Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Belly dancing

What has belly dancing got to do with knitting? I shall enlighten you. I went to Jersey on Friday for a belly dance weekend in St Helier. It was tremendous fun (including the shopping that my friend Heather and I skived out of classes for). I knew a lot of the women who attended - from other dance events I've been to around the country and from the class I used to go to in Preston.

The link with knitting comes as a result of costume preferences. When I took up the dance, about eight years ago, it was Oriental dance - all sequins and shiny things. Over the last four or five years, there's been a schism! :-) What is described as Tribal dance has become incredibly popular. It's an American development on the dance form. I don't see anything wrong with the dance developing and growing - if it doesn't it's dead.

The difference between the two styles of dance is most noticeable in the costume. Oriental involves lots of slinky dresses - not necessarily two pieces - and Tribal focuses on face paint, head dresses and lots of material. Both types can look magnificent. "Rowan 39" picked up on the Tribal look with their feature on tribal styles of costume .

With the exceptions of my pals Denise and Alison who looked amazing at the weekend, many Tribal dancers can only aspire to this look - usually making 'do' with knitted pom-poms and curtain tassels. It's not great. A few years ago, I saw a Tribal troupe who graduated from the pom-poms and curtain tassels to leather basques and long embroidered handkerchiefs...result: the 'S&M Morris Dancer' look.

And to balance up the score here, the Oriental/Sequins Brigade can go a bit magpie for shiny things with the end result looking (as my friend Maggie so memorably described one night as): 'Fantasy Night at the Women's Institute'.

At the end of the day it's all fun and the variety of costumes and the creativity of the women who make them is truly astounding.

Random Wittering

I caught the train into Manchester Piccadilly on Monday afternoon and as I was looking out of the window, I caught sight of factory. There are a lot of factories and mills on the Ardwick side of the station so that wasn't terribly unusual. What caught my eye was its name: 'Frogmore'.

Now if that isn't a hex on all knitters, I don't know what is.

KAL - The Grand Finale

Blogger has been playing ‘silly buggers’ again…so what we have here is three updates in one. (I know the Blogger IT people are very good and do work hard to fix problems, so I'm not going to moan about that).

Thursday’s Post – when things were progressing nicely and all was good in the world.

I've reached the faffy stage of the wrap over! I'm surprised at just how fast it has knitted up, especially as I have been taking my time (read: "slacking off to make socks"). Last night I finished the second sleeve, which took me to the first stage of sewing up. This was sewing the shoulder seams together. Easy! and not too much sewing.

I used some navy 4ply for this as I remembered the warnings I've read on the 'Angel Yarns' Knitting Forum - that "Twilleys Freedom Spirit" is a dreadful yarn for sewing up with. It's not strong enough and splits too easily.

Below is a close up of the real faffy bit - picking up stitches from sides (between the cast on edge and beginning of the sloping) to make a ribbed border. I think I've done quite a neat job - certainly an improvement on my early efforts of picking up stitches to knit collars. You could always see the holes between the main body of the piece and the additional trim/collar/border.It's still not perfect.

The pattern's instructions were to pick up 37 stitches for each of the two fronts' borders. For one side I picked up 35, for the other side I picked up 41. I never manage to get the right number (except on the gussets of socks).
It's probably just practice.
And last of all, here's a picture of the two sleeves (just to prove that I have finished two sleeves) along with the first tie I started last night. The instructions for this tie seem to very straight forward as it has to be knit until it's long to be placed as edged around the whole 'inside edge' - i.e. around the neck and down the sloping of both fronts.

This is beautiful wool to knit with. The finished pieces are soft and the striping effect is gorgeous. I do find it difficult to use on bamboo or wooden needles (no matter how well polished they are) as it catches on any imperfection in the surface, so I prefer to use metal needles. The wool was even catching on a scabbed over cut on my finger last night.

Friday’s Update – wherein everything seems to go horribly wrong but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I progressed to sewing up the right tie last night (see below). Does anyone notice anything wrong with this?

Well, it's the RIGHT tie and I was well aware of that. However, I set about blindly following the instructions... "Continue in rib until Band, when slightly stretched, fits up the left front slope, from cast off edge of Border to shoulder seam, across back neck and down..."

It says "LEFT" so that's where I put it. Grrrrrr!!

And the instructions continue...

"...across back neck and down left front slope to cast off edge of border, sewing in place as you go along..."

The first 'left' is a typo. It should say 'right'. I really wanted to kick myself for not noticing it sooner. So now it looked like the wrap over would fasten on the right hand side. I tried to unpick what I had already sewed but it began to pull at the wool. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to fix it so I decided to leave it. “Hopefully my Mam won't mind,” I thought but I was annoyed.

The BF, at first didn’t understand why it was a problem – until I demonstrated with the help of dressing gowns.

However, I have been mulling this problem over since then. Maybe I could just cut the tie bit off and continue knitting up the other side? It might work actually. Then the bit I've cut off I could use as the proper left tie, in the right place. I just need to find a way of neatly fastening up the bit I've cut off. So the situation is not altogether lost. Typing this update really helped me to think about how I can fix it. It was all just too infuriating last night.

The Grand Finale

It’s finished. I’m made up and more importantly – it’s made up! I didn’t slack off at all during the sewing up. My plan for fixing the left tie fiasco worked like a treat too. All I needed to do was be calm and mull it over.

Additional result: two balls of wool left over. I think I’ll give the multi-directional scarf a bash.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

The technophobe strikes AGAIN

I may not have mentioned this here - at least not since my first post when I was fairly overcome with shock at actually getting myself a blog - but I'm a bit of a technophobe.

I'm quite happy using computers, though at times I think it was a mistake to stop using slate and chalk; and exactly what was wrong with carrier pigeon? As it stands, I'm too damn contactable. I've got a landline, a mobile and four email addresses. At this moment in time, I haven't a clue where my mobile is which, quite frankly, is no bad thing. Yes, I'm an anti-social bugger.

Anyway, to anyone who has attempted to use the links to the blogs I like to read, I do apologise. I have only just noticed that they weren't working. It was a problem with my cut-and-pasting and, like the slacker I am, I hadn't bothered to check that they were working properly when I added them. Sorry.

I promise that I will try harder in future.

I attempted to 'soup' up the look of this blog last week using 'Blogskins'. It didn't work which is probably just as well, 'cos if it had worked, there would be some detail I overlooked that would have locked me and everyone else out of this blog, probably.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Glove Making

As mentioned earlier, I've decided to have a bash at making gloves. The BF asked me before Christmas if gloves were going to be the next project. "No chance," I said. "Far too fiddly." Knitting is one of those hobbies where I think I will regularly find myself eating my words. I also said I was never going to make socks - they looked too complicated. Knitting with four needles? Who could be bothered with the stab wounds? Nope - I was never going to make socks. Ahem.

Below is the celebratory shopping package I mentioned in an earlier post, complete with a knitting kit. The "Opal Feelings - Jeans" is going to become gloves for my Auntie along with a pair of socks in "Opal Petticoat". The "Fortissima -Sombrero" will also become a pair of socks... for me.

The resolution about making socks for me has been very successful. I keep thinking I should try a pattern other than the freebie pattern that comes with "Opal" yarns. The simpler colourways - "Feelings", "Charcoal" and some of the "Rainforest" (notably "Flamingo") would work well in a lacy-patterned sock, but I think some of the other colourways are just too busy. However, for myself, I prefer plain old stocking stitch for socks - more comfortable on my trotters.

I finished a sleeve of the wrapover at the weekend. One sleeve and the faffy bits (the ties and the edging) to go.
It's progressed quite slowly this week, what with socks to distract me. I didn't get as much done as I was planning to this weekend. There were a few reasons for this: a bit of gardening, a bit of tidying and going to the pictures to see Simon Pegg's new movie: "Hot Fuzz". It's wickedly funny. Stop reading. Go and see it. Take my car!
There was also the cotton backing to put on the penguin blanket that I finished knitting... about a month ago. Completer-finisher? Me? Only under duress. Thank god for "Blackadder".

Friday, 16 February 2007

P-p-p-pick up a Penguin!

It's been an interesting week or so for weird charity knitting stories, and here is the latest one I've stumbled across:

A group of ladies in Seaham, Co. Durham have knit over 50 tank tops for Fairy Penguins in Australia. It seems that the penguins get regularly dunked in oil from 'passing' oil slicks. Their feathers can no longer keep them warm, because of the 'orrible, greasy, black stuff, so the jumpers do the job nicely.

And, no I don't mean 'tanker tops' :-) because they're what's causing the problem in the first place. The BF, however, got the wrong end of the stick: "But won't the chocolate melt?"

Everyday he gives me these little insights into the way his mind works...

Knitting Boobies 3

I took the knitted breasts pattern to the knitting group at "Borders" (Stockport) last night. As expected, it certainly raised a couple of eyebrows and a chuckle or two. Three of the girls took a pattern so we'll see if any of us get around to making a boob or two. :-) I, for one, need to put my money where my mouth is and actually have a go.

Mind you, a very interesting point was raised last night. Should we post them to Liverpool, stuffed or unstuffed? It's a FREEPOST address so weight/cost is not an issue - just the ease of wrapping. The post is going to interesting for a few days at the Women's Hospital.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

And the sock addiction continues...

Yes, here are some more socks - those harlot socks, well they are BRIGHT red. The BF was concerned that I may be neglecting the "Twilleys Freedom Spirit" wrapover because of my addiction.

That's an ankle sock in "Opal - Hundertwasser" in progress - the majority of knitting being done last night. I know it was Valentine's Day but we spent the evening in one of our favourite ways - watching lots of comedy: "Life on Mars" and "Shameless" (recorded from the night before when I was cheating in a pub quiz) and "Black Books".

You may have also noticed that I've knocked the baby blanket made out of sock yarn off the WIPs list. I was thinking about this the other day and decided that 1). I was bored with it which doesn't increase its chances of being finished any time soon; and, 2). it would require a lot of sewing up. If I haven't already mentioned it... I don't like sewing up - it cuts into valuable knitting time.

So, I have had a rethink and decided I'll make some baby socks and hats for charity. If anyone knows of a simple (i.e. quick and easy) 4ply pattern for such things I'd be grateful if you could point me in the right direction.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Knitting Boobies 2

I have found the pattern. It would appear that numerous people have been in touch with Liverpool Women's Hospital to request the pattern, so they have set up a Freepost address for the finished boobies.

The pattern is available from here:

If you would like to send any boobies, please leave a comment and I will send you the address. I'm just not sure how the Hospital would feel about the Freepost address being posted on t'interweb as they will have had to pay for a licence to get the Freepost service.

(It's not that I think there will be a stampede of unscrupulous individiuals to this blog, either!)

Celebratory Shopping

I've been shopping, again. Yesterday I found out that I had passed the Faculty of Public Health Part B exam. (Thankfully, there is no Part C). Nobody was more surprised than me. On the exam day - just over one week ago - I was quite ill and coughed my way through it. The Part B exam is all role-play (*shudders in horror*) so this was not a good thing. However, I've passed and I don't have to do any more!

My Mam rang to congratulate me and, while she was chatting, asked me to knit some socks for my Auntie's birthday. They're twins. I think I've got time to finish the wrapover and a pair of socks by the end of March? Whilst internet shopping for the requested colours I found a website that also sells "Opal" glove-making kits. I've been planning to have a go at gloves for a while and as well as birthday shopping, I thought: "I passed the exam - I deserve more knitting goodness."

So, I've bought "Opal Petticoat" (can't remember what colour) for my Auntie's socks and I think she's also going to get a pair of gloves in "Opal Feelings - Blue" because I'd rather have a pair of socks in the "Fortissima - Sombrero" than gloves. I think I'll go for one of the "Opal - Charcoal" colours for my own gloves.

Resolution 2? Pah!

Monday, 12 February 2007

More KAL Updating

So, here's where I am up to with the "Twilleys Freedom Spirit" wrapover.

The back and fronts are finished as you can see, and I've started on one of the sleeves. I think it will be ready in time for the 29th March but I don't want to be too relaxed about this, just in case. :-)

I haven't done any work on it this weekend because: a). my friends Hannah and Chris got married on Saturday and I actually didn't want to take my knitting with me; and b). I'm far too tempted by these...

And then there is a bag full of lovely "Opal Hundertwasser" and "Rainforest" plus some "Colinette Jitterbug" and the last of the Christmas "Regia 6ply" calling to me.
I'm going to have some truly fabulous socks. :-)

There's also that stash wool too. My target is to use this up before the Ally Pally woolfest in October. With that in mind, I'm trying to cut down on chocolate too - with varying success. If I don't buy a bar of choc that's 50p towards the Ally Pally trip. So far I've got about £15, since Christmas. (The yarn fund can also be added to if I don't have biscuits or cake in any of the meetings I attend).

Friday, 9 February 2007

Virgin on the ridiculous!

As anyone watching the news will be aware, it has been snowing. I had to go to London for a few meetings yesterday (Thursday) and on Wednesday, certain rail journeys were already being cancelled. It hadn't started snowing at that point. So I called National Rail Enquiries...and the chap I spoke to was brilliant. I am becoming so unused to helpful service that when I do receive useful advice I wax lyrical for hours... Virgin however, well, my Mam always says: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

The 07:23 train from Stockport was cancelled. I managed to get the 06:53 which was running late, so I got a good three hours on my "Jitterbug - Fire" socks. I also found a seat. On the way home, I caught the 17:05 from Euston. (I feel like I've spent my life standing on that concourse recently, with a ball of wool in my pocket to knit with. Socks are fantastic for such occasions). Platform announcments for Manchester trains only seem to come five minutes before departure so everyone was on tenterhooks waiting. Three trains had been cancelled so everyone was looking to get on this train.

The announcement started...people began to shuffle. Would it be Platform 7 or 13? Looking around, everyone was hedging their bets for the sudden dash...The announcement came - Platform 13! It was like a herd of wildebeest charging across the African plains. I didn't get a seat. I was crammed with three other people into the doorway of one of the carriageways...

...But I was still knitting. Crammed in with my bag under my bent legs, wedged under the 'litter bin' sign, I finished one of my socks... and started the next one. It feels like quite an achievement.

KAL Update

The wrapover top is rattling along nicely. I finished the left front on Sunday and started the right front, as I was on a roll. The left front was finished in the morning - hence the lighter picture...

...and this was as far as I got with the right front by Sunday night, which is why it's a dark picture.

The right front is now finished and I've started one of the sleeves. This has only taken five ball of wool. I'm knitting the fourth size for the wrapover (to fit a 38inch chest) just 'cos my Mam prefers tops to be quite loose fitting. The pattern for this size requires ten balls and I don't see how I am going to use them up for this top. There's only two sleeves and the banding left to go.

I was worried I had missed out a chunk of the pattern. I'm very good at missing the neck shaping and going straight onto shoulder shaping. (My nephew's jacket stands as evidence - though I did manage to fudge that one!) However, I've been careful and I keep holding up the sections against myself and it all looks ok, so maybe it's just another pattern that overestimates the ball requirements.

Maybe I'll have enough wool left over to do a two-directional scarf or something. :-)

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Knitting Boobies

Just saw this story

A hospital in Liverpool needs knitters to knit boobs. They're using them for nurses to teach women how to express milk - much, much cheaper than having to buy a plastic model. It seems that all skin tones are appreciated and they do want more. (What are they doing with them all?) I couldn't see any links on the story for patterns or where to send them to.

Mrs Brown

Last week was the tenth anniversary of my Nana's death from cancer. Very few days go by when I don't think of her. She was dynamite - four foot nothing but you didn't mess with her. (There were some very stong women in my family). She also had an interesting take on life. When I was 16 and not sure about what I wanted to do with my life, she casually wondered if I had thought about being an undertaker. Why? "Well, it's a job that's never going to go out of fashion." Very true, but I sometimes think that I get my twisted little viewpoints from her. :-)

Across the road from her lived Mrs Brown. All of the kids in my Nana's street used to end up in Mrs Brown's garden - to play, to fight with eachother, and to chat with her. One afternoon, that's where I ended up too. I was four, maybe five, and Mrs Brown was knitting. I must have expressed an interest because she taught me to knit - just garter stitch, but that seems to have been enough. She cast on some stitches - green acrylic wool onto little orange plastic needles - knit a few rows and then I had a go.

The finished project was a scarf - full of holes, of varying widths as I picked up more stitches, and an assortment of colours. I had used as many oddments of wool as I could find - different textures and different colours. The finished item was inflicted upon my Great Granda...and he wore it, which I think is wonderful.

Over the next few years, I must have learned to purl, to cast on and off because by the time I was about nine I was making toys and dolls. These were all my own design too. Impressed? Don't be - it's amazing what you can make from squares and rectangles - dolls a la "Metal Mickey", chunky and blocky. I discovered Jean Greenhowe at 15, and actually followed a pattern featuring the concepts of 'shaping' instead of just churning out the squares.

Then I stopped knitting, and it wasn't until March 2006 that I picked it up again. I was revising for an exam and needed a way to relax. I couldn't do my "usual" of reading because I was more likely to remember the plot of the novel I was reading than the statistics and diseases I needed to know. It was Jean Greenhowe I went back to - jellybabies as a way of easing myself back into knitting. Since then, my knitting has vastly improved through baby patterns, grown-up patterns, Fairisle and of course...the socks!!! There is still a lot I want to learn to do, but it was Mrs Brown who started the whole thing off.

Sadly, she died a few years ago, but I remember reading a Native American (First Nation?) proverb a few years ago. It goes along the lines of: "No-one truly dies as long as someone remembers them." There must be many people who are 'kept alive' in such a way as people reminisce about the ladies (and men!) who taught them to knit.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

More socks

And the sock addiction continues... :-) Here's what I started the night before my exam in lovely "Colinette Jitterbug - Fire". I'm half way down the foot now. I was hoping to knit on the train home but it was so crowded, there wasn't even room for sock knitting. So, I read the Stephen King novel ("Cell") that I picked up for half price in Euston Station.

Over the weekend, I knitted some more of the "Twilleys Freedom Spirit" wrapover. I've finished the left-front and am now up to shaping the slope on the right-front. It knits up suprisingly fast.

As ever, pictures will be posted as soon as I've elbowed the BF off the computer.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Too ill to knit!

It's been a while since I last blogged. I've been ill. This was annoying for three reasons: 1). I had an exam to revise for and couldn't concentrate; 2). I was still ill on the day of the exam; and 3). I was too ill to knit! The BF was deeply concerned about that. :-)

Once I began to feel better, I was capable of socks - the pattern seems imprinted on my brain - but nothing that required any concentration. So here are the socks I've been working on at the knitting group. ("Regia 6 ply).