All posts for the month April, 2014

All quiet on the Western front

Published April 28, 2014 by Jackie

It’s been a while since I posted, a drop in momentum caused by a short break from work ~ sometimes it just works that you can wangle what is ostensibly a 12.5 day holiday for just 3 days of annual leave used, thanks to the judicial placing of public holidays and other such lovelies! And when I’m away from my desk, I browse the internet but don’t contribute very much usually, so nothing has been written… but much has been knitted!

So what did I do with myself? I had an overnight trip to London, to say goodbye to our director who had been headhunted by a competitor. Unlike many of the middle management who are ‘moving on’ she was required to work her notice, and in the interim, massive changes are underway at work. We did this completely on the cheap, our London-based dept wouldn’t pay for travel, but Scotland did! Since it was booked (free first class one way, extortionate standard/cattle class back) we have discovered a pretty good reason ~ the London manager is staying, but the Scottish manager is departing ~ no comeback on him perhaps?

But doing this on the cheap meant a chance to stay overnight with family, and if you know me, you know how much I love my beautiful nieces, so even a chance for a few hours in their company is to be grabbed. Both were on good form, delighted to take a few minutes to have proper measurements taken ~ lured by the prospect of snuggly jumpers I think ~ and to sit and chat about this and that. They are both growing into lovely young women, not a sign of the terrible teens at all, tho perhaps that was the fleeting nature of my visit!

Train travel for me means extensive knitting time! I managed two sleeves, one on each leg of the journey. However, they’ve since been re-knit, as the body of the garment just felt a bit dense, no fluidity! All is done now. I resisted buying more yarn and will work in a third contrast colour rather than risk running out mid-pattern… However, as I have since found a new source of this now-discontinued yarn, it’s tempting me….

Lots of time spent knitting ~ our regular Sunday slot, our crafty choristers meeting on Tuesdays when there’s no choir (wheeee! choir starts again tomorrow!), ladies who lunch and trade yarn, Saturday yarn party (more on this later) and lots of time for knitting at home. And BALLET!

Ballet… I love ballet, hmm that’s not quite the statement you think it is, actually I can’t be bothered with traditional ballet, the hand-gesturey pointe stuff, but love a bit of contemporary dance that’s not too off the wall!  This was Matthew Bourne-style ballet, and I will go out of my way to see his ballets ~ traditional tales told in a contemporary way. Last week was Swan Lake, yes, THAT Swan Lake, the one with the men. It is quite the best thing ever, and last week was my third time of seeing it. And this time, it reduced me to tears. I’m quite prepared to accept that it’s a trick of the show, as unlike Sadlers Wells with a live orchestra, on tour the music is recorded, and I’m sure they crank up the volume for the final scenes, so it quite literally makes your heart tremble… 

But it was simply magnificent, and our seats were the best for an unimpeded view, front row of the grand circle. Having the right seats makes such a difference. There’s not a lot has surpassed the premiere of Dorian Grey, but we were 3 rows from the front of the stalls, in a venue with a low stage, and you feel like you can hear the dancers’ heartbeats there. Compare that with the rear of the upper circle, and it’s a whole different production. Always buy the best seats you can afford, but if you can’t afford the best, just go anyway! I saw a tweet yesterday for Sleeping Beauty ~ it has been on the tv and is now available on YouTube, but actually being there is something so very special!

Back to yarny adventures, and on Saturday we held a (very) belated Christmas party for our knitting group. It moved to a new venue last year, and has changed significantly in the interim. Lots of new people go, a lot of the regulars don’t, and it’s in the opposite direction for me (ie wrong direction). We tried keeping a city centre group going too, but finding a good city-centre venue on a Thursday has proved difficult. Limited menus, expensive hotels, busy pubs ~ I stopped going just before Christmas and haven’t been lured back ~ tho I am first to say yes to a weekend meet-up instead.

Anyway, back to the yarn-party. This was the ‘old crew’, mostly the original Tea-Tree-ers, and what a lovely day it was. Lots of babies and toddlers and faces not seen for a while, stash to be de-stashed or sold, a chance to get rid of some things that were lurking, and a chance to sell or trade some other things that had proved uninspiring for you, but too valuable to give away.  Surprisingly I found lots of really interesting stuff to take away, even a couple of things from the sale table! The biggest surprise was selling my most expensive bags of yarn, I’d marked them as half original price, but with the price even lower if all were bought. And lovely Cathy was inspired enough to buy them all! I must work out if I spent more than I made, or broke even. I know I used some of my £2 coin stash, but I also found a £20 note in beside my camera!

I think the new stash will feed my current whim of making kids jumpers. Definitely the red alpaca DK will! And I think the blue 4-ply too, tho it might be very handy for the colourwork waistcoat in the offing, as it needs hand-washed, which is not something you want to give to a toddler mum.

But the biggest treat was just seeing all the little children who have been added to our group over the years. And getting to snuffle (oops I mean snuggle) the very newest of them. Here’s to Alice, Magnus, Alexander, Matthew, tiny Alana and even tinier Elisa, you absolutely made my day! And to the grown-ups? Let’s do that again, soon!

ps when I said I resisted buying yarn, what I specifically meant was ‘not any more of that particular yarn… yet!’ I did buy some yarn at the destash, but more specifically, I also visited Loop while I was in London, picked up an order placed earlier in the week, and added a skein of Socks That Rock that spoke to me from the shelves…. but I also sold an entire bag of Rowan Aran Tweed to Jo, which probably balanced out the Loop order both in quantity and in cost! But not the Socks that Rock…


bring your knitting!

Published April 14, 2014 by Jackie

yesterday (Sunday 13th) saw me with tickets for a lecture by Doug Allan, the wildlife cameraman, in the Lyceum, Edinburgh. I was going with my friend and colleague, Joan, and she invited me round for tea before we went. More on Doug later, but ‘bring your knitting’ she said!

Now you might think that’s a simple statement, but to someone who knits as much as I do, there are many considerations to be made. Firstly, it needs to be something that’s not bulky (ie will fit in a handbag that needs to be stashed under the seat with my coat ~ that immediately ruled out my Freyja cardigan. I might only be two balls in to the body, but it’s getting a bit unwieldy. Plus I have reached the waist shaping, so can’t just knit away.

I’ve just finished a sweater ~ very bulky, very cosy too. As I finished the sleeves I had the body laid out across my lap like a blanket, so it had gone nowhere since I finished the polo-neck! While I was knitting that, my portable project was a cowl for a colleague, a leaving gift. But I’d just finished that too, and it’s now blocking before a quick press and gift-wrap on the train to London.

Do I want to start something? Definitely not. Well there’s a single sock lurking in my wips? But that requires attention to get it started, and then has tiny cables running up the sides….

Vivid squares? nope, they needs some planning, as my 2nd skein of undyed yarn is very different to the first ~ I think! It would help if I got the squares out and compared them.

Once upon a time, knitting was simple ~ you found a pattern, bought the yarn, knitted until it was finished, then thought about the next project…. those days are long gone!

Hmmm I know! My pink Valkyrie is the one, I’m about half-way through the second ball of 4, so it’s not quite reached the unwieldy and awkward stage yet. It’s also been waylaid by other projects meantime, and it would be good to move it on a bit. Sorted! It’s now back in my bag as regular bus-knitting too, so might even get finished on this week’s London trip, with 9 hours of travel time there and back.

Later: more on Doug Allen. If you are a fan of Attenborough wildlife programmes, the big ones like Blue Planet and Life, you are bound to remember some of Doug’s film footage. Orcas working as a team to create surges that knock seals from small ice-floes. Polar bear mothers bringing new cubs out of their dens. He seems to specialise in extremes, Arctic, Antarctic, isolated places. But he’s a very personable chap, and had no problem filling almost 3 hours, a very enjoyable evening indeed!


Published April 11, 2014 by Jackie

I was on my dashboard here, and I can see some basic stats which make it look like I have blog visitors, but I have done nothing to promote my blog except add a link on my About Me page on Ravelry.

Of course, I visit my pages from two different locations, home and work. But I’m wondering if I am my only visitor?

Not sure I’m ready for shameless self-promotion yet, but if there’s anyone out there, friend or stranger, and you think my blog is worth reading, do let me know!

Twitter et al

Published April 10, 2014 by Jackie

I find myself getting more and more addicted to Twitter. It’s fast becoming my favourite electronic medium for social networking, though I still much prefer the face-to-face kind. I love that it’s like texting 20 friends at once, and that you can respond to tweets quickly and amusingly in limited characters, make a quick comment to the local council or the bus operator, and follow the most random of people. I’ve won prizes, found out about movies, and have seen some gorgeous photos too, and reserved the last soup my lunch from the sandwich shop round the corner. 

And you know when someone says something, and ten minutes later, wish you’d said X as a reply? Well, on twitter, no-one knows it took 10 minutes to come up with that perfect reply.

At the moment, I follow around 280 people, and around 100 follow me. I think I know maybe two-thirds of that 100. 

I still mostly used Ravelry, of course. Sure, I search for patterns, add my own projects, along with copious notes ~ I can access my projects and pattern library from almost anywhere now, isn’t that wonderful that you can? At home, work, on the bus, on the train, in my brother’s home, in Starbucks, you name it…but lately I find myself only really interested in what’s going on with my own knitting group in the Forum. I met them all through Ravelry, and I think it will remain our most important method of communication with each other.  But you know what? Most of my knit-group friends are on Twitter too!

And yet I still resist Book of Face… yes I have an account, but it is under a pseudonym. I just don’t want people knowing my business. Yes, I admit I downloaded the App the other day, logged in, but I just don’t have a clue where to start, and I don’t have the inclination to find out either. Only choir might lure me in…

I’m a bit of a Luddite with new technologies for tv viewing too. I was forced to buy a new tv a few weeks ago ~ the one I went for has elements of interactivity about it, but apart from finding my wifi hot-spot signal when I set it up, I’ve not explored it at all, nor can I see myself doing so.  If I’m in, I watch what’s on, and if I’m not in, what does it matter. If I missed something good, and forgot to set it to record, there’s always iplayer or other online viewing, or again, it really doesn’t matter. Netflix? Nah… not a fan of the kind of boxed-set Season Two mini series that turns up there. I’d much rather watch a random documentary about London sewers (the underground type, not the Sewing Bee type!)

Wouldn’t it be a sad state of affairs if we all acted like clones?


Published April 10, 2014 by Jackie

On the subject of commissions: I really don’t take on commissions, but just now and again, I will be asked for something specific. If it’s one of my nieces, I can usually work around the request and find something I want to make. Eleanor asked for grey speckly gloves with fingers ~ fingers are fiddly! My friend was destashing some dk weight yarn, charcoal grey, with tweedy flecks, perfect ~ so based on that yarn, a quick search through Ravelry found Glittens, mittens with two fingers and a thumb, live long and prosper! I think they are interesting enough for me, and quirky enough for her, so a perfect match (or at least I hope so!) and thick enough to be a quick knit!

But a colleage (now former) asked me if I might be interested in making a colourwork waistcoat for her husband. I changed jobs, and our plans drifted, but we recently met up again, and her husband raised the topic of his waistcoat. So it is back on again! She’s said she will pay for the yarn, but I honestly think she has no idea how much that will cost. Husband is tall, so long body, but also slender.

A recently issued pattern, for something very like what I want to make, would come in at at least £75 to £80 for yarn if I bought all the yarn specified. And is she not valuing my knitting time? A noted knitwear company expressly state that one of their colour-work sweaters takes approx 90 hours to knit. I value my knitting skills as highly as I value my abilities in my paid job, where I earn approx £12 per hour, but £12 x 75 hours equals £900! plus yarn costs? Minumum Wage brings that cost in at around £475 and Living Wage adds £100 to that.

But here’s the thing, I really would like to make this…. Maybe I just have to give her a real idea of the yarn costs and the time it takes, and ask how much she would be willing to pay if she saw the right thing in a shop, or given the height of her husband, how much he paid for a made-to-measure 3-piece tweed suit… Noted knitwear company sells colourwork sweaters for approx £200, so maybe I have to base my figures on this instead.

And then if it’s just too much, even for a special present, I make it instead for my brother… shorter and fatter though he is.

Meanwhile I plan to spend my Easter break swatching… I have invested in £40 worth of base colour, and hope the rest can come from my stash.

I got flowers today

Published April 9, 2014 by Jackie

In my last post, I mentioned a couple of toddler sweaters I had made this Spring, and today I those toddlers came in bearing gifts, a beautiful bouquet and a thank you card too.

(my horrible useless laptop does not want to insert my photo here grr, I will try to edit this post tonight ~ meanwhile there’s a pic on Twitter!)

Two very special children, they are adopted siblings, and for the moment, I won’t even ask to plaster pics of them wearing their sweaters all over the internet. If I am sent images, I will ask if I may crop and use, but I know it’s just not appropriate at the moment. There are finished pics of the jumpers on Ravelry, just not of the children wearing them.

The little boy, I can see, will not be wearing his sheepy jumper for long, but his sister will get use of it too when she grows a bit bigger. I already had to re-work the neck of his sweater, he has a big head! I think the next venture needs to be some kind of zip-up cardi instead!

I chose Pinneguri’s Angry Sheep sweater for Boy ~ I helped Ann earlier this year with her translation of the pattern to English, not that I can speak Norwegian, but more I checked her grammar for English publication. And by co-incidence I had decided to cast on just as it was published.  I ended up with some very cute sheep round my yoke, worked in a boucle wool.  Girl’s jumper was my own take on the sweater worn by Katie Morag in the new TV dramatisation of Mairi Hedderwick’s childrens’ stories.

I never knit gifts with the expectation of receiving anything other than thanks, and knowing that those handknits are both appreciated and worn.  It is even rarer for me to take on commissions, I knit what I feel inspired to make, and often it is with a recipient in mind, but not always. Sometimes those co-incide with making something someone wants, and other times, I just am not inspired, and too often those projects are abandoned.  Some remain lurking in my conscience, and eventually get finished… others not, I’m ashamed to say.

Weekend sweater-knitting

Published April 7, 2014 by Jackie

I started a sweater on Wednesday, after my trip to the Festival Theatre. What is remarkable about this?  Well, since I started knitting again, around 2007, I’ve dodged garments like I don’t know what! I’ve also dodged baby-clothes too, and that has gone by-the-by too!

But now I seem to be in garment mode, which is rather surprising given my startitis. This is my second adult-sized garment of the year, and I’ve made 2 toddler sweaters too. Now my next challenge is to finish a garment for ME!  Here’s a brief (!) run-through my recent sweater history.

Last spring/summer, I was given a bag of Donegal Aran by my friend, she had started and ripped a sweater for herself several times, and, having spent quite a bit of money on the yarn some time before, had never wanted to see it again.  My compromise was to make Levenwick for her daughter, who also happens to be my god-daughter, in time for her birthday in early July.  If I’d not started quickly, there was a possibility it would languish in the bottom of my expansive stash, and simply be forgotten. It’s one thing for me to keep quiet about the amount of yarn lingering in my stash, quite another for someone to give me something they paid good money for.  You can see my Levenwick on Ravelry here

Early 2014 saw me visiting the sale in Jenner’s yarn department. They have moved location in the store, downsized their stock, and are subsequently selling off current yarns at around 50% off

I got 400g of lovely Rowan Purelife, undyed BFL, a milk chocolate brown colour, and in a random search through yoked sweaters on Ravelry, I found a stunning Norwegian style sweater from Sandnes that would be perfect. I added a couple of balls of the natural ecru from the same brand, and got going. The pattern was free, and downloading it, I was pleased to discover it was in a 48-page booklet with at least half-a-dozen more sweaters.  Less than pleased to discover it was only available in Norwegian, and that it was a bottom-up sweater!  But this is just the kind of challenge I relish, so with a little help from Google Translate, and the Drops Norwegian to English Knitting Terms page, I managed to work it out. I turned the charts upside down, added increases not decreases, and then once I’d ironed out some issues with the neckline, it was plain sailing.  I lovelovelove colourwork! I could sit up all night until I can’t see any more, and the yoke was over all too quickly. I think I was on the body by Sunday, having started on a Thursday.

Top-down yoked sweaters are just so much easier to manipulate than bottom-up, you are taking sleeves OUT rather than adding them in, there’s no pull or strain where they join, and by using a provisional cast-on for the underarm stitches, there’s nothing to seam either.

Although the sleeves took two goes ~ I was decreasing too infrequently ~ I managed to finish this DK sweater within the calendar month. Christmas gift number 1, TICK!

Next…. I’d been lining up some discontinued Twilleys Freedom Purity for a Boreal in Coal and Limestone, but seemed to have managed to also rack up enough random balls for another sweater, possibly for myself, with all the other colour options. Stephen West has a stash-busting sweater called Ombre Yarn Eater, meant to use 3 strands of lighter weight to achieve a bulky weight. Purity is bulky already! These were meant to be combined into a sweater. I’ve saved the original Coal & Limestone for Boreal, but have 5 shades, perfect!

Meant to be on 9mm, but I’m glad I opted for my 8mm Nova Cubics for this.  The beauty of this pattern is that it starts the same for every size with a 12″ roll-neck, then you stop the spiral increases when you are at your required size. On smaller needles, I opted for the Large instead of Medium.  I’d have had enough yarn for a sweater for me (XXL) but the creamy Chalk is not my colour, so this will be Christmas gift number 2!

I’ve called this weekend knitting, despite starting on a Wednesday ~ my previous post will tell you what I was up to every evening last week, so I’d only just worked the tube of the roll-neck midweek, so the majority has been completed this weekend!  And yes, the majority. It’s Monday lunchtime, and the jumper is at home, too big for bus-knitting now. The body has one block of colour and a rib to go, and the first sleeve is knit already ~ almost too long, am glad I checked the pattern as I’d almost gone too far. I might finish this one within a week!  Photos will follow