Sunday, July 30, 2006

Addi Turbo and Kidsilk Daze

I bought some more yarn from Texere, seeing as the first lot (Storm) worked out so well for the Glamour Cape. This is Balmoral, "a mohair and wool loop with a nylon binder". It's a lot softer than Storm but not that soft. In fact, amongst the relative softness are some quite prickly sticky-out bits that feel soft to the touch but nevertheless have the ability to poke mercilessly through clothes and irritate. Listen, I wouldn't be buying this stuff if I wasn't feeling so skint. But it's okay, there's a certain pleasure to be found in spending small amounts when I'd usually spend much more. I'm calling it being extra creative. Anyway, I'm making a long cardigan with a belt, from the Louisa Harding Design Collection. It's supposed to be knitted in a completely and utterly different type of yarn altogether but there you are. It will either work out or it won't and since I love knitting it doesn't matter too much as I'm still enjoying the process. Surely it's got to turn out better than Celandine, the Terrible Tank Top which turned out more like a fluffy maternity top, even with the ribbon I threaded through.

I really like the colours of this yarn and the fact that the little loops catch on my needles all the time doesn't really matter, as I rarely knit without looking anyway. I'm not like Kendra, reading - reading, I said - whilst knitting, for goodness' sake.

Also on the needles is the Kidsilk Haze I bought a while ago. Yes, yes, I know. I was supposed to make the Mrs Beetons with it but I spotted a beautiful scarf on Tusa's blog (thanks, Tusa!) and had to drop everything else and make it with some urgency. But honestly, inexplicably I now feel like I would feel if I'd just admitted to eating all the Easter eggs I bought to give as gifts. That has happened in the past.

Thing is, I've never knitted with Kidsilk Haze before (oh, actually this is the Spray version - what's the difference?) but it's gorgeous, gorgeous angel breath. The tricky thing is I'm using the Addi turbo circulars (metal ones) in 8mm x 40cm and they are as slippery as eels, especially with this yarn. A couple of times I've dropped a needle and it's just fallen right out of every stitch, which is plain scary I tell you. I detest these needles but I had no other option. I would only ever choose to use these horrid things if I was using a really stiff yarn, like Storm (wish I'd had a pair in the right size when I was knitting the cape). Anyway, I can't wait to finish the scarf - it's floaty and diaphanous and I've threaded a few beads on, as suggested by Tusa. Fantastic. Can't wait.

I'd really like to make this next but I'd like the yarn suggested in the pattern and it's quite expensive. But isn't the pullover great?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Another WIP Crossed Off the List

Having started the Noro Daria belt months ago, I have now finished it. The Daria was beautiful but tough to knit with, as I was keeping the tension tight, not wanting too loose a stitch (should have used smaller needles, probably). Due to its composition this yarn (if you can call it that) is quite stiff and springy. For instance, once it's been wound into a ball the ball will readily unwind itself unless you keep it in a bowl of some kind in order to restrain it. But it's pretty - it has a luminous lustre about it. I like it.

The finished belt is quite stretchy but firm - it's just perfect to wear with anything, really (anything in the right colour, anyway). I massacred an old denim belt for the buckle and it's just perfect, which is handy as I couldn't find the right sort of buckle online (not under about £15, at least).

The stitch is linen stitch, on 5mm needles with nineteen stitches cast-on. At the tapered end I just changed to garter stitch and started knitting the three middle stitches together every row and that gave it its tapered shape. I used exactly two skeins of Daria. I'll definitely be wearing this belt.

By the way, thanks to you all for the kind comments on my cape. It's really fantastic to recieve feedback on completed items, isn't it? I appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My New Best Friend

So, my new best friend the Glamour Cape is finished and I'm so pleased with it I almost wish the winter was here already. This was a really quick knit, even knitting with the Yarn of the Evil One. Started last Friday and finished today (Wednesday). Well, actually finished last night, but then it had to be washed, blocked and dried, and the button and loop sewn on. Honestly I couldn't be more pleased with this garment and will certainly wear it. There were moments when I wondered if it would be okay, from the Evil Yarn point of view - the fit wasn't really an issue as I put the stitches onto scrap yarn and tried it on several times, then made adjustments to the increases along the way. The only question in my mind was whether the yarn would soften up enough once washed and whether it would survive being hand-washed by ME. It was easy, after all. Just dunked it in washing powder a bit, rinsed it a few times, the last with softener and then squeezed the water out carefully and laid it on a towel in the garden to dry (with much fussing over the shape and dimensions every thirty seconds or so).

I made my own fastening with an old button and loop. The loop was simply two strands of yarn twisted round and then folded so they twisted round each other again, then sewn into place. I added a six-row garter edge along the bottom to try and curtail any curling. The yarn used was not the weight the pattern recommended so I had to adjust the number of stitches to take that into account. Also, I'll be adding a popper about six inches under the button so that it stays together at the top (it doesn't in the pattern's photo - it's supposed to peep open but I'd prefer not). All in all I'm pleased with myself. It cost £4.80 (I only used two and a half cones of yarn).
I could really see Joanna in this cape.

Of course, I nearly did myself some damage taking the photos outside in thirty six degrees heat and wearing a bikini, a vest top, a polo neck jumper, a pair of jeans, a hat of sorts, and the cape. That's why the photos aren't fantastic.

You know what? I might make another one in the cream version of the yarn, well, for a fiver.............

Pattern: Glamour Cape from Stitch Diva
Yarn: Storm in Jade from Texere
Needles: Circular 5mm x 80cm (instead of 5.5mm)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Friend or Foe?

Having decided to go ahead and get started on the Glamour Cape, I ordered 960m of yarn ("Storm" in the jade colourway) from Texere, at the bargain price of £1.90 per 240m. I am a little suspicious of anything being sold at "bargain" prices, as it's normally a false economy, the truth being, sadly, that you get what you pay for. That's why I normally prefer to spend huge amounts on Noro and the like. I know what I'm getting and I like it.

So, my bargain yarn arrives and I rip open the package to be greeted by the first warning sign - the smell, a sort of woolly smell, but more like wool mixed with some kind of chemical. Then, I touch it and it feels like I could knit a lovely mat with it. A really tough sort of mat. True, the colour is lovely, much more green than these photos suggest, and there are flecks of all colours running through it, together with a thread of black which is twisted along the whole length of the yarn. Dismayed but not deterred I wondered if washing it might disguise the smell and soften it up and a quick dunk in Fairy Bio and Comfort really did perform an almost-miracle. The test swatch came out feeling soft and pliable, smelling completely divine and looking fluffy like a dog that's just had its annual shampoo.

Nevertheless each row is now 330 stitches and rising by 30 more every fourth row, and this yarn (still in its disgusting, smelly, mat-like state) is killing my fingers. No kidding, it's hard work and now I know what people mean when they say "oh, this yarn, it knits itself", or "it feels like butter". Because that's what I've always knitted with before and never appreciated. I can put up with this as long as the finished item is wearable. But can my washing and blocking skills manage such a heavy and large garment (without completely ruining it)?

The pattern is so easy - I was mistaken in thinking I'd need assistance. And I've knitted my first hem with three needles. Oh boy, that was so satisfying I want to do it again. It remains to be seen whether the cape will ever fit, due to having hardly stuck to the pattern where numbers of stitches are concerned. But we'll see. I'll show you the finished article however it turns out. One thing is for certain: if it turns out well it will have been such a bargain at less than £8.00!

Added a few hours later: How could I have been so rude as to forget to thank you all for your much-appreciateed comments on Ella? Thanks to everyone!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ella 3!

First - I must make better preparations for my photos in future. I was wearing my workout gear and trainers (trainers) and left all the washing on the line etc. etc.

Need I say it - Ella 3 is finished. I knitted this one in a heavier yarn, still Lorna's Laces, but Swirl DK (Black Purl) as opposed to Shepherd Sport. I kept the needle size the same (6mm) and it has turned out a little heavier, which is what I wanted. The Shepherd Sport versions are perfect for slightly warmer weather, but this one will be a bit cosier when the cooler weather is back with us. All along I wasn't sure about the Swirl DK or the colourway I chose, but now I'm sure I really like it. I think my reticence was due, in part, to Black Purl being a more subdued choice than I'd usually make (that old magpie rearing its head again). I blocked this Ella in the same way as I did the others - spraying liberally with water, and stretching it in all directions whilst ironing it on the hottest setting. Fierce. As Swirl DK is wool and silk I knitted a swatch and ironed that to death first. Of course.

I couldn't resist posting the only photo I took on my bike ride tonight. How much do I love cycling? Lots. I always used to do the London to Brighton (About 55 miles) every June and I still can't just take a leisurely ride. Sure, a large part of my enjoyment is derived from taking in the scenery (good for the spirit) , but I love the feeling of exerting myself and the physical and mental buzz it gives me. Don't get me wrong, it's not that frequently I cycle these days but it is without doubt one of my favourite ways to pass the time.

Pics soon, of the yarn for the cape. I may need to ask you all for advice, as I don't think I understand the pattern in parts.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Orangina (in a belated sort of way)

I have been meaning to post a photo of Orangina since April - I just didn't get round to it. And now that I have, I post a photo of myself with wet hair and looking as though I haven't slept for more than a week (actually that could be true. I am apalling at sleeping and just never got the knack of it). Also, I ought to take this opportunity to tell you that the reason I'm never smiling in my photos is due to the fact that I always use the timer thing and it just feels and looks too contrived to stand there grinning at nothing in particular. I've tried grinning in Charlie's direction in the past but that didn't work, either. Still too manufactured.

Undeniably, this second photo is a bit rubbish. I was trying to show the shape of the scalloped boat neck but didn't succeed.

I might knit another Orangina, now I've got the hang of the lacy stitches. I love the cotton (it was the Jaeger Siena ) - the texture is so firm and it has a lovely sheen. I refuse (mostly) to wear anything I can't bung in the machine to wash and this said "handwash". Needless to say, I bunged it into the machine anyway. And stretched it like hell to try and block it back into shape. It's a bit shorter than it was when it started out, which is a pain as it now sits right on my fat hips. Do not say my hips aren't fat - I angled my stance to conceal the fact.

I've got my eye on
this nifty little number, as well. Much preferring winter clothes over summer, I can really see myself in this as soon as the weather turns.

I'm still not knitting at all and the feeling is slowly coming back. Once it's back completely, I'll carry on and sod the numbness. Once I know for absolutely sure it's the knitting that caused it in the first place. But this has left me free to do more reading. Fiona reminded me recently of a book by Jeannette Winterson that I really enjoyed. I went looking for it and realised I have everything but that one (having left that one behind when I left a relationship in a real hurry seven years ago). I've got it back now, following an audacious eBay session (managed to get hold of another book I'd been searching for - Nigel Watts "We All Live in a House Called Innocence"). I won't attempt a review as it's beyond my capabilities, I'm afraid. But when you're reading Ms Winterson it's nice if you can spare the time for a little contemplation, which is where the non-knitting comes into it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It's All Me, Me, Me (and no knitting)

Due to the fact that I have now convinced myself that I'm suffering from MS or tumours in the neck, or possibly both, I have to stop knitting and let the feeling come back to my finger, so I can prove I'm wrong! You may be laughing but I have suffered from at least five life-threatening diseases so far this year (only in my mind, of course) and I know what a negative effect this has on the body; it may one day become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because I'm an all-or-nothing sort of person and because I know the importance of good nutrition and a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and because I know I haven't been leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle, I am now paranoid that I may drop dead in the near future. I take after my dad. Lucky for me I haven't inherited the tendency to suffer from the severe depression that has been upon him sporadically for much of his life (or if I do, it's certainly not as deep). I can't believe that until a couple of months ago, it had been a year and a half since my last visit to the long-suffering doc's.

I like to think sensitive and serious people are more interesting.

What I meant to say instead of all of the above is I have found other things to do - non knitting things. Honestly, I think the physical act of knitting and the almost-obsession with it, which I suffered from for about two months this year (February and March and possibly April), are bad for me. Yes, it's great for a person to have a hobby or interest, but not an all-consuming one which seems to involve a lot of sitting on the sofa with my knitting and yearning for things I can't afford. Having said that, I'm not giving up the old clicketyclickclick anytime soon.

The blogging, however, is good for me and has really opened up my world. I prefer to live a life with few friends and a few more acquaintances. It suits me fine - I've never felt the need to keep in touch with everyone I've ever met through various stages of my life. The people I keep in touch with are special to me. I have probably made one new genuine friend in the last few years. But most people are just passing through and the friendships, transient (my choice). Because unless the bond is stong enough, I just drift away. But it is great, finding a person you actually want to be closer to. Unless you're my sister and you collect friends like charms on a bracelet, and then it's commonplace. But I digress again. Simply, I intended to say that I like this blogging thing and it seems there's a whole bunch of people out there that I'm genuinely glad to "know". Thank you all for "sharing" (yuk expression) and also for appearing to take an interest in whatever I'm rambling on about. But now you're probably thinking I'm horrid and self-absorbed. Sometimes it's difficult to explain myself in writing. Oh, Jeannette Winterson, how do you manage it so well?

Today I have done my Davina workout. It's a killer. Davina may shout a lot but she does a bloomin' good workout. I have listened to Vaughan Williams (mesmerising), Sinead O'Connor (what?!), Fairground Attraction (!), Marian McPartland (more like it) and Charles and I have danced a lot. What are those things called that you hang skirts by (tags?). I've sewn some of them into my skirts and I have made carrot, orange and coconut soup for lunch.

Now I have told you too much about ME but will stop at which pants I'm wearing. I should like to think that if I met any of you in person, it wouldn't all be me me me. Blogs are very efficient instruments for appearing to inflate the old ego (or even for creating alternative versions).

Maybe we'll get some hard cash soon. One of our bands (I mean one of Nick's bands) has been entered for the Mercury Music prize and it would be great if they were shortlisted. This is a man who is truly creative and talented. Check him out if you like . The album has very many great reviews and will be featured on a Mojo CD soon.

By the way, the above photos (except for the one of Charles, looking out at the pouring rain)were intended to remind you of the weather of just a couple of days ago. It's too gloomy to take a photo of Ella3 progress.

Even if you're not really interested in sewing, check out this one-seam convertible dress (scroll down a bit to see it - it's the blue one). How versatile is that? I bet you could even make it with a slightly lower waist if you wanted.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Losing Myself to Knitting

Thank you for all the comments on the skirt post. I loved reading them....

The above photo was intended as a decoy to detract your attention from the fact that I'm still posting photos of the pink socks. I planted that lavatera last July and it's now eight or nine feet high.

Losing myself? Well, not losing myself exactly, but completely losing all sensation in the top third of my finger (you know, the one your betrothed adorns with gold/diamonds). Seriously - I was working on the pink sock (sorry, you must be sick of photos of that sock) on Wednesday evening and not for long, either - and when I put the knitting down immediately noticed that my finger felt numb. Suffering from Reynard's (where the tips of your fingers and whole toes go completely white and numb due to something to do with blood circulation - it looks so weird when it happens), I didn't pay much attention, although the Reynard's usually wouldn't happen in the summer. An hour later I realised that there was no change, and on investigation I saw it was looking normal ie. still healthy pink. Weird, I thought. Must be a nerve thing instead. Well, two/three days later and it's still numb. It seems I've been curling it round the tiny 2mm needle as I knit and just knitting through the discomfort it causes, but why has it never happened before? How odd. I won't pay much attention to it unless my whole arm follows suit! Cripes.

Although I've knitted a bit of the foot on my notorious false-start pink socks, I still have quite a way to go but they should be finished next week. And I have been working on Ella but can't feel inspired about it, as it's too hot to think of shawls. Still have my eye on the beautiful Lady Eleanor but I just can't scrape together the money for the yarn (oh, poor me. But I do have flapjacks in my biscuit tin.) I forgot to mention on my skirt post that none of the skirts I made cost more than about £8.00. Isn't that just fab?

Here's something else I sewed last year, I think. Before the knitting took over. It's made in a lovely fine and stretchy jersey and is reversible (black on the inside). Very comfy and easy to wear.

I have sewn up quite a few items, even a lined jacket. But the funny thing is that in twenty years I've never made a buttonhole until now (it was easy). I wonder if I was subconsciously choosing garments without buttons. I don't know, but I certainly wasn't conscious of it.

Guess what! I have baked something delicious. It's a first. I can't do baking - for the same reason that I often ruin meat. I can't tell when it's cooked so I always leave it in a bit longer just to make sure and then end up with crispy offerings. Not this time. Jane Brocket's flapjacks did the trick and they are too delicious, although very, very sweet, which we're not very used to. Charlie won't eat them at all due to the sweetness (he is allowed sweet things sometimes but seems to prefer dried fruit or yukky healthy biscuits). I suppose I should be pleased Charles turns his nose up at them but I would have liked a family-consuming-home-baked-goods moment. This afternoon I'll bake some more of the healthy walnut things and some Toddler Borscht. Charlie's glands have been up for two weeks and he needs blood tests if they're still up in another three so I'm trying to boost his immune system.

I apologise for this convoluted post (no, that' the wrong word), ummmm, I'm trying to say that I realise this post is a bit disjointed, skipping from one subject to another. Maybe it's because I normally write my posts in the evening, as opposed to 8 in the morning.

More strong coffee.

Later on (well, the following day)..........I made some more of the putrid honey/walnut etc biscuits and they're delicious. I was correct in thinking it was the bitter honey that ruined them. Yeah, my baking is slightly improving (even baked another batch of flapjacks at 11pm yesterday, to give to the neighbours and the in-laws).

And since I adore those flapjacks I worked out how many calories/fat are in them (each one being one sixteenth of the whole). It's about 180cals and 10g fat. I'm not obsessed but I do like to know just how bad or good something is before I eat ten pieces!