Tuesday, September 30, 2014

FO: The Neon Mirrorball Cowl

Goodness me!  My last post clearly struck a chord with many of you - thank you so much for all those amazing comments :)
If you haven't gone back to see what other people have written, please do - there are some very wise / funny / honest words in there.  I would sum them up as:  be yourself, dress in all the colours of the rainbow, and sod the lot of 'em :)
Oh...OK then!
Is this bright enough for you?
I have not adjusted the colour of these photographs.
Apologies if I set off a migraine aura ;)
I'm not entirely sure how best to wear a cowl.
This one is 150cm by 16cm.
 It is lovely and warm folded over and worn double-crossed.

 Or just the right size to share with someone special :)

Sartorial issues aside, I love it as a textile.
It starts off with neon dots that transition across to indigo dots.
The overall effect is rather like the dazzle of a disco mirrorball.

 In fact, I think it has its own theme tune... something like the music at the start of the Revelations of a Delusional Knitter podcast (go and listen - seriously, I hear that music every time I look at this fabric!)

Pattern:  The Mirrored Linen Stitch Cowl by Joy McMillan (the Knitting Goddess herself)

Yarn:  100g of Lioness Arts MCN DK in the colour Picking Violets, set against 6-ply Regia Fluromania (that's the sportweight version) - I still have loads of the Regia left because it was a 150g ball.

Needles:  I used 5mm (smaller than called for) to compensate for the lighter-weight Regia.  I got gauge in terms of rows, but it came out bigger in terms of width around the circular needle, which translates to a longer loop of knitting.  I might try blocking it, as it is a little bit wibbley wobbley at the cast on edge.

Process:  A lot of knitting, but a whole lot of fun too!  I was fascinated to see what would happen next as the neon colours progressed.

Verdict?:  The loudest thing I have ever knitted.  It would be shocking worn against my orange coat.
Tempting, very tempting!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Approach to 50: the cold hard truth

I only have 10 rows to go on my neon cowl, but I have set it aside today to respond to recent media coverage of women of a certain age.

 Emma Thompson hit the headlines after the following was published in the Guardian:

Appropriate clothing for a woman over 50 (Fifty Plus Catalogue) - it came with The Guardian
I thought 50 was the new 35?
"Can I just say, very loudly, bollocks. If you look after yourself and you're healthy, then you'll have the energy to do things. But not to recognise getting older for what it is? I do think the infantilisation of our generation is one of the huge issues of our time. People wanting to be 35 when they're 50 makes me think: why? Why don't you be 50 and be good at that? And also embody the kinds of choices that are sustainable at that age."
Suitable furnishings for the Fifty Plus reader
In the same Guardian article, the interviewer observes:
She looks like a graduate student in a Greenpeace sweatshirt, torn jeans, owlish glasses and trainers, her face fresh without makeup – an observation that, after spending an hour with Thompson, one hesitates to make for fear of letting the side down. Still, she is an actor, and pulls another version of herself out of the hat when necessary,
I bet Emma Thompson would wear this outfit at 55 (Plumo)
Meanwhile... over at The Times this weekend, Shane Watson published an extraordinary piece on "How to Look Good Over 40:  The New Rules".  I was shocked to discover that Shane is a woman after reading this comment on over-40s in low-rise jeans:
"Don't care if the area between your tummy button and knicker line is exemplary. Don't want to see that womby outline."
Whooof!  There's a phrase I've never seen before and never want to see again!
Before I realised the truth about what I was reading, she had made me question my own clothing choices over the past 10 years when she wrote:
"40 is the age when women get a boost of positive body dysmorphia.  Get past 40 and you think:  I am hot for 40!  I am wasted in these regular clothes; I am going to get a bloody short skirt and a really filthy low-cut top right now.  This is fine.  Confidence is good.  But ask yourself, why have I not worn this stuff before?  Am I having a Forty Flush?"
Shane is the author of a book called:  "How to Meet a Man after 40"  I won't link to that.  Because everything I read about it suggests it is more of the same sort of girl-on-girl misogyny.
Wow!  That's what I call a womb-covering cardi - love it! (Plumo)
But when you (I) find your(my)self approaching 50, you (I) start to question the image you (I) present to the world.
My perfect armchair - when I am a grown-up I will buy one like this (Plumo)
The chin hair, the yellow teeth, the frizzy grey stragglers, the sagging jowls:  they are all real.  They are not fun things to find in the mirror in the morning.  
That 10-year window between 40 and 50? When it feels OK to wear purple velvet shorts or skinny jeans? That is to be treasured my friends, because one day soon, it won't feel right anymore.
It doesn't feel right anymore.  And I feel kinda lost.
Seasalt dress found on ebay.  Too short for the office?  I wore it anyway.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Neon is the New Black

I could not wait to show you how my linen stitch cowl is turning out.
Ka-pow! Ka-ping!
Watch those neon sparks fly!

I am so excited by this project that I have set everything else aside (except possibly coffee) to work on it.
Linen stitch is incredibly time-consuming.  Each row seems to take an age.
But the effect is of an almost woven fabric:  wonderfully dense and squishy with those pop pop pops of neon colour - I just love it so much!
My knitting has fallen into an entirely new rhythm in response to the slip-and-wrap movement of this pattern.
So it is entirely appropriate that I am storing it in a new knitting bag which I won from Carmen of the Tapgurl podcast, after taking part in her Summer of Socks.
(Tap?  Rhythm?  Get it?)
Thank you so much, Carmen!
If neon is my new black, podcasts may be my new blogs.
I am a notoriously late adopter of new technologies and media.  I definitely do NOT "do" F-book, Tweeter or Instantgram.  My phone is the old-fashioned sort that doesn't even have a camera in it.  I do not have an i-pod, pad, or piddle.
As a result, I move much more slowly through the interwebs than you hip kids with your fancy mobile devices ;)
My consumption of blogs had reached saturation point.  If I had carried on as I was going, I would have stopped knitting and sewing altogether, because I was spending all my free time looking at what other people were doing instead of doing it myself.  And I was trying to read so many blogs, I rarely took the time to leave a comment - mea culpa, guilty as charged.  
It had to end.
Luckily, at about the same time as I was reaching this conclusion, something happened in blog-land.  Sponsorship, branding and monetising all took off in a big way.  The independent and the individual started to be replaced by the bland and repetitive.  Kestrel Makes is hosting a discussion on this topic if you are interested - many of the comments are fascinating.
The upshot is that I have cut my blog-reading time quite severely.
Instead, I have discovered the joy of knitting podcasts.
I can listen to an audio podcast and knit or sew at the same time.
A video podcast has the advantage of gasp moving pictures of other people's knitting!
And while there are a significant number of sponsored podcasts with links to eg indie dyers, I have learned to tolerate the adverts or move on to listen to more independent voices.
It's a whole new world!
At this rate I might have to buy a mobile device so I can listen to even more...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Marching on Mallows

Have you heard the expression:  "Don't harsh my mellow"?  I assume that it's alliteration on the theme of marshmallows, so let's improvise a little.  This week I have mostly been Marching on Mallows:  keeping up a regular bouncing pace for fear that if I stop moving, I will sink into a sticky mess of self-indulgence.
I have thrown wool at the problem :)
If in doubt, keep Knitting.
First up:  the Big Red Doily, aka the Old World Blanket in Cascade Eco +
There is a disconcerting issue of scale in the above photograph.
That ball is actually as big as my head.
I am on Row 96 and have just joined the second skein of yarn.  There are too many stitches to fit the cable of my circular needle, so I tried using two circular needles, but it is too awkward.  I have ordered a 200cm-long cable.
The first Woodcutter's Sock is looked darned fine, if I say so myself.  I should finish this today.
It took me a while to get used to the braided cable, and by that point, the broken rib had kicked in - don't worry I am talking about knitted ribs!
There is plenty of interest in this pattern to keep me going.  However, I find the colour hard to see in artificial light...
...so I cast on the Inge Sock from my latest Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey sock club shipment.
That blue is hard to capture - it is the colour of a Mediterranean sky.
My tension is all over the place, as I keep getting my needles in a muddle.
I think I need to redistribute the stitches across 3, instead of knitting across 4 dpns and then bringing a 5th into the mix to work the travelling stitches.
It's like a sword fight every time I pick it up.
I have this crazy plan to set everything else aside to knit Joy McMillan's Mirrored Linen Stitch cowl out of this unlikely combination of yarns.
I had been looking for a pattern to show off the Fluormania, and I was initially thinking of somehow contrasting it with black and probably making thick wintery socks.
But then I had a stash-dive and found this premium hand-dyed MCN from Lioness Arts - gorgeous! So flipping gorgeous I have been afraid to use it.

In other news, I have been playing Hide and Seek with the calves from next door.
Rather like sheep, if one decides to break through the fence, all the others follow.
We had six of them staring in the farmhouse window the other evening.

Sewing?  Nope.  But I have ordered Gertie's new book on Sewing Vintage Casual Sportswear after hearing a very positive review on the Knitmore Girls podcast.  I look forward to seeing some sew-ists review the book, but it seems to be oddly quiet out there.

And have you seen the new Moomin Embroidery patterns?  I love the knitting Snorkmaiden - she would be great on a project bag!

FL?  He has moved onto his higher-dose painkillers this weekend.  I am not feeling optimistic.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Mid-harvest:  the straw has since been baled
Back to work tomorrow.  I had last week off work and spent it painting walls, clearing out gutters and regathering myself.
I did lots of knitting, but no sewing at all.
My decluttering has been merciless.
I am still reading "The Country of Ice Cream Star". Slowly, slowly because I don't want it to end.
I seem to be in a place where I want to burrow into books and knitting projects and just... feel the sand between my toes.
So I am making another enormous blanket.
This one is knitted out of Cascade Eco + in the richest cosiest shade of red you can imagine.  I am on row 78 and am perhaps 2/3 of the way through the first ball of yarn.  I have five.  That's an awful lot of knitting!
The pattern is Old World by Abigail Phelps - I won it from the Knitting Go Podcast and it is turning out to be a really straightforward knit.
I also have FL's Christmas socks on the needles, because if I knit him socks he will still be here for Christmas.  That's how my mind is working right now.
These are the Woodcutter's Socks by Rachel Coopey, from Enchanted Knits.  The yarn is from the Dublin Dye Company, in the colour Stone Wall.
And this my latest Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey sock club yarn - wowzer!
I really need to get these cast on asap - what a blast of sunshine!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

FO: Cranford Mitts by Jane Lithgow (and Myeloma)

This is a story of my evolution as a knitter.
When the Cranford Mitts pattern first came out, I failed to knit them.
All my best knitting friends were churning them out, pair after pair, as gifts and for themselves in every colour you can imagine and then some.
I got stuck right at the beginning:  "Work 7 rows garter stitch commencing with a purl row".
Garter stitch?  But surely that means every row is "knit"?
I checked with my mother, and she agreed - yes, every row is a knit row in garter stitch.
So that was that.
But several years later, with a drawer full of socks to show for all knitting that has passed through my hands since then, I now understand.
Garter stitch is only knit on every row if you are working backwards and forwards on a flat piece of fabric.
If you are going round and round on dpns, every second row is purl.
Well duh!
My mother would not have known this because she doesn't knit in the round very often.
And I don't know why it didn't occur to me to ask anyone else... like one of those other knitters...?!

Pattern:  Cranford Mitts by Jane Lithgow, a p-hop pattern.
Yarn:  Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Hula Kolili colourway - much less than 50g, but I am too lazy to weigh them.
Verdict?  A quick and fun knit - I can see why all those other knitters have knit so many pairs!
These were rustled up in various waiting situations on holiday and back home.
This year's Cherry Crop - yes, one each!
Quick Myeloma Update:
Despite an alarming pain episode while we were on holiday, FL is doing OK.
We were back at the hospital yesterday and the doctor prescribed another month of Pomalidomide, but asked him to monitor his symptoms more closely.
She thought it could be a build-up of either the chemo or the steroids that is causing his pain on week 3 of each cycle.  (He gets a week off on week 4.)   If it persists, we need to weigh up the pros and cons of myeloma-zapping versus incapacitating pain.
Walking is becoming more difficult.
Driving is manageable only on familiar roads with minimal traffic.  But he desperately wants to retain the independence it gives him.  It's hard.

Friday, September 05, 2014

FO: The Great Big Enormous Mystery Crochet Blanket

 Vital Statistics:

Weight:  1450g
Metres:  2465m  (based on 85m in a 50g ball)

Pattern:  Inside Crochet magazine Mystery Crochet Blanket, from Issues 48, 49, 50 and 51.  With enormous thanks to two fellow Ravellers: Jadesfire and Craftyfox for sending me their issues 48 and 49.

Materials: the equivalent of 29 x 50g balls of Rico Creative Cotton Aran, but I had to buy additional balls of individual colours to complete rows in a single colour.  A 5.00 mm crochet hook.

Cost?  If it had taken only 29 balls it would have cost around £1.69 x 29 (price of the yarn at Kemps), but I needed more like 45 balls to preserve the integrity of each round... so somewhere around £75

Time to make?  I started it in March and have been plugging away at it ever since, with pauses to order more yarn.  But really?  Not long at all, considering the size of it!

 Finished Dimensions:
This is the blanket on a King-sized bed.

 A close up of my favourite stripes.

 And this is the same blanket on a Single bed.

Blanket posing on the window sill of the holiday cottage.

What do you think this is, blanket?  "Country Living" magazine?!

This was a hugely enjoyable challenge.
Until now I had not crocheted anything bigger than a baby's bootee.
I learned loads of new stitches and had the chance to play with colour on a grand scale.
And I discovered how yarn-hungry crochet can be!
Would I make it again?  Not using this sort of cotton yarn - it split like crazy.
But I will definitely keep on crocheting... now that I know I can.
I have this hankering for a great big enormous granny square blanket...!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Postcards to Bruce

Yo - dog! You won't believe this, but I'm on holiday!
The humans started on about "carp-y dee-em" and the next thing I knew, I was in the boot of the car watching the sky rush past.
The garden here is fantastic.
I like the pond best. No sign of carp though.
There are swallows though - lots and lots of the pesky swoopy dive-bombers.  Grrr.
Roo takes me up the hill every morning and evening.

The local Iron Brew is rubbish.  I'd rather wash my paws in it than drink it.

We saw a deer (yawn) and then I spotted Pi an' Martin. That Martin stood on his hind legs, made faces at me, cursed and ran off before I had time to catch my breath. Pi wasn't much friendlier.  Roo seemed to think it was funny.

The Boss is scribbling in his notebooks, sleeping a lot and eating pills.
Roo says she is On A Mission and sits around sticking a hook in a massive blanket that just keeps getting bigger and bigger. She really needs to stop soon.
Today we went for a drive to the El Wye Ess.
Roo came out with 4  bright green baby llamas. They look more like yarn to me and are no fun to play with, but it doesn't stop her from petting them.
That's all my news, dude.
Got some serious sun-bathing to do.

PS  Roo says they were Pine Martens, in case you wondered.