Wednesday, 25 June 2008

New Jigsaw

My new pc crashed on Sunday. A fullblown megadeath crash, with everything lost and a full system restore required. I'm lucky that in 20 years of spending hours a day at a pc, at work or at home, I've never actually lost data (smug, moi?), but on Sunday night I didn't feel very lucky.

When I ran the backup, the system told me I didn't have the right to access my photos, or my music, or anything else, but after several cups of tea and a large glass of wine I managed to find a workaround - I copied the files I wanted to access to a different location and when the system asked me to give myself permission to do this, I did. Ha. It's always satisfying when human ingenuity outwits computer logic, although I can't say it happens very often.

I don't think it was the new pc's fault, by the way; I think the culprit was the dreaded Microsoft Update, which I might eschew from now on. So all the tweaking and downloading that I did on my new pc a few weeks ago to make it my very own has had to be redone, sigh. And have I copied all my music and photos to an external drive now? You bet your sweet patootie I have.

Anyway, before all that, I got the Swallowtail blocked. I did the last couple of rows and the cast-off in the darker yarn again and I don't think it was a terrible mistake. But however impressed I am with myself for having done the Lily of the Valley pattern - and I am - go on, click - I don't feel any great love for this item. I would quite happily give it to the milkman, if I had one.

The handspun merino / bfl has arrived from Heike and is heavenly.
But before I get on with the Forest Canopy Shawl for the baby, I'm doing a quick bow-tied bolero for the little pink person. It's the one from Debbie Bliss's Special Knits. I knitted this for her twice when she was tiny, in finger-breaking cotton and in stripes, but this time I'm using the prescibed yarn, Baby Cashmerino. I love this book, in spite of the fact that I am driven mad by its lack of schematics, but I'm not so keen on the yarn. Given that it contains merino wool, acrylic and cashmere, it really ought to be softer.

I think it's going to be too big, but at least that way it'll fit her someday: I started off on 3mm needles and ripped that as it came out too small and too stiff a fabric: I'm quite a tight knitter. I've done the back and one front. She doesn't like buttons, so the ties should go down well. I'm knitting it in the same colour as the book photo shown above, although I didn't realize that until after the yarn arrived.

One of my favourite websites at the moment is this webcam at Loch Garten which shows the ospreys' nest with three chicks. It's so close that you don't really get a sense of the scale; you could be forgiven for thinking that the mother is about the size of a chicken when in fact an adult osprey is, well, enormous, and can have a six-foot wingspan. It's got live sound too, so you can hear everyone chirping. I thought the pc was making a funny noise the other day, but it was just the ospreys - not often you can say that.

To celebrate the arrival of the handspun, I've added a new jigsaw in the sidebar, which is a picture of the beginnings of the shawl. I think it might be rather a difficult one.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


I found myself wandering around Etsy on Sunday, which is usually a mistake. My excuse was that I 'needed' to see if anyone was selling a case for circular needles that didn't keep them all curled up. I like the one that Jean has, but in my usual shallow magpie-ish way, I want one made with suitably artistic fabric. I would once have made one for myself in five minutes but the sewing machine is too much for me these days so I surf Etsy instead, without any success. I did find some stitch markers though, at Eastern Sky. I don't usually buy stitch markers because I like to make my own ( shallow magpie again) but she had this very pretty glass heart which I couldn't resist.

And there's not much point in buying one stitch marker, so I got these as well.

They look good together.

It turns out she has a jewellery shop too, the Magpie Tree, so a pair of earrings wouldn't go amiss, would it?

These are pale green fluorite with oxidised silver. I like them but I may keep them for a present for someone who wears more green than I do.

These are some of my own stitch markers - I always like the idea of being understated, but I fail at the execution.

I made the two dangly ones with the tiny turquoise beads to mark the centre stitch on my Shetland Triangle. I felt it was quite a pity to remove them when I finished it.

I got these Miffy beads recently, but I haven't made them into markers yet. I love Miffy, and have a black tee shirt with a diamanté Miffy on the front which I like rather more than I feel it is healthy to like a tee shirt.

I also have a Miffy badge where she is carrying a big blue pencil: there is one available of her knitting, but the blue pencil is pretty appropriate to me too.

There's a Japanese book of Miffy knitting patterns which crops up from time to time, but I have resisted it so far.

Talking of badges, the Knitting Goddess is selling some good knitting ones in her eBay shop: I think this is my favourite.

I have a saved search in eBay for the Tap Dancing Lizard, Mary Lou, so they notify me whenever one is listed. I got that one for an excellent price because the seller hadn't put the magic word 'knitting' in the title so lots of people missed it.

While I was looking for Miffy stuff, I found a blogger called MiffyRabbit, who in turn led me to this film which ties in with what I mentioned yesterday about turning some lights off. Great minds, eh?

It's very clever, a knitted animation called Don't Let It All Unravel. The music drives some people nuts but you can always turn it off.

Swallowtail Summer

I'm back. I took this photograph at the station on the way home.
I expect a lot of people don't know how to pronounce 'Kingussie', let alone its Gaelic original. It's Kin-yoossie. The photograph is a good example of how I take a photograph of something (the sign) and then discover there's something very large and visible in it which I hadn't noticed (the big yellow steps). Maybe they use them to help people get on to the train. When I was little I was terrified of getting on trains and always thought I was going to vanish down the space between the train and the platform. I was an easy-going child, easily diverted by food or the promise of it, but I kicked up Dublin about getting on and off trains and usually insisted on being carried or lifted. I was pretty unhappy about bridges too, especially the sort you can see through and I have been known to stop, petrified, at some. Like this one.

Click on the photo (thanks, Wikipedia Commons) and you'll see the bridge. It's a tiny little suspension bridge, designed by Sir John Fowler who went on to be one of the designers of the Forth Rail Bridge, and it sways over Corrieshalloch Gorge, part of the Great Glen fault which runs across Scotland, 150-200 feet above the ground. A kind boyfriend once drove me there at my request, only for me to take one look at it and get back in the car saying, 'Well, I'm not walking over that.' He managed to keep a straight face, bless him. My horror of bridges, along with other manifestations of vertigo, faded in early adulthood, to return with a vengeance when I was around 30 and half way up the inside of a lighthouse.

Like a lot of phobics, I am curiously attracted to the object of my fear and I have had nasty turns in all sorts of places, not least Barcelona, where sheer stubbornness enabled me to walk around the roof of La Pedrera without vomiting, but nothing in the world could get me past the first floor of the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi must have had the opposite of vertigo, a positive love of heights and spaces. Some of his buildings make me feel swoony while I'm standing on the ground.

Anyway. I had a good time with my friends in the north, and actually knitted quite a lot of the Swallowtail Shawl, even on the train.These photographs still make the colours far too blue; the dark colour is a deep sea blue and the pale is a heavenly turquoise. I found the second colour much nicer to work with; I know this doesn't make any sense and I bought them both from the same seller, but the turquoise is springier, stronger and softer. I found the lily of the valley pattern much easier than I expected and the nupps were a dawdle; in fact the only difficult row was the first one after the lily of the valley, when I was trying to place the final pattern. I think I had mislaid a stitch near the beginning and I couldn't get the patterns aligned. I've done a couple of extra repeats of that to make longer, pointier points. I'm not going to use beads because the beads I thought I might use are too small, but I might finish with a couple of rows of the dark colour again, to bring it together. What do you think?

One of the joys of the Malabrigo is that it already shows the pattern quite clearly. Presumably this is because it's so loosely spun. Although I found this pattern much easier than I expected, I haven't fallen in love with it. It hasn't possessed me, and I haven't constantly imagined doing it in other yarns or different colours. I probably won't knit it again, but I am already itching to get on with the baby's Forest Canopy: the yarn for that should arrive at the weekend.

When I was in the country I kept thinking that it looked as if it were much later in the year: everything was very green and overgrown, as if it were harvest time rather than late spring/ early summer. This is presumably because of the milder weather and heavier rain that we have now. We never seem to have drizzle nowadays, just downpours. My cousin Dave lives in Columbus, Indiana and he has been emailing me about the floods. He's lucky, his house is on high ground, but hundreds of people have been made homeless and the hospital will be out of use for at least two months - and of course it's worse in Iowa. It's like the floods we had last year in Gloucestershire and so on, taking place in areas which have never been a flood risk so people have no insurance. At risk of being pompous, I can't help thinking that if we all turned off a couple of lights, turned the heating down and the refrigerator up, it would help in the long run.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Swallowtail and Tap Dancing Lizards

This is going to be a short post; there's not much to see and I'm going away for a couple of days so I should be packing instead of posting. I'm going to Inverness-shire, back on Friday. I'm going here, but the snow is gone now.

I will be seeing this cat. She's not dead in the picture, just worshipping a hot fire.

I've done 19 repeats of the bud pattern on the Swallowtail, and changed to the lighter yarn. I don't like these pictures; they make the light shade look like a very insipid pale blue when it's really a pretty turquoise, but they're the best I can do with the flash. I've started on the lily of the valley pattern and I'm not finding the nupps difficult, thanks to the Addi lace needles, but I don't think they look very impressive. I'm tempted to K 5 together on the return row instead of P5tog, but maybe I should be patient. I only put markers on the first few sets as I thought I was getting into the swing of the stitches: time will tell if this was misplaced confidence.

I got a copy of the Tap Dancing Lizard on eBay. It's a collection of charted pictures for knitters and has an astonishing variety of stuff. At first glance it seems to be aimed mostly at machine knitters but it contains lots of ideas for hand knitters too. The charts are arranged by theme - Past Times and Distant Cultures, In the Wild, the Heavens, At Home and Elaborations - so that small motifs which could be repeated around a large one are shown on the same page. There are lots and lots of animals. The writers also explain the imagery in some of the patterns.

The designs are obviously created by people who know about the realities of knitting: this rabbit has dots in the background so that you don't get long floats. I'm not sure that I would put any of the big motifs on a sweater but they would be wonderful on a bag.

The book also has line drawings showing cats knitting and modelling the designs, along with some dogs and sheep. It was published by Interweave Press in 1992 but I think it has lots of ideas which are still very useful. It's very unprescriptive.

You're absolutely right, Dawn, about the monitor and the mouse. I'm planning to put the monitor on a couple of telelphone directories and I will switch the mice when I've finished raiding my old pc. I used to have an Evoluent vertical mouse, which was much easier on the arm. You wrap your fingers around it in a fist, so your hand is lying on its side instead of being twisted flat all the time, and then you waggle your fingers. It had programmable buttons too, so I had a button for going backwards in my web browser, heaven. The software on it went wonky and I sort of stopped using it, but I might look into getting another one.

I got 4 balls of Silk Garden on Saturday to continue the Lara cardi, but I bought the wrong colour. I checked the ball band very carefully and it definitely said '8', but it turned out that was the needle size, not the shade. Ahem.

One thing I must do before I leave is turn my handbag inside out and clear out all the unnecessary bits of paper - train tickets, receipts, lists. That should make it at least a pound lighter.

Thursday, 5 June 2008


Sorry about the long silence. I meant to post on Monday. What happened was that I was checking out the games on my new pc, to see if it had Solitaire, and I came across a game called Mahjong Titans. After that, everything is a blur. Three days later, I have a sore back and a stiff arm, made worse by the fact that the new mouse isn't very good. Of course, if I had been doing what I should have been doing the old pc would be stripped of everything useful and I would be able to swop around the mouse and the keyboard - the new keyboard is quite flat and has very flat keys so I keep hitting the Caps Lock instead of the 'a' key, or I hit them both at the sAME TIME - but I haven't done that yet. I also have a stiff neck because this screen is about three inches lower than the old one and requires me to bend my head instead of looking forwards - who decided that?

A little turquoise Malabrigo lace mouse arrived, for finishing off the Swallowtail Shawl. Old Nokia phone included for scale. I still use this phone as my eBay bidding reminder because it has a better alarm than my new phone. Actually it's better in a lot of ways. Fewer key strokes to start doing anything, and my new phone (a Motorola Razr) has a different sequence of keys for deleting mesaages in the Inbox from that for deleting messages in the Outbox; why would anybody do that? And I could text one-handed with the Nokia, which the Motorola won't do. Bah.

I also got a couple of samples from Heike for the baby shawl I'm planning, about 20 yards each (stitch marker included for scale). Aren't they sweet? One is the Merino and Shetland yarn that I was interested in originally, and the other is a Merino and Blue Faced Leicester which she suggested because the BFL is from Northumberland, as is the baby daddy. I love working with the yarn and I think the mother-to-be will like the idea of the Australian-Northumbrian blend, so that's the one. I started off by swatching the patterns from Knitting Lace Triangles, but all the ones I favoured were the very holey ones and I decided that although this isn't going to be a traditional baby shawl it would be a mistake to make it too holey and maybe cause problems for tiny baby fingers. So I ripped that out and started again with another Forest Canopy Shawl - now there's a surprise - which suits the yarn beautifully. I've ordered the rest of the yarn and there will now be a short pause while Heike spins it.

I went to the Gallery of Modern Art on Sunday in the pouring rain - there was a good exhibition, of work by people who could draw. I went with this small person. I should really take advantage of the pause to knit her something for her birthday next week - do you think she might like something pink?

Also on Sunday in the pouring rain I dropped into K1 Yarns in the Grassmarket to meet Fyberspates and see her yarn in person. In spite of the weather, people had been making the pilgrimage and there was a cosy little gang sitting knitting. I sort of have an eye out for some yarn to make Miriam Felton's Adamas Shawl. I think the square motif gives this shawl a very art deco feel, and I want a very drapey yarn in shades of cocoa and custard to bring that out - the fabrics of that time were often drapey, silks and artificial silks, and I think of those brown naturals as very 'thirties although that's probably more their furnishings than their dress fabrics. So I got this, which is her Scrumptious in laceweight. It's 55% Merino and 45% silk. I might use it or I might follow up the service she's offering at the moment to dye yarn to your specifications. This is certainly very beautiful, sort of cocoa and bronze. It's 1000 metres so it's about three times the length of the Malabrigo - Get Knitted pen included for scale.

The poo project is completed (thanks for that, grannypurple) and awaits posting. I haven't bought the Silk Garden for Lara yet, because the chiropodist did domething sore to my toe (not chiropodist's fault: toe's fault) and I didn't feel like hobbling around the shop.

One of the first things I did with my flash new pc was spend a bit of time on YouTube, something which my old pc used to get very nervous about. It was quite a nervous machine anyway, much given to fits of the vapours which caused the screen to go black and rebooting to commence. Sometimes it used to get into an endless cycle of closing down and re-booting and the only thing to do then was to give it the high-tech equivalent of a slap in the face, which is a manual shutdown. The new pc has Vista, a feature of which is a deliberately darkened screen and my heart still sinks every time that happens. Anyway, while I was YouTubing, I came across this, Loudon Wainwright III singing The Picture. When it began I thought it was going to be about a wife or girlfriend, but it's about his little sister - it really hit me like the proverbial bricks. It was my big brother who introduced me to Loudon, when we were all young, but my brother isn't growing old with the rest of us; he left rather abruptly many years ago. Watch Gerry Anderson at the end; he looks choked too.

The Summer Interweave Knits finally plopped through my letterbox this week. I think it's the first one that really feels like Eunny Jang's work all the way through. The Apres Surf Hoodie seems to be very much her mix of traditional technique and current style, and the fair isle cardi in Manos del Uruguay strikes a similar chord in a different way. I think they're both lovely. I daren't imagine what the yarn for the cardi would cost but it could be a good project for using up stash if one had the habit of buying odd skeins of yarns in different colours. Who might do a thing like that?