Monday, January 28, 2008

Clessidra knee high socks

On Saturday I devoted myself to finishing the Clessidra socks.

The yarn which Claudia so generously sent was quite a bit darker than the original skein, but working in alternate rows it blended in really well.

The stats: Clessidra from Knitty. Wollmeise superwash merino, in Veilchen (Violets) one full skein plus a few more grams. 2.25mm needles. I broke two Lantern Moon ebony needles in the course of this project. I also splintered a Brittany birch needle. In summary: I would advise you use metal needles!

I love the stitch patterns used, but the hourglass cables make my calves look rather more curvaceous that I would like! I shortened the leg slightly and I think this adds to the chubby effect. The seed stitch heel is a bit baggy. I have noticed other knitters complaining about this too.

The Wollmeise yarn is beautifully dyed but I am not sure I like the matte texture of the yarn itself. It is more like cotton than wool. It was quite splitty, but that was partly due to the needles used. I would be really interested to try out her new wool / nylon mix sock yarn.

In summary: I would not knit them again but I'm glad I did!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January passions

Not yet the end of January and I have just added to the stash. Oh – I didn’t tell you I had a New Year’s Resolution not to buy more yarn, did I? Oops. When I get bored or frustrated at work I am like a kid in a sweetie shop, having instant access to Broadband. Tsk. I ought to take up short-story-writing or something – so I look like I am working hard, typing away. Instead I surf my frustrations away in a tiny window at the corner of my screen so as not to distract my colleagues with pictures of socks!

Anyway, I hadn’t bought any yarn yet this year... until today. It was a bad morning. I have had an unreasonable yearning for a multi-pack of self-striping (not fair-isle-style) German sock yarn. I probably compared two packs a dozen times yesterday. So today I made my selection. Each pair of socks will cost less than £5 to knit and I love all the colourways: turquoise with orange, purple with yellow - real stunners! 8 in the pack. That’s a lot of socks! But there are 4 of us in the family, so 2 pairs each doesn’t seem ridiculous, does it? I can even tell you who will get which colours...

In the meantime I have been collecting sock-knitting patterns. So that I can attack the stash with a full armoury. Digitessa and Fratello from Yarnissima have both been purchased. Spina da Pesce will probably follow shortly – I love the detail of these patterns!

And I bought a book of hat patterns from Woolly Wormhead. I see this as an investment in gift knitting. My cousin’s teenage daughter sent me a thank you note that made me smile. I sent her an Elf hat for Christmas and she sent me a note that read: “Thank you for the present. I have a PASSION for hats and my friends all agree that this is the one that suits me best.” Well, sweet girl, I have a PASSION for knitting, so stand by for many more crazy hats! (I wonder is she likes socks too?!)

So much for resolutions. But therapy is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Knitting with pictures!

Photographs rescued from "beyond the password"!

First up - the frogged PigeonroofStudios sock. If you look really carefully you might see some cables and triangles - see them? No? That's why I frogged it.

Next - Manon by sunlight. This is the base triangle at the centre back.

Followed by the "on the needles" shot from last night. At the top of the photo is the base triangle. The ribbing at the right is the waistband, and the section to the left of that is one of the triplet of triangles that form the side and right front of the garment. Got it? It is really hard to explain!

The real colour is somewhere between these two pictures. It's lovely!

And last but definitely not least: extra yarn for my Clessidra socks! But Claudia, the Wollmeise, has really taken customer service to a whole new level. Not only did she send me the yarn free of charge (a whole skein of Wollmeise superwash merino FREE!) but she didn't charge me shipping, AND threw in a bag of sweets and a mini sampler skein of worsted (colour "Suzanne"). If you look carefully you might see that her paper bag is printed with knitting terms in English and Gewrman - even the bag is useful! I described her customer service as having a "cherry on top" - I was wrong. This is a kirsch-soaked dark chocolate-covered cherry! Thank you SO much Claudia! I must finish Clessidra this weekend.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunchoke day

Did you know that some people call Jerusalem Artichokes "sunchokes", because they produce a sunflower-like bloom?

Mine were definitely not blooming this weekend! I dug below the frosty weeds to see if they had survived... and was rewarded with a handful of fresh delicious organic bulbs. A rummage through the cookbooks found a recipe for sunchokes simmered in red wine and soy sauce, with garlic, onion and thyme. Mmmm!

The kids were dubious about eating "aliens", but the sunflower-seed studded rolls were an added incentive - as was the roast lamb joint! So not a solely vegetarian cooking session but using home-grown veg counts double, I reckon!

Later I also made a batch of chocolate bread. Bread-making is becoming addictive! This was also declared a success and I have squirreled away a loaf in the freezer for next weekend so we can have home made bread for breakfast - without me getting up 3 hours before the rest of the family!

FL golfed on Saturday but his caddy-car broke and he had to carry his clubs for the last few holes, with a bad effect on his back. He also has a very much bloodshot eye. Maybe its the warfarin (anti-coagulant) that is causing it? So he was a bit down in the dumps this afternoon... until the bread came out of the oven!

Manon-knitting progresses. I am now knitting a triplet of triangular panels, which grow out from the centre-back panel. Hard to describe, and the photo is locked on the other side of my son's password, as I accidentally uploaded the picture from my camera under his user-name - silly! I was tempted to change his password and retrieve it but it wasn't worth the grief. Photos will definitely follow!

P.S. Just noticed that the 'chokes are on a "Sunseeker" plate! I bought these in a junk shop in the New Forest - apparently they were given away free with a boat.... sadly I didn't get the boat free with the plates!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Knitting and advice received

Good news and bad on the knitting front.

The good news is that Claudia found a match for the Veilchen yarn which ran out on my Clessidra knee-highs – hooray! She is only charging me for the postage – double hooray! That is what I call customer service with a cherry on top!

The medium-bad knitting news is that I started a pair of socks from the stash, using yarn randomly selected by my daughter. She chose the fabulous PigeonroofStudios sportweight in Nightshade. I decided to use the “Whitby” pattern from “Knitting on the Road”. All was looking good for the first few inches. Then I realised there was a major pooling issue. This yarn looked speckledy, maybe splotchy, but definitely did not look like a candidate for pooling. The back section looked fine – plain ribbing in shades of taupe / mauve with the occasional flash of blue. But the front was a disaster. The stitch pattern was almost invisible in a great big muddy puddle of mess. Then I tried it on and it was too tight (51 stitches on 2.75mm needles). So I ripped it out. Monday gone.

The bad news.... in the Waiting Room, I had the pattern for Manon and a ball of plant-dyed aran-weight wool. The third set of needles I tried got me gauge. I knitted and I knitted and was very proud of the first 31 rows of the triangular centre back peplum section. Until I realised that there were more stitches to the left of the central cable than to the right. So I started undoing my work row by painful row. I saw the old lady opposite watching me. After about half an hour of unpicking and counting I took the needles out and riiiipppppppppped! “That’s why I crochet!” she remarked. “Only one stitch at a time, and it doesn’t matter if you drop it.” Mutter.

That evening, I started again and got to row 31, counting my stitches on every row. And guess what? Yes. I had the right number of stitches, but they weren’t evenly balanced on either side of the cable. “Didn’t you use stitchmarkers?” asked FL. Splutter! Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip! Tuesday gone.

So yesterday evening I tried again. And I re-read the instructions. "Keeping one stitch in stocking stitch on either side, work the chart". So I counted the number of stitches on the chart and the number of stitches on my needles. Oh. What it meant was: there are two stitches on your needles that are not on the chart, one at either end. WHY?! As a knitting designer (stop laughing at me) I would expect to chart the whole piece - not leave off one stitch at either end of the row, that's just crazy!

I now have a perfect knitted triangle. Pictures will follow.

FL had a very bad day yesterday. After the anaesthetic wore off, the site of his bone marrow sample was extremely painful. I got home to find him lying flat out in bed with a grey face. "How many painkillers have you taken?" I asked. "Painkillers? I haven't taken anything! I didn't think of that!" WHAT?! "Well it didn't hurt last time, so I though there was something terribly wrong with me and I wanted to monitor it..." EH?! "The reason it didn't hurt last time was that you were on enough morphine to knock out an elephant!" "Really?"

Oxycodone administered. Pain relief obtained. Sigh.

This morning, he is bright and perky again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

West Country Hot Pot

For Andre!

West Country Hot Pot

Adapted from the “Food For Thought Cookbook”.

Serves 4-6

1 ½ cups of butterbeans, soaked overnight, boiled for 1 ½ hours (or tinned beans)

(If you can get Judions, giant Spanish butter beans, so much the better – but I haven’t been able to find these outside of London)

1 teaspoon each: English mustard powder, paprika and ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 rounded dessertspoon butter (or margarine)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 rounded dessertspoon cornflour
Large pinch of thyme
1/2 pint (300ml) medium sweet cider

2 medium courgettes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets
2 leeks, cut into bite-sized pieces

(You could use other veg, but this combination works for me.)

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter until golden. Add the spices and cornflour and stir briskly to avoid sticking. Gradually add the cider, stirring continuously, to form a smooth sauce. Bring to the boil briefly and add the cooked beans, thyme and raw leeks. Reduce to a simmer.

Stir-fry the courgettes to lightly colour but leave quite crisp. Add to the simmering beans.

Steam the cauliflower ( put it in the sauté pan with a few spoons of boiling water for about ten mins) until al dente. Add to the simmering beans. Stir gently to avoid mashing the beans.

Allow to cook together for about 5-10 minutes so the flavours blend.

Serve with home-made bread!

Monday, January 14, 2008


I hesitate to say that I have some New Years Resolutions. If I write them down I will feel guilty when I let them slide! However, this weekend I stuck to my plan to cook a new vegetarian meal once a week. Our weekly menu had become quite repetitive and meat-based and I wasn’t getting through the organic veg box. So yesterday I made white “milk” bread rolls (recipe from “Apples for Jam”) substituting non-dairy products for the milk and butter. They were a huge success! And I was amazed at how relaxing it was. FL was chuckling as I kneaded the dough – “I never thought I’d see the day when you - my wife?!? – would be here in this kitchen making bread!” And for dinner – a West Country Hot Pot – a one-pot meal of giant butter beans, leeks, cauliflower, courgette, onions, garlic and a mustardy cider sauce – mmm! Followed by vegan “Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes”. Ah, the New Domesticity!

I also knitted long and hard on my Clessidra knee-highs. Too long. Because I am going to run out of yarn – noooooooo! I have 48 rounds left to knit… and just a few grams of yarn. Hand-dyed, one-of-a kind yarn from Germany. I have emailed the Wollmeise to see if she can sell me a small ball to match – even if she can supply it, I will have to use the two balls row-about to minimise the effect of the join and there will be a stripe. After all those hours of neat, perfect knitting! I might have to rip back the first sock and make both with contrasting toes. It never once occurred to me that I might run out of yarn in this project – I had 150g of thin yarn! Sniffle.

And to prove that people wear the things I knit… here is FL in his Golf Stockings and Koolhaas hat. No fear of him being shot in the woods with a hat that colour! He managed two 18-hole rounds of golf this weekend without ill effects. He has phased out all his painkillers. Now all we need to hear is that he can stop the chemo. Tomorrow.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Di Gilpin workshop

This month's Country Living features Di Gilpin and her St Andrews-based knitting business: wool shop, design and workshops. They are also promoting a special CL Reader Event for knitters - a weekend knitting workshop in St Andrews with Di in the spring. Interesting!

I've never been to St Andrews before.

Just saying.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Holiday plans

We have booked a holiday! At Easter, FL and I are off to Applecross in the deeply remote West Highlands. We are staying at a house owned by a Scottish design-shop so everything there is carefully chosen for its beauty and utility, but not so precious as to be intimidating. It is right on the shore, so there are astonishing views across to Raasay and Skye. There isn’t another house for miles. We can walk in the wilds or sit and dream by the fire. The only drawback is that the property is only supplied with well-water, which ought to be boiled before drinking, so FL will have to take his own supply!

We have found it really hard to make plans. Not knowing how his treatment will go, and now not knowing whether its good work will last. We are back at the hospital next Tuesday, and he will learn then whether or not he has taken his last chemo pills for this clinical trial, or if he has one more month to go. And whether or not he has been randomly selected to receive maintenance treatment or not. If not, it is the big scary world of drug-free living until the MM comes back. Which could be very soon …or not very soon, but will definitely happen one day.

Summer is too far ahead to book a holiday – who knows what will be happening by then in the not-so-wonderful world of Multiple Myeloma! The kids are away at Easter so we can go somewhere that suits just the two of us, i.e. in the middle of nowhere!

FL wanted to go to Greece. I wanted to go to Iceland. But he doesn’t qualify for holiday cancellation insurance, never mind travel insurance, so its Scotland for us! This is quite a relief. If anything untoward occurs, I can drive us home and I can speak the language. And the western highlands have become our special place. I can imagine my children’s children’s children tracing their family tree and wondering why we married in Skye. And the reason is really that it feels like coming home for both of us when we arrive on the west coast. I would like to move there one day. Once the kids have left home and FL has... gone. I just hope I don’t get there too soon.

Andre, our virtual MM-blogging “friend” has written a lot recently about seizing the moment before its gone forever. As has Annie. Our marriage is the fulfilment of a long-held promise, but is also in recognition of how short a time we may have left together. It doesn’t matter anymore what other people think about the gap in age between us, or our history. It’s just him and me, grabbing onto our love while we have the chance. Before he dies. Of course, who’s to say it won’t be me who is hit by a bus?! That’s the thing – we know that our time together is limited, so we have to make the most of it, right now. There’s no time to waste!

Monday, January 07, 2008

First FO of 2008

One pair of Esther socks for my daughter. A late Christmas present which she loves - phew!

This pattern foxed me at first, and I would definitely recommend strong, sharp-pointed needles rather than bendy splitty wood – rather too much “through the back of the loop” work for delicate pins! If I was knitting them again (never say never) I would use a more 3D-yarn: something like Jitterbug would be ideal to show off the stitch pattern.

Since finishing these I have been working on my second Clessidra sock. I completed the first one several months ago and either my memory was playing tricks, or my skills have improved in that time, as I am finding this quite a straightforward knit! I hope to finish it next weekend, ready to cast on something new for my next waiting room session.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Last Woolgirl sock club parcel

My final Woolgirl sock club parcel arrived safely just before Christmas - hooray!

The yarn is Unique Sheep "permanently mothproofed" sportweight, merino superwash. Lovely and soft, with a faint smell of eucalyptus. The colours are well-represented in the photo, a beautiful frosty forest full of spruce greens. Also in the package: a copper stitchmarker, two sachets of gourmet cider (definitely what I will need tonight when I get home from work in the blizzard!), some cinnamon sticks, 4 fir tree sweeties, and a
Christmas tree measuring tape - cute!

Once again, a well-thought-out themed package based around a top-quality yarn. There was a pattern to go with the yarn, but yet again I can't see the stitch properly in the photos - is it just me who needs a bit more detail? I would never have bought the pattern based on the photos - it is some sort of vaguely-lacey cable (again).

So... Woolgirl sock club: would I do it again? I think if I was in the States I would not hesitate. But the hazards of international shipping (and most crucially, the fear of an import tax bill from HM Customs and Excise!) mean that I will not be renewing my subscription. It didn't feel like a treat when I was dreading a card through the door saying "we have your package to ransom - pay up, or you will never see your socks"!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Happy New Year!

I was planning to start the New Year with empty needles – but I failed to knit my daughter's Christmas socks in time, so they are my first project for the Socks From Stash Club. Full details over there!

And I also rediscovered Clessidra sock number 2, so I am determined to finish that before I embark on my New Year's projects.

Just before Christmas I ordered some plant-dyed wool from Knitting4Fun, in the Violet colourway, ready to cast on for Manon from Norah Gaughan Vol.1. I am really looking forward to this – a full-sized garment with new techniques to master and exciting yarn to play with.

This is going to be my Norah Gaughan year I think... because I also popped a few balls of Mille Colori into my basket, to knit a scarf. Either the ladder-style one, or the mountain-stitch one.

But I have some socks to finish first!