Saturday, February 27, 2010

FO: Mulled Wine Socks

My oldest UFO is complete at last! I began the Mulled Wine Socks back in December 2008 and finished the first one on holiday at New Year 2009.
I only got round to casting on for sock 2 in the past week. So they could have been finished long ago - tsk!
Mulled Wine Socks from the Loumms Year of Socks.
Nature's Pallette fingering by Hand Jive Knits, which came from RooKnits - thanks Roo!
2.75mm dpns.
I love this yarn! Two skeins have made me a pair of socks and a pair of mittens for my daughter and the colour glows in both projects. It is more red than pink in real life. It is one of those two-strand-twist merinos, but "fatter" than Cherry Tree Hill. It really made those cables pop!
The pattern is very complex. These little socks have had everything thrown at them: bobbles, twists, cables, lace. The short-row heel was very well-written to avoid holes. It might be a bit shallow for my instep though.
If I was to knit them again I probably wouldn't use the roll-over cuff with all those bobbles. I can't get it to lie properly and it's just a bit too fussy for my taste.
Loads of fun though!
It makes for a great holiday knitting project - even in February it made me think about Christmas. Or maybe that was the snow! I would recommend it to someone who wants to test themselves and try out different techniques.

What next?
Probably some simple vanilla socks in self-striping yarn while I gather my strength to tackle the other UFO - my Zur Lederhos'n socks for FL. Because while knitting the Mulled Wine socks I realised where I had gone wrong with the Lederhos'n's - and it involves ripping - gulp!

Friday, February 26, 2010

What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

I mentioned that I was reading "What I Loved" by Siri Hustvedt. I finished it last night in a final sprint, after a week or two of picking it up in odd moments and not getting anywhere fast.

The novel is in three parts and each is very different. Part One immerses the reader in works of art and the intellectual processes behind them. It is very cerebral, if you like. Part Two exposes the reader to raw emotion, humanity, vulnerability, and introduces doubt. Who can be trusted? Can you even trust yourself? Is there any such thing as innocence? Truth?
Part Three... wow, Part Three grabs you by the collar and shakes you hard! It is plot-driven: fast, furious, full of fear and threat. Life and death and blood and guts and horror. The questions multiply and become overwhelming. You have no choice but to read this section quickly to find out what happened, with a growing sense of dread. And yet the final tying-off of ends seems almost superfluous. I was left with the feeling that the plot was not the point, even though it was what accelerated my pace of reading.

I won't spoil the book for you by revealing too many secrets, because I think you should read it yourself. But don't blame me if you are left feeling unsettled and anxious. There is a strong theme running through the book concerning extremes of human behaviour- personality disorders, hysteria, schizophrenia - all these and more! And while the extremes may inspire or provoke art, they are just part of a continuum running through every life, touching everyone to a greater or lesser extent.

Maybe it is a question of sensitivity. Don't forget the origin of the word: a "sensitive" person was originally someone with occult / supernatural powers! Are we desensitised by modern life / computer games / films? Do people lie more easily nowadays, acting out a role instead of being "themselves"?

There's a lot in here about parenting teenagers. That's probably what disturbed me most. At some point they stop being your children and become themselves - and what can you do if you don't like those people? Is it your fault? Can you tell when they are lying to you?

I'm off to Amazon to buy her other novels. I'm hooked now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

So what's new?

I would dearly love to regale you with tales of finished knits and successful sewing, but my craftiness has been very low-key over the last few days.


I am plugging away with the Mulled Wine sock. I finally "got" the holly sprig pattern last night, so hopefully it will be a quicker knit from here on in.

I have just started the back section of my Helleborus Yoke, having completed the right front and right sleeve. There is a mistake on the right front, about 2 inches in to the knitting. I am viewing it as a brooch-wearing opportunity. Shrug.


I haven't made any sewing progress, but I have ordered three lengths of fabric from Croft Mill to make wide-legged trousers. My tweedy skirt work "uniform" isn't doing it for me anymore. It doesn't fit with the new hair. I am thinking quirky tailored jackets with big trousers.

The quest for jackets left me speechless with shock at the price of ready-to-wear. I have tailored perhaps three jackets in my time and all were successful. But can I find a pattern I like? Nope. I think I will have to scour the vintage sewing aisles of Etsy and Ebay.

I did find some amazing non-jacket patterns at a French site Au Bonheur des Petites Mains. They do plus-sizes, which impressed me. I especially liked the Pantalon avec jupette a la taille until I remembered my infant daughter wearing this style over cloth nappies and looking frankly enormous! So maybe not for me. But I am seriously tempted by this big-pocketed coat: Manteau Poches Sac. Wow!


FL is doing OK (cautious optimism rools, OK!), with happier bowels, an improved appetite, and regular naps. He is not at all impressed by the need to sleep during the day, but he has no choice. Paracetamol is definitely helping, but he needs something to counteract his "electric shocks" at night.


I am reading "What I Loved" by Siri Hustvedt. The Observer called it "an intellectual page-turner". I am struggling to visualise the artist's 3D box painting / sculptures and have started skipping over the descriptions... which is silly because I know they are important. But I am intrigued by the character of Violet, so was reading it over breakfast today, which is definitely a sign of something.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Knitting Off The Road

So, Andrea's Shawl is finished - what to knit next?
I wound a skein of Singing The Blues aran-weight PoshYarn to make a hat to fit my new hair... but couldn't decide which pattern to use. I might wait for Woolly Wormhead's new book "Twisted Woolly Toppers" before I decide.
And I wound my last skein of Yarn Yard Bonny in Trente-et-un (pink) for a smocky baby number. I will probably use the Busy Lizzy pattern from "Tadpoles and Tiddlers", which my daughter looked super-cute in as an infant - ah memories!

But I wasn't feeling the knitting love for either of these ideas. I picked up my oldest WIP, the Mulled Wine socks from December 2008 (tsk!) and cast on sock two. Oh my! I had forgotten how tricky this pattern is! I ripped it back three times before I got going with the cuff.
So I was delighted when my back-ordered copy of Knitscene Winter / Spring 2010 arrived. Instant distraction! I fell for the Helleborus Yoke cardigan straightaway. Never mind that it was meant to be knit in chunky wool and started at size 38 inches, I was determined to knit it, and knit it from stash.

I tried using the Rowan Wool Tweed my from Kemps windfall. What a strange yarn that is! It feels so unwoolly and the colour in sunlight is frankly disturbing. The phrase "ginger minger" comes to mind. Err... no. Ripped.

So I dived back into the stash and unearthed some Cascade 220 Heathers I bought from Sussex Yorkie's destash a while ago. I though I would make a Back-to-School Vest with this, but then went off the idea.
By bedtime I had knitted the right front. My gauge is coming up at 17 stitches by 23 rows for 4 inches over moss stitch on US size 9 needles. Not bad! The original pattern calls for 15 stitches by 23 rows on US 10.5 needles. If mine comes out a bit smaller, it's all good because I am a clear 4-5 inches less chesty than the smallest size.

This picture was the first attempt, when I messed up the O-O-O cable. Oh. Ripped.
But I have found my knitting mojo. Hallelujah! I love the colour (mmm blackcurrants!) and I love the texture and I am actually excited about the prospect of knitting on today.
Thank you so much to everyone who shared my outrage at the lack of sympathy FL has been receiving from his doctors. He was so disheartened by his GP's response (side-effects have to be tolerated) that he didn't want to talk to the Macmillan nurse or anyone else. Ever. So I am letting it lie for a few days to see how he gets on with paracetamol. Then at least we can report to the hospital that he has tried paracetamol... it helps... but maybe not enough... and maybe it is time for something else...? Oh - and you can keep your Velcade, thank you very much.

Off road:
Yesterday FL reversed his car into a ditch trying to get out of the way of a school bus in the snow. (Yes - more snow!) He couldn't turn round to look properly and slid off the edge of the tarmac into a burn (stream). The gamekeeper gave him a lift home, but he forgot the dog was in the boot, so I had to leave work early to rescue the confused mutt (Hero, not FL). The recovery vehicle was supposed to come at 7pm (the accident was at 2pm!) but when I drove my daughter home from her tap class at 9pm I could see the car was still on its side. FL was asleep when we got home, but my son said the recovery people hadn't rung. Strange. So we rang them, and it turned out that they hadn't registered his call because he hadn't known the registration number of his car. SIGH.
So the 2pm accident was dealt with at 11pm. Lucky he hadn't stayed in the car! Apparently the recovery truck almost went into the ditch trying to get the car out, as it couldn't get traction on the ice. I am so sick of this weather!
So a quiet weekend has to be hoped for...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sewing Inspiration

Picture credit: Pomadour

See the picture on the right? I like this look!

That jacket says it all for me - neat little tiny collar, 3/4 length sleeves, asymmetric pocket flap feature - ooh and it looks as if it is made in a linen / cotton blend.

Then there's the swooshy cool chemisey-smock underneath, layered up over a camisole, and it curves at the front- it isn't just straight across. It might be a bit "maternity" but that model still manages to look slim in it.

And a pair of cullottes with massive hems... and boots! Love it!

There is always the fear that these are clothes designed for a bigger gal than me. How many times have I tried on billowing layers and ended up looking like I had raided the dressing-up box?

It's a Lagenlook look - dramatic layering, beloved by art teachers across the world.

The patterns are in a Japanese sewing book I spotted at Pomadour: Mrs Stylebook Spring 2010. So, in theory, I could make these clothes for myself. But I have a previous copy of Mrs Stylebook and haven't made anything from it, because it only shows drawings of the pattern pieces - you have to draft them yourself according to your own measurements. And there are virtually no instructions on how to sew them together - just a few terse comments in Japanese.

Tsk - I need to get my sewing confidence back before I dive in way beyond my experience! Inspiring though!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

FO: Andrea's Shawl

This should have been a quick project, but I was struggling to concentrate and did a lot of ripping back - tsk!

Andrea's Shawl is designed by Kirsten Kapur (Through the Loops) for Knitpicks, and ought to be knitted in alpaca. I thought about buying an extra ball of Drops Alpaca to add to the two I already have, but decided to be "good" and used yarn exclusively from the stash.
I knitted the smallest size of shawl. Medium might have been more practical. The wingspan is a bit short when worn as a scarf.
But my brain was not in gear and I found the lace section a bit tricky, and the striped section took two attempts, for no good reason at all.
Even on the second try, I kept finding my stitch count was out on one side of the centre stitch. I think I was just tired.

Sorry about the blurry back view - my photographer was getting grumpy!


Yarn Yard Bonny in brown and Clan in "Probably Jane" - the green.

4mm Denise interchangeable circular needles.
The colours are perfect (all hail to Natalie, hand-dyer extraordinaire!), but I should have used a softer yarn base. Don't get me wrong - this is perfectly wearable as an everyday scarf, but all that effort deserved a bit of fluff and luxury.
I still want to knit the Drops Alpaca version - oh dear! Maybe my brain will function better on the next attempt!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

We made it out to dinner on Friday night. FL didn't golf after all, and saved his energy so that he could take me out - it must be true love!
We went to my favorite restaurant and the food was beautiful. Neither of us managed to finish our meal, but we enjoyed the flavours, which is what matters. Um, yes, it was expensive, but we so rarely eat out and we felt like celebrating being alive!
Interesting comments are still coming in. Feresaknits wrote about having applied to her Primary Care Trust for a drug she could have funded privately, and that now I had made her feel guilty - sorry about that! But everyone is different, Paula, and your prognosis is probably better than FL's. If he was 45, we might view things differently too. Who knows.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

FO: Sprout

Here is a little something for one of this year's crop of babies.

Sprout is a sleeveless cardigan for a babe of about 3-6 months. I didn't have enough yarn for a hood, so devised a small collar instead.

The wool is Unique Sheep Super Wool in "Spruce Sprigs", a sportweight yarn. It is butter-soft, so perfect for delicate skin. I used a few grams less than the full skein.

The buttons are vintage, from Grandma's tin. After I had sewn them on, I realised that they made the garment very serious-looking. Even though I think they look like tiny cabbages. I might change the buttons... I saw some great Smarties-style ones over on Ysolda's blog and they come in lime green!
As a design project, this was great fun. I was determined to minimise the seaming as far as possible, and tried to leave the stitches "live" round the neck curve instead of casting them off and picking up later. It seemed like such a good idea at the time! However, this created a few tiny holes. If I was knitting this again, I would definitely stick to the traditional method. Only a knitter would notice them. Perhaps that decides whose baby gets this present!
The gansey diamonds are shamelessly borrowed from a Rowan DK cotton design in "Tadpoles and Tiddlers". Thinner yarn and needles (3mm) scaled the stitch pattern down to more baby-friendly proportions.

Boy or girl? It has turned out more boyish than I expected. It would look great on top of this! But then again, a little smocky dress would bring out its more feminine side!

Sigh. I do love baby clothes!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

WIP: Sprout

I was sitting at my desk the other day when there came a great shrieking from down the corridor. The PR girls always seem to have so much fun at work!
However, the cause of the shrieks was the news that a colleague had given birth. 6 weeks early. I only noticed she was looking a bit large the other day!
And I realised I had better get my sticks and string in gear for the other 2010 babies I know about… before they go and get themselves born.

So I hit the stash (good girl Roo!) and pulled out my Unique Sheep Super Wool from the Woolgirl sock club of 2008. It is a sportweight supersoft wool and the handpainted colourway “Spruce Sprigs” is made up of buttered spring-cabbagey greens – yum!

I only have one skein, so I am designing a little something to fit my yardage. It will be sleeveless, button-fronted and hopefully have a little hood...though there is a risk I won’t have enough yarn for that. Thinking “baby scale”, I added a moss stitch / purl-ridgey gansey-esque stitch pattern border which I am repeating at the yoke.

I think it is unisex, with that sporty hoodie vibe.
I am also hoping it is practical as a spring / summer layering piece for a newborn. Do people dress their babies in layers these days? I just don’t know what babies wear in 2010!
Mine lived in all-in-ones and dungarees until they were potty-trained. Boy and girl.
Am I showing my vintage here?!