Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year's Eve

It really doesn't feel like it, though. It didn't feel like Christmas this year, either, so I guess it's all part of the same thing.

Anyway - knitting.

I did a summary last year of all my finished projects, and it seems like a good idea to do the same for 2008.

15 sweaters -
1 hat
1 scarf -

5 pairs of socks -

1 wrap -

1 pair of slippers -
1 dog coat -
1 pair of mitts -

So that's 26 projects finished in all - and this year has definitely been the year of the sweater. Next year I still hope to finish 12 sweaters, but I hope that this will be balanced by more socks and lace.

Right now I am going to work a bit more on the Tall Tibetan Coriolis socks - the first one is nearly finished. This is a really, really good pattern!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Well, well

I really am knitting again. In fact I seem to have gone from one extreme to the other, and I don't think this is a bad thing at all. Knitting is very soothing. It is helpful. It is therapeutic and helps enormously when dealing with stress.

If I ever stop again, will someone please remind me of that?

What else - the eReader. Please don't get me wrong - I love books. I have a lot of them, to the extent that we have pretty much run out of places to put bookshelves.

And I read a lot - I think that I'd read in my sleep if I could keep my eyes open. Whilst I'm knitting, I always have a book open. There is always a book in my handbag, along with some knitting. (Except that now it is nearly 200 books...!)

When I go on holiday I have far more space taken up with books than with anything else. In fact, if it were not for the books, I think I would manage quite happily with a single piece of hand luggage - I've got the holiday capsule wardrobe down to a T over the years, primarily so that I have enough room for all the books I take along.

But more than the actual books, I like to read. I will always still have the actual books on my shelf - I am not contemplating getting rid of any of them. But with regard to the actual reading - well, all I can say is, try it. This little eReader is much better than you'd think - or at any rate, it is much better that I thought it was going to be.

My husband has The Bug at the moment, poor thing. There always seems to be A Bug of some sort going around, and the one that everyone has at the moment is definitely flu-related but not actually flu - we've both had flu jabs this year. I am fine at the moment, though, thank goodness.

I still haven't picked up his Striped Sweater again. It won't be long, I don't think, but it won't be happening quite just yet. Small projects, with an end in sight - that's what I want at the moment. I haven't forgotten about NaKniSweMoDo, not at all. I just have to finish twelve sweaters during 2009, and the Striped Sweater will be the first.

So, in the meantime, the sock. I finished the foot last night - that's the arch expansion (no side gussets with this construction method), the heel turn, and the back of the heel - ending up ready to work the leg. At this point, I tried it on, and unfortunately it was a bit too short in the foot. So I pulled it all back.

I do remember when it was a big deal to pull back a piece of knitting that I wasn't happy with - it isn't like that at all, now, and I do think that this has made me a better knitter. Being entirely ready to pull things back if they don't work properly has certainly made for a better finished product, that's for sure.

This morning I have knitted up the foot again, and am just at the point where I am about to turn the heel. It doesn't look like that in the slightest, though, and it looks much too long. It looks as if I have not just knitted the foot, but halfway up the ankle, and the shape looks very strange indeed - most un-sock-like.

See what I mean? The shaping with this construction method is not intuitive - yet. I have a feeling that it will become so, though. With this second run-through, it is making more sense.

The other thing that is not intuitive - yet - is the way it fits. We are used to the stitches lying in nice neat lines, or at nice neat angles. A gusset here, a heel there. All very precise and predictable, and easy to produce. Yes, there is always lace and all the possibilities that go with it - but we still don't expect great big swirls of stitches, swooping right across the foot in an unexpected direction and working with the inherent stretch and compression of the knitted fabric to produce the shape that is wanted.

But I'll tell you something else. This shape fits my foot really, really well. The first attempt was too short, which meant not quite enough room for the toes. But the arch section fitted snugly and neatly in a way that I haven't encountered before.

I want to get these finished, because I want to wear them - and I want to knit more in this basic shape as well.

Cat Bordhi knows her stuff, really she does.

Sunday, 28 December 2008


I am knitting again.

I've finished the Travelling Socks - actually I finished these on Friday, I think.

My standard sock pattern, to fit my husband. The yarn is Noro Kureyon Sock, and the colourway is snappily entitled S150. The socks, as you can see, are fraternal - however it would have been easy to make them identical. The colour repeats in the yarn are conveniently arranged to accommodate this, and it would have been nice to know this beforehand. Well, I know now.

I like this colourway a lot actually, and I have thoughts of a sweater for myself out of this yarn. If you have similar thoughts, and there is a current colourway that you particularly like, then I would advise you not to hang around. I hear on the grapevine that Noro will be discontinuing all the current colourways of Noro Kureyon Sock - yes, all of them - and replacing them with an entirely new range of colours.

The other thing that merits a mention is the choice of needles here. My trusty Inox bamboo 2.5mm dpns broke whilst I was making these socks. I've had them for ages - I think they were my first sock needles ever - I liked them, and I was sorry to see them go. The replacements, however, turn out to be even better.

Clover Takumi Bamboo dpns, again 2.5mm of course. These are good. They are more rigid than the Inox bamboo needles, and the points are better as well. Also, they have the sizing and needle details neatly engraved in the middle - the Inox ones had no sizing marking at all. The engraved details give a slightly textured surface to the middle part of each needle (of course) and although this was a bit surprising at first, I soon realised that it is helpful - the stitches really do stay put better than on a smooth needle.

If I'm buying bamboo needles again in the future, these would be my choice.

I have also cast on something new.

The pattern is called Tall Tibetan Coriolis Socks, and it is to be found in Cat Bordhi's excellent book New Pathways for Sock Knitters - 'Coriolis' refers to the construction method. I am using the yarn supplied as the last instalment of the Blue Moon Sock Club 2007 - Socks That Rock mediumweight in a particularly lovely colourway called Bella Coola. I really like this yarn - well, not so much the weight, as I do prefer the lightweight STR - but the colour is just beautiful.

I couldn't get on with the Cat Bordhi pattern originally supplied with the yarn, much to my disappointment. Despite repeated attempts, the socks were just not going to end up the same shape as my feet. So I looked elsewhere for a pattern - and here in Cat's New Pathways book there is a pattern written for one skein of STR mediumweight, using a construction method that I think looks really interesting. So, there it was.

I am not messing around with the pattern at all, I am just making it exactly as written, for the size that says midfoot 8.5". I think it ought to fit, but we shall see. The needles are 3mm Knitpicks dpns, and so far this is fairly flying along at 7 stitches to the inch - and yes, that surprised me too, to the extent that I actually worked a swatch. And that is extremely unusual for me with sock yarn.

One last thing, only slightly knitting related.

I now have a Sony eReader, and I love it to bits. It is even better than I thought it would be - crystal clear display, with no problems at all in bright sunlight, and the battery lasts a quite unbelievably long time between charges. Apparently it only uses power when the page is changed - maintenance of the current page takes no power at all.

And it holds so much! At the moment I have close to 200 titles on there, and there is still plenty of space, and that's without any additional memory stick or memory card. I have been roaming around Project Gutenberg finding lots of old favourites (for free!) and putting them onto my neat little Book.

And now the knitting related bit - I have discovered that I can put knitting patterns on there, especially if they are in pdf format. And I can magnify bits of them if needed - like charts. I haven't tried word documents yet, but I bet that will work too.

This is good.

Oh and by the way, the software that you want for one of these little eReaders, IMHO, is Calibre. I've tried the Sony software, and I've tried the Adobe Digital Editions as well - they are both very pretty, but they don't always do what I want, and I certainly don't find either of them very intuitive to use. Calibre is better. Much, much better.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Queues and other things

I'm still thinking about NaKniSweMoDo. Mainly because I'm still not knitting, apart from the travel sock, which is still progressing slowly during car journeys. I am thinking about knitting, definitely, I'm just not doing it.

One of the best features of Ravelry is the queue. Now, I am big on queues. I like lists, I like organising things. Before the Rav came along, I used to have an Excel spreadsheet where I kept track of what stash I had, and what it was intended for. Also where the pattern was to be found - don't underestimate the importance of this one. Nothing more frustrating than being unable to recall which pattern magazine is the one you need - especially as Rowan is now up to 44. That's a lot of magazines to leaf through.

And that reminds me, there will be a new one in the not-so-very-distant future. Number 45, in February 09. Last time - number 44 - I was working for Rowan, and because I had seen the preview I had the delicious knowledge of exactly what gorgeousness was in store. This time, no, unfortunately. I would really, really like to know - but I shall just have to wait and find out with everyone else.

Anyway, the queue. I've seen lots of people starting NaKniSweMoDo sections, and planning it all out. I might do this, but I know of old just how bad I am at sticking to my carefully laid plans. I think I'll just put things up as I come to them.

First, it must be the Striped Sweater, though. I had been sure that this was going to be finished before Christmas - turns out not to be the case. I'll get there in the end.

After that, currently I am thinking Earnshaw, mainly because it is cold and damp and nasty right now, and everyone seems to be ill, and a big soft warm comfort sweater sounds like just what I want. Also it will work up fast - very nearly instant gratification! - and I am a complete sucker for a pretty yarn.

Of course there is also Jadis, which is very high indeed on my list of 'wants' - but all of a sudden I am losing weight again quite fast, and I don't want to knit this lovely thing (Rowan Silk Wool DK, yum) and then have it not fit me next winter. So maybe this one should wait.

And in view of the ongoing weight loss, I think that for the time being I should stick to unfitted sweaters that will still look good even if I do continue to shrink. Polly looks like a good bet, as does Nissa - both of these look good with a decent amount of ease. Sarah Dallas' Moss Stitch Jacket will work even if I do get thin (hah, still can't quite believe it could ever happen) and Kaari is another one that will be accommodating - I do like raglans, they make things so much more adaptable....

So, all that I need now is to actually start knitting again. Maybe I should aim to get the travel sock done, first. That isn't too much to aim for, it is nearly done.


Sunday, 21 December 2008

Past the cusp?

Look! Another post! I can do it if I really try....

The year has turned. The solstice was at 12:05 this afternoon, and from now on the days get longer and the nights get shorter. This cannot possibly be making any perceptible difference just yet, but it does seem to mean something to me. Things feel lighter, better. Things will improve. Except not the knitting, not quite yet.

And on that note, I've been wondering about NaKniSweMoDo. Because at the moment I'm not knitting at all, and NaKniSweMoDo means that I will attempt to finish twelve sweaters next year - adult size sweaters.

Now, when this was first mooted, I signed up like a shot, because of course it would be easy peasy, wouldn't it? Fifteen sweaters this year - twelve next year, no problem whatsoever. Piece of cake. But then life jumps up and says - hang on a minute, things aren't necessarily going to be a smooth ride over the next twelve months. And that's true. Things might be a bit bumpy. In fact I can practically guarantee that they will be bumpy.

Well, I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to go with the flow. I had planned to start and finish twelve sweaters next year - but I don't have to. I just have to finish twelve. And that is still possible, definitely. There is exactly zero chance that the Striped Sweater will be done before the end of the year - but it can be the first project finished in 2009.

Now, at the moment I'm still not knitting at all - today even the travel sock didn't get picked up. The Striped Sweater is still in the knitting bag where it's been for quite a while now, poor neglected thing. But I will knit again, I know that I will, and it won't be much longer, because the stress levels are dropping.

At least it means that I am not actually obsessive about knitting. Despite previous appearances to the contrary.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go and watch Roadhouse, which I've just realised is on the television.

Patrick Swayze, don't you know. And music from Jeff Healey.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

A turning point

Here I am again.

Last weekend I was all set to post lots of stuff, but life got in the way, as it has a tendency to do. I won't deny that we have had a very difficult time over the last week. Bad things happening - very big, scary life-and-death stuff. The real deal. But everyone has come through it, and now comes the recovery, which might take a while.

It seems very appropriate that tomorrow is the solstice.

You won't be surprised to hear that I haven't been knitting. The travel sock has progressed a little - I am now past the gusset shaping on the second sock. But that's about it. I have every intention of picking up the poor neglected Striped Sweater this evening, but it remains to be seen whether I will actually manage to do this.

I had intended to post about my spinning last Saturday, and I think that I'll do that now.

I am slightly handicapped at the moment by the fact that I only have two bobbins at my disposal - the others are all in the process of being beautified in the same way as my wheel. This will be lovely when it is done, but does mean that until then my resources are somewhat limited.

Here is the state of play with the organic merino pencil roving from Natalie.

This really is spinning up beautifully. Now that I've discovered what I was doing wrong (hold the hands further apart! this is a long staple fibre!) things are going faster. I shall Navajo ply it so that the pretty colour changes don't get lost.

And here is my moorit Shetland. This is such incredibly easy spinning that really I can hardly believe it. It practically jumps onto the bobbin by itself. I'm spinning this mostly straight from locks of washed fleece - I'm opening out the locks with a little wire dog brush if needed, just flicking them really. I'm only carding if I really need to. I'm looking forward to seeing how this looks when it is plied - a simple 2 ply will be the best choice here, I think.

I'm aiming for something like a heavy DK, and I think I might actually get it.

Finally, there is this.

This came from Jan at Frangipani, and it is a shade card for 5ply Guernsey yarn, sold on cones. Just look at those colours! There are 5 different shades of Navy, would you believe? At the moment this is sitting on the desk next to the keyboard, and I keep picking it up and looking at it. I am hoping to talk my husband letting me make him a Guernsey sweater. He isn't keen on Aran work, but I think that the subtle texture of a Guernsey might be more acceptable. And I keep looking at this, and also the pale green one in the background to the right. Nice, I think.

Note to self: sweep floor before taking pictures......

Friday, 12 December 2008

Making someone happy

Yesterday I was sitting in a hospital waiting room for quite some time, doing what you might expect, waiting.

As always, I had the travel sock in my handbag. Actually this isn't really what you might call a handbag, it is a good sized leather satchel that I bought a while ago now from Henry Tomkins. I think that if you had a good look in there, you might possibly find the kitchen sink. It's a good bag. I expect it to last for - oh, at least fifty years. That sort of bag.

Anyway, the travel sock was in there, in its little KnowKnits pouch. And, as always when I have the opportunity, I took it out and began working on it.

Opposite me there was an elderly lady in a wheelchair, sitting quietly, doing nothing at all. When she saw me take my knitting out of the bag, her face lit up. I smiled at her - as you do - and said, 'Yes, its a sock!' And she began to talk to me.

She told me that she hadn't seen anyone knitting socks for more than forty years, and that she had thought it was a lost art. She told me that she thought all the yarn shops closed years ago. She told me that she was 83.

She told me about the pullovers that she had made in the war years, she told me about unravelling things that her children had outgrown and re-using the yarn. She told me about a beautiful blue short sleeved pullover that she had knitted to her own design, using yarn she salvaged from an unflattering sweater that someone had given her.

She told me that she had never turned a heel, that her sister always used to do this for her. I told her that it wasn't difficult in the slightest, it just looked as if it was. She looked at the single finished travel sock, and admired the one on the needles. She was very interested in the yarn - Noro Kureyon Sock - and told me that she thought colour changing yarn was a wonderful idea - 'What fun!' She asked me - where could she buy yarn like that? So I told her.

And then the porter arrived to take her somewhere, and she was wheeled off, telling the porter how she was going to start knitting again.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sunday evening

Well, I am still here.

Yesterday I had a nice time at That Shop. It was the first Saturday of the month, and that means knitting group. I still don't know very many people there, but it is a nice place to be. I had arranged to meet the lady who has bought the Wee Peggy that I have been looking after for the Guild, and we had time for a lesson. I do like teaching!

It is very hard indeed to leave that shop without a purchase, and I did buy a couple of little bits - a crochet hook in a size that I inexplicably don't seem to have, and some sock yarn which is intended for the facings of the Ropes and Picots Cardigan from the current IK. That's a nice pattern, I think. It will probably be one of the twelve sweaters that I hope I'm going to knit next year - although that particular statement of intent may turn out to have been a bit rash. But if I can't manage it, I won't worry about it.

Anyway. I am going to substitute some black New Lanark Donegal Silk Tweed for the Rowan Scottish Tweed DK which the pattern suggests - this stuff is quite unbelievably cheap, and feels lovely, really the quality is excellent. It is so nice that it seems as if it ought to cost a whole lot more, in fact.

I have done a little bit of knitting. Yesterday things seemed to be better, and I picked up the Striped Sweater without even thinking about it. It was lovely to be knitting again, I miss it a lot when I don't knit.

But today, things aren't going too brilliantly, and once again I can't knit.

I don't know why this happens. It really isn't sensible at all to find myself behaving like this. But knitting is a somewhat meditative process, for me, and at the moment I can't seem to find the right place in my mind. Which probably sounds entirely bonkers.

I think that I need to sit down and make myself knit. Maybe it would help.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

I think that it's Wednesday.

There may not be much blogging for a bit.

We've spent a fair amount of time in hospital emergency rooms over the last couple of days.

And if anyone can tell me how it makes any sort of sense, that a hospital that is failing to meet its targets - ie, to get all patients out of A&E in less than four hours - is fined for this.

The place is full. There are no beds available in the wards. So people who need to be on a ward have to stay in A&E on a trolley, until a bed becomes available.

Maybe I am being naive, but it seems that in such a situation it would make more sense to offer additional resources instead of imposing a fine.

Anyway, I'll be back when things get a bit quieter.