Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where did I leave my pep?

Sorry, gentle reader - no entry at all last week and not much this week. I'm a bit under the weather again, but I'm sure it will pass. I'll be back after Christmas.

Have a good holiday, whatever you celebrate!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Eliina - finished

Yes, Mum's shawl is finally finished. I abandoned my stitch-markers and read my knitting as I went along instead - and whizzed through the last 10 rows. I think there is a moral here: I should pay more attention to what I'm doing, instead of relying on other things - stitch-markers especially - to do my thinking for me!

It's off now to my dear friend Rosie, to be washed and blocked. I'll post a final photo when it returns. (Thanks again, Rosie!)

All my Christmas knitting is now done, but I can't blog about anything else as all the recipients may read the blog! If you haven't finished yours yet, then good luck, and I wish you peace and quiet to get on with it....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Doing the Border Shuffle

The border on Mum's Eliina shawl is 32 rows deep. When I knitted mine, I had one small problem, which I fudged, and sailed through the rest. Thanks to Mad October, the same is not true of this one...

It started well. I was up to row 23 by the beginning of October. Then I made the mistake of knitting when tired, and had to frog to row 14.

I compounded this by picking up the newly fixed row 14 and finding another mistake, dropping down a stitch to fix it - and failing to pick it back up again in pattern. That time it got frogged to row 6, and I took the opportunity of it being off the needles to get it photographed:

Eliina, with Merlin

Merlin decided what it really needed for scale was a large black cat....

Anyway, I got that picked up, went up to row 19 - and messed up again.

Finally, last week, I got it all the way to the start of row 23, perfectly correct. It has only taken me 7 weeks to get back to where I was in the first place.

And now.... I have a rogue extra stitch and can't find it.


Monday, November 16, 2009

That Darn Cat

(Anybody else remember that film? I'm sure it's to blame for my lifelong fascination with Siamese...)

A couple of weeks ago, one of my carers took off her fleecy gloves when she came in, and left them on the sofa. When it came time to leave, they were gone. She had to catch a bus, so just told me to hang on to them when I found them - and laughingly suggested that Merlin, with his love for all things woolly, had run off with them.

Half an hour later, Merlin appeared. He was dragging one of the gloves, and growled when we tried to take it from him.

We did eventually find the pair. One was undamaged - but one was missing a finger, as neatly excised as if he had used scissors.

So - anyone got any good glove patterns??

Monday, November 09, 2009

Fluffbuster Scarf

Ever wonder what you could do with that odd ball of bizarrely-coloured fluff that you bought on a whim? Wonder no more....

The Fluffbuster Scarf

Red Fluffbuster

The amounts are pretty flexible, depending on what length you want - this is more of a recipe than a pattern.

For a 150cm (five feet/60 inches) scarf, you need:

approx 90 metres (100 yards) of ribbon yarn (or any smooth yarn)
one ball of fluff (eyelash yarn)
6mm (US size 10) needles
8mm (US size 11) needles for casting on and off - optional

This scarf is worked lengthways, so you may find it easier to work back and forth on a circular needle than on a straight one.

Divide your yarn (nothing heavier than DK/worsted) into two equal balls.

Look on the ball band to see how many stitches are supposed to be in 10cm/4 inches. With the first ball and the 8mm/11 needles, cast on 10 times as many stitches as this - for example, a tension of 22 stitches per 10cm/4 inches would give a cast-on figure of 220 stitches.

Change to the 6mm/10 needles and work the following stitch pattern until you run out of the first ball of yarn:

Row 1: (K1, yo) to last stitch, K1.
Row 2: (K1, drop YO from previous row) to last stitch, K1.

Now change to the eyelash yarn, and knit every row until it is used up.

Take the second ball of smooth yarn and resume the stitch pattern above until you are nearly out of yarn, then cast off using the 8mm/11 needles.

Weave in ends.

You can make the scarf any length you like, using the proportions above as a guide. The red scarf above, for example, is nearly ten feet long, and the blue one below is seven feet long.

You could also substitute any ball of novelty yarn, or an odd ball of any kind of pretty yarn, for the ball of eyelash yarn.

I would not recommend using a heavier yarn than DK/worsted, as it would be too heavy for the eyelash yarn.

Blue Fluffbuster

Monday, November 02, 2009

What a month!!

Well, October turned out to be the most stressful month I've had for ages. Unfortunately nice stress tires me out as much as nasty stress, so even the good stuff just made me more tired. It has been one of those times when everything that could happen, did happen - and I ended up not getting a proper afternoon rest till almost the end of the month (instead of almost every afternoon), which meant my night-time sleep was disturbed, too.

That meant I began having nightmares. Initially they were things like still being married to my alcoholic ex, but eventually they morphed into the standard scary monster nightmare. (One was that Daleks had invaded Earth - and banned knitting!!!! Terrifying....)

To give you an idea of what I mean, this all happened between October 1 and October 27:

1 theatre trip
1 trip to Quaker Quest - on the same day Richard was out all day,
travelling to Manchester and back to the funeral of one of his uni
housemates. It wasn't a good month for him, either.
4 visits from friends
3 visits from Richard's grandfather, who is very difficult to talk to
1 visit from both his grandparents
1 visit from Mum and my sister
3 visits from new carers
1 5-hour excursion to A&E at the eye hospital - I'm OK, so don't
worry, but apparently I'm starting to get cataracts :(
1 Quaker Meeting here
1 newsletter to write and send round, during which....
Our Broadband started falling over for hours at a time
1 failed delivery of necessary medical stuff
1 delivery of oxygen canisters
1 visit from Social Services
1 visit from a care company team leader
1 visit from the other care company's admin assistant (1.5 hours)
1 service of my oxygen machine
1 visit from the GP
2 visits from the District Nurse
1 blood test
1 flu jab (different day from the blood test)
1 visit from the Access Bus team to make sure my wheelchair will fit
on their minibus (then I can go shopping occasionally!)
....and then the clocks changed and completely mucked up my body clock, as usual....

As you see, it was a fun time :)

I'm not complaining one bit about the nice stuff - ever since I first got ill, I've had the view that nice stuff is worth recuperating from! But every day seemed to bring a fresh reason why I couldn't have a rest, and by the end of last weekend I was feeling quite desperate.

I'm happy to say that I have now had a week asleep, and I feel much better, so I hope to be a much better blogger again now.

Next week, as promised: a new pattern!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


I'm not blogging this week, for a very nice reason. I am recovering from a trip to the theatre last week - my first time out of the house for over a year!

As always, I never do things by halves: this week I am speaking at our Quaker Quest evening on Quaker Worship. I was so pleased to be asked, and I am really looking forward to it. I know I will be shattered afterwards, so I'm announcing now that there will be no blog entry next week either.

Accounts of my expeditions will be forthcoming as soon as I can write them - plus a new pattern :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

A change for the better

Last week I wrote to all of the publications for which I have designed in the past, and confirmed that I will no longer be designing for print. I stopped submitting stuff a while ago, to see how it went, and now I know I will not be going back.

I have had a blast learning new techniques, and following other people's patterns. I'm getting more and more confident with my lace knitting, and now that I am choosing my own projects, I can knit what I want, when I want to - like my patch of garter stitch scarves a couple of weeks back.

Designing was interesting, and it was always a buzz to see my stuff in print, but working for magazines in that way is quite restrictive. You have to design what will sell in the mainstream, often using fibres and colours that have been chosen for you, and to a deadline. Then there's all the maths in the pattern-writing!

On the other hand, I've enjoyed putting patterns up here, and logging them into Ravelry, where I get instant feedback. I get so excited when someone favourites or queues one of my designs, and if one actually gets made, well - that makes my week!

I couldn't stop designing even if I wanted to. I get all kinds of ideas from the smallest of things. I've tried magazines, and it's been fascinating. But now I think I need a little more flexibility. There are lots of new projects in my head - so watch this space...

Monday, September 21, 2009


Elsinore Eliina - 30% done

This is actually an outdated photo - it shows the shawl as it was at around 30% done. It is now 58% done (row 147 completed, which makes 22,355 stitches in total).

I can't get over how quickly it's growing! As one of my friends said, things always seem to go quicker the second time you knit them, and of course I'm using a slightly bigger needle (5mm instead of 4.5mm).

I am now at the end of the variegated wool, and I have to wait for the plain, toning wool to be dyed. I need another 100g to complete the last few rows of the body, and the lace border.

The colours are actually brighter than they are in this photo. It's also difficult to see the shape, because it was taken mid-row (I'm using circs, working back and forth) - but I had to catch the Beamish Boy as he was passing, and ask him to take the shot before he got involved in something else!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Damned lies and statistics

Thanks to the shawl knitalong on the UK RAK group on Ravelry, I have started the shawl for Mum's Christmas present! By the time I had done half a dozen of the garter stitch scarves, I was just about ready for a sea of stocking stitch, which is handy, as that's what this shawl pattern starts with.

The beautiful green/blue/deep yellow wool is knitting up beautifully, as I would expect from a Yummy Yarn. If I remember, I must get the Beamish Boy to do a photo...

He's also done me a spiffy spreadsheet which shows, for each row, how many stitches I should have, how many stitches I have done in total so far, and what percentage of the way through the shawl I am. (I can't explain how to do one of these for yourself, because everything I once knew about Excel is now mush at the back of my brain, but the formulae will be quite simple.)

For example, I have just completed row 92. I have indeed got the correct number of stitches - 187 - and this means I have completed 8,934 stitches so far!

Sadly, it also means I have completed only 23%. Hmm. Maybe I was happier not knowing ;)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Slowly back to normal

After a couple of days in which I could not knit at all - aaagggghhhh! - I have spent the rest of the week recuperating and knitting endless garter stitch scarves.

I had promised some scarves to a charity that a friend works for, and they proved to be the exact thing I wanted to knit. There is something so calming about repetitive garter stitch, and it soothed me back to my usual self. I was just finishing the final one on Sunday when I felt myself start to feel positively about casting on my mother's Christmas shawl (I'm making her the same pattern as I used for my Raspberry Ruffles shawl, but in sea-greens and dull yellows - just beautiful yarn!).

It really gives me a boost to know that my bad turn has meant there will be six warm necks in Newcastle this winter :)

All six charity scarves

Monday, August 31, 2009

I Don't Like Mondays....

My laptop has some major problems, plus all my symptoms have flared up. Not a good combination. Back next week, I hope.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dirndl Bag

Dirndl Bag

I chose this name because the shape and pattern of the bag remind me of my favourite dirndl skirt, when I was little.

Any cotton or ribbon yarn can be used, as long as the tension on the label is around 20sts to 4 inches/10cm. If you use one of the bulky ribbon yarns, with a tension of 10sts to 4 inches/10cm, then halve the number of stitches and rows to get the same size bag.

I used Pingouin Tricotine in lavender, and Sirdar Milano in navy, but both of these are discontinued.

The finished size is approximately 8 inches/20cm deep by 12 inches/30cm wide. Gauge is not crucial to this project, but I worked at a gauge of 12 sts and 5 pattern rows to 4 inches/10cm.

If you wish to have a more versatile bag, you may wish to line it – I left it unlined, to act as a beach bag.


About 540yds/500m of ribbon yarn A
About 210yds/190m of ribbon B
6mm (J) crochet hook
Pair of bamboo handles 4.5inches/11.5cm diameter

UK instructions:

Working with two strands of yarn A held together, work 20dc around one of the handles. Turn.

Row 1: ch3, work 2tr into every dc. Turn.

Row 2: ch1, work 1dc into first tr, 2 dc into second tr. Continue across the row alternating 1dc and 2dc. Turn

Row 3: ch3, 1tr into every dc across. Turn.

Row 4: ch1, 1 dc into every tr across. Turn.

Work 3 more rows, alternating dc rows and tr rows. Fasten off.

Repeat for second handle, but do not fasten off.

Next row: Begin working with one strand of A and one strand of B. ch1, dc across the row, and then on across the last row of the first handle section. At the end of the row, sl st to the first ch to join into a round. From now on, you will be working in rounds, with one strand of A and one of B, but still alternating dc rounds with tr rounds.

Next row: ch3, tr around, sl st to 3rd of commencing ch.

Following row: ch1, dc around, sl sl to commencing ch.

Continue with one A and one B until you have worked 10 rounds in total in those colours. Change back to two strands of A, and work a further 4 rounds. Turn the bag inside out and ss the bottom together.

US instructions

Working with two strands of yarn A held together, work 20sc around one of the handles. Turn.

Row 1: ch3, work 2dc into every sc. Turn.

Row 2: ch1, work 1sc into first dc, 2 sc into second dc. Continue across the row alternating 1sc and 2sc. Turn

Row 3: ch3, 1dc into every sc across. Turn.

Row 4: ch1, 1sc into every dc across. Turn.

Work 3 more rows, alternating sc rows and dc rows. Fasten off.

Repeat for second handle, but do not fasten off.

Next row: Begin working with one strand of A and one strand of B. ch1, sc across the row, and then on across the last row of the first handle section. At the end of the row, sl st to the first ch to join into a round. From now on, you will be working in rounds, with one strand of A and one of B, but still alternating sc rounds with dc rounds.

Next row: ch3, dc around, sl st to 3rd of commencing ch.

Following row: ch1, sc around, sl sl to commencing ch.

Continue with one A and one B until you have worked 10 rounds in total in those colours. Change back to two strands of A, and work a further 4 rounds. Turn the bag inside out and ss the bottom together.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Here we go again

Yet again the humidity has beaten me, and I am unable to blog properly this week. The lack of sleep (and presence of unpleasant and disturbing dreams) is really starting to annoy me now!

I'm used to having quite a narrow life, but having it narrowed even more is very irritating....

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Tennyson time!

Radios 3 and 4 are obsessed with Tennyson at present - last Thursday (August 6) was the 200th anniversary of his birth. I have what I thought was a fair working knowledge of 19th century English poetry, and I tended to lump him in with Wordsworth as Poets Who Irritate Me. However, as there are so many of them around - anniversary programmes, not PWIM - I listened in to some of them.

I discovered one thing pretty quickly:

Tennyson Is Not Wordsworth.

In fact, what I have heard so far sounds quite modern, and surprisingly full of tags of lines which I recognise - but not of clich├ęs. There's a lot of Tennyson on line, and I wholeheartedly recommend you try a little.

If all you know of Maud is, 'Come into the garden, Maud', and you think it sounds like a trite drawing-room ballad, think again. It is weird and creepy and very disturbing.

Or try In Memoriam, a massive work written after the death of his best friend, which considers not only love and grief, but also scientific ideas such as evolution.

And if you want an example of a poet having huge fun with words and sounds, try The Eagle. I had to learn this for a drama exam, and to my shame I had never realised it was by Tennyson...

I'm all for people reading more poetry, but I never thought I'd find myself championing Tennyson!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Good news week

First of all - I got a cheque for my bank charges, in full, by return of post, with no haggling. I am somewhat better disposed to the company now!

Secondly, my mum and sister came to visit for the day on Thursday, and we had an absolute blast :D Mum was in fine form - even though she refuses to wear her hearing aids ;) - and I haven't seen her laugh so much for ages.

Mind you, she made us laugh, too. A couple of days before, there had been a meeting at her sheltered accommodation which my sister had attended with her, so that she could tell Mum what was being said (I mentioned the hearing aids, didn't I...). At the end of the meeting it was obvious that further discussion was needed, and my sister asked if more notice could be given of the meeting next time - there were several relatives there, and she didn't think she was the only one with other commitments. To which Mum piped up: 'Yes, she should have been in court this morning.'

Every head in the place turned to look at my sister....

...who explained that she is a magistrate, and should have been on the bench that day!

Mum also loved my Raspberry Ruffles shawl, and has apparently been telling all her friends about it. I'll be making one for her for Christmas, in another of Patricia's gorgeous hand-dyed yarns, called Elsinore - blues and greens, very seashore! And a quick plug - if you want to see Patricia's gorgeous yarns for yourself, why not nip over to her Etsy shop, Yummy Yarns UK? I can guarantee that whatever you buy will be well worth the asking price!

Monday, July 27, 2009

This week at theworlddrivesmecrackers.com...

Well, I have definitely picked up since last week! One of the problems is that my usual morning carers have a new team leader and, when either of them is off, she keeps sending in carers from another area instead of using people I know.

This is really stressful - partly because I have had a stream of total strangers turning up to shower me, but also because I keep having to tell them, step-by-step, what the routine is. Mornings are not my best time, and having to face a barrage of, 'Where does this live? What do I do now? Where do I find...' morning after morning has been awful. Anyway, that has now been sorted out, and from now on I get only carers I already know. (Let's face it, it's no fun for the carers either - they're coming in blind, not knowing what I want done, what the routine is or anything.)

The other problem is that the insurance company which pays my pension from work suspended my payments - they sent me a form to fill in, to confirm that I was still ill, and because I didn't send it back, they suspended my payments.

I didn't return it because I didn't receive it. I didn't receive it because they sent it to the house I left two years ago, despite having written to me on several occasions since at my current address. They sent it to the wrong address because - and I can still barely get my head round this - the rest of the company uses a central computer database of all clients, which has been updated, but the admin section, which sends out the forms in question, is still using....

...filing cabinets.

We're talking about a big national insurance company, one of which everyone recognises the name. And one of their departments still uses paper files. AND DOESN'T UPDATE THEM.

Well, I got my payments back, and a letter of apology. I am now trying to get them to pay the bank charges that accrued over the five days I was without my money. I'll let you know how it goes.

...filing cabinets..... shakes head

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back soon

The last couple of weeks have been very stressful for a variety of reasons, so I'm taking this week off from blogging. I'll be back next Monday, though!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Socks and the Single Girl

I'll say one thing for the hot weather - it really encourages me to go back to the socks that have been lying around, unloved and unfinished, in the UFO pile!

In January I received some glorious rainbow-coloured Regia Color, and immediately cast on the Broadripple Socks pattern, which is designed to make the most of variegated sock yarn. I enthusiastically knitted the first leg almost to the heel.... and then got distracted. For the last six months, they've looked like this:

Broadripple socks

When it became too hot to knit my lovely warm woollen shawls, I cast about for something light and manageable, that wouldn't end up as a pile of yarn in my lap, and found the socks again. Within a few days I had completed one sock, and then in two more days, having rediscovered the lovely and soothing monotony of knitting with very little shaping, I finished the second:

Broadripple socks - completed

I am beyond reason captivated by them :)

Having got the taste for socks, I then picked up the Paint It Black Socks which have also been languishing. I had actually finished one of these, and cast on the toe for the second, although this is the only photo I have so far:

Paint It Black

These are my first toe-up socks. I'm undecided at the moment about whether I'll do any more. The pattern (Ravelry link), 'Sock Stew' by my lovely friend Ari Ridpath, is excellent, but I can do top-down socks on auto-pilot, so I'm still in two minds. It would be good to have another pattern by heart, though. Hmm. I feel more socks coming on.....

Monday, July 06, 2009

What next?

I think Merlin has become a vegetarian.

OK, I know all cats go off their meat a little in hot weather, and goodness knows it has been hot.

I also know that cats often eat green stuff to aid digestion.

I have never, however, had a cat who would sit in front of me while I eat salad, drooling and attempting to steal lettuce from my plate. When he manages to get some, he runs off with it, growling, and eats it in a hurry so that he can get back for more. Meanwhile his cat food grows crusty in the kitchen.....

He's a weird cat. It's a good job we love him :)

Merlin says: "Be fair, Mum. I eat flies, too..."

Monday, June 29, 2009

An award!

I was given this blog award by my lovely friend Jan Lyn, over at Off the Beaten Path. She actually awarded it to Still Life, which she describes as "a really good Quaker read that is to the point, fresh and honest. She writes poetry I so enjoy as well." I said she was a lovely friend!

Jan Lyn writes beautifully about the nature with which she is surrounded, her family, her faith, home-schooling, the family animals, and the chronic illnesses she lives with. She writes about everything with grace, humour and honesty.

I'm replying to it here as I had a lot of other stuff to write about over there this week, and nothing special planned for here.

I have to share 7 things about myself here, now.


What haven't I told you???

1. I have what amounts to a passion for roses. I think I got it from my father. Wherever I have lived, if possible, I have planted a wonderful rose called Zephirine Drouhin. It is my ideal rose - thornless, climbing, quick-growing, long flowering season, hot pink blooms - and scented! I recommend it to everyone.

2. The first time I saw 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', aged 8, I was so scared that I had to sleep with the light on all night.

3. Talking of things that scare me, I am terrified of the Jacob Epstein sculpture of St Michael and the Devil at the entrance to Coventry Cathedral.

4. I played Noah in the Andre Obey play of the same name, when I was 15. It was a school production, and we were an all-girl school. I had to have my boobs strapped down (they've never recovered!), and an artificial beard gummed on with something that ripped off the top layer of skin when I took it off. Ah, the glamour of the stage :)

5. I was at school with David Bailey's wife, the ex-model Catherine Dyer. She was always absolutely beautiful, even without makeup, and a graceful and lovely person.

6. I dyed my hair blue while I was pregnant with Richard.

7. I can ice skate (I took my first three grades in figure skating when I was a teenager), but I can't roller-skate.

Wow, that took a lot of dredging up :)

I'm supposed to nominate seven people for the award now, but I'm stopping at three:

1. My dear friend Linda. We have been friends since we were around 17. We met when I understudied her in a play. She is a marvellous writer, and very funny, as well as a loving and supportive friend.

2. Gil, who writes the blog Stumbing Blocks to Stepping Stones. She writes about her Quaker journey in a way that is never less than thought-provoking and honest.

3. Mary Anne, who writes as Miss Woolly Knits. Like me, Mary Anne has severe ME, but always posts every Friday, sharing the things that have pleased her, amused her or given her joy through the week. Lots of wonderful photos, too!

Oh, and Mary Anne - you are excused duties for this. Just enjoy the award :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shawl photos!

My lovely shawl came back this week, beautifully blocked by the brilliant Rosie, and I got Richard to take a couple of photos on Lobelia the mannequin:

Raspberry Ruffles 1

Raspberry Ruffles 2

As I hoped, the blocking not only opened up the lace, which was looking very sad and crumpled when I sent it off, but also evened out the stitches in the main section, and opened up the yarn over holes.

It's amazingly light to wear, and very warm, of course, being made with pure Shetland wool!

He also photographed a dishcloth I included in this month's themed RAK parcel. This month's theme was animals, and everyone who joined in said what their favourites were. I had to send to Sian, who loves owls, so it was obvious what I had to make her:

Diagonal Owl Dishcloth 1

Diagonal Owl Dishcloth 2

...the Diagonal Owl Dishcloth (Ravelry link), designed by Janelle Schlossman. I love this pattern - it's simply and beautifully designed, fun to knit and gives such a cute result!

We had a little excitement this week, as Chloe went missing for the day on Wednesday. She never goes outside, so we thought at first that she was hiding in the house. Only when we had looked everywhere did we realise that she must have slipped out without anyone noticing.

She is nearly 19, so our first thought was that she had gone off to die. Everyone we knew in the village (and several people we didn't) offered to look for her, but no one could find any trace.

I was coming out of the bathroom at 11.30pm, very sad and wondering if we would ever know what had happened to her, when I heard a faint meow outside the back door. First I couldn't grasp the key, then I couldn't unlock the door, but when I finally got it open, in she strolled, quite unconcerned - and bone dry. It had poured all day on Wednesday, so she'd obviously spent the day in someone else's house!

She casually beat up Merlin, had supper, curled up and went to sleep as if nothing had happened. It seems the old girl has a trick or two still left ;)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shawl crazy

I've finished my 'Raspberry Ruffles' Shetland shawl, and my friend Rosie has very kindly offered to block it for me. She's even set up a project page for it on Ravelry (I don't think this link works if you're not a Ravelry member - sorry).

So, after completing a crochet project for a friend, I cast on... another shawl! Yes, I still have one crochet shawl and one knit one that are unfinished, but I had some glorious Wensleydaie 4-ply sent to me by the friend who dyed the 'Raspbery Ruffles' yarn (I'm making her a Bishop tea-cosy like Erica's, and this was thank-you yarn), and, well.... it called to me. It didn't want to be put in the stash.

Plus I'd bought Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby with some birthday money, and I was itching to try it out. The photos, as with every Interweave book, are gorgeous, and set your fingers twitching just to look at them. After much deliberation, I chose a pattern with the glorious name of 'A Handsome Triangle', which is a top-down shawl (I like shawls that start 'Cast on 4 stitches'!) in proper knitted lace, ie patterned on both sides rather than having plain purl rows.

I may regret this. On the other hand, if I pull it off, there may be no stopping me!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Cosy knitting

I end up making very odd things sometimes...

A few months ago, my sister sent me a newspaper clipping about knitted home decor, including a teacosy with MORE TEA, VICAR? on one side. She volunteers at York Minster, and joked that she should have one with, 'More tea, Archbishop?' on it. That set me thinking.

Just before her birthday I finished her tea cosy:

Tea cosy - front

I made it more or less the shape of a bishop's mitre, and turned a slight problem into a resounding success by deciding to put ties in the bittom instead of sewing it up. This was actually because I wasn't sure of the size of her teapot, but they ended up looking like the bands at the base of a mitre. I love it when a plan comes together. Especially when it's accidental.

I made the two sides separately, and made a diamond-shaped section in contrasting yarn (the one I used for the ties and embroidery) to go between the two pieces at the points. I fixed the points shut with a press stud, so that, if she wants to use it with a tall coffee pot, she can undo the press stud and have extra height if she needs it.

The embroidery was much simpler than I had feared it would be. I typed the phrase into my word-processing package, tried different fonts and sizes till I liked the look of it, then printed it off onto ordinary paper. Then I followed the instructions in this article. I had to fill in one or two stitches when I removed the paper, but by and large it worked extremely well.

The back looked a little bare, so I found an outline cross design online and embroidered it on in the same yarn:

Teacosy - back

It was a surprisingly quick make, and now I'm about to make another for a friend - whose surname is Bishop!

Monday, June 01, 2009


Still writing poetry!


the swift slip of yarn
through practised fingers
smooth wood needles
sharp and blunt

the roll and roar of language
ebb and rise
the music in my head

when words collide
and crash upon the page
the rightness of the finished line

the full moon winks
over the rounded shoulder
of the half-dressed hill
the world is silent

only my needles click
only my pen moves

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sound of Mew-sic

For most of my school life, I was in the choir. At senior school, we went to all kinds of competitions, and had numerous set pieces, one of which was a selection of songs from The Sound of Music. As we were a convent school, our competitors found this hilarious, and I still remember the merry quips with which they greeted us ('How many girls sing in the La Sagesse choir? Nun!!'). Anyway, this has left me with the lyrics stuck fast in my memory, for better or for worse.

I have been writing poetry again lately, which has been wonderful (I've had writer's block for most of the time I've been ill), and I will be posting some of it here in future. This week, though, I want to share with you the discovery I made yesterday afternoon when Merlin was being - well, himself.

It came to me in a flash that it would be very easy to rewrite 'How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?' to refer, not just to Merlin, but to any kitten. If I ignored the half-sung, half-spoken introduction, then it would need only a few small tweaks, and I would have a song I could hum to relieve my feelings as he tears across my lap in pursuit of Chloe, sits on my crossword, and steals my lunch. Feel free to sing this to your cat (with apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II):

How do you solve a problem like the kitten?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means the kitten?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell him
Many a thing he ought to understand
But how do you make him stay
And listen to all you say?
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like the kitten?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

When he's with me I'm confused
Out of focus and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am
Unpredictable as weather
He's as flighty as a feather
He's a darling! He's a demon! He's a lamb!

He'd outpester any pest
Drive a hornet from its nest
He could empty any belfry of its bat
He is gentle! He is mad!
He's a riddle! He is bad!
He's a headache! He's an angel!
He's a cat!

(Rpt ad lib)

Merlin says: 'Don't believe her. Look at this noble profile.'

Merlin - head

Monday, May 18, 2009


Just a brief note to explain why there is no new post this week.

I'm having to take some time off from my online activities because I'm not doing too well. I think the shock of Mum being ill triggered a crash which I am still coping with. I seemed to be running on adrenaline for days, and then came down to earth with a bump!

I hope to be back with more news and photos next week.....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hippo birdy!

It was my birthday yesterday!

I had lots of beautiful cards, some of them hand-made :)
I also had books, CDs, DVDs, knitty stuff, and a beautiful pewter pill box with an owl sculpted on the lid. I'm still expecting the books I ordered from Amazon with gift money and vouchers, so my birthday will be going on for a while yet!

Merlin loved all my presents. He played with every bit of wrapping paper, every ball of sticky tape, every ribbon and every piece of rustly plastic. He commandeered a big box, and has put some of the paper balls into it to remind us it is his.

He also insisted on inspecting everything. He was extremely impressed with the catnip cushions, the organic catnip, the cat treats and the cat toys - some of my friends thought he should have presents too :)

The weather was awful - grey, cold and drizzly - but I had a triple-chocolate muffin as my birthday cake (the diabetic nurse said it was OK!), and we had a Chinese last night while we watched 'W.' on Sky Box Office. Good times :)))

Monday, May 04, 2009

The kindness of knitters (and crocheters)

I don't intend to make a habit of posting the smae thing on both my blogs - what would be the point of having two, if I did? - but this week I am sharing the same story again in both places, on my Still Life blog because it is a wonderful example of human generosity, and here because it involves knitters being generous!

My mother lives in sheltered housing in York, just around the corner from my sister. On April 27, just after my sister had gone on holiday, my mother was admitted to the Coronary Care Unit at York District Hospital with chest pains. Mum only allowed the hospital to tell us on the following day, when they established that it had been a small heart attack, and not the indigestion she had hoped it was.

My brother couldn't come up from Luton till Friday, and Mum refused to let my sister leave her holiday early. There was never any chance of my going down there. I was terribly upset, thinking that she would be alone with no family around her. Without much hope of anything coming from it, I posted messages in four UK groups on Ravelry, asking if anyone in York could pop in and see her, and maybe take in some fruit.

I expected, at the most, a few kind messages saying that they hoped she was well again soon, and these I got. I also received six offers of practical help, four of them from total strangers.

The next day, Mum had a visit from one of these strangers, bringing fruit and soft drinks. She sat with Mum for half an hour, and then emailed me to say Mum was in the main ward now, and in good spirits. She refused to be reimbursed for the shopping she had done – 'It was the least I could do,' she wrote.

Another woman who worked in the hospital was all set to visit her that evening, and I had other people lined up for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Luckily, Mum was discharged on Wednesday afternoon into the care of the warden at her sheltered housing, so I didn't have to call on them – but they were all prepared to go out of their way to visit a sick old lady, whom they had never met, just because they were asked to.

I was also inundated with kind messages of support, and enquiries about how Mum and I were doing, after she came home.

I would have expected this from my online friends, who are like penpals to me – we know so much about each other, and our families. But I didn't expect total strangers to do this for Mum and me, and I was very humbled by the whole thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Missing in action

I'm taking the unusual step of re-publishing my entry from my Still Life blog, because it's something that has really made me stop and think:

Today I met someone I've known of for a long time, but had never been introduced to, and I had a rather odd experience. Before I was ill, we moved in somewhat similar circles, and so we know a lot of the same people. It was lovely to hear about all the old names - but I was shocked by how many had died. And several times my new friend made a comment like, 'Of course, she's nearly 80 now...', which shocked me almost as much as the news of the deaths.

My mother told me once that, when the Second World War ended, she somehow expected her friends who had been killed to come back - to get up off the floor at the end of the game - and it was a new grief to her to realise that they really had gone. I think this is what, unknowingly, I've been doing with my illness - thinking that, when I get well again, everything will go back to the way it was. But it won't. Already it has stolen nearly twelve years of my life. People have got old and died, people I really liked and never spent enough time with. They won't be coming back, even if one morning I wake up to a miraculous cure.

This is an extremely unsettling thought, and one with which I need to sit for a while.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's a good job we love him....

We say that a lot at the moment. The 'him', of course, is Merlin the Mad Kitten - now 6 months old, still with huge paws he has to grow into, but already almost the size that Tigger was, full grown.

He is a one-cat Demolition Derby.

In the seven weeks we've had him (feels like a lifetime!), he has abducted, adopted or wrecked (and in some cases, all three) the following items:

1 inhaler
1 inhaler sock
1 glasses case
1 MP3 player cosy
2 duvet covers
1 large china owl
1 crystal water lily
2 knitting needles
1 ball of Artesano Alpaca
1 ribbon
1 angel made from a palm leaf
1 needle-felted crocodile
Half an aspidistra
1 tradescantia
1 lampshade
1 plush cat

And that was after I thought I'd kitten-proofed the place...

(The Artesano Alpaca, by the way, was not a full ball. After I gave up attempting to unpick the collision of knitting and physics, Richard was rather struck by the ornamental value of one of the small balls I produced, and has had it sitting on his bookshelves. He always has had impeccable taste.)

Two friends yesterday decided he was a dog, after seeing him catch, retrieve, growl, and chew the arms of people trying to cuddle him. Personally, from the size of him, I think he is the offspring of the Beast of Bodmin.

Still - he's very cute. But it's a good job we love him....

Merlin says,"But... but... look at me! I'm so well-behaved. Why are you telling people all those awful lies?"

Bigger Merlin (18 weeks)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yarn to dye for

A few months ago, the only yarn I owned which was not factory-spun and machine-dyed was a skein of Hipknits hand-dyed cashmere/silk blend, which I got for resubscribing to Yarn Forward - I wrote a post about it called 'The Adventures of the Blue-Green Skein'.

Then I joined the UK RAK group on Ravelry. Not only is it full of very kind and generous people, but many of them are very talented spinners and dyers, too - like Kristina (AKA Wyndwitch), who created the Heather yarn for me. Now I am in the enviable position of having a whole bagful of hand-dyed (and frequently handspun) yarn.

First I received (from Caroline, AKA craftyfox) a raspberry-coloured skein of the Hipknits, which is sill being wound up and untangled. The stuff is like Velcro to wind, but that also means it clings together when knitted or crocheted, to make a wonderfully smooth fabric.

Then, out of the blue, I received this wonderful package from Zoe, AKA woolbird:

RAK from woolbird

Among the goodies is a large skein of the softest yarn I have ever felt, hand-dyed by Zoe in a wonderful range of shades of violet.

RAK from Muoriska

This lovely parcel was from Jaana, AKA Muoriska, in Lapland, and was part of a challenge - we had to post a yellow parcel (put your sunglasses on before you click that link!). Among the other lovely things I received was a skein hand-dyed by Jaana, in gorgeous flame colours of orange and yellow.

Next was another total surprise, from Lucy, AKA LucyJ, and included a skein of Blue-Faced Leicester wool from her own flock, commercially spun, but hand-dyed in a fabulous variegated purple called 'Fizzy Grape':

RAK from LucyJ

By this time I had also purchased a green/magenta/copper skein of English DK, hand-dyed by my extremely talented friend Otiva, AKA Patricia, of Yummy Yarns UK on Etsy. I can't show you that just now, because it''s being made into an item for this month's RAK Challenge - but a photo will be forthcoming soon! Anyway, she very kindly asked me if I would make something up in one of her handspun, hand-dyed yarns, so that she could show visitors to her shop what the yarn looks like once knitted. I jumped at the chance, and she sent me a skein of 4-ply Shetland wool. I immediately christened it 'Raspberry Ruffles' - it has the pink of the raspberry centre, the brown of the chocolate, and the dark pink (and, originally, green) of the wrappers!

Raspberry Ruffles - closeup

By the way - if you click that link, I am not responsible for any damage that may be done to your credit card. I've used them a lot, and they're a great firm!

I am about two-thirds of the way through the Eliina shawl with it. She also sent me a cake of brown Ecology Shetland, which will be used for the deep lace border:

Raspberry Ruffles

I don't know what it is about Shetland - it seems to have a liveliness to it that almost knits itself. I think it's magic....

At the same time, Kristina (Wyndwitch), of Flutterby Creations, asked me to road-test a hand-dyed sock yarn for her. It was a hard decision, as she has some amazing Terry Pratchett-inspired colourways, but eventually I settled on 'Paint It Black':

Paint It Black - closeup

The red actually looks a little orangey here. It's more of a cherry red. The other photo is a little closer:

Paint It Black

I really love the way the stripes are forming in this, with the wider 'flashes' of black punctuating the thinner stripes.

I am very lucky in all my talented and generous friends, and I am very happy to have discovered the joys of handspun and hand-dyed yarns!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The next big thing!

A quick plug for my friend's book, and the excellent website it's on.

Authonomy.com is a website set up by Hodder to 'flush out new talent'. It's a site for wannabe writers to upload their work, and read and critique the work of others. Most importantly, once a month the editors at Hodder will read and consider the 5 most popular books.

There are hundreds of books there, if you don't mind reading online, and you could even spot the new big thing! Speaking of which, I really want to plug my dear friend Amery's book on this site, The Living and the Dead: The Awakening, which is an urban fantasy.

You can register, read and comment without having to upload your own writing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

It was all yellow....

On the UK RAK group on Ravelry, we have started a monthly game where, every month, we agree to send a RAK parcel to a partner on a specific theme. The theme for March was 'Yellow', and I decided to make three of the things in my parcel.

It was only when I put them together that I realised how different the colours were, and how each colour affected the others.

First came the neon yellow doily, crocheted from thread sent in the RAK parcel which came to me, all the way from Lapland (we're not all in the UK!):

Yellow doily

This really is yellow - just photographing it on a blue surface is making it look greenish, but I can assure you it isn't!

Next were these vibrant yellow crocheted mitts:

Yellow mitts

And lastly, the yellow crocheted flower brooch:

Yellow ruffled flower

(Why, yes, I am having a bit of a crochet binge at the moment. Funny you should ask....)

And then I put them all together to put into the envelope...

Yellow RAK items from me

....at which point my yellow items became a cream flower, orange mitts and a green doily.

I love colour, but it drives me mental!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stop Press!

I can now tell how spaced out I was yesterday - I completely forgot my most exciting news!

My very clever friend Kristina dyes yarn and batts for sale in her shop, Flutterby Creations (including a wonderful range inspired by Discworld characters!). She announced a competition last week on her shop blog, where you could win your own design of yarn. I was thrilled to see I was banned from entering - because she was already designing one in my honour!

It's a gorgeous, springlike blend of yellow, lavender and grey, and you can see it for sale on her site.

Mine is in the post. I am so thrilled :)

Stop, thief!

Merlin is becoming more devious and mischievous with every passing day.

Not content with every knitted case I've made for things in the past year, his mousie, his tassel, and various paper balls, he has become a sneak thief.

Wondering where one of my mascots has gone, I find it under my bed, distinctly soggy, and ragged round the edges.

I sit quietly with my knitting (not often, granted, but I do get the chance sometimes), minding my own business - and a little paw comes snaking onto the table, and steals my notions bag.

I put my knitting down, and a black streak shoots past and disappears with my ball of yarn.

Yarn retrieved, I go to pick up my knitting again - only to find he's had that away, too.

And this week, I have had to transfer my imminent-project yarn from the lovely lavender tote, in which it has sat unmolested for several years (not always the same yarn, I hasten to add - although, come to think of it....), into a zipped holdall, because Someone has discovered he can hop up next to it, and find a huge supply of new woolly balls.

He looked very indignant when I zipped the holdall and stopped his games, but there's a limit to how long I can watch my precious hand-dyed, hand-spun goodies disappearing out of the door and down the corridor, trailing between his scampering feet - and it's about 0.1 of a second.

Poor Merlin. As we say to him countless times a day - 'It's a good job you're cute'....

Bigger Merlin (18 weeks)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scrunchie doll

I'm feeling pretty brain-dead today - I enjoyed a Quaker Meeting for Worship at my home on Sunday, but it wiped me out yesterday (hence the lateness of this entry), and I'm about at the end of my energy today - so I'm giving you another free pattern.

This one is from SlipKnot issue 112 (June 2006), and gives a cute and very kitsch way for little girls to store their hair scrunchies - as a tutu on a little ballerina.

You need some kind of small doll for this - I used an Impkins doll which I bought on eBay.

Although I give a scrunchie pattern here, there are loads online. Try Crochet Pattern Central (always a good source of crochet patterns), or the Ravelry pattern search.

Because there are so many suitable small dolls available, this is more of a guideline than a pattern!

Scrunchie Doll

Scrunchie Doll

You will need a small amount of plain yarn and a scrap of ribbon for the body, and a hair elastic and some eyelash yarn for the scrunchie. Use needles and hooks which are suitable for the yarn you choose.

Using the plain yarn, cast on enough stitches to go around half the body, with a provisional cast on. Work in stocking stitch for length needed to gusset.

Decrease 1 st each end of the next 4 rows, then increase 1 st each end of following 4 rows.

Work up the back straight for the same length as the front, and do not cast off.

Undo the provisional cast on, and thread a thin ribbon through the stitches. Put the strip of knitting in place on the doll, and thread the ribbon through the last row of stitches. Pull up and tie in a bow.

To make a crochet garment, work in double crochet (US - treble crochet), following the instructions above. Thread the yarn through the stitches in the first and last rows.

To make the scrunchie, I used an oddment of eyelash yarn, which makes it very fluffy and full:

UK version:
Round 1: dc closely around the elastic band and sl st closed.
Round 2: (ch4, miss 1 dc, dc into next dc) to end, then (2ch, 1 tr) to close.
Round 3: (ch6, dc in next ch4 loop) to end, (ch6, sl st) to close.

US version:
Round 1: tr closely around the elastic band and sl st closed.
Round 2: (ch4, miss 1 tr, tr into next tr) to end, then (2ch, 1 dtr) to close.
Round 3: (ch6, tr in next ch4 loop) to end, (ch6, sl st) to close.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Well, we certainly know we have another cat!

It's not just the talking, or the thundering down the hall like a herd of elephants, or even the destructiveness - it's his absolutely unshakeable belief that, whatever we are doing, we cannot possibly accomplish it unless he helps. My books all have teeth marks. My yarn has all had to be securely fastened into containers he can't open - and he's already working on zips. I had to abandon half a yoghurt today because I couldn't get my spoon past his head.

He has a fascination for anything knitted. So far he has abducted my inhaler bag (complete with inhaler - we can't find it anywhere), my glasses case and my MP3 player cosy. He throws them around, drags them into a corner, and then growls over them.

I can't knit or crochet, because he drops onto my chest every time I start, and tries to run away with my project. He chews my hair, claws my chin, and makes my arm ache by refusing to sleep in any other position than draped over my elbow.

And you know what?

I wouldn't change him for the world :))

He makes me laugh so much, especially when Richard gets him chasing the laser pointer. He has woken Chloe up and given her a new lease of life - they play together several times a day, and seem to get on amazingly well. And he is the softest, cuddliest kitten I've had apart from Tigger (and let's face it, Tigger was a one-off). He has us wound quite securely around his huge black paw, and he knows it :)

Richard has photos and two video clips at his Flickr site, but this is my favourite:


Merlin says: 'So, let's see - inhaler bag, check; catnip mouse, check; Mum's ability to say no to me, check...'

Monday, March 09, 2009

Extra, extra! - revisited

I wrote on Monday:

I've now got my copy of Simply Knitting 51, and I notice the sizes on Spring Leaves, the lace tunic, have been recalculated. I designed it for sizes 16 to 30, and it's been printed for 12 to 20.

I have no huge problems with this - it's their magazine, they're entitled to edit things to fit in better - but I thought it would be nice to reprint here the original pattern, for larger sizes. For copyright reasons, this is not the entire pattern - you will still need to buy the magazine for the stitch patterns. I don't want to break my contract, just provide some extra information...

It seems I posted a little hastily - what the magazine has done is relabel the sizes, not recalculate them, and so the pattern I published here is actually the same as the one in the magazine.

The editor assures me that the top I supplied as a 16 actually fitted a 12 perfectly, and was too small for a 14. That means that the pattern as written would actually fit the sizes with which the magazine labelled it. What happened I'm not quite sure - but obviously, for some reason, my tension measurements were out. Please take this as an example of the importance of measuring gauge accurately!

Thus I've taken down the pattern. The offer for the lace charts still stands, however, and if anyone would like the pattern in a larger size, let me know and I'll work it out for you.

As a footnote, I have received a pdf from Simply Knitting of my design in issue 53, which will fit bust sizes of 38 to 56 inches, and it looks wonderful. I hope you'll like it too.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Here's the first photo of the darling boy, taken at the foster home. He hasn't stopped moving for long enough for a photo here yet :)

Chloe was mildly interested, and then stalked off in disgust.....

Merlin, just before coming to us

Monday, March 02, 2009

Good news, good news, and more good news!

I had a rotten week last week, for several reasons (including a replacement carer breaking my CD player and lying about it - that's sorted now, though), and I really needed some good news. Well, I've had it, in bucketsful!

First I found out that one of my patterns had been published in Simply Knitting 51 - I don't know where my contributor's copy went, but it will be nice to see it anyway (a kind fellow Raveler is sending me her copy). It's my favourite of the plus-size patterns, a lace tunic in Artesano Alpaca:

Empire line top

The lace pattern is the Beech Leaf lace pattern from Mary Thomas' Book of Knitting Patterns, and the bodice is garter stitch. There's a band of something called Star Stitch, also from Mary Thomas, at the empire line/start of the bodice.

I've also heard that a sleeveless jacket/gilet thing I made in Rowan Tapestry will be featured in issue 53. It's lovely to see all these items finally hitting the pages. I finished them all quite a while ago, but have had to wait for them to fit a theme before I see them in print.

On Friday I finally managed to find a sewing machine on Freecycle. I have been putting in claims for a while, and not being successful, and even putting in my own 'Want' ads hasn't helped. This time, though, I actually had two offers, and I am now the happy owner of a very lovely Jones electric machine - nothing wrong with it that a little cosmetic cleaning won't solve!

And the best news of all - we think we have found our kitten. Chloe has been so clingy and vocal that I finally realised she was actually missing Tigger much more than I thought, so we decided to get a new kitten which would, perhaps, stop her fretting. It took a long time to find one. Now that people spay and neuter their cats (hurrah for responsible pet owners!), there are a lot fewer unwanted kittens around. However, I have just been speaking to an RSPCA foster mum, who wants us to come and see Merlin tomorrow, to see if we like each other.

He is a black Siamese cross, about 12 weeks old, big paws, bat ears, flat nose - and very vocal! He has had his first vaccinations, but is happy to be a house cat (phew - I hated it every time Tigger went out!). He loves other cats, dogs, and especially people, and when he gets tired he snuggles down and sucks his blankie.... (She thinks he was probably taken too early from his mum.)

Richard is going to meet him and, hopefully, fetch him home tomorrow. Photos to follow. Please cross your fingers for us....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daisy, Daisy

Another freebie, in my quest to make all my free patterns more widely accessible on Ravelry - and to everyone who reads this blog :)

I designed this little flower as an ornament for a Christmas parcel, at a friend's request. I liked it enough to submit it to SlipKnot, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild.

You could also use it as an embellishment on a hat, bag, cushion etc, or attach a hair-slide or brooch pin to the back. It also works pretty well as a pen topper, but you may need a dab of glue to help it stay in place, depending on your gauge.

It's worked by crocheting twice into the same round - once into the front loops, then back round again into the back loops. You can create a bigger flower if you wish, by adding 4ch to the loops of each extra odd-numbered round, but the back of the flower does become quite thick, quite quickly.


Daisy, Daisy


Use any thread or yarn and an appropriately-sized hook to the yarn or thread you use. The size of the decoration will vary with the size of the fibre used.

For the example illustrated (about 2"/5cm diameter), I used a size 10 crochet thread held together with a strand of Twilley’s Goldfingering in Silver, worked with a 4mm (G) hook.


beg - beginning
ch – chain
ss – slip stitch
sc - single crochet
dc – double crochet
FL - front loop
BL - back loop

INSTRUCTIONS - British terminology

Round 1: Ch 6, ss to close

Round 2: Ch1, dc into same space, 7 dc into ring, ss to 1st ch. (8dc)

Round 3: FL only - ss in first FL, ch6, ss in same loop, [ss into next FL, ch 6, ss into same loop] in remaining loops. (8 ch-6 loops)

Round 4: BL only, working into the back loops immediately behind front loops used in previous row - ch1, dc in each BL to end, ss into 1st ch. (8dc)

Round 5: FL only, working into the front loops of the dc created in previous row - ss in first FL, ch10, ss in same loop, [ss into next FL, ch 10, ss into same loop] in remaining loops. (8 ch-10 loops)

Round 6: Rpt row 4.

Round 7: FL only, working into the front loops of the dc created in previous row - ss in first FL, ch14, ss in same loop, [ss into next FL, ch 14, ss into same loop] in remaining loops. (8 ch-14 loops)

Fasten off and sew in ends. Ease petals into shape.

INSTRUCTIONS - American terminology

Round 1: Ch 6, ss to close

Round 2: Ch1, sc into same space, 7 sc into ring, ss to 1st ch. (8sc)

Round 3: FL only - ss in first FL, ch6, ss in same loop, [ss into next FL, ch 6, ss into same loop] in remaining loops. (8 ch-6 loops)

Round 4: BL only, working into the back loops immediately behind front loops used in previous row - ch1, sc in each BL to end, ss into 1st ch. (8sc)

Round 5: FL only, working into the front loops of the sc created in previous row - ss in first FL, ch10, ss in same loop, [ss into next FL, ch 10, ss into same loop] in remaining loops. (8 ch-10 loops)

Round 6: Rpt row 4.

Round 7: FL only, working into the front loops of the sc created in previous row - ss in first FL, ch14, ss in same loop, [ss into next FL, ch 14, ss into same loop] in remaining loops. (8 ch-14 loops)

Fasten off and sew in ends. Ease petals into shape.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Fine Vintage

Sorry this is a day late. I had a lovely but exhausting day on Sunday and so spent most of Monday asleep!

I'm developing more and more interest in vintage knitting patterns, and, as I know I'm not alone in this, I thought I'd share some of my favourite links.

The main things to bear in mind with vintage patterns are that

  • they rarely supply a gauge measurement
  • much of the terminology is different from modern terminology
  • vintage sizes are often much smaller than modern ones!

However, there are plucky souls out there who are decoding the patterns and making them much more accessible for modern knitters.

For the original publications, as well as actual paper patterns and books, I use two online sources of public domain textile books : Project Gutenberg, which has an entire Craft Shelf full of textile books; and the Antique Pattern Library.

There are also individual free vintage patterns available such as those on the Vintage Purls blog, and the 1940s patterns on the V&A website.

Some bloggers have taken on an entire book, or a whole lace sampler, and resolved to decode and rework every pattern for modern knitters. The best that I have come across are FitterKnitter, who is slowly working her way through a book from 1897 called The Art of Knitting, and Kathleen, who is reworking an 1884 lace sampler book. Her notes on antique terminology are very useful, and she explains things very clearly. Both of these bloggers provide charted and written instructions.

Well, that's it from me. Not very entertaining, but I hope it was useful - and next week I will be rested and back to my usual self, fingers crossed ;)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Spokes Coaster

Well, the Ruffled Flower has been a hit on Ravelry - so far it has been favourited 27 times and queued 7 times! OK, so it's no Clapotis, but that's a lot for one of my patterns :)

Comic Relief launched the 2009 Red Nose Day a few days ago, and a UK-based crafting forum called Crafteroo has opened a shop on Folksy to raise money for it. All items have been donated by the crafters, and Folksy has agreed to waive the fees so that all proceeds will go straight to Comic Relief.

I have given permission for all of my patterns to be used to make fundraising items, and I thought it would be useful to reprint here one that originally appeared in SlipKnot, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild.

Spokes Coaster

Spokes Coaster


To make a coaster 4" (10cm) diameter, I used a small amount of Aunt Lydia's Denim and a 4mm (G) hook. Thicker thread or yarn will make bigger coasters, thinner thread smaller ones. Two thin threads of contrasting colour held together makes a very pretty effect.


beg - beginning
ch – chain
ss – slip stitch
sc - single crochet
dc – double crochet
tr – treble crochet

INSTRUCTIONS - British terminology

Foundation: Ch6, ss into first ch to form ring.

Row 1: 3ch to act as first tr, 11 tr into ring, ss into 3rd of beg ch (12 tr)

Row 2: Ch 4 to act as first (tr, ch1), then (tr, ch1) in each tr around. Join with ss to 3rd of beg ch (12 tr, 12 ch1 spaces)

Row 3: Ss into first ch1 space, 3ch as first tr, 2 more tr in same space, (3tr in each ch1 space) around, ss to 3rd of beg ch (36 tr)

Row 4: Repeat row 2 (36 tr, 36 ch1 spaces).

Row 5: Either reverse dc (crab stitch) or plain dc into each ch1 space. (36 dc). Crab stitch gives a neat rolled edge.

Alternative row 5: Ss into first ch1 space, ch1, dc in same space, 3ch, (dc into next ch1 space, 3ch) all the way around to last space, ss into first dc.

Finish off. Weave in ends.

INSTRUCTIONS - US terminology

Foundation: Ch6, ss into first ch to form ring.

Row 1: 3ch to act as first dc, 11 dc into ring, ss into 3rd of beg ch (12 dc)

Row 2: Ch 4 to act as first (dc, ch1), then (dc, ch1) in each dc around. Join with ss to 3rd of beg ch (12 dc, 12 ch1 spaces)

Row 3: Ss into first ch1 space, 3ch as first dc, 2 more dc in same space, (3dc in each ch1 space) around, ss to 3rd of beg ch (36 dc)

Row 4: Repeat row 2 (36 dc, 36 ch1 spaces).

Row 5: Either reverse sc (crab stitch) or plain sc into each ch1 space. (36 sc). Crab stitch gives a neat rolled edge.

Alternative row 5: Ss into first ch1 space, ch1, sc in same space, 3ch, (sc into next ch1 space, 3ch) all the way around to last space, ss into first sc.

Finish off. Weave in ends.


A fellow Raveler asked me if I could work out how to expand the coaster into a doily and, after a certain amount of messing about and swearing, I am delighted to say that I can.

Spokes Doily

I worked this with thread - unfortunately the thickness was not given on the wrapper, but it was equivalent to a fingering weight, or between 3 and 4 ply. I used a 3mm hook. The final measurement was just over 12" diameter, or approximately 30cm. This used 45g/225m of thread (1.6 oz/246 yds).

The instructions are the same for both UK and US terminology, as all you have to do is work round 2 and round 3 from the coaster pattern.


Rounds 1-3: Work the coaster pattern to the end of Round 3.

Rounds 4-7: Work Coaster Round 2 four times.

Round 8: Work Coaster Round 3 once.

Rounds 9-10: Work Coaster Round 2 twice.

Round 11: Work Coaster Round 3 once.

Round 12: Work Coaster Round 2 once.

Round 13: Work Coaster Round 5, or the alternative Coaster Round 5 (which is the version I used).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ruffled Flower

As promised last week - the Ruffled Flower!

Cobweb flower close-up


I used about 5gm (50m/55yds or so) of a cobweb-weight cashmere/silk blend, worked with a 2.75mm (C) hook. I used a 1cm (half inch) diameter spherical pearl button for the centre. The flower came out at 7cm (about 3 inches) diameter. Thicker yarn and hooks will produce bigger flowers.


ch – chain
ss – slip stitch
sc - single crochet
dc – double crochet
tr – treble crochet

INSTRUCTIONS - British terminology

Row 1: Leave a long end, then ch3, ss to close

Row 2: Ch3 in place of first tr, then 27 tr into ring, ss into 3rd of beginning ch (28tr)

Row 3: Ch4 in place of first tr and ch, (skip next tr, tr into next tr, ch1) to end, ss into 3rd of beginning ch (14 ch-1 spaces)

Row 4: Ch4 in place of first tr and ch, (tr1, ch1) 4 more times into 1st ch1-space, then (tr1, ch1) 5 times into each ch1-space to end, ss into 3rd of beginning ch (70tr)

Row 5: ch1, work 2dc into each ch1-space to end, ss into 1st ch (140dc)

Row 6: ch5, ss to 1st dc, (ch5, ss to next dc) to end, ss to base of 1st 5-ch (140 ch-5 spaces)

Sew in ends, using the cast-on end to sew a gorgeous bead or button into the centre. Attach to a pin, or sew onto a top, shawl or evening bag.

INSTRUCTIONS - US terminology

Row 1: Leave a long end, then ch3, ss to close

Row 2: Ch3 in place of first dc, then 27 dc into ring, ss into 3rd of beginning ch (28dc)

Row 3: Ch4 in place of first dc and ch, (skip next dc, dc into next dc, ch1) to end, ss into 3rd of beginning ch (14 ch-1 spaces)

Row 4: Ch4 in place of first dc and ch, (dc1, ch1) 4 more times into 1st ch1-space, then (dc1, ch1) 5 times into each ch1-space to end, ss into 3rd of beginning ch (70dc)

Row 5: ch1, work 2sc into each ch1-space to end, ss into 1st ch (140sc)

Row 6: ch5, ss to 1st sc, (ch5, ss to next sc) to end, ss to base of 1st 5-ch (140 ch-5 spaces)

Sew in ends, using the cast-on end to sew a gorgeous bead or button into the centre. Attach to a pin, or sew onto a top, shawl or evening bag.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Adventures of the Blue-Green Skein

Once upon a time there was a beautiful skein of blue-green cobweb weight yarn. It was cunningly made from cashmere and silk, and was as cool and beautiful to the touch as it was to the eye:

For the Love of Lace

It had come to live with a Keen Knitter, who stroked it lovingly and told it that she would make it into something wonderful, as it deserved.

First it had to be wound into a ball. This was not an easy matter: the silk fibres were very shy and nervous, and clung together until the whole skein was one tangled mess. Luckily the Keen Knitter had a friend who loved to turn worried skeins into smooth balls of yarn, and she worked at it gently over many hours until every last knot was undone, and the yarn was in balls and ready to be knitted.

The Keen Knitter wanted to choose a pattern that would suit the beautiful blue-green yarn, the colour of summer waves, so she found one which reminded her of the sea. She cast on, and concentrated very hard, but she made so many mistakes that she undid her work and sat, disheartened. She had never knitted with anything so fine and delicate before.

She wondered if that was the biggest problem. She hunted down a simple pattern that would allow her to get used to the fine strands before she tried to do anything clever with them, and this worked very well. As soon as she felt confident, she started to look for a more complex pattern.

As luck would have it, another kind friend of the Keen Knitter sent her a lovely pattern which she thought might be just right. It was designed to look like the leaves on the trees outside her window. It took a lot of concentration, and she worked very slowly, but at last she had done three complete repeats of the pattern.

But then disaster struck. Just as she put her needle into a stitch, the stitch snapped. A whole row of work unravelled before her eyes. She could have wept. All that effort, all that concentration - she was just not cut out for knitting with something this fine. She put the balls of yarn away, and picked up a sock instead....

Two days later, picking up a dropped stitch with a fine crochet hook, inspiration struck. Perhaps she could crochet with the blue-green yarn? It was far too beautiful just to sit at the bottom of her work bag. She pulled some yarn out and began to doodle with it.

It seemed to like the crochet hook. It seemed much more relaxed and the stitches were more even. She doodled and scrumbled until she had made a beautiful ruffled flower. Then she found a lovely pearl button for its centre, just as a nod to the sea-colour of the yarn. It was pretty, and soft, and it had worked.

So the Keen Knitter, who was also a Clever Crocheter, found another pattern for a shawl. This one was made with a crochet hook - and this one, she hoped, would get finished.

(As soon as I get Richard to take its photograph, the flower - and its pattern - will be appearing here!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Christmas Presents

Yes, yes, I know - Christmas was nearly a month ago (where does the time go??), but I never blogged properly about my handmade Christmas. I did supply a couple of photos of projects in progress, but not a proper round-up.

I decided that my three carers, Jacky, Joan and Hayley, should have mitts. These would keep them warm and allow them to smoke, as they walk between clients, without taking their gloves off... I am an ex-smoker, and I know what it's like!

I used the excellent and very quick (3 hours per pair!) Ysolda Teague Garter Stitch Mitts pattern. They're constructed side-to-side, so I made them in Quaker rib for a little extra stretch (it's a mock rib for when you are working side-to-side: row 1 knit, row 2 purl, row 3 purl, row 4 knit.).

Joan got Stylecraft Baby Velvet chenille:


Hayley got Jarol Hyde Park DK:


and Jacky got purple Sirdar Denim Tweed DK:


...which I packaged up with something else, and they got left in the paper and thrown away.

Ho hum....

Richard's grandfather and my brother both got Moebius neckwarmers, one in Sirdar Denim Tweed DK held double:

Mobius for Stan

and one using the reversible cables of the Palindrome scarf pattern by Kristin Bellehumeur. I made this one in Rowan Tapestry held together with some unlabelled cream acrylic:

Palindrome moebius

The shading shows up well in this photo, but not the clever reversible cables. They're much more visible on the actual piece.

One of my friends loves turquoise, so she got the Storm Cloud Shawlette by Hanna Breetz, in a glorious, clear turquoise from Woolcraft New Fashion DK:


Mine was a little smaller than the original pattern, but it tucks in nicely under her coat collar!

For Mum I had a load of small presents, and her only handmade item was a washcloth - the Christmas Dishcloth by the talented Kristen Patay. Because it was in white, it didn't photograph well, but you can see the design clearly on the linked page.

Richard also got a stocking-stuffer washcloth - the Transformers cloth by Enid Danforth. He hasn't photographed this yet - so follow the link and imagine it in red :)

Finally I made two lined cotton handbags. For Richard's grandmother I made the Rowan International 2006/2007 members' kit, the Dolly Bag, in green Rowan Handknit Cotton:


It's meant to have bobbles, but I found them too hard to do in cotton, so I substituted eyelets! I lined it with Barefoot Roses fabric by Free Spirit at Get Knitted:


The second bag, for my dear friend Linda, was the Square Cake bag, a Knitty.com pattern from Jairlyn Mason. This was a repurposed bag kit: Rowan Handknit Cotton again, in shocking pink:


with vibrant matching Kaffe Fassett fabric to line it:

Kaffe Fassett lining for Square Cake bag

Everyone seemed to like what they got, and it was such good fun making them all. I got to try out several patterns I would probably not have made otherwise, as well as using up some of my stash. I'm already planning this Christmas - the carers are getting cowls, for a start. And Jacky's will be too big to get tangled up with the wrapping paper.....