Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Xmas and all the best for 2006 to all of you.
May the new year be a good one.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Spinning again...

BlogRolling is playing up again. For weeks now I have only had the occasional notification that journals have been updated. When I move my mouse cursor over some of the blog links, the little information window tries to convince me that these blogs have not been updated since the beginning of February, despite the fact that I *know* that they were updated three times a week for the last two months. What's going on? And this is for journals for which I've had plenty of updates before.

This means that despite BlogRolling I'm back to checking each and every one of the blogs on my regular reading list separately. *grumbles*

But enough of that.

Do you remember the delicious burnt-orange coloured corriedale roving that my SP6 sent me a while ago? Well, to make it go further, I decided to ply it with some yellow merino. The result is this:

I love the way the colours compliment each other. The warm orange and the warm yellow make such a cheerful combination. Yummy looking, even. Juicy! And I ended up with not only one skein of it either. Rather, I have five:

I am very much hoping that it will be enough for a sweater or cardigan. Maybe if I have shorter sleeves?

In an attempt to get back into a more crafty lifestyle than I have had during the last two weeks I also treated myself to an X-Files marathon on FX the other night, followed by a new episode of Lost on E4, while I was spinning some of the merino that I brought back from my trip to Fibre Paradise (aka, Wingham Wool Work). My plan was to make a chunky 3-ply with 2 strands of white merino and 1 strand of grey Jacob's fleece, and to use the resulting yarn for some Rowan Big Wool sweater or cardigan pattern. The result of one evening of spinning is this:

I *quite* like the look of the yarn, and the softness of the merino counteracts the rougher fibre of the Jacob sufficiently. What I don't like particularly is how dense and how heavy it consequently is. I think I may have to abandon my plan of producing enough of this yarn to create a cardigan - it would weigh at least 1kg and I'm really not sure that I want to carry that on my back!

Instead, I have started using the merino to spin an approximately sock-weight single to be plied with some brown Blue Faced Leicester. I want to use this yarn for Norah Gaughan's pretty pretty side-way ribs cardigan from the Fall/Winter issue of Knitscene:

I *love* that cardigan!

When I researched the yarn, it turned out to be a German handspun. It's a single ply, but I have decided to use a 2-ply yarn anyway - I imagine it will pill less that way.

I spun a single from the white merino, and have started preparing the roving for the second single - merino and just a trace of brown BFL:

And finally, look what I got yesterday!!

I am doing a swap with Donni from Mog's Blog. She promised to weave a scarf for me and I will knit her some gloves in return. I have a bit more time to do my part of the swap, because it's summer right now where she lives (Australia), so I will get to that after xmas and New Year.

Isn't the scarf beautiful, though? It's a Suri Alpaca Handspun, woven in with 'Flame' from Crystal Palace Waikiki. Here is a close-up so you can see the texture better:

Thank you so much Donni, I LOVE the scarf!! It will get worn a lot this winter. :-)

ETA: Thank you also for the lovely little notebook and the yummy Australian sweets you sent with the scarf. I wasn't able to take a picture of the sweets because they are already eaten... ;-)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Checking in...

It occurs to me that I have been quiet. Very quiet.

Part of the reason for this is that life is busy around here recently. And not with xmas-related things either. I have been working rather hard, and we have been visiting MIL a lot, and somehow the days are flying by. Also, I have been reading rather a lot recently. Don't get me wrong, I always read, but I sometimes go through phases of almost obsessive devouring of anything printed and fictional that I can get my hands on.

The other reason why I haven't updated recently is that there hasn't been any knitting to show for... Well, maybe not no knitting at all, but very very little. The day only has 24 hours, y'know? ;-)

Anyway, as you can imagine, holiday knitting has gone right out of the window. There will be no River Stoles that are given as presents to amazed elderly relatives, no hats or mittens for MILs and no scarves for dads. None. I have given up on the whole idea of holiday knits.

However, there will be baby knitting. I may not have a lot to show for right now, but I have been working on a few baby knit related things for my friend who is going to give birth in the next few days. I've left it rather late, so I decided to make the Angora Baby Booties for K and her xmas baby. The simple design of the patterns in Last Minute Knitted Gifts always appeals to me:

Also, I have finally been introduced to the wonder that is double-knitting! Isn't it amazing? You knit and slip and knit and slip and then you divide the stitches onto two needles and you realise you have knitted in the round - on one pair of needles!

The booties were completed in less than 2 hours and I'm very pleased with my choice of Cashcotton DK. It's soft but not too fuzzy, and it's machine-washable, which I think must be essential for any kind of baby knitting. What I am not so sure about, however, is the booties themselves. Sure, they look cute, but they seem to me rather on the small side, even for a newborn. Is just over 3 inches in length enough? I'm also not sure they are not a bit too tight to actually pull them over a baby's foot... should have paid more attention when I was binding off, but I was watching Bleak House at the time.

To make up for it I started the bunny from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I'm using Patons Washed Haze DK for this one, because it's also machine-washable and, even though very soft, does not have any kind of haze to it:

Only the Umbilical Hat to finish after that, then the present can be sent off to K! Phew!

It never ends, though - yesterday, another friend rang me to announce that she is expecting her first in June next year. Is there such a thing as summer knitting for babies?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Holiday Secret Pal parcel

Apparently our electrician is trying for a repeat of the no-show saga of last week. Although he turned up yesterday and did some of the work AND promised to be here by 8.30am today, there is still no sign of him. It's 3.25pm now... something is telling me that he won't turn up today.

On the plus side this meant that I was able to go to the Post Office to pick up some parcels and see what I got:

Isn't this amazing? I am absolutely speechless. Thank you so much Holiday Secret Pal!!

There are two balls of Regia Sock yarn in a very pretty red white and grey colour, which is called 'Norweger Ringel Color'. Then there are two more balls of sock yarn, this time Patons Kroy Socks in a lovely muted shade of grey and brown. I love both the Regia and the Patons - socks, here I come!!

Then there is one ball of Bamboo yarn in a delicious rich red colour. This is from the South West Trading Company. The difference to wool is so interesting - although this yarn is very soft it feels totally different. Where wool is warm to the touch, this is cool and smooth. I have wanted to try Bamboo yarn for a long time now, so I'm absolutely thrilled by this.

Then there were two bags with the most delicious samples of roving. I think you can just about make it out on the picture - one is a blend of purple and pink and the other a blend of different shades of green with a little bit of purple thrown in. It feels very soft to the touch - I wonder what type of fibre this is?

But this is not all there is. Next I found a very cute lamb tape measure. I ended up pulling all the limbs before I found where the tape measure was actually hidden (its one of the 'arms') - it really made me laugh! This will be put to good use, I promise. :-) Then there is a set of Clover bamboo needles (4.5mm). I love knitting with bamboo needles, so this is great, and 4.5mm is such a useful size. There was also a set of sock-shaped point protectors (so useful!) and a little something that I assume is a stitch marker. It has little beads all the way round and looks very cute. Last but not least, there was a pattern for a lacey cardigan - 'Sweet Mary Jane' from KnitPicks. This is definitely going on my to-knit list for this summer!

Here is another picture of all the yummy yarn and fibre close up, although you may not be able to see the little stitch marker very well. Will have to take another picture of it tomorrow...

This was such a fantastic parcel, I don't know how to thank you enough!! Thank you Holiday Secret Pal, this really made my day!

Self Portrait Tuesday - Reflective Surface #1

Our bathroom cabinet has three doors with mirrors inside and out, so when I open them I am able to see the sides and back of my head. I insisted on having a mirror like that because my hair has a will of its own and even when I can see what I am doing when I pull my hair up I sometimes look like something has tried to nist on my head. I dread to think what it would look like if I tried to do this without the help of my trusty three-way mirror. :-)

Other entries to the theme of reflective surfaces can be found in the Self Portrait Tuesday Blog.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In Spinner's Heaven

I'm back from the weekend with MIL in the wild north (aka Yorkshire). All in all, this wasn't a bad weekend. It is noticeable that we are all gradually re-establishing some kind of routine and it helps to find normality returning to our lives. D and I went to the pub on Friday evening, something we hadn't done in a while, and on Saturday we took MIL to York for some shopping. I had plans to check out the LYS that I had located in 'The Shambles', but in the end we didn't have time to do that. Maybe next time...

On Sunday we decided to finally pay a visit to Wingham Wool Work. I had identified this shop a while ago as the only seller of replacement card cloth for drum carders, but before I was able to order the cloth, the owner informed me that the producer had decided to stop manufacturing the cloth! I searched everywhere and eventually resigned myself to having to order the cloth from the US. This would have somewhat defeated the purpose of a self-built carder, because the price of shipping something that heavy from the US to the UK would have been so expensive that I propably could have ordered an Ashford carder for only slightly more money, but because I am in love with the carder D built for me I would have been prepared to do it anyway. Then, however, the owner of Wingham Wool Work contacted me again with the news that he had decided to purchase the equipment to produce the card cloth and that he would be able to make a strip of cloth to meet my requirements!! Needless to say, I was over the moon. :)

Anyway, that was about 2 months ago and ever since then I had plans to go to Wingham Wool Work. As you can see - this Sunday was eagerly anticipated.
We decided to go there on the way home to the Midlands - it is a bit out of the way for us, so it adds about 1 1/2 hours to the journey, but it was well worth it. Wentworth is a lovely village so it is worth a visit on it's own (and I think I would like to go back at some point to spend a few enjoyable hours in a tea room there), but the shop.... ooooh, the shop!

It was quite tucked away and consisted of a collection of old sheds, all filled with fibre goodness. As promised, the owner presented us with a piece of card cloth to match the specifications of our carder (which, to D's delight, was much admired):

We then got chatting to the owner and he showed us round and gave us a demonstration of the old 1920s industrial size carder he had in one of his sheds. What a machine! It was fascinating to see the process of carding on such a large scale - all those drums, separating and fluffing up the fleece and turning it into a cloud of downy soft fibre. This tufty cloud is then fed into another machine which combs the fibre so it is turned into the neat roving that is available for buying.

Looking into one of the other sheds, where he had another machine, not set up yet, which will be able to turn woollen fabrics back into fibre, I spied something else, totally non-knitting related, which I had been coveting for quite some time - a potter's wheel! Asked about it, the owner shrugged and asked if I was interested in it. Was I ever! Guess what my xmas present from D is this year? It's a big electric wheel, so we will pick it up the next weekend we are up in Yorkshire. I will take pictures then. It looks like my little workshop / studio in the old garage is coming along nicely. :)

After that, I ventured into the shop, which is to say, into the various sheds in which the fibre was stored and where you were able to choose and pick (aka fondle) the fibre. It was a self-service system, so I got to select just as much as I wanted. With the certainty that we would return there very soon in mind I managed to only select a few things: Some orange and yellow Merino to complete the burnt orange Corriedale I got from my Secret Pal. I bought 100g and then another 100g of orange Merino in case I want some solid colour after all:

There isn't as much of the yellow Merino because I have already spun some of it.

I also bought a whole lot of white Merino roving - about 800g of it - to spin up some bulky yarn for some Rowan Big Wool pattern:

Further, I purchased two more bobbins, although I already have my eye on a jumbo flyer for my Ashford Traditional... It would make spinning bulky yarns so much easier, and more space on the bobbins is a good thing in any case! No picture of the bobbins, though.

Talking to the owner I also found out that he had a whole selection of spinning wheels set up in his conservatory, so I asked him if I he would mind me trying some of them. They had a selection of Ashford and Kromski wheels (and one Louet) and I ended up spinning on a lovely little Kromski Mazurka. What a compact and pretty wheel, and spinning on it was so easy! It made me realise that my Ashford still needs some adjusting to make it run more smoothly...

We stayed in shop until it closed at 5pm, then drove home. Coming home, I immediately set out to try my new Merino and managed to spin up some of the yellow roving while watching Lost on E4 last night. I think it will go very well with the Corriedale.

Also, here is a (not very good) picture of my orange hourglass. I finished it on Saturday and even though it needs blocking I have been wearing it all day Sunday and I am wearing it again today. It's keeping me warm rather nicely, despite the fact that we have an electrician round today who has disconnected the electricity (and with it the heating it seems) so he can work.

I may have some better pictures after blocking...

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.

Monday, October 31, 2005

New layout

I thought I should have some kind of Halloween-ish layout and as I was getting a bit tired of my old banner anyway I decided to create one out of a cobweb photograph that I took in the garden around this time of year a few years ago. What do you think?

It will probably not stay like that for long. I'm planning on replacing it with something more autumnal soon.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Lost and Found #3

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It is time for another Lost and Found.

I found this photograph of my mother a few years ago, while looking through her old clothes and making space in the wardrobe, and it now lives on my office desk. It was in an old shoebox with a stack of other pictures of her, my father, and me as a baby, as well as other pictures of friends, some of whom I have never met, and a few pictures of my fathers' old girlfriends, from long before he had even met my mother.

I am pretty sure that the picture was taken in the seventies, before I was born, or if not, then when I was very little. I cannot remember the wallpaper, although I remember the bright orange coffee set well. My father still has the china cabinet in the corner of the room and the candleholders, but the monstrosity of an armchair, foisted upon my parents by my grandmother, is long gone.

I love this photograph, so obviously a snapshot. It captures a moment in time that is irretrievable because of its very ordinariness. Where was the picture taken, what was the occasion? Was it a Sunday morning breakfast or late at night?

My mother died of cancer more than seven years ago, but there is not a day when I don't think of her. One of my most vivid memories of her is seeing her walk through the garden in spring, one day when she was already ill, taking in the changes in nature, and sometimes stopping to gently touch and prise open fresh leaves and flowers, admiring their texture and shape, tightly curled in on themselves, waiting to unfurl. As she got weaker and was not able to venture far, she took pleasure from the smallest things around her, reigning in her attention to focus on the detail of the things we so often take for granted, on the minuscule and the texture and beauty of everyday life.

My mother taught me to see the world around me in a different way, to pay attention and to treasure the small and seemingly insignificant, the magical in the ordinary and mundane.

Friday, October 28, 2005

It is official.

I am on a yarn diet.

Had a quick look through my stash this morning, and I am hoarding yarn EVERYWHERE! This has got to stop! No more buying of yarn before I have used at least half of the stash.

One exception will be buying a few balls of yarn that are suitable for a little baby cardigan for my friend K, who is expecting her first baby around xmas, but apart from that, I have all the yarn I need for xmas presents and for quite few projects for myself as well.

There, I've said it. Are you witnessing this? No more yarn for Iris until after xmas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Recruit them while they are young...

Sometimes, surprising things happen. Like for example when the ten-year old son of our friends takes to spinning yarn like a fish to water.

Yesterday, after we were all fed, D decided to show our friends how to spin on a drop spindle - with varying success. It didn't help that I had pre-drafted the roving very thinly and D wasn't used to that. Still, everyone had a go and much fun was had. The little seven-year old soon gave up and returned to playing on the playstation, but the ten-year old continued to struggle with the drop spindle long after we had all moved on to talk about other things and eventually he managed to produce some surprisingly even yarn! He then sidled up to me and started asking about the spinning wheel. I showed him and, when he appeared fascinated by the process, asked him if he wanted to try. And try he did.

I'm telling you, the child is a natural! I had to give the wheel a push in the right direction every now and then, but apart from that he was doing beautifully, treading and spinning, and feeding the yarn onto the bobbin. The resulting yarn was a little bit overspun but really not bad at all.

When it was time to leave he was asking me where he would be able to buy a spindle so he could continue practicing, so I let him pick one of ours and gave him a batch of roving to practice on. :)

Apart from this there are no news - no knitting, due to all the cooking, and cleaning, and socialising yesterday.

It also occurs to me that I did not get round to posting a Self Portrait Tuesday series yesterday. I don't think I will have time today either, so instead I think I might post another artifact on the Lost and Found series later.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I'm doing a roast chicken and veg for our friends tonight. I hardly ever do roasts, because of the chopping of vegetables involved, so I'm looking forward to this one. I have parsnips, carrots, and purple sprouting broccoli, as well as challottes and lots of garlic to stuff the chicken with. Hopefully D will do his mashed potatoes, and that should be enough I think.

I've been most housewify theses last two days. Shopping and tidying yesterday. A lot of hoovering, cleaning and cooking today. I have prepared a Raspberry and White Chocolate Trifle for dessert:

It's delicious, and very easy to make:

Sponge fingers
Brandy or other dessert liquor (I used Madeira because that's what we had in the house)
one 500g carton of custard
1 pack of cream cheese
aprox. 300g whipping cream, whipped
150g bar of white chocolate, melted
50g sugar
as many raspberries as you want (I used two packets)

Divide the custard into two bowls. In one bowl, mix custard, 1/2 of the sugar and the cream cheese. In the other bowl, mix custard with the rest of the sugar and all of the melted white chocolate. Then carefully mix about half of the cream under.

Pile the sponge fingers into a bowl and soak them with as much of the alcohol as you see fit. Arrange most of the raspberries on top, just keeping a few back to decorate the top of the trifle later on, then pour the cream cheese mix on top. Level out and add the chocolate mix on top of that. Level out and finish off with a layer of the left-over cream. Decorate with raspberries and chill for a few hours.


I also managed to make some cupcakes, using Nikki Shell's recipe, which was incredibly quick and easy. Here they are, modelled together with my Greek pullover sleeve - not that you can see any more than a black blob of that, but at least the cupcakes are photogenic!

And last but not least, here is the first picture of the Falling Leaves sock for the Socktoberfest. Finally!!

Still a long way to go, but as I can see the pattern emerging it's fun. :)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Slow Mondays....

I'm having a slow, leisurely Monday today. The weather is miserable, but I don't care, today is good. :) I managed to finally finish up a chapter draft yesterday afternoon and have submitted it, so I'm taking today to get up to speed with all sorts of other things that need doing. I've been doing some general research that I have been postponing for over a week now, I'm tidying the house, and I went grocery shopping earlier. Tomorrow we are having friends over for dinner, so I will have to do some cleaning as well, and then there is the food planning - anything that can be passed off as chicken will be OK, though, just so their two boys won't reject it. ;-) After all the PhD angst of the last few days I'm enjoying all the householdy stuff. :)

We went up to Yorkshire to see D's parents on Saturday, and although I shlepped the laptop along to work we had a lovely time. Went to Harrogate for tea and cake, strolled around and chatted. I managed to finish up the front of the Greek pullover and have started on my first sleeve. Almost there!!

Also, I have finally started my Socktoberfest socks! I'm using the Falling Leaves pattern from the latest Knitty and you know, I'm finally getting why people do lace socks - it's so much more interesting! I'm about halfway through the instep - a long way to go still, but I'm enjoying the emerging pattern and the colour of the yarn. I think the socks are getting a little bit too big, but if I make them shorter it might still work out...

I will try to get some pictures of it all tomorrow, but for now I'm off to knit some more on the Greek Pullover sleeve while I watch the reruns of the new Dr Who.

Friday, October 21, 2005

What a dreary day it is today.

It was raining all morning, which meant that the cats were sopping wet and kept trying to gain access to my lap so they could dry themselves off on my clothes. They can learn really fast if they put their mind to it.

But on to knitting-related things. You know that skein winder that I talked about yesterday? Well, it arrived! It's a bit difficult to photograph, so this was the best of the lot:

First I thought that I was right in my assessment that this is quite a crappy piece of equipment. The circumfence wasn't wide enough so the skeins kept slipping off, and I had to be extra careful not to end up with a tangled mess. Still, I managed to wind one of the little skeins of sock yarn. When D came home, however, he informed me that the three 'arms' of the skein winer, which I had thought were just fixed bits of metal, acutally extend. My skein winder is not so crappy after all!

I proceeded to go into a ball-winding frenzy and ended up with this:

Doesn't it look delicious? That's Manos del Uruguay, which you might recognise from my blog banner, and which is one of the yarns that I bought while on honeymoon in New England (which reminds me that I never did complete the report on where we went and what yarn shops we visited...). The yarn is destined to become 'My So Called Scarf' (see link on the left). The other yarn is my natural dye studio sock yarn. Socks, here I come!!

Also, during lunch yesterday I finished dyeing the sock yarn that Michelle from the Knitty Board sent me as part of a swap. It is amazing how differently different kinds of yarn behave to dye - this yarn kept on soaking up the KoolAid with very little result. What you see below is the end product of a mix of Pink Lemonade, Cherry Flavoraid, Jamaica an Ice Blue Raspberry, overdyed iwth Cherry Flavoraid and then again partially overdyed with Grape and splashes of Green Berry Rush for the pink skein, and Tamarindo and Orange, overdyed with Orange and again partially overdyed with Tamarindo for the orange skein:

I am quite pleased with the result now. Due to the dreariness of the morning the colours didn't come out quite true, so the orange and brown skein is actually a lot more vibrant and a lot less 'spotty' than it looks here, and the pink is a lovely mix of different shades. I think they are 'Pumpkin' and 'Crushed Strawberry'...

So you see, fun was had, despite the fact that I had quite a late night last night to make a dent in all the work I have to do before the weekend - before tomorrow, that is. Oops!

What isn't so much fun is that the Cashmere sock yarn that I bought from Hip Knits at the Alexandra Palace looks like this:

One. Big. Tangled. Mess. I am assuming that the skein was dropped at some point, because despite how tidy it looks when it is all twisted up it is actually all over the place. Might take me weeks to untangle, but although D suggested I should just bin the yarn I can't do that. It's cashmere!! It can't be thrown out!

I shall untangle this! I shall win!

Watch this space...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Skip North...

Oooh, have you seen THIS? Skip North is an organised knitting holiday from the 24th to the 26th February, in Haworth. Littlelixie posted about it in her blog, and now I really really want to go.

I love Haworth, and I've been wanting to go to Texere and Coldharbour Mill for ages now!! The question is just - do I have £100 spare plus all the money that I am bound to spend on yarn?

Maybe as an xmas present...

I have to admit something...

I can procrastinate endlessly. I know what I need to do, but I get sidetracked by interesting projects, get distracted by shiny things, need diversions...

What do you mean, you knew that?!

I am drowning in work this week. But what I really want to do today is finally start my first sock for the Socktoberfest. I am near desperate to start knitting with that soft, lovely yarn that I bought from ebay, and I am planning on using the magic loop technique, so I'm quite excited about that as well. All day yesterday I was thinking about how wonderful it will be to knit socks without DPNs, and getting cramps in my fingers, but the rickety little skein winder that I bought off ebay hasn't arrived yet. I've tried to get a skein winder for a while now, but they are selling faster than hot breadrolls (that's not really something that is a saying in English, is it?!) and the only thing I managed to get is a very old little winder that, as far as I can see, isn't adjustable... We'll see how useful it will end up being, but as long as it can help me wind those skeins of sock yarn into neat little balls I will be happy.

So, waiting for this event of a lifetime, the arrival of my skein winder, I tackled another project yesterday, which had been in the pipeline for quite some time: D's hat made from handspun. Made from THE handspun, in fact, the first yarn that we spun on drop spindles during our honeymoon in New England. We plied it when we got the spinning wheel, and D picked the KoolAid colours to dye it. It ended up green and orange, which, because of the muted colours that the grey roving produced, looks rather pretty.

D has been asking for that hat for ages, and a few days ago, he helped me wind the yarn - he's becoming quite good at playing skein holder, if I can get him to sit still for long enough. ;-) The resulting ball looked like this:

Cute, isn't it? It's very noticeable that this was our first attempt at spinning - the beginning is very thick and thin, with huge slubs, but the yarn evens out quite a bit towards the end (which is the bit on the outside of the ball). I grabbed a free beanie pattern I found through Google, and my trusty circs, and started knitting. Two hours later, I had completed the hat. It's VERY rustic looking, due to the unevenness of the yarn, but I kind of like it that way. I also think it could have been a bit bigger / longer, but D thinks it's perfect, which is most important. He was wearing it all evening:

And lying flat, so you can see it better:

Can you see how uneven the knitting is at the hem? That's where the really fat bits of yarn were.

Yesterday evening, while watching the new series of
River Cottage and Jamie's Great Escape on tv I started spinning up the Alpaca. It's strange to work with - the fibres are really long and smooth, and spinning it brings out the 'human hair' feel even more. I decided not to pre-draft and spun mainly from the fold, which worked OK. The resulting yarn isn't 100% even, but not actually too bad at all:

I have also decided what to do with the orange roving my secret pal sent me - I will try to spin it very thinly so it goes a long way. Maybe there will be enough for a hat and mittens, or maybe a lace shrug?

Carolyn's alpaca, when I finally get the carding equipment sorted, is also going to be spun very thinly, so the practice will be good for me. :)

Talking about carding - do any of you avid spinners know where I can get carding cloth for a drum carder? I wanted to order it from
Wingham Wool Works, but apparently they don't have it anymore... Or else, do you think that it is possible to cover a drum carder with pieces of carding cloth for hand carders? How would you fix the cloth? Is it just glued on!?