Monday, 22 May 2017

Happy New...

..what do you mean it's nearly summer?! 
For several months of last year, my wrists were flaring up every other month, so there was little knitting being done.  With little knitting, comes little blogging.  I'm not going to apologise for that, as it was completely out of my control.
In the interim, I have (in some vague kind of chronological order)
  • Been to Scotland for Mr Knitty's 40th
  • Been to Sweden
  • Got an new job (a proper one, this time)
  • Found some drugs that properly work for the RA (yay!)

  • Been on another knitting retreat
  • Been home for the weekend (proper home; where we grew up)
  • Been away to Dorchester with Mr Knitty 
  • Finally knit a pair of socks

  • Bought more yarn.
  • Dyed my hair (OK, that was yesterday) 

There is a mass update to be done - and a Plan to manage it.  That plan also has to work around work, study and commuting.  And the washing up, which I have failed to do this evening. 

There is also preparation to go to Iceland in the summer.  I'm nowhere near ready and have a lot of stuff to buy and flight tickets to book.  Of course, the biggest challenge of the lot is finding out how much yarn I can bring back with my luggage allowance.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

And so the world turns

Let's scroll back about ten days, just before this referendum thing.  It was clear that the result was going to be close, but we were at least sort-of-united, in that we didn't know the outcome.

We were travelling back on the Caledonian sleeper on the night the result was called.  Wi-fi wasn't working, so Mr Knitty couldn't access the BBC website on the laptop, and him clicking on the keys was keeping me awake.  I was able to log into Facebook a couple of times and got updates that way.  I had a dream that there was cheering from both cabins each side of me as the result was announced that we wanted to stay.  When I got out at Euston, the steward told me that it was an overwhelming vote to leave.

There was a four percent difference between the in vote and the out vote.  Four percent.  That's not overwhelming.  That's just about the right percentage to equally divide the country.  The leave side say that the democratic thing to do is now leave, as the people have spoken.  The stay side say that enough people are against leaving that the government (such as it is) should have either another referendum or a general election. 

There are reams and reams that could be written on this.  The fact that we shouldn't have had the referendum in the first place, the rumours that the out side wasn't supposed to win after all.  The fact that the government doesn't have an exit plan, because they never thought they'd need it.  There doesn't appear to be an effective opposition, as they're all in-fighting.  Reports of post-referendum racism have increased; in the last week I've had two friends post on Facebook with something they've experienced first hand, both in London.  Whilst not everybody who voted out is a racist, all racists now think they have half the country behind them. 

I'm trying to understand why people voted to leave.  So far, I've not really been able to.  The potential impact is huge.  Scotland wants to stay in the EU, so could possibly leave the UK; if that happens Ulster may well follow.  Unsurprisingly, there's a divide between London and the rest of the country; in broad terms, I suspect that this is a rich/poor divide, which has been encouraged by the Conservative party.  I also think the people who will come off worst are the people in un-skilled jobs or are from a certain social demographic.  There's the expectation that this is going to hit scientific research, the economy, the arts, education, the NHS, the rest of Europe.  The list seems infinite, as we're pretty much the guinea-pig of the EU and nobody quite knows what the consequences are.

I still have friends in Europe, who I don't love any less.  I'm done with being told to just accept the result, as that's democracy.  The process to leave hasn't been started yet, and until it is - there is everything to play for.  I think I'm done crying over it, but I'm not sure.  I've written to my MP.  I'm vaguely drafting letters to MEPs.  I've not ruled out writing to other European leaders.  I just wish the weather would get a grip and stop bloody raining; I'm sure it'll make a difference. 

In the meantime, I'm hiding with knitting, tea and Youtube videos. Oh and trying to get better at Swedish, just in case.  Youtube suggested that I watch Måns Zelmerlöw, as I've watched his videos before.  Most of his songs are about relationship and relationship break-ups, some of which have felt a bit close to the bone.  This one had particular resonance: 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Sunday, Sunday

There is a truth amongst knitters that films with subtitles are not necessarily good partners to a knitting project.  I thought I could get round this by knitting garter stitch.  Seems I was wrong.  The knitting was fine, but there was a lot of winding back to find out what was said.  Either my Swedish is not as good as I thought it was, or I don't understand the Stockholm accent.  Possibly a bit of both.

Have I mentioned that I'm going back to Sweden in August?  Mostly to meet up with friends, but I've also found out that there's a theatre festival at the time, so I'm happy.  That's after the trip to Slovenia/Croatia and before next year's trip to Iceland.  There'll be more about that in some other entry. 

Last weekend was Brownie Holiday - AKA 'how much can we keep the adults awake before they want to kill'.  I swear there are parts of the world where this is considered torture.  I was going to sew lots and lots of badges on to my camp blanket, but that never happened.  We were all in bed far too early.  

The most I managed were pictures of the houmous dip we had - fitting in beautifully with the animal theme which we had for the weekend: 

Lion houmous dip
If yesterday was about starting new projects, today will be about buying yarn and blocking completed projects.  Oh, and admin for our trip to Europe next month, but that's not so blog worthy.

What does your weekend bring you? 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Place holder

Knitting has been happening.  As have Swedish classes, a flat inspection, work, general life and, last weekend, my nephew's christening.  So, blog posts have not been happening.  In the interim, I've been tagged by Jane to do one of these question and answer things.  So, onwards:

What is your favourite book?

I wasn’t sure I had one, but I think it’s the Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Watching the TV programme was a seminal moment in my childhood life; reading the book brings back memories of the TV programme. 

How long is your commute? 

About an hour – 40-50 mins on the train (depending on whether I come in to Charing Cross or Victoria) and then 6 – 8 minutes on the tube (ditto). This doesn’t include the time waiting to get through the barriers and on to a train – which is the principle reason I avoid Victoria in the morning. 

Tea or coffee? Why? 

Tea. Partly because I’m British, partly because I don’t like coffee. Plus, tea translates to other cultures. Black tea in Sweden, fruit teas in Holland, green tea in Japan? You’re talking my language. As an aside, did you know that tea was brought to Japan from China, to help Buddhist monks stay awake during their meditation sessions? That’s probably my favourite fact I learned in Japan. 

Who is the first person from the internet that you met in real life? 

I had to think about this on. Sal, who I ‘knew’ from Egroups (later Yahoogroups) and who I met at The Crucible Theatre to lend videos of Sam West cross dressing. 

How long have you been blogging? 

Since October 2000 as part of the H2G2 website, before it was taken over by the BBC.  (It's now been taken back again).

What is your favourite thing in the world to do? 

Travel. Failing that, sleep. 

Where is your favourite travel destination? 

Is this a serious question? Sweden.  Next. 

What is your favourite Disney film? 

Probably the Aristocats. I don’t watch Disney, but this If you can knit, what are you most proud of finishing? If you can’t, what would you like to knit? Probably the hats for my nephew’s Christmas present, as my sister said that I had skill – or the running hat that I made for myself, as I kind of made it up as I went along, and it turned out better than I’d expected. Please don’t tell my sister about self-colouring yarn though; it may spoil her illusions. The next things I want to knit are the sweaters I bought the yarn for (de-stash central) and socks, which are my knitting nemesis so far. 

When was the last time you changed your email password? 

The only way to find that out is to log into Gmail with the wrong password. I did change my work password this morning though, if that helps? 

Fruit cake or sponge cake? Why? 

To bake or to eat?  Probably sponge cake to bake, as it's a pretty easy recipe and can easily be varied.  Fruit cake to eat.  It has to be a good fruit cake, mind.  Sponge cake beats a bad fruit cake.

 X X X 

Andi at My Sisters Knitter usually ends her posts with a video - so I thought I would too.  I'm about twelve months behind everybody else with the Måns Zelmerlöw thing, but this has been on earworm pretty much constantly for the last week or so.  Apparently my lovely Swedish friend M (the same M who had to share Skype time with my knitting earlier in the month) was in the crowd.  Whilst you can't see him in the crowd - he's elsewhere on Youtube if you know where to look.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Work for the Workers

May 1st is traditionally Workers' Day; somehow it seems appropriate, given the amount of knitting I have on the list.  I'm still working on the Sick Day Pi Shawl.  It's now too big to take on the train as I only get two rows done per 40 minute journey.  The final section is a repeat of rows 14 - 19, which can be repeated up to fifteen times.  Now, as there's nearly 300 stitches per row, that's a lot to repeat.  I'm nearly at the end of the third repeat and was ready to finish it all off, before realising that I actually like knitting it, I still have yarn to use up and I've got a Skype call planned for Tuesday.  My friend M will have to share my time with the shawl.

Then there's the secret project A to be done for 13th May and two gifts I want to knit, the yarn for which I ordered yesterday.  Then there's the sweater I want to knit with the yarn I've bought recently-ish, plus another two sweaters which look amazing, but I don't have the yarn for.  That doesn't include the lace shawl that I'm halfway through, the project I finished a couple of weeks ago which needs weaving in and blocking, and the somewhat languishing socks in the WIP bin.  Or the red wrap which I've just remembered.

And, of course, after seeing my friend J's post I've cast on a Hitchhiker 

Hitchhiker by Martina Behm - Yarn: Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball

This afternoon I've spent some time in the garden, now we finally have some sun.  I started re-reading my MA dissertation earlier this week, and it wasn't quite as hideous as I remember it being.  So, today I spent some time out with my favourite purple pen, making notes for the next draft.  Of all my purple pens, I find it odd to have a favorite, but I do.

Yarn - Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball in the colourway Goldfish.  Something about being in the sun brought out the colours beautifully.

How did you spend May day? And was there knitting involved? 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

In which I never learn

This yarn was specifically bought to make the Easy as Pie shawl.  

In anticipation of knitting the shawl, I went to the place which was my LYS in the pre-London days, to buy a pair of 4.5mm needles and a pair of 3mm needles.  Somehow I managed to leave both behind on the counter, and the shop had to send them on (after some conflab about whether I’d paid for them, and how they were sending it on as a goodwill gesture).  When the package arrived, both pairs of needles were 4.5mm.  I should have known then that things weren’t going to go to plan.

I found that the easy as pi shawl, well, wasn’t.  I don’t know what it was that I just didn’t get; according to the comments on Ravelry, it’s a really easy knit.  It just wasn’t really doing it for me.  Apparently the rows were supposed to have an odd number of stitches, but row 4 appeared to increase by an odd number, meaning the following row would have an even number.  Then there was some note I made myself about not being able to do a YO K2tog and still end up with only one stitch in the centre of the shawl.  Maybe I'll try it again in the future with a clearer mind. 

So I decided to the panorama stole (Ravelry link) instead.  The pattern is written for double knit yarn, but I thought I’d mix it up.  Since the stole isn’t dependent on a particular gauge or size, there was no reason why it couldn’t be knit in a different yarn, especially if the sequins gave a bit of sparkle to the stole.  Who says that knitting can’t be a bit glam?

The sequins, although lovely and sparkly were a pain in the proverbial when trying to tink back; just imagine a button getting caught on a button hole as a coat is ripped open.  There were also more knots than I would have liked; three, all in a fairly short space of yarn.  Somehow, during Kate Atherley's opening talk at Joeli's Kitchen Retreat, I totally missed a knot and had to undo a couple of hundred stitches to make it right, and then had to make the unpicked stitches right as I hadn't re-knit them properly. 

The pattern is a fairly simple repeat of garter and stocking stitch - with an eyelet row for interest.  Knitting it on the train got me attention from a couple of people.  There was an older lady who did a comic triple take when she saw I was knitting.  Then there was a young girl who listened as I explained in simple terms what I was doing.  It must have been the sparkles that caught their eyes. 

And then, 109 stitches into a 337 stitch cast off, I ran out of yarn.  Or at least, worked out that I wasn't going to have enough yarn to last the distance.  We've been here before.  I still haven't learned to leave enough yarn for the cast-off.  So, that was nearly 400 stitches I had to undo, ready to cast off again.

The problem with blocking it, was how long it ended up.  From tip to tip, it was about six foot - one whole foot longer than I am tall.  (My husband did try to take a photo; it was better in my head than it was in reality).  It made photographing the stole somewhat difficult. 

I like the yarn, and would knit with it again.  The wool content isn’t as high as I originally thought, but that didn't matter in the end.  The sequins were threaded on to a separate thread, which was then twisted round the yarn.  So, if there were sequins in the way, it was easier to chop the sequins off, rather than cut the thread.  The yarn also differed slightly in thickness throughout, which made me worry that I'd snap the yarn unintentionally. But overall, liked the yarn and liked the pattern and would use both again. 

So what have you been knitting recently?  

Sunday, 17 April 2016


I have a secret project which I wanted to get finished on a deadline, which I've finally got round to swatching for today.

The pattern and yarn were bought from an online retailer; the yarn was recommended for the pattern by said retailer.  The pattern says that 26 stitches and 34 rows measures 10cms on 3.25mm needles.  I know I'm a loose knitter, so started with 2.75mm needles and it came out at about 13cms.  I tried today with 2.25 needles and got down to about 11.5cms, knitting absolutely as tightly as I could.  I do have 2mm bamboos, but I fear I'd snap them if I tried knitting too tightly.

My knitting guru, Extreme Knitting thinks the yarn I have is too heavy for the project  and it might not drape well.  She's suggested a different pattern for the yarn, as forcing the gauge risks me knitting something I'm not happy with (and as it's supposed to be a gift, I darn well want to be happy with it). 

I'm not going to name the retailer, as I've not yet had the chance to contact their pattern support - but for the time being, I have a pattern with a yarn I can't use, or yarn with a pattern I can't use - whichever way you want to look at it.  And that makes me a little grumpy.  Of course, there are always options about what to do with the yarn and the pattern, one of which may be learn crochet.  I rather suspect the project I want to complete, is not going to be complete in time, which also makes me a little grumpy - and disappointed in myself. 

In the interim, I'm re-knitting the sick day pi shawl in the correct weight of yarn.  Yesterday, we had a briefing day for the girls we're taking to Slovenia and Croatia in the summer, at the end of a stupidly busy week.  As part of the day, we went to Pax Lodge, one of the five world
centres for all Girl Scouts and Girl Guides.  They're celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, and I got a badge to mark the occasion.  Everything got a bit too much for me somewhere after lunchtime, so I sat and knitted whilst the girls played games.  The leader in charge of our trip asked if I could teach her to knit, as she thought it might be something she'd enjoy, so I'm counting that as a double win.

What have you been knitting this week, successfully or otherwise? 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter

Easter this year has been spent on the South coast, visiting my grandmother.  We've been backwards and forwards between our guest house and the care home where she's staying.  (It's easier for her having shorter visits, especially with the amount she's been sleeping this weekend).

In between times, we went down on to the beach - something I've been doing since summer holidays down here as a kid

Lusty Glaze beach, Newquay

We found the meaning of  'sky blue' 

Mr Knitty got a dune buggy toy in his Kinder egg this morning - so it had a play on the beach too:

We saw some mussels on the rocks.  In my pre-vegetarian days, I loved picking them to take home and cook.  Now, I just love the colour combinations and patterns:

We went exploring in a cave.  Luckily no monsters.  Sadly no treasure left over from the days of smugglers and wreckers:

Of course, hiding in caves is much more fun when you're a grown-up:

Mr Knitty & I

I tried to take arty shots of me and my knitting - in the wind:

Playing with knitting in the wind

For a while, the sun shone:

Until we went inside, and were treated to the more traditional Bank Holiday weather:

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Weighing it up

OK, so I’m still technically frogging or finishing all current WIPs, and being pretty tardy on the latter.  The question for yesterday was, ‘do I start a new project’.  The project I had in mind was the Hitchhiker scarf, using King Cole yarn in the lightening colourway.  It just looks the right colourway for intergalactic travel.  

King Cole Zig Zag yarn - lightening colourway
Close up - an intergalactic yarn

Let’s ignore the fact that I have a slightly wonky half pi shawl to deal with.  Given that this week was pi day it did seem the perfect opportunity to resolve the problems, but I chose not to.

So after nice careful consideration of pros and cons, I decided:

Reasons against

  • I already have so many WIPs, it would be better to get them finished
  • Is there anything else I can knit, other than scarves and shawls?

Reasons for

  • I’ve finished one, so it’s logical to knit another
  • Something to easily knit on the train
  • It gets rid of more sock yarn(if socks are my knitting nemesis, this can only be a good thing, right?)
  • It’s mostly garter stitch – so a good opportunity to learn continental knitting

The ayes have it, especially on the last point.

So I watched some Youtube videos and am pretty sure I know what I’m doing with the continental stuff.  On the off chance that I forgot, I didn’t really want to be hoiking my copy of S & B in and out of London as an aide memoire.  So, a last minute substitution brought me to Nurmilintu.  Now, ideally I’d knit this pattern in something bought in Sweden, or a green yarn, or ideally a Swedish green yarn.  (Sweden has pine trees; it fits in my mind).  However, as a non-Green, non-Swedish yarn, this  from Regia Colour Blitz is pretty beautiful, and had been stored together with the pattern, so was an easy one to grab and go.

Regia 4 ply Colour Blitz 
Yarny close up! 

Anyway, lace charts on an overcrowded commuter train?  What could possibly go wrong?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

A Treat of a Retreat

Last weekend I was at the Jolie's kitchen knitting retreat.  There is so much to say about it, I don't know where to start, even a week later.  Karie Westermann's take on it is here if you're interested. 

My train on Friday night was delayed by 20 minutes. Yes, 90 minutes.  I had to telephone the hotel to confirm that I was still coming, for fear of giving my room to somebody else.  Apparently some of the other ladies who were attending the retreat had been in the bar earlier knitting.  Sadly I missed them, and hoped to catch up with them the next day.  On the plus side, I did manage to get through a decent chunk of my knitting project.

This was the first time I had ever been to a knitting event, and realised afterwards that I did not take enough photographs.  It was lovely to be in an environment where everybody was knitting, it wasn't considered weird to grab somebody's clothing and ask about the use of colour, or to admire the stitch work.  In fact it was positively encouraged.  Of the projects that stood out were Fiona's fair isle sweater (Ravelry link) and Catherine's beautifully colourful cardigan

The event opened with Kate Atherley talking about her life as a knitter.  She was born in a local hospital and not Toronto born and bred as I had always thought.  My second favourite part of her talk was her discussion of how people seem afraid to get their knitting wet.  Apparently she has been in classes where she has grabbed people's knitting and stuck it in a glass of water, just to prove that you can get knitting wet, without the universe imploding or similar.  As she quite rightly asked have you seen the places where these sheep live? They're places where it rains.  Apparently Herdyshepherd  has quite good photos to prove this.

My favourite story was on the subject of gauge.  Apparently there are many women in New York who are rich.  One of these women came into a knitting shop complaining that her knitting hadn't worked.  When the shopkeeper asked her if she had made a gauge swatch, she replied that her maid had done it.  Yes, the maid had made the knitting swatch.

Over the course of the weekend I took two classes. The first was with Kate Atherley on sizing and fit.  I will admit, that she was pretty much the reason I went the retreat.  I think this is a separate blog post in itself, but it was a class worth taking, partly for the knitting, partly because I got to draw pictures of boobs and partly because it confirmed some of the things I already sort of knew.

After pizza for dinner (the Northern Quarter has really come up in status since I lived in Manchester), we met back up for a talk on British wool and the raffle. Louise from Knit British talked about British yarn, and how it's packaged and marketed.  Apparently if something is labelled as British, there's no guarantee that it's bred, sheared, spun, dyed or packaged in Britain.  She mentioned the woolsack webpage, which lists British yarns available for sale.  She passed around samples, and the ones which took my fancy were:

Falkland Merino (turquoise), Teeswater (white), and Wensleydale (brown):

Chilla Valley alpaca (brown, top left), Jacob aran (top right, beige) and more Teeswater (bottom, beige)

The raffle prizes were scrumptious (and all won by other people)

Kate  and Karie took over Joeli's Periscope.  

At some point in the evening, I went back to my hotel, properly looked at the goodie bag which we'd been given (which was amazing) and went to bed far too late. 

Sunday started with a class on hap shawl construction (which has three parts), and making our own mini version of the Mahy shawl.  

The class was good fun, with a lot of laughing and some crude comments - which may have come from me.  If you describe lace knitting to me as 'strategically placed holes' what sort of a reaction do you expect?!  There was also discussion about how Japanese people are wild for Shetland lace (it was the only useful book I could find in Tokyo).  I mentioned  this article in Knitty, and why chart knitting therefore is something that transcends linguistic boundaries. 

Somewhere along the line, mine went wrong, so had to be ripped back by a few rows.  Now, I know I'm not the most proficient knitter, but even I could see what was wrong when I put it back on the needles:

I didn't have enough time to complete what we were supposed to complete before the session ended, so I had the good idea of taking the needles out, threading a lifeline in and picking it up when I got home.  Again, spot the problem:

This is what happens when you don't get enough sleep the night before! 

The weekend ended with Kate Hepple talking about how she got involved in Knit Now magazine.  (Basically, she was working for the NHS and was headhunted via Ravelry).  She gave us an overview of the process - call for submissions, deciding which will be featured (only two garments per issue, all the rest are accessories), tech editing and knitting samples, if I remember correctly.  There's a vlog here which explains it.  There was also a great discussion about the models used for knitwear shoots, and the discussion between 'real women' and size six models.  I suspect this is a discussion the knitting community isn't going to solve in isolation.

There was also a swaps table and mini market place.  Should my husband ask, I didn't spend a penny on new yarn.  (I don't think he's noticed the new acquisitions however). 

There is so much more I could have said about the weekend.  It was very strange to be back in Manchester after about fourteen years; I hardly recognised it.  It was brilliant to be among women who were funny, and creative and smart.  And if you want an example of how welcoming the knitting community are, I turned up wearing a shop-bought acrylic sweater, which nobody commented on. 

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Why I Felt Like It

There are always two parts to a project; what you're knitting and why.  We've covered the what (Meema's Felted Marsupial Tote).  But for this project, the why was just as important.

I was knitting it to take to my grandmother's funeral.  

Although she never taught me to knit, she was a knitter.  My mother repeatedly talked of a dress she knit for my younger sister, which was knit and then folded back, to reveal a decorative border.  I inherited a lot of her stash, after she move to the care home, when we cleared her house out to sell.  I haven't knit any of it yet, but there is some lovely yarn there.  

For me, knitting is, at least in part, about connecting with the generations which have gone before.  Knitting is a way of connecting with her in her absence.  It was only half way through the project that I thought about the name.  Meemama was what her great 
grandchildren called her. It was as if the knitting fates had approved of my decision. 

Her death didn't make me sad for her.  She was 97 when she died, had Alzheimer's and no quality of life.  My heart broke seeing my dad carrying in her coffin.

Everybody leaves a legacy of some sort.  This one is remembered in needles and yarn. 

Happy New...

..what do you mean it's nearly summer?!  For several months of last year, my wrists were flaring up every other month, so there was li...