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.