Sunday, 26 October 2008

lace knitting - gah!

When I first started looking at knitting sites and knitting blogs I noticed that a lot of knitters favour lace knitting and produce lovely shawls and scarves. At the time I thought – no, this is not for me, anything finer than double knitting is just too fiddly for me, especially as I generally have to reduce my needles by two sizes to get the correct gauge. Then I realised that lace knitting may be a fine yarn, but it is knitted on larger than expected needles (and gauge for a shawl isn’t crucial) and I also discovered the wonderful world of beautiful hand-dyed and hand-painted yarns. At the Knitting and Stitching Show this year I was seduced by a gorgeous skein of Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace in a pretty lettuce-y green. I chose Swallowtail as my pattern and even had a friend in mind as the eventual recipient of my work.
However, it turns out I was right – it IS too fiddly for me. I have had five attempts at getting started, keep ending up with the wrong number of stitches and it’s all too fine and fiddly to identify my mistakes. I think I will come back to it next summer when there are longer hours of daylight to knit in, but for now all that frogging is beginning to damage the yarn, so it will be put on hold.
Meanwhile I have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous and am knitting an eco string bag on big fat needles.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008


I’m feeling sad. It has been a sad year: several deaths; major surgery and long stays in hospital; bad news about unborn babies; extreme weather conditions; work and financial worries; and relentless grey, wet weather. All of the above (apart from the wet weather) have been at second or even third hand, not my personal tragedies, but I’ve spent a lot of this year sympathising/empathising with or worrying about people I love and now I feel sad.
I can be a bit of a pollyanna – searching for the silver lining, looking on the bright side, urging people not to be gloomy, but sometimes I think it is appropriate to recognise that life has been tough of late and to acknowledge all that sadness in other people’s lives and mine too. I won’t dwell on it for long – we’re going to a wedding at the weekend, good stuff is happening as well – but just for today I’m not going to push the bad feelings away.
Note: this is not a bid for sympathy from the cyber world – just a statement of how it is.

Friday, 17 October 2008

manx loaghtan

Knitting yarn from the Sheldon flock of rare Manx Loaghtan sheep. I bought this natural, undyed yarn when I was on retreat at Sheldon in May. It’s a slightly uneven, rather rustic yarn and it took a while deciding what to knit as I realised that my 500g pack was not going to be enough for a big sweater. In the end I went for a cardigan/jacket, knitting the sleeves from the top down so that I knew how long I could risk making them without running out of wool.

The ball-band says "knit as double knitting" though it looked and felt rather more like aran to me. My knitting tension never matches pattern requirements anyway so I decided to play around with needle sizes and see how it knitted up and then work from there (ended up using 5mm). I decided this was going to be my first venture into creating my own garment without a pattern and that I was going to make something to fit ME rather than some idealised size. After the gauge experiments the next step was taking my own measurements, which was a bit sobering as I realised that shaping to go in at the waist was not going to be one of my requirements. I went for a shape that would give plenty of ease around hip and belly while fitting more closely around bust and shoulders. This meant some dart shaping at the lower end of the jacket. Also went for a slightly scooped round neckline, which I find more comfortable than something that comes up close round my neck.

I am modestly pleased with the results. It fits better than most knitted-from-patterns garments I have made – so good not to have a cardigan that strains to fasten at the bottom edge – and I think it will probably work quite well with my winter wardrobe. If I’m honest it’s probably not a yarn I would have bought if I hadn’t been staying at Sheldon where the wool was produced. It’s an unusual colour – french mustard maybe, or cinnamon if we’re talking colour charts, but probably cowpat brown is more accurate - and the yarn still has that redolent sheepy, lanolin aroma, which was quite nice for knitting as my hands felt moisturised, but not particularly what I want my clothes to smell of. (When completed I washed it and used fabric conditioner and I don’t like the smell of that much better than the sheep smell.) I’m still happy to have bought and used it though – another piece of work that carries memories and associations and a good way of supporting the work of a valuable organisation.

(The sheep photo at the head of the post was taken by Cathy Wainwright and was posted on the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders Group)

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

what if the hokey cokey is what it's all about?

Spotted on a tee shirt at Greenbelt.

Greenbelt is, of course, awash with slogans on tee shirts (and some unusual fashion choices - see Mark Loudon’s photos), but this was my favourite. I noticed it on a scholarly looking bloke in the book tent in an understated navy blue.

Very post modern.

Seems like a good motto for living with uncertainty.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

another continuity announcement

This is probably not the most beautiful or original thing I have ever made - a canvaswork cushion cover worked in wool in tent stitch, but like so much needlework it is replete with memories.

My father moved into a nursing home in 2001. The house was an old priory and there was a pleasant garden to sit in. I thought that if I had a bit of simple needlework I could sit in the garden with him having desultory conversation or companionable silence as the fancy took us, which is when I bought the initial materials for this. In the event it was not many months before Dad's dementia meant that he moved to the top floor of the nursing home into the EMI (elderly mentally infirm) unit and we didn't get to spend that much time in the garden, though I did carry on stitching from time to time when I visited him in his room. The stitching was incomplete when he died in 1984 and I've only picked it up occasionally since. Suddenly, around Easter this year, it was finished and set aside to be rediscovered when I had my workshop clear-out. It was very distorted by stitching and took a LOT of blocking to get it back to a square enough shape to be turned into a cushion. Now it's done - on a chair in the sitting room and full of happy/sad memories of my father and a difficult time in our lives.

Edited postscript. Obviously (as Alice has pointed out in her comment) he died in 2004, not 1984 - don't know how that got in there!

Monday, 6 October 2008

they're joking, right?

I bought some buttons on Saturday afternoon. Nothing special, just squarish wooden buttons for the cardigan that I have almost finished. I sewed two of them in place and then noticed the warning on the back of the card:The idea that I might remove these buttons and sew them back on each time I wash the cardigan is just so far from the way I live my life that I just laughed.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

here's one I made earlier

This was finished some time ago – just in time for H’s birthday in August in fact, but I didn’t have time to photograph it before giving it to her. Finally got round to standing her in the garden and taking some pics last weekend – though they’re still not exactly brilliant photographs. The pattern is Central Park Hoodie and seems to be one of the most popular patterns on the KnittingDaily website. H chose the wool, which is Rowan Pure Wool Aran. It was lovely to knit with and I enjoyed the interest of the fairly simple cable. I even managed to continue the central back cables up the back of the hood.
I’ve got a ball of wool left over and I’m planning to make this for myself.