Friday, February 29, 2008

Out of uncertainty comes...

This week has been a bit of a tense one at work, with the ominous topic of 'Reorganisation' ringing in our ears. A mandatory meeting along with a huge reem of paper by way of a briefing later and while I'm not directly affected this time, there is an air of uncertainty drifting around the building. Office moves, ongoing building work, drilling which vibrates through the floor and power failures have all contributed to making this a less than pleasant week. I'm also reading through an incredibly dry project management manual and doing exercises in readiness for a course in a couple of weeks. This book is quite honestly enough to make your eyes glaze over within a few minutes... Although I have had fun thoroughly defacing it with post-its and yellow highlighter pen.

This all means that I have been rather brain dead in the evenings and with my weekends continuing to be hectic, I don't see this changing in the near future. Salvation is coming in the form of knitting and crochet, which as always allows me to work on something which is fully under my control even if only for an hour or so a day.

My main distraction for the moment is my first attempt at something out of Victorian Lace Today.
This is my version of 'Scarf with the striped border from Weldon's, Volume 5, 1890', which as you can see is coming along nicely. I'm knitting it in a 4-ply merino, as I really don't want the additional trauma of lace weight or complicated charts at the moment. So far, the scarf is about 60% along, which means that if stretched out (as it will be once blocked), it's about four foot long, with the relaxed length closer to three foot.

Now I'm well under way, this is a relaxing knit with a simple two row repeat where I only have to remember which row I'm currently doing. With a substantial amount of scarf to look at now, it's actually very pretty and drapes well... I'm looking forward to finishing it and seeing how it blocks out.

I've also started this...
Can you tell what it is yet?

It is of course a rabbit's bottom!

Yes, after looking at lots of very cute pictures of crocheted toys on Ravelry and buoyed by Richardxl5's comment that his grandmother used to make fantastic toys, I thought I'd have a go.
The pattern is from Vintage Crochet and is called 'Syd the Rabbit'. Now I don't know if this is a Syd or not yet as it's early days and I can't tell if the rabbit has a personality at this point.

I'm making this proto rabbit out of acrylics that I had lying around, rather than buying anything specific for the project and so far, the body is coming along nicely. I've made a couple of mods, starting with a loop rather than a foundation chain and crocheting in a spiral rather than rounds, as I prefer the effect. The only real problem at the moment, is I'm crocheting a lot tighter than I'm used to and it's proving hard on my hands. I'm thinking that if I get into this toy making lark, I may need to invest in some better hooks.

I also had my first go at Intarsia on Wednesday night, at the regular Knit-Wit's group workshops. Steelbreeze did an excellent job of explaining what we had to do and my effort can be seen here. I'll try to get the sample finished over the weekend and post a proper picture then.

This weekend is looking like a busy one. I'm sending Dave off to Ripley on Saturday for a spot of wargaming with Chimera. In the meantime, I'll be heading to Warwick to the Crafty Cottage, for a Ravelry day hosted by Jo, the shop's owner. I'm hoping I manage to show some restraint while surrounded by so much gorgeous yarn, but having not bought anything really (I'm not counting some discontinued pink stuff I found in Busy Fingers, or the yarn for the Bubbles Blanket... Or sock yarn, sock yarn most certainly does not count) since December, if I do fall off the wagon a little, it will be understandable won't it?

Then on Sunday, with Dave's return we'll be heading off to the Living History Fair at the Warwick Exhibition Centre. The trick here will be to not only watch my spending but Dave's as well. There will be far too many tempting, pretty things... I'm going to suggest that we shop by proxy and help Richardxl5 (and any other friends we see) spend their money instead!

People who know me and see me at the fair, consider yourself warned ;)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tremors in the night

Did the earth move for you?

It did for us in Coventry two nights ago with an earthquake striking a couple of minutes before 1am. The bed shook, there was a bang and a loud rumbling, the cats jumped off the bed and there was the sound of a small herd of tiny elephants running downstairs at speed (Charlie and Missy are not light footed).

Dave woke with an exclamation of "Whuh?!!!!", to which I replied by calmly saying, "It's the cats."

What can I say, other than the normal cause of disturbances in the middle of the night are the cats. I woke as they fled the scene and naturally, my sleep befuddled brain put the noise, the movement and the rapidly departing cats together and came to the most natural conclusion.

I have apologised to the cats.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Speedy socks...

First of all, my thanks to Evelyn123 for her donation of paper bags, which are being presented in a rationed style to Charlie. So far, I've offered him the smallest bag which isn't quite big enough for him. He has developed a habit of diving inside and out again then returning to his old bag which he obviously doesn't want to abandon. I'll switch in one of the bigger ones soon...

This weekend was a busy one in terms of housework and family commitments, which saw us driving off to see Dave's sister and her little ones for Sunday afternoon and evening. Dinner was filling and nice, the children were well behaved and I believe that Dave learnt a few things.

Firstly, he discovered that pirate ships can apparently spontaneously develop flight and the ability to dive bomb their opposing combatants. And secondly, he learnt that a one year old who wants to go outside to play can be quite nimble on her feet and won't wait around for you to put her coat on, find your shoes or do anything else that would delay her embrace of mud. I believe he also discovered that (as an adult) it is not advisable to try to catch a two foot high child once she's escaped out the patio doors when the only thing between your feet and the puddles are a pair of socks.

Fortunately, he was wearing a very nice and sturdy pair of socks...

I finished my second pair of socks during last week, but was waiting to glimpse daylight so I could photograph them. I also had another requirement in that I wanted Dave's feet present while I took the photo's so they could be shown off in all their glory.

These are knitted in Regia's Avenue sock yarn. I've been on the look out for manly colours and this brown and slate grey stripey colourway seemed to hit the spot. I based them on the Yarn Harlot's basic sock recipe from Knitting Rules! They got a lot of admirers at Knit-Wit's on Wednesday, with one gentleman at the pub taking a particular like to them. He's got the same size feet as Dave and was asking very pointed questions about how much the wool cost!

Dave's reaction is that he quite likes them and he would like to order another two pairs.

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

Monday, February 18, 2008

Searching for inspiration

I spent this weekend at work, applying an application upgrade to a rather important system, which is why it couldn't be done during normal working hours. Today I can feel the start of the descent into the braindead state that normally follows on from one of these stints and I suspect it will get worse. If things go to form, I'll be having problems distinguishing which day it is by midweek.

Sadly, there hasn't been much time for crafting over the weekend as I've worked full days, leaving Dave in charge of the cats at home. I'm not sure what he did to them though, since they were both very quiet when I did get home! Although it was very sweet to watch Charlie lying beside me on the sofa, twitching and squeaking in his sleep as he chased an imaginary paper bag through his dreams.

In lieu of actually doing any knitting, crochet or sewing, I've become very click happy in Ravelry, adding things to my queue which now contains more items than I could possibly knit in five years! Mostly scarves, which I still focus on, some lace thrown in and of course some washcloths. I've even remembered that I've got some patterns for toys at home, which may come in handy for Christmas presents!

And yes, it is the sad truth that I am thinking about Christmas presents already. Buoyed by the reported success of those items I gifted last year (is it really less than two months ago?) I need to get cracking on this years presents if I'm to get them done in time.

I've also been looking at my fabric stash with a speculative eye. It's comprised of mostly natural fibres, cotton, wool, a little linen and a few cotton/silk mixes. Some are good lengths, originally bought with costume in mind, while others are odd meters left over from some project or other. I've decided they need a good sort through, so I can see them properly and be inspired...

Friday, February 15, 2008

One (or two) cat(s) and a paperbag

On Wednesday evening I headed off to knitting group as usual and while there, I asked if anyone had any rugged paper bags they didn't want. When asked why, I explained that I was trying to source a replacement for the rather sorry remains of my cat's favourite toy, which was why it did need to be paper, strong and preferably large tomcat sized.

I also relayed Charlie's latest game where he takes the tissues out of their box, so he can stick his front legs into the now half empty box and push off which his back legs, thus 'sledging' across the carpeted floor. This one is not something we encourage since we'd rather like a box of tissues to be used for their designated purpose, not hijacked by an oversized kitten. I didn't mention his other favourite toys, namely carrots and potatoes or the excitement caused by a box full of vegetables, since I think that one needs to be seen to be believed.

However, I did go home and decide to stake out the paper bag in the hopes of catching Charlie sitting in it. I can now say, that I have an increased appreciation of the difficulties involved in wildlife (wild = boisterous, life = cat) photography.

I managed to get a picture of Charlie sitting staring at the bag, which he'll do for some time as he psyches himself up to attack. After that things became difficult as I discovered the problems with a time lag digital camera. By the time the photo was taken, the cat had moved on...

I sat and waited patiently, while Missy wandered over to see what all the fuss was about.

You'll notice the toys accumulating in the paperbag... Charlie collects toys into one place, where they're all the better for playing with.

Finally, I did manage to get a picture but discovered that a fast moving cat and paperbag can come out rather blurry.

Until, success at last!

Phew, that was harder than I thought it would be!

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

Monday, February 11, 2008


The focus of this weekend was household chores and errands, which seemed to take forever as they all had to be done on my lonesome. Friday night I arrived home to a strongly worded letter from my optician telling me my contact lens supply had been stopped as I apparently hadn't attended for a check up. As someone who remembers going to the optician at least three times last year and even has new specs, this came a bit out of the blue.

Since being without contact lenses is a real pain (and I do wonder if they'd have stopped deducting monies from my account) I phoned and made an appointment there and then, which pretty much put paid to Saturday morning. I complained about the letter, but didn't seem to make any impact - apparently there should have been warning letters (which I haven't recieved) and traffic light stickers on my lenses, which are delivered by mail.

The reason for the letter and the apparent need for frequent visits, is the previous optician to see me had put me down for a six month recall, rather than the usual twelve months one. Absolutely no idea why. But of course, that doesn't explain the jump straight to threatening letters and stopping my lenses completely.

Saturday afternoon, I returned to the house to tackle chores before escaping for a couple of hours by popping over for a chat with Esther and to drop off a pressie.

This is a Bubble's Baby Blanket, which I've been working on for the past month. I downloaded it directly from Ravelry, but it can also be found in the Crochet Pattern Central download area. It's crocheted in two strands, one of a superwash wool and the other a standard baby acrylic. Both yarns are from a local spinner, labelled as Mercia Wools and sold out of the spinner's shop, Busy Fingers in Coventry.
I started this blanket while working on Dave's scarf and it served as a bit of light relief from all that moss stitch. The Bubble stitch was easy to do and working with two strands and a 9mm hook, meant it grew relatively quickly. So much so, that I had no problem working it to a decent cot size in a month, with just a few hours each week spent on it. The resulting fabric is thick and soft, so hopefully will be put to good use.

Sunday was spent doing more household chores, with the usual couple of hours of decluttering thrown in. I did however make a start on the lace and learnt a new cast on - the 'crochet cast on' which is like crocheting a chain but sticking a knitting needle in the way. I'm working on 4.5mm needles and coming straight from sock knitting these past few weeks, the needles seem huge!

Not much to see so far, as I've cast on, knitted two repeats, decided the first repeat was too loose, ripped it out..... Cast on again and knitted two more repeats and that was all I had time for. At the moment, it doesn't look very impressive but as it's lace I'm kind of expecting that... I shall persevere and see where it gets me.

Sock news - the heel is turned on the second sock and I've picked up the stitches for the gusset, so it's coming along. Slowly.

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

Friday, February 08, 2008

Weekend Plans...

Today, Dave is another year older and is off to an Ascendancy LRP event without me. Not on purpose or because it's his birthday - that's just when the dates of the events fell; this year, we're splitting them up so that we don't both do all of the events. The idea is to save some pennies, give time to normal life things and so the cats don't have to go into the cattery quite so often.

This means I'm on my own this weekend, so in addition to much housework and tidying, may feel brave enough to look at a spot of lace knitting.

Lace, while very pretty, requires a bit of concentration; at least it does at the beginning when I'm trying to get my head around the pattern. I'm hankering to have a go at one of the 'easy' patterns from Victorian Lace Today. This has the catchy title - "Scarf with the striped border from Weldon's, Volume 5, 1890" which at first glance doesn't look that easy at all!

The second sock is coming along well, with the heel now under way. The yarn and colour choice got much admiration at knitting group this week where I was taking a workshop in Lucetting. The link should take any who are interested to the group blog where you can admire everyone's efforts as they try out using a lucet for the first time. I was impressed at how everyone picked it up and very brain dead by the time I got home. I'd never realised how tiring taking a workshop was!

Monday, February 04, 2008

With all due diligence

Another weekend seems to have flown by and I'm sat here trying to remember what exactly I got up to. The answer is quite a lot, in that I was busy throughout the weekend although in truth not much progress seems to have been made.

Saturday morning, we headed into Coventry to try out the swimming baths and I at least was pleasantly surprised. I haven't been in a pool since my mid teens after a childhood full of bad swimming experiences which have pretty much turned me into a non-swimmer. Despite being worried about how I'd get on, I actually quite enjoyed myself.

As I'd expected, I appear to have forgotten how to swim but after ten minutes or so of acclimatising, I was managing to swim back and forth with a float... something I did repeatedly for an hour, which is why yesterday and today I ache a lot. But as I said, it was fun. Dave was very patient and we both spent a lot longer in the pool than we'd intended as a result of losing all track of time.

We popped into town briefly, where I resisted buying yarn but found and bought a crochet book (Vintage Crochet) as my willpower momentarily deserted me. I have a list of books I'm keeping my eye on but not buying on Amazon while I try to save some pennies, so really I shouldn't have bought this but perhaps the exercise got to me. Anyhow, I now have another crochet book in my collection.

At home that afternoon, household chores were the main theme which kept us occupied for the rest of the day. I did take a brief break to finish the toe on the first of Dave's socks, something which took me longer than I liked as I had issues with dropped stitches while I was trying to graft the toe shut. Not to worry though, I finally got there and Dave tried on the sock which appeared to fit well.

Dave also took two loads of stuff to the local charity shops, fallout from the ongoing de-cluttering exercise. Of course no sooner had we cleared the pile of items to go out, than we started again and so a new pile of stuff to go to charity has already started to grow.

We did have one tiny and annoying glitch in that one of our neighbours, who was obviously having a clearout of his own, decided the ideal place to dispose of his rubbish was in our garden. This is a bit of an ongoing issue for us and a few years back, we spent a whole summer clearing as much of the rubbish that others had dumped over the fence as we could easily get at. We put a great big shed in front of the junk we couldn't easily move but haven't fenced it off as I worry that will just encourage our neighbours to think it doesn't belong to anyone. Over the past couple of years, random bits of rubbish appear and we do our best to remove them.

This weekend, we came came back from swimming to discover a discarded patio set, some fence panels and a huge plastic tub or tank thrown behind our shed. Dave had words with the neighbour in question. Admission of ownership and platitudes were offered, but the rubbish remained and so Dave has stacked the stuff back in its original owner's garden. We shall see how things develop. One thing is certain, we have enough of our own junk without neighbours adding to it!

Talking about our own junk, yesterday I diligently spent a couple of hours going through the contents of a cupboard, sorting through old paperwork and arguing with the shredder which kept jamming. I didn't get as far as I wanted to, but at this stage I'm taking the attitude that if I keep chipping away at the clutter I will eventually win.

Yesterday afternoon, I dug out my various lucets and reminded myself of the basics in readiness for the workshop at the knitting group on Wednesday, successfully whiling away a couple of hours.

And other than casting on a second sock, that was about it for the weekend.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Quiet week in Coventry

It's been a quiet week on the crafting front, although things have been moving steadily in the right direction. I've nearly reached the toe on the first of Dave's socks and I'm bracing myself for the bit of sock knitting I don't like. For some reason, the toe is where it goes wrong for me, possibly to do with the fiddliness of juggling so few stitches on tiny needles. However, since I believe Dave does want socks equipped with toes I shall have to take a deep breath and push on...

Dave reports the scarf is exactly what he wanted. It is apparently long enough to wrap around his neck twice with enough left over to tuck into his coat. He says it is wide enough that he can pull it up over his face which is the way he likes to wear scarves, it is soft and warm and the colour is perfect. I don't think I've heard him enthuse about a scarf before and he may well be humouring me, but I think I can infer from his comments that he likes the scarf - which is a good thing.

I also had the picture of my first socks selected as a featured photograph in Ravelry this week, which made me smile all day. It's not only an endorsement of my first socks but of my picture taking ability. Knitting is not one of the easiest things to photograph, so these little compliments do wonders for improving my mood.

In other news, I'm racking my brain trying to come up with ways to gradually increase my exercise levels. I've been forced to cut exercise for the past eighteen months or so, due to my knee injury, but with the physio's instructions to gradually increase exercise so I build stamina but no overdoing it, I'm left in a quandry as to what to do to achieve this. At the moment, I considering Tai Chi, Swimming, Yoga and whether I should buy a bicycle.

All have their problems, mostly to do with long working hours and how to fit exercise sessions in; while the thought of cycling to work is worrisome because of the state of the roads, congestion and the insane people who make up a fair percentage of road users. Whatever I do decide on in the way of exercise, it has to be low impact (the knee is still there after all), not too expensive and accessible to someone who works very long days...