Soup & trying to knit weather


At 0800 it’s -3 on the thermometer and doesn’t really change all day, except to get colder. The so-called Beast from the East, a very cold weather system from Siberia, is blasting the UK. We’ve got off lighter than many areas but it’s very cold. There’s no snow until late afternoon, although the village pond is already frozen solid. The canal is going that way too. As I watch the narrow boat go I can hear the ice cracking! In the time it takes me to click the photo my gloveless hand begins to tingle and hurt with the cold.

It seems a very good day to spend one of my Christmas gift vouchers on some warm West Yorkshire Spinners Shetland Tweed. I’d seen a particular cowl in Loop, Islington last year and haven’t got it out of my mind. I buy the pattern when I’m home, but can’t make head nor tail of it. There is no number of cast on stitches to start with, and more confusion besides. Nearly £5 and it’s a pretty awful pattern, touted as suitable for lace knitting beginners but it’s clearly not. I should have have taken more notice of the zero reviews. I check it’s not me, missing something obvious, and ask a very clever test knitter and designer who I turn to for knitting advice occasionally. She says it’s one of the worst patterns she’s ever seen. You just don’t know this until you have the pdf unfortunately. I email the company selling the pattern (it’s also on Ravelry, for even more money) knowing they have a zero refund policy, once you’ve downloaded the pdf. My email contains a list of issues with the pattern, provided by my contact. I have a full refund and apology by 9pm. Drat though! That cowl has been in my thoughts for ages. My star knitty friend then goes above and beyond. My instagram is suddenly beeping like crazy. She sends me links to 13 lace cowl patterns: “Which are on Ravelry and far better written.” I chose Edenvale. It’s going to be a very warm cowl as it’s in aran weight wool, but I’m hoping I don’t find it too scratchy to wear…

I feel chilly and can’t get warm, so I wear my Holey Cowl over the top of my Mira Cowl. I’ve never worn either inside the house before.

I get my nostepinne out to wind a skein and Someone texts me:

“Stick the oven on, I’m just leaving”

“Argh!!! I’ve got a skein of wool wrapped around my knees!”


It’s -5 at 0742 so I’m staying in bed reading for a while, because I can! It’s so cold sticking your arm out of the covers, even with the radiator full on.

I meet up with Mum and we go to the library and pop to the supermarket for her groceries. When we come out the car park is swirling white with a snow blizzard. It’s hard to see where the car is parked! We go to her home for soup and toast. Barty naughtily sits on the worktop, watching the snow fall.


The window thermometer tell me it’s -4 and there are gusty winds with light snow at 10:00. I plan to make chicken soup, update my card details on the national Lottery website (ready for that huge jackpot win) and start my cowl. The heating is on full blast, but I’m still cold. I dig out my Poncho and am so pleased as it instantly warms my shoulders.

I relearn how to do a long-tail cast on. If you’re also a leftie watch Bill Souza teach the left handed LTCO, he’s very good.

Next I need to do a tension swatch, but can I do flat knitting for what will be a circular knit? Instagrammers tell me I can, but there’s a special technique to it. Purl Soho have a good guide. I check my swatch after an inch or so, because my Knitting Answer book says I will be able to tell how it’s going by then. They say to measure 4″ and count the number of stitches, it’s easier than my usual method of the other way around. My tension is perfect for the cowl pattern! Wey-hey I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

I need to cast on 120 stitches. My book describes various methods to decide how long to leave your tail. I choose the one where you allow an inch of yarn per stitch. Someone is incredulous and says “But that’s 10 feet of wool!” and indeed he turns out to be right. It seems the easiest method, so I get the big tape measure out of the junk drawer in the kitchen. It is more than enough, really and truly. My little piece of knitting is destined to have a massively long tail. It’s a waste of good Shetland Tweed. Maybe next time I’ll try another method and calculate the tail measurement by multiplying the circumference of the finished item 3 1/2 times. What do you do? Cable cast ons are an absolute breeze in comparison.

At the end of a mere 5 hours I have relearned the cast on, swatched for circular knitting, cast on 120 long tailed stitches, painfully knit the first round (my CO is so tight that the tweed feels like garden twine cutting my poor fingers) and slowly knit 3 rounds.

I think this cowl had better look half ok, because I’m fighting my perfectionist tendencies all the way. I will not allow myself to unravel a single bit. I can’t have spent 5 hours in total today with nothing to show. Sometimes it’s better to actually use new skills and refine them as you go, while accepting the first item will not be the best. I find this hard. My natural tendency with tricky knitting is to undo it again and again. I lose heart. Decide I just can’t do it, it’s rubbish and then I move on to something easier different. Not this time! I want to crack lace knitting. Hard lace knitting, not mere holes in cowls.

Friday (today)

-4 at 0800 and it’s clearly snowed some more overnight. It’s now about 4″ deep. We decide to go out for a walk and so wrap up as warmly as we can. It’s -2 by the time we go, but the BBC weather app tells me with the wind chill factor it feels like -9. Pretty soon my legs and bottom feel numb. Someone smugly tells me he’s toasty, because he’s wearing his fishing thermals. Wah! And I’m wearing jeans, which I know, I know, are the most useless thing in this weather. My legs are red like lobsters when I take down my jeans, back at home. Luckily I have the brilliant idea of leaving a spicy lentil soup to cook in the slow cooker, while we’re out. I delegate the chopping and initial cooking of spices, onion, celery and carrot while I shower. What a brain wave. It is super (souper!) to smell lunch ready and waiting for us when we return.

Not many are out at all, we see a handful of people with sledges but it’s bitterly cold for the dogs and their walkers. With the icy wind cutting across our cheeks and snow beginning to fall, it’s a big relief to be home.

It’s been snowing steadily for over an hour now. I will knit my 4th round soon. Wish me luck!

My cousin has been holed up in a pub in Lincolnshire for 2 nights. It isn’t that far from where she lives, but the roads are impassible so she hasn’t been able to get home. There are definitely worse places to be stranded; if that were me, I would drop my Dry Lent like a shot.

How cold, or warm, is it where you are? Any snow? Let’s share a weather report from around the world.

17 thoughts on “Soup & trying to knit weather

  1. Pretty looking cowl hope it goes well. Chart looks easier than the final result! I have never tried a long tail cast on. I suppose there must be a reason for using it.
    And I am on enforced stay in and keep warm and don’t go out but here in Southampton we have enough snow to build a small snowman in the garden and that happens so rarely. Shame. :-(

    • That’s maybe the best outcome – as long as it’s not too tricky it. I will definitely need to concentrate. It’s not a tv and knitting project.
      I think the LT CO is for a more stretchy edging. It’s ok once you figure out where the tail and working yarn hang, but I need to make it looser while keeping a consistent tension. It’s all practise I guess.
      Ah that is a shame. I love snow walks. It’s really cold and you would lose a lot of energy going out. When you’re better book a snowy holiday?

  2. current temp in San Antonio, Texas is 28C/74F @207PM. blue skies with some passing clouds and we have the AC on.,

  3. Hi Rachel, it’s cold and rainy here in Oregon. By the way, I changed my comment feed to allow “anonymous” comments – specifically so you could comment.. but you still aren’t.. LOL.. but a lot of spam comments are coming through now. I may have to turn off the “anonymous” soon. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

    • That doesn’t sound appealing on the weather front either. Stay cosy won’t you?
      Ah turn it back to your usual settings in that case, if it’s only me having issues I can email you with any comments as I have done before.

  4. Central California here. We have been cold last week and this week. Last week was worse. It was supposed to snow on the valley floor last Thurs and Friday. We normally get snow up in the mountains (it becomes our water supply) but not down on the valley floor. It didn’t snow but it was still below the freezing mark. Bad timing. All of our citrus (that we grow for the world to eat) and our almonds are blooming. The freezing cold and now the steady hard rain and wind along with cold temps knocks the blossoms off the trees and no fruit/nuts for the harvest in the fall. I see the bee hives in the fields but it is too cold for the bees to leave and pollinate what is left on the trees.
    Prior to that it was warm so everything is blooming early. Farmers have wind machines going, fires, etc., to keep their crops from freezing. This is nothing like the cold you are having but then we get to 110–115 degrees F in the summer as well, which, thankfully, I don’t think you get that warm.

    • Thank you for replying, this is fascinating to read.

      We don’t get into the 40s – your usual summer temps, but I have experienced it when living in Australia. It’s like stepping into an oven! I used to go to the cinema to stay very cold as the a/c was fridge like.

      • That is funny as the older I get, I crave the warmth (plus being anemic doesn’t help). I bring lots of jackets to the movies with me so I stay warm as it is often freezing in there! Looks funny to be bringing jackets when it is 115 degrees outside!

        • The funniest thing was finding my sunglasses steamed up after leaving the cinema and my money was chilly to the touch, after the cold of the a/c. This pale English girl needed to seek the cool though. I think I was wilting in Darwin in the heat and humidity!
          I bet it helps you to stay warmer and conserve energy if you feel the cold.

  5. Top tip for a long-tail cast on: don’t bother and use a cable cast on instead! I use it for everything except socks… but if you feel you have to, leave a standard length tail, then wrap the yarn loosely round the needle you’re going to cast on to the same number of times as the number of stitches you need to cast on. Add a bit to make sure you don’t run out, and leave that much as your tail. It’s the most reliable method I’ve found.

    I am so glad the snow has now gone. Winter has been long. I was grateful for boring old rain today.

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