Monday, March 31, 2014

Not Just Another Manic Monday

As you can see, we are run off our feet here.
"Here" is near Ullapool, overlooking Loch Broom.
The tourist season doesn't begin until Thursday so there isn't much going on.
And that suits us just fine!
Progress continues on my crochet blanket.
It was sunny enough to sit outside for a little while today - the blanket came in handy!
And if you look closely, you will see I cracked and presented FL with his birthday holiday socks :)
These are Arnulf by Rachel Coopey.

 FL is delighted with them :)

Yesterday we managed a walk, all three of us, into the woods adjacent to the house.
Of course, I didn't have my camera with me.
We had another attempt today, but FL only made it halfway down the drive before his legs gave way and he had to go back to the house.  Yesterday he was still high on dexies.  Today he is starting to crash.  We are used to this rhythm, frustrating though it can be.
So the dog and I carried on, through the gate and into the trees, with many a backward glance.

 Poor Hero - a walk is just not the same without his master!

 Up the hill, there is a sheer precipice to one side of the track.
I have to keep the dog on his lead, in case he spots a deer and doesn't stop to consider the terrain.
No cake yet!
Maybe we will head into town tomorrow and see what we can find.
But really, this is all we need.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greetings from the Far West

Recognise my view?
FL and I have returned to a favourite holiday house for a week away from it all.
I brought my crochet project.
But I didn't bring the second ball of light orange yarn.
I am going to have to rip back the current row and choose a different colour.
I underestimated how yarn-gobbley crochet can be!
FL has already ear-marked the best seat in the house.
And he has set up a desk with all his papers and notebooks with the intention of finishing the first 3 chapters of his book this week.
Guess who will be typing them up?
It's all good.  We have books, coffee, food, knitting, crochet, a dress to sew and a dog to walk.
And there might be some cake.
Plenty of cake, please!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Knitting in the Waiting Room

This is post number two in the impromptu series:  "what I might do if I go on holiday".
Where would I be without it?
I have two new projects to show you.
The first is a hat for Christine.
This is Ripon by Rachel Coopey from Toasty Volume 1.
It is a project for cable lovers.
During two and a half hours in the waiting room I cranked out only 5 rows.
Really?  Oh dear, Roo, what a slacker!
But it is looking lovely.

While Ripon appeals for its complexity, my second Vintage Fremont shawl is knitting for pure relaxation.
This project is a coup de coeur.
I came home from work one evening to find FL in unusually high spirits.  Occasional unexplained chuckles burst out from behind his newspaper.  He was under the influence of neither drink nor drugs, but was giving nothing away.
Mystified, I went to get changed into my home clothes.
When I returned, there was a package lying on my chair...
It was not my birthday or any other special occasion, but FL had decided to buy me a dress.
This is unheard of!
He had consulted The Girl by text to find out my size and ordered a gorgeous, glorious impractical silk chiffon dress for "weddings and graduations and other occasions".  Oh my!
Seriously?  There were tears.
I was awake half the night planning a matching shawl... or two.
I started with the bright one.  This is Crown Mountain Farms  handspun Sock Hop in the "House of the Rising Sun" colourway.
The second one will be in Skein Queen Oasis in the "Aristocracy" colourway.

I absolutely love working on this shawl.  I have to ration myself, or it will all be gone... and then what will I do?  Oh - I know - knit another one! :)

Myeloma update:
Freelite kappa score is up to 770.
Back to the hospital in 4 weeks.

Ed?  Thanks for your comment, honey! We often think of you - it's great to hear you are doing well :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Break Sewing Plans

Blog-land is overflowing with seasonal stitching plans.  I think the first whiff of sunshine has gone to our heads.  Calm down folks- I had to run out to rescue my washing from a passing snow shower on Sunday!

I have some holidays coming up fast.  I am not sure if we will actually go away - we have a cottage booked but it might not be wise to stray too far away from the hospital.  We'll see.

Home or away, I intend to sew, knit, crochet and read.

I have been inspired by Ysolda's latest sewing exploits.  She made herself some kits of pattern, fabric and notions so that she would be ready to go with 4 projects.  So sensible!  No last-minute scurrying in search of the right size of zip.  When you live in the middle of nowhere, the lack of a zip can cost you half a day's good sewing time!  I was interested to see her choice of patterns and fabrics too.  Simple shapes in good quality materials:  this is a far more considered approach to sewing than you find on most "sewing blogs".  Ysolda is approaching her sewing as she would a knitting project.

It is all too easy to get swept up in the relative speed of sewing over knitting and makes lots of cheap garments in the latest patterns.  I am trying really hard to slow down and make things that will last, in styles that actually suit me and my lifestyle.  "49 before 50" and all that...

So what am I planning to sew?

I need to replace my white Portfolio top.  I wore it to death:  it had gone yellow and threadbare, but was such a staple garment I still kept reaching for it - tsk!  I had to force myself to throw it away.  I want another of the same.  Simple, perfect.

Cappuccino dress by Liesl and Co
By the way - Liesl is has updated the Portfolio pattern as part of her own line, the Cappuccino, so if you were sad that Simplicity let it go out of print, go go go!  The neckline is different, but that's not a bad thing.  Hmmm.... I might be tempted myself!

You would not believe the mental resistance I have to ordering a single metre of dobby dot cotton from an online shop:  I have to scour the virtual shelves to find something else to justify the postage, and then I start to get twitchy about over-consumption and end up buying nothing!  If you are interested, Ditto Fabrics has it in white, and Eternal Maker has a lovely periwinkle blue.  

Oh dear oh dear - just do it, Roo!
Speakeasy fairtrade cotton
I also want to make another Factory Dress.  I love the grey colourway of this fairtrade cotton in the Speakeasy range at Organic Cotton.  I haven't worn the first one yet, but I am certain it will be a favourite when the weather heats up a bit.  I will need something to take the place of my flannel Camber dresses, which I wear all the time.

So, yes, a cotton Camber dress would be a good plan too!

However, despite all the above plans... the only fabric I have actually bought in time for my holiday is this black and grey "cats and spots" print Japanese sailcloth from Frumbles.
Yes, totally insane and juvenile, but do I give a hoot about that?
I am going to have a go at making the Mortmain dress with an exposed brass zip on the back - ooh!
Because in the end, if I am going to sew something, it has to make my heart sing - even at the planning stage.  Cartwheeling polka dot pussy cats?  Just try and stop me!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

FO: Deer & Doe Anemone Skirt and Plantain Tee

Anemone Skirt and Plantain Tee, both by Deer & Doe, both size 38
Grey/green organic cotton twill from Mirablau on Etsy, about £24 for 1 metre including shipping from Germany; lined with apple green antistatic lining from stash.  Next time I would order more fabric - this was a tight squeeze.
Onyx (black) Robert Kaufmann cotton jersey from The Eternal Maker with Pepper elbow patches, 1.5m, £22.50 (but there is still enough left to make a short-sleeved top)
23cm invisible zip  (don't try this at home, kids - a longer one is a safer bet)

This was a really straightforward pair of projects.
I had made the Plantain before, and I made a much better job of the elbow patches this time around because I followed the instructions and sewed them on with a straight stitch instead of trying to zig-zag round the curves.
I decided to make the Anemone skirt in the peplum version and lengthened it by 3.3cm.  I would make it a bit longer next time, as the waist comes up higher than I expected when I measured myself.
It fit me perfectly without any adjustments - amazing!
The instructions for stitching the lining worried me as I was convinced I would get it caught up in the zip, but it all worked out fine.
The only thing that went wrong was the hem.
Because I was trying to keep it as long as possible, I faced the bottom edge of the twill with satin bias binding and then slip-stitched that to the lining as instructed... but it was a mess.

See what happened?
First attempt at the hem
I made myself a bubble skirt!

For my second attempt, I machine-stitched along the edge of the satin binding, and hemmed the lining separately, leaving it to hang free.
Much better!
I love both parts of my new outfit, together and apart.
The sober colour of the fabric hopefully stops the skirt from being too "young" for me.  I was tempted to make it in metallic-finish denim, but this will be more wearable for work.
I am definitely going to make it again, without the peplum:  the other view has decorative buttons at the waist - ooh yeah!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

This Weekend in Words and Pictures

Settle down, pick up your knitting and the beverage of your choice and lets pretend this is a podcast.
Just don't expect to hear my voice...
I already showed you my latest finished socks:  Arnulf.
I thought I would do the decent thing and get back to the second Solar Flair sock.  But honestly?  It isn't making my heart sing to work on this right now.  It triggers my RSI like no other pattern I know.  And I keep thinking I should have used that lovely HazelKnits yarn to make another Vintage Fremont shawl - it would have been perfect!
This project is going back into the darkest corner of the sofa, behind my Monte Rosa cardigan.
No, I haven't done any work on that, before you ask.  Maybe tonight.
But first I want to cast on for another Rachel Coopey hat, the Ripon.
I met up with my dear friend Christine last Saturday.  While we lunched (on goats cheese, beetroot and raspberry salad with pecans and balsamic dressing - oh wow - bliss!) at Touched by Scotland, I was enthusing about the Toasty collection, and she volunteered her head measurement and the yarn to make her one of these hats - yay!  A willing victim!
This is JC Rennie wool, a lighter weight than the pattern recommends, so I might need to make a larger size.  Swatch for a hat?  I don't think so.  Not me.
Also pictured is the amazingly "me" purse which she gave me - look at those 70's styles!  It is Jackie magazine all over again!  I am planning to store my crochet hooks inside.  I only have two so far, but I have the feeling my collection may start to grow quite quickly, as I am hooked!
Here is the Inside Crochet Mystery Blanket as it looked this afternoon.  It is incredibly "open" in the centre, but becomes denser as you work your way outwards.  It covers my knees already!
I now have four copies of Inside Crochet and a serious crush on several patterns.  The Blue Notes Cowl has had me trawling the web for Malabrigo Rios, but I am holding off buying any more yarn for crochet projects until I get this blanket finished.
In sewing news, I have been rustling up another batch of gift-able project bags.
It doesn't seem worth it to set up the machine for just one bag, so I tend to make them three at a time.
And I have cut out my first Deer and Doe Anemone skirt.
I am making the peplum, version using some grey / green organic cotton twill.
I managed to squeeze it out of just one metre of fabric, but I seriously do not recommend trying this at home - talk about a dangerous sport!  1.4 metres would be a far more sensible length to buy.
I went into Inverurie to the local fabric shop to buy a zip this morning, but failed to realise it should have been 40cm long.  So there won't be a finished skirt this weekend.  That's OK - I'm not in a rush.

While I was in town I dropped off a few more bags of goodies at various charity shops.
I was watching an episode of The Hoarder Next Door on TV a couple of weeks ago, where the psychologist who presents the programme asked a woman to go through her clutter and identify objects which made her feel "safe" and "unsafe".  Ooh!  There's a new approach!  She discovered that she had been hiding away things that provoked feelings of sadness and loss.  She had literally been burying them under stuff.
And it struck me immediately that I was "guilty" of exactly the same thing...
Meet my 20-year-old unfinished quilt project:

I had this stashed away in the secret drawer of my wardrobe.
Stelios would have a field day!
I started making this when The Boy was having his afternoon naps in his cradle.
All too soon, when he was just 6 months old, I had to return to my job and really struggled with my work / life balance.  Looking back, I suspect I had post natal depression.
This quilt became the Great Big Painful Unfinished Object.  I stitched away at it, off and on, until The Girl was born.
Then, suddenly... the sun came out in my parenting life.  Yay! 
By that point, their dad and I could just afford for me to stay at home with the kids and I spent the next two and half years being "mummy" instead of pretending to be a super-duper London career woman (a role at which I sucked).
The quilt was put away in a bag.
The bag travelled to Scotland with me in 2004.
It went into the secret drawer and has stayed there ever since.
Today I took it to the Garioch Charities Shop, a destination I chose with care, as I know it to be a place where they keep a button box under the counter.  The ladies who staff that shop will not just lob this into landfill as rubbish, they will recognise it as an Unfinished Handmade Object and put it in the basket beside the vintage tablecloths, where another crafter will find it and see its potential.
And that thought makes me very happy indeed.
This psychotherapy lark really works you know! ;)

Friday, March 14, 2014

FO: Arnulf Socks by Rachel Coopey

I finished my first pair of socks from the Little Bit Club 2014:  a collaboration between Knitting Goddess yarns and Rachel Coopey, sock designer extraordinaire!
These are the January socks:  Arnulf, inspired by Little Red Riding Hood.
Although the instructions come in three sizes, I was always going to make the largest size, with FL in mind. These are woodcutter's socks!
If I can manage to hold out that long, these will be for his birthday in June.  But he is so appreciative of hand-knitted socks I might crack before then! 
And make him another pair :)
I love the unusual combination of stitch patterns and stripes in this design.
When he saw me knitting them, FL commented that it was a shame to hide that amazing colour inside a shoe.  And I see what he means.
But I enjoy the potential of a secret flash of craziness, to be revealed or not when the occasion presents itself!
These have taken me longer than I expected (too many other knitty distractions!) and already I have fallen behind with the sock club.
I still have the February and March kits to knit up, and April will arrive in, what, two weeks?  Oops.
But they are all in such lovely colours and stitch patterns I have absolutely no doubt that I will get round to them.
Did I show you the March colourway?  Maybe not.
It is The Girl's dream of the perfect hair colour:  somewhere between turquoise and jade green.  The contrast colour verges more on blue. 
Truly gorgeous!  Maybe I should make a wig out of it, instead of socks ;)

I have every intention of writing a big blog catch-up post this weekend.  I have loads to show and tell!
Meantime, thank you, again, always, for your kind comments about FL's health relapse.  It was lovely to realise that our old "myeloma pals" are still reading and thinking of us, and that my newer sewing and knitting followers aren't frightened away completely by talk of mortality.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another Day in the Waiting Room (with crochet)

A better day than Friday!
FL's calcium levels were back to normal today.
He was given 4 days' worth of Dexamethasone (steroids) on Friday, which thankfully didn't send him into outer space.  And 5 days' worth of Sodium Bicarbonate:  yes, the same stuff you use to descale your kettle, and for the same reason! And you know what happens when you put bicarbonate in hot water?  It fizzes... So imagine that in your pee...?  Until I put two and two together, I thought FL had taken a sudden unnatural interest in cleaning the toilet every time he used it. 
TMI, Roo!
The drugs are almost finished, so he needs to have another blood test at his GP next week, to keep an eye on his calcium level.
Then back to the hospital in 2 weeks.  His Birmingham results might be back by then.
I knitted about quarter of a sock in the waiting room. I need to remember to take more than one project with me next time... maybe some crochet?
Like my segue?
This is the central mandala of the Inside Crochet Mystery Blanket.  Two very kind Ravellers passed on their copies of the missing parts of the pattern - thank you again!
I am finding this very challenging, as I need to check my "How to Crochet" booklet at almost every step.
So it's not very relaxing, but I love it when I crack the code!  It's like learning a whole new language.  It must be good exercise for my brain!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

FO: Catterick Hat by Rachel Coopey

As soon as I saw the previews for Rachel Coopey's new Toasty collection, I knew I had to buy it.
And when the book arrived, I cast on straight away.
This is the Catterick Hat.
I made the smallest size, thinking it was for a girl.  No girl in particular, but definitely a female.
However, while we were sitting in the hospital yesterday, I popped it on (with needles still in place) to entertain the waiting room, and FL immediately declared his interest.  He has really been feeling the cold lately and wanted a hat that covers his ears and the back of his neck - perfect!
As we were in there all day, from 10am to 6pm, I had plenty of time to work on it.  I finished it this morning.
The yarn is a gorgeous soapy-soft merino / cashmere/ bombyx silk mix, "Sunna" by Spirit Trail Fiberworks.  It was a Knit Love Club yarn back in 2010.

This is the first smile I have seen in days.
FL had hoped to travel to Newcastle this weekend for a friend's 70th birthday party.  However, the doctor said it was absolutely out of the question.  
His myeloma is back with a vengeance.
Yesterday brought an emergency infusion of fluids as he is suffering from hypercalcaemia:  high levels of calcium in his blood. 
They also took x-rays of his lungs and spine.  He has lost height in recent weeks, which suggests collapsed vertebrae.  And he has a rattling cough that just won't go away.
So another blood sample was sent off to Birmingham.  His February Freelite test showed another large increase in his kappa light chains score.  There is every reason to believe that the cancer is on the rampage.
Back to the hospital on Tuesday to see the consultant.
At least he has a warm head.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Someone on high has hit the fast forward button on my life and I seem not to be able to contact them to ask them to press "pause", please. So I am blogging less, reading blogs less and seem to be constantly rushing to meet deadlines at work and at home. The only time when I feel in control is when I am knitting. So I have been knitting as much as possible. Perhaps the best I can do for you right now is a quick fly-past-post to tell you to: read this book, knit these hats, learn to crochet, order this pattern and watch this space... because surely sometime soon I will get the chance to catch my breath, finish the book, knit the hats, crochet the blanket (and the cowl and the mitts) and sew the skirt. And some sleep would be lovely too, thanks.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

FO: Anastasia Hat from Inside Crochet Issue 50

Another day, another accessory!
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I developed an obsession with this hat, from Inside Crochet issue 50.
The original was navy, dark pink and silver and I loved its texture, which reminded me of Mackintosh roses.
Being a beginner crocheter, I was wary of paying £5.50 a ball for the yarn, in case it all went wrong.  So I scoured the internet for sale bargains.
This is still the recommended yarn, (Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky) but I only paid £3.70 a ball.  The catch was that I didn't have the full range of colours to choose from at that price.
I thought I had chosen black, orange and turquoise... but when it arrived, it turned out to be black, brick and slate.

The good news is that it still works well with my Seasalt rain jacket, which was the intention all along.
But it is not a colour combination I would ever have picked out in real life.
It's just ever so slightly off key.

But as an experiment in crochet, it turned out pretty well I think.
The crown is a bit lumpy, as I wasn't sure I was following the instructions correctly.  I ended up with an extra rose on every row, and needed an extra row of roses to get that slightly slouchy fit.
The yarn (100% wool) is incredibly soft, but splits really easily.
I am pleased to report that crochet is wonderfully quick to unravel when you make a mistake :)
Overall, I am pretty happy with the finished object.
And I enjoyed the novelty of the process.
I don't think I am about to become a rabid hooker, but I am seriously considering making the Mystery Blanket from issues 48 through 51 of Inside Crochet.  I bought Issue 51 yesterday.  A friend from the Yarn Yard  Ravelry group is sending me issue 49  (I am making a p-hop donation to express my thanks).  And I might have to bite the bullet and order the pdf download of Issue 48 to get the pattern for that all-important central motif.
So maybe I will use up my cotton dk stash this year after all!

Saturday, March 01, 2014

FO: Vintage Fremont Shawl

Blue skies!
Over-exposed photographs!
It is March and it is not raining.
I finished my first Vintage Fremont shawl.
Despite my earlier descriptions of the colourway as somehow post-apocalyptic, it appears to blend in well with an Aberdeenshire duck pond.  Discuss.
I absolutely loved  the process of knitting this.
I am going to do it again.  Soon.
And the finished object is pretty special too:  garter stitch, lace, that wonderful saw-tooth edging, all together in a great big asymmetrical triangular swoop of knitting.

This is the tiny ball of yarn I had left out of 400 metres.  It was a close thing.

Pattern:  Vintage Fremont by Jami Brynildson, Knitting Bee.
Yarn:  Flockly from Skein Queen in the Hollowgast colourway.  There are a couple of people destashing it on Ravelry right now if you fancy some.  I would if I were you.  70% superwash BFL, 20% silk, 10% cashmere.  Gorgeous.
Inspired by:  Stash and Burn podcast.
Process:  Blissful compulsive knitting.
Verdict:  The first of many.  If you are on my birthday or Christmas list, prepare yourself now.