Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Purple rain and stain

So I've had my 'fix trip' to the Handweavers Studio, I've decided I have to dye yarn, because I can. I have my instructions, what could possibly go wrong? I select my yarn, I read the instructions in 10 seconds flat and I know exactly what to do. I even go out and look at pots in which to cook my yarn to said chosen colour and decide I have the perfect pot at home.The adage, always read the instructions carefully, doesn't enter my head, not once. My mother's motto of being fully prepared and check then recheck, does not surface at all. I'm eager and I'm going in. By the time I've laid out all my instruments I feel like a cross between a surgeon about to undergo open heart surgery and a plumbers mate. Now, its my first time trying to dye yarn, you would think I'd choose one small skein and see how it works, oh no, I choose, 8 skeins each weighing a minimum of 300 grams - because I know exactly what I'm doing. In my head, all I have to do is weigh out the dye stuff, dissolve it, add the yarn, raise the temperature, rinse it out and hey presto I have coloured yarn. Suffice to say, 8 was reduced to 4. My bath is now a lovely shade of pink and my cooker top is suffering from trauma as a result of purple rain and a bubbling pot of purple dye.

In reality, at the time, I felt completely overwhelmed when I realised I had bitten off more than I could chew, so to speak. I had all of the parifinalia, but hadn't carefully worked out the logistics. For example, how do you get heavy boiling yarn out of a pot into a basin without burning yourself, without all the excess liquid splashing all over the cooker top and onto the floor x 4 times? How do you maintain the liquid at the stated temperature, how do you keep the liquid just below boiling point and not AT boiling point? (Did I mention that my cooker is dying and works when it wants to)How do you cook dinner and dye at the same time -take away is a brilliant thing, even better is a God father who pops in to see how you are doing!! And where are you going to dry the yarn?

Having summed up my stupidity, the end product is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Next time I will take more time in preparation, put newspaper on the floor and give myself lots of time in which to complete said task. I've learned that this is definitely a high summer deal as well.
The yarn took ages to dry and of course the process was followed by 3 days of rain, so the yarn came in to dry. In the end and out of desperation, I had to place the damp yarn on the heater to dry out because I was afraid it would start to smell moldy and stale. I'm sure that's sacrilege, but did not want the yarn to spoil (not by damp, but placing it on the heater instead, mmm). You can tell I know exactly what I'm talking about can't you.
I will end on my complete amazement that it took only 2 teaspoons of dye to colour over a kilo of cotton yarn. I started off not knowing how it would all turn out and even though I scared myself a few time, I would do it again. Besides, my son thinks I'm brilliant. He has given me his order and colour of yarn so that he can finger knit a scarf for his Nanna.
On the knitting front, Maggie has been frogged and abandoned. I figured out that my knitters block was due to wrong yarn and wrong pattern. Something just was not right. Mary is ticking along and I have startisis, so I'm looking at the Debbie Bliss 'Wish you were here' book. I am a little puzzled by the sizing on some of the garments. I'm pleased that most of the patterns have gone up to a size 46", but of course the pattern I want to do, the asymmetric wraparound, only goes up to a 38". Of the lovely patterns to knit, this one favours a larger, or more curved figure, so you see my confusion.

On the Shea front, he has successfully completed his home care badge at Cubs. This included cooking a meal, serving it, setting a table for a meal, doing the washing up, keeping his room tidy, washing and ironing a garment (his cub scout scarf) and sewing on a button and a badge. So now he is fully domesticated and can give the cleaning godesses a run for their money. Of course it all comes at a price and bribery is no stranger in my house!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Getting down n' dirty

Spring is in the air
For me, Spring is not officially here until after Easter. Despite my battle with the squirrels (am I the only one?), I set about making my back garden look pretty. I won't start on about the front garden, suffice to say, it's a work in progress. I live on the ground floor of purpose built flats and feel it's my duty to make sure my upstairs neighbours have something other than dirt and Shea's play things to look at!! The soil has an abnormally high clay content, so after 10 years of unsuccessful planting (trust me, I tried everything), I bark chipped over the whole yard and now have a growing collection of pots and tubs. I'm not into fancy and ornate, they are just more difficult to clean. I may have mentioned that I have no colour sense, this also applies to plants and flowers. Over the years I have made so may faux par's it's not funny. I had no idea mother nature could clash with herself.
This year I am trying not to let the colours clash too much and have tried to go for soft pastel colours, or so the back of the packets tell me. I've also sewn herbs from seed -hopefully, I'll have a herb garden to die for. I cook all food from scratch and have in previous years hard little luck where herbs in the garden are concerned. But of course, it was the poor soil!!

I'm also giving bulbs one more go. We have 2 very persistent squirrels in the area. They have no shame. They will literally look me in the eye while digging in the garden. I can even hear them laughing and tittering away at me - where those squirrels are concerned, I'm not far away from a straight jacket. Digging in the potted plants today, I came across unshelled monkey nuts and acorns. At least now I know why they are digging up the garden every two minutes - and all this time I thought they were after my bulbs. What I don't understand is what they have done with the bulbs. It's not as though they dig them up, bury their treasure and put them back. All trace of the lovely daffodil, lilies and tulips to be, completely disappear. So this year, instead of planting the bulbs, I bought tulip plants. They are delicately variegated and look like they will be red. My neighbour gave me a bleeding heart that she split from a bunch. I'd forgotten all about it and couldn't work out what it was when it started to sprout, it almost ended up in the compost bin behind it. What a loss that would be, its beautiful. The lovely black background is my compost bin. See I'm doing my bit for the environment. not sure my neighbours agree though - it can be mighty pongy at times.

Poshyarns, you must visit her blog, it's beautiful - asked if I like working in denim. Not anymore. It makes my hands tired, I can usualy knit merrily away for hours (regular breaks in between), but with the denim yarn, and I have to say this is only with Rowan(but the difference in the finish is so much better), I can only do a couple of hours at a time and that's with regualr breaks. Not to mention what it does to my skin, talk about dry, AND, it leaves a great big huge dent in my right index finger because of the way I wrap yarn around it. I won't even talk about the dye!! Having said all of that, thank you for your encouragement over Mary. I am getting that old feeling back and will be picking her up shortly. The problems are more to do with the pattern (which means me) than anything else and thats what's putting me off finishing her when I really want to. I knowit will all be worth it if I can finish it with no more problems. More knitting news soon.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

For those who celebrate Easter and Passover, have a happy and inspiring day.

I finally manage to take some shots of the bits on Mary I have done so far:

I present the back view leaf pattern in detail on the back
the back and sleeve the ill fated left frontwith errornow ripped
But we live to fight another day. More progress when I have the courage to face her. I am determined to finish her before summer ends, but she is a tough one!! Its a lovely day. Off to do some gardening and battle with squirrels.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Mary Mary
Why oh why did I think I could just walk back into Mary’s life without a hitch. Mary, from the first Rowan denim book, has a leaf pattern which often appears in aran knitting along side cables. There are no cable in this pattern, and the leaf pattern is now driving me crazy, especially after a 6 month break. She is getting her own back. She’s there, flung in the corner saying ’you think you can just turn up after 6 months, with not a word of apology, no flowers, no chocolates and expect me to be good to you – think again buddy’. Apart from treating your patterns with kindness and care, I’ve also learnt NOT to knit in black at 2am. I’m a night time person, I like knitting at 2am, then getting up at 6 with Shea. However, when you are merrily knitting away, sure that you have the pattern right, but not quite able to see it, (must be right, it feels right), the common sense thing to do would be to put it away until day light. No, no, no, no, knit on. Then look at it in day light and realise you have to rip out all the armhole and front shaping. I’m close to hating Mary. I’m going wrong because I want to speed along and finish her and wear her. This is when its time to put her down and wait until I love her again. And yes, I’m dying to start something new!!

Stash update
I’m waiting for Shea to go back to school before I flash anymore. I’m going to try and organise. I think the flash your stash thing has been good for me. I’m not a collector, I am a knitter and this exercise has given me the kick up the rear I needed to sort and organise my stuff. I need to organise before I flash. In doing so I can keep an eye on what I have so far, decide on what I’m keeping and get rid of the rest. So I have to be a big girl and be honest with myself, rediscover all my hidey holes and bring everything into one area. I’m also going to have quite a few repairs done at home in the next couple of weeks and rearranging of furniture, so the yarn is going to come out of the woodwork, literally. My son will be shouting from the roof tops how much yarn his mummy has – and I can’t have that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Technology smezzmology!!

Hah!! I wil not be beaten. We have pictures.

This is Highlander from Rowan Classic Weekend. I used yarn from stash. See I do use it sometimes. Below is Highland being put to good use by Shea. Can you see my yaht, its the one just behind us, honest!!

And just because I can, before border and after border pictures of the Debbie Bliss Alphabet blanket completed on 11 March 06, for my sisters bestfriend, whose new arrival, a girl, came on 9/3/06. Amelia, of knitter knatter fame, knitted one for her nephew, Brychan. When I showed my sister the pictures, she fell in love with it straight away. The blanket was knitted in cotton DK and came out twice the size as a result. I think I need to go on a photography course!!

Shaping, Making and Baking

My back is killing me, I can't speak and I love my washing machine!! No I haven't gone mad. I'm still recovering from all the cheering I did on Sunday. Dear son played a home festival and their age group won. You can always spot me on the sidelines. I'm the one running up and down and cheering (more like screaming) at the top of my voice. The day started off beautifully sunny and ended up freezing cold and although adequately dressed, I still ended up freezing my bits off. Shea is still walking on cloud nine and I'm nursing my aches and pains. my washing maching takes a bashing with all the muddy kit that gets chucked into it on a Sunday afternoon, not to mention my bits and pieces that are mud mud encrusted by the end of the day. The day was so action packed that my little knitting pouch stayed unopened by my side - a very rare thing. I'm slowly gaining a reputation for knitting on the go, so much so that a few other parents wanted to know why I wasn't knitting!! I forgot to change over the knitting project and instead of socks, had Mary with me. I'm about to start the armhole shaping and couldn't whip it out only to then drop it mid line to cheer, so she stayed put. Still lousy weather so no pictures to show.

Flashing my Stash
Stash is going to have to be flashed in dribs and drabs. For me, denial is definitely a river in Egypt. I do not have stash, I have areas in my home that contain yarn. That's all. I have tried to analyse whether I am a collector of yarn or a stasher. Is there a difference? I think so. I fool myself on a daily basis, that all the yarn in my home is needed, has a project waiting for it, and I never, never buy yarn just because the price is too good to leave it behind - yeah right!! Like Yarn Harlot my stash is divided. I divide into a) yarn I will use, b) yarn I will get around to using, just don't know when or what for and c)yarn that is too good to use. I just sit with it and stroke it and hold it close to my bosom..... The yarn shown is yarn that I don't quite know what to do with. As a result, it is going to my constructed textile class.

Most of the yarn I have knitted with, and it is the tail end or left overs, or the yarn was bought in such volume, there is still plenty left for another project. There is purple and red cotton chenille, two shades of yellow DK cotton, various shades a burnt copper cotton in DK. In the upper right corner, you can see the lovely bright lime green in cotton DK - this is one of the purchases that years on, I don't know what I was thinking when I bought it. Next to it is some lovely pink Rowan stuff, which it slighty thinner than DK. More to follow when I have the courage to flash it.

Weaving a tale
Shea has been busy with the weaving cards purchased from the Handweavers studio recently. It was a little difficult at first. He used a large needle to feed the yarn through, but found it easier to use a shuttle made of hard card and the needle to feed and weave. He did pretty well for his first time. And as luck would have it, having successfully planted one picture on the blog, the nice computer won't let me do anymore. When I've figured out what I'm doing wrong, I'll post Shea's results.

Not to be outdone by PoshYarns and her lovely cooking, (she made me dribble at her lemon drizzle), we were in the kitchen over the weekend baking up a storm, making chocolate brownies and more lemon drizzle cake - all from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. I do like her cook books. She describes food in a down to earth way, like saying things are squidgy and yellow, rather than using a whole paragraph to describe the consistency of stuffing. Shea's rugby team were most appreciative!! And, if my luck is in and the weather lives up to expectations, I will soon be picking herbs from my own handmade herb garden. Shea helped me make it and sow the seeds yesterday, he also sowed some nasturtiums. See you can have fun with the kids in the holidays. I won't mention that he's in rebellion mode now and wants to sit and relax in front of the box. Not on your life kiddo - off to the library with you and sun flower seeds to sow tommorow!!

Update on Liam

This is where I need someone to stay on my tail and make me finish. The end are still waiting to be sewn in but I will be starting them tonight - last night, oh and the night before were just a slip. Rebecca, I'm knitting the largest size. Like you, I always knit with plenty of growing space. Shea is quite big for his age, and Liam is on the large size, it is a drop shoulder design, and I think is intentionally 'oversized' so a few rolls of the sleeve will not look out of place. After all that work, I expect him to be wearing it into his 20's!! Oh and I agree with you, for every one for Shea, there are at least three for me!! I'm on a promise, I have to finish Liam before I start what I want, and then there's Mary.......

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Go Tiger go!

Did I mention I like golf, just a little bit. So of course I'm backing Tiger Woods in his attempt to win a fifth Masters title - one less than the record of Jack Nicklaus. I'm also feeling for him because his father is unwell and he has made it very clear that should his father take a turn for the worse, he will pull out. I read this in an article yesterday, over the shoulder of my Dad, as we waited for him to receive treatment for the same cancer Mr Woods snr has. Tears came to my eyes as I read the article, because I could empathise with the words. Like Tiger Woods, family is supremely important to me (you may not think it in the days to come when I rave on about the crazy goings on in my family). I am the baby of the family, and in my other siblings eyes, close to being a spoilt brat (moi??). I am told I was aptly named, among its many meanings and characteristics , Johannes' have a keen sense of family and will fight hard and to the death for their family. That's me. I don't live far from my parents which means they are graced with my presence far more than they would probably like, and I can drop in when tthey least expect me! Love you lots Dad.

And for the knitting......

Liam is ticking on nicely, I've finished the celtic knto and have the shaping on the neck to finish. Then the really fun work begins, sewing in the ends. This is where I fall down in my knitting finesse. I love knitting the pieces, but like many others, hate sewing in ends and seams etc. I start off with iron resolve not to cut corners, to take my time and do a really neat job. However, half way through, I just want to finish the blooming thing and do all the things you are not supposed to do.
Don't you just love all those ends

Hmm, where do I start with Mary. Well, I bought some sale yarn about 5 or 6 years ago, some black Rowan denim. I ear marked Mary from the Rowan denim book (the first denim book). I had the required 17 balls, and last year started to knit the back. Tension square I hear you ask? Never do them. Unless the yarn is one I am not familiar with. If I am calm and collected, my tension is normally spot on - I keep telling myself that!! When I had completed the first pattern set, I measured for accuracy. Nothing matched up to what the instructions stated. I frogged and did it again, and again, and then I rang my friend Karin. I will tell you the story of how we met when she was wearing Mary and I accosted her outside the school gates. Karin had previously warned me that Mary may be snug for my ample proportions. I could not see how since the dimensions indicated a 46inch bust when finished. I can just about fit into that..... Anyway, I posted on to the Rowan discussion board and was surprised to learn that a few others had encountered the same "problem". Only the problem was not our error but Rowans. The actual finished bust measurement was 38 inches. So I duly contact Rowan and request the pattern to the measurement of 46 inches and some extra yarn. I was sent a hand written photo copy of Mary and have had untold problems with it. The armhole was not resized, the front amendments are the wrong way round the photo copy they gave me missed bits off the actual pattern. Wonderful. I started Mary again, put her down sometime last year and picked her up yesterday, since, it was pointed out to me, this is the weather to wear her. I'm half way up the left front and ready to put her back down!! I love Rowan to pieces and their patterns are normally to a high standard. I think, perhaps that this was an older pattern and although they were aware of the problem, didn't consider posting the errata on their website....Yet. More on Mary when I get enough light to take a half decent photo. You may have noticed, photography is not my strongest point!!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Bring on the fun!

I'm trying to think back to what was going on in my life when I VOLUNTEERED to be a cub mum to 25 cubs on a camping weekend. I'm wondering why I didn't demand I be housed in the cub cabin rather than my own tent for the duration of the weekend, all by myself. Having said all of that, I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of boys and other helpers. The theme of the weekend was eggs. Every task, game and meal, contained eggs - raw as well as cooked. I've just asked Shea if he wants eggs for breakfast - if there was anything harder than the cushion to hand, I'm sure he'd have thrown it!! My tent was not too bad, my head still has the sound of the rain bouncing off the outer skin going round and round in it. My bed never felt so good - even with the rogue springs!!

I did manage to get some knitting done. I must plug the Know Knits - Go Knit Pouch purchased from Get Knitted. I put the pouch through its paces. It was rained on, egged on and all the fauna of the forest tried to find their way inside - all to no avail. My knitting was kept in pristine condition at all times. I have to admit that I had to be converted to the use of the pouch. Karin had one and I turned my nose up at it, preferring to cart about my work in plastic or paper bags with the needles hanging out of them. Until I had the pleasure of poolside knitting - wet yarn is a bit of a pain. So I can highly recommend the pouch. Get Knitted offer a prompt service and have a range of colours. What was I knitting? I worked on my dad's socks and a school hat for Shea.

We have dreary weather and I missed the one sunshine moment, so the photo's don't really do the work justice. The socks are a 3 x1 rib using yarn purchased from Kerrie at Hipknits on the weekend she debuted her new premises. The hat is Rowan Shetland Aran (that was just hanging out at home as yarn does!!). I can only do a few rows of this at a time because of the loose fibres.
Never mind the knitting, look at the pouch!

Before my weekend at one with nature, I visited the Handweavers studio in Walthamstow, East London for a yarn fix. I have withdrawal symptoms if I do not regularly go into a yarn shop and look at the yarn. Occasionally I will feel and fawn over it - and then I'm fine. I never, never buy anything, honest!! I can only spend short periods of time in the shop, all the yarn is stacked "naked" on open shelving - making it incredibly tempting - and I start to react to the wool content. The allergy thing is another day and another story. As afore mentioned, the visit was more of a pick me up before the weekend with the wee ones. And of course a few items just jumped into a plastic bag which found its way into my hand. Shea chose some wool fibre to learn to spin with while at Kerrie's Place, so his fairy god mother bought him a drop spindle. He's also going to experiment with the weaving card during the Easter holidays which are upon us. I've also been toying with dyeing some bleached cotton that I have in my stash (oh yes, we have stash) and bought a small amount of a purple shade to experiment with. The staff at the Handweavers studio were very helpful and informative. It is a little treasure trove. I love going there.

The postman always knocks hard
Whilst in recovery mode this morning, after the forest weekend and trying to enjoy my lay in due to the school holidays - you can imagine my sour response to the door bell ringing at 7.00am. That is until the very nice post man gave me my package from Jamieson's of Shetland. For at least 6 years, I've been trying to decide what yarn to knit St Brigid in, a pattern by Alice Starmore. I fell in love with this pattern and it is a must knit. Katy is hosting a St Brigid knit-a-long. It gave me the encouragement I needed to get a move on and choose the yarn. On her last visit to the USA, Karin even posted me some Cascade 220 to swatch. I have also been bugging the staff who come to London from Jamieson's on what yarn to use. To cut a real long story short on my dithering, Jamieson's have a yarn sale at the moment, in the yarn I have decided is most suitable for the pattern. The yarn was ordered late Thursday afternoon, I call that very prompt service. Pop along to their site to see what tickles your fancy. So, yes my frown and words of admonishment fell neatly into a very graceful smile as the postman handed me my package. The colour of the yarn is special wine and the photo did not show up the flecks in it. I want to finish Liam, the socks and the hat before I go near St Brigid. Watch this space for an update and wish me luck!!