Friday, December 19, 2008

A little present for my faithful readers!

I had a request today for the vintage pattern I used to make these cutie booties, back in May this year:

Vintage booties

As it's out of print and out of copyright, I am happy to provide it below.

Happy Christmas :))

Vintage Booties

Originally published in Girl's Own, volume 2

UK: Use DK yarn and 3.75mm needles. (I used RYC Cashsoft DK.)

US: Use sport weight yarn and size 5 needles, or worsted-weight and size 6.

Not sure how much yarn – about 30g.

Centre pattern:
([sl1, k2tog, psso], K2, M1, K1, P1, K1, M1, K2 [sl1, k2tog, psso])

M1 = Make 1, or add one stitch, lots of ways to do this (probably easiest to Google them).

Seeded stocking stitch:
1: (K1, P1) to end
2: P
3: (P1, K1) to end
4: P

Slip-stitch rib:
(yarn forward, sl1 purlwise, K2tog) – repeat to end of row, every row

Cast on 53 sts

Short-row toe:
Rows 1 to 11: Knit
Row 12: K22, work centre pattern, turn
Row 13: P15, turn
Row 14: K1, centre pattern, K3, turn
Row 15: P17, turn
Row 16: K2, centre pattern, K4, turn
Row 17: P19, turn
Row 18: K3, centre pattern, K5, turn
Row 19: P21, turn
Row 20: K4, centre pattern, K6, turn
Row 21: P23, turn
Row 22: K5, centre pattern, K7, turn
Row 23: P25, turn
Row 24: K6, centre pattern, K14, turn
Row 25: P whole row
Row 26: K13, centre pattern, K13, turn
Row 27: P
Row 28: K12, centre pattern, K12, turn
Row 29: P
Row 30: K11, centre pattern, K11, turn
Row 31: P
Row 32: K10, centre pattern, K10, turn

Ankle separator:
Rows 33 to 35: K
Row 36: sl1, (YO, K2tog) to end
Rows 37 to 39: K

Rows 40 to 55: Work seeded stocking stitch, increasing one stitch at each end of rows 46, 48, 50 and 52

Rows 56 and 57: K
Rows 58 to 68: Slip-stitch rib
Rows 69 and 70: P

Cast off (bind off) loosely, and sew up.

Crochet edging, UK version:
With 4mm hook, work (1ch, 1dc) into every other cast-off stitch right round. Slip-stitch into first ch to close round.

Next round: (ch3, 6 dtr, 1tr) into first ch-sp, 1dc into first dc of previous round, then [(1tr, 6dtr, 1tr) into every ch-sp of previous round, 1dc into every dc of previous round]. Slip stitch to 3rd ch of initial 3-ch to close round.

Crochet edging, US version:

With G-6 hook, work (1ch, 1sc) into every other bound-off stitch right round. Slip-stitch into first ch to close round.

Next round: ch3, 6 tr, 1dc into first ch-sp, 1sc into first sc of previous round, then [(1dc, 6tr, 1dc) into every ch-sp of previous round, 1sc into every sc of previous round]. Slip stitch to 3rd ch of initial 3-ch to close round.

Thread ribbon through eyelets.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sticks, String and Stories

First of all, thank you so much to all the people who took the time to leave comments on Tigger's death. I have been overwhelmed by messages from all kinds of people, all over the world, via comment, email and phone. I never realised how many people understood how special Tigger was. I've never had another cat like him, and I don't suppose I ever will.

I am intensely grateful that we were with him, that he didn't suffer, and that he had spent his whole life being loved. He would throw himself at anyone who came in the door, absolutely confident that they would love him - and 99.99% of the time, they did. Even people who weren't keen on cats loved Tigger.

Chloe has coped very well with his loss, gradually blossoming into Sole Cat, and realising the advantages of not having to fight for attention, cuddles and first go at the breakfast. She has become noticeably more sociable and less wary of people, and has really helped us grieve.

The other things that have helped me - hence the title of this post - are knitting and reading. With that in mind, I present a meme, courtesy of Wibbo, which I just could not resist:

The Big Read meme

This meme is originally from the Big Read. Apparently they reckon most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Underline those you intend to read. (I had to make them a different colour instead - no underline on Blogger!!)
3) Italicise the books you LOVE.
4) Post your list so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them.

(I've also marked with an S the books I started and couldn't finish....)

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens S
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy S
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy S
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert S
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov S
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville S
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce S
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert S
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

So there you go - more than you ever wanted to know about my reading habits. If you like the look of it - consider yourself tagged!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sad news

I'm afraid I have some sad news. I'm sorry to say that Tigger died today, very suddenly, from an embolism. The vet says there was nothing we could have done to prevent it, and nothing he could have done to treat him, although Tigger actually died in the car on the way there. It was very quick, and he hardly suffered.

We are both devastated, as you can imagine.

He was 11 years and a couple of months old, and we'd had him since he was a kitten. Everyone who came to the house (and a few who didn't!) knew Tigger, and everyone loved him. He had an amazing personality, and an ability to make friends with people, even those who weren't keen on cats.

If I had to choose between feeling like this now, and never having had him, I would choose feeling like this. He was a real one-off.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Grand Day Out

On the Quaker Faith and Fellowship forum, where many of us are in less than tiptop health, we decided to have a day out today. Here is the account I posted of mine:

I had a fascinating day out today. I started off by scaling the heights of Waking Up. The tame mountain lions that roam Duvet Plateau both came to say good morning - until they realised there was food going on in Kitchen Gulch, and shot off down the track.

Well, I got my trusty Alpenstock and set out on the long trek to the caves at Shower Falls. It's a precarious path, and as always I was glad for my stick on one side and conveniently situated handrails on the other.

The trip to Shower Falls was refreshing, but tiring, and I was pleased to find myself a short stagger from there at Window View. You get the most beautiful view of a pair of growing oak trees, whose canopies have merged into one.... as well as the local wild dogs and marauding pygmies, a strange tribe called Grandchildren.

With great forethought, I had brought my knitting, so I could sit and appreciate the scene until my faithful Sherpa, Jacky the Carer, delivered my lunch (salad, yoghurt, fruit - all very healthy and full of energy for the long haul back).

After letting the picnic settle, I prepared for the trek back to Duvet Plateau and beyond. After a swift detour into the Shower Falls caves (to the amazing self-cleaning, self-replenishing porcelain chasm), I was ready for the journey home. The track seemed much steeper going this way, and took me much longer to climb. I was glad of the handrails and my stout stick. After what seemed like hours, I passed Kitchen Gulch on my left and knew I was halfway home. At last I glimpsed Duvet Plateau, and it gave me the little burst of energy I needed. I scrambled the last few steps to the plateau, and slid down the other side of it - into Bed Heaven.

It had been a long and tiring expedition, worth it for the memories of the trees, and the fresh air.

But it's a good job I live in a bungalow.

Tigger says: "I am mountain lion. Hear me roar...."


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lara cowl

Yes, folks, your eyes do not deceive you - two posts in one day!

I've had this design finished for about 3 years. I submitted it to a magazine, who held it for ages, then returned it to me looking as though it had been kicked around the office floor, so I've never submitted it anywhere else. I would like to add it to my designer page on Ravelry, and for that I need a URL (as it is unpublished in a book or magazine) - so here we go.

This was one of the first things I designed, and I love it. It's quick to make, very easy, light, warm, and even flatters a face deeply unsuited to hats - like mine :) It's called



To fit an adult head. Circumference 70cm (28in), length 32cm (12.5in)

Colinette Silkychic (100% polyamide, 204m per 100g hank), 1 hank in 72 Tapis

(Unfortunately, this is now discontinued, but a fine mohair or eyelash yarn will be fine. Don't use too chunky and firm an eyelash yarn, or the lovely drape will be lost.)

5mm circular needle, 60cm length

17sts and 23 rows to 10cm using 5mm circular needles over stocking stitch. This is not as crucial as for some garments.

Cast on 120 stitches, loosely. Join cast-on row to form a circular piece of knitting. Continue to knit round and round until you have about 280cm (112in) of yarn left.

Cast off loosely and sew in ends.

Drop the tube down over your head. Pull the top edge (at the back of your neck) up and over your head, and pose mysteriously like Lara in ‘Dr Zhivago’...

(Copyright Heather Cawte 2005)

Tigger says: "I see you're coming round to the idea of fur, then."


My life as a Maraca

Well, I knew it was going to happen. I have extra meds. I couldn't get diagnosed with diabetes and be left as I was. Yes, folks - in addition to everything else, I now have diabetes!

It wasn't too big a shock, really. There's a history of mature-onset diabetes in the family, and the docs have been testing me for it for ages.

One big phew - I do not have to give myself injections! Hurray!! I do have quite a good pile to add to the things I'm already taking, though.

I'd been having blood test after blood test, and I was getting quite fed up that I wasn't hearing what any of the results were, or why they were being taken. I finally ended up pouring my heart out to the nurse who came recently for yet more blood, and she said she'd ask my GP (local family doctor, for non-UK readers).

Sure enough, I got an unexpected visit from my GP the next day, to tell me all about my results. Firstly, I have a folic acid deficit (insufficient greens!), so I got a supplement for that. Apparently it has the effect of a type of anaemia if not corrected. I have since added broccoli to my salads...

My cholesterol was slightly up, so, given the family history of heart attacks and strokes, he wanted to clamp down on it - another tablet.

Then he wanted me to take a preventative aspirin once a day.

And finally, he wanted to start me on tablets, as well as a healthy eating plan, for my diabetes, to really attack it and keep it down to a good level. The latest thinking is that the younger the onset, the quicker you should start on the tablets, to avoid complications later. I had to build up to 4 tablets a day - but they have a relatively common side-effect of diarrhoea!! Luckily I seem to have been OK; I'm up to 3 a day now, with no unfortunate occurrences ;)

I had to type up an updated copy of all the meds I take, for my client file at the care company, and I was amazed at the totals once I added them up:

Breakfast: 3 inhalers, 14 tablets
After breakfast: 3 tablets
Lunchtime: 2 inhalers, 3 tablets
Dinnertime: 2 inhalers, 10 tablets
After dinner: 2 tablets
Bedtime: 2 inhalers, 12 tablets

Hence the title of the post....

And now you see why, despite its faults, I am daily thankful for the National Health Service. I could never afford all those on co-pay :(

Tigger says: "Just as long as you don't give any to me...."


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

6 weeks later...more photos!

The heat is really wiping me out (and playing old hob with my sleep patterns), so this is the first time for a few weeks that I've felt like blogging here. I managed a Still Life post the other day, because I don't use photos there and all I have to do is type. (And think. Which can be a problem area... )

Anyway.... I am really enjoying myself investigating other designers' patterns. I learn so much from seeing how other people construct things, and communicate the instructions. I'm also loving learning lace!

In a recent Knit Today there was a free booklet with some beautiful lace patterns in it, including this beret by Mary Hickmott, called 'Lime Lace':

Lime Lace Beret

It was a breeze to make, which really surprised me, as I'd been expecting to get thoroughly confused by the decreasing lace pattern. I used a glorious sunshine yellow yarn because I was fed up of knitting neutrals :)

It's destined for charity, as I don't know any children it would fit. I just wanted to try out the pattern. Some cold little head in Afghanistan or Mongolia is going to get a very posh hat. And why not? Why do we associate charity knitting with boring patterns and unpleasant colours? I'm sure that cold people across the world like pretty things to wear as much as we do.

I'm also making good progress with my Christmas presents. I've made up the Rowan Dolly Bag kit (from my Rowan International subscription a couple of years ago) for my mother, and bought some beautiful rose-patterned fabric from Free Spirit at Get Knitted to line it:

Dolly bag and lining

The only changes I made to the original were to replace the bobbles with eyelets (I don't like bobbles, and trying to make them in inflexible cotton was a real pain!), and to work a plain cast off edge instead of a bobbled one.

I'm also making progress with my neck warmers. I finished one for Richard's paternal grandfather, made with two strands of Sirdar Denim Tweed DK held together, worked on 10mm needles:

Mobius for Stan

The fabric this made was wonderfully soft and warm, with a lovely scrunchiness to it. I'm very pleased with how it feels.

I'm also working on one for my brother, who is about to move up from Luton to Bridlington, so he'll need a warm scarf when he walks the dog. I'm using the Palindrome scarf pattern, and making it up as a moebius when I finish (twist the scarf 180 degrees in the middle, then sew the ends together). My method is a cheat, as a moebius should be seamless, but as I am a knitter and not a mathematician I'm not going to lose too much sleep over it :)

Palindrome 2

I picked this pattern because it has reversible cables, something I have been wanting to try for a while. And of course, because they are reversible, it doesn't matter which part of the scarf is facing outwards - you will always see the front of the cables! They're not as obvious on the photo as they are in real life, so don't think I've gone mad talking about cables that aren't there :)

I'm making this on my trusty 10mm needles, to create a looser, springier fabric, as I have done with the others. This also creates a more thermal effect, like the string vests Polar explorers wear under their specialist gear!

I'm using a ball of Rowan Tapestry, left over from Penny's jumper, together with a basic cream-coloured acrylic. The shading of the Tapestry is really showing up beautifully, and it's growing fast.

Finally, on the presents front, I've almost completed a last gift which I can't blog about as the recipient reads this blog (hello Linda!).

I've also started a little something for myself. When I resubscribed to Yarn Forward, I received 1000yds of a cashmere/silk blend laceweight yarn called For The Love Of Lace:

For the Love of Lace

A kind friend is still rolling it into a ball for me - silk sticks to itself really easily, so it's a nuisance to roll up. I had tried, and got into a tangle, but I'm using one of the little balls I made to swatch the Shetland Shell Lace Scarf. I wanted the pattern I used to have something to do with the sea, because of the beautiful turquoise colour of the yarn (much greener than it looks on this photo). It's exactly the colour of the North Sea as it hits the beach on a sunny day.

I haven't done much yet (on my new Addi Lace needles!), but I'm enjoying it:)

Well, it's finally cool enough to have a go at sleeping, so I shall sign off.

Tigger says: "I have no idea why she finds it so hard to sleep, you know."


Sunday, June 15, 2008


I finally managed to get Richard, his camera and my birthday presents in one place, so I can share them with you!

First, from my sister, antique (probably mock) tortoiseshell needles - 2 straights, 4 dpns, and a button hook (although the vendor thought it was a crochet hook!), as well as a beautiful bell needle gauge:

Birthday present 1

Birthday Present 2

(Apparently the old UK sizes were based on the classification system of wire thickness, as the usual needles were simply steel wires with points.)

Next, from one of my dear friends, a beautiful shawl pin worked in wood from Roleswoodcrafts and bought from an excellent yarn shop in Darlington Covered Market, A Fine Yarn, run by the friendly and helpful Christine. If you've never tried it, and you are in the area, I recommend it - I have heard many good things about it:

Birthday Present 3

I'm not sure, but from the photos on the website, I think it's in Zebrina wood.

Now for two FOs and a WIP, also posted on Ravelry. Firstly, the famous BSJ:


I worked this in RYC Cashsoft DK. It was good fun, and I enjoyed making it. I enjoyed even more handing the shapeless piece to non-knitters and saying, 'Turn that into a baby jacket' :)

My ongoing lace piece at present (currently sadly neglected while I finish something I've had hanging around for even longer!) is the Lucy Neatby Cloud Scarf (scroll down to see details), which I'm making in Debbie Bliss Cathay to act as a runner for my Welsh dresser:

Lucy Neatby Cloud Scarf

It's quite complex to work, but I'm loving it. The edging worked all in one piece with the rest is really clever!

Lastly, socks - I finished these a while ago. They're in Opal Rainforest Tiger, and I followed Lucy Neatby's suggestion in Cool Socks, Warm Feet of purling the black sections. They may look squat and wide, but so do my feet :)

I also used her cuff from the 'Mermaid' socks in that book, where you work a piece of garter stitch until it fits round your leg, graft the ends together, and pick up the stitches around it to start the body of the sock:

I Really Love Your Tiger Feet

That's about it for this week, I'm afraid. As Tigger says: "Just wanna sleeeeeep....."


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rosanna's Lace

First of all, an apology - I still haven't got Richard, his camera and my birthday presents in the same place at the same time. But I will. Oh yes.

If you have been bumbling along with me for a while, you may remember that my sister, while investigating the family tree, came up with a lace-maker. I've been looking into this a bit further, and found out some fascinating details.

Rosanna Reeves, our great-great-great-aunt, was born in Downton, near Salisbury in Wiltshire in 1838. In the 1851 census, at the age of 13, she was described as 'lace maker'. I realised this was most likely to be pillow, or bobbin, lace, so I wrote to the Victoria and Albert Museum to ask if they had any idea what kind of lace she would have been making.

I wasn't sure if they would reply, as I'd never contacted them before and didn't know if this was the kind of information they would have time to offer, so I was very pleased when I had an e-mail back within a week. The person who replied told me that it was most likely Rosanna had made Downton lace, a type of bobbin lace specific to that village. It was made for sale until the 1960s, but has been carried on by dedicated lace makers who work it for pleasure.

She also suggested I contact the Salisbury and Wiltshire Museum. I looked up their website and discovered that they have a whole gallery devoted to Downton lace. I would love to go and see it!

I've only tried a little bobbin lace, so I wasn't very clear on the different types - but I knew there were differences, so next I set out to find out what was distinctive about Downton lace.

Thanks to an informative site called 'Jo Edkins' Lace School', I found out that Downton lace uses something similar to Bucks Point ground (the basic 'net' of the lace - Bucks Point makes an almost hexagonal net), but combines it with a left-handed footside - every other British lace uses a right-hand footside. (This refers to the way the threads are twisted up the side of the work). Overall it looks more like Torchon lace, a continental lace, than it does any other British lace.

And no one seems to know why. Isn't that odd?

Even odder is the matter of the bobbins. I'm sure we've all seen those beautiful slender bobbins, intricately turned and shaped, weighted with circlets of beads, and perhaps even watched a proficient lace-maker as the bobbins seem to fly back and forth of their own accord. Well, Downton bobbins weren't quite that decorated.

In fact, they were short! They had very little shaping, and no beads, the weight being provided by the bobbin itself. They sometimes had messages pricked out on them, filled in with red or black lead, like other bobbins, or other decoration, but they had no fancy turning, and they tapered almost to a point. One site suggests they look more like Spanish bobbins than British ones.

Anyway, I have emailed the museum to ask if they do mail order, as their shop carries a set of notelets featuring a Downton lace maker, and three books on the subject (one history, and two sets of patterns).

I am mulling over a way to convert them into patterns for knitted lace....

Tigger says, "Zzzzzzzzz..............................."


Thursday, May 22, 2008


Before I go on to tell you about my spiffy new wet room, I'd like to plug my second blog, Still Life. It's where I can post and write about stuff that interests me as a Quaker, without tangling it up with my knitting stuff. Not that the two things are separate, but the audiences might be different :)

How will I keep up two blogs when I have trouble updating one? Only time will tell ;)

When I moved in here (nearly a year ago - it seems like yesterday!), my bathroom had a bath with an electric shower over it. This was no good to me, as I needed a walk-in shower like the one I was leaving. For reasons that I still don't understand, my Housing Officer announced that, in order to have the new house released to me, I would have to sign a waiver agreeing that I would not ask for a shower cubicle.

My first thoughts were that this was at least immoral, and probably illegal, but she would not budge, so, making my feelings very clear as I did so, I signed the waiver.

After about six months of being sponge-bathed by my carers, with the occasional hair-wash (hanging my head over the bath whenever my vertigo wasn't too bad), I decided that I had waited long enough for the Housing Officer to change her mind, and contacted my Occupational Therapist.

Thanks to her, within a few weeks, there were (very nice and friendly) workmen in my bathroom taking out my bath :)

We thought they would be putting in a large walk-in cubicle like I had in the old house:


Sorry it's so dark, but you can just about see the waist-high cubicle and the width of the area behind it.

It soon became clear that they were actually turning my already sizeable bathroom into a wet room! Apparently it is no longer protocol to put in cubicles, as wet rooms are so much easier for clients and carers alike. They gave me a bigger shower curtain and rail, a new portable screen to protect the carers' clothes if they wished to stand behind it, a new shower chair, an extractor fan, and some lovely new tiles. That was quite funny, actually - they said that, if they couldn't find matching tiles, they would re-tile the whole area, but I said I'd be happy with a close match, as the tiles are perfectly good. They found the best match they could - plus a border to act as a dado rail, to make the two colours of tiles look deliberate! They were so chuffed about it, and so was I :)

Finally a specialist company came in and laid a non-slip floor. Part of the process absolutely stank (I don't know how they work with it!), but it was soon over, and we just had to wait a few more hours before we could try it out.

New wet room

I can't begin to tell you how lovely and refreshing it is to be having showers after all those sponge baths. And the bathroom seems enormous :)

Tigger says, "I don't see why you make all this fuss. All you need is a tongue."


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Booty call

I have been having such fun with a bootee pattern.

Vintage booties

It's originally from a vintage girls' magazine, but it was republished in SlipKnot recently. It involves so many different elements that you never get bored! There's
  • a garter stitch sole
  • a short row foot with a simple lace pattern
  • a stitch I have been calling 'seeded stocking stitch' (because it looks like stocking stitch with a regular pattern of seed-stitch like dots)
  • a slip-stitch rib that almost knits itself
  • and a really simple but effective crochet edging
I made it in RYC Cashsoft DK, and, although I think Rowan yarns tend to be a little expensive, I have to recommend this one. There was an error in the first line of the short-row section, and I ripped that puppy out 5 TIMES before I realised it should say 22sts, and not 20.... Anyway, it knitted back up as smoothly and evenly on the sixth attempt as it had on the first.

I've also been making my sister's birthday present. I decided on the Friday (2 May) that I had enough time to knit her a decorative scarf before she came to visit me on the Tuesday (6 May). She wears a lot of those very long and thin silk or chiffon ones to dress up her tops.

I picked out some gorgeous Jaeger Cotton Flamme from stash (I miss Jaeger...). It's a DK-ish weight, gold mercerised thread with creamy viscose slubs, and it's seriously lovable. I found a pattern online for a lace bookmark, grabbed my 4mm needles and cast on 15 stitches. I'd done 100 rows by bedtime, although I was slightly worried at the roll it was developing. It was a stocking stitch base, after all.

Next morning (Saturday) I shoved all the worries to the back of my mind and worked another 44 rows. By this time I really couldn't pretend the roll was going to block out, so I put in a lifeline and tried it out with a WS knit row instead. Well, that looked lovely, so, after about 30 rows of that, I cut off the first 140 or so rows, frogged to the lifeline and cast off what was now the first row.

Well, this went beautifully, and I was congratulating myself on having learned the pattern, and on even being able to watch TV as I knitted. By the end of the evening I had knitted 90 rows. I held it up to admire it, and realised that I had worked a third with the RS on top, a third with the WS on top, and the last third with the RS back on top again.

I toyed with calling it a design feature.

Next morning (Sunday), as I frogged it all, I decided to cast on lengthways for a simple garter stitch strip, that would show off the beauty of the yarn. 300 stitches later, I began the first long row. It didn't take long to remember how quickly I get bored with garter stitch.

On Monday afternoon, when I had still only produced two inches of width, I was beginning to hallucinate cables and yarnovers. I quit. It was too dense a fabric, it didn't show off the yarn, and it was just taking too loooong. Perhaps it needed a bigger needle for drape? And then a small light went on.

Scribble lace.

I grabbed my posh new 10mm coloured metal needles (thank you, Let's Knit), cast on 12 stitches, and four hours later had a light, lacy, softly draping 60-inch long scarf which looked a million dollars:

Scribble lace

I am glad to say that my sister loved it. I also pointed out to her that, when someone compliments her on it, she can say with prefect truth, 'Thank you, it's Jaeger' :)

Next time I hope to have photos of my new wet room, and of my lovely birthday presents (it was last Saturday, and I had a wonderful day!).

Tigger has been back to the vet because he's throwing up more than usual (we are often presented with a pile of undigested biscuits, when he eats his tea too quickly and it bounces). The vet thinks he's had a tummy upset, but that it's just about over, so he didn't need tablets.

Tigger says, "You wouldn't believe where he put that thermometer..."


Saturday, April 12, 2008

How to tame a wild yarn

This is going to be pretty photo-heavy (especially for one of my posts), so I apologise in advance!

Well, no one correctly guessed the mystery item. I should have been kinder and included some kind of relative size thing - the piece is actually only about 8 inches or so long. Does that change your ideas? Watch this space...

A little while ago, Vicki gave me some amazing DK yarn. She'd enjoyed playing with it, but found it a bit strident and overpowering, and asked if I had any ideas on calming it down. She has a good point - we're talking neon variegated here:

Unidentified yarn

This really doesn't do justice to the true eye-poppingness of the colours. The first thing we both knew about this yarn was how much it cheered up a dull Spring day - it makes you smile just to use it. But it had its problems.

First step was to see how it was in stocking stitch:


Like a lot of commercial yarns, the rigidly repeating colour changes make the colours tend to pool and stripe, even on a small swatch like this (about 4 inches square, on 4mm needles). The problem is, how to interrupt these sequences so that the effect is more mottled - and how to tone down the colours.

First of all, garter stitch - and this is where the mystery item comes in. Garter stitch breaks up the pooling somewhat because of the structure of the stitch. It's as if you can see the bumps and the v's of the stitches on the same side, instead of them being kept to one side each in stocking stitch:

Mystery Item

If you compare this with the stocking stitch swatch, you'll see that the colours, while still being grouped together to some extent, are starting to look a little less regimented and more random.

So what is it?

It's a baby hat:

Baby helmet

Isn't it fab?? Mum has been telling me for years about this pattern, which she knitted for loads of family children in the war years. It takes very little yarn, despite being in garter stitch, and is really fun to make. I finally found it reprinted by Sirdar in an early 70s pattern leaflet. So how does the strip become the hat? Simple - seam the top and bottom of the piece together, then sew each left-hand point to its neighbour. The right hand points become the 'cheeks' and peaked front of the hat. Then you knit a strap, find a button, and hey presto! One cute hat. I love it :)

Next I decided to try double-thickness knitting, the technique where you knit and slip alternately all the way along the first row, then slip and knit all the way back along the second, to produce a little 'bag' of knitting without circular needles or dpns. (Although there's an excellent article in Knitty about making a pair of socks with this method, using dpns - just like the woman in 'War and Peace'!)

Vicki has written a lovely pattern for an iPod cosy using this technique, so I tried it out:

iPod cosy

This was odd, because I expected it to interrupt the colour changes altogether - instead of which, they ran round the entire pattern. And so, I should have realised, they were bound to do - it's a single piece of knitting, after all!

Looking for something that would really shake the colours up, I tried a mitre square:

Mitre square

This had a very interesting outcome, much more the kind of thing I was looking for. For an excellent tutorial on mitre squares, see Planet Shoup.

Now, how to tone it down? That bit was easy. Work it together with cream yarn of the same weight, in garter stitch on 6mm needles:

Garter stitch

This has the immediate effect of diluting the colour. The stitch structure shows bits of cream yarn alongside bits of neon yarn, tricking our eyes into reading the whole thing as a paler version of the neon yarn. And, of course, being garter stitch, it disrupts the colour changes a little. (It's also a quick and easy way to make a thicker, springier fabric - it really is quite wonderfully squishable!)

Finally I tried a technique I found in The Knitting Answer Book (which I cannot recommend too highly. I only wish I were on commission). It's called helical knitting, or spiral knitting, because - you guessed it! - it's made in a spiral. Of course, all knitting worked in the round is a spiral, which is why we get the problem of the colour jog, but this technique actually capitalises on that instead of trying to fight against it.

Helical knitted hat

You begin by casting on however many stitches you need, onto a circular needle or dpns. DO NOT join the round. Turn the work, attach the second yarn to the needle (you will now have two cast-on ends of yarn at the same end of the needle) and purl back in your second colour. You now have one row of each colour, with the working yarns both hanging at the same end. Pick up your first yarn and, without twisting the two yarns together, join the round and begin knitting. At the end of the round, swap to your second colour. Carry on till you're bored, work a 1x1 rib (still working alternate rounds in each colour), cast off, seam the top and you're holding a baby hat with no colour jogs. Honestly. It's like magic, do try it yourself.

I love learning new techniques :)

For the same reason as on the iPod cosy, the colours still tend to follow each other round the hat - but, for the same reasons as on the garter stitch square, they're also diluted by the cream and don't seem so strong anyway.

So there you go. A few ideas on the taming of wild yarns. I hope it's been helpful, because it's been lots of fun for me, and has brightened up several dull days. You can't knit with yarn like this and not feel happy :)

Now, especially for Tracey, two pictures of the beehive yarn holder. These used to be really common, but they're out of production now and can only be found on eBay and suchlike places. Because they're made of Bakelite, they're quite fragile (note the crack on the base of mine, where I knocked it from a table onto a wooden floor!), so they don't survive as well as some other designs:


It's about 5 inches high; the bigger hole on the top is for yarn, while the other two are for a ribbon handle (I took mine off because it was making an irritating noise against the yarn inside!). It's about four inches diameter at the base, so you can't put huge balls of yarn in it. It's the shape of an old-fashioned straw beehive (weren't they called 'skeps'?), but I don't know whether it was a promotional item for Patons Beehive yarn - there's no printing on it to tell me. There is a helpful needle gauge on the base, though:

Yarnholder - base

Spot the crack, on the left!

The base screws off, you put the ball in, thread the end through the top, and screw the base back on. It's brilliant for stopping yarn rolling around, but you can't always see when you're nearing the end of a ball.

Well, this has been a bit of a marathon. It's taken me most of two days to put this together, so don't expect another post too soon :) Off to have a rest and a nice cup of tea.

Tigger says, "Does that mean I get biscuits?"


Friday, April 04, 2008

The biggest yarnover in the world

Of course, it had to happen, the minute I announced that I'd got the hang of lace knitting. Hubris - the kind of pride that comes before a fall....

I was swatching in the round, on a circular needle, with my yarn in one of those 1950s Bakelite beehive-shaped yarn holders. Every time I needed to stop, I put the beehive down in the middle of the circle, leaving it in a little moat of knitting. Every time I started again, I would move the beehive out of the centre, pick up the swatch, and carry on.

Except this one time. I can only excuse myself by saying I was talking (you should see me try to walk and chew gum at the same time), but I picked up the swatch first, then moved the beehive, pulled a length of yarn from it and started knitting. The quick-brained among you will realise what I did not (for two more rounds) - that in doing so, I had looped the working yarn down the inside of the swatch, back up the outside and up to the needle.

In other words, without noticing anything wrong with the position of the yarn, I had worked the world's biggest yarnover - not round my needle, but around the entire depth of my swatch.

And then I managed not to notice the fact for two rounds.

When I shut my mouth long enough to actually look at my knitting, it took me a good ten minutes just to figure out what on earth I'd done. And then another ten hiding my red face under the duvet so that it wouldn't distract aircraft overhead.

I tinked back the entire two rounds to make sure I had put it right, and to double-check what I had done wrong. It took a while.

Ahem. I can assure you I now double-check where my yarn is every time I restart, talking or not....

Now, to distract you from my tales of incompetence, a challenge. What is this?

Mystery Item

Yes, yes, I know it's a strip of knitting. You know jolly well that's not what I meant. What is it going to be? Answer next time, when I show a variety of ways to tame a wild yarn....

Tigger says, "Leave me alone. The swine have stolen an hour of my nap time..."


Saturday, March 15, 2008

This week, I 'ave mostly bin makin'... lace.

(Apologies to the Fast Show for mangling the catch phrase!)

I used to think I couldn't knit lace. My friends Mandy and Marilyn make the most beautiful cobweb lace shawls, the kind of thing you can pull through a wedding ring, and I was, and am, completely in awe of their abilities. Mandy gave me a selection of practice balls of cobweb yarn, and I struggled and sweated over them, eventually producing enough mangled and holey knitting to act as net curtains in my terraced house for the Homes and Gardens display.

I have drooled over many shawls, in patterns and on blogs, bewailing my dodgy eyesight and pudgy little fingers. I kept on trying to produce something lovely, only to produce something slightly grimy and of a rather more freeform design than I had intended.

A year or so ago, I had a bit of a revelation. For years I have been making crochet lace, both in thread and in yarn. (Apparently, according to Doris Chan, crochet lace worked in yarn is called 'exploded lace'. I just call it 'being able to see what I'm doing'...) If I could use yarn for crochet lace, then why not for knitting? And of course I could, as squillions of knitters have discovered before me. So, with a ball or two of Debbie Bliss Cathay, and needles that were visible to the naked eye, I set out on Lucy Neatby's 'Cloud Scarf' as a runner for my Welsh dresser. This is a very civilised pattern, as the edging is worked at the same time as the main piece :)

I loved working (slowly) on this, but I could only do it when I was feeling really awake and competent; understandably, therefore, the whole thing is still less than halfway finished, and has been completely frogged several times. After the first two froggings I learned to use lifelines, but then I got the lifeline tangled up in the unpicked yarn, and had to have the resultant mess forcibly pried from my shaking and tear-stained hands.

I have to be quite clear here, and say that this is not Ms Neatby's fault! I was working from her written instructions, but had to count every stitch across the row as I knitted it, because of my foggy brain. Thus I could never look ahead and see the structure of the entire piece in my mind. I struggled on, a row here and a row there, enjoying what I did, but achieving very little.

I really wanted to use some lace on a forthcoming commission, so I dug out the instructions for Feather and Fan (the only lace pattern I knew I could manage) and sat down to swatch. After a few repeats I was terribly bored, and felt like the whole thing just wasn't growing as fast as I'd like. I rooted around in my own notes, and in my stitch dictionaries, looking for lace patterns with only one or two lines to them. I found a few, and tried some of them out.

I separated each repeat with a stitch marker, as I do when working cable patterns: it saves a great deal of sanity if you can catch an error within a group of stitches, rather than getting to the end of a 100-stitch row and finding you're one stitch off....

I was still making heavy weather of following the patterns, so I thought I'd be brave and try using charts. I quite happily follow charts for Fair Isle, cable combos and knit/purl patterns, so why I was so worried by lace charts I don't know. I think it was all those squirly symbols.

Anyway, I set up my cast-on row, positioned my markers, took a deep breath, and... worked a flawless set of 15-stitch repeats right across the row. This had to be a fluke. I moved my chart marker up one row, and worked all the way back. And again. And again...

I was knitting lace :)

And honestly, that's all it's taken for the whole thing to click. I am still making errors, but it's so much easier to see how to pick up dropped stitches when you have a picture in front of you showing which stitch is above which other stitch. I am now working a 15-stitch 8-row repeat lace for the commission, a 25-stitch 28-row repeat in another yarn for a small group within the Knitting and Crochet Guild, and my Cloud Scarf is, excuse the pun, sailing along.

I don't know why it took me so long to take the step of using charts. I know the knitting community divides pretty sharply between chart lovers and written pattern users, but I had already used charts in other areas.

I love being surprised by unexpected abilities :)

And so to cat photos. I've been meaning to show you this one for ages - Vicki took it, to prove not only that I really do have two cats, but that they occasionally deign to share the same space:

Tigger & Chloe

Tigger says, "Don't be fooled. I have her trapped under this duvet now."


Sunday, February 17, 2008

The creative wossname

I had a brilliant afternoon yesterday, simply following links to the websites of different artists (in all kinds of media and at all kinds of levels of competence). It was funny, touching, inspiring, and sometimes just downright weird....

I found a lot of the links on the Craftzine blog, although once you're on an artist's website it's fun to follow the links they recommend, too. Some of the best (for a variety of reasons!) were:
This is why I love the 'net. I would never have seen any of these by other channels. I find other people's work so inspiring - not in a plagiaristic way, but because the best art (and craft) makes you look at things a different way. And because some of the stuff out there is more bizarre than anything I could ever have dreamed up myself.

Tigger says, "I'm very artistic too, you know. I create poses."


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Where did January go?

Still, here I am again - eventually!

Did everyone have a good Christmas? Was Santa kind? Richard and I had a splendid, very quiet time. Christmas always begins for me with the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Radio 3 on Christmas Eve afternoon, although this year I felt there were too many unknown pieces that showed off the choir without really adding to the atmosphere. Everything sounded amazing, though.

We both had lots of small presents (books, gadgets, board games etc), which we prefer to large presents. The whole family is the same. Richard cooked a chicken, which was delicious (he's a very good cook).

Mum was staying with my sister for Christmas, so they visited on Boxing Day, which was like a second Christmas, swapping more presents! I ended up with five books (including Knit One, Haiku Too), four boxes of chocolates, some beautiful stationery, 3 bookmarks, some purple knitting needles and a stuffed bookworm (that is a seriously weird company :) ). Oh, and my kitchen lino, from Mum, my sister and my brother!

Richard excelled himself, with a stainless steel kitchen bin (mine is matt, not polished, though). I've wanted one for ages, but it's not the kind of thing you treat yourself to - well, I don't, anyway! He also got me a wondrous gadget called a Mood Beam. I've long been coveting the eggs Richard has which change colour, but my Mood Beam is even better - it has several modes, including following the beat of music. Mine is called Chipper (scroll down - he's at the bottom of the page).

I've been pretty productive over Christmas, too, producing a jumper for Knit Today with very few hiccups. The only one that really set me back was finishing the neckline, when I decided that I would do it on 3.75mm dpns instead of the 4mm needles I had been using throughout. One nasty, buckled, too-tight neckline later and I realised my error - I had to unpick the whole thing. Serves me right for not doing it the way I know will work!

I'm briefly between commissions now, so I'm trying out the new Purple Pins. I love making my own socks, because I can contour them to fit both my swollen legs and my perennially problematic short, wide feet with high insteps. Mum used to have such a fight on her hands to find me school shoes that fitted me! Even though the socks end up really wide (90sts on 2.5mm needles), they're fairly short, as I can't tolerate anything fitting too high up around my legs. I only work 3 inches, including the ribbing, before I work the heel. This means I can get a pair of socks, plus enough left over for something like an iPod cosy, from 100g of Opal yarn.

I'm using the Rainforest Tiger, and doing what Lucy Neatby suggests with the black stitches. If you have black working yarn and black stitches on your LH needle, then you purl them. The rest of the time, every stitch is knitted. This gives a raised section of black stitches which is very effective.

I used another of Lucy's design elements, which is the garter-stitch 'ribbing' from her Mermaid socks. Essentially you knit a strip of garter stitch (mine is 12 sts wide) until it will wrap around your leg, then join it and pick up your working stitches around one edge. This gives a soft, flexible fabric around the top of the sock, as well as ensuring you cast on the right number of stitches!

I'm also using a star toe which was featured in a recent SlipKnot, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. It looks more effective in a plain yarn, where you can see the points of the star more clearly, but it's still OK in printed yarn.

I have to say that I am happier with the second sock than with the first - the colour changes seem to be much more close together, whereas the first sock has big blocks of colour which I don't like as much. I'll get the Beamish Boy to photograph them when they're finished, and you can see what I mean.

Tigger is doing well - although, as it turns out, it's probably not asthma after all, as he didn't respond to the steroids. The vet then suggested lungworm treatment, which he said was a liquid we could mix into his food. Hah!

He had to have half a teaspoonful of what looked like PVA glue, and apparently tasted disgusting. We tried disguising it in moist food, yoghurt, beef paste. We tried bundling him up in a towel and squirting it down his throat. Nothing worked.

We ended up smearing it onto his fur so that he had to lick it off, and even then he sometimes managed to wipe it all over the furniture. Not a good time!

He seems perfectly happy and energetic still, with bright eyes and shiny fur, so the next thing the vet's doing is - nothing. He says that there are other treatments we can try if Tig gets worse, but that they all have side effects, and would damage his quality of life. In the mean time, he is still rushing round like an idiot, ambushing everyone who comes in and demanding a cuddle, and watching every mouthful I eat because he is a Starving Kitten and Never Gets Fed....

Tigger says, "I have to make do with the crumbs from their table, you know. And I don't even like raspberry."