Monday, August 30, 2010

Pink Lavender

Well I may have finished knitting for my baby (although I do like Mandy's idea of a knitted mobile ...), but I'm still happily knitting small things for some other forthcoming tiny people.  I've already got a little blue jacket on the gift shelf but as insider information suggests that at least one impending arrival is to be a little girl, and I just couldn't be bothered to think up a pattern to embroider daisies around the hem of the blue jacket, I thought a little pink was in order.
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In the form of the Provence Baby Cardigan which I seem to have had favourited on Ravelry for ages and ages - high time I got around to making it.  It's a free Classic Elite pattern which was originally designed to be knit in bits and sewn together but I've made a few adjustments to get it as seamless as possible.

The first change was to knit the body all in one to the underarms; I simply cast on two fewer stitches than the back called for, and one less for each of the fronts and marked the three sections out with stitch markers.  When I got to the underarms I worked across a full row, casting off one fewer stitch than the pattern suggested for each of the four cast off sections (they run into each other so where the pattern says you cast off four stitches at the side of the front and at the side of the back, you end up casting off a total of 6 stitches - one fewer for each side).

But before we get to the underarms, I played around with the lace pattern to make the sides symmetrical, simply by starting the lace pattern on the right front at row 1 and the lace on the left front at row 4.

The rest of the body was as written, until the shoulders themselves which I joined with a three needle bind off - it's neater and there's no shoulder shaping in a baby cardie.

For the sleeves, I've done some reverse engineering.  They are designed to be knit from the cuff up but I picked up 50 stitches from the shoulder, and knit in the round working down for an inch before reversing the shaping from the original cuff with decreases instead of increases.  The final change I've made is to shorten the sleeves by an inch or so by eliminating the last set of decreases; the sleeves look about the right length to me, and for a 6-9 month size jacket I'd rather have sleeves too short than too long.

The picture above is from yesterday afternoon when it wasn't raining and I've since finished the knitting and the little cardie is having a gentle block on the conservatory sofa - all I need now is some buttons.

As it was actually sunny for a few minutes yesterday we even managed to take some bump pictures - sadly lacking during recent weeks as it's been unreservedly dreek around here.  You'd really never believe it was still August - I definitely didn't think I'd be wanting a jumper at this point:
And yes that does explain why I'm wandering around in an old pre-pregnancy jumper with the baby hanging out!

39 weeks down, 1-3 ish weeks to go!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Off the needles

There's a little someone I'd like you meet:

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Not the little bear obviously, who's still safely tucked away, but a friend who can't wait to meet him or her.
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For the moment I think his name is Solomon, but the bear gets the ultimate say so, so I suspect he'll end up being called little grey elephant or something equally inspirational.
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The pattern is another tried and tested baby favourite, Ysolda's Elijah, in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in colour 45 which I think might have been called Sea Foam.  
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For the moment Solomon is making fast friends with the other teddies and I can officially say that I have finished all the knitting that I'd planned for this little one.  I think that's called tempting fate, maybe I should cast on a pair of teeny tiny socks or something?

Friday, August 27, 2010

The count down

Do you remember playing as a child in whatever sort of game required counting down, and whoever you were playing with had clearly peeked and noticed that you weren't ready so your count down ran "5, 4, 3, 2, 1 3/4, 1 1/2, 1 1/4, 1, ...." until you were ready.  It's a bit like that waiting for this baby.  I still feel very pregnant but not particularly imminent although I know that's no real indication of how things could pan out, it could be tomorrow, it could be next week, or we could go all the way to the middle of September.

Happily, being of the crafty persuasion, and having a house which while not show-home tidy, could happily accommodate a little bear, I'm finally spending some part of my day being utterly indulgent and catching up on a few projects.  Don't read this next bit if you went to work today, but yesterday I spent the morning at Kenilworth Knit and Natter and the afternoon redeeming a birthday present and having the most blissful, wonderful, Mother-to-be Spa treatment (back massage, bump massage, facial, hands and feet), and today I've snoozed, knit, watched Poirot DVDs and had a bath.  Totally sickening isn't it.

For my plea in mitigation (it isn't strong enough to amount to a defence) I have also cooked H a series of yummy home made suppers, made him his morning coffee, and when, through circumstances entirely outside his control, Wednesday turned into a bit of a nightmare day, I drove him to the pub to meet a friend of ours and promised faithfully not to go into labour so that he could have a pint or two (for medicinal purposes you understand!).
And as for that catching up; well it's been a while since this blog showed any mention of the block a month quilt that I've been making at Quilter's Den in Warwick, and there's a very good reason for that, namely that for the last few months my blocks in progress have come home and sat in the quilting bag, exactly as I left them, for the whole month until the next class.  Call it pregnancy tiredness or (more accurately) I couldn't get to my desk to set the sewing machine up.

All this has now been remedied, and so I have a little parade of blocks:
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According to my notes, this one is called Flowerhead, although as it is the June block I have no idea whether I made that up or not.  It's one of those blocks that's very pretty, but I'm glad to have finished it, and I can't ever see myself making a full quilt of these crazy pom pom flowers, no matter how much I love the Dahlia they remind me of.
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July's block, Roman Stripe, on the other hand may well be my favourite so far and it makes me start to eye up some of the other fabrics in the stash.  Sized appropriately, it could be the very thing to combine a charm pack or two and a jelly roll.  Hmm, must concentrate on finishing the things already on the go; you can't wrap up in an idea when it gets chilly.
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And last, but not least, August's Rocky Road to Kansas.  I really enjoyed the foundation piecing, and even with only three colours in the rocks or roads or whatever they're meant to be, it's surprisingly effective, and reminds me of ice-cream for some reason.  I think I mostly liked the not thinking just sewing attitude to each stripe and I can see how it would look wonderful as a scrap quilt with just a few consistent elements (the background and the centre squares) to make it all come together.

Having been working with these fabrics for the past 8 months I'll admit to looking at them with utter exhaustion from time to time, and wondering why on earth I veered away from my tradition of making blue quilts, but then I get to lay all the finished blocks out on my bed, and suddenly it all starts to come together:
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This crazy, red, pink and cream quilt.  Just four blocks, a little bit of quilting, sashing and binding and the bear and I will be tucked up under it before winter releases us into spring.  Famous last words, I know!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ready, Steady, Go?

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Let me take you on a journey, just a little one I promise.  Come in through the door, along the hall, up the stairs and turn to your left, and what do you see:

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It very much appears that our spare room/junk room/additional wardrobe room may perhaps have magically turned into a sweet little nursery.  We have a chest of drawers full of ready washed little baby clothes (which was just about the cutest laundry load I've ever pegged out - the scratch mitts are smaller than my clothes pegs!), and other useful baby type things; and next to it, the chair of great wonder and awesome comfort (a very special treat from H's parents).
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And next to it is a bag all packed, well almost all packed; packed with a little list of things to be thrown in at the last minute - I can't really not use my hairbrush or my toothbrush for the next however long it takes just so that I can say that I'm totally packed.
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The changing mat stands ready and waiting on top of the cot,
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and little horse and hedgehog are ready and waiting for someone to play with.
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Although tiny wee zebra and tiny wee giraffe may be more to the scale of the future incumbent of this moses basket.
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We have nappies and muslin squares and cotton wool and all sorts of things that smell essentially baby.  There's just one thing missing - a certain little person, whole whilst terribly wriggly as I sit writing, shows no signs of planning on making an imminent arrival (unlike the son of an antenatal class colleague who made his arrival at exactly 38 weeks on Saturday morning to the surprise of the rest of the class and no doubt his delighted parents).

Well little baby of mine, your nursery is all ready and waiting for you, your mother can collapse your buggy on two out of three attempts so we won't be completely housebound when your father is at work, and I've been practicing clipping your car seat and pram cot in and out of the chassis so we're looking good.  I know you're keen to meet your Daddy because I feel how you wriggle towards him whenever you hear his voice, and if it's the chicken and salami pasta sauce that I made for supper that you're so keen on, I promise to make it again.  All in all, we're ready to meet you any time you feel like it.

Oh, and I made you a blanket:

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Just perfect for learning your ABCs when the time comes, and for snuggling up with Mummy or Daddy in the meantime.

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Every time I finish one of these and pull it off the blocking wires I know exactly why I've now knitted four identical blankets.  It's kismet, a unity of Baby Cashmerino and a classic pattern.  It's possible that I could knit another of these for a niece or nephew someday, but I might choose something different, in which case, this is my last (and best) alphabet blanket.  It doesn't have the technical whiztrickery of an Alice Starmore blanket (which is awaiting the baby in a drawer, guarded by cedar block sentries), or the nubbly texture of a Cox's Orange Pippin blanket, but I'd like to think that it has a classic elegance, and whereas Point Reyes is specifically Baby Bear's, this is the blanket that I hope I get to wrap around all of my children.

I've got one little thing on the needles that is for the bear, but if it doesn't get finished, it isn't the end of the world, and the knitting for other people's babies and my quilting can always wait, but I'm not going to say that I've finished this baby's knitting just yet - I'd still like to have time to clean the bathroom.

Friday, August 20, 2010

C is for Cricket

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It would be fair to say that the boy and I have taken a break from house tidying/organising/purging and have been in hibernation for the last few days.  The baby's room is very nearly finished being organised and it would only take a couple of hours to polish it off but I suspect that my subconscious doesn't really want to finish it just yet; if the baby's room is ready then I must be ready to have the little bear, and much as I'm longing to meet him or her (and be able to roll over in a manoeuvre that takes less than 10 minutes and doesn't involve the use of a crane), I'd like a few more days - well we are only on day 3 of the test match.

When H worked from home and I headed out the door each morning we'd spend our holiday weeks balancing his desire to go out on expeditions and my deep longing to shut the door, unplug the phone, and just enjoy our pretty little house.  I can remember enough of the wanting to hide away from the world, and my willingness to travel is directly proportional to the proposed destination's distance from Warwick Hospital that our 'cricket at home' holiday is turning out to be just perfect.

And Alistair Cooke just got a century. At long last.

This is not of course to say that we've been totally idle.  H has made a series of delicious sausage, bacon and egg butties at appropriate moments, and I've been knitting.  Way back when, in the first of what seems to have been a string of 'Year of the Baby Boom's I made three Debbie Bliss Alphabet Blankets, all in quick succession and when I finished the third one I promised myself that the next one I knit was staying right here.

I started after the Tour de Fleece and finished the centre alphabet blocks on Thursday morning at Knit and Natter leaving me with just the borders to go.
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T is for Triangle
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E is for Edging.

I had memories of this edging taking forever, but since I knit the last blanket I've learned how to knit backwards courtesy of the Lizard Ridge blanket which eliminates the need to turn each tiny triangle numerous times and has speeded the whole thing up no end.
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It just looks so pretty when it's finished! So as of the afternoon session on Day 3, with England a respectable 190-3, sorry, 194-3 (cheers KP), I have a top and bottom border - I just need to go and find my notes on what I changed on the side border.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The new work

cartoon from
Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I've had this cartoon pinned up above my desk at work for several years. It is, I'm afraid to say, largely accurate apart from that my desk is bigger and encroached rather beautifully onto the neighbouring windowsill where I stored skim read/unread periodicals dating back from whenever I last moved desks (I think it was about April 08). 

My study/office/sewing room frequently adopts a similar style, and with the impending arrival of the little bear now a real fixture on the horizon it was time to do some sorting out; sorting out not just the contents of the study but also the three bookcases in the bear's room and two bookcases on the landing.

Lets just say then when I show you this:
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You'll understand why I've not been able to get the computer! Actually, looking at that picture again my first thought was that it really doesn't look so bad, so I think it must have got considerably worse before it got better. 

H, possibly taking advantage of the nesting hormones, encouraged me in the biggest book purge I have ever done (NB the previous biggest book purge was when I took Ben Elton's Popcorn to a charity shop - I really didn't like that book); we sent a big box of trashy fiction to my parents for their church stall, and there's another big sack of books and odds and ends in the back of my car waiting to go to the British Heart Foundation.  I've eliminated duplicate copies of books and organised the remainder into categories (can you tell I was a librarian when I was 11?), and thanks to the wonders of Lakeland and their vacuum suction baggies I've got two duvets, 4 pillows and 4 cushions in the top of the wardrobe.  I have also assimilated the contents of the other bookcases with some cunning bookcase swapping and a big box of textbooks now straining the bottom of the wardrobe

And lo and behold and what seemed like an entire reel of bin bags later, it doesn't look too bad:
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I can get to all of my yarn and fibre and crafty books and I may even have space to set up the sewing machine to finish off some quilt blocks if the bear would kindly stay on board for a little while longer (please, pretty please).

Of two things I am now certain however:

(1) I think I need a proper big sewing box to organise all of my odds and ends and spools of thread.
(2) If we ever have a bear-sibling we may have to move house.

PS - if anyone knows where I've put my other mitten and my other slipper, please let me know.  I'm sure I had a pair of each before I started tidying!

Monday, August 16, 2010

In which there has been snoozing and partying

First and most importantly, I have not yet had the baby.  We've got three weeks to go (ish), and I swing wildly from thinking he or she is going to arrive any minute because I'm so huge to being convinced that I'll be weeks and weeks overdue and even more huge.

I didn't mean to go so long between posts but most of the last week or so has been spent sorting out and rearranging the baby's room which has involved a fair amount of things piling up in my study which somewhat impedes access to the computer and the camera cable.  We're getting there now though, and assuming that I don't have the baby in the next few days I might even have some pictures to show for it.

However, rather than seeing just how messy I can make my house in the name of tidying up (and I promise I could make it an extreme sport!), I have a tale of a very wonderful afternoon spent in the company of the nicest of people in which the little bear and I were spoiled rotten by family and friends who came round for cake, a cream tea, oh and my baby shower. I still can't quite believe I'm grown up enough and pregnant enough to have just had a baby shower; it makes it all seem very real!

Both grandmothers-to-be made the trip from their respective ends of the country and everyone else came from a little more close at hand, and in an uncharacteristic lapse I even handed off my camera so that we have this rare evidence of Carie in front of the camera and proof of the very great spoiling of my baby by all who have yet to meet him or her. 

Mary brought me flowers:
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Unwrapping a beautifully knit blanket from Mandy
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And a cuter than cute baby jacket from Mary.
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Bibs (and a whole heap of other useful things like baby wipes, lotion and cotton wool balls) from the most recent Mummy in the group,
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and a very special book from my sister, fondly remembered by all of us.

My lovely colleague L, who has an alternative career ready and waiting as a party planner, helped to organise the whole thing (including bringing the fizz for those not driving or hatching small children) and made a wonderful quiz from celebrity baby pictures; my MIL and I managed a respectable 7/10 (after some hints) although we did initially think that a young Jennifer Aniston was Prince Charles!
I hope everyone had as much fun as I did; we certainly made some inroads into the cake, and the cream tea was greatly enhanced by genuine clotted cream, carted all the way from Devon by my Mum in a cool bag (yum).  I decided that at 8 months pregnant I could follow the Calendar Girls rule of catering (if it's a really special occasion buy it at Marks and Spencer) but I did do a little cooking:

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Well you can't have a butterfly themed baby shower without butterfly cakes can you? And L brought a sweet butterfly shaped sponge (the 'after' to Colin the Caterpillar perhaps).

I didn't have the chance to take more pictures of the oh so pretty knitting yesterday but this morning's sunshine provided ample opportunity:

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This is the little jacket that Mary made - it's so sweet and I love how the buttons have been sewn on in different colours to match.
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Mandy's present also included this little jacket - the bear and I are going to sport matching jacket and socks, although my socks don't have such awesome orange buttons.
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Y made me a candle - definitely not for the baby but stunningly pretty,

And Mandy's magnum opus - the Apple Tree blanket:
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I love this pattern, the yarn is soft and wonderful and the colour is warm and soft and perfect for a snuggly little baby! As you can see, the bear's hedgehog is already getting in on the action:
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And last but not least, while we're on the subject of beautiful knitting that I didn't do, I caught up with a good friend at Kenilworth Knit and Knatter on Thursday and was utterly surprised and delighted to be given a little something for the bear when he or she has grown a bit more - this gorgeous hoodie:
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D is a very very skilled knitter and this hoodie is just perfect and a gorgeous sunshiney colour to boot,
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I love the little 'label' on the back of the neck!

I've been doing a wee bit of knitting in between naps and tidying but that can wait for another day - today I've got pretty toys to play with, and another reading of If I were a sheep:
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Thursday, August 05, 2010

The life of a lady who naps

I am rapidly discovering that just because I'm not going to work every day life is not slowing down to that pleasant drift-along pace so imagined and envied by those of us on the 8.24 train.  I'm on to day 4 of my maternity leave and although I have made significant and visible progress into mission 'rescue the house from four weekends in a row of travelling and neglect', I have not yet achieved that happy equilibrium in which my chores can be accomplished in a mere 45 minutes or so every morning, leaving the rest of the day free for knitting, swimming and cooing over baby clothes.

I have however done the washing up every morning and made a home cooked meal every night.  Given that my mother reads this blog it's perhaps not a good idea to dwell too heavily on the reasons why I might be so very proud of that; believe me when I say that I am!

If I'm honest, I know that this is the eye of the storm; working, and particularly commuting, while heavily pregnant was hard work and very tiring and with H trying to stack up as many brownie points as possible to tide him over his paternity leave, neither of us had been in any fit state to do more than the bare minimum when we got home, and when this little bear comes along we'll be back to that bare minimum, plus the addition of a few pre-cooked meals in the freezer (note to self: eat ice-cream out of freezer to make room for nutritious home cooked food)

At our antenatal class the other day we looked at a His Day vs Her Day scenario in which New Dad rushes out to work and has a horrid stressful day and New Mum spends the day with a baby that won't settle until 5 minutes before New Dad walks through the door.  As far as he can see, the house is a tip, the baby is asleep and New Mum is sat on the sofa with a glass of wine and a piece of cake.  The exercise was obviously in communication, but H and I discovered that we'd both independently decided that as long as I poured him a glass of wine and had left him a slice of cake he probably wouldn't notice the state of the house. Maybe I should put some cake in the freezer too ...!

This is not to say of course that I haven't been taking things easy, just that I'd forgotten how great that commute was for knitting time!  However, thanks to yesterday afternoon spent watching Poirot, snoozing and knitting, and a wonderful couple of hours spent with the ladies of Kenilworth Knit and Knatter this morning, I have actually finished something.  Well technically it's half a something:

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A first Francie sock by Bowerbird Knits from some lovely red sock yarn that I found in the stash.  Incidentally, why is it always the red yarn that loses its label.  I remember that I bought this at Wonderwool and I know it's a 75/25 wool/nylon mix but beyond that - no idea at all.  Maybe there are very tiny Borrowers living near my yarn stash who like the colour names of the red yarn and are borrowing them as pieces of art work.  More to the point, maybe that's what I should do with some of the pretty yarn labels that I don't want to throw away; make a pinboard collage - or would that just give the game away as to the extent of the stash?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Crazy Catch Up time

So where did we leave off? I think I was madly spinning along to the tour whilst simultaneously trying to finish off everything that could ever need to be done at work so that I could go on maternity leave with peace of mind, go to NCT classes (antenatal) and try to acquire enough sleep to keep me functioning. Suffice to say blogging and other useful activities such as housekeeping and cooking food that requires more than turn on oven, put in oven, take out of oven when buzzer goes rather went by the wayside.  We managed a wonderful flying visit to the westcountry to see my parents and it is a mark of the sleepiness of the heavily pregnant Carie that I not only slept most of the way there and a good chunk of the way back, but I did not knit a stitch the entire time - most uncharacteristic!

Anyway, I'm now, well not exactly a lady of leisure (see above mentions to 'housekeeping - the lack thereof'), shall we say a lady who naps?
So, the tour - when I last reported in I was merrily spinning another singles yarn, again from a mini batt from Purldrop Studios, this time in Magic Pumpkin.  I split the batt horizontally in two to try to spin two matching-ish skeins with the same colour progression to play around with in colourwork mittens, and apart from the fact that one skein is almost 10 yards longer than the other - I got what I wanted:

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1.6oz of fibre turned into a total of 163 yards of DK ish weight.

And with all of this successful spinning, you know there had to be some balance:
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My final tour project, admittedly finished on a lap of honour after the tour completed.  It started as 100g of alpaca from Wingham Woolworks, some of the fibre I choose when H gave me my wheel, and I have spun it into 362 yards of nicely spun two ply garden twine.  It isn't quite as bad as all that but when I pick it up I don't want to knit with it so I suspect that it has a future either tying up runaway garden plants or as 'dressing' on a parcel.

Maybe I need to take a class on how to spin a lovely soft fluffy alpaca yarn, or maybe I need to remember that actually I don't like knitting alpaca that much (mohair does very little for me either).  I'm not too disappointed because it was all about the learning experience, and just as when I first started knitting again seriously I bought things that have subsequently been purged from the stash, I suspect my fibre stash could do with a little purge as I learn what I like to spin, and the finished products that I will actually use.

So, in all it's glory:
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My tour 2010: 

~ I spun every day that the tour rode.
~ Everything came from the stash.
~ I spun two singles yarns.
~ Only one skein is sock yarn.

All of this means:

Je porte le maillot jaune!

I'm never going to be one of the climbers going for crazy mileage or weight goals, not with the job and next year the job and the baby, but I loved playing along and it reignited my great affection for my wheel which had been a little neglected in the rush of pretty little baby things.

Fast forward a week I found myself scampering out of my final day at work surrounded by beautiful presents for the baby from my colleagues (and a giant pink french fancy cake for me - you can tell why I love my job so much - it's all about the mutual cake appreciation!).  H and I did a quicky turnaround at home and then headed down south on the train - destination Knit Nation.

It's difficult to write of Knit Nation without drowning in a sea of superlatives - suffice to say that there was not a moment that disappointed and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  I took the full day class on top down sock design with Cookie A which turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more (top tip - Japanese stitch dictionaries are wonderful things) and a day spent in most excellent company (well two Caries together was always going to be a winning combination).

We spent the morning playing theory and maths, in an engineering classroom which H as the family engineer found deeply entertaining.  By the lunch break I had a great plan for the sock I was going to knit, only to be completely thwarted by the fact that you can't turn a lace pattern upside down.  Some day I have a great design for a toe up sock - and yes I had written in my notes, "remember the pattern will be upside down".  Cookie suggested looking at the stitch dictionaries upside down!

Take 2, post lunch break and lots of deliberation finally got a cast on, and whilst I initially had a bit of a love hate thing going on - possibly stemming from the fact that it was very hot and I got pretty tired by the end of the day - now that I have a full pattern repeat knit up:
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I think I quite like it - the centre panel seems to have elements of a phoenix rising from the ashes which seems only appropriate after my first 'crash and burn'.

The yarn I have no such doubts - Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in I think Smaller Yellow Ant or something similar.  This is seriously gorgeous yarn - i can see why it's so coveted.
But you didn't really want to hear about the class did you?  Not when there was a marketplace, and a marketplace to rival all marketplaces at that.  It's possible that my recent tour activity has influenced my shopping because a good chunk of the goodies that came home with me are in the some assembly required stage of yarn:
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I also seem to have been having a thing for orange and turquoise on Saturday!  Clockwise from top left we have BabyLongLegs Spring Meadows, Two braids of Easy Knits Luala, Easy Knits Stary Stary Knight, Sparkleduck, and Old Maiden Aunt Two-Thirds Water.  Some will be hats or mitts or maybe, just maybe, a pair of socks!

But now, lest you think me possessed of an altogether supernatural restraint, let us talk of the Wollmeise.  I have no pictures of the stand, there are no words to describe the sight of more yarn than the average wool shop carries, more yarn than I have ever seen in a booth at a knitting show, and all of it in the most gorgeous deep saturated colours.  I know now that there is not a skein of Wollmeisethat I wouldn't like - and that my friends is a dangerous piece of information.

So here we have it:
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All Wollmeise apart from the skein across the top which is a fantastic Sparkleduck skein that made me think of fireworks and lightening.  It's all so beautiful, and I want to knit it all right now!

It seems too that my luck was with me on Saturday because my name was called in the door prizes raffle and I am now the happy owner of a Lucy Neatby DVD - a wonderful treat and so very sweet to be double congratulated, once for winning the DVD and again when I stepped forward to claim my prize for the impending arrival of the little bear!

I had intended to go the the Ravelry party in the evening and I'm sure it was wonderful, but after the class finished and I'd tottered around the marketplace for one more trip to Wollmeise I was wiped out and I ended the day eating chips and apple crumble off the bump before an early night claimed me.

All in all, a perfect way to start my maternity leave - and boy was I glad of my nap today!