Friday, 18 December 2009

That time of the year again....

(Before I share this year's gingerbread house with you a quick update on the mom cardigan -- progress is slow! Yesterday in the airport lounge I triumphantly got to the last row of the back -- only to discover I'd missed 10 decreases in the underarm shaping. Aaaaarrrrgggghhh! I have given up on finishing it before I arrive and have accepted that I'm going to have to undertake stealth knitting at night when she's asleep in order to have it ready for the 25th.

Now back to the real reason for this post!)

It is that time of the year - when I drop my knitting needles and yarn for icing sugar and gingerbread. In preparation for the construction party gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve and I created a slide show of photos of all of the houses built since I began hosting the annual event in 1991. It was a great hit on the day as it played on the big screen in the corner of the room while we got on with this year's masterpiece. The children in particular loved seeing the houses built when they were younger -- and seemed amazed to discover that the tradition was much older than them!!

The order of events remained the same as in previous years. Lots of gingerbread, icing sugar and TONS of sweets mixed in with as much Christmas music* as we can find and a bit of champagne for the adults.

Every year I'm amazed at how creative everyone is. Check out the greenhouse devised by the marvellous Mads (9). (Standing beside it is one of the cutest snowmen ever -- created by the scrumptuous Suzy.) You can't tell from the photos but inside the greenhouse there are benches with lots of beautiful flowers.

Through the years the core team (me, best friend Caroline and her husband Pat)(and each of the minis as they arrived) has remained constant but different people have joined in over the years. Most gingerbread house virgins tend to sit silently by for the first 30 minutes or so and then gingerly pick up a sweet, find some icing no one else is using and heh presto suddenly we have a car...or a tree...or a llama.

I couldn't say that everything we make is immediately identifiable without some explanation -- but sometimes that is half the fun. And sometimes things aren't even identifiable with LOTS of explanation and those are often my favourites! (Also, the rules are that all mistakes can be eaten -- so they are also quite yummy!)

Children have their own logic -- Louis (7) for example made a great little igloo and then at the last minute added the snowballs all over it. Did I feel silly when Louis patiently explained that that is how the penguins store their snowballs for snowball fights.

And speaking of penquins how fantastic is this penguin Caroline created out of licorice allsorts?

Gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve created this amazing well -- marvellous Mads supplied the bucket.

Around the side of the house you find Pat' contribution this year -- a lovely river complete with a dock, a sailboat ....

...and the loch ness monster (created by my friend Shirl).

If that poor penquin sailor (another Caroline creation) didn't have enough to worry about with the loch ness monster ....

it seems he's about to be attacked by a shark!

And if that doesn't say Christmas I don't know what does!!

That's it for me for this year. I'm about to enter the no-internet land my parents inhabit but I'll be back in 2010 (eek 2010!) to fill you in how I got on with the Christmas knitting. Until then I hope you all have a lovely holiday season however you spend it!

Friday, 11 December 2009

It's Shogun all over again....

Many years ago when I was in high school I had to do an oral book report for English class. This was with the lovely Mr Parks who was one of my very favourite teachers ever. Anyway. It was Thursday and the report was due the following Tuesday -- I think it was Easter weekend as I recall having the Friday and Monday off.

So on Thursday off I go to the library to pick a book. I expect we had more notice but I've always been a bit of a last minute sort of person. (Bit of shock for you all there with that revelation!) I wander up and down, picking up and dismissing books until I suddenly find the exact book I want to do for the book report. Shogun.


1136 pages.

I could have picked Of Mice and Men - 128 pages. Or any of the other of books with far few than 1136 pages. Because with 4 days to the due date that would have been sensible.

But I didn't. I chose Shogun. All 1136 pages. Because for some reason - when I make these sorts of decisions I seem to think I'm not limited by the laws of time.

4 days of reading reading and more reading. Reading late into the night. I expect I ate at some points. And probably slept. But mostly I remember reading. I finished on the way to school that Tuesday morning.

All that effort and Mr Parks decided to give everyone another week to finish their books.....

Why do I bore you with tales of my grade 11 book report? Because I've chosen the cardigan for my mom's Christmas present.

Did I select a short stockinette or garter stitch cardigan in aran or dk yarn?


I've gone for Katherine Hepburn Jacket (free pattern from Knitting Daily) in 4 ply yarn. The long version. Naturally.

I finally made it to John Lewis yesterday to buy the yarn (and big up the staff in the yarn department at John Lewis - very helpful and very friendly)....anyway I made it to John Lewis and after much umming and ahhing between Rowan 4 ply tweed and Rowan pure wool 4 ply I pick the tweed, they find me right dye lots, I pay up and head home.

I count the number of knitting hours between now and when I arrive at my Mom and Dad's next Friday - panic a bit - and then cast on. I knit away. But I'm not happy. The yarn isn't working.

Maybe it'll improve after a few more I knit about 20 rows and I'm still not feeling the love.

I sleep on it (well, not literally on it - it remains downstairs in the knitting area and I go to bed).

When I look at it in the bright light of day I decide I was right - the yarn is wrong.

So I schlep back to Oxford St (can you see the valuable, limited knitting hours slipping away?) I go to Liberty (because I'm too embarassed to back to John Lewis after they worked so hard to get me the number of skeins I needed yesterday) and buy the Rowan pure wool 4 ply.

I cast on on the way home and immediately I'm happier. I knit a few rows and I know I was right to make the change. This is knitting up much better The cables look fab. I'm knitting faster and I'm happy.

Happy and deluded. Of course I still don't have enough hours left......and I've got a gingerbread house to construct on Sunday....and.....

...and somehow I don't think Mr Parks can give us an extension on Christmas!

Friday, 4 December 2009

In Which the Big Black Blob Blossoms Beautifully with Blocking

The Lerwick Lace Shawl is finished -- and I'm very pleased!

It was knit with just over 6 25 gm skeins of Shetland 1 ply which caused me a bit (ok more than a bit!) of concern during the knitting (at points it was threadlike thin) but it blocked out beautifully. The shawl is one of the lightest and airiest bits of knitting I've ever produced.

(Photographing the shawl has been a challenge. These few images are the best I could do I'm afraid. Black lace and overcast rainy days are not a great camera combo!)

I used 2.75 mm needles - first Kollage square needles which I hated and which eventually snapped leaving a lot (a lot!) of live stitches dangling in the wind.

Apart from the trauma of the snapping needle it was a pretty straightforward project. The pattern (from Heirloom Knitting) is straightforward enough but as I think I mentioned before because Sharon Miller likes to provide so much background and so many options there is a slight frustration when you just want to knit!

There is one motif in the pattern (the second diamond insert in the wide border) that even after blocking I don't like - it just looks a bit messy. If I were to make the shawl again I'd replace it with something else.

I blocked the shawl on the floor of my guest room which is frankly a great reminder that I'm not really young enough to be crawling around the floor for an hour or two.....Every time I thought I was done I seemed to start all over again as I 'd decide to movethe pins out 'just one more inch'!

Now that the shawl is out of the way and I've accepted (almost) that it is December (to be honest that still freaks me out)(how can it be December already???) --it is time to get busy with a few gifts I've got planned for this year. The most important is a cardigan for my mom.

Any and all classic looking (but not dull) cardigan suggestions gratefully appreciated!!