Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Regarding boats, knitting, and sleep

I am back again.

Yes, we had a good time - although no, the sun didn't shine very much at all, and yes, we did get rained on rather thoroughly, particularly today. If I hadn't needed to get back for work tomorrow, I think we'd have stayed put at Bradford. Instead, we got soaked, waterproofs notwithstanding.

The first few days were just lovely. Warm sunshine, and I was wishing I had remembered to pack some sandals rather than just my boat shoes. We meandered down to Bath, which is such a beautiful city that it is actually quite hard to believe.

We had been intending to go down onto the Avon and go upstream - the river is navigable in that direction as far as the weir by Pulteney Bridge - and hopefully moor in sight of the bridge.

It is a truly spectacular view with that beautiful architecture - and no, that isn't us moored on the right, although it could have been - instead, we walked down here. At this point the boat was moored a few locks up, between Wash House Lock and Abbey View Lock - both of which are every bit as picturesque as they sound.

But the weather changed, as it always does. It became very wet indeed, and very windy as well, which is not ideal when you are trying to manoeuvre a 16 1/2 ton narrowboat. So we stayed put above Wash House Lock, and hoped it would brighten up, which it didn't seem inclined to do. Eventually we decided that the Avon could wait until another day, and headed back up the canal again during the brief intervals when it wasn't pouring with rain.

We spent a couple of days just above Bath Top Lock, with spectacular wet and windy views across the stone-built city - then we moved on to Bathampton - and so to Bradford-on-Avon. That's another really lovely place, very like Bath on a much smaller scale. And the canal is endlessly interesting- you never know what you'll come across around the next bend.

This boat looked almost organic, as if it had grown there. And yes, that is turf on the roof. Good insulation.

Look at it from the other direction...... amazing!

In Bradford we visited the Tithe Barn, which is something we've been meaning to do for a while. This is a huge medieval barn, something more than 50 metres long - you can see part of it here.

Inside, it is almost like a cathedral. Quiet, empty, beautiful, and incredibly atmospheric.

And then home today, in absolutely pouring rain.

What have I been doing? I think I have actually spent most of the last week asleep. Yes, really. I've been sleeping around 11 or 12 hours a night, every night, and having a 2 or 3 hour nap in the afternoon as well. I still don't think I'm caught up, but I'm certainly feeling a whole lot better than I was when we left.

However, I have done at least some knitting. The Cobblestone Pullover is nearly finished. When I picked this up, I was some inches away from the top of the first sleeve. Now, it is all in one piece, and I'm nearly at the third set of decreases in the garter stitch yoke, and it is going quite fast now that the stitch count is getting less.

And yes, I grafted the underarm stitches without a yarn needle. Just three dpns. I like this method a lot, I think it is actually easier to get a good tension this way.

I am less than pleased with the finish on the short rows in the yoke, by the way. I've heard that other people have had problems with them as well. The difficulty is not the wraps - this is garter stitch, and the wraps really are best left alone, they don't need to be hidden at all. The problem is quite simply that there is a tendency for a hole to form, on the purl side short row. Not the knit side - the knit side is absolutely fine. Just the purl side. I'll post some pictures tomorrow so that you can see what I mean. I think the finish is ok - I mean, there aren't any gaping holes - but it could definitely do with improvement. I'm thinking of using the Japanese short row technique for the second set of short rows, with no wraps at all - there are less stitches to deal with at that point so if I don't like the results then frogging won't be such a nuisance.

And now, I think I need to sleep some more......

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

In which I return, and then leave again

I am back. I am more tired than I can remember in my whole life - although I seem to recall having said that a number of times recently - and I have had an incredible time.

The journey to Holmfirth is a long one from this part of the country. We left very early to drive into Bristol, which takes about an hour, and I caught a train up to London. Very surprisingly - this was early on a Sunday morning - the train was very soon packed out. Then I went across London on the tube and had a long wait at King's Cross for the train to take me up north - this one was also packed out. I really wasn't expecting this at all. However I settled in with my iPod (hooray!) and my knitting, and the time passed quickly.

Then, at the other end, a drive through some really lovely countryside, and arrival at the Mill.

And there, in a lovely big airy room filled with light and colour - wooden floors, stone walls, tall windows, yarn and garments all around the walls - that is where I've spent the last two and a half days.

What did we do? A lot. My head is buzzing with ideas and information, all so useful and inspirational.

I met a lot of other DC's as well, of course, and I found myself looking at what everyone was wearing and trying to identify the pattern. Many, many ideas there, too. Things that particularly caught my eye were a recoloured Dodge and also a Lacy Raglan Pullover in progress (from All Seasons at the Mill, I can't find a picture right this minute) being worked in random stripes, and there will be more along those lines later, as I have some ideas of my own. I do like my neutrals, but right now I feel a call towards more colour - actually wearing it, I mean.

There were a lot of famous faces around, of course - famous to Rowan followers, that is. And everyone is just so nice!

The high point, naturally, was seeing what is coming for the new season. And on that point, I am not going to say a word, except that I was completely blown away, as we all were. You are going to like it, and that could possibly be the understatement of the year. Or maybe of the decade.

By the end of Tuesday, I was even more exhausted than when I arrived, which I wouldn't have believed was possible.

And now we are off on the narrowboat for a week, and I am going to try to wind down a bit. I am going to enjoy the fresh air, and hopefully the sun will shine. I am taking a stack of knitting, as I have far too much on the needles at the moment and I want to do some finishing off. Pia needs to be off the needles, as does the Cobblestone Pullover in All Season's Cotton.... and I may start Bark. I may even finish the Key West pullover - one of Martin Storey's patterns for Jaeger, in the long-discontinued Jaeger Celeste.

I will just show you the pullover which I finished seaming on Sunday morning, on the train.

So, this is the Grandad Top from Studio 5, worked in the colour illustrated in the pattern, Wool Cotton shade 900 Antique. I made the largest size, and it took 12 balls of yarn, exactly as the pattern says. I didn't change anything at all.

A really nice pattern, this. Easy to wear, comfortable, and flattering. There is a bit of rowing out visible there on the back, and I'm not proud of that - I was hurrying and obviously didn't take enough care. And it does need blocking properly. But overall, I'm very pleased with this.

I particularly love the neck detail. Also, those buttonholes were worked using Montse Stanley's buttonhole cast-on. This is the first opportunity that I've had to use it, since I discovered it - cunningly hidden away in her Knitter's Handbook, described as The Standard Buttonhole instead of The Best Buttonhole In The Whole World Ever. And yes, it is that good. I shall have to do a little how-to at some point.

Also, I have realised that I never did post a picture of the Kaffe Fassett Earth Stripe socks. So here they are.

My usual pattern, to fit my husband. He's pleased with them, which its what it's all about.

My knitting over the last few days has been Cookie, from Rowan Classic's Summer Delights book. I'm working this in the Silk Cotton for which the pattern is written, and I'm using shade 682, Fudge. Here it is looking very beige. At the moment I am approaching the armhole shaping on the back.

The fabric here is lovely. The whole garment is worked in 1x1 ribbing, and the Silk Cotton is just wonderful to work with. It has a subtle sheen to it, and the most gorgeous drape.

I'm looking forward to getting this one finished and wearing it. The only thing I am changing is that I am not planning buttons on this one, I shall just fasten it with a pin, I think.

And now, we are off. Back in a week!

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Well, nearly ready. I just have to pack.

And it is looking increasingly likely that the Grandad Top will be coming with me after all. Yesterday evening I did actually manage to get most of the second sleeve done. At the moment it is part way through the sleeve cap, and I'm sure I can finish that this evening. Then all I have to do is set the sleeve in - the first one is already in - and if I don't have time for the side seams and sleeve seams this evening then I can do those on the train with no problem at all. Today I found the perfect buttons, and I'll stitch those on this evening.

And then I will be able to wear it!

So, three Rowan handknits will be coming with me, and for three days (two of which involve a long train journey) that sounds entirely appropriate. The Grandad Top, the Garter Rib Pullover from Classic Knits for Real Women (what other sort of women are there, I wonder?) and lastly, Mine, despite that fact that it seems to have turned into winter again round here. Because there is a dinner on Sunday evening for which I need something nice to wear, and Mine will do nicely for that with some smart black trousers and a grey cashmere mix tshirt underneath.

So, tomorrow morning we are leaving unpleasantly early in order to drive into the centre of Bristol so that I can catch the train. With luck, I will be at Holmfirth after lunch tomorrow, and I'll be getting back rather late on Tuesday evening.

Really looking forward to this, now!

Friday, 16 May 2008


I've gone from being quite ridiculously excited to being slightly nervous about Holmfirth. Partly it is the long journey, it will take me something like 7 hours in all, including two changes. I'm just hoping that it all fits together and I do actually get there, and don't end up stranded somewhere. The trains on Sundays are not so good these days. And partly it is - well, I don't really know. I think it may just be that things are very busy at work at the moment - the whole department is relocating within the store next week.

But I am very much looking forward to meeting everyone. Also, I have absolutely no idea what we are all going to be doing for three days.

I've seamed the shoulders on the Grandad Top, and worked the neckline - some careful finishing needed there, where the side of the neck edging is stitched to the edge of the front opening. I'm rather pleased with the result. One sleeve is finished and set in, and the second sleeve is on the needles, just. I've been busy today sorting out some crochet for my class tomorrow, but this evening I can relax and knit. If I can get the sleeve finished over this evening and tomorrow (not totally impossible) then I can finish the seaming on the train.

Oh, and I need buttons. I'll buy some tomorrow in store.

I do just need to pack. And make sure that I take enough knitting!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


I am not going to have the grandad top finished in time to take to Holmfirth.

I'm still partway up the front, that's all. The waist shaping is done, and I'm on the straight bit up to the neck opening. But I know that I just won't have enough knitting time to finish the front, seam the shoulders and work the neck border, knit the second sleeve, and do the rest of the finishing. Not if I am being realistic. I've only got three more days, and two of those are work days. And I do need to sleep.

Also, I do need to do some crochet for a class that I am teaching on Saturday, as well. I'm starting to reach the point where I've got samples knitted (or crocheted) up already for most of the classes, but I keep thinking of things that I am sure people would be interested in, and I put them on the store timetable. Then, of course, I actually have to put together some handouts and some samples and get my ideas together of how the class is going to go. So, this cuts into my knitting time.

I could have been further along than I am, though. This morning we went to Frome, to take Lucy to the groomer's to be made beautiful. This is a drive of a good half an hour each way, and I did take my knitting with me, as I like to knit whilst I am a car passenger. What I forgot to take, however, was more yarn. I discovered this about five minutes after we had left the house when I came to the end of the ball. So, at least an hour of good knitting time spent doing absolutely nothing at all.....

This was frustrating. However, something nice made up for this, at least partially.

Whilst we were in Frome we looked into the Cheese & Grain Hall, where there was an Antiques and Collectables Fair - and I found, amongst a stack of bric-a-brac, a nice copy of Alice Starmore's The Celtic Collection.

£3.50. Bargain.

Monday, 12 May 2008

A love/hate relationship

It's Monday, I've just had two days off work - this is my 'weekend', you see - so there ought to have been lots of knitting.

Nope. Not much at all. I have finished the waist decreases on the front, that's all, and I still have the second sleeve to make.

So, why is this?

I have an iPod now, that's why. I love it to bits. I can take my music with me - all my music, there is so much storage space I can hardly believe it.

The only problem is that it is taking time to put all my music onto it - ie it is a time-eating monster and preventer of effective knitting. I am trying to knit at the same time, but it just isn't really working for me. I like knitting fast, but ripping CDs necessitates lots of putting down and picking up again, and going downstairs to get more CDs and forgetting to bring the knitting back up again - like now - so I am starting to feel the time pressure, and I just hate that.

I want to take this pullover with me to Holmfirth, and I want to have something else already on the needles for the train journey. Five days and counting....... Oh dear.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Friday morning

I shall need more yarn, I think - but not very much. The sleeve took almost exactly 2 balls of yarn, so that means that I'm a little past the halfway point now.

Here's the back, looking rather unexciting.

You can just see my sunflower seedlings in the background there. I don't know why these are flourishing so nicely, and the ones in the other trough seem to have completely disappeared. Maybe something is eating them. At the moment, Lucy is the main suspect.

Anyway, here is the front.

You can see the nice little mini-cables, which are very easy to work.

I've been looking thoughtfully at my spare ball of yarn, which is from a different dyelot. Not surprisingly, it does look to be a fractionally different shade, so I think that I will use it for the ribbing on the second sleeve, and then alternate pairs of rows on that sleeve, if it seems necessary. Just using it for the ribbing may be enough.

I am just wondering whether the dyelot difference shows more or less on screen than it does in real life......

Yes, it does show, to much the same extent. The one on the right is a slightly brighter off-white, the one on the left - the odd ball - is more of a cream colour....

Oh well, never mind. I dare say it will be alright.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

I don't do meme's, but.....

Indeed I don't usually do memes, but I quite like this one. It's from Steph.

Here is a list of the top 106 (why 106? I have no idea) marked as unread on LibraryThing.

The idea is that you bold the ones that you've read, underline the ones that you read in school (not me, I cannot remember what I read in school) and italicise the ones that you started but didn't finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose

Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange

Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath

The Poisonwood Bible : a novel

Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Slaughterhouse 5
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Why have I never read 'To the Lighthouse'? But more worryingly, I have never even heard of several of those books. I'm obviously ignorant......


It has been an absolutely perfect day today. Beautiful sunshine, with a gentle cooling breeze, and the cuckoo shouting his head off somewhere nearby.

Everything seems to suddenly be coming back to life and leaving winter behind. The chestnuts are covered with candles, the hedges are full of Queen Anne's Lace, and the sunflower seeds that I planted a couple of weeks ago are showing strong little green shoots. The grass needs mowing as well, but that can wait til the weekend.

I've been sitting outside and knitting this evening. I'm just coming up to the armhole level on the first sleeve, and I've also just come to the end of the fifth ball of Wool Cotton. If I can finish this sleeve with no more than another half a ball of yarn, then I will not need any more yarn, I think. So, I finish the sleeve, weigh the remains of the sixth ball of yarn, then I'll know.

Picture soon, I promise. Right now, I'm too busy knitting.

In the meantime - have you seen this? I want one. In Violet, I think. Or possibly Moonstone.....

Monday, 5 May 2008

Monday afternoon

I've finished the back of the Grandad Top. I decided not to shorten it in the end. The back took 3 balls of the Wool Cotton, plus about 30 grams of the fourth ball.

I've started a sleeve this afternoon. If I can get the sleeve out of the remains of the fourth ball plus no more than one and a half more, then I won't need to buy more yarn. Probably.

I do like this fancy cabled ribbing. I'm working it without a cable needle, of course - no need at all for that, and much faster too. Once again, something that I wish I'd been brave enough to try years ago. I see no reason why this very useful technique shouldn't be pretty much standard usage, and I am offering it at my Cables sessions for those who want to try it.

Wool Cotton is such nice yarn to work with. It's a while since I've made anything much with it - I think the last was Caddy's Pullover, from Sally Melville's excellent book The Knit Stitch. It has all the best attributes of both wool and cotton, with no disadvantages at all. It's even machine washable.

I have enough Wool Cotton in the stash to make Cromarty, and I haven't forgotten about that. I just need more knitting time..... I'll get to it in the end.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sunday afternoon

I've been sidetracked yet again. Instead of sticking with the big black pullover, I'm now working on a big white pullover.

I'm about eight inches into the back of the Grandad Top from Rowan Studio 5, and I'm working in the shade illustrated, Antique 900 if memory serves. It is a pale cream, I suppose best described as ivory. And this is Rowan's Wool Cotton, of course - one of my favourite yarns.

It is going to be roomy, intentionally so - I am making the largest size(UK 18), with a bit of adjustment to the shoulder line so that I won't be too swamped by it. And it is going quickly. The big black pullover, all three inches of it, has been put aside. I'll get back to it, and when I do, I will use lifelines - and plenty of them.

For the big white pullover, I'm currently wondering if I'll have enough yarn, as always. I've only got 11 balls of the Wool Cotton - I really cannot remember what inspired me to get such a daft number. The pattern says 12 for this size. However I will be shortening the sleeves by an inch - an 18" sleeve will do very well for me, 19" may be fashionably long but I prefer not to have my sleeves getting in the way. And I think I will probably also shorten the body by half an inch. I think that 24" in length should be fine.

At the moment it is too soon to tell how the yarn is going. The first ball lasted for 14 cm of the back. But some of that was cabled fancy ribbing over an increased number of stitches, so I'd expect the second ball to probably get me as far as 30 cm from the start. I could start speculating further, but it isn't really worthwhile. If I need an extra ball, I'll get one, and hide the dye lot difference by working alternate pairs of rows on the second sleeve, I expect

Less talk, more knitting, I think.

And having said that, I shall now contradict myself by talking about the new Kim Hargreaves book.

I can see two designs in the book on my needles in the not too far distant future - the cover design Lagoon, an openwork tunic in Rowan's Handknit Cotton (in Linen, I think) - and Sunlit, a cabled tunic with a deep garter stitch yoke, in Rowan's Purelife Cotton.

I like plenty of the rest, as well. There is Honey, a gorgeous fitted jacket in All Season's Cotton with beautiful cabling; the eponymous Nectar, a drapy tshirt in Bamboo Soft; and also Dapple, a stunning tunic in All Season's Cotton, again with a deep garter stitch neckline, and also some nice straightforward cabling.

And that's not even mentioning the Kidsilk Haze cardigan.....

Friday, 2 May 2008

Slow progress

You may not be surprised to hear that there has been both frogging and frustration here.

Fisherman's Rib makes a lovely fabric. It is deep and soft and squishy, thick and light and drapy, all at the same time - and worked in Rowan Calmer it is truly wonderful. And this sweater is going to be really gorgeous, if I ever get it finished.

First thing to take on board - this stitch makes a fabric that grows really slowly. I'm talking 12 rows to the inch, in a yarn that works up as a DK. Thats more rows to the inch than if I was working stocking stitch with a four ply cotton. Twelve rows = one inch, in a DK yarn. I still can't quite believe it.

Second thing - I cannot work this stitch quickly. I have to look down at what I'm doing, at least every other stitch, and that slows me down. I like knitting fast, and I cannot get any speed going with this stitch. If I don't keep an eye on my work, then the law of averages decrees that eventually that I will drop a stitch.

Third thing - it is nearly impossible to pick up a dropped stitch. Really. This applies particularly if the yarn is black, and the lighting is not brilliant, and the knitter is tired.

All of these things applied yesterday evening, and that's when the frustration happened, soon followed by the frogging. Honestly, the more I tried, the further the wretched dropped stitch went. It did not just sit there waiting to be picked up, it ran away, just like it never does usually. I caught it with a crochet hook in the end, and started trying to reconstruct the ten or so rows necessary. And, reader - I failed.

Back to square one, as they say.

I have just a suspicion that this pullover won't be ready in time for me to wear it at Holmfirth.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


I finished this yesterday evening. There is a fair amount of fabric in that collar, and it takes longer than expected because it is worked in the round, purl all the way.

This morning, a couple of photographs outside - although the sun isn't exactly shining, and the wind keeps trying to blow it off the fence.

I am rather pleased with this. It is flattering to wear - the collar works very well, and the waist shaping at the sides is just right.

To summarise then - this is Clovelly, from Rowan Classic's Coast brochure. I made it in Rowan Classic Cotton Jeans, shade 360 Canvas, and it took 17 balls of yarn, exactly as the pattern says. This is size 16 - (UK sizing, of course.)

And - finally! - I am going to wear it to work today.

I've cast on for Tender, by the way. I'd somehow managed to forget just how slowly fisherman's rib grows. At least it's faster than working in 4 ply.....