Thursday, November 27, 2008

Responding to the challenge

Photo from Old Town
I am still getting over the shock of my challenge from FL!

As your comments suggested: it must be true love, he is indeed a good one, and yes, I do tend to dress the family before I dress myself. I am also a very bad-tempered shopper – I hate crowds and changing rooms and the glazed-eyed fragrant footballers’ wives who tend to frequent department stores and look down their air-brushed noses at me – if only in my paranoid imagination. I usually last about an hour before I shout at some ignorant orange fool for bumping into me or sneering at my plaits. My children hate shopping with me! And I don’t have anyone else to shop with. So I prefer to shop by mail order or make my own clothes.

Other issues about my taste in clothes are: I prefer natural materials; I don’t want people to say “Oh – isn’t that Boden?”; and I really really resent spending money on dry-cleaning.

FL’s challenge is both exciting and scary. He won’t take no for an answer. And I don’t want to waste the opportunity by buying things I will wear once and then push to the back of the wardrobe because they are not really “me”. Part of the issue is that the day job is smarter than I naturally am. I would love to live in jeans and handknits but it would be frowned upon. As it is, there have been comments from the bosses about my “creative” style of dress – I thanked them very much! For work in the cold weather, I have my “range” of home-made mostly-tweedy skirts with a couple of toning cardigans and a few hand-made scarves… and they feel safe and warm. Yes, I admit that I have got into a bit of a rut, often wearing the same thing two days running (gasp!) and there are several things in my work wardrobe I never wear (second-hand purple tweed Next trouser suit circa 1990 anyone?)… but they are familiar.

Given a fat cheque to spend on clothes, my instinct is to buy: the wool to knit Sylvi, new super-wide jeans, a thick warm dressing gown, flannelette pyjamas, some fur-lined chunky boots, thick tights… instead of the rather more conservative “things for work” that FL intended. Perhaps I need to do a bit of both. Or better still, find a middle path. Buy and make things that I would actually like to wear to work and which would pass the Committee test! Who knew it could be this hard?!

Come on Roobeedoo, get a grip and crank up your style!

Currently loving (but not happy with the prices!): Old Town

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First kitten mitten

Front and back of the first Cat Mitten for my daughter.
Nature's Pallette Fingering in "Indian Paintbrush" and plain black Regia sock yarn, size 2.5mm dpns.
The 6o stitch round is rather small - luckily my daughter has little hands. She allegedly still thinks these are for me!
Just started mitten number 2.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Snowy birthday weekend

I had a lovely birthday weekend. We all went out for a meal on Friday night (Turkish meze – yum yum yum!) and barely made it back up the farm road as the snow closed in. If I had been driving we would have had to get out and walk! As it was, FL had to take a run at the hill and we only just got to the house in a slithering rush.

On Saturday, I decided there was no point in getting stressed trying to get the car out and settled down for the whole “snowed in” experience with the kids: a crate of clementines, hot chocolate, marshmallows…. but FL was determined not to miss “coffee” at the golf club and wore himself out gritting the road, refusing help from me or the neighbours (stubborn!).

Once he’d gone and I had stopped worrying about him, we went on a long snowy walk. We saw an owl and three deer! And the dog found some stray sheep in our field – eek!
Luckily, he couldn’t decide which one to chase and they got away. We pretended the trampoline was a cake and wrote “Happy Birthday!” on the snow – hooray!
Sunday was spent with my daughter and the “Sublime Stitching Craft Pad”. She wanted to embroider an apron for school cookery classes, so chose the iced cake motif. I had a couple of vintage cotton pillowcases put by for a snowy day and chose a stylised bird design. Though I thought about the hummingbirds or the flamingos.
The Craft Pad is literally a pad of embroidery transfers, with no sewing instructions. (There is a book by the same author if you need more help with the basics.) I had my trusty 1950’s “Big Book of Needlecraft” to refer to for stitching directions.
The designs are really funky, often downright kitsch, so not like the kind of embroidery you may be used to. There’s a great sword-through-the-heart tattoo design, a busty bad fairy on a toadstool, superheroes, chandeliers, a heavy metal wizard-face… something for everyone except, perhaps, your granny!
There are lots more sets to choose from on the designer’s website, but I thought this Pad would keep my daughter and I going for a while.
The transfers can be used over and over again provided you look after them. Just don’t forget to put a layer of card underneath your fabric unless you want to print the cover of your ironing board, as we did – oops!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Portrait of a dress

from Toast by Post

A rather expensive grey wool dress with the most intriguing collar. But far too short for my knees!

I just happen to have 3 metres of black fabric with a border of figured velvet applique, bought from a factory that was closing down. Perfect for a swooping sweeping dress with a cowl-like standaway collar...

And so began the mission to locate the perfect pattern.

It soon became clear that they don't make 'em like this anymore. So I have been scouring Etsy and Ebay for something that appears to be termed a "space age" or "mod" or "60's" dress.

But this one was too... understated.

And this one was too... stripey... though clearly that can be fixed!

This one...on the far left... this one is a definite possibility!

I like the collar and the wider swishy skirt. I would give it 3/4 length sleeves.

But would I look too much like Julie Andrews? (Oh no, sorry, wrong hair!)

And this one? This one could be interesting too! It has a very cute "bias cowl" and I can imagine wearing it over a long-sleeved t-shirt. But it is 3 sizes too big and pretty shapeless. I might just look like I am wearing a black bin-liner. Though with some funky platform-soled boots....

I'm still thinking!

Friday, November 21, 2008

An unusual challenge

"Roo - there's something I want you to do for me," said FL "and I am deadly serious, and you must promise you will."

OMG what could it be - my heart was racing and I was really quite scared. Dreadful thoughts of mortality and destruction ran through my head. What could it be? Preparations for a funeral? Was he feeling ill? Had he had a row with one of his children? Had he found my wool stash and wanted me to ebay it asap?!

There was a long pause while I went: "Mmmm hmmm...?" and caught hold of his hand in a deeply-concerned way and gazed into his eyes.

And then he said: " I am going to put £X in the joint account and you must promise me that over the next year you will spend it on clothes. And I will be monitoring it to make sure you do."

I laughed, a short explosive sort of a laugh. The kind that comes from relief and disbelief.


"You just don't have enough to wear. You keep wearing the same things over and over again. They are all beautiful, but really I want you to look your best all the time. Some things badly need to be taken out of circulation and replaced by new. You can make them or buy them, but just DO IT. Do you promise?"

"Have you been watching Gok or Trinny and Susannah?" I asked.

"Do you promise?"

"um.... ok then...."


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First pair of toe-ups: Aethenoth

Here they are! My first pair of toe-ups. The pattern is Aethenoth by Erqsome, part of the Loumms Year of Socks. 2.25mm dpns, two broken on sock two! Yarn: Jitterbug in "Gaughin" colourway.

It was all going beautifully until just after the heel turn on sock two.

Can you see what is peeking out below the hem of my jeans?

Look a little closer:


There was a knot in the skein, and after the join, the yarn was not the same as the previous 2/3 of the skein. The spacing between colours was entirely different. It may have come from the same dye-bath but it was not part of the same original hank, and as a result the "repeat" was shot to pieces, resulting in truly ugly pooling.

This was a real disappointment because I was loving the texture of the yarn. I would never recommend buying a variegated skein of Jitterbug after this! It is, in my opinion, extremely cynical of Colinette to do this to make up the weight. An independent dyer would never get away with it! The label advises to knit from two skeins alternately, but why would you if you only want to knit something little like a pair of socks? THIS is why! Because they can't even guarantee that 100g of yarn is a continuous length from the same dye-lot!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter warmers

No pictures – they are at home beyond the limbo which is my supposed broadband connection. Grrr.

But take my word for it – I finished Aethenoth and I love the pattern… but not the yarn. You will understand why when you see the pictures!

I have knitted half a cat mitten (Ravelry) and it is gorgeous, if I may say so myself, but I am not sure how warm they are going to be. I need to rethink yarn for mittens and get something special rather than using sock yarn from the stash.

But today’s post is to share my latest “waking from sleep in excitement” project plan. Have you seen Sylvi?! I am smitten.

The family think I have lost my mind. Knit a COAT?! But this isn’t any old coat – look at that hood and the tangle of vines and the flowers and the a-line… WOW! My problem is finding a “bulky” yarn that does not weigh several tons, will wear well and justify the heirloom / investment nature of this project. I thought about swatching for aran-weight and going for plant-dyed aran in Peony or even Moss green from Knitting 4 Fun. But at £72 for the yarn, this is a bigger financial investment than I can justify. Any suggestions for a UK sub?

In central heating news, we have bought a thermometer and I can confirm that our fabulous new central heating system achieves an average temperature of 58F / 14C in the main living room. Less than that everywhere else. Not very much higher than outdoors on the washing green, with a similar wind-chill factor. We only just broke the 60F barrier in the kitchen when I roasted a chicken on Sunday – woo hoo? My Christmas wish-list is topped by blankets and thermal underwear. The “repair team” has not yet fixed the bathroom heater (reported in June) so the bathroom is an icebox, and the “insulation team” has not yet made an appointment (due within 2 weeks of the central heating in May). And don’t get me wrong – we have been ringing the “social care team” twice a week every week to express our frustration.

I bet they have warm houses.

Maybe I need a knitted coat…

Friday, November 14, 2008

Uncle Thomas

I thought you might be interested to hear the next instalment in the not-my-family-tree saga. When I last wrote at length, I was immersed in a murky Regency divorce case, trying to find the source of the legacy which set the sons free to leave home and marry well-connected women. Just like a Jane Austen novel!

The slightly-down-at-heel relatives of a landowning family are small-time tenant farmers living on a windswept but well-watered hillside of about 20 acres. Their cousins have inherited the big money and the titles, married their fancy cousins from neighbouring estates, have started running up massive debts and have filled their libraries with the latest works of literary and musical merit. Each rank downwards on the family social ladder marries their equivalent from the same few families, ensuring social stability and continuation of the family name, passing on land, tenancies and debts through the generations. In the 17th and 18th centuries a few are recorded as members of the Society of Friends, Quakers, attending local meetings and ensuring their positions in the local hierarchy. These are dark times, with children being forcibly baptised (or “sprinkled” as the records say) against their families’ wills. The local history is full of “beatings on the Moss”, abductions, imprisonment, accusations of witchcraft. Talk about pressure to conform! A few emigrate to the New World to escape religious persecution. But this family is sufficiently well-connected to be re-absorbed into the new order. They become Freemasons. They attend church. They are “good people” living a quiet country life. But they are going nowhere, they know their place.

Enter Uncle Thomas. Uncle Thomas was a Baillie of the Auld Toon, a fine upstanding member of society who invested in the new-fangled linen and woollen-mills, gave money towards the establishment of an Infirmary, helped fund the development of the new city of Aberdeen. But he never married. And when he knew he was dying, he drew up a Will and divided up his Inventory “to prevent dispute between family members”. I am still not sure why he chose this family group to benefit from his wealth. There were plenty of others to choose from! But there they are, second in the list of beneficiaries: the children of the deceased John of Latch. Each son inherited £200 (the sum Jane Austen writes would set a man up in life) and there was £50 for each daughter. So John Jnr. goes to University and becomes a Reverent; Arthur the Freemason marries a girl in Kingston, Surrey and emigrates to Australia; and Jean becomes Mistress of a London Choir school. It was too late for the older girls who had already married weavers and farmers within a few miles of home. But for the younger children, it was life-changing.

The character of Thomas comes through so strongly in his Testament. Near the end of his Inventory he mentions his female servant, Nellie, and leaves her £20 “for her troubles”. But a year later, with only days left to live, he asks his advocate to draw up an Addendum, leaving Nellie “the bed from the kitchen and all its bedding”, and instructing that it “be delivered to the place of her choosing at no cost to herself”…“in recognition of the great care she has taken of me during my long illness”.

These are photos of Thomas’s memorial, in the graveyard of St Machar’s Cathedral in Aberdeen. He is tucked in by the side wall of the cathedral, protected from the wind and the rain. I truly believe he rests in peace.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My first toe-up sock: Aethenoth

Firstly a big shout out to Erqsome for writing a toe-up pattern that I could understand the first time I read it! The number of times I have stared in puzzlement at a toe-up recipe and ended up putting it back down the queue until my brain-fog cleared! It helped that I had recently been immersed in Woolly Wormhead’s instructions for provisional cast-ons and “wrap and turns”, but nevertheless, hooray for Erqsome for use of the word “selvedge” in her directions for setting up the toe – light dawned and a sock was begun!

I found a few little mistakes and have emailed Erqsome about these - but it was nothing to fox an experienced sock-knitter.

This pattern got to me at exactly the right time. I wanted to start my daughter’s Christmas socks and I knew she liked the Jitterbug Gaughin in my stash. I didn’t have a clue what pattern to use as it needed to be interesting, a bit quirky, but not to fight with the variegated turquoise and purple. Aethenoth has four panels of lace ribbing and a central hoofprint design, unexpectedly in relief rather than as another lace section. I liked this contrast. And this will work well with my daughter’s Mary-Jane style shoes – the nobbley bits will be displayed and not be uncomfortable as they might be inside “closed” front footwear. If I was making these for me I would probably shift the hoofprints to the back to wear with mules. Which is an aspect of sock design which I hadn’t really thought about before – place your nobbles with care according to the wearer’s preferred shoe-style!

I chose the wrong dpns: this is a good example of a sock pattern which suits strong metal needles. I am using 2.25mm bendy wood and I am afraid a snappage is overdue. There are too many k3togtbls for comfort when using a firmly-spun yarn like Jitterbug.

This is the fastest sock I have ever knit! Partly it was the intrigue of knitting toe-up. And partly wanting to see how the colours would work out. But mostly the interest of the Aethenoth’s path section. I galloped up the first sock! And best of all – my daughter thinks I am knitting them for myself and is visibly envious – tee hee hee!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A dancing sock

Here is the first Highland Dancing sock for FL’s Christmas. It is very long! There is still a lot left on the first ball of Austermann Step but I am not going to risk using this for sock two in case the second ball doesn’t have an identical stripe sequence. They were bought at different times with different dye-lots, so these were only ever going to be fraternal socks, not twins. The modelling leg is mine, but I am confident that they will fit him.
I am very pleased with this sock - I especially like the back seam lace pattern which I had to tweak to keep the stitch count at 68 instead of the 63 on the pattern.

Currently on the needles: Aethenoth from the Loumms Year of Socks. This is my first ever toe-up sock! These are for my daughter, hopefully for Christmas. The yarn is Jitterbug, colour “Gaughin”, which I won from Roo a while back. My daughter claimed this yarn the moment she saw it so it was an obvious choice. I love the tight 3-D spin on this yarn – it reminds me of the late lamented Piece of Beauty merino sock.
I didn't get to the cat mittens. I was too much obsessed by making horse-footprints (see pattern for details) and doing "wraps" on my first ever toe-up-socks. Did I say that already? My first ever toe-ups?!

I am enjoying having a couple of projects to play with, but it does make me nervous about meeting the deadline. I hope I don’t get to Christmas Eve with two odd socks and one mitten!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yarns and plans

My Malabrigo sock yarn arrived and is truly lovely. I opted for Persia and Eggplant. Persia being a deep rich blue with hints of bronze – but only a few; and eggplant being a deep and murky purple verging on charcoal. Both to be packed in a (clean!) plastic sandwich box for fear of munching wildlife! I went on to the Socktopus site today to borrow these pictures (I hope Alice doesn't mind but there is no daylight here!) and Persia has gone but there are lots of new colours to choose from. Also the very-tempting-looking Hazel Knits is in stock in many colours: “Chocolatier” – mmm!. But I must not. Ditto the Knitting Goddess Sock Club. Ditto a new range of On Line self-striping sock yarn called “Circle”. Too many temptations!

I am actually doing very well with stash-smashing, but that’s no excuse to build it up again – especially without proper mouse-proof storage facilities!

FL’s first Christmas stocking is almost complete. I managed to work out a double-lace back seam feature to allow for my modified stitch count (68 stitches instead of 63). I really like how it has worked out. The Austermann Step yarn is lovely and soft and yet strong. I prefer their more recent colourways (there is a turquoise and charcoal stripe I like the look of) but these are going to be fine. I think you are right, Andre – FL is deliberately blind to this project in honour of Christmas! He was sitting next to me last night and I saw him eyeing up the sheer length of the sock (with turn-over cuff not yet turned over it is a good 20 inches long) but he didn’t say a word!

I am going to interrupt this project this weekend to knit my daughter some cat mittens (Ravelry link). Mitten Fever is taking over the web and I am not going to be left out. I am thinking red and black, but I will have to have a play before I decide.

And I am intrigued by the Year of Socks over at Loumms blog and might allow myself to be distracted by that. I feel the need to “join in” with something.

Overall, my Christmas knitting is going to plan. If my daughter gets mittens rather than socks I don’t think she will mind. So surely I can manage to make a couple of hats and FL’s second sock in time…?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More gravestones

For fans of interesting gravestones. These are in Hatton of Fintray cemetery.

The central slab is newer than the carved sections and reads:

"Revised by WILLIAM WALKER & JESSIE COCKER in remembrance of their son WILLIAM WALKER watchmaker d. Woodside 30 Dec. 1865 aged 21; said WILLIAM WALKER d. Leeds 7 Apr. 1876 aged 73; said JESSIE COCKER d. Leeds 1 Oct. 1871 aged 57."

Or how about this rather more refined style of plaque?

"CHRISTIAN LAKIE wife of JOHN SKENE in Hatton of Fintray d. 4 Feb. 1833 aged 62; JOHN SKENE d. 27 Feb. 1859 aged 84."
I need to investigate this one...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Notice to Quit

Dear Mr Mouse,

I put up with your scratchings. I put up with your nibblings. I even jollied my daughter along when she complained that you were keeping her awake all night with your excavations. True, my patience was sorely tried when you gnawed your way through the fresh plaster on my bedroom wall.
But this time you have gone TOO FAR!
Exhibit A: two skeins of Fyberspates hand-dyed Echo-Self-Striping BFL. YOU CHEWED through the cardboard box and then through the Zip-lok bag! Covered my wool in mouse-spit! My best, "saving it for special Christmas socks" yarn!

Why couldn't you have chosen the cheap wool/nylon mixes?
I note that you sampled my American "permanently moth-proofed" sportweight and found it too bitter. You are clearly a rodent of discerning taste.

I hope you enjoy the meal we have had delivered, specially for you.

Best wishes,