27 October 2008

Life underground (aka life as a student teacher)

Sorry this blog has been so neglected of late. I started training as a primary school teacher in September and have been submerged in a torrent of study, deadlines and essays since then. I do keep things updated on Ravelry - takes little effort and not very much of my overworked brainpower - so if you want to know what I've been up to in the knitting world (which is not all that much given the limited amount of time I get to knit), then you an find me here:


Yours exhaustedly


26 June 2008

Nearly FOs (or how to avoid blocking)

I go through frustrating periods when I don't quite finish things. My mum always got frustrated with my dad for doing just that. And, when I picked up knitting again a couple of years ago, vowed I would never have lots of UFOs sitting around.

In my defence, I am now trying to get ahead of my PGCE in September and am doing lots of pre-reading. On top of that, my initial assignment (before they have taught us anything) has landed on the electronic doormat and I am skirting round that too.

The UFOs in question are nearly complete. In fact, the Aleita Shell (the blue tank) is actually complete and simply needs to be blocked. But there's the rub. I haven't got the time - or indeed the motivation - to spend ages bent over it, pinning it out and all the other fun that goes with blocking. I hope I can get to it in time to wear it over the summer otherwise it will become a tank top over the winter.

Same story for the Sally Melville dress (which is from her Needful Yarns: Sally Melville Collection leaflet and strangely calls itself a cabled jumper. A jumper in the UK is a pullover or sweater, but definitely not a dress.) The knitting is complete and has been for some weeks. However, it needs blocking and then sewing up (all the way up those side seams). Having said that, there is not a lot of call for a knit dress in Aran weight in the summer, even here in temperate England. But, if I don't manage to get to it before the autumn, the coursework will kick in properly and any thoughts of blocking will just be a distraction from actually doing any coursework. It will become like washing up, tidying up or spring cleaning when I was at university the first time, during the run up to exams. When faced with the prospect of revising for the entire afternoon, the washing up would suddenly become appealing and the spring cleaning an absolute imperative.

Here's hoping I get to it before this time next year, then.

Going Japanese

For the summer, I've decided two things.

  1. I should try to stop adding to my ever-increasing stash
  2. I should therefore knit things using up some of that stash

As a result, on the needles at the moment is Leaf Kimono Top (Interweave Knits Summer 08). it's meant to be knit in a lovely linen yarn but as my stash contains no linen whatsoever, I found the nearest summery substitute - Rowan Handknit DK cotton. It's a very dark bottle green and I've had it in my stash for years. I think I bought it when I lived in Scotland and the nearest John Lewis (over in Edinburgh) was having a sale. I moved down to Surrey in September 1999 so that shows how long it's been lurking in my cupboards.

I have finished the front and back, having had to remind myself how to knit lace and also learn how to decrease in lace. It took me about three attempts to work out where I was in the pattern. I didn't engage my brain particularly well on the first goes and managed to misalign the second half of the lace pattern. It's taught me a lot and has made me a better knitter. No pain, no gain...

I'm now 2/3 of the way through the first sleeve. I may yet still hate the FO. It's the first time I've knit anything like this. I usually go for things with negative ease but this should end up with the reverse in abundance. It's meant to be loose and airy, perfect for throwing over a camisole. The jury is out. It may get to the pile of "Things I am going to chalk up to experience" and languish at the back of my wardrobe for years to come.

7 May 2008

And another FO

This was a cardigan I started on the plane to Toronto, rather than schlepping Promenade with me for fear of getting it confiscated at security. I like the yarn - Sirdar Preuvian natural (or something like that) in pale pink, grey and with the odd hint of blueish mauve running through it.
It was an easy knit, with enough shaping to keep me interested. It was virtually complete for weeks but as I was sewing up the shawl collar, I was not giving it my full attention and inadvertently joined the mid-back seam inside out. I had yet to master the appropriate stitch and so had backstitched it. I sew my seams to stay put and having sedwn in all the loose ends neatly, realised my mistake and had to set about unpicking it all. In so doing, I managed to damage the edge 2x2 rib. I tried to salvage it but made a pretty awful mess of the second attempt at the seam. I put it aside in disgust and tried to ignore it. Weeks later, I came back to it and had another go, having now mastered how to sew up a rib seam. The finished article isn't perfect due to the damaged edge stitch but it is 100% better than it was and is now wearable. I'll try to get a photo of me in it some time as it really does look better in person.

"Kite" on a real, live 5 year old

As promised, here are some photos of my 5 year old daughter wearing her sweater for the first time. She had just come out of the bath, hence the wet hair, but was so eager to wear it that she insisted on doing so before going to bed. Ironically, hot, dry, sunny weather has now arrived (at least for this week) so she hasn't worn it since. I'm quite pleased. I made it intentionally with room for growth, although the sleeves are a little on the long side.

30 April 2008

Finished objects abound

Rogue is complete. Finally. After what seemed like an age blocking. I have to confess it was a pig to block. Debbie Bliss and I are definitely not the best of friends. I wanted to have this hoodie in something warm but soft and cozy. I chose DB cashmerino aran. I think it was probably a mistake. It stretched like fury when I washed it in preparation for blocking and it took me a very long time to block it to the right size and shape. Even after blocking it feels like it is stretching and will probably end up a mini-dress. It also looks as if it has the tendency ot pill horribly. Hey, you live and learn...

The other FO is a pullover for my 5 year old daughter. She has been nagging me for a mummy-made jumper ever since I embarked on Chelsea for my son. It has finally been blocked and finished and when I get a moment I will post some photos of the proud recipient wearing it. It's a pattern from the Rowan Story book of Little Knits and was knitted in Rowan All Seasons Cotton. So, unlike her darling elder brother (who declared on first and subsequent wearings of Chelsea that it itches) loves it and wanted to wear it to bed on her first evening of it being finished. Don't you just love an appreciative audience??

26 April 2008

What a difference a day makes... (well, actually about 16 days)

The picture on the left was taken on Sunday 6 April when we had freak snowfall, both for this area and for this time of year. The poor buds trying to poke their heads out were all but swamped by the snowfall. My daffodils were completely flattened by the unexpected 2.5 inch white blanket which appeared over the space of about an hour. The photo on the right shows those same buds flourishing in the spring warmth a mere 16 days later. April is always a mixed month in the UK and this year has proved that rule.

10 April 2008

Distractions, distractions...

There are times when I think I must be knitting very slowly. Now is one of those times. I'm knitting things which aren't inspiring me and I feel like I'm never going to get to the end of them. When I hit a moment of self-doubt, I realise there are distractions which are keeping me away from my knitting (aside from reading my favourite knitting blogs of course - I can waste literally hours doing that). The distractions in question are shown above. First was my wonderful evening at my friend Helen's house doing "glitter and glue". Now, as a pre-school teacher, initially the thought of yet more glitter and glue did not hold much appeal. However, when Helen showed me some of her home-made cards, I was hooked. The first photo shows a completed card I made. The second photo is a sheet of mosaic style tissue paper, mulberry paper, glitter, glue and fusible fibre from which I will select little windows to stick onto cards. The overall effect is beautiful and, despite all sorts of self-doubts before I started, the process was liberating and fun, demanding very little skill.
The second distraction involved scissors and my counting skills. I volunteered to cut up 34 yellow card teddies with their corresponding legs and arms (if teddies can be classed as having arms??) - all 132 of them - for playgroup. Having recently cut out 34 teapot cards out of the same yellow carad, I will be glad never to see yellow card ever again!!! On top of this I have volunteered to count Tesco "computers for Schools" vouchers into neat piles of 100 vouchers for my children's infant school. The piles of blue vochers represent only a small part of the vouchers counted so far (something like 2500 and counting). And I wonder why I don't get enough knitting done??
And then came Sunday 6 April which brought snow. We don't get snow here very much and when we do, the sugar coating we get barely counts as snow (although it does have the capacity to bring the region to a grinding halt...). Sunday was a whole different ball game. In an hour we had 2.5 inches of snow. So, it called for photography, snowman making and snowball fights with our children. Wonderful, childlike fun which was therapeutic and exhilerating. We all got red faces and ears, soggy gloves and wet knees. But had a ball. So I didn't get to do much knitting that day. Instead, I got a couple of hourse of laughter and excitement shared with my 7 and 5 year olds. I call that a good deal.

Rogue is being blocked & Chelsea pullover is finished!!

I never thought I'd get to the point of blocking Rogue. After I finished most of the knitting, my son insisted I start making him a jumper. And because I promised him one, I had to promise to knit one for my daughter too. So, I have one jumper blocking (Rogue - seen above). One jumper on my son (dubbed the Chelsea pullover after its main colour and my son's favourite football team). And one for my daughter in the throes of being knitted (photos to follow).
At least I am making some progress...

19 March 2008

Rogue and the lurgy

Well, actually they're not one and the same thing. By way of an update on Rogue, it's nearly an FO. Body complete, sleeves 99% complete (I do two at a time as I hate going back for the second sleeve. It's more likely to stay a UFO if I do them separately). Just need to block it, sew in loose ends and hem it after that. Which is great because I have a 7 year old son who is champing at the bit for me to make him a jumper in Chelsea FC blue with pale and light blue stripes (nothing tasteful, please note. Well, I suppose, he is only 7) I have lots of other things on my wish list but he has to come first. And it will be a first too - he has never wanted me to knit him anything before. He may never want me to again... :-)

The lurgy part of the title comes from the fact that I am going down with something pretty nasty and viral - flu-like symptoms - just in time for Easter. So it will slow my progress considerably. I may not be able to post the FO photos of Rogue for a while. mind you, I never managed to post any WIP photos of it either. Sorry.

24 February 2008

Rogue hoodie is on the needles

I've decided to knit something both functional but with lovely design details and Rogue Hoodie fits the bill. A lot of my recent knitting has been dress up rather than down in its styling - Mermaid, Clovelly, various Rowan patterns which require some thought about wearing... I want something I can pretty much fling on without much thought but which will still please me when worn and again, Rogue fits the bill. I found some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran on ebay at a lovely low price - in a French navy which will be practical. The yarn is soft but so far seems to be displaying the cables nicely. Only time will tell as to whether it is a durable as I'd like. Chances are it won't be - it's Debbie Bliss and it has cashmere in it - but it could well become a firm favourite. I've got as far as picking up stitches from the back of the kangaroo pouch at the front so there is a lot of knitting still to do. I'll dig out my camera soon to show progress.

10 February 2008

How many below zero???

I have recently returned from a week in Toronto. I haven't been to Canada since 1995 prior to this trip and it an autumn trip so the weather was much more welcoming. On my arrival in Toronto, it was -19 C and truly brain-numbing. I think the wind chill was the worst. I have experienced colder temperatures - when I lived in Austria back in 1986/87, it was -44 when you counted the wind chill. But, I am no longer used to those sorts of temperatures. The UK rarely goes below -7 C in the South East.

Anyway, I arrived to cold, grey weather but thankfully, that's where the chill ended. I spent a day and a half visiting my aunt and uncle in London, Ontario. They are getting older (nearly 80) and so don't travel much any more. It was lovely to be able to spend time with them and just talk.

And then I headed back to Toronto for the Pastors and Leaders conference at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. What a blast! I was not in great shape spiritually or emotionally before going to Canada but 4 days of great Christian teaching, worship and prayer have transformed me. I have come back at peace with the world, spiritually refreshed and renewed and ready to face anything. So, even though it was -19 outside, we were alive and on fire with the Holy Spirit. An awesome experience.

These are a few of my favourite things

Children can be such a blessing but there are plenty of occasions when it is hard to remember that. Here's to one occasion when I was able to be thankful for the blessing that is my lovely daughter. On Saturday she came out with the immortal words "My favourite things are my family, chocolate and shoe shops". Don't know where she gets it from. Now, if she'd said yarn shops I would have understood... :-) It made her sound a lot older than her 4 and a half years. But then again, seeing her asleep later with her class mascot from school (the one and only Monkey), I remembered just how little she really is and that she won't stay that way for long.

Promenade is now an F.O.

It's been a long time in the gestation but Promenade has finally arrived as an FO. I managed to get as far as the last 20 rows a few weeks ago but then I went to Toronto and had a day being interviewed for a place on a PGCE programme to become a primary teacher (they want me... miracles do happen!) so it all got slowed down by life. On Friday, the last 3-needle bind off happened and I sewed up the two bits of border still requiring attention. I was a bit worried as I finished the last stitch. Because there are so many stitches on the needles at any one time, the whole thing had got bunched up and kind of cottered looking. So, I followed the advice of many a Hanne Falkenberg knitter and, holding my breath, washed it in warm, soapy water and rinsed it with fabric conditioner and laid it out to dry. To say that I am pleased with the end result is an understatement. Breath which had been held could be let out in a slow sigh of relief: Promenade relaxed and softenend as it dried. I always knit HF patterns on the tight side, having seen other people's distress at sleeves being too long (not a problem with Promenade, clearly) and so forth. The process of a tight gauge and then washing and relaxing the wool has made a lovely, drapey fabric which is stretchy but which holds its shape well.

It had its first outing today to church and kept me lovely and warm despite the down draught from the organ which usually chills my back over the course of a service. Not today!

18 January 2008

On the home straight (aka taming the beast that is Promenade)

I'm on the home straight - or so I keep telling myself. The scrunched up bit of the knitting is the left front, still on the circular needle but only about 20 rows from completion. Having said that, each row still takes about 20 minutes (the stitch count still numbers something over 400 I think) so it's slow progress.
My back and shoulders have been particularly sore recently and during one of several recent trips to my tame chiropractor, James (a rubgy player - and that is evident when he uses his elbow to release the spasmed muscles and soft tissue... ouch!!), he asked what I had been doing to make my back so locked. I guess it was Promenade. I think I must be sitting absolutely still, concentrating on tiny stitches for too long, just to get through a row. He has suggested I don't knit (is he mad???) or that I stretch and take a break every five minutes. Going to have take the latter option. Can't possibly consider not knitting if I'm going to retain the little that is left of my sanity.

Anyway, back to Promenade in all its glory. I actually like it a lot and am sure I will wear it a lot. I do have to confess that I (and my beleaguered back) will be glad when it's an FO.
I'm off to Toronto for a week tomorrow. I'm hoping to knit on the plane but have yet to take any knitting on board since the whole "no sharp objects" ruling came in. I'm taking on board my Denise plastic interchangeable needles and a new project (don't want to take my nearly completed Promenade with me and risk confiscation) in the hope that I can convince them that there is little damage I could do with a three inch piece of plastic... Watch this space.
Promenade will be waiting for me on my return. I hope it doesn't get consigned to the UFO category becuase I got sidetracked onto a new project. Let's hope not.

2007 round up

I have finally managed to take and upload photos of the other 3 FOs in my wardrobe. Some I am proud of and some less so. My excuse is that I was using up some of my stash so they may not be items I would ideally make.

It appears I have had a run on blue. The first photo is Clovelly from RYC Classic Coast, knitted in cotton jeans. I really like wearing it and it gets lots of favourable comments. It's nicely fitted, has a low enough neckline in the cowl to be flattering to a busty girl like me and has some lovely detailing on the sleeves (there's a cable twist at the top of the 2x2 rib).
The second photo is a knitted tank from the book Yarnplay. It used Rowan Ribbon twist which I thought I'd really like but it was a pig to sew up well and it's a bit chunky. Makes me look a bit bulgy round the tummy. But it will serve well as an extra layer in cold weather.
The third FO is a Rowan Studio pattern, called Textured Waistcoat, knitted in Rowan All Seasons Cotton. I had wanted to make it in black or navy but couldn't get hold of any. Anyway, it has yet to have an outing. Due to its colour and weight, I expect it to be more of a spring or summer item.
I have lots more on my wish list.....

1 January 2008

Looking back at 2007

I have just realised I haven't blogged for a while. I have knitted quite a few things from my stash since I last blogged so very soon I'll upload a few more photos. I've done a Rowan Studio design textured waistcoat, a Rowan ribbon twist sleeveless pullover and probably lots more I can't quite remember.... Must be getting old!

At the moment I am knitting Hanne Falkenberg's Promenade shawl in colourway 7 - red, tomato, orange, fuchsia, cyclamen. I'm on the home straight: the shawl is knitted in three pieces. You do the back first, then pick up/cast on the right front (only 600+ stitches on one needle!!) and finally get to do the same with the left front. It's beautiful and I am once again agog at Ms Falkenberg's design talents. However, it is a little frustrating that each row takes about 40 minutes at the moment. Thankfully you decrease by 4 stitches every other row so things do get quicker. I shall probably have a break from HF after this and see what else in my stash takes my fancy.

Here are some photos of the promenade - a bit out of date as I have got a lot further than the photos show but I can't locate my camera at the moment. Probably still lurking in the bottom of my handbag after my son's 7th birthday party on Saturday. oh well....

Happy New Year!!!