Friday, December 31, 2010

Knitting in 2011

You didn't think I could hatch just half of a plan did you? Yesterday's sewing stash reorganisation fired me up for a similar exercise on my yarn mountain.

It's not as bad as I feared, but there is nevertheless no need for me to buy any more wool for the foreseeable future.

Having said that, I allowed myself an end-of-year stock-up of sock yarn stalwarts: one ball each of cream, navy and black Online Supersocke for future two-colour socks.
I know I am not going to change my mind about knitting more socks from Stephanie van der Linden's "Socken aus aller welt" (now available in English!).

My other favourite sock book, "Knitted Socks East and West" will also be to the fore in 2011.
And I haven't forgotten my plan to sock-knit my way through the Woods Family Collection.

Other things:

Obviously, I am still obsessing over The Shetland Trader Book One. Shalder will be knit, out of the gorgeous hand-spun I bought on holiday in Applecross. And the shetland laceweight I bought on the same trip will be knit up into a Homin Shawl.

I still hope to try out a Japanese knitting pattern...!

And I would love to recreate a 1940's cardigan pattern using modern yarn.

That sounds like a year of knitting to me - at least!
And today?
I am going to crack on with Audrey-in-Unst... just as soon as the gingerbread comes out of the oven.
Happy New Year when it comes!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sewing in 2011

My relationship with lists and resolutions is well-documented: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. SIGH.

So without further ado, may I present my seasonal sewing brain-dump?

Today, instead of getting on with my sewing or knitting, I emptied all my fabric out onto the bed and listed it.
See that? I have enough material to keep me busy for a year... at least!

Top of the queue, with no excuse available:

Trousers in chocolate brown / lilac pinstriped cotton: pattern TICK, fabric TICK

Plaid pintucked Japanese pattern tunic: pattern TICK, fabric TICK

Pinstripe wool Rockabilly skirt: pattern TICK, fabric TICK

Eva Dress 1940's trousers: pattern TICK, fabric TICK

Pendrell blouse: pattern TICK, fabric TICK

In my peripheral vision:

Black cotton sateen wiggle dress / skirt: pattern ON WAY, fabric TICK

Brown babycord /silver sequins wiggle dress: pattern ON WAY, fabric TICK

Betsey Johnson 1970's coat: pattern TICK, fabric NOPE.... OK, so I might have to buy some!

The pattern that is on its way is truly fabulous - I hope I can make it work! I have also ordered a few lengths of grosgrain ribbon for waistband-reinforcements, to avoid that mid-project slump when I realise I don't have everything I need to hand: it's not as if I can "pop out to the shop" whenever I feel like it!

The more I think about it, the more I think a self-stitched lifestyle is the way for me to go. It is really rather exciting! Roll on 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knits in Progress

Audrey-in-Unst is looking almost achievable these days. She just needs a second sleeve and a neck / front band and she will be a cardigan. Imagine that!

But I have been so engrossed in the texture of the Paul Atwell sock that poor Audrey hasn't had a look in.

This is called "gull and seed stitch", which seems particularly suitable for FL, as his middle name (Gow) means "gull", and he used to be a farmer (among other things).

I am impressed by the quality of this Lidl "Cesana" sock yarn. It is softer than Opal, definitely comparable to Regia sock yarn, and it was ridiculously cheap at £3.99 for 200g - that's enough for two pairs of short men's socks. (As opposed to men's short socks...?!)

Speaking of grammatical errors, my reference yesterday to "footballer's wives" was a mistake... but the more I think of it, I like the insinuation that the teenaged girls of the 'shire are being brought up all to marry one footballer. It sums up my feelings rather well.

And here is my current sewing project: the 1950's twinset.

The first photo gives the best representation of the colour of the wool jersey. There were 19 tailor's tacks to make on the front of the "blouse"

I have, of course, run out of thread with the blouse half-stitched - grrr! So I hadn't thought it through...

I am also waiting for 5 metres of bias binding to arrive in the post. I decided to splash out and order Liberty-print binding, as part of my plan to aim for quality rather than quantity in my future wardrobe.

If I am spending all these hours sewing my own clothes, I reckon I ought to ensure they are made to last. I have learned it is a false economy to buy cheap bias binding: my poor Lola apron is suffering the consequences of bleeding dye from both red and green trims :(

Here is the back of the sofa modelling my top-to-be.

I think next year's essential purchase will be a tailor's dummy / dress-form, whatever you like to call it.

And a stable ironing-board.

I hesitate to write this down in case you hold me to it... but I am thinking of giving up shop-bought clothes altogether. I think the time has come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last week of the year

It is our wedding anniversary! Three years today - who would have believed it?!

We are having a quiet week, as the kids are away in London til after the New Year.

In craft news:
I have started sewing my 1950's twinset. Endless tailor-tacking as usual!
I finished the first sleeve of Audrey-in-Unst.
I am nearing the heel of the first Paul Atwell sock.
No pictures of anything as the daylight has gone - maybe tomorrow.

I have been reading everything I can find by Curtis Sittenfeld.
FL was quite worried as I sat there with tears streaming down my face. I would like to blame the glass of wine, but it was actually the horrible recognition of my own social shortcomings in the narrator of "Prep" (which has gone to London with my daughter, who is equally rapt).
I started and finished "Man of My Dreams" yesterday, with devastating consequences for my composure (even though it is a less well-written book).
Today I began "American Wife", but forced myself to emerge from my cocoon on the sofa long enough to cut out my 1950's twin-set: how appropriate!
Spontaneous consumption (a seasonal rant):
I am still reeling from the sight of the facebook lists of "presents received" by my daughter's peers. The prevalence of "fake tan, fake nails" was bad enough... but "spray tan voucher"? "£200"? "Laptop"? If this is what an ordinary 14-year-old girl expects (and worse still, receives) at Christmas, what hope is there for this country? We are raising a nation of footballer's wives.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas!

"Nature is a language - can't you read? Nature is a language - can't you read?" The Smiths

This was our soundtrack for what my daughter described as a "film moment" when the snow began to fall on Christmas Eve as we danced back to the house with our Christmas Branch.

The Gamekeeper came by in a tractor to feed the pheasants, clearing a path through the snow to the woods.

So we collected a Christmas Branch and decorated it.

And gave the tractor-man a wee dram.

Christmas Eve: our "own" venison roasted in a pastry "huff", cabbage and roast potatoes. home-made mince pies.

And soon it was Christmas.

And FL opened his presents...

Happy Christmas to all of you from all of us!

Even the Christmas Elf.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Let the Holidays begin!

Yay - no more driving to the office until next year! :D
I started the day with a fresh batch of Blueberry Spelt muffins. Sorry, Hero, not for you!
We are incredibly late to get festive around here, because we were having new back and front doors fitted, and there was no point hanging Christmas decorations.
We have still to venture out to the woods to cut our Christmas Branch (the trees are too big!)
So - doors! We have two of them. They are unexpectedly dark brown wood, when I was shown pictures of white painted doors.
But they fit the apertures in the walls, open and close smoothly, have locks... and we no longer have a cat flap held together with duct tape.

The local mouse family can no longer just run under the back door into our kitchen.
The friendly robin can no longer fly in through the cat flap when the going gets tough.

Note to self: fill the bird-feeder.
But they are definitely brown, FL!
Got to go - we have an appointment with a saw and a Scots pine!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sssssssssh! It's a secret FO!

I finished FL's Rainbow Centuria hat.

Sneaky attempts to check the size while he was dozing in his chair were almost foiled when the flash went off!
Despite appearances, I reckon this one is going to fit. And it is red, not pink!

We are snowed in. We can't get beyond the end of the farm track with the car. We accepted the situation all weekend, but this morning made an attempt to get me to work, only to end up stuck in a snowdrift only a couple of yards from where we had been parked. Luckily, the very grumpy farmer from the Other Side of The Hill was trying to drive past at the time, and felt obliged to help dig us out - if only because we were blocking his way!

I have excavated the freezer and cupboards and concluded we have enough food for a week if need be... but it is going to be a highly un-traditional Christmas dinner chez Roobeedoo, unless we get to a shop sometime soon!

FL is due at the hospital tomorrow... hmmmm.
My 85-year-old mother has been taken ill, so all plans for her to come North for Christmas have been abandoned.

I have explained to her that it is not her turn in the queue for the mortuary, so she had better sort herself out asap.

It is just as well we all have a sense of humour.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Here We Go Again

More snow.

FL fell on the farm track last night after failing to get up the road with the car. Miraculously, we don't think he broke any bones but it gave him a fright. And me!

So I am working at home today.

School closed again.

At least it's Friday.

My second attempt at a rainbow-striped ear-flapped hat is going well, with a much denser texture which won't need felting (ha!).

It is the Centuria pattern by Woolly Wormhead, again using Reggae Ombre yarn. I just hope I have enough!

The weekend ahead looks set to be house-bound, with occasional dog-walking duties.

I suppose we ought to start thinking seriously about Christmas - although I don't think my mother will brave the journey in these conditions. We would have to sledge her up the track!

But The Boy should make it here from Dundee - I hope!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Most Wanted pattern - found!

Hold onto your hats, girls and boys - I found this pattern!

It might not look like much to you, but I have had this vintage coat pattern on my Most Wanted list for, well forever!

It was designed by Betsey Johnson in the 1970s as part of the Butterick "Young Designer" series. I mentioned it back here. And by some fluke of wildcard spelling I found it at Etsy, where the seller only wanted £3.50 for it - score! It hasn't escaped my notice that it is too small, but with all those panels...? I know I can make it fit!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Mystery of the Un-risen Barn... and other Knits

I look back over my blog and again and again I see posts about "plans", which anyone would think implied a determination to do the things I say I am going to do - what?! You actually believed I would follow through?

Who remembers my Barn-Raising Blanket plan? Why, I do declare, I was going to knit a square every weekend! If I had stuck to that plan, begun in earnest in January 2009, I would be swimming in blankets by now!

But I last updated my Ravelry page for this project in January 2010... by which point I had knitted 8 squares! 8 squares?! In a year?! And I haven't touched it since.

I was further reminded of this when I saw Emily's blanket progress. Isn't it looking lovely?

I need to find some fresh motivation. You would have thought that the promise of a snuggley blanket would have been enough, but clearly not. TSK!

Which reminded me that there are other Works-in-Progress which haven't seen much daylight recently. How about the Helleborus Yoke?

I remember stopping half-way round the yoke so that I would know where I was - but that was months ago. And all I remember about it now is that there is a mistake in that cable. And that I thought it might be coming out a bit too small.

I might just rip it out and salvage the yarn.

And then there are the Fiore di Notte armwarmers. Do I care about them anymore? Or have I lost the love?

Which leaves just the one WIP: Audrey in Unst.

Come on Roobeedoo, finish it before the New Year and make your granny* a happy woman!

*My mother's mother used to say that it was very bad luck to leave projects unfinished into the beginning of a New Year. She used to stay up all night if necessary to complete knitting projects before the end of December.

Monday, December 13, 2010

FO: Norie Too... in Blue

So... I knitted a second Norie hat, in blue this time.

I offered it to The Girl. She is happy to wear any colour... as long as it is black.

But that's fine, because I love my green Norie, and now I have a blue one too - yay! Double prizes!


Norie hat from The Shetland Trader , Book One. Now also available as a single pattern from Ravelry.

100g of Bluebell wool DK from Coldharbour Mill. I bought mine here.

Apologies for blurry evening photography. No more daylight until the weekend!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

FO: Rockabilly Rose Skirt

It's not looking particularly "rockabilly", but here at last is my Rockabilly Rose skirt.

This should have been a speedy project, but I fiddled about trying to add a couple of inches to the waist and messed up the construction in the process.

Today, I unpicked the oversized front yokes and recut to the original pattern piece sizes. And it fits!

I had to shorten it by about 7 inches to avoid frumpiness.

You can hardly see them in these photos, but there are three buttons on the top pocket edges. Ideally, I would have used something vintage but I didn't have anything suitable to hand, and these slightly grainy matt black plastic numbers went well with the velvet roses.


Simplicity 3983 from 1952, purchased at Etsy.

One metre of grey herringbone fabric with embossed velvet roses, £2.75 from Walthamstow market, with enormous thanks to Karen!

Six buttons of un-remembered origin, possibly also from E17.

Construction notes:

A simple, back-zipped skirt with inset front yokes and curved pockets.

I stitched the buttons through all the layers to prevent the pocket tops from sagging, which makes them only semi-functional, but looked better.

My favourite feature is the grosgrain ribbon which lines the waistband. This was suggested within the pattern instructions and it really works! There's no faffing about with dodgy Vilene, just the simple clean crispness of the firm braid on the inside, encasing the raw edges of the main fabric.

Would I make it again?
Now that I know that I can make the pattern fit, I will definitely return to it again. It was enough to increase the centre front and back seam edges... and a mistake to attempt to widen the front yokes as it threw the pockets out of alignment.

This skirt has the potential to become a "work staple". It is simple, but the fabric has an interesting texture and I like the button trim. I reckon it looks quite expensive, which is pretty good going for £2.75!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why we need a cat

Exhibit A: the remains of our downstairs socket wiring, after the mice had finished supper.
When the snow melted, the water from the eaves poured down the gap between the plaster and the stone of our 19th-century farmhouse, soaking the exposed wires and causing our electrics to "short".
Luckily, FL knew a friendly electrician, who was driving into the city when he got our call. He came straight over and after a lengthy investigation, made his diagnosis. Power is restored!
And the fridge needed defrosting anyway...

Thaw-ts for the Weekend

We have the beginnings of a thaw, which ought to be a good thing, but it has turned the farm road into the Cresta Run - one slip, and you're off....

Irv: Oh, yeah, just one little drawback to this delightful winter sport. The high-speed crash. Ooh! That hurt. Always remember, your bones will not break in a bobsled. No, no, no. They shatter. (Cool Runnings)

Not to be recommended for a man with a super-fragile skeleton!

We also have water seeping down the house walls, between the exterior stone and the interior plaster, causing the electric sockets to trip the fuse box at regular intervals. The phone "hub" seems to be most at risk of blowing (5 times during breakfast), switching off the circuit that keeps the fridge running. Grrr.
My solution is to sit it out and avoid leaving the house this weekend, if only to monitor the trip-switch.

So... I will be aiming to finish my second Norie hat, in blue this time.
And I need to get back to sewing my neglected Rockabilly Skirt.

There is also the matter of FL's Christmas hat. I have another ball of Reggae Ombre. Should I try again?
Or shall I cut my losses and knit him some socks instead? I am sock-obsessed at the moment and yet have none on the needles.
Or just keep reading A Gathering Light? Another from the teen-list that I just can't put down!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010

FO: Whizzy Blueberry Spelt Muffins

200g Spelt flour
125g white self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsps baking powder
125g caster sugar
225g blueberries
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg, beaten
100g melted butter / non-dairy substitute
150ml soya milk (or substitute)
A handful of oats
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6
Line muffin tray with paper cases.
Whizz together the dry ingredients in a food processor.
Add everything else except berries and oats, whizz.
Add blueberries, and fold in gently.
Put heaped spoonful of mix into each case - there is enough for 12.
Sprinkle tops with oats.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and just firm to touch.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Adapted from Country Homes and Interiors, recipe in January 2011 issue.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Socks Afoot

From one extreme to the other. My hat-knitting obsession looks set to be followed by a deluge of socks.

There has not been much sock-knitting this year: 5 pairs compared to 10 in 2009, even though knitting socks is my favourite thing... ooh probably ever!
And here are the facts:
My socks are full of holes, so are my daughter's... and so are FL's! And he is not as keen on darning these days, as he gets eye-strain very easily.

I have a large stash of sock yarn.
I have a huge pile of sock patterns.
I did not even cast on one pair of socks from the Knit Love Club 2010 - pathetic!

I am deeply wary of setting myself a New Year's resolution because experience tells me it is just one more thing to feel guilty about, and who needs guilt? But who remembers the Socks From Stash Club?
So, I have a plan. It's not original. It won't change the world... but in 2011 I want to knit one pair of socks from the stash every month.
The rewards are obvious: the family will have warm feet again, the stash will be slimmer, and I will be a happy knitter!
In no particular order, the first few pairs that spring to mind are:
  • Kilravock for FL, in green Lidl cheap-as-chips yarn

  • Karaoke (Knitted Socks East and West) for me, in purple Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport (dk weight)

  • 2luvcrew (Knit Love Club pattern) for my daughter, in turquoise Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock

You will note a double helping of Lorna's Laces in that list. I am finally reaching the conclusion that socks need to be knitted in yarn with a touch of nylon. It has not escaped my notice that the socks that wore through fastest were made from Malabrigo Sock, swiftly followed by Fyberspates bfl... and with great regret I have to tell you that the bright blue Clessidra knee-highs in the photo were knit from precious Wollmeise merino superwash! GASP! The shrunken-looking stripey ones are Goth Socks. My daughter's have felted and shrunk, while FL's have worn through.

Still going strong, despite even harder wear: Online Supersocke 100, Austermann Step, Lorna's Laces, and Sunbeam St Ives.

My favourites socks to wear at the moment are my Hazel Knits Biwa socks, but I am aware that although they are warm and soft, they are developing definite bobbling issues. I have three more skeins of this wonderful yarn set aside, but will keep an eye on the Biwas for the time being, in case they are about to self-destruct! I will be auditing the stash and separating out the "not-for-socks" fingering weight yarn.

Ironically, it might mean I need to buy more sock yarn before 2011 is out - but that's OK! ;)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

New Post

On Saturday morning, FL and I trogged out to the sorting office to collect a week's worth of mail.
I am quite certain that we didn't get it all, as I had made several Christmas-related orders before the snow came, and there was no sign of them... although I did collect my new wellies - hooray! (Yes, Mooncalf, I am a total copy cat!)
I was delighted to open my pristine print copy of The Shetland Trader book.
And my very-long-awaited Lula magazine!
I tried to subscribe for Issue 10 but left it too late and it had sold out. This is number 11. If you don't know, Lula is a heavyweight fashion-as-art magazine, which resells on eeebaaay for a stupid amount of money. But I don't intend to sell mine. I am going to set up home inside its pages for the rest of the winter. With my knitting. Call me shallow, if you like, but I can get lost in the photographs for hours at a time.
As I write, FL's mobile phone is clattering around inside the washing machine. There was a moth in the chocolate brownies, mice in two of the mouse traps, and we have only one more day's supply of logs for the fire. But life is good!

Friday, December 03, 2010

FO: Rainbow Warrior hat (minus its be-jinkies)

Dear Paula,

When you suggested that FL might get improved colour tv reception in his Rainbow Warrior Hat compared to his Centuria, you probably did not realise that I was, in fact, knitting an "aerial cosy".

Best wishes,


P.S. What does Buddy's head measure? Is he bigger than a chihuahua?

Freshly-knitted, this hat was far too big. So last night, I stuck it in the washing machine for a 60 degree hot wash. I rarely cook my washing at this temperature - I reserve Cycle D for extreme cleaning, like dog-basket bedding.

**********This is why!************

Friends, if ever you need to demonstrate to your children / partner the reason why they should separate their hand-knits from the rest of the wash, show them this post.

FL's HUGE Rainbow Warrior hat is now a TINY felted elf-hat.

Too big for an egg-cosy. Too small to cover the tea-pot. Just right to fit the TV aerial... or possibly a favourite golf-club...?


Rainbow Warrior by Woolly Wormhead
2 x 50g balls of Reggae Ombre, from Knitting4Fun
5mm straight needles
Felted by Hotpoint, Cycle D, 60 degrees.

Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine —
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.

Keats, "Lamia", Pt. II, l. 234

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Real snow and a rainbow

Ms Scruffybadger asked whether I could really tire of "real" snow.
Believe me, the novelty is wearing off!

It is the sheer physical effort required to perform the simplest task.
There can be no "popping out to the shop" when first you have to trudge 300 yards down a track which is 18 inches deep in the white stuff, so sneaks over the top of your wellies and leaves you with cold, wet feet. Then dig out the car, sand the road-end, only to give up as you slide inelegantly across the single-track into the neighbouring field because the snow plough has not been near your unclassified road for 5 days.
Collecting logs for the fire involves clearing a foot of snow from the tarpaulin that covers the woodpile, then chipping the logs apart, because of course they have frozen into one solid lump.
But is it beautiful?
Um... yes. Actually it is rather lovely!
Which is probably not the word to describe the hat I have knitted for FL's Christmas.
"Mad" is quite a good word.
As you can see, it is blinking HUGE and rather too lacey.
I am going to felt the be-jinkies out of it tonight with the hot wash.
Now there's another impossible task: washing! How on earth do I dry the washing when the line is frozen stiff?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The more it snows...

It is over a week since my daughter went to school - unless you count a visit to a Hackney comprehensive... which we don't anymore.

The snow has put a stop to the official school bus, and in any case the school has been closed to pupils every day this week. At least it has given her time to catch up on maths homework... though it has become one of those tasks which grows to fit the time available.

FL has been driving me to work this week, but this morning was really hard work. The snow plough hasn't been back since Saturday and another 5 inches fell last night, so we had to dig the car out... only for him to slide into the bank on the other side of the road trying to get over the rut in the middle.

I had to push him out, all the time saying "Let's just park and go back to the house..." but by the time we got the car out, it was easier to carry on up the road than to try to turn, so off to work we went.

As I write, the snow is battering off the skylight once again, and I can't imagine getting to the office tomorrow.

My knitting is proving to be such a comfort after cold hard trudges through knee-deep drifts.

This is FL's Rainbow Warrior hat - a Christmas "surprise", although he has seen me knitting it. I don't think he suspects - not in these colours!

I think I might stick it in the washing machine to felt it as it is turning out quite large and with a more open gauge than I would like.

Watch this space for a wild woolly FO!