Friday, December 30, 2005


There has been a hiatus, and not of my own making. Despite the fact that the computer is anti-virused, firewalled, ad-aware right up to its eyeballs, I managed to get some spyware on here, which caused a right panic. All sorted out now though and not too expensively, either.

Just to tie up some loose ends: I don't think that was an Addi that snapped. I had never heard of Addis until fairly recently and this needle was one that I have had for years. In fact, its provenance is lost in the mists of time, so no, not an Addi.

Someone asked to see the front of the pink shoulder cozy. Here you go:

Front of the thing.

Side of the thing.

(You asked for it.)
Thanks to #1 daughter for her photographic skills.

The Garden Shawl has not really been doing very much lately, though she is growing slightly. She's just so darned fiddly. Usually I like fiddly but I don't find myself in a very fiddly mood at the moment. It is, I think, all part of my general unsettled feeling at this time of the year. I hate this period between Christmas and the New Year when everything seems to be in suspended animation. We don't seem to be able to get on with anything until we get the New Year out of the way. Can't come too soon for me.

It hasn't started yet, though I'm sure it won't be long - those interminable posts on the "Knitlost" detailing every, single charity hat; crochet baby blanket; pair of socks for Chuck; garter stitch scarf; pair of mittens and all what not, that each individual has completed this year. Yes, I do, in fact, have a list like that (for the first time ever), and no, I will not be inflicting it on you (not unless you offer inducements - yarn, chocolate, yarn, wine, yarn, yarn etc.)

Have a Happy New Year. See you on the other side.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Busy, busy, busy.

And when you are so busy this is just what you don't want:

Oh, yes. It's the circular needle that fell apart. Not too much damage done. The pink shoulder cozy is finished. The pattern says to pick up stitches all the way round the outside. She even tells you how many stitches to pick up. I'm sorry to say that once I get over about thirty, I can't keep count. So I threw caution to the winds and just picked up the stitches as seemed appropriate. I don't even know how many there were. It was a miracle that it was an even number, so the ribbing was perfect. Then she says to cast off and sew the hem down. Oh, dearie me. Give me a break! What is the point of casting off and then sewing the thing? It uses up more yarn (and at £8 the ball, 5 balls needed, we don't need to use any more yarn than is absolutely necessary), it adds bulk - this is lovely yarn but it is heavy, we don't need more bulk at this stage.

I did an Elizabeth Zimmerman. I took an executive decision. I am the boss of my knitting. I didn't cast off. I knitted until it was long enough (and I don't even know how many rounds that was) , and then I sewed the live loops:

to the corresponding stitch at the beginning of the hem:

and that was the end of that.

Of course, I needed a button. A big button. What with one thing and another, I didn't have a button. Big or otherwise. But I really, really wanted to wear the thing. Extreme measures had to be taken:

I just happened to have a pair of short pink needles. They all thought it looked great.

So did I.

I'm in the middle of making White Stilton Soup. It's our soup of Christmas Day. I'm also in the middle of working my way through a bottle of red wine (provided by a grateful punter) and I do have the rare red Bounty in the freezer. All's well with the world.

We brought out the crib the other day:

Yes, I made all that. It won a prize, too. It was the "presepio piu originale" one year when I lived in Torino. (I was informed by one adolescent boy that it couldn't possibly win the "crib of cribs" because it didn't include a palm tree. You win some, you lose some, I suppose.)

The Baby Jesus seems to have lost an eye:

but I don't suppose it matters if he looks like a pirate. It's His birthday -He can do what He wants.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pass that Frog.

There I was racing away on the pink shoulder cozy, when I suddenly took it into my head to check the stitches per four inches again. Yes, there we are, perfect. 14 stitches. Then I glanced at the pattern. I did a double-take. How many stitches in four inches? 18. What? 18; eighteen; one, eight; one ten and eight units.

You would never imagine in a million years that I have been knitting for over 40 years. You would think that I had never taken up a pair of needles before; that reading a pattern was a closed book to me; you would never imagine for the smallest nano-second that I could be so stupid as to mis-read the pattern and then dash on (using needles 4mm smaller than called for) until I had knitted up the whole of the first ball of yarn and a fair proportion of the second. Would you?

Pass that frog.

I have frogged the whole thing. I have started again using 6mm needles (only 2mm smaller than the needles called for - that's a bit more like it.) The drawback is I have wasted a bit of time. The advantage is that I now know the pattern inside out and I can use short rowing to make the curve smoother.

How did I do it? I cast on the total number of stitches needed, which in this case is 146. I used a separate length of yarn for this. I then placed markers to indicate: the central 34 stitches (this was the original cast-on number); 20 stitches on each side of that (for the cast-on 4 stitches at beginning of next 10 rows); the 22 stitches on each side of that (for the cast-on 2 sts at beg of next 22 rows); which left me with 14 sts at each end for the cast on 1 st at beg of next 28 rows. I then slipped stitches until I was at the beginning of the 34 central stitches and, using a new end of yarn, began knitting in pattern, incorporating an additional four stitches at the end of each row until I hit the markers, then I started working two more stitches at the end of each row until I hit the markers again. I think you will agree that this has eliminated the "steps" in the original:

Isn't that so much better? It is so often the case, at least for me, that the pattern as written could be improved no end. I don't know why the designer didn't write the pattern this way. It is not rocket science - the hardest part is doing the maths and if the designer had written the pattern this way she would have done the maths for you! Anyone who might have contemplated making this as written would be more than capable of working short rows (especially if they were well explained) and the added benefit would be that knitters who were unaware of the magic of short rows would have the scales fall from their eyes. Anyway, I'm pleased with it. I suppose tinkering with the pattern gives me something to do in my copious spare time.

"Happy Spider" asks if the pattern stitch has a name. In the book it's called "Slip Rib Pattern". I have never come across it before but that is not so surprising as I do not own Barbara Walker's Treasuries (except the Charted one) and have only a couple of stitch dictionaries (one ancient Mon Tricot book - "1500 punti", in Italian; and one collection of stitches, part of a Fabbri partworks thing, also in Italian).

That's enough for now. I have to go back to work and deal with Christmas parties. I'm afraid I'm a little bit "Bah, humbug!" at this time of the year.

Cheered up no end by the sky as seen from the rural backwater at 7.45am this morning:

"Red sky at night? Shepherd's delight.
Red sky in the morning? Shepherd's warning"

Oh, dear.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yet another wrap

This isn't a wrap - it's a "Shoulder Cozy". It's another pattern from the "Wrap Style" book and I want it very much.

I couldn't help myself. I shot into the LYS yesterday and bought 5 balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Super Chunky in a pale pink colour. I wanted to cast on immediately but I took the unprecedented step of trying a gauge swatch first. The recommended needles are 8mm. Well, I knew the loose woman over here would need smaller needles, so I started with 6mm. Too big. I tried again with 5mm. Again, too big. I ended up with 4mm needles. That's a massive difference. I have got the stitch gauge bang on but the row gauge is not quite right. I am hoping I will be able to fudge the thing, or even maybe get away with making the whole thing slightly shorter. I am not a tall person, so this solution might just work.

I went to see Great Expectations at the RSC last night and managed to cast on and make quite a dent in it:

We start by casting on 34 stitches and then working in the slip rib pattern, which is a four row repeat over multiples of 2 stitches and casting on four stitches at the beginning of every row a few times, then casting on two stitches a few more times and then casting on one stitch a whole lot of other times. As you can see, this makes "steps" along the bottom edge and I only wish I had been more sensible and cast on the total number of stitches required at the outset and used short rows to shape the curve. This would certainly have made the curve smoother. "Plagued with latter wit", as my Dad used to say. I am, however, already planning to make a better buttonhole than the cast off 4, cast on 4 that the pattern suggests.

Here's a close up of the stitch pattern, which is one I haven't come across before and it's not quite as painful as a lot of rib based patterns are.

The yarn is very soft and luscious but it is starting to pill and shed already. I do not know how it will hold up during wear. The Alpaca silk that I used to make Lara has pilled dreadfully - it's only just stopped leaving bits all over now, almost a year after it was completed. I don't have a picture of my Lara, as it was knitted before I got my digital camera, as a gift for my not-a-Barbie sister-in-law, but here's a link to a picture of Wendy (the UberKnitter) wearing hers.

That just about wraps it up for today. Tonight is #1 daughter's Christmas Play; she will be the Ghost of Christmas Past and I will be knitting.

Monday, December 12, 2005

All wrapped up.

Many thanks to all who commiserated with me over the wrap disaster. I know it's only a wrap and doesn't really need to fit but when I put it on and it slipped right down, off my body and I ended up standing in a circle of green knitting, then I knew I was going to have to do something about it. It's all done and dusted now:

Here's a picture of the back of the wrap. It is really rather nice and lovely and warm. It is only fitting that I should have had to do one last little bit of frogging with this yarn. I've had this yarn in my stash for maybe 20 years. It never really told me what it wanted to be and I've started at least 5 or 6 projects with it and then decided it wasn't right and frogged the lot. I think it is finally at peace with itself.

Remember ages ago when that woman got in touch saying she was writing an article for "Simply Knitting" magazine about knitting bloggers and could she inclued me? Well, as far as I know the article was due to appear in either the December issue (on sale November) or the January issue (on sale December). It wasn't in the December issue, so I expected it to be in the January one. Due to an administrative error I managed to end up with two copies of said magazine, only to find that the article does not appear in this issue either. I said at the time I didn't mind being in the mag as long as I didn't have to make any of the ghastly patterns in there. I thought that might mean I would be drummed out of the service but it didn't seem to matter (although the article hasn't actually appeared yet, so maybe they have taken it to heart after all!)

The magazine has definitely not improved with time. We have a Crochet Shawl; we have three wine bottle cosies (I ask you, life's too short to knit a bottle cosy, especially one made with Wendy "Chic" (not) - a white eyelash yarn); we have a cotton jumper for a man that is just boring; we have a "practical and cosy ice scraper mitten" that looks like a shapeless blob; we have a "soft and funky" cushion cover (we need a pattern for a cushion cover now, it would be too easy to make it up as you go along); we have the piece de resistence (and my personal favourite), we have Muffin the Mule. It has to be seen to be believed, I assure you. The best reader's letter contains a picture of a mobile phone cozy made of cut up orange nylon satsuma bags and fastened with a button made with a sardine can ring pull. She has won a prize of "The Knitter's Bible" - we can only hope that she reads, marks, learns and inwardly digests and then maybe knits something halfway decent.

Last picture of the wrap:

Maybe I should fasten it with a sardine can ring pull?

What to knit next? More on the Garden Shawl and maybe, just maybe, the Shoulder Cozy from the Wrap Book. Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Super-chunky. Mmmmm.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I do not believe it! I have finally knitted my way out of the black hole. The Twisty Turns Wrap (I made a Freudian slip by writing "warp" then) is finished. The knitting is done. The sewing up is done. That was a feat in itself - as some of you may know, I am not fond of sewing up. In fact, I normally move heaven and earth to avoid it.

The construction of the warped wrap is ingenious. It's a bit origami-like and a bit like one of those metal puzzles you find in Christmas crackers. The one where you have to take the two pieces apart and it is impossible until you know the trick and then it's so obvious you feel completely stupid that you couldn't work it out. The wrap requires careful assembly (for fear of creating a Mobius strip - which I did the first time and had to undo it.) So I was already in a teeth gnashing mood and that was before I finished the sewing up and really looked at the tangled mess. It looks reasonably OK but (and I'm sure most of you have guessed where this is going) it is - I can't bring myself to write this - it is TOO BIG.

Oh, the wailing; the gnashing; the cursing; the swearing; the tearing out of hair; the walking into the garden; the yelling at the stupid sheep in the back field; the deep breathing; the taking stock; the realisation that it is not all bad; the going back on that and deciding it IS all bad, it's the worst thing I've ever knitted, it's the most stupid thing I've ever done.

At this point #1 daughter appeared and silently brought me this:

Yes, it's the frog.

I'm thinking I might be able to sew the back seam and snip off the excess. I'm thinking that if that doesn't work I really am up knit creek. I'm thinking that #1 daughter is quite correct and that the only thing to do is to frog.

And I am still cursing.

If this is the day the "Simply Knitting" magazine is published, and if this is the issue with the article about knitting bloggers in it, and if I am mentioned, and if you came here because of it expecting to be entertained, I just want to say:

I'm sorry for all the cursing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Black Hole

I am knitting in the equivalent of a black hole. A black hole, according to Cambridge University's learned chaps, "is a region of spacetime from which nothing can escape, even light." There is even a picture of a black hole, which seems a little odd - surely it would be just, well, black? Whatever the case, I feel as if I have been sucked into this black hole and no matter what I do, I cannot escape it. I have tried knitting faster, reasoning that if I knit fast enough I will be able to escape the gravitational pull, but it is simply not working.

I knit and knit and knit on the green "Twisty Wrap" and then I measure the thing. It is 76 cm. I knit and knit and knit a bit more and I measure again. It is 76 cm. I decide that I'm not going to measure again until I have finished this ball/ knitted for an hour/ watched "Coronation Street". I measure again. It is still 76 cm. It is a marvel of physics, it is defying the laws of logic, it is driving me barmy.

I now understand why it is called the "Twisty Wrap". Not because it is twisted at the front, but because it makes you twisty. A word which where I grew up meant having got out of bed on the wrong side; to be out of sorts; to be disgruntled, cranky; you get the idea. I am it.

Want to see a picture?

That's it, for what it's worth. Yes, OK, it is slightly longer than 76 cm now (but only just). I cannot wait for it to be finished but it certainly won't be if I spend hours doing displacement activities. Like making snowflakes. On this site here. It has been down for maintenance but should be back up before long and it certainly beats knitting my way out of a black hole.

I spotted this in the Charity Shop (aka "The Boutique") the other day:

What is it? You may well ask. I think it's supposed to be used for holding paintbrushes but this is what I'm going to use it for:

All the dpns are in there. They are all arranged according to size and the handy-dandy needle gauge slips handily into the pocket at the back. What more could a girl ask?

She could ask that the knitting elves would take up the twisty wrap and do a few rows on it, maybe during the night?