Friday, 29 February 2008

Sod's Law (and other more positive events)

First the good stuff
1) Yaay, I posted my swap parcel yesterday and Danielle got it this morning. Bless, she's already blogged about it! I'm so glad you liked everything, I had great fun putting it together and knitting Kiki, hopefully when I pull my finger out, you'll get a pic here...

It was a freebie pattern that I found on Ravelry, you can see it here.

2) I met another new friend through Sock Madness, we've got a neat little barter system going where I send her Fox's Party Rings (in volume) and she's going to recieve some Knitpicks yarn and post it to me gratis! Oh, it got into a big conversation over on Ravelry about biccies, I haven't even bothered with them in a few years but I remember them well, particularly Cafe Noir!

3) I've now got 4 pairs of booties, 4 hats and 2 cardis to take to Skip North , so a goodly haul.
ditto picture...
These were knitted by a lovely lady in our knitting group. Aren't they sweet?

Now the not-so-good stuff
Anticipating the need for clean things, I loaded up the washing machine on Sunday...That began a week of marinating washing as the water would not exit the machine and my man who can couldn't as he was struck down with flu! His replacement arrived this afternoon and after emptying the drum (NOW I know how!!) and checking the pump, unearthed a penny and the pump worked again. A cheap callout, everyone was happy...except the week-long marinated washing was somewhat fragrant. Don't forget that both dirty and clean water had been swishing around the drum, nothing left it. So, After setting the machine to wash again, I went out to post American biccies, buy Mother's Day prezzies (another plus!), pet yarn etc. etc.

On my return, frustratingly, the washing machine was almost exactly as it was pre the substitute man-who-can had called, there was water in the drum AGAIN and it had to be got out manually AGAIN! Being mz DIY (not!) I proceeded to use my knowledge gleaned from the guy, undid the hose, bled out the water, tipped up the machine and tried the rubber bladder-y thing in case anything else was trapped...nothing. I couldn't get the clip back but as replacement man-who-can (or replacement of replacement, I'm not quite sure) will be arriving tomorrow to have another look, I've just saved him a bit of his job. At least I managed to get the door open, get the still fragrant (I'm not kidding!) washing out and spend the best part of an hour showering it in the bath to try and reduce the smell and wash out any powder residue. Then, it went in a box to the MIL's for a rinse and spin and finally it's drying on the we will have socks, just not much else!

SO, I'm left with a machine I can't trust, it works sometimes but not others and a need for clean clothes and a timescale...answer...fall on the generosity of relatives and friends! Hence, one washload will be at the Mil's, one or two will be done at Ma and Pa's when we celebrate both Bro's birthday and Mother's Day (UK). Another load will be done at my friends, she who also likes ironing to my undying gratitude ;) Anything needed for next weekend will have priority and I'll press the tumble dryer into action to cope with all the drying.

So, all in all, a busy time of it. And that's before it gets manic next week, something happening every day! I'll be going to Haworth for the rest! (and the yarn!).
On another posotive note (got to finish on one of them!), I've been stash diving ready for Sock Madness, the requirements list was posted his week so I've been choosing...

...These are a choice of laceweights which will be knitted 2 strands together. I'll be combining the top one (Knitpicks laceweight- vineyard heather) with one of the Posh Yarns below it, either Cecilia Cobweb or Eva laceweight depending on gauge I get on swatching.

And this is the selection I've pre-wound ready to choose from. There's Posh yarns, Colinette Jitterbug, Socks that Rock, Rowan 4ply and more. The excitement's definitely building!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Topic of the week 5 and 6 (UK swap)

Cor, I'm getting bad at this! I could make the excuse that I've been working flat out to get my swapmate's parcel together which I have done a bit but life kind of gets in the way too!
Anyway, better late than never, here's the next installments.

Topic of the Week #5: Anticipation
Q:What kind of Spoilee are you? Are you paranoid that it's not being sent, or lost in the post? Do you want it to arrive quickly? OR Do you enjoy the anticipation? Sitting and pondering when it will arrive... and anxiously waiting for it, close to the deadline?

Hmm, no I'm not worried about when I get my parcel, considering the last parcel of SP10? got stuck at customs and didn't turn up until weeks later (it should have been airmail), I've learned not to sweat over the small stuff. After all, I do plenty of sweating over my driving right now! I am looking forward to my parcel, it's nice to see how other people see you but it's just as nice to "meet" new people, chat and find common ground. Plus, as it's coming from the U.K. and not Australia, it's a bit less likely to go astray!

Topic of the Week #6: Swapping
Q: Have you done a swap before (doesn't have to be a knitting swap)? What do you like best about swapping? Are there any personal "requirements" that a swap has to have before you will join?

I've completed 2 rounds of Secret Pal, an international swap scheme and done a single swap bot swap. I found some amazing friends through Secret Pal because the nature of the swap means it goes on for around 3 months and can involve 3 parcels (or less if your spoilee agrees) to a total of $60. You get plenty of time to read blogs and knit beautiful items and I did put my heart and soul into my packages. There have been good and bad points about that scheme but the fact that it had been running for numerous times and an effort was made at the beginning of each round to learn from any failings of previous times gave me confidence in joining in.

The Swap-Bot swap was different, it was a single swap for sock yarn and pattern and I was a brand newbie so I had to contact the organiser for the go-ahead. Luckily, the person I was spoiling was in this country so I could bulk the package somewhat and make her day but a while later I got a fab skein of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn through the post and a printed pattern. The pattern she'd chosen was just me, Hedera from Knitty but the skein was wonderful fire colours and would be the perfect yarn for Fawkes socks so it is on my (very long) to do list!

After doing a few schemes, I would perhaps be a little more selective in the future, hence choosing U.K. swap, it saves a fortune in postage! Still fun though!

In other news, the washing machine still stands somewhat crookedly in the corner leaking slightly through the rust spot but essentially still full to the brim. I've left messages for the man who can but it appears that perhaps right now, he can't. It wouldn't be so bad if the washload didn't contain the vast majority of our socks which I'd finally got around to doing something about so we will both be sockless imminently. Good job we've a Primark!

Poor old hubbie finally rolled in at past 11pm last night so we were both the worse for wear today but I did sit and complete the cute little cardi. I will show you, just not right now!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Driving Myself Round the Bend (and the straights too)!

Well, I pushed my boundaries a fair bit this weekend. In spite of the disastrous drive last Sunday, I'm pleased to announce that on Saturday I drove all the way to Mel's and then on to the North Cheshire Guild all by myself! Liverpool was busy to drive through and even worse on the way back by which time I was tired and extremely stressed but I did it and it's one step closer to Skip North which is now less than a fortnight away! Mel also deserves credit for her calm and relaxed passengership and all around morale boosting efforts, thanks Mel!

Anyway, we had a workshop and talk about decorative buttons and I made a Yorkshire button myself. (that's not me by the way!)

It was so nice to see everyone sitting and chatting, the guild is such a warm and friendly group and it has been great to see faces from other guilds and Elaines friendship day.

I particularly liked the colours that variegated cotton produced on this button, isn't it beautiful?

I did say I wasn't going to show you all my version, using pristine white thread when you haven't throughly scrubbed your hands beforehand, haven't got a length of cotton that keeps scraping the floor and are wearing that Noro cardigan that keeps trying to integrate itself into the piece ending up with a colour reminiscent of used chewing gum...

...but it didn't look so bad in the picture!

Despite recovering from the rigours of driving yesterday, I felt I needed to take advantage o the fact that poor old hubbie's been working all this weekend and get some washing done ready for Skip North. So, feeling all virtuous, I filled the machine and set it going then walked to the supermarket (as hubbie also used the car to get to work today), dragging £35 of shopping home an hour later. Unfortunately on my return, I noticed that not only had the machine finished but it was still full of water! My guess is a blockage in the drainage pipe so I may try and have a fiddle later if I'm feeling brave. I'd have put a bet on the pump except that it was replaced less than 6 months ago so it will be call out the man who can if I can't find anything easy to fix (or am feeling nervous!). It truly never rains but it pours as the new car will be into the bodyshop this week to repair the scuffs on the bumper gained at West Kirkby last Sunday, typical!

Ah well, it is Bro's Birthday on Tuesday and as hubbie will have been working 8 days straight by then, both he and bro will be taking a well-earned day off and we will be meeting up to celebrate. Unfortunately that will mean that I will be absent from both Knitting dedicated am I that only family and illness keep me away!

In knitting news, I have little to report since Thursday, (heven't exactly had much time for it!) but as Mel kindly lent me a lovely little Sirdar book, I'm knitting a cute little cable cardi today, sooo tiny!!!! I still need to work up a little something for my UK swap pal but the rest of her goodies is coming together nicely. I've culled my stash for some yarn that I think would suit her perfectly and only need a couple more items to make the package complete! I admit that my focus has occasionally wavered but I'm glad that I'm close to sending it now, I just hope she likes everything. All other knitting is on hold right now but may be picked up again next week, who knows?

Time to cast on one of the fronts...see ya next time!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Back to Normal Service?

Apologies to all for the lack of blog posts last week(end), most of last week I was laid flat out due to illness (though I did manage a little knitting!). A bug laid me low and whilst my immune system was weakened, the cold that had been threatening for weeks got a hold and played havoc with my Asthma.

What with that and a nightmare drive on Sunday, I've not exactly been on par this week either though I've still managed knitting group both days and a somewhat extended combined knitting machine and spinning session today (you can't keep me away from the place!); I'm pretty much on my knees right now!

On to things knitterly...

...I finished clue 4 last week but then disaster struck. I realized thet the rapidly diminishing ball of yarn contained only 20g of yarn and as the knitted piece so far weighed 27g (minus needle) there was no way I'd complete the stole with the yarn I had...However, the original skein weighed 100g (thie pic's on the blog way back) so my assumption is I only wound half the skein off in the first place..which is fine...but I can't find it! So I'm left with this conundrum, I could knit until the yarn runs out then leave it until the skein turns up or use another brighter yarn on the end in a similar colourway. Decisions decisions which leaves me a bit flat to do anything, frankly.

In my less able moments, I was able to get a little charity knitting done so let me present the 3 bears...

...Daddy bear, mummy bear and baby bear otherwise known as 3 sizes of booties and hats for prem babies! Skip North is affiliated with the Ray of Hope charity this year so I'm doing my bit in between all my other projects! At least I'll be able to bring something to the event and I've knitted up another pair of booties since then.

After another hiatus, the front of the Twilley's jacket finally got past the finishing post so I've been knitting the first sleeve and I'm around 6" up so far. Not earth shattering or anything but progress at least. Whether it'll be finished for Skip North which is a fortnight away now, I haven't the foggiest! I'm looking forward somewhat nervously to the whole event, it'll be the longest drive I'll have done to date but the weekend should be a blinder.

At least I've had one motorway lesson which was useful though frustrating due to the level of traffic and my reluctance to overtake stuff so I'm repeating the excercise next month before I leave to get a little extra confidence boost.

Here's hoping for a quiet day tomorrow!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

UK Swap Topic and a little Sunday Excercise

Topic of the Week #4: Valentine's Day
I know this isn't knitting related, but I thought I'd ask you to share your favourite Valentine's Day memory, or your current plans for this year. Just to share some love. :)

Being very boring, we tend to avoid eateries and flowers etc. on the day because of the price hike. With DH at work and busy schedules, it tends to get a bit crammed into a short timespan but we tend to compensate by making time for each other on a more regular basis rather than just once a year! We will go out and have a meal, perhaps a day or so later and we've just had a lovely afternoon together today. If you want to know more, keep on reading...

After a somewhat indulgent Saturday (well you have to occasionally;)), we decided that a walk was in order Sunday afternoon. The day began with thick fog rolling off from the Mersey so I had doubts as to how feasible it would be however, as the morning progressed, the fog finally began to recede and the sun shone down making it a much more pleasant experience.

We drove to the nearby Wirral Coastal Park, a few minutes away and cut through the wide common known as the Gunnery to the sandy path that leads both to the beach (ahead) and over the hills (to the left).

Up on the hill, traces of the mist could still be seen, a mere wisp compared to the strength this morning. Though there were plenty of people with their dogs having a lovely time, sadly our two reprobates are both a) terribly noisy and rowdy in the car and b) not necessarily good around other dogs. It can be quite stressful keeping an eye on whatever their latest shennanigans involve and this was meant to be a relaxing walk for two!

We walked as far as Moreton Lighthouse which seems a little far inland to have been much use (but hey, what do I know?). We'd read of one or other lighthouse being open on tee first Sunday of each month so perhaps you may get some pics from a different vantage point in the future!

I'd said to hubby I needed a pic of the new hair colour before it fades (never trust a luridly packaged hair colour that states "washproof" and "100% Waterproof!"). Plus it gave the perfect opportunity to show off the Noro cardigan which is invaluable in the not-freezing-but-still-chilly weather.

It desperately needs a haircut but you can't see the slight purple tone, mostly because of the red filter..

...I just happened to pick the moment when the sun was setting! Still, made for some pretty photos....

It was just dipping over the horizon as we arrived back at the gunnery, didn't quite manage to get quite how blood orange it was, but you get the idea! It was a lovely walk though and it was nice to have done it together, even if my feet were sore by the end!

I couldn't help but add this photo I snapped on Saturday, they make me smile...when they're asleep!

Friday, 8 February 2008

By the Skin of my Teeth (and other furry tales)

Well, thanks to the timezone differences and a bit of blood sweat and tears, I've managed to complete clue 3 of the Secret of the Stole ii pattern in time to enter the competition...not that I'm the sort that wins competitions you know, unless it's the dregs at the end of a raffle!

I must admit that the knitting ennui had put me right off lace knitting (along with anything else the slightest bit complex) but I'm happy to say that since the demi-cold (you know the sort that only appears at certain times of the day?) has helped lower the old BP a bit, I've been able to pick up the reins a little. Partly the yarn (which is gorgeous) spurs me on to another row and the pattern is not difficult which is extremely useful for my befuddled brain right now. So, well done DK , you have inspired me to return to lace knitting once again!

In other news, here is the photo of the aforementioned "Walking Carpet Coat"

It was originally designed for Sirdar Foxy, a second-generation eyelash yarn with two tiers to emulate natural furs. I happened upon packs of Wendy Racy Lady (aka Foxy Lady- an almost direct rip-off) which has the exact yardage, needle size, tension and shade of the above but at only £8 per pack so it had to be done, despite the fact that eyelash is so passe!

The carpet element comes from a stray comment made by DH that what was on the needles "looked like a carpet" and as I'll be wearing it, hence walking therefore it shall be "the Walking Carpet Coat" from now on. As it knits on 8mm needles (quick) and is therefore a bit fluid and drapey, ther's no point in me showing you it in its in progress state, I just send a little prayer up to the god (or goddess) of knitwear that this won't be the total disaster I'm dreading! The Twilleys jacket grows..occasionally...and slowly but I'm under no assumptions that it'll be finished sometime soon, especially as I need to knit something for the Skip North sponsored Charity aaaand...Sock Madness starts next month....Like I haven't enough on my plate! But, missing out on last time, I would like to be a part on this occasion, even if I fall at the first fence!

Well, DH has had a well-earned day off today and so we sampled the foodie delights to be found in Chester (even with the exorbitant £4-£5 car parking charge!). I found other sources of yarn in the market (an indoor gem) and a new jacket to replace my much battered denim for the summer.

Ah well, had to finish with this shot, I thought it was rather clever! Flop's actually in his favourite place (by the fire) but when I saw how well he was framed by the wheel, well...! I could say he was whacked out spinning but he's more likely to be getting in the way or getting freaked out by the noise!
See ya next time.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

UK Swap Topic of the Week- Project Process

Q: What is your process when planning a project? Do you shop for yarn and then find a suitable pattern? Do you find your pattern and then go out to buy the yarn? Or are you stash-busting? If your stash is out of control, how did it get that way?

A:1) I see a new pattern I like and buy the yarn to go with it (Like the Walking carpet Coat- I will get around to posting a pic soon!). It helps if both the yarn and pattern are cheap!

2) I see a new pattern and I stash dive in order to reduce the stash (ha ha!).

3) I see beautiful yarn (like Posh Yarns) and plan projects around it.

4) I bulk buy yarn in for potential future projects (bad idea!).

My stash has a personality and an ambition to take over the world! I have tried to tame it, shelve packets, box stuff but still it creeps into every room. It has satellite stations in parents and friends houses and I think that one day I will either be crushed to death by falling yarn OR falling sweaters!

Friday, 1 February 2008

The Highs and Lows of Knitting (and how to build up arm muscles!)

First the good stuff, I've still to tell you about the Cheshire Guild Day! We arrived at 10.30 ish, a smidge late but luckily for us they were also running late so we just managed to snag a couple of specs and grab a drink before the workshop began. We were learning Long Draw Spinning with Val Bryant, something I'd done before at the Merseyside Guild so by the end of this class, I'd just about got the hang of it, I'm a slow learner! It was so lovely to meet up with new people, some of which I'd met before at the friendship day and at Elaine's day back in August.

I really enjoyed finding out about the guild, there's a 2 day dyeing workshop this year so I signed up straight away, love it! Of course, there were other perks to being a member(aside from the wicked chocolate ring cake one of the members had baked!)....

I got to borrow these babies, Inidgo Hound Woolcombs. I've been lusting after trying them out for myself and had almost convinced myself to buy some Louet mini woolcombs to try though seeing them in the flesh I've decided I need to re-evaluate and aim towards something like these.

Essentially, when you have a long staple wool like this creamy Wensleydale (natures Rastafarian Sheep!), it's best prepared with one of the combing methods. I just happened to have a sackfu;l all washed and ready to go. You load up the carders like the pic above, often about 1/4 or 1/3 of the length of the comb tines. My experience with the length of the Wensleydale was that a lesser amount was easier to prepare, but I've yet to try lots of different fibres....

... You then start to comb out the locks from the tips to the butt, bit by bit (this is where the workout begins!)...

..Then you keep combing, the fibres transferring from one comb to the other, swapping them over when most of the fleece is on the one doing on the work and start all over again 'till you have a big fluffy mass of open fibre free from tangles and neps which you then pull off the combs in a thin roving to wind into a ball something like this...

I have spun a wee sample just to see what it looked like and though I got into a bit of a mess; I wanted to make a 2ply yarn but when I couldn't find the end in the middle, it got navajo'd until it ended up in a big tangle (not a good idea) but it still looked pretty and shiny so I'm dying to find time to comb and spin it all. You do get some waste, the short neppy fibres that are close to the combs and refuse to be pulled away but despite the effort, I do want to persevere with it. There's no clamp with this type of comb so your arms have to provide the resistance, hence the workout!

Anyway, little and often I reckon, combing one or 2 loads each day will get through the fleece eventually...I hope!

As to knitting, the highs would be getting up to date with the Secret of The Stole ii Shawl.

After completing clue 2 and recently uploading clue 3 I'm considering going with the length as written, not shortening it. I know I do not have the exact yardage but as I am using a quite smaller needle (2.75mm not 3.5mm), I'm gambling on the yarn going a bit further, here's hoping. I'm still in love with the colours which unfortunately never come out terribly accurately (and I'm no Photoshop expert!) but give you some idea of how pretty it is in the flesh. I plan to do clue 3 this weekend, part of my NEW knitting schedule!

Which this will not be part of...

...This was where I was up to earlier in the week after I completed clue 3 and began clue 4. I was blithely knitting along, had a break for a couple of days (that BP monitor on Tuesday and all through the night really threw me off my game); came back to it and got confused with what row I was up to, frogged it a couple of times, got happy with where I was at then worked out I'd got it wrong AGAIN! It was when I looked back at it and debated whether that mistake would be noticeable when I noticed something waaay further back...

...If you look on the picture above to the lozenge in the centre , move your eyes from the point at hte bogininng, you come to a bit that looks a crease in the fabric?

Yup, that's where I frogged it back to last night...with the anaesthetic of half a bottle of red, of course! I knew if I got it fixed then, I could look at it in the morning and make a rational decision to its fate...which I did.

By this morning, I decided I need to be a little kinder to myself right now. I may be in the grip of startitis but I'm not going to give in to it. I'm shelving the Spring surprise Shawl right now until the other Shawl is complete. I will put the effort into completing the Twilleys Jacket finally and then turn to my "quick" project that turned to be just as arduous. The Boa jacket will wait and in brain dead (or knitting hating) moments I will spin or prepare fibre. The fearless stuff will have to wait, once I'm on the correct medication things might change but now it's just too much.

On the jacket front, we're heading towards the last of the second front then it's just sleeves (keep telling yourself "it's just sleeves") so we're heading slowly towards the finishing post. Give it time..

In other news, the U.K. Swap matches come out this weekend! I can't wait to start collecting things for my spoilee!

Floppy doesn't really mind what I do as long as he gets his full quota of fuss every day!