Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Procrastination is the thief of time (1742)

It's been a few weeks since I last posted, and frankly I have no excuse. It's not like I have been short of things to blog about nor do I lack the tools (being the owner of a nice new netbook), I think the problem is inertia. Do you get that, especially at this time of year when really there is so much to do and think about that you just cave in and do nothing?

Maybe it's just me!

To update the blog I'll briefly run through the highlights of the last couple of weeks:

Sunday 16th Nov was the spinning day hosted here which was taught by the uber talented Janet Renouf-Miller. My knitting friends Mhairi, Sandy, Ali and Kimberly came along. What a real pleasure it was to be surrounded by wonderful fibre, great friends and doing something so pleasurable for a whole day, uninterrupted (except by the tirelessly curious Maisy).

Mhairi and I learnt how to improve our technique for slippier fibres, Sandy and Ali took their first steps at wheel spinning (with fantastic results) and Kimberly improved her technique with the spindle (I never knew you could spin so finely with a spindle). Thanks to all for such a fun day.

You can click on the images to see them larger.

Paul and I have also had our trip to London sans enfants! 3 nights/4 days of not being talked at, moaned at or whined at. No being a taxi service to and from swimming/ballet/table tennis/guitar/DoE/friends houses. No cooking, washing, ironing or cleaning. Bliss! It was cold but dry and beautifully clear.

We walked our little legs down to stumps and visited amongst others, The V&A, The Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, Chinatown, Covent Garden, The London Eye (yes I went on it and kept my eyes open the whole time , almost), Carnaby Street, Libertys, Harrods, Selfridges,

Hamleys etc. We also went to see Bill Bailey at the Gielgud and ate at the Mermaids Tail on Leicester Square, Windows at Galvins on Park Lane and The Athenaeum at Mayfair. We drank beer at lunchtime and champagne every night. We stayed at a lovely hotel at Lancaster Gate right on Hyde Park near the fountains on the Serpentine.

And all too soon it was over and we were back in Scotland. Back to the lovely knitting group and then a very sad farewell on Friday to one of the group Gale, who had become such a dear friend but has now gone back to her homeland of South Africa. I don't think she knows how much I will miss her. I hope she will get Skype once she has drawn breath then I can keep in touch properly and perhaps even indulge in a bit of online knitting!

Talking of knitting here are a few finished projects, the knitting has been a bit sparse the last couple of weeks but I feel the need to complete some projects before starting anything new just now. "Skully" the beanie is my first attempt at fairisle and I'm pretty pleased with it. I used a standard beanie pattern and borrowed a chart from Domiknitrix.

I am currently knitting a pair of "vanilla" socks cast on for ease whilst flying last week and I have made only a little progress on the Silver Stardust. I would be knitting just now but my boiler has broken down again and my house is freezing. The timing is as ever as bad as it could be, this being the coldest day so far.

I have been busy ironing and dusting to keep warm, ah London seems a long time ago already! On the upside the "biggest ice maker in the world" (see previous posts) will be delivered on I need more ice just now!

Monday, November 10, 2008

If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen (1952)

If only I could have done so this weekend. I seemed to spend the whole time there. Firstly remodelling the kitchen units to accommodate the biggest ice maker on earth (see previous post!) and secondly using up the last of the greenhouse tomatoes to make a big batch of chutney, then baking a no-fat tea loaf (mmm) finally making up several jars of Cranberry sauce ready for Christmas.

You would think there has been no time for knitting, not so! I seem to have managed to slot in a couple of wee projects whilst waiting for things to be hammered, sawn, stewed, baked and boiled.

The Polar scarf is complete. I love how soft this is but the yarn is quite splitty and slubby so the finished texture isn't as smooth as I would have hoped. I think I'll give it a gentle wash to see if it evens out a little.

The Frankenstein hat is also complete. Despite my reservations, I think it's turned out ok. I'm not sure Rhona will wear it, it may not be quite what she expected, but I like it and Maisy will definitely wear it!

Talking of Maisy, as usual she wants what everyone else has so I also completed a Me-Too scarf for her. Essentially it is the Garter Stitch Loop-Through Scarf from Designer One Skein Wonders, but modified to fit a 4 year old. Thank you to Mhairi/Kirsty for the yarn, unbelievably I had no pink yarn in stash and I am on a strict yarn diet.

And using yarn from stash, I have knit the Blanket Buddy from Designer One Skein Wonders in Rowan Denim Cotton, held double. A friend from Maisy's dancing class has just had a baby boy, Jonathon, on Halloween and I hope this will be the perfect little gift for him. Photo to follow once he's stuffed (the blanket buddy that is, not the baby!)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Lest We Forget

As an army child whose grandfathers both served their country in WW2 and whose father served in the Aden conflict and was in service during the Falklands war I feel strongly that as a nation we should support our servicemen and women irrespective of our views on war/politics or religion.

The British Legion supports servicemen/women who have served and are currently serving in the Armed Forces, with financial, social and emotional support.

Please download a Poppy Pattern from HERE and donate now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Union is strength (1527)

And so now that there is a new President in the White House, America must unite behind Barack Obama and work together to put right some of the wrongs perpetrated by the previous holder of the title. Let's hope that the large turnout and renewed passion for "politics" in America will be reflected here in Britain where we may see some new, young blood begin to challenge the old school rhetoric that is so depressingly familiar.

Off the political soap box now (I'm sure I said only this morning that my blog was no place for politics or religion!)

What a week. My fridge freezer, after 12 years of long service and good conduct, quite unexpectedly packed up and went to the fridge freezer graveyard. I hadn't noticed over the past 12 years how expensive they had become, mind you Paul and the children have rather set their hearts on an American style one. I'm sure it will be the most expensive ice maker ever! This rather enormous ice maker will require a remodelling of the kitchen units and therefore the flooring too. I'm sure all this money could be much better spent on some rather nice cashmere or alpaca!

On Saturday morning I got up early to attend a Spinning meeting of the West of Scotland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. This necessitated a trip to Milngavie, (the start of the West Highland Way) which is home to the Guild. After first going to the wrong venue and walking for miles to find the Library we discovered that we had been misinformed and that there was no meeting after all. What a disappointment and a rather wasted morning.

I nearly had a new laptop last weekend too, after spotting a rather good deal on an Acer Aspire both myself and my mum bought one. We spent hours installing software and getting everything set up just right only to have both machines black screen on us repeatedly. They were returned and replaced by new ones which we spent another few hours setting up only to have them fail too! Now I'm no statistician but 4 identical laptops failing over two days, even I can see a pattern there! So no laptop for now, no blogging from the bedroom or skyping from the sitting room, I shall content myself to sitting here in my office looking out over the autumnal trees to the Clyde.

Amongst all the appliance angst was a lighter moment or too at Halloween. The Trick or Treaters were out in force this year, no doubt down to the lovely crisp, dry weather. This little witch was particularly successful and will be living off chocolate until next Halloween.

In between times very little knitting or spinning has been done. The Garter Stitch scarf is only a little over half finished though the cotton Cardigan for Ruby just needs the sleeves sown in. (Post edited to show completed cardigan).

I have however knit my first Teddy for Tragedies which took only one evening. I shall be sending it along with others knit by my knitting friends in "flat-pack" form to my sister in law, who though not a knitter is happy to stuff and sew them up.

And finally on the theme of Union, Amy on Knittyblog posted a link to Cat Bordhi's Moebius scarf tutorial and her thoughts on how the Moebius embodies the unity we need to show during difficult times. Interesting, and if nothing else a rather good tutorial!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Good men are scarce (1609)

Which is why I am so lucky to have one! It was my birthday on Sunday and my lovely husband had secretly arranged for us to to go to a show on Saturday night which in itself was a great and unexpected gift.

I was also brought a delicious breakfast in bed on Sunday and showered with wonderful gifts, almost all of which were of a fibery/knittery nature.

  • Double treadle for my Ashford Traditional
  • Jumbo flyer and 4 bobbins
  • 200gm Raspberry Alpaca tops
  • 100gm Cashmere/silk tops
  • Fitted Knits
  • 2 lovely brooches, one of which is on a very knitty theme
  • Needle holders
  • Hair curler/straightener/crimper/spirally/twirly thingy
  • Not Tonight Darling I'm Knitting
  • The Natural Knitter
How lucky am I?

After my wheel was rebuilt with all its new parts I set to spinning some New Lanark batts. I am amazed the difference the double treadle makes, I am finding it so much easier to keep my twist consistent. A little more practice though, I think before I attempt the Alpaca or Cashmere/silk.

I find myself always torn between spinning and knitting it seems I don't have enough free hours in the day to do both. Given the time of year, however, I thought it prudent to begin some Christmas Gift Knitting.

  • Garter stitch loop through scarf in Chameleon Colorworks Evolution Sportweight, Polar.

  • Sirdar baby cardigan in Sirdar Pure Cotton DK, Bubblegum.
I have completed 2 projects in the past week.
  • The Circle socks

  • Tea Cosy from One Skein Wonders in New Lanark Aran, Cherry.

I have also finished, bar the felting, the Companion Bowl from One Skein Wonders.

I want to say thank you to all my lovely family who gave me such a lovely birthday, but you know you are just feeding my habit!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If you don't make mistakes you don't make anything (1896)

How very true, in my case at least.

Three times in the past week I have made grave mistakes. (Well I say grave, nobody died so all is not lost).

1 Trekker

I decided to knit this hat for Paul as he looks pretty awful in most hats and I thought this design would be more flattering. I suppose it might have been had I not (in a moment of stupidity) substituted 2 strands of aran for chunky (yes, yes I know now it should have been 2 strands of DK)
It came out so large my youngest daughter can use it as a tent. See here on my oldest daughter, looks like something out of Star Wars or The Hobbit.

2 Handpaint Highlight Socks

Knit with beautiful Shelridge Farm in Strawberries and Cream I thought the slipstitch design would complement the colour perfectly. And so it would have done if I had slipped the stitch the right way on both socks. First sock slipped knitwise, second sock slipped purlwise. I know no-one else will notice, but I still know they're odd don't I? Oh and they should have both been purlwise! Plus they were knit from two different skeins and the depth of colour is different but that I don't mind as its not my stupidity at work.

Here they are, can you see the difference?

3 Circle socks

I loved this pattern when I first set eyes on it on Mhairi's needles. I coveted it, I lusted after it, I gave in and cast on with my Knitwitches Lilac yarn.
For some reason the circles on my sock came out square. Now the pattern is really simple, I mean REALLY simple. Surely it couldn't be me making a mistake. I wrote to the patterns author asking for advice so confident was I that it wasn't me. Of course as soon as I pressed send I realised that (perhaps unsurprisingly) it was indeed my mistake and stupidity had once again won the day.
Here's the squared circle

Fortunately this was as far as I got so frogging was not a major trauma. I have finished the first and am half way down the leg of the second sock. So far my circles are now looking, well, circular, hurrah! I won't celebrate too loudly though, based on my recent history stupidity is sure to raise its ugly head again very soon.

I take comfort from the proverb above though as I have made plenty of mistakes!

(Congratulations to Andrew, (my 17 year old son) who today passed his driving theory test. Watch out Gourock he'll soon be driving on your roads!)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Time and tide wait for no man (1390)

And how true! This Sunday October 6th 2008, was the final time that the beautiful QE2 sailed up the Clyde to her birthplace in Greenock. Launched in 1969 she came back to visit one last time before being sailed away to become a floating hotel. Its testament to the quality of her build and finish that she should become a luxury hotel in the very capital of luxury, Dubai.

All the family went down to Lunderston Bay at 10:00 to see her in past The Point, she's pretty close to shore at this stage and the views of her and the flotilla were fabulous. We were lucky to have one of our few sunny days which gave us fantastic views. Look!

When I see the photos I still have to pinch myself to believe I actually live in such a beautiful place, and am fortunate enough to be able to see such magnificent sights from my own house!
We followed her along the coast road to her berth for the day in Greenock. So many people had turned out to see her including some who had originally worked on her build.

It was equally inspiring to see her depart at 22:00, fully lit and horn blowing as she passed my dining room. The fireworks that accompanied her departure were noisy but lovely. See where she is now here.

The afternoon was spent knitting, I completed one of my Handpaint Highlights socks in the Shelridge Farm, strawberries and cream, I don't think the pattern really accentuates the colouring but they are lovely nonetheless. And so on to the second sock.

In between times I cast on and completed a new hat for my husband who it has to be said does not suit hats of any type as a rule. Trekker by Anni Howard is a loose fitting hood style hat and I think it has turned out very well. It's a little large but it suits him that way. Once it's blocked I'll post a picture. I think I may knit it slightly smaller for my son and daughters.

Last but not least here's Sparreholm, the bane of the last few weeks. I do like it but I think it makes me look quite large (but maybe I just look like that without it too).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Little birds that can sing and won't sing must be made to sing (1678)

You must watch this, and then subscribe to this excellent blog!

The Excellent Kay and Ann at Mason-Dixon Knitting

Monday, September 29, 2008

The difficult is done at once, the impossible takes a little longer (1873)

The weekend spent with good friends was fantastic we ate, drank and generally had fun (including dancing, don't ask!) until the wee small hours on Sunday morning. I was therefore, not really in the right frame of mind for knitting of any sort on Sunday.

I spent the day (after a lovely walk in the rain at the beach) spinning, it is such a long time since I have sat uninterrupted like that. I managed to spin about 400gm in 4 skeins, 2 each of the green and natural New Lanark. A few of my friends at Stitch n Bitch are thinking of taking up spinning so I have spoken to my tutor and friend Janet and hopefully we will be having a wee private lesson all together which will be wonderful. I want to build my confidence with the more slippy fibres like Wensleydale and Merino.

I have now finally finished Sparreholm, it just needs blocking and sewing. If I ever consider undertaking a twisted rib pattern with hood again, please take me aside and remind me of the torture this project has felt like! I haven't really dared to try it on properly yet, I'm so afraid I won't like it and I'll end up having to pass it on to my lovely middle daughter who looks beautiful in anything and everything she wears.

I think I may need to start in earnest on Tropicana with my Kraemer Sterling Tuxedo. It may be a project that I fall out of love with before I even really get going, I have found errata in the pattern in the first few rows (not listed on the source website) and that always rings alarm bells! I hate to be defeated by a pattern though so I will persevere for another pattern repeat before deciding whether to frog and design my own pattern. I may have to cast on some simple vanilla socks at the same time to give me mental respite during the anticipated long haul.

Friday, September 26, 2008

September blow soft, till the fruits in the loft (1571)

How the weather has changed, the long hoped for summer never really materialised but what lovely unseasonal weather we are having this week. The garden looks lovely, the fruit is all almost in, just the last of the pears to be picked this weekend. I lost one of my pear trees in the high winds a couple of weeks ago, I think the crop was so heavy it just snapped right at the base. So sad.

You can just see the remaining tomatoes in the greenhouse along with cucumbers, peppers, lemons and herbs. In just 3 years I love the way my garden has evolved. I love that it is so productive as well as looking good and being somewhere for the children to play. I particularly love the jams I have made from the black and redcurrants and plums. (Thanks Sandy for reminding me last night why I love my garden!)

I have had a really satisfying week, it was so lovely on Wednesday to spend time with Mhairi whilst the children played. We were able to spin uninterrupted (almost!) for several hours. I have finished about half of my natural New Lanark now and I'm itching to get on with the lovely Black Wensleydale tops I bought whilst in London. Mhairi had some gorgeous Natural Dye Studio BFL in such pretty colours. It really made me want to do some more colourful spinning, to date I have only spun natural colours.

Last night was our knitting night and it was so pleasant and relaxing to be amongst everyone looking at all their FOs and admiring the new patterns. Jo is such an accomplished knitter, her finishing is gorgeous and yet she claims to be a beginner, she really is hiding her light under a bushel.

I am now onto the hood of Sparreholm and feel as if I am on the home run.

Tomorrow I have friends (3 of us share the same christian name) coming to stay, I am really looking forward to it, we haven't seen each other for a long while and we have so much to catch up on. They don't knit so I suspect there won't be much knitting going on but plenty of chatting and dare I say even a little drinking! I suspect all the "other halves" will take themselves off to the Xbox! Boys will be boys.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Make hay while the sun shines (1546)

It was good to be "back home" at Cafe Flava last Thursday. I must admit I felt rather nervous about it, would we be confined to a dark corner under close supervision? In fact we were reserved a spot by the window near the front, on full view. The rest of the cafe was very quiet indeed so we felt quite at ease, confident we weren't taking too much space, disturbing too many people or upsetting those of a gentle disposition with our knitting antics.

Sandy and Ali were back, Sandy (sporting a lovely new curly look) had brought with her some lovely sock yarn Jawoll from Langs that she had bought after accosting a German lady who was quietly minding her own business knitting in Bremen. (She didn't abscond with her yarn, just asked where the LYS was).

I'm still ploughing on with Sparreholm, but it's tediously boring, row after row after row of twisted rib, thank goodness it's sleeveless.

I have also cast on Tropicana in my Kraemer but am really toiling with the lengthy and unusual lace repeat, I have frogged completely once and am now taking such along time over every 125 stitch row that I am beginning to feel that I may not love this after just 7 rows.

I usually meet with 3 other SnB friends on a Wednesday morning whilst the smallest member of the family is at nursery. However, a one day strike (the second!) by support staff at school, has put paid to our plans. Mhairi however, has bravely invited all of us and our various offspring round to hers for knitting, spinning and Rooibos tea. Hope it's sunny so we can flash the stash whilst the rugrats play outside!

Monday, September 15, 2008

East, west, home's best. (1859)

Our trip to the local hostelry last Thursday night was very pleasant with plenty of light, plenty of room and plenty of tea! In fact a pot large enough to wet the whistles of the whole of Gourock was produced for just one tea drinking knitter (myself!)

Thursday night, it transpires, is also quiz night, have you ever tried knitting lace whilst trying to answer questions about capital cities, and number 1 hits? I really did neither very well.

The lace cowl was frogged, and finished later in the evening. The light was not good for these pictures, but the stitch definition is lovely in the Rowan Denim.

All in all though it was a successful outing.

We are however on our way home, our lovely coffee shop has asked us to return with provisions made for us in a corner, out of the way where we won't intrude, interfere or generally lower the tone of the place.

I am rather looking forward to being "home", this is where we first met 3 years ago and we have grown not only in number but in friendship, and the comfortable surroundings of home is where it's best to be with friends.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When one door shuts, another opens (1586)

And so a proverbial and literal door has shut!

Victims of our own success, we have been evicted from our lovely coffee shop. We began 3 years ago as a group of 4 and now regularly number 12 or more. It seems we cannot be accommodated in such number. We will all miss the wonderful coffee, tea and delicious cakes.

So the hunt is on for a new home for the Gourock Stitch n Bitch. We will be sampling the fare of a local hostelry tonight with hopes that we won't be too subversive or radical for the participants in the Quiz Night. I admit to a degree of nervousness, will they like us, will we like them, will they serve decaff tea?

I'll let you know in due course.

Monday, September 08, 2008

All good things must come to an end

After all the anticipation the weekend of the iKnit show finally arrived.
Mhairi, Kimberly, mum and myself travelled down to the big city on Friday to spend the weekend immersed in yarniness with all our fellow knitters. After a quick check in at the hotel we dashed over to visit the iKnit shop before closing time. It was lovely to see the place in the flesh, so to speak. Of course yarn purchasing ensued and some delightful Kraemer merino, silk and sterling silver in Tuxedo found it's way into my stash. I have it earmarked for some extra long lacy socks.

There then ensued what can only be described as a farcical exercise in long distance navigation! Having decided that Wagamamma was our dinner destination, we set out under instruction from me, for Victoria the location of said restaurant. However, on arrival at the station I had neither address nor directions to our chosen eaterie. Frantic phonecalls home followed with directions from Googlemaps passed on over the intermittent mobile connection. After wandering aimlessly round in circles and being utterly drenched in the heaviest deluge of rain I can recall we hopped into a taxi. After all are London Hacks not renowned for their "Knowledge"? After 20 minutes of yet more circling of Victoria Station (admittedly in the rather drier comfort of the taxi) we were deposited £5 lighter at the exact same point we had started where we discovered we had been practically outside the entrance to the restaurant all along. This was really a portent of what was to come and my dear fellow travellers should really have taken note of my lack of sense of direction immediately.

Our spirits were not dampened however and a lovely meal followed.

An early rise (07:15) on Saturday allowed us a wonderful hour in the famous Liberty store. I resisted the yarn but did acquire some stunning silk fabric (earmarked for a bag lining) and the new book Thrown Together by Kim Hargreaves. It really is worth a visit to Libertys if not just for the experience and a tour of the stunning Tudor building itself.

We headed over to the Royal Horticultural Halls and joined the queue (yes there were enough knitters there to form a queue, a long one) for the show. There were so many beautiful yarn stalls, charity stands, demonstrations, fashion shows, workshops and knitters, everywhere, hundreds of them. Of course the major highlight of the day was the Yarn Harlot's talk. What a fantastically funny, naturally witty and entertaining 90 minutes. I truly wish a recording had been made of her talk as I would love to play it back and take it all in again, and again, and again. I hope she got a sense of our appreciation for her, her visit and her endlessly insightful and amusing blog. We queued along with our new found friends for 2 hours to get a signed copy of one of her books. It was quite amazing that she found the time and fortitude to talk personally to every one of those who queued , and never shied away once from the endless photographs with socks!

Of course much yarn was added to the stash!

The day was rounded off with a superb meal at L' in South Kensington a short walk from our hotel. We dined with our fellow Scottish knitters, 11 of us in total. It was a delicious meal in lovely surroundings with first class company. Thanks to Julia, Yvette, Lynette (and her lovely tolerant Bruce) Heather, Catherine and Paula for joining us and making it such an enjoyable evening.

There was just time on Sunday morning for a quick dash round to the V&A though sadly the Textiles Exhibition was closed. We did however enjoy excellent scones and brownies in the Cafe along with the Dutch Knitters and some lovely knitters from Switzerland and Denmark. I feel a trip to a LYS in Geneva coming on.

And so, All Good Things Must Come To An End, we are back home, weary but happy, looking forward to show and tell at our Stitch n Bitch on Thursday night. I suspect we may be planning another iKnit trip to London next year!