Sunday, 30 March 2008

UK Swap parcel goodies plus a project or two

Things have been a bit overwhelming recently, what with blerch weather which makes walking the dogs like a military excercise (waterproof coat..check, baseball cap...oh, never mind, the sun is shining...then it pelts down); losing my anti-inflammatories and spending a couple of anxious days without; a nice box of goodies is the perfect antidote. Of course, Royal Mail in its infinite wisdom thought to hold on to a first class (next working day delivery) package for a whole week so by the time it arrived we'd pronounced it lost and gained a few grey hairs. I mean, stuff gets here quicker from the Hebrides than this package from South Wales, I know which one I'd prefer to drive to!

Still, the joys of postal services aside, by the time it arrived it was a new surprise all over again.
I'm afraid I can't show you the neatly wrapped little packages in their black tissue 'cos a) it was early when it arrived and b) I have no self control at that hour! Anyway, look at all these luscious goodies I've been treated to...

...the squidgy bag is some lurvely soft alpaca roving in two different colours (I so want to find out where you got that from!); peeking out in the left hand corner is a bag of luscious Summer berries coated in white chocolate..never tried them before but they're yummy! Then there's some stripey sock yarn that may get an outing sooner than expected as there's a pattern in sock madness that calls for stripes and 3 balls of Twilleys Freedom Spirit in a somewhat familiar colourway but more of that later..

....Then there's 2 balls of a yummy Alpaca yarn that from the instant it came out of the wrapping screamed to be those sort of fingerless gloves with just the tips of the fingers missing...perfect for the 1 hour wait in the cold for the RSPCA clinic so I can knit and not have icy fingers. My conundrum is whether they get run thru the dyepot first, decisions decisions!

...Isn't this mug sweet? there was a nice sheepy card too but it escaped the photo shoot somehow. Perfect for the days when only a fruit tea will do.

And finally, not one but TWO issues of Spin Off magazine which I always lust after but refuse to pay Borders inflated prices (and the petrol to get there) so normally just have to want. I can't wait to have a good in depth read and put in some heavy duty spinning time.

Thank you so much, Luci for all your thoughtful gifts, I hope you've had fun stuff too and enjoyed the whole experience, last-minute blip notwithstanding.

In other news, I finally finished the Twilleys Freedom Spirit Jacket...

...All that is left is a suitable button choice (hopefully solved swinging by Abakhans this afternoon) and it will be well and truly completed. My collywobbles about the fit seem unfounded and despite the extra grey hairs it's construction has produced, I am pleased with the final outcome. Being wraparound it will also be flexible in relation to any weight gain/loss issues so unless it falls to bits, it should be a keeper for a while. I'm smiling 'cos the dogs are snuffling on the other side of the door!

The bittersweet part is that I had to buy another ball of yarn in order to complete the collar and sew it up a day before the parcel appeared! However, there's plenty of yarn for a pair of gloves and hat so that might end up in the autumn to do list. Using 3 different dyelots in a garment is not recommended but the colour difference is probably not so noticeable to an outsider. I was terribly twitchy on Saturday though as hub and bro had hijacked the laptop hence no lace knitting and I needed to knit something NOW!

I have also begun reviewing the UFO's a long way off yet but I have begun with a frogging...

...Remember the Spring Surprise Shawl? (scroll down for the tale). It never got any further and on viewing the completed shawls, I felt that maybe it wasn't my thing after all. I loved the individual motifs and would like to take some time to rearrange them into something a bit different one day but not now. So, it has returned to the stash and there's one less monkey on my back (rather too many right now).

I have picked up the Secret of the Stole again, Posh yarns cobweb weight deserves respect and I will complete this one but it's a bit like pulling teeth. It appears the ennui is reserved for lace knitting and as there's a Mystic Light clue waiting in the wings, I need to get past it. I reserved 3 of those yummy berry chocs to get me thru a few rows but then blogging took forever so they needed replacing, so there's 4 more to incentivize me!

This week I would like to pull out all my UFO's to catalogue them and sort thru my yarn supplies ready for ebay listing but then again with Sock Madness round 2 starting on Tuesday, who knows what time I'll have left for other stuff?

Gotta leave you with a pic. of the poochies, patch of sunlight and they're dead to the world!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

What you do in between rounds of Sock Madness

I think I can honestly say I've got Zombies out of my system! After completing the first pair in timely fashion and loving some of the other completed pairs in more solid colours, I cast on this pair within 24 hours of finishing!

So, may I present...depending on your state of mind...Rainforest/Swamp/Mouldy Zombies!
Using the tip offered by one of the other contestants, I knitted all the K sts in the pattern through the back of the loop except for those that would be dropped. It neatened the edges considerably and the ladders were much more elongated and really "popped"!

And the variety of title? Well, see the little embellishment on the side? If you're of a romantic nature, it could be a twisted vine and rainforest flower or a swamp reed and water lily (green, of course!). If you're more bloodthirsty in nature, it could just as easily be mouldy entrails and a bloody eye! Or, if you don't know the theme it's just a pretty decoration, it's certainly open to interpretation.

Knitting this pair of socks took most of last week as I was far more relaxed and the amendments definitely slowed things down and in a wee sting in the tale, I managed to knit both socks one repeat short before the toe so both got frogged and re done before the finish. I was definitely getting irritated with the pattern by the end so I've been happy to switch my allegiances to knitting non-sock related for a while giving me a break before the next round begins which should be within the next week. Roll on round 2!

Saturday (part 2) was an amazing dyeing day at the Cheshire Guild, I got loads done and had a fab time even if I did pound my poor back in the process! We had the benefit of the fab Debbie Tomkies leading us through the joys of both Kool-Aid and Procion dyeing. I have blogged about using Kool-Aid and its cousins before and I do love the simplicity of using it, even if the colour range is a bit limited (and often ultra-bright!). Procion dyes are a whole different ball game however as they can be adapted to dye both animal and plant fibres and I had the opportunity to experience both during the day.

Fibre to be dyed was placed into buckets and weighed so that the correct amount of chemical (citric acid for wool, soda ash for plant fibres) was added to the soaking water to make the dye fast. Once thoroughly wetted, we got to play! The picture above is a 100g skein of Bluefaced Leicested laceweight which I laid on cling film and dropped neat liquid dye straight onto it. It was wrapped into a neat sausage and the dye squidged and squeezed along the skein to spread the colour then an extra layer around the sausage roll kept the dye all in place. Doesn't it look pretty?

Here are some of the other members dyeing their skeins, I loved the look of concentration on everyone's faces and the ideas that other people came up with, many of which are salted away in the memory banks for future "playtime".

I'd never have thought of laying a skein out in this way but it gives the dyer such an opportunity for specific colour layering, all I can say is WOW!

And here are more experiments cooling outside, don't you love the impromptu washing line?

Well, here is my haul from the day, all dry and pretty. On the left (and front) there is mohair tops and Wensleydale curls both rainbow dyed on the stovetop using procion MX dyes in blues and greens (with a dash of red!). On the right (and front), we have the same fibres this time dyed on the stovetop using Kool-Aid, Cherry red, rasberry Blue and Lemon/Lime green. I'm definitely getting into shiny fleeces! Both were chosen for their love of dye and they look so pretty in the flesh. I currently have the rest of the Wensleydale dripping over the bath ready for more dye fun at home as soon as I can clear some time.

And in the centre from the left to right; Trekking sock yarn using Procion MX dyes in reds, oranges and yellows with some black and blue, hemp?, boucle cotton and cotton/rayon and DK cotton yarn. On the right that self same skein of laceweight that you saw at the top of the post.

I love the colours though washing the plant fibres was scary! As they were cold-dyed there was no heating involved so I'd left them a good time and then washed...and washed...and soaked...and washed. It sort of reminded me of the Mystical Creations Yarns thread over on Ravelry! Never having dyed that sort of fibre, I'd no experience of quite how much dye actually comes out but I do like the final effect. The Trekking yarn was an experiment for the upcoming Mystic Light shawl knitalong. I was looking for a sunsetty kind of effect but it's all a bit too... something. Bright maybe? That and the laceweight have a bit too much white on them for my liking so and overdye may well be in the near future to consolidate things somewhat. Ah well, early days in the dye front and there's the Earth Hues Dye weekend in only a couple of weeks, I am SO looking forward to that!

Well, in typical fashion, the Twilleys Jacket is still putting up a fight, even to the last. Since last I blogged, the final sleeve has been completed and since yesterday I have been making brisk progress on the capacious collar. BUT I'm running out of wool...considering I bought 2 balls more than I needed, it's rather annoying however, a kind knitter from the afternoon group has offered me her nearly complete ball as she too needed extra yarn for the last two rows of her jacket! Of course, being of a somewhat scatterbrained nature AND the fact that this jacket has been on the needles for so long it would be equally possible that there is a spare ball rolling around the floor somewhere in a dark corner or shoved in a bag of assorted yarns. As it will be a week before I can get the spare yarn, I may have to rummage...though not too hard as we still have furry friends invasion. Despite a number of traps in the kitchen, there's been no luck yet and now I'm dreaming about the blighters!

Speaking to other knitters in the group, it's unbelievable quite how many of us have had problems recently. I know that there is an increased likelihood in an urban area plus my neighbour has a cat who brings her live presents...which she just lets out again but I reckon there's a definite pest problem in the area as a whole.

Ah well, these things are sent to try us! Next on the needles will be a resuming of the Secret of the Stole, frogging what I have of the Spring Surprise Shawl, all fitted around the next round of Sock madness, of course!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

I'm Back...The Madness of Socks and Skipping North

I have returned! (Well, actually, I returned somewhat sleep deprived but none the worse on Sunday evening, but boy has it been busy!). When there's so much happening in a week, you know it's going to be a long post and plenty of pic's to make up for the lacklustre performance of recent posts. I shall begin at the end...

...The completion of my round 1 Sock Madness Socks - Zombies! The competition started in earnest when we were all e-mailled the pattern at 5pm U.K. time. Unfortunately, it was an hour before I could start but I did my darnedest after then, knitting until 11.20pm that evening (good job I did a big pan of stoup earlier in the day!); woke at 6.45am with hubbie then spent two hours knitting in bed before taking the dogs for a walk, watched 3 Harry Potter movies back-to-back and various other recorded stuff (couldn't tell you what, I wasn't exactly concentrating!) and knitted on-and-off all day until 11pm Friday night.

I must admit, the half bottle of Prosecco definitely helped extend the knitting time that day, I'd been seroiusly flagging but I think it relaxed me enough to continue. I woke around 9am this morning and reached straight for the needles, knitted in the car all the way to my brother's (hubbie drove!), had to put the needles (so close!) down for lunch but finished straight after. It was a mad dash for camera, cable, laptop and e-mail but I completed around 2pm ish, coming a very respectable 3rd in my division. Plenty of time to relax now and wait for the other 37 to finish then it's onto the next round!

Anyway, now I've got that out of the way, I can tell you about the weekend..last weekend, that is! Which started on Friday morning when I left home around 10.20am, driving myself through Liverpool and along the M62 to what I presumed would be Halifax and on to Haworth, my destination for the next 3 days. Bizarrely, the Sat. Nav. brought me off the motorway the other side of Manchester (Rochdale) and proceeded to direct me up and over the hills...literally! Retracing my steps on my return (it was a pretty route!) I discovered I'd driven right over the top of Pendle Hill and a couple of others as well as across a narrow reservoir bridge. It was somewhat nerve wracking on the way through as I didn't have a clue where I was going and when it complained of low battery and the screen froze in the middle of nowhere on a B -road I freaked!

Luckily, I did have a map with me and the route was quite straightforward, plus once I'd pulled over I'd found a dismiss option on the Sat. Nav. and it lasted the rest of the journey anyway though I was a bit of a nervous wreck by the time I arrived here...

...It's a wonderful old Victorian pile that has now been converted into a Youth Hostel providing inexpensive accommodation (and rather nice food here...)

...There were lots of original features like the stained glass in the front doors and an amazing huge window on the stairs, this is just one little sample.

Beautiful, isn't it? There were painted images of pomegranates, lemons and birds and a wonderful decorative hallway and landing. But enough about that, what did we do?

Well, Friday afternoon/evening we had 3 workshops, dyeing with Kool-Aid, Modular Knitting and Colour Theory after which we had our first evening meal, soup, Beef Lasagne and a rather nice Apple Crumble with ice-cream. We were free to chat and knit the first night and I turned into bed around 10pm but as I was sharing the room with 5 other people and the lady in the bunk above me came in around midnight PLUS it was roasting and I was probably wound up from the drive meant minimal sleep that night, perhaps an hour tops. I wasn't exactly on top form the next day! However, that didn't stop me from spending rather a lot of cash here...

....Ain't he cute? That's Pete, one of the organiser's little'uns and a real sweetie, always on the go! Doesn't he look at home amongst all that yarn? This is one tiny corner of Coldspring Mill, about 5 mins out of Haworth and a goldmine of fab yarn, more about that later.

After flexing the wallet there, we drove roughly half an hour away to a place North of Leeds called The Skep. It was so tiny that the group split in two and we walked a short trip up the road to this fab haberdashery shop (sorry, it was a last minute thing so I don't know what it was called).

See all the boxes on the back wall there? A whole wall of kidding, I spent over £20 on buttons in there, it was amazing and not expensive either! After the Skep, we went to the Knitting and Crochet Guild at Holmfirth (I've pic's somewhere, that'll be for another day!) and I managed to pick a few more bargains along the way.

This room was where we spent most of our evenings. the lounge in the hostel. It was quite crowded when we were all in there with half of us on the floor so some relocated to the Dining room which had better light.

The next day (with slightly more sleep - perhaps three hours!), we re-boarded our coach and headed off further afield to the fibre heaven of Winghams.

That's me in the dark coat, a few pics were taken of me during the weekend (not on my camera) but they haven't materialized yet so this one'll have to do. I may have picked up an odd thing or two!

So, I'd charged the Sat. Nav while I was there and whenever I tried to find a route home, it insisted on taking me a totally different route! I thought I'd outwitted it on the return voyage by, with the aid of the map, retracing the first part of my hilly journey which it then recalculated to include...then took me back to the alternative route anyway! In a way, I wasn't too bothered as the motorways it chose were quieter and it took me through my old stomping grounds so when the battery finally gave out it wasn't a problem.

I got home around 5.20pm, turned straight around and took the dogs for a walk as poor hubbie had been working overtime all weekend, (typical as it's pretty rare!). I am pleased with my driving, particularly the journey home when I was pretty knackered but I loved the return trip over the hills, it's the perfect sort of car for those conditions and even though the weather was lousy, it was FUN!

But that's only half the story, d'you want to see the haul? (Well, it's what you've been waiting for, isn't it?)

From Coldspring Mill, 2 hanks of pure wool aran for just over a fiver each and lovely supersoft chunky singles wool only £3.30 for a 330g hank, that's a penny a gram!

There was a seconds hank of beautiful pure bluey/purpley wool, only £4 for nealry a kilo, the one above was intact and only £7! The ball-wound skeins are half skeins of sock wool, again a penny a gram...

...And I was beside myself when I found these..Noro Cash Iroha and Noro Kureyon, almost half the original ball price!

From the haberdashers 2 bags of assorted buttons and a whole heap of chosen buttons too...must get around to sorting them out and bagging them seperately.

From The Skep, 7 x 100g balls of pure wool thick 'n' thin yarn in the most luscious pinks, purples and greens that I loved so much I had to swatch it the evening I got home plus a ball of sock wool.

From the Knitting and Crochet Guild (from their penny a gram yarn mountain); 2 skeins of laceweight I would gess wool or wool-mix, a shiny (probably silk) space dyed thickish and very thin yarn and a suspiciously shiny wool-feeling yarn in black, either 4-ply or lace but I reckon wool/silk and a bargain for £13.30 for everything!

Plus a little indulgence, some lovely Zephyr laceweight plus 10% discoult for becoming a new member of the KCG. It's wonderful stuff if expensive!

And from Winghams, a whole heap of fibre, black Shetland, Wensleydale dyed curls, dyed tussah silk, rainbow merino and more!

And Mel...
...I know it's a tease, but this is what I picked up for you! Plenty of fiberly goodness.

I picked up a few freebies too...

On the right is My kool-aid creation, on the right some gorgeous silk yarn that someone was giving away..must plan something special for it!

I'm off for a well-earned rest but be assured normal(ish) service will resume shortly!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Filling in the gaps

Just in case I get accused of only leaving half the story...again by one of the members in our knitting group- (you know who you are!), the repair man arrived around 2pm on Saturday, replaced the pump which, though working must have been damaged by the penny we found previously and so not pumping powerfully enough and hte problem has mostly resolved itself.

Unfortunately, the pipes are somewhat kinked after being screwed and unscrewed so many times hence it currently requires 2 spins in order to remove all the water from the drum and thus open the door but I CAN remove clothed from the drum and they are pretty dry so life is almost back to normal! When I get a second, I will unscrew the hose one more time and work out the kinks, at least THAT doesn't require another call-out!

I've been making slower progress on the sock today though I've managed to get close to the toe, life has somewhat got in the way hence no pic...yet.

I can offer you another cutie though...

...Sorry it's a bit fuzzy, he comes over for fuss every time he hears the camera motor so I've learnt to snap quickly!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

A Little Ghost Story or two (and Sock Madness stuff)

In order to put this one into perspective, I need to tell you about my grandparents. After the war, they got a job as housekeeper and groundsman in a large house. It was a beautiful place, they had live-in accomodation on one wing and we would visit them on weekends and walk down to the beach nearby. The owners wife had died but he kept the house for many years, he was a great employer and in no way objected to kids running around his grounds, it was an idyllic place for a child! We would spend holidays there when we were younger and I have so many memories of that period spent with my grandparents.

Anyway, as he got older, the house became too much for the owner and he decided to sell. He moved to a smaller house in West Kirkby and bought a house for my grandparents a busride away. My grandmother would still keep house for him even when she herself became old and imfirm and in return they lived there rent free and with a wage. Eventually, the journey became too much for my grandmother and the owner went into a nursing home but they still continued to live rent free in the house he had furnished them with. More time passed and the owner died, his estate went to his children but they were happy for my grandparents to continue to live in the house for as long as they were able rent free.

One year whilst visiting my aunt's my grandmother's hip gave out and the resulting surgery and other complications forced a move from their beloved home to sheltered accomodation close to both my parents and my aunt and uncle who took over their care on a daily basis. My grandmother's health deteriorated over a number of years, essentially, she was riddled with cancer and it affected her brain so she became muddled and quite difficult. Around 3 years ago now, my grandmother died in hospital and thought we were sad to see her go, in one way it was a blessing as her suffering was ended and the impact she had on the lives of others lessened. It was hard for my grandfather who, having mild Alzheimers would often forget that she had gone and grieved long and hard. He is still with us and now living happily in a nursing home but the story is not about him.

Recently, my aunt was in contact with a neighbour of theirs from their time in their old house. She enquired after it, curious to learn who had taken it over and was told that although it had been rented for some time, people tended to leave quite quickly. They told her of one family who had only spent 3 weeks in the house, so disturbed were they by the presence of an old lady!

Because this tale is third-hand we have no timescale as to when this phenomenon began, remember they were in Sheltered accommodation for a number of years before her death but one thing sticks in my mind...she always considered that house as her own and in her befuddled state she always expected the house to be passed on to her and wanted one of us to eventually own it. All the time they lived in sheltered accommodation, in her mind it was not her home, only temporary and they would eventually go back there. So it would not surprise me one bit if she took umbrage at strangers in "her" house!

There is a postscript to this story, namely that the last tenants have been living there now for over a year, so either they are not sensitive to such things or perhaps my grandmother has decided that it is time to move on for I am certain in my own mind that it was she who was causing such upset. Time will tell as to whether "the old lady" resurfaces or is gone for good, the house was not a particularly old property so there was little opportunity for other ghosts to reside before they began living there.

Our house being bought in 1902 has a ghost of its own, just a little one! Before we were in a position to own a dog, there used to be a ghost of a little black dog, always curled up in a corner at the top of the stairs. Every now and then, you'd catch the shadowy shape out of the corner of your eye. It is/was in no way malicious, merely keeping an eye on the house and protecting those within it. When we got Biscuit, her bed was placed in the spot where it used to lie and it did not appear, only when they are absent and the dog beds removed does it return to watch over us. I've never investigated the history of this house though there are plenty of signs, imprints of years gone by in the plaster and suchlike. The little dog doesn't have a bed of his own as such, just a blanket or suchlike folded up as his sleeping place but he visits rarely nowadays.

Well, I've been knitting like billy-oh today, limbering up ready for Sock Madness (and finally knitting up that Christmas Sock for DH!). I've done a little swatching in preparation for the big event though my tension's not exactly accurate (I'm a loose knitter) and I've rooted out another potential yarn choice but at least by the time it comes to the starting grid I'll feel like I can give it my best, even if I'm not the fastest! I did toy with continental knitting though I found it intensely frustrating, mostly because I have serious tension issues and it seems so alien that the yarn is forever slipping off the needle with the stitch following it. Perhaps not the best time to try it out, I'll get to the bottom of it one day.

Well, this may possibly be the last post for a fortnight as I will be extremely busy this coming week and of course, you will all be sick of me going on about Skip North which begins Friday and will consume next weekend. I may get an opportunity for a quickie next week (if only to flaunt my haul!) but a nothing's set in stone, don't fret about me if I take a while to post again, I'm just off enjoying myself!