Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Out with the old, in with the new...

I'm looking forward to 2009. I'm hoping for many eccentric, funny and improbable moments. Parts of this year have been unexpectedly and discombobulatingly grim, thanks to the hand that fate deals sometimes. I'm determined that the new year will be lighter, more frivolous and without too many sideswiping events directed by chance and the inevitable vagaries of life and death.

People here have been invaluable in providing a gentle cushion during the grimmer moments, but it's been those who are far, far away who have touched and moved me with their consistent good humour, optimism, conversation and friendship. They have provided a greatly appreciated counterpoint, probably without knowing just how much they have helped.

I have various existential resolutions but they are works in progress. It is for the moment far easier to consider some knitting resolutions:
  • to learn how to do a provisional cast on
  • to stop being stubborn about avoiding charts (I can use them, I just remain fixed in my preference for letters and numbers over squiggles)
  • to practise kitchener stitch from the right side (though doing it inside out is working for me at the moment)
  • to reduce my stash (or find a way to make it invisible and to take up a third of its volume)

Overall, I could do with being less impatient with my knitting, and less patient in non-knitting matters. Patience is not always a virtue. Here's to frivolity, excitement, novelty and adventure, whether in knitting or other matters.


Resolutions little by little

Today I'm sure various resolutions for the New Year will occur to me. I may drip feed them as they occur.

I woke up thinking of some, and then I read the latest entry from the incomparable Nothing to See Here. Now that is a blog I wish I had thought of doing, and indeed wish I had the time to follow in person instead of in the ether.

In 2009 I will resolve to visit Postman's Park. I used to work nearby and didn't know it was there. I am kicking myself for not knowing, but only slightly for I can go anyway, and pay it justice instead of a snatched few minutes in a lunchbreak.

Mystery Outing

I was taken on a mystery outing this evening, a late extra birthday present from my mother and sisters. First there was supper cooked by my sisters, then off we went past the Christmas lights in the trees along the streets of Camden, Islington, Farringdon, Blackfriars and Waterloo to the surprise destination. I love surprises (well, nice ones), and this was a good one.

They kept me guessing until we turned on to the South Bank. Somehow my sister had bought tickets to the sell-out production at the Lyttelton Theatre of August: Osage County. I had tried to buy tickets earlier this month but they are sold out for the entire run of the play. My sister remains enigmatic on how she acquired the seats. My mother had even brought chocolate ginger and Christmas cake for the (two) intervals. I wore my new Hourglass sweater, which I finished yesterday (and which I am loathe to take off).

LinkPhotograph: Karen Robinson (borrowed from The Guardian)

I should, I realise, say something learned and wittily critical about the play, but I tend to think that people far better at reviewing have already said much on the topic. It's won myriad awards, as have the cast members, and deservedly so.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

... and Happy Boxing Day!

The temperature is dropping fast here. Boxing Day brought a trip to Richmond Park to walk briskly in the cutting wind at sunset, then home for tea. We have a Christmas Day birthday in the family so there was belated cutting of the cake with its combination of candles, tiny snowman and Christmas tree. One year we may take pity on the birthday person and ask if she'd prefer a Victoria sponge rather than fruitcake.

Richmond Park at sunset, Boxing Day 2008

Sun setting over the pond in Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park

The cutting of the Birthday-Christmas cake

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008


I am no longer languishing. Indeed, the languishing soon had to turn into dashing, to make up for lost time. There is secret festive knitting taking place. If I don't speed up enormously, the dashing is going to turn into hopping, when the recipient of the secret ends up with only one sock.

SQ Peacock cables unstretched

I am inventing a sock, which is quite fun, a bit like painting. I was on the train, trying to put every spare minute to the present which risks being only half a present. The sock leg seemed to be a bit loose so I scrabbled around and came up with a little stitch marker, and cables appeared. These locking stitch markers are perfect as cabling needles (or does everyone know this except me?). The leg tube is now just the right elasticity.


The yarn is Plushness in Peacock by Skein Queen, November's instalment of the Autumn Sock Club. The angora and cashmere give the cables a bloom, producing a water-like quality, that changes dramatically when stretched out.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


I wonder why having laryngitis and losing one's voice also produces pains in the legs. Maybe it's an alliteration thing: larynx, legs, losing, lost...

I am reduced to an unintelligible croaking, so languishing (another L) under the covers at home seems the sensible option.

If I lived in this hermetically sealed Cold War house, designed for the Ideal Home Exhibition of 1956, I might avoid catching anything. On the other hand, I would have to wear knitted nylon outfits like these designed by Teddy Tinling

and I might wake up with marvellously coiled hair.

This House of the Future is featured in the Cold War Modern exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition is excellent. You really feel you are getting your money's worth, as the spaces get larger and larger with ever more intricate and bizarre pieces and displays in each room. Spying and paranoia start to mingle with (then) ultra-modern design. Teddy Tinling's designs form part of my favourite room, which also holds space-rocket inspired sculptures flashing light sparks off moving parts, maquettes of strange mountain-top buildings in Eastern Europe, and attempts to achieve a utopian ideal.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Gritted teeth

I'm not sure whether to declare that I hate a knitting project or that I should be more patient. Perhaps both. I really like the finished article but am almost ready to throw in the towel, and I've only done 3 rows. The instructions are exquisitely detailed but spread over 6 sheets of paper for each row. Using circular needles with cords the same colour as the yarn is probably not helping, but both yarn and Addi lace needles are behaving well. It's just me that isn't. I suspect my refusal to learn to use charts and my determination to stick to the long-hand written instructions might have something to do with this kerfuffle.

Thank goodness for giant Post-It notes.

terhi mitts 2nd attempt at starting

Friday, 21 November 2008


Snow is coming. I am ready.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Are we sensing a theme...?

Alternatively there is this:

Available from Zazzle. If only the stupid customs duty didn't kick in at such a low limit.

Brain Bags

Now that I'm officially weird, according to the exceptionally scientific candy corn ruling (see below), I will say that I think these brain bags by Jun Takahashi are wonderful.


I really, really want one one of these bags for work.

Does that make me officially weird, or just brainy?

Oh really?

What Your Love of Candy Corn Says About You

You are a very strange character. Much stranger than people realize at first.

Like candy corn, the more people think about you - the weirder you seem.

While you are quite quirky, that's what is lovable about you.

You are bright, bold, and simply happy. What could be better?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Getting the Franklin habit

I went to hear The Panopticon - AKA Franklin Habit - speak at IKnit last night. He read from his book and was very, very funny. Such excellent deadpan humour.

Sadly I had no opportunity to ask my burning question of what happened to The Panopticon's knitting student, Willibald. I've always wondered whether there is a man in Chicago clad entirely in grey purled garter stitch garments, and whether he's having fun yet.

I was sorry to see that the evening was a missed sales opportunity for Franklin H as there were hardly any spare copies of the book available. Never mind. I did get to talk to someone who was taught to knit by an elderly woman in Italy who believed circular needles were a form of garotte, and to someone whose brains I could pick about simultaneously knitting two socks on one circular needle. A cure for my Second Sock Syndrome, perhaps?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Oxfordshire Buttons

There are worse things to pick up as souvenirs. These are from Kidlington, near Oxford, which was yesterday's trip.

pink & red buttons

round pearly buttons

They are tiny. The round buttons are a little like fancy Victorian boot buttons with pearlised centres.

Paris Nights (well, by proxy)

There is some knitting taking place.

Haven in progress

It's growing, and growing...

Haven in progress

My first Malabrigo Worsted experience, in Paris Nights colourway. Suitably squishy, with more of a bloom developing than I'd expected. This will be perfect for the cold weather.

Malabrigo worsted inky

More on Haven later, when it's finished.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Overheard at the cinema box office:

Very refined elderly lady to box office assistant: "One senior citizen for easy virtue, please."

Ha. I laughed. Discreetly.

I believe this might have had something to do with it.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Red Rib Vest

1st birthday party

This afternoon was a First Birthday Party. There were guests of five different nationalities, three generations of the same family, three different types of cake, five different sorts of home-produced honey, one pot of home-made quince jam, and one birthday boy.

red rib vest front

Front view

red rib vest

Back view

My present was a red rib vest, in contrasting crimson and scarlet stripes. The recipient was crawling too fast through wrapping paper to pose for a photo, but I came away with commissions for one child-size vest and one in an adult size. Soozs' pattern is great for carefree knitting, no overly strict instructions and enough give in the ribbing for the sizing to last through a few months of toddler growth.

Every slice of the cake I made (centre cake, above) was eaten, so a good result all round. It was an undrenched version of Tamasin Day-Lewis' Drenched Ginger and Lemon Cake. Soft and fluffy. Mm.

Bees of Barnes crop

A jar of home-produced honey, for which the bees feed on mulberry blossom, and a solitary honey-almond macaroon took centre stage for a moment. In the background are other honeys, harvested at different months. The variations in colour and flavour are influenced by the blossom available in each season.

Red Rib Vest
Size: 15-18 months
Needles: 4.5mm
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran; 2 skeins in Red
Stripes: Rooster Almerino Aran; half a skein in Rooster
Modifications: the stripes are of course a design feature and nothing at all to do with running out of Cashmerino. Oh no. Definitely nothing to do with that.

Ginger and Lemon Cake
Recipe: Drenched Ginger and Lemon Cake by Tamasin Day-Lewis
Published in: Good-Tempered Food
Modifications: not drenched in syrup, but instead iced with lemon and ginger glace icing, made with icing sugar, lemon juice and a little syrup from a jar of crystallised ginger pieces

Friday, 31 October 2008

Maya So-Called Scarf

It is at last properly cold. It's not that I like only cold weather, but, as a knitter, it's important to have the proper weather for woolly wear. Bright, sunny days of swirling leaves and brisk wind are excellent for wandering around the city in a big scarf.

Maya So-Called Scarf

DSC02594Maya So-Called Scarf

This is My So-Called Scarf, now in its second season. It's wearing quite well, developing a bit of a bloom, but then I rather like it like that. I realise that the rough cast-on/cast-off edges would not appeal to a perfectionist knitter but I rather like those as well. The important thing about this scarf, apart from the subtle variations in colour in the Debbie Bliss Maya yarn, is that it is BIG, big enough to mean that I escape that sliver of cold neck between coat collar and scarf that is so often the bane of skinny scarves.

So-Called Scarf in Maya
In progress last year...

Pattern: My So-Called Scarf by Allison Isaacs on Imagiknit
[Ravelry link]
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Maya; 3 skeins (I think)
Needles: 7.0 mm
Modifications: not finishing the hems properly...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Swamp Thing Socks

Swamp Thing Socks

Swamp Thing Socks

Swamp Thing Socks

Swamp Thing Socks

I love these socks. Everything about them is happy. From easyknitter's yarn stall at IKnit 2007 with free gingerbread men giveaways to the great colourway name and the way in which the pattern provides lots of toe wiggling room, every aspect was straightforward, generous, and did what it said on the tin.

I have only very recently come to sock knitting. One of these socks was the first sock I ever made. I like being a swamp thing while wearing them. They are perfect for stubbed-toe recuperation.

Pattern: A Pair of Socks (ravelry link) by Ann Budd
Yarn: Easy Knits Blue-Faced Leicester; 1 skein, 100g, 330.0 yards (301.8m)
Colourway: Swamp Thing
Needles: 3.25 mm

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


I did buy the toilet seat yesterday, after all.

I have just tripped over it in its box. I may have broken my toe.

That'll teach me to rush around all excited about vintage 2-ply botany wool, Kidsilk Haze and fairy crochet hooks.

Treasure Trove

I was once working on a photography shoot with Axel Russmeyer, a German jewellery designer who used minute beads to create beautiful larger beads. I coveted with all my heart just one bead but couldn't afford one then, and certainly couldn't afford one now. This necklace was recently on sale for $3,995. I hope he won't mind me mentioning that he told me a treasure trove tale that has stayed with me, in the hope that one day I too might stumble upon a similar find.

Axel was researching the art of Venetian glass bead production, and visited a very old, traditional glass factory in the Venice region. At the very back of the most neglected part of the factory he came across a box, covered in thick dust. Upon opening it he found that it contained hundreds of minuscule antique beads, each one the size of a large pin head and of a type no longer manufactured. It was a design using some of these beads that I covet still.

I have several treasure-trove wishes, including finding a portfolio - or even just a single one - of an original Tintin drawing by Herge, or a stash of pure linen sheets in their original 1930s paper and ribbon wrappings, or perhaps a pile of beautiful vintage knitting patterns from the 1950s back. The ultimate trove would be a house or shop sealed and left untouched for several years full of the original contents. I suppose that is why this news piece grabbed my attention recently.

A couple of treasure-trove experiences have come my way over time. When I was 10 my best friend showed me a warren of tunnels beneath her family's house. This had been used as an air raid shelter during the war and had been left virtually untouched ever since. There were toys, books and furniture left scattered around from the last time people had taken refuge down there. Last year my elderly neighbour, an elegantly dressed woman in her 90s, had a fall and alerted me by banging hard on the floor until I heard her. After she came out of hospital I went up to visit and for the first time saw inside her flat. It was a time capsule of 1930s decor, furniture and Clarice Cliff pottery, unchanged at her own request since she had first moved in. The kitchen was fitted with the original mass of tiny larder cupboards, a wooden draining board and large butler's-style sink. The only nod to modern living was a 1960s cooker and slightly younger fridge.

Last summer in Oxfordshire I was led through a half-concealed wooden door into an abandoned walled orchard. The tree branches were full of apples, no longer picked, and the grass and wildflowers reached halfway up the tree trunks. We shouldn't really have been there, but I went exploring all the same. It was too much of a secret garden not to.

Yesterday I came across a mini-trove. I was browsing in a charity shop and spotted a squashed assortment of yarny things in a tatty plastic bag. It turned out that there was another bag down in the store room, and I made an offer for both. The woman in the shop wanted to know if the wool would be going to a good home. I assured her it was.

Inside, along with some rather strange acrylicky things which will go back to charity, was a miniature treasure trove:

2 balls of Kidsilk Haze, in Candy Girl and Jelly

3 balls of Jaeger Matchmaker DK in Teal

some more Jaeger Matchmaker DK in shades of green and blue that someone has started to knit together and then abandoned. I could have told the poor person that there are easier ways to create a variegated effect, so if he or she ever sees this and would like their wool back to make something else, do get in touch.

1 ball of Jaeger pure alpaca 4 ply in Ice

2 balls pure cotton 4 ply from Slovakia

2 balls Wendy Cotton Aran

However, if this wasn't enough, there was what seems to be a vintage element to the trove:

Altogether there are 235 grams of this 2 ply. I've tried researching Rivermist and the Waterfall Spinning Company but can find no sign of it currently in production.

As well as the two shades of cream 2 ply, there was also this:

Lots of smaller skeins in beautiful shades. Or so I thought. It turns out there's a slight drawback:

The coloured 2 ply has been cut into short lengths. Any ideas what to do with this, apart from very fiddly fair isle, or embroidery (which is not really my thing)?

There was one last item in the tangle of yarn. Tucked deep inside was a tiny tool, a bit like a fairy's crochet hook, with a normal-size handle.

I am ignorant about many needlework and hooked crafts so any clues as to what this might be used for are very welcome. Crochet for people who really like a challenge? Tatting?

If anyone would like the miniature hook, or indeed any of the bright yellow silky mohair also in the package but which I haven't shown here, or some of the short lengths of coloured 2 ply botany, do let me know. Unusual swaps or ordinary ones considered. The hook, well, that can just go to a good home.

I should mention that I wasn't meant to buy any wool yesterday. I had actually gone out to buy a toilet seat, but, hey, this haul is a lot nicer to stroke (unless you are very, very weird).