Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Travelling light

Last week I escaped our rainy shores for a few days sunshine, blue skies and turquoise sea with my lovely friend the writer Elizabeth Speller  .  We were staying in her perfect little house in the olive groves of Paxos where  this year JTH and I spent almost all of May.  As well as looking forward to a week with my friend and reacquainting myself with the kittens, born behind the mirror in the garden during my last stay,

I needed to think what out of all my various works in progress I would take with me.  Now you might be forgiven for wondering why I would even bother to take knitting or crochet with me to a Mediterranean island in high summer.  But there would be early mornings and late evenings, when we sit and chat, to say nothing of the travelling (nearly ten hours each way counting check ins and waiting for connections) when I could be making something too. Something in this beautiful Sublime Cotton DK from my stash, eight balls, eight different colours bought in a sale in January, £1 for 50g

But what should I make?  Not only should there be no complicated pattern to follow but what about needles and scissors and security?  I was travelling with hand luggage only and ever since having an operation that left a large chunk of metal in one of my hips I have had a bit of bother with airport security.  I set off the alarms so often that I usually walk through the security arch and straight up to one of the women with the hand held metal detectors, not waiting for the beep.  Then there is the time I set them off at JFK in New York and was placed in a glass cubicle until someone was free to check me and another time when I missed my flight when the 'patting down' woman  did not believe me and I had to be taken to a private room and show her my scar!  So I am very careful about my hand luggage, at least I can make sure that does not offend.

I had already decided I would crochet and use a wooden hook but what about scissors? It was then I discovered this helpful website and found I could take scissors as long as the blade was no longer than 6cm, needles both knitting and sewing variety are allowed too.

I decided to make a throw with granny squares, separating the yarns into two colour groups, strong and light.

I have about 30 squares made up to now and have probably used about a third of the yarn

I have 25 pale squares and when I have completed the same amount of the other colour-way I may mix the colours up again.  I have quite a way to go before the afghan is finished  and I haven't decided what the linking colour will be yet but what with all the other things we did (eating, sunbathing, dozing, reading and occasionally dipping in the sea) I did not spend a lot of time on it.

I have been visiting Paxos for ten years now and have photographed it in every season, capturing processions of icons and tiny wild flowers as well as breathtaking views and kittens and goats so this visit I left my camera in my bag most of the time. Instead I took a few pictures that might inspire some of the things I make.  I'm not sure yet what ideas I will take from this close up of the sea lapping against the restaurant decking as we piled tzatziki and taramasalata  onto village bread but for now it is just good to look at and remind me of a perfectly clear, warm, turquoise sea.



Saturday, 16 July 2011

A cautionary tale

Oh!  This yarn just shouted to me 'buy me buy me' from the shelves of one of my favourite wool shops.  In a mixed fibre, including linen and a beautiful shade of chartreuse, how could I resist? 

I already had a pattern, downloaded from Ravelry.

Not for the same yarn of course, and the Rowan Lenpur does not knit up to quite the same tension as the Berroco Glace, but it's only a couple of stitches and rows to a 10 cm square.  I was so impatient to begin.

As the front and back are the same and I hate sewing up (have I said that before?)  I decided to knit it on a circular needle in one piece, it took a very long cable and a while for the weight of the knitting to pull the coil out straight.

Increasing and decreasing either side of stitch markers denoting the side seams, pleases me, I love the orderly way it sits.

Even when the knitting itself is quite bulky, with a circular needle it is still possible to knit on the train without getting in anyone's way.

It knitted up really quickly...

And then I realised how 2 stitches and three rows in 10 cm can have a huge effect over 240 stitches!.  The top is truly beautiful but I had not intended to knit it for my daughter!

Although it does suit her!



Tuesday, 12 July 2011

My Knitting Aunt

I have mentioned my Knitting Aunt before.  She was my mother's sister, one of seven, my Knitting Aunt was the third girl, then came three boys and lastly my mother (born in 1918).  She was barely 18 when she married and left the family home in Kent to live in Buckinghamshire in the 1920s.  My mother went to live with her ten years later when both their parents died.  This picture was taken of my mother when she was about 7, probably about the time my aunt married

In due course my mother met and married my father, my brother and I growing up in the same village as my seven girl cousins.  The cousins were older than me but one of my aunt's many grandchildren is my oldest friend.  She and I shared our first day at school in the little village school, our first teenage parties, family holidays and now we compare grandchildren.  She is three months older than me and those three months are the only time that we did not know each other. 

This is a picture of her son Zak wearing one of his great grandmother's famous hand knitted sweaters (I am not worried about embarrassing Zak, this picture was taken more than 20 years ago).  In the family they are known as Joseph Jumpers.  When bringing up children on a small income, during the second world war, economy was second nature to my aunt and her contemporaries, they grew their own vegetables, picked blackberries in the hedgerows to make jam and made all their own clothes.  My mother was a very skilled dressmaker and I think made clothes for her nieces, my aunt's skill was knitting.

My aunt took her knitting everywhere.  I think the only time she put her wool and needles down was to cook a meal or work in her garden (where she grew as many flowers as vegetables).  She knitted in the evenings while everyone else watched television and when she visited us to have tea with my mother, one afternoon each week, her knitting came too.  On Sunday afternoons when the whole family went out for a walk she walked and knitted, carrying the ball of wool under her arm.

Joseph jumpers were the ultimate make do and mend, they were made of unpicked wool from worn out or out grown hand knits (cast off from the family or bought in village jumble sales) and knitted up in my aunt's special stripey, slipped stitch.  The pattern is made by slipping (always purlwise) one stitch in five from the stripe below,  right through the next stripe then the alternate stitch slipped when the next colour is joined in, making a brick pattern.  Once her girls married and had children of their own Aunty Kit began to knit Joseph jumpers for the grandchildren as Christmas presents.   In time there were 18 grandchildren (I've lost count of the next generation) and the  knitting began in January in order to be ready for the next Christmas.

One day I came across a similar stitch pattern in 200 Knitted blocks, by Jan Eaton, where she calls it V-stripes, I decided to knit a cowl in the style of a Joseph jumper.  As always happens when I decide to knit something free hand I did not have exactly the yarn I needed in my stash so I bought this silky bamboo in some bright shades plus the standard neutral.

Without a pattern I did swatch first to get the right number of stitches then cast on, knitted a wide band of k2/p2 rib before launching into the stripe pattern, keeping 6 stitches on each end of the row on pins, then knitting up the button and button hole bands and finishing it off with more rib.  The mother of pearl buttons in bright colours to match the stripes give me a little smile of pleasure to see them gleaming down the side of the cowl.

I haven't actually written down the pattern but please let me know (in the comments below) if you would like it and I will post a free pattern in PDF to download.



Saturday, 2 July 2011

Getting Organised

When my sister-in-law gave me a large sisal hamper as a Christmas present a few years ago, with small baskets and a box inside, it was just the thing for a new work box.  But last week as I ransacked it for one of my new fabric marker pens (convinced someone in the family had mistaken it for a handy gel pen) and everything ended up in a jumble of thread and elastic caught around the scissors, I knew it was no longer fit for purpose.

Some of the pieces of kit in here I have had for ages. The threadbare pincushion was made by my daughter when she was about 6, under the close supervision of her lovely Grandma, is a treasured possession, one of the thimbles had belonged to my mother and the orange handled Friskar cutting out scissors have been carefully guarded over the years from other craft activities.  But I have recently rediscovered the fun of sewing and bought many many more little gadgets which together with an ever growing stock of hooks and eyes, press studs and beads had simply out grown the old basket.

I needed a big and business like new work box.  Somehow the traditional offerings in big store haberdashery departments or just another, bigger basket would not do the job.  So I went hunting in B&Q

If a tool box could have an expectation of its future role this stout business like box from Stanley might be forgiven for expecting to carry screw drivers, the odd hammer, nuts and bolts rather than cotton reels, darning wool, the odd tape measure and more besides.

I love it, the lid has two lift out compartments where I have put a spare foot for my sewing machine, skirt hooks and mending bits.  The other front compartment has thimbles, small scissors and the quick-unpic.

More fun inside, the cantilevered trays are great for all sorts, including cotton reels.  At last I can see what colours I have and may in future avoid owning more reels of navy than anyone should need in a life time. I also discovered that I own a great stock of beads.  Mental note to self - think up a project to make the best of them.

I think this new box will be good for a few years, there is even room for a little more kit...

Then there's the question of the empty basket, what shall I use it for?

Perhaps before long I will have outgrown my knitting kit roll