Wednesday, 30 January 2008


I don't have any immediate plans for knitting mittens, but I can't get these out of my mind.
They're from the Knitter's Book of Yarn. I love the snails. I keep thinking they would be cute round the hem of a child's cardigan but a little girl might not like snails. Then again she might.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Monday, Monday

I had a very nice surprise this weekend when Knitting Linguist picked me amongst the ten bloggers who brighten her day. I was amazed and flattered and at first too embarrassed to post about it, but it's part of the deal that I have to nominate another ten, so here is my list, in alphabetical order to stop fights breaking out.

Anna at Mochimochiland makes me smile with her crazy toys which are the very thing you didn't know you were looking for - today, Stackable Cats!

Another Anna, at My Fashionable Life, who hasn't been posting lately because she's been busy with an FO called Stanley, but who writes beautifully and designs such elegant patterns.

Dear Annie Modesitt, who often cheers us up when she must be feeling far from cheerful herself.

Jean Miles, who should really be first. I found Jean on the Internet and then discovered that we live in the same town and that we had lived around the corner from one another for years.

Jessie of What Housework? who dyes beautiful yarns at A Piece of Vermont, and writes wonderful posts with lots of pictures of the animals she and her husband keep acquiring, from peacocks to pigs, not forgetting Milo.

Kathy of Knitting Weather, who doesn't post often enough but when she does, she posts these beautiful photographs of Alaska which take my breath away - as well as photographs of knitting, of course.

Knitting Linguist herself, of course, who writes long interesting posts and causes me to spend even more money on books than I would anyway.

Kristin Nicholas of Getting Stitched on the Farm, who lives in Massachusetts with even more animals than Jessie and writes about her beautiful colourwork and also about lambing and sunflowers.

Rabbitch, who must be getting sick of being nominated.

Ted at Knitterguy, who doesn't exactly cheer me up every time, but I'm always happy to see that he's posted and I like reading him and seeing his breathtaking lace.

Speaking of Knitting Linguist, she had a post on Saturday about going to the zoo; that and the tiger documentary that I watched while I was ripping Mavis and getting her back on the needles (three times) had me thinking about when I used to go to the zoo with my Dad when I was small. I was always mad about animals, but particularly the cats. Edinburgh Zoo is built on a hill, so we started at the bottom with the sea lions (Californian Sea Lions, according to the label: I wonder what they thought about ending up in chilly Scotland), past the birds and the reptiles and the monkeys and apes, who were beside the ice-cream kiosk.

My Dad knew that one of the chimps smoked so he used to throw him a cigarette and a match; the chimp would strike the match, light the cig, and enjoy a nice contemplative smoke. O tempora, o mores.

Past the bears, including Jim and Queenie the polar bears who never produced a cub, in spite of Edinburgh's very good breeding record. After Jim died and they had a closer look at him, 'he' was discovered to be a girl, which explains it.

Past the penguins, of which there were so many they had to keep giving them away and supplied zoos all over the world. (See, I was an avid reader of labels from an early age.)

Then the cats' enclosures were arranged up the last bit of the hill, arranged from the smallest like civets and things to the largest, the tigers. For a long time there was a wolverine in this stretch which puzzled me endlessly because a wolverine isn't a cat but a sort of very large weasel; I suppose the enclosure was in some way the best for this animal, but to my already very organized way of thinking it was baffling. At that time the tigers were Rajah and Ranee (although I called them Mr and Mrs Tiger, I'm afraid) who had lots of cubs over the years and who used to lie around watching us with a great deal of disdain, puzzling no doubt why so many exhausted human beings struggled up quite a steep hill to stare at them. We would then stroll down the hill, perhaps pick up another ice cream and find ourselves back at the sea lions and my dad would say, 'Is there anything you want to have another look at before we go?' and I would squirm engagingly and say, 'Can we go back and see Mr and Mrs Tiger again?' Amazingly, we sometimes did.

Anyway, back to the knitting. I got Mavis back on the needles and knitted quite a lot more of the chevron bit. I got out a sheet of paper and made lots of notes and calculations. Today I am going to count the stitches and separate the body into a back and a front, and once I've done that I'm going to check the number of stitches. At least twice.

On Sunday night I scored some Boye needles on eBay. It's a vintage collection of different sizes and two lengths and it includes the sizes I need for the Habu scarf, which is nice.

Taz, if you click on the picture of the washcloth, you should be able to see the pattern more clearly.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Not Knitting

This week I have been mostly Not Knitting. By this I don't mean that I have been too busy having an exciting and fulfilling life and have not had time to knit; I mean that I have been actually refraining from knitting. I thought that this was because I was feeling guilty about starting something else, and yet also didn't actually know what else I wanted to start, but I finally worked out that it was because I was actively Not Knitting Mavis. I had finished the too narrow back and almost finished the too wide front when I put it down and told myself I had to think about it. This coincided with having another look at the measurements my friend had sent me. After Not Knitting for three days, I finally acknowledged what would have been obvious immediately to a child of six, had I had one handy: I needed to rip it back. So today I sat on the sofa and watched a documentary about tigers and ripped it back; I ripped it back all the way to the chevron stitch because I have decided to lengthen that part of it. Amongst the measurements and notes my friend scribbled down the side of the pattern (see, it isn't all my fault) I suddenly noticed she had said she wants it a bit longer.
So, this time I am going to count the number of stitches, and then I am going to count them again to check and I am going to write them down; I am going to write down my friend's measurements; I am going to write down how many stitches should be on the front and the back; and I am going to do this as if I were awake and not just skating along on automatic. I think I said some of this before, but this time I am going to do it.

On Wednesday the Habu kit arrived from The Knitting Hutch. In spite of my protestations above, this resulted in some frenzied swatching (teeny tiny swatches don't count) at 3 o'clock on Thursday morning (which definitely deosn't count). I went to visit my friend blogless Lindsay during the day and relieved her of a small part of her very impressive knitting needle collection, in the form of a pair of pale gold Boyes, size 5, and a pair of red plastic Susan Bates, size 10. (Here I must tell you that the Habu knitting pattern gives the needle sizes in US, UK and Japanese sizes, but not millimetres. Sigh.) I think the metal Boyes may be the answer to my Kidsilk Haze question; they're much lighter than the other aluminium needles I have (Blogger doesn't like how I spell millimetres or aluminium, silly old Blogger) and being shorter they are more easily managed. Anyway, I did three little swatches on the pale gold needles, one of stainless steel and superfine merino as supplied in the kit (the little pointy one at top left), and two of stainless steel and KSH because I wanted to see how that went. I meant to measure them before I felted them, but I forgot. This is them after felting, or at least after plunging into hand-hot water and scrunching a bit.

I think the KSH works brilliantly with the stainless steel. I won't use it this time as I want to stick to the pattern this time round, but I hope to use it in the future. Here is the teeniest swatch, of palest ivory KSH with the steel.

I will cast on for this just as soon as I have established just which size of needles, and then which needles, I shall use. This could take some time.

Gretchen has suggested, on the strength of the films listed to the right, that I might like L.A. Confidential. Well, I do, sort of. It's one of those films that if it's on, I'll watch it for a while, bit it's not one I watch transfixed from start to finish. I think I find it a little too stagey. James Ellroy's books are so very, very bleak, and I think I find the film just too colourful. It has some wonderful moments though: I think I was as surprised as Kevin Spacey when he - oh, haven't you seen it? I'd better not spoil it then.

Knittingwoman would like a jigsaw of the washcloth, so there is one over there in the sidebar now. I thought it would be easy because of the grid but it isn't. Not at all.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008


I'm afraid I dropped the Mavis and the Kidsilk and ran up a little bit of instant colour gratification. When I won the lovely Cheesehead's comments competition and she sent me some beautiful coral pink Louet Gems merino fingering, she also sent me some Americana in the form of four balls of washcloth cotton. You can see two of them here - one Peaches & Creme and one Sugar 'n' Cream.
I can remember knitting a cotton dishcloth many, many years ago which was just a plain old lump of garter stitch in white cotton. I must have knitted it at school, because when I took it home my mother laughed. I can't really say I blame her. This is an entirely different kettle of fish. It's the ballband pattern, which can also be found here, except that I accidentally did a variation. I'm going to try not to get obsessed, or at least not yet, but I can see that's going to be difficult. Criminy Jickets got obsessed and had a dishcloth deluge. I've put a washcloth jigsaw in the sidebar.

Talking about washcloths, the cutest one ever can be seen on the knitty bloggy baby bumbers blog. I'm racking my brains to think of someone who's expecting a baby.

I watched The Bourne Ultimatum the other night and was really disappointed. Too many chases and not enough plot. The script was poorer than the others and it had some really clunking lines; poor David Strathairn had to deliver a lot of them and had to look like possibly the stupidest man working at the CIA as he kept issuing orders which were either contradicted by Joan Allen or were executed and completely failed to achieve the desired effect. He kept telling people to do the things they would already have done and I kept expecting one of them to say, 'Well, d-u-u-h.' I decided some years ago that if I were watching a television drama and a character came in and said, 'Listen up, people,' it was probably a good idea to change channels. In the film, it's said three times. (Actually, they said, 'People, listen up,' but I don't think this is a big enough difference to support any claims of originality.) I sometimes think there's an inverse relationship between the amount of technology used in a film and the attention paid to the script

I found the scene in Waterloo Station at the beginning quite exciting, perhaps because I know the station and could understand where they were; in the other chases I lost track of that. But I kept on thinking that if Jason Bourne were trying to direct me away from assassins by giving me instructions over a mobile phone, I probably wouldn't last very long because I would be saying, 'What? Did you say left? Which escalator? I can't see a newsagent.'

It's a pity because I enjoyed the first two but I suppose as my mother used to say, you can have too much of a good thing.

What sad news tonight about Heath Ledger. He was a very gifted actor and was one of many excellent things about Brokebank Mountain; he gave the character of Ennis such depth. He was only 28.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Dis 'n' Dat

Well, that was a long silence, wasn't it? There hasn't been a huge amount to say, as I have been busy knitting Mavis and then ripping it out and then knitting it again and then ripping another bit out.
I seem to have been more than usually dopey, and have managed to get more stitches on the front half than on the back half, although you can see in the photo that they're evenly matched at the hem. The obvious answer is that I decreased too much on the back but a close examination doesn't support this.
And every time I measure it, it's a different size. The chevron stitch section is impossible to measure anyway because it stretches in every direction, and the rest of it grows quite often. I think this yarn will relax a bit when it's soaked and dried anyway (I'm not going to pin it out rigorously so I am avoiding using the b-word) so at the moment I do seriously believe (as opposed to wildly hoping) that it will be the right size. There's a jigsaw of the chevrons in the sidebar.

The Kidsilk Sampler Scarf is inching along. The olive yarn did indeed turn out to be olive in the morning light, although at the curry end of the olive spectrum. I have now changed to a deep dark chocolate shade and intend to introduce that extravagantly bright green that Rowan calls Jelly next. Many thanks for all the comments about needles. Knitpicks don't ship to the UK, Gretchen, but Get Knitted import some of them and I want to try them out. I keep getting side-tracked by the multi-coloured wooden ones, of course - oh look, pretty. The facts that this yarn is much easier to knit in daylight (for me, anyway) and that fine-pointed metal needles are required, are sort of pushing this project and its companion further into the year.

What companion project, you ask? I ordered a copy of this from Amazon and it arrived yesterday. For those of you in too much of a hurry to click on the link, it is Clara Parkes' Knitter's Book of Yarn. It has a pattern for a Scaruffle, a sort of ruffly, frothy scarf which can be knitted with Kidsilk Haze and which I think would suit stripes very well. My impression of the book so far is that the content is very good, although I think she has been let down a bit by the photography and design. The photographs are pretty, but they don't always yield the information which a potential knitter needs and wants. Like a lot of knitting books nowadays, its appearance suggests that it is aimed at beginners, although the content will be of interest to advanced knitters too. One thing that really baffles me is that scattered throughout the book there are sumptuous, whole-page photos of a single skein or an artful ball of exotic fiber, with no caption to indicate what the h*ll it is. Or am I missing something? Is there a list somewhere at the back? I can't find one.

This obviously isn't a reason for refraining from buying the book: it contains a lot of well-organized information and some lovely patterns by named designers, from small and simple to a Norah Gaughan cardigan. It's a book which you will read when you first get it and continue to refer to frequently afterwards. I think it could reasonably be called a treasure trove.

I went to HK Handknit's closing down sale this week, with my friend Jean. I bought a book of Louisa Harding's patterns for children; I like her patterns but they aren't usually the sort of thing I would wear so it was nice to find her patterns for little girls. If they had had any blue Auricania I would have bought it, but they didn't so I couldn't. As Jean said, it's not as if either of us needed any more yarn.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Spring Greens

When I went to see my friend Jean last week, she very generously gave me a goodie bag of leftover Kidsilk Haze from her Earth Wrap. I've been doodling with it ever since.

I started with a light, bright green which makes me think of snowdrops and crocuses and fresh shoots poking though the soil. It's shade 581, Meadow.

You can't quite see its fresh appleyness in these pictures.

I think this is going to be a sampler scarf, while I try out to see which needles I like with the yarn. I started with a pair of 5mm beech needles, but the combination of the yarn and the needles made my skin crawl. I ripped that after one row and cast on again with long 6.5mm metal needles, but after a few rows they were too heavy and, in this weather, too cold.

I did a short stretch with rosewood 5mm dpns, which were quite nice but a bit blunt. I know people sometimes sandpaper their wooden needles to a pointier point but I feel a bit apprehensive about that (I think it would be like cutting your own hair and would end in disaster) and anyway I haven't got any sandpaper. For the long stretches I am now using bamboo 6mm dpns, but they're very basic bamboo, unvarnished and unpolished, and they stick a bit. The points are a bit stubby.
I did another short stretch of stocking stitch with 4mm metal dpns, which was good because they were much lighter than the first metal needles but still a bit cold, and then returned to the 6mm bamboos. I used Kidsilk Haze once in the past, for a project which remains unfinished, ahem, and I did that with 5mm bamboo Addis which were polished and had nice long points. I think I liked them best. If anyone has thoughts on the best needles to use with this yarn, please leave a comment.

Since I took the photos, I've joined in another shade of green. I think it's a dark olive, although I chose it after dark so I may get a surprise tomorrow.

I've ordered a kit for the Habu Kusha Kusha scarf, which uses superfine merino and stainless steel yarn; my hope is that when I've completed that, returning to Kidsilk Haze will be like knitting with chunky tweed.

I ripped back a couple of rows of Mavis tonight, and did the row with the decreases. The only reason I did this was because I'd said here that I would; I was too embarrassed to face you all on Monday morning and tell you that I hadn't done my homework.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Meandering Malabrigo

I finished Meandering Wedges a couple of days ago and haven't really done anything since. I think I might have a slight touch of Januaryitis. I can't get on with Mavis until I've taken it back a row or two, and that needs a decent light and no distractions. I'm the distraction queen, so I haven't managed it yet. Definitely this weekend.It's 80 inches long, almost two skeins. I've got it wrapped round twice in this photo. I lost concentration a couple of times, so the wiggles don't entirely match the waggles, but that doesn't show in wear. It was a great knit, and I really like the finished item too, my reward for all the Xmas scarves I knitted for other people.

I think another reason for the Januaryitis is that I'm a bit uninterested in knitting with anything other than Malabrigo, especially pearly grey Malabrigo. I still have two balls left so they are playing on my mind a bit, emitting siren calls from the Beatrix Potter tote bag that they're sheltering in.
I suppose I could make a matching hat, but I don't think this is a matching hat sort of scarf. I think this is a scarf for wearing with classic black and no clutter.

I watched the French thriller Tell No One last night. Michael Caine recommended it on Jonathan's round-up on Film 2007. I read the book a while ago but had managed to forget the entire plot so I had plenty of surprises. It's good, stunning to look at and very tense. We were waiting for a curry to be delivered while we watched it and after about the first fifteen minutes I said to my friend, 'You know, when the doorbell rings, I think I'm going to have a heart attack.' I had a similar experience watching the last episode of The Sopranos: a friend came round with pizza (themed food, you see) but I was so tense throughout the episode that I don't think I chewed once. I don't eat take-away all the time, by the way, it just sounds like it here.

I did something stupid the other day (at least, I think it was my fault and not the software's) and deleted my blog feed list. I have tried to reconstruct the list but I still find myself thinking, 'So-and-so hasn't posted for a while,' and then I remember and check and discover that they've disappeared. I have the awful feeling that I've forgotten quite a few. I dare say there's a backup stored somewhere on my pc, but I thought that looking for that would probably take longer than reconstructing the list. The really annoying thing is that it happened a couple of days after I had had a clear-out, deleting people who hadn't posted for ages, or who had finished knitting the thing I was interested in, and I could have saved myself the trouble if I'd known I was going to delete them all by mistake. Maybe it was a judgment on me for doing that.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Meandering Wedges

Well, how long did you think I would hold out? I cast on for another scarf from Knitting New Scarves on Thursday.
I got to the end of the lacy bit in Mavis and then did something daft. And when I say 'daft', I mean really daft. I sat there knitting and thinking, 'I don't see how the tension can be the same on the chevron stitch and the stocking stitch,' but did I check the pattern? No. Thus, I missed the bit telling me about the decreases. So I put it to one side while I reconciled myself to ripping back a couple of rows, and I cast on with the Malabrigo in Polar Morn. I seem to have stumbled on a combination of Meandering Stripes and Stacked Wedges, because I have 21 stitches but three alternating blocks of right and left. Perhaps Meandering Wedges, since it isn't striped?

The pink cotton is to remind me at any given moment which is the 'top' side, as I tend to storm off in the wrong direction from time to time. I love knitting short rows because they make me feel as if I'm knitting faster and faster, and then I slow back down to a meander for a few rows and then speed up again.

Franklin said today that wearing a hat knitted from Malabrigo is like wearing a kitten on your head, and who am I to argue with Franklin? I'm looking forward to wrapping this kitten round my neck. I haven't decided how long I'm going to make it.

Corinna, Corinna was on this afternoon while I was knitting this. I don't usually do heartwarming, but it's a nice film. Great soundtrack and I love the cars. It maybe isn't understated, but it isn't overstated like some Hollywood films. The little girl is very good, and she's engaging rather than unbearably cute (didn't you just wish the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park would eat that little girl who keeps whining? I can't be the only one) and in fact all the kids are good, even the sons of the widow who has her eye on Ray. And the kid who makes the pretend phone calls, 'Ring, ring.'

It's been a bit colder lately, and we had a tiny amount of snow. I tried very hard to take some photographs of my bougainvillea flowering in the snow but of course I couldn't because it was impossible to get the flowers and the snow in focus at the same time. The bougainvillea are inside the widow and the snow is outside, but still, it's impressive.

For those of you who really like grey, I've put a jigsaw of a wedge on the Knitalong.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

A happy and healthy 2008 to everyone, knitters and jigsaw puzzlers alike. There's another new jigsaw in the sidebar - two heads and only one knitted hat but I think you'll agree they shouldn't be separated.