Friday, July 31, 2009

This weekend

This weekend – ah I had such plans! FL is going to Braemar to “golf” with his pals, so I am home alone. He is now on his third course of antibiotics but still up and about.

I was going to drive into town and get my hair cut (short) and possibly dyed (purple) and then go to the city’s only wool shop (never been there before), eat cake somewhere nice, then go home and sew and knit. Lovely!

Then… on Wednesday night my car broke down. I was pootling along quite happily when it cut out. Just cut out, leaving me coasting down a hill with a dashboard full of red lights. Not just any old hill, but straight into the local accident black-spot, due to the combination of a blind triangular junction, a sharp bend, and an uneven road surface... just at the point where all the boy racers are accelerating onto the fast back road in blue Subarus. Aargh! I managed to steer myself into the layby (which was no doubt built for the recovery vehicles which attend this spot on a daily basis!) and called my breakdown service.
Almost an hour later I was “fixed” by a rather stern chap who obviously thought I didn’t look after my car properly. Apparently my distributor cap and rotar arm are badly corroded and it should have been picked up in my service. (Service?! Well I had one last year…?) His receipt said “ADVISE NEW CAP” except I read it as “ADVISE NEW CAR” - eek! Panic over, but still it meant I was not supposed to go gallivanting around the countryside in my vehicle until it was repaired. They wouldn’t recover me free of charge next time. Sigh.

So what did I do? I drove to work on Thursday. Errr... fine. Came out of work at 5pm, into the rush hour traffic on the A90... and broke down. Oh yes. In the outside lane. Panic! I sat there for a while with my hazard lights on feeling sick, when suddenly, a chap I have seen at work but don't know appeared at my window and offered to push me into the side of the road, where there was luckily a driveway (despite the bus lane!). Oh my knight in tweedy armour! Whoever you are - thank you thank you thank you!

I knew I couldn't have another "recovery" on my policy, so rang FL. It took him an hour to reach me. I thought he could tow me to the nearest car park and abandon the car there. But no, he started the car and decided he would drive it home. Except he only got as far as the dual carriageway before it ground to a halt again. So we had to ring the recovery agents and pay £120 for a home recovery. By the same guy as the night before - oh the mortification!

Two nights in a row it was dinner at 10pm. I have taken a day's leave today to calm down. I will sew and knit and walk the dog.

So… no car this weekend. And the wool shop is closed for a fortnight’s holiday anyway. (eh?! Don’t they realise the city is heaving with Homecoming tourists this month and they might do some serious business?)

The new plan: bake cake, sew and knit. It’s not SO bad!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An FO and a new project: Mad Budgie Socks

Hellooooo! (Note cheerful intro - I am determined to be cheery today!) Thanks to all who commented over the last few days - really, it's great to feel there are people out there who are on my / our side through it all. FL is still coughing but I am allowed to kiss him now (no more cold sores!) so life is happier. He goes back to the GP on Thursday for a check up and probably a third type of antibiotic unless things improve soon. The fear is always pneumonia... since we don't seem to have swine flu around here! Of course all that could change when the kids get back from Hackney... but enough of this doom and gloom! Bring on the knits!

I have been knitting and sewing – did you ever think I would be doing anything else?!

I finished the Metropole in a Sidewind socks (better pictures will follow once I recruit a male model.)

I have sewn half a pair of trousers. (Or half-sewn a pair of trousers.) Nothing to show until I finish them (next weekend?)
I have fondled my Manos Silk Blend, with a view to Moonstone. So soft!

And I have cast on for another pair of Stephanie Van der Linden’s socks – this time the “Nordic Inspired” ones, which I have termed the Mad Budgie Socks over on Ravelry.
Not much to see on the upper foot , a bit more action on the sole!

When I was a child, my mother had a budgie called Pip. My favourite game was to play-fight with him. I used the stopper-end of a knitting-needle to bop him (gently!) on the beak, and he used to bop me right back, making “liquorice allsort eyes” and cackling manically. If you have a budgie, do try it – its great fun and exercises your bored caged bird too! If you don’t have a budgie, you could try poking a small child with a knitting needle, but don’t blame me if they cry or poke you right back.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Project Roobeedoo

I am thoroughly back at work and in need of a holiday already – there is so much stupid office politics at the moment. I don’t usually let it get to me (it’s only a job) but the past week’s events have taken their toll on my sleep, which is no good at all. Thank goodness for knitting, eh?!

Breaks from work tend to inspire me to overhaul my life to some extent. This time I started by clearing out my wardrobe. I was ruthless. Those 1990’s suits I never wear? Out! The battered black shoes I wear almost daily? Out! As a result, there are gaps to be filled and decisions to be made as to the direction of my work wardrobe. Am I going to carry on being the “creative and quirky one” (as commented by a senior manager), or should I heave a great sigh and aim for something more professional? The impending changes in my department put me on precarious ground. Unless I find some energy and enthusiasm to promote myself and my role, I do fear that I will be left without a job, which would be very very silly indeed. Before FL got ill I was pretty career-minded, but I just haven’t had the drive recently. I feel like I am waiting for my caring responsibilities to be over before I can commit fully to my paid employment.

I haven’t mentioned that I will be 45 this year. Not the most obvious landmark birthday, but it feels “big” to me. There will be no more babies, my children are growing up, and realistically I will not have my First Love around for many more years (and that’s on an optimistic day). I have 11 years’ worth of mortgage to pay off on a ramshackle farmhouse. I have waist-length greying plaits. Oh my!

So my knitting has a distinctly therapeutic quality at the moment, while I work things out. The kids are off to London for two weeks, so I have more space, both mentally and physically, to think it all through.

And I have the yarn for a new project! Lovely isn’t it? Manos Silk Blend for the Moonstone jacket from the Knitter Issue 4. More another day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

FO: Skirt (Failure)

I returned home from holiday with lots of sewing plans, and things seem to start well with a quick skirt project.

I was using a metre of black “cavalry twill” which I originally bought to make Old-Town style trousers, but didn’t have quite enough. I noted that it was good heavy fabric and thought it would make a robust everyday skirt for work. So I used the skirt design from the same pattern as my wide-legged trousers. It is a very simple a-line pattern – a back, a front and a yoke. Easy!

However, I hadn’t realised how easily the material was going to fray. Just sewing it up caused the side seams to shred. No problem, I thought, I will use a grown-up finishing technique and bind my seams. This photograph shows the skirt before I bound the seams. A bit too short and waitressy, but wearable, I thought.

Except… my chosen binding was too stiff.

Imagine a triangular skirt with coathangers inserted in the side seams so that it sticks out at a 45-degree angle from the waist…? Yup, that’s the one! Anyone know a size 10 clown in need of a short black skirt?

And I knew that unpicking the binding would reduce the seams to tatters. So it went straight in the bag for the charity shop without spending so much as a night in the wardrobe.



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Caribbean Voices

If you have any interest in literature, don't miss the BBC World Service at 8pm tonight, when the first of a two-part documentary series looks at Caribbean Voices, the programme that launched the career of many a writer.

For more information, I recommend this article from the Times.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

FO: Trilobite Socks

I finished the Trilobite socks from Wendy's book "Socks From The Toe Up".

The yarn is bfl Echo self-striping from Fyberspates in the colour "Woods", rescued from the jaws of nest-building mice under my bed (eeurgh!)

I used 2mm dpns and knit the large size, which is not ridiculously wide after all - it actually looks quite narrow off the foot.

I really really like the heel construction on this sock - it has all the positive attributes of a normal heel-flap sock but there is no picking up of stitches down either side - it is knit in one piece with decreases either side of the heel flap (toe up, remember).

Would I knit it again? Probably not, because I have so many sock patterns I want to knit... but I will definitely use the basic heel shaping recipe again - love it!

FL is very pleased with them, though they are a bit shorter than he prefers. He even hoisted his feet onto the windowsill for this photo, despite it causing a coughing fit. He is still quite unwell, but we think the antibiotics are working. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

First Metropole in a Sidewind

Hooray! I did it!

But who's wearing the first completed Metropole in a Sidewind sock? Yup - my son!

The gauge issue resulted in a much wider sock than planned and my son claimed it.
The construction method at least meant I could adjust the foot and toe length at the last minute.
The final stages were straightforward. I used garter stitch at the back of the leg as suggested by the Sidewinder pattern for a little bit of "grip". Then it was a case of a long, long kitchener graft down the back of the leg and along the foot, to make a tube of fabric with a 90 degree turn at the heel.
Then I used smaller dpns (2.5mm instead of 2.75mm) to pick up stitches round the top for the cuff and the bottom for the toe. This should make the cuff slightly tighter to hold it up, and the toe more densely knitted, so stronger.
Verdict? A success as far as my son is concerned! But they were far too wide for anyone else in the family. But now that I understand the method, I am confident about making another smaller pair for my daughter.
Now I just need to decipher my notations to make the second sock to match!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

New Japanese Inspiration

I thought I would share some delights from the new Japanese sewing books which are winging the way towards me.

The first book is called "Sewing Lesson" by Machiko Kayaki.

I bought this one on the strength of these two lovely dress patterns, but scouring the web I have discovered it contains many more beautiful designs.

I plan to make this one in some Anna Maria Horner fabric I snapped up in the Eternal Maker's Moving Day Sale.

The second book is called "Stylish Dress volume 2" and I was undecided for a while, as the patterns chosen by the Ebay Seller to show were lovely but very similar to others I already have. However, a swift web search uncovered a great review of the book by another blogger here. There are so many things I want to make from this book!

Both of these to start with!

So as soon as I get back from Perthshire, I will be back at my sewing machine. Making my own clothes has started to look exciting again!

By the way, I just found a fantastic guide to using Japanese patterns here, which I strongly advise you to read if you are nervous about trying them out - go on, it's not that hard!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Online fabric sources

I am always on the look-out for good UK-based online fabric shops, and since I am away this week I thought I would share my latest discoveries, without the temptation to click my own links!

You probably already know about the Eternal Maker - but did you know they are having a Moving Day Sale until 31 July? I ordered two dress lengths on a Wednesday afternoon and they arrived on Thursday morning - seriously!

But you might not know about Saints and Pinners? A much smaller stock, but they have some really interesting fabric packs - I especially like the Boat Folk collection (above left).

But my very latest discovery is Fabric Inspirations, which has an absolutely HUGE selection of fabrics. I was scouring the web for civil-war reproduction fabrics, thinking the dull tea-dyed-type colourways would make fab Jane Austen-esque dresses. But could I find what I had in mind? Nope. Not until I fell upon this site - where there is an entire section devoted to reproduction fabrics - including some gorgeous Thirties-style prints. I have spent hours in the "Retro & Funky" section!

And last but not least, I tracked down the elusive "Snippets" range at Quilter's Cloth. A slow website but it promises fast delivery! Wouldn't you love an apron made out of this doll's clothes fabric? (Or is that just me?!)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Packing list

So... we are off on holiday tomorrow with my aged mother and the ungovernable dog - should be interesting!

My hula hoop arrived and my daughter and I can both make it spin - woo hoo! So that is definitely going in the car (round the dog?!) And there will be my son's skateboard and FL's golf clubs. And some board games.


Metropole in a Sidewind
I am grafting the back of the first Metropole sock - it should have been done, but my provisional cast-on was too persistent and took me forever to unpick. I must have done it wrong again. I might have time to post a picture before we set off!

Trilobite Socks
Despite all my best intentions, my son didn't try on the first Trilobite sock until it was complete... and it won't go over his heel! However, it is a perfect fit for FL so I hope to get on with sock 2 on holiday. Hmmmm... need to identify a replacement sock for my son.

New projects...?
I definitely want to have some special "holiday" knitting, so I am packing a couple of new projects which are still only half-planned.

I am thinking of the Lavalette Shawl from Through the Loops - possibly in my last skein of Malabrigo sock. Did I tell you about the state of FK's Court Line socks after only 3 washes? They are in shreds! Malabrigo = NOT FOR SOCKS!

And then there's the Sloochie from Woolly Wormhead - the ideal combination of rasta and pixie hat! My precious skein of Dream in Color Classy is earmarked for this.


Once the oldies are asleep (!) and the kids are watching unsuitable tv, I hope to get uninterrupted reading time. I have The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt on top of the pile. I have wanted to read this since I first read a review and I was able to order it from the local library - woo hoo!

Another unexpected gem from the library is Sew It Up by Ruth Singer. I did some test sewing for Ruth's next book (Sew Eco) but hadn't seen her first book in real life until now. My initial impression is very positive - it is a manual of sewing techniques with a few projects scattered through. A really big book with loads of photos to show you how to sew properly - I can see I am going to learn a lot!

And of course I will take The Summer Book by Tove Jansson to re-read. I really love this book!

Out and About

But mostly we hope to be exploring Perthshire. I need to check out my paternal ancestors' gravestones in Weem churchyard. And FL needs to see his ancestor's tree and a Roman camp. There's the theatre to visit, and some gardens... I think we will find things to do! There are even several restaurants which have dairy-free options on the menu, so we might be able to eat out with the kids! (You don't know how hard this can be in Aberdeenshire!)

Have a good week!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Metropole in a Sidewind: halfway there

This is where I have had to revert to the original Metropole design! The Sidewinder pattern includes toe increases as part of the leg section - so you end up with a double-length toe which folds from front to back, which you then graft to the underside of the foot. Weird , huh?!

This wasn't a safe strategy for me, given my gauge issues. I need to be able to adjust the length of the toe once the sock can be tried on, so I can make it short and fat or long and pointy according to where it is landing on my daughter's foot. The original Metropole sock has the toe being picked up along the edge of the tube of finished foot, and luckily the Sidewinder pattern includes a clever slipstitch at this edge, to make this easier. Hooray!

The top picture shows the sock as it is being knitted: the toe end is towards the upper left of the picture. My finger is holding down one side of the heel, and the stitchmarker at the top marks the centre of the heel (still to be worked) on the other side of the foot.

So instead of having a lot of fiddly increases and stitchmarker placement issues, this was the simplest section of the sock to knit. After inserting a small section of short rows at the upper leg, to provide a bit of leg-shaping (as per the Sidewinder pattern), I worked the whole piece in Zick-Zack Muster pattern, with a 7-stitch stocking stitch selvedge at the toe end of the row. Lovely lunch-break relaxation knitting!

This view is the sock as it will appear on the foot. So the bottom of the picture is the selvedge where the toe will go, and the top is where the ribbing will go.

Got it?!