Tuesday, 30 September 2008

All change

Today, the weather changed, and the beautiful autumn sunshine we've been enjoying has gone. Grey skies, rain....

Today I had my last day working as a Rowan Design Consultant. Part of me is very, very sad about this - I've made so many friends, and I've been working with such an incredibly nice group of people in store. Walking out of 'my' department this evening for the last time - that felt really strange.

But part of me is going - yeeee-ha! I don't have to do that *&^%(*@~# drive any more! I've always been exhausted for most of the following day, after I've had a day in store. Three days working, three days exhausted - one day of normality per week. This doesn't do much for one's home life. So, change is definitely good, in this respect.

I've been given a huge bunch of flowers, which is currently sitting in some water in the sink, because the vases are on a shelf in the garage and it's pouring with rain and I don't want to go out and get them. I've got cards, I've got little presents. And I've had a really good time there!

I managed to get the Slouchy Cover-Up finished last night, and I wore it today. It was much complimented, which is always nice. Details tomorrow, once I've taken a picture of it. Kidsilk Haze is so lovely to wear. Warm when needed, smooth and silky soft against the skin, and incredibly light so that you don't get overheated indoors - ideal really.

I'm going to get the Hooded Tunic finished next. The front and back are done, shoulder seams finished and the hood is all finished too, with a nice neat three-needle graft along the top. One sleeve has also been done, but I'll need to pull back the top part, make it a bit shorter, and rework the sleeve cap. I really ought to do that before I cast on for the second sleeve......

That can wait til tomorrow, I think.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Monday afternoon

Things seem to be back to normal again now after the holiday - pretty much, anyway. Instead of a vast mountain of washing (where does it all come from? I wash whilst we are away, after all) I now have a correspondingly vast mountain of ironing to deal with. As you might guess, this blog post is due to procrastination.

I did finish my husband's socks the other day.

My usual pattern, to fit a UK men's size 9, in one of Kaffe Fassett's colourways for Regia - Fire Landscape, I believe. Worked on 2.5mm needles, as usual. The only difference is that one of my long suffering 2.5mm 20cm bamboo dpns actually broke just before we went away - this is the first time I have ever broken a needle - and I worked these socks on some 15cm bamboo dpns instead. I found them quite hard to get used to at first - they really did seem to be too short - but I have now decided that I actually prefer them. They are definitely much easier to tuck away in my KnowKnits pouch.

I've picked up the Slouchy Coverup again, and it is nearly finished. I've just reached the neckline shaping on the front and started to work up one side - after this, there are the shoulder seams and the neckline edging to deal with, and then the side seams. The neckline edging is very simple, really it is just there to provide a clean edge - pick up and knit, turn (I think), and then cast off immediately. Then I need to fold up the sleeve edges and catch them in place at the seamlines - and the whole thing will be finished.

If I get my act together, I could be wearing it to work tomorrow, which I would rather like to do. I don't think that this necessarily provides a valid excuse for not doing the ironing, unfortunately.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Return, and An Announcement

Well, we're back. We had an excellent holiday in most respects, and we will be going back next year to the same place, as it is so perfect.

We stayed in a beautiful little apartment - really, lovely. Simply furnished, and very Cretan.

We had a little terrace which opened onto the most amazing garden, there was an excellent pool, and the place is set right on the beach.

Lilies growing on the beach, right outside the apartment - these aren't tiny, they are quite big, about four or five inches across.

These are apparently increasingly rare. They were a common decorative image in Minoan art - the Minoans were the people who built the palace at Knossos where the Minotaur myth originates - and I must say that I am quite taken with them myself.

They look much too delicate and beautiful to withstand the combination of sea winds and hot sunshine.

The weather was good - during the first week it was warmer than average for the time of year with the temperature in the low thirties, sunshine every day and not a cloud to be seen. The second week was less wonderful, with cloud and cooler temperatures for several days, and a fair bit of rain. Actually that is a bit of an understatement, there was a lot of rain. But even when it is cool and rainy, Crete is a good place to be.

Unfortunately my poor husband was a bit unwell during the second week, but the medical care out there is impressively good, and all is now well again.

Knitting has been minimal, surprisingly. I have done a lot of walking, a lot of swimming, and a lot of reading - more about that later - but not a lot of knitting. The only thing that has actually been finished is one sock for my husband - completely mindless knitting.

Here is the current progress - my usual sock pattern, in one of Regia's Kaffe Fassett colourways, which I think is Fire Landscape.

When we were getting ready to go home again, I was surprised to find that my jeans felt positively loose, and I needed to use the next hole on my belt. However it turns out that I haven't actually lost any weight at all, so I suppose it is that old thing about muscle weighing more than fat. Good, anyway. It must be all that swimming and walking.

Right, the announcement, which I have been putting off for a little while now.

I am leaving my job.

Yes, I know. Being a Rowan Design Consultant is The Best Job In The Whole World for a knitter. Truly. But still, with huge regret, I am leaving.

It isn't the job. I love the job. It is the daily travelling, which unfortunately is just too much on a continuing basis. Every day it is a good hour each way - an hour and a quarter usually, often an hour and a half, and there have been points where I have been considering leaving even earlier. The drive is varied and much of it is very beautiful, but there is always a lot of traffic on the motorways, which often resemble a carpark more than they resemble a highway.... I could go on. But the upshot of all this is that it is taking its toll, and I am not going to continue.

I discussed all this with my managers a couple of months ago, and I will be leaving at the end of September - which of course means that I have just a few days left.

Right now I am feeling more than a little ambivalent about this. I have made so many friends at work, both colleagues and customers, and I do love my job - I feel very proprietorial about 'my' Rowan department, and I still can't quite imagine handing it over to somebody else, which is exactly what will be happening next week. Also, I shall really miss the teaching, which I very much enjoy. If the journey was only forty minutes, then you wouldn't be shifting me with dynamite. But it isn't, it is more like twice that .....

Working for Rowan has been something of a dream for me. Rowan is a company whose work I have admired for years - I am still in awe of the sheer talent in that design room! - and I feel privileged to have spent some time with them. And they are all such nice people!

Just two more days - Saturday, and Tuesday.....

Sunday, 7 September 2008


I thought I would just show you the Hooded Tunic, as I don't believe I have actually posted any pictures of it yet - most remiss of me. So here it is, just before I worked the shaping at the top of the hood - I worked an extra two inches in length before this point. This does seem rather a lot, but when I try it on, it looks right. I'll see how it is when I've finished the top of the hood and can try it on without knitting needles getting in the way.

The colour looks true on my screen. This is All Seasons Cotton again, and the shade is 234 Cement, a cool blue/grey.

I have since worked the shaping, and now I've just reached the point where the pattern directs me to finish the hood with a three needle cast-off, but I am going to work a three needle graft instead. Much neater, definitely. I don't have any wish for a seam ridge inside the top of the hood - I'd like the join to be as nearly invisible as I can manage. It will show to some extent of course, as the two sides will always be half a stitch off and the edging is ribbed.

Packing is just about all done. And we are off tomorrow! I think it is very unlikely that I will be able to post whilst we are away. We do try to leave the usual routine completely behind, usually we don't buy a newspaper at all whilst we are away, and this time I don't think we even have access to a television.

Back in two weeks....

Saturday, 6 September 2008


My copy of Vogue Knitting Fall 08 has finally arrived, and it does not disappoint. You can see the preview here, and there are two things there that I think are outstanding.

The first thing is Jared Flood's Green Autumn mittens.

I have yarn in the stash that will do very nicely for these - some Yorkshire Tweed 4 ply in Graze, which is the perfect green. I do feel that these need to be green, I am not sure why.

The other thing is from Kaffe Fassett.

This is his Lantern Cardigan, and he has worked it in Rowan Colourscape Chunky and Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran. I love this, I think it is stunning, and I want one of my own.

I shall, however, be making some changes.

Not the Colourscape, though. That will stay the same. Kaffe used Colourscape Chunky in Ghost, and I do happen to already have a couple of skeins of this in the stash, left over from Tempo. I had been thinking of using it to make a felted bag of some sort, but this will make much better use of it.

Also, I am not entirely sure about the zip. I am not a fan of zips in knitted garments, as a rule - I shall reserve judgement on this one for the time being.

The background, however.... red doesn't suit me, in general. And although there are exceptions to every rule, this shade of claret is not one of them. I plan to use instead some yarn from stash - Rowan Polar (long discontinued) in Storm, which is a medium-dark grey.

There will be a certain amount of messing around with the pattern, that is for sure. Tension swatches will be involved, and probably some sizing changes will have to be made - Rowan Polar is a chunky yarn, you see, and has a recommended tension of 12 sts to 4". The pattern requires 15 sts to 4" - Colourscape is usually worked at 14 sts to 4", and the Scottish Tweed Aran at 16 sts to 4". I think that it will work out though - and Polar is so beautifully soft as well, this will be lovely to wear.

The look of the garment will be very different with a grey background, and a non-tweedy one at that, but I think it will still look amazing - and it will certainly suit me much better.

The Hooded Tunic still isn't finished, and it isn't going to be either, not before we leave on Monday. However I am not bothered about this, because I have finally got it through my head that it is going to be hot when we get off the plane in Crete - hot! - and I don't need to pack numerous woollies to keep me from freezing. The forecast for Tuesday is 31 degrees C - and sunshine.

Sunshine....... ? Yes please!

Friday, 5 September 2008


I've reached the stage of packing where I am making lists - indeed, I have lists within lists, and it has almost reached the point where I have lists of lists.

We are off on Monday, and I still can't quite believe that it really is going to be hot and sunny in Crete, because apparently it is November here at the moment. Rain, wind, more rain, more wind. At least it is consistent. I just hope that the house won't have floated away by the time we get back.

The thing that I haven't organised yet, or even listed, is my knitting. I still think that socks and lace are the order of the day, although I would take Sea Breeze (Ravelry link) if I could get it in, which I think is going to be rather unlikely. I do, however, have my books organised. I get through a lot of books on holiday, and they are an essential. I usually take ten, and - Gabriela? - I have put Middlemarch in as well. So that makes eleven.

My husband has commented that if I didn't have so many books, I would hardly need a suitcase at all, and I think he is right. I do try to keep my packing minimal - Ghost dresses are the mainstay of my holiday wardrobe. A few of those, and I'm pretty much sorted. I take solid shampoo and conditioner, soap instead of shower gel, a flat linen hamam towel instead of the usual large and heavy cotton towel - all these help save space and weight. But books are hard to minimise, and I am usually right up to my 20kg limit every time.

So, I was rather interested to see this online yesterday - the Sony ereader. I very much like the look of this - you can have up to 160 books on it! I'd never run out of things to read! - although it is not cheap, and you have to pay extra for books that you already have on the shelf, of course. I think I may get one at some point - that point will not be until I can get my favourite books in ebook format, and at a reasonable price. I've searched for a couple of old favourites and not found them. That would have to change. And maybe the price will come down if I wait. Or not....

But really, this would mean that I could save so much space and weight when we go away. The advantage of this is that with no books in the suitcase, I could take so much more knitting, of course.....

Almost forgot, the Hooded Tunic is still in progress. I have now finished both the front and the back, seamed the shoulders, and started on the hood.

I will have a dilemma to sort out soon. I know that if the hood is to be of any use, then it will need to be larger than the pattern says - hoods never fit me, any more than off-the-shelf hats. You know how they say, one size fits all? They should say, one size fits all except Fiona. Anyway, a larger hood will be needed. But how much larger? I shall have to try it on and see - measuring from one neckline edge over the top of my head to the other neckline edge produces a result so much larger than the hood dimensions that it is ludicrous, and I am sure that I must be missing something vital. I have no idea what, though.

The finished sleeve, by the way, is too long. This was decided yesterday evening, after much pinning and trying on. Sleeves that are 19" long are just too long for me, no matter what the pattern says, and no matter how much I want to believe that the designer has got it just right for me. I shall have to pull back the sleeve head and some rows more, then reknit the sleeve head. Plus there is the second sleeve to work, as well, and all the rest of the seaming.

I would like to have this off the needles before we leave on Monday - and maybe take it with me to travel in? - because I am always freezing cold on planes - but it is looking increasingly unlikely.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

How to work the Buttonhole Cast On

I thought that whilst I was working the buttonhole caston at the bottom of the placket, I might as well take a few photos.

This cast on is not much used, probably because it is a little fiddly to work. But it really is extremely useful. It is without doubt the best caston to use for buttonholes - it produces a very neat, very firm edge, with absolutely no stretch to it whatsoever. If you use this cast on, never again will your buttonholes stretch in wear!

To work The Best 2-row Buttonhole Ever - simply cast off the number of stitches needed on the first row, and on the second row cast them back on again using the buttonhole cast-on. It really is as simple as that.

I am using it here for the caston edge at the base of an overlapping placket front.

You have only the working yarn to deal with, of course.

Take it in the left hand, and make a loop with the thumb, exactly as for the thumb method of the long-tailed cast on.

Now, put the RH needle into the loop on the thumb...

...and then bring the working yarn to the front.

Now bring the working yarn round the needle, as if to knit.....

.... and drop the loop that was around your thumb, off the end of the needle.

Now you have something that looks approximately like this - a sloppy sort of reverse slip knot - and you need to firm it up, making sure that it is in the right place on the needle.

I won't lie to you, it is fiddly. Take your time. You can, I promise, end up with something nice and neat, looking like this.

I needed to cast on seven stitches.

It does work very nicely, I promise you. Here it is, some rows further along - the placket edge is worked in 1x1 ribbing, with the first stitch knit every row, in case you were wondering.

I think it will do!


I have hardly done any knitting at all for the last couple of days, because I've been a bit unwell. It became apparent during Sunday that the wasp sting - or rather, stings - that I acquired the other day had become infected. So I went off to see the nurse at our local surgery on Monday, and am currently full of antibiotics. Definitely feeling somewhat better now, but the last couple of days seem to have just disappeared.

Knitting really has been minimal. Today I have reached the armhole shaping on the front of the Hooded Tunic, and divided for the front opening. Actually, I did work a couple of inches on one side, but then I decided that I didn't like the cast-on at the bottom of the placket, and pulled it all back again.

The cast-on that was less than beautiful was a knitted cast-on. I've also tried a cable cast-on, and I didn't like the look of that either. Evidently I am much too picky about these things.... after all, it isn't going to be visible when the thing is finished, it is going to be slip stitched behind the other side.

This time, I think I am going to try a buttonhole cast-on. This is a bit fiddly, but it does produce a very neat, very firm edge - and I think it might be what's needed here.