Sunday, 30 September 2007

Christmas Knitting

Here's where I am up to with part of my Mam's Christmas present... gloves and socks in "Opal - Rainforest - Dr Fish". The plan is also to knit "Samus" ( for her, but as the Christmas projects mont up, it may have to be done for her birthday in March.

"Saranac" ( for the BF is one third done.

Then the plans are:

1. Blue cricket jumper for Thomas - thank goodness, he's only one year old... plus "All Star" ("Rowan Babies"), which I need to buy the wool for.
2. "Twist" ("Rowan Babies") for my niece, Lois, plus "Puss in Boots" and, hopefully, a Christmas Stocking.
3. "Trekking" socks for my Step-Dad.
4. "Crystal Palace - Bamboozle" socks for MIL.
5. "Opal Feelings" socks and gloves for SIL.
6. "Opal - Smoke - Charcoal" gloves for Debbie.
7. "Regia - Polar" socks for Dale.
8. "Rainforest 3" (the green butterfly) socks for the BF.

That's quite a bit of knitting, I think.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Ukrainian Shopping

I kept my eyes open for yarn shops, but I didn't see any and, as I mentioned in a previous post, the natural yarns were grey and white. There were no brightly coloured wools. However, shopping really wasn't a problem.

On Tuesday afternoon, we headed up to what my colleague calls the CD market, but it sells so much more. I can't remember the name of this area but it's like Camden Market and then some. The stalls stretch for about a mile at least - we didn't cover a tenth of it. There is a roaring trade in MP3s and the traders flog entire back catalogues of various artists on one or two discs. Expect to pay about a quid a disc. It's interesting to see what travels and what doesn't.

I wasn't at all surprised to see ABBA, U2, Queen and Led Zeppelin; though Uriah Heap, Erasure and the Pet Shops Boys were a little more surprising. There were endless copies of Avril Lavigne albums, but the band that really surprised me was London Beat...
London Beat.

Also, at this market was a good number of jigsaw stalls and I picked these two for my niece for a fiver. The Winnie the Pooh puzzle was £4 - I'd expect to pay about £10 or £15 for it
here. The smaller puzzle depicts a traditional Ukrainian fairy tale and set me back £1.

Down on Andryivskiy, there were a number of stalls selling Christmas tree decorations.

celebrates on the 7th January and St Nicholas also delivers to them. During the Soviet Era, St Nick was replaced with a more Communist-friendly variation.

The Ukrainians are also big on Christmas penguins. I felt right at home. :-)

Of course I bought a doll - the Ukrainians call them Matrushka Dolls (whereas the Russians refer to them as Babushka Dolls). This gorgeous blue one contains ten little dolls and I think Lois - who is always playing with my Mam's dolls - will love her. (I'm trying to wean Lois off pink).

St Nicholas here, is also a Christmas decoration container, and when you open him up, there is a bunch of lovely wooden tree hanging toys. You can also buy beautiful Christmas tree decoration holders and I was very torn between St Nick and the tree. Why didn't I just buy both? They were only a fiver each.

Oh well, I'll just have to go back - shame, eh? ;-)

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Sight Seeing

We didn't have a great deal of time for sight seeing - that was left until the last day, when we were taken to Andriyivsky Descent... to go shopping. It's a steep street of market stalls selling all kinds of things - Soviet Era propaganda and military equipment; matrushka dolls; wooden Christmas decorations; musical instruments; painting and... knitwear.

However, all of their woollen stuff - is just grey and white. The coloured yarns are all acrylic. I didn't get any pix, sorry.

The street is named after the church of St Andrew... check out the teal domes. They are so vivid.

The centre of Kiev is as beautiful as ever, though there are protesters camped there currently. A whole tent village has gone up and the different factions are paid by different political parties to stay there until the national elections on Sunday. It all seems very good natured with the different groups chatting to each other.

The outskirts of the city are very different - a mixture of brand new buildings and Soviet-era blocks. There are also lots of old people who have very obviously fallen on hard times. You see them on the side of the streets selling flowers. It's very sad.

Food Glorious Food

Last time I went to Kiev I thought that the food wasn't much to write home about. How wrong was I?

On arrival, the first place we were taken to was the restaurant with the horses' bums... the chairs aren't made of horses, they are carved from wood, which was something of a relief to discover.

The food was tremendous.

Every time we have been taken out for dinner, our hosts (Tatanya, Olga and Victor) have plied us with as many plates as the table could carry and insisted we try everything. It's all soooooooo good.

Much of the diet is similar to Scandinavian food - lots of smoked fish and cured meat - and it naturally has a lot in common with other Eastern European food so lots of pickles... garlic, beans, onions, eggs, anything and everything.

So, favourite goodies to sample...

1. Cabbage rolls - filled with sausage and a tomao-cheese sauce poured over the top which are delicious, and probably my favourite.
2. Vareniki - dumplings made with cottage cheese, filled with anything you like... savoury or sweet, though my recommendation would be sweet dumplings filled with apricot.
3. Potato and onion pancakes.
4. Pelmini - pasta parcels filled with meat.
5. Fur coat... smoked fish in sour cream with cheese and chopped salad vegetables.
6. Chicken Saschlik - chicken and pepper kebabs, served with a hot spicy sauce.

Mmm, I'm making myself hungry.

I've also been sent home with two tubes of solid condensed milk for spreading on hot pancakes, which you then roll up... It's better than a sexual experience....

Then there's the sausages, as featured at our sausage and vodka BBQ. Vodka... £2 a bottle for the good stuff.

There's lots of butter and oil involved in the frying of the food, but they also like a lot of sugar.

And these are pampushka, the most delicious garlic bread buns served with borscht. It's fantastically delicious.

I'm drooling now.

Friday, 21 September 2007


I won't be around for a week as I'm off to Kiev in Ukraine, tomorrow. (My colleague is currently investigating whether we can do online check in so that we don't have to get to the airport at stupid o'clock in the morning).

We will be delivering training on public health lobbying and campaigning, though there will be time for some sight-seeing.

Last time I was there, my friend Lesya took me on river cruise which was great fun, and I spotted this...

This is the representation of the Motherland, very similar to other Soviet-era metal monuments I saw when I went to Russia, years ago. She's a "Good, strong Ukrainian woman" according to Lesya and stand in a memorial park on a hill, overlooking the river. As we were sailing down the river, I spotted her, all lit up in the darkness... so the following night Lesya took me to see her. This picture does not give you any indication of just how big she is. If you have ever seen the "Angel of the North"... think bigger.

We went to the park in the dark which, as you may have guessed from the sculptures in the foreground, is a memorial to the Second World War. Lesya and I approached the statue from the right of the picture. The park there is full of tanks, missiles (decommissioned, I hope) and warplanes. Walking past the silhouettes, at night, is one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had.


The following morning, Andre (who was my interpretor) told me that she's affectionately referred to, by the locals, as 'Tin Tits'.


Back in the city centre, there is this smaller monument to independence.

The centre is a mixture of white stone, curving steel and glass, which all compliments the 18th and 19th Century building and elegant streets. Kiev is a beautiful city.

So, more witterings when I get back. I've made a pair of gloves and socks for Lesya, so I hope she likes them. My colleague is planning to take me to a bar in the city where the bar stools are made of horses' bums. (Vegetarianism isn't big in Ukraine). I promise I will post photos if we go there.

Monday, 17 September 2007

A Very Simple Christmas Stocking - Free Pattern

I know, I know it's only September. However, if you want to make a Christmas Stocking for someone, I thought you'd rather have this pattern now as December 24th. This took me about two weeks to make.

If you would like a copy of this pattern, (complete with charts and pictures) please email me, or leave a comment with your contact details. Despite many efforts, I've been unable to attach the complete pattern to my blog. There is no charge for the pattern.

The finished article - garish in'it?
......................................................................................................................................................................... This is a simple pattern, really it is. If you can follow a simple sock pattern, you will have no difficulty in following this and adapting it yourself – well, not everyone will want to knit stockings for a small boy called Thomas.

I have included (in the actual pattern - not here) a shrunken copy of the chart I used to plan the stocking as an example, but I would not recommend anyone try to follow this size pattern – I don’t want anyone to go blind.

Materials Required

Windows Excel” or equivalent programme OR;

Squared paper and pencils/pen

4x 4mm Double Pointed Needles

2x 100g DK yarn – red

1x 100g DK yarn – white

1x 100g DK yarn – green

2x stitch markers

Several cups of tea


Plan your chart, designing it over 120 stitches.


Loosely cast on 120 stitches in red yarn, dividing them evenly over three DPNs, making sure they are not twisted. Knit in rib for 32 rows, working: k6, p3 to the last three stitches – p3.

The ‘Name Plate’

Change to the white yarn and, in stocking stitch, knit five rows.

Start your name plate. Knitting with red yarn for the lettering and white for the background, use the Fairisle technique to create the name of the stocking’s recipient.

Once the name is complete, tie off the red yarn and knit four more rows in white. Start the tree line – knitting the trees in green, against the white background, using the Fairisle technique.

After you have finished your trees, tie off the green yarn, and knit five rows in white.

The Leg

Start the red and green diagonal stripes, again in Fairisle.

Knit until the stocking is 45cm long. If you make it longer, you will need more yarn and if you are the person responsible for filling up the Christmas Stocking…

The Heel Flap

Stop knitting with both colours. Knit in red yarn.

Knit 30 stitches, turn:

Row 1: Slip the first stitch, p59, turn;

Row 2: Slip the first stitch, k59, turn.

Repeat these two rows another 28 times.

Shaping the Heel

Continue in red yarn.

Row 1: Slip the first stitch, p21, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 2: Slip the first stitch, k7, k2tog, k1 turn

Row 3: Slip the first stitch, p8, p2tog, p1, turn

Row 4: Slip the first stitch, k9, k2tog, k1, turn.

Continue until you have 24 stitches on one needle.


Pick up 30 stitches, knitwise down the side of the heel flap. Put a stitch marker here. Knit 60 stitches from the cuff of the sock. Place a marker here. Pick up 30 stitches down the other side.

There should now be 144 stitches.

Rejoin the green yarn for the diagonal stripes, and match to the previous stripes as best you can, while you shape the gusset.

Round 1: Knit to within three stitches on the first marker, k2tog, k1, knit to the next marker, k1, k2tog, knit to end.

Round 2: Knit.

Repeat these two rounds until there are once more 120 stitches on your needles.

The Foot.

Knit 80 rounds, continuing in the Fairisle red and green diagonal stripes.

Toe Shaping

Tie off the green yarn for shaping the toes. Knit in red yarn.

Round 1: Knit to three stitches before first marker – k2tog, k1, slip marker, k1 k2tog; knit to three stitches before first marker – k2tog, k1, slip marker, k1 k2tog.

Round 2: Knit.

Continue until there are 40 stitches on the needles.

I’ve heard of grafting but I’m lazy. Cut the yarn, making sure you have a long enough length of yarn to thread through the stitch loops and pull tight. Sew it tightly.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Knitty Fall

Knitting, (like boots, skirts and tops) is best in the Autumn - well, knitting designs are, with the exception of the "Rowan" magazines... ok, I'm bimbling. For the most part, I prefer Autumn and Winter designs, and "Knitty's" Fall edition hasn't disappointed me at all.

(Because I soooo needed to find something else to knit).

( - I must learn to make hyperlinks)

First up, in my humble opinion is "Roam" - this rather lovely hoodie. Want one. (Though I also want to make the fabby "Central Park Hoodie" as raved about by Rachel on 'Beelzebub Knits').

Then there's "Mr Greenjeans" which I think looks fantastic with jeans. Love it.

But then there's this whole heap of loveliness - "Cherie Amour" which is knitted in a chunky yarn and I think looks just fabulous. I'm so taken with the yarn used in this pic that I might track it down rather than substituting. It looks a bit "Colinette-ish"... need to read the pattern.

And, then there's "Tussie-Mussie" which I wasn't terribly taken with until I saw the sleeves.

Maybe I should just make the sleeves.


I've finished the Pixie Coat for Bump. I took it to knitting group last night - chatting makes sewing up much more enjoyable.

I also bought more buttons... these lovely lilac (honest, they are) flowers which I think look much better than the blue hearts, which I now can't find.

They will no doubt turn up later, when I'm looking for something else.

I went to the family planning clinic earlier for a repeat pill prescription. The nurse is concerned about my blood pressure, which has been going up every time I've been for my check over the last two years. So, tonight, she only gave me three months prescription as she is concerned that I have high blood pressure. High blood pressure does run in my family, but I'm only 30.

Having gone through what I eat (pretty healthy most of the time, to be honest); exercise levels (I could certainly do more); BMI (which is a load of cobblers anyway for reasons I won't bore you with now) at 26 (5ft 8inches, 12.5 stone, so could shape up a little more); she asked me about reducing salt. I don't cook with it. I don't eat much in the way of processed food - lots of fresh veg (though not fruit 'cos I find it boring - I know I'm weird... I don't eat oranges because I can't be bothered to peel them).

The nurse then asked me if I have a stressful job. Yep. Though I make matters worse by my inability to switch off when I get home. Must calm down. Maybe the Tai Chi classes that I start next week will help. :-)

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Continuing a Theme

Sorry, more gloves...

I think I must have some mild form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for knitters. If it's not endlessly making socks, I'm non-stop glove making. Handy (good grief - no pun intended) for Christmas presents, but I need some more variety... if only stop you lot getting bored.

The yarn is "Opal - Rainforest Doctor Fish" and these are for my Mam as part of her Christmas present. I think I might make some matching trainer socks for her. This is 6ply, which is producing some very snuggly warm gloves, and it has an extra 50g, so I reckon trainer socks are definitely a possibility.

I originally bought this yarn for me because I loved the colours in the pictures I saw. I think this is a faded batch as the lilac stripe (in 'real life') is more of a pale pink than lilac. My Mam loves all thinks pink. Personally, I don't do pink.

The intention had been to pop out to buy a needle to finish the pixie coat but I have spent all day cooking. My lovely step dad is coming down to tile my kitchen and downstairs loo tomorrow, so rather than clamber through a newly tiled, not quite dry kitchen grub's up, in advance. I promise I will finish the coat... even if it does mean sewing.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Stealth Knitting Update

The BF had his arm twisted, on Wednesday night, into going to one of his boss's stag nights - yes there was more than one. The last occasion was held in one of the breweries in the town centre which strikes me as a fine venue for a stag night or hen do. (Which of my friends is getting married next...?)

Anyway, while he was out, I knitted some more of his jumper. As I didn't start knitting his jumper in the round, I've knitted the back up to the yoke-level, where the sleeves and the body are knitted together.

I know this picture is dark, but it better shows that colour of the yarn ("Rowan All Seasons Cotton - Mocha Choca") which is a lovely dark chocolate brown. In certain light, it actually looks deep charcoal grey, so he will have a chameleon jumper. The yarn is beautiful - it feels like velvet so it will be incredibly soft to wear against the skin and it's knitting up quite quickly, though I feel like I should be making faster progress.

On Thursday, I had another chance for some more knitting as I had a meeting in London - over four hours travelling (altogether). So, I took my lovely Boye set with me (thank you, Hector'shouse) and knit the sleeve in the round.

That's about six inches out of 21.

Kai's (Yarn Mystries) unsettled feeling that she was talking about a few posts ago must have been infectious. I have signed up for two evening courses - Tai Chi and Soft Furnishings Level One. Wonder if I'll be able to do any knitting. They start on the week beginning the 17th and I'm really excited about them.

The Joy of Batteries

Finally found the recharger for the batteries, so at last we have a photo of the pixie jacket for Bump. I made slower progress on it this week - have been out and about (meetings in London) and not feeling too great so haven't done much knitting.

As you can see, it's virtually finished.

I just need to finish sewing the hood to the jacket, but that will have to wait until after a trip to "Hobbycraft" tomorrow. My trusty wool sized sewing needle has gone walkabout. There's also some white blanket stitching to be done around the edges of the jacket - hood, sleeves and bottom of the coat - plus I need to attach some lovely pale blue heart-shaped buttons. While I thought about pink, as we now know Bump is a girl, there is no pink in the colourway so they would have clashed.

My brother and his wife are mulling names for Bump - Evie or Tarlia. (I think those are the right spellings). Bumps big sister is called Lois and I think that has coloured my opinion that Evie would be better - similar old-fashioned names... but that's just me. What do you lot think? Evie or Tarlia (Talia?).

Sunday, 2 September 2007


Helen (Sheep Happens) has very kindly nominated me as a:

Thanks, Helen - who I would have nominated if not already beaten to it, as she writes one of my favourite blogs... So who will I nominate? Most people have already been nominated, so my nominations go to Jane at "Woolly Tales" and Rachel at "Beelzebub Knits". If you haven't already visited their blogs, go there now.

On the right of my blog, you'll see that I have awarded myself a 'Knitting Under the Influence' badge, as designed by "Cast On" ( for the Illustrious Order of Knitting Scouts. I don't really need to explain why I have earned this one - it just goes without saying.

Other badges, that I feel I have earned are...

The “MacGyver” Badge (Level One) - The recipient must demonstrate clever use of a non-knitting tool in a knitting-related scenario... Paperclips as stitch markers on more occasions than I can remember.

The “MacGyver” Badge (Level Two)
- The recipient must demonstrate clever use of a knitting tool in a non-knitting-related scenario... For years, I've been using knitting needles to test whether my cakes have finished baking and that chickens have finished roasting.

The “Proselytize Knitting” Badge - A requirement for all Knitting Scouts, the recipient must do his or her bit to present knitting in a positive light, whilst at the same time avoiding all references to “hipness”, grandmothers, and yoga... It goes without saying.

The batteries on the camera have died and I can't find the recharger. So, I can't show you any lovely pix of the pixie coat just yet. It's for my brother and SIL's bump number two, who is allegedly a little girl. I'm knitting the coat in English moss stitch, rather than the US version that I should have been following from the pattern. (I must learn to read patterns properly, but I prefer the UK version of moss stitch, personally).

It's knitting up a lot quicker than the baby blue version I made for the BF's nephew last year - after about three days, I'm already knitting the sleeves. Second attempts at patterns show me how much my knitting has improved in the last year - faster and fewer mistakes (ahem!).