Sunday, December 24, 2006

Knitting hurts

I've reached the sad conclusion that my frozen shoulder may have been triggered by doing too much knitting, and is certainly exacerbated by it. So I've had to be very self disciplined and knit only in short bursts. I'm also trying to remember to do some stretches before and after I knit - sounds crazy I know but it's better than lying awake in agony for several hours. When I started knitting last new year I bought "Knitting for Dummies" - highly recommended for beginners, but I wish I hadn't ignored the chapter on unkinking exercises. I suppose it's not surprising that if you suddenly start spending several hours a day crouched over the needles concentrating hard on very small movements, your body is likely to protest.
I did manage to knit a few hats for Christmas presents though - including Woolly Wormhead's Whirly Rib Cap. It's a good pattern, very enjoyable to knit. Though I do recommend treating the advice to use a stitch marker after each repeat as an instruction rather than suggestion. I had to rip back a few rows because I got muddled after failing to do this.

We went to Wales with Rose and Ellen this week for a few days to visit various friends and relatives. It was a lovely trip - we were very lucky with the weather as it's been horribly wet there recently. Did plenty of walking on the beach, in Borth near Aberystwyth and in further north. My step mother Jean who is a very experienced spinner, dyer and knitter, donated lots of oddments of her handspun and dyed wool to Rose. Rose also started knitting this year and is still at the scarf stage - and living in York, she needs them. On the way home on Friday we came along the A458 from Dolgellau to Welshpool hoping to visit Colinette. I didn't have the address though - only a memory of where it was from the website. Couldn't find it so got the phone number from directory inquiries but no reply so presumably they had closed for Christmas already. Disappointing but perhaps just as well as I'm not exactly short of yarn.
Thanks for the kind support with my daughters' court case. They went to court just before Christmas and both got a conditional discharge. Hooray.

I hope you all have a great Christmas. xxx

Friday, December 01, 2006

Horses for courses

I've been thinking about why different people are attracted to knitting different sorts of things. It doesn't seem to be just to do with skill, or with what you like to wear. For example I don't really understand why socks attract so many people. For one thing, you have to knit two of them. For another, they take a long time because they have to be knitted in such fine yarn on skinny needles.
And - I may be wrong here - but can hand-knitted socks really be more comfortable to wear than Marks and Spencers stretchy cotton jobs?
Anyway this is a digression from my main point which is the obvious one that what you knit reflects your personality. I am an impatient person, and in my brief (not yet a year) knitting career I have discovered that I don't have much perseverence and do get bored quickly. I love beautiful stitchwork, and would love to have a garment like the one on the front of the Winter issue of Interweave Knits. But I don't think I have it in me to make such a big investment of time and effort - even if I had the skills, which I don't. And I really honour and admire people who do. I have made some jumpers and a cardigan, but they were all with chunky wool so grew rapidly. Three were in Colinette Graffiti, which was exciting to knit because of the interplay of the colours - you didn't know what it was going to look like until it rolled off the needles. Poor TC's jumper is still languishing in a bag upstairs. I haven't even finished the back, and have now negotiated with him to make it sleeveless... Even though I love him to bits, it's just too dull to do more than a few rows at a time of the same old stitch pattern in this dark colour on 4.5 needles.

Having finished eight squares of Lizard Ridge I've copped out and decided to make two big cushion covers instead of the throw (which will take 16 squares instead of 24, leaving me with quite a nice leftover stash of Noro Kureyon).
This isn't pure laziness as we actually do need cushions more than a blanket. But it is partly that I know I am going to get bored with it, and I've been itching to get on with other things.
To keep myself amused I have made a few more hats, some for Christmas presents. I love hats, both because I love wearing them, and because they are so quick to make! I had an inspiring encounter with Woolly Wormhead and several dozen of her hats at a local craft fair, and I'm now making her Whirly Rib Cap.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Return of the hat

We went to the climate change protest on Saturday. I was wearing my Woolly Wormhead beret, the one in the profile picture. I bumped into a friend, Hilary, who asked if I would make her one - but she wanted autumn colours with lime green. This is not a colour I would ever buy for myself, but miraculously when I got home and had a look at my stash I found that Handpainted Yarn had sent me a free gift of worsted weight merino which fitted the bill. I remember thinking when I opened it that I'd never use it, so there you go. And here it is, the first hat I've made for a couple of months. Really enjoyed it and will be giving it to her in exchange for some Icelandic wool she gave me when she cleared her parents attic recently. I used some on Sunday to make this hat for Ellen (sorry the picture is a bit blurred). She specified the details and I made up the pattern as I went along. It's a bit messy, but she seems to like it.
On the way back from the climate change demo we went through Regents Park which for anyone who doesn't know it is the most urban of city parks. I've been amazed before to see herons there - and managed to get a picture this time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lizard selection

Haven't posted lately because not much of interest has been happening. Tea cosy, TC's jumper and my jumper are still confirmed wips and growing very slowly. I knew Lizard Ridge was going to be a long job, but I'm nearly a quarter way through.
I've been pretty busy with work, especially with my work web site which I do myself with occasional advice from a techie friend. I'd like to show it off but it's got my home address on it (which is also my business address) and I would feel vulnerable if all the personal information about me here was linked to an identifiable person, name and address and all.
The frozen shoulder is quite painful. I went to see someone last weekend for a session of Bowen Technique which I'd never heard of before. She hasn't cured it but it definitely has changed in some way so I'm going back tonight. Clutching at straws possibly, but conventional medicine doesn't seem to offer anything much.
Sold my car yesterday to the son of a friend. We bought an oldish camper van in the summer which we've converted to LPG which is more environmentally friendly and cheaper than petrol, and as I almost never drive in London anyway there was no point in having two vehicles. We took the van to Dorset last weekend, put up the awning for the first time which was exciting, and walked on the coastal path near Corfe Castle which was beautiful.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I've done the first Lizard Ridge square, complete with several mistakes. (no-one could accuse me of being a perfectionist!) It now seems odd that this pattern is in stocking stitch both because it curls up and because it's not reversible - and you kind of want a blanket to be reversable, don't you? Although perhaps an Afghan is different - I don't really know what an Afghan is. Can anyone advise? Anyway I suppose I could back it with something - even possibly something knitted.
The film crew turned out to be not from Channel 4 at all. They were an independent film company making a feature film about civil liberties in the UK - I got the impression the director saw himself as an English version of Michael Moore. Anyway they sat us all at the kitchen table and interviewed us for about an hour. We all had to avoid having words put into our mouths eg. "So do you think your daughters were treated like terrorists?", and as we didn't say exactly what he hoped we may end up on the cutting room floor. Either way it was interesting because I learned more details from the girls about what happened. This report on the BBC this morning underlines the point they were trying to make.
The Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally was huge, hot and heaving - I don't know what I'd imagined but it wasn't that. Perhaps late morning on Saturday was the busiest time. Anyway I saw some lovely things, and bought some wooden straight needles for the Lizard Ridge, and this yarn at a very good price from a man who only sells at exhibitions. Only spent £25 in all though, so not too wild.
Organising exhibitions seems to be almost a license to print money. All the organisers had to do was hire the venue and publicise it. And set up a few workshops. Then they just wait to collect the money from the exhibitors (I bet it was expensive) and the thousands and thousands of visitors.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New arrival

It's here - already! I'm really pleased with the colours.
Have postponed my visit to Ally Pally to tomorrow morning. I won't be able to stay long because we've got to go to Sussex for a wedding in the afternoon, but felt I had to be here today to tidy up for the film crew - and of course to make a start on Lizard Ridge.
Glad I did my experimental swatch with odds and ends - I'm sure I'll make plenty of mistakes but hopefully not as many as I would have done.
The biggest problem is going to be persisting with TC's much-needed rib jumper when this glorious thing is waiting for me!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wips etc and big splurge

TC's jumper is making slow but steady progress - it's not exactly a fun knit but a few rows every couple of days is manageable. My circular jumper is also progressing rather slowly - but then I didn't take either of them to Georgia. I took the tea cosy, and finished the first side.
I couldn't understand why such a small project needed so much yarn, but of course the reason is that you have to carry it across the back when you are not knitting with it. Should mean the tea stays good and warm, as the cosy has a thick lining.
I've also started experimenting with Lizard Ridge. Being a tightwad I was horrified at the idea of buying 21 skeins of Noro Kureyon so I thought I'd have a go from my stash from Handpainted Yarns. It's fun to knit because there are lots of colour changes and short rows, and I'm now having a go at backwards knitting which is interesting.
But I've realised my efforts will not be fully rewarded without Kureyon's colour pattern, so last night I made a trip to ebay and splurged £75 on 22 balls in five different colours from magimade. Oh dear. And tomorrow I'm going to Ally Pally for the knitting and stitching show, so will doubtless succomb to more temptations when I probably should be saving up for the fines. Thanks so much for the messages of support about this. We are hoping the worst is over. The publicity for the case has made the girls feel the protest was worthwhile, and now Channel 4 wants us to take part in a film about the erosion of civil rights in the UK so that will be interesting.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oooh - I've been tagged. By Alice, to list five things feminism has done for me.

1. Gave me much more confidence about my place in the world than my mother had. In particular freed me of much of the self-hatred women felt in the 50s and 60s and gave me positive images and words to replace all the negative names and stereotypes she was hemmed in by.

2. Gave me a community - the women's movement - and a cause to fight for when I was in my twenties.

3. Gave me choices - expanded the spaces within which I can live. Being single was a choice for me for a long time, and I enjoyed it. I shunned all domestic crafts for decades. Now I knit!

4. Made it possible to talk about sex from women's point of view which in turn dispelled some of the shame and confusion of my mother's generation.

5. Gave me pride in being a woman, and respect for other women.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Georgian socks

Didn't managed to photograph these before they'd been worn and so look a bit misshapen. They are knitted from scratchy wool - you have to wear cotton socks underneath them. But they are really warm.
I bought them in Tbilisi's enormous market at Vagzali Square from a beautiful old woman who was selling them from a basket. Unfortunately I can only say hello, thank you, sorry, yes and no in Georgian so was unable to talk to her much.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Back from Georgia - had a wonderful time. Knitting is very big there, but more as a necessity than a hobby. There are wool shops everywhere. I bought three pairs of hand-knitted socks in a market from the woman who knitted them. Have posted a few pictures here, some of interest mainly to members of my choir.
Meanwhile things were happening at home: the girls were arrested on a climate change demonstration and held in police cells for 36 hours before being released in the middle of the night and charged with three offences. I knew nothing until I came home on Wednesday evening, and spent Friday at the magistrates court. I was very shocked to start with, but now I feel proud of the girls.
Thanks very much for the advice about my shoulder. I was prescribed anti-inflamatories which certainly seemed to help, and it's not as painful as it was.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


TC's jumper is progressing very slowly. In fact I'm barely half way up the back which is the first piece. Took it to Cambridge last weekend where my choir were rehearsing for our forthcoming trip to the Republic of Georgia. Combination of not enough light and too much talking and wine meant I kept having to rip it back which was very tedious. I'm going to persevere though. Someone described the stitch pattern as hunky, so Hunky is the jumper's name now.
I've started another very simple sweater, again using the Anne Budd book. It's circular, with rolling edges, so it's just knit every row. Not boring because you don't have to concentrate - being on a circular needle it's in a very confined space and stitches don't drop off much. I've even been experimenting with reading while knitting.
I finished the beret. So at last know how many stitches to cast on with 5mm needles in Colinette One Zero to get a hat that fits me.
Have also started a tea cosy - the same one that used to grace the front page of yarnstorm though mine certainly won't look as perfect as Jane's.
So I'm off to Tbilisi, Georgia for eleven days on September 23. It's very exciting - I've been singing Georgian folk songs for nearly seven years now and this is my first visit to the country. (I've linked to an example of Georgian polyphony on the sidebar if anyone's interested!) Not sure what to take knitting-wise. We'll be sitting round listening to other choirs quite a lot so there should be plenty of opportunity. I suppose Hunky is the obvious choice, but it's not very pretty. Unfortunately I've developed something called Frozen Shoulder - apparently it can take three years to heal and there's not much you can do in the meant time. It's not too bad during the day (though I gather it might get a lot worse) but really hurts at night, and wakes me up. Poo.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Long haul

is finished, and a new big project has begun. It's a jumper for TC. He finds it difficult to find jumpers to fit - in fact none of his jumpers do fit properly - because he is very slightly built and thin, but he's tall with very long legs. So they either swamp him around the shoulders or they look much too short. This is in cartridge rib and the pattern is from Anne Budd's book of basic sweater patterns. I really like the book because you can pick whatever yarn you like, knit it to whatever gauge you like, and customise the jumper in any way you can think of. I got the yarn from Ebay. It's pure wool and came from Ireland in a great big 600 gram hank - bargain for £12 I thought. Just hope there's going to be enough of it to finish the jumper - if it starts to look doubtful I suppose I can do a stripe round the chest or something.
I like the cartridge rib because it doesn't involve purling - just knit 3, slip a stitch purl-wise. (I'm a "continental" knitter and purling is fiddly.) Even so it is too boring to do all the time so I'm making another (you'll be amazed) beret. It's in Colinette One Zero - I love this colour and the way the yarn looks when it's knitted up.
Thanks to Kendra I've been listening to Pride and Prejudice while knitting. She told me about Librivox where you can download recordings of books that are in the public domain - i.e. old enough for the copyright to have expired. They are read by volunteers which is quite fun. So one chapter might be read by a woman from Alabama, the next by a bloke from Scotland and the next by a woman in Tokyo. In fact most of the readers are from the US. I thought I might have a go if I can avoid sitting in front of the computer while I'm reading.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

rollin' again

The concert on Saturday went really well. (Maybe next time Alice?) We had nearly 100 people, most of whom didn't know anything about us and had just seen flyers around the neighbourhood. And they seemed really enthusiastic which was great. We made a profit of nearly £400 which we'll be giving to a charity in Georgia.

Ruth aka Woolly Wormhead was my inspiration and guide when I started knitting eight months ago. Not only do I love her hats, but the links on her blog took me to so many places I needed to get to. My second hat was from her Rollin' Beret pattern, but I was a tight knitter back then and it came up too small. So I just knitted a second one in the same size as before, but it came up bigger, presumably because my knitting got looser. TC (the OM) took some pictures of me in it for Ruth's Owners' Gallery and I like them so have stuck one on blogger profile.
I'm struggling with the yarn habit.. I've just moved bedrooms and as a result explored the stash. The thing is I don't really want to have to find space to store any more yarn, so it does make sense to consume what's there, especially as it's all lovely wool. But woke up in the night yearning for a nice warm jumper for the autumn in my current favourite Colinette colour Venezia.
I'm having a go at cables for the first time at the moment, and using some more of the gorgeous merino from Handpaintedyarns on Fetching. I get cold hands when I'm working at the computer in the winter, so these should be really useful.

And to return to the hat subject, this is rather wonderful.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


My elder daughter Rose has been staying this week. One day we went out to the Stour Valley for a walk. The landscape was a bit flat for my taste, but we had a sensational tea at the National Trust teashop at Flatford. And also found lots of wild plums and sloes.
TC and I had already picked 4lbs of blackberries on Walthamstow Marshes and made 2 litres of blackberry whiskey. The sloes are destined for sloe gin. Not sure about the plums - I made pork with plum sauce this week but it hardly made a dent in them. Any ideas?
More hats have also been made, replenishing my winter supply. Berets and cloches seem to be my thing at the moment. I've got quite a few books of hat patterns now, but I seem to prefer looking at the pictures to following the patterns.
The beret on the left is from Noro Iro yarn.
the others are from Handpainted Yarn so they cost about a third of the price to make, though in my view the wool is softer and the colours are just as lovely.
Tonight some friends and I are putting on a concert of songs from the Republic of Georgia. We've booked a local church as the venue, and we got it into Time Out (nothing much else going on in August so they had space) but we've no idea if we'll get an audience. (In case you're at a loose end in north London tonight it's at St Mary's Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, N16. Doors open 7.00, concert starts 7.30, tickets £5.) Haven't decided which hat to wear yet...

Monday, August 14, 2006

smokey days

Home from the Voice Camp - our annual singing, campfiring, socialising, sun and moon-enjoying week in Dorset. Made new friends, learnt new songs, and even sold some hats! There is a 90 minute Market in a big marquee once during the week where everyone hauls out their beads, and candles, and home-made cds etc. I sold four hats, and another five at other times during the camp. I also offered to knit someone a hat in a promise auction for Wateraid - it went for £27, but in the event the bidder chose a hat I'd already made and I gave her another to go with it. I found the crochet hats were the most popular - probably because they are denser and hold their shape better than the knitted.
My first customer was Vicky - and here she is in one of the two hats she bought. It was so good to see people wandering round the camp in my hats!
I thought about doing a knitting workshop but someone else had already got it organised. She ran a "late-starters" knitting class and taught several men as well as lots of kids.
But I was no knitting slouch during the week either. Finished a pair of mittens and knitted three new hats. I was pleased with this one - crocheted from Noro Kureyon, pattern made up as I went along.
I bought the yarn before the voice camp in Fishguard - thanks to Kendra for discovering the shop. We had a great week camping in Newport, just north of Fishguard. Did lots of walking on the coastal path as well as hanging around on the campsite in the sun. We also went to the 149th Fishguard Agricultural Show which was really fun - lots of beautiful animals on show but also a massive produce show which included knitting and crochet items. Very inspiring, but unfortunately I didn't have the camera.

Before Pembrokeshire we went to North Wales to deliver the dog to my father and stepmother (no doggies allowed at voice camp sadly). Jean is a very expert spinner (and knitter) and had recently been to a dying picnic with her Spinners and Weavers Guild. I don't know anything about dying (or spinning) but she told me everyone brought something to make a natural dye bath, and made up the dyes in buckets in someone's garden. Then they all were able to use all the dyes to dye their own wool and fleece. Here's what Jean came home with. And here's her spinning wheel and chair, which was made by my dad who is a woodworking genius. (Jean did the seat cushion)

So having made about £100 on the hats at voice camp I feel fully justified in having a big yarn splurge. Very busy catching up with work now but as soon as I can I'll be frantically blog-visiting to see what tasty stuff is being devoured.

Monday, July 24, 2006


... well, something vaguely related to socks anyway. It was this that gave me the confidence to tackle my first pair. The instructions allow for knitting them in worsted weight wool, but I'm such a loose knitter that even though I went down a needle size they are still, as you can see, rather roomy. Fine for cold nights in bed though.

We had a little tea party this afternoon with the new tea set. Ellen has just returned from Spain, and Rose and Susan are down from York for a few days. They made cucumber and egg and cress sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and scones with jam and cream. Notice the chintzy cake stand and teapot - I should have been born 200 years ago.
Talking of which someone lent me an "audio book" of Jane Austin's Emma which I listened to while knitting the socks. I've really missed reading since I took up knitting and have decided the answer could be more books on tapes and cds. Must visit the library and see what they've got.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Just one more thing

I went to north Wales last week to visit my father on his 84th birthday, and we got to talking about afternoon tea. We'd both read this . Anyway his talk about the pleasure of drinking tea out of bone china planted a seed of yearning in me. And when I got back I had a look (a close look) on ebay for some kit.
This morning this came. There are six of those little cups, saucers and tea plates and two of the big plates - to me they are exquisite. Of course I had to go out and buy some special afternoon-blend tea and have been drinking little cups of it since lunchtime. The cakes were supposed to be rock cakes but as you can see they came out more like paving slabs. Still tasty though.

I've been hat-knitting and forgetfully gave one hat away to my daughter Rose's girlfriend Susan without taking a picture first. But here's one I did in Colinette One Zero. I've also been reading Elizabeth Zimmermann and had a go at knitting the hat on the cover of Knitting without Tears which is in Brioche stitch. Certainly more fun than k2p2.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Over and out

I'm wishing a fond farewell to this blog for the time being - not enough time to maintain it properly - but I'll still be visiting other peoples. And I'll keep my photo gallery updated.
Thanks for visiting - see you soon on your blog.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Here it is - and as Alice says, blocking makes all the difference when you knit lacey things. I just washed it in warm water with a bit of soapy stuff, squeezed some of the water out by rolling it up in a towel, and let it dry flat. It has opened up beautifully and in fact is about 20% bigger both ways than before I wet it. I'm really pleased with it and will wear it smugly tonight at a meal with some anti-knitting women friends.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sock block

Very little progress to report on the socks I'm afraid. I've got as far as the heel flap and may get even further before the end of the World Cup - and one day this sock will be perfect for someone with one leg.
I've done quite a lot of the shawl though. Made a few mistakes - usually too many yarn overs - and have sometimes just sneakily decreased a stitch somewhere or sometimes ripped back a bit. But the yarn is so lovely, even ripping it back is a pleasure.
I know it's easy to find nice looking flowers at this time of year, but believe me I'm no gardener so I'm very excited by this crop of hollyhocks which has appeared in our front garden. They've all self-seeded and some of them are growing from the tiniest cracks in the paving stones. Incredible.TC has been very busy in the back garden. And a fox has stolen one of his gardening gloves!
I was awake (and knitting) at about 4.30 this morning when I heard someone or something bashing around in the garden and when I looked out, saw this enormous fox with something in its jaws. Then this morning one of the gloves, which used to be his motor cycling gloves when he lived in Canada, had disappeared from a chair. You can see its forlorn other- half in the picture.
We also had to harvest all our not quite ripe cherries this morning because the blackbirds are eating them. We live in the middle of very densely populated Hackney with a dog and two cats so don't really expect to have these kinds of struggles with nature!
I need to confess that I ordered more wool last week, completely unnecessarily. Yesterday I worked out that when it arrives I will have enough to knit six long sleeved jumpers plus at least 16 hats. Which is enough to be going on with really isn't it? I also ordered some under-the-bed storage boxes and more vacuum storage bags to store it in.
So I'm pledging not going to order any more woollen yarn until I've used at least half of what I've got. i.e. until I've made three jumpers, and eight hats. Honestly.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Birthday breakfast

Today is Ellen's 18th birthday. She's the younger of my two daughters, so it feels like a special day for me too - two children now officially grown-ups. She's got an A level psychology exam this afternoon unfortunately, so we had a special birthday breakfast. Her dad, who lives a few streets away, came round and took these pictures. Tonight she's celebrating with her friends.
And here she is on a previous birthday. (Sorry Ellen.)