Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I don't believe it.....

I cannot find my other 7 balls of Felted Tweed.

I know I put them on the sofa. They aren't there now. I have moved them. I must have moved them to a really sensible place, much better than leaving them on the sofa.

Of course I have.

But where?

Actual visible knitting

It is still pouring with rain, but the sun is coming out from time to time, so I've been able to get some pictures.

The Firestarters were finished a few days ago. They haven't had the encounter with the steam iron that does for blocking in this house, I've just put the sock blockers inside them. This is because I am lazy, in case you hadn't noticed before.



Knitting these socks was all about the lovely little details, and the pattern fits together so beautifully that it is very pleasing indeed.

Look, for instance at the way the cable along the side of the leg melts into the ribbing....


Hard to improve on that, really.

And the gusset. Words very nearly fail me when it comes to the gusset.

(And that last sentence could be really misleading if quoted out of context. But you are all knitters. Hopefully.)


That is the beginning of the gusset. And here is the top of the gusset - the prime place for a hole in the fabric. Just look at how Yarnissima deals with it ....



Those little twisted stitches just close it right up so neatly, with a cable twist in exactly the right place. (This is so clever that I am tempted to break into multiple exclamation marks. But I am exercising restraint.)

Anyway. These socks were knitted using 2.5mm dpns, the yarn is Opal Handpaints Sock Yarn in a colourway that I believe is called Midsummer Night, and the pattern is a free Ravelry download - you'll find the link here.


Next - Dusk. I started this on Monday, and I am loving the Felted Tweed. So soft in the hands, and such a beautiful fabric coming off the needles.


This is another example of 'Use The Good Stuff'.

I've been planning this project for so long, it is almost a disappointment to see it on the needles. And that probably sounds extremely odd. What I mean - it is nice to have things to look forward to. And now that it is on the needles, I haven't got it to look forward to any more.

Totally daft really. But maybe you understand.

(The next thing, of course, will be that I am not wanting to finish it. Because I want to carry on knitting it.)


Finally, the Earth Stripe Curtain.


Progress here has been slow - of necessity, really, with more than 300 stitches of Kidsilk Haze on a 4mm needle.

I've started using a yarn bowl, as you can see. It is one of those pottery bowls that you used to be able to get at the supermarket delicatessen for free, if you happened to buy the last bit of pate in the bowl. Do they do that any more, I wonder? Anyway, the bowl used to be used for things like bean salad, because I liked the bright yellow on the table. The glaze on the inside has crazed with repeated washing, and I am not happy using it for food any longer. But it works very well as a yarn bowl.

And I still like the colour.


This has a subtle sparkle to it, because Port, the dark red, and Bronze, the golden colour,are both Kidsilk Night. The rest of the colours are Kidsilk Haze.

It is a joy to knit. It is just that there is rather a lot of it. I have now worked more than half of the coloured stripe section - after that, the lace.


With regard to Nissa -I still haven't finished seaming. I keep getting distracted. (Dishcloths. They are addictive. And useful, of course. I must move that workbag off the dining table and hide it somewhere. )

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Just quickly.....

I take my (metaphorical) hat off to our local police. Not only did they call us back, not only did they come round and see us, but we also had a visit from the Forensic Unit, in a van marked Crime Scene, no less.

They know who it was. There is apparently a gang of youths who have been working their way around neighbouring districts, and now they've moved on to our little estate. Which is quiet, and friendly, and relatively new, and (until now) crime free.

The police actually caught a couple of them last week, but had to let them off with a warning as it was their first offence. (I don't know, but the impression is that these lads are young.) They believe that the lads have paid no attention to the warning and simply continued on their merry way, and they'd very much like to find a fingerprint where it should not be. Then they can get them into court.

Unfortunately although there were several promising places in our car, the prints all turned out to be too smudged to use. The nice forensics chap was going straight on from our place to a house a few hundred yards away, where these lads had also paid a visit.

I really am impressed. We've got used to being cynical about the police 'not bothering' to turn up at burglaries. It's not like that any more, people.



I've finished the Firestarters, by the way. Did I say that already? Cannot remember at all.

And I've started Dusk. I'd forgotten how much I love Felted Tweed. And I've nearly finished seaming Nissa.

Photos when it stops raining and hailing and snowing. Most unseasonal, really.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Fuming

Some time between yesterday lunchtime and this morning, some nasty person broke into our car.

They turned everything out of the glove compartment and the centre console compartment, and stole our little satnav.

They also left the car door standing open, so that the interior light stayed on, and the battery ran down, and the car wouldn't start this morning. Our car is a Prius, so jump-starting wasn't an option, and we had to call the RAC.

We've reported the theft to the police, and they say they might send someone round if they have time.

Too cross for words, at the moment. Not with the police, don't get me wrong, I quite understand that this is very low priority and they have limited resources.

Not really cross because we lost the satnav, it was becoming something of a standing joke anyway. It kept making declarations that we had to make a u-turn in the middle of a motorway, and other similarly helpful comments.

I'm cross with the thief, and I think it is mainly because of the invasion of privacy. I know this was very minor in the scale of things. But even so.

Could be worse, though. They could have taken my driving glasses, then I'd really be stuck.

I'll talk about knitting when I've cooled off a bit......

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday again again

Now that it really is Saturday, I've got something to show you.

Go and have a quick look here.

I do think that is excellent. And I've been using it all the time since I saw this. So, tried and tested. Arrange your scarf like this, and you won't have any problems with the ends flying off over your shoulder in the wind.

There's even a video to show you how to do it.

Knitting? - that would be a dishcloth at the moment.

(Yes, this is still me.)

(And I still haven't finished seaming Nissa.)

Friday, 26 March 2010

Saturday again

I've been mainly knitting socks, the last few days - I've turned the heel on the second Firestarter, and I'm working my way up the heel flap. These are interesting, but not relaxing to knit.

On Wednesday evening I had a CT scan. I was initially surprised to learn that my appointment was after 6pm, but of course it is sensible for the hospital to make as much use as possible of these machines. It does make for a long day though - we were pretty tired by the time we got home.

I've not had one of these scans before, so it was quite interesting. For the scan I was having, I had to drink about a litre and a half of aniseed-flavoured drink which had an x-ray dye in it - one cup every fifteen minutes for an hour and a half. There were several of us all sitting around in the waiting room - which actually has comfortable chairs! - each with a cup and a bottle of this drink in various stages of consumption - lots of chatting, all very relaxed.

The scan itself is very quick. I had expected a nice comfy lie-down for a little while, whilst the thing went to and fro - no chance. There was a bit of setting up and so forth, which does some minutes, but the scan itself only took seconds.

I continue to be very impressed with this hospital. They aren't expecting to find anything untoward with this scan, it is really just for completeness - just in case.

One piece of very good news - I have a date for the surgery! I'd been told April, or possibly May, and I had been getting worried in case the letter had gone astray in the post. So yesterday I actually called the booking co-ordinator at the hospital, and she told me that she'd been just about to ring me - could I come in on Wednesday April 21? Oh yes, I definitely could.

That's less than 4 weeks away. I should only be in overnight, and after that things can (hopefully) start to return to normal, and I will be finished with everything at the hospital apart from the Pain Clinic.

We are still playing around with the medication. I do not want to stay with the one I'm on at the moment, I am finding it hard to live with the side effects - the most immediate of which is weight gain. I am told it is due to fluid retention, and it will go away when I stop taking this stuff, but even so, it is still incredibly annoying when you can't get your shoes on.

And also, infections. Strangely, this stuff makes one prone to catching every bug that's going round. Because of one particular bug I'm on antibiotics at the moment, most annoying. I certainly don't want this, long term. So we are reducing the dose, slowly. And then we'll see what we can do after that.

I am actually seeing a bit of improvement at the moment. Is this due to the acupuncture on Tuesday? I don't know. But it will be interesting seeing what happens after the next session. I very much want to find a non-pharmaceutical solution to this situation - or at least, a solution that uses a minimal amount of drugs. I've got my TENS, and that helps - if acupuncture turns out to be part of the solution, then that's good too.

In the meantime, on with the socks.

And - oops - I still haven't finished sewing up Nissa. Must get on with that!



PS - Spot the (not) deliberate mistake in this post! Another side effect of this med is confusion, and memory problems. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Revenons a nos moutons

I've got no idea whether that expression is actually used in French.

Yesterday evening I spent a while working out exactly how to make this little gem in 4ply yarn instead of DK.


This is Regia design 6523, and you'll find it in Regia magazine 112. I ordered a copy from English Yarns - I think Sunday evening? - and it arrived yesterday morning. (I've always had stellar service from that company, by the way.)

So, this pattern is written for Regia 6ply. I like the Fire colourway, as illustrated, but it was discontinued a little while back and has become very hard to find. However, I do have a whole stack of the Fire colourway in the 4ply, bought at a knockdown price from Kemps earlier in the year - I believe it was £1.20 a ball.

There are only three sizes given in this pattern - I might well get away with the M, as garter stitch is extremely stretchy, but the L would probably be more flattering. But that's a bit moot, because as I said, the yarn is not to be found, and I can't do my usual trick of using a finer yarn and following the directions for a larger size. Plus the domino knitted front adds a few twists to the thing, with regard to stitch counts and tension and sizing.

So I had to sit down and actually work it all out. I think I've got it right now. My pattern has an assortment of notes written in the margin - in pencil - and with luck I will still remember what they all mean, by the time I come to actually knit it up. I shall, if all goes to plan, end up with a garment sized between M and L, which ought to be just right.

The other thing in that magazine that has unexpectedly caught my attention is this -


- Design 6522, Socks with Front Insert in Patch Technique.

I am a complete sucker for unusual sock constructions, and this one isn't actually complicated, but I have a strong suspicion that it will be more than a little fiddly.

My husband, for some unaccountable reason, has turned down my offer to knit him a pair. Can't imagine why.....

Note written late at night

Well. Acupuncture was interesting. Totally painless at the time, but my goodness it has certainly stirred things up. My upbeat mood is feeling slightly punctured as well.

I am sure it will all seem rather better in the morning light. Things usually do.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Busy-ness

Just ordinary things today.

Housework, ironing, laundry, cooking. A bit of knitting too - I am still plugging away at the Earth Stripe Curtain. (I must put up a picture of this - it is really very pretty.) And I still haven't finished seaming Nissa, which is very remiss of me.

I do seem to be going through a good patch at the moment, and this is very nice. Not sure why it has happened, or even if there is a reason - but I am definitely enjoying it while it lasts.

I have been working on some non-pharmaceutical angles. I do need to take responsibility for this condition - it is not just a case of going along to the hospital and saying - 'I hurt, make me better please.' I need to do what I can for myself.

So since the middle of last week I've making sure that I have a session of complete relaxation every day. An old friend is a Harley Street consultant hypnotherapist, and he has been kind enough to make a CD for me - half an hour of really good relaxation, with lots of other helpful stuff as well. It is just excellent, and I feel so good after each session, rested and very positive.

I've been using some NLP techniques as well, specifically visualisation for healing, and the swish technique. Some people find this easy - some people not so much. I am in the 'not so much' group at the moment, unfortunately. But the thing is, both of these can really be very helpful - so I'm setting aside some time to work on this several times a day. It isn't easy. But I am not going to give up. Practice makes perfect, or so I've heard.

I've also started using a little machine from Canada which is used to help chronic and intractable pain. It is a bit similar to TENS in that it uses tiny electrical impulses. It works through acupuncture points for rebalancing the body, and you completely cannot feel it. At least I cannot. You use it for no more than two sessions a day, each session is 20 minutes.

The first few days, I couldn't stay awake through a session. Literally couldn't keep my eyes open, and it didn't seem to be having any other effect at all. Now I find that after a session I am full of energy - so I am making sure to use it first thing in the morning! - and also, I have good pain relief.

Tomorrow, back to the Pain Clinic for my first session of acupuncture, followed by the knitting group.

All good stuff!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bliss

Out on the boat today, for the first time this year. My husband has replaced the engine mounts and a good run was definitely in order, to check that everything was as it should be. The weather forecast was good, so we took a bit of lunch with us, and headed off down the canal.


It was just lovely. We moored up just the other side of Bradford on Avon, and enjoyed our lunch sitting in the sunshine out in the front of the boat, with a nice bottle of wine which we'd forgotten was in the fridge. (Yes, we have a fridge. And a cooker, and a microwave, and a bathroom with a proper toilet, and a bath and an excellent shower. All mod cons.)

I was knitting the Firestarters today, and I can tell you with some authority that the number of mistakes made in the little teeny cables with twisted stitches was directly proportional to the amount of Pinot Grigio consumed.

So peaceful. Lovely sunshine today - the wind was chilly, but that didn't matter a bit.


And then we headed back towards Bradford Lock again, to go home. I thought I'd show you what it's like going up through a lock.

Here, we're moored at the lock siding, waiting for our turn in the lock. There is another boat in there already, coming down. They are letting the water out, and when the lock is empty they will open the gates and come out. You can see the closed gates of the lock just on the other side of the bridge - big tall things, made of dark wood. That's a restaurant boat there on the left ahead of us - it never goes anywhere.


Now they are opening the gates. You can see the other boat in the lock.


And now they are coming out. Once they are out of the way, it is our turn.


So here we are going into the lock. Under the bridge -


And into the lock itself. The sides are all slimy greeny brown with algae and stuff. I don't know exactly what it is, but it is very messy and nasty and it is not a good idea to get this on your clothes, so you have to be careful going up the ladder. (I am not at all keen on these ladders, they are all slippery.)



The top gates are really leaking a lot.


This is about as far forward as we go - I'm looking up at the gates here. You can see that the actual gates are not big tall things like the lower gates, there is a stone cill there under them. You do have to be careful not to move too far forward in the lock, otherwise you find the front well of the boat getting filled up with water spraying from the leaky gates, and that's not recommended.

Another boat was coming up with us - the locks on the Kennet & Avon are double locks, so there is room for two narrowboats at the same time. So once they are in the lock as well, we close the lower gates behind us - or someone else does that for us, which is even better. There were literally dozens of people watching us work this lock today, it is surprising how seldom anyone actually offers to help. This time, several people did, which was lovely.

One gate closed here - looking up at the bridge behind the lock gates. It is well above us.


When both gates are closed, we open the sluices at the top of the lock, and let water in.

The level rises...

Spot the gongoozlers.

Still going up, nearly there -



Until the lock is full, and we can open the top gates, and continue on our way.



It really was a lovely day.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Balancing trick

I'm a bit more awake now.

I was going to write about knitting today - mostly the Earth Stripe Curtain (I'm approaching the halfway point of the coloured section) - and I haven't finished seaming Nissa yet. But I've been thinking over the last couple of days, and it usually helps get things clear in my mind if I set them down.


It has been said to me recently, more than once, that it is possible I might have this pain for the rest of my life, and that I need to get my head round it. The pain might go away, over time - maybe the nerve was actually injured, and nerves do heal, albeit slowly - but equally, there may have been no actual injury to the nerve, so healing doesn't come into it.

By this, I mean that the nerve might be compressed, or stretched, or irritated, and if that's the case then I'm stuck with it - the nerve can't sort it out by healing, and the thing that is doing the compressing/stretching/irritating can't be fixed either - I've been told very clearly that further surgery in this area will not be possible, because of all the mesh.

There isn't any way to find out which is the real situation here, other than to wait and see. And it is a bit difficult finding a balanced viewpoint, finding a point between staying positive and optimistic, and still being realistic.

I've noticed that I have a distinct tendency to be over-optimistic.

If I have a day with very little pain, like yesterday - this does happen every so often - then I have a tendency to start thinking that maybe - just maybe - maybe the pain is going away! Maybe it won't come back! Maybe the pain is gone! Maybe I can start reducing these nasty meds! And a whole stack of other 'maybe's, too.....

But at the moment - for the time being - it does come back. And then it is difficult not to feel low in spirits.

So when I have a good day, I'm trying very hard to hold on to that balanced viewpoint - to say to myself instead that it is well managed at the moment. That we have a good handle on it, at the moment. That we're heading in the right direction, at the moment. That we've got things about right at the moment, and that is good. But most definitely never let myself think that it has completely gone.

The right balance is needed.....

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Out of it .....

Currently wondering what day it is....

We increased the dose of one of my meds - yesterday? - hopefully no more increases for a bit. It is really knocking me out. I am sleeping a lot. Last night, 9 hours - 11pm through to 8am. It was very difficult to wake up, took me ages to hear the alarm, which I wouldn't have set if we hadn't needed to call the plumber.

And then I slept another 5 hours this afternoon - 5 hours! - from 3pm through to 8pm. It is 10pm now, and I can hardly keep my eyes open. I hope this doesn't last. The current drug combination is giving me a good degree of pain relief, but if I am asleep all the time, then quality of life becomes a bit debatable.

Anyway, I haven't been doing much, due to not being awake.

I did find my little felted slippers, though. I made these back in 2007 and I did not photograph them at the time - it was 2007, but before I started blogging, so thats January through to March 2007. Goodness, that's nearly 3 years of blogging, now. I hadn't thought about that. And it was also back in the dark ages of pre-Ravelry, so there is zero chance of my remembering much else about them.

Anyway, the felted slippers. The pattern is from Fiber Trends, by Bev Galeskas. I do remember that I used Cascade 220, and that's about all.


They are a very good fit, though. I like them.

I mentioned calling the plumber. The boiler had decided not to work, which was most annoying. We had hot water, thanks to the immersion heater, but no heating. It is a good thing that the weather wasn't too chilly, and that we have plenty of wool sweaters and socks. The plumber did actually turn up today, and the boiler is now working again. This is good. The bill will not be, when it arrives.

I don't think I mentioned that my current 'thing' is sprouting seeds. Gardening manque, if you will, because despite the recent sunshine (I actually got a little sunburnt over the last couple of days, unbelievably) - despite the recent sunshine, the air and the ground are still very cold. (Please imagine an acute accent over the e in manque, at the beginning of that last long sentence. I cannot make it work onscreen. Sigh.)

Anyway. We've got one of those little tiered plastic sprouters from the garden centre, and I've been experimenting. Small seeds like alfalfa work better in a glass jar, but bigger things work beautifully in the sprouter.



This is today's harvest, a mixture of mung beans and adzuki beans, drying in the sunshine.

They are delicious.


Now, knitting.

I have finished all the pieces of Nissa, and I'm currently setting in the second sleeve. Kidsilk Aura makes a beautiful fabric, but it is like trying to seam cobwebs, so soft and fluffy that it is easy to make a mistake. So I am going slowly and carefully.

Still ticking away at the Earth Stripe Curtain. Slowly.

And that's about it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go to sleep.....

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Neat

I have finally finished something. It is just a little thing, but it will be very useful.

I have one of those handbags that possibly has the kitchen sink hiding in there somewhere. It definitely has my eReader and my iPod in there, and that means that it also has some headphones. Not actually headphones of course, I mean those little earbud things that come with an iPod. And I've got another pair that fit more comfortably, because the bits that go in the ear are squishy, but the sound isn't so good. So, two pairs of the things.

As I'm sure you know, the vast majority of iPod cases do not have anywhere for the earbuds to live. This is not entirely sensible, as an iPod without earbuds or headphones of some sort is, to a certain extent, useless. And the eReader cases don't provide for headphones either, although listening to music (from the eReader) whilst reading (also from the eReader) is a great pleasure.

So what to do with the earbuds? If I leave them loose in my bag, they wrap and knot themselves around everything else in a way that is positively Gordian. So they've been living in an increasingly scruffy little plastic bag. And I have trouble finding that, most of the time.

No longer.


I've made a little case/cosy/sock thing for them, and it is, though I say it myself, quite neat.


I haven't yet decided which way I prefer to fasten it.

I used an oddment of sock yarn for this - the yarn is Blue Moon Socks That Rock Silkie, and the colourway is called Walking on the Wild Tide.


I've finished something else, as well.


My Kaffe Fassett needlepoint cushion cover is finally all stitched. I haven't backed it yet, so it is only pretending to be a cushion in the picture above - but I have blocked it. I only used steam, because really that was all that was necessary.


The colours and patterns here make me very happy.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Another good day

This morning, I sat outside in the sunshine to enjoy my coffee. Would you believe it was almost too hot? Until the sun went behind a cloud, that is, and then it wasn't too hot in the slightest, because the air is still chilly.

We think we may have solved the cat problem.

At the garden centre there was a huge selection of different things - sprays, granules, sonic repellers with PIRs - all sorts of things. And there was a very large empty section on the shelf, where the product in question seemed to have sold out. Whatever it was, it was very popular.

We looked closer - there was one packet left, right at the back. And we bought it.



Pellets of organic nitrogen-based fertiliser, soaked in 'genuine essence of lion dung'......!


I've picked up Nissa again, and I'm nearly up to the armholes on the front. The finish line is in sight, because this is the last piece to be knitted. I'm not going to inflict a photo on you. More grey knitting, ok.


Other than that, I've been stitching. The Kaffe Fassett needlepoint that has been on the frame for ages is nearly finished. I have a Candace Bahouth one all lined up and ready to go, but I am resisting the urge to start sorting the colours for it until the KF one is actually off the frame. This is taking a certain amount of willpower, because the attraction of something new and pretty is considerable.

After the KF design is off the frame, there will be another thing to do. I will have to block it - usually my needlepoints don't need much in this respect, due to the use of the frame - I stretch it pretty firmly whilst I am working on it. And then I need to turn it into a cushion cover, and that of course requires stitching of a different sort. I don't look forward to it, but it needs to be done.


Finally, what do you think of this? - and thankyou all for your input, it is much appreciated!



My camera is not as accurate with colours as I'd like, but that isn't too far astray from reality.


One last thing - if anything in this post seems a bit odd, please forgive me. The current level of one particular medication is making me somewhat dopy and unco-ordinated - I am having trouble thinking straight. It also means that I am sleeping quite a lot at the moment - about 14 hours a day - and the next dosage increase is likely to increase that as well. So things may get a bit strange around here.

It does seem to be helping though, to a certain extent. And that is good.

Friday, 12 March 2010

And there's more!

I'm enjoying this playing around with colours.

Just now, Red Dragon gave me the thought of changing in a grey/blue somewhere, perhaps in place of one of the blues, so that it didn't look quite so much like blue-plus-other-colours.

With this yarn, we're not exactly snowed under with choices when it comes to grey/blue - or indeed grey in general.

I can have Shale -
- or Anthracite.
Another thought - what about some more green? I still want Avocado to pop - but maybe change out Marine for a green? Indigo has some depth, and I'd like to keep that. And Ultramarine in real life is more violet than it looks on screen, I think - that's another keeper. But Marine is a straightforward mid-blue. What about a green instead?

Going back to my original choices - I take out Marine, and add in one of the greens.

With Parsley -

with Emerald -

- or with Glade.
And here's my original again -
I'm going to expand the poll, I think.

Please let me know if you think another combination or arrangement might look interesting!

Friday already....

So, it looks like Pomegranate is the one!

I'll leave the poll up over the weekend, and we'll see if things change at all.

I thought it might be interesting to also show the original colour combination, the one that Louisa Harding used when the pattern was originally published in Rowan 12. The re-coloured version in Rowan's Greatest Kits is effectively the same, there is a wide choice of colours in Pure Wool DK and they were able to replicate the original colour choice.

So - original colours - (too strong for me, overall) - Avocado, Port, Indigo, Damson, Marine, Pomegranate.


And here is my choice of colours - Avocado, Indigo, Cypress, Marine, Pomegranate, Ultramarine.



Or alternatively with Raspberry instead of Pomegranate -

(But I'm finding myself less and less keen on this variation, and I think I will probably go with the Pomegranate.)

I was after a blue-green based palette, with a quieter feel to it, and I think I've got that. The two darkest colours, Port and Damson, are out, and in their place I've put Cypress and Ultramarine. Hopefully the mood is not too different - quieter and cooler, but still with a good 'Rowan' feel.

I've rearranged the colours a bit, to end up with the sleeves and collar in my preferred choice of colours. Colours 3 and 4 are the sleeves, colours 1 and 6 are the cuffs and the collar.

I am grateful for comments on this - colour choice is a personal thing, of course, but sometimes you can't see what is right in front of you, if you know what I mean.


Now, knitting.

I haven't been doing much, mostly because this has not been an easy week physically, and needlepoint seems more of a distraction than knitting - that is, a distraction from the current discomfort.

This, I think, is because knitting is very much automatic for me - I really don't have to think about it at all, except when I'm working cables or colourwork. So it doesn't necessarily take my mind away from the current situation.

And needlepoint is not mindless at all. I do need to focus on it, on the placing of each stitch - and whilst I'm focussing on this, I'm not focussing on the pain.

I have finished one of the Firestarter socks - cables and twisted stitches, you see - but it hasn't got a very tall cuff, because I got fed up with the ribbing. And now I think about it, I can see why. Ribbing is mindless, even with twisted stitches.

I haven't even picked up Nissa, or Merry.

And it occurs to me now that I haven't mentioned Merry on here at all.

I wasn't feeling the love for the fabric of Pyrenees. It was beautiful to look at, soft, drapy - but a bit more open than I liked, at 18 sts to 4". I swatched with the Wool Tweed at 21 sts to 4", and what an improvement! Still soft and drapy, but with almost a felted appearance to it - I was reminded of Felted Tweed. Anyway - it was better.

And then I remembered Merry from Kim Hargreaves' most recent book, Winter Blooms. That is written for Kid Classic - usually worked at 18 sts to 4" - used here at the closer gauge of 21 sts to 4". The pullover is a 'Very Sloppy Joe', according to Kim - a wide, boxy shape, very eighties.

In other words, just what I needed. So I'm making Merry instead, or rather, I will be.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sugarplum

I'd appreciate some advice here.

Sugarplum is an old design from Louisa Harding, originally published in Rowan 12. There was a single colour cardigan version, and a multi-coloured pullover. A re-coloured pullover version was in the recent book Rowan's Greatest Knits.

It looks like this -


I know, very eighties. But I do like the cardigan version, which is shown in the little inset at the lower right, worked in a solid colour. I like the stripes, but I'd change the colours, as these are a bit strong for my taste. I would rather have a quieter palette.

So, six colours needed here.

Across the back and the front, the six colours run in vertical stripes, in sequence. The collar has the same colours as the cuff on the opposite side. And the sleeves are the same colours as the opposite side of the centre front.

The original colours were Avocado, Port, Indigo, Damson, Marine, and Pomegranate.

I'm thinking Avocado, Indigo, Cypress, Marine, Pomegranate, and Ultramarine.

I've dropped Port and Damson - dark reds and purples are not my thing, really, much too heavy for what I have in mind - and added Cypress and Ultramarine. I do love Cypress, it is a beautiful colour, and Ultramarine is the violet that needs to be in there somewhere.

So my sequence looks like this -


I am a little unsure about the Pomegranate. Does it look maybe just a little heavy? But it does balance the dark of the Indigo on the other side, and adds a certain richness.

What about Raspberry instead? (Although I've never seen a pink raspberry....) So I take out the Pomegranate, and put Raspberry in instead. Now the sequence looks lighter and brighter, without a doubt.


But I'm not sure. Is it out of balance now? Is it better with the depth of the Pomegranate? - does it look more 'Rowan' that way?

What do you think? I've put a poll in the sidebar!

Also, I'd really appreciate any thoughts that you might have on this.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Unexpected?

Did I mention that I haven't used shampoo for more than seven months?

At the beginning of August last year, I stopped using shampoo. I get fed up with the advertising claims made by all the different sorts of shampoo, and basically I just don't like the strong detergents that they all have, specifically SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate), and over the months it has become clear that my hair is much, much better off without them.

The other side of the coin here, is that if I'm not going to use detergents on my hair, then I have to be careful not to put anything on it that is going to need detergents to remove it. This means no silicones - or rather, no silicones that are not water-soluble.

Looking at the product ingredients on the side of the bottle can be very confusing when you are not a chemist - and that certainly includes me. I did a bit of research, and from what I have gathered (at the very simplest level, because that's what I need) it seems that silicones come in two types, one of which needs detergent to remove it, and one that doesn't.

Silicones usually end in -cone, -conol, or -xane. Like dimethicone, dimethiconol, simethicone, cyclopentasiloxane. These I am careful to avoid.

Silicones that are removable using water alone have 'copolyol' or 'PEG -something' in front of them or after them. Like PEG-10 dimethicone, or dimethicone copolyol, or copolyol dimethicone. These I find are ok.



But please don't think that not using shampoo means not washing my hair! I wash my hair maybe two or three times a week, and I can promise you my hair and scalp are just as clean and nice and pleasant smelling as they ever were when I used shampoo - and in much better condition.

I soak my hair thoroughly in the shower. You know how sometimes it doesn't easily get wet all the way through to the scalp? Well, it has to be soaked through. Then I add conditioner - plenty of it.

I take care to use a conditioner with no 'bad' silicones - this usually means a cheap conditioner. Morrison's Value conditioner at 24p for 500 ml is just fine. Currently I'm using Boots Essentials Conditioner for Dry Hair - 54p for 500ml. And there are many others.

Then I scrub my scalp with my fingertips - really scrub, I mean. This is key. I scrub for a couple of minutes. I spread the conditioner through my hair, I comb through with my fingers, and then I use one of those detangler combs. And then I rinse thoroughly, scrubbing the scalp some more.

Done.

It works for me.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A good weekend

We're having the most gorgeous weather at the moment. The sky is a clear and cloudless blue, with a depth and intensity that you don't seem to get in summer.


Not photoshopped. (I have no clue how to do such a thing, anyway.)

But it is not spring yet, not really. Looking across the river valley, the trees are still bare and there is no green in the landscape.


We've been busy in the garden, though. It is much too soon for most planting out - the temperature was down to minus 4 last night - but we've been preparing the ground, and planning.

Last year was our first attempt at growing vegetables. We tried tomatoes, which were a resounding success, much to our surprise. I've still got several bags in the freezer. So, tomatoes again this year. I've started them from seed again in little propagators on the windowsill of the conservatory.

This year we're going to try growing salad leaves, runner beans, and onions as well. I've started some rocket and mixed lettuces from seed in the conservatory, and I've set out the onions, which is possibly a bit daft, but we'll see what happens.

Garden herbs go without saying - well, almost. The chives, the mint, and the parsley are well established in their pots, and are coming up already. Coriander and basil don't last through the winter, and I planted out some seeds yesterday.

The only problem we are having at the moment is the neighbourhood cats. Now that Lucy is no longer with us, the local cats visit our garden and leave little deposits behind, if you follow me. This is most annoying and unpleasant. What repels cats? Apart from dogs, of course....?



Knitting has consisted almost entirely of the Firestarter sock, which is excellent fun to knit. I can recommend the pattern - Yarnissima knows what she is about. This is a free pattern, as well, which makes it even better. You'll find the free Ravelry download here.


These are worked from the toe up, and I love the little twisted stitch panels at the sides.


And the gusset shaping - you can see the beginning of it above. It grows out of the side cable panels so neatly.


The best thing of all is that they fit my foot with absolutely no messing about, none whatsoever. They seem to be designed with a high instep in mind. So that really is excellent.


When a pattern is as pretty as this, the fact that I don't actually need any more socks at the moment is rather beside the point, I think.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Ticking along....

I don't seem to be getting very much done today. Isn't it funny how phone calls eat up the time? I've just realised that it is half past three and I haven't even had lunch yet.

Not getting very much done also applies to knitting. I've finished the back and both sleeves of Nissa, but I haven't got round to casting on for the front. Later, later....

The TENS machine is actually helping. Not a lot - but a bit. Definitely. It is a clever little gadget, although it is a bit of a performance, what with wires, and sticky pads on my back which have to go in the exact right place, and so forth. But I can see already that I will be keeping it - any help is better than none. And yesterday we went to the garden centre for vegetable seeds (runner beans, tomatoes, and a whole assortment of different salad greens - lovely!) and this little black box meant that I was able to cope.

Right now I need to go and chop up some vegetables to roast for the evening meal, and start a new batch of yogurt.

Oh, and have some lunch. That too.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hooray for the NHS

It has been so busy over the last couple of days. I feel as if I've spent most of my time at the hospital, it has just been one thing after another.

However some good things have happened. I still haven't got a date for the surgery, but I have heard that it should be happening sometime in April/May, so not long to wait now.

Yesterday I went to the Stitchlinks knitting group at the Pain Clinic. This was slightly difficult for me, mostly because I was so extremely uncomfortable. Physically, I mean. However Betsan is lovely, everyone was very friendly and it is so nice to know that everyone understands, that no explanations are necessary, because we are all pretty much in the same boat. I will be going back again when the opportunity presents. I'm not able to drive at the moment though, so I'm not sure when that will be.

The best thing happened today.

Finally I had an appointment at the Pain Clinic to start Symptom Management, and I was very impressed - instantly, things are happening! I've got a TENS machine now. (I'm wired up to it right now.) I can try it out for a couple of weeks, and if I find that it helps at all, then I can buy it. I've got lidocaine patches, I've got increased meds, and I've got to get some additional meds from my GP. They are talking about lots of other things that might help, as well.

I really do feel that everything possible is being done. So - thankyou, NHS.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

....and there's more.

More rules thrown away, that is.

I decided quite a while ago that I needed to be more careful about having too many things on the needles. That particular 'rule' has been well and truly thrown to the winds, if you look at the sidebar. Two pullovers, one wrap/cardigan, and a Kidsilk Haze curtain which will end up eight and a half feet long - (it will, it will....!) And a pair of 'travel socks', which live in my handbag.

Over committed? Not the way I look at it.

The way I see it, is that I can pick up and knit whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it. And wherever, as well - because these are in various places all around the house.

I refuse to feel guilty about any of it. Knitting is to be enjoyed - it is a tactile and visual pleasure, and it is also a meditative practice that I find helpful for distraction and relaxation.

So that's that.

Actually there's another pair of socks that isn't listed there yet, because I have cast on for a pair of Firestarters. I've wanted to make this pattern since I first saw it, I've had the yarn set aside for ages (Opal Handpaints in Midsummer Night) and I had even put the needle (long 2.5mm circ for Magic Looping) ready and waiting with the yarn and pattern. (Because I can be organised if I try, you know.)

And quite late yesterday evening, I just felt like getting on with it, because sleep wasn't going to happen just yet. So I picked up all these bits and pieces and cast on. I haven't finished the toe of the first sock yet, but I'll get there. Maybe I'll work on it a bit more this evening, if I find that I'm wakeful again.

Something else that merits a mention at this point is the 10 for 2010 challenge, which has been running in the Rowan Tree group over on Ravelry. I joined, and I chose as my challenge to try to knit 10 all-Rowan projects this year. That's Rowan yarn, and Rowan pattern as well - and that is a good challenge for me. I've got a stack of projects that fit the bill waiting in my queue, and a bit of motivation seemed like a good idea.

Well, I am just not going to worry about it, not in the slightest.

If I happen to manage 10 Rowan projects, all well and good. But I am not going to knock myself out over it, and if I happen to feel like knitting something else instead - well, that's just what I'll do.

And - you know - it feels good to let go of 'I should' and 'I ought to'.

Sun Tzu said, 'Choose your battles wisely' - and he was quite right. When energy and resources are limited, they should not be wasted on unimportant things.

Self imposed rules can be useful - or they can be completely meaningless. 'Should' and 'ought to' can in reality mean being overly hard on oneself.

None of us need that.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Out the window

I'm feeling quite upbeat this morning.

The side effects that had me so down last week have mysteriously - and wonderfully! - all disappeared. I certainly hope they stay that way!

Also, I've been doing a bit of thinking over the weekend. This situation - I can't do anything to change it. It is what it is. All I can do is keep on following the advice of the medics, and I am doing just that already.

So - it is what it is.

I need to recognise those negative thoughts for what they are, and catch them before they get established and start making me feel down.

Knitting - I've been doing some thinking about this as well. I've decided that life is too short for self-imposed rules and restrictions. So the rules have gone, as it were, out the window.

(And believe me, it took great restraint not to title this post 'per fenestra'. I am not entirely sure why Latin keeps coming to mind recently - possibly it is because I've been re-reading Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars. That's a very good book, by the way. No, not in Latin, in translation. )

So.

I have lots of very nice things in the stash. Now, you may be familiar with this, or not - I find there is a certain self-imposed resistance to picking out a particular gem, and actually using it - not entirely sure why this should be. Maybe because then it is committed - the possibilities have finally crystallised, and are not possibilities any more?

But anyway, I have decided - Use The Good Stuff. Don't keep putting it off for another time. If you love it, use it.

And on that note, here is Nissa.


I have 12 skeins of Kidsilk Aura in Steel, which had been sitting on the shelf for ages. No longer!

This thing of beauty (yes it is!) is the back, about ten rows away from the shoulder and neck shaping. It is soft and beautiful, and working on it has been a positive pleasure for me over the weekend.

The pattern is by Marie Wallin, and is from Rowan's Kidsilk Aura book. It is a simple shape, back and front worked the same, wide and drapy with a little gentle waist shaping, and a grown-on funnel neck. Quite dramatic in wear -


- although whether it will look like that when it is being worn by me, is another matter entirely.