Friday, December 29, 2006

Aren't Knitters Nice?

A while ago, I was whining and moaning about the weather, the light (or lack therof) and the Black Dog being all over me. Lixie (no stranger to the Black Dog herself) was most sympathetic and asked if there was anything she could do. I, of course, replied (tongue half in my cheek), "Send yarn!".

Guess what arrived this morning?

The complete "Don't let the Black Dog get you down" package.

Some fun little magnets to help me express my mood (that's if the flinging of cushions and banging of household items hasn't already given the game away);

some postcards with beautiful pictures of yarn, yarn and more yarn - two of each design thoughtfully provided so I can send one and keep one;

Issue 2 of "Proud to be Crafty", wherein articles by Ruth of Woolly Wormhead fame, and Mary-Lou's patterns for fab flowers; last, but by no means least:

a skein of the most beautifully soft hand-spun angora ("bunny fluff") from Tess at Silkwood.

Lixie, I can't thank you enough.

Aren't Knitters Nice?

Did I miss a week (or two)?

I honestly do not know how the time seems to slip through my fingers - worse than money, worse than a slippery eel.

I haven't been doing a great deal of knitting. Cooking and keeping the peace have been much more important of late. I have cooked. I have kept the peace. Christmas has passed off without incident and a good time was had by all.

Here's "Back Field Saturday" again. (Yes, I know it's not Saturday - it's not sunny either, but there you go.)

This time, we have a horse.

Things do change, ever so slightly, in the Rural Backwater.

New Year's Resolution?

a) No list of "What I knitted this year" (that's a promise).

b) More regular blogging (ditto).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sad, Neglected and Unloved

and that's just the blog.

I know, I know, I've been remiss. I want to thank you all for your kind thoughts. The Black Dog (not to mention the Black Cat, aka Beelzebub) has been knocking at the back door. The days are short and dark and as for the Christmas Madness - don't get me started.

However, I didn't start this blog to talk about me, and there has been a certain amount of knitting. As in, I have finished the frilly-edge scarf (done while I was waiting with #1 son for him to give evidence in a case of ABH - don't ask, but another possible reason why the blog has been a bit rocky of late.)

Don't even think about making "2 x 3.5cm diameter pom-poms using yarn B (Kimono Ribbon)" as recommended in the book, because, even using the new, improved pom-pom method, the whole thing will fall to bits, causing short strands of Kimono Ribbon to cascade onto the floor, thereby adding to the general unkempt nature of the household. Some say it adds to the "Christmassy feel" - I say "Bah, humbug!", but you knew that already, I think.

What I did in the end, was to use a bit of the same "Impression" yarn, hanging about in stash, albeit in a different colour. Knitter's choice, Knitter's fudge, Knitter using her own brain.

I have also decided to do "Out the back Saturday". Lots of people do "Saturday Sky" on their blog but to me that doesn't really give you much of a context. Sky is sky, after all. I am going to treat you to a view of the back field. I'm going to try and take it at the same time each Saturday. I may post them all, I may post none. Much of this depends on the new and improved (insert hollow laugh) Beta Blogger.

So, doing the best I can to catch up and ingratiate myself with the blogging community (if not the Knitters), I give you my back field on December 2nd:

and as if that wasn't enough, here it is again on December 9th:

As you can see, not much changes in the Rural Backwater.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pom Tiddly Pom-Pom

Making pom-poms should be simplicity itself. I'm sure I was taught to make a pom-pom in primary school and while I haven't exactly made a career of pom-pom making, I'm pretty sure I have made my fair share of pom-poms over the years.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when the making of the first pom-pom for the "Frill Scarf" went completely pear-shaped. In fact, the thing wasn't shaped like a pear - it just fell to bits completely. There is no photograph. It went in the bin; in the big bin; the outside bin; long before the camera could be deployed. There were short strands of yarn everywhere. It was a right mess. It also used up plenty of yarn and necessitated a trip to the LYS to buy another ball of Impression. I was a very, very good girl and contented myself with that one ball of yarn, although I did collect a 2mm addi circular (for the WRS) that has been on order for ages and a 4.5mm addi circ for use with the black Frost and Ice (hoping to make the thing go faster, but see below).

I got to thinking about the "traditional" way of making a pom-pom - you know, with the double circles of cardboard with the centres cut out and you wind yarn round for ever and end up having to use a needle to poke the yarn through the hole in the centre that becomes smaller and smaller as you go on. That method seems to me to be flawed in all sorts of ways. One way is that when you cut around the circumference of the circle and ease the two cardboard circles apart,ready to tie a strand of yarn round the middle of the pom-pom to hold the whole thing together, it is all too easy for the card to slip right off the cut ends of the yarn (particularly when you have a small diameter, as in this case) and then you end up with a pile of short strands that really, really want to be a pom-pom but can't quite hold it together.

So, it seems to me that you need to have the "tying yarn" round the yarn-to-be-cut, before you cut the yarn. And I don't see why you have to wind the yarn round the circle and cope with that infuriating hole in the middle.

This is what I did.

Cut a piece of card about 6in/15cm long and as deep as the desired diameter of your pom-pom (5cm in this case):

Fold the card in half (short side to short side) and poke a hole through both layers on the mid-line and near the fold. Cut through both layers along the mid-line up to the hole (and no further, do not cut the whole lot in half).

Thread the yarn you are going to use to tie the middle of the pom-pom so that it rests in the hole:

Wrap the yarn round the card:

Don't wrap too tightly. If you are hoping to make another pom-pom the same size then it might be a good idea to count how many wraps you do, otherwise your pom-poms might look un-even. (Ask me how I know this.)

Bring the two ends of the "tying yarn" together at the right of the card and shuffle (technical term) them down the slit in the card and tie - just once, you can tie it tighter later.

Poke your scissor blade down between the two layers of card at the top and cut the yarn:

Cut again at the bottom. Tighten the "tying yarn" if necessary. Ploof up (technical term) the pom-pom. Trim if necessary. Stand back and admire your creation:

Not a bad pom-pom and a heck of a lot better than the first miserable attempt.

I've just spent quite a large chunk of time putting right a mistake in the black Frost and Ice which came about due to overambition - "I can knit black mohair when I've just come back from work at mid-night and had several glasses of wine."

Guess what, I can't.

All done, now though. Not perfect, but it passes the running horse test.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I hardly dare say it

but the blue wraps are done. I have clawed my way, by sheer force of will, out of the black hole and back into the land of the living. There are no pictures of this feat - I have flung the items far, far from my body and hope never to see them again. In fact, I shall have to see them again because I need to darn in the ends, wash and possibly block them. Consultation with the bride (or her mother) will be needed. Many, many thanks for all your words of encouragement - I couldn't have done it without you.

If you think knitting a shawl every two weeks for twelve weeks is bad, spare a thought for Stephanie, who is busy knitting a sock a day - for quite how long I'm not sure as my flittering about in cyberspace has been severely curtailed by warping of the space/time continuum and my being sucked into a black hole.

I feel like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Slowly unfurling my wings, I look about me tentatively. Suddenly, I soar into the air, which is code-speak for "I'm at last knitting something other than blue fluff and isn't it flying off the needles?"

I'm over halfway through the fluffy blue scarf for #1 daughter's friend:

I'm using the Zig-Pattern (click on "Scarves" and it's P57, if you want a closer look) from Artyarns, purely to stop myself running screaming from the room, as I surely would if I had to do the whole thing in back and forth garter stitch. It is blue, after all.

I've used up one whole ball of Kidsilk Night (with the sparkles) on the black Frost and Ice shawl:

Seen here, in a not very good picture, languishing on a tree in the garden.

The more I take photographs, the more admiration I have for professional photographers, and the more I understand their need for great big lights on tripods, for white umbrellas, for white tents (large and small). The way they always seem to have their bodies slung with spare cameras and lenses like Mexican bandits (no offence to any Mexicans reading - don't start) always used to puzzle me. No longer. I have every respect for anyone who can take a photograph of a black sparkly part-shawl, in an overgrown garden, in a high wind, on a dull day in Warwickshire. The photograph above bears witness to the fact that they are the professionals, not I.

Anyway, the black Frost and Ice. The knitting is simplicity itself; the yarn is still as scratchy (technical term). I'm hoping it will soften in the washing/blocking process. We shall see.

I'm also making a scarf from a pattern in a Louisa Harding book ("The Accessories Collection") using two balls of her "Impression" yarn and one of her "Kimono Ribbon":

Mine is green, however and I don't suppose I shall look like her when I'm wearing it, but miracles are not to be expected.

There's no picture of it at the moment, since I am lacking the white umbrella, the white tent and the lights on tripods.

See the little pom-poms at the bottom? I'm going to make those before I start with the second ball of Impression, so I can continue knitting until I run out of yarn. To that end, I have borrowed a pair of compasses from #1 son, rescued an empty cereal packet and got my pencil and scissors ready. #1 daughter asked what I was doing and when I replied, "Getting ready to make pom-poms." she looked puzzled and asked, "Is it something to eat?" Oh dear.

Beelzebub? Beelzebub has taken up residence on the bread maker:

and seemed quite content until the other evening when I heard strange noises from the kitchen. On investigation, I spotted a pair of bright eyes lurking in the dark recess beside the Rayburn and unearthed another cat.

#1 daughter thought it might be Beelzebub's "pal". Pal my ar*e, as Jim Royle might well say, "Toy boy", I say.

Any advice as to how to stop my kitchen becoming the knocking shop for the local feline population will be gratefully received.

Monday, November 13, 2006


n. Courage in pain or adversity. [ME f. F, f .L fortitudo -dinis (fortis strong; see -TUDE)] O.E.D.

I feel I am the very embodiment of Fortitude. If you can believe it, I am still knitting the blue bridesmaid wraps. I am about half way finished with the very last one and it is requiring all my courage in pain or adversity not to fling it across the room. It will be finished and I can't say I'll be unhappy. One shawl to a deadline is one thing, but six? That would be six things.

I dare not start anything else for fear that I would never want to return to blue fluff. I have, however, bought more yarn (which, of course, I really, really needed.) Mostly to cheer myself up and act as a sort of carrot.

Some blue (ARRGH!) eyelash stuff.

#1 daughter was wearing a scarf I made for her. It was much admired by her friend and would it be possible for me to knit one for her? Yes, but not before the blue what-nots are finished. I'll probably use the zig-zag pattern I got from Artyarns - it stops me dying of boredom and solves the problem of the variegated yarn getting itself into unattractive stripes and blobs (technical term, again) of colour.

I also got this Louisa Harding yarn to make a scarf for me.

Just a simple garter stitch with pointy (technical term) ends, finished with a frilly edging in Kimono Ribbon and a few pom-poms at the ends.

I've managed todo a few other things, too. #1 daughter had a birthday, cake was made, pizza was made, dips and snacks and asparagus rolls were made. All was eaten.

I made the Christmas Cake - the Traditional Boiled Cake from the ever-reliable Prue Leith. Full of dried fruit - currants, raisins, sultanas but also dried pear, peach, apricot, cherries. I am feeding it brandy every few days and hoping it isn't too alcoholic for the rest of the family.

I had a "turn" the other day - very bad asthma attack. #1 daughter did sterling work - calling up the doctor, explaining the problem, listening carefully. The upshot was that an ambulance was sent for. I feared I would be carted off to hospital but the paramedics treated me in the comfort of my living room and I never had to leave the house. Top marks to them.

Back to the blue nightmare. Is there no end to it??

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Going, going, gone.

For all the talk of terminal velocity and the "event horizon" (which as we all know is a boundary in spacetime), no-one is really sure of what a black hole looks like. Why would they be? I would have thought it was very, very black and not much else.

However, there are pictures out there. Here's one from a press release from the Marshall Space Center(sic):

It's supposed to be a picture of a black hole ripping a star apart and consuming part of it. Ridiculous!

It's obviously a kidsilk haze shawl in the "blushes" colour being swallowed up.

Here is what they say is an "artist's impression of a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy":

but is obviously a kidsilk haze shawl in the swish colour slipping quietly into the maw of the black hole.

Artist's impression??

Here's the real deal:

This is a photograph, never before seen, of a kidsilk haze shawl in the "heavenly" colour - how much more appropriate? - being sucked into the whirling vortex.

Even though I have knitted two whole balls of the heavenly stuff, and even though the rows are becoming perceptibly longer, my overall impression is that it is not one inch bigger.

This is obviously a paradox, possibly the Black Hole Information Paradox - it sounds very like it.

An anonymous commenter asks if the pattern for all these shawls will be made available. I can honestly say it hadn't entered my head. If I can wrestle this one out of the black hole and make any sense of all the squiggles (technical term) on the many bits of paper scattered round the house and learn how to use Excel to make charts and learn how to make a pdf file and learn how to put it all together and get it in the sidebar? It might just be a maybe.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Haven't I been here before?

I feel as if I am knitting my way out of a black hole. Remember the "Twisty Wrap"? Remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensued when it turned out I had knitted my way so far out of the black hole that the thing fell right off my body and landed in a green circle round my feet?

I'm in the same boat. I am not alone in this boat - Stephanie, aka the Yarn Harlot, and now it turns out, also Mrs Joe (so no longer a Harlot. I want my money back.) Stephanie has also found herself in this boat. She was knitting Birch at the time. Maybe it's something to do with the Kid Silk Haze.

I have knitted this pile of shawls:

or, put another way, this pile of shawls:

That's three down, three to go.

The fourth one is on the needles now and this is the "Black Hole Shawl". I knitted all day long yesterday, I have knitted for a good part of this morning and the BHS is no bigger. No bigger at all.

I still have his pile of KSH:

to make into yet another pile of shawls.

Wailing and gnashing of teeth can't be far away.

To try and cheer myself up I started a sock for 'im indoors:

Very cheerful yarn, no? It's that Regia mini-ringel I bought the other day, 2mm steel needles from the boutique - the sharp pointy ones that attacked me when I was knitting Amber's sock, so that's something to watch out for.

I'm sort of using this pattern, but with various modifications. I found that Lucia has a great deal of information on her site about sock knitting, in particular a very nice explanation of the paired "knit into the stitch below" increase to use on toe-up sock toes. An explanation which also includes pictures and which has inexplicably disappeared and is nowhere to be found. You might have more luck than me. Do let me know if you find it or if another effect of knitting in a black hole is hallucinations.

Anyway, it was there because I saw it. I used it to help me produce these lovely increases on said sock:

I think they look very neat.

Uploading those pictures has taken over an hour - I don't know if it's this new "improved" (Hah!) Beta-Blogger, my computer being like treacle, or the phase of the moon, but I'm very fed up with it. I still haven't managed to make the sidebar look like I want it to. I managed to put buttons linking to one or two of the on-line knitting magazines but can I replicate this feat with the buttons to link to the various blogs I read? No, of course not. I don't know how anyone else is getting on with it but "I'm (not) loving it!"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Does Everybody Know?

I ordered some new shoes the other day. Crocs, since you ask, and yes, all the hype is true - they really are the most comfortable things I have ever had on my feet. They are very light, weighing 135g each (which in old money is about 4 and three-quarter ounces). The place where I got them is called "Look at my Crazy Shoes" and they can't be faulted for the speed of their service. It just so happens that the packaging material is the same distinctive, dark purple plastic as that used by Texere, and naturally there have, in the past, been one or two packages from them.

What did the postman say, as he handed the package to me? He said, "Bit light for wool, isn't it?" So while maybe it's an exaggeration to say that "everybody" knows, it's certainly true that the postman is well aware of my addiction.

Speaking of addiction, all those who are interested in these things will know that the new Knitty is out. I am very drawn to "Tamarah" and investigated the possibility of using the recommended.yarn, which is Artyarns Regal Silk and Silk Mohair. Lovely stuff. Available from Get Knitted in the UK (and possibly other places as well) but talk about expensive! It would cost almost £50 for the yarn to make what is, after all, a glorified scarf. I really don't know if I can justify the extravagence. Surely this means that there is hope for me? That the addiction hasn't got so much of a hold over me that I have taken leave of my senses?

Yes, the blue haze continues, so no change there. I have bought some yarn (surprised?) and it's still Kid Silk, though in the "night" version. I got some of the black with sparkly bits (technical term) to make an "evening" edition of the Frost and Ice shawl. I was a very naughty girl and took time out from the blue fuzz to see what it would look like. I didn't really start it. Honest.

I am very surprised at the feel of this yarn. Kid Silk Haze is 70% kid mohair and 30% silk. The night version is 67% kid mohair, 18% silk, 10% polyester and 5% nylon. The composition is therefore similar but the night yarn feels much coarser, almost scratchy. I'm hoping that it might soften up a bit when it is washed. We shall see.

Here's a close-up of the bottom point - you can sort of see the sparkly bits here. I hope they are not so obvious that I will end up looking like a Christmas Tree.

Many thanks to all who wrote to express their condolences. All your kind thoughts are truly appreciated.

You Want The Real Me?

This is always a difficult time of the year for me - it's getting chillier, it's getting darker at night (and if you have been following, you will know that this doesn't suit me at all) and there's something else, too.

Jane-at-work (a new addition to the Bell's team) looked at this blog and was disappointed by the fact that "there's not a lot of you in there." Well, I didn't start this blog to talk about me - I started it to talk about knitting. I hope that I have held true to that wish. (Jane-at-work said bits of it were too technical for her, so that gives me hope.)

This really is a bad time for me and the reason why I have been so slack at everything lately.

In 1990, our firstborn son, Aidan, died at the age of seven days. It was a cot death (but it wasn't because I was feeding him at the time). I don't know how I lived through it.

He had red hair.

He was beautiful.

He would have been 16.

I miss him so much.

Monday, September 25, 2006


The yarn problem has been solved. The correct dye lot is now in my possession. I sent about ten emails to various on-line stockists, including Rowan. Some replied and some didn't. Some told me they hadn't got the right dye lot and some told me they had. Rowan said they had the right dye lot but couldn't sell it to me directly. I got on to my LYS and they promised to order it for me. When it came right down to it Rowan claimed they didn't have the right dye lot after all. Obviously a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. I eventually ordered it from McA Direct - who were swift, efficient and have free postage to the UK on orders over £5.

So what is it that I'm actually knitting? I'm knitting six wraps for bridesmaids at a December wedding. The bride's mother requested they be just like the one I was wearing. The bride herself had different ideas - we changed the shape, the size, the border, the stitch pattern. We are, however, using the same yarn (Rowan's Kid Silk Haze) though in a different colour and because I need to make six in a fairly short time I'm using a larger needle (4.5mm instead of the 3mm needle I used for the original.)

The stitch pattern we eventually settled on is called "Punto Piastrelle" (or Tile Stitch) and appears in a very old stitch dictionary published by Pingouin in Italian years ago. Most of the patterns are written out (the only charts in the book are for the Fair Isle patterns) and so before I went very far I decided I'd better chart the pattern:

Sorry about the grotty picture - it seems to be remarkably dark just at present. I didn't do the whole Excel spreadsheet/use the knitting fonts performance. I just printed some knitter's graph paper from the ABCs of Knitting site and used a pencil, which was quicker and easier. I am, however, determined to get to the bottom of using Excel to make knitting charts - the first thing I had to learn was how to print a grid. Helen at work taught me that the other day and I'm more than grateful. Now I just need to spend a little bit of time actually working on the thing.

Having charted the pattern, I made a swatch:

Again, not a terribly good picture - the stitch pattern is on a stocking stitch ground but I decided to use garter stitch as I didn't fancy all that purling. I don't think it makes all that much difference - the essential element was that it should be "holey" - I am hoping that it is sufficiently "holey" for the bride's taste.

I am now about halfway through the third wrap and I think things are going well and there will be plenty of time.

I am pretty sick of blue mohair and having blue fluff all over my clothes and I'm even starting to fancy that knitting a pair of socks might be entertaining. I always want to like knitting socks but I don't really enjoy it. However, 'im indoors has sworn that he will never wear a shop-bought pair of socks again, having once worn a pair of handknitted ones I made for him. Therefore, I need to knit more socks - I think he has about three or four pairs at the moment. To that end, I bought more sock yarn:

and eventually, at some stage, possibly not before Whitsun, I will get around to using it.

"Not before Whitsun" is a saying in our family. It stems from Great Uncle Alfred, who, as a boy, was always obliged to wear hand-me-down clothes, being the youngest of many children. He really, really wanted a new suit to wear on the "Whit Walks" - a great tradition in Lancashire. He begged and begged to have new clothes, just for him. Eventually, his mother gave in and bought him a new suit. She bought it "plenty big enough" (translation - "far too big"). He appeared in the suit with his hands hidden by the sleeves, the legs all baggy round his ankles and burst into tears. "What on earth is wrong with you, Alfred? You'll grow into it!" said his mother, to which Alfred replied, through his tears, "Yes, but not before Whitsun!" So when something is very unlikely to happen we always say "not before Whitsun".

I suppose I'd better get on and do some knitting.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I've been so busy knitting I've had little time to blog but here goes.

I was asked to knit six shawls/wraps/coverups for bridesmaids at a wedding in December. Mother of the Bride saw me wearing a triangular shawl in Kid Silk Haze and asked if I could knit "Something like that six times before December 22nd" "Something like that" turned out to be something totally different:

The Bride didn't like the shape - could they be more flat at the bottom? She didn't like the top - could there be long ties for the girls to have a bow at the back? She didn't like the border (it was too wide) and she didn't like the stitch pattern used on the border- couldn't it be "plain". She didn't like the stitch pattern used in the "body" of the shawl- could it be more "holey"? (technical term).

I trawled through stitch pattern books and we settled on "punto piastrelle" (tile stitch) from an ancient Pingouin/Mon Tricot book for the body, plain garter for the (narrow border) and I made up the ties at the top. The only thing that is remotely like the original is that I am increasing one stitch at each end of the even numbered rows. Oh, and the yarn is Kid Silk Haze.

And therein lies another tale. I happened to have one ball of KSH in the right colour (blue), and anxious to start and not able to get to the LYS, start is what I did. When I made it to Shipston Needlecraft there were too problems: they didn't have enough KSH in the right colour and the dye lot was different to the one I had started with. No problem, I think, I'll just do the "knitter's fudge" of knitting two rows with the old and two rows with the new for ten rows or so - thus fooling the eye into not seeing the join. So it proved to be - no problem.

I ordered the rest of the yarn I needed and went home to knit. Eventually, the new yarn arrived. I whizzed into the shop, clutching my one remaining ball of yarn. Jane took one look at it and, without even showing me the yarn I had ordered, said, "We've ordered the wrong colour!" Well, we hadn't ordered the wrong colour but it is a different dye lot and it's so different that it is obvious to the naked eye. You don't even need to hold the two balls together - they are so obviously not the same.

This has thrown me into a bit of a panic - what on earth am I going to do? Various solution present themselves:

I can try to find the same dye lot (shade 592, dye lot 742) by getting on to Rowan (in fact, Jane in the shop is doing this for me); or by throwing myself on the mercy of all the internet vendors out there (so if that's you, have a look!); or by sending a post to the various lists I belong to and begging them to have a look in their stashes.

I can carry on regardless and dye the whole lot.

I can wait to start the third shawl until we explore avenue 1, if I find the right dye lot, all will be well, if I don't - two wraps will be different to the other four. However, time is getting on and I don't want to fail the bride.

What to do? Any and all suggestions gratefully received.

No pictures of the finished wraps (Bride doesn't want to spoil the surprise) and no picture of the swatch (yes, I did one!) for the tile pattern because the camera is playing up.

Back to the knitting.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cat got your tongue?

No, the cat hasn't got my tongue. Life has intervened in all sorts of ways that we won't go into here.

I am still knitting. I am still buying books and I am still adding to my stash (through no fault of my own, I promise).

I'm a great fan of the Charity Shop (also known, in our house at least, as "The Boutique" - those in other parts may refer to it as the Thrift Shop). I have, in the past, had some great bargains from The Boutique - Montse Stanley's "Handknitter's Handbook"; Jackie Fee's "The Sweater Workshop"; some lovely yarn - wool, linen, cotton, unknown fibre of all descriptions. My latest purchase was "Odham's Encyclopaedia of Knitting" by James Norbury (there's a little bit about him in this Knitty article, but he's not this chap) and Margaret Agutter. There is an excellent review of this book on Kim Salazar's blog. She has done such a good job that I don't really think there is much I can add.

I was, of course, most interested in the lace knitting section. There are some fascinating looking patterns, though most of them are written out in words and not charted. I never thought I would hear myself complaining about a written out pattern but I really prefer charts now. Not at first, oh, no, I was totally "chart-phobic", I had a pathological fear of all those little squares filled with squiggles (technical term). I overcame this fear thanks to encouragement from my best knitbud (also chart-challenged at the outset); large, clear, correct and easy to follow charts from Dorothy Siemens at Fiddlesticks Knitting; and the excellent tutorial pages on Sharon Miller's site. If, like the me I once was, you struggle with charts, I urge you to try the tutorial above and see that it's not rocket science. There is also an excellent article in the ever reliable Knitty Remember, if you can knit, you can read charts (and it doesn't half make knitting lace easier).

There are occasional charts in the Encyclopaedia and they are like no other charts I have ever seen. I know that there are no universally agreed symbols for charting lace but there are certain similarities among the different designers. Not here.

I have been toying with the idea of designing a shawl of my very own and to this end have downloaded various knitting fonts (from Aire Designs and the Knitter's Symbols Fonts by David Xenakis) and and joined the Charting Lace Yahoo Group. Good job too. It means I can practise on the patterns in the Encyclopaedia and see how they come out.

That's all very well, if I had time to turn round. However, I have been asked to knit rather a lot of stuff for a wedding in December, so there is little time to do anything but knit that stuff, morning, noon and night. I will reveal more about this "stuff" later, but for now my needles are smoking - good job I never use bamboo (nails down a blackboard - for me - don't start taking offence, now) otherwise I could cause a conflagration.

Friday, August 25, 2006

For What It's Worth

For what it's worth, I posted the previous post and received error message after error message. In the end, I emailed the "Blogger Team" and had a reply from someone called "Danish" (surname "Pastry" presumeably) telling me to revert my blog back to its previous template. This I have now done and so we are no further forward.

Want to see pictures? You'll be lucky!

Let's try with a green sock for starters:


That's taking about three and a half years, but eventually, there it is.

This is the start of another pair of socks (I am quite determined when I get going - I AM going to knit socks and I AM going to do it well. Whether I enjoy it or not is an entirely different matter.)

The yarn is Regia Crazy Color (sic), 6 fadig (with a double dot over the "a" - that would be "ply", yes?), knitted on 3mm needles (and yes, the loose woman really should have gone down a needle size or three) to the Widdershins pattern in Knitty (which Laritza put me on to - thanks, babe.) I loved the fail-safe cast-on. I wouldn't want to use it for the start of a circular lace piece but it works great for these socks. The pattern worked very well and the toe was done in no time. It's a little bit "lumpy" (technical term) but I put that down to my cack-handedness. I also liked the fact that quite a few stitches were increased for the gusset ('im indoors, it transpires has a "high instep", which I always think makes him sound like a Shetland Pony - not so.)


There's a picture of the green sock after the heel was turned and the clever-little-bit-of-extra-padding-at-the- back-of-the-heel-to-stop-the-sock-going-into-a-hole-in-no-time was added.

Please note that the sock is lying on the second Kerry Blue Shawl and the whole lot is reclining on the AB Fab Throw, which Melissa (in the comments) took such exception to.

Melissa, your comment made me laugh out loud. It's exactly what I mean about "You Knit What?". I love the AB Fab Throw (even though it cost a fortune and in knitting hours lasted me about five, so not a big bang for the buck, really) and that's the whole point. It's my knitting; I like what I like; I'm not really that bothered if you like it; if you don't like it; if you curl your lip; what the heck you do, to be honest.

And as for "My mother said, If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? I can't think how many millions of people in the world would be struck dumb. (Dorothy Parker, for one. Reviewing one show she said, "If you don't knit, bring a good book.") My mother (she of the tattoo) always told me, "Say what you mean; mean what you say." Good advice. Thanks, mum. I have tried to follow her teaching. If you don't like it, you don't have to listen, but if you do like it, we'll get along just fine.

There are more pictures - of the cat, not-quite-in-the-hat; of the second Kerry Blue, almost finished; of books I bought in the "boutique" (aka Charity Shop, or, for those across the pond "Thrift Shop"), but I think Blogger, and its alter-ego BetaBlogger, has had enough for one night.

I know I have.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slack Set Up

Many apologies for being what my Grandma would have called "slack set up". This is something to do with cotton weaving on a power loom. I believe it is when the warp threads are too loose, causing inferior cloth (although extensive research has not revealed the origin of the phrase, so it could just be an idiocyncrasy of my Grannie.)

Though I have been slack set up in the blogging department, I have been as taut as any old thing in the knitting department. I have finished the blue socks from Hades (no picture - I have thrown them far from my body) and started another sock. Glutton for punishment, obviously. I have added to the WRS. I have almost finished the second Kerry Blue shawl. I have scored in the book buying department. There, that's all the news, you need read no further.

The real reason I am doing a quick "in and out" post is that I have signed up to the "new, improved" beta blogger and I can't say I'm having great success at rearranging the layout. I don't know why I thought the "new" blogger would be any better than the temperamental "old" blogger, but hope springs eternal, I suppose. I keep getting error messages and it is almost to the hair tearing stage.

I am not even going to try to post a picture at the moment - though there are pictures to be posted - as I think that might tip me right over the edge and I'd end up having to wear a hat in the house (as well as out) so as not to frighten the horses with my piebald skull. (Yes, I know "piebald" doesn't mean "partly bald" but it should do.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Now is the Hour

Many thanks to all the breath-holders around the world. You were in good company - breath was being held here too. I've managed to put another few rows on the WRS and I have done a few rounds on the fourth second sock. Having my eyes glued to the snooker on TV has meant quite a bit of action on the Kerry Blue, so that is coming along too.

Your task, if you choose to accept it, is to skittle along to Lucia's blog and vote for me in the blog contest. It turns out that this blog is in the "minor categories" , and there is only one other blog nominated. I don't want to play dirty but I think I would have to throw in the lace towel if I were beaten by a blog where this was the best we could hope for. Does that look like a candidate for You Knit What? or what? But then all the commenters said it was "cute" - maybe I'm the one out of step?

It's in your hands.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

It was only a matter of time

Today's post was supposed to be a discussion (for "discussion" read "Kate on her soap-box") of what makes a good knitting blog, but events have overtaken me.

Last evening, I returned from The Bridge in Bidford, after a wonderful dinner (heartily recommend this place, if ever you are passing) to discover the gizmo I use to stop the stitches of the WRS flinging themselves off the needle on the floor. The knitting was where I had left it, but the gizmo wasn't. This did not bode well. I snatched up the knitting (without even taking off my hat) and discovered about 20 stitches had made a bid for freedom.

There is no picture. I was in shock. I had left 'im indoors, his two offspring and their cousin, with a pan of fish soup, a foccacia in the oven, the plates warming, the table set. I returned to mayhem (at least on the knitting front, the soup was eaten, the washing up done). What on earth had they been up to? "Nothing," according to 'im indoors. I don't suppose we shall ever know the truth. Suffice to say there are bad books and people are in them.

I did the best job I could of snatching up the rogue stitches on a skinny dpn and went to bed in disgust.

In the cold light of day - it was just as bad. The knitting elves had not been active in the night-time. I had managed to retrieve most of the stitches. About fifteen had not run anywhere and just needed to be correctly oriented on the needle. However, there was a horrid bit (in the most complex part, naturally) where five stitches had run down a few rows.

The first thing I did was get some polystyrene (still not thrown away after the latest electrical purchase); cover it with a pink cloth (black would have been better but I don't have black napkins); place the knitting on top and pin it out so I could see the worst:

Ready to start

Base of triangle here is a dpn with four stitches that have fallen two rows down. Left needle contains the stitches I have managed to pluck up. Right needle contains the stitches that were unaffected. The red pin is holding the first loop of yarn that needs to be used out of the way. The second loop of yarn is going across the top of the picture, between the two stitches on the original needles.

Next thing? Refer to the chart and isolate the part that needs to be recreated:


The right arrow is indicating the first stitch on the right needle. The left arrow is indicating the first stitch on the left needle. Here we can see that there should be five stitches on the dpn and not four. That was a missing yo which was easily replaced. Following the chart, I recreated the first row - that's the one above the heavy line on the chart. It looks like this:

One row done

Here you can see the five stitches on the dpn. The final loop is held out of the way with the purple pin.

Follow the chart again. Recreate the final row. This was a bit dodgy because it contained the dreaded "yo, sl1, K2tog, psso, yo" (that the little triangle on the chart). It's lucky I'm the loose woman because that meant I had plenty of yarn to play with. ("Play" is hardly the word, but you get my drift.)

This is what it looks like at the end of the repair:


and this is what the "correct" motif looks like:


Can you tell the difference? I don't think I can and I'm absolutely sure the fellow on the running horse won't have a clue.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Same old story

Hours in front of the television watching the European Athletics Championships have meant great progress on the Kerry Blue Shawl. Where the "same old story" comes in is that it still looks like a jumbled mess:

Kerry Blue in progress

This is at round 104, where I have just started the Shell Pattern. Someone, and I'm afraid I can't remember who, said they thought the Shell Pattern didn't really "go" with the other patterns used in the Kerry Blue. It is true that the other two patterns (Feather and Van Dyke and Rib) are more linear while Shell is more curvy (technical term), but I quite like the contrast. I think that the Shell Pattern softens the shawl, makes it less geometric.

Here's a picture of the corner, slightly spread out, so you can sort of see what it looks like:

Kerry Blue corner

In the meantime (which is only in between time) I have made more progress on the second sock. I realised that 'im indoors hadn't actually tried on the first sock, in its completed state. When he did, we realised that he couldn't actually get it on his foot. This is when I ripped the needles out of the second sock (which, if you've been following, is really the fourth sock) and threw it across the room. However, on reflection, it became apparent that the problem was a too tight cast off (scourge of all toe-up sock knitters). I suspect this happened because I used a "new", at least to me, method - Purl the first two stitches together, then loosen that stitch up and place it back onto the left needle. Do the same thing again...purl the loosened stitch, now the first stitch on the left needle, together with the second stitch. Loosen it up and slip it back over to the left needle. Continue purling 2 together and slipping the loosened stitch back to the left all the way across. Pull the end through the last stitch left. Supposed to give a "nice stretchy bind off" (NOT).

Kate-"I'd-rather-read-about-it-than-do-it" went into overdrive. Google was my friend. I discovered:

Peggy's stretchy bind off (which involves making extra stitches on the penultimate row)

Denise's bind off (which involves tapestry needles - I don't think so)

This blog post, collecting various stretchy bind offs

Lucia's blog post, with very good pictures (involves making extra stitches as per Peggy's method above)

but in the end I did what I usually do. I call it the suspended cast off (see, I am a Brit really - all this talk of "bind off" makes me uncomfortable). Knit the first stitch, knit the second stitch but do not drop the loop off the left needle, pass the first stitch over the second stitch and drop both that stitch and the "spare" loop off the needle at the same time. Continue in this way.

I don't feel I have explained this very well, but it works for me. It helps if you stretch the top of the sock as you go.

Here's the result:

Not a terribly good picture but we got a result - it fits on his foot!

Speaking of Lucia, she's running a blog contest. There are various categories - best knitting blog overall, best photography, funniest, best with cat etc. Many nominations are already well-known: Stephanie The Yarn Harlot; Franklin's The Panopticon; See Eunny Knit but there are others I have never heard of. I've been doing a bit of snooping and can't say I'm all that impressed. One blog, which shall remain nameless, had lovely pictures - of a beach (repeatedly), of a pile of books and of an ice-cream - no knitting content in the first three posts. This, to me, is not a knitting blog. Discussion of exactly what it is which constitutes a knitting blog is probably best left until another day, since 'im indoors is champing at the bit to be at the keyboard.

On the other hand, how complicated can it be to blog about knitting?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Needles and Pins

Work continues on the WRS - she is bigger and today she went to work, wrapped in a pillow-case, to be shown off. I'm a month into the project and have completed 6 plain rows garter stitch, 2x66row repeats, plus 14 rows. There are 5 repeats plus 42 rows and 6 rows garter stitch. I have no real idea as to when I will be finished the centre, though it's obviously quite far down the line. However, when I do finish, I will need to work in the round on quite a lot of stitches. No, I don't know how many and I don't think I want to know at this stage. Yes, I am in denial.

So I've started to think about which needles to use when I get to that stage. I don't have any circular needles in 2mm size, so we are talking new needle purchase here. The only circular needles my LYS stocks are Inox and I can't say I'm all that thrilled with the joins, though I like the points. Since we are using skinny silk the joins really must be as smooth as possible. The Rolls Royce of knitting needles is the Addi Turbo. Now, they do have smooth joins but they are not very pointy (technical term). What to do? I have heard good reports of Knitpicks new needles - Addis with sharp points, they say. All very well. But Knitpicks don't ship outside the US. (They say it's because they can't guarantee to equal the service they can provide to the domestic market. What? They can't guarantee the service, so they prefer to provide no service at all? Hello?? Global market-place. Don't get me started.)

If anyone out there has any suggestions as to pointy circular needles with smooth joins, and preferably not grey, so I stand half a chance of actually seeing the skinny yarn, please feel free to leave a comment, or email me directly - the address is over there in the sidebar - I trust you to replace the bits that need replacing with the bits that should be there.

Light relief from the WRS is called for - I don't call that %$##* sock light relief - it's driving me barmy. Many thanks for all your comments about how it's not my fault, I am not alone and the links to the Widdershins sock in Knitty (which I might well try when I get on to the next pair). Someone has asked me to knit a shawl for their soon-to-be-grandson. I thought the Kerry Blue (from Martha Waterman's "Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls") would do it - it's quick (ish), it's mindless (ish), it looks fine. I made one recently using King Cole 4-ply machine washable 100% wool that I got from Texere Yarns. This yarn is available in about 40 colours and while I enjoyed knitting with it the last time, it wasn't exactly like butter in the hand. Don't get me wrong - it's not rough, or scratchy by any stretch of the imagination but pre-blocking it looked like a pile of ACK-rylic poo. However, let me tell you - the blocking made all the difference. I know blocking lace is like waking the Sleeping Beauty, but this was something else. The thing was transformed - it became light, airy, had a beautiful drape, just amazing! There could well be other shawls, in other colours, in this yarn in future. But for now I'm sticking to cream.

Here's the start:

 Kerry Blue start

Yes, it's Emily Ocker's circular start. I can't be bothered to give the link to the instructions and pictures again - Google really is your friend.

Here's the progress so far:

Kerry Blue on  tree

This is about forty rounds in and looking, well, very similar to the last one. It's good TV knitting though - every second round is plain knit, sometimes there is another plain knit round between the pattern rounds, later there will be the odd purl round (and I really don't mind purling), so it will be accompanying me throughout the European Athletics Championships.

It has come to my notice that Lucia over at The Diet Diary is having a competition. It's all to do with knitting blogs and there are various categories - funniest, best lace blog, best blog with a cat and so on. Am I touting for you to go on over to the nominations form and nominate me? No, of course not, never entered my head, couldn't have been further from my mind, not at all (you could create a new category - knitter with the most swollen head - and nominate me there).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Socks, socks, socks

Actually, it's more like sock, sock, sock. Ages ago I made a blue stripey sock for 'im indoors. Even though I used the same pattern that I have used before, the sock didn't fit him very well. It lay around in my knitting basket feeling sorry for itself for quite a while. Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and rip the sock out.

So, I started again. This time I used Wendy's generic toe-up sock pattern. I like the toe of this sock - you don't have to try and wrestle with a few stitches on four dpns. However, if you look at the pattern carefully, you will see that she uses a short row heel (which is just like the toe) without a gusset. Easy to do, nicely explained and once it was done I got him to try it on and that's when we realised he couldn't actually get it on his foot. 'Im indoors is a man who needs a gusset.

I ripped the heel out, I ripped part of the foot out. I ripped a bit of my own hair out too, for good measure. I made a gusset, using the original pattern. I then used this heel, which I have never done before. It's very like the one on Wendy's sock. Finally, we have a sock that fits.

sock on tree

So this is the third sock (but, paradoxically, it's only the first sock).

Here's a close-up of the gusset and heel:

sock gusset

The Hungarian Grand Prix (Go Jensen!) has meant that progress on the fourth second sock has been good:

second sock toe

I believe some people make two socks at the same time on two circular needles - good job I wasn't doing that. Imagine how many socks I'd be up to by now.

What's that? Oh, you tuned in here to see progress on the Wedding Ring Shawl? Here you go:

WRS two repeats

That is two pattern repeats plus five rows of the third repeat. She is coming on.

Added later: I have just had a massive, three-hour-long fight with Blogger, trying to get the pictures to appear. I think I have cracked it but if not, please let me know.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

By Slow Degrees

Still crawling along on the Wedding Ring Shawl, I have almost finished the second 66 row repeat. I approached rows 41/42, where I had the problem on the first repeat, with trepidation. I needn't have worried - of course the chart is not incorrect, of course the stitch count is not off. I don't know what I did the first time round because I counted, and re-counted, I tinked, re-knitted and tinked again and for the life of me I couldn't find any mistake, but yet the stitch count was still off by one. In the end I decreased the extra stitch away and carried on. This time round there has been no problem at all.

I want to knit on the WRS to the exclusion of all else but it is not physically possible. The concentration required is immense - there is no chance of watching TV and even listening to the radio can be a bit dodgy; "Don't talk to me, I'm counting" is the constant refrain and God forbid that the phone should ring. I therefore need a little light relief.

I sort-of-started the Romance Shawl from Dorothy at Fiddlesticks Knitting a while ago. The recommended yarn is Margaret Stove Artisan Lace Merino (the yarn I used for the Garden Shawl) but I just wanted to see how the pattern looked and to this end I took up some white Patons 2-ply Baby Wool. Obviously, this yarn is thicker than the Margaret Stove but I quite like the look of it and so have decided to continue with it. The problem of how to find a contrast colour for the double edging will be solved when I get to it. I might use a different yarn, I might dye some of the Patons, we shall see.

This is the progress so far:

Romance shawl start

The construction of this shawl is one that Dorothy uses in quite a few of her designs (it's used in Flirty Ruffles, for example) and it's one I really like. You cast on a few stitches at the centre back and increase four times on each public side row - twice on each side of the central two stitches and once at each outer edge. It's early days but I'm liking the look of it.

Just because I could, I knocked off this rosette:


I thought I might use it for something-or-other but I'm not sure what.

No picture of WRS - it's still skinny, it's still fine, ethereal, floaty, beautiful and it's just a bit bigger than it was.