Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 - A Year to Keep

I have a plan for 2013.  I won't call it a "resolution" because that's a sure route to failure. 

This coming year, I want to do things "for keeps". 

I was doing my home-filing this morning - one of my most-avoided jobs as it feels too much like work.  In the process, it occurred to me that I was storing my bills / bank statements / receipts out of habit, and that they probably serve no long-term purpose.  I looked around the room and had a think about what I would keep if I was packing my bags tomorrow.  And actually... there isn't much in my home that I would keep "forever".

In terms of furniture, probably only my daughter's dressing table, my son's bookcase, and the kitchen table and chairs.  Jewellery?  My locket and my rings.  Clothing?  The everyday things I wear, mainly self-stitched.  A few photographs.  A few books.  My sewing machine.  My yarn and fabric.  My teapot and cafetiere.  Everything else is disposable.

The criticism that my mother hurls at me from time to time is that I "live like a student", by which she means that I read too much and haven't put down roots.  I haven't nested.  I am perched here, on my northern twig, ready to take flight when the next big storm hits my life.

I haven't got a problem with that.  The accumulation of stuff disturbs me.  But I like to have a small collection of things that matter to me, that I can carry with me when I next move on.  Things that signify home.  So that wherever I end up, I can empty my metaphorical knapsack on the bed and make that place my own.

What I want to do in the coming year is to continue to clear the clutter, to get rid of the excess baggage that serves no purpose in my life.  And at the same time, to collect together meaningful things that I want to keep.

So it's not a year of abstinence and denial.  It's a year of gathering permanence:  sewing good quality clothes that I love, that are "me" and that will stand up to constant wear.  And collecting together the patterns I need to re-create them when they eventually fall apart!  I want to make warm blankets in happy colours:  knitted or crocheted or both.  I want to embroider pillowcases.  Maybe finish my long-languishing quilt.  Make new friends and stay in touch with old ones.  Go places.  Do things.  Write, paint, stitch, be creative.

Happy 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

That In-Between Time of Year

 Yesterday was our fifth wedding anniversary.  FL insisted on (a) wearing his kilt and (b) keeping it on all day even though his knees must have been freezing.  I have no words.
Equally stubborn, I have kept on knitting an Acorn Mitt (from Issue 15 of Knit Now magazine) even though my Zauberball is not striping quickly enough and it just looks as if I got the cuff dirty.

And there is blatantly a bare patch where an acorn ought to be.  This is what comes of following the instruction "keeping acorns pattern correct..." either side of the thumb gusset.  Would it have killed them to print the whole chart?  I suppose it would have taken up too much space.  Slapping on the grading "Advanced Knitter" is just a trick to make me feel stoopid when I can't get it right.  I expect I will be ripping it back later today.  Herrumph.

 

But look what arrived in the post to cheer me up in my incompetence?  A bar of exciting chocolate all the way from New Zealand! And a copy of the pattern I failed to win in Joy's giveaway?  Far too kind.  Seriously.  Bloggers are the best. 
And now I feel guilty for not showing you other things that have arrived from blog-pals in recent months - but you know who you are and I hope you are feeling all warm and glowing inside because yes, I am talking about YOU! :D
And when I come to use the fabric, the patterns, I won't forget where they came from.
While I am showing my incoming post...
I keep neglecting to blog about my Skein Queen Club yarn.
The November skein is called "Fairy Hoax" and the colour was inspired by the novel The Unseen by Katherine Webb.  I am just about to start reading the book, which I reserved from the library.  I'm not sure what I will knit from the yarn - it looks like it wants to be a delicate shawl.  It has intriguing dollops of Donegal tweediness through it, which makes me think of insects trapped in a spider's web.  In a good way.
This is the December yarn, which arrived this morning.  Look at those colours!  Absolutely gorgeous, merino and silk.  Again I am thinking something shawl-like, but perhaps cabley and oblong... more of a stole?  Definitely inspiring.  I'm so glad I signed up for this club again.

You can tell I'm a bit drifty can't you?  The Boy went home to University yesterday and The Girl goes back to London tomorrow.  We've had a lovely quiet time of it, but I am starting to feel the need to get going on some major project or another.  It's been good thinking time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Deck the Halls With Malabrigo

...tra la la la la, la la la laaaah!

A final post about this year's Christmas knits.
First up, my blatant copy of Stephen West's Pom Pom It hat, except I used Ravelry Red rather than  Sealing Wax red Malabrigo Twist.  This was my Christmas Eve hospital knitting.

So soft, so warm, so much androgynous fun!
I made the Pom Pom on Christmas Day while munching Finnish buns.
OMG Finnish buns!?!  You want the recipe don't you?  It is here.


But what's this?  I haven't seen you knitting that shawl, Roo ?
That's because I didn't.  This gorgeous golden piece of confectionery was a Christmas gift from my dear friend Christine.  Isn't it beautiful? 
Hang on, I'll put down my hat...  look!

 It is knitted from Malabrigo sock and it is the most wonderfully drapey shawl I own!  MMMMMalabrigo!  I can't tell you what the pattern is, because Christine is sneaky and hasn't added the project to Ravelry yet.  I need to take blocking lessons from  Christine - this emerged from its parcel looking like a knitty film-star ; )
How is this for drape?  Just wow!  Thank you, Christine!

And finally...
I finished the Cambium Socks for The Girl.  They are far from photogenic.  But they are black, thick and lacey.  You can't see in this picture (or any other I can take), but the pattern is an absurd twisted rope-like cable with dropped stitches in between the columns.
This pattern was horrible to knit - my tension was all over the place and the finished socks are rather wide and baggy.  But they will help keep The Girl's over-sized creeper shoes on.  And, as I said, they are BLACK.  (Socks That Rock in Shadow, if you are interested.)
So there you have it - the last of the Christmas knits. 
Ooh - what shall I knit next?  Better finish off the WIPs first... I wonder if I can do that before New Year?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas!

The Girl in her Drafting Cardi

Finnish Cardamon and Cinnamon Buns

The Boy with Pike's Mitts and Spirograph

Walking at sunset

"Goth in a field"- her caption not mine!

And a happy Christmas from me too!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Toe Short of Christmas

Last night, The Girl had a dinner appointment in the city with her former schoolmates, so I drove her to the market town to catch the train with them.  On the way there, we noticed a steady outflow of water coming through the garden wall at the gamekeeper's house and the road was a few inches deep with water.  By the time I returned, maybe 40 minutes later, there was a raging torrent.  The road was like a river, over a foot deep, and the gamekeeper and his neighbour were up on the bank opposite the row of cottages with torches, obviously trying to decide what to do.  I managed to drive through... just.  I texted The Girl to get off the train a stop early on her way home, so that I didn't have to drive that way again.  There was flooding in the other direction too, but not as deep or as frightening.  I have worried about the cottagers all night.
As it is, my own bedroom floor is awash.  The rain is pouring through the gable walls as if our expensive building work had never happened.  But I constructed a dam of newspaper, sponges and old towels, and it held overnight.  This morning, we retrieved our old newspapers from the recycling bin at the end of the road in preparation for yet another day of rain.
During a brief spell of daylight, FL and I went down to survey his pond.  Pretty impressive!
This is our new waterfall, coming into the farm off the main road. 
So. Much. Rain.
We got back to the house just before the clouds burst again.
I am just one toe short of Christmas.
Time to knit.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jacket shoes hair... but not today!

"Sometimes I have this desire, this strange desire, for somebody to really tell me, beyond argument and without mercy, exactly what they know about what I am, to ridicule my clothes, to tear apart my tastes, my pretensions, my sentimentality, to take me by the collar and lay it on the line.  I want to burn with that truth.  It's an idle, narcissistic daydream I have."
Gwendoline Riley, Cold Water (p.54)

My first lino print - this year's Christmas cards
Your comments on my recent posts have been amazing!  If you haven't gone back to see what others have written in response to The Image of A Working Woman, I advise you do so now:  so many wise and wonderful words!  And how heartening to find that I am not alone in my quandary!  This explains the popularity of tv programmes like "What Not to Wear" - which I admit to lapping up while simultaneously scoffing, back in the day.

An anonymous commenter really struck a chord when she wrote:

"...really it's just about dialling down some aspects and dialling up other aspects of behaviour not about behaving in unacceptable or unethical ways - a complete personality change is not sustainable, let alone not recommended."

She goes on to say:

"And I second the note about keeping shoes at work - it's how I manage the long walk."

Thank you to everyone who suggested this - what a simple solution to mud!

"Finally, I think the bright scarf with smart dark suit look is really, really aging (and boring). I see a lot of women do it in an attempt to look office appropriate whilst also expressing personality - but it seems to strike in the later 40s and early 50s and it becomes its own uniform whilst also being pigeonholed to a specific age bracket..."

And that is my biggest fear, right there!

Valerie consulted her daughter: "She said three things: Jacket, shoes, hair."
And that sounds like a pretty good focus to start with.

But not today.  Today is all about Christmas preparations.  I finally got round to making cards and posted them at the airport while picking up The Girl.  The Boy arrives today.

Second lino cut experiment - today I will try printing it :)

Someone (male, young, fit) will be sent up the hill tomorrow with a saw to cut the traditional Christmas Branch.  And then there will be decorating and festive baking and no work to worry about until January - woo hoo!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Image of a Working Woman

I did not set out to save money this year, but it is fairly clear to me that my total spend of less than £90 a month on “myself” is pretty low for a working woman of middle years in a middle-management role. OK, I also bought things like nail polish (4 bottles, not used since the summer) and coffee (a cup a day 5 days a week, 44 weeks of the year) but the £1050 annual spend already documented is pretty much the whole story: my total "selfish" expenditure. Most of my reading this year has been from library books.

As a few people commented on my  post about Ready to Wear, it might be time to cut myself some slack and live a little. I haven’t “suffered” by any means, and my love of sewing and knitting has carried me through all the low patches. But yeah, there were some low patches and I sometimes felt like treating myself but didn’t “give in to temptation” because the potential guilt felt worse than the non-specific sadness that sometimes washes over me. Hey – I’m a girl, OK?!

The Financial Position
I am currently earning more than I ever have. I squirrel away as much as possible into my savings account, because I have a plan to move back to England once I am on my own (I'm just being realistic, don't get all soppy on me!) and I know that will be an expensive move.  The house is in a poor state of repair and I will be depending on the sale of the farmland to finance my next home.  I reckon I should raise enough funds to pay for a small terraced house in Hebden Bridge :)
But yes, I can afford to be kinder to myself in the here and now.  That too is an investment in the future!

House for sale in Hebden Bridge.  One day!
The Workplace Wardrobe Quandary
I live in the muddy sticks and have a very hairy dog. But my job is in a fairly formal environment in the Corridor of Power. My appearance is not always entirely appropriate to my role. I find it hard to balance my inner impulse to rebel with the demands of my job.
I have a wardrobe of quirky hand-mades and a navy cardigan of ill-repute, no social life and no professional network.
Is this a sustainable position? I don’t think so. I am rapidly reaching the stage where I will be labelled “eccentric”. FL chuckles and says I am already there, but I think I still retain sufficient gravitas in the workplace to step off the slippery slope.
Right now, I am in distinct danger of self-sabotage.  A recent interview was a shock.  I simply don't know how to be a "career woman".
I don't want to be the one who takes on extra low level tasks just to make themselves indispensible - oops, I already did that!  Quality not quantity should be my aim!
I have agreed to attend a professional conference in March and I am consciously “building my portfolio” so that nobody can deny I look serious on paper.
But I know I that if my job was advertised now, I wouldn't have the necessary skills / experience / qualifications to meet the Person Specification.  It is a classic case of staying too long in one place.  I can do what I am paid to do, but I don't feel like "the specialist" I am purported to be.  Its not just an issue of self-confidence, but I'm sure that's part of it.  No male of the species would admit to this scenario!
So what to do?
What I wore to work today...

Power-dressing
I hate to say this, but it might be time to act like a Grown Up... if only at work.
I refuse to become one of those women in black boxy-jacketted 1990's trouser suits. I used to dress like that ... in the late1990's!  Some career advisers say you should dress like your boss:  to make clear your aspirations for promotion.  But I am not seeking promotion.  I just want to ensure I look like the person I am already supposed to be.
People on the same grade as me are either boxy-suited or Boden-ed, or both.  I have relied on the ubiquitousness (ubiquity?) of the Boden-look as my license to stay quirky.  But my interpretation may have strayed too far into what others would consider to be Weekend Wear... or just plain weird :S

So what's the plan?
As long as I have to live here, I need to hang onto my current job / employer, so I need to pull my socks up a bit.
I do have my good days, when I make the effort to look smart for serious meetings.  I need to do that more often, if not every day.
Scarves are amazing things.  So is jewellery.  Clean shoes should be a priority (a quick glance at my current footwear reveals a tide-mark of mud from walking from the front door to the car this morning).  I need some alternatives to the saggy navy cardi... which probably entails shopping.
For goodness' sake! I simply need to take more care about my appearance:  get my hair cut more often than once every 6 months;  smarten myself up at the edges;  sew more career-appropriate items; and accept that this is probably not the right time to dye my hair purple and wear Doc Marten's. 
Or else... start digging my escape tunnel with a bigger shovel.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012: An Account of my Sewing and Knitting

I have already told you about my spend on Ready to Wear in 2012.
But what about the cost of materials and patterns purchased in the same period?
I kept a note in my diary every time I bought something, by category:

Yarn £150
Knitting patterns / books £50
KNITTING TOTAL:  £200

Fabric £450
Sewing patterns / books £200
SEWING TOTAL:  £650

Does that surprise you?  I thought the two would be more evenly balanced.


KNITTING:
In terms of the investment of my time, I probably spend more time knitting than I do sewing.  Knitting is more easily categorised as "my hobby" than sewing, and the items I knit are less often intended to become wardrobe staples.
So "my hobby" cost me £200 this year - that's peanuts!
I knitted socks, shawls, mitts, hats - accessories mostly.  And they were often gifts.
2012 was unusual as it marked a shift towards knitting more garments:  I made Bettie's Pullover, as well as making huge inroads on a Shalder jacket and getting half-way though a golden vintage-patterned cardigan (which I intend to rip out shortly - it just isn't "Me").
I also sold some of my yarn-mistakes to other Ravelers - the Wollmeise has gone.  I didn't enjoy knitting with it, so why hang onto it just because it is "trendy"?
And next year?  I want to knit more wearable garments, especially cardigans.
Working with my Japanese pattern book (Keito Dama 156) is my Grand Ambition for 2013!
And socks.  More socks.

SEWING:I spent £450 on fabric.  Quite a lot of that is still in the stash, waiting to be used, so you accountants could view that money as capital investment rather than recurrent spend...?
I lost some stash to moths and sold more on ebay.  I am confident that everything in my current stash excites me - and that's a very good thing!

My expenditure on sewing patterns is quite scary, but I recouped some of that by selling unwanted patterns on Etsy.  I haven't really kept up my shop inventory so I am not surprised that my sales have ground to a halt.  I plan to do some listing over the holidays and dispose of the fuglies via a job lot on ebay (which is how the excess "stock" came to me in the first place!)

Blouse Airelle and side-buttoned Kelly skirt

OUTPUT:
So, what did I make in 2012?

Skirts: 7
4 Kelly skirts (in constant rotation
1 Meringue (borderline fail)
Red suspender skirt (vintage, never worn)
Mustard mini (never worn, but I really want to!  I need a confident day!)
Shorts: 2
Both from Pattern Runway Sweet Scalloped pattern, in beige chino and purple velvet  - surprise hits!
Trousers:  1
Grey Lisette Portfolio Pants (in regular rotation)
Tops:  11
2 Renfrews (everyday staples) 2 Drafting Tops (one cardi-fied) 2 Japanese patterns 2 vintage patterns (1 fail, 1 never worn) 1 self-drafted 1 Lisette Souvenir 1 Airelle (worn, washed, worn, washed...)
PJs:  2
Knickers:  6
Dresses: 4
2 Darling Ranges
1 Sureau
1 Pattern Pyramid (vintage fail!)

Well, how interesting!

VINTAGE?
What jumps out at me straightaway is that I hardly ever sew vintage patterns anymore and that I haven't been very successful when I do.  This was something I secretly suspected.

I stopped wearing red lipstick recently too. 

I hate to say that vintage was "a phase" that I have passed through, but it certainly looks that way.  I really really love the rockabilly look on other people, but unless you go for it with a lot of energy, it can look... odd.  I wore my wide-legged trousers and back-buttoned tops a lot in the warmer weather, but when its cold and miserable, I just want to bundle up in warm woolies and not have to worry about messing up my pincurl or smearing my lipstick with my scarf.
Maybe true "vintage"  is just too high-maintenance for me.


Robe Sureau
CONTEMPORARY
But I am absolutely clear that I want to make more:  Deer and Doe, Megan Nielsen, Pattern Runway and Japanese patterns.  They feel like "my style" right now.  I feel more youthful, fashion-forward and individual when I wear those garments.  They have an air of vintage, but they fit in a modern way.  They are comfortable!
I am really excited at the prospect of running up another Airelle blouse and a Sureau dress in the holidays - woo hoo!

Pattern Runway shorts, Souvenir top
CONCLUSION:
My "look" is evolving.  I don't feel stuck in a rut, despite repeat makes of the same few patterns. Sewing is still an exciting prospect!
But what I DO need to pay more attention to is my image in the workplace...
and for that, you must come back another day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What I Bought in 2012: Ready to Wear


Way back in January, I decided to take a more ethical approach to my wardrobe.  I declared that I would avoid the High Street and either: make my own, shop from an ethical source, or do without.
So how has it gone?
Let's start with the hard figures.  Despite taking this pledge, I managed to spend £200 on Ready-To-Wear in 2012.

On what?

3 scarves, all from Uniqlo (2 guest-designed by Orla Kiely, 1 by Laura Ashley) £30
1 cardigan, from Maison Scotch, on sale (the price ticket said it was £140 originally) £60
1 organic denim shirt, from Howies but second-hand from ebay, £10
1 cotton jersey dress, Orla Kiely for Uniqlo, £20
1 pair of shoes, Fly London black suede flatform loafers, £80

All but one of the scarves is in regular rotation.  It is a bright lime green which doesn't quite match the other greens in my wardrobe.  I might re-sell it on ebay (the Orla Kiely label makes this possible).  I do not regret buying the other 2 as they lift my outfit on many a grey day and keep the draughts off my neck in the office.  I am still conflicted about the ethics of buying from Uniqlo, whose CSR pages confuse me more than they enlighten me, but I knew that Orla K had worked with People Tree, which suggests to me that she is ethically-minded.  But these are just excuses for woolly-mindedness.
Could do better, Roo. 

The cardigan... oh good god the cardigan of ethical screwed-upness!  I wear it almost every work day and some weekends - I'm not kidding!  It is warm and soft and comfortable but it is getting rather bobbley and shapeless after 4 months.  Thank goodness I didn't pay full price.  But am I expecting too much?  It has been worn on upwards of 80 occasions (assuming approx 5 wears a week over 4 months).  I haven't yet dared to wash it (um, yes I admit it might be time to think about that!)  If I had more than one go-to cardi, they would last longer.  That's obvious.

The denim shirt.  I love this!  I wear it most weekends, layered up over jeans or shorts and tights, over tees and under my cardi.  It is an ethical brand, beautiful quality and was worth every penny.  GOLD STAR!

The Orla Kiely dress.  I bought it in September and like the denim shirt, it is homewear staple.  It goes on over jeans, under the denim shirt and the ethical cardi and a warm scarf / shawl... and I feel like the epitomy of boho chic when I wear it, which is pretty good going for "at home" wear!  Ethics? As above under "scarves".


And the shoes?  Oh dear, I was afraid you would ask.  They are too big.  I wear them maybe once a fortnight and bow my head in shame as I hear the echo of my feet slapping along the corridor.  I bought the smallest size (EU 37) and they ought to fit, but even with thick hand-knitted socks they slip off.  And yet... they look funky (IMO) and are really comfortable.  So I am persevering and try to walk slowly down the Corridor of Power so as not to attract too much attention to my flipper feet.  Sigh.  And ethics?  I have no idea.  I have not stopped to consider whether there are affordable ethical shoemakers out there.  There's a confession for you!
So what does all this mean?

That even given an outrageous level of circumspection before a purchase, I made some mistakes this year.
Wearing everything I bought this year - not recommended!

Fewer purchases make big mistakes feel worse! 
The shoes were the biggest purchase and the biggest regret.  I should have sent them back when they arrived, but I didn't.

I am going to follow this post up with an analysis of what I have made and worn this year and whether there are any items I have made but never worn.  I already know the answer to that: YES!

But more to the point - do my clothes match my lifestyle?
Does my wardrobe work?
And if not... do I need to change my clothes... or my lifestyle?  Whoah!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Storecupboard Christmas

On Friday, I did a very stupid thing. I needed to print off a cheque-paying-in form from my online bank and the only way you can do that is to log in to your account. For some reason, I stubbornly mis-typed my pass code three times… and locked myself out of my current account.


In my head, it is “just one week until Christmas” and I was thinking that meant the end of the month, payday.
Err…. No.
There is a big difference between the middle of the month and the end of the month, financially speaking, and I knew almost as soon as I had done it that I really really needed to shuffle some funds out of my savings into my current account if we were going to buy food this holiday season. And I can only do that online as my bank doesn’t have a local branch office. Oh. My.

Telephone banking? I never did register for that, so I don’t have a security number. Oh. My.

The bank takes 3 to 5 working days to issue new pass codes, and they will now be coming through the Christmas post. So they are pretty unlikely to arrive this week. Oh. My.

No, I don't have a credit card.

So this weekend I bought only essential unavoidable food, resigned myself to having shaggy hair until 2013 (I definitely can’t afford a haircut!) and tried to view this as an opportunity.

I checked the freezer. There is definitely the makings of several Christmas dinners in there! There are two huge lumps of venison that will take at least a week to defrost (better start soon), several stuck-together-in-one-bag ducks, a slab of salmon, a bag of frozen peas and a bag of frozen sprouts. We have a big bucket of home-grown potatoes in FL’s ice-box study. I have flour and dried yeast, so bread is possible. There is dried fruit, so some sort of Christmas cake can be knocked together.

What we lack are mostly things we can do without: fizzy drinks, for one. Chocolate is another.

Yes, I will have to buy fruit.. though saying that, there is a bag of frozen summer fruits in the freezer.

More veg would be nice, though there are some tins in the cupboard: tomatoes, sweetcorn, beans.

Eggs? Yes, you have me there – we need those. Damn, if only we had chickens!

Milk? Yes, OK a couple of pints would be good.

But the point is this – I was on the point of spending something in the region of £100 on a big holiday food shop. And it is not necessary.

I have enough cash in my purse to buy those last few fresh bits and pieces.  And FL can buy dog food with his pension. (I have already confessed.  He laughed.)

And without coming over all evangelical on you, some people have nothing. This is a temporary cash-flow glitch which will actually help me to start the New Year with my cupboards swept clean.  And no fear of temptation from online sales.

Bargain!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

FO: Pike's Manly Mitts

Male model strikes a pose - thanks FL!

It is absolutely laughable that I expected to do some sewing this weekend.

We had some capital W Weather and both gable walls are trickling water down the inside to the pre-prepared dams of newspaper.  But at least it hasn't spread across the floor ... yet.

My weekend food shop turned into a magical mystery tour of the Shire as the roads were flooded in every direction.  I was very glad to get home safely.

Then there was present-wrapping.  And some cleaning.  And some highly therapeutic organising.
Any sewing?  Nope!

But I did settle down with my knitting and finished off Pike's Mitts for The Boy.

Left hand
Right hand
I mentioned before that I had a problem with the chart abbreviations on the left mitt.  Well, there was also a problem with my interpretation.

Spot the difference?

The left-hand mitt has a strong vertical line through the left hand cable.

Its mirror-image on the right hand mitt has a cable twist on top of this vertical line.

What can I say?  Only Allah is perfect?

Stats:
Pattern:  Pike's Mitts by Jared Flood, found in Knit Now magazine (extracted from a book called Knit Local.)
Yarn: One skein of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, bought from Loop London.  As you can see from the tiny leftover ball, I used almost exactly one skein.

Process:
A very enjoyable knit.  Once I got my head round the cables (including juggling two cable needles at the same time as 4 dpns - eek!) I was able to knit and watch tv at the same time.  These mitts are dedicated to Masterchef :)

I like the yarn.  It is soft yet sheepy and comes in a lovely palette of colours.  If it wasn't so pricey I would consider making a whole garment out of it.  Yes, there were a few twiglets in the spin, but most of my knitting ends up with wood-splinters in it (see top photo) so not a problem in this... err... rustic environment!

Verdict:
Very manly mitts for The Boy for Christmas.
I saw a comment on Ravelry that one knitter thought they were too big, but I was expecting them to be man-sized from the pictures of the designer's own pair, which I shamelessly copied, right down to the colour.  Mine differ only in the mistakes!

Would I knit them again?  Yes!  And I might even get the cables right next time!

Friday, December 14, 2012

One More Working Week


Stephen West in his Pom Pom It hat

I'm almost there.  Just one more week at work before Christmas, as my employer has generously granted us Christmas Eve as an extra day's holiday - woo hoo!  Mind you, I will be spending most of that day at the hospital with FL. 

I have decided to save my selfish Christmas knitting for then - my Pom Pom It hat will be my new Waiting Room project.  Something to look forward to!

I still have half a sock and half a mitt to knit before the Big Day.  That sounds achievable!

And this weekend?

My pheasant-print Airelle

I am absolutely itching to sew another Airelle Blouse.  This week, I was delighted to help Eleonore (the designer) by proof-reading the English version of the pattern (translated by the lovely Anna)... so you can be assured that those gorgeous Deer & Doe designs will soon be available for all you English-speaking stitchers - woo hoo!

My close study of the instruction booklet has inspired me to make my second blouse straightaway.  I wore my pheasant Viyella Airelle twice this week and was so pleased with it:  warm enough, smart enough, quirky enough - yay!

That should be my last new project this year (note the word: "should").  After that, I really want to devote myself to finishing all the Works In Progress and making a proper plan for 2013 instead of whim-sying around like a demented butterfly.
Yeah.  Believe that and you'll believe anything!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FO: The Drafting Top, Volume Two, Cardi-fied

On Sunday, I woke up and needed to sew.  I had reached a point in my novel-reading where I thought I might disappear into the book, and I knew that another day spent on the sofa with my knitting would only lead to a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

I consulted my List and decided that it was time to try out a cardi-fication of the Drafting Top pattern.

I used just short of two metres of black jersey from Truro Fabrics.  Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff!  This knit lives up to its description as "extra fine":  so soft, so smooth, so drapey!  But oh me, oh my, it attracts dog hair like nothing else I know! 
Pocket piece, back-lit
Stats:
Pattern:  Drafting Top pattern from Jill at ItTerations Workwear.  Size S.
Fabric:  2 metres black extra-fine jersey from Truro Fabrics, £7.99 per metre.
Other:  Black stretch lace, from a pack of remnants bought via Ebay, maybe 50p-worth.
And the inevitable "I am Half Agony Half Hope" label from Scrapiana on Etsy.

Process:
I followed the instructions for the original Drafting Top until it came to the front seam. I sewed the back as usual, then edged the front and neck edges with stretch lace, using an overlock stitch to secure the raw edge of the knit just below the troughs of the lace scallops, and then running another row of stitches along the bottom edge of the lace to stop it rolling back on itself. I stretched the lace round the neck edge, but let it relax down the fronts.
I didn't add a closure.  I might think about that - snap fasteners?
Before application of pockets, hairbrush or lipstick
I was nervous about the pockets. I was worried that three layers of fabric would pucker and warp, and I already knew it was not the sort of stuff to take kindly to un-picking. Initially, I planned to leave the pockets off. But without them, the cardigan fronts were looking strangely bare and unfinished... home-made looking!
So I changed to a tiny zig-zag stitch to attach the pockets. This worked really well: the stitch had the necessary stretch to cope with three layers of knit without getting caught in the feed-dogs.

Verdict?
Yup!  It turned out exactly as I hoped. 
It is, of course, totally impractical for December in the North East of Scotland, when anything thinner than aran-weight wool leaves me shivering.

But luckily I have a good imagination!
Just imagine... wandering around an art gallery on a hot summer's day.  Suddenly you realise that actually it's quite cool in there, and you need a little wisp of lace-edged drapery to take the edge off the air-conditioning.  And obviously it has to be black, because this is an art gallery, people!  So you reach into your bat-chel* and pull out your Drafting Cardi - ta da!  Instant, wrinkle-free cardi-fication!

Now... I have a wonderful photo of The Girl in an Art Gallery to insert here, but she would be mad at me.  So you will just have to imagine it.  Sorry!

And because it is December in NE Scotland, and there is absolutely no light, you actually can't see what the cardi looks like... so you will have to imagine THAT too.

Roo - you are a failure!
*A bat-chel? What else would you call a bat-shaped bag?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

More Mitts in December

On the needles:  Pike's Mitts for The Boy.
I treated him (OK, myself!) to a skein of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, the yarn for which this pattern was written by the wonderful Jared Flood.  This is the Button Jar colourway.
I try to use British wool wherever possible, but I was intrigued by Brooklyn Tweed.  I thought it might be like Rowan Scottish Tweed, but it is actually much much softer.  It has an almost soapy quality, which gives it a very muted, matte appearance.  Understated, you might say.  Highly suitable for man-centric knitwear.
Knitting these is Cable Boot Camp.  I have never before been asked to deploy two cable needles at the same time!  It didn't help that there was an error in the chart code on that wide left hand cable.  I didn't understand what was going wrong at first, so the first big twist is faulty.  Shrugs.
T3Bp and T3Fp are opposites of each other and the chart code has them the wrong way round.  Once I learned to read the chart without referring to the code, I saw what was wrong.  The chart itself is correct. 
If you fancy knitting these yourself, they are a whole lot of fun.  No sarcasm intended!  I am viewing them as a training project before I set to work with my Japanese knitting book.
 I finished my Lotus Eater Mitts.  A doddle in comparison, even though my colourwork is a bit dodgy.  I tried to be consistent with my stranding, but there are a few awkward vertical strands, where I failed to weave in the spare yarn for the stripes.  I trust the recipient not to turn them inside out and gasp with horror, even though she is a knitter!
Today is has snowed and it has rained.  I didn't make it to the office on Thursday or Friday.  After FL had my winter tyres fitted, my car's electrical system went crazy.  The dashboard is a blaze of fairy-warning-lights and my headlights aren't working.  This happened two years ago under the same circumstances, so the jury is out on whether it is due to FL's driving or the cold weather.  Either way, I am now reliant on him for lifts until we get it fixed (Tuesday).
I am effectively housebound with a pile of knitting and library books.
It could be worse!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

We Interrupt This Post...

...to bring you POST!
Yay - I got mail!
The problem with being snowed in, is that the postman gets snowed out.
And in the weeks approaching Christmas, that is more than a little nerve-wracking.
But today, as I was sitting at the kitchen table working on a report about smelly toilets and round-bottomed sinks (my life is nothing if not glamorous), there was a rattle at the door. The dog erupted, and who should I find on the doorstep but the Royal Mail-man.
He must be new!  He had left his van at the end of the track and hiked over the snow-laden hill with our post.  They never do that!  Usually I find my mail days later, unceremoniously tied to the wheelie bin with an elastic band.  This informal arrangement does not always work, as you can imagine and I was quite worried, knowing that my Japanese knitting book was on its way.
But here it is!  SO exciting!
 That gorgeous jumper with the cabling and fair-isle yoke has beading on it too!  Imagine!

 I mean, seriously, how hard can it be?!  Um....

The postie also brought me a lovely surprise birthday present from The Girl:  Tim Gunn's book Gunn's Golden Rules, and a cruelty-free eyeliner pencil - woo hoo!  I wasn't expecting it, which makes it even more special :)  Thank you, Girl!

AND... and he brought me a blog giveaway win, which I would really love to show you, but I can't because I am giving it to The Girl for Christmas - hee hee hee!  Are you reading this, my dear?  You'll just have to wait and see! ; )  But it's very fab and I have explained to the giver why I can't sing her praises just yet.


I hope to get back into the office tomorrow.  My car now has its snow tyres fitted, after FL sat in the garage queue for 3 hours on my behalf.  It must be love!


I'll close with a picture of last night's knitting progress.  Another Christmas knit nears completion.  These are the Lotus Eater Mitts from Issue 3 of Knit Now.  I used the leftover yarn from my Liquorice Twist Gloves.  I'm really impressed that I was able to knit two pairs of hand-wear from just 3 balls of this yarn.  And it is "permanently moth-proof" too!

Right, back to the urinals...