Yesterday I was reading how Mustaa Villaa uses knitting as a stress-buster, finding different projects appropriate to different areas of worry in her life. Sounds good to me! So I have decided to cast on for several projects at once, to focus on process rather than product for a while. I am hoping this will lead to a more contemplative approach to my knitting and my life. I am sure there will be times when something grabs me and I knit knit knit away until its finished, but I am expecting that there will be bigger gaps between FO’s as I knit a few rows here, a few rows there, according to the kind of knitting I need at the time.
The sources of my stress won’t surprise you. A teenaged son in an important exam year. A daughter hovering on the brink of teenage-dom. FL’s illness. House, work. Some things are bigger than others.
I have become so accustomed to saying FL is “fine”, that the sudden realisation that he’s not has brought me up short. Last night he admitted to me that he is in a lot of pain. He says his back feels like it did before his diagnosis (Multiple Myeloma). He says he wants to be able to feel the pain so he knows what is going on, but I really think he needs to start taking painkillers to be able to cope with the day to day.
He has had some unfortunate mood swings / irrationality, for which he has apologised. The apology was what alerted me to there being something really wrong. He had shouted at my daughter for changing TV channel at the pre-agreed time, telling her that she had no need to watch the 3-minute long introduction to Masterchef as she had seen it before and to change back AT ONCE! And that he had timed the introduction a million times and it was always three minutes long. We stared at him in disbelief. He repeated himself. I told him he was being ridiculous. He stormed out. (N.B. he is a very rational, calm person and he had told her she could change channel only a few minutes earlier.) The next day, my daughter told me he had later gone to her room and apologised to her for his “childish behaviour” – what?! Unheard of!
There have been wakeful nights and a lot of sleeping in his chair during the day. The absolute barometer is his golf. Snow closed the course for two weeks, but he has struggled to resume his usual routine since then: he now admits he is too tired and it is too painful. I have booked us a Highland holiday for Easter and he is the one saying that it feels like a long time ahead - too far ahead to be making holiday plans. Ever had that feeling that the rollercoaster is reaching the top of its climb, just before the big drop…?
So… knitting. First up: something Simple but Effective. You didn’t see that coming did you? Neither did I!
These are Court Line socks from the Loumms Year of Socks. Cast on on the 11th January and completed on the 25th February. Interrupted for Loppem, but even so… somehow these socks seemed to take forever. Maybe I am just getting impatient in my old age. I think it was the cabled rib on the front panel that did for me, particularly as my RSI is causing trouble at the moment.
The stats: Malabrigo sock yarn in “Persia” colourway, knitted on 2.5mm dpns. I opted not to change down to 2.25mms as suggested in the pattern. They are only 68 stitches round and I was worried that they might not fit FL’s ankles, but they are fine – hooray! The yarn is very soft and has a subtle gleam, which gives good stitch definition despite the dark colourway. There was one area of dodgy plying, but no breaks (which I have heard can be a problem with Malabrigo). I am not convinced they will be very hard-wearing but there is plenty left over for darning.
In summary: they look great! And it is definitely a very man-friendly pattern. Another Loumms winner!
Yesterday at work I received a text from FL: “12 fish pies arrived. In fridge.” Eh?! Fish pies? Through the post?! Eew!
It had me puzzled for a while. And then it dawned on me that this was not the result of a dazed late-night Ebay accident. It was simply a case of wholesome recycled packaging – phew!
You can imagine the relief when I opened my box of freshly-chilled ... bowls, cups and saucers!
We were down to our last three bowls. There are four of us. This was not a good situation. I looked in all the obvious places. Do you know the price of your average high street cereal bowl? And even at Ebay, people were paying silly money for chipped Habitat pottery (why?!) I had all but given up hope and resigned myself to an afternoon trawling the charity shops, when I fell upon some treasure.
A set of six 1950’s / 60’s bowls: one large and six smaller, with a very low current bid. I stuck in my laughable bid with little hope of success. And again for the matching tea cups and saucers while I was at it. Result? I won! So for the price of one and a half John Lewis cereal bowls, I have 7 bowls, three cups and saucers and a side plate – woo hoo!
They might not be collector’s items, but they are definitely “vintage” and have far more character than brand new. I wonder if there is a matching teapot…?!
By the way... I do still knit. The final toe of the final Court Line sock awaits me this evening. And not a moment too soon!
At the end of last week, I made an impulsive purchase of the latest Clothkits skirt kit "Ruby". It was cut out and sewn before I had time to change my mind!
The Press Release suggests it has something in common with the dress Lily Allen wears in the video of her latest song... except she has empty frames on her dress and this skirt has frameless photos.
The images are from 1935: Epping, Sidmouth, Henley... FL took one look and snorted something about the English middle classes and that this skirt had absolutely nothing to do with me or my heritage, and why was I flaunting somebody else's family album - especially such a privileged one?
OMG I had not thought so deeply about the political ramifications of a skirt's print! That will teach me not to impulse buy! Cherry cake and (lashings of) ginger beer anyone?!
However, class struggles aside, I have a new skirt and I love it.
Easy to sew, now available up to a size 20 - if you have never sewn a skirt, the Clothkits cotton poplin prints are a good place to start.
But make sure you have a new needle for your sewing machine as the weave is pretty dense: many of my pins failed to pierce it.
I am still knitting FL’s Court Line socks. There was a couple of dropped-stitches following a glass (or two) of wine – oops! But I hope to finish the pair this weekend. I have reached the grumpy stage now – I just want them finished. For no good reason. I’ve just got tired of knitting them.
I am all fired up for more sewing after the wide trouser success. (Thanks to everyone who commented!) I have a slightly-narrower-legged pattern I might be able to use for the black cavalry twill. But at the moment it shows a Velcro fastening at the fly. Ah the early 1990’s were such fun! Do you remember the “Utility Urban Sport” look of drawstring trainers with toggles, “microfibres” and Velcro everywhere? There is something strangely disquieting at the thought of a rapid-release Velcro crotch. Quite apart from the sound effects! So I need to adjust the pattern to accommodate a zip. I might put it in the side seam again.
I also have that 1970’s Betsey Johnson dress pattern (I showed you on Wednesday) to try out. I bought it for me, but when it arrived I discovered it was a child’s size – the ebay seller didn’t mention this! Luckily, my daughter is intrigued. She doesn’t own a skirt, let alone a dress, and rather fancies a gothic-lolita number. This pattern definitely has that potential in the right material.
My knitting plans are unfocussed. A purple tweed Back-to-School vest. Goldengrove socks. O W L S. Sylvi. Staccato. Mittens. Who knows?!
Have you ever noticed how some individuals appear to be stuck in a fashion time warp? I am not condemning this practice, before you tell me off! For some, it is simply that they stopped buying clothes 20 years ago and wear what they have. Others somehow manage to source replicas of a bygone style they either loved or can’t see beyond. In this category I would cite a wardrobe mistress I knew, who wore maxi skirts and high-necked blouses well into the 1980’s. It was a real shock when she gave them up!
But I have noticed another phenomenon. Some people just appear to belong to a different era. There is a chap at work who is a Regency gentlemen. His hair always looks like he stepped out of a period drama, his trousers are virtually breeches, though he thinks they are chinos. His ties are practically cravats. And I don’t believe it is deliberate! Another female colleague has the bearing of an Edwardian lady. She always has short hair and tailored trouser suits, and yet gives the impression of wearing floor-length gowns, bustles and corsets! Another girl is emphatically from the 1930’s: longish floppy skirts, unstructured bohemian jackets, Isadora scarves. Myself? I think I have something 1970’s going on. The long hippy hair, lots of textile textures, embroidery, appliqué, buttons and beads. Wide hemmed trousers over chunky shoes.
With the kids away, I was determined to grab some sewing time.
The pair you see here are not in the material intended! I wanted to use black cavalry twill, but when I laid the pattern pieces out, it was clear that one metre was not enough. Talk about wide legs! This pattern (New Look 6190) has super-wide legs! The pieces wrapped round my 60-inch wide fabric - leaving nothing in reserve for the waistband. So I went back to my stash and extracted two metres of grey wool / lycra (97/3) mix, which I had intended for a swishy skirt from the same pattern.
The fabric is lovely - very soft, with just a touch of stretch. It is an almost-black charcoal in real life. The pattern includes plenty of "ease". I made a size 12 and I think it was the right choice: 10 would have fitted but these are not meant to "fit"!
The only tricky bit was avoiding catching the belt loops into the edge-stitching at the waistband. The side-seam zip was painless. I think I may have got over my fear of making trousers! Obviously I should have pressed the hem before I got FL to take a photo - oops!
My fear of home-made trousers is justifiable. When I was 11, my mother made me a pair of electric blue polyester knit trousers (it was the 70's - cut me some fashion slack, girls!). Unfortunately, she used the wrong needle for a knit fabric, and the stitching didn't "catch". But we didn't realise this until I wore them to school next day, sat down.... and ripped my trousers right round the crotch, exposing my navy M&S knickers to the whole class. OMG - the shame!
I double-stitched the seam of these, just in case!
P.S. If you want a pincushion like mine, keep an eye on Kate's blog. She is going to publish a tutorial soon!
On Friday, FL wanted to take the kids to the ski-slopes. It was something he had done with his own children and wanted to share with mine.
So we drove for two hours and arrived at the winter resort town in time for lunch. But the cafe queues were too long, so we set off for the slopes, to meet a notice: "Car park full. No ski or board hire." Back to the town.
We tried everywhere. Every single set of skis and snowboard was gone. Clearly everyone else had had the same idea as us.
So we bought two sledges... and drove home again.
We stopped at a wool shop in Aberlour on the way - hooray! And I was tempted by Drops Eskimo for Sylvi.. but they didn't have enough. So I bought some alpaca for mittens instead. More of that another day.
Speaking of mittens... this is what happens when you use your hands as brakes when sledging. Gulp.
I spotted this Cascade 220 in Sussex Yorkie's "trade or sell" stash at Ravelry. Dark purple tweed? Exactly what I wanted for a Back-to-school Vest (from "Fitted Knits".)
I have collected the book from the library. But I need to knit some socks first. Back to Court Line for FL! I finished the first one last night. And then it is definitely Goldengrove socks for me.
However, my daughter noticed that the Staccato hoodie pattern is now available... and I did make a rash promise when we first saw this teen-friendly-knit! Hmmm. She is keen on the last seven colours of plant-dyed aran on this page. Her handwarmers in this yarn have been worn every day since I knitted them and are showing no signs of wear and tear. And I reckon the leftovers would provide hours of fun for colourwork hats / mittens for next Christmas!
However, I just realised that the boy-version of Kirsten's hoodie is knitted from Cascade 220 Heathers... and my daughter's favourite colour is purple. I suspect that I have stumbled on a cheaper option! That's the back-to-School vest back down the queue I suspect!
The excitement of snow is wearing a little thin now. My car is still incapacitated at the end of our farm road... because the doors are frozen shut. We tried squirting anti-freeze on the locks and round the doors, but to no avail. Then we tried hot water. Nope. Don't tell me to try a hair-dryer as we don't have a 300-metre-long flex to reach from the house to the road end! So FL has had to drive me to work this week, as well as ferry children around when the school bus failed to turn up. We left home at 7.30am and I was still late for a 9am meeting. Work should be a 20-minute drive away. Sigh.
The kids have a half-term break for the remainder of this week and the first half of next. They are off to London for part of it, so I will have uninterrupted craft time this weekend - woo hoo! Will I finally get the sewing machine out and make some work trousers?!
Last night, FL and I went to the New York Metropolitan Opera House to see "Lucia Di Lammermoor"... well, not exactly - it was broadcast live to the Belmont cinema in Aberdeen and we went there!
I was rather reluctant to make the journey. This is what our farm road looked like, and further snow was forecast. FL spent a long time digging and sanding to get his car over the hill to the main road. Mine is still the wrong side of the snowdrift!
It was an interesting trip. Strange to watch a theatre performance in a cinema! Even stranger to have a hyperactive presenter interviewing the singers just seconds after they left the stage. But it was fascinating to watch the scene shifters in action. I hope I will not be judged a philistine for finding this the best part! My previous knowledge of opera comes from set-painting at University, so it amused me to watch a girl running up to the scenery in the interval and repairing it with masking tape, before re-painting the scuffed gold leaf!
The drive home was hairy. We came out of the cinema into a blizzard and had to creep along at 10 miles an hour through the city. By the time we got to the country roads, visibility was nil and the car was slithering all over the road. We made it to the end of the track, where we abandoned the car and trudged home in our wellies.
Would I do it again? Preferably NOT in a snowstorm! But FL made it known that seeing this opera was on his list of things to do before he dies. I didn't have the heart to refuse.
Today we are snowed in! There are drifts across the farm road and when we walked down to the "main" road it was not much better.
So I sewed some buttons onto Loppem and gave it a quick press for a photo shoot in daylight. It is still a bit "wavy" down the front, but I am hoping this will improve as I wear it.
The buttons are dark navy wood - I found them in Granny's button box. I had almost decided to buy expensive shell ones from Fyberspates when I came across these. Phew! Inevitably, I would have been seduced by more sparkley sock yarn to make the postage worthwhile!
Plenty of work-work to do from home so at least I don't have to book a day's annual leave. But I wish I had bought some milk yesterday. Black coffee anyone?
As my daughter remarked, I seem to have been knitting it forever. Even though it has been less than two weeks! There might be a cable at each end of the very long needle, but there was nothing to keep me interested in between. Remember, I am a “thrower”, so plain speed knitting is not my forte. The only saving grace is that, being knit in one piece, there is no sewing up to do – hooray!
If you are thinking of knitting this, or anything else from NG Volume 3, I would advise you to keep checking the errata on a regular basis. It had changed since I printed it out, and there was even more guidance to be found on Ravelry. (How did we manage before Ravelry?!) So although it is not a difficult knit, it isn’t a pattern I felt relaxed about knitting – I kept thinking I was about to be tripped up yet again by having overlooked an essential piece of advice.
I am at the yoke. So absolutely in the home stretch. 4 rows plus the tiny sleevelets to go. I tried it on last night, circular needle and all, and it curls like a corkscrew. Serious blocking required! And buttons.
This is an elusive colour which shifts from dark blue through to an electric purple depending on the light. Roo suggested wood, but I’m not sure. Maybe old Czech glass? I have seen examples that glimmer with blue through to purple rainbows. Pewter? Or even just grey Bakelite-type material.
I tipped out granny's button box last night and found some shimmering bronze / pink / green shell buttons which aren't bad exactly, but are not perfect. If I had the same thing in blues and purples I would be happier.
Pictures will follow!
I had been hoping for a snow day (i.e.knitting day!) today, but all we have here is rain - pah!
Add a lemon , two bags of preserving sugar, and play with the various attachments on the food processor to squeeze, strain and chop the fruit. Make as much washing-up as possible!
Pour in three pints of water and bring to the boil, simmering for at least twice as long as every recipe suggests, to reach the setting point.
Decant into warmed sterilised jars. Do this before your husband comes home and offers to remove them from the oven... by lifting the shelf out in one sweep, sending them rolling across the floor in all directions.
Remain calm and suggest he might like to read the newspaper.
Add four tablespoons of Drambuie. This is essential! Ignore all requests to "just pour it in". You might want a swig from the bottle yourself at this stage.
Refuse all offers of help to ladle marmalade into jars, unless you want to spend the next six weeks smelling burning sugar every time you turn on the hob. You do? Splendid!
Awake next morning to a relaxed sunny breakfast of homemade bread and marmalade with freshly brewed coffee. Thank your husband.
I live with my First Love in a rural idyll, after a lifetime in exile. In July 2007 he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma: an incurable cancer of the blood plasma. We got married in December 2007. Carpe diem.
There is lots of wind and sky where I live, which blows me away.
I love reading and stitching and creating things.
I have two lovely children, a dog and my First Love.
The Roobeedoo Manifesto, January 2012:
I hereby undertake to make all my own clothing
or purchase it from ethically-minded independent designers.
For now. For always.