Friday, 30 November 2007

World AIDS Day

December 1st is World AIDS Day. A few days ago, a survey reported that:

"One in seven young people in Britain would not stay friends with someone who had HIV...Almost half of the 300 people aged 14 to 25 surveyed said they would want to keep it a secret if a relative had HIV."
To me, this is one of the saddest steps back in the twenty-six years since AIDS was discovered, twenty-four since HIV was identified as the cause. While you can live for many years before developing symptoms, leading a normal life, the support of family and friends is invaluable - and that's before the illnesses associated with the syndrome develop.

It distresses me to see this stigma preventing people living with HIV or AIDS from being able to confide in others.

This year's message is about talking about the disease - to tackle prejudice and stigma - and this theme particularly resonates with me.

Seven years ago, my friend Paul died of AIDS. He had been my boss - and a very good one too, as we remained friends after I left. Only family and a few of his closest friends knew about his diagnosis - the rest of us only found out when he died. I think Paul didn't tell people because, primarily, he didn't want to be pitied - but who wants to be dealing with other folks' ignorance every day?

He was an amazing guy - one of the most energetic and vital people I knew. There was always a new scheme or project to be excited about; and he loved people and animals. A bank loan was taken out to allegedly buy a valuable painting of a racehorse... there was a racehorse alright - but it was old and needed rescuing from an early trip to a glue factory. Paul was passionate about doing the right thing.

I'm not sure if he ever realised how well thought of he was. I hope so. It was standing room only in the church. The funeral cortege was so long that the last section of the procession got lost between the church and the crematorium, when traffic lights changed. We were in the car at the front of this motley crew and thought that perhaps there were only a couple of cars and bikes behind us. When we turned down a side street to ask for directions, ten or twelve cars came along. Paul would have enjoyed that.

So, for this World AIDS Day I am going to do my own fundraising. For every person who posts a comment on my blog, at any time this month, I will pay 10p to the Terrence Higgins Trust who offer a wide range of support services to people living with HIV/AIDS and their families:
  • emotional support and information by phone
  • help with accessing HIV testing and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment
  • advice about your rights in benefits, employment, immigration and housing
  • treatment advice
  • contact with support groups
  • help with accessing grants, respite and complementary therapies
  • education for the community about HIV and sexually transmitted infections
  • legal advice for those living with HIV
  • written information and leaflets
  • counselling
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Speedy Gloves Revisited

Being impressed as I was with how quickly the "Twilley Freedom Spirit" pattern for gloves knitted up, I decided to scrap my idea of doing a 4ply set for Debbie. So, she is getting a pair made out of the other ball of "Air"; and I thought I'd show you the step-by-step approach as these are knitted up on two needles, rather than in the round.

So, we cast on, and we knit - before long, shaping the thumb gusset in the centre of our rectangle. Then we work on these stitches, only, to create the actual thumb - keeping the rest of the stitches on the same needles... just ignoring them for a short time.

As you can see, the thumb is placed on the 'fold' between the palm and back of the glove.

Once the thumb is created, the stitches are knit together until there's only a few left on the needles. The yarn is then thread through these and pulled tight. The seam has to be sewn up. We pick up stitches across the base of the thumb to create a complete 'rectangle' to form the rest of the palm of the hand.

The same process - minus the gusset - is repeated for the first finger. Here you can see the glove turned inside out to knit up the seam.

To create the second finger, we pick up stitches from the base of the first finger, knitting five more stitches on either side to create the next finger... and sew on, sewing up the seams as we go...

...until we reach the last finger. We don't sew up just yet. The frill has to be added by picking up stitches at the wrist and knitting a few more rows...

...until you turn the whole thing inside-out and sew it up...whereupon...

You realise you've made a cock up.

Note the frill on the glove on the left and the rubbish 'frill' on the right. Bugger. It's because I ran out of the yarn. So, after some pondering today, I've decided to crochet on and extension (yes that was a mention of the Dark Art) in lilac. I'm going to justify these as Driving Gloves for Debbie - to help her tell her left from her right... left for lilac.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Speedy Gloves

First of all, I have to apologise for not visiting anybody's blogs this week. Work has been chaotic and I haven't had a spare moment to pop in and see what everyone is up to. (Not that I do that in work time - work has been spilling over into knitting time). Sorry about that. And I haven't been to Ravelry for a-g-e-s.

On the topic that we're all here for... As if I didn't have enough knitting to do, I decided that I'd make some gloves for my friend Rosie whose birthday is this week. She's also currently my boss and has been really supportive over the last few years. In addition, Rosie is a non-knitter who appreciates handmade knitted stuff. However, my usual gloves take about a week to knit and I don't have time for that. Hmmm.

Thankfully I stumbled across the "Twilleys Freedom Spirit" frilled gloves pattern.

The best thing about this pattern? One pair of gloves in a day!

Why didn't I think of these for everyone's presents?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Knitting with Relish

I've been at the MIL and FIL's house this weekend, for a birthday party. So, I decided I couldn't take the "Matros" jumper to be working on as I don't want Thomas's mum to see the work in progress - especially when I'm swearing about it. So, I took some "DB Rialto" (in a really, really girly shade of pink) to make "Relish" from "Rowan Babies". This is for my niece, Lois.

It's shaping up to be a fantastically quick knit. I started knitting in the car yesterday, and I've finished the back and started one of the fronts. (Apols for the over-exposed pic).

Making the fringe is the fiddliest bit but is very, very easy. The BF's family were very impressed. It's amazing how knitting seems to 'dazzle' non-knitters. My SIL was wearing the socks I knit for her birthday and my MIL was comparing her boring shop-bought socks (her words, not mine) with our funky "Opals". She's allergic to wool and has pretty much written off the idea of ever having any hand-knitted socks.

So, she'll be over the moon with the "Bamboozle" socks I've done for her. :-)

"Matros" hasn't been completely abandoned - I finished the body on Friday, (though I am rather enjoying my break from it). The neck trim will have to wait until Saturday - I need natural light to be able to see the stitches.

I have also started a sleeve. If all goes well, I could finish this by next weekend.

As for the boy himself... here's the BF's nephew modelling a hand knitted sweater sent to him by friend's of the family in Norway. (My FIL had sent this family a Spurs kit and Grandma decided to return the favour by knitting a jumper for Thomas).

It is fantastic. I understood the theory of Norwegian handknitting but it was really nice for me to see a finished piece. The jumper was knit in the round as a tube, all the way to the neck. Sleeve holes were cut into the finished tube and the sleves inserted, then folded back, over the cut holes. These were then sewn in place to prevent any fraying. The work is beautiful and the finishing has been lovingly carried out.

Thomas was more interested in the placemats.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Jinxed Jumper

Prepare for more muttering about my Grumble Piece - the "Matros" jumper for my nephew.

As you can see, I've finished the back, and am about to start knitting the front. At last.

Do you notice the bent pin?

That little bugger went into my foot last night. The needle had slid onto the floor and when I jumped up to answer the phone, I stood on it. I swear I heard the skin of my heel split as it went in.

Nothing major but it is doesn't half hurt.

In other news... I'm half way through the second sock of the snot-green "Opal" pair for the BF.

On the sewing front, what do you reckon to this piece of cloth? I rather like it. It's our sample piece for this week's task. We've moved on from curtains, and this week, we has been mostly learning to make cushions.

I think I'm considered the class clown - purely by dint of the fact I'm utterly amazed by every new thing I learn... like if you fold/cut the material down the bias, it's stretchy unlike on the warp and weft. I never knew that! And it suddenly explains bias-cut frocks and skirts.

First stage of our cushion making was cutting bias strips and making piping. I need to get this lot sewn together but we're visiting the BF's parents this weekend for his Dad's birthday. So, I won't be fighting with my sewing machine this weekend. :-)

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Books - the Third in an Occasional Series

I've finished painting. I've had a nice long soak in the bath and started reading "The Night Watch" by Sergei Lukyanenko. For Super Monkey's beenfit: It's brilliant. I'm only 30 pages in but the introduction is gripping and launches into the action immediately. Set in Moscow, it's about agents of the Light keeping an eye on those pesky vampires and Dark Mages. Fab. (George RR Martin can bugger off).

I've definitely been on a sci-fi and fantasy kick recently.

1. "Desperation" by Stephen King was a traditional horror gore fest as you guess which of the ill-fated travellers, to stumble into a Midwestern small town, is going to meet a grisly end first. Good vs evil; body snatching; coyotes, buzzards, snakes, scorpions and other nasties gather.

2. "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant focuses on 15th Century Florence where a young woman learns about art against the backdrop of religious upheaval. It's well written and pretty accurate - it should be, having been written by an art historian. I preferred this to her next novel:

3. "In the Company of the Courtesan" which sets the scene, twenty years after the Florentine events, in Rome - also in the midst of religious upheaval. Shortly after the sack of Rome, a dwarf and his mistress - a famous courtesan - set sail for Venice where they set about rebuilding their wealth and notoriety.

4. "A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil" by Christopher Brookmyre, is a trip back to our school days, which were NOT the best days of our lives. Events of twenty years earlier will explain who murdered who. Brookmyre describes school brilliantly - the sheer confusion of the first day and why/how did all the other kids know what was going on when I didn't?

5. "Blood Music" by Greg Bear, in which a 'mad scientist' decides to inject himself with intelligent proteins and brings about the end or rebirth of the world. Marvellous.

6. "The Complete Robot" by Isaac Asimov is a series of short stories about... robots. There are some brilliant characters appearing in several of the stories and "Sally" is possibly where Stephen King found his inspiration for "Christine".

7. "Wintersmith" by Terry Pratchett features the Nac Mac Feegles again aiding and hindering (as ever) the Big Wee Hag as she tries to sort out Winter and Summer, while dealing with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. I laughed my way through this book and finished it in a couple of days. There's a lovely scene where Tiffany misundertands the meaning of a "loose woman" - one who is no better than she should be, and therefore as good as she should be. More of the same, please.

8. "Making Money, another Discworld novel, where Albert Spangler AKA Moist von Lipwig inherits a bank. Oh, and Lord Vetinari has suggested that Moist runs the bank, so there's no escape really, is there?

9. "The Caves of Steel" by Isaac Asimov is the next in the Robots' series. A Spacer is murdered in Space Town - just outisde New York City - and Elijah Baley is assigned a robot partner to investigate. The pair are reassigned in the next novel:

10. "The Naked Sun", where they are sent to Solaria to investigate another murder... in a society where no-one can tolerate the presence of another human being. Excellent stuff!

Riding the tram to work has been great for my reading time. :-)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Further Christmas Knitting Progress

I've made a step in the right direction on "Streamer" for Thomas today.

The yarn arrived! Well, I collected it from the main post office, but here it is... "Rowan 4ply Soft". The BF chose the pattern and wanted the same colours as shown in the picture. I'm looking forward to knitting this one, even if it is more navy. It's a simple stocking stitch and it's Intarsia!

Also, worked on last night were the socks for the BF - so here's one of them finished at last. :-) Off to London on Tuesday so will get more done on the train.

Not going to get much knitting done this weekend. The next coat is due on these shelves for the kitchen... which I'm also painting.

Been in the house four months now, and that will be four rooms done. Not bad going methinks.

Me Vs Saranac

The BF was out with the boys last night. So, I got some more stealth knitting done on his jumper - with some mixed results.

Here it is with the back and fronts (to armpit level) sewn together, in preparation for knitting in the round. The more observant of you will notice that the two sides are sewn together... on the left neatly... but on the right...there's about 2cm of overhang from the back. But, the two pieces actually hang straight.

Hmm. Saranac 1: Me 0

Going to hide the excess material under the armpit somehow.

Next: to join the sleeves in the round to the main piece. This was a little daunting at first but then I got a nice little figure of eight going.

Saranac 1: Me 1

However, that's not how it's supposed to work. The sleeves are supposed to be joined to the body in the round, not as a figure of eight. So, here's what happened, when I turned the circular needles into a circle.

Bugger. The sleeve is connected so it is now inside out.

Saranac 2: Me 1


These are jointed needles. So, I've taken the needles out and rethreaded them through the loops so the sleeves and the body are the right way around and connected in a circle.

Saranac 2: Me 2

It could have ended in tears.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Queen of the Fudgers

Queen of the Fudgers? That would be me.

Observe... another sample curtain, this time made using a sewing machine.Other than the rather Christmas-wrapping paper look, it appears to a rather neat job, and it only took about two hours to make, now that I have sussed ironing flat pieces of material.

Of course, half of this time was spent threading the damn needle.

In addition, I stuggle with folding. (My next challenge will be origami). So, the left hand side of the curtain (show below) is how it is supposed to look, and the right side is how not to do it. I also had to fudge the mitred corners so they are fake rather than correctly folded mitres. Plus, I forgot to stick the weight bags into the corners.

As you may already be suspecting... I did not unpick it all and begin again. One good reason is that I quite like keeping example of 'how not to do it' - they're almost as useful as 'how to's. However, we all know the real reason. I'm too bone idle to do it properly. My motto - why be a perfectionist when you can fudge?

Now, don't get me wrong, I really admire the patience and skill of better knitters than I, especially as frogging/unpicking/re-doing are probably quicker than the amount of time I spend trying to fudge!

Above is the latest progress pic of the Christmas socks for the BF, featuring some skull stitch markers from Cazza's shop. The BF specified green socks ("with other colours in") and this particular batch of "Opal - Rainforest 3" fits the specification perfectly "without being too girly". I got some unexpected stealth knitting time last night when I went to visit a friend last night, and I have a return train ride to Lancaster this week which should help to finish off the first sock.

Am I avoiding "Matros"? Moi?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Grumble Piece

Helen (Sheep Happens) was talking about a piece of knitting that is making her grumble. I have one of those too. It's the pain-in-the arse "Matros" jumper that I'm knitting for Thomas, the BF's nephew.

The pattern, really isn't difficult, but I miscounted stitches, was talking and having a glass of wine when I cast it on this time. (Oh, yes, I've made this one before and it was a doddle. "Ha!" to quote the great Edna Crabapple). Well, I was 6cm into the damned thing when I realised I had made a cock-up. The whole lot was frogged (see earlier pix of the resulting spaghetti) and undeterred (why? you stupid woman!) I optimistically cast on again...

... on the wrong sized needles...

So the lovely crisp ribbing didn't happen. And, I wasn't in the mood to frog. I perservered with much muttering. Anyone who remembers Dick Dastardly's side-kick Muttley will be able to imagine it. I'm now 9cm into the bloody thing and it's really annoying me, but if I stop, it won't get done - 'cos I'll ignore it.

There's some more Christmas socks to be cast on and some beautiful "DB Rialto" sitting in a drawer upstairs and I'm doing battle with my grumble-piece.

Meanwhile, over on the Dark Side... (machine sewing for those who haven't been keeping up) my next piece of work is a machine sewn sample curtain for class on Monday night. I've been doing battle with the Emperor (my new Aldi sewing machine).

Instruction manuals, rightly or wrongly, are definitely written for those who understand the machinery before they use them. I spent 45 minutes getting the machine set up before I could even start sewing. Then I realised that the sewing foot doesn't have a guide to hold it straight. Yours truly needs rulers for everything.

I also needed to practice folding so that I could get my seams sewn on the correct side of the material - i.e. the back. Oh yes, I really am that basic.

Anyway... seam attempt one.... and I learnt what size stitches my machine makes so that was useful. Then it was on to target practice to get the right bit of material caught in the stitch. (I wonder if stealth fighter pilots have to practice machine sewing first - it would be good practice, and a lot less dangerous to everyone else).

Anyway, attempt number two resulted in me sewing a fold into the material. This is not a Good Thing.

Attempt three was better, though the stitches were too big.

Attempt number four was better still with smaller stitches, and I was tempted to have a bash at the sample curtain but decided not to, because:

1. I'd have to change the sewing foot and it took me 20minutes to work out which foot was which the first time.

2. I'd have to iron... and if crochet and sewing are Dark Arts, ironing is the Darkest of the Dark Arts. So, no thankyou.

Before, all of this took place, the BF and I actually left the house this morning. This is Highly Unusual on Saturdays where we don't have to go visiting or are receiving visitors. So what did we do? Take a nice walk in the countryside. Nope, we went to the Trafford Centre.

Both of us hate shopping with a passion you could only dream of. We hate crowds, we hate shops, we hate the hard sell, and at this time of year, we hate the early Christmas decorations. It's only November! It's Bonfire Night on Monday, but there were hordes of tiny tots around the singing Christmas Tree today.

Is it really any wonder that people take drugs?


At the best of times, the only way the BF will countenance a shopping expedition is when there are more than the requisite three holes in his boxer shorts or he's down to his last pair of trousers, by which point an expedition is essential.

We were lucky today. In and out in two hours and despite foolishly leaving the house before we had checked whether United were playing at home, we didn't get caught up in any traffic. Furthermore, I had some birthday book tokens to spend. Although I went with the intention of buying knitting books I got side-tracked.

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen", by Paul Torday - recommended to me by another Paul; "The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko - vampires and magic; "A Spot of Bother" by Mark Haddon (I loved "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time") and another fantastically titled Robert Rankin: "The Toyminator" which is the sequel to "The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse".

Friday, 2 November 2007

Progress Report

It has been a couple of weeks since I updated you on progress with "Saranac" (BF's stealthily knit jumper). Everything is now knit up to armpit level - i.e. I'm ready to connect it altogether in the round and knit the yoke.

Mathematically, this could be interesting. Keeping it hidden, this could get sticky.

Meanwhile, over on the Dark Side... my battle with the evil forces of sewing machines showed early success on my first attempt at sewing a hem. (It was a revelation to discover that the foot - yes, I was astounded to discover that sewing machines have feet, too) has a ridge which holds the stitching straight. I thought you just had to have a steady hand.

As you can see... above is a nice neat hem, but I made a mistake and had to pull out the second half of the stitching. So, I went back to do it again, and, erm, well...

...those evil forces rallied.

I put the piece in the wrong way around, and it all went belly up.

This weekend, I intend to get my own sewing machine sussed and attempt another sample curtain using the machine, rather than hand sewing. This may take some time.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Yaaar! Me hearties!

Who's been buying more yarn then?

Oooh, not me, not at all. So, what you see here is not some of Cazza's (Middle Earth Yarns - lovely "Captain Jack ", and nor is there any yummy "Davy Jones", neither.


There was no fantastic service and Cazza did not, at all, ever, offer to dye a new batch of "Captain Jack" so that I could have the colours I wanted. Nope, not at all, never happened. ;-)