Sunday, 24 February 2008

All we like sheep.

I haven't heard whether the fabric has reached its destination, but if it hasn't yet it should soon, so I think it's probably safe to post the pictures now.

I found this sheep fabric in the random fat quarters basket at masons and got the "meadow" one cut to match. The whole thing conjured up visions of a pleasingly pastoral quilt to me. If only they'd had some cloudy sky material too. Anyway, I hope it will be a success where it's gone.*

I finally finished and blocked the Swan Symphony doily this week, having completed the edging sitting at the back of W's brewing meeting on Wednesday receiving curious glances from the (male) regulars in the group while they discussed mashing, hops, etc. I only blocked it this weekend though as I then decided to go back and decapitate three of the four swans in the hope that crocheting the necks a little more carefully and less speedily would help reduce the spiral effect. It seems to have worked and after blocking they are more or less uniform so I think that was a good decision.

On the whole it's just as well that I finished this at the end of the week though, since after a weekend of long overdue garden maintenance my hands are now in no fit state to cope with anything more complex than stocking stitch.

This weekend we finally bit the bullet and replaced the section of fence which blew down last year and which we had just patched up on the basis that it would be better to replace it when the four clematis that climb up it had died back. The immediate problem was how to get the fence panels in the first place. They clearly weren't going to fit in the car which left us with the options of a) hiring a van for £50+ for the sake of transporting £40 worth of fence about half a mile or, b) walking the half a mile to the builders merchant and carrying them back.

We opted for the latter but though they didn't seem all that bad when we first picked them up, by the time we'd got across the road my arms were already screaming and threatening to snap off at the wrists. The whole thing wasn't helped by the fact that the 6ft square fence panels (which we had to carry laid flat) took up the whole of the pavement and a bit more besides, so that every time we passed a parked car, a bushy hedge etc. they had to be maneuvered so as not to get stuck. Also my fingers are only just long enough to get a proper purchase on the edge when carrying two panels together. As a result as soon as we started the walk the jogging motion meant they gradually slithered out of my grip taking most of my skin with them.

It took us about half an hour to make it half the way home, a walk that under normal circumstances takes about 4 minutes. Mercifully having finally turned the corner onto the estate and paused to catch our breath after negotiating a particularly traumatic cycle-path barrier, we spied the abandoned shopping-trolley of salvation, with whose help we made it home with comparative ease.

So today was spent painstakingly extracting bits of clematis from the old trellis, wrenching our the old fence, and (for C at least) hammering a huge metal spike into the floor with a 14lb sledge-hammer. As a result both C and I are now wandering the house wincing with every move and unable to lift so much as a glass of water without howls of protest from our aching muscles. The skin on my hands is so rough that I found I couldn't put down the grey tanktop (aka the probably jumper) because the yarn was sticking to my fingers. Still we do have a new fence. Fingers crossed that there aren't any more gales for a few weeks.

* Gratuitous plug. For anyone who is especially fond of Handel's sheep, the Oxford Bach Choir will we performing them (along with the rest of the Messiah) on March 8th at the Sheldonian.

Monday, 18 February 2008

On reflection

On Saturday afternoon, with jubilant cries of "Oh, bother the clutch", C. and I went out and spent my proofreading money on a digital SLR. On Sunday late afternoon we put on our wellies and some thick socks* and set off down the Thames at Clifton Hampden to try it out on the winter landscape it being a fabulously sunny day, though freezing cold. Much fun was had focusing on different things and playing with reflections in the river which was like a mirror.

A fair amount of fun was also had sinking into deep mud and struggling to get out again without losing a welly, dropping the camera, or falling over. Inevitably we both came away convinced that we now need to save up for the very expensive zoom lens which would have enabled us to photograph the carpet of snowdrops on the other bank. The clutch may have to wait a little longer.

In between playing with the camera I found time to go to Masons where I picked up some quilting fabric to send to a friend (I don't know whether she reads this, but in case she does I won't post pictures until after it's arrived), and some for myself which I couldn't resist, even though I don't quilt, have never quilted, suspect I never will take it up, and have promised on numerous occasions to stop hoarding likely-looking bits of fabric. But it's so pretty...

Sadly I suspect it's destined to languish in my stash for some considerable time, since I don't seem to be able to find time for my more usual knitting and crochet projects at the moment, never mind taking up an entirely new craft.

The "Grey Tank Top" is currently suffering an identity crisis since I discovered that a single ball was enough to knit 25cms up from the hem, i.e. nearly to the split for the arms. I have four and a half balls, so this means that I ought to have enough yarn to turn it into a smallish jumper, which may well be a better use of my time and would certainly be a more effective stash bust. Unfortunately however, even after blocking, the knitted section (which was originally intended to be a fairly fitted vest and has waist shaping) is a trifle too snug for my liking if transmogrified into a jumper, so I fear frogging and reknitting is the only way forward.

I haven't yet summoned up the energy to do this and have instead been concentrating on the crochet front, where, having thrown out the star-shaped doily and promised to do better next time, I have been working on the Swan Symphony Doily as a present for my auntie (who likes this sort of thing).

With the exception of the swans themselves the pattern is actually pretty straightforward, and it is progressing fairly speedily, at least now that I've managed to get the damn beaks on. That was a real fiddle. Unfortunately three of my four swans are less well behaved than the one pictured here and seem to have an irresistible urge to look over their shoulders. I am hoping this can be corrected with blocking, because otherwise I fear the effect may rather be lost. One of them in particular looks more like a strangulated flamingo at the moment. I guess I could always dye it pink...

*Or rather I put on some thick socks. C. discovered that all the (six) socks he had put in the boot of the car were in fact mine and probably wouldn't have fitted on his hands, let alone his feet, so he just had cold feet.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Twinkle, twinkle...

The "Asteraki" is finished, and this what it looks like blocking.

OK, so it's not great. Didn't really manage to get the hang of the border until the last quarter and it's not terribly even which is a bit frustrating. I didn't try too hard to pin it out evenly, since it was obvious that it wasn't going to be a great work of art no matter what I did, but I think it served its main purpose in giving me a test project to see whether I could work out the instructions from the Greek pattern. It also taught me another useful thing - not to try this pattern again. It's far too fiddly to be worth the effort and all you get for your trouble is small mishapen doilly!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Maths and meditation

According to one of the 7000 or so free magazines that drop through our door every week "Recent research proves that knitting..has incredible therapeutic benefits and that the act of knitting actually changes your brainwave patterns producing a higher Alpha-wave output than yoga or meditation". This is great news for me, though I do feel the need a add a footnote to this - it probably depends on what you're making.

At the moment I am making the River Stole, which (esp. made in kid silk haze) seems to have the capacity to be frustratingly fiddly without being especially interesting. The pattern repeats are different enought that I can't quite memorize them, but similar enough that I can easily skip from one line of the pattern to the next mid-row not find out until two rows later when the numbers don't add up.

I am also wrestling with the Greek crochet having figured out (more or less) what the names of the stitches are and how to read the diagrams. Stupidly, in an attempt to start with something short, I picked a doilly with relatively few lines of instruction. From the "Greek-reading" point of view this was a good thing. It still took me a fair amount of time with a dictionary to decipher the instructions, hampered considerably by the fact that, like all knitting/crochet patterns it is full of abbreviations and typos (particularly frustrating in an inflected language!).

Anyway, having figured out what I was supposed to do I then set about doing it with the specified 1mm hook and fine white crochet thread. This was mistake number two. It has turned out to be probably the most fiddly pattern I could have selected and definitely designed for making in bright Aegean sunshine rather than in the miserable grey half-light of a British winter. Half the time I can't see where I'm putting the needle, and most of the time that is under my own fingernail! I have managed to produce a sort of screwed up wonky greying thing, which I'm hoping, when washed and blocked to within an inch of its life, will be recognisably crochet. But first I have to finish the incredibly irritating border, and I couldn't face that on the train or after a long day at work, so it will have to wait.

So, by way of something more akin to relaxing meditation I have cast on for a straightforward tank top to use up some Rowanspun a friend gave me. After a degree of consternation over sizing this is coming along ok thank goodness. I'm basing it on the pattern for this Rowan slipover I made last year but without the stripes/fairisle, and in the round, which should make it considerably less of a pain in the neck.
Last time I made the medium, which is supposed to have a 36 inch bust but turned out "roomy" to say the least. Swatching with the yarn and needles I decided on revealed that my version should be 85% the size of the original and I would therefore need to make a larger size this time in order to get something that would fit. I cast on the number of stitches for the size I thought I would need to make in order to get the right measurement and you could have held a small seance in the circle it made. After trying various permutations with fewer and fewer stitches I eventually ended up with the number for the small - a size below the one I made last time. By rights this should have a 28 inch bust given the needles I'm using, but put onto a piece of spare yarn after 10 rows (before the increases) it seems to fit all the way round comfortably at the widest point, so that clearly isn't true. So much for maths! Nothing for it but to carry on and see what happens I guess.

At least it gives me something I can knit in the evenings while watching telly, rather than having only to listen to the dialogue while squinting at tiny stitches, stabbing myself in the palm, and cursing.*

*Mind you, knitting without watching the pictures coupled with our Freeview box's 30 sec. skip function can be quite entertaining. This creates the most fantastic "cut-and-shut" advert slogans such as the slatternly housewife's mantra "Use Detol surface least twice a year", and my particular favourite "Where does Posh get her amazing fashions? B&Q!"

Saturday, 2 February 2008

This is the end.

Well, the never-ending socks of doom are finally done. Actually they've been done for a while as I manage to finish the last few rounds of ribbing when we got back from the Bluestockings' annual wind-off and yarn-swap last week, but I just haven't had time to blog them. C seems pleased, though whether he'll actually wear them is another matter. Mind you it has gone quite parky out, so who knows.*

This lack of time largely results from the fact that for the past couple of weeks I've been doing some extra work in the evenings, with the intention of saving up for a decent digital camera (though as is the way of such things, it rather looks like it might end up being spent on a new clutch). This has been substantially eating into my regular knitting time (except on the train), but in the few minutes between work of one sort or another this week I have managed to make the first learning sock from the New Pathways book. My intention (and the reason that I came away from the yarn-swap with lots of little balls of leftover merino etc.) was to make a pair of each of the little test socks in the book to send to the two-year-old daughter of a friend of mine. However, though this sock was quite interesting as an exercise in knitting, I can't say I'm all that enamoured of the FO - it seems to have a very flabby gusset and a very pointy toe - so this is it pre-frogging and turning into something else.

Having completed both sock projects and hence finally run out of things to knit on the train this week, I briefly returned to my first love - crochet - to make myself a colourful coaster for my desk at work (it's not quite as vivid as it appears in the photo - that's because I had to have the flash on even though it was 10am when I took the picture). The pattern is I think originally from Magknits, though I can't find it now. I made some for my sister a while ago. I don't think they're intended as coasters, but they work.

This mini project made me realise how much I enjoy crochet and how long it is since I last did any, so now I'm contemplating what to start. At Christmas my cousin sent me two Greek crochet magazines with loads of pretty, frilly things in it. Admittedly, I have bit of a love-hate relationship with doillies really - they're fun to make, but I don't necessarily want to use them afterwards. However, I can probably find an aunt or two who would appreciate them, so now there's just the small matter of reading the patterns. According to my dictionary the first sort of stitch is called "a maypole dance in the air"... This could take a while...

*Fellow Bluestockings who watched me fighting with that recalcitrant skein of Live2Knit Mae Bamboo, which simply wouldn't be wound last Saturday may be relieved to know that C finally beat it into submission with the help of the swift, a chair and about an hour of patiently passing the ball through and over the unwound yarn.