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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Seven Things and New Year Memes

I was tagged by Anne a while ago but have just got around to doing this meme now! Sorry, Anne! I've also been tagged by Katie so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone. Well, here goes.


1. Seven things to do before I die

Knit the Wedding Ring Shawl.
Design a garden from scratch (preferably my own).
Have a room dedicated to knitting, sewing, spinning, etc, complete with special table for cutting and all the works. Bookshelves full of books on knitting, sewing, etc, should be covering all available wall space but there should be a very large window with a southerly aspect so that the room is bright and cheerful.
Own a spinning wheel.
Go back to mine and DH's honeymoon island.
Be able to make pastry like my Mam did. She died 11 years ago but I have her recipe in a safe place and will perfect it one day.
Get behind a wheel and drive again.

2. Seven things I cannot do

I don't believe in *can't do*. I believe that most people can do most things if they try hard enough. However, at the moment I can't:

Make pastry like my Mam did;
Spin with any degree of proficiency;
Drive a car without going into panic mode;
Bake a nice light panetonne in my breadmaker (I suspect this is something to do with the recipe in the breadmaker book which I am following to a tee);
Do the full splits (now this one, I definitely believe I'll never be able to do!)
That Vulcan thing that Mr Spock used to do on Star Trek of separating his ring finger and middle finger whilst keeping the digits on both sides straight and together like this. It annoys me no end that DH can do it and I can't;

Proof that DH is a Vulcan! Can you do it??

3. Seven things that attract me to my spouse/partner

His gentleness despite his height and build (gentle giant).
The fact that he's never afraid to say he's sorry when he's in the wrong.
His generosity and kindness to myself and others.
His lack of bigotry and his tolerance.
His ability to see the good as well as the bad in most situations and most people.
The fact that he never complains about my obsession with yarn/knitting.
His sense of fairness.

4. Seven things I say most often

Hello (when answering the phone).
Fancy a cup of tea?
Fancy a glass of wine?
Ooh, I really like that yarn!
Ooh, I really like that pattern!
Now where did I put my bag, purse, shoes, boots or something else I've mislaid?
Hang on a minute (when my attention is being sought whilst engrossed in something else).

5. Seven books (or series) I love

A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth).
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series particularly the books with the witches (Granny Weatherwax, etc) included in the characters.
Most books by Margaret Atwood.
Most of the classics (I love reading the classics for the sheer beauty of the language wrought by those wordsmiths as much as for the tales themselves).
Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
Philip Pullman's Trilogy.
Books by authors such as Bruno Bettelheim, Marie Louise von Franz, Joseph Campbell.

6. Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time)

Like Water for Chocolate.
Educating Rita.
Love Story.
The Piano.
Ryan's Daughter
The Naked Civil Servant

7. Seven people I want to join in, too

I'm not feeling one hundred per cent at the moment and, consequently, thinking of seven people seems a bit too onerous so I'll just say anyone who wants to join in!


What new knitting techniques did you learn this year?

Knitting with beads, intarsia and several different ways of casting on. Probably others as well but these spring to mind immediately.

Which completed project from the last 12 months are you most proud of?

Not really sure - probably River or Birch.

What was your biggest knitting disaster of the last year?

Probably the Dune garment which started off as a top, then became a wrap and finally a mini poncho type thing. It's still not completely finished. I decided I hated the yarn but will finish it as I do have a taker. As it's a summer garment, there's no rush!

Who or what has been the biggest influence on your knitting in 2005?

I would echo Katie and say UKHK. There are some incredibly gifted and supportive people amongst its members. Also, Blogland people who I've quite often owed debts of gratitude to particularly for photos illustrating how a certain pattern will look or how to do a certain technique, etc.

What knit craze grabbed you this year?

Anyone who knows me would have to realise that my answer is, of course, Curly Whirlies, though I have been in rehab (joke!!) and am now doing well with only the occasional pang of longing to knit another!

Finally, some New Year's resolutions.

I have the good and noble intention to finish all my WIPs and not let them become UFOs.

I also want to stretch and challenge myself with my knitting much more than I have been. I'm looking forward to that but have no real plans as to how yet!

I would like to attend as many knitting workshops as I can. I think they're great because not only do you learn new skills but you meet all sorts of really interesting people and usually there's an opportunity for stash enhancement.

As regards stash enhancement, I'll try to cut down the amount of additions this year and knit up as much as I can of the stash I already have. (And to think that in the early part of this year I only ever bought yarn as and when I needed it and never bought any more until the item I was working on was finished). Naughty UKHK - very bad influence!! lol

Name the folks to pass this meme on to:

AmyP, Jess, and Tari but only if they have the time/inclination to do it!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

This is what I saw when I looked out of the window onto our drive this morning.

I put the kettle on and the Xmas tree lights and took DH a cup of tea.

I then enjoyed the peacefulness of drinking my tea whilst watching the Xmas tree lights inside flickering between their different colours and the silent snow falling outside to carpet the ground with its crisp white newness. This is snow at its best before it becomes all slushy and nothing more than a load of murky water.

I managed to finish most of my Xmas knitting and I think it probably goes without saying, given my prolific scarf production, that a lot of people got scarves this year. There are some things I can't show yet because, for us, Xmas will be celebrated again some time in January when we will see certain special people that we didn't see at Xmas and give them their gifts in person.

As this is primarily a knitting blog, I'll show some of what I received in the way of knitting related Xmas presents. First, roses, chocolates and wine.

What, not knitting related? If you consider that I could have a chocolate and a sip of wine at the end of every row and contemplate the roses in between, then you can see that they are definitely knitting related.

Then, a new iPod (to replace my malfunctioning one) along with charger and case. This is so that I can listen to my personal music compilations whilst I knit.

A bear calendar, bear key ring and a book on how to grow old disgracefully.

The bear calendar will help me to plan my knitting year and the bear key ring is so that the bear can look after my keys whilst I'm stash hunting. As for the book on how to grow old disgracefully, the very useful tips in this book will help to ensure that I'm as delinquent as I possibly can be in between time spent knitting and, probably, whilst knitting, too.

The last one I'm going to show is unarguably knitting related and was a real surprise in that I didn't expect that DH would get it for me although I did hint rather strongly at one time that if, by chance, he ever came across any Alice Starmore books, they wouldn't go amiss.

DH also bought me a dress form which I've been wanting for some time as I've seen them on other people's blogs modelling their various creations and thought it was a good idea. This will apparently be delivered by 9th January. I was more than pleased with all my lovely presents and feel very lucky.

Then, my in-laws gave me a Xmas cheque, which I promptly spent at the John Lewis sale yesterday by buying this little lot.

This is Debbie Bliss Maya in three colourways (enough to make three garments) and 15 balls of Debbie Bliss Merino Chunky. Both were half price making the Maya only £4.25 for a 100g skein and the Merino Chunky only £1.45 a ball. I'm thinking of felting some of the Maya as, apparently, it felts beautifully but shrinks by 50% so it's just as well it was half price! I started getting real guilt pangs about the amount of yarn I've bought recently but made it okay by telling myself that this is "my vice" and it's a relatively harmless one compared to something like smoking forty cigarettes a day, etc. Also, I give away most of what I buy either in the form of yarn to others or in the form of knitted garments including baby blankets, shawls, etc, that I've knitted for the Preemie Unit. What I get out of it is the sheer pleasure of knitting for others and sometimes for myself and the joy of giving something handmade that I know certain people will appreciate. I think I can live with that.

On Boxing Day I started knitting Wavy from Knitty with the lovely baby alpaca/silk yarn that was gifted to me by Tari. I knew there wouldn't be enough to make a full size scarf so I planned to make a shorter keyhole version. However, just after the half way point I changed my mind and frogged the lot because I decided to make this Cosy Neck Warmer instead.

It is incredibly soft, warm and elegant looking and makes a change from a scarf because there's no ends flapping around to worry about if it's windy. It fastens with just two snap fasteners on the garter stitch edging. I do hope Tari approves of what I did with the gorgeous yarn she sent and I'd like to thank her again for her kindness and generosity.

Finally, I just wanted to mention a wonderful site that I've found for free patterns. It's called Knitomatic and the patterns are listed under Freebies here. I recommend you take a look.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pinky and Yuletide Whimsies

Nils, the Swedish Yuletide Gnome

At The Lodge got lots of stares.
He didn't really feel at home
As The Lodge was full of bears!
As the only gnome in sight, you see
He earned the status of minority.
Clearly the bears had to think about
The fact that he surely felt left out.
So, the bears got into a huddle

To discuss what they could do
Would a gnome respond to a cuddle?
Or maybe a joke or two?
Now Tilly Bear's a motherly sort

So, don't be fooled by her soaker!
She guessed that Nils could not be bought
By a huggy type or a joker.
If another gnome was nowhere around
And, to Nils, the lodge wasn't home-like,
Then a strategy would need to be found
To make a bear appear more gnome-like.
A gnome wouldn't dress in something flimsy
Nor slip into something slinky.
No, what she needed was a touch of whimsy . . . . .
"I've got it!", she squealed as she put on Pinky!!

Now that Nils is as happy as Larry with the bears at The Lodge, Pinky has gone to a new owner as a Secret Santa gift.

Pinky and Party Poppers

Seasonal Best Wishes and a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year to Everyone from all of us Here!

Pattern Information:
Pinky from Knitty in one ball each of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky (Shades 05 and 06)
Yuletide Gnome from Alan Dart pattern featured in Simply Knitting Xmas Gifts Extra which accompanied December 2005 Issue

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Knit Tin Part II or What I Bought!

I promised to show and tell what I bought at The Knit Tin the weekend before last so here goes.

What was in The Knit Tin carrier bag? Well, I bought Debbie Abrahams' new book, "More Blankets and Throws" and Debbie Bliss's Alpaca Silk book.

I took advantage of the offer of having my "More Blankets and Throws" book autographed by Debbie at the workshop . . . . .

. . . . . and I also thought I'd put the other Debbie's book to good use by buying this gorgeous Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk

to make Lara (below).

The only other yarn I bought were two skeins of Noro Iro in colourway 18 because I thought it was the closest I could find to the colours of the Skacel yarn used for the Fickle Fingers Scarf in the current Interweave Knits.

If you haven't seen a picture of the Fickle Fingers Scarf, it looks like this.

Below are the four sets of clay buttons I mentioned in my last post which are kiln-fired and glazed by Debbie Abrahams' mother.

Lastly, I bought two lots of stitch markers which come with stitch holders in organza bags and a special vintage style sterling silver needle with a curved end for mattress stitching.

I had been using the little hair braiding bands from Claire's Accessories which make excellent stitch markers until they've been used for a while at which point they become stretched and get twisted into the stitches on the needle. The other problem with them is that they are constantly pinging across the room as you knit so I was relieved to get some proper stitch markers. I do love the fancy jewellery ones too but I find, personally, they get in the way of the knitting and distract me.

I'm still trying to get through my list of things to do before I can feel completely organised for Xmas. I always seem to leave things to the last minute at Xmas-time and swear to be more organised the following year but it never seems to happen.

On Saturday, we went to Bluewater because there were certain things I had to buy in the way of Xmas pressies which could, apparently, only be obtained from here. It was a hive of consumerism and I found it quite stressful to be among all those rushing milling crowds. I did find the little bit of knitterly buying I did in John Lewis to be quite soothing though. When our stomachs told us it was lunchtime, we decided to avoid the John Lewis' restaurant (which is where we usually eat when we're at Bluewater) and had a look around for something else. We found this little Mexican place in the Wintergarden called Cantina Mariachi. It was really mellow with Mexican music playing in the background and avante garde looking waiting staff. The world suddenly seemed a much nicer place after tacos and a couple of glasses of sangria!

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Knit Tin, etc, etc, etc

I've a lot to show and tell since I last posted so I think I'd better do it chronologically otherwise I'll be all over the place. The Button Wrap is about half finished but was stalled because this came through the post some of which has to be knitted for Xmas pressies. Some has indeed been knitted and some has indeed been frogged and is now in the process of being reknitted!

Laughing Hens came up trumps in that they were the only place I could find the shades I wanted in both Noro Iro and Silk Garden of which I bought 500g and 700g respectively. A week later I still await a call from John Lewis to let me know whether they have these shades in stock or not!

Please also note the yummy bar of creme brulee chocolate which came in the post from Katie and the home made Xmas pudd from Jess. Thanks, maties!! I'm definitely feeling spoilt without even having a Secret Pal which reminds me I do want to sign up for the Secret Pal thing this time and, by the way, when is the deadline for that?!! Jess's home made Xmas pudd looks and smells lovely and it has those wonderful finishing touches such as having pretty fabric placed on the top which is even secured with a proper seal. No elastic bands or string for Jess who does things proper!! (sic)

I did finish the 'Simply Knitting" traditional Swedish Yuletide Gnome or jultomten which literally translates to "Christmas Man" according to this reference. I've now revised my idea of having a family of them though and decided that he will be a lonesome gnome for this year but I may try to remedy the situation for next Xmas.

The bit I enjoyed the most, funnily enough, was making his hat zig zaggy with the hair spray!

Now comes the bit I've been dying to tell you about. I always save the best till last. Do you do that? Even when I'm having a meal, I tend to save a little bit of what I enjoy most till last. This is a habit I think from when I was a child and I saved the bits I enjoyed most to take away what I perceived as the not so nice taste of other bits which found their way onto my plate. I wasn't forced to eat these bits but was told it was best to eat them as they were good for me. Funnily enough, I now enjoy those things!

Anyway, I digress! The thing I now want to tell you about is my day at The Knit Tin from the points of view of both the goody goodness of The Knit Tin itself and also the excellence of the Intarsia and Beaded Bag Workshop with that goddess of intarsia herself, Debbie Abrahams!

My DH, who I think is the best in the world (but then I'm biased) said he would take me by car the night before so that it wouldn't be too much of a rush to get to Olney for the workshop on the Saturday. So, we ended up staying at the Swan Revived in Newport Pagnell on Friday night. The only quibble I have with that place is that they didn't have the danish pastry that I ordered the night before to go with my fresh fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. Nor did they explain they didn't have it but just sent the tray without it! When it was questioned, I was offered a croissant instead which I gratefully accepted, only to be told five minutes later that there weren't any croissants either. I ended up having toast and all the while DH unconcernedly tucked into his bacon, eggs, sausage, etc, etc, saying that he didn't want it to get cold!!

The Knit Tin and the workshop though couldn't be faulted. First of all, feast your eyes on these photos and tell me is this or is this not yarn heaven?! Here's a photo from outside which was taken after the workshop but before I entered into serious stash enhancement mode. Doesn't it look all seasonal with the beautiful Xmas tree twinkling in the twilight?

Now come round to the front of the shop and why not come inside!

Come on, it's wonderful, I promise!

Just look at those Alchemy Yarns in jars on the right. They're so wonderful and precious they need to be contained like little pots of gold! Would you like to look closer?

Hmm, I seem to have taken a self-portrait photo at the same time!

The thing that struck me about The Knit Tin when I first walked in was the lovely clean newness of it all but, at the same time, the riot of colour and quality of the yarns, etc, that were displayed. I really liked the characteristic little touches of the yarns and other things displayed in jars or tins which reminded me somehow of the wonder I used to experience as a child when entering one of those sweet shops piled high with confectionery in jars, some familiar; some exotic; but all colourful and magical. Of course, one grows up and this feeling somehow gets lost among the general cynicism that seems to go with being an adult but I can honestly say that I experienced a little bit of that again except this time I was drinking in the beauty and splendour of yarn and not sweets.

Here's a stand of Rowan yarns (apologies for spoiling the immaculateness of the display by leaving my camera case on the table) . . . . .

. . . . . and if you look to the left and walk through to the adjoining room, you'll pass some scarf samples and sundries (click to enlarge) . . . . .

. . . . . before being introduced to such delights as Colinette, Noro, Artesano Alpaca, Jaeger, Debbie Bliss, Regia and Opal Sock Yarns, etc.

But enough of that for now! If you wish to browse through more photos taken on the day, please go to the Knit Tin Set on my Flickr Gallery here because it's now time to go upstairs for the workshop.

As soon as we entered the classroom our eyes feasted on another riot of colour as Debbie had covered the tables with some of her gorgeous afghans and lots of handmade buttons were also on display. The buttons are made by Debbie's mother from natural clay following which they are glazed and then fired in a kiln. I think they're beautiful and couldn't resist buying some. Just look at them! Could you resist? The ones on the right are Xmas themed buttons.

I resisted the Xmas ones but bought four sets from the box pictured below.

Then there were the individual buttons on display from which we were allowed to choose one free of charge to place on our beaded intarsia bags.

Moving on from the buttons, also on the table, for each of us, was a chart of the intarsia pattern and a bag containing all the yarn and beads for the bag that we were to make.

The first thing we did, though, was to use some coloured pencils to colour in our charts. Sounds a bit infantile, I know, but it did help to instantly see which colour one should be using instead of trying to decipher the code which would have been more time consuming. It also helped break the ice in that it was quite amusing as there was only one set of pencils to share so there was a lot of banter and calls such as "Who's hanging on to the turquoise?" and "Has anyone got light pink?" and "Does anyone need dark green?", etc.

With this exercise complete, it wasn't long before we set to work.

Debbie was always ready to help if anyone got stuck and explained everything very clearly. Here she is patiently explaining to us what to do next.

It is true to say that productivity (or, in my case, lack of), was definitely in inverse proportion to amount of chatting, skiving, etc. I did, however, finish knitting my bag the following day at home though it still needs sewing up. Just to prove it, here's a photo showing the front of the bag with one of Debbie's handmade buttons in place to give an idea of how it will look when it's all sewn up.

And here's one showing the back of the bag.

Now, this is, in no sense of the word, a large bag. In fact, it's small enough that, if I went out carrying it, very soon some little men with white coats would come along and look at me understandingly before carting me away. I've decided, therefore, that I won't make the strap but, instead, I'll line it and use it as a pouch for my intarsia bobbins. Very appropriate, I'd say!

We had to really concentrate on what we were doing to make sure that we were using the right colour for the right amount of stitches and, also, that we got the right colour beads (there were four colours of beads) in the right places.

It was a very useful workshop because we learnt how to lock the yarn in when introducing a new colour so that no holes showed at all even before the ends were woven in. We also learnt all about "bobbin discipline". No, it's not all about shaking your finger admonishingly at your bobbins if they misbehave! It's just about regularly sorting them out to make sure they don't get into too much of a tangle.

Debbie also demonstrated the best way of weaving the ends in securely and mattress stitch. She was extremely patient, very good humoured and a joy to be around.

Refreshments were abundant and of the same quality as the shop wares! Elevenses, I think, came from the nearby coffee shop (but in proper mugs as opposed to disposable cups) because there were lots of drinks to choose from including such exotica as hot white chocolate. I had a mocha coffee and a really tasty cookie type biscuit. Lunch was also enjoyed by all as you can probably guess by the photos below.

It included freshly made sandwiches with various fillings and three or four different types of fresh salad followed by dessert of which I had one or two of the hors d'ouvre type tarte aux fruits. The lady in the middle, Bertha, was attending the course as an 87th birthday treat and we all had a slice of birthday cake with our drink in the afternoon!

After the workshop was over it was time to continue the retail therapy that I'd started on arrival in the morning and added to at lunchtime. Julie mentioned that the shop had been extremely busy and, whilst I was browsing, I noticed a man asking about knitting needles and yarn for his daughter as a Xmas pressie. It's good to know that there's so much interest in knitting. Long may it continue.

Well, this has been a mammoth post so I'll leave it till next time to show and tell what I bought but I'm sure that you're now in no doubt at all that I *heart* The Knit Tin!!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Finished Objects and a Pressie!

After winning the runner up prize on the KnitSpeak competition, Tari insisted that she wanted to send me a little something. "As long it's teeny weeny", I said, and she agreed. Well, pictured on the left is what I received. A beautifully wrapped package and a very nice card made by Amnesty International.

On the right is what I found inside when I opened the package. Inside were two balls of the most gorgeous baby alpaca/silk yarn in one of my favourite shades and a box of mocha chocolates. I think you will agree that there is no way that this could ever be described as teeny weeny! Naughty Tari but, nevertheless, extremely thoughtful and generous. Thank you! I'm afraid to say that the mocha choccie is all gone and very nice, too, but the yarn will have a deservedly long contemplation as to what special thing to turn it into.

Another item in the post was a small ball of silk from the very kind Kerrie of Hip Knits to finish off MIL's clapotis which had been stalled for a while due to me running out of silk for just the last little bit.

Here she is basking in her new found fully created glory and contemplating a glass of Mouton Cadet to celebrate. However, as I strongly suspect clapotis of being a bit of a lush and, as I'm also quite partial to a glass of Mouton Cadet, I quite rightly, I think, refused to open the bottle. MIL has now received her clapotis and I'm assured it meets with her full approval. It was presented to her in a very nice box which I bought for an arm and a leg. She has now promised to show me how she makes her lovely gift boxes and has given me a list of items I'll need from the art department of W H Smith. I'll post here about the instructions and try to photograph it as we go along so that anyone who would also like to learn (and that doesn't include the clever clogs who already know how) can learn along with me.

Also completed this week were two more curly whirlies. The one on the right was made in Louisa Harding's Impression with a Sari Ribbon edging and corsage. The other one (on the left) is my second Floribunda Curly Whirly Cravat, this time in multicoloured sari silk with an edging and corsage in the liqueur shade of Kid Silk Haze. These, along with the original Floribunda are to be shown to Sue so she can choose one (or not as the case may be) as a present for her daughter.

The sari silk was purchased from this seller. I received excellent service and the sari silk itself is available in several grades and numerous colours. Colourspun also stock what looks like some nice wool, cashmere, and silk yarns as well as roving and vintage patterns. Well worth a look!

The Yuletide gnome is finished as far as knitting is concerned but still awaits stuffing and sewing and I've also completed another item which has to remain secret from this blog for the moment but some of you may know to what I am referring.

DH is still cross stitching the set of four Popcorn Bears but has a more interesting project in the offing. It's a cross stitched fan which will be stitched around an actual fan frame. Now the big question is do any of you crafty people know where DH can buy a fan frame???

Oh, and Anne, I'm not ignoring your tag. I will get around to doing it but not just yet.