Monday, 12 December 2011

That Time of Year Already.....

Not much to post about (clearly) over the past few weeks - I had a wicked cold which stopped all knitting and then when I did recover my knitting mojo it was time to start Christmas knitting - so no photos as recipients may well be reading this!

Which brings me to early December - which regular readers will know is Gingerbread House time!

Amazingly - this year was the 20th anniversary of our Gingerbread House tradition.  20 years!  Construction crew members have come and gone - but the core team remains the same.  Me, by very best friend Caroline, her husband Pat, and as they came along her four children, gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve, scrumptuous Suzy, marvelous Mads and luscious little Louis. This year we were also joined by my good friends Shirlee and John.

In honour of the 20th anniversary, Gen and I devoted a pizza and gossip session to creating this banner.   It's tricky to photograph but we were quite proud of the finished object and forced everyone to gush over it on the day.

The animated version of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' has been viewed every year, while munching on pizza and waiting for the roof to set - so the theme for this year's house just had to be 'Who-ville'.

For this one instead of baking a single house I cut out and baked the pieces for 9 little houses, in 3 styles.  (I'd used the exact same template from a Good Housekeeping magazine from 1986 for the previous 19 houses.)(I'm nothing if not consistent.)

As I expect most of you know, "All the Who's down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot.  But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did not."  

At this stage of our story the Who's are enjoying their favourite Christmas tradition - "...all the Who's down in Who-ville, the tall and the small would stand close together with Christmas bells ringing.  They'd stand hand in hand and the Who's would start singing."

And if you look at the back you can see a Who-ville resident who overslept and is joining the singing a little late.

The Who's loved Christmast, but - the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville - did not. And he particularly hated the Who singing.

And look, there in his cave in the mountain just north of Who-ville  -- the very green Grinch himself.

He's clearly begun his evil plotting and has put on his fake 'Santy Claus hat and a coat'. Sitting excitedly beside him is loyal dog Max - with the fake antlers attached to his head.

The giant tree and mountain were molded out of rice crispie square mixture. Messy - but fun - and a little tip I picked up last year from Cake Boss. (I think it was Cake Boss. It was a show where some guy made and decorated cakes.)

We had fun using the most colourful icing and sweets to decorate the houses.  The little Who's are all pretty individual - a punk, a bow tie wearing middle aged Who, and a Who based on Madeline (one of my favourite children's books!) are among the little masterpieces.

As usual there was pizza and we watched the Grinch.  There was lots of laughing and singing, some champagne and bags and bags and bags (and bags) of icing sugar.

I expect I won't be blogging again until after Christmas so however you spend it I hope the season brings you peace and joy.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

I Just Needed Some Colour

Progress on the Princess continues steadily along.

I'm now on the final chart of the wide border (hurrah!) but still have a long way to go before I can call the shawl done.  Once the wide border is finished, I've got the triangle body to complete and then finally, another round of tedious edging.

I'm actually really enjoying knitting on the Princess at the moment but I went into a bit of a panic a few days ago as I considered the coming weeks (and weeks) of 'antique silver' (GREY) knitting I had ahead of me.

As most knitters would, I turned to Ravelry when the panic hit and catching up on some of the projects of a local knitting group I saw the PERFECT DVD watching colourful project the Lily Crochet Blanket.   Before I knew it I had downloaded the pattern and was ordering mini skeins of yarn from the Knitting Goddess to get started.

This won't be enough yarn to complete the blanket (each skein is about 1/5 of a regular skein) - but should get me started.

(The Natural Dye Studio who have made the pattern available also has mini skeins perfect for this project - but they were sadly out of stock when my 'need it now' mood struck!)

The yarn dropped through the letterbox a few minutes ago and I'm itching to get the colour flowing, but I need to tidy up the glue and glitter and get ready for gorgeous god daughter Genevieve's weekly pizza and gossip session.

Maybe tomorrow.....

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


Thanks for all the blanket/afghan suggestions - keep them coming!  I still haven't settled on one.  I've started 2 so far and both have been abandoned as I haven't hit on the right yarn/pattern combo yet.  I made a trip to the new John Lewis to buy some yarn at the newly opened Westfield Stratford mall on Monday - but was defeated by the other 700 million people who also decided to check it out that day.  It was busier than the last Saturday before Christmas on Oxford St.  Crazy.

In the meantime I continue to make slow and steady progress on the Princess. With projects like this I keep motivated by focusing on small milestones - goodness knows the end seems too far away to be achievable.

I've just finished row 110 - so I'm halfway through the 220 rows of the wide border charts.  For the time being I ignore what's left to do after that!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

What are the Chances???

Most of the time when I make socks from self striping yarn I don't bother trying to get the second sock to be exactly the same as the first sock.  I know how to, and I have on occasion bothered, but most of the people I make socks for have been convinced (bullied?) by me into preferring the more casual look of the 'fraternal' sock.

So imagine my surprise when I was a couple of inches into the second sock of this pair and realised it was coming out EXACTLY like the first.

Totally randomly.

I finished the first sock, cut off the yarn and cast on the second sock and through some little knitting miracle it started in EXACTLY the same place in the striping pattern. 

My rusty stats skills say that the odds of randomly picking the same place in the pattern from the yarn is  about 1 in 1039.

I only wish I was so lucky when it came to picking lottery numbers. 

Now that I've accepted it's fall I need a good mindless-ish knitting project for DVD watching.  (I've still got the final season of 24 to devour!)(And I'm way behind on The Office.)(And Downton Abbey is due to start again this week.....)  Anyway - I'm drawn to the idea of another afghan.  (Not that I need one - but they are satisfying knitting.)

Any interesting blanket/afghan/throw patterns to suggest??

Monday, 12 September 2011

...and the winners are...

Well, Parkinson's Society is the big winner here - thank you to everyone for your support.  The total of $934(!!!!) was way over what I had hoped to raise.  (I raised my 'goal' on the Parkinson's site more than once as you generous knitters (and a few kind non-knitting friends) kept bumping the total  up.) 

The winners, drawn by me from a little bowl of names are:

3rd prize:  Emily
2nd prize: Janiannie
1st prize:  MariaSK

Congratulations!!  I'll be in touch to get your address and will post the Posh Yarn loveliness to you as soon as possible.

Commiserations to those of you who weren't quite so lucky.  I've got my earring production almost done and will be in touch with everyone else to get addresses for sending those out as well.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Counting and Recounting

A HUGE thank you to everyone who has entered the Parkinson's Posh  Yarn draw - your support means so much to all of us. If you haven't entered but would love to win piles of GORGEOUS Posh Yarn (or have no idea what I'm on about) you can read more about it here.

Last week I couldn't muster up much interest in knitting (apart from the little earrings).  I knew in the back of my mind that what was stopping me was the mind numbing task of confirming that I had picked up exactly 865 stitches from the Princess edging onto the my needles and knitting the first row of the wide border pattern.

But in order to get knitting I had to count, so counting I did. Now, I don't know about other knitters but counting hundreds of stitches reduces me to jelly.  Not because I struggle with the basic flow of numbers - it is just that I get a different answer each and every time I count.

Of course that's if I make it to the end without the phone ringing, the doorbell ringing or (more often) losing interest and allowing my mind to wander so that I manage to to forget where the heck I was.  Stitch markers at regular intervals help - but even then I find myself with too many or too few stitches at the end and then have to recount all of the sections and ... well ... it's no fun.

But I did it.  I counted (a few times). And counted again.  And  I eventually decided I had 865 stitches and I started knitting.

And knitting.

And knitting.

It was like I was making up for not knitting for so long, I couldn't stop!

I knit 27,680 stitches. (That's 32 rows, but it sounds better in stitches.)  I am officially on a knitting spree.

If you squint a little when you look at this picture you can almost see how it will look with a bit of blocking.

And with the nasty counting over I think the Princess and I can finally start to become friends.

(I think I've FINALLY found an advantage to the inside out construction of this shawl - it's a little easier to photograph the pattern while it's on the needles!)

(And no, that doesn't make it worth it.)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Posh Yarn Prizes for Parkinsons!

The regional branch of the Parkinsons society in my hometown has decided to hold this year's SuperWalk in my father's honour.  This picture is my father with his brothers (most of them!) at a Parkinson's fundraising walk held at our family reunion last year.

Lots of family members will be taking part in the walk but I'm not able to make the trip to Canada to participate so I've registered as a 'virtual walker' and thought I'd hold a blog contest to raise some much needed money to fund research for improved Parkinsons treatments - and one day a cure.

The prizes are skeins and skeins of yummy Posh Yarn.

Regular visitors to the blog will know that Posh  Yarn is a firm favourite of mine - the base yarn is always fabulous and the colours are beautiful. Over the past few years it has become harder and harder to buy as it has grown in popularity. You can see some of my Posh Yarn projects here, and here, and here and here - oh! and here and here and  here and... well, you get the idea. I love the stuff!

But this cause is one very close to my heart, and raising money for this year's walk is very important to've raided my yarn cupboard and I'm giving some of my beloved stash away... Not surprisingly, most of it is laceweight - but you can double it up if you like a heavier yarn.

The Prizes:

First prize:
2 x 100g skeins of DK silk yarn

3 x 50 g skeins of laceweight Eva 2ply (cashmere/silk - each skein about 400  yards)

1 x 100g skein of laceweight Cecilia 1 ply (cashmere/silk - about 1400 yards)

2 x 50g skeins of laceweight Eva 2ply (silk/cashmere - each skein about 400 yards)

Second prize:
2 x 55g skeins of laceweight Sophia 2ply (cashmere - each skein about 400 yards)

3 x 50g skeins of laceweight Eva 2ply (cashmere/silk each skein about 400 yards)

2 x 100g skeins of laceweight Lydia (cashmere, linen, silk each skein about 600 yards)

Third prize:
1 x 50g skein of laceweight Eva 2ply (cashmere,silk each skein about 400 yards)

2 x 50 g skeins of laceweight Eva 2 ply (cashmere/silk each skein about 400 yards)

1 x 100g skein of laceweight Cecilia 1 ply (cashmere/silk about 1400 yards)

How to Enter:

Just make a donation here to the Canadian Parkinson Society before September 12th at noon.  (That's when I'll draw the winners' names.)

Everyone who donates will be entered into the draw for the yarn.  You can send me an email (thingssoolikes at gmail dot com) or leave a comment after you've donated.

Mention this fundraising effort on your blog and link to this page and you'll get a second entry into the contest.   After you've added the link, you can email me (thingssoolikes at gmail dot com) or leave a comment.

Anyone who donates $10 (or more!) Canadian (about £6) ($10 US) will get a FREE pair of the knitterly earrings I was making earlier this week as a thank you.  You can select style (little ball of wool or knitting in progress) and colour (purple, green, blue, red (not shown), white, or pink (not shown)).

I know times are hard everywhere and I appreciate whatever you are able to give.

If you've got any questions you can email me on thingssoolikes at gmail dot com.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Knitting - Sort of!

The Princess is making snail-like progress.  Whenever I think about knitting on it - something more important I need to do pops into my mind.  

Like the dishes. 

Or tidying the spare room.  

This would annoy me less if it meant that my house was now a pristine shining show-home.  But it isn't.  It seems I get distracted by something else  (usually paper, ink and glitter) before I actually do the dishes or tidying.

The Princess continues to defy all sensible construction traditions.  Having picked up the 865ish stitches for the wide border I had a moment of optimism when I thought "oh - at least I have the rows getting shorter to look forward to".


 The wide border begins with 865 stitches and 220 rows later it still has 865 stitches. 


I half-heartedly started working on this sock in the hope it'll spark the knitting fires.  So far, it's just resulted in a 3/4 finished sock.

In fact the most  yarn action I've had this week was inspired by some earrings that my friend the Caked Crusader pointed out to me - with the question "How cute are these?" And I had to agree they are darn cute.  (There are a LOT of really cute (and sometimes odd!) things there - the knitted knitting octopus is amazing  and there's a pattern!  The necklaces are sweet too.)

Realising that I had yarn (which at my current knitting rate was never going to be anything but yarn), and beads, I figured I could probably make a pair.  So I did.

Not quite as tidy as the originals -- winding little balls of yarn neatly is way harder than I expected it to be.

Perhaps I should take it as a good sign that while making my second pair, the temptation of little needles and small balls of yarn meant I started making these:

So maybe the knitting drought is ending!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

This is not London

What is happening to my lovely city?

Over the past few days I read and watched the news with increasing sadness and disbelief as the senseless looting and violence has spread across the city.  As I went to bed last night the vandals were moving closer to home as cars were burned in nearby Lewisham and shops vandalised in Woolwich.

Today when I went to buy some milk I was surprised to see my closest Tesco closed, and then spooked as it became clear that all the shops along the road were closed.  I reached the local Co-op to find its windows smashed in - and heard the estate agent closing up his shop explain that the police advised all the shop owners to close up for the day as there was the possibility of something kicking off in central Greenwich.

At 2 in the afternoon.

I don't know what's going on and I don't know why it's happening.  I watch the news and listen to the experts try to explain it but realise it will never make sense to me.

What I do know is - this isn't London. Whatever is happening will pass and the goodness that I see in London every day will win out.

I know that because of photos like this one.  It was taken in Clapham this morning at an impromptu, Twitter inspired, London clean up flash mob.  Thousands and thousands of people are signing up to similar clean up groups around the city.

That is my London.

(Apologies for the lack of knitting content.  Not much to report in any event.  I have finished the Princess edging and just into the wide border.  Pics and details in next update.)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

And Now for Something a Little Different!

You may recall a few posts ago I mentioned that my younger sister Donna had made a special request for a Christmas gift last year.  She's a bit of a golfer (in fact, everyone in the family is but me!) and wanted some hand knit golf club covers.

I could tell from the brief conversations we had on the topic that she did not want understated golf club covers - she wanted golf club covers that would get a bit of attention.

Naturally, I put off seriously thinking about the project until December. On my last shopping trip with my Mom we spent some time in the yarn aisle at Walmart and after a bit of waffling I decided that dog shaped covers would hit the spot - much to Ma's amusement.  I can imagine her reaction to the finished objects.

I didn't start the covers until January when armed with a few skeins of Red Heart Super Saver and just my wits(!) I set out knitting.  I had a few false starts with the shaping - but eventually had what I thought looked like a dog's head.  My other sister and father were less convinced -- until I added the ears.

Donna was monitoring progress closely and then had another bright idea -- one of the covers should be modelled on her dog Sally.   (Photo below - she doesn't always wear glasses.)

This was a real challenge - I am not a knitting portrait artist!  I made a few attempts which were frogged before finally settling on using four strands of grey kid silk for the grey bits of Sally's fur. In a bit of serendipity I found a skein of the kid silk haze in a side pocket of my luggage left over from last year's Christmas knitting for Kail.

I was almost done - but didn't know what I was going to do for ears and the nose.  Unfortunately craft supplies weren't readily available and the things I could find didn't do the job.

I was going to bring the covers back here to London for finishing - but Donna was concerned she'd never see them again (she knows me well) and took them home with her for the final touches.

The dogs made their debut on her recent golf trip to Cuba where I have no doubt they improved her golf game immeasurably!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

When the End isn't the End

So following the great shrinking fiasco I returned to the Princess edging.

I knit a little each day.

Only a little each day because edging knitting at the beginning of a project is wrong and against the natural order of things.  (That and the fact that I've recently become obsessed with paper and glue and all things inky and glittery. )

But I have been knitting when I manage to get the ink out of my fingers and yesterday I counted my edging points and I had made it to 62.  WooHoo!

I took a look at the pattern to see where that put me in the 'how much longer will this have to go on' stakes.

And this is what I read:

Knit the edging for 85* points.
I glanced down to the * point and saw this:

* 2007 note: For a shorter edging you could make only 62 edging points....
62 points! I have 62 points.  Clearly it is fate that I checked the pattern at this point.

The practical, let's get this edging done side of me is screaming (really, it's screaming) "WooHoo! you are done. Now you can do some real knitting.  Let's go!"

But the masochistic, obsessive compulsive side of me is whispering "Well, you could do the 'easy' alternate edging.  If you aren't up to the project as it was originally designed  then you should stop now - don't push yourself."

Even as I write this I KNOW the practical side of me was right.

No one, not even the Princess' designer Sharon Miller herself would actually notice if I did 62 instead of 85 repeats.

But I probably don't need to tell you that I'm on repeat 68 now.....

It's hard work being a freak.

Monday, 13 June 2011

When You Can See the Ending from the Beginning

You know when you watch a horror film and you spend the whole time thinking "Don't go in there!" "Why is she going in there?" and wondering how you are supposed to believe that any rational human being would make the decisions you are watching?  And then, just when you think it's over -- the baddie springs back to life for one last horror?

Well, prepare to feel that way now.

Our opening scenes begin with our hapless knitter finishing up the Donkey Jacket and shoes she is making for a friend's soon to be born baby.  The knitting has been pretty uneventful but took longer than expected - largely because the knitter failed to take into account that if you are knitting a jacket with a full lining it will take twice as long as a jacket without a lining.  This alone should alert the viewer that the knitter we are dealing with is not on top of her game.

As the knitter finishes the last piece of the shoes the background music changes slightly and you feel the tension rise as she looks at the 3 random shapes in front of her and wonders how in heck they are going to come together to be a shoe???

You watch in fear as she turns the pieces this way and that and begins madly seaming.  She tries a few permutations and then in frustration just sews the pieces together in what appears to be a random sort of way.

You watch from behind a cushion - but - it's ok. 

They turned into shoes.

You relax as the music calms down and you watch the knitter prepare to block the jacket. 

She drops it into a cool wool wash.

But as she turns away from the washing machine you see the first tell tale signs of red...dripping from the jacket onto the cream lining.  Go  back - you scream at the screen.  But she doesn't.  She's off to the shop to get something for dinner.

You know what's waiting for her when she returns.  A jacket with a pink lining.  You hope she holds her nerve.  You hope she doesn't panic.

You hope wrong.

She panics.  She wants a cream lining.  Not this pink thing.  And she's meeting the mom to be the next morning. 

And now you watch in horror as she throws it back in the washer hoping that another gentle wash will take out the dye.  Nooooooooooooooooooooooo.  She's selected the wrong setting and she hasn't noticed!  It's on a warm wash.  A long warm wash.

But she's watching the Apprentice and hasn't noticed. When the Apprentice finishes she does think it's odd that the short gentle cycle hasn't finished - but turns to BBC2 to watch "You're Fired" and puts it out of her mind.

You meanwhile are watching the little jacket go round and round and get littler.  And littler.

Cut to the final scene.  Our knitter, clutching a small, shrunken, red and pink jacket. 

The next day I gave the mom to be the slippers - which escaped the ravages of the washing machine - and a promise to knit something else when the baby is born.  The little jacket is - well - little and might possibly fit a newborn - but as a double layer felted jacket it's way too warm for a baby in July!!!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Knitting as Comfort

Thank you to everyone for the kind comments and messages of sympathy - each one is so appreciated. 

As we sorted through my parents' house we came across many of the knitted gifts I've made for them over the years.  Lyra was still in the tissue paper I originally wrapped it in.  The only wear and tear was on the paper - worn from when my Mom would take it out to show it off to someone - before carefully wrapping it up again. 

Lyra has come home with me and I am clearly my Mother's daughter as it's currently still in the same tissue paper.  I'll be trying to find a home worthy of it over the coming weeks.

I've taken to wearing the Retro Rib socks I made for my Dad (which he did wear a lot!) - they are too big but they feel perfect to me.

My niece Sarah has the cardigan I made for Mom last year, and Dyl has the cardigan I made for Dad in January.  I like knowing that the love I put into the projects is being passed on - and I hope the cardigans bring the girls some comfort.
Current knitting has been slow.  I made a pair of socks which went to Dylann and discovered I need to get cracking on a few more  if I want to  have any chance of filling this year's sock requesst list. 

I can't believe there was a time I was worried that I was knitting socks no one would want!

I picked the Princess back up a couple of weeks ago but progress is slow and a little uninspiring.  I've decided that I'll do at least one edging repeat a day.  That at least gets me to pick it up and I do find myself doing one or two more some days.

I don't know how many repeats I've done -- just that it's 'not enough'.

I figure at some point it'll become a real project and I'll work on it with  a bit of enthusiasm.  Until then - one edging repeat at a time.

I've just cast on a baby jacket for a friend who is due in June - it's fun to be making baby stuff. 

It's a Debbie Bliss pattern from The Baby Knits Book called the Donkey Jacket - and I'm torn on whether or not I'll be making the ears.  Ironic really as it was the ears that drew me to the pattern!  I expect I'll change my mind a few hundred times before I finish it.

It's a lined jacket:- the inside made on 4.5 mm needles, the outside made to the same pattern on larger 5 mm needles.  I've chosen a wintry red for the outside and am making it in 6 month size so it should fit the little one around Christmas.

And to finish it off there are a cute little pair of shoes to co-ordinate!  Better get busy - just set a date to meet the expectant mom next Tuesday.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Story of a Humble Man

My father was a man of few words - but the love and respect he inspired in those who knew him spoke volumes.  He never put himself first and he never complained, not even when Parkinsons began to slowly take away his independence.

As the oldest of 17 children, and the father of 5 his life was never quiet - and he liked it that way.  He had a smile that melted my heart and he loved to laugh.  In February this year my dad and I laughed so much we cried while watching a Jerry Seinfeld stand up dvd.  We watched all the extras because we didn't want any joke to go unappreciated.  It was one of my favourite nights of the visit. 

The first couple of months after my Mom died I think Dad put all of his energy into being strong for us, and shortly after we left in March he started to fade.  He was in a beautiful care home and had visitors every day  but without my Mom he was lost and within 2 weeks he was admitted to the local hospital where he stayed until his death.  I didn't make it home in time but my sisters were both there - and surrounded by his amazing brothers and sisters he was never alone.

My father suffered from Parkinson's for many years but he died of a broken heart.  My parents had been married for almost 55 years, and as Parkinsons progressed she  took the best care of him that anyone could.

As the priest said at his funeral - "I imagine that at the Pearly Gates today, Elsie has pushed St Peter aside and is saying "It's ok, I've got this one".  She's standing there with her arms outstretched as Herman strides up the stairs to be with her again."

I miss them both so much, but it brings me comfort to know they are where they belong - together.