Monthly Archives: January 2013

Knit night

I always thought of knitting as a rather solitary pastime. Even when I was knitting in a room full of people, I was usually the only one knitting. We never talked about the knitting; sometimes we even pretended I wasn’t doing it. There was no discussion on the merits of straight vs circular needles, or what the latest knitting magazines were like, or who had snagged the biggest yarn bargain of the week.

That changed a year and a half ago when one of my friends read Kate Jacobs’ The Friday Night Knitting Club and decided to start a knitting group. We’ve met once a month since then; a core group of about six of us with other occasional droppers-in. We’re a right varied lot in our knitting style. Maybe you know knitters just like us? We have:

  • the prolific knitter. Her projects always cover her lap. She can knit stocking stitch at a prodigious rate; she either has a time machine in her bag or she has taught herself to knit whilst sleeping.
  • the toy knitter. Produces beautiful toys and novelty items. Knits so tightly the needles squeak.
  • the quiet technician. Never looks like she’s knitting but has always turned out an impeccable half a glove or a hat by the end of the night.
  • the newbie knitters. Progressing in a timely fashion from garter to stocking stitch.
  • the un-knitter. Loses concentration while talking/eating/drinking and has to rip back her work. Has been known to leave knit night with less knitting than she arrived with.

One of our regulars moved to Houston at the end of December, and we miss her just about as much as we thought we would. We did some secret knitting for her before she went. It was my first collaborative knitting venture; each of us made rectangle(s) using what ever stitch pattern we liked – ranging from plain stocking stitch to cables – then I seamed them together to make cushion covers. I admit to being a tad on the controlling side, so I had to remind myself that this was not MY project and not for ME, it was supposed to reflect the group, and our friend,and what she meant to us. If I’d been knitting them by myself, I’d never have thought to put the red roses on in a million years. But do you know what? They mean something; to the person who knitted them because our friend loves gardening; to our friend because she knows who made them for her; and in the end, to me, because they taught me to let go and let the project belong to everyone.

We gave them to our friend just before she left. We were really proud of them, and I hope she  loved them too. She also loved the bikini that prolific knitter made her in about ten minutes flat! (For lounging by the pool in Houston, you understand.)

Collaborative cushion covers

Farewell brave knitter. We made you some cushions so you don’t forget us!

Knit night tonight is at my house, and I can’t wait.

P.S. I took the last bags of old clothes to the recycling centre today. It felt really good.

P.P.S. I may have passed some of my hoarding frugal tendencies on to Big littl’un – we were buying a bunch of daffodils at the weekend; “look Mum” she said “we should get these ones, they come with a free elastic band”. Oh dear.

A swatch and a bonus

The snaw-day cowl has come to a standstill as, not for the first time, I misunderestimated the amount of yarn I needed. (I believe ‘misunderestimate’ is a George Bush-ism, however I am not going to let that stop me using it. I like it.) I can’t justify going all the way in to town for just one ball of yarn so it will have to wait until I have other errands to run. (Don’t worry, if it takes too long I’ll invent another reason to go in to town.)

In the meantime, not knitting not being an option, obviously, I went stash diving. I came out with some variegated chunky brown that I think will suit Big littl’un. I’ve swatched, planned, and cast on for a simple flat-knit gilet with textured bands round the bottom, armholes and across the shoulders (basically round the edges of all the pieces).

Knitted swatch and part of gilet

A swatch, a beginning, and a helping hand.

It’s always a good sign when the intended recipient of the knitting wants to help knit it!

As a bonus I found in the stash drawer a magazine clipping for a mulled white wine recipe. Don’t ask why I’d put it in the stash drawer in the first place, I really couldn’t tell you. I can tell you that it was worth saving. I think it originally came from Sainsbury’s Magazine but I can’t find it in their online recipe archive so here it is (slightly tweaked).

For two servings I gently heated

  • 300ml white wine
  • 100ml orange juice
  • 100ml lemonade
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) gin
  • 15ml (1 tbsp) honey
  • about 1 inch root ginger, peeled
  • 2 cardamom pods, split and crushed

I even garnished!

Mulled white wine

Mulled white wine

One of my favourite bloggers, Yarn Harlot, is celebrating her 9 year blog-versary. If you don’t read her, go check it out. It’s awesome.

It might come in useful

So here’s the thing. I’m really bad at throwing things away. Just can’t do it. Those rubber bands the postman bundles our letters in? I’ve got a bagfull. Curtain hooks from the curtains that were in the house 9 years ago when we moved in? Safely kept. After all, you never know when they might come in useful.

Worst of all is clothes. The littl’un’s baby clothes especially. Why would I throw them away? We might need them …  one of my brothers might have babies and need them … someone I once met might have a baby and need them …

We’ve got a cupboard where I store all this stuff. All the camping gear, Christmas things, suitcases, towels, spare duvets and pillows; all crammed in to one cupboard with the outgrown baby stuff. (Granted it’s quite a large cupboard but it’s definitely a cupboard, not a store-room. You couldn’t swing a cat in there.)

My lovely cousin is expecting her first baby soon so I went into that cupboard to see if there was anything she might want. It had got a bit out of control if I’m honest, so I attacked it, dragged everything out and went through the lot. Maybe it was because it was the New Year, but I suddenly had the urge to get rid of stuff. Really, did I need 24 baby vests? Nope. There were clothes in there I couldn’t even remember the girls wearing.

There were some things though that I had intentionally kept. I’ve always wanted to make each of the girls a quilt from their baby clothes. They might not be able to remember wearing them all, but I will, and they’ll have photos of themselves in them too.

Clockwise L-R: Big littl'un aged 2 in the first top I made for her from scratch; Big littl'un aged 2 riding on Flint-dog (no longer with us); the littl'uns on holiday in Italy; little littl'un aged 2 in a WWI cemetery in France

Clockwise from top L: Big littl’un aged 2 in the first top I made for her from scratch; Big littl’un aged 2 riding on Flint-dog (no longer with us); The littl’uns on holiday in Italy; Little littl’un aged 2 in a WWI cemetery in France

All those cotton dresses and tops are now rescued, sorted by colour and waiting to be cut.

The blue pile - clothes ready for cutting for quilt tops. Can you spot them on the girls?

The blue pile – clothes ready for cutting for quilt tops. Can you spot them on the girls?

Everything else is bagged up ready for reuse/recycling. A full cubic metre* of clothes came out of that cupboard. The funny thing is, there’s definitely not an extra cubic metre of room in the cupboard now. Go figure.

* I know this because I’ve had a cubic metre of clothes in bags in my dining room for the past week. My nearest fabric recycling bank is full. If it’s not emptied soon I’m going to crack and put everything back in the cupboard … after all, you never know when it might come in useful.

Done duffers

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction you get from finishing a knitting project you’ve been working on for a few weeks (or months).

But for sheer wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am excitement, a project you can start and finish the same night is pretty mega.

Duffers are like that. The pattern title says it all really – 19 row felted slippers. It’s not going to take very long to knit 19 rows now, is it? (Unless there are 3,000 stitches to the row of course. Which there aren’t.) Duffers are simple, satisfying and QUICK. Knitted and seamed up in an evening; if I’d been bothered to put the washing machine on they could have been felted and finished the same night. (OK, I’ll admit I’d got one knitted already, so there was only one to knit last night, but I spent more time watching Oprah Winfrey quizzing Lance Armstrong than looking at my needles so I could have knitted both slippers in an evening.)

Knitted Duffers slippers

Knitted Duffers awaiting felting. The wooden plate was made by my super-talented mid-little brother, Benj.

Sorting laundry doesn’t come anywhere near the top of my list of fun things to do ever on a Friday evening though. So the felting waited until this morning; shoved in with a couple of bits of sturdy laundry for agitation. Big littl’un pulled everything out when it was done. ‘Uh oh’ she said. ‘What’s up?’ said I. ‘Your slippers look a bit small’ she replied. ‘Nonsense’ said I, ‘they’ll be perfect’.

And they were.

Duffers slippers

Duffers slippers

Duffers

There’s been a lot of slipper wearing around here these last few weeks. My beloved Duffers (Mindie Tallack’s popular 19-Row Felted Slippers) have developed a problem. I don’t blame them, they are almost two years old.

A sad end to the best slippers

A sad end to the best slippers

I thought about darning the toes for a long while. Then I realised (a) I don’t know how to darn, (b) I’d have to make the darn somewhat larger and then try to felt the darn without felting the rest of the slippers, (c) HANG ON A MINUTE … I’m sure I remember knitting a second pair right after the first (sometimes a pattern is like that, knitting it once just isn’t enough).

I went to the back of the projects-in-progress drawer. (There are some horrors back there.) Sure enough, shoved in a plastic bag was another slipper! OK, great, we have one slipper, but by my reckoning that’s still one short of a pair. Then I remembered. I’d taken the slippers on a trip to Canada and made the rookie mistake of not taking enough yarn. I’d already had to go two-tone because I was fairly sure I’d not got enough of the red yarn. The question was, had I left any of the red yarn in the stash?

One 19 row slipper

One 19 row slipper and a sorry amount of yarn to knit its pair

It seemed highly unlikely. It had arrived as a present from my Mum – she knows the kind of present I like – a mystery bag of yarn hailing from the 1970s and picked up at a charity shop. Sometimes I can be pretty determined though, and I kept looking in all the places I’ve hidden stored yarn.

IMG_8340

One ball of Pure Falkland Islands Wool

There. Sometimes dreams do come true!

I know what I’ll be doing tonight …

Snaw day (snow day)

If you watched the news you’d think there was some crazy weather going on – but, given that it’s January in the northern hemisphere, below zero temperatures and snow seem perfectly reasonable. Normal even.

Big littl’un and little littl’un got a bonus day off school. There’s been plenty of sledging, walking the dog and general oooh-ing and aaah-ing at the quiet beauty of it all.

Snaw day

Clockwise from top L: Snow on rosehips; snow in Maryculter woods; snaw-day cowl; Casper in snow.

Pushing past snow-laden birch trees in our local wood popped Robert Frost’s poem ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening‘ into my head. It was a favourite of my Mum when we were growing up; she’d read it to us in bed on snowy nights. It’s the only poem I know off by heart.

The big and little littl’uns have to memorise poems in the local dialect Scots – known as Doric – ready for Robert Burns’ night on January 25th. Big littl’un has ‘Fin I sit doon tae hae ma maet’ by Margaret Boyd – roughly translated as ‘When I sit down to have my food’. I love listening to people using Doric, but still have to smile and nod along sometimes when I’m having a chat with some of our neighbours. They probably say the same about not understanding my English accent too. Give me another ten years here and I might get it!

Watching the snow falling in the streetlight got me itching to cast on something snow inspired, or, if we’re talking Doric, SNAW inspired. I grabbed the nearest snow-coloured yarn (Patons Fairytale Dreamtime 4ply), leftovers from my pre-Christmas knitting of Arne and Carlos’s Balls. A wee cowl is emerging. I’m thinking of carrying on with a really simple snowflake-like eyelet pattern on top of the border (adapted from the Mimosa border in Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns). I wonder if a matching hat might be in order?

In which I introduce …

Kate (that’s me). Interests include knitting, sewing, fiction, gardening, avoiding housework.

Three facts about me. (Possibly interesting, decide for yourself.):

  • I have a Blue Peter badge
  • My stolen passport was found doing something undesirable in Chile
  • I am most excellent in a crisis

The T-boy. Interests do not include knitting, sewing, fiction, gardening. Somewhat more interested in cycling, running, swimming, taking things apart. Right now is building with Lego.

Honestly I'm a bit ashamed posting a crappy blurry picture, but one of the littl'uns took it and it's the only photo with me in less than a year old.

Me and The T-boy. Yes, it’s a crappy blurry picture; little littl’un took it . I’m normally found behind the lens.

Big littl’un. Knits to humour me. Prefers swimming, running, cycling. Amazing stamina.

Little littl’un. Hides dirty undies around house to amuse me. Produces brilliantly detailed drawings.

Little littl'un and big littl'un

Little littl’un and big littl’un