Sunday, February 01, 2015

January in Review

Red Bird of Happiness, made from handspun
Literature inhaled:
Upstairs at the Party -  Linda Grant - pretty good but nothing compared to...
Euphoria -  Lily King - the last few paragraphs broke my heart.
The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters - as audio book, compelling listening
The Beautiful Wreck - Larissa Brown - still reading it, still loving it.  I might have to buy a print copy to keep forever.  Is it possible that I have fallen in love with Old Norse?
History of the Rain - Niall Williams - started today, un-put-downable, laugh-out-loud funny and yet sad because of the circumstances of its bedridden narrator.
First Neon Monkey sock

Music adored:
July Talk, playing it on a loop at my desk and in the car.  I am obsessed.

Coffee bought in shops or cafes:
ZERO!!!!  That means I am £2.50 x 20 working days = £50 better off than usual - woo hoo!

Puerperium cardigan for work colleague's sprog
Unethical Clothes bought:  3 pairs of trousers from Mango
Unethical Clothes sent back:  3 pairs of trousers from Mango (clownishly big in two sizes)
Outcome:  a complaint to Mango about their shockingly poor customer service.  The free returns label sends your goods to a 3rd party shipping company in the UK which then batches up parcels and sends them on to Spain.  This can take 3 weeks.  If your refund does not come through, you have to contact the shipping company with your Royal Mail reference and ask them for a copy of their shipping label for you to fax (FAX!) to Mango!  This is inefficient at best, and the potential for fraud is enormous.  None of this is explained on their website.
Refunds received:  1 so far (it took 3 weeks).  2 still waiting.

It probably serves me right for breaking my pledge not to shop with unethical retailers.
Not to shop full stop.

Ethical Clothes Bought:
One absolutely wonderful wool / cashmere big baggy sweater / dress made in a small workshop in Portugal for Beaumont Organic, purchased from Gather and See in their sale at a massively reduced price.  I am almost afraid to put it on because I don't think I will ever take it off again.  You'll see it in action soon, I promise!
Ethical sweater :)

Yarn bought:
None.  But lots of knitting progress made, as the pictures show.

Fabric bought:
None. Just as well, as I haven't done any sewing yet this year.  It can't be long now.  I am going slightly nuts wearing the same things all the time and I don't seem to have the skillz or patience to buy regular clothes.

Myeloma update:
In the words of the Consultant, FL's latest Freelite result is "Not perfect, but controlled".  Hmm.
He has had new pain in his ribs, but it is under control.
The Consultant prescribed Pomalidomide again - how much longer will he get away with this?  Pomalidomide is our only hope, but we know those Freelite numbers are critical and the Consultant's evasive answer concerns me.
Keep on taking the tablets.

And keep knitting.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fire and Ice

Neon Monkey sock
 The colours of my current sock are those of a birchwood campfire on a crisp winter's day.
Lone Wolf magazine
My literary landscape is Iceland.
Beautiful Wreck by Larissa Brown.  I won the e-book in a giveaway on the Fiberista Files podcast.  It tool me until yesterday to start reading and now I am transfixed.
Arthur Rackham - Undine
This is not my sort of book - and yet it really is! 
I entered the giveaway in the hope of winning Larissa's knitting patterns:  Shieldmaiden Knits
And I did... but it is the novel which has captivated me.  Now I want to knit all the things.  To fully immerse myself. 
To breathe in Old Norse as if its habitat was deep within the smell of the wool.

Arctic Fire Tea and Bjork
 It feels as if everything has come together in one groundswell of influences.

Caesious Curl - yarn from Highland Handmades
I picked up my Curl, and I realised that it was all part of the same moment.
The yarn was dyed by Heather of Highland Handmades who hosts the Fiberista Files.

So this weekend I am curled up with my Icelandic knitting (Kex is a hostel in Reykjavik - you knew that, right?), drinking my Arctic Fire tea, and daydreaming about Viking princesses.
Join me?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

FO: Neon Fizz Bomb Mitts

This week, winter finally arrived.
The postman has not been able to get up the farm track because of the ice.
FL was confined to the house, for fear of a fall or going off the road with his car.
Every morning, I have started my day by scraping the windscreen and then creeping over the hill at 20mph, hoping I don't meet a vehicle coming in the opposite direction.
So I am feeling pretty smug about finishing these mitts before the weather hit!
At least I have had warm fingers :)

Pattern:  Rosy Lemonade by Rachel Coopey, from Vivacious Volume 1
Yarn:  Two OnLine Supersocke yarns held together:  plain black, and 4-fach Neon Color 2 in shade 1728.
Needles: Lovely Lantern Moon Rosewood Sox Stix in 3.25mm size.

Cast on, knitted for an evening or two, cast off!
This really was a simple project.
However, if you look closely you will see I had an interesting experience holding two strands of yarn together.  Every time I moved from one dpn to the next, I appear to have twisted the yarns over each other without realising.  So in the above photo, you can see a clear "junction" between black dominance and neon dominance in the right hand mitt (to the left of the photo).  When I saw what had happened, I took more care with the second mitt, so the colour is more evenly distributed in that one.
Now... the reason I held two yarns together instead of using a double-knitting weight yarn, was to try out the technique in  preparation to knit a cardigan.
I had been planning to use neon pink Supersocke yarn held together with black Albayarn to knit the Kolmarden jacket.  After this experience, I am not so sure!  I was hoping for a marled effect rather than a tie-dyed one!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My New Soundtrack

With thanks to The Girl, I have a new musical obsession.

July Talk.

Just thought I would share.

Typing up Committee minutes just became bearable :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

FO: My First Vanilla Socks (with Sprinkles)

It may surprise you to hear that in all the years I have been knitting socks (9?), I have never made a pair of completely plain stockinette "vanilla" socks.
My first two pairs were both Jaywalkers.  I loved them to bits (literally), even though they were too big round the ankles and slid down into my shoes.
My sock-knitting ambitions quickly outstripped my experience and I actually designed my Cinderella's Secret Stockings pattern very soon after making those first few pairs of ankle-highs.
So here we are, in 2015, and I have just finished knitting my first pair of plain socks.
And guess what?  They fit!
They fit properly!
OK, so I haven't washed or worn them yet, but I can tell straightaway that this is a different sort of a sockish beast.  They have negative ease - that is to say, they are snug-fitting, and stretch slightly to accommodate my foot and ankle.  It had never occurred to me that this might be a good idea.  I have always erred on the side of comfortable caution, with the result that at least one pair of my handknitted socks can perform a 3-point turn inside my wellies.
I have had a few people contact me over the years, asking for advice on a good basic sock pattern for the beginner.  Readers?  Here it is!
There are plenty of other sock recipes like it, but I can confirm that this one works for me.  I will be making more of these!
Pattern:  Vanilla with Sprinkles by Jenna Krupar (Retro Lemon Studios), 56 stitch cast on
Yarn: Regia Colorations or Garden Effects by Kristin Nicholas, colourway 3311.  If you buy it branded "Colorations", it comes in a 100g ball.  If you buy it as "Garden Effects", it will come in 2 x 50g balls.  It's the same product, just a different put-up.
Needles:  A set of 5 x 2.5mm double pointed Clover bamboos.  They are still my favourites.

I cast these on on Christmas Eve and finished sock one in the hospital waiting room.
An elderly lady patient was absolutely fascinated by the self-patterning yarn and said she would love a cardigan knit up in it.  I don't think she was dropping hints!
And that's the thing about this sort of wool - it impresses both knitters and non-knitters alike.
FL kept asking me how I managed to get the stripes to line up like that. Honestly?  The yarn does it all by itself!  I would love to say it was all about my Mad Skillz but it's not true.
So, combining a super-simple well-written pattern with a super-clever Fake Isle yarn, even a beginner sock knitter can be the star of any waiting room entertainment scenario ;)
In case you are wondering, I deliberately avoided making them identical to each other.
Asymmetry strikes again!

I love them.
They are mine all mine and you can't have them... unless you knit your own.  And you definitely could - go for it!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tossing the Stash

Clockwise from top left:
Garment stash
Sock Yarn remnants
Shawl stash
Sock stash

I have joined the Stash Heap Challenge group over on Ravelry and although I am crap at the interactive elements of social media, it has been fantastic motivation to get myself organised.
The main goal of the group is to:  challenge yourself to find projects to knit in 2015 that use the things you already have!

My first step was to understand the balance of my stash.
In my head, it was about 50% sock yarn, 25% garment yarn and 25% muddle.  It was quite a surprise to discover that the garment yarn fills my largest plastic tub and that I have to sit to the lid to get it closed!

When I really interrogated what I have, there was far less sock-appropriate yarn in there than I thought.
In fact, my shawl stash outstrips it 5:3
This is a good thing:  I have far more shawl plans than I have sock plans!

The change of balance is partly due to my realisation that I don't want to knit 100% wool socks any more.  They felt, they pill, they develop holes, they shrink - it is such a waste of beautiful Malabrigo Sock to use it for actual socks!
This is a picture of "everything else":  a smattering of DK, sportweight and aran wools, with the cotton leftover from my giant crochet blanket.
For the time being it is sharing a tub with my sock yarn.

This was the only yarn which hadn't made it into my Ravelry stash.
It is Manos Silk Blend Fino and it is destined to become a Pavonated Curl.

I plan to make a folder of all the patterns I intend to knit in 2015, matching them up with stash yarn as far as possible.  But that's a job for another day!
Now it's time to sit down with my Kex Blanket and do some actual knitting :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

FO: Infuscate Curl

Somehow we have escaped the snow.
There is a light dusting on the hills on the horizon, but for the time being, at least, we have only bright wintry sunshine and an icy wind to contend with.
Perfect blogging weather!
I finished my first Curl last weekend.  It has been blocking all that time.
Pattern:  Infuscate by Hunter Hammersen
Yarn:  Skein Queen Oasis Grande, 50% Camel, 50% Silk in the club colour "Aristocracy".
Needles:  4mm, US size 6
Process:  It probably took me until repeat 10 to get the hang of the stitch pattern.
Mine is 18 repeats large and used all but a tiny ball of my 400m of fingering-weight yarn.
I really struggled to distinguish between the symbols for right and left leaning decreases.  This is not a fault of the pattern or the designer.  It is symptomatic of my problems with right and left generally. My chart dyslexia slowed me down quite badly.
But once I got into the swing of it, I enjoyed seeing those lovely circular holes appear.
Their roundness fascinates me!
The yarn is very soft and luxurious.
The modelled picture shows the colour best.  It is a rich maroonish bruise sort of a hue with occasional flashes of the undyed base yarn, which adds depth and allows the colour to shift in the light.  Maybe that is down to the silk?  If you split the yarn, you can see it is not dyed to the core, but only on the surface.  This is not a complaint.  I soaked it in warm water and Soak before blocking and it didn't lose any dye at all.
I love the asymmetry of Curls.
I enjoy playing with the drape, to bring the weight to the front for show, or round the back for warmth.
There are lots of pictures in the pattern book, showing different ways to wear your Curls.
This one is thoroughly decadent, in this fantasy yarn:  incredibly soft, slightly fluffy from the camel, and yet with a sheen from the silk.
It was supposed to be a gift.
Yeah, right!
I think it is staying with me :)