Friday, November 30, 2007

Seen in the press

I was looking through the "ethical gift" pages of the Guardian last night and came across a handknitted scarf with mittens on the end. I read on:

"Each piece is hand-crafted from knitting to finishing, using British knitters and the finest lambs-wool from Scotland (the company is committed to supporting British industry and small businesses where possible). This process takes about a month from beginning to end per garment, which results in only a limited number of each style ever being produced."

A month?! Maybe this blurb is designed to support the £118 price-tag. Maybe it includes shearing the sheep? I would be interested to know what they pay their knitters.

"[this company]...fulfils the desire for the special, reflecting the current cultural shift towards life quality and the value of the individual, over global branding and commerce."

So why not make your own? Instead of paying £118 for a scarf!

In the same newspaper, this Saturday's edition is advertised as having a "Hand-made Christmas" supplement, and the advert is illustrated with a photo of a very-badly stranded-knitted Christmas stocking in the round...on two needles! I am not sure whether they are intending to say "This is a hideous mess, make something much better by buying our newspaper", or if they seriously don't realise what a bad impression it gives of handknitting!

Sigh.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Birthday arrivals

On Sunday I tried out my new sewing machine and eventually worked out how to thread the bobbin... so nothing to show for my efforts!

But other things arrived either for my birthday or around my birthday, so have been adopted as "presents" even if I bought them myself!


First up - a skein of sock yarn from Ambermoggie. Hey, Amber you didn't need to do a "swap" - my yarn to you was a pressie to cheer up Mr Mog! But I am not complaining because the colours in this skein are really really lovely - it looks like the sock you were knitting recently? So many many thanks!


My non-knitting friend E sent me "The Crafters Companion". This has been on my Amazon wishlist for ages and ages and is one of those books you keep by the bedside to dip into in the hope of inspirational dreams. If you don't already know, it is a compendium of craft blogs, mainly of the sock-monkey-esque genre. Quirky stuff. Things that wouldn't immediately occur to me. Brilliant for sharing with my daughter. At 11, she is on the point of becoming crafty and I think this will spur her on!



Then there is "Crochet Me". I pre-ordered this from Amazon and asked FL to hide it away until my birthday. So... he lost it! We had a major tidy-up and found it at the weekend - hooray! I haven't had time to look at it properly, but it is another blog-derived book aimed at inspiring the "new crocheter" i.e. people who probably didn't do the granny square thing first time around! I love several of the projects in this volume. There is a spider's-webbish tunic that inspires me, a gorgeous baby-doll tunic dress, an intriguing plaid scarf, and probably the hottest favourite, a short-sleeved top with matching arm-warmers - oh yeah! But this will be a technical challenge. I haven't crocheted a whole garment, ever. I am thinking of making one of these projects during the Christmas holidays when the kids are away and I have long periods of uninterrupted sofa-time!

But top of the heap... Norah Gaughan Volume 1. I had to order this via ebay dot com because Berrocco don't ship to the UK. Oh wow! This is knitting like I have never done it before! I thought Annie Modesitt was offering me a challenge in "Romantic Knits", but this is a whole new dimension of knitting! Top of my wish-list is a scarf which uses casting off and on to make a 3-D ladder of knitted fabric - oooh! There are at least three other scarves in here that I NEED to knit: a shibori-looking "bubbley" one, a pointy pom-pom-trimmed one, and a lacey diamondy one. But I also NEED to knit the Manon jacket - which seems to start off as a series of geometric shapes which are then joined together on the bias to create an amazing sculptural effect. Some of the photos in the book are a bit vague, but careful reading of the pattern and use of a magnifying glass have revealed deep complexities that I love! There is a hexagonal patchworked skirt which I respect but will probably never knit. And a little top called Anais which might have to be knitted for its name alone (Anais Nin being the subject of my abandoned PhD many years ago!) - this has a lovely web effect at the neck. There is a LOT of knitting in this booklet! Bags, jackets, skirts, tops, scarves, hats, a belt - it's all here, and every item has a "twist". There's a definite Japanese vibe. It is all arty, yet wearable. I want it all! Not a sock in sight! Will 2008 be the year I start knitting BIG garments?!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FL's Christmas socks

Last Tuesday, I started a pair of socks for FL for Christmas. I needed something easy to knit in the waiting room, and I realised too late that I had not wound my skein of Colinette Skye for the Ysolda beret, so that was off the menu.

At the top of my knitting bag was the Brown Eyes Blue yarn from Old Maiden Aunt. It was a case of “grab it and run” and I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic… until I started knitting it. Look at those stripes! This yarn was sold as a “monster from the lab” and I think the reason for this is the occasional flash of white through the blue. But it is very occasional and I think it adds to the character of this sock.

The pattern is the trusty Gentleman’s Winter Sock from Knitting Vintage Socks (Nancy Bush). And somehow the stripes make me go faster! The first sock is finished already! It is an unusual short-row heel construction - Nancy Bush calls it a Dutch Heel. It produces a 5-stitch-wide "seam" which has turned out to be brown all the way - very neat!

This has been a real lesson for me in giving the stash a chance - I wasn't initially inspired by this yarn - the brown was a bit too... pooey! But when I saw how the striping worked out - wow!

Which leads me to today's invitation!

Have you ever been tempted to join a yarn shop sock club, even though you already have a stash of beautiful yarns you don't have time to knit?

Do you love knitting socks? Trying out new yarns and patterns?

Then the Socks from Stash Club is the one for you!

Come and join us!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Woolgirl sock club November mailing


My Woolgirl sock club package for November has been rescued from HM Customs & Excise for the princely sum of £3.43 PLUS a Royal Mail “handling charge” of £8! I think this is outrageous cheek on the part of the Royal Mail. I (well FL actually) had to drive several miles to a distant sorting office at an inconvenient time to collect it – because the alternative was to attach stamps to that value to the notification card before they would re-deliver. Stamps to the value of £11.43?! Funnily enough I don’t have those lying around at home. Rant rant rant.

Inside: ahhhhh! Oooooh! The theme is “Irish dreams” and this was like receiving a really good “swap” package from someone who has taken great care and attention to detail – I am really impressed! There is: a skein of Spunky Eclectic Super Nova yarn in a specially-dyed colourway. It is meant to be reminiscent of Ireland… I have to say it’s not like any Ireland I have ever seen! I wish there was a better explanation of this! OK so it is green and orange, so the political landscape is there, but I can‘t see a reason for the pink or the purple. But I am not complaining because the purple is the bit I like best! The yarn is very soft 2-ply with a slight sheen and smells lovely. 20% nylon… which I normally avoid, but I know that this will make them stronger. And I think I like the pattern. Like last time, I am finding the photo really unclear. I think there are bobbles down it, which is a funny thing to have on a sock! FL wondered if they were meant to be bed socks since the pattern is called Irish Dreams…?

The other goodies: three tea bags and two straws of honey (lucky it survived the journey!). My son has already drunk the Pumpkin Spice tea and wants more. (Pumpkin Spice? Irish?!) A sheepish fridge magnet and card by Thomas Joseph. My daughter wants this. She had to do art “in the style of Thomas Joseph” a few months ago at school so we know the “look”. A little bar of lavender soap – mmmm! And a delicate copper stitchmarker which is “double-sided” for small or large needles.

So – yes I would recommend this sock club! Two successful packages of high quality unusual goodies so far. BUT the Customs issue really p’s me off. I cannot afford the extra charge on top of the club cost. Which is really sad because it should have been a real treat receiving this on my birthday. Instead it turned into a saga, involving FL and a calculator (calculating the VAT) – so now he knows the cost of the sock club itself – oops! There is just one more mailing this round and it will be my last. After that, I am going to have a diy sock club for one, involving a skein from my stash every month – who was it did this? Words and Wool I think – great idea! And there is enough in the stash to last a year!?!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A pair of Arty Earls


Almost finished my son's Christmas socks. This is the first one - the second one is the same! He has no idea they are for him, and sat next to me as I knitted them - too hee hee! I would never get away with this with my daughter!

It is the Earl Grey pattern by the Yarn Harlot. But I could not get the cable to look like the pattern. I don't know whether this is a mistake in the way it is written or just in my execution. But luckily the "mistake" doesn't show in this dark colourway.

The yarn is Alter Ego superwash merino from Dyeabolical Yarns, in "Scratch Art". This is the same skein of yarn that I used for my first June Bride mitts! Talk about yardage! It was touch and go, but I had enough for both projects, by substituting plain black Regia for the toes. The yarn is a two-ply, which is not my usual preference, but I have to say this knits to a fantastically smooth, even fabric in stocking stitch. If I wasn't being strict with myself, I would be snapping up some more - have you seen her Dark Knight colourway ?!

Next on the needles was to be a fitted-style Gretel beret for my mother's Christmas: Colinette Skye in charcoal. I need 155m and the ball band says 150! But we visited her on Saturday (3 hour drive each way, which FL insisted on doing himself and now he is exhausted - naughty!) and she was making very disparaging remarks about my purple crochet beret (never seen on the blog) so now I am discouraged. She seems to think there is something odd about hand-made berets. Despite her collection of kangol felt-type berets! Confusing. So I am thinking of making this for myself after all, with a striped rib section, using leftover Hipknits aran in that coral colourway I used for the first Gretel, and a smattering of the turquoise Debbie Bliss. A nicely portable project for another hospital appointment tomorrow - I can't believe another month has gone by!

My mother is making good progress on her wedding-knitting. It is the Lead or Follow scarf in Perchance to Knit "Midnight's Rainbow / Harlot's Peacock". Errr... yes, I admit it, this is the project I could not seem to get a hang of! My mother is persevering, but only because she feels it is her contribution to my wedding! There is a ssk which includes a yo, and if you drop it....aaargh!..... you get the picture! The yarn has a slight fluffiness so it is hard to undo mistakes. And her hands are turning purple. But it is going to be beautiful! See the rainbows?


And finally... let me present my new look!

Old glasses

New glasses

Friday, November 16, 2007

Them boots don't fit!

Nooooo! Too tight, too high. Like pointe shoes... and I am no ballerina.
Gutted!
Back to the Web!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Idle chit chat

Thanks for the shoe-pointers, my fashionable friends! I browsed around and still haven't found anything quite like the ones I showed you. Did you notice the carved heel? And the velvet bow? Bryony showed me a Mary-Jane with the same heel and bow, in navy... but it has to be a little boot. So I am going with the green one for now - I can try it on at home with The Dress and then decide. I do fear I am going to look like a Pirate of the North Sea, but hopefully not too "panto", which my dear ex-sis-in-law suggested might happen with one of the boots I considered!

Marie-no-blog suggested I look at Di Gilpin's Venus shrug for wedding wear... but I can't find a picture or mention of it anywhere. Any clues? This is purely out of curiosity, as my mother is already knitting me a scarfy-shawl-thing, at my request. We are visiting her this weekend so I might be able to show you progress!

My Vogue Knitting Holiday edition arrived... and I am underwhelmed. Nothing at all I want to knit. I am going to let the subscription lapse and spend my pennies on "must haves" instead! Like "Norah Gaughan Vol.1" from Berrocco. I succumbed to Ebay dot Com for this one.

I know that my second Woolgirl sock club package is on its way and I am very excited!

The house is almost completely repaired. Lots of new plaster and guttering and repointing. But I heard the mice last night... which might mean they have been sealed in to the roof space. Gulp.

FL is doing really really well, touch wood. Back to the hospital on Tuesday. Hoping this will be the one where they take him off the chemo regime.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First Young Earl

I finished the first Earl Grey sock for my son. I managed to sneakily check the length as he was sitting on the sofa watching TV, though I accidentally touched the back of his heel with my needle and made him jump in the middle of a scary film! I have made the toe plain black because I fear I may be short of yarn. I weighed it before I started and it was exactly 100g. The leftover yarn almost balances the finished sock... but not quite. Fingers crossed! If absolutely necessary I could frog my first June Bride fingerless mitts...because I used the first part of the skein for them. But I would rather not! Impossible to photograph until the weekend (no light) and by then it may be a pair!


I also have to report a tiny stash enhancement - but all in the cause of Christmas knitting! Snagged over at Ebay - a skein of Colinette Skye Aran in Charcoal (mmm - soft! Almost purple!) and a ball of Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed. It was the Colinette I really wanted, to make my mother a fitted-style Gretel beret. The Debbie Bliss came as part of the deal - the two yarns together for less than £5! I am thinking of buying another ball of the DB in a contrasting colour to make a stripey slouchy Gretel for me.


I am finding the acceleration towards Christmas a bit alarming. I don't approve of excess (woooooooooo - hark at me!) and try really hard to make presents rather than buy, but it's tricky with two kids who have another parent elsewhere. We take it in turns to host Christmas, and it is their father's turn this year, so I began by thinking the pressure was off... but I know we will have our own celebration when they come home, and after all this is their "home". So: some books / CDs / art materials and something I have made myself. FL will get Christmas socks - even if I am still knitting them at the wedding! My mother - a handknitted hat and a calendar of family photos.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shoebeedoo

Ok all you style gurus out there - I need your help!
I haven't shown you The Dress but I need your help to find the right footwear to go with it!

What I am looking for is a pair of shoe / boots - you know, the terribly fashionable style that is "in" this year and yet mysteriously absent from almost every website I have visited. What is wrong with you, TopShop?!

I have found a pair that I really love - but they are the wrong colour. See?
Has anyone seen anything like this in purple or dark blue or black? And yes, I have checked the manufacturer's site and they don't make them in any of those colours!
I need some height, so platforms are a good thing, but I cannot balance on spikey heels - I have small feet and I just fall over!
Help?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

First snow!


It snowed on Thursday - eek! And today we were walking the dog and cat and got caught in a hailstorm. Yes, the cat comes on walks too! I tried to put him under my coat and run for shelter but he was having none of it. Both pets are now snuggled up by the radiator. Still no sign of our central heating and we have the builder in, so it is a bit draughty round these parts! There is now no ceiling in the bathroom, plaster dust everywhere, and a raging wind coming in the back door. The utility room has been demolished, so the back door is now all that is between us and the North wind. Lovely. But hopefully by the time the builder finishes, we will be weather-proof and vermin-proof. No more tap-dancing mice in the roof space above my bed at night! I need to pester the central heating people though!

Spent Saturday handwriting descriptions on my Moo cards for the craft stall brooches. Sadly, the gel pen ink refused to dry on the plastic-coated surface - always check before you do a whole batch! So now I have to start again. Mutter mutter mutter.

Knitting my son's socks today, and cooking delicious things from the Claire Macdonald Cookbook, from the library yesterday. She is the clan chief's wife, and they have an expensive restaurant on Skye, way out of our budget. But the library book is going to keep us full of winter warmers for a month or so!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Preparations

My head is full of wedding preparations. We are doing it very very quietly. Just FL and me on the Isle of Skye with friends of the Registrar as witnesses, in exchange for a box of chocolates / bottle of wine! I have invited my mother to knit me a "not-a-veil", and sent her the yarn and pattern. The Dress arrived today, received by FL who was astonished and delighted to see where the package was from - woo hoo! Today I also managed to find somewhere for us to stay on Skye - who knew it would be so difficult? Apparently half the island is shut between October and April and the other half wants to hike up their rents for the "Christmas / Hogmanay in Scotland" trade, so wouldn't consider less than a week's rental - pah! But I have found somewhere with a fabulous view within walking distance of the wedding venue - woo hoo!

I had an extremely close shave with the Socktopus sock club - so close that Alice put a special "For Ruth" button up on the website to allow me to join after the closing date... but I managed to rein myself in (and apologise for wasting her time!) It was the news that she was going to stock Duets yarn that threw me over the edge - wow! But this is not the time to spend £90 on sock yarn, with a wedding and Christmas on the horizon!

I also have deep lust for the Raven collection over at Blue Moon. Rook-y and Thraven are probably my ideal yarn colours in the entire universe, ever! Part of me wants to fill cupboards with the stuff and knit myself an all-in-one catsuit, a dress, a cape, hats, stockings - a whole wardrobe! But just putting two skeins into my basket provoked a $24 shipping charge, and I am sorry but that is completely out of order! Cancel. Sulk. Not for me. Not this year anyway.

And I am knitting! There was a mishap with the Pine Cone sweater, where I failed to tick off my rows as I knitted and repeated the shaping, hence creating a wasp waist of laughable proportions. Rip rip rip.

Now working on a pair of socks for my son's Christmas. The Earl Grey pattern in an inappropriate yarn - the stitch pattern just gets lost in the darkness of my Alter Ego Scratch Art wool. I knew this before I started, but I have this hope that it will intrigue him to actually look at the work involved and feel the texture with his finger. He wants to "do" Art so this was the right yarn, even if it seems wrong. That's my story anyway!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tilda and Toast

Every year about this time there is a Sunday supplement article (or two) on the latest Toast collection, with lots of “lifestyle” pics of country farmhouses and windswept moors. Co-incidentally, there also seems to be seasonal trend to interview Tilda Swinton, and picture her in equally wild landscapes – once, she was wearing the latest Toast collection! So Tilda and Toast are inextricably linked in my autumnal “wardrobe view” of the world.

While in Beauly I was flicking through said Toast catalogue, full of wist. And it dawned on me that I wasn’t far from Tilda-country – she lives near Inverness, but not on the Beauly side. So when my eye fell upon a blue velvet dress in the catalogue, I thought – that’s it, my wedding dress! Because I somehow felt that a Toast dress would fit my mythical romantic country lifestyle. I would be translucent and graceful, like Tilda! Sadly, however, they had sold out of my usual size, and when the smaller size arrived, I felt like a Stepford wife at a cocktail party – it was too short, had no drape, and did nothing for me. Back in the post to Toast! But it inspired me to find The Dress! Oh my The Dress!!!!! I can’t wait to show you – but I am sorry , not yet!

Meantime, I finished Gretel and attempted a self-portrait. And Tilda is once more brought to mind. The Tilda of Young Adam. Tired, washed out, a bit too thin, grabbing onto hope with a fierce passion wherever she can find it.

Notes to self: get new glasses; get split ends cut; wear make-up when taking self-portraits; don’t show them The Dress until after the 28th December!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Gretelling

At 5pm on Friday I had a sudden gust of inspiration, and downloaded Ysolda’s Gretel beret pattern. I had had it at the back of my mind for a long time, and was suffering from frustration that the yarn for the IK Holiday Gifts spider web beret was so obscure I could not source it anywhere (not even just to gasp at the price and move on)! So, I printed it out, drove home, put the dinner on, and wound the Hipknits organic merino aran that Kerrie so kindly gifted me.



It feels like I spent the whole weekend knitting! I had three dedicated sessions which ended at midnight - I had to give up last night , just four rows short of finishing – pah! But I couldn’t keep my eyes open for another second.

It was an absorbing knit! The yarn is buttery-soft and the colour is sort of crushed strawberries / coral pink – I highly recommend it if Kerrie has some in her shop! I am in awe of Ysolda for the care with which she worked the decrease rows into the cabling so that the cables actually carry the shaping - very clever indeed!
I made the slouchy version, and as I knitted, it was the size of a toddler's jumper, done in the round. This was a bit of a surprise as I think of hats as small, quick knits. It also took more than one 100g skein of yarn. Luckily I had two - I think I have enough left for a set of Fetching to match the hat. I had to steal my 4.5mm Denise points from my pine cones project, so it was essential not to leave this project half-done, or I would be stuck with two UFO's.

This one is a Christmas present. But I want one for me! It will be really warm and can accommodate big hair. I want a purple one!
On the left is Pine Cones in progress - a bit of sunshine makes such a difference!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Halloween

Knitting was interrupted by the requirement to produce a scary fairy costume for my daughter’s school disco. For three weeks I have been asking what she wanted to go as, and was fobbed off with vagueness. The night before last, the night before the party, she announced that she would go as a scary fairy…. and all she had to wear was a set of wings (from our fabulous funky Aunty over at fairyfancies!) and MY Tomb Raider-style boots!

So I set to with a metre of lining material, and rustled up a lilac slip dress with fronds of black and lilac raggedyness at the bottom. Thanks to the Japanese pattern base, it has a certain pizzazz. Who knew you could put elastic into the lower spool to produce a line of stretchy gathered stitching below the chest?! I will do that again! I just had to get home in time to do the Amy Winehouse make-up / hair – only to find that we couldn't find the make-up. So she was a fairy with a bit less of the scary.

Ravelry has led me to another fab sock pattern that is calling my name – the I Love Gansey at the Six Sox Knitalong. This will absolutely definitely be what I use the Natures Palette for, Roo! And soon!

Trying NOT to sign up for the Socktopus Sock Club, though I am severely tempted. Clever to have different grades of luxuriousness – you can be a cheap skate (well, not exactly cheap…), spoil yourself a little, or spoil yourself a lot. And so near Christmas!

A quick audit reveals that I have not achieved much from the Christmas knitting list I set myself. Oops! So I really need to get back to that. The essentials are: socks for my son, fingerless mittens for my daughter (have you seen the Kyla pattern?) and socks for FL. My mother? Errr… maybe some gloves? The Gauntlets from IK Holiday Gifts? It’s not going to happen, is it? It is NOVEMBER, people!

And still the yarn calls to me! I looked through my stash on Ravelry (hooray for Ravelry!) and see I have some really lovely yarn waiting to be knitted – the Bearfoot, the Fleece Artist – the STR for goodness’ sake! And what do I do? I ogle self-striping German multi-packs at Ebay and fantasise that I could knit vanilla socks (or should that be raspberry ripple in view of the stripes?) for the whole family for Christmas – WHY?! Because it is simple, and requires no thought whatsoever – tsk!