Monday, March 30, 2009


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It's official - Spring is here, we're past the equinox and the ornamental cherry tree in the front garden has effervesced into bloom. It seemed only appropriate to celebrate having survived the frozen wasteland that was our temperate winter by knitting myself a pair of Spring Socks:March 163

The first socks of the year to be photographed in a shrub! The yarn is Opal Crazy in colour 1902 which (sadly) has no-name. I hereby christen it Easter Egg because it reminded me of Spring and Easter the entire time.

Initially I thought it had to do with the colours in the garden and the colours in the yarn; we have bands of daffodil yellow with spiky green leaf stitches:

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Blossom against a blue sky that's only just starting to deepen into that rich summer hue;
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Cream with green leaves March 158
(only slightly noshed by our resident hedgehog who has a quite serious taste for primroses - he's a little camera shy but I'll show you if we ever get the chance)
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And I could see how the little allover flecks of green:
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Were identical, even in shape to the new buds on the fuchsia:
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But, much as I would like you to imagine me spending my days drifting around my garden, matching sock yarn to emerging blossoms and blooms, the truth will out.

The yarn is not so much reminiscent of the new life abundant at Easter, as the foil wrappings on the Easter Eggs (ah! the shame!).

Way back when, before I was tall enough to liberate the Easter Eggs from the top of the Welsh Dresser, my Easter eggs could last for weeks, doled out in suitable installments after meals. Zee used to be given a Cadbury Roses egg, and I had a Quality Street egg. This was when the sweets actually came inside the egg and we would carefully smooth out all of the foil wrappings to fashion into impossibly huge costume jewellery for ourselves and any handy bears.March 169

Perhaps it should be Quality Street Yarn! - on a side note, when did they stop having the peanut ones in Quality Street? I used to really like those and the replacement was a sad disappointment.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again

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Or rather, I dreamt that H and I were sailing around some unspecified Scottish islands in the most beautiful yacht - all teak decks, creamy sails, a gaff rig and a proper ships wheel to steer by. It was perfect - and I may be homesick for my holiday!

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It seems scarcely believable that I've only been back at work a week; if you caught me in an unguarded moment I'd probably tell you I was shattered and I really needed a break!
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Some of our clothes still have that faint whiff of a salty wind and there are still pebbles from the beach stuck in the grooves of our boots so it wasn't all a dream.

I am in very grave danger of turning into an advert for the Scottish Tourist board I know, but it is a really beautiful part of the world.

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The rocks on the jetty had amazing colours of lichen depending on where they were on the tide line

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you know that someone with a penchant for burnt orangy-red was going to love this colour - I'll have to take up yarn dying and make a colourway to match - "Jetty and Seaweed"!
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Or a very pale blue and pinky-red - "Lonely Mussel"

The seaward end of Loch Etive is distinctly different to the mountains of our first trip out; the mountains falling from Glen Etive give way abruptly to rolling hills and scenery very reminiscent of the southern English coastline - at least, a southern English coastline with a mirror on the horizon.

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We went out fishing twice while we were up north, sadly with a negative profit - we caught no fish whatsoever apart from the mackerel strips we were using as bait; and managed to snag and snap four sets of hooks and line, which I think is a family record. The hook lines used for deep fishing are a work of art in themselves - a mix of plastic beads and strips of shiny film tied together to look like a string of the most inviting, luscious prawns ever seen by a big fish at the bottom of the loch:
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The trick is to gently tweak the line up and down to make the plastic prawns look like they're swimming - the lack of fish suppers suggests that (a) I hadn't quite got it and (b) the fish preferred the real prawns that day.

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Sitting out in the boat, drifting with the breeze and the tide in that wonderful sea air and glorious sunshine - well it's amazing we came back at all.

Come back we did, and as you can see I have been knitting as usual, and finishing up what may well be one of my most favourite pairs of socks to date:
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These are my completed Fireside socks and to be honest, I think they are simply wonderful.

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The only change that I made to the written pattern was to go up to 2.5mm needles to make a bigger size, which means that when they are on my feet they don't loose the 3-D texture of flames licking up your feet.

They were easy to knit, they look fab, what's not to love?

So now that I've finished the fire element, should I go for Earth, Water or Wind next?

I'll leave you with the perfect sunset as I go back to dreaming of the distant north:
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Etive

Far from the bustling crowds, the commute, the work I swear I didn't leave on my desk and the piles of post and strange free newspapers that cascade through our front door, there is another world.
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A world of sunshine and soft hazy days. H's uncle has a little put-put motor boat for nipping around the loch and for fishing and we spent several days last week pootling about.

Our family is inclined to wax rhapsodical about this part of Scotland (and to be fair we can see why); they mention the mountains, the lochs, the waterfalls, the fresh air, the peace and quiet - and the complete absence of traffic on the roads.

We would agree with them, until they get to the 'no traffic' claim. No traffic is very true, until you try to move the Etive Belle the tiniest distance from home to the loch shore. And then you go over a pothole. And then another pothole. And then there was a slight, but increasing, grinding noise.

And as we pondered the source of the noise, H looked out of the back window at the wheel on the trailer. Or should I say, the wheel that was formerly attached to the trailer but was at this stage making a wobbly but concerted bid for freedom.

We stopped.


In the half hour or so it took to jack up the boat, nip home for a stronger jack, establish that the wheel bearings were a figment of our imaginations, and move the boat the final 100 yards to the shore by the combined power of prayer and positive thinking, we encountered more traffic along that little one track road than we saw in the entire remainder of our holiday in that village. Clearly there's no traffic in the rest of western Scotland because they're all on that road!

Loch Etive itself is backwards-L-shaped, with high mountains at the top giving way to rolling hills nearer to the sea. We spent our first trip out heading north to the hills and if my horizons are anything other than horizontal I beg your indulgence; H and K were driving.
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The first of the hills on the eastern loch shore is Ben Cruachan. It doesn't look like much from this angle but it's a Munro and 1126 metres at its peak. The name in gaelic means 'heaped hill' and it isn't so much the one hill that you can see here, as a series of peaks running along a ridge.

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From the north you can see (a) the snow! and that series of spiny vertebrae. Apparently it is a big thing for mountaineery types to climb more than one peak of Ben Cruachan at one sitting. We admired from afar and stayed on the water where all good people with salt in their blood belong.

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Working your way along the eastern shore you pass by these wonderful, and unexpected, scooping valleys. From memory this is a tiny place called Lochetive.

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Which soon disappears behind another emerging hill.

As we made our way up the loch we started to be able to see over and around promontories to the head of the loch in the distance.

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And around another bend
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The hills in the distance are the head of the loch at Gualachulain which can only be accessed by road from Glen Coe, a massive round trip from the eastern shore. The hill on the right is Ben Starav, another Munro at a diminutive 1078 metres. Mere photos simply cannot do justice to the might and beauty of this place. Go and see it (just not all at once!)
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In the wood to the left of this picture is a little cottage, accessible only by boat and with the very basic of facilities but an open fire and comfy leather sofas. It can be rented for the ultimate escape from the world outside and I couldn't think of a nicer place to hide on a sunny day.

With all of this natural beauty there is a little of the real world as well, it isn't quite fairy-tale-land:
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This is a mussel farm and that is a wee scottish scare-gull!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Made in Scotland

H and I have just returned from a wonderful, chilled out, relaxed week spent on Argyll time with family on the west coast of Scotland. We have tasted whisky, gone fishing in the loch (unsuccessfully. both times) and cheated our way up a mountain (all hail the invention of the cable car). I have more pictures than I thought could fit on my memory card and just a smidgen of sunshine in my cheeks.

And when not forming part of an increasing court of admirers to H's baby cousin (who is smiley and adorable, and totally worthy of the rapt adoration he receives) I have also been knitting.

Some good friends of ours are expecting their second baby in April and as they already have a handknitted Baby Surprise Jacket courtesy of baby number 1, I needed to deviate away from my staple baby diet, and with a little help from the internet I found the very thing.

Three balls of Rowan Wool Cotton:
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For a girl - Mother of Pearl pink - called Tender (951)
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Or for a boy - Cypress green/blue (968)

Our friends are expecting just the one baby so this is a one for you, one for me knitting project - whichever doesn't suit the baby that arrives in April will wait for the next baby.

The patterns I chose are Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Baby Mine and Baby Yours which come across the seas as hard copy patterns from Blue Moon Fiber Arts. They took about a week to arrive from the date that I ordered and I then substituted the Wool Cotton for the Socks that Rock Mediumweight.

Cue one trip to Scotland and a bit of Abracadabra and we have:

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Baby Mine - started on 14th and finished on 17th. The edging pattern requires a bit of concentration but after that it is a very simple and quick knit with minimal making up so when you're done knitting, you're almost entirely finished.
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The edging is really sweet and now all I need are the perfect pearly pink buttons to set it off.

I dipped into my third ball of Wool Cotton to finish the second half of the cast off, so if you were cautious on length it might be possible to knit this jacket out of just two balls.

While Baby Mine may have been knit in Scotland, Baby Yours took things one step further and went to meet some mountains:
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This is the view from half way up Aonach Moir, looking down on Fort William and Loch Linnie.
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And this, despite the wind, is a pretty perfect knitting spot. You can see by my posture, if nothing else, that this is where Baby Yours grew by a few rows under the watchful eye of Ben Nevis' north shoulder.

I finished on Friday morning:March 102

At least, finished apart from the buttons.
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I made the newborn size for both patterns but made the body a little longer on the Baby Yours jacket so that I could fit in two cable repeats. Other than that I have (for once) knitted both patterns as written.

Now all I have to do is wait to see which one we keep!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


You know the moment in any aerobics or yoga class when you've been holding a stretch or a position, (or in my case, trying to hold it, crashing over on to the floor in a jumble of flying limbs, picking myself and trying to pretend like nothing happened), and the teacher says "and now, relaaax", and you're so exhausted from the falling and the flailing and the trying to do crazy exercise things that you feel like you might just fall asleep? That would be me right now.

I've got some time off work now but the ying of the holiday required the yang of a week spent trying to get as much done as humanly possible so that it 'counts' for this financial year. I feel as if I've been running around in circles for a week and I'm so happy to be spending the time off with family and friends and my pillow!

The knitting has been going around and around in circles too - but in a good way.

First on the needles - after Lava comes Fire:

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This is Part 2 of the Pink Lemon Twist Fire Elements patterns - Fireside. It is billed as the more complicated sock but whilst it looks really complicated and impressive, it's actually just a simple combination of yarnovers and decreases and the pattern is very memorable so I didn't need to have the chart in front of me after the first repeat or so.

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It knits up into a wonderful flickery flame texture that happily isn't lost when the sock stretches out on my foot.

I've spent the afternoon curled up on the sofa catching up on some videoed tv from earlier in the week and I've almost finished this first sock.

The yarn is Holiday Yarns FlockSock Yarn in Crimson Rioja, which was the gift of the yarn fairy as part of the 2008 Flock Sock Club. It is the perfect colour for this pattern, and was part of the impetus to rescue both patterns off my computer and start knitting!

The first time I took a picture of my 'at home' knitting, it looked like this:
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And life ran away with me, and I never got a chance to show it to you. It now looks like this:

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Clearly that's huge progress! It is the start of the Phyllo Yoked Pullover from Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature, with Carie-style tweaks! The original pattern has you knit the front, back and sleeves flat and then join for the yoke but I've started the body in the round so that I can put in a little bit of waist shaping along the way - so far, so good!

And finally, no circular motion round-up is complete without news from my Sonata:
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Bobbin 1 of a predicted 3 - having enjoyed the Socktopus Sock Club so much it made perfect sense to join the fibre club! This is Polworth which is a wonderfully fluffy and crinkly fibre that spins like a dream.
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It came as one long length of roving which I divided into three bumps. I've then predrafted the bump and spun it up fairly fine with really long colour repeats. The long term plan is to get a barber-pole striped heathery yarn, similar to my handspun sock yarn, that I can use for a hat, or mittens, it all depends how much yarn I get from the roving.

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At the moment I'm aiming for a three-ply 4ply weight and I'm considering Kim Hargreaves' Robin hat pattern - probably sans bobble though!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Knit on with Confidence

and perhaps just a smidgen of faith in yarn miracles!

This week has passed me by in the blogging sense but happily the crazy work that keeps me away from my yarn/camera has given me lots of train knitting time and the lava has been flowing.
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The advantage of having something totally new is that it's new and shiny and fun to play with. The disadvantage is that if the yarn runs out there isn't any more this side of a rather large pond.

I had 100g of Noro Silk Garden in a single ball, so when I finished sock number one I weighed it, just to check that I was on schedule.
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Ah. Yes, slight hitch there. The remaining yarn weighed 49 grams so no yarn miracles to be expected there.

I cast on the second sock fully in the knowledge that I probably should have stopped one lava flow sooner on the cuff and that I would have to substitute something else for the toe on the second sock, or have uneven cuffs to make it match.

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I decided to go for the substituted toe look and as of this afternoon, this is how much yarn I had left in the ball:

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I knit and knit, and knit some more, and then knit a bit, and as I started on the toe shaping I started to think that actually, I wouldn't need too many substitute rows.

And then the miracle happened:

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Alleluia! (cue heavenly chorus)
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I finished the toe. With about a half a yard to spare. There was a slightly hairy moment where I thought I had knit it too short and got very close to ripping back the toe, but after counting, re-counting, and triple-counting the number of repeats, and trying it on, I finally completed the kitchener and darned in the ends.

And just to prove that there was no trickery:
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One sock of 55g and one of 49g - you wouldn't believe it if you couldn't see it, surely the knitting muses should have taken the opportunity to smite me for knitting too long a cuff for my feet - actually maybe I shouldn't say that too loudly!

The lava flow pattern is easily memorised and very well written and I really enjoyed knitting these socks, even if not so volcano-coloured as I anticipated.

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Actually, if I put my feet up and wiggle my toes it's fairly Vesuvial, with the hottest magma descending down my feet to meet the meadows of pink and green on the cuffs. The colour is Noro Silk Garden Sock 84.

And where are they now? Well where did you expect?

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