Tuesday, 21 December 2010


The turning of the year always feels very significant to me. Today is the shortest day, and the solstice is at 11:38 this evening. Tomorrow, the return to light begins....

It is still very cold here, and we've had lots of snow, with some overnight temperatures that are quite low for us here in the mild and balmy southwest of England. Recent nights have been as low as minus 10C - and yes, I know that's not very cold in the overall scheme of things, but it is pretty unusual for us. My brother who lives in Canada takes great delight in telling me of the winter when it was actually warmer on Mars than it was in Saskatoon. Brrrr, is all I have to say about that.

Jess loves the snow, and bounces around in it with great delight. Unfortunately the combination of the type of snow, and the temperature, and the type of coat that she has (very very fluffy) means that she gets absolutely covered in balls of ice and very nearly turns into a dogsicle. I've been putting a bit of olive oil on the vulnerable bits - ears, paws, tail, legs, tummy - and it does help.

On the downside, she smells like a salad at the moment, but on the other hand it does mean that her coat is lovely and silky. I am told that Vaseline stops the ice balls forming as well, but I'm not too keen on her licking that off afterwards - olive oil is good for the coat whether taken internally or applied externally, so I am sticking with that.

And the knitting? Ah yes, the knitting. Not a lot, I'm sorry to say.

So why would that be? Well, I blame the gabapentin, which seems to have turned my brain into a cabbage. (I hope this is reversible.) This is the med that I have been starting - still not up to a dose that deals with the elephant in the corner, so I'm coping with that as well.

And the med that I've been leaving behind - tramadol - I've been off that for about two and a half weeks now, so that's behind me now. In some respects I am sorry to be off that one, as it did give me quite good pain relief on the whole, with next to no side effects. I know I'm lucky in that respect as not everyone tolerates it well, but it seems that I do.

So why have I stopped taking it? - a doctor told me that I should realise that after taking it for 17 months, I was now seriously addicted to it, that I would have extreme difficulty in stopping it, and that I would experience 'false pain' the same as the original pain, so I would never know if the nerve had healed. Unless I got myself off the stuff, of course. Emotive words, oh yes. I wasn't too happy about the idea of being seriously addicted to anything at all, no indeed I was not. And I wasn't happy about taking the tramadol any more, either.

I've since learned that this view of things is controversial, to say the least. The Pain Clinic were not in favour of me coming off it, but supported me anyway. So I came off the tramadol over 2 - 3 weeks, with no problems at all other than a step up in pain with each step down of the med. And I'm still working my way up with the gabapentin, taking it slowly because of the side effects. I'll get there. Despite the cabbage effect.

So anyway - not a lot of knitting recently.

I have finished Wayfarer, which remains unblocked. And I have started Shadow[]box.

This is lovely simple knitting, just what my poor old cabbage brain needs. Garter stitch in the round on 6mm needles, using a strand of Rowan Pure Wool DK in Black, held together with a strand of Rowan Kid Classic in Smoke - this is a dark grey - and the resulting fabric feels thick and luxurious. I hope I'm going to end up with something rather nice to wear, at the end of it all.

Other things on the knitting horizon -

  • Wild Saffron, to be made in Stylecraft Nature's Way. This was on sale at Kemps Wool Shop, that place of wonders - for the unbelievable price of £1.20 a ball. This means that my Wild Saffron will end up costing less than £20. Bargain, to say the least. I think I got the last of the Herdwick - that's the grey mix - but they've still got some left in other colourways. Go and have a look on page 12.
  • An eternity scarf in Malabrigo Worsted. First time of using this stuff - I must say it is certainly nice and soft.
  • Another long looped scarf. I have the idea of 2 row stripes of dark grey and natural off-white, in garter stitch, with a provisional cast-on at the beginning, and some grafting to close the circle. I've seen more than one stripy Baktus, and I like the look of them - this combines the same garter stitch stripes, with the convenience of having no loose scarf ends to deal with.
  • Brea, in Colourmart supersoft merino. This is a good dark navy blue, and I think it will be lovely.
  • Victor(ia) from Kim Hargreaves book Cherished. This is, as I mentioned, written as a men's pattern. I am making some minor modifications, and will - I hope - end up with a soft, warm, loose, flattering, ribby dark grey pullover.
As I write, it is just 45 minutes to the solstice.

See you on the other side.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Right, here I am again, back to normal - or what passes for normality around here, at least.

Bit of a catch-up post, today. I am in the middle of stopping one medication and restarting another, and a side effect of the new med means that I keep falling asleep, and am thinking slowly and having problems with word finding as well. I am sticking with it though, because this should wear off - I've been told two or three weeks is usual - and I am told this is a good medication for me at the moment.

I finished the nameless project last week, and posted it off on Thursday, nicely blocked and folded in acid-free tissue paper. I hope it has arrived by now - I haven't heard otherwise. But equally I haven't heard that it did, so I shall just be optimistic here and hope that Royal Mail haven't let me down.

The knitting took me ten days, after one false start, which is not bad going at all for this particular project. I'll be able to say more, and show you the couple of pictures that I took, once the book is published.

I did enjoy working on it, to a real deadline as opposed to a self imposed one. I am also glad that it is finished, and I can return to projects of my own choosing. However I think I shall be looking for more paid knitting work, I am a reasonably fast knitter when I put my mind to it, and it would be nice to make use of it, perhaps. I don't know if I will be successful though, I am sure there must be a lot of people looking for this sort of work.

So, what have I been doing? - darning, at first. I have mended four pairs of my husband's socks, which have been sitting in the mending pile for rather too long. I have also mended his slipper socks, which had gone through at the toe. These slipper socks are a pre-Ravelry project and I've never photographed them - and I don't think I'm going to photograph them now either, not with a big darn in the toe. They were Peace Fleece Baltic Socks, with a suede sole added. That's quite a fun knit, by the way. I like working with Peace Fleece, as I think I've mentioned before.

I've also knitted a pair of these little things.

My son likes cycling, even in the sub-zero weather that we've been having recently. He's got snow tyres, you see. Last week he asked me whether it was possible to do anything about the fact that his ears get extremely cold when cycling. So I came up with this idea, and I made them on Monday. They slip over the cycle helmet straps at each side of the head, and hopefully will do the job. They are worked in the round, and shaped using decreases and short rows. The yarn is Patons Jet, and I used 4.5mm dpns. I didn't use a pattern, but I know what I did and it would be easy to make more, although I'd think that one pair ought to be sufficient.

At the moment I am not sure what to call them. Cycle helmet earwarmers, I suppose.

Other than that, I've been working some more on Wayfarer. I am on the last stretch now, all the waving is finished and I am just working straight until the thing is long enough. At least another foot to go, I think, although I have enough yarn to make it longer than that.

I am planning to start Brea soon as well - not in Rowan Lima though. I have in mind some supersoft merino that I got from Colourmart, in a good dark navy. This should make it a bit lighter, and hopefully more useful for indoor wear.

If the yarn that I am waiting for arrives soon, then I'll start Shadow[]box . More on that anon.

Also, I have started Victor, from Kim Hargreaves book Touching Elegance.

That's Felted Tweed Aran, in Soot, and it is just lovely to work with. First time I've used this yarn, and it does not disappoint.

Victor is a man's pullover, but I like the ribbed fabric and I think it will be equally wearable for a woman. I shall narrow the shoulderline just a touch, probably. That's the first ball of yarn there - I only cast on last night.

My second Opal is still languishing at the bottom of the knitting bag.

I just haven't felt like picking it up - I am not really sure why. I wish it was finished, it would be just the thing tucked in at the neck of my coat whilst dog walking in this freezing weather. And for that to happen, I need to pick it up and actually work on it...... I'll get there.

On the subject of freezing weather, at the moment it is dry and cold here. The small amount of snow that we had last week is long gone now. Instead we have freezing fog, and black ice, and hoarfrost over everything.

This is the view from the back of our house looking across the river valley. It is very pretty, but treacherous underfoot for walking.

Finally - from the comments - remember that if you'd like a reply, you can contact me on the email at the top right of this page. Blogger doesn't tell me your email address, so I can only reply in the blog, like this.

To the anonymous commenter who asked about the Slouchy Cover-Up - you can find my Ravelry project page here, and the Ravelry pattern page here. You won't find the pattern itself on Ravelry, for that you need to purchase Rowan's Studio 5 booklet.

Rowan's Studio series are limited editions - once they are all sold, they are not reprinted. Studio 5 is getting hard to find now, but there are still some around. For instance, here. I hope this helps!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


The un-nameable project is very nearly finished. I think it would actually be finished by now, if it hadn't had an encounter with Jess earlier this evening.

Jess loves my knitting. According to her, the interesting thing about knitting is the balls of yarn that are attached to it - you can steal one of them, and run across the room with it, and then run round and round the furniture making an interesting tangle, or you can sit quietly and disembowel the ball of yarn so that it is tangled all around you before somebody finds you.

This evening, she went for the latter option. I left my knitting for literally two minutes, and when I came back she was surrounded by the whole of a ball of yarn, draped over and around her. I don't know how she did it in the time!

I extricated her from the yarn - she was not pleased about this, and wanted to keep her new toy, but I was firm - and then spent quite a while untangling and rewinding it.

I shall have this project finished tomorrow, and then back to Wayfarer, which I shall be glad to wear. It is so cold here at the moment! No snow left, though.....

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The status quo

Jess is looking rather disreputable at the moment. She went into some undergrowth yesterday whilst we were out, and got hung up on a bramble with all that puppy fluff, poor little thing. It wasn't very nice for her, but luckily she wasn't actually hurt. I finally managed to extricate her, and discovered that she'd also got a whole mass of nasty big hooky burrs in her coat. They were all down both front legs and across her chest, and they were so tangled up that I had real problems getting any of them out. They were very prickly indeed and were obviously making her pretty unhappy.

So I sat down in the field (cold, wet, muddy) and took her in my lap, and between us we managed to get some of them out, so that she could at least walk. And then we went home, and I got the scissors out, and clipped away the rest of them - only thing to do, really.

Most of the feathering on her front legs had to go - more on one side than the other - and a good deal underneath too. Later on yesterday I got the scissors out again and evened things up a bit, but Jess had had enough by the time I'd finished one side.

So at the moment she's got half a haircut, and looks rather as if she's been dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards. I'll have another go tomorrow, and hopefully we'll get things at least evened up a bit.

We have had some snow - not a lot, but enough to puzzle Jess considerably. She kept wanting to eat it, and was most reluctant to come indoors yesterday evening. What we do have plenty of, unfortunately, is ice, and I really don't like that at all. I broke my ankle once, a few years back, and I'd much rather not break anything else, ever again. This evening when I took Jess out for her last walk of the day, it was so icy that she actually slipped twice. I was going along slowly and carefully, but she was zooming around as usual, so it's not so surprising really.

I am still knitting the project whose name I may not mention. I am on the home straight now, metaphorically speaking, as I am definitely past the half way mark. My right thumb is starting to give me some problems though, at the moment it is fine whilst I am knitting and not so fine when I stop and start doing other things like cooking. As long as it stays fine whilst knitting, I am ok!

I do want to get the nameless project out of the way soon, because I have a quite unreasonable desire to knit Shadow[]box. I think I would actually wear it, you see, although I may be deluding myself there. It wouldn't be the first time.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Must knit faster!

Seriously though, things have been a bit mad around here. (Although I think that's a contradiction in terms.)

The knitting-project-that-I-can't-talk-about didn't grow very much at all yesterday, but today it has been veritably flying off the needles. The technique involved has suddenly clicked mentally into place, and my hands automatically know what to do, and are doing it fast, and I don't have to look at my knitting all the time. Until today each row was taking about 4 minutes to complete, but I'm now cracking along with each row taking something less that half that time. So that's good.

I hope to have it finished in a week, sooner if possible.

In lieu of knitting pictures, I offer you instead a picture of a Jess, fast asleep on the sofa.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


Photographs of knitting are going to be a bit thin on the ground for a while, because I've started working on something that I can't show you. Someone I know is writing a knitting book, and I am helping to make up some of the projects. Must admit, I am rather pleased to have been asked.

So not only am I knitting someone else's choice of pattern, but I'm working to a deadline. This particular project is not a quick knit, the technique used is slowing me right down. I've timed myself, and at the moment each row takes about 4 minutes - I think that the whole thing is going to take me about 35 - 40 hours of knitting time.

I know that it's going to be touch-and-go as to whether I finish it before boredom sets in. At the moment I am enjoying it, lovely yarn to knit with and a pattern which holds my attention - what's not to like?

So far, 9% complete. That sounds a lot better than 91% still to go.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


If you are a Rowan subscriber, then go along to the Rowan website and log in.

There is a preview of the Spring/Summer 2011 collection - Rowan 49, and all the pattern brochures as well. There is a picture of every new design. I don't think Rowan have ever done this before, and I do think it is a good idea.

There are two new yarns coming out - Panama and Savannah, and there are brochures for each of those. Also there are two pattern books from Martin Storey, one is called Purelife Classics and the other is Cotton Classics. And there is another baby book and another Amy Butler book.

A lot of very nice things in there. I am not going to start making lists despite my weakness for such things, as I know from past experience that I always change my mind when the actual magazine arrives.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wet Wednesday

Jess doesn't like the rain. Not initially, at least. She looks at me when I open the door with such an expression on her face - But it's pouring! Are you really expecting me to go out in that?

That is fairly amazing when you come to think of it, considering that her face is covered with fur. However this attitude doesn't last very long, and soon she is zooming around as normal. She goes round the puddles, though, and she definitely doesn't approve of mud - she'll pick her way around the edge very daintily, thank you very much.

Yes, we allow her on the chairs, at least when she is dry and clean. Not everyone approves of this, I know, but she is so cuddly that we don't want to deprive ourselves. So there she is, having her afternoon nap.

She had her 'adolescent dog' check up at the vet's today - she's seven months old now, and we officially have a teenage canine in the house. The main change that we've noticed is a definite reluctance to come back when called - there's something along the lines of 'I'm a big dog now and I'll come when I feel like it, not when you say'. So she's on the long line when we are out walking, not off the lead - I'm taking no chances. All well at the vet's, by the way.

Wayfarer is ticking along nicely. I've done more than 30 inches now, and it will soon be time for Chart C. Such excitement!

I shall have to block this properly when it is finished - there is significant distortion in the charted areas, due to the closeness of the increases in the slip stitch fabric. Jared Flood mentions this, and he's not joking. Also, the slipped stitch areas do tend to pull in sideways, so where there is more slipped stitch fabric, the scarf is narrower. Blocking needed, definitely, and I shall use my blocking wires.

The knitting is still very enjoyable, it grows so quickly and it makes a lovely squishy fabric.

After this? - I shall finish my black Opal, and cast on for a Kim Hargreaves pullover in Felted Tweed Aran for myself, and also I shall start Anice, a Sharon Miller pattern from Rowan magazine 41, using the Rowan Pure Wool 4ply that was my Rowan subscriber's free gift last year. I plan to make it more Orenburg-ish in style, and reversible. I do like shawls and scarves to have two 'good' sides, this seems eminently sensible to me.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

To blog or not to blog

I've been having something of a crise de foi regarding blogging recently. It didn't seem to fit with my life any more, for no identifiable reason. But yesterday, again for no identifiable reason, I found myself wanting to write again.

So I found the camera, and off we go again.

I have finished knitting and seaming the turquoise cotton cardigan for my mother, I still need to block it and stitch on the buttons. I'll take a picture when it is finally done - I am very pleased to be finished with the actual making.

My Felicity hat was frogged, and I have made a Nice Simple Black Hat with the yarn, which was two skeins of black Cashsoft Aran. This is basically Jared Flood's Turn a Square pattern, with a rolled edge instead of ribbing, and it works very well. I added an inch in length to accommodate my large head, and if I made it again, I'd do the whole thing with the smaller needles to make the fabric just that bit more dense.

Anyway, it is a good useful hat.

New onto the needles is Wayfarer. This is another Jared Flood pattern, but I haven't got any appropriately tweedy yarn for this scarf. What I have had for a very long time is some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in a good sappy green, 5 balls to be precise, originally intended for Backyard Leaves. I fell out of love with Backyard Leaves over time, and nothing else took its place. Until, that is, I saw this pattern.

After the endless turquoise cotton, I wanted something interesting to work on, that would be a relatively quick project, using nice soft wool yarn in a colour that I liked. This scarf ticks all the boxes, and I am really enjoying it.

The pattern is basically garter stitch with vertical lines in slip stitch that wander and spread across the scarf in wave-like shapes - very entertaining - and the yarn is so soft to work with, it is a great relief after the turquoise Pegasus cotton.

It is very appropriate to be working on warm accessories at the moment, because the weather is thinking about moving from autumnal to wintry. We've had a storm where it felt as if the roof was going to come off, and torrential rain, and now it is clear and cold and dry, misty in the mornings - classic November weather.

Jess loves it all, and I love walking with her.

Monday, 1 November 2010


The last month of autumn, traditionally.

Today was just so, so beautiful. Jess and I walked along the towpath - we can do this only if we don't hang about on the way down to the water. Jess is 6 months old, so her walks are limited to 30 minutes each, or thereabouts. Today we headed straight down to the water, and turned towards Bradford on Avon.

It was such an amazingly pretty afternoon - the light was so perfect, and the trees are all turning colour. Widbrook Wood runs alongside the canal where we were walking. It has a lot of cherry trees, together with oak and birch, and the colour mix is extraordinary. The birches turn acid yellow, the cherries turn deep red, and the oaks are going amber.

And the light was slanting, the way it does in late afternoon, and there is a quality of such richness to it at this time of year, almost golden.

Jess had a wonderful time, tearing around after fallen leaves as the wind picked them up, but never too far away from me, and generally being very photogenic and adorable.

To cap it all off, on the way home we saw a kingfisher, that silent flash of electric blue, a moment to treasure.

And I forgot my camera.

Friday, 29 October 2010


I am still plugging along with the turquoise cotton cardigan for my mother. It is going slowly, mainly because I'd rather be working on something woolly instead, but also because of pattern problems. So far I've finished the back and am past the armhole shaping on the left front.

I've discovered that there is a bit of a problem with the pattern. If you work the slope of the v neckline as it says in the pattern, then the fronts turn out rather longer than the back. And no it isn't a dropped-back shoulder line, and yes I have taken account of 'at the same time'. It is just a mistake, I am pretty sure. Looking at the picture on the leaflet, I can see where the front slope takes a distinct jog inwards, near the top, where the slope suddenly gets much steeper just before the shoulder. The test knitter fudged it, I believe.

I am adjusting the slope of the front instead. There was some pulling back, of course, once I discovered the problem, but now that is sorted out, things may go a bit faster.

Now, Felicity.

Free pattern here. I used two balls of Cashsoft Aran in black, and needles size 4mm and 5mm. I modified the pattern by casting on 80 sts instead of 70, and working a bit of extra length as well.

This is a nice hat, but it isn't really big enough for me. The tension around the forehead is just a bit too much, and there isn't enough slouch, either. So it is being frogged, and I shall make myself a nice plain hat, probably with a roll brim.

I was looking back at my list of things that I wanted to knit - there were 15 things on the list, then. Two of them have disappeared, or rather, can be ticked off, because I did actually finish Mythos and Felicity. Another has been changed - the navy merino is no longer intended for Alexi, instead it is going to be Snowbird. And there is my new hat to add to the list as well - and I have started another Opal - so that is still 15 things. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Finally, Jessie is 6 months old, so I think that a picture is in order. She's about as big now as she's going to get, and that's just a little larger than Lucy. This can be judged from the fact that she can get her nose onto the edge of the dining table when she jumps up - which she is not allowed to do, of course. Lucy was not quite tall enough to do this, so the problem never arose.

She is still incredibly soft and fluffy, this is all puppy coat, and it will in due course be shed, and her proper coat will come in. Right now she looks as if she has little fluffy trousers on, and her feet look really small because I am keeping them trimmed - it is much more comfortable for her like that, otherwise she ends up walking on fur instead of on her little pads.

She's looking so grown up now. They don't stay small for very long!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Two things

Two finished projects, all of a sudden.

The blue cardigan for my mother-in-law is first.

This is a very straightforward little thing. Pattern from Sasha Kagan, in a recent (or fairly recent) issue of Woman's Weekly. I worked this in a single colour - the pattern is for a fair isle garment. I also worked the front bands in with the two fronts instead of attaching them afterwards, and I used Russian grafting to join the neckband extensions at the centre back.

Please note, Russian grafting is best worked on the wrong side of the work, if you want it to be unobtrusive.

The yarn is Patons 4ply cotton, which is a good basic cotton. I enjoyed working with the fine cotton, but I was glad to finish this and get on with a pattern of my own choosing.

By the way, this pattern has the best fitting sleeve caps I have ever encountered, setting them in was truly a piece of cake.

I've also finished Mythos.

I like this more than I thought I would. The fabric is extremely soft and stretchy - almost too stretchy, I think, despite the fact that I went down a needle size. I made size 44, which came out as size 40 due to my altered gauge.

It is an easy knit - the pattern is written very clearly - but it is still interesting because there is always something going on with regard to the shaping.

I think the only thing of note here is the method of working the i-cord edging. When working along live stitches, there is of course no problem. But working along a row-end edge, things aren't quite so straightforward because the fabric edge tends to peep through. The fact that fabric - and hence the i-cord - is very open certainly doesn't help.

So, I used a different method. With 3 sts on the needle, knit 2, slip 1. Then yarnover, and knit up one stitch from the fabric edge - 5 sts on the needle at this point. Then lift stitches two and three - that's the yarnover and the slipped stitch - over the first stitch - that's the knitted up stitch - and off the end of the needle. And repeat.

This works like magic, I can see I will be using it in future!

If I do make another Mythos, I'll go down a size to produce a size 36". The shoulders of the size 40" are a bit wider than I'd really like, and there is lots of stretch, so a 36" would be fine.

I've finished Felicity too, and cast on for another Opal, as well as starting work on my mother's cardigan, but that lot can wait til next time!

Monday, 4 October 2010


Things I want to make very soon -

  1. A hat for myself - Felicity, using 2 balls of black Cashsoft Aran. Like this one.
  2. A scarf in Kidsilk Haze - Betty, from Kim Hargreaves newest book 'Touching Elegance'.
  3. A Tartan scarf in the brown colourway.
  4. Maya.
  5. Irish Moss - a cardigan from Nancy Bush, using lots of twisted stitches, in Peace Fleece DK.
  6. Alexi - a classic cardi from Kim Hargreaves. I will use Elann Quechua which is a wool/tencel blend and feels very silky and smooth, mine is camel colour.
  7. Another Alexi, in some supersoft navy merino from Colourmart.
  8. Victor, in Felted Tweed Aran. This is actually a men's pattern - I feel the need for a big snuggly warm pullover. And I like the sleeve detail in this pattern. Kim Hargreaves again, needless to say.
  9. Wild Saffron, with which I have immediately fallen completely in love. This is daft because the yarn is expensive. But oh, it is pretty. And I'd wear it so much!
  10. Ivy.
  11. Eve's Ribs, which is just beautiful.
  12. Asante, which would be perfect in Felted Tweed.
  13. My poor neglected Mythos needs finishing.
  14. I really really want to be working on my Earth Stripe Curtain, as well.
  15. And I want to make some socks for myself on 2mm needles.

What I'm actually going to be knitting -

  1. A blue cotton cardigan for my mother-in-law. I am so nearly finished, I am on the last piece now.....
  2. Another cotton cardigan, turquoise this time, for my mother. My mum has reached the point where she can't knit any more - her sight is almost gone and she is having problems with her hands shaking - and she wants me to finish this for her. This shouldn't take too long, it is Aran weight cotton.

I know it is not an original request, but I really do want more hours in the day.

Monday, 27 September 2010


I've got sidetracked. A sure-fire way for one of my relatives to get me to knit something for them is very easy - just ask.

My mother-in-law asked if I would make her a cardigan that she saw in a recent Womans Weekly. This was a short sleeved V neck cardi, worked in a fair isle pattern with 4 ply cotton. And she 'wouldn't mind' if it was all one colour. Any colour, except red.

That's quite a wide remit, I think you'll agree. And if I had my choice, I'd make it up in fair isle even though it is worked in cotton - interesting knitting, you see.

The pattern in question is Shades of Summer, designed by Sasha Kagan, and last time I checked it wasn't up on her website yet...... Anyway, borders in celadon green, pattern in two shades of purple, with some pink, acid green, white, and celadon. Rather nice, actually - I wouldn't mind one of these for myself. So I was going to send for the yarn kit and get on with it for her, but my husband suggested that I hold fire and discuss it with his sister - because he thought that his mother really meant that she would prefer it in a solid colour, but if I asked her, she was likely to agree to whatever I suggested, regardless of whether she actually wanted that or nor.

So I asked my sister-in-law, and learnt that if I made the cardi in fair isle, my MIL would love it, and would put it away folded in tissue paper, to keep it 'for best'. And never wear it.

I wasn't too keen on that idea, I'd rather make something that she'd feel able to wear. So we decided that a solid colour was indeed the way to go, and my SIL felt that blue was the best choice. So I found some Patons 4ply cotton on eBay in a good rich blue, and cast on.

And do you know, I can't put it down. I am really loving working with the fine yarn and small needles. It is a while since I've made anything with this sort of fabric (other than socks) and I had forgotten how much I like it. So, no hardship involved, at least.

I've already finished both sleeves and I'm almost up to the shoulder shaping on the back.....

Mythos, of course, remains unfinished. I have completed both halves, I now need to graft the centre back join, work the i-cord edging, and whipstitch the lower hem. It will have to wait!

Photos soon, I promise.

Blogging is going to continue, probably at the current somewhat sporadic rate. (We've both had our respective surgeries, and are both recovering nicely, by the way.)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

This and that

I've not been blogging.

The reason for this is that I've been going through a bit of a difficult patch again with regard to my health - the pain, to be specific - and I do find it hard to talk about. But not talking about it somehow makes it even more of a big deal - then it is the elephant in the corner, if you know what I mean. So I've decided to put my head up above the parapet again, and just deal with it.

I'm having more surgery later this week, a repeat of the last effort which wasn't successful, except that this time we hope it will work. So I'll be disappearing again briefly for a while. It should only be for a little while, I am listed for day surgery and with luck I will actually be able to go home the same day.

If you've emailed me, or messaged me through Ravelry, please bear with me - I will get back to you eventually. I'm not spending much time online at the moment.

Whilst I've been being feeble and keeping my head down, I've also been knitting, and I've finished a couple of things.

First, Cardoon.

This cardigan has turned out to be incredibly useful. I've worn it so much that I've had to wash it already. It is just the right sort of thing for wearing over a tshirt or a vest top when the sun goes in, and that has certainly been happening quite a lot recently.

Pattern is from Rowan's brochure The Purelife Recycled Collection, and is written for their yarn Revive. I made size M, which ought to have needed 9 balls of Revive. I used Damask, though, which has a bit less yardage than Revive, and was surprised only to find that I only needed 8 balls.

No changes to the pattern at all - other than going down a needle size, as appropriate for the yarn - and I'm very pleased with the finished result.

Next, Opal.

This pattern is from Kim Hargreaves, you'll find it in Winter Blooms.

This was a very quick knit - just 4 balls of Kidsilk Aura and 9mm needles. The colour here is Nearly Black, and the fabric is lovely, of course. I only needed to break into the fourth ball of yarn for the cast-off. I used the lace cast-off, which is very very stretchy, and if I had been able to manage to get an ordinary cast-off to work here, then I wouldn't have needed the fourth ball at all.

If you only have three balls of this yarn, then work it just one or maybe two rows shorter. I bet you'll have enough.

Finally, still ticking along is Mythos, made with KF Design Line sock yarn from Regia. I still haven't got a picture, but I think my colourway is called Caribbean Mirage. (Turquoise blue, with green, dark blue, and sandy gold.) I changed the needle size - the pattern recommends 5mm, but this gave a fabric that was just too loose for me, so I went down to 4.5mm and I'm much happier with it. As this changed the tension, I went up a size to compensate. Hopefully this will all work out right!

At the moment I've finished the first half of the cardigan and have just started the second half.

The Zauberball socks are still plodding along - I still haven't finished the first sock. I'm liking the yarn more and more, though. It really is lovely and soft.

Jess is her usual sweet self. She's grown so much I can hardly believe it - she weights 9.5 kg now. And she's teething at the moment. She's lost all her baby teeth now, and the adult ones are coming through thick and fast.

She's definitely perfected the art of looking coyly through her eyelashes. I think cocker spaniel puppies must get cuteness lessons from their mothers.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


I seem to have rather lost the blogging habit, what with being away sans internet for five whole weeks.

In fact I seem to have lost the internet habit as well, which is quite a surprise. I used to love wandering around Ravelry, looking at this and that, projects and patterns, and organising my queue - that's a terrible time waster, by the way. Anyway, not at the moment.

And, do you know, I am really not missing it at all.

I am, of course, spending a lot of time with little Jessie. She is now having two walks a day, and I am just about coping with that. We don't go anywhere very fast, as there seem to be an awful lot of fence posts and lampposts and other interesting things around here that a little puppy cannot possibly be expected to walk past without stopping and sniffing thoroughly. Plus if we meet another dog - and their owner too, of course - we always seem to stop and talk for a while. (Jessie just loves meeting other dogs, and new people. She's going to be very well socialised, we think.)

It does mean that our progress is slow. The other day I borrowed my son's GPS thingie and discovered that we are walking at an average speed of one and a half miles per hour. So I'm not exactly covering a lot of ground, and that's probably a good thing.

There is a fine balance to be achieved here - I do very much want to improve my general level of fitness, as I've been a semi-invalid for rather too long now, and I do have another surgery coming up - but I have to be careful not to do too much, or the pain management doesn't manage, if you follow. And that is definitely not recommended.

Little slow walks with a little fluffy puppy are just about right, at the moment. But I remember how I used to walk with Lucy, before she (and I) got ill - we would go off for a good couple of hours every day along the footpaths in all weathers, we both loved it, and it was wonderful. I do want to get back to that, very much, but it's not going to happen overnight, that's for sure.

Knitting - Julia is still stalled, and I haven't finished Cardoon yet. I'm half way up the second sleeve, and then I shall need to set in the sleeves, and work the side seams.

Also, I haven't mentioned the latest travel sock, which is in blue Crazy Zauberball. I do like the colours, and I also like the way that the round ball of yarn looks, but I don't like the way that sections of yarn keep falling off the ball and getting into a tangle in my little sock workbag. Nearly at the first heel, anyway, and it is nice yarn to work with - not splitty, and nice and soft.

I am feeling a real need for more cardigans in my wardrobe at the moment, and I think that after this I shall cast on for Mythos, with the first sleeve as my swatch. I have some Kaffe Fassett Design Line sock yarn in Caribbean Mirage, which should work up rather nicely, I think.

Photos eventually, I promise.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Many happenings....

I have been so busy, these last weeks.

The single most significant thing that has happened is that my daughter has gone to Africa for a while. She's a medical student at one of the big London teaching hospitals, on an accelerated graduate entry course. She's just going into her last year - and as part of the course she is required to spend some time working abroad. She could have gone anywhere in the world, practically, but she chose to go and work in Africa. At the moment she is working at a clinic in Ethiopia, which is attached to an orphanage where all the children are HIV positive. And I am so proud of her that I hardly know how to express it.

She says that she's enjoying it, and that everyone is friendly, and that she is learning a lot, and that although the facilities are very basic indeed, the children are getting good treatment, and that they do have electricity most of the time...(!) And even, occasionally, an internet connection - I've had an email from her. So I know she's arrived, and that all is well. She'll be back in October.

Compared to that, everything else fades into insignificance, really.

Jessie is doing so well. She's past the fast growth stage, and heading into adolescence. At the moment she's teething like anything. The big molars at the back are coming through, and she has such an urge to chew - a frozen washcloth seems to be helpful, and ice cubes too.

She's still eating a lot. We are giving her Naturediet and Nature's Menu - both of these are real foods, not dry kibble, and both of them are a complete diet. The difference is convenience, really - the Nature's Menu is basically minced raw meat (including ground bone) and a selection of vegetables, and it comes as a bag of frozen nuggets which you just thaw out - the Naturediet has a very similar content but is cooked, and comes in plastic packs which you can keep at room temperature. Real food, though!

And my goodness, she does keep us busy! She is so bright, and is learning quickly. Once a week we take her to the Puppy Class at a local dog training club - she just loves this.

The advice these days is that young puppies should be walked no more than 5 minutes per month of age, twice a day. So for Jessie at 4 months old, that means two 20 minute walks a day, at most. I am finding that I can cope with this - most days, at least.

I've been told that I will definitely need to have one more surgery. I was expecting this, and hopefully it won't be long to wait - after all, this isn't a new problem, it is because things didn't heal correctly after the big surgery last summer. Eight to ten weeks, I've been told.

Other than that, things are going well.

Knitting, though - not quite so much. I still haven't finished Julia, the Debbie Bliss cabled cotton pullover, but I have started something else - Cardoon - and it is flying off the needles. I have just one and a bit sleeves to go, and it will be done.

So, watch this space..........

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Here is Pomander.

I actually finished this before we left on the boat six weeks ago, all but setting in the second sleeve and working the second sleeve and side seam. On Monday I finished it properly, and immediately put it on and wore it for the rest of the evening. I've worn it every day since then, as well, so it looks as if this pullover is going to earn its keep.

RYC Cotton Jeans is quite a heavy yarn, 100% cotton and it is aran weight as well, but this pullover isn't too hot because of the textured openwork sections, and the open placket neckline. It works perfectly over a vest or camisole.

Pattern from Rowan Classic Summer Delights, yarn is RYC Cotton Jeans as I said - now discontinued, sadly - and the colour is Tussore 373 which is a good straightforward dark navy, regardless of the strange variations that my camera is showing. I made size M, and I used 22 balls of yarn where the pattern requirements say 20. As my row gauge was out by 10%, that's entirely to be expected.

Verdict - very nice!

Two other things -

I still haven't finished the back of Julia - just half a dozen rows to go - but here you can see the work in progress. Heavily cabled, and great fun to knit. The colour is pale duck egg, unusual for me, but I like it.

And Jessie has doubled her weight since she came to live with us.

Here she is on the day we collected her, eight weeks old and 3.54 kilos -

- and here at 15 weeks old, and 7.2 kilos.

Quite a change! Our baby puppy isn't such a baby any more....

Saturday, 31 July 2010

There and back again

So, we are back.

We've been back for a week, actually, and that week has been full of various appointments. And laundry. Lots of that.

It does feel rather strange being in a house again. There is so much space - and so many things - and we keep asking ourselves why we actually need bricks and mortar, when we've just lived perfectly happily on our narrowboat for five weeks.

We have had a wonderful time. We have both got very brown, we have both lost some weight - about a stone between us - and we are both feeling much fitter. I have had to move the buckle on my jeans belt in by three holes, which is most gratifying.

I managed more than I had thought possible. I can't push lock gates or wind the paddles if the mechanism is heavy - and I can't stand and steer for very long, but I can definitely manage a lock that is properly maintained, and I am walking better and further that I could have imagined.

And Jessie has grown so much! We started off with a little 9 week old puppy, a real baby.

When we arrived home, she was 14 weeks old, and growing into a happy, healthy and confident little dog.

She loved the boat. She very much liked the fact that we were all together, all day long - and she also loved meeting so many people and so many dogs - literally dozens of people and dogs, every day. The towpath is a busy place, and it seems that everybody wants to stop and talk to such a pretty little puppy. Jess loves everybody, unreservedly. It is lovely.

She remembered the house, though, when we arrived home again. No doubt about that.

Knitting has been minimal. Would you believe that in five weeks, all I have to show is the unfinished back of a pullover? This is partly due to looking after little Jessie - very time consuming! - but also because the old carpal tunnel problem is playing up again. I hope it settles soon, it is quite inconvenient.

But we did have a lovely time.

Our favourite part of the Kennet & Avon is the part known as the Long Pound - 15 miles without a lock, winding through the Wiltshire Wolds, mostly under the view of the White Horse at Milk Hill.

The centre of Reading is quite spectacular from the water - it is a pity that there is nowhere to moor up and visit the shops or a restaurant. The waterway through the Oracle is too narrow and twisty for two boats to pass safely, so this section is controlled by traffic lights - and there really is nowhere to stop.

And then we were on the Thames. I've never been on the Thames before, not on a narrowboat, and it is quite an experience. It is so big. And so beautiful, too. (That's Windsor Castle, of course.)

Then on to the River Wey - the Wey Navigation is old, as you can see.

I think my favourite thing along the Wey is this little building at the riverside near Pyrford. It has a blue plaque, which I think speaks for itself.

I get shivers, looking at that.

I could go on. Two weeks to Guildford - three weeks to get back home again. The journey would take something like two and a half hours by car. There is no doubt that travelling at walking pace gives one a completely different appreciation of distance.

We have enjoyed being away - and we are happy to be back, as well.

The scenery as we neared home was not dramatic or spectacular, but still beautiful to us.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Last thing....

We are off tomorrow morning on the boat. We shall be away for about a month, we think, and I probably won't have internet access until we get back, so this will probably be the last post for a while.

Knitting - I finished the latest pair of travelling socks.

Pattern is my own. I love the spiral toe, it gives such a neat fit - and no grafting at all. Needles are 2.25mm, and the yarn is Trekking XL, colour 100.

And I have very nearly finished Pomander as well - I just have to cast off the last sleeve, set it in, and work the side and sleeve seam on that side. But that won't be happening until I get back!

Jess is doing really well. She has stopped nibbling everyones fingers and feet, thank goodness - at one point this week she was being referred to as either Piranha Puppy or White Fang. Teeth like needles, I kid you not.

I've been taking some more pictures.

Here she is sitting in the hallway. This gives a good idea of how little she is - the skirting board is 10cm high.

She love playing in the garden, and is completely housetrained already - she's a bright little thing, very quick to learn.

She's asleep on the sofa right now - she is still sleeping a lot of the time, and she's tired this evening. This is because we visited the puppy class of the local dog training club, which we'll probably be attending when we get back. She sat on my lap and looked at everything - lots of people, lots of dogs - and she wasn't frightened at all, instead she was wanting to get down and join in.

She is very nearly sleeping through the night, now. I am only being woken once, usually at about 4am, and she settles down again immediately after a quick visit to the garden.

I expect it is fairly clear that we are completely besotted with her.

Ok, one more....

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Here she is!

Things have been busy around here.

She is very tiny - just eight weeks old yesterday - and very sweet. Right now she is finding everything just a little bit overwhelming, but this won't last long, I am sure.

She is eating and drinking as she should, and she's taken to the crate immediately. There is a whole collection of toys in there now, she's been carrying them in there one by one.

She is very time consuming. Knitting is sidelined for the time being, you won't be surprised to hear.

For those who have asked - she is an English Cocker Spaniel, and she is blue roan with tan - a very light blue roan. Adorableness is built-in, apparently.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Three days left*

I've got sidetracked again.

I have a large bag - actually an old zipped pillowcase - which is about half full of sock yarn oddments. Every time I finish a pair of socks, that's where the remainder of the yarn ends up. I've knitted quite a lot of socks over the years, so I've got quite a lot of oddments.

A while ago I spotted a gorgeous blanket on Ravelry, made with sock yarn oddments - this one - and realised what a good idea it was. The construction - lots of teeny squares - means lots of edges, and that means added stability, which is a good idea for a knitted blanket. No actual casting off though, and a minimum of casting on, and I can use up every last little bit of yarn.

My blanket will not be quite the same as that one. I am not going to have the zigzag edges for a start, I'm going to have straight edges just because I like it that way, and this makes the construction easier at the beginning - because I can start with just one long straight strip.

Another thing - the ends are all being woven in as I go. I couldn't face sewing in all those hundreds of little ends individually, as on the original blanket.

I'm using 2.75mm dpns, and each little square has a cast-on of 31 sts. And one more change - I'm not using a centred double decrease. Instead I'm just working slip1, k2tog, psso - because it is quick and easy, and also because I want the real focus to be the garter ridges and the stripes they produce, not the decrease line across the diagonal.

So, in summary - just in case I forget what I've decided on -

Knit cast-on 31 sts. (I never use this cast-on usually, but it is perfect here because it has neat little loops which are just what you want for picking up stitches for an i-cord edging.)

Turn, and knit back, - this is the WS - working the last stitch tbl. Every row from now on has the first stitch slipped purlwise with the yarn in front, and the last stitch worked tbl - this makes a nice chain along the edges which is excellent for picking up stitches - and there is a lot of that to come.

Continue in garter stitch, working a double decrease at the centre of each RS row, until just one stitch remains. Break yarn, do not fasten off (unless you've finished a row). Usually this last stitch becomes the first stitch of the next square.

With the next yarn, with the right side facing, and with the last stitch from the previous square already on the RH needle, pick up and knit 14 sts along the left side of the square, plus one more at the corner. Turn and knit cast-on 15 more stitches - and there's your 31 sts for the next square.....

Ends are woven in as you go - always.

These little mitred squares turn out to be quite addictive, by the way. No surprise there.

Despite all that, I've still managed to make some progress on Pomander. The back, the front and the first sleeve are finished, and I'm working the bands along the front opening at the moment. Next, I shall seam both shoulders and get on with the collar. I am definitely going to use more yarn for this pullover than the pattern requirements say, because of my dodgy row gauge. I should have enough, though, because I did order some extra. So that's all right.

On my mind at the moment - we're off for a whole month on the boat, shortly. And I shall want to have plenty of knitting with me, even though Jess will no doubt be keeping me busy. So, what to take?

Current thinking - the current travel sock, which goes without saying; Citron, in Tuareg Blue Malabrigo Lace; Yarnissima's Brainless Socks, in green Opal Solid sock yarn; and something else. A garment project. But what?

I want to make Denim Purl, in ecru - (yes, I know it says Demin Purl on Ravelry, I wish I knew how to change it) - that would definitely keep me occupied, but the hot wash-and-dry to shrink it to the right size would have to wait until we arrived home. I also keep coming back to Jersey - this is a wonderfully classic Martin Storey pattern, a simple striped pullover with little vents at the hem, and I've got some CashCotton DK in light grey, with black for the stripes and edging. Other than that, there is Cardoon, from the new Rowan Revive collection. I'd make this in Rowan Damask, which ought to substitute beautifully.

Or there are several Debbie Bliss patterns that I am also considering. There is the snappily titled Boat Neck Aran/Cabled Pullover (Long), which I would make in Debbie Bliss Pure Cotton - this is an aran weight cotton, and should substitute very nicely. Pale stone, by the way. And there is Julia - same yarn, but pale duck egg blue. I do like those cables, very much.

*Three days left until we collect Jess!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Sock Trick

Here we are at last - the sock trick, or, how to avoid holes!

This is for a sock using the standard heel flap construction, worked from the top down. And I'm going to apologise in advance for my photographic technique, or rather my lack thereof.

Here I am partway through picking up stitches along the first side of the heel flap. I have worked slip stitch edges - essential for this method - and I am picking up both loops of the slipped stitches.

Like that. The worked stitches happen to be in blue, the double loop of the stitch I'm working on is in red/yellow/black.

Now, if you look at that column of slipped stitches going down the side of the heel flap, you'll see that it runs into a column of stitches in the fabric of the sock.

When you get to the bottom of the heel flap, and you've picked up all the slipped stitches, you want to pick up one more stitch so that there won't be a hole.

And this is the key.

You pick up the next stitch in the column.

That one. I've put a dpn through it so that you can see which one I mean. Both sides of the stitch get picked up, exactly as you did for the slipped stitches.

It is the first one below the joining thread, at the base of the heel flap. Can you see that thread, going across from the base of the heel flap, over to the needle where the instep stitches are waiting? The stitch just below that thread is the one you want.

So, pick up the two loops of that stitch, and knit through them together. This gives you one extra stitch on your right hand needle.

Work across the instep stitches as usual, and then you have to deal with the corner at the other side of the heel flap.

Once again, look at the chain of slipped stitches down the side of the heel flap. They continue into a column of stitches in the sock fabric - this column -

I'm just pointing with the dpn here. You can see the the column to the right of that goes into the instep stitches, which have been worked in blue. The stitch you are after here is the first one in the column I'm pointing at, just below the thread that goes across between the instep stitches and the heel flap.

This stitch is the one. I've put a dpn through it, to make it easier to work - this gets knitted, exactly like the slipped stitches along the side of the heel flap.

Don't worry about losing the extra stitches on the next row or anything like that - just decrease them away as part of the usual gusset decreases. You've just got an extra stitch each side in the gusset, that's all.

And that's it! Knit on, as they say.......