Friday, 7 December 2007
Monday, 3 December 2007
I won't bore ya with all the details, but suffice to say, I don't love Lantern Moon needles. Well, I do, but they break ... all the time. It really put me off knitting the sock. I used to think that I was a fairly loose knitter, but maybe not. Maybe it's the way I hold my needles. I don't have a single needle that isn't bent.
The yarn, on the other hand, was truly lovely to work with. Helena is a 4ply (sock weight) yarn, made from pure organic merino. I chose a harvest-time colour called Bonfire, which I thought was appropriate. One of the main autumn celebrations here in the UK is Guy Fawkes - aka Bonfire Night on 5th November. We build bonfires, burn the "Guy", let off fireworks, and have a party. It is all in memory of the man who was caught trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
I chose to make Monkey in the end. (Guy Fawkes was a cheeky monkey don'cha know.) What a beautifully written pattern! I had a little difficulty with the working the row above the double yarn overs at first, but with some timely help from my sock guru friend, I soon overcame it. Needle woes aside, I enjoyed doing this pattern, and I'm sure to make this again for myself at another time. I am putting a few goodies in the parcel that I'm sending off to my pal this weekend. I only hope that she likes it.
I'll add pictures at the weekend, when I've got good light to take photos.
Sunday, 28 October 2007
Hmmm, well, the whole business has been fraught with difficulties. I hadn't realised when I signed up, how concerned I would be that my swap pal liked my choices for her. It took me ages to find the right yarn, which after I received it, I forgot what it was called or what the fibre was - but that's all sorted now. Then I dithered for ages over sock patterns. The one I had in mind is not fully written out. The designer assumes the knitter has a certain amount of knowledge of toe-up socks. I've only done top down socks to date. Although the pattern on the sock itself is pretty easy, and I could probably have slotted it into a generic top down pattern, I didn't feel that this would be suitable to send to someone else. Especially as she is a far more experience knitter than I, and could probably see any errors at 10 paces! So after a fair amount of searching, I finally came up with a (well known) pattern. I chose it because of its popularity. I figured if so many people had made it, the instructions must be well written, and it must be fairly easy.
I started knitting about two weeks ago. To cut to the chase, I have ripped back and restarted the same sock four times. FOUR TIMES. I am on my fifth attempt at these socks. On the fourth attempt, I actually managed to break my Lantern Moon DPNs. A cry for help on Ravelry, and in double quick time Robynn of Purlescence came to my rescue. How wonderful is she? Especially considering that I didn't buy the original needles from her. She sent me replacement needles before I could even blink!
On top of that burst of generosity, last week I received a couple of books about spinning in the post from Sarah, whom I met at Ally Pally.
I'm just sitting here with a big grin and shaking my head. I've often read about the kindness of knitters on other people's blogs, and whilst I thought it was all wonderful, I never thought any of those things would happen to me. Yet, twice in one week, I've received help and support from fellow knitters, whom I met online. Isn't it a wonderful world? And I'm getting back to those socks. I WILL conquer them - and the fancy needles...
Sunday, 14 October 2007
I found some lovely harvest-like yarn for my sock pal - in a quality yarn that I think she'll like. I buy it. It arrives at my home. I unwrap it. It has no label, but no problem I've bought lots of yarn from this source before, and because it is a relatively young company, yarn labels may or may not always be available. All okay so far...
Problem is it's now two weeks later. I've got my nostepinne in hand to wind it, and suddenly I'm no longer certain what it is. This lady only sells high-end yarns, so it isn't any crap (no worries there). But is it pure cashmere? Or cashmere and merino? Or even lambswool, Angora and cashmere? I'm fairly certain it's not cashmere and silk because I've bought that from her in the past and she sells it in smaller skeins. Argghhh... I'm off to her website again to try to identify my yarn by a process of elimination.
Stupid, stupid, stupid... ~headdesk~
Thursday, 11 October 2007
Woo hoo! I went today. I took two days off (today and tomorrow, in case I feel a need to go back again). I got there pretty early, about 45 minutes after they opened. But it seems Ally Pally is THE knitting and stitching show of the year. Even 45 minutes into the four day event, people were already leaving laden down with huge, and I mean HUGE, stashes. I couldn't believe it. I bought my ticket and hurried to the Habu stand. There were loads of women there looking at the yarns and the sample knits. Habu is clearly very popular. There was no actual pushing and shoving. The shoppers were courteous and helpful; one lady even helped me to find a particular colour of silk/stainless steel yarn that I couldn't locate. The main difference at the Habu stand was that people were there to shop; there was no idle patting/stroking of yarn, and then wandering off to return later. It felt like you needed to buy now, or it may not be there when you came back. I bought several items: yarn to make a Kusa Kusa scarf, some bamboo, some silk, and some paper.
A real highlight of the show was meeting people from Ravelry. I knew that Yvonne and Sarah would be there as I had planned to meet them. I brought along my Ravelry bag, and so many people stopped to say hello, to talk about Ravelry and to say that they recognised me from being online. It was great. Sarah was generosity itself. She gave me my first spinning lesson on an elegant light-weight drop spindle, using some beautiful pale blue silk roving that she was working on. It was fascinating, and I can see myself getting a drop spindle so I can try this out. Imagine knitting with yarn that you've spun yourself?
I went to the UKHandKnitting "Relax and Knit" stand, where Tamsyn (also on Ravelry, but blogless I think) showed me how to knit the continental way. I can see that I'm really going to have to practice, it felt so alien holding the yarn in my left hand. Just as I was leaving I got talking to Gerard of I knit London and Mithranstar who were in the queue behind me for coffee. It was amazing how friendly people were.
Sarah also introduced me to Socktopus. I think that this is a fairly new online sock yarn shop. The owner, Alice was there. She was super-nice, and boy does she have some lovely yarn. I bought some Dream in Color "Smooshy" in Cloud Jungle. It looked even better when I got it home and could see it under good lighting. I am so glad to see that she is in the UK. I will definitely be buying more from her. Here is a pic of a bunch of Ravelers/sock yarn lovers at Socktopus's stand... Erm, why didn't I get a photo of me with the group? ~headpalm~
Ooh... I also got some wonderful needles that are made from the remnants of musical instruments in rosewood and ebony. Ooh, and some Lantern Moon DPNs.
Well, what with my Ally Pally SEX and some recent Posh Yarn purchases, I think I've got my haul for the year - no more yarn purchases for me. Let's see how long I can stick to THAT, huh? I've had a wonderful day off. Despite it being foggy on the way in to London, this was the view that greeted me when I left Alexandra Palace. How lovely is that?
Friday, 28 September 2007
Harvest Sock Swap 07 has just got underway. One of the rules is that I'm to make contact with my pal within three days. I managed to do that alright (just, since I was away when the swap partners were announced). Another instruction is that I'm required to update my blog by Tuesday each week with my progress on the sock that I'm making for my pal. Hmmm... failed there so far. I thought it said that I was supposed to contact my pal once a week, or was I supposed to contact the organiser once a week, or... What am I supposed to be doing? I had to go back and read the instructions again.
Anyhoo, here is my update. I've settled on a pattern. I'm not an experienced sock knitter, but I wanted to knit something that is not absolutely plain, but that had a "quiet" design (big, rather obvious clue). As for the yarn - what should I get? Since my pal is American, I'd like to buy a British yarn that is not so easy to get there. I'd like to use an autumnal colour in the spirit of the swap, but I keep being attracted to various shades of green, which is not very autumnal at all really. I am exercising control though; I haven't purchased the green. I have a plan. I regularly buy yarn from a lady in Wales who does some lovely luxurious hand-dyed yarns, and she's bound to have the kind of colour that I'm looking for. In fact, I think I've seen what I'm after. I just hope my fingers are fast enough on Sunday evening...
Tuesday, 25 September 2007
Thursday, 20 September 2007
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
I would like to tell you that I was the model of decorum, but I am (apparently) a "cheap drunk", and was one of the last to stumble, bleary-eyed, into the office on Friday morning.
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Why? Because I had already read a few Anita Shreve novels and I knew that I liked her style and subject matter. I was so relaxed about this book that I got a little lazy about reading it and left it until the last day. In the end, I read it in one sitting on an indolent Sunday. I'd pretty much never done that before. I always thought that reading a book in one day was one of those Hollywood cliches, like packing an entire wardrobe into a small suitcase in five minutes flat, and then lifting the thing with ease whilst sobbing hysterically, yet not smudging your mascara... hmmm, I digress.
How was it? It was an extremely easy read, but I was surprised that I wasn't enchanted by it. When I finished it, I thought "that's that then", and put it aside. Last month's book club choice was thought provoking, and this book wasn't. So I'm not sure what I think: is it thumb's up or down? It is probably thumb's horizontal!
Sunday, 9 September 2007
Yesterday evening was the Last Night of the Proms. I went with a group of friends to have a picnic and watch/listen in Hyde Park. I am not a huge fan of classical music, so the lighter classical stuff you get in Hyde Park, together with a bit of easy-listening pop is great for me. I think that you need to be a genuine season ticket holding Prommer, or at least very organised to buy tickets for the Albert Hall. What stood out for me this year was that I got a real sense of the Proms being celebrated all round the British Isles. I'd always considered it a London event, so it was great that for the finale, we had choirs from Glasgow, Belfast (I think), Cardiff and Teesside signing songs/arias that are strongly associated with their part of the UK. This is the second time I've gone to this event in the park, and it felt like a great end to the summer/start of autumn.
Saturday, 8 September 2007
Friday, 24 August 2007
A few days ago, I heard a discussion on the venerable Radio 4 about the fact that sales of regular black tea is at an all time low in the UK. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It seems that sales of specialist teas - chai, green teas, red teas, fruit and herbal teas were enjoying a bit of a renaissance. People are starting to get picky about their tea, and not just their tea, but their tea making accoutrements too... It made me think about the type of tea I drank (ahem, any number of teas - green, fruit, herbal, black ...), and what I drink from. I have the mother of all teacups & saucers: it holds three-quarters of a pint, and no one drinks from it but me. I also have a whole variety of teapots, depending on what I'm drinking, e.g. this one is for fruit teas. I got it from Mariage Freres in Paris, home to a tea museum, and some of the most fabulous tea rooms I've ever visited (and yes, my schoolgirl French is hideous).
I reserve this one that I bought in Japan for when I'm feeling ultra-special, and want to have a cup of green or white tea with a touch of honey. Sacrilege, I know - did I introduce you my sweet tooth?
Bettys by Post is a fabulous way to indulge. Not only are teapots becoming small items of desire, I noticed that tea is being packaged ever more attractively... "Woman's Hour" on Radio 4 has an article about the perfect afternoon tea at Claridge's Hotel. Coffee, watch out!
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
Sunday, 19 August 2007
I started with two strands of the silk/mohair, and got a beautifully soft, but saturated colour. Then I added a strand of silk. The colours blend seamlessly, but with a subtle distinction where I changed yarn combination. Next I removed one of the silk/mohair strands, and got almost a heathered effect. What to try next? I added another strand of crispy silk, and finally I removed all mohair to leave just two silk strands, and then a single silk strand. The texture moves from being luxuriously soft and supple to being quite textural (almost coarse) as the colour shifts from light pink to soft brown. This little swatch has been following me from room to room over the last couple of days. I can't stop looking at it, touching it, and marvelling at the colour/texture combinations.
What will it look and feel like when I block it? I haven't even dared to try the Shibori yet. I bought quite a lot of this yarn, so I have some choices about what to make. All the designs I've seen made of Habu have been kind of zen and spare, and I think that's also what I want to do. An intricate lacey pattern would be a waste, I think. So, whilst I look for a design, I think I'll do another swatch and felt it Shibori-style.
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Monday, 6 August 2007
This book has been nominated for the "Man Booker Prize 2006", I'm still trying to work out why. In fact I'm trying to work out what happened. Did anything happen at all? Why was this book written? Did I learn anything from reading it? Is my life enriched in any way? Okay, now I'm getting pretentious. Geraldine Bedell of The Observer says, "Carry Me Down is almost claustrophobically narrow...", and I wholeheartedly agree with that. She goes on to say that it is "also enthralling and absorbing and capable of arousing sympathy to a degree that is almost painful". I wholeheartedly disagree with that!
I would count myself as a reader; I'm probably more of a reader than a knitter. I've certainly been reading consistently longer than I've been knitting consistently. In fact, I'm a lifelong reader. I only got reacquainted with knitting again a year ago after a nearly twenty year gap. I read for pleasure, for escapism (especially when I'm someplace I don't want to be), and occasionally to learn something new. I tend not to read non-fiction unless I'm intensely interested in the subject (e.g. David Starkey's Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne). Since reading is a very pleasurable thing for me, I only read what I like, and I didn't like this! Why did I bother? It was the book club choice for last month. I belong to a small book club of around seven women who all live on the same estate/sub-division. Naturally we are all quite diverse: some are stay at home mums; others professional women without children; others run their own small businesses; there is a homeopathic doctor, etc. I've been a member of this book club for a couple of years, and quite often find myself reading books that are out of my comfort zone. I hadn't realised that there were certain things that I want/need from a book. Components, which if they are absent, make me dislike a book intensely and probably not finish it. What I've learned (in no particular order) is:
- I absolutely loathe books written in the first person. It makes a book narrow in perspective, and generally limits the author's ability to explain the motives behind the various characters' actions.
- I despair if a book is unrelentingly gloomy (e.g. Jung Chan's Wild Swans - gah) ... I get to a point where I start to get depressed myself. Or I'm so annoyed that the characters don't try to improve their situation, that I lose interest in them.
- I like books to be descriptive, I want to be taken to the place and time.... I want to be in the book, transported. This may sound crazy, but when I'm reading, I don't actually see the words on the page - for me it is like watching a film. I'm either a disaffected bystander, or I'm the main protagonist experiencing everything first hand. If a book isn't descriptive, I can't get lost in it.
- I don't like books where time/place/events are uncertain. When did it happen? Did it happen? Was it all a figment of the protagonist's imagination? Yuck, give me a break...
Sunday, 5 August 2007
"So", I think to myself, "I can either have this operation at the end of May or the end of July. I know, I'll have it in May, then when I'm at home for ~2 months, I can enjoy the lovely weather...". Only we get the wettest June and July in living memory - people have to be evacuated from their homes 'cos it won't stop raining... Then the day comes when I have to go back to work, and what do we get, people? Glorious freakin' sunshine - for the entire week, no less... So of course, everyone is taking holiday, and I'm sweltering in the office alone. Grrr...
How is it that I always do this? I am merrily knitting along, mentally patting myself on the back for getting to the point where I can (a) read my knitting, (b) predict what is coming up in the pattern, and (c) occasionally glance at the TV on a purl row... Except that actually, I can't do (c), 'cos I always drop a stitch. Then I have to tink back trying to locate it; then I have to tink the previous row 'cos I can't find it [grits teeth]; then I stop knitting all together 'cos I'm losing my temper, and I've now managed to drop two stitches, which are merrily unravelling down a couple of rows. At this point I carefully use my crochet hook to prevent the two stitches unravelling further, and gently put the knitting aside. I fume for a day, forget about it for a second day, and come back on day three to find the crochet hook has slipped out. I put in a stitch holder [grinding my teeth], and leave it for yet another day...
Over on Ravelry, I see a post about the "Innocent" fete in Regents Park this weekend. There will be a knitting tent, and a number of other UK-based Ravelers will be there. I go on line and buy my ticket in advance, jumping through all kinds of unnecessary hoops to validate the ticket when it finally arrives on Friday. Anyone would think I'd bought tickets for a major music concert! Anyhoo... Saturday morning dawns, beautiful and clear (see Grrr #1 above). I go to my local itty-bitty train station, only to find that someone had "trespassed on the line" at Basingstoke (several stations down line), and all trains are horribly delayed or cancelled... So, nope, I didn't make it, I go home again (and got myself embroiled in Grrr.... #2). I did try to maintain some perspective: someone lost their life yesterday, and irrespective of whether (s)he jumped, was pushed, or was genuinely trespassing, it must have been a tough day for the train driver, who suffers the shock of seeing someone on the line and being unable to stop... My knitting (non)event pales into insignificance by comparison.
I love, love, lurve Ravelry. I've been eyeing some Louet Euroflax yarn to make a Moss Grid Hand Towel from Mason-Dixon Knitting. I couldn't find it in the UK, and I didn't want to feel that I had to buy lots of yarn to justify shipping from the USA. Lo and behold a fellow Raveler has exactly the colour I want, and she's willing to trade/sell! A few quick emails and it's in my hands... Amazing! She was equally surprised at how quickly I got it, given that she lives in California.
I've been drooling over the pictures in Coloursknits blog for some time. Vanessa is extremely talented, and she has knitted a gorgeous Habu pink Silk Mohair Kusa and white stainless steel combo, and then felted it using the Shibori technique. I am so utterly in love with this that I went ahead and ordered some Habu myself. I have ordered the Silk Mohair Kusa and Kakishibu Tsumugi Silk, and it's due here any day now (pictures when it arrives!). I've lusted after Habu for so long, but didn't know what to make with it. When I saw Vanessa's scarf, I knew I wanted to make a version for myself. I wasn't sure how the Tsumugi Silk would felt, and so I asked in the Ravelry forums. I got lots of additional information about Shibori, and a suggestion that I write Vanessa directly, which I did. She wrote back and gave me a pretty full explanation of what she did... How great is that? So now when my yarn arrives, and I finish MS3, I can start it...
Sunday, 29 July 2007
The op represented a pretty defining moment for me, a kind of watershed. Having such a long period away from work and the constant travelling gave me a lot of time to think about my life, and how I want it to be from now on. I'm not making huge changes: I love my job, and the company I work for treats it's staff really well. But I think I've decided to move on a couple of things I'd been putting off. I've decided to treat myself better, I deserve better. This has nothing to do with material things as I think I'm pretty lucky in that department all things considered. I just want my life to be better...
So during my time off, I made a list of things that I wanted to get done before going back to work. It was a pretty extensive list, and included stuff that I'd put off for years [fear can really hold you back]. I am happy to report that I've done all bar one, and that is in progress.
And now it's Sunday evening, I'm about to start my regular checking process before going to bed [the whole thing can take a couple of hours, because I'm easily distracted on a Sunday evening]. However today I feel like I do when returning to school after the holidays. Do I have my books? Where is my favourite pen? Is my BlackBerry fully charged? I know that all emails have been downloaded to my laptop, because I did that on Saturday morning. Have I worked out what I'm wearing? Is it ironed? Are my shoes clean? Where's that doctor's certificate that I have to submit? Arrrrgggghhh...
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
"Man proposes, God disposes" or so a Muslim friend told me when we worked together in Thailand nearly 10 years ago. I've never forgotten it. Remember a plan about finishing clue 3 of MS3 and reading this month's book club choice on holiday? Yeah, well you actually need to bring the knitting and the book with you for that to work. Not leave them prominently positioned on the sofa where you are sure not to see them as you bound through the front door at the last minute.
Thursday, 12 July 2007
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
|Your Power Element is Wood|
Your energy: generative
Your season: spring
Like a tree, you are always growing and changing. And while your life is dynamic, you are firmly grounded. You have high morals and great confidence in yourself and others. You have a wide set of interests, and you make for intersting company.
Sunday, 8 July 2007
And how do you explain my desire to make another pair of socks - NOW? I've seen a lovely pattern called Phineas by Rosemary Waits. I plan to make these socks with some beautiful Schaeffer Anne yarn in a gorgeous blue/green/lilac colour. I could not resist this yarn when I saw it.
It is one of my favourite colour combinations. I think this is the reason I feel startitis coming on... However, I am determined to be good. I won't start the socks until I've finished MS3. Oh, and after I've finished my Seraphim inspired wrap (Pictures in another post).