Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Catching Up - Part 2 Socks and a Scarf

Yesterday morning I wrapped up warm and braved the after Christmas chaos that is Oxford Street. I went early so it wasn't too bad, but certainly busier than the average Monday morning. John Lewis and Liberty both have lots of Rowan yarn on sale (50% off) but I avoided going crazy and came away with 3 balls of KidSilk Spray in gorgeous red shades (darker than in this photo). Feeling like this frugality deserved a little reward I took a break in the Liberty cafe.....where I spent £11 on a bacon roll, cup of tea and some orange juice. That, combined with my rail fare for the day sort of wiped out the 50% saving on the yarn.

Hmmm. Perhaps I need to study up a bit more on this financial responsibility thing.

Back to the Canada trip......

One of the things I discovered when I was home was that quite a few of my relatives read the blog. So - hello to all of you!!

I also discovered that I never need to worry about finding a home for a pair of socks again. I now have a VERY long sock list and I'm looking forward to working my way through it next year. In the interests of full disclosure I should let my aunts Sheila and Simonne that they have been pushed down the list a bit since our last conversation as my Dad expressed an interest in having some socks. He obviously catapults right to the top of the list, and gets a few pair.

When it came time to exchange gifts at our mini-Christmas the mittens were complete (and very well received) but some socks and a scarf were - well - not.

The first pair of socks just needed the toes grafted and some ends woven in, so they were completed pretty quickly. They were for my younger sister, made with a superwash merino from MiddleEarthYarns and a 5 x 2 rib, with slipped stitches on the 5 rib. (Modified HelloYarns pattern for fingering weight yarn.)

The socks are pictured here with a matching Pez dispenser.

My niece Dyl has been waiting for a pair of socks for a very long time. In fact I can't really remember when she was put on the list -- but I think it might have been February or March. In appreciation for her patience I completed this pair of socks in colourful Socks that Rock yarn. She put them on immediately when they were completed and was still wearing them when she left. (Which to be fair was the next day.)

These are modelled on Dyl's feet.

The last pair of socks were for Dyl's mom and I'm afraid these weren't finished until after they had gone back home. The socks are Opal 6 ply so went quite quickly (but obviously not quickly enough). She likes them for curling and I'm sure if she ever actually gets these ones (they are still waiting to be posted by my mom) they will keep her toes toasty on the ice.

Finally, I had decided to make my Mom a scarf for Christmas - but during the mini-Christmas exchange it was just a ball of yarn (I think it was Smooshy Dream in Colour) and a pattern.

What pattern? Well the Swallowtail of course! Yep I still love this pattern (Interweave Knits Fall 2006).

I knew that I wouldn't have enough yarn to knit the pattern as written so I reduced the number of repeats of the first chart, and then had to fudge the next two charts as the stitch counts no longer worked. Too lazy to rework the charts properly I just eliminated the decreases at the beginning and end of each row until I had the right number of stitches.

When it was finished it was teeny tiny. I was a little worried but as always blocking was magic and the finished scarf is a nice size. Not a shawl - but perfect for wrapping around your neck. Ma has reported that she's been wearing it (hurrah!) and has received a few compliments (hurrah again!).

Of course the trip wasn't only knitting. I got to see lots of family (and I've got lots of family to see!) and catch up on the latest happenings. A highlight was definitely an invitation to the annual pre-Christmas dinner that my father's brothers and sisters hold in early December. There is lots of food and drink and singing and laughing and silly games and .... well everything Christmas should be. They are a lovely, loud, loving group of people, all of whom are a wonderful testament to the gorgeousness that was my grandmother.

That's most of my trip covered knitting-wise. There is one more project which I started at home but have just finished today. More on that later!

NOTE TO LESLIE THE KNITTING THERAPIST: Hi Leslie -- my parents are near Nash Creek. Email me at thingssoolikes at googlemail dot com and let me know where you are now - I'm sure we'll find a common acquaintance somewhere! Also I'm intrigued by the Knitting Therapist tag. Are you a therapist who knits? Or is knitting the latest in therapy?

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Catching Up - Part 1 The Mittens

I love these limbo days between Christmas and New Year. Days when you aren't really sure what day of the week it is but it doesn't much matter because the days are for eating up the Christmas leftovers (to make way for the New Year's feast!) and just mooching around the house reading, knitting or watching DVDs. Folks with more ooomph than me are out battling for a bargain on Oxford St but I think I'll wait until Monday or Tuesday before venturing out that far.

In the meantime I'll use this little lull in activity to get the blog up to date. If you cast your mind back you'll remember that in November I gave up working for a living (temporarily) and was heading home to Canada for a pre-Christmas visit.

I hadn't been home in far too long so I was very excited about going. My niece Kali who is in her second year at university decided to take the train to New Brunswick (a 15 hour trip each way!) for a weekend while I was there which spurred my older sister and her daughter Dyl to do the same. My younger sister and her husband drove up for the weekend (they don't live quite so far away) and suddenly a little mini-pre-Christmas celebration was brewing.

Of course this meant that the Christmas knitting deadline had sort of moved up by a few weeks. Oh well, a small price to pay I thought and the turbo needles came out for some serious action.

Before I left for Canada I finished these Let It Snow mittens from Vogue Fall 2008 for Dyl. I loved making these mittens - I'm easily amused as the pictures emerge with each row whenever I do this sort of pattern. I used Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn and the only modification I made was to put '2009' on one palm and 'SMHS' (St Mary High School) on the other. (I forgot to take a picture of the palms - so you'll just have to take my word on that.)

If I were to make another pair I'd replace the corrugated rib in the cuff with a conventional rib as I can never make corrugated rib properly stretchy.

I hoped that she would like them as much as she liked the mittens I made her last year.

I decided that mittens were the best bet for Kali as well and started a pair of red aran mittens (Aran Island Mittens from Folk Mittens ) on the flight to Halifax. (You can't fly direct to New Brunswick from London in the winter.)(In the summer you can - once a week on Wednesdays.) I made pretty good progress (and had a lovely chat with the steward who was also a knitter!) and had all but finished the first mitten when I realised that there was no way I was going to have enough yarn for a second mitten. Kali does have two hands and although she's an easy going sort of girl I felt she would probably prefer a PAIR of mittens.


I made a dash to a yarn shop in Halifax before boarding the train to New Brunswick and got some Cascade 220 Superwash (what a lot of lovely colours it comes in) and began again. The train trip from Halifax to my home on the north shore of New Brunswick is about 7 hours. I love trains. 7 uninterrupted mitten knitting hours. WooHoo! I finished the first mitten (except the thumb) about 30 minutes before arriving at my destination. By then I was too excited to knit any more and so instead spent it happily babbling away with the train conductor (who was coincidentally from the same part of New Brunswick) and the lady sat across from me (another knitter!).

One of the things I love about Canada - and in particular Atlantic Canada - is how friendly people can be. I'm always struck by it when I go home and this trip was no exception. I had to laugh when the train pulled into the very (very very) small train station (it only stops there on request) where my parents were waiting to meet me and the conductor yelled out to the platform as the train slowed to a halt "Special delivery from England. Anyone here for a special delivery from England?" When my parents claimed me he reassured them, "It's ok, she hasn't lost the Doyleville twang."

Lots of hugs and a short drive later I was at home and settled into what would largely be the pattern for the next 2 weeks:- me in the rocking chair knitting; Mom and Dad looking after me. I'm not ashamed (although perhaps I should be) to say I absolutely love it. I feel like a kid and it is heaven.

Anyway I knit along and finished up the second mitten.

I do like these mittens and knitting them (all 3 of them) reminded me how much I like doing texture and cables in knitting. I haven't really done any in ages and I think I had somehow convinced myself that cables were fiddly and annoying. But they aren't. And they look fab.

Two days later my parents and I head to the meet the morning train and as it is pulling into the station I recognise the same conductor from my trip! We greet each other like old friends and he delivers Kim (my sister) and Dyl (my niece) to us.

Kim has another daughter Sarah,who unfortunately couldn't take time out from her college course to come along but I had decided to make her some mittens as well. Following a bit of consultation with Dyl the Target Wave Mittens from the Interweave Knits Fall 2006 were cast on. The pattern as published is for child size mittens, so I used the Cascade Supewash doubled and bigger needles to make an adult sized pair.

We decided that not quite matching mittens would be more interesting and Dyl continued to provide valuable assistance through the process by operating the row counter for me.

Kali arrived the following morning, my sister and her husband a few hours later. A wee bit more knitting (squeezed in between card games and eating) and I was almost (but not quite) ready for the mini Christmas that evening.

But more about that another time. I've got leftovers to eat and a DVD to watch.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Annual Non-Knitting Post

And another month flies by! My trip to Canada was fabulous and I expect I'll bore you with details over the next few posts as I catch up.

But in keeping with the festive spirit I've decided to blog a bit out of order and (for now) skip the holiday and fill you in the annual official kick off of Christmas for me -- the Gingerbread House!

It began a couple of Sundays ago, as all the best days do, with an overflowing sleigh o' sweets (and this was before Caroline, Pat and the 4 Mini's arrived with more sweets). As is custom I had already baked the house pieces so they were ready for construction. (The cookie pieces need to cool down entirely before you try to build with them. Attempting to build before then will lead to collapsed walls and tears.)
I present the baked pieces -- complete with the best windows ever! They were made with some fancy snowflake cookie cutters, and the spaces filled with crushed Fox's Glacier Mints. For an extra bit of winter wonderland sparkle I dusted on a bit of white disco edible glitter.

Pat proposed that in the interests of protecting the planet this year's house should be an eco-gingerbread house and we all readily agreed and got to work.

Luscious Louis - our youngest construction worker at 6 - was determined to make 2 carpets this year. One for the inside of the house and the other to take home and eat later. As you can see from this picture the carpet he made for the house is a lovely Smartie carpet. He also made a comfy sofa with a couple of cushions and a Gingerbread Man to enjoy it all. Scrumptous Susie made the indoor tree and Marvellous Mads made the flat screen LCD television in the corner.

Meanwhile the outside of the house was coming along nicely. Gorgeous Gen and Caroline made a pair of snow people. The snow lady is a bit confused about the season in her bikini - but such is the magic of gingerbread-land. (The snowballs for the snow people are made from granulated sugar and teeensy weensy bit of water combined to make a mixture that resembles wet sand. You make the snowball shapes and let them dry out on the counter for a few hours or in a very low heat oven for 10 minutes. You can also use the sugar sand in molds to make other sugar shapes.)

Mads made this water well from nougat and some pretzels. Mads is 8 and I think she's a pretty amazing gingerbread artist already. In fact all of the Mini's are and I hope I'm able to keep up with their sugar skills over the coming years.

Gen made a skating pond, and Susie made these cute little ice skates that some gingerbread person left on the bench in their rush to get home for supper.

This is all well and good I hear you saying - - but what about Pat's dream of an eco friendly gingerbread world??? Fear not.

This year's house had solar panels on the roof... (There was a fair bit of discussion amongst us about what colour solar panels were and what they looked like. In the end we went with what we had. Allsorts licorice and a bit of white disco glitter.)
...and an outdoor wind turbine to provide all of their energy needs.

And of course, the gingerbread people manage their waste carefully so you can also see the green (for organic waste) and blue (for recyclables) bins at the edge of gingerbread-land to prove it.

Although the children were impressed by Pat's eco-efforts it is fair to say that at this time of year their minds run a bit more to the Santa side of things and Mads and Susie created this sleigh full of presents, pulled by a red nosed reindeer. How clever are they???
(And just beside the reindeer you can see Pat's final piece of eco-ginger - the green barrell for collecting rain water.)As always the afternoon is punctuated with a bit of singing and lots of laughter. We take a break every year while the roof sets to eat pizza and watch the 1966 animated version of the Grinch Most of us now know it by heart but we still watch in blissful silence.

Then we finish decorating the roof and putting up the fence before calling it a day. Many rounds of sticky goodbye hugs and kisses later and I begin trying to clear away the construction debris. Despite my best efforts I find bits of icing and sticky sweets in strange places around the kitchen for days afterwards -- and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Hope you are all enjoying the holiday season! Knitting talk next time.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Anyone Out There?

I knew it had been a while since I'd done a blog update (aided by a few pointed queries from family and the Caked Crusader) - but somehow it comes as a complete surprise to me that it's been well over a month!!! Wow - time flies when you aren't doing anything.

"Not doing anything?" you ask. Yep. On October 31st I walked out of my office in the City for the last time. Ever.

I feel a bit of an oddity as the reason for my departure isn't the economic nose dive or recent banking crisis - in fact discussions about me leaving began around a year ago. And I confess that every now and then when I hear about the job losses in the City I feel a bit like someone who went to a small party only to be joined by thousands of people who've been forced to come along -- and they (obviously) aren't quite so pleased to be there. So I'm just staying in my little corner popping the occasional champagne cork trying to be quiet.

Anyway - you'd think that not having to work each day would give me lots of time for things like blogging and Ravelry. But you'd be wrong.

Doing nothing is an full time job.

Knitting wise - well - there have been some socks. Three pairs of these were for my younger sister who has been waiting since May for me to get round to knitting them. She's very pleased with them and has already requested more.

How times have changed since the days when I knit socks without knowing where'd they go!

The first pair is from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks - Child's First Sock. I am not clear if this is the first sock they wear, or the first sock they knit. It's a nice pattern in any event.

The next two pair are standard Opal self patterning yarn socks. I was very pleased that with the wide stripe socks that I decided not to attempt to match as for no reason at all there was a very short length of red in the second sock. No knot -- the yarn just had a dodgy repeat.

The final pair of socks in the parade of socks is knit from Noro sock yarn - cool colours but not as soft as I'd like.

I made fingerless gloves for Marvellous Madeleine (Gorgeous Goddaughter Genevieve's little sister). She wanted colourful and non-matching and was very pleased when these were delivered. The yarn is a sample of the remnants from the Babette Blanket.

I made a Peacock Feathers shawl - but haven't taken any photos yet. I'll do that next update.... which will be mid December as I'm off to the old homestead for a bit of holiday where the internet has not yet arrived so I'll be out of communication until then.


Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Lots of Little Hats and a Few Little Facts

Little Hats
It's that time of year again. Innocent Smoothies will soon be hitting Sainsbury's wearing little hats made by knitters to raise money for Age Concern. 50p for each Innocent Smoothie sold with a hat goes to the charity to support initiatives aimed at helping the elderly keep warm in the winter.

I made 27 hats this year -- my target was higher but somehow the deadline just snuck up on me!

I know it's unlikely but I'd love to see one of my hats in the wild.

Little Facts
I was tagged by CiCi to list 6 boring yet quirky things about myself. Hmmmmm.....

1) I write in pencil 99% of the time. The only real exception is that I use ink when signing cheques or legal documents.

2) I don't have a driver's license.

3) I've always loved making things. When I was a kid my one of my favourite programmes was Mr Dressup -- but I only really liked the episodes where he made stuff. Scotch tape, a toilet roll and some markers and I was in heaven! More worryingly, I'm still riveted when I happen to stumble across the 'make' segment of a kids tv programme!!

4) I love sour/vinegary things, and in general believe that most anything is improved by pickling it in vinegar.

5) I apparently have a loud and distinctive laugh. When I was in my early 20's I denied this - but the fact that everyone commented on it finally convinced me that there might be some truth in it.

6) I like to knit.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Fingerless Gloves aren't Fingerless!

Thanks so much for all of the lovely comments on the Spring Shawl. Unlike most of my lace shawls, this one is not folded up and put away but is instead hanging over a railing in my living room. It adds a great burst of colour and makes me feel clever when I look at it!

Unfortunately Blogger doesn’t always allow me to reply to comments directly (the ways of Blogger are mysterious indeed) so LadyOutlaw if you (or anyone else) want to email me you can at thingssoolikes at gmail dot com . And Angie – thanks so much for checking out the blog! Ma said that she was going to give you the link.

Speaking of my Mom – way back in May I sent her 4 pairs of socks (all but the green ones from this picture) – and she still hasn’t put them on! She loves them (I know this because I get updates on who she has shown them to and what they thought of them) – but is afraid to ‘ruin them’ by walking on them.

I love my Mom.

Since finishing the Spring Shawl I confess I haven’t been knitting much. I did however manage to knit some requested fingerless gloves for the scrumptous Susie and her best friend Purdey. Susie is one of gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve’s younger sisters and she wanted some colourful fingerless gloves that didn’t match. Her friend wanted the same and so off to knit I went.

The fingerless gloves are a mostly fast knit. You cast on, whip up the ribbed cuff, knit up the thumb gusset and hand and then WHAM the fiddle of 4 half fingers and a half thumb to slow you right down before you can call them finished.

And that brings me to a little rant that occured to me once (or twice) (or every time I started a finger) about so called fingerless gloves. They aren't fingerless! They are half-fingered. Don't be fooled by the name fingerless. You have to pretty much make the fingers. You've got to fiddle with 12 stitches in the round. People are just trying to lull you into a false sense of easy knitting by calling them fingerless. Pah!

Phew. Glad I shared that with someone.

To make the gloves mismatched I started each one on a different colour. I started each of the fingers about a quarter way into the ‘white repeat’ before the required finger colour. This wasted a bit of yarn – but I like the way it maintained the colour sequence at the top of the fingers.

To make the fingers a little less fiddly, and slightly more interesting I knit them on two needles using double knitting. Basically you split the stitches for the finger evenly between two needles and then put them all on one needle taking one stitch from the front, then one from the back, then one from the front and… until all of the stitches are one needle.

Then you:
*Knit one stitch
Bring yarn to front as if to purl
Slip one stitch
Bring yarn to back
Repeat from * to the end of the row.

On the next row you do the same – which should mean you are knitting all stitches you slipped in the previous row, and slipping all stitches you knit.

These two rows are equivalent to knitting one round.

When you’ve completed the required number of rows/rounds, you separate the stitches back on to two needles, and begin to cast off.

I’m not convinced this is any faster than knitting them on three needles in the normal way, but it kept me amused.

The yarn is an Opal DK weight yarn, and I knit the gloves on 3.25mm needles making up the pattern as I went along.

When I finished these I decided to make Gen some fingerless mitts. Note that these are mitts rather than gloves – much less fiddly! And when marvelous Madeleine (Gen’s other younger sister) requests a pair (which I expect she will) I’ll do my darned-est to direct her to the fingerless mitt style! Gen’s mitts are made with a cashmere yarn from Posh Yarns on 4mm needles using the Maine Mittens pattern in the Knitter's Book of Yarn. I had knit this yarn into a scarf last year but was never really pleased with it and it never got worn. I frogged it to make the mitts and think the colours work so much better in this pattern.

I’ve been tagged to come up with 6 boring but quirky things about myself… I’m still pondering, the boring is pretty easy it’s the quirky that’s got me perplexed. But next time be prepared to be bored and bemused!!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Spring-ing Back

Oddly, almost as soon as I had decided that the Spring Shawl was 'on a break' and likely to end up a permanent unfinished object I found myself knitting on the edging. I was never convinced I was going to finish it, but I couldn't find the motivation to start another project so I found myself filling spare 10 minutes with the little 12 row repeat of the edging.

All of those little bursts of knitting started to add up and yesterday I realised I was more than 3/4 of the way around the shawl. That inspired me to give it some real attention and today I finished the edging. A quick soak and the usual blocking shenanigans - and ta da!

Some of you might remember that a couple of weeks ago I had a nightmarish moment when the shawl snagged on something while I was knitting it and the yarn in the body of the shawl snapped. I somehow lost where the snag occured and wasn't able to find it again until today.

Well, I sort of found it.

I know that what I'm about to tell you isn't possible but I swear it is true. I eventually found one end of the yarn where the snap happened -- BUT NOT THE OTHER. I carefull poked and prodded in the area but no other end showed itself. Even after blocking the other end hasn't appeared. How Twilight Zone is that?

The finished shawl is HUGE. 94 inches across the top and a 54 inch drop.

The pattern is the Spring Shawl from Heirloom Knitting, and I knit it on 2.75mm needles.

I used a Colourmart cashmere/merino blend in Cardinal - about 120 gms (1850ish metres) of a 150 gm cone. I found the yarn oddly fragile on occasion. Whether it was the yarn or me I don't know -- it might be that I'm not used to a laceweight without the strength of silk (a quick review of my most recent project and all are wool/silk blends). Colourmart certainly has a great reputation generally and I will use them again.

Like all the best love stories I'm hoping this one ends happily ever after......but that Twilight Zone missing yarn end might have other ideas!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Deja Vu

...in blue! This is the second Glint shrug I've knit. Same yarn (Rowan Summer Tweed), different colour (blue).

As with the first shrug, I only used 4 of the 5 skeins called for in the pattern. In both instances I had enough of the 4th skein left for finishing and some to keep for any future repairs.

While I was seaming the shrug I found myself contemplating the threads that pop up regularly in Ravelry and other knitting forums from people who hate finishing sweaters. And the general consensus from responses is that - yep - seaming sucks.

While I confess I don't like seaming as much as knitting -- I don't hate it. I do get a little (sad) thrill when I pull the yarn up on an invisible seam as the two pieces come together like magic. And I feel a frisson of pride when tackling a trickier seam (rows to stitches, curved edges or something that requires 'easing') successfully.

I pondered the finishing hate a little more and I think that largely it comes down to the TIME it takes to do it properly. I think it's ironic that although most of us have the patience to spend tens of hours on a project, we balk at spending a small fraction of that time getting it all together.

But seaming can't be rushed. I do a lot of checking and double checking while seaming, and will immediately undo a seam that doesn't look quite right. Sometimes I have to try two or three different stitching techniques before I find the one that works perfectly in the situation.

Finishing this little shrug took just over 3 hours. The side seams are mattress stitch, the shoulder seams are fake knit seams, and I used slip stitch to crochet the sleeve seams. When I picked up the stitches around the neck to knit the edging, there were a couple of loose stitches which I tidied up with a few duplicate stitches.

So what's my point? Who knows? I guess it's to accept that if you are making a project that requires seams - you have to embrace that part of the process. Take a bit of time to learn and practise the different techniques -- it will make all the difference between a sweater you wear all the time, and one you shove in the back of the closet because it never looked quite right.

Or - just make shawls!

Spring Break
For those of you who have been following my rollercoaster relationship with the Spring Shawl I have to report that we are currently 'on a break'. I don't know where we'll go from here, but following the drunken abuse and snappish behaviour I think we both need time to consider what we want out of this relationship.

Thursday, 11 September 2008



I corrected the drunken mistake.

I repaired the spot where the yarn snapped in the row two below the one I was working on. (FYI - I didn't tink back, with 600 stitch rows that just seemed too much work. Instead I dropped (carefully) about 10 stitches either side of the snap, back to the affected row. I joined a new length of yarn and reknit the stitches on the damaged row using that. I reknit the next row with the dropped stitches.)

Last night I bravely picked up the needles again. I knit along without calamity until I got an annoying work email. I put my knitting down to read the annoying email - and as I picked up the shawl again it snagged on something (I still don't know what) and the yarn snapped again!


More annoying -- this break was deep in the body of the shawl and I somehow lost it!! Because the shawl is now so large, I can't spread it out on the needles, and of course the knitting itself looks like wet noodles -- all of which makes searching for a snapped thread like looking for a needle in a haystack. I can't find the break - but I know it's in there. Waiting to cause havoc.


So, I carefully put the shawl down.

And I think I'll wait for a sign from the knitting gods before I pick it up again.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Now What?

Many thanks for your support -- I was able to recover from the great drunken knitting fiasco without too much pain. It took a while - but it was a pretty straightforward repair.

So, this morning, ready to face the world I picked up the shawl to knit for an hour or so. I knit about a quarter of a row and then, FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, the yarn in a row BELOW snapped. Yep. I was pulling a stitch to knit two together - with what I swear was no more than normal force (ie very very little) and poof. Five loose stitches and two loose ends of yarn.


I have some plans for repairing the damage which I'll try tomorrow as I think I should stay away from knitting needles today! I'll report back soon.

Despite my drunken and damaged knitting Fleegle and the Lace Maven have both very kindly nominated me for a Blue Ribbon Blog award. Both Fleegle and Lace Maven are really talented lace knitters/designers and that they've selected my blog is particularly encouraging after these recent Spring Shawl disasters.

I am now required to nominate 4 other blogs for the award, but because I could never narrow my favourite knit blogs down to 4 I've decided to go a little off piste here and I'm going to nominate 1 knit-zine site, and 3 cake blogs!!

So first I'll nominate The Inside Loop. The Inside Loop is a new knitting online magazine focusing on UK designers. It's edited by Diane and Kate, both talented young designers, and fibre enthusiasts. Although the patterns are globally appealing - the benefit for UK readers is that the yarns and other supplies are all readily available this side of the pond!!

Having a friend like the Caked Crusader I've learned a lot more about cake and the world of cake blogging than you can imagine. Three cake blogs (other than the Caked Crusader's of course) I particularly like are:
Cakespy - Cakespy devotes itself to finding the best in cake around the US, great photos and sweet cake comics
Cake Wrecks - when good cake goes wrong (a very funny collection of professionally decorated cakes)
52 Cupcakes - way more than 52 amazing cupcake recipes! I confess I've only tried Billy's vanilla cupcakes - but for that recipe alone the blog is worth a visit

Friday, 5 September 2008

Note to Self

Dear Self.

For future reference: when you've spent the evening sampling mojitos and putting the world right with your best friend do NOT (I can't be too emphatic on the NOT) (so I'll repeat it) do NOT decide the right way to unwind before bed is a 'quick row' on the Spring Shawl.

Next time, surf the net. Write a babbling email. Put random numbers into a sudoku puzzle. Stare vacantly at a magazine. Anything really.

Just DON'T knit.

I have just picked up the Spring Shawl and it's not clear from the rather random scattering of YO's, k2tog, SSK's what row from the pattern you thought you were doing.

The first 5 stitches match the pattern (and perhaps I should be grateful for that small miracle) but after that you seem to have gone off in some sort of jazz inspired knitting improvisation.

Drinking and knitting. It's not clever.

(But the mojitos were lovely!)

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Where is the Love?

As summer never happened I've decided to skip autumn and winter and I'm moving on to Spring. The Spring Shawl specifically.

The Spring Shawl is one of the Shetland lace Heirloom Knitting patterns by Sharon Miller. Sharon is a very talented designer, responsible for many beautiful patterns including the much admired Princess and Wedding Ring shawls.

I bought the pattern well over a year ago and it never seemed to call out to be made. And in all honesty, it still hadn't when I finally did start it. And therein lies the mystery of why some patterns sing to me, and others don't.

The pattern ticks all the boxes for a pattern I should love. It is undoubtedly a beautiful piece of lace. Pictures of finished shawls I've been able to find are all stunning. It is a big project and a challenging piece of lace. Every row is a pattern row -- perfect for keeping my attention. All of these things say that I should have been chomping at the bit to start this project.

But I wasn't.

It's a bit like those weird occasions where you meet someone who is very attractive, funny, clever - but somehow - they don't make your socks roll. Whatever that indescribable something may be -- they are missing it.

Anyway, I started the project because I felt I should and I have to say that nothing in the first phase of the project changed my feelings. I knit on. But without much enthusiasm. I didn't hate it by any stretch -- but neither did it begin to match the knitting obsession of Lyra. I would have been just as happy to knit on any other project.

I finished the centre triangle and began the deep borders. And something has changed.

When I was on the second pattern row of the border I was convinced I had entirely messed it up. In the time honoured tradition of knitters everywhere I threw the needles into the corner and threatened to abandon the project entirely. I huffed and puffed about how it was a lame project anyway and that if I hadn't had to force myself I wouldn't have even started it and .... and.... and...

And maybe it wasn't such a bad little project after all. I mean look at that red. How could I abandon something that red? And really I probably hadn't messed it up that badly? It was looking quite promising. And I'd finished so much of it already.

So I picked it back up and quite quickly realised what my silly mistake was. A little tinking and knitting and I was soon back in flow.

And in love.

Sadly my new love is not very photogenic at this stage. But this blobby red thing currently has my heart.

I'll keep you posted as our relationship develops.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

On Board

A little over a year ago I found that I was listening more and more to Zane Lowe's 'new music' programme on Radio 1 - particularly when I settled in for an evening knitting sess. For reasons that probably made no more sense at the time than they do now, I began a one woman campaign to get Zane to say 'knit' on the air by texting in response to his "who's on board" show opener. I was successful, and have even managed to be immortalised as knitting socks for rappers on the Radio 1 website.

So somehow Zane has sort of become linked to knitting in my mind. (I expect that news would thrill him.) A couple of weeks ago he became a father for the second time and it seemed obvious that it was time for me to put my knitting where my mouth (errrr...mobile phone) was.

I considered bootees or a hat but finally settled on the idea of a hoodie. I used a pattern from Chic Knits for Stylish Babies , knit it up in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran and added a few embellishments -- specifically a row of colourful beads around the bottom spelling out 'on board' and some specially constructed buttons.

When I came up with the 'on board' hoodie idea I thought sourcing buttons with letters on them would be easy. I'd be tripping over letter buttons - I'd be spoiled for choice.

Ha! How naive I was about the world of letter buttons. Turns out that buttons with letters on them are a rarity. I found 1 style of buttons in the UK - but they were kind of ugly and they were out of stock on 3 or 4 crucial letters. I found 1 style in the US - but they weren't great and I was too impatient to wait in any event.

Not put off by the great letter button shortage of 2008 I came up with the idea of using beads (letter beads being a little easier to source) and creating my own buttons.

I made the buttons by tieing the beads into the centre of plain 4 hole buttons - and I'm quite pleased with the effect. The biggest revelation was that with a lot of determination and a teeny weeny crochet hook you can get aran weight yarn through an itsy bitsy bead hole.

Unfortunately, I didn't learn how to take cool close up pictures of the beads before I sent the hoodie off -- so these fuzzy pictures of the detailing will have to do.

I will confess that I was thinking I'd not post about this -- there is something sort of embarassing about knitting a hoodie for a Radio 1 DJ's baby when you aren't 14. But when I read yesterday that Kate Moss made the news by trying (and failing) to get into the DJ booth with him in Ibiza I decided a handknit baby hoodie wasn't so bad.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


I've got a few mysteries to clear up (or try to clear up) today.

The first mystery is - why the heck has it been so long since my last post?

Theoretically, this should be the easiest of the mysteries - but alas, the answer eludes me. Work has been busy but not crazy, no whirl of social events to blame. I've even got knitting stuff to share.

Mystery one remains unsolved. All theories welcome.

Mystery two began Sunday morning when I heard something being put through the letter box. Expecting it was another takeaway menu for the local curry house I didn't rush to pick it up. And when I did pass by the front door about 30 minutes later I was suprised to see it wasn't a menu -- it was last Saturday's 'Rebel Knitter' supplement from the Guardian!

There was no note on the paper so I was initially clueless about where it came from. A bit of Poirot like exercising of the little grey cells and I realised I actually had a few good leads.

It had to be someone who knew I knit. It had to be someone who read the Guardian and someone who would be kind enough to think of me and save the supplement for a week. Finally it had to be someone who might be passing by my house on a Sunday morning but unable to stop.

Someone running perhaps. (Not from the law -- for exercise.) Or someone cycling (similarly for exercise). (Someone perhaps training for a triathalon.)

J'accuse Gavo! (Gavo being Shirl's partner.) I haven't yet confirmed my theory - but I'm pretty confident. Thanks Gavo!!!

Mystery two. Solved. (I think.)

Mystery three is a mystery that I think will ALWAYS be there for me as long as I'm knitting lace. How does this:

Become this:

How can this limp mass of string:

Suddenly(ish) transform into this:

Ok - no real mystery - but blocking is a little bit of knitting magic.

This stole was knit for Old Maiden Aunt Yarns as a sample for some her new yarn. It's a luxurious Alpaca, Silk, Cashmere blend in a cobweb weight. It feels gorgeous and knits up beautifully.

The colourway (which I haven't captured as accurately as I'd like) is a beautiful combination of blues and greens which blend together beautifully.

The lace pattern is Japanese Feather Lace from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. If you don't have the book (go get it!) you can get the stole pattern from Knitspot.

I knit it on 4mm needles.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Inspiration Goes Around.....

A few weeks ago Susan (of the Rainey Sisters) put out a request on behalf of Wrapped in Care for shawls. It seemed a good cause so when I found some lovely pale blue Rowan Cashcotton on sale at John Lewis - I scooped up two bags. Now all I needed was a pattern.

I browsed a few gazillion online shawl patterns, but - nothing sang to me. I flipped through my books and magazines - and still nothing. Then someone somewhere posted a link to a new book by Kristin Omdahl called Wrapped in Crochet - and there it was (you'll have to flip through the preview to Maya). IN amongst many lovely lovely patterns, was the pattern I really wanted to make.


But the book isn't out until autumn.


From the little bit of the book preview I could read, Kristin was inspired by a shawl she seen in Italy, made of a simple double crochet body with and edging of large medallions. Her version is triangular and looks very elegant in a gold-y tone yarn.

I decided not to let a small detail like no book stop me. So I took out my very expensive designing tools and set about making these meticulous blueprints to work with.

Browsing through some old crochet books I found a pattern for coasters in White Lace Crochet (Ondori) (an out of print book from 1990) which crocheted in the dk weight yarn (rather than the teeny tiny cotton the pattern called for) and a few modifications would be perfect for the edging.

I decided on 10 medallions for the edging and these were pretty straightforward once I got going. I was feeling pretty confident at this point. Which as we all know means doom is just around the corner.

I started the body of the shawl with the same hook I'd made the medallions in and after about 10 looooooooonnnnnngggggggg rows (3 full skeins of yarn!) (am I impressing on you how much work I'd done?) it was apparent that the tension was WAY OFF on the body. Despite lots of decrease per row - the body was still bigger than the edging! I couldn't kid myself - no amount of blocking was going to make this work.

So I ripped it all out. Well, not all, just the 10 loooooooonnnnnggggg rows (3 full skeins). I kept the medallions. I started the body over with a much smaller hook and 10 looooooooonnnnnnngggggg rows later I was smiling. I could see the beginning of a semi-circle. Yippee!

As everyone knows, rows and rows of double crochet are very good for watching Jane Austen adaptations. I chose to crochet to Mansfield Park with Billie Piper playing Fanny. And, well, I'm not sure the film makers actually read the book.

Yesterday morning I finished the last double crochets, wove in the ends and then blocked the very large shawl on my bed.

The shawl is 72" across the top with a 36" drop and took 14 50gm skeins of Rowan Cashcotton.

I'd love to make another one with a silk yarn one day, as I think the drape would be amazing. I'm pleased with the finished shawl, and hope it provides some comfort to the recipient.