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Monday, January 30, 2006

Feeling Thoroughly Spoiled

On Saturday morning I received a postcard from my Secret Pal saying hello and warning me to expect a package before the end of this week. The postcard itself is beautiful and depicts a small section of the Hikone Screen.

Now I don't know much at all about Japanese art so I googled and this is what I found out. The Hikone Screen is a six-fold screen painted on gold paper which was painted in the early 17th century by an unknown artist and is now one of Japan's national treasures. It's kept at the Hikone Castle Museum and only put on display for a few weeks once a year. The full screen offers a glimpse of life inside a bordello probably in Kyoto. It shows geisha and young samurai enjoying music while they play games and compose letters and is representative of the fashion trends of the period including a pet dog. Parodying traditional paintings of the leisurely pursuits of gentlemen, this elegant screen would have been created for a wealthy daimyo household. You can see more of the Hikone Screen here if you're interested - just click on the link and scroll down!

Then, on Sunday evening, I found a very nice e-card which had been sent on Friday but which I hadn't noticed straight away as it had found its way into my junk folder.

Despite the fact that, these days, I don't get all that excited any more about Xmas and birthdays, I can't pretend that I wasn't looking forward with some anticipation to the package that my Secret Pal said I should expect later in the week. However, I was most surprised when our friendly postman actually delivered it this morning!!! What is it about this Secret Pal thing that had me dying to rip open the parcel without delay in order to discover its hidden contents! Anyway, I managed to restrain myself for long enough to take a photo of the contents still in their tissue wrapping.

As you can see, I also received a postcard depicting a sheep wearing a woolly hat and a pom-pom around its neck which gave me a bit of a giggle and I wasn't at all disappointed with the contents when opened. Below is what was inside!

First, a hand-knitted bath bag which has obviously had a lot of thought and care put into its creation. It's knitted in a very sumptuous feeling lavender coloured cotton yarn (lavender's one of my favourite colours at present) with light blue contrast and the word "bath" has been embroidered on afterwards. Then we have what's described as a meringue syabon body towel. This is so that I can spoil myself in the shower as the towel feels like one of those that gently exfoliates the skin making it nice and smooth! Some luxury bitter chocolate was what I alighted upon next and, as the latest scientific trials assure me that it's now believed that a couple of pieces a day are good for my cardiac and arterial health and preventative of heart attacks and strokes, I shall eat it with impunity (even though next month, the opposite will probably be found as seems to be often the case!) Just when I thought I'd seen everything in the package, I discovered something else inside the bath bag and that was the most gorgeous heart shaped soap which looks as if it's been hand made or hand pressed! On one side there are what looks like the branches of a tree in relief and, on the other, there are stars. It all looks very symbolic and, as I have a fascination for myth and symbolism, this is right up my street. Thank you so much, Secret Pal, for your very generous and thoughtful gifts. I love them all!!

Phew!!! After all that excitement, I can report that at the weekend I used up some more of the stash to make another loopy boa for a friend.

This time the ingredients were:

2 balls Sirdar Boa (Rhapsody - 020)
1 ball RYC Soft Lux (Basalt - 00005)
1 ball Rowan Calmer (Lucky - 484)
1 Ball Wendy Velvet Touch (Lilac - 1213)
Oddments Patons 4ply 100% Cotton (Foxglove - 01706)
Oddments Rowan Kid Silk Haze (Pearl - 590)
Some unidentified light purple yarn (top right) - wool according to burn test

As regards my last post, I'd just like to say thank you for the helpful comments on my questions regarding the proposed christening shawl. I'm glad to say that all of that angst about what is *right and traditional* for a christening shawl is now merely academic as my niece, Lisa, has decided that she would really rather just have a baby shawl and not a special christening shawl. She's opted for the one that I preferred, i.e. the first photo in the previous post, and she wants it in pink.

So, sufficient quantities of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in light pink were purchased on Saturday and it does feel, oh, so soft . . . . .

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Christening Shawl

For my Knitting Olympics Challenge, I've decided to go for a christening shawl which my niece would like as she's expecting her second baby at the end of February/beginning of March. I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself by opting for an Heirloom Shawl along the lines of one of Sharon Miller's designs as I think completion in 16 days might be cutting it a bit fine! However, I did have six or seven shawl patterns that I got in the Designs closing down sale. Most of them I thought were a bit too simple but two showed promise of presenting something of a challenge given the timeframe within which the project should be completed.

I've sent them as email attachments for my niece to choose which one she would like (hopefully she will like one of them). They are both Sirdar patterns but I thought as the shawl is to be a christening shawl, I'd knit it in something a bit more special such as Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. My personal favourite of the two is this one. This one has a centre, a border and an edging but is slightly smaller than the other.

To view detail, click to enlarge

The other one I picked out as a possibility is this one which is a bit larger than the one I prefer but only has a centre and an edging (no border). I know it looks as if it has a border as well as edging but, in actuality, it doesn't.

To view detail, click to enlarge

Which one do you prefer?

In the unlikely event that I finish the shawl with time to spare, I'm going to challenge myself further by attempting to also complete a pair of socks (the first I will ever have knitted!) and I already have the sock kit sitting in the drawer patiently waiting to be tackled!

Thanks to JenLa for the Great Britain Olympic Knitting Team button designed for the use of us Brits which is now sitting prettily in my sidebar next to the Yarn Harlot's one!

UPDATE: Since publishing this post, I'm beginning to wonder if the shawls in the patterns are meant to be christening shawls? Are there any special requirements for a christening shawl? For instance, should it be knitted in laceweight yarn or would it be okay in 4ply? Also, should it be a particular size and so on? Any suggestions???

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Raspberry Coulis

Saturday was busy with getting my first package off to my secret pal, then shopping and a trip to the hairdresser. I'm really enjoying all the mystique of getting to know someone from their blog and trying to work out tastes, preferences and the best ways to surprise!

Then, today, we drove over to Tunbridge Wells for a hotel meal as it was a family celebration. MIL had decided to wear the clapotis I made for her in the custom-dyed Hip Knits Silk and we took with us the shawl pin which had arrived from Rosemary of Designs by Romi. The shawl pin came in a lovely little box (above) and was accompanied by a handwritten card from Rosemary. I can't recommend Designs by Romi enough for the customer service I received and will definitely be ordering more shawl pins as they are truly beautiful!

Below is a close up of the shawl pin which is comprised of natural amber stones on a gold plated pin.

Before we went to lunch I got the promised shot of MIL in the garden wearing her clapotis.

She insisted on the above pose which I was puzzled by. When I asked DH about it later, he thought that perhaps it was because people used to pose like this for old knitting patterns so she probably thought this was the best way of modelling her clapotis. The shawl pin was a bit too close to the colours of the clapotis but she is, nevertheless, very happy with it as she says it will go perfectly with her camel coloured pashmina.

MIL is 81 years old and is one of the nicest, kindest people I know. She is also very talented. She doesn't do a lot these days but all through her life she has made the most beautiful curtains and her own clothes as well as being very proficient in all sorts of other crafts such as woodwork, marquetry, and so on. Nowadays she mostly knits tiny sets for the Preemie Unit of the local hospital.

I gave the lavender coloured loopy boa in the previous post its first outing and it attracted lots of compliments. Lunch though was a bit of a disaster. It started off ominously with the waitress writing cherry wine down on her chit when we asked for sherry. Then, even though they had a very limited wine list, they didn't have the one we first chose and several other little episodes occurred in which it was plain that the waitress was either being inattentive or nervous or just wasn't with it at all. This culminated in the waitress accidentally emptying the raspberry coulis (which accompanied my melon starter) in mine and MIL's laps. MIL was wearing a brown skirt and it didn't seem to have stained but my lavender coloured silky skirt looked most obviously spattered with bright red splurges of coulis! How did I react in this situation? Well, I did a few slow breaths under which were muffled several choice swear words and managed to look at it philosophically. The waitress was only in her early 20s, and I tend to be a bit maternal in these sorts of situations. My thinking usually goes along the lines of that's someone's daughter and it could be her first day in the job. I would hate for her to get the sack because I complained about something that was purely an accident. I do think that hotels should train their staff better though before they release them on the unsuspecting public.

We decided to forgo dessert at the hotel and, instead, shared a delicious chocolate torte back home. Here it is being dished up by MIL.

And look what I got to take back home with me!

Two more bears (one male, one female) which MIL picked up in the January sales. Here they are cosily ensconsed in my loopy boa which, thankfully, didn't get spattered with raspberry coulis as I took it off as soon as we sat down at the table.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Steek Boa Gone Loopy!

Thanks for everyone's comments and encouragement on which lace project I should tackle for the Knitting Olympics. I still remain undecided and need to think about it some more. I think I agree with Tari though in that I feel I should definitely ensure that I am challenged enough! I'll give it some more thought and report back.

For now, I've knitted a steek boa as per Mary-Lou's design (details on her blog, here). However, when I'd finished knitting it, I decided not to cut the loops to make a fringed boa but to leave the loops and make it a loopy boa instead.

The yarns used are pictured below and were all from my stash. After taking this photo though, I also added a ball of lilac Velvet Touch I found in the bargain bin at C&H Fabrics.

This made the total ingredients:
3 balls Wendy Cosmic (Lunar - 2303)
1 ball RYC Soft Lux (Basalt - 00005)
1 ball Wendy Velvet Touch (Lavender - 1228)
1 Ball Wendy Velvet Touch (Lilac - 1213)
Oddments Patons 4ply 100% Cotton (Foxglove - 01706)
Oddments Rowan Kid Silk Haze (Pearl - 590)

The combination of the Wendy Cosmic and the RYC Soft Lux (grey with a silver sparkle) give it a bit of a bling factor.

I was a bit concerned as to whether the backstitching would actually stabilize the material enough that there would be no danger of the central panel fraying back. After some discussion with Mary-Lou about this, I found she had come up with a better idea and that is to use a crochet hook in the middle of the vees of the edge stitches (i.e. the end stitches of the five cast off stitches) and slip stitch all the way along either side. This is done from the back through every horizontal bar between the vees (visible from the front). The result is that, at the back of the work, you get a nice neat line either side like this.

If you look closely, you will see the line of crocheted slip stitches (worked in lavender Velvet Touch) either side of the central five cast off stitches.

And, at the front, (shown below), the stabilizing crocheted slip stitching doesn't show at all.

It then just remains to unravel all of the stitches back to the centre five cast off stitches confident that they will not unravel any further because of the slip stitching.

And, voila! You have a steek boa gone loopy! Or, you can carry on as in Mary-Lou's original design and cut the loops to make a fringe.

Thanks, Mary-Lou for devising this brilliant design for us to play with!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The 2006 Knitting Olympics

Over at the Yarn Harlot's place, there are Olympic challenges being aspired to in the form of a long list of knitters who have signed themselves up to undertake a feat of knitting that will stretch them as much as the competitors in the Olympic Games themselves! The challenge posed by the Yarn Harlot is for one to knit something that will test one's skills and endurance to their limits. Casting on should take place during the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics (February 10th) and the project should be finished before the Olympic flame goes out (February 26th). That means 16 days! What challenges one person, of course, will be completely different to what challenges another. The important thing is that it poses a challenge to the person who is taking it on.

Now, I did say that one of my knitting new year resolutions was to challenge myself more and I did say that I wanted to advance in my lace knitting so, I must be crazy, but I've decided to knit a piece of challenging (to me) lace, probably in the form of a shawl.

That took me to Blackberry Ridge where I started looking through the shawls and noting their levels of difficulty in relation to my (non) expertise. Now, I absolutely adore this one which is rated as adventurous intermediate.

Alcazar, the Moorish Palace

However, not wishing to set myself up for certain failure, I decided reluctantly to forgo it on this occasion! I mean, I've knitted Birch and I've knitted River but that's hardly advanced is it?!! I want to stretch myself but I'm not sure what I'd be capable of doing at this stage and in that time frame. So, I'm looking for help from you. Yes, you, lace-knitter! You who are reading this now and probably chortling away merrily at the thought of me even having the thought pass through my mind of knitting Alcazar. Please help. Can you suggest something that I'd be ready for and that should be achievable in 16 days but, at the same time, will give me an Olympian challenge?! Of course, the opinions of those that don't consider themselves lace-knitters are also sought, please!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Maidstone Knitters' Inaugural Meeting

Yesterday was our knitting group's inaugural meeting and it took place here.

The Muggleton Inn, (Wetherspoons), 8 High Street, Maidstone
(just opposite the Town Hall).

We'll be meeting on the second Saturday of each month from 1-3pm in the upstairs lounge where there's a non-smoking, spacious area with a pleasant ambience. If anyone joins us who can't manage the stairs, of course, we'll move downstairs which, I believe, also has a non-smoking area.

There were three of us at our first meeting which isn't that bad for a first meeting and we're hoping that it will grow as time goes on and more knitters get to know about us. We've already had a couple of new enquiries so hope that more will be joining us next time. That's Jan on the left, in the middle is Mary-Lou and I'm on the right. On this occasion, we didn't get an awful lot of knitting done because we were too busy celebrating our first meeting with a bottle of pink champagne.

We decided to name our group Maidstone Knitters and have our own blog which will be administrated by all three of us. A site for our group will be a good way of letting others know what we're up to especially knitters who might be interested in joining us. Anyone else who joins will have the option of being a team member so that we can all keep one another updated.

Mary-Lou was wearing her boa (details on her blog) and Jan wore her clapotis. The lovely sparkly thing (no, not the champagne) that you can see on the table is a scarf that Mary-Lou is knitting in Sirdar Zanzibar.

I gave Jan two balls of Debbie Bliss Merino DK as a swap for the apple green Debbie Bliss Chunky Merino she let me have so that I can finish the scarf I started. Here she is with part of the swap in one hand and a glass of bubbly in the other.

I really like this photo of a close up of the champagne. (Thanks, Mary-Lou for holding the bottle while I took the photo!)

The thought crossed my mind that, perhaps, we could call our club the Rose Sauvage Knitting Club and adopt this photo as our logo (just joking).

Anyway, if any Kent knitters are reading this and would like to join us, you will all be very welcome. Also, if any knitters find themselves in the area and would like to meet up, let us know when you will be in the locality as it would be lovely to meet you!

When I got home I had a dessert to make in preparation for a lunch with friends the following day (i.e. today). I decided to continue the decadence in my creation of a recipe using these ingredients.

1 Panettone cut into slices
15 fluid ounces and a splash of Asti Spumante
5 eggs (separated)
5 tblespnfuls sugar
2 x 9oz cartons mascarpone cheese
5 fl oz double cream
flaked almonds for sprinkling on top

First separate the eggs and whisk the egg yolks and a splash of Asti Spumante with the sugar until thick. Add mascarpone and whisk until smooth. Add cream and whisk until smooth. Whisk egg whites until stiff (as if for meringue) and fold egg whites into creamy mixture. Put Asti Spumante into a shallow bowl and dip slices of panettone into it to moisten them. Layer a large bowl with the Asti soaked panettone slices. Follow with a layer of the creamy mixture.

Repeat with another layer of Asti soaked panettone slices.

Then another layer of the creamy mixture. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and refrigerate overnight to make sure that the flavours are fully incorporated.

I decided to call it Dionysian Decadence and it was rich but delicious . . . . . mmmmmmmmm!

Bob giving it the thumbs up!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Couple of Scarves

I've been making a couple of scarves from free patterns on the web. The first one is the Cherry Leaf Scarf from here. This is a gift scarf knitted in Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk aran weight, shade 12 (Berry), and on 5mm needles. I almost frogged it at one stage because I wasn't sure that the lace pattern would work in this yarn. I put a photo of it in progress into my Flickr gallery and asked UKHK members to comment. Everyone who replied to the UKHK board and a couple who commented on my Flickr gallery said to carry on and not to frog it so I kept on. I'm glad I did because I'm really pleased with the result. It has also turned out surprisingly light whilst at the same time soft and warm - a scarf one can really cuddle into.

As I was knitting this scarf, its name kept reminding me just how much I like cherries and how I hadn't had any for such a long time. It was really nice, therefore, to find some available in the shops. Two packs were bought - one for me and one for my giftee!

Below is a shot of the Cherry Leaf Scarf on my new dress form which was bought for me for Xmas by DH. I've included this photo because it gives a better idea of the lacy pattern. Apologies for the colour variation between the two photos but I've had real problems in trying to use the camera without the flash as it's so dark and wintry outside! In reality, the colour is nearer to the photo above. If you wish to see the actual colour, look at shade 12 here.

The Cherry Leaf lace is formed by 16 pattern rows repeated throughout and, because I wanted the two ends of the scarf to match, I knitted it in two halves finishing on the eighth row of the pattern and then grafted the two halves together. As I was using a thicker yarn than that used in the pattern, I also adjusted the width by omitting one pattern repeat across. When it came off the needles, the edges were a bit curled as the background is stocking stitch and it definitely needed a wet blocking. Blocking was a great success as, not only did it uncurl the edges, but it opened up the lace pattern nicely. It took 5 balls of the Alpaca Silk and post blocking measurements are 65" long and 9" wide.

Here are the ingredients I used to present the scarf and the bag of cherries together in one package.

Tissue paper in which scarf was wrapped, gift shreds to separate tissue wrapped scarf from cherries, the bag of cherries and a gift bag to put the whole lot in. The bag and gift shreds are recycled in that they've been used before more than once. We always ask friends to do this because it's good to receive a nicely wrapped present but not very friendly to the environment if the wrappings go straight into the bin afterwards.

The other scarf I've completed is the Frilly Scarf also from a free pattern and, this time, which Christina of UKHK came across. This is a good one for Curly Whirlies so I'll also be posting it there. The scarf fastening shown in the photo came from Get Knitted.

The Frilly Scarf is composed of a lacy central rectangle with a frill at either side and is worked along similar lines to the Lasagne Scarf except the Lasagne Scarf has a plain central rectangle and this one's knitted in the twin leaf lace pattern. Stitches are picked up all around the central rectangle on the Lasagne Scarf but in the Frilly Scarf they are picked up on the long sides only. I worked the frill differently to the pattern because, when I followed the pattern, I ended up with a frill that wasn't very frilly at all (despite the fact that it looks frilly in the pattern's photo). My version is not for the faint hearted though as I increased to 1200 stitches on each side so had 2400 stitches to cast off in total! I also made my scarf longer than the one in the pattern which is only 35". Mine is 55" long and 6" wide including frills. Additionally, I made it in two halves and grafted them together to make sure the ends matched unlike the one in the pattern which was knitted in one piece.

I would have loved to use the yarn in the pattern but unfortunately the Manos del Uruguay and the Elsebet Lavold Silky Wool called for aren't that easy to come by in the UK! The yarn I used was, alas, some Wendy Velvet Touch in the lavender shade from my stash. I'd bought this to be woven together with some Wendy Cosmic as practice material for my butterfly loom. I'm not at all keen on the Velvet Touch, not only because it's synthetic, but because the texture of it makes the stitch detail fuzzy. However, I was impatient to try out the pattern and the Velvet Touch was the only yarn I had that was suitable and wasn't irreversibly assigned to something else.

I have another Frilly Scarf on the needles which I started before the one above but ran out of yarn. The yarn was three balls of Debbie Bliss Chunky Merino in the apple shade which was my share of the Laughing Hens Welcome Pack. Jan, however, very kindly agreed to let me have two balls from her share, as a swap, so that I can finish it. I did buy some lovely Rowan Yorkshire Tweed from Jannette's Rare Yarns in the frog shade for the frill but I've now decided that the chunky merino is not really suitable for a frilly scarf.

So, the plan now is to keep the central panel and carry on with the additional yarn to get the length I want but then either leave it as it is or add a kind of braided edging in the Yorkshire Tweed if I can work out how to do it.

My scarves seem to be ending up all over the place these days. Recently one was given to my brother's friend, Trish, who lives in New York but was staying with DB to celebrate the New Year. I gave her a choice of the scarves I had left and she chose one of the Edgars (the long colourful one). I quite like the idea of my scarves being dotted around the globe. After all, giving a scarf which is warm and comforting can be a bit like giving a hug so it can't be a bad thing, can it?!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Secret Pal Seven Questionnaire

Well, I've decided to participate in Secret Pal 7. This is the first time I've participated and I'm really looking forward to the experience! Below are my answers to the questionnaire.

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand?

I have to be honest and say I do prefer higher quality natural fibres for most of my projects though I do try novelty yarns from time to time as I like to have a bit of a dabble with most things. Have always found novelty and artificial fibres such as acrylic to be disappointing though. Any acrylic in my stash is often used as practice material for new techniques, patterns or stitches.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?

I don't spin but did attend a spinning workshop last year and would like to take it further but not just yet. I crochet a bit but mostly knit.

3. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?

Some are in a vase and I have a zipped needle case for the rest. I'm not very organised with the circular needles which are just loose in a drawer at the moment. I do have a Denise set which are, obviously, all nicely organised in their container but only use them if I need the extra length as I'm not keen on plastic needles.

4. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

I learnt to knit at about age eight and knitted a lot in my twenties. I had a long break and took it up again last year. As regards my skill level, I find this difficult to answer. In some types of knitting, I'm probably advanced, in others, intermediate but, in yet others, such as sock knitting, for instance, I'm not even a novice as I haven't yet attempted to knit a pair!

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

Yes, I recently created a wish list at which I can give details of if wanted.

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)

I have skin sensitivities to a lot of toiletries but for candles, etc, I like most scents.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?

I like chocolate (who doesn't) but other than that, I don't generally have an overly sweet tooth.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?

I'll try my hand at anything but not all that experienced in most other crafts. I used to sew a bit and intend to take this up again. DH bought me a dress form for one of my Xmas presents.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

I'm very eclectic in my taste in music but not all that keen on middle of the road type stuff. Yes, my computer can play MP3s.

10. What's your favorite color? Or do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?

I love reds, purples, magentas, and clarets but am always trying to move away from this spectrum because when I open my wardrobe it seems very samey. I like most other colours but really don't like brown, orange and, perhaps, beige.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

No children at home now so just DH and me (no pets). Sensitivities to cat and dog fur.

12. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

I wear scarves but not into hats in a big way. I wear gloves rather than mittens and don't really like ponchos.

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?

My absolute favourites to knit with would be natural yarns like wool, cashmere, alpaca, silk, etc, especially hand-dyed or hand painted.

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?

I occasionally knit with novelty yarns to make a change and because they can sometimes look quite nice but not all that keen on artificial fibres if truth be told.

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?

I have to say, curly whirly scarves. This became a real obsession and I started the Curly Whirlies blog which is a kind of KAL. I still knit the odd one but am beginning to cool off a bit. I would like to steer clear of further obsessions and try to achieve some diversity with my projects.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?

I don't think I have any favourite as such. I like something to knit that doesn't take too much thinking about if I'm in company, watching TV, etc, but if able to give my full concentration would prefer something that presents a challenge. I really want to challenge myself more with my knitting in 2006.

17. What are you knitting right now?

Louisa Harding button wrap and a couple of scarves.

18. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

I always appreciate handmade gifts.

19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?

Depends on what I'm knitting. I find that sometimes straights are best and sometimes circulars depending on the project.

20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

Bamboo or other wood are my favourites followed by metal. I really like Addi circulars. I'm not keen on plastic needles though.

21. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?

No, but recently have found a need for one!

22. How did you learn to knit?

My aunt taught me.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?

About six months old I think.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?

I'm more interested in wildlife than in pets though, as a child, I was very fond of rescuing stray dogs and bringing them home. Unfortunately, I now have sensitivities to cat/dog fur.

25. What is your favorite holiday?

Full of activity as I can easily get bored. I couldn't go abroad and just lie and sunbathe for hours and hours. Anywhere with lots of different (to me) and interesting places, culture, food, etc, to explore/sample would be ideal. Or, if the question means holiday in the other sense of the word, I enjoy Xmas best of all.

26. Is there anything that you collect?

I collect bears but, at present, I have a few too many really. More interesting to me, at the moment, is the collection of buttons I've just started and, also, the haul of beads for knitting that I intend to start soon.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

Interweave Knits and Knitters magazines on subscription but I also buy Simply Knitting, Knitting, and Vogue Knitting.

28. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on?

Books I'm dying to get my hands on are on my Amazon Wish List in the sidebar of my blog and I've also been considering a good book on sock knitting but not sure which one to buy. Yarn that is not easily available in the UK is also interesting.

29. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

I'd like to advance with my lace knitting and just generally learn any new techniques I can. I will soon be casting on for my first ever pair of socks. Wish me luck! I'm also planning to incorporate beads into my knitting a lot more.

30. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

I haven't knitted a pair of socks yet but have a sock kit ready which I will be trying soon. My shoe size is UK6.

31. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)

21st February.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Of Daily Patterns, Dentists and Bead Hunting

I've done really well for calendars this year. Sue bought me the bears calendar I've already shown and I also had a Knitting Pattern a Day desk calendar bought for me from the Calendar Club.

It is, literally, as its name suggests, a calendar with a pattern for each day of the year. Each pattern is on a separate removable page. The page with today's date on is placed at the front of the stand which holds the pages and then transferred to the back to show the next day as appropriate. There are lots of scarf, hat, wristlets and sock patterns but, also, garments such as jumpers and even a game where eight different textures and colours of yarn make up a scarf according to how the dice are thrown! Here are a few of the patterns I picked out at random (photos only so I don't breach copyright regulations).

Vintage Style Victorian Beaded Tea Cosy

Child's Lace and Beaded Socks

Intertwined Cables Seamen's Scarf

There's even a Yahoo Discussion Group that's been set up for people who've bought the calendar to discuss the patterns, etc.

Anyway, enough of calendars and daily patterns, let's move on to dentists. On Thursday, we went to London as I'd arranged a dental check up and the plan was to also take the opportunity to check out the beads in Creative Beadcraft's London shop, Ells & Farrier. The dental check up had been prompted by pain in one of my back teeth when taking hot food or drink and, because I was unable to book an appointment with my regular dentist, I made an appointment at DH's dental surgery in London. DH's dentist was holidaying in Australia but I saw another dentist at the practice. I explained the problem to him and, after some investigation, he said he couldn't find a reason for my pain. He then said he would try to reproduce the pain to ascertain the problem and proceeded to squirt the area with a very cold spray. I'd already explained that it was only heat that caused the pain and the cold spray didn't reproduce it. He then asked the assistant to pass him the tooth wrench. Did I hear that right?? The tooth wrench??!! I must admit, by this time, I was slightly dazed but, anyway, he asked me to bite very hard on this plastic thing and kept telling me to bite harder and harder until I was worried that my teeth might break and, at the point I was biting the hardest, he kind of pulled this plastic thing or made some sort of movement with it which I found quite a shock. He did this on several occasions and, although it felt uncomfortable and very unnatural to be biting this hard on something, it didn't reproduce the short, sharp pain that I'd had with the hot food and liquids. He then started hammering on the base of my teeth with something in an attempt to reproduce the pain and this didn't work either.

By this time, I was thoroughly fed up and, although I hadn't experienced the short, sharp bursts of nerve pain that heat had produced, my teeth now felt very uncomfortable in a sort of nagging aching sort of way. He then asked if I'd mind if he took an x-ray, to which I agreed, and the x-ray results also showed no reason for my pain in that the roots and gums appeared healthy. At this point, he told me that he thought the pain was caused by a slight crack in one of my back teeth which had a filling in it. He thought that the amalgam filling was acting as a conductor of heat which was then being conveyed to the nerve due to the slight crack. This was the first time he'd mentioned a crack. He said that this could be remedied in the long term by placing a crown on the cracked tooth. At this stage, I just wanted to get out of there!

Anyway, the upshot of all this was that at no time after my visit to the dentist did I again experience that sensation of pain when taking hot food or drink that had taken me to the dentist in the first place. Instead, I had this awful nagging constant pain which I presume was from all the cold spray, biting hard and hammering that was done to my poor teeth. This pain lasted for four days - it has only just died down today - and I've had to take painkillers to numb it somewhat. Strange that the original pain disappeared. Perhaps, it was some weird kind of homoeopathy at work - treating like with like - or creating one pain to get rid of another!!!

After the visit to the dentist, we went straight to Boots the Chemists to buy some Anadin Extra and then to Liberty's where DH had a nice lunch and I gingerly chewed my way through a piece of apple tart. When the painkillers kicked in a bit, I decided that I wasn't going to waste my trip to London so I had a look in Liberty's yarn department. John Lewis's yarn department was also visited but, after my mammoth buying session at Bluewater only days before, I couldn't bring myself to buy more than a couple of balls of Noro Aurora which I saw for the first time and liked so much I couldn't resist buying.

Concerning the bead hunting I had planned, for those who haven't heard of Creative Beadcraft, you can see their website here and their London shop, Ells & Farrier is situated at 20 Beak Street, London W1, near Liberty's. I'd been meaning to have a look at their shop for some time as I'd like to incorporate beads into my knitting more and the choice of beads suitable for knitting available in department stores seems, generally, to be very limited. However, it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment because Ells and Farrier were closed for Xmas/New Year holidays. We did, however, take some photos from outside the shop so I'll leave you to peruse these for now.

Sign Outside Ells & Farrier on Beak Street

Looking Through the Window 1

Looking Through the Window 2

Looking Through the Window 3

Looking Through the Window 4

I can't wait to have a closer look at the beads on my next visit when, hopefully, I'll be able to take some better photos from inside the shop and give you the lowdown!

Question now is what do I do about my tooth??!!