Tuesday, November 29, 2005


This is the view from my office window into our garden this morning. Brrrr! It's bloody freezing today!

I've never been much of a winter person. I get cold easily. I dislike wearing layers and layers of clothes. They make me feel claustrophobic, make me feel like I can't breathe. I get depressed and sad with the lack of sun and the lack of colour. In spring I eagerly await the first splashes of colour that crocusses and other early bulbs provide, starved and thirsty for the fresh and vibrant greens and yellows and purples of those early messengers of spring. The mild but wet winters in the UK, rather than making things more bearable, actually feel worse to me. Snow lightens things up a bit, rain doesn't.

Recently, though, I have found that I have gained a new appreciation for winter. Or rather, for the possibilities that it offers. Knitting possibilities. All that wool! Snuggly, cozy and warm wool that is just waiting to be worked into sweaters and cardigans and lovely toasty scarves!

See, I like wool a lot better than cotton - not that cotton is bad, but for me it doesn't have the same comfort feel that wool offers. Summer knitting is all good and I'm sure that towards the end of this winter I won't be able to wait to start knitting some summer tops, but there is something about knitting with and touching wool. It makes you long to finish whatever sweater or cardigan you are working on, to put it on and TO FINALLY BE WARM.

Like for example my burnt orange Jaeger Shetland Aran Hourglass Sweater. I have been knitting up a storm in the last few days and have now started the second sleeve. I have even sewn up the hem as I went along rather than leaving it right to the end. Ditto the weaving in of yarn ends. That's how impatient I am to finally wear this sweater. Not long to go now. Here it is, in all its one-sleeved glory:

Doesn't it look cozy? The Jaeger Shetland Aran is so soft and snuggly that I can't stop touching the yarn. The knitted fabric has a lovely thick texture that will hopefully keep me toasty over the next few months. :-)

Apart from that, I have not been doing a lot. A bit of spinning - some Wensleydale tops that I dyed with Kool Aid a while ago - but no pictures yet, as I have to first do the plying. And in order to do that I have to dye up some more fibre, which I will hopefully accomplish today or tomorrow...

And finally, I've been meaning to do this for a while now but always forgot... Just got to ask - what the heck is this:

It was one of those wedding gifts that made us go HUH?!

Any ideas? Yes, it is a miniature toaster (an imitation - it doesn't toast bread!), with four knives (without sharp blades) sticking out of it, but what is it for? It's fairly small - the pen that you see is for size. I am guessing that it's for buttering toast, but why do you need to use those miniature knives when everyone has perfectly good normal knives?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Quick update... and Self Portrait Tuesday

I haven't disappeared, I'm just not around a lot right now. We are trying to juggle everyday tasks, work, constant travelling up and down the country and trying to make sense of the awful last few weeks. I long for some quiet time so we can reflect and come to terms with it all... For now, I hope you are all well - I have been reading some blogs whenever I have had a minute, but no commenting so far. Sometime in the future I will find time again to leave comments and to reply to all the kind words you have sent me in the last few weeks.

In knitting news, I have started another Hourglass Sweater - this time in a burnt orange colour. It's a yarn I bought a while ago - Jaeger Shetland Aran - and it knits up wonderfully. I have already half-finished the body of the sweater. No pictures yet, because I forgot to take them earlier when I took photos of my finished objects and don't have time now as I have to pick up my dad from the airport in 30 minutes. There will be pictures soon, though. I promise.

For now, this is My-So-Called-Scarf, all finished and with the ends woven in. I wore it a lot last weekend and it's very snuggly and warm. Not a very exciting project, but I am pleased with the results and I think I will wear it a lot:

And another one of me wearing it:

And this is my Greek Pullover, all sewn up:

And because all those pictures have come out a bit dark, another one (not that you can see much more here...):

No ruffles yet, as I had no time to buy chiffon. I'm not too sure about it... I still like the pattern, and I am pleased with the neckline and the i-cord under the boobs - anything that makes my boobs look bigger is a good thing in my book. ;-) I think, though, that the body could have done with being a bit longer. Maybe the ruffles will remedy that.

Sadly, all the pictures came out a bit dark - it's this darn dingy weather. Should have used the flash...


For Self-Portrait Tuesday this week I have chosen something that makes me feel free and happy. Powerful. Secure in my own skin:

This dress is like a second skin and an armour in one. It adjusts to my mood. This dress, can make me feel sexy or cute, elegant or care-free, but it always makes me feel strong. It's the colour I think - it signals, makes me aware of myself.

A long while ago I read a poem by Kim Addonizio, describing such a powerful dress, not quite like mine, but close enough in the strength, the pride, the fighting-spirit it conveys:

What Do Women Want?
by Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

My red linen dress is such a garment. I wear it all the time. Wearing it makes me feel good. Beautiful. Strong.

These pictures were taken on our honeymoon this summer in New England and to me they capture that feeling of strength, happiness, freedom and warmth.

I wish it was summer - I could do with wearing it now.

And that's it for now. Take care all of you. *hugs*

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm back (for now)

Very very sad news on the family front, but I am conscious that this is first and foremost a knitting and crafts blog, not my personal journal, so I don't want to talk about it too much. The only thing I do want to say is that I was very touched by all the kind and sympathetic comments from blog readers, some from by now quite familiar people and others from people not quite so familiar but just as thoughtful and kind. Thank you, all of you - your best wishes, thoughts, and prayers were much appreciated and helped me during those difficult weeks. I usually reply to every comment left on this blog (as long as I can find an email address somewhere), and I will reply to all your comments individually, but it may take me a while...

For now, I am going to show you some knitting, because really, this is what this blog is all about, isn't it? Knitting has been a great help, actually; it's been good to be able to remain busy with my hands, so I have done quite a bit of knitting recently.

First of all, I have finished my Socktoberfest sock (yes, yes, I am aware that it is now mid-November, but at least I didn't succumb to second-sock-syndrom!). I haven't bothered washing and blocking them yet, but I don't think it matters too much:

They fit well and are very comfortable. I have been wearing them all day today!

Then, I started My So-Called Scarf (link to the pattern is in the bar on the right) to use up my two skeins of Manos del Uruguay, part of the Honeymoon stash, bought in New England this August:

I'm about half-way through the second skein, and I am getting a bit bored with it. I like the stitch pattern (a kind of herring bone?!), although I think I would have preferred the scarf to be a bit wider than it is. Then again, since I have no way of getting hold of more Manos anytime soon I couldn't really go and change the pattern, because the way it is looking now is that with the width as it is it will just about be long enough to be comfortable, using 2 skeins... In any case, I get bored with scarves, so I can't wait to get this one off the needles.

I also managed to finally find my way to the Post Office to check my PO Box and look what I found there - my Knitty Board Holiday Secret Pal had sent me two little parcels:

What you see is one ball of Noro Kureyon in a colourway ranging from pink to purple to red to orange to blue and green. It's lovely! The grey stuff in the plastic bag is Angora fibre, apparently from my pal's own bunny!! Isn't that fabulous? I've never spun Angora before, so I'm looking forward to having a go. There were also two tea sachets - peppermint (which is a favourite!) and orange spice black tea, which sounds very intriguing, as well as two knitting themed cards which I think may be handmade and look very pretty. Thank you, Holiday Pal, this was a lovely surprise and cheered me up quite a bit. :)

Today I also managed to finally wash and block the separate parts of my IK Greek Pullover. Not much to look at, but we all know how well black photographs:

I still haven't managed to get hold of any chiffon, which is no real surprise, considering that I haven't been able to even go to a supermarket in the last two weeks, but I have decided to just sew the parts together for now so I can wear it. I can always add the chiffon later when I get the chance to get to a fabric shop.

And finally, do you recognise this:

Yes, it's the Cashmere sock yarn that I bought at the Ally Pally and that turned out to be completely tangled. It took me weeks to wind it all up into a ball, but it's finally done...

And now I will attempt to read some blogs - I'm glad to be back.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Just to let you know...

I may not be around much in the next few weeks.

My FIL had a heart operation last Wednesday and although the op itself was a success, Thursday night he had a cardiac arrest and has been in intensive care since. He is off the sedation now, but has yet to wake up, so all we can do right now is wait.

We will try to drive up to where they live as much as we can and I may stay with MIL for a while so I may not be around much or answer email very frequently.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Self Portrait Tuesday - Exploration of Identity #1

Self Portrait Tuesday - on a Wednesday, but I did not have time to post this yesterday.

This is my comfort cardi, one of the items of clothing that I wear most. It's not a pretty piece of chothing, although it was when I first bought it, about six or seven years ago. It stayed pretty for about five minutes before the yarn started to look terrible and all sorts of fluff and pet hair started to become attached to the fabric. Washed countless times and making me look like a bag lady, it was quickly delegated to being an 'at home cardi' not to be worn in the company of strangers.

I wear it all the time. I hide in it when I feel worried and stressed, and anxious, sitting at my desk in the office, working. I wrap up in it when I feel in need of comfort, when I feel lonely or sad. I wear it like a shield when I want to feel protected from the cold air, working in the garden in late autumn. I snuggle up in it to feel cozy and safe, sitting downstairs, watching TV with D while knitting or spinning, a hot cup of sweetened tea in front of me.

This is the ultimate comfort cardi and I think everyone should have one. :)

Find other Self Portrait Tuesday interpretations in the Self Portrait Tuesday blog.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Being on a yarn diet, I am realising, is much like being on a food diet. I have not been on a food diet for a long time and never wish to be again, but when I was a teenager I remember trying one or two obscure diets involving grapes and pinapple and the like. How little fun that was beyond reading the recipes and buying the food... What I recall most vividly from those times is the phantasizing about food. I used to lie in bed at night, not thinking about my latest celebrity crush but about cake. And chocolate. And pork crackling. And crisps. And cheese.

It didn't seem right to me to think about food that obsessively. That is not to say that I don't care about food. I LOVE food, and I spend quite a bit of time thinking about it too. But for food to replace your latest teenage crush in your thoughts? That's just wrong.

Also, the excuses you come up with to justify why it is OK to break your own dieting rules, why you are allowed this particular piece of chocolate cake or why food eaten on the go does not count or has any calories.

See, with yarn, it's kind of similar. I have found myself looking longingly at other people's purchases and leafing though pattern books, looking for the next project that might justify buying more yarn. I am toying with the idea of more knitted xmas gifts, despite the fact that I will be hard pressed to finish the ones I have already planned, simply to have an excuse to browse online yarn shops. And in the process, I have come up with a set of lame excuses and exceptions to the yarn diet, which, judging from the responses to my post about being on the diet, are not only my particular feeble excuses but universal truths! ;-)

1) It is always OK to add to your stash if the yarn is a gift.

2) Buying yarn for presents is always allowed, no matter if the yarn itself is meant to be a present or if you are planning on knitting a gift with it.

3) Buying yarn on holiday is allowed - after all, you might never get a chance to buy that particular yarn ever again!

4) Rescuing yarn from a bad home (even if that is a shop) is a good deed. You are taking pity on the poor fibre after all. ;-)

5) Buying yarn from money you have accrued in your Paypal account is OK. You have sold something so you are allowed to buy something... Never mind that the money you'd earned was meant to pay for groceries and the like.

6) Buying yarn because you are exposed to it for an unreasonable amount of time - say because you are waiting and are thus subjected to the temptation and can't get away - is acceptable. After all, being surrounded by pretty yarn for hours and not being able to buy at least some is unnecessary cruelty, isn't it?

Edited to add some more reasons, suggested in the comments:

7) Good deeds - brought to my attention by donyale: one should not forget to think of the poor LYS owners who need to live too! Isn't xmas supposed to be the season of good will and deeds, after all? That should justify all yarn purchases made at local yarn shops.

8) As tabbytuxedo points out, yarn that is aquired through yarn swaps could not possibly count! After all, it's not strictly speaking 'bought' yarn, is it?

9) And a final one from Mary Lou: it is always OK to add to the stash if by doing so, you are going to be able to use it in combination with some stash that you already possess to create a new FO.

On that note, I have been thinking about the baby cardigan I want to knit for my friend K's xmas child. She knows that she is going to have a little boy, so I have been searching around for cute baby patterns for boys - not as easy as I thought! Finally I happened across this:

Cute, isn't it? It's from the Jaeger Baby Pattern book (JB29). I love the pattern, and if I use the same colour it's neutral enough to be worn by a little baby boy, don't you think? But is the pattern too frilly?

The yarn that is used is Jaeger Baby Merino 4ply, which is machine washable, so it's ideal. And it means I will be able to buy some yarn!! Yay! ;-)

Other than that, I have been busy spinning and knitting. The day before yesterday I finally finished spinning and plying the Alpaca that I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Ally Pally. Here it is, 250g of Alpaca goodness, three large skeins. I think it will kit up as 'chunky':

Spinning this fibre has been an odd experience. The fibre length seemed longer than anything else I'd ever spun, but that might just be my impression because it had no crimp in it at all and had a texture that was uncannily like human hair. Unlike wool, it has no tendency to stick together, so it felt like I was trying to spin a bunch of my own hair... Very strange. It must be the total lack of crimp. This also means that the fibre ended up all over my clothes - no problem of it sticking to my pullover at all! ;-)

The resulting yarn is a little uneven, but it is beautiful and soft, with a little halo. I am quite happy with the result, and what looked like a rather small clump of Alpaca yielded quite a bit of yarn. Now what should I make with it? A scarf and hat set? I would love to do a pullover, but I fear that 250g may not be enough for it, even if I use quite large needles...

I have now started spinning the orange Corriedale that my Secret Pal sent me. Let me tell you, this is the most wonderful stuff. It feels and spins like butter, with minimal effort and amazing evenness.

So far I have spun half of it and have started spinning the rest of it on a new bobbin, because I am not sure yet if I want to ply the yarn together or instead ply it with something else to make it go a bit further. Maybe orange plied with yellow? On the other hand, I love the vibrancy of the burnt orange colour, so I am reluctant to 'dilute' it by plying it with a different colour. So many decisions.

Yesterday, I also finally dragged out all the different pieces of fabric that I have collected over the months, so I can make a final decision what I will use to make the bags that I want to give to some of my friends for xmas. Doesn't it look pretty?

What else... Oh yes, the socks. The socks I was knitting for the Socktoberfest. Never mind that October is over, I SHALL FINISH THESE SOCKS!

Anyway, remember me saying that I was concerned that the socks were turning out a bit wide for me? Well, I have since decided that they were definitely too wide. See, I had started them on 2.5 mm needles, although the pattern called for 2.25 mm. What difference can 0.25 mm make, I thought... well, it turns out that they can make quite a difference. I have since frogged everything, ordered the correct size circs, and have started again. I am about as far as I was before I decided to frog, but the difference is noticeable, not only in the width of the sock but also in how long it takes me to knit. Although it doesn't look any different I have actually completed one repeat more than I had before, yet when i pull the sock on it looks just the same as attempt no. 1 did. 0.25 mm - who would have thought!

As for the Greek Pullover - the knitting part of it is finished (except the i-cord), but I am having a bit of trouble with the chiffon ruffles that go on the end of the sleeves and the bottom edge of the pullover. Tried to find some chiffon yesterday in our local hobbycraft market, but no such luck. I could order over the internet, but then I couldn't see the colours properly and as I am still unsure if the yarn I used is black or actually a very dark blue I really need to see what the fabric and the yarn look like together... Maybe I will make it to some different yarn shops at some point this week.

And finally, I want to thank you all for the beautiful and thoughtful comments you left regarding my last Lost and Found installment. I was truly touched by the response to this very personal and important photograph and I continue to be amazed and gratful for the wonderful people I have met since starting this blog. Thank you.

PS: Self Portrait Tuesday entry to follow later.