Thursday, 31 March 2011

What ever happened to..... duck?

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011 day 4

Something lost? Giving something away, and then wondering what happened to it?  I looked at the title and instructions for today's mass blog post before I went to bed last night.  No idea what to write, better to sleep on it than surprise myself this evening after a hard day at the PC (you didn't ask but I will tell - I was dealing with a full inbox)

Then I remembered the duck.  I knitted him when I was about 12, for my Godmother's son Paul.  It was the beak and feet that made the toy duck like, knitted in orange coarse cotton.  The head and body were two round shapes so duck looked roughly like a yellow snowman until he acquired his appendages.

This is not him of course, although roughly the same shape I don't think I knitted any wings.  Duck became Paul's 'security blanket' and went everywhere with him.  The fine yellow wool of the body became thin and frayed until there was nothing left but the beak with shreds of wool hanging from it like fronds of a jelly fish.   Now instead of being hugged duck (who but a small child would still regard the scrap as a duck?) was grasped tightly in a chubby fist and the fronds constantly wafted about the face.

I doubt whether I would know where duck was now even if something so much sadder than a toy duck falling to bits had not happened .  One day when he was a few weeks short of his 21st birthday Paul was involved in a road accident and was killed.  25 years later I have grown sons of my own and sometimes wonder how I would ever get over something like that.


Join in with Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Organisation - crafty people reclaim the STASH and Work In Progress

Day 3 Knitting and crochet blog week

When I hear a knitter mention her stash I always experience a tiny tremor of surprise although you should not take this as an indication of a miss-spent youth. 

No, when reference to a stash reminds me of a pocket full of illegal substances it is because in the 1970s I worked as a nurse in the A&E department of a central London hospital.  After being brought in semi-conscious by vague looking friends ('Um I don't know what happened nurse, perhaps he took something, he just went funny') the first words the man or woman would say on coming to were 'where's my stash!!'  - long gone taken by the 'friend'

Stash, as in a miser's hoard, is a fitting description of a knitter's yarn collection.  Not just a bundle of left overs but a treasure trove of yarn bought for its beauty, colour, texture or even fibre content (as in 'oh I haven't got any alpacca and silk mix'...yet).    And, like any miser worth her salt, I keep mine under the bed!

Three boxes with clip on lids.  One for fabric, one for haberdashery, trimmings and embroidery silks and one for yarn.

Can you see how much I covert my stash? - the yarn is grouped into categories - small amounts of brightly coloured cotton and wool, for little projects, intarsia and fairisle and larger amounts just waiting for the right pattern.  Multiple textures and different shades that give joy. Even some recycled 'sari' yarn that I haven't a clue what to make up into but just had to buy it for its sheer loveliness (I probably won't make anything for a while, keeping it just to be able to spot its glowing jewel like colours in my box). My cherished needle roll made by my father-in-law is there too.

My mother called her collection of fabric remnants 'the bit bag' and her wool was just 'oddments'.  Stash has a much better ring about it, hinting of safe keeping and appreciation of the delights of hoarding.   It is entirely appropriate that crafters have reclaimed the stash

Then after the stash there is  Work In Progress.  All those projects started and then not quite finished.  And how handy are those little cloth bags that retailers are replacing plastic carriers with?  Perfect for the four projects that constitute my WIP at the moment!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Shopping and enduring friendship

It's day 2 of  Knitting and Crochet Blog Week .  I didn't blog yesterday and already today I'm using the wild card Embellishment

Perhaps I should explain a little.  The idea of a blogging week comes from the lovely Eskimo Knits who has posted a list of blog subjects, enough for a week and one to spare.  Any knitter or crocheter who blogs can join the big blogging party.  I really want to join in but also want to blog about friendship and yesterday's lovely brief encounter so I'm using the wild card.

Remember when the excuse for some misdemeanor was 'my friend made me'?  I had the occasion to use it yesterday. I don't need any more mugs in my sleek new kitchen and in pursuit of my 'no more clutter resolution' I ruthlessly went through odd mismatched china at the weekend and boxed up the surplus for the charity shop.  Then yesterday my Soon-To-Become-Famous-Author friend and I met for a brief whirl around Anthropologie (the emporium that defines embellishment) and we spotted this mug  in several yummy colours.

We bought one each, as you do.  And fantasy shopping? I know exactly where in my house I would place this surreal candelabra

S-T-B-F-A and I met at University, not as callow 18year olds but women on the verge of 40 with seven children between us, snatching the opportunity to grab a second chance of reading for a degree at Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge.  It was an experience that opened up frontiers and opportunities we had been dreaming of all our lives. Since then we have shared many exciting times (and a few not so good) holidays and snatched half hours together, sometimes just the two of us but often with partners and children coming along too. 

We have always been rather good at shopping together, I once had to insist that we hid all the carrier bags in her car before going into lunch at college, fearful that no one would take us seriously as the classicist and lawyer we aimed to be if they knew of our shopping habits.  Embellishment?  loads.  This is a friendship, of affection, loyalty, mutual encouragement, honest opinion and not a small measure of praise for each others work.

And the shop? Anthropologie is a bit special to S-T-B-F-A and I.  Two years ago we spent three wonderful, frosty days of frivol in New York and, fortified with chili flavoured hot chocolate, explored Greenwich Village and Little Italy discovering this brilliantly eccentric shop.  The colours and shapes of its almost infinately diverse merchandise are packed with ideas for embellishing any amount of crafty projects

This throw is crochet but I see no reason why I should not try knitting with strips of fabric to add texture and interest to ... not just afghans but the edge of a jacket? or the cuffs of gauntlet style gloves Perhaps?

I just love the way everyday objects like kitchen basics are transformed by colour and quite outrageous design motifs,  or used in a totally different way

But most of all it is the use of colour that inspires, as this unintentional shot demonstrates

It's amazing what seasoned shoppers can fit into 20 minutes, exchange of exciting news, holiday plans and a few purchases then the S-T-B-F-A was whisked off in a taxi in her new photo shoot dress.

I had a little more time and the sun shone so I wandered up to Bewick Street, how could I not?  For once I decided not to buy anything, contenting myself with one more photograph, but I'm thinking and when I have decided what I can embellish with this fabulous ribbon I will be back

I am going to try and keep up with this weeks special event but If I don't please excuse me, I still have the day job!



Friday, 25 March 2011

Brain Storming

Remember problem pages in teen magazines?  The Agony Column? dispensing cheery advice from Agony Aunts?  Well this week I received a number of knitty related questions by e mail and on the blog and I was teleported back to age 13 and reading the problem pages in Jackie.  So I proudly tweeted yesterday that today's post would be called question time, I would be the knitters' agony aunt!

That is until this morning when I met other knitters in Sainsbury's cafe (we meet every Friday after some of us have taken some brisk exercise in the form of the Knitters Power walk)  and a lovely woman came up to us and asked a question about knitting on dpns.  As I heard three different solutions being given - all quite workable - I thought about all the ways of doing things with wool and needles and how as long as it turns out in a way that pleases you then it's 'right'

So this is not Question Time or Any Answers but brain storming.  Below are a few of the questions people have asked and my answers but I would love it if there were lots of comments with alternative solutions (and so, I expect, would my questioners)

If Caroline read my book review on Tuesday she will probably already know where these baby bootees came from (The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits)

I love it that many people who read this blog are not experienced knitters and Jan, a twitter friend asked what stitches I used for the cardigan and hat that were featured in my last post .

It still amazes me that everything we knit is made up of two basic stitches and a few holes!  The cream cardigan is made almost entirely in garter stitch, sometimes called Knit or Plain and abbreviated to K in patterns.  The shaping at the front is achieved by decreasing five K stitches in from the edge by knitting two together (K2tog) for the decrease on the right front and slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over (sl1 k1psso) on the left front.  This way the front edges and decreases slope away in the opposite directions, towards the armholes, and produce mirror image symmetry. 

The lace patterned edge is a series of holes achieved by bringing the wool forward to the front of the work and knitting one of the decreases described above.  I always follow a pattern for lace, and this one is easy, a good place to start

The hat is knitted in stocking stitch (one row knit one row purl). 

The little blue bells are described in a bit more detail in my frogging post, the stems were made on my knitting dolly

Sandie, another twitter friend asked for trendy boys' patterns, in fact what she said was 'quick, while I'm in the mood what trendy patterns are there for 9/10 boys?'

That's a tricky one, one boy's trendy is another's sad.  I made a big chunky cardigan for DD2's boyfriend at Christmas.

My sons mocked saying 'you'll have to wear it you know'  Well he did and loved it, even wearing it to the pub!

But although it depends on taste I do think Rowan and Debbie Bliss have some very good looking patterns for men and boys

Caroline, also asked if I have trouble with cotton and bamboo yarn twisting up and making my knitting uneven.

Well I had not knitted with bamboo but have used a fair bit of cotton lately, for the little note books and the knitted name  and did not have the problem.  I wondered if the problem was too tight a tension or holding the yarn too firmly.  But  in my stash I had some bamboo and so in the interests of properly investigating Caroline's problem I cast on for a pair of mittens and asked the other members of my knitting group over coffee this morning about their experience.

Sorry to say they do have this problems and so did I -  the bamboo yarn (Sirdar Snuggle baby bamboo) does work itself into a twisty spiral. 

This is very annoying and if anyone has a solution (apart from risking dropping multiple stitches by hanging the knitting over the side of my chair), Caroline and I would love to read it in the comment below.

Lastly enterprising Vandy who's website selling all things wooolly Affinity Yarns has just gone live asked if she could feature this blog on her website and could she interview me for her blog, so if you want to know a little more about me and my knitting life, have a look here

I hope you all have a lovely weekend



PS I am very pleased to report that Spring has definitely arrived in my corner of Hampshire and so I'm off now to enjoy lunch in the garden.


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Book review - the ultimate book of baby knits

When I took the ultimate book of baby knits to my knitting group last Monday everyone wanted to have a look.  There was a lot of cooing, at the design and picture quality but also some recognised a pattern or two.

And so avid knitters and lovers of Debbie Bliss yarns may already have a few of  the  patterns from this book because it is a new bind, a compilation (as the publicity material says) of Debbie Bliss's 50 favourite patterns for babies and toddlers, taken from her last three baby knit books.

If you have read my reviews of knitting books before you will know that I like to knit up one of the patterns before reaching for my PC.  I love flicking through all sorts of craft books and this book is real eye candy, filled with gorgeous photography, yarn in the softest pastel shades and not forgetting some very pretty photogenic babies.  I have said elsewhere that one of my favourite yarns is Debbie's cashmerino and I always seem to have a fair amount of it in my stash so I went looking for a project in the book that I could make for The Little Model in cream cashmerino

This tiny detail from the instructions for a lace edge cardigan illustrates perfectly what a joy the book is to look at.  So is this trio of shoes and bootees - absolutely perfect presents for new babies, and quick to knit too. I made a pair in a day with some left over violet coloured cashmerino.

Actually my first attempt was in cafe au lait but although the tiny picot edge shoes take a very small amount of yarn,  I ran out after one shoe and four rows!   My plan is to make a pair of each of the three designs and keep them ready to send new baby presents as and when the stork delivers (these days to my daughters' friends).

As I was saying I wanted to make something for The Little Model.  I went back to the lace edge cardigan.  In my view there is no such thing as running up a quick cardigan in value yarn for every day wear.  Clothes in synthetic fibres can be bought for a bargain price just about anywhere these days, so what can be the point of spending hours knitting something if it is not a thing of beauty,  in specially nice yarn for a special occasion?   The Little Model's mother approved the choice, perfect with her party dress for the big family wedding in May.

It knitted up quickly, the instructions are well written, clear and straightforward.  I have said before, I don't like sewing up my knitting and prefer to create seams by picking up stitches or grafting so I was particularly pleased that the body was knitted all in one piece

I also departed from the instructions a little by picking up stitches and knitting the lace edge on rather than knitting it separately and sewing it up later.

It only needed the lightest blocking.  More to pull out the points of the edging than anything else

The book will be published in April by Quadrille.  It doesn't just contain patterns for cardigans and bootees - the cot blanket in sophisticated cream, apricot and grey stripes is just lovely but the little mouse to match is heart meltingly cute.  My only warning is that if you already have several of Debbie's books check that you do not have many of the patterns already - I don't and I can see myself turning back to this book again and again.

Lastly The Little Model was to have shown off the finished item but Bad Granny forgot that she was away for a few days so, as they say, here is a picture of something I made earlier (all in DB Cashmerino, knitted without a pattern)



PS - A number of lovely readers have asked questions about yarn, techniques and for more detail about some of my posts.  My blog post tomorrow will be Question TIme (or perhaps Any Answers)  so if anyone has a question please post it in the comments below and I will try and provide an answer

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

secret languages

How amazing is language?  Not just the sounds of different languages, or my love of French that I speak ever so imperfectly, but also the languages within language, so many words, too many for one person to know.  Dr Johnson might have got close; but now the Oxford English Dictionary has a whole company to work on new editions, plus public contributions, and a committee to decide what's in or out.  

My younger son (ever after referred to as DS2) loves language and new words.  Reading out loud to him one day I reached for the dictionary, not only to find out what the word meant but how to pronounce it.  The book was The mouse and his child 

(image from Amazon)

the word CHTHONIC.  It became DS2's word of choice to 'test' teachers using it where ever he could and always delighted  when it was assumed he had made the word up.  As he moved classes we would ask if his teacher had 'passed the chthonic test' yet.

A couple of years ago, I found myself working for a company based in the USA in their city of London office. On their intranet they had a 'word for the day' from Websters Dictionary one or two of us began to collect them and then see if they could be slipped into an internal e mail (we didn't always escape notice)

Slumgullion -  prolix – chawbacon -  eldritch -  exculpate

So I don't know why I was surprised that the knitting world has its own language. A little while ago I asked here how FROGGING came to be a term for unravelling

One or two people suggested that when you rip back knitting it sounds like 'reddit reddit' (or is it 'ribbit ribbit'?).  One non-knitting friend suggested that the way unravelled yarn becomes curly is a little like frogging on a hussars jacket. 

Then there is TINKING

Which also means undoing, as in knitting backwards, (well almost) I have chosen to think this is unpicking stitch by stitch rather than ripping with (non)gay abandon.

I may not have known what it was called till recently but I certainly understand STASH

You probably noticed there is a bit of a theme going on here, all the large, project, sized yarn is in mauves, greens and blues.  My stash usually lives in a large plastic box with a moth proof (I hope) lid but I rather enjoyed setting my hoard out here miser fashion.

I have always had some sort of crafty project on the go - boxes and baskets of half finished hats, pictures or cushions hidden away in the bottom of cupboards.  As a teenager it was a bit touch and go as to whether I would ever finish one thing before beginning another.  I do try to finish my projects, I really do.  But multi tasking is in my nature, it is the same with reading, I think I have already mentioned that I have a tendency to have several books on the go.  Right now I have a number of interesting woolly things ON THE NEEDLES

Paper chain scarf

cardigan for granddaughter

And vintage cardigan (still not finished)

I realised last night at a new knitting group, where the delightful conversation ranged from world book day to afghans, hand spun yarn and power walking that I need another project - something that I can knit and not worry about forgetting the increase row.

All those partly knitted hats, socks, afghans and jerseys are sometimes also called WORK IN PROGRESS.  This always makes me smile.  As a lawyer in private practice I would be pursued to increase my work in progress, ie number of hours logged against client work.  The target was 1600 hours a year (if there are any city lawyers reading I can hear cries of 'you were lucky!) I was always behind.  Now I do a slightly different sort of legal job and WIP no longer engenders a feeling of dread, instead it represents a choice of what to pick up and knit with this evening (but I'm still far short of 1600 hours)

Do please add words you know to the comments below.  Meanwhile, does anyone know what the word is for 'no-good-at-calculating-how-much-yarn-is-required-for-the-project'?

Just one simply will not do!



Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Unexpected pleasures

I know I am fortunate, my life is good but there are some days that are extra special.  The sort of days where, as in all good children's stories I go to bed Tired But Happy.  I had been looking forward to last Friday and joining with two friends in a continuous reading of the King James Bible at the Bath Literary festival.  This year is the 400th anniversary of this elegant English translation which, for more than 300 years, was the standard text in nearly all English speaking churches.

Because of our busy diaries JTH and I travelled separately, I got to take the train., meaning I could knit all the way, and arrive in Bath without having to find somewhere to park the car.  A Very Good Start.  The weather, cold and brilliantly sunny, was perfect for exploring the small streets and squares.

On my way from the station to find the church of St Michael's Without where the reading was to take place, I spotted a sign to WOOL.  A moments hesitation only and I dived off Pierrepoint Street,


and into

And there was Wool  a new shop owned by the lovely Laura Batten

Two ladies sat on a large comfy sofa in the middle of the shop discussing patterns and suitable yarn.  For a knitter (and and self confessed hoarder of yarn) this was like the best sweet shop in the world.  I drifted from Rowan to Debbie Bliss to Noro but my biggest oohs and aahs were saved for this hand-spun in the subtlest soft shades of blue, pink, yellow, green...

Then I spotted this

and one of the shop ladies and I got chatting about blogging, my post about the rescued battery hens and how this lovely wool comes from rescue sheep.  The sheep are called Zidane, Benson, Violet, Ruby and Clementine, a micro flock,  kept just on the outskirts of Bath by shepherdess Caroline Davey.  The yarn is un-dyed, comes in several subtle natural shades, smelling evocatively of lanolin.

In my beeline for Wool I had not noticed anything else but as I retraced my steps back up Pierpoint Place I spotted the wonderful crafty emporium Country Threads. 

Its a tiny shop packed full of haberdashery and all things patchworky.  Its window display is fabulous. In Jane Austen's novels there is much talk of young ladies shopping in Bath for ribbons to trim their dresses and bonnets - perhaps some of the shop windows would have looked a little like this at the time.

In Bijoux Beads  facing Abbey Green I bought silver wire and charms.  I plan to knit some jewelry... one day. Not having enough time right now does not seem a good enough reason for restraint.

Enticed into The Makery Emporium in Northumberland place by the sight of ribbons hanging from old wooden cotton reels I found myself in conversation with people in the shop about interfacing

The conversation went something like this

Man :- I've just discovered what interfacing is
Woman :- what, something on the PC?
Man :- No it's something you iron on to fabric
Me:- Well you can get iron on, non iron and woven and non woven (I can't help being a know all)
Man:- now I'm confused again

I found all sorts of treasures here, deciding in the end to buy some tiny little metal labels that say 'made for you' and 'made with love', like dog tags for the things we make.  I intend to work the labels into the presents I am knitting (in the same way as beads can be incorporated)

Joining my friends in St Michael Without we spent an hour taking it in turns to read aloud from the books of Daniel and the minor prophets.  This is my dear friend Lizzie's partner MB reading some particularly dire warnings from Hosea

JTH was delayed by traffic and did not arrive untill dusk, when the light on the abbey church turned the stone pink reminiscent of the cathedrals and castles of Spain and Southern France

Our hotel was in beautiful Georgian Queens Square, from where we walked to our supper at a corner table in a cosy intimate restaurant, on the first floor of a tiny back street house, returning later to St Michael's to hear more reading in the now darkened church.

As I said, we ended the day tired but happy...