Sunday, December 04, 2005

Good news time!

Things have not been utterly brilliant lately, what with the cold weather setting my chest problems off and my having to stay inside all the time, even on Sundays. So you can imagine how happy I was to get Good News:

I have sold three designs to Simply Knitting!!

I am so proud of myself :)

So far I know that one will be in the issue being published on March 3, but I shall keep you posted on the other two.

To celebrate, another bizarre pattern from my Bizarre Pattern Collection:

Dint'cha just love the Seventies?????

Monday, November 14, 2005

Not waving, not drowning.....

....just doggy-paddling like crazy.

I am definitely trying to do too much. My unexpected nap attacks are outnumbering my knitting times, and that is Not Good. I can't remember the last time I read anything, and I'm falling down on my blogging.

I really don't want to give up any of my small number of activities, but I'm going to have to cut down my attendance at Quaker meetings to twice a month, especially if I want to keep attending my Knitting and Crochet Guild meetings. Plus I am going to have to be strict with myself about afternoon rests and sensible bedtimes. (Note to self: 'sensible' does not mean 1.30am just because the next episode of 'Lost' is on late. This is why we have a VCR.)

Dratted stupid illness.


Knittage has been done, despite it all. I've just finished another item for Knitting magazine which I love. I mean, I like all my designs, but this one is really cute :)

The only hint I can give you is: watch out for the pompoms. Oh, and it's burgundy.

Kate at Knitting has about five of my designs in hand now, so it's time for Christmas present knitting! So far I've produced three facecloths and a scarf.

The facecloths are in Anchor Magic cotton, from the Knitting and Crochet Guild online trading site. They're very simple - CO3, and work every row as (K1, YO, K to end). When you get up to 55 sts, then work (K1, YO, K2tog, K1, psso, K to end) until you're back to three stitches again. This actually produces a kind of diamond shape, rather than a true square, so I always add a hanging loop to the cast-off corner to make the shape less obvious :) Each cloth takes one 50g ball.

Because Anchor Magic is self-striping, you end up with a diagonally striped cloth, which looks quite cute. I'm packing a colour-coordinated soap in with each one.

I was hoping to do everything from stash, as my finances are tighter than a new shoe at present, but the scarf confounded me. I had two balls of Sirdar Foxy in Sable, bought at Pins and Needles, which only got me half a scarf. I had to force myself to go online and buy yarn. Goodness, how I suffer for my art.....

Actually, it was quite handy, as it also gave me an excuse to buy a pompom maker from Angelyarns. It's fab, and much less hassle than drawing round cups and cutting out cardboard! (You can find it here. Go buy one. You won't regret it.)

I've also made three little blankets for my friend Keryn - well, for her little friend Hannah's dolls, actually - and I'm now working on three beanies, before I get onto the snazzy sweater my sister has commissioned from me.

There's also the matter of two unfinished pairs of socks for myself, and the Lucy Neatby Celestial Merino which is crying out to become a Clapotis.

And I'll be able to blog about all of them - what a lovely change! Don't get me wrong, I love my designing - but I would love to be able to blog about it too.....

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What I need....

I find it difficult sometimes to write about my knitting, because so much of it is for the magazine. I'm supposed to keep that quiet, because of 'commercial sensitivity'. I can tell you, however, that Kate, the editor, tells me that my Volcanic wrap was a big hit on the stand at Ally Pally, and that they handed out lots of the correct pattern for it!

Of course, I can write about the latest craze in Blogland - putting '(your name) needs' into Google and seeing what comes up. Heather needs:
  • Men - now!
  • a female parent who can help show her appropriate ways to attract the attention of guys
  • a childhood
  • to start wearing a brassiere
  • two therapists
  • to find the right balance between emotions and logic
  • some support
  • to stick to her career as a country artist
  • to realize that although you can become the "It" girl fairly
    quickly (as Entertainment Weekly named her), you can just as easily lose that
  • a variety of intellectual pursuits
  • to be kept moist
OK, I'm off to get a drink. At least I can do the last one....

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My eyes! My beautiful eyes!

I went to Meeting again today, so I'm currently running on adrenaline and not much else. However, while I'm still coherent, I would like to share with you one of my extensive collection of bizarre patterns, in lieu of witty prose....

There are several ways by which a pattern can join my collection - shockingly awful design, weird staging, or strange-looking model.

The following is a good example of all three. Anyone for a hat that makes you look like an Egghead? (Oh, and UK readers - is this Lorraine 'Luton Airport' Chase??)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

An awfully big adventure

I had an adventure on Sunday! I’d contacted the Quakers in Durham about attending a meeting, and a nice chap called Jeffrey had come out to see me about accessibility and so on. I’d asked Paul to drop me off, but his diverticulitis flared up on Friday, so he was still flat on his back in bed on Sunday. At first I thought, ‘Well, that’s it, then, I can’t go on my own. Too scary.’

Then I decided to be brave. I booked the nice taxi driver I’ve used before, who knows my problems and can accommodate my wheelchair, and got him to take me in to Durham. Jeffrey saw me arrive, and helped the taxi man put up my chair and get me inside. (The hall we meet in is down a set of steps, but there’s a lift.) I had a super time, although I spent the hour mentally squeaking and thinking, ‘I’m here!! On my own!!’ instead of anything vaguely holy ....

Everyone was very friendly, and I had some great conversations, plus there was coffee available, which someone brought me. I had to get a different taxi home, but several people got me into the car and my chair into the boot, and the driver was very patient when we got to my house, making sure the chair was inside and that I was OK before he left! Amazing service!

You can’t imagine how much this all boosted my confidence. Mum couldn’t believe I’d done it! This means I will no longer need to rely on Paul, but can now think about doing things like meeting my knitting friend Vicki in Durham, and stuff. The only limits are my energy and my money...

People can be very kind when you give them the chance :)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Houston, we have a problem

My new copy of Knitting arrived on Saturday.

I was so excited to spot a small picture of my wrap, Volcanic, on the cover.

The photos inside looked amazing.

Then I read the pattern.

It was wrong.

Not as in typographical errors.

As in wrong item.

Wrong shape, wrong measurements, wrong item.

And I couldn't get hold of the Editor till Monday.


By the time Monday came around, my heart rate had started to approach normal again. The ed was really nice, and apologised profusely, and we think we've worked out what happened - basically they have two wraps from me, waiting for publication, and the materials and photos of one got muddled up with the pattern of the other.

There's a big apology, and a basic version of the pattern, in next month's Editor's letter, and it will be reprinted fully in the issue which comes out in December.

In the mean time, please admire the photos. They really are very good.......

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pieces of eight

Apparently yesterday was National Talk Like A Pirate Day.

And in honour of that:

Q. Why are pirates' voices so deep?
A. Because they arrrrrrr!

Q. How much does a pirate pay to have his ears pierced?
A. A buck an ear.

Q. How many letters are there in the pirate alphabet?
A. Two - arrrrrrr and ayyyyyyye!

(Thanks to the warped minds of Knitflame for those.)

I now return you to your normal blog-reading......

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's been a long eighteen years

Lixie (and any other cricketphobes) - don't read this.........

WE DID IT!!!!!!

It may only be little in size, but it holds the hopes of every English cricket fan....

WE DID IT!!!!!

Tee hee :)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Blowing my own trumpet

Toot toot.....

It's out!! The October issue of Knitting magazine!

And on pp24-25, we have.....

My beanie!!

It was originally called Blissful, because it's made with Debbie Bliss yarn. However, I found out that Debbie Bliss herself was using this name for a sweater in an upcoming Interweave Knits, so it got renamed.

I keep squeaking and bouncing :)

And in the next issue - my wrap!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Just a quickie

Thanks to Daisy for reminding me about this - how could I have forgotten to blog about it???

My first design for 'Knitting' magazine is in the October issue, which hits the newsstands in September. It's a beanie hat, which I called Binky, but which may have been renamed to tie in with the theme of the issue. The November issue has one of my wraps in it. After that, I don't know what's in which issue.

The socks are going well, although I haven't worked much on either pair this week. In answer to Mary Anne, I work on dpns - I have worked on circs, but I prefer dpns, especially the different-coloured metal ones I got on eBay. (I won a bunch of bue, green, pink and gold ones in a variety of sizes.)

I've also discovered a new (to me) heel stitch courtesy of Mary Thomas. It's a very simple slip stitch pattern, which has one row of (sl1, P1), followed by a whole row of K. I haven't used slip stitches much, and I love the thickness and the texture of this one.

Lastly, a quick plug - Richard has put a whole load of stuff on eBay for me, under my seller name of heathercawte. There are quite a few knitting books there, and more to come, so feel free to browse.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Joy of Sox

I'm feeling a lot brighter today, so I thought I'd make the most of it and bash out a quick blog entry!

I love knitting socks.

I love trying out new heel types and patterns.

I love the smallness, lightness and portability of socks. Not that I have to port stuff all that often, but even so :)

I love how quick they are to knit.

I love how comfy and warm wool socks are.

I love knowing that they haven't been produced in a Third World sweatshop.

I love the way people look at me in amazement and admiration when I work with dpns.

I love how people really thank you for handmade socks, in a way they just don't seem to do when you make them a sweater or a hat.

I really love the magic of turning heels.

None of this was much consolation on Saturday when I had to unpick two socks. I knit pairs of socks concurrently, alternating between them (as opposed to one inside the other, which is really magic, but which I have yet to try). This means that, when I finish one, the second is so nearly finished that I don't suffer from Second Sock Syndrome. Sadly, it also means that, when I make a mistake on one, I usually make it on both before I realise what I've done wrong.

The bigger problem with this mistake was that the wool I am using is a tad splitty, and picking up a whole round of stitches looked so messy that I ended up frogging the whole thing :(

My consolation is that it's a pretty quick pattern, and is making back up fairly quickly. Still - frogging two socks.....

My other consolation is that, although these are the socks I am making for my sister's Christmas present, they are not the 'This Little Piggy' socks (from 'Socks, Socks, Socks') which I originally intended to make for her. Those have individual toes, and duplicate-stitched pigs on the legs, and, had I made an error on those, my screams would have been heard on the moon.

I'm also making a pair for myself with printed yarn (some Fortissima Colori by Socka, which I've had in my stash forever), and I've just made a pair of black socks with Feather and Fan cuffs for my mother.

If you've never tried socks, this website is a brilliant place to start. It has a great range of free patterns, advice, lessons on techniques and stuff.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Great jubilation

The Doctor Who scarf is finished! (Photos to follow....)

And I'm posting! (Briefly, but there you go.)


I am so proud :)

Littlelixie tagged me about my idiosyncrasies, so here goes:

1. I can't bear pictures hanging askew. Not even slightly. Richard uses this fact to torture me for fun.

2. I am terrified of the Epstein sculpture of St Michael and the Devil at Coventry Cathedral.

3. I cringe at bad punctuation. (I was a proofreader, and an English teacher. I can't help it.)

4. If I am playing cards, I have to put all my cards into suits, and then into order within the suits, whether or not this is advantageous within the game.

5. I am given to random quoting from radio and TV comedy shows. Luckily, the Beamish Boy does this too, so I don't feel as weird as I should when I do this.

I'm off now. I'm still not very coherent, and this has used up my daily quota of brainpower. Back soon......

Monday, July 18, 2005

Everyone loves knitting

Just popping in between the Doctor Who scarf and Harry Potter to share a quotation with you:

'.... I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,' said Dumbledore. 'I do love knitting patterns.'

See? We always knew that knitting is magic.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

If proof be needed....

....that I really have been knitting while I haven't been blogging!

All photos courtesy of Richard. I hope the Doctor Who scarf will be up here soon - I hit halfway today :)

First, the hooded baby poncho, modelled by Pooh. I left the whole front seam open, and used four adorable buttons in the shape of prams.

This is made from a tape yarn called Summer Fun, which I got from Get Knitted (NAYY). It's a kind of paper, something like a J-cloth, and very easy to work with. This took about a ball and a half, and is about paperback-sized.

These are two-needle bobbled socks from a book called Textured Knits. Being me, I decided to do them in vibrant stripes, so I did three rows of bobbles - one in each colour.

Another pair of Opal self-striping yarn socks, for me. These are fab!

And finally, my new labels. Aren't they great??
£9.50 for 36, from Minilabels (NAYY....).

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Beamish Boy

So, Richard is home from university for the summer! This is extremely good news for me, as he spends a fair bit of time here, thus ensuring I get intelligent conversation, terrible jokes and an unlimited supply of digital photography by someone who really knows how to take digital photos (ie, not me).

(I hasten to add that I get this all year from his father, too - but as he works three jobs, we don't spend as much time together as Richard and I do.)

I can't remember when I started calling him the Beamish Boy. As I expect you realise, the phrase is from 'Jabberwocky', and thus is meant to be gibberish - but it suits him. He has a wonderful attitude to life.

He also, bless him, is fascinated by the mechanics of knitting. Although he has no desire to knit himself, he loves to watch me knit, and to work out how stitches and patterns are formed. He also receives knitted items with great delight, which makes him the perfect recipient.

A few days ago, I was sketching out a new design, which has rather unusually-shaped pattern pieces, and I couldn't work out in my head quite how to draw them in 2D. He wandered off with paper and sticky tape, and returned with a miniature model of the thing, which I then cut apart to see the shape of the constituent parts. How brilliant is that?

So, in other words, I am boasting. I am also explaining why he is the only person for whom I would knit a 10-foot long Doctor Who scarf in double-knit merino in a heatwave.....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

What a way to start the day

I had a really good night's sleep on Monday night. So, as is usually the case, I was more than usually groggy and bewildered when I staggered out of bed on Tuesday morning and shuffled off to the loo.

And then I trod on something.

Something soft, yet crunchy.

It was a dead mouse.

And I had trodden on it.




Sometimes I hate having cats..........

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Highlight of the week

Floyd on Live8. No question.

Didn't all the 'oldies' look and sound fab? I swear you could see Paul McCartney getting younger with every song he played....

I'm still pretty much wiped out by the heat and my hay fever (like I need another set of symptoms!), but I've finished my latest pair of socks and I'm now slowly progressing on Richard's Doctor Who scarf. I'm making the full Season 12 scarf, in King Cole Superwash Anti-Tickle Merino. Lovely stuff, and great colours - plus it's in stripes, so that spurs me on to get each section finished before I stop.

Richard is now home for the summer, so I hope to have some photos soon.

Sorry this is so short - I hope to write more next time!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mea culpa

Thank you to all the people who worry about me if I don't write often (especially Daisy, Vicki, Alexandra and Mary Anne). You're usually correct in assuming that, if I don't write, it's because I'm a bit under the weather!

It's my own fault, really. I have hopelessly overdone it recently, packing more into two months than I usually do in six. Consequently, I am having real trouble sleeping. Isn't it bizarre that, when I really need the sleep, my body won't give it to me? This condition is really screwy sometimes!

I'm having a flare-up of all kinds of symptoms. For instance, I can't really follow stories on TV or in print at the monent, so my audio books have kept me entertained instead. 'The Murder of Roger Ackroyd' by Agatha Christie was especially good. It was read by Nigel Anthony, who did it very well - the reader makes such a difference. I've given up on perfectly good books before because the reading was so bad!

And of course I have been knitting. OK, so sometimes I have just been holding my knitting and looking at it, but I've also been knitting quite a lot.

I have almost finished a hooded baby poncho, commissioned by my sister for her stepdaughter Vikki, who is expecting her first baby in November. I've made the 'two rectangles' type, and picked up the stitches for the hood after I've joined them together. I'm making that in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, in the Egg Yelllow colourway - this is going to be a very sophisticated baby!

I've finished the dye lot disaster for Knitting magazine, and it looks wonderful. I did get the extra two skeins after all, and I'm glad I did. It looked a little skimpy just made with four. The yarn was Blue Sky Alpaca Silk DK - it blooms amazingly when it is washed and blocked, and the stitches even out beautifully.

I've also completed a little I-cord project, and a swatch for a future submission. I'm now onto Linda's poncho, which is in Wendy Pampas in Rich Cream. Gorgeous colour! The yarn itself is similar to, but a little thinner than, Sirdar Bigga, so I'm making it on 15mm needles.

Anyway, that's about it. Normal service will, I hope, be resumed as soon as possible!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dye lot disaster

I'm back again! And much more quickly than last time. I've been doing some serious resting and sleeping, and it's really paid off.

I'm also really 'in the zone' for the latest item I'm making for Knitting magazine. It's going beautifully, and looking lovely. Of course, this is the second time I've had to make it, but never mind.

You want to hear about my silly mistake? OK, then, you've twisted my arm.

I'm not allowed to give out many details, because of commercial sensitivity (basically, Knitting doesn't want Simply Knitting to know what it has planned, and, no doubt, the reverse is also true). Suffice it to say that the item required six skeins of yarn, held double, and the supplier only had two in stock. Breezily, I announced that it would be fine to send me the two to start with - after all, apart from hand-dyed stuff, all yarn is dyed by computer, right? So dye lots are irrelevant, yes?

No. Oh boy, no.

I'm working the item on circular needles, back and forth, because it has quite a large number of stitches, and even so it is still quite scrunched up. This is the only defence I can offer for not noticing that the four new skeins were a totally different colour until I had cast off and spread the thing out. Plus, it was more noticeable under artificial light than in daylight.

I briefly considered adding fringed bits all over, a la boho look, to try to disguise the colour change, but I knew there was only one sensible thing to do.

Suck it up and frog the whole thing.

I considered just unpicking the first two skeins and knitting downwards, but it would have been quite fiddly because of the way the thing is constructed. It was really just easier to start again.

Anyway, once I stopped kicking myself and sobbing, the new work went very quickly and smoothly. I had hardly broken into the last two skeins, so I should have enough of the second dye lot to make the entire thing, although it may be a little narrower than I planned.


I guess this is one of those situations where you live and learn, huh?

Anyhoo... thanks to littlelixie and Daisy for their lovely comments on the last entry. I love knowing that other people enjoy reading my ramblings, it really gives me a boost!

I'd also like to draw everyone's attention to Mary Anne's new blog, opening shortly on this site. Thanks for the link to this blog, Mary Anne - I feel like a proper blogger now :)

(PS The engineer came out to fix my smoke alarm yesterday. Apparently it went off because it was full of dust, which fooled the sensor into thinking it was smoke. Jacky will now be vacuuming the thing when she does the housework every week!!)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Alarms and excursions

So there I was on Saturday morning, sweetly in the arms of Morpheus, when the most horrendous racket woke me up with a terrible start, completely disoriented me and frightened me half to death.

It was the smoke alarm.

When the local authority refurbished our bungalows a couple of years ago, they put in mains-operated smoke alarms which don't need batteries, and which link through automatically to the Warden service. Consequently, before the electric bed had finished lowering itself, and before I could struggle out of my headphones and sleep apnoea mask (yes, I sleep alone...), the intercom from the Warden's office was squawking at me, asking if I were on fire.

Well, I assured them I wasn't, but they insisted that I had to wait five minutes before they could send out the engineer to turn the alarm off. I was too befuddled by noise to question it, and went off to make a cup of tea. After five minutes, it was still shrieking, so I buzzed back and got them to send out the man with the wire clippers.

An hour and ten minutes later, he finally arrived. I had the damned thing going for AN HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES. Believe my sincerity when I say I now know why noise is used in torture. I couldn't think straight, I felt faint, I felt sick, and - if it's not too much information - I have spent all weekend since then hovering near the bathroom.

The engineer is coming out on Tuesday to reconnect it. He'd better be damned sure what caused the problem before he does so.......

Anyway, the excursions were much more fun, even though I foolishly scheduled two things in three days, and have been paying for it ever since. As I remarked to Mary Anne, my reactions to overdoing it seem to be getting worse, but lasting less time. I can't decide if that's an improvement :(

One outing was the monthly Guild meeting, mainstay of my sanity and always a good time. The other was a trip to the theatre to see a one-man show.

Rodney Bewes, who my UK readers may remember from 'The Likely Lads' and 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?' is currently touring with a performance of 'Three Men In A Boat' by Jerome K Jerome. If you don't know this book, I recommend it unreservedly - it was written at the end of the nineteenth century, and is an account of a boating holiday on the Thames undertaken by three incompetent bank clerks and a rather argumentative dog called Montmorency.

Rodney Bewes plays all the parts himself (except Montmorency - he is a small dog on wheels!). He not only remembers 100 minutes of edited book, he also makes ad libs without losing his place. He really brings out the humour of the book, and his affection for it really comes across.

He is accompanied on stage by his own Victorian skiff, a beautiful boat which he found in a farmer's field bereft of varnish and upholstery. The name, however, was still visible - 'Frank'. He was so amused by a boat being named Frank that he bought it and restored it, and will be on the river in it at this year's Henley Regatta!

He came to the bar afterwards to sign programmes and to sell copies of the book. And what a lovely man he is! He really likes people, there's no 'side' or falseness to him at all.

So, anyway, to cut a long story short - go to see it. Take all your friends. It's a brilliant night, and deserves to be really successful!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Happy Birthday to meeeeee.......

OK, so I'm a little late. It was actually on Tuesday. Officially, that is; I awarded myself a three-day birthday on account of the fact that I got some parcels on Monday, and knew I had more coming on Wednesday. I heartily recommend this practice!

I got a subscription to Interweave Knits, some stationery and some pretty towels from Mum; flowers, perfume and a printer stand from my sister; the DVD of 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', plus a CD with some of my favourite songs on it, from Richard; some Vodka Shots chocolates from Jacky my carer; this illuminated picture from the amazing Lindisfarne Scriptorium from my friend Liz, and some scoubidou (braiding gimp) from my friend Caroline. My brother's present is still en route. (Yes, I know the scoubidou link leads to a Dutch site. Click on Voorbeelden to see the stuff you can make with it....)

Paul took me out to the theatre to see 'Going Dutch', the new Hull Truck Theatre play, which was an absolute hoot. We were in tears laughing at one point, when Gemma Craven's character got accidentally stoned and was trying to get onto her bike.... I can really recommend this one!

It was good to get out, although I'm feeling a bit fragile at present - I've had four little outings in five weeks (twice to the theatre, once to the Botanic Gardens, and once to the Knitting and Crochet Guild meeting), and they have absolutely wiped me out.

Mind you, sometimes I just have to break out and do stuff for the sake of my sanity - but I have to be honest and say that the after-effects are accumulating in a rather ominous way.....

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Having a KiP

I'm the chubby one.....

Vicki and I decided to meet up to Knit in Public, as one Guild meeting a month just wasn't enough of a fix! Paul suggested the Botanic Gardens, and we spent the afternoon there on Saturday. Paul pushed me along to the little area in front of the hothouses, and we knitted while he took photos. (All the photos here are copyright to him.)

The place is amazing, much bigger than when I used to go there in my student days. And it's full of beautiful flowers, like these next to us:

Unfortunately the hothouses aren't very wheelchair-friendly, but Paul took loads of photos of the flowers, cacti, butterflies, and fish:

There are loads of beautiful trees, and lovely views:

Not forgetting the sculptures. I loved the Millennium Bug:

There's actually a baby one next to it, too!

It took me till now to start to recover, but boy, was it worth it! We had a brilliant time, and it was so wonderful to be out in the fresh air. Here's to the next time!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

On your mark(er)s

I've just discovered how useful stitch markers can be. Yes, I know it's late in my knitting career, and yes, I did indeed buy four sets of the little sparklers last week. Why did you buy them if you don't use stitch markers? I hear you cry. Well, they were shiny......

To be strictly accurate, I have used stitch markers before. Those little plastic paper-clip efforts. Usually for holding the dropped stitch I've just noticed until I get back to it on the next row. However, it was only when I bought the sparkly type that I actually used them to - well, to mark stitches. Not just dropped ones.

I had to do a section of decreases across the width of a capelet in Sirdar Foxy, a very eyelashy eyelash yarn, and if I hadn't marked all the decrease points with markers, I would have gone screaming from the room. So today, when I had run out of commissions (I'm waiting on another consignment of yarn), I began Fiona Morris' beautiful cable-and-eyelet-lace collared tunic from the latest issue of 'Knitting'. It's made with 4-ply anti-tickle merino, and is going to be gorgeous.

Anyway, as it has several different components across the pattern section, and because I am feeling particularly foggy and muzzy at present, I decided to use the aforementioned sparklies to mark each section off as I went along the row. Success! No unpicking, no hassle, no desperate counting and recounting to check I haven't missed out vast chunks or done one bit twice. I am sold on markers.

And they're very shiny.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Fanfare for the Common Knitter

I have a little bit of News.

I've been keeping it under my stash for a while, for fear of jinxing things, but I feel I can now reveal that.....ta-dah!

I have sold five designs to UK 'Knitting' magazine.

I am so excited :) Panicky and feeling sick, but excited nevertheless :)

I can't begin to explain how much this has boosted my confidence. Having to spend so much time in bed, only knitting a few stitches at a time some days, has actually brought me something that I can be proud of!

Finally I have something that puts me on a par with healthy people, 'normal' people, those who don't have to understand the limitations of a chronic illness because they, and their circle of acquaintance, don't suffer from one. I wish them well, and hope it stays that way - but I'm still excited that, in this one area, I am 'normal' too!

Anyway, details - I have sold the beanie hat; the furry snood/hood-thing that I was working on at Pins and Needles a few entries back; a wrap, in Sirdar Bigga; a shawl/poncho thingy; and a capelet. I tell you, this is heaven - being paid to design and make stuff, with free materials, is just the sweetest deal ever.

Talking of the caplelet, I needed to find a pretty clasp for it. After much hunting around, I found JosyRose. No affiliation and all that, but I tell you, the place is Embellishment Heaven. Don't go and look if you're overdrawn......

Well, I'd better get back to my designs, she said smugly. Actually, what I'm getting back to is a cup of tea and lights out, but that doesn't sound so swanky ;)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Dum de dum de dum de dum......

Did I enjoy The Wedding yesterday? Of course! I was riveted :)

No, not Charles and Camilla's. Nothing on earth would have persuaded me to watch that. I refer to my latest eBay purchase, a Vintage Archers cassette of Shula and Mark's wedding.

Yes, constant reader, I admit it. I am a rabid fan of 'The Archers', the longest-running soap in the world (first heard in 1950), broadcast six days a week on BBC Radio 4. The title of this entry, in case you didn't realise or recognise it, is a representation of Barwick Green, the sig tune. Billy Connolly once suggested it as a new national anthem :)

Listening to audio books (or the radio) is a great accompaniment to knitting, because you don't have to watch anything. It still hasn't helped with the complex Aran sweater I was making from Knitter's magazine, which is now a ball of yarn again. I can't do Aran sweaters without a chart, and the charts for this one were awful. Instead (and as, coincidentally, I happen to have the right yarn in my stash), I am about to start on Fiona Morris' lovely green Aran in this month's 'Knitting' magazine.

Just to make sure I keep my place on the pattern, I have gone somewhat crazy and ordered some of the most gorgeous stitch markers I have ever coveted, from Angelyarns. Surf and drool :)

By the way, 'Constantine' was thought-provoking, with excellent costumes and an unusual story. It just wore me out for over a week.... I'm still not entirely with it now, which is why this entry has been slightly disjointed.

Normal service will be resumed soon. Probably :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hissy Fit

OK, so I didn't come back the next day....

Anyhoo, here is the finished snake - Hissy Fit. You might remember (or not!) that this is an entry for the annual Knitting and Crochet Guild competition. Each year we raise money for a different part of the bulding at Lee Mills, which houses our antique textiles collection. The theme this year is 'Weatherproofing the Roof'. We're being asked to make an item of headgear - the more impractical, the better!

The winners are announced at the AGM in May. All the entries will then be exhibited and (we hope) sold on the Guild stands at shows like Harrogate and Alexandra Palace.

The colours are a little brighter on the real item - it's a variegated pastel cotton held together with a metallic thread.

It's actually held onto the head with pins, but only because the polystyrene is slippery - real people can use hairgrips! There's a pipecleaner in the head, so that it can be posed.

The other oddity I've designed and made recently is my house:

My local branch of the Knitting and Crochet Guild is putting up a display in the library where we meet, and then transferring it to the Textile Gallery of Sunderland Art Gallery, where we Knit In Public once a month. We decided to create a row of houses and gardens, with a wood next to it, and some 3D figures standing in front of it.

The house is A4 sized, with cobweb lace curtains and fanlight, flower buttons in the windowboxes, and a DMC button of two cats on the doorstep! It's all knitted except for the crocheted drainpipe. It was such good fun to design and make :)

I may be absent for another few days now - I'm going to the cinema tomorrow, for the first time in about four years. I love the cinema, and I've really missed it. Richard, Paul and I are going to see 'Constantine', the new Keanu Reeves thing. I'll post a review soon!

Monday, March 21, 2005

It's photo time!

Yes, yes, faithful reader, I am still here. The last two weeks have been fairly rough, so I've been knitting and answering the odd e-mail, and not much else. I'll spread my report of the interesting bits over the next few days, so that I don't overwhelm you with too much excitement at once :)

First and foremost: it's photo time! Yes, Linda's Surprise Top has now been delivered and raved over, so I am at last at liberty to show you what it is. It's...

Sailor Top

a Sailor Top! Linda is a big fan of Sailor (remember 'Girls, Girls, Girls'? 'Glass of Champagne'? No? Suit yourself... Whaddya mean, you're too young??), and usually wears a navy-and-white T-shirt to their gigs, together with a rather jaunty sailor hat. I thought she might like a 'real' sailor top, too. (Actually, in this picture it hasn't been washed or pressed, so it looked better than this afterwards!)

I've got photos of the nummy yarn scarf, too:

Nummy Yarn!

Obviously this is only one end of it, but it really shows how the colours work together within the Feather-and-Fan pattern.

This is an extreme close-up that really demonstrates how glowing the colours are. I have never worked with wool like this before.

Extreme Close-Up

More tomorrow - the snake and perhaps the house...

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sssscaled to Fit

I really need a digital camera! I haven't bothered as Paul and Richard are such experts with theirs; but it would be really handy for times like this, when I have a fabulous FO and no one around to photograph it......

Anyway, as you will eventually see, I have finished my entry to this year's Knitting and Crochet Guild fundraising competition. As this year's profit is going towards fixing the roof at Lee Mills, where we house the Collection, it's called Weatherproofing the Roof. The spec is 'anything you can wear on your head - not necessarily a hat!'.

So I made a snake.

It looks good, too - I'm really proud of it! I used 4mm dpns, 6 sts per row, and a strand each of multicoloured crochet cotton and silver thread, and made a 130cm I-cord. I sewed up the tail end into a ball shape to give a bit of weight to that end, then sewed the head end into a point. I'd put a pipe cleaner into the head end, to allow it to be posed, and sewed on two iridescent beads as eyes.

The problem arose when I tried to display it on my polystyrene wig block. It is too smooth to 'grab' the yarn, so I've had to pin the snake in place round the neck, round the head and up to the crown where the snake head rears up. I hope people with hair will be able to use bobby pins instead!

Richard suggested I make one blue and one pink, and label them Hissss and Hers.....

Talking of jokes (well, almost!), I visted Mary Anne's blog after she left a comment, and found a great link to a page full of knitting humour. View it here - it's a super selection!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Clawing my way back

Yes, faithful readers, I am still here - I had to take a few days offline to rest up before the Pins 'n' Needles show, and then a few days afterwards recovering. But it was worth it!!

I was a little disappointed by the small number of yarn stalls, and I could have had a major sulk that the Spinners, Dyers and Weavers group wasn't selling any of their wool - the colours were *gorgeous*, and the spinning and plying were beautiful.

However, I still ended up with two large balls of very fine red stuff with coloured speckles in it, a ball of Sirdar Funky Fur Magic, two balls of Sirdar Dune in white, two balls of Sirdar Foxy in brown (Paul suggested putting two googly eyes on them and selling them as guinea pigs...), a ball of Rowan Biggy in dusky pink, and some small flower-shaped buttons to go into the window-boxes of the house I have to knit. More of that later...

I spent the afternoon on the Knitting and Crochet Guild stall, which was absolutely inundated with customers. I was working on a snood, using Colinette Silkychic on circular needles , and I got so many lovely comments about it that I could have got quite big-headed! The best comment, though, was from a lady and her friend who described my continental style of knitting as 'knitting backside forrard'. I thought that was absolutely brilliant!

I have finally sent off Linda's top, so I hope to be able to post the photos of it very soon. I have been producing items like there's no tomorrow ever since. I think it's a reaction to finishing a large item - I want to whizz through several small items just for the gratification of having something finished :)

In the past week I haven't been able to do much, but I have been able to do garter stitch. I have finished:
  • my snood (it's a long tube which put on over your head. It keeps your neck warm, but if you pull up the back edge over your head, it also forms a kind of hood. It's a rotten description, but the best I can manage!);
  • another neck pillow for Paul's mother (she is too short for the headrest in the car!); and
  • another of the beanies I designed for Paul.

I am hoping to submit the beanie to one of the knitting magazines, along with a couple of other patterns. I did get rejected by 'Big Girls' Knits', but I am undaunted!

Oh, yes - the house. I nearly forgot. Our local branch of the K&CG is mounting a display in the library where we meet, and then transferring it to the textiles section of the Art Gallery, where we hold our Knit-Ins. Diane, who leads our group, suggested a 'Homes and Gardens' theme. She has bravely offered to do all the backgrounds, while each of us takes on a house, garden, or group of people.

I have opted for a house (number 2), which I have finished designing but have not yet started to knit. It's only a two-dimensional piece, and it's A4-sized , so it shouldn't take very long. I wanted flower-filled window-boxes to make it look cheerful, which is why I bought the buttons mentioned above - it's much less fuss than trying to knit very small flowers!

I'll also be able to use my new-found skill of cobweb lace (thanks to Mandy!) in making little net curtains for the windows. As usual, photos will follow. I really must buy myself a digital camera...

Finally a quick hello to a new reader. I am always delighted to find comments from people other than my immediate friends, and even more delighted to find myself on somebody else's list of favourite blogs - so hello to the Scarf Lady! Hers is a very new blog, but do pop across and have a look at it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

There's nothing like a good FO......

.....except two good FOs.

Yes, gentle reader, Linda's Christmas Top is finished!!!!

It looks great. I know I should be modest, but I can't. It's the first full-size garment I've ever designed from scratch, and it works beautifully. All the bits fit together! It's like magic :) I just need to boast about it tomorrow at the Knitting and Crochet Guild meeting, and then it can go into the post. It's only 8 weeks late!!

Hopefully I can pin Paul down (ooer, missus...) with his digital camera, and then I can reveal it to the world. Well, the select group of readers of my humble blog, anyway :)

The second FO is my feather-and-fan scarf made with my nummy yarn. It too looks gorgeous, more because of the yarn than my skill at knitting it up :) It is amazingly warm and snuggly. Photos follow of that, soon, too.

I've had another kind of FO this week, too. I went for my regular check-up with the adorable Dr Cook, my kind and considerate asthma/COPD doctor, and - he discharged me! Not because I'm cured, unfortunately, but because I am now on an even keel with my chest problems and can stop seeing him, unless and until I get the next attack.

At least he phrased the discharge better than Dr Earnshaw, my ME doctor, did. I knew what he meant, but 'I can't do anything more for you' sounded almost terminal!!

No Valentine cards on Monday (sniff!), but I did get something better - a parcel of lace-weight yarn from Mandy from the local K&C Guild. She sent a ball each of cream, peach, deep pink, blue and pale yellow. They are lovely things, but scary - so fine, it's like knitting with sewing thread! I have started a little feather-and-fan swatch with the pink, on 2.5mm needles, but I have to work on it first thing on a morning, when I can concentrate.....

Even so, it's addictive. Watch this space :)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Getting there

I am on to the home stretch with Linda's top. Both sleeves are now finished, and the whole thing is put together, mostly with crochet. I'm 9 rows into the collar now, and worrying that it's too wide :)

I discovered a lovely lacy-looking edging that attaches pieces together, and makes stocking stitch edges lie flat, too! I work a row of single crochet joining the two pieces, and then follow that with a row of crab stitch. It's much easier to use the ordinary single crochet as the joining stitch, because it's more elastic, and then the holes of the single crochet provide perfect spacing for the crab stitch. If you're new to either of these stitches, then I recommend the Denise Stitches guide here.

I've also started the feather and fan scarf that Mandy suggested for the nummy yarn, and it is looking beautiful! Finally, it's found a form it likes... Pictures follow soon!

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Brilliant day!

The Guild meeting yesterday was wonderful, although I'm still recovering! It always takes me a while to pull round again afterwards, but it's worth a few days' recovery once a month for the enjoyment of being with fellow knitters.

I offered to help one member convert a 4-ply pattern to a DK one... I don't know why I'm worrying, I know perfectly well how to do it - but will I be able to explain it to someone else?? I must remember to take a calculator to the next meeting!

Lots of discussion, show-and-tell, and laughter, as always! The time really sped by, and when Paul arrived, he actually made me jump when he spoke to me - I hadn't even noticed him come in.

I took the nummy yarn with me, and our resident lace expert suggested a slim scarf in feather-and-fan, on large needles. You know, I think she could be right!! Her work is amazing. She designs her own cobweb lace, and says things like, 'Oh, this shawl was quite a quick make - it was only about 300 hours....' She's going to help me try out some knitted lace, because I find the idea quite daunting!

If you're a knitter, and you don't already belong to a group, please try it out. If there isn't a Guild meeting or a Stitch'n'Bitch near you, then start your own! It is so much fun being with other knitters and crocheters, and it's such a help to be able to pick other people's brains if you're not sure of a technique. There's always someone who knows how to do something you're new to!

It's also a huge boost to be able to help others yourself. I find that especially cheering - being stuck in bed most of the time, when you've been used to a really active and stimulating job and social life, can be very damaging to the self-esteem.....

I got a lot of positive comments on Linda's top, too. The body is now complete, and looks much better in one unit than it did when it was in a heap!! The crab stitch edging/seaming on the sides works particularly well - not only is it decorative, but it seems to be stabilising the material, too. The fabric of the thing is quite heavy, and was tending to sag under its own weight as I was working on it.

Better go. Flagging a bit again.......

Friday, January 28, 2005

If you want to get ahead, get a hat

The rest of the yarn for Paul's beanie finally arrived, and I finished it on Wednesday night.

Then I tried it on. It covered my entire head.

After my unpicking and remaking it at about half the previous length (I hadn't appreciated how stretchy the yarn was!), he now has a fab purple beanie, which, because I knitted it in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, I have decided to name 'Blissful'. I'm about to submit the pattern to 'Knitting' magazine. Cross your needles for me :)

Linda's top is coming on apace, at last - 23 rows to go to finish the back, then I just have the short sleeves and long collar to do.

I also made the nummy yarn into socks, using a modified version of the two-needle socks in 'Socks Two' (Vogue 'Knitting on the Go' series). It did not like being socks. So, it's back in a big ball once again, while it decides what it does want to be......

I've had a lovely couple of weeks leafing through the new issues of 'Knitting', 'Vogue Knitting' and 'Interweave Knits' - I'm a magazine junkie as well as a yarn strumpet :)

Tell me, did anyone out there who read the article on Domino Knitting (in 'Knitting' magazine) make head or tail of it? Or is it just me? (Which, let's face it, is quite likely - my brain is still on holiday after Christmas!)

Off to the Knitting and Crochet Guild in Newcastle tomorrow - my monthly treat. It seems like ages since the November meeting. I wonder what everyone's working on now?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pass the matchsticks!

Dratted M.E. - I am still recovering from Christmas. I'm sleeping at all kinds of weird hours, and everything hurts! Sometimes it even hurts to blink, so keeping my eyes closed is less painful - but of course it ends up with my going to sleep again :) I need to prop my eyes open with matchsticks......

The most annoying, and also knitting-related, part of this whinge is that it has slowed my progress right down on the back of Linda's top. It doesn't help that I started working it in the round, and then divided the front and back. I didn't realise at the time how heavy it would be, even knitting back and forth on circs! Still, even single rows add up to progress over the course of a whole day, and the top itself really is looking super, though I say so myself :)

I've aslo started some socks in self-striping yarn on dpns, which is a nice light project for when my arms really are screaming.

I'm about to receive the yarn I need to finish Paul's beanie, thank goodness. The poor chap's ears are almost frostbitten!

I'm still waiting to hear whether my submission of a long wrap to 'Big Girls' Knits' has been received, and will therefore need making up in fairly short order.

I'm also awaiting new stocks of the yarn for the poncho Linda has requested - a lovely and simple design from 'Woman's Weekly', using Sirdar Nova Chunky in Ivory.

After that, I need to make up a scarf in a design I intend to submit to Colinette; a piece of headgear for the Knitting and Crochet Guild fundraising competition; and my nummy yarn socks.

Should keep me going for a while :)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The loneliness of the long-distance designer

Well, the Design That Dare Not Speak Its Name (yes, Linda, it's your belated Christmas present!) is gathering speed and starting to look almost like a real garment! Forgive my air of disbelief, but this is the first time I've designed anything where the size and shape are more important than simply hoping a hat won't pop off someone's head, or that a scarf won't strangle them :)

I can heartily recommend Maggie Righetti's 'Sweater Design In Plain English', and I only wish I'd had it when I was making the original plans for this item. It's only two-thirds finished, and already I'm adjusting the pattern for changes I would make next time. I think that's the nature of the beast, though - inspiration doesn't strike in nice neat packets, nor at convenient times! I would love to be able to try it on the recipient, but she is 350 miles away, and anyway it would spoil the surprise....

Richard's alien cushion got finished just in time for him to take it back to University. I'm hoping for a photo so that I can show all my loyal readers (yes, both of you!) how it turned out. I was really pleased with the ephemeral effect it created, especially once it was slightly stretched and curved over the cushion form.

The nummy yarn mittens also got finished, but I wasn't happy with the pattern (one from a book, and not my own). Soooo...... now it's in a big ball waiting for my 6mm dpns to arrive, so that I can try it as socks! It is amazingly forgiving about being unpicked - this is the second time I've done it.

Finally, Richard's dad, Paul, requested a beanie, so I designed a simple style to use up some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran I had sitting around. Unfortunately it wasn't enough, so I'm now waiting for more supplies. One day I'll learn how to estimate yarn requirements :)

Sunday, January 09, 2005

What were you doing when the lights went out?

Hey, I can still touch-type!

The reason for my excitement is that we have just had a power cut, our second in two days because of the high winds, and yet I can still blog :) Hooray for laptops with batteries, too!

I have no problems knitting with the lights out - I rarely look at what I'm doing anyway, except in complex cables and stuff - but it does mean I can't reposition my bed up or down, or use my oxygen machine. However, I have several oxygen tanks, and I don't need to get in or out of bed for a while, so these are fairly insignificant annoyances.

Top tip for power cuts - do what the poor Victorian seamstresses used to do in their garrets, and put your candles in front of mirrors or behind glasses of water. It doubles the light produced (apparently, several seamstresses used to use one candle in this way).

Never say that this blog is not educational :)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I'm still here.... I said in my toast to the family on Christmas Day!

This time last year, time was running out for me. The doctors weren't telling me so, but I found out later that, at this point in 2004, I was given about three months to live. One year on and 10.5 stone lighter, I am going into a new year with real enthusiasm and expectation!

My first resolution this year is to take my knitwear designs seriously - no more faffing about. This year I want to spend the majority of my knitting time on my own designs. I won't be knitting them all for me to wear, of course!

My other resolutions are to live lightly upon the planet, and to live each day with a positive attitude.

Christmas was wonderful, with my mother here for the first time in about ten years - it's a huge journey for her, so it was particularly good to have her here. Santa was very kind, too, especially via the Beamish Boy. He gave me a signed Mark Thomas double CD - and a little parcel that was labelled, 'I saw this and thought of you.'

It was a Buddha....

Now, I would love to think this was because of my serenity and wisdom, but we all know that just ain't so :)

I finished Mum's chenille scarf, and Richard's Alien Illusion cushion, both of which were very well-received. I'm now back on the design of my own which I had to abandon before Christmas, which is going well, and which I still can't discuss here in case the recipient reads the details! I can reveal it's a cotton top, knitted on circular needles - but that's all!

I have also discovered that I do not need a skein holder, thanks to some stray orang-utan in my heritage. I wound up a skein of Colinette Silkychic on Sunday night while sitting up in bed, by bending my knees a little and stretching the skein between my feet. It worked really well!

(It's going to be glorious stuff to knit, too - it's so cool and slinky, it's going to be like knitting with a kitten :) )

I can't close this catch-up without mentioning the tsunami disaster. I can't put into words my reactions to it - but please, if you haven't donated yet, do it here.