Friday, November 30, 2012

In Search of Natural Light

These past few weeks, I have been knitting and reading with an Icelandic theme.  I am still reading "Names for the Sea:  A Stranger in Iceland".  The author spent a year teaching 19th century English literature in Iceland.  But she hardly ever writes about that.  Mostly she writes about the absence of fruit and vegetables and how strange it feels to be "a foreigner". 
Now, Iceland is a place I have always had on my "must visit" list.  But the threat of a 3-day journey by ship over rough seas followed by the torture of a diet of cottage cheese and dried fish?  Um... no thanks!
Except... maybe it's not really like that.  There doesn't seem to be a ferry from Aberdeen anymore. I would have to fly to Copenhagen  and then to Reykjavik.  Expensive and complex, but at least sea-sickness would not be an issue.
Continuing on the Icelandic theme, last weekend I picked up a copy of Knitscene and devoured an article by Cirilia Rose about a gathering of the knitterati in Iceland.  There's more on her blog. She talks of boutique shopping and wonderful hot chocolate and amazing yarn, set in an awe-inspiring landscape. With Jared Flood, Stephen West, Ysolda Teague.... the whole gang was there!  That's more like it! If I ever win the Lottery (unlikely, as I never buy a ticket) I will go on a Knitting Iceland holiday.
I see that Cirilia has also written a piece for the latest issue of PomPom.  Has anyone seen this?  Is it worth £9.50?
So I returned to "Names for the Sea" with a more circumspect eye and read a little deeper. Isn't it funny how you trust your narrator?  Maybe Sarah Moss isn't like me after all!  Maybe we wouldn't get on if we met in real life!  Or maybe she was just rather depressed.  I wouldn't blame her:  two young children, a new job, living in an unfamiliar country in the midst of an economic crash with a volcano erupting down the road.  Yeah, that could get to you! 
She writes of the absence of daylight in winter.  As if this was unusual.  And I realised that even within the UK our experience of light is very different from North to South.  Talking to The Girl on Sunday, she was shocked to hear that there had only been daylight between about 10am and 3pm that day in Aberdeen.  She said someone at school had asked her if it was darker in the North and she hadn't really known.  Yes.  Yes, it is.
Other things about Icelandic living rang loud bells for me - the prevailing driving style:  too fast, too close,  in big cars, with zero use of mirrors or signals. Sarah Moss's reaction to this was to stay indoors, avoiding driving wherever possible.  Yup.  That's me.  Only to discover she had spent almost a year in Iceland and seen nothing beyond the domestic and working realms?  Yup.
And the local attitude to money among those of working age? The same.  There are very few second-hand shops in Aberdeenshite, unless you mean charity shops.  People buy new and throw away last year's model. Interiors are cream-carpeted and glossy.  Children here do not wear patched hand-me-down clothes like the middle-class kids of London, they have the latest designer labels.
Remoteness, insularity, over-inflated consumerist expectations and debt:  that's what Iceland and NE Scotland have in common!
And yet, there must be pockets of resistance here, as in Iceland. I just need to find them.
Until then, I have blogland.
And this last week, with an office unexpectedly to myself, I have spent my lunchtimes listening to knitting podcasts while knitting - wow!  Creativity in the workplace!  This is a whole new realm of knitterly exposure!  I recommend Student Knits (UK) and A Playful Day (UK) and also enjoyed an episode of Dramatic Knits (USA).
And with the exciting news of a one per cent annual payrise, back-dated to 1 August I am treating myself to a glorious necklace (as seen on Attic 24).
To hell with Burgundy! (Or Reykjavik.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

FO: Geysir Stretch Shawl by Stephen West

Here is my first Choreo KAL project, the Geysir Stretch Shawl.

It was an absorbing piece of knitting and is an interesting object of knitted architecture... but I am not sure that I love it as a garment.

It is happiest at rest as a spiralling swirling twirling pattern of stripes and snail-shell patterning.

But when I pick it up and try to arrange it around myself?  I don't know what to do!  Half of it plays nicely and drapes across my shoulders in the normal way, but then I come to swing the remaining length round my neck and I feel suffocated by ruffling frills.  It's very... Pierrot style?

And where has the pink gone?  That amazing Radioactive Raspberry Jam colour is muddied by the fluff from the teal stripes and the whole thing becomes rather dark and murky.

Reviewing today's photos, I can see it looks OK over my coat.  And worn that way, the fluffy Longwool doesn't irritate my bare neck.  So I will definitely wear it, just not indoors.

But I am feeling a tiny bit deflated.  All that work for a great big fluffy (itchy) asymmetric ruffle?

And this is the problem with knitting:  because you are creating a textile, so much depends upon your gauge, your needle size, your choice of yarn.  Unless you use the same yarn and gauge as the designer, you are taking a risk that your finished object will turn out looking entirely different from the original.  It will drape differently, it may have different proportions.  And unless you are familiar with the properties of your chosen yarn, it all feels a bit arbitrary.  Which is exciting... when it works!  Less so when it doesn't.

Stats:
Pattern: Geysir Stretch Shawl by Stephen West
Yarn:  DK Wensleydale Longwool:  100g in Radioactive Raspberry Jam colour from Countess Ablaze and 100g each of teal and aubergine from the Sheep Shop, purchased online from Baa Ram Ewe

Process:  My yarn felt thinner than a normal DK so I changed my needle size down to 4mm from the recommended 5.5mm.  So I had to work two extra repeats of Section 2 to reach  similar dimensions to the original. 
But this meant I had an enormous number of stitches on my needles by the time I reached Section 3.  I had to add two extension cables to my Denise circular needles to accommodate the extra stitches, and inevitably an over-energetic stitch-shuffling movement resulted in a disconnection and approximately 200 stitches left hanging in mid-air while I mounted a rescue mission with a spare lace needle.  Aargh!
I decided I had had enough after only ten rows of Section 3, which should have been 24 rows long.

Verdict?
I think I should have used bigger needles to give better drape and a more open "weave".
I might block it, to see if I can stretch it into submission. 
I hadn't expected to do this to a stockingette shawl.  I usually only block lace.  But maybe it is necessary to sort out the ruffles.

I don't see Stephen West wearing a tutu round his neck, so neither will I!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Birthday Giveaway Winners

And the winners of my birthday giveaway are...

Drum roll please, maestro....



Knitting Nature goes to Mrs Alex (I need your email address please!)

The Japanese Knitting book goes to Suvil 

The Colette Sewing Book goes to Charm of Magpies

and...

Stylish Dress Book goes to Sabs

Thank you to everyone who entered.  I wish you all could have won!

In case you were wondering how I chose the winners, all the names went into a Humpty Dumpty eggcup and FL was persuaded to draw the names.
A totally randomised process, I'm sure you will agree! :D


Sunday, November 25, 2012

FO: The Drafting Top, Volume One


Something Kinda OOOH!
I still can't quite believe that Jill of  ItTerations Workwear has shared this pattern with us!
But I am so very excited and happy that she did :D

Remember how this began?  I blogged that I had seen a gorgeous swooshy drapey top and wanted to try to copy it.  Jill got in touch and offered to make the pattern available to me and my readers through her Etsy shop. That was just a month ago.  The pattern listing went live on 12 November and I received my package from California just a week later - wow!

So... what's the pattern like, Roo?

Singing its praises
The pattern itself arrived hand-drawn and cut to shape on sturdy designer's drafting paper.  My first impression was that I had never seen anything like it!  I recognised the sleeves as sleeves but the main garment piece is.... wow!  I could not have come up with this on my own!


The instructions are sent by pdf and are a combination of photographs, line drawings and detailed notes on how to sew your top.  I recommend you read these all the way through before you begin and don't try to do it your own way.  Seriously.  It is easy when you follow the instructions, but without them you would be in peril.

Why?  Because this garment gets its style from an ingenious manipulation of fabric which I have only ever seen before in Japanese pattern books like Drape Drape and Pattern Magic.  Simple when you know how, but your average home-sewer (me!) will not have seen it before.

Without giving away any secrets, let's just say the sleeves don't go where you expect!
Intrigued?  So you should be - it's fab!

Do you have any construction tips?

Yes!

The fabric provided in Jill's kits is super-stretchy and although you are instructed to cut the body on two layers of fabric, I couldn't get it to behave itself,  so cut each piece on a single layer to ensure the pattern was lying completely flat and was on the grain.

Remember to flip the pattern over for the second piece!

You might want to sharpen your scissors for a good clean cut.

You will want a new needle in your machine to avoid snagging the delicate knit.

In fact - get your brush out, clean your cogs and pistons and give your machine a drink of oil.  It will thank you for it.

I used the vari-overlock stitch (number 6) on my Bernina 1008 for everything.

I found it easier not to use pins, but instead lined up my fabric ready to sew and then ran a warm iron along the edges of the sandwich.  This helped the pieces stay together and prevented rolling as I stitched.

The neck is bound with fold-over elastic.  If you haven't used it before it might be worth practicing on a pair of knickers first.

That's all!  The kit fabric requires a bit of careful handling, but it's worth taking your time over.  There aren't many seams and the shape is forgiving of the odd wiggle in your stitching.

Verdict?

Well, duh!  Obviously I love it!

Buy some new slippers, Roo!
The style is amazing and I feel so clever now that I know the secret behind its shape! The fabric is wonderfully soft and light, yet warm to the touch.

It is made for movement.  If ever I wanted to dance it was today when I finished making this top and put it on for the first time.

I chose size Small but it would probably fit someone many inches bustier than me.

Will you make it again, Roo?

Damn skippy I will!

No daylight today.  Even my lips are grey!
If you are UK-based and are looking for similar fabric, I bought some extra-fine black jersey online at Truro Fabrics which will be perfect for Volume Two.  You definitely need a fine knit with loads of drape.  I noticed that Truro Fabrics also sell modal jersey in khaki or pink - that would work really well too.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a shawl to cast off....




Friday, November 23, 2012

Rounding Up My Sheep

Since I started sewing Deer and Doe patterns, and reading more French blogs, I have come across some wonderful expressions.  This week's favorite?  "Revenons a nos moutons", which translates as something like: "Let's return to our sheep" i.e. get back to the original subject. Rejoining the herd maybe? Fab expression!
And as always, explaining why something is funny takes the shine off... um...where was I?

My Drafting Top Pattern and fabric arrived from Jill and I am itching to get it cut and sewn and worn.  I chose the dark grey fabric and can report it feels gorgeous!  I do hope I don't botch it up!  I am looking forward to seeing others appear across the web - do let me know if you make one (or two!).
Darkness at noon meant flash photography - sorry!

I am knitting away happily at my Choreo KAL Geysir Stretch shawl.  I love the colours and the fluffiness of the Wensleydale Longwool, but boy oh boy these rows are getting long!  I added extra repeats to make up for having thinner yarn.  I might have to add a second extension cable to my circular needles.  Gulp.

Socks?  What socks?  I haven't touched my Cambium Socks all week.  This is not good news for the Christmas gift list.

Same story on my Lotus Eater Mitts.  I called them my Opium Eaters last time I wrote - I think I like that name better!

This Friday's new Choreo KAL project is a slouchy hat, Aurora Expanse. The sneak peek shows a lovely textured stitch pattern using gradient-dyed yarn - mmm!
Aurora Expanse inspiration photo from Stephen West
I got totally distracted looking for the ideal yarn on the web.  
I found a farm with the utterly fabulous name "Gawmless End" that sells self-striping natural Jacob sheep's wool, professionally spun so that the natural colours of the fleece blend through various shades of grey - look at this stuff!
Just wow!!
Imagine a great big cabled hoodie  - ooh!
Picture taken from Gawmless End website
But I should not buy more yarn.  Especially not for an extra-curricular hat!  So I dived into the the stash and pulled out some very Aurora-esque yarn.  It is Posh Yarn Daisy in the colourway "Lost Boys".  The Ravelry database claims this is fingering-weight but it seems heavier to me. I reckon it will pass for sportweight.  It isn't a gradient dye, but the colour shifts from green through charcoal to purple and it has a beautiful sheen.

Posh Yarn in Lost Boys:  I have 1 skein of this
I am trying hard to use the yarn I already have before buying more, but I do love the thrill of the chase, imagining all the different possibilities for a pattern.

And then... on Wednesday, I noticed that a free "bonus" pattern from Stephen West had sneaked into my Ravelry library.  It is for a simple but mad hat:  Pom Pom It.  The actual pattern is still under wraps but I spotted it in one of the Choreo KAL videos and developed a severe case of the wanties.  The perfect shade of squishy red ribbing with a little bit of grey marl tweed contrast and a walloping great pom pom?  Woo hoo!
And do I have suitable yarn in the stash?  Um... yes and no.  I could cobble together something that looked kind of similar, using some fairly vile red Rowan Cork... but it wouldn't feel like the original.  It's made of Malabrigo and Blackstone Tweed, people!  Two of my favourite yarns ever!  I am thinking that maybe my mother's Christmas cheque will be funding a seasonal yarn indulgence.  Not furry slippers.  Sorry mum! ; )

OK, that's the sheep back in their pen.  I'm off to knit.  And sew.

P.S. Don't forget to enter my giveaway!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Birthday Thank You Giveaway *NOW CLOSED*

HOW MANY comments?!

Seriously, friends, I am overwhelmed by all your kind wishes for my birthday.  Just lovely!  Thank you!

Still high on a knitterly wave, I have decided to throw a giveaway party.  This is not pure altruism, so don't you believe it!  I have been feeling guilty about the presence of several excellent volumes hidden away in my box of overflow books.  The truth is, they are all wonderful, but they are just not "me". 

Could they be YOU?

First up:  an absolute classic of organic sculptural knitting design:  Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature.  If you haven't seen this book, you are in for a treat!  Norah takes shapes from the natural world and goes for a spin, creating wearable garments out of pure mathematical inspiration.  But don't be scared of the maths!  She has done the sums already - all you have to do is knit!  From a spiralling sunflower beret, through chunky "target" mitts, to textured sweaters and blankets.  It is as much a glorious picture book as it is a collection of enticing patterns.  There's a great interview with Norah here, if you want to learn a little more about her work and ideas.

Next - a real challenge!  This is the Japanese knitting book I mentioned yesterday.  It is part of the Let's Knit Series, but has its title translated in so many different ways it can be hard to locate on the web.  It is on Amazon Japan here.  I found it on Ravelry here.  Lots of beautiful and unusual lace knitting.  If you can read a knitting chart and work a gauge swatch you can probably knit a Japanese pattern.  So why haven't I?  Because really I am not a lace-knitter!  I much prefer cables and colours.

Third?  Something for the sewers.  You see?  I hadn't forgotten you!
You may find this hard to believe, but I am just not a Colette girl.  I am the wrong shape, I can't get excited by dresses (on myself - I love them on other people!) and as much as I loved this when it arrived, I am just not making any use of it, which is a terrible waste.
It's the Colette Sewing Handbook.  I have cut and folded-to-fit the pattern for the Meringue skirt but everything else about this book is "as new".  I expect many of you already have this book, but if you don't, I highly recommend it as an inspirational "how to sew" book with 5 Colette patterns thrown in for good measure.

And finally... a Japanese sewing book.  Stylish Dress Book Volume 2
26 designs, all of them to be traced from the full-sized pattern sheet, with good clear "how to sew" diagrams.  Most of the patterns are for flowing smock-type dresses and tops, all very forgiving of lumps and bumps and avoiding the need to insert zips or work buttonholes.  All styles come in sizes  extra small, small, medium and large, but be aware that "large" is probably only a UK size 14.  However, the shapes are so simple they would be easily graded up - honestly! This would be a great introduction to sewing with a Japanese pattern.

So what do you have to do to win?

Leave a comment on this post, including your email address if you don't have a blog.  Let me know which book you fancy and why.  Even if you only plan to look at the pictures, you have nothing to lose - I won't judge you!  You can enter the draw for all four if you wish!  I will ship worldwide. 

I will close the giveaway on Tuesday 27 November at 5pm GMT.

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Not Drowning but Waving: 48 today

Knitting comes over me in waves.
Sometimes it just laps gently at my toes and I paddle about in the shallows, dipping in and out of socks and hats and the occasional mitt.
On a long summer holiday I might swim a little further and start a sweater project or finish a shawl. 
And then... very occasionally, suddenly something comes over me and I dive headfirst off a high clifftop into deep deep water, trusting my instincts to know that when I emerge, gasping for air, the sun will be shining and the sky will be blue and an utterly amazing piece of knitwear will be blocking on the bright green grass.

This is Keito Dama 156.  You can buy individual patterns here. 

Remind you of anyone?! Though I can't imagine FL wearing a "thumbie" cardi...


Phwoar - patchwork to the max!

Tempting...


Great over loose tops!

Sorry?  I can't hear you!


Great use of self-striping yarn!
I have planned to knit from a Japanese pattern for a long long time.  I even bought a book, back in 2010.  And I stared at it for a while before I carefully replaced the plastic wrapper it arrived in and slipped it into a box of books "to keep safe".

But this last  weekend was all about knitting.  My Stephen West Knitalong Project, the Geysir Stretch shawl, has been compelling and enlightening.  Did you know that if you just keep knitting, the fabric keeps growing?  That tiny triangle of fluff from Friday night is now so big I had to add an extension cable to my Denise circular needles to accommodate an entirely unlikely number of stitches... and still it grows!

And in a break from actual physical knitting, after doing the compulsory stretching exercises, what should I do but look at other knitting?  And one thing led to another and I found myself arrested by a Japanese pattern book.
Remember when Rowan designed jumpers like this?
I tried to talk myself down from the clifftop, but it was no use.  My mother sent me £20 for my birthday, as usual.  I could buy myself a pair of furry slippers as suggested or I could buy an inspirational wonderful Japanese knitting pattern book.  No contest. 

It's on its way.  Prepare for a splash. I hope the water's warm!

P.S.   It's my birthday today.  I am 48. How did that happen?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Geysir Immersion

What more appropriate reading matter to accompany a knitting project called "Geysir Stretch" than a book sub-titled Strangers in Iceland?

My weekend has been a knitterly immersion in the latest Stephen West shawl pattern, part of his Choreo KAL project.

After the usual Saturday chores, I settled down to knit, breaking off only to walk the dog in the top woods.  FL came too.  It's been a while since he felt able to walk through the trees.  The path is often hazardous in the half-light, with unexpected branches plucking at our hats from above and boot laces from below.
And today?  More knitting, more reading. Blueberry spelt muffins and a hot drink.
There is a venison and root vegetable stew in the slow cooker and the house smells of the port and prunes I hid in the depths of the sauce.
If this is winter, I don't mind.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Radioactive Raspberry Jam

It has been a long long week!
I put my mind to Christmas shopping and can report that I am almost done - all without leaving my chair!  And I bought next year's diary!  Truly, I am cooking on the front burner!


Seasonal knitting continues apace.

I finished my Liquorice Twist Gloves.

The left hand is less satisfactory than the right because the twist goes in the opposite direction and is curtailed by the thumb.

Me or the pattern?  I'm not sure.  I got confused.

I thought about trying to alter the pattern to prevent this, but my brain failed me so I knit as I think it was writ and will live with the consequences.


Sock Two of Cambium has a similar design feature - but why anyone would require the rib to twist in the opposite direction on the second sock when all other aspects of the sock remain identical, I cannot fathom.
Being an obedent knitter I tortured myself with 16 rows of through-the-back-loop twists.  SO glad that is over!  But the sock has not progressed much since then, so nothing much to show you.


As planned, I moved straight on to the Opium Eater Mitts - looking good so far.

But... today sees the launch of Stephen West's first Choreo-Kal pattern, the Geysir Stretch Shawl.  I have spent the week agonising over yarn choices.  It requires three colours of double-knitting yarn.  My stash contains two skeins of DK that look lovely together, but I am loathe to sacrifice them to this project when I reckon they are destined to sing solo on something more textural - maybe the forthcoming Choreo-Kal slouchy hat?

Geysir Stretch shawl
So I scoured the interwebs for appealing trio combinations of yarn.  I fell in love with some plant-dyed organic worsted local wool from the States, but the total price scared me, especially with the added risk of a Customs charge.  And it's not "local" if you live thousands of miles away!  So I ditched that plan.

Then I hit upon the concept of drapey, silky Wensleydale longwool and succumbed to a single skein of hand-dyed-in the-UK (from Countess Ablaze) in the shy and retiring colourway "Radioactive Raspberry Jam".  Uh huh.  I plan to combine this with cheaper commercially-dyed longwool in teal and aubergine and possibly black (to make up the yardage via subtle narrow stripes).

If anyone doubts my sanity, may I refer them to my matching trousers.

This week's photo challenge in the Choreo-Kal was to "do the K" (form the shape of a K with your body, or chocolates, or balls of yarn, or...) and this picture is not far off.  I can count it as both my colour inspiration AND my choreographic contribution - yay! ; )

Monday, November 12, 2012

AVAILABLE NOW! Drafting Top Pattern

I can't tell you how fast my heart is beating!

I just opened my email to the news that the Drafting Top pattern is now available - woo hoo!

Jill at ITterations Workwear is making the pattern available to you / me for a limited period only, until 8 December.

And - get this - she has also put together some fabric-plus-pattern packages to give you the opportunity to make a top just like her designer original!

If you fancy the pattern alone, it comes in your size on dot pattern paper, as well as an emailed digital file with photos and drawings showing step by step how to cut, assemble, and sew this easy top. The pattern will work for any t-shirt weight jersey, but not wovens. It requires zig zag stitching, and instructions show how to use alternative stitches for assembly as well.  Get it here.

The kit version comes with white or grey fabric.

The white version comes in medium weight rayon/elastin jersey. Has a smooth hand, and a slight sheen finish. The trim for finishing the neckline is included, a beautiful contrasting pale purple foldable elastic binding. Get it here.

Fabric for grey top is Pale Grey, heathered, slub, medium/light weight rayon/elastin jersey. Has a slightly textured hand. The trim for finishing the neckline is included, a beautiful contrasting pale pink foldable elastic binding. Get it here.


Make this versatile top in your own home!


Jill says:  "It's been a best seller in my collection since its debut last year, and it's no surprise. Flattering neck line, handy pockets, draped style make it perfect for a top on it's own, or as a lightweight outer layer."

And if you don't want to sew your own, but still love the shape, you can buy one ready made from Jill's Etsy shop here  or her website here.

Race you there! ; )

Sunday, November 11, 2012

FO: La Faisane / Paysanne d'Airelle

Bonjour!
J'ai fini coudre la blouse Airelle.

Le tissu est imprime avec les faisans et je suis une paysanne.  Je ne peux pas resister a jouer avec les mots!

 Hello!
I finished sewing my Airelle Blouse.
The fabric is printed with pheasants and I am a peasant.  I cannot resist playing with words!
The Airelle is very versatile and can be worn in many ways:

 Innocent log-gathering style.
 Cheeky leaf-kicking style.
 Suitable-for-the-office style.
Stats:
PatternDeer & Doe Blouse Airelle , size 36
Fabric:  Vintage Viyella wool / cotton mix, 1 metre of pheasant print, 80cm of navy / white pin dot, both from the same seller on ebay.  Total cost = £12.65
Other: Interfacing for collar and cuffs, thread - all from stash.

Process:
Absolutely straightforward. 
I cut out the size I thought would fit and it does.  It is possibly a little wide across the front neck, but I like it.  There is no strap-exposure, which would be the only worry.
I used pheasant-print for the body and cuffs and dot-print for the sleeves and collar.  This was the only combination I could make work with the available fabric.
There was no instruction to gather the sleeve-tops but I found it necessary to make them fit.
And I decided to sandwich the sleeve edges into the cuffs rather than leaving a visible seam.
Other than that?  Sewn as written.

Verdict?
I really like it!
I was slightly worried that the print was too "hunting, shooting, fishing" and I kept wondering if my remnant fabrics had another life as a pair of Hooray Hamish's pyjamas.
So I decided to try out a few different outfits.  I like it best with the shorts and a narrow belt.
And it works well with the gold cord skirt too.  They balance each other well.
But the tweedy skirt may be too conservative.  I am straying into Royal Deeside with that look.
I am a Donside girl!
(For those who don't know, Aberdeen is built between two rivers:  the Dee and the Don.  The Dee to the South is where the Queen lives.  The Don to the North is where I live.  I am a peasant.)

Friday, November 09, 2012

Joining Things

As a child, I was a huge fan of Elizabeth Gundrey's books.  They had titles like: "Collecting Things", "Growing Things" and... "Joining Things".  All three books were full of the joys of participation.  I knew that if I grew up to be a person who had collections, a windowsill heaving with plant-pots, and membership cards for lots of interesting societies, my life would be complete.

And then what happened?

I gave in to my introverted nature, shut myself in my room with a pile of books and fell in love with an unsuitable man.  Silly girl.

But every so often, I give myself a shake and try to get "out there".  Birthdays have this effect on me. It's the fear of finding myself living alone in chaos with lots of cats... each year brings me a little closer.

So what have I done about it?

In the past week I have joined three things - woo hoo!

I re-joined the Skein Queen Yarn Club.  I was a member last year at the same time and received a skein of beautiful hand-dyed yarn once a month for three months, with an accompanying reading inspiration suggestion.  Each colourway is inspired by a novel, and I have always been surprised by the selection, which I would never have chosen for myself.  It has led to some fascinating encounters at the local village library!
I like to think that the combination of new yarn / knitting inspiration and exposure to unfamiliar literature has the potential to make me a more interesting person.  I have given Skein Queen reads as presents and book-based conversations have followed.  It's not quite like being in a Book Group, but it is a step in that direction!  Last year's yarn (1) made a lovely gifted hat, (2)inspired a design-attempt (which failed, but still...) and (3) was gifted as a kit to inspire a knitting friend.

My second piece of "joining in" is Stephen West's Choreo-Kal.
I have always harboured an urge to dance.  Sadly, I have done nothing about it.  A few desultory home-exercise dvd sessions in front of the TV three times a year will not transform me into Darcey Bussell or Beyonce.

The Choreo-Kal provides the subscriber with 4 Knit-Along patterns, each one accompanied by a series of exercise suggestions and fun videos to watch on you-tube.  Go on - watch this, it's fun!

A gimmick, you say?  Yes, of course it is!  But it is an inspired gimmick which might actually get me moving again.  And if not, I am still going to knit 4 Stephen West patterns:  a slouchy hat, sassy legwarmers (oh yeah!), a chunky funky scarf and a colourwork shawl.

It all kicks off on 16 November with the colourwork shawl. I am supposed to select my colours from a photograph of my environment.  I will aim to avoid mud brown and slime green.

And finally... drum-roll please!  I have booked myself in to a gathering of knitters in January.  Actual human interaction, on the theme of knitting!  Woot!  I have lurked around Natalie The Yarn Yard's virtual garden shed on Ravelry for years.  I have met up with a few other members here and there, but this will be my first trip to Shedfest.  Shedfest!!! 

FL is bemused, not least by the news that I will be spending the night in a convent. 

Yay - look at me!  I am a joiner-inner! ; )