Springtime, feels like summer

I asked for a new fridge sentence to replace my post road-trip one, which was boringly ‘Over a thousand miles later home’. I know it wasn’t exciting but it was current. Oh, but I’ve really truly been trounced now. It’s poetry which describes the view from the window. What’s my next move going to be?

I finished my Edenvale cowl last week. I know it will look better as the lace work will open out and show it off when it’s blocked. I’ll show you afterwards. I did fewer repeats than specified in the pattern, so I could stop at one skein of WYS Shetland Tweed. Hurray for John Lewis refunds on wool. That’s a cowl which is plenty long enough and I get £8.50 back in my account. I did try it on, in its as yet unblocked state and had comments along the lines of ‘You’ve knitted a neck sock!’ As you know I just ignore these and calmly carry on. I do the cooking so caution would be warranted…This week I added to my garter stitch blanket. I like the look of the navy with the lavender a lot. As I did another 6 rows (250 stitches each) I reflected on how much I’m enjoying knitting. It’s as meditative as crochet when easy, good to have two hands in motion, I like the feel and look of the fabric. I’ve also added a few more colour blocks to my patchwork blanket. Also satisfying once I get into a rhythm, but a bit boring to contemplate doing masses of linen stitch which is why this has been very slow in the making. I much prefer the swoop and flow of trebles to doubles.

Ah this week’s weather has been a delight. On saturday it was gorgeously warm at around 21-22 degrees. My friend and I wandered in Regents park, London wearing t-shirts, coats bundled up in bags. We admired the cherry and almond blossom, the lines of tulips and noticed how many people were also enjoying being outdoors. There are some pics on my Instagram. As you’ll see I took something a little unseasonal and different to do while we were there. My friend was knitting, and said an elderly lady with a stick walked by and gave us a broad smile. I guess others were mostly using the pedalos, reading, picnicing or just sunbathing. We probably looked quite incongruous.

This magnolia tree is not far from home. It was a gorgeous surprise on Wednesday to see it in full bloom.

Yesterday it was 25 degrees! This isn’t so much spring as a full-on English summer day. It can all change in a week so we are all poised as a nation. At the first sign of a warm day: we rush out to stock up on salad, charcoal and steaks, we go through our drawers and wardrobes looking for anything vaguely summery to wear, if we’re in a morning-time rush (ahem) we merely shave from our ankles up 6″ so we can wear shorter length trousers and sandals for the day and fill a jug with cucumber/raspberry/lime/lemon water in the fridge. We are prepared.

The next day we inspect our red patches of sunburn because we didn’t apply sun-cream, forgetting that even though it’s England we can still burn. (Ahem.)A host of golden daffodils. They’re probably all dried and crinkly now. I’m glad I saw them looking so lush.

So in the last week and a half I’ve knitted; ‘that’ sock, the garter stitch blanket and finished my lace cowl using chunky needles, crocheted and done the other craft which requires very fine motor skills. And my point? My hands hurt. My arms hurt. My elbows are stiff. The side of my hands are tingling. (I should probably not be typing this, but dictating.) That is a big warning sign isn’t it? I think I might have done too much knitting with the chunky 5mm needles, the lace pattern required lots of different manipulative movements and then there were hours of sock knitting. I’ve been disciplined at only doing one set of repeats max with the cowl, but got carried away one day with the sock. I unravelled and reknitted for far too long. In all these years of crocheting I’ve never experienced this, I’m in a sulk with knitting. Stupid chunky needles, stupid tiny circulars, stupid lace, stupid sock. I think this means a total ban on craft for a month. I’ve put a note that I can try again on 19th May….unless they feel magically better sooner. Sniff.

I’ll blog what I’m reading and bore you with photos of flowers and places I’ve been to, in the meantime. When I’ve blocked the cowl I’ll show it too. It’s the darning that’s holding it up right now, but with this warm weather it’s not in a hurry to be worn.

Without craft what do you do in the evenings, apart from read and stare at the goggle box?!

(JILL don’t be crude!)

Soup & trying to knit weather

Tuesday

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!”

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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.

2015

It’s that time again; the last day of another year. Are they flying past, or is it just me?

I can’t believe that today is my blog’s fourth birthday! I didn’t have a long-term plan when I started this; it was simply to record my makes as I learnt to crochet. I haven’t had to make myself carry on, or set up a blogging timetable, it’s just happened organically. Admittedly joining in more regularly with the weekly Yarn Along and Taking Stock posts, every month, has helped to keep to keep the ball rolling lately; as I’ve had little new to show, with bigger projects taking time to complete.

2015 really did turn into the Year of the Blankets, despite the fact I’m sure I’d resolved not to make many. I wanted to learn some new skills, make some small things and get my sewing machine out again. I can see a 16 for 2016 list happening…

Here are some of my favourite makes and highlights of the year:

I’ve just had a little look at my previous end of year galleries in 2012 2013 and 2014. 2012 was a busy year for the country with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. Looking back has reminded me of my 200 Blocks CAL. I was still very much a novice crocheter and learnt much more through organising and taking part in the CAL. If you’re fairly new to crochet then I’d really recommend working through a book of crochet blocks. It gave lots of us a really good grounding in reading patterns, trying new stitches and experimenting with colour combinations.

Thank you for reading and for your comments over the last year. Have a very Happy New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, wherever you are in the world.

Yarn Along 

 Yesterday this Araucania Botany Lace (one of  my Yarndale bargains) was a knitted piece 6′ long. I was flying along until I noticed a mistake. B—– Why didn’t I put in a lifeline? I tried and I tried but I couldn’t undo it; I was foiled by the yarn overs. I just kept ending up with the wrong amount of stitches. I want to knit something as perfect as I can get it. So in the end I gave up and just ripped the whole thing out. Can you see my thin blue thread? This time I’m being very careful.

I’m on the last 12 minutes of my audio book: ‘Reckless’ by Chrissie Hynde. Rosanna Arquette’s terrible pronunciation of many words and shocking attempts at English accents have had me shrieking with irritation, or screaming with laughter, occasionally both at the same time. This has rather spoilt a sometimes shocking, but also poignant story of music and friendship.

I’ve just started reading a new book about a painting: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild. I’m not far into it yet, but the painting has chapters of its own. I like its voice!

I’m joining in with Ginny’s Yarn Along again. Why don’t you?

All the good stuff

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I don’t think there’s anything better than a stroll along a seafront, a paddle in the sea, fish and chips on the beach and a creamy ice cream in the sun on a bank holiday weekend.
The pebbles pic could be used on that clever website (I don’t know what it’s called, and am feeling too Bank Holiday Monday lazy to press a few buttons to find out) which gives a colour chart, based on the range of colours in a photograph, for a blanket, or fabric patchwork.

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Yes please, I said. It’s my birthday soonish and so, yes please I’ll have that beach hut. Thank you very much.

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Anemones? Sticky up like electrical wire which is partly stripped back, just standing up in clumps in the sea?

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A spot of retail therapy today (damn you Cadbury Outlet Shop; you are bad, BAD, very Bad!!!) and a wander around the historic dockyard of Portsmouth. Even though today was rainy the queue for the Mary Rose museum was long. Must book ahead and go early one day.

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A dicey drive home on very wet roads, home to my Stanley who’s very interested to see on Instagram that someone is having all sorts of adventures with Kate and family (Stanley at Legoland) I did eight more rows of knitting after we’d unpacked, made some cups of tea and tried a terribly bad (good) Cadbury Crunchie biscuit. I’m limiting myself to short bursts at the mo. I started this Friday evening, after a friend said she’s knitting two to sell for charity. Guess what it’s going to be? Bet you won’t be able to get it. (Just remember I will never ever knit a toilet roll holder. I promise this much.)

Have you been tempted into eating naughty things this weekend too?

In progress

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This second pair of mitts are still waiting to be sewn up, the first are being worn and appreciated during the chilly school run apparently. I’ve had a request by one of my little nieces asking me for “white pink with purple bits, like Mummy’s but…oh no I mean light pink with purple bits.” (Awwww, so sweet.) As I’m told they’re superb at losing gloves I’m heading in the direction of a good quality acrylic, not Rowan tweed like these!
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The cabled yoke cardigan has been renamed ‘that stupid cardi’ I’m sorry to say. The time it took it took to figure out the cabled strip has rather soured the project. Well….I guess I have to be honest and admit that’s not absolutely it. Don’t start dipping rags in oil and sharpening your pitchforks but I’m not so sure about the actual look of it. Knitted clothes look so smooth and elegant, crocheted clothes particularly in chunky dcs like this just look coarse somehow. Know where I’m coming from? It needs to be edged, sleeves crocheted and button-band added so I might be more impressed after it’s finished. Maybe.It could be the yarn, I wonder if a different colour and quality of yarn would help too. I chose to use my Stylecraft meadow as I thought it would look lovely, and it’s washable so is practical for children’s clothing.

Oh and also I’m worried that the neckline is tiny. Overall I worry that it’s a bit small. I really, really should try a tension swatch before new projects.

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I’m going to be knitting this feather and fan scarf until I die I fear. Last year I decided I’m going to live to be a hundred; so I’ve got a lot of time to carry on, but might die just after completion and so not get the benefit!

It’s probably far more practical to use a non-fluffy brand for lace knitting. It’s not tricky to undo or knit, but another would show the lacy holes and repeats making it easier to see mistakes and just act as a guide. I’ve tried using pony stitch markers but those little plastic rings are going to scratch my birch needles, they’re getting in the way a bit too. I’ll maybe have a try at placing yarn markers. I accept this scarf is going to be a long-term project and don’t mind really, not now I’m adding lifelines!

I must get on and darn some more of the ends of those granny squares. It’s actually not so bad once you get going, it just starting that’s the issue.

Also I’m knitting up something for a yarn review and that is another story…

What are you up to this weekend? Hopefully not splashing about in flood waters like these poor ponies were, gradually more green patches are appearing though as the water slowly drains away.

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14:37 Mitts now sewn up & ready to wear. This post was a good motivator!

Feather & fan

This is the second time I’ve started this post. I wrote a (witty, sparkling?!) paragraph or two earlier but lost it, definitely probably due to the lunchtime glasses of prosecco, wine and amaretto during a family lunch. Ah well.

After seeing someone’s lace knit jumper in progress at knit group I decided to try my hand at feather and fan lace stitch.

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It’s such a neat pattern – four rows repeated, including one row of purl, two of knit then a single row of yarn overs (yo) and knit two together (k2tog).

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I rushed upstairs to the little room to take these photos when the sun came out, it was so bright that the desk looks yellow! It’s been disconcertingly still here after the huge storm Friday.

In fact I became so confident about this pattern that I took it to a new knit group last week. It’s not that tricky to stop talking and concentrate for one row is it? Maybe not for others! Actually a lovely girl there said she’s learnt the hard way never to take any complicated knitting because she’s lost count of the number of times she gets home and spots many mistakes!

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Which is why after seeing this excellent tip about lifelines I decided to actually use them rather than tell all the knitters I know. It’s not just me that hasn’t ever heard of them. After undoing eight rows or so I’m now going to add them at regular intervals!

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Can you see it? I’m hoping it won’t be too tricky to pull out at the end, maybe I should use a shiny cotton rather than another wooly yarn which might mesh together with the fluffy Tosca Light wool blend I’m knitting.

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These rubber ends by KnitPro have been handy for when I’ve stuffed my lace knitting in my hand bag and rushed off to catch a bus. Can you imagine the horror of your knitting slipping off needles and unravelling? Eeeek.

The Winter Olympics ice dancing is incredible! I’ve been watching while I write this post. Do you also get sweaty hands and feet while you watch? I feel nervous for them all.

Have you had a good weekend?