Thursday, January 29, 2009

Have you felt the earth shake?

My apologies - it was the spin cycle on my washing machine. For yes, the felting experiment continues.

After the interesting felting experiment with my little bag kit - now a repository for an unfinished pompom giraffe and monkey kit - I was left with three questions:

(a) what made that funny colour change half way through the second side of my bag;
(b) what gauge gives me the kind of felt that I want (ie not rock solid); and
(c) what temperature and program is best for felting in my washing machine given that I'm in the UK which means it's a front loading washing machine.

Happily there were some sizeable odds and ends left over from the felted bag kit with which to play.

Anna suggested the first option to explain the colour change - given that the purple was a single ply yarn was it possible that I had knit one ball with the twist going one way, and the other with the twist in the opposite direction which had given different colour reflections, and that distinct change when the light hit?

It's a good idea and certainly something to remember to check if I ever knit a garment from single plied yarn because the balls, even within the same dye lot aren't necessarily wound with the twist the same way.

I knit one square from the outside of the remaining ball and another from the inside. And the result?
January 236
No discernible difference at all.

These squares were both knit on 12mm needles which gives a much more open and loose pre-felting fabric; far more like what I was expecting for a pre-felting fabric than the solid bulk of four strands of yarn over 12mm.
January 237

However, all was not lost - although the real answer was mostly serendipitous.

January 239

I swatched the Paris with the pale pink Freedom Spirit. And before my eyes, the answer appeared; Paris Mohair Sparkle is variegated. Not sufficiently variegated to be obvious from the outside of the ball in my kit, and when I was knitting with it, the ball was on the floor where I couldn't see the second colour emerge. The colour repeats are long and it was just coincidence (and a cracking red herring) that the colour shift happened at the start of my second ball.

If you look here that's a Ravelry stash photo of the same yarn in which the two colour variation is much more pronounced.

I'm pleased that I've found the reason for the colour shift, what I really don't understand is why Twilley's put that yarn in the kit when the repeats are too short to do stripy or subtly variegated (both of which would be cool) - it's a mystery!

Stage 2 involved far more technical analysis: 1 washing machine, 3 swatches.

The first load of laundry that I needed to do was a 40 degree 'Acrylics' wash - slightly longer program than my 60 degree fast wash, but obviously a lower temperature and I was starting with what I considered to be a more reasonable pre-wash gauge.

The result is a more flexible finished felt, although still with sufficient thickness that H asked whether I was planning on knitting 21st century chain mail.
January 273

Actually H's latest theory is that a dart would bounce off it - maybe I should put that one to the test? It has certainly shrunk considerably compared to the 'control' swatch.
January 270

Most of the stitch definition is gone and as you can see from the little loose strand, the yarn has gone from a very smooth soft singles yarn to being distinctly nubbly - the felt definitely has texture and I think it could make a good bag fabric, possibly when knit at a looser gauge originally.

The control swatch and the mohair went through the machine in the next load of laundry - my socks on a 40 degree wool wash. The temperature is the same, the program length is roughly the same, the result:

January 274

No felting at all on either - if anything the red swatch grew a bit. All hail the power of my wool wash cycle!

So I still have two unfelted samples so I think I'm going to try the 40 degree wash again with very restricted spinning and possibly the 30 degree wash on my usual spin setting and as H has a sports match this weekend there'll be no shortage of laundry!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Say Cheese!

I have been very lucky in my life to live in some very beautiful places and none more so than the area of Devon that I grew up in. It is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (and indeed it is), a technical term that is supposed to prevent crazy planning applications and any sort of development that takes away from said Natural Beauty.

I've got used to seeing pictures of places that I know intimately on postcards in motorway service stations, on the front of packets of fudge, and frequently appearing in west country dramas. If you've ever watched some of the more recent (and some older) Poirot adaptations, they are all filmed around Salcombe, Dartmouth and Burgh Island; and my highlight to date was recognising the path to the lighthouse from a panning shot at the start of a Mrs Bradley Mystery before the lighthouse even came into view.

That was then, this is now. This evening on the way home from a swim we stopped for petrol and popped into the shop to get a few odds and ends for dinner; some more milk, some cheese:
January 277

Everyone apart from my sister and my parents is currently thinking "so what? she bought cheese."

Look a little closer:
January 280
That arrow (badly drawn in by me) points at the pine tree above my parents' house. I have swum from that beach more times than I could remember, and a walk down the hill, along the beach and back again is the standard constitutional when at home.

I couldn't tell you which pixels are their chimney but I'm still pointing and giggling that my childhood home is on the cheese.

I should also point out that my parents live in South Devon and the cheese (according to the label) comes from the Taw Valley. In North Devon. Despite this clear attempt at misrepresentation by Marks & Spencer it was still very nice cheesy mash.

Now enough of the cheese - time for a little knitting eye candy:
January 258

Just a plain, ordinary, standard, toe-up sock; nothing exciting or extraordinary about the pattern or the knitting; just a simple 64 sts ...


I may be a little excited by this. Sorry. I'll try not to shout so much.

As I said, the knitting itself is very simple, the beauty is the soft gradual blur from one colour to the next. I used half-ish of the barberpole three ply for the sock and then used the chained 3ply for the ribbing.

It is soft and wonderful to wear and I'm scuttling off to knit a few more stitches on a secretsecretsecret so that I can cast on the next one!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From our textile reporter:

Lost: One Knitter. Last seen in the vicinity of an enormous star quilt and her sewing machine.

January 260

Whilst it is believed that the knitter in question may have been buried in an avalanche of quilt, our special correspondent, who has been talking to rescuers at the scene, has been unable to confirm the Knitter's state of mind as it appears that he has been distracted by the prettiness of the quilt itself and is now curled into a fetal position clutching the border of the quilt mountain to his cheek, only murmuring "soft and cuddly"; "look! starry!"; "will it be finished soon?"; and "my preciousssssss"

As I stood at the foot of this cascade of cotton I heard a muffled "but how do they manage it? how do they do all that quilting on so much fabric?!" but when I leaned closer I heard only the softly hacking rattle of a bobbin turning in its casing as the outline of stars appeared from underneath the walking foot.
January 267
And now, back to the studio!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Three of the best

Fear not gentle reader, lest it appear that my recent forays into spinning (mmm! spinning) and quilting (oooh, quilting) have destracted me from my true purpose in life; the knitting of Noro Lizard Ridge squares; for it has not:

January 209

These three may be in the running for my most favourite squares of all - my favourite kind of burnt orange, velvety purple, olive green and a splash of lime - what's not to like?

January 210

What is perhaps not at first apparent is that these are all the same colour - Noro 185 - a colourway so wonderful that we bought it twice; at least, we bought two balls, the only time we did a 'repeat' when shopping Stateside.

The great tragedy of this colour is that Noro don't supply it to the UK. How could they deprive us so unfairly - it's probably the first Kureyon that I've seriously considered knitting a garment from as opposed to hats, scarves and blankets. I'm going to have to start petitioning Noro- it's really the only way.

Given that I seem to have been naming my squares as I go along, I spent some time watching the yarn and waiting for the associations to jump out at me and as I did that I couldn't shake the feeling that it was something to do with wine. Sure, there was a deep purple, and a claret red, but where did the orange fit in, and the lime splash wasn't really leaf green.

And then it struck me. I've been stalking Holiday Yarns' website (formerly Vancalcar Estates - purveyors of the Tsock Tsarina's routes to madness, sorry I mean sock kits) waiting for the right moment in the family fortunes to place a little order (and watching the pound crash against the dollar in the meantime) and the colours of the Noro are the colours of one of the socks that my mouse hovers over every time.

The name of these three squares .... is Vintage.

(PS - I placed the order - it seemed only fitting. Also my mouse hand may have slipped over Poseidon and the Nine Tailors - yippee!!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Finishing Touches

Since I started quilting I've been on two brilliant quilting courses, both run at Quilter's Den in Warwick. The first, last February, was beginner log cabin. I made by log cabin squares, joined them together in a whirligig pattern, added a border... and popped it in the cupboard.

In October I went on the Take One Flower course to learn free motion machine quilting and after a few battles with my sewing machine I put together the mini quilt top and free motion quilted flowers and wavy leaves all over it ... and popped it in the cupboard.

Now that I've finished my big Star Quilt I thought it might be time to try out a bit more quilting, and learn how to bind a quilt on the mini quilts before I tackled the starry behemoth.

First on the machine - the Gingerbread Cabin. I had a cunning plan for this one because I knew that I wanted to quilt it in a spiral to match the spiralling log cabin blocks. So, I found this:

January 219

A spiral; massively blown up on the photocopier. If you cut out the thick black line it looks like this:

January 220

But once unwrangled gives a great spiral stencil. I matched the centre of the spiral to the centre of the quilt block and drew round the lines in a washable marker.

January 221

If you look carefully you can see the turquoise lines.

January 223

When the stencil ran out I simply carried on freehand using the same spacing to give one continuous swirl.

And then came the moment of truth - the quilting! My freemotion quilting is still very basic beginner level and what I learnt most from this is that it is really hard to quilt a smooth continuous line - wiggly leaves are so much easier.

January 231

It definitely looks like a spiral though - just don't look too closely! I used a variegated brown-cream machine quilting thread which is why some of the quilting looks darker than other bits. The machine quilting thread is a bit thicker than ordinary thread and you have no idea how long it took to get the bobbin to set correctly - I think it doesn't like machine quilting thread all that much but it's worth it in the end.

For Stage 2, applying the binding, I followed Amanda Jean's excellent tutorial (which can be found here) - it has lots of close up photos and there wasn't anything that I didn't understand in her instructions.

I picked a red check out of the stash to bind the Gingerbread Cabin quilt - it isn't part of the fat quarter bundle but it picks up the red bow-ties on the gingerbread men:

January 242

And it goes really well with the backing fabric.

January 245

I'm so glad that I got to use this fat quarter as backing because it's just too cute to cut up further because you'd always be cutting off part of a motif - and they're just wonderfully gingerbread themed:

January 246

Maybe I should make some little gingerbread people to go with it?

The Periwinkle-Daisy mini quilt was much quicker to finish because it had already been quilted, and because I had more of an idea about what I was doing!

January 250

The binding is a gently variegated blue that adds a border without taking anything away from the flowers and looks quite nice next to the Hydrangeas on the back.

January 249

The binding isn't perfect on either quilt and I'm sure to a trained eye they look wonky and bumpy and have wibbly sides but for a first attempt I'm pretty pleased with them.

As I sat on the sofa handstitching the bindings to the front of the quilt I showed each one to H and he responded that he thought they were very nice little quilty things - whatever they were meant to be. Truth be told, these aren't meant to be anything other than practice pieces - so I think I'm going to put them on the wall in my sewing room for inspiration and insulation. Because clearly a room that has half a wall of yarn cupboards is in great need of insulating!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Farewell to Arms

And back and fronts and ... (yes I know it's possibly the worst pun ever!)

Once upon a time I made this cardigan:

January 149

It's Foxglove from Rowan 41 and it is a well written pattern and very pretty. I love the colour, the yarn and the softness of the knitted fabric. I even learnt to make crochet flowers for this project.

There's just one hitch. It doesn't fit me, and I haven't really worn it. Essentially it is too big across the shoulders and it has very narrow shoulders so it was always falling off and I always spent far too long adding little buttons and tweaks to hold it in place. To suit me it needed to be double the front width at bust level and structured so that the side fixing was at empire line level; in short, it needed the fit of my Ether wrap (which I love).

Perhaps it is madness, or perhaps it is a sign of growth as a knitter that I took a long, hard look at this cardi ...
January 152

...and got out the seam ripper. That's two sleeves, two fronts, a back and a whole heap of crochet flowers.

I haven't frogged the flowers any further but the rest have had a dip with some amphibians. One a side note I found the easiest way to frog was to enlist the help of my captive slave, sorry, I mean willing husband - he pulled out the knitting and at the same time I wound it onto my swift.

All the skeins and mini skeins had a dunk in some warm water and were left to dry.
January 179

And now I have this:

January 189

Plus a ball and a half that I had spare from the original. The great thing is that I know exactly what this is going to be - the Phyllo Yoked Pullover from Knitting Nature.

I've swatched on the suggested 4.5mm needles and my gauge is a little tighter than in the pattern but I like the fabric much more than the fabric I got on 5mm needles for Foxglove so I'm just going to knit up a size and see how it fits.

My other plan is to knit the body and sleeves in the round and then join everything together for the yoke so that I can keep an eye on the fit and possibly add a little waist shaping along the way. Ideally I want the same sort of fit as my current favourite (shop bought) jumper which was a Christmas present from my in-laws and is loose without being baggy so I'm planning on measuring one against t'other as I knit to get the right fit.

If all goes well I'll end up with a jumper that I love and wear all the time, if not - well I could always frog it!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Porridge, flapjack, that slightly weird Scottish pudding that tastes like cold porridge with lots of whisky, fruity crumble topping, more flapjack - all good, all oatmeal.

You may not be able to make flapjack with the kind of oatmeal that I've been playing with recently (and woe betide anyone who tries) but it is none the less gorgeous for that:
January 181

This is the first of my 'practice' fibre that I got from Wingham Woolworks at the same time as my wheel, 100g of Blue Faced Leicester combed top in a natural oatmeal colour. They had white and cream and things like that but I fancied something a little different.

The aim was to spin a two ply of whatever came out of my fingers and to try to get to know the wheel a little bit in the process. In practice it turned out to be wonderfully easy to spin into what for me is a remarkably fine singles. I think that the fact that it is undyed does make it easier to spin because there's no dye clumping bits together so it spun up with minimal pre-drafting.

The other wonderful thing is how much faster it is to spin on the wheel - it would have taken so much longer by spindle!

Anyway, I ended up with these:
January 184

January 187

January 186
I plied the two bobbins together until the shorter one ran out - my spinning has got finer as I worked my way through the 100g and it shows; and then I wound the remains of the second bobbin onto my ball winder and plied the two ends together to use up the rest of the yarn. Both skeins had a good soak in some Eucalan and a snap and thwack against the kitchen door. Et voila:
January 194
530 ish yards of 2ply that falls somewhere between laceweight and 4ply - it's 20wpi.

It's soft and squishy and I still have to run around the house squeaking "LOOK what I made!"
January 203

And of course the obligatory penny shot!

January 218

I've been eyeing up potential patterns and I need to have a good look through my lace books but the current front runner is the Flutter scarf which I think would show off the yarn to best advantage - it has a subtly shifting brown/grey mix - and also allow for some of the more slubby bits of yarn to be a feature rather than a mistake.

If you can think of anything else that would look just perfect in 530 yards of grey/brown laceweight let me know!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The world upon its towering axis still spins

If Samuel Pepys' diary for September 1666 had merely remarked: "Had delicious cheese for supper; it was a shame the bread seemed to have a smoky taste, perhaps it was slightly burnt" it would have rather diminished the impact of said diary to say the least; and whilst this is a blog of creativity, every now and again something happens in the wider world which is history in the making and which superimposes itself on my thoughts. If you want to see pretty pictures of knitting or spinning, come back tomorrow - I've been busy. Now, back to the Great Fire of London ...

I'm not sure how or whether the newly inaugurated President Obama of the USA is going to affect my knitting, quilting or spinning (although did you see that John McCain joined Ravelry!) but I do know that the decisions that he and his administration make across the pond will affect what our current and future governments do here, and because of that it will affect my daily life (and possibly my yarn budget if we're talking about the economy).

I watched the inauguration ceremony yesterday, being a sucker for a good bit of pomp and circumstance, and listened to Obama's address to his nation. He is certainly a fluent orator and while I don't necessarily agree with all of his policies and viewpoints (for one, my faith and personal moral code cannot condone the death penalty under any circumstances), it is with a huge sigh of relief that I listened to an American President who appears to have not only intelligence but also a fair modicum of common sense, and the two do not always go together.

He seemed realistic to the current world and domestic situation both in terms of the economy and the current military entanglements, and wasn't promising a quick fix, something our own politicians would do well to emulate. What was rather entertaining for a politician from a party which traditionally falls to the left of centre was the focus on the ideals of self responsibility as well as government responsibility - echoes of JFK I know, but in the UK, traditionally conservative ideology.

Whilst our voting system is different so that the majority of the UK population don't actually vote for the Prime Minister (and he or she usually sits in a tremendously safe seat), I quite fancy seeing Gordon Brown or David Cameron or whoever give a public address on their first day in power - it could be rather interesting. We're due a general election within the next year and a bit, so watch and see what impact the Obama election campaign style has on our lot!

What Obama has achieved in his campaign style, and in the start and mere existence of his presidency, is to give hope of a better future. It is a wonderful thing that a country with a history of institutional racism and apartheid has elected to its highest office a man who not too long ago would have been considered persona non grata.

The only fly in the ointment for me is the American commentators who insist on bolstering all of this by declaring that this could only ever happen in the US, never in Europe or the rest of the world. And apart from making me splutter over my cornflakes this morning, that sort of comment makes me want to jump up and shout; hang on a minute, please don't forget:
  • Elizabeth I : 7 September 1533 - 24 March 1603 (ruled from 17 November 1558). Defeated the Spanish Armada and provided desperately needed religious stability during her 44 year reign.
  • Victoria: 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901 (ruled from 20 June 1837). Regardless of current views on imperialism as a woman of her time she oversaw the founding of an empire which covered a quarter of the globe.
  • Benjamin Disraeli: 21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881. Served in British government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister and whilst professing himself an Anglican he was unashamedly of Jewish heritage.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji: 1892 - elected as the first Asian British MP
  • Constance Markewicz: elected as a British MP in 1918 (she was part of Sinn Fein and did not take her seat)
  • Nancy Astor: 19 May 1879 - 2 May 1964. The first female British MP to take her seat on 1 December 1919.
  • Margaret Thatcher: Leader of the Conservative party from 1975 to 1990 and Prime Minister 4 May 1979 to 19 November 1990. Love her or hate her or something in between it is 18 years since she left office and her name still provokes a powerful reaction.
  • 1987: Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant: First black MPs

And from the rest of the world let's try Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Angela Merkel of Germany and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan.

They may not always have been great, or even good; but they were firsts.

None of this takes away from what Obama has achieved, nor is it meant to. I am fortunate to live in a country which professes religious and racial acceptance (don't get me started on the true meaning of the word tolerance!), and which has never had overt state-condoned racism. I don't suggest that both religious and ethnic racism is not alive in the UK, to do so would be consciously naive; all I will say for my country is that I devoutly hope that if we were presented with candidates of the calibre and quality recently presented to the American people, and the option for change, I think we would make the right decision. So a little hint to the commentators; to tell your nearest and dearest allies that they could never do what you have done is not exactly going to endear you to them!

On a lighter note, there were two really special moments of the whole ceremony for me; firstly the chap in uniform who with great ceremony and all the theatrical fa-la-las he could muster, carefully put in place a little step box for the two little girls to stand on so that they could see and be seen; and secondly, when Aretha Franklin stepped up to the microphone in a wonderful hat ..... and sang a song to the British National Anthem.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Noro Virus

(with apologies to anyone who has an upset stomach and got here by accident)

Type: Disease
Textbook symptoms: compulsive knitting of the Lizard Ridge pattern characterised by a continued repetition of the phrase "just one more row; look, it's changing colour!" and the need to use the Noro to the exclusion of all other yarns, including handspun sock yarn.

Other discernible symptoms:

  • detailed examination of the internet to discover what other Noro colours exist and the planning of excuses which could lead to trips to those stockists.
  • continued protestations that a finished blanket/house cozy is "really needed because it's cold", when the thermometer has been above zero for several days.
  • the acquisition of a set of digital scales, ostensibly to help with accurate fibre division for spinning; used mainly to acquire statistical data as to the weight of each Lizard Ridge square.
  • application of that statistical data to the leftovers to see how many more balls might be needed/validly acquired by the patient.
  • trying to pass off each finished square as knitted art to H, a real artist.

Treatment: Alas, no cure has yet been discovered but physicians may reassure the patient and families that no long term damage appears to be caused by this virus and it is not life threatening. The virus has been known to abandon the host on the completion of 'the project' but is more likely merely to enter a dormant phase, activated by the patient making fingertip contact with the Noro.

However, as the virus results in a plethora of hand-knitted items, those in warmer areas might be advised to consider moving further north, or investing in air conditioning/ a very large fridge.

January 156

I've finished two more squares:

January 157

This one is colour 188 and it is a Blackcurrant bush - from the bottom you get dusty soil with wood ash, then the fallen over-ripe berries on the ground, then the leaves interspersed with levels of berries, getting riper as you get nearer the top.

January 171
This one, 229, is harder to classify - I love the colours and I've not seen this colourway in the UK. I think it is the archetypal jewel tones; emeralds, sapphires, rubies and amythests; it's the handful I imagine at that crucial moment when Julia examines the tennis racquet in Cat Among the Pigeons, so I'm calling it a Good Wife's Weight. It is one of the prettiest squares yet.

And trust me - there are more to come.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

99 Things

I'm still knitting Lizard Ridge squares so for variety I came across this meme which is a little bit more quirky than usual - if you join in please leave a comment so that I can read yours

Things you've already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven't done and don't want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog. res ipsa loquitur.
2. Slept under the stars. Field weekend, 1998 - we didn't have enough tents so I was in the bivvy bag - it was great.
3. Played in a band. It was proper big band music and I loved it!
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. I give what I can afford.
7. Been to Disneyland/world. And we all know how that worked out for me!
8. Climbed a mountain. I had to look them up to check that they count as mountains but I've been up a few in the Lake District including the Old Man of Coniston - affectionately known as Kanchenjunga
9. Held a praying mantis. No intention whatsoever.
10. Sang a solo. For real as well as in the bath!
11. Bungee jumped. No way.
12. Visited Paris. loved it.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. Does photography count? I tried to teach myself watercolours when I was younger but I was never very good at it - H is the artist in this house.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. I've been to Liberty Island on 4 July but the tickets for the top were all sold out.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. smaller than you expect and not that impressive.
20. Slept on an overnight train. I've certainly slept on a train a few times but I don't think it counts - I harbour a secret wish to go on the Orient Express though.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort. Sadly we don't get that kind of snow - Dad once built us a mini igloo when we were very tiny though.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon. Edinburgh 2005. It has hills. Ouch
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice. Maybe I could tie that in with the Orient Express?
29. Seen a total eclipse. I'm counting this as a yes even though to be strictly accurate I have experienced a total eclipse but as it was in England it was cloudy and we had to watch the actual eclipse pictures on the telly. Very beautiful and awe inspiring none the less. We watched from my parents garden which looks out over the bay and saw hundreds of camera flashes and all the ships lights come on as it got dark. Because of the viewpoint we could see out of the total darkness to the south where it stayed light the whole time.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise. Not in the sense of cruise ship - I've done a lot of sailing but I don't think that's what it means.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. It rained. I was 10 I think. I want to go again with H as it's one of the few places that he's never been.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing. Heights and I do not mix. I like land.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. In Florida, with appendicitis, on my honeymoon. enough said!
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Remember no 39 - I was fighting fear on the open air platform at the top. I'm still glad I did it.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class. Judo - I was 10, it was a disaster!!
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies. No girl scouts, no cookies - I was in the Brownies though
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Been given flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood. (blood bank not keen on my blood)
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a cheque.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. And it's not just my childhood toy - my teddy was also my father's before me.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt. And one of these days I'll actually quilt it and finish it!
73. Stood in Times Square. On 4 July - the electronic signs all said Happy 4th July
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone. apparently you break your little toe lots of times without really noticing - nothing major though
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible. I've read lots of it more than once but I don't think I've got cover to cover yet
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury. It was only very recently that they allowed lawyers to sit on juries - I'd love to see court proceedings from the other side.
91. Met someone famous. Bill Clinton and the Queen. Not on the same day. Clinton was at my old college and the Queen came to help celebrate a special college anniversary - I was in the choir and we were introduced to her. She said she enjoyed our singing.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit. It's my day job!
98. Owned a mobile phone.
99. Been stung by a bee. On the bottom of my foot. It hurt. A lot.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Noro rush

It may not have passed unnoticed by regular readers of this blog that I am more than a trifle partial to the loveliness that is Noro yarn. Recently I have waxed lyrical about the wonders and softness of Silk Garden, and the deep deep blue of Cash Iroha as they twisted and turned themselves into Christmas presents for friends and family.

However, it was a little over a year ago that I got my first baptism by Noro when a group of us made Lizard Ridge squares for a friend's baby, and it is 11 months since that double whammy of yarn and pattern led me to cast on for a Lizard Ridge of my very own.

I started off at a great pace but when I picked up the Noro needles again in December it'd been a while since any wannabe egg cartons had emerged from my needles. Definitely time to remedy the situation, and I had an incentive.

New yarn. New American Noro to be precise. Actually, if we're going to be exact about this, Noro in colours that I have not seen in the UK (hee hee!).
January 146
So far I have knitted 22 Lizard Ridge squares (if you include the one I just finished this evening). H and I are both tall, and there's nothing worse than a blanket that you can't wrap your toes in and still tuck under your chin so I think we're going the whole hog and adding an extra 'repeat' - a 7 x 5 blanket, rather than 6 x 4. It's a combination of eeek and yippee, more yarn!
January 144
The latest squares are some of my favourites:
January 096
An English 164 (I think - I lost the label). This is another artistic interpretation of the sea meets the land - a turquoise sea meets sandy beaches, gorse bushes and the cliff

January 139

The first of my American Noro squares - this is 175 and it says hot slightly scorched English roses on a totally still August afternoon; that moment when the blooms just start to droop their heads.

January 140

Another English square - 173 - it's a swimmer in a bright red cossie cleaving through a pool with that funny wiggle tile on the bottom

January 138

A mongrel square - pieced together with leftovers and looking oddly more united than some of the main squares - this is sunrise over the vale of Evesham on the road to Tewskbury the first Christmas that I drove home from Warwickshire really early in the morning, I woke up early and left early because I was nervous about the long drive and it wasn't until I got to Evesham that the sun appeared through the valley, rising above a sparkling silver mist.

January 142

According to my Ravelry notes I started this blanket on 6 March 2008 and it would be nice to think that I could finish it by 6 March 2009. I'm not putting any kind of deadline down because as we know that dooms me either to failure or to multiple late nights to get it finished, neither of which is something that I'm prepared to contemplate right now. Instead, lets just say that it would be nice to finish it in time to untuck myself from it to greet the spring - whenever that may be.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Experiments for Knitters

I bring glad tidings of great joy - Hat Tomorrow has been judged to be a great success:
January 109

At least, a great success after I carefully unpicked the darned in ends, ripped out the decreases and added another cable repeat before decreasing and carefully darning in again!
January 108

H loves it with the extra length, and if I were ever to knit one for myself, I think I would add extra too. All I did was to work plain for 1 inch rather than half at the start, and add a fourth second stage cable repeat to give the hat a bit more length. It covers H's ears nicely and he's keen on hats that are long enough. Yipeee for a happily finished project.

My other bit of knitting today was experimental to say the least. It was also quick!

Our friend A likes to give me knitting presents for Christmas and birthdays and a little while ago he gave me a Twileys of Stamford kit for a knit 'n felt bag. The kit comes with written instructions, yarn, and a bag clasp and setting tape.
January 100

It's bizarre to knit a whole bag on massive broomstick sized needles with four strands of yarn all held together and it certainly knits up quickly; which given that my curiosity was with the felting process was no bad thing.
January 114
The fabric from two strands of Freedom, one of Paris and one of Mirage is (unfelted) soft and fluffy and has a wonderful halo.
January 118
Finished and unfelted, the bag looked like this:
January 121

It was a pretty robust fabric and although you could poke a finger through it if you tried, it would have made quite a decent bag by itself, which surprised me a little - I was expecting a really loose open fabric that needed the felting to toughen up.

The instructions suggested one cycle on a short 60 degree (Celsius) wash with some towels to help agitate and then further washes as needed.

After the one short wash I had this:
January 125
The stitch definition hasn't entirely gone, but as the Mirage and the Paris have acrylic in them that isn't entirely unexpected. It is however a seriously thick fabric, a good 1 cm thick all the way through, and, as you can see from the before and after pictures - it is tiny. Not really enough room for a ball of sock yarn and a pair of needles.

While I can't fault the instructions, this falls towards the ugh end of the spectrum for me for two reasons. The first is that this is just not my style, I can't see myself ever leaving the house and thinking "the very thing for my housekey and half my purse", it's too little, too girly, and ultimately too fluffy.

The second is something that I don't really understand but I'm hoping someone can explain. Have a look at these two photos of the two sides of the bag:
January 133
January 134

One side is distinctly pinker towards the top, and the handles are that same pinkier purple. At that point in the knitting I changed into the second balls of Freedom. They are both the same colour and the same dyelot but something about it has changed the colour perception that I get from them - any ideas?

I'm not entirely put off felting though - if nothing else the experiment has shown me the power of my washing machine, and that I could do with turning down the spin cycle next time I felt - and there will be a next time - I think that the felted bag in the Knitters Book of Yarn could be much more my cup of tea. And in the meantime I'm sure I can find something useful to keep in a small fluffy purple bag - probably the leftover yarn!