Friday, December 28, 2007

All were well received...

Christmas has been and gone in a predictably quiet fashion, as Dave and I spent it at home, just the two of us, the cats and of course, our ongoing colds. The tree survived without feline interest and the wrapping paper was left unmolested which has led us to believe that Charlie has taken his cue from Missy. i.e. other than prowling around the base of the tree from time to time (who knows what might be hiding there) they've both pretty much ignored all festive decoration.

Unlike this pair (courtesy of Esther) who while very cute leave me relieved that my cats are so well behaved!

The presents I knitted or crocheted for my family seem to have gone down well which is both a relief and a surprise, since my family are not into crafts or hand made gifts at all.

There is even reported sibling bickering, because one niece got a hand knitted scarf and the other one didn't; with the one who didn't complaining bitterly that she'd been left out. My explanation that I ran out of time was accepted by her mother (my sister) who said she'd explain I was an exceptionally slow knitter, the way her brother-in-law was a very slow typer. This left me with the very firm impression that my sister and her family have absolutely no idea how long it takes to knit a scarf and believe one can be whipped up in an hour or two, rather than the more realistic couple of weeks. Some of us have day jobs after all!

Being a free woman who is no longer working on Christmas presents, I finally started knitting Dave his long awaited scarf.

It is taking a long, long time. As you can see, it's mostly moss stitch with a cross-hatch effect picked out across it. Done entirely in either knit or purl, the pattern is easy enough, but the 18 row repeat needs concentration which in my cold ridden state I don't seem to have and the 4mm needles mean each repeat is just a couple of inches, so progress is slow. Still Dave likes it, so there is a good chance he'll wear it when I finally get it done, so I shall continue to persevere.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, we present... first socks!

It has been a quiet few days here at Chez Lurgy, with the only healthy ones left standing being the cats. My guess is that I picked up a second virus (probably from my father who had a cold when we visited) while in Cornwall last weekend, which latched onto the wake of my original cold and rather knocked me for six.

Worse, Dave caught it as well, so both of us have been coughing, sniffing and shuffling around in a zombie like fashion. This has disrupted our plans over the past few days, since even venturing to the chemist at the end of the road proved to be exhausting. Even knitting was too much of an effort!

We were hoping to go to a carol service tonight, but I doubt either of us could get through one line without inducing a coughing fit... So we shall probably have to skip that as well.

It's not all doom and gloom though, as I did eventually muster enough energy to finish my socks...

So here we have my first socks, knitted from Web of Wool's basic sock pattern, with a few suggestions from the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules! thrown in. Her explanation on decreases and arranging the stitches on the needles so you have top and bottom stitches in the same place, helped a whole lot. The yarn is one of Regia's self striping 4-ply's, 75% wool/25% nylon.

I finally got there. I'm not sure the grafting or the decreases are the neatest, particularly on the second sock where I was struggling to breathe while working on the toe. It did serve as an excellent distraction from being miserable though!

And finally, Happy Christmas to anyone reading this and I hope you'll be joining myself and Dave in tracking Father Christmas as he makes his epic journey around the world tomorrow night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And that's that for another year...

I'm still full of lurgy and I don't think spending the past few days driving around Plymouth and Cornwall helped. I know that when we came to a halt on the M5 last night (due to an accident somewhere near Bromsgrove) I was relieved for a chance to blow my nose!

The ongoing problems with internal pressure build up in my sinuses aside, the trip wasn't too bad. There was one particularly hairy moment when we were returning from Bodmin to Plymouth late at night, only to find the A38 was closed. We had no choice but to head off across country, navigating tiny country lanes completely lacking in lighting or signage, driving to Dobwalls via Lostwitheil. The resulting journey being made even more exciting because of a bus which sat on my rear bumper, repeatedly flashing his lights at me because he'd decided I wasn't driving fast enough.

Credit goes to Dave for successfully navigating us across Cornwall, through a combination of creative map reading, guesswork and sheer handsome genius.

Other than that, the trip went pretty much as planned, with my schedule seeing us visiting family in Plymouth, Bodmin and Penzance. I've covered a lot of miles, delivered gifts, collected one or two of the same, found both the yarn shop (Knit Wits)and habberdashery (Buttons and Bows) in Penzance, worked my way through a box of tissues and knitted some sock.

As you can see from the picture, the first sock is done with its toe grafted shut. I've done my best to match up the stripes on its pair which is well on its way, with its heel turned just earlier today. My hope is to get it finished before Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Take two... or possibly three...

I can confirm that I do indeed have a cold that is now in full swing and making life difficult. With an awful lot of work to get through this week, I've resorted to the Beechams and I'm relying on caffiene to keep me on my feet. With winter making itself felt, I decided to be sensible last night and stayed home rather than meeting up with my fellow knitters in the Town Crier. I'd have only sat there alternating between soggy mopping of my poor nose and frantic sneezing, neither of which would have made me very good company I fear.

So at home, I pushed on with the sock which is progressing well (again). I'm working on the decrease for the toe (where it all went horribly wrong last time) and looking forward to my attempt to graft the toe closed very soon. Grafting is reputed to be scary and so it will be interesting to see if I manage it OK.

I am not tempting fate once more by posting pics.

And finally (cos this is just a very quick update really)... Tomorrow marks an important blogging birthday, as it was the 14th December last year that I first wrote properly in this blog, my previous post having been a "Hello, what's this blogger thing then..." type afair. Doesn't time fly!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


After a wet, cold and miserable weekend - today I've woken with what certainly feels like the beginning of a cold. At the moment I'm in the fuzzy headed and active sinus stage... I'm still being optimistic and hoping it will blow over; I far too much to do over the next week or so to be ill!

Friday I worked from home - much to the cats' delight - while I waited in for my new washing machine. I'm happy to be able to report it was delivered as expected, has been unpacked (which involved a lengthy search for mythical plastic bits supposedly underneath the machine but nowhere to be seen) and connected to the water supply and waste pipe. With an ongoing torrential downpour throughout the weekend, I gave it a test drive and it works a treat. The only downside was just how long these 'A' rated appliances take to complete an economy wash!

Saturday I headed down to Warwick, to hunt for some knitting needles in the Crafty Cottage. Sadly, Jo had a sale on which destroyed my wavering self control and I ended up buy some very nice Lousia Harding 'Grace Silk and Wool'. I stayed for a while, enjoying a cuppa, sheltering from the rain while working on my sock and looking through some books. Jo also passed on some antiquated crochet mags which a gentleman had given her which belonged to his late wife and were in search of a new home. I was also completely surprised to be given a Christmas present, completely bowled over really since it was genuinely unexpected. Thanks Jo!

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to wrapping the mountain of presents I need to haul down to the South West to give to our families. I even managed to persuade Dave to wrap a couple!

My other preoccupation over the weekend was my first sock. I posted a picture of the sock last week, but on Thursday (the day after the photo was put up), the sock met with an accident.

I'm still not entirely sure what happened, but I'd reached the toe so was decreasing when some stitches fell off the needle. I didn't spot them until I'd knitted around and then I tried to pick them up. No matter how I tried, I couldn't. They were right in the decrease area and all that happened was I kept splitting the yarn.

After struggling for 20 minutes to pick the stitches up, I decided to take a deep breath and remove the needles, rip back a few rows to before the decrease and then put the stitches back on the needles. What I hadn't counted on was how difficult it is to pick up a round of stitches at such a tight guage. To cut a long story short, I just couldn't get the stitches back onto the needles.

Later, after much silent cursing and hard staring with no progress and things just getting worse every time I tried to fix it... I gave up. I ripped the entire sock out.

Friday evening, I started again.

And now... I'm on the foot again, slowly approaching the toe. Fingers crossed that this time, I make it all the way to the end!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Awash with technical details

For the early part of this week I've been mostly at a conference, listening to many, many presentations on Oracle whilst wearing my professional hat. It's been tiring, with long days where I've got up long before dawn, hiked to the nearest train station, suffered the indignity of public transport before hiking to Birmingham's Symphony Hall and Conference Centre where I've had my brain filled with all sorts of technical details. Then I get to repeat experience of public transport to get home somewhere after 8:30pm.

Of course, I should still be there but being absent from work for several days on the trot is tricky, especially since I'll be off on holiday after the end of next week. I have oodles of work to get on with and very few days in which to do it.

After a couple of days of commuting to Birmingham, I've remembered why I hate using public transport and why I would be reluctant to take a job where I had to spend over three hours every day getting there and back. I've also discovered that I've forgotten how to talk to sales people, which used to be something (in a previous incarnation) I had to do on a regular basis. I worked out early on that I should have sorted out business cards, after I wrote my name and contact details down for the third or forth time. And of course, I missed tea and email and access to the internet in general. I could have lugged a laptop along with me and we were wi-fi'd up, but... That would have meant carrying it all day and walking a good two miles through Coventry holding onto it. For the uninitiated, Coventry (while not completely awful) does have its share of criminal types, and a woman walking alone in the dark (be it 7am or 8pm) through poorly lit streets has to remember this.

Today, normal service resumes and I can start off by saying some with relief that I've finished knitting washcloths for this year. No pictures, since once you've seen one you've seen them all but there are some examples here if you really want to see. I'm not entirely sure how many I've made... I lost count somewhere along the way, but if there are not enough to go round then it's tough. I'm done.

On Sunday, the sun came out - albeit briefly - and so I dragged my favourite kitchen chair out onto the patio to take some photographs.

Here we have a Four Cable Scarf, based on the Double Cable Scarf from One Skein by Leigh Radford.

I initially cast on enough stitches for three cables rather than four, but after knitting up some eight inches or so, decided it wasn't wide enough and ripped the whole lot back. I started again with 52 stitches for four cables, incrementing by 12 stitches for each cable from the original 28 specified by the pattern. I also added a considerable amount of length by increasing the middle ribbing section so that the whole thing measures about 6ft.

The yarn is a standard superwash wool DK and in daylight a sort of pinky red which is very pretty as well as a strong colour.

I'm pleased with this one. It's my first go at cables and as someone who a year ago didn't know how to knit (other than in a vaguely recalled way) I think it marks my progress in eleven months somewhat.

Another indicator of how far I've come is this...

My first sock. Still on the needles and coming along well.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Fluffy and sparkly fun

This week things seem to have been a bit frantic at work and I've been going home rather on the frazzled side, so it's with some relief that I note that this is the first weekend in ages that I don't have to be anywhere in particular. Oh I have errands and shopping to do and I'm popping over to Esther's, but I don't have to drive miles away, nor do I have to get up at the crack of dawn this weekend which I'm looking forward to immensely.

I've not made much progress on the washcloths this week due to the lack of knitting time, but I have turned the heel on my first ever sock! I'm now working on the decrease around the gusset before I start knitting down the foot towards the toe. I'm also beginning to wonder about this grafting thing and whether I should knit a couple of swatches and have a go before trying to graft the sock's toe.

I headed off to Knit-Wits on Wednesday where I got many admiring glances for the now finished cable scarf (more on that one later when I've managed to take some photo's) and the fun fur hybrid pictured here.

This scarf was improvised from scratch and knit with 25 stitches on 6mm needles. It is garter stitch all the way and worked with one strand of Marble (a DK yarn) held double with any one of a multitude of fun furs. All of the yarns are left over from other projects with only a couple of balls of each available, which wasn't enough to make a full scarf in any one of them. Hence the reason I thought I'd try stripes. It was an easy and fun knit, although I did spend nearly two weeks combing it when done, to fluff it up to my satisfaction.

When seen in person, this scarf shimmers and catches the light whilst having an air of fluffy luxury about it. It's soft, pretty, substantial and not at all scratchy; the consensus of opinion was that it was one I should maybe think about keeping. Not so, I'm afraid since it's intended as a gift for my teenage niece where I hope it will find a happy home.

Finally, the first part of my recent book order has arrived. Since I'm possessed of the desire to understand what I'm doing, I picked up Getting Started Knitting Socks. To round out the parcel, I've also got When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters and The Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules. These arrived late yesterday afternoon and I've not had a chance to do more than flick through them as yet, but what I did see looked promising. I just hope I find some time this weekend to do some reading...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


With Christmas looming ever closer with each passing day, I'm desperately trying to pull my finger out and finish off my seasonal knitting. For the most part, that means I'm currently churning out washcloths like a good 'un; something that Charlie approves of mightly since washcloths are small and therefore do not fill my lap, which of course leaves plenty of room for cat instead.

In between washcloths I've been slowly adding to my sock which is nearing the scary point where I start on the heel. The good news is that I slipped the sock off my needles and onto some cotton so I could try it on, which proved that cuff is nowhere near so small as I think it is. I did somehow manage to drop a stitch in the process though... But I have a keen eye and having watched Steelbreeze deliberately drop one of my stitches (to untwist one some rows back) and then pick it back up again, I did what she did... And lo! You'd never know I dropped it. The only thing I'm not happy with is my tension between the needles which is variable and shows when I cast my beady eye over the sock. But as this is my first sock, I'm kind of expecting this.

To break up the monotony of scarf knitting (which until this week was ongoing) I decided to crochet up this little bookmark.

Dave's comment when he saw it was that it's pure Victorianna... Now I'm not sure of the historical accuracy of that statement, but it is pretty and as effective a demonstration of lacework as I've seen.

The pattern came from here and this bookmark was crocheted pretty much as directed. The only things I changed was to use Crochet Cotton instead of Perle Cotton and as a consequence I went up a couple of hook sizes to 1.75mm. I starched and ironed the resulting lace to stiffen it and then added a tassle.

This was the first time I'd ever used spray on starch and I've got to say it was messy and very sticky. I used some scrap fabric as a pressing cloth and to protect both the iron and board, but it stuck to the iron like crazy which was alarming. Fortunately as a sewer, I knew better than to use steam at this point so I was able to peel it off again before anything scorched but it was a learning experience. Once done though, I've got to admit the starch and iron worked wonders to transform this little piece of lace into something quite special. I just hope it goes down well with it's intended recipient.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A day out and about

Saturday morning saw us getting up early once more so we could drive up to Ripley for the Grand Opening at our friends' shop. The cats did not approve, especially Missy who knows a Saturday when she see's one and kept giving me reproachful looks as we woke ourselves up. We finally made it out the door at about 08:45 and after diverting briefly to Richard's arrived in the shop at a reasonable 10:30am.

The shop itself was bustling which was good, although it made finding somewhere to stand out of the way a bit difficult. In the end, I excused myself and explored Ripley for crafting opportunities. Right next door was a wool shop where I acquired more sock yarn, but around the corner was a craft shop. In both shops I found varigated cottons suitable for either braiding or crochet...

I'm not sure what I'm going to make from them yet, but they've been added to my perle cotton stash for later use.

In the afternoon, we visited Cromford Mill which while interesting was very much a work in progress as far as museum's go methinks. It was bitterly cold by then, so standing around admiring the remains of the mill wasn't much of an option while the main exhibition was housed in freezing cold room with no heating.

In the end we moved onto Scarthin Books where we were over whelmed by the number of tomes packed into every nook and cranny. Books were stacked everywhere, with shelves from floor to ceiling in every conceivable place. No landing, room or understairs space was neglected and sorting the books into any order appeared to be an optional concept here. Needless to say we spent a bemusing hour or so wandering around the many rooms which make up this bookshop with our senses just flooded with the bookiness of it all.

After a while, we did start to acclimatise and even spotted titles of interest, but in the end we decided not to buy anything and debunked to the little cafe for tea and cake. The cake was very nice, but they forgot to put the hot water in the teapot... We did wonder if this was a quaint custom local to Derbyshire. Suffice it to say we waited to see if a pot of hot water would arrive for a good ten minutes before asking and finally gaining the required additive.

The journey home was interesting as the salt and water spray from the road made keeping the windscreen clear near impossible. We were a happy pair when we finally got home.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Progress at last

Today has started off on a positive note with my physio telling me we're done. I'm not 100% fit yet, not by a long way, but now it's down to me to continue the exercises for my leg and work gradually building stamina. I can walk. I can crouch. I can sit (provided I move about regularly). I can even manage stairs without wincing which has long been an ambition for me. Kneeling is still bad, but to be honest I don't think spending a lot of time on my knees is every going to be comfortable now. And if anyone expects me to look happy about kneeling on concrete, they're going to be sorely disappointed. Consider yourself warned!

The upshot of all this is no surgery, no more painful injections and no more regular torture sessions inflicted by the gentleman in question. As he said, he was happy to have made my weekend.

So ends eleven months of hard and painful work.

Continuing on this positive note I seem to be on the verge of finishing several needlecraft projects.

Currently I have...
  • A lace bookmark which needs the ends weaving in, a good ironing and starching and a tassel.
  • A cable scarf in need of blocking.
  • A fluffy, sparkly, fun fur hybrid scarf which is nearly fluffed to my satisfaction.
All of these are intended as Christmas presents so I'm pleased to see they're nearly done. I just need to motivate myself this weekend and I can declare them finished.

In the meantime, I've resumed making washcloths. I'm getting a bit bored of this pattern now, but again if I apply myself I can get the last few done in the next week or so. And then I really am free to work on what I want rather than trying to get things done to a deadline.

And what is on the horizon you may ask...

Well for a start I've started working on my first sock. There isn't much of it yet, but I have done a cuff and I'm slowly working down the leg and so far I've avoided jabbing the tiny little sticks into anything vital or breaking one of them. The knitting is so far unexciting (it is a basic sock, so a bit of rib at the top and stocking stitch the rest of the way) except for the odd accidental twisted stitch. The first of which Steelbreeze sorted out for me on Wednesday and the second one I spotted and corrected myself. I think I'm somehow having problems and twisting stitches when I switch between needles. But the dreaded 'ladders' between DPNs don't seem to have appeared so I'm happy with progress so far.

I've also promised to make Dave a scarf and the one we've decided is nice can be found here. I'm not sure how I'll cope with all of that moss stitch but I'm certainly willing to have a go. After all I have a lot of manly wool sitting behind the sofa which needs to be put to good use.

Monday, November 19, 2007

And there was snow...

With Christmas looming ever closer, this weekend took it upon itself to remind me in as forceful a manner as it could that it is November and it is winter and we should be grown up about this and act accordingly. Foolish notions of running around in the woods should be cast aside in favour of indoor activities where there is heating or at the very least you are not being subjected to a continuous enslaught of rain and sleet.

Yes, this weekend I was walking around Shining Cliffs attempting to save the world as always in the last Ascendancy event of the year. Saturday was OK, cold but dry other than the occasional sleet shower. My feet were numb but I was well wrapped up and coped admirably, whilst watching in horror as one particular participant walked around the freezing woods in bare feet!!!

Sunday morning we awoke to wind, rain and sleet slamming into the windows, at which point a sensible reluctance to go outside took hold. Unfortunately, the other players didn't share that reluctance (possibly because they were in Birmingham and hadn't arrived on the scene so hadn't witnessed how bad it was) and so off we went to share in the madness.

Personally I was already cold by the time we'd stood waiting for the other players to arrive and my toes were lost to me... So I abandoned the car because it was better to walk back and forth in the sleet, because at least that way I could keep the circulation going. We finally got going but those of us of a non-combative nature hadn't a chance of staying warm out there.

I wasn't doing too badly since I was kitted out from head to foot in wool, but while wool is excellent at insulating you even when soaked through it does get incredibly heavy as it soaks up all that moisture. Queue aching shoulders and back as I trudged around after everyone else. The main problem though was my hands and feet, my boots were water proof but offered no insulation against the freezing ground while my leather gloves soaked up the rain like a chamois.

Suffice it to say there was no argument from me when it was finally suggested we retire to an indoor venue. In fact, had things gone on much longer mutiny was in the air as I was on the verge of asking Richard for the car keys and leaving them to it. The only thing stopping me was the thought of sitting in wet clothes in a freezing car for hours on end while the others carried on with the game.

The indoor venue was Andy and Heather's shop where there was tea and heat and a toilet (much needed after all that freezing cold sleet). I'm not sure what their customers thought of all these strangely dressed people descending on them, but at that point all I wanted was to be warm.

A short while after we'd retired indoors it began to snow.

Timing is everything and all I can say is hooray for being indoors at that point!

Anyhow, I survived. The journey home was interesting in a hair raising kind of way as I drove through the snow and was buffeted by wind all the way. I was very relieved to get home safe and sound and my first priority was a long soak in a hot bath.

Not the best weekend really, but the company was good (as always) which saved things some what. Now I'm just wondering what the weather will be like in January when I'm due to do it all again. Blankets and hot water bottles may well be a must!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A continuing theme

This weekend, I continued the recent theme for shopping trips by visiting the Re-enactors Market on Saturday, and then Hobbycrafts/Crafts for Christmas at the NEC on Sunday.

Saturday's trip was I think, the first time I've been to a Re-enactors Market and not had a single thing that I needed to hunt down. With no new costume pieces currently planned and the majority of my Christmas presents sorted, I wandered up and down the aisles admiring things but not really wanting to part with my cash for anything on display. To put it mildly, I have loads of fabric already which is sitting around doing nothing so buying more so I could take just to add to the pile wasn't appealing.

However, overcome by the non-shopping trip I did pick up some handspun yarns from the Mulberry Dyers and a small quantity of pretty glass beads from Tillerman Beads (who I'd never seen there before). The beads will go into my stock and will end up embellishing something at some point, but the handspun I'm not sure what to do with. I picked up three packs, two in cobweb weight and the other in what looks like a two ply, no yardage listed and sold entirely by the number of grams in the pack. I suspect they'll make interesting lace, but with no idea of yardage I'm going to have to be very careful on my choice of pattern.

Other than that, we did of course bump into the odd (and I mean that in the nicest way) person or three and Dave was very glad to find his mate Doug (I swear he gets withdrawal symptoms if too long passes between them speaking) who it seemed had come along without his mobile phone.

Sunday it was an early start as we attempted to get to the Hobbycrafts show before some of the crowds. As it was, things weren't too bad. I remember occasions when they've closed the hall while they allow the crowd to thin and witnessed the crush that's led to the first aiders having to rescue people who've fainted. As usual, Hobbycrafts was a card maker's paradise with everything you could possibly want to make and decorate your own cards. I could tell that Richard (a first timer) was a bit overwhelmed by the sight of so much glitter.

I succumbed (can I blame steelbreeze?) and bought sock yarn from Web of Wool. Not just one ball of sock yarn, no... I bought enough for three (yes three!) pairs of socks. I also cast aside my dignity to crawl about in a pile of wool belonging to Black Sheep Wools searching for something manly enough for Dave. More later when I decide what I'm going to make with the olive green wool I eventually settled on, but all I can say is I hope Dave appreciates it!

I'm still working away on my four cable scarf at the moment, slowly crawling my way along the ribbed section in the middle... But I am fretting about those balls of sock wool and feeling vaguely guilty since I'm currently buying wool faster than I can hope to knit it up. I may well be casting on my first pair of socks in the very near future.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Look Ma! Cables!

I started knitting another scarf at the weekend, intended to be a gentle introduction to knitting cables. I picked 'Double Cable Scarf' from One Skein since it has 3x3 cables at each end of the scarf, with a length of ribbing in between.

However, the pattern suffers from the not uncommon modern tendency to make scarfs skinny and not overly long, so as usual I intended to add both width and length. I started out on Saturday by casting on an additional 12 stitches to give me a third cable but after knitting up six inches or so (struggling with my cables the whole way) I decided it was still too narrow.

Sunday saw me start again, this time with another 12 stitches added (that's 52 stitches, rather than the recommended 28) and four cables. A couple of days on and I've finally cleared the cable section and I'm happily knitting a 2x2 rib with some slipped stitches at each end.

My verdict so far? Cabling isn't difficult, but it is fiddly. Keeping an even tension is also a bit hit and miss, at least for me on my first real attempt at this. I also need to keep my eye on the stitch pattern as my cables had a tendancy to wander off across the piece to some unshared route that wasn't written in front of me. No idea why... I swear my fingers seem to knit independently of my brain sometimes.

It is pretty and effective though, particularly in this colour and this yarn (one of Mercia Wools DK Superwash Wool range) which is well behaved, easy to knit with and shows up the pattern beautifully.

I'll motor on through the rest of the ribbing now and then cable in the other direction to finish the other end. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it by then, because I've promised to show my mother how to knit cables when I see her next month.

And talking about fiddly, last night I learnt how to knit in the round on DPNs with a view to learning how to knit socks. This tiny picture (the best I could do, it was dark and my camera wouldn't co-operate) shows a little, iddy biddy cuff, knit with four needles. The biggest problem was working around the needles which seem to go out of their way to be in the way. This little cuff is just 30 stitches knitted to about an inch long and took me a whole two hours to knit!

Although incredibly fiddly, it was fun and I think I'm going to have to have a go at a whole sock sometime soon.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Saturdays are for shopping it appears...

Today I headed into town to continue my Christmas shopping and I'm fairly pleased with myself now, since having dedicated myself to the task for the past three weeks I think I may be nearly done. Dave of course does not get included in this round up since I'll buy his pressies in the week before Christmas. Next weekend is the re-enactors market and Crafts for Christmas at the NEC... So I suspect I'll pick of a few last things there and I'll be done, save for the babies who'll need the usual special trip.

While I was in town, I found a lawn version of Tic-Tac-Toe which is made up of nine 30cm interlocking foam squares. Dave looked at them and saw possibilities for scenery boards, but what I saw was a temporary blocking surface was was fully customisable, waterproof and pinnable. I bought a set and I shall have to try them out later this weekend, if they work I may have to acquire a second set so I can block really big things like shawls.

I also popped into Busy Fingers to drop off a new poster for Knit-Wits with the details of our new venue. It was a flying visit initially as the lady behind the counter was desperately trying to explain to a customer that she couldn't sell her a single knitting needle. Said customer didn't seem to be able to grasp that needles come in pairs and if the shop split the pair, they'd never be able to sell on the remaining needle.

Anyway, I dropped by again a couple of hours later when my shopping was done and the poster was up in the door, so mission accomplished on my part. I spoke to the manager and he was curious about why we'd moved (I explained that the Town Crier is much bigger than Liquid which we'd outgrown) and asked after Steelbreeze who he said he hadn't seen in a while. I also complimented him on his own spun wool (sold under the Mercia Wools label) which saw him suitably pleased.

I also picked up some more yarn... Some sock wool for after Wednesday's sock knitting workshop and some more Paton's Chunky Parade which they've got on sale at the moment. I'm going to see if I've got some 4ply cotton for this weeks workshop, but I'm hoping to have a go at socks proper very soon.

On the not so good news front... I think my washing machine is soon going to go to the great washing machine retirement home. It's an elderly model and has served me well, with multiple repairs over the years but this time I think the problem is not one that's going to be easily fixed. In brief, we've had less than effective cleaning from it of late, it occasionally eats clothes in spectacular style and has developed this bad habit of refusing to give us our laundry back at the end of its cycle. Todays argument where it only released the laundry after it was pulled out of its cubby hole and threatened with a screwdriver is perhaps a sign that it really is time to buy a new one. It is just a matter of time now before its replacement with a newer and more energy efficient model.

Friday, November 02, 2007


After the clocks went back last weekend, I'm still trying to adjust and reeling from the sudden encroachment of dark nights. Consequently, I've been fighting off exhaustion all week so I certainly hope that I manage to settle back into some sort of routine this weekend.

This week I headed down to Warwick on Monday for a knitting group at the Crafty Cottage in addition to my usual Knit-Wit's session on Wednesday. It was good to see some new faces there, showing that Jo's shop is becoming known and word is slowly spreading. The only problem with driving to Warwick after work is of course that I don't get there until approaching 6:30pm and have to head home shortly after 7:30pm since I need my dinner. A hungry Julie is not good company, although fortunately if you feed me I will return to my normal aimable self.

While I was there (in Warwick that is) I picked up some DPNs in readiness for my introduction to socks this coming week. Steelbreeze will be running a workshop and I shall report on my progress (or lack of it... the thought of all those needles is scary) in due course.

In other news, the Coventry group (Knit-Wits) that I go to on Wednesdays changed venue this week as we had our first meeting in the Town Crier. This pub is a short walk from the previous venue, considerably bigger, well lit and full of alcoves - one of which we took over. It is also a lot cheaper drinkwise and does proper pub food, which certainly smelled nice. Also, it had no TV and the music was non-offensive and not at all deafening. We could have actual conversations and everything... So far looking good and a win methinks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

And by way of an addendum

Yesterday, Blogger seemed to be having issues with photographs so I ended up cutting my post short. Today, with the miracles of modern technology in full swing I proudly present a manly scarf...

This was simple enough to make up and is crocheted DC (or SC if reading American) in the backloop throughout. I kept going until it was six inches wide and then added a simple fringe, giving the results shown. Dave likes it (he is not the intended recipient) so I'm taking that as a good sign. Not the most exciting thing to crochet though, so I don't intend to make another one of these in a hurry.

On the subject of Dave, take a look at this...

It's a sandwich board (if you can call a non-blow-overable-flexi-board a sandwich board) from outside Andy and Heather's shop up in Ripley. It's the only photo I took on Saturday (I know, I should love the Orks more) and I'm posting it to point out the logo, which was designed by Dave. It's called an ambigram or an inversion and reads the same upside down as right way up - pretty nifty huh?

And on a crochet related subject, while I was in Ripley, Frizbe and I headed off to her house (leaving the boys to play) where I took her through the rudiments of crochet. She pretty much got it too, just needs some practice and to relax a little while holding her hook. Time will tell I guess as to whether I've corrupted her sufficiently... Time and whether she starts hiding yarn around the house!

(As always, click on the images to see bigger versions)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Something in the air...

Monday morning rolled around again (as they're in the habit of doing) and today my body clock is all over the place due to the end of British Summer Time. As the clocks go back and the dark nights are heralded in by fireworks, so we are officially ushered into winter. I'm not the only one finding the changed time difficult to adjust to; both cats were convinced today must be a 'Saturday' and were very disgruntled to realise I had to go to work.

The weekend was a good one, if busy, tiring and expensive as I made some serious inroads into my Christmas shopping.

Saturday saw us driving up to Ripley, where Andy and Frizbe have just opened their new comics and games shop 'Chimera'. Naturally, I picked up a few presents while I was there, while Dave and Richard (who were equipped with Orks and Eldar respectively) settled down to do battle for supremacy of the table top. I forgot to take any pictures (Dave was upset by this, he said I should have photographed his Orks) until after the shop was closed but there are photographs here for anyone who wishes to see.

Sunday, we drove to the Warwick Exhibition Centre for the Living History Fayre. This one isn't as busy as Anne Laverick's Re-enactors Market but had a good range of stalls, so naturally I bought yet more Christmas presents.

I also bought myself two more lucets... I shouldn't have, not really but in my defence sometimes I have a braid on the prongs and I'd like to start another, so... I need more than one lucet. Don't I?

I did however, bravely walk away from spun (undyed) silk... And wool... And linen. And I didn't buy so much as a single meter of fabric, all of which means there is hope for me yet.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend round up

The weekend is nearly over and it seems to have been a busy one. The focus for yesterday was Christmas shopping for our huge clan. We tend to drive down to Devon and Cornwall a week or so before the big event itself and do the grand tour, which has the positive benefit of allowing us to have a quiet relaxing Christmas with just the two of us. The downside is that we have to be super organised, with all pressies bought and wrapped long before the holidays themselves.

With this duly in mind, I dragged Dave into Coventry where we made a good start on my extensive list and scoped out several shops for intended purchases.

This year of course, I intend to suppliment my bought purchases with hand made items fresh off my own needles or hooks, but nonetheless, I returned several hours later laden down with bags which don't really seem to amount to very much at all.

While I was wandering around town, I stuck my head into Waterstones to browse their pitiful selection of craft books, where I spotted this. I promptly bought it, probably because I was overcome with shock that there was something on the shelves that interested me!

Back home, arms several inches longer and Dave reluctantly kitted out in new slippers, I set about blocking the lace scarf I've just finished. And here it is...

This is knitted up from the Razor Shell Lace Scarf pattern, taken from One Skein Wonders. The yarn is Paton's Studio Mohair which was very soft and pleasant to work, once I'd stopped making so many mistakes and was no longer trying to rip it out every few days. The pattern is actually quite easy and knits up relatively quickly, but took me a while to do because of my novice status when it comes to lace stitches. All in all, I'm happy with the results and may make another one at some point.

Finally, some gratuitous cat pictures.

This time of year is end of season for us campers and so it is time to properly air the tents and put them away. Dave was initially amused and then put out to discover he had a helper in the struggle to defeat the green monstrousity...

In the end, he had to clap his hands loudly and bang things in a noisy fashion to chase Charlie off, otherwise we may have ended up with holes as the daft animal tried to kill the canvas.

(Click on the images above to see bigger versions...)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tis the season to be knitting...

I do believe it's Friday at last, although this week seems to have practically flown by! I was straight back to work on Monday morning after a great Strangehaven event and it now seems to be ages ago, not just a few days. For those who are interested, some pictures have gone up from the September event and last weekend.

Winter seems to have arrived in Coventry, with the mild weather of last week replaced with a distinctive chill. The heating was switched on a couple of days ago and even the cats are starting to favour indoors. Missy is of course hanging on in there as a stalwart fan of outdoors, no matter how cold or wet she gets, but even she is showing signs of weakening.

My birthday came and went... And that was about it really. No big celebration or eat out this year and due to the postal strikes, no cards (other than a few hand delivered ones - thanks guys, you know who you are) so it didn't even really feel like my birthday. Instead I went to work, collected the cats, had a long soak in tub and did some crochet.

I started on a new crochet scarf because I've finally finished the lace one I was working on. No completed photo's yet because I want to have a go at blocking it this weekend, however I took it along to Coventry Knit-Wits on Wednesday where it was subjected to some professional fondling, along with 'ooohs' and 'aaaahs' so I think it came out OK.

The new crochet scarf however isn't quite so attractive or likely to draw appreciative noises. It is a simple DC in the back loop job, with row after boring row slowly building up to a band of yucky green with blue and orange flecks.

Manly is how I'm describing it and Dave quite likes it. He says it's non-offensive and yes, he'd wear it, which is how I guage these things. An intended Christmas present, it is going quite well and is now approaching two inches wide, so hopefully I'll get it done soon before I get so bored I can't pick it up any more.

In the meantime, as this scarf isn't really captivating me I've finished another two washcloths, started a third and started this...

Another experiment and destined for Christmas, this is left over yarn from the Spike Stitch Scarf and some novelty yarns passed in my direction by Steelbreeze at our last destash night. Pretty is how I'm describing this one and combined with a nice DK yarn the novelty fur is behaving itself. I may even buy some more!

(As always click on the images to see bigger versions)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today I am feeling old

Or rather today is my birthday, not that we're really doing anything to celebrate. I spent the weekend running a LRP event and having had to come into work this morning, my intentions for tonight involve a long soak in the tub and possibly a takeaway (by way of a birthday treat).

The weekend was a good one and (in my view at least) a great end to the events I've written this year. Three Days to Yesterday was as the name suggests (I hope) a bit odd and we had high fantasy meets sci-fi as aliens dropped by to help save the world...

I'm the one in the middle, looking decidely green and waving my scanning wand at the camera. Don't we look impressive?

This one was a test of endurance for me as I spent many hours under that mask and sporting a nice healthy green tan on the bits of me that would show. Green face paint it seems is tenacious stuff which likes to hang around and resist all efforts to remove it, but I'm happy to report I'm almost free of the stuff now... Except for my fingernails which are stubbornly retaining a nice shade of green today.

Suffice it to say that much fun was had by all. The plot went down well with the players who were remarkably on the ball throughout. I was very impressed at how well we (as the aforementioned aliens) managed to communicate with broken english consisting of less than 100 words, hissing, clicking and mime! The players seemed to have fun and hung around going over little moments they particularly liked long after timeout and debrief, which is always a good sign. So as far as I'm concerned it was a good end to this year's Strangehaven campaign and very happy with how it went.

I've got just one more LRP event left this year now and then roll on next year.

(As always click on images to see a larger version)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm on Ravelry at last!

I arrived at late to work yesterday after the usual grueling visit with my physio and a nightmare parking situation at work (there are many reasons why I hate this time of year) to find my long awaited Ravelry invite sitting in my mailbox. It cheered me up no end, the only downside being that I had to wait a while before accepting it.

Needless to say, yesterday's lunch hour was spent poking around the site, discovering how to upload an avatar, exploring the forums, joining a couple of groups and adding a few things to my project list. The fact that I managed to get all that done in such a short time shows just how intuitive the site is to use.

I've not had much time to look at the site but what I have seen I like. In particular, I like the pattern to project integration, which allows me to see examples of the pattern I'm either considering or I'm currently working on, knitted up by other members. Since I substitute yarns other than those listed in the patterns, that could be very helpful.

My one gripe has to be Flickr (which is horribly primitive compared to PhotoBucket or PicasaWeb) which has been integrated in as the preferred photo host, but it looks like there are plans afoot to allow other photo hosts in the future so I can live with it... Besides, in the intervening time perhaps Flickr will grow on me?

Generally though, a big thumbs up and hurrah!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Oooh, shinies...

As an addendum to my last post and of possible interest to me at least, I've just popped across to Artesano's website to check out the details on the Alpaca wool I bought on Saturday. Naturally, I browsed around their site a bit and wandered into the section on Britanny needles...

It seems they have a special offer on where if send them 10 ball bands, they'll send you a set of Britanny needles or a crochet hook of your choice. Is this a valid excuse to buy more yarn I wonder?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

A new yarn shop opened today

Today I headed off to Warwick where Jo from the Coventry knitting group (Knitwits) opened her new yarn and crafts shop or The Crafty Cottage.

And of course, here is the proud new shop owner, Jo herself...

I dragged poor Dave along, where he tolerantly drank coffee and talked decor before hurrying off to visit Warwick's shops, leaving me alone with wool. I'm not entirely sure this was a good strategy on his part, but perhaps he's preparing his defence for when Andy and Heather open their new shop in a few weeks or so!

I met up with the usual suspects from the knitting group, ate cake, drank tea, discussed Bob Marley and spent a long time browsing the many yarns on offer...

I think I was a bit overwhelmed with such a wide choice of very nice yarns and I carefully steered myself away from the Seasilk (a sort of silk and seaweed derived mix which was very pretty and soft to boot) and numerous other luxury end yarns, before settling on some blue/grey Alpaca.

I'm intending to turn it into a scarf - of course - but one for me, rather than for anyone else, which will be a first.

I also picked up some more cotton to feed my ongoing addiction to washcloths.

Otherwise, I behaved... Honest. Of course, I may well have to go back that way sometime...

In other news, today is Saturday and I've survived the first week of term! Hurrah!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Warning - washcloths are highly addictive!

Last night, it being a Wednesday I made an effort to get out of work close to on time so I could head out to Coventry's Knit-Wit's group. It seemed I was being thwarted in my efforts to get out the door last night as I was popular on the telephone. First it was my bank, phoning from Plymouth to tell me I have too much money. Yes, apparently I have not been spending enough of late and obviously I need to buy more fabric, yarn and habberdashery...

Engaging as it was to hear another Plymouthian accent and to have the lady on the phone tell me all about the latest gossip from the city of my birth (this girl was very chatty and nice, so telling her to go away was difficult in the extreme) I eventually managed to hang up some twenty minutes later.

Two minutes after I hung up the car dealership where I bought my car called to ask... "Do you still have your Focus?"... Followed by "Do you want a new one?"... My terse reply of "Not right now." was met with a cheery "That's alright. Bye for now." before the salesman hung up. I suppose I should be grateful that he didn't give me the hard sell!

Eventually I escaped to Liquid having warned Dave that I may be back in half an hour. Last night was the Machine Knitting Workshop, which was being hosted at one of our member's flat so I was expecting a low turnout at our usual venue. My plan was to drop by, order one drink and if no one else had shown up by 7:30 or so, I'd go home again.

Anyhow in I rolled to find one other knitter in the corner reading a pattern book and sipping a Coke, having arrived with pretty much the same idea. As it was, it was fortunate that we had both turned up as a new member turned up who we did our best to welcome and reassure that there were normally more of us. Hopefully she'll be back next week when she'll be able to meet every one else.

Last night I was working on yet another washcloth...

And with only two ladies for company, it was suggested that possibly I'm addicted to knitting the things since I do have quite a few now...

Pictured are three finished, but yet to be blocked cotton washcloths along with two unfinished ones lacking their crochet borders. This is my current favourite 'no thinking required' item to knit and I think one of the reasons I like them so much is because of how quickly they make up. I can whip one of these up in a few nights which is quite a pleasant change to the average scarf which I'll labour over for four weeks or so.

This is my current scarf, the fabled scalloped shell lace mohair one that I've ripped out at least four times now and is finally reaching a reasonable size.

I know it doesn't look particularly lacey but it has holes in it, intentional holes at that... And increases and decreases which change the direction of the stitches giving them a textured look as well as creating that wavy edge. I'm pleased with the way it is finally coming together now that I've finally settled down into the pattern and making some headway.

In related news, having had a near disaster this morning with coffee I can also attest to the amazing water (or coffee) repelling qualities of mohair. Liquid splashed onto the ball just sits there allowing it to be dabbed off the surface with a minimum of fuss and no residue left at all. Result!

(As always, click on the images to see bigger versions.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Some all important updates

Let's start with a Ravelry update where I see I've crept up to 4920th on the list for an account... Which means I may get my invite in about a week and a half... By the fact that I'm checking my place in the list on a daily basis, I suspect I'm getting impatient to take a look.

I also ordered and received my first ever order from Angel Yarns, breaking down and buying yarns at full price.

Normally, I'm what I'd call a bargain bin knitter. That is, I vist yarn stores or Hobbycraft and look for whatever is end of line, picking up all sorts of bargains such as the cotton which went into the plum coloured sweetpea shawl, where I paid just 99p per 50g. Normally, this is a fine way to boost my stash without breaking the bank, but the downside is that you have to rely on what is left unsold and can't always find exactly what you're after.

Now just recently, I've started to flirt with lace knitting with my efforts so far having mixed results. I've decided that I need to scale back and take baby steps with simpler patterns and possibly using well behaved yarn rather than 'sticky' mohair. Which is why I bought some of Tess Dawson's own range of 4ply Merino, which I can report is very soft and pretty. Dave liked the little packet of Lovehearts tucked into the packaging which he said were very tasty but could have been bigger.

In other news, last weekend was a Shards event which saw me camping at Candleston in South Wales where it was cold of the brain sapping variety. We also had rain, although not too bad and when it came it was actually quite welcome (to me at least) as it raised the temperature slightly. It was also the last Shards event, ever - not counting the Bloodlines event in November or Strangehaven in two weeks, since they're sub campaigns really.

Not to worry though, the campaign hasn't stopped it's just been renamed to reflect the fact that there are no longer any shards as such, since they were all long ago fused into a single world. So next year, I'll be playing Ascendancy... Once I've digested the dates, compared them to my diary, talked to work and booked the cattery.

Those who are interested, take a look at the website which has been pulled together mostly by Richard. My bit was the forums, which I've spent the past few weeks wrestling with.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Running so fast...

With another week having passed in a whirlwind of business on the work front, I'm struggling to think what I've actually achieved - or of anything much worth writing about for that matter. It seems that I'm permanently thinking about work or forums and websites, with very little time in between for doing or thinking about anything else.

The weeekend just gone started well enough, with a lock-in at Lush in Coventry's lower precinct. I'd been invited by Esther and as a Lush virgin, who'd never had a reason to set foot inside the store before I headed off intending to be virtuous and pure, resisting the lure of cosmetics. Sadly, at heart I'm as girly as the next woman and so I headed home again a few hours later with my bag full of purchases and 'smelling of soap' (as Dave said when I came in). Fortunately though this did mean I was armed with multiple types of luxury bath products and so was able to relax and de-stress Saturday evening in a pool of bubbly and very pink goodness.

I'm sad to say that I spent the majority of the weekend chained to a computer, struggling with forums as I kept my promise to help set up a website. More on the details once it's released and available to the public, but I now know more about PHP, CSS and HTML than I did before. I've also become reacquainted with the fickleness of open source developed software, lack of documentation and the hit and miss approach to whether such software will work or not.

For breaks in the logic nightmare I continued to tackle my lace knitting.

Now, this may not have been the best strategy to relax but at least it gave me a new frustration which sent me back to the keyboard with nenewed optimism that nothing could be as fiddly as lace!

As previously reported I've abandonned the Ziggy scarf for now; the complexities of YO,YO were just too much for me. Instead I'm working on a 'Shell Lace Scarf' from One Skein Wonders which is actually quite an easy pattern in comparison. My problem is concentration rather than the ability to knit or following the instructions. I keep loosing track of whether I'm in a pattern row or a knit row. And when I am in the latter, my fingers insist on thinking I'm in a pattern row and if I don't keep an eye on them, they start knitting of their own accord.

Due to my naughty fingers, I must have ripped out at least three foot of scarf by now! As I type, the scarf is finally approaching two foot in length and I mourn those missing three feet because if I'd have left them in place I'd be nearly done by now!

No pictures as of yet because I haven't had time to take any...

And finally, a link to the BBC news site and an article that caught my eye.

And really finally, it appears I am 8827th in the list for my Ravelry invite which is an improvement on the 12000 or so position I was at last week. I keep checking in there once every few days and it seems I get a couple of hundred places closer to being invited on each time I look. One day soon I may be able to see what all the fuss is about!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Of tents and men

This weekend just gone was a busy one. Not that I did anything terribly exciting - I didn't really have time.

Saturday morning was spent doing essential domestic things like cleaning the bathroom and kitchen before something nasty could move in. The rest of the weekend was spent becoming familiar with the intricacies of phpBB, glowering at lace or wrestling with tents.

Lace and phpBB will undoubtedly get revisited, but for now the topic of choice is that of tents.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new tent to replace my good old faithful blue and red tent that I use when camping without Dave. I chose the Vango V500 and picked one up from Go Outdoors. Sadly, the first one I picked up was missing a toggle on one of the window covers so I took it back for an exchange which they willing did because I not only swapped it for a replacement I also bought a second one for Richard.

Not wanting to leave it until arriving on site to discover something more vital than a toggle was missing, I decided a test pitch was necessary. And being helpful, I volunteered to test pitch the one I picked up for Richard at the same time.

Cue a good two hours of fun on Saturday afternoon and another hour or so on Sunday morning as Dave and I unpacked, pitched, collapsed and repacked two tents. Our efforts were of course carefully monitored and at times aided by our feline companions, with Charlie being particularly keen to oversee the operation.

As you can see the tent is a good size and practically fills our lawn.

Sunday's efforts were much more efficient than Saturday's with the tent going up in under half an hour. It was fairly easy, but definitely a two man job as you need quite a bit of tension on the poles to get them hooked onto the pointy thing (a technical term for the pin on the straps) but no where near so bad as my big green tent.

Dave was quick to volunteer to check the inside of the tents for size which as you can see is quite roomy. Dave's final verdict being that he could happily see himself camping in one of them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Time to wheel out the goats

You know its been a bad week when you're sitting in a meeting giving a progress update when the suggestion comes up (jokingly I assure you) that perhaps we should take a leaf out of Nepal Airlines book when it comes to dealing with ongoing and as yet undiagnosed problems. However, we all agreed to a far more British offering of a nice cup of tea and a scone rather than involving livestock in any way. Of course, that would mean going against the rules banning all food and beverages from the machine rooms which is why it was said in jest...

Moving swiftly on before this post degenerates into a work based whinge, things have not been going too well on the lace front either. I have temporarily given up on the Ziggy scarf after spectacularly failing to make it past row two of the pattern on a repeated basis. Even my little sixteen stitch swatch to try to get my head and fingers around it refused to behave... I ask you "SSK, YO, YO, SSK", it doesn't look particularly frightening does it? But followed up with a purl row, and I'm getting nothing but a mess with inconsistent numbers of stitches every time. After Steelbreeze told me I'd picked a hard pattern and sitting there for two hours last night trying to get my head around it, I became despondent so I've decided to put Ziggy aside and knit something else. Only now I'm going to have to find something else.

On the good news front, I finished the wobbly lined scarf a week or so ago now. I've refrained from posting about it because it was intended as a present for someone who may have found his way onto this blog. However, now that it has been handed over and duly admired, I can show it here with impunity.

The scarf is in blue DK weight merino wool, loosely based on this pattern. I added some stitches since I tend to steer away from skinny scarves and increased the lenght, until blocked this one measured in at 7ft 6in. The recipient is very tall and had repeatedly told me that he can't find scarves long enough for his liking as most of them are a measly 60 inches (5ft). The first thing he commented on was how long the scarf was followed by he liked it and judging by the grin on his face and the immediate modelling of the scarf, I think it was a genuine hit.

And finally...

Some pictures of the supervising crew in charge of the photography featured in this post...

Charlie decided it was all too much like hard work and had a little snooze, while Missy took over and supervised closely.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A weekend of Pot Watching

Well, it's September and the month is off to a fine old start, showing all the signs of being as hectic as it always is. Today may only be Tuesday but I'm already embroiled in a few crises in potentia, which seem to be picking up political undertones. I remember the far off days of old when if you saw something was broken, you fixed it and that was that. These days... These days I have to justify every I do and even if a fix is urgently needed or horrible bad things will happen, I face something of an Inquisition.

Still I refuse to have my good mood broken and I'm still basking in the success of the Strangehaven event at the weekend.

Friday I set off for York, braving the M1 to collect Richard by which time it was evident that this particular motorway was not the place to be. After sitting in stop/start traffic all the way from Coventry (J21) to South Normington (J28) and then waiting in a queue to get back onto the motorway after collecting Richard, we made the decision to go cross country, shunning the M1 for A roads. This added probably an hour or so onto our journey time, but since we'd have spent at least that sitting in traffic queues had we stuck with the motorway, I don't think its a bad tradeoff. As it was, we arrived at 7pm and once we'd got settled and briefed the crew, we got stuck in.

The plot this weekend involved the NPC I was playing being kidnapped and brutally beaten before she made good her escape, so it was time to apply the bruise makeup.

I also got to react to my NPC's father dying and even wore some armour although I must hasten to add that the armour was worn by a different NPC to the one who was beaten up.

Me aside, we had set pieces, managed to get some combat in, choosing small skirmishes with lots of sneaking to take the nature of the site into account. The set pieces were fantastic (and boy do I wish I had photo's) and I raided Dave's supply of masks so everyone got to look the part. We managed the tension nicely and the plot happily buzzed along the mood shifting from jovial to sinister and eventually horror as planned. All in all, it worked well and compared with the first game felt a lot easier as it played out. I'm just hoping the players enjoyed themselves as much as they seemed to.

With lots of plot to cram in, we finished a bit later than anticipated on Sunday afternoon but packed in a speedy fashion. By the time we were done though, a cuppa was needed so we stopped for a little while in the cafe before setting off. Thankfully, the roads were much better on the way back and apart from being horrified by the antics of some drivers with fat exhausts, the drive home was uneventful. Even so, by the time I'd dropped Richard off and set off for Coventry, it was gone eight by the time I got home.

As always, click on the pictures to see bigger versions...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lessons in lace

Last night I decided to have a go at starting the Ziggy scarf and full of optimism I got out a ball of mohair, some needles and the pattern. I wish I could say I made lots of progress, but after three failed attempts with the mohair and one failed attempt with cotton I'm going to have to admit I couldn't even get past the first row of the lace pattern.

But, all is not lost I am learning from the experience and I've picked up several gems of knowledge from those failed run throughs.

First up, Steelbreeze is right... It takes a lot of concentration to knit a lace pattern, even a really simple one like this. It is shockingly easy to make a mistake as the instructions for each row are very complicated and read like some sort of intricate encrypted code. Watching television is not doable. Holding a conversation is not doable. And having an insistant cat trying to get you to tickle his belly, steal your pattern or eat your wool is not at all helpful.

Second up, mohair is near impossible to rip out (or frog if you prefer). It sticks to itself like mad and subsequently tangles the instant you try to rip it back. It is also very delicate and prone to breaking with very little effort, so once tangled or knotted it is doomed. I went through three attempts at knitting this, ripping it out and starting again before putting the mohair away and reaching for some simple dishcloth cotton.

Third, swatch. Try out the pattern on something simple, cheap and easily ripped out - such as dishcloth cotton. Make sure you can understand the pattern, know what all the stiches are and have practiced them before going near your yarn of choice.

Fourth, use stitch markers. Trying to keep track of where you are on the row and is hard enough, so put something on your needles to help. The best method of using them I'm not sure of yet, since I'm still experimenting but the row where I used them was the closest I came to a good row.

And finally, count your stitches. I can't emphasise this enough. Every single row I tried, I lost stitches and then spent a good ten minutes staring at the row I'd just knitted trying to work out where they'd gone.

Which about sums things up. As things stand I need to rip out everything I've done, take a deep breath and start again... Perhaps perseverance and patience should be on the above list of lessons learnt?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Going round in circles

I do believe it is Wednesday once more and this week has seen me back at work. The knock on effect of this, is of course that I am absolutely shattered since I got back and hit the ground running as it were; September and October being horrible months if you work for IT at a University.

I've been too tired to really achieve much in the evenings this week, but I've started crocheting a bag which I hope turns out OK. So far, I've made the bottom which is crocheted in the round and is a good size as I've taken it out to about 25cm before stopping the increase.

What can I say? I hate small bags that are bursting at the seams before you've put anything more than the most basic of essentials in them.

Next up, I need to crochet the sides, which just means doing round after round until it's big enough.

This is a bit of an experiment really, as I've never really tried to crochet anything other than blankets, squares and the occasional hat or scarf. I'm using a basic DK acrylic yarn, but intend to work in random stripes to add interest, so should end up with a multicoloured cylinder. I'll work a shoulder strap across that and then maybe edge the whole lot to reinforce it before finding a suitable lining.

I've also castoff the blue wobbly lined scarf I was working on, which ended up 7ft (210cm) long but increased by a further 18cm (7 inches) once I'd blocked it, with a nice even width of 20cm.

Note the mixing of imperial and decimal unit measurements here. I'm afraid I do this all the time, switching between the two without really thinking about it. I do take serious pains when noting a person's measurements to keep them all in one unit, usually opting for centimeters and writing down which I've used. I blame my parents and grandparents. Using decimal at school but imperial at home, means you end up using them interchangeably and causing much confusion.

But back to the subject in hand. The scarf is done and at some point I will post some pictures here once I've uploaded them from the camera.

I've also decided on my next project, which is of course a scarf - namely Ziggy from Magknits. It looks to me to be a fairly gentle introduction to lace knitting without the super skinny yarn and quite a simple selection of stitches. I have some Mohair at home which I think will do this quite nicely and Charlie has given my choice his seal of approval... Apparently, Charlie likes the taste of goat!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Broken tentage

The past few days have flown by, as they always do when I have a few days off work. Mostly I've been slowly recovering from my holiday, thrown in with a few necessary errands.

While we were away the door zip on our canvas bell tent gave up the ghost. It's always been a bit tempermental, but after the heavy rain of the first weekend and the resulting dramatic shrinking of the canvas, it went from slightly dodgy to near unusable. Hence the tent is going to need a bit of attention before it gets used again.

Now, anyone who's ever priced up a real cotton canvas tent will know they are darned expensive and not at all of the disposable variety. Which is the reason why I intend to replace the zip with dutch lacing.

A trip out to Jackson's of Old Arley later and I have big eyelets all ready to fit. A rummage through my stash produced lightweight canvas which should do the trick for re-enforcing the door flap, making canvas tape loops and an underflap. I'm currently thinking I need to add a couple of inches to the flap so that the loops sit behind the eyelets when the tent door is closed and I'm veering towards tape loops since I think the resulting fastening will be more stable. Input from those who know about such things is of course welcome.

Also on the tent front, my modern dome is also on its last legs. The last time it was used, during the deluge that saw huge parts of the Midlands under water, Richard pointed out the poles have split again. After careful inspection, it looks like all of the poles have hairline fractures, plus the inner tent's ground sheet is wearing very thin across a wide area. The tent goes up inner first which makes it less than ideal in rain and since I've already replaced pole segments twice I think the time has come to buy a new one.

The dilemma here is of course, do I buy now at the end of season or wait until next year?

I have seen a tent I like at Go Outdoors, so now I'm deliberating on whether to go buy it or not. The price is OK and the discount reasonable, but not mind blowing... However, judging by how few tents were available at Old Arley if I leave it for much longer there may not be any tents to buy until the beginning of the year.

All of which means I may need to go back and buy it...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And back to the real world

I think today is Wednesday. That is, blogger is telling me it is Wednesday and my diary agrees, so it must be Wednesday but my poor body clock has lost all sense of time. It's an even worse shock to realise that August is very nearly over and we're almost in September!

The reason for this loss of time and complete disassociation with the calendar as accepted by the rest of the world is of course having not long returned from being cacooned from reality in Candleston campsite and eleven days of Shards.

Once we'd got past the first weekend, the weather cleared and was fine, which cheered us all up enormously. We were camping in our usual luxurious and prepared fashion, so the rain didn't hamper us too much, but had it continued throughout the full eleven days it would have dampened our spirits somewhat.

As it was, a good time was had by all, with the first two segments being particularly excellent - from my viewpoint at least. The last few days were a bit slow, mostly due to the nature of the plot and the focus on the tribal types, which made it difficult to get involved.

I took some knitting with me and completed two washcloths, with another half done. They're great for picking up and putting down, so made good knitting projects for those quiet moments as well as first thing in the morning. Pictures and details later.

Dave's new costume looked very 'fly' as he would put it, however the character it was intended for only survived about eight hours in game. Rather than have all that hard work go completely to waste, the tunic was passed to another player to pad out their kit for the week. I've got to say, it looked equally good on him.

Monday afternoon we packed up fairly promptly for us and were not the last off site (miraculously), but lost a lot of time due to car trouble. My brakes were resisting and rather than drive all the way home, I called the AA and waited for them to be checked out. It turned out the heavy rain that first weekend, followed by very warm weather and not moving the car was the problem, with a thin coating of rust having formed on the brake disks. A drive with the AA man and some aggressive braking sorted things out and then we drove home, finally getting back to Coventry just after midnight. This was much, much later than we should have done, but those brakes needed checking out.

Now... I have a mountain of laundry to do, plus a load of washing up. I also have a zip to replace with eyelets on my tent since it's about given up the ghost now. Mostly though, I'm trying to adjust to being back in the real world and marvelling at just how tired I feel.