Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Every cloud?

The last week hasn't been a great one on several fronts. This is one reason for the absence of posts (the other is that my brother is currently colonizing the spare room which is where the computer resides - not that I'm complaining as he's currently cooking me dinner).

Anyway, firstly, I was struck down by the departmental cold and spent all week feeling lousy, though not ill enough to be off work (which is of course how it has established itself as the departmental cold in the first place, since no one feels they can justify being off sick, so we all go in and give it to someone else).

Then I had a series of minor knitting disasters the worst of which was that a combination of violent sneezing and watching Heroes caused me to drop several stitches on Kiri on Thursday night. Much F-ing and blinding ensued. Thank heavens I finally managed to track them all down and pick them up again, but only at the expense of what should have been another repeat.

On top of the cold I've also been suffering from a particularly bad case of trains. Perhaps in response to all the reports on the news about how fat everyone is getting these days, First Great Western seem to have decided it would be a good idea if we all start the day with a brisk run and some step aerobics. To this end they have taken to changing the platform repeatedly at the very last minute. Last Tuesday for instance we all duly trooped across to platform 4 in accordance with the announcement and then watched as our train pulled up to platform 3. About four of us, reasonably sprightly and fleet of foot made it back in time; everyone else got left behind. Since then they have tried the same trick a further four times but we're wise to it now and so everyone clusters at the top of the stairs ready for the last minute "haven't-a-hope-in-hell-if-you're-old-or-need-to-use-the-lift" platform alteration.

However, they did get me on the way back on Wednesday when I left the Bluestockings happily ensconced in the pub and instead spent 45 minutes sitting on the station trying to knit with increasingly blue fingers while the train I was waiting for gradually got later and later until it merged seamlessly into the next one. Meanwhile I listened to a variety of announcements including the old favourite "Please ignore the information screens, they are showing incorrect information" [i.e. we don't know how to work the bloody things and we can't override the automatic announcements which keep contradicting everything we say] and "We apologise for the delay this is due to mmmghf..nmm...rgh... clackety clackety clackety" [i.e. quick here comes a goods train, make the pretend information announcement now].

Nevertheless, as a result of enforced knitting time I did manage to complete the booties I've been making as my "on-train" project (I should probably be grateful to FGW really since their complete inability to run trains to schedule was one of the main motivating forces behind my taking up knitting in the first place). I also made unexpected progress on a Banff sleeve while stuck in traffic on the M6/M42/M40 at the weekend (I feel bound to add that I don't drive and was sitting in the back and not blithely purling along steering with my knees or anything), so all in all my travelling woes haven't been completely without consolation this week. And the cardigan of stripes is also blocked and ready for posting.

Now all I need to do is decide what to make for my sister's best-friend's imminent new baby using the Elizabeth merino 4ply she sent me. All suggestions welcome.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Who let the dogs out?

Well, apparently no one.

The dogs in question belong to our neighbour. There are two of them and they've been barking incessantly since about 8 o'clock this morning (when, presumably he went out), so so much for the lie-in.

When we first moved here and I heard them barking and howling like this, I used to worry that they were doing it because something had happened, like the house was on fire, or he had been taken ill and was lying unconscious, or was trapped down an old mineshaft perhaps. Now I realise it's just because they're shut in on their own and it's the only think they can think of to do. I wish they'd find a quieter way to pass the time though - it drives me nuts! Perhaps I should try to teach them to knit.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Meet the ancestors

Today I finally got my photos from my old yahoo account transferred across to flickr so I've been having fun rediscovering photos I'd forgotten about.

Amongst them are these pictures of (I am reliably informed) two of my great-grandfathers.

You can certainly see where my brother gets his facial hair from!

The remainder of the pictures are mostly from c.2000-2002 when C was living and working just outside Chicago and I went out to stay with him. Most of them were prints which I scanned in so that my parents et al could see them, which accounts for the somewhat grainy quality of some of them.

There are some from our train trip on the California Zephyr which takes two days to go from Chicago to San Francisco through the Rockie mountains. The scenery in the Rockies and the Utah and Nevada deserts was some of the most amazing I've ever seen, partly just because of the sheer scale.

This is the foothills of the Rockies. It doesn't look like much until you realize that the line just below half-way is a huge goods train.

We spent a few days in San Francisco at the end of this trip before flying back to Chicago. San Francisco was great, though it was surprisingly cold, especially down by the sea. Still the fog was very atmospheric, even if it did leave me wishing I'd brought a coat.

This one is of the Gateway Arch in St Louis. C and I drove there for a couple of days from Chicago on Memorial Day weekend (late May).

When we left Chicago it was 42 degrees F; when we got to St Louis it was 86. That day was spring. The temperature never dropped again until the autumn.

Mind you, it is a fair way south of Chicago even though it's only just in the next state. It was a terrifically dull drive as I recall and before my knitting epiphany, so I didn't have anything to do. If there's one thing you can say about Illinois it's that it's flat and there wasn't even any map-reading to keep me occupied. The Mapquest driving directions basically said: Turn left onto N. Joliet road. After 2 miles merge onto I55 south. After 258 miles turn right. You just don't get directions like that in Britain! About half-way we stopped for lunch in a place called Normal. Perhaps appropriately it was perfectly ok but entirely unmemorable. St Louis was nice though (as is Chicago).

Finally there were some pictures from a visit to Greece with my mum and dad in 2002. We went all over the place visiting family and friends that my parents have known since before they were married and mum finally got to go to Delos. She was on her way there (nearly 40 years ago) when she met my dad and got distracted.

I rather like this photo. Spotted on the quay at (I think maybe) Andros, it seems to me like fish-shop with delusions of grandeur!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

One down...

Well, Kiri mark one is finally finished.

I am still not 100% happy with the cast off. In the end I tinked back the whole of the cast off and the row before and did them again on much bigger needles. This was more successful - it produced a sort of open edging which I rather like - but it's still not as stretchy as I wanted and consequently the points aren't as pointy as they might be. However, 'tis done, and blocked I think it looks really quite nice.

So, number 1 is done; Liz is racing through number 2 (having completed the same number of repeats in one week that I did in about one month); number 3 is underway, and the deadline seems a bit more manageable now.

I've also finally managed to get to the end of the stupidly stripy stash-busting cardigan, which now just awaits blocking (and posting).

This is probably just as well as, in spite of having only got a small way into my planned stash-bust, at the Knitting and Stitching show on Sunday I managed to acquire ten balls of Jaeger Matchmaker 4 ply and some Colinette Jitterbug, both of which now await inspiration. C was very restrained (perhaps resigned is more the word) when I returned bearing yet more yarn, only asking in a hopefully voice "Is it to make me something?"

He took it manfully when I said no, poor thing. I've been promising to make him something for ages and still haven't quite managed it. It's not that I'm unwilling but he seems to have ideas above his station. No simple raglan jumpers for him. No, what he wants is the saddle-shouldered Elizabeth Zimmerman cabled aran cardigan, the prospect of which I find mildly terrifying. In a vague gesture towards starting it I bought him some buttons... Sadly I only got six and I now see it needs seven. They're very nice buttons though...

Friday, 12 October 2007


Our new washing-machine finally arrived this week which was a great relief given that it was expected last Sunday and never turned up. Having put off doing any washing for ages in anticipation of its arrival, and having had to cut through one of the pipes of the old one while taking it out, we suddenly found ourselves with no washing machine and virtually no clean clothes. By the end of the week I was wondering which would be the most appropriate to wear to work, the ball gown or the pyjamas.

To be honest though it's the underwear that caused most consternation. I don't know about everyone else but I have definite grades of underwear and was beginning to worry that I would be thrown back on the "reserves". On the one hand there are the huge, voluminous unmentionables which I've either bought in a vain attempt to subdue bits of me enough to squeeze into something that's clearly much too small, or have picked up by mistake thinking they were a different size/style, but never quite get round to throwing out because after all they're still brand new (and will remain so because they come up to my chin). On the other hand there are the items reserved for "special occasions"; the sort of thing that's fine for a relatively (ahem) brief stint, but no good at all for running for the train or standing about on drafty station platforms. A sort of sub-section of these are those bras, bought in good faith, which one feels trading standard should require to be labelled "for display purposes only". You know the ones - they appear rather flattering whilst standing still in the shop changing room, but it soon becomes apparent that the slightest agitation causes an effect reminiscent of a trifle being driven over cobbles so that you spend the entire time terrified of making any sudden movement.

Anyway, the washing-machine finally came and the house is now festooned in damp washing, so my dignity should be able to remain more-or-less intact (at least as far as it's possible given I've just been discussing my underwear at length in public). It's nice and shiny (the washing-machine that is) and more importantly much quieter than the old one, the spin cycle of which gave the impression that a Chinook had just landed in the kitchen. However, there does seem to be one fly in the ointment: either it's incredibly badly designed or the dial has been put on upside-down. That is to say, when you turn the dial so that the 30 degree silk setting is next to the little blob, what you actually get is the 95 degree cotton wash directly opposite! Fortunately C spotted this before we entrusted it with all my machine-washable woollens which I have been saving especially to try out the new wool-mark approved setting. Can't help feeling this is something of a design flaw though.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Woe is me, for I am undone!

Well, not me so much - Kiri.

And not completely undone, just the damn cast-off for the nth time.

I have made Kiri before (as you can see from the header picture) and I didn't have any trouble with the cast off. That time it was just for fun and it didn't really matter if it went wrong and eventually I gave the shawl away. Now I am making it for something important the wretched thing will NOT co-operate. The yarn is too slippery and every time I k2tog and put it back on the needle the stitch below pulls up tight and then there isn't enough give in the edging.

I thought I'd managed it the day before yesterday after 3 attempts with progressively larger needles. Last night I set about blocking but the points won't point, or at least not evenly, so I am slowly un-casting off again stitch by stitch. Grrr... I was supposed to be on shawl number 2 by now. Thank god the lovely Liz has offered to make number 3 for me or I might be heading for a Kiri-induced breakdown.

Perhaps what I need to help me get them finished is an American Family Knitting Machine for which I found an advert today in the Massillon Independent 29 Dec. 1869 sandwiched between ads for Allen's Lung Balsam, Miss Emma L. Walls Hair Dealer, Henry Bier & Co. Iron Cocks (I'm assuming this is some sort of piece of machinery) and the "Magic Comb" which "will change any colored hair to a permanent black or brown" and - reassuringly I feel - "contains no poison".

The amazing array of knitted items the American knitting machine is capable of producing does include shawls alongside "stockings..drawers, caps, hoods, sacks, comforts [oh for a knitted comfort], purses, muffs, fringe [fringe in general apparently], afghans, nubias [what is a nubia anyway?*], undersleeves [not sure I like the sound of them, they sound itchy, esp. knitted ones], mittens, skating caps, lamp wicks [can you imagine knitting a lamp wick by hand?!]..leggins [sic], suspenders, wristers, tidies, tippets, tuffed work, and in fact an endless variety of articles in every day use, as well as for ornament".

In spite of the name it doesn't, however, enable you to knit American families, which is a shame. I often think how much more interesting life would be if these things really did work that way. I see Sainsbury's is selling Pirate Bedding Sets, should you be thinking of bedding a pirate...

However, I digress. Back to the (un)knitting.

*I've just looked it up and it's a sort of scarf - not as exciting as it sounds.

Monday, 8 October 2007


Got my Ravelry invite!

Unfortunately as I was out until 11pm yesterday I haven't had chance to do anything with it yet. But I will.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

It's all in the jeans

Or not...

This isn't so much a post as a gripe.

Why is it so hard to buy jeans that fit?

In the last week a couple of pairs of my oldest and most faithful trousers have given up the ghost. As I don't really have the time to start sewing just at the moment I decided I'd just have to bite the bullet and buy myself some. But straight away I came up against the same problem I've been having for what seems like years - all of them are the same, and they're all hipsters, and none of them fit me.

Now, I freely admit to being a fraction on the short and dumpy side and no matter what the fashion world says, personally I don't think that having six inches of pallid white buttock extruding from the top of your trousers is a good look. In my opinion, the point of new trousers is not to have your arse hanging out. But the size that ought to fit me had a zip barely 2-inches long, and left me feeling like a baboon with exhibitionist tendencies. So I ended up opting for the next size up, which is much less revealing except that there's enough fabric in the back to get someone else in behind me if only the legs were a bit wider, and the minute I bend over or worse still, sit down, I end up unintentionally mooning people. I've had to rope them in with a belt which gathers the material into lumps across the back in a way which is distinctly uncomfortable.

Does anyone else have this problem, or am I really a freak as all the high street stores would have me believe?