to us). The arboretum has a collection of Acers and Japanese Maple trees that are stunning colours at this time of year as well as a 2000 year old Lime tree (it looks like a thicket but it's all one tree) and lots of interesting berries and other pretties.

Piccies to come in due course but for the moment imagine all your favourite muted reds, oranges, yellows and greens together and you've got the picture of a day spent walking in the trees, eating pasties in the sunshine and catching up on all the family gossip - perfect!

Now having spent my lunchtime blogging I had better go and justify my existence to the paying establishment - as they say in Brummie-land "ta-ra for now!"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday again

I can either claim that work has been really busy or that I was claimed by the dark side. I'm going with the Dark side.

at the moment H is trying to play grandmother[s footsteps up the stairs. O a tuyping wotjpit l;pplomg at tje leu npard tp see jpw ;pmg je cam strau frpze sp tjos ,au ,ale mp semse at a;;! E'S STILL TERE!

I think we have all proved I cannot type without being able to look at the keyboard once in a while - that should read "I am typing without looking at the key board to see how long he can stay frozen so this may make no sense at all! He's still there!" - as I said - point proved.

H is forgiven for trying to creep up on me on the basis that he was bringing me a medicinal port for my sore throat - yum!

Anyway... this week has, as expected, been a tad on the manic side. We also joined a gym last Saturday so we have been making sure we get out there often. I went 4 times this week and I'm pleased with that for starters - I wanted to go yesterday but the sore throat saw me tucked up under a duvet for most of the afternoon.

In between all of this I have managed to finish the sleeve on Foxglove which I started last week and I have ventured into the crochet and completed all the big and small flowers (11 in total). So just a sleeve and 52 leaves to go then!!
This has resulted in a profusion of late blooms in my garden as you see:

[NB - this is my Cosmos which was supposed to grow to 2 feet tall. It is now taller than me and I'm 6']
Actually, Calmer is a wonderful drapey yarn which makes it nigh on impossible to photograph except as a finished item so here are some folded parts of the garment:
If I showed you them spread out you would think the top is far more revealing than it will be!

It seems that the more you know about knitting and the more you know you can do, the more you end up fiddling with patterns. When I started knitting again I would have followed the pattern religiously and hope that I had chosen something that suited me when finished. Now I can work out how much extra length to add and how to adjust the front shaping and take depth out of the armhole and all these sorts of things so I do, to make sure that the finished item ends up as a smiley face and not an ugh. In all of this I find I'm giving the pattern for foxglove lip service rather than really following it. It's a great pattern but if I knit it as written on me it would have huge armholes and be far too short - isn't it great that we can change things!

I've also made pretty good progress on a pair of Christmas socks for a non-reader and a little Christmas magic for someone who does read this and all is well with the world!

Finally, a little plea for inspiration: H and I run our embryo church youth group. We had four teenagers today, two from very traditional church backgrounds and two who we met in the churchyard one week and invited in. They are all rather wary of each other at the moment and it's been a little while since I was a teenager so any ideas on how we can break the ice between them would be gratefully received.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The end is nye

Well sort of. Tomorrow I officially return to work but actually I'm going out on a site visit so the e-mails will remain unread for another day (phew!). It is somewhat putting off the inevitable but right now that's OK by me.

I have LOVED being on holiday even though it's gone far too fast and I've LOVED being able to spend time with H and the family without their being any time pressure or need to get other things done.

I've also done a ton of knitting while H painted and that too has been relaxing. So in achievements I can list a completed baby blanket (still no baby - as far as I know); a completed cushion cover (non-knitting but one of my oldest UFOs), a completed Argosy scarf and serious progress on two Christmas projects (over half way on one and just about half way on the other). Thanks to Ravelry I have also discovered all the other things that I want to make for Christmas but may well have no where near enough time!

Foxglove is my main knit at the moment and I have finished both fronts and the back and I'm making progress up the first sleeve. I think I like how it will look but a lot depends on the crochet flowers - I joined the shoulder seams and discovered that the arm holes were far too deep and the whole thing was gapeing off me in a most revealing manner so I have taken 4" out of the arm hole and it now looks a whole lot better. I think when the flowers are on and the ties are in there will be a dramatic improvement. I hope so anyway because the colour is lovely and the knitted fabric has a wonderful soft drape. With a bit of luck I will figure out the crochet easily enough and be able to make the flowers on the train - time will tell so watch this space!

In the meantime the stress levels are starting to build (my presentation tomorrow is the main reason we are going on a site visit) so I'm going back to my stst sleeve for comfort!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Not Knitting but...

I'll just wait for you all to pick yourselves off the floor.

Whilst knitting is my main hobby (as you can tell) I also love cross stitch and have dabbled in quilting and it is in quilting that we find my oldest UFO. In July 2005 the Lovely Husband, the Best Friend and I went on an America trip flying into New York for three days and then driving up to Boston through New England. It was wonderful and we were there for 4th July and saw a staggering amount of fireworks let off in the East River (I think? - we were by the UN building to watch them so wherever that is).

Anyway whilst on our craft shop crawl, sorry, holiday, I came across a bundle of brushed cotton fat quarters in blue, cream and red stars and stripes and needless to say they came home with me with a plan to make a big squishy cushion. We also found some wonderfully cheesy printed fabric with fireworks and the US as backing.

It wasn't until almost a year later that I found the pattern I wanted to copy - called America's Sweethearts in a quilting magazine and very slowly I have been putting the patches together on the machine.

And now... well it's finished. I decided that with a two week holiday-at-home there was really no excuse for not making a bit more progress so yesterday we bought the wadding, the cushion pad and a zip and yesterday afternoon I finished the quilt top and quilted it. As you see it doesn't have much quilting - I outlines the hearts and the stars and put in some straight lines to hold it all together but that's pretty much it. I also added the centre button - red with stars - it just seemed right.
Quilt 010
Finishing the quilt was one thing; making it into a cushion cover is quite another. I am trying to get better with my sewing machine so I decided that this cover would have a zip rather than just being a slip cover and a concealed zip at that.

There are some fantastic instructions on inserting zips here and while I don't have a concealed zip foot for the sewing machine (I think I might get one though), I just tried to uncoil the zip teeth with my fingers and sew as close to the teeth as I could - I'm pretty pleased with the result:
Quilt 004
If you've ever watched my family wrap Christmas presents trying to get the paper lined up just so then you will know that I am every inch my father's daughter.

So here's to memories of a wonderful holiday and some pictures of my finally finished object:
Quilt 012
Quilt 013
As you can see the concealed zip is not so invisible when under a bit of stress but for a first attempt with the wrong foot it's good enough for me!

Now when I said not knitting I probably should have said "not exclusively knitting". Foxglove it a bit bigger but makes very unexciting phography and the world outside is too grey to add interest by itself (plus my garden has seriously big weeds).

However, as Mary has now moved to the same county it seems only right that we should celebrate with knitting, tea and cookies. And so Sunday afternoon passed. The cookies were delicious (thanks Mary), the company was excellent and by the end of the afternoon Mary had made some serious progress on a small person sized sleeve and I had finished Argosy (but forgot to take any pictures until today)!:
I feel that Argosy missed out a little on the blog because for many weeks it has been my alternative "pick up and do a few rows" knitting, perched on the arm of the sofa. The pattern is interesting enough to knit a scarf full and yet shows off the silk to it's best advantage. I also had plenty of silk to make it which made me very pleased as I like a scarf long enough to wrap aroung my neck and tuck into the front of my coat. Now that it is October I fully anticipate needing a scarf in the mornings and this will be perfect.

So then, Foxglove, a sock and ...... A tangled yoke? - wait and see!