Last year when I went to Dublin with p/hop I stayed with my good fibre friend Bioniclaura. We had the traditional viewing of the stash, in Bioniclaura's case, the yarndrobe, browsing of pattern books and general knitchattery.
When I returned home I decided to knit her a pair as a thank you for having me gift. Monkey is a classic pattern and great for variegated yarns. The yarn I used for Laura's socks is some I'd dyed myself. When I was knitting them I was watching a lot of zombie films, mainly the Ramero living dead series, The Walking Dead and Simon Pegg Classic, Sean of the Dead.
One of the reasons I haven't been blogging much is because I've been on my travels. Lucky me. One of my best mates has been travelling around Asia this year so myself and a few friends went to visit her in The Philippines. I find travel tricky to write about, mostly because I do so many things I don't know where to begin. So, to counter that here is a festive snapshot of my travel companions in Coron, on Palawan Island. Even though it was the end of October Christmas things were everywhere, a bit like the UK.
I quite often like to make Christmas presents, usually knitting, sometimes food.
I spied this recipe for Candied Chilli Grapefruit by Mark Hix in The Independent a few months ago.
The recipe is easier and less faffy than it looks. The downside with the ones I've made is I used rather potent Chilli flakes so the taste is overwhelmingly of "oh my god, get me some water, ow ow ow"
I've actually developed a taste for these blow your head of snacks and am finding them a useful expectorant for the chest infection I've got at the mo. Mmmmedicinal.
Sadly they will not be Christmas gifts so I am going to make another batch with less chilli. I've also experimented with Candied Ginger Lemon which worked so well I ate it all. Bad gift giver. Bad.
Whoopsie! Where have the last few weeks gone? Hello dear neglected blog. To be honest I don't have much spare time to devote to my little corner of teh interweb at the mo but I have seen quite a few people doing Advent posts, ie making their blog into an Advent calender of short posts.
I like that idea. While I'm a few days late getting started here is Day 3.
Some tweeters have been sharing their advent calender pictures. The only calendar I have this year came from the World Wildlife Fund as part of their awareness raising about the plight of the snow leopard. So far all the pictures have been of..... yes, you've guessed it, snow leopards. I don't mind this as they are beautiful animals, though I expect I'll be disappointed as I'm hoping for a Nativity scene using Snow Leopards.
If you follow me on twitter you'll already know I have a healthy interest in politics. Our current government is slowly and steadily dismantling our beloved NHS (National Health Service) from one with full public accountability to one which is more dependent on profit margins rather than evidence based medicine. THIS MAKES ME VERY ANGRY.
There's a lot of despair at the moment, many of us feel our government is not listening to us, the people, or experts in the field such as the British Medical Association or the Royal College of Nurses.
Yesterday our unelected second house, the house of Lords, voted through the government's ill-advised health reform bill. We all felt hopeless, then I read this blog post. You should read it too.
Many of us are working out what to do. How can we reverse this disastrous decision when essentially the democratic process is failing us.
"The NHS reforms did not appear in either the Conservative or Liberal Democrat manifestos. They were not in the coalition agreement. This government has no mandate to implement such wide-ranging changes."
Lying in bed last night I had an idea. It's only a small idea but it's a way of demonstrating how we feel through the medium of knitting.
Unravelling the NHS
Knit the NHS logo, carefully, with time, building it up slowly just like the NHS was built over many years. Record your knitting progress through video, if you have it, or through photography. Do not tie off your final stitch, leave it undone...
Point out how long it took you to knit, the care and attention involved and how it it yours. You may also like to share your stories of how the NHS has helped you. Also point out what you fear about the NHS reform bill's implementation. As you talk about your fears unravel your knitting, demonstrating how quickly something that has taken much time, care and love and can quickly become unravelled.
This could also be used as yarnstorming.
You could knit something personal to you instead or as well as the NHS logo. eg I would make an inhaler to show my gratitude for a lifetime of NHS asthma treatment or a knee joint for my thanks to the NHS for repairing my knee following an accident. You get the idea.
This is just an early idea. Please feel free to add to it, make it your own. At the moment the NHS is ours, but I fear it won't be for much longer unless we take action.
If you like the idea please share it (twitter hashtag #unravellingNHS) and spread the word. Also share other ways of demonstrating that we, the people do not want this to happen. I'll leave you with the wise words of the great Nye Bevan:
"The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it."
And as always that superb view of London that greets you when you stagger out of Alexandra Palace into the daylight.
I've only bought a set of square knitpro DPNs and a fantastic reversible cloth shopping bag so far. There hasn't been much spare time to shop as the stand has been so busy.
If you are there today please try and visit stand TGI10 (In the smaller hall where the graduate show is), where I bought my reversible shopping bag. They sell textiles from Burma which are made by Burmese refugees. The money from their products goes to several development projects and they have some beautiful things for sale. If you're not at the show their website is here.
On Wednesday evening I took a lovely walk across Hungerford Bridge to the Royal Festival Hall...
...well to be accurate, Foyles Bookshop which is under the RFH, for my friend DeadlyKnitShade's book launch. It was pretty exciting, so much so that the Queen and her corgies came too.
Lauren's book, Stitch London, is inspired by and based on London and is packed full of quirky knits which capture the knitterly side of our fabulous city. Here's the author busy signing her book
and giving a speech, in which we all cheered the marvellous news that Lauren has been cancer free for five years. Not a bad way to celebrate not being dead.
The cakes were ace, decorated with balls of yarn and tiny knitting needles, they tasted good too. I must admit I still don't have a copy of Lauren's book but it is so much fun with great photos and of course the projects. You even get yarn to knit your own pigeon. Coo.
In my self imposed knitting break I had to find other things to do to fill my time. I love reading but over the last few years knitting has eaten into my knitting time. Rather than going to bed a little earlier to read I'd be browsing Ravelry or knitting just a few more rows...
So no knitting meant lots of reading. I also realised I wasn't keeping track of what I have read this year so I think I'll start another post to keep a log of what I have read.
I'm currently reading a Victorian crime novel based around a part of London I know very well. The MSF office is on Saffron Hill, so named as saffron used to be sold there and it often gets a mention in the book, though I'm pretty sure it looks fairly different now, with the 60's style buildings which line most of the road.
As for the books, I get most of mine from charity shops though have splashed out on a couple of brand new novels. I'm passing some of the books I don't want to keep on through p/hop, rather than taking them to the overstocked shelves of my local charity shops. If I had the space I would keep all my books but I'm not sure there's much space left in my flat. Unless I start double stacking or , horror of horrors, get rid of some yarn!
I've had pesky RSI/Carpal tunnel/hurty left arm on and off for a few months now. I'd mostly been ignoring it as I'd had similar symptoms in my right had which cleared up when I went travelling back in June (eep, just realised I still haven't blogged about that trip), but ignoring the symptoms didn't work and my hand had become more and more sore. So I decided to take a self enforced break from knitting, which seems to have worked.
Anyone who things abstinence is a bad thing is quite right. While on my break all I could think about was knitting. I'd plough through pages and pages of pattern searches looking at all the lovely things I couldn't make. And of course I wanted to make all of the things. Lots of friends have had babies over the last few months and my dark side kept on whispering "go on, just a pair of booties, it won't hurt, go on, do iiiiiit". Self control won over the lure of the knit, my symptoms have improved, and over the last few days I've done a spot of knitting. My symptoms have come back a little and I've found it's worse if I use metal needles so sticking to wood and bamboo helps. As does taking breaks and not knitting for too long. So it turns out abstinence is a good thing, if only for a couple of weeks in my case.
There's a Cranford knit-a-long happening in the p/hop Ravelry group. I didn't think I was going to join in but then found out a good friend who also volunteers at MSF is leaving. She's also a knitter and we used to work together years ago in the same hospital unit.
I dithered over which yarn to use. Lorna wears a rainbow of colours so rather than plain sophistication I went for all out colour with the yarn I recently won. It's beautifully soft as it has a touch of cashmere and the wild colours will be fine in Lorna's new home in Los Angeles. The edging is in YarnYard Clan in a deep pink colour. When I ordered it it looked very red on the website but is a little too pink in real life for my liking. It's a nice colour, just not my colour. I think the rest of it will become a fine pair of socks for my mum, who does wear deep pink.
In my haste to get knitting I completely forgot about the purl stitches in the pattern, which made the mitts very quick to knit and worked well with the variegated yarn however they are less stretchy than your average, properly knitted, Cranford.
I'll miss Lorna, but she won't forget me as she now has a shiny new pair of Cranfords.
My lovely cousin Jane got married at the weekend. She's been with her partner husband Chris for ages so they have everything they need so requested charity donations instead of wedding presents, but it it nice to receive presents, and I was pretty sure they didn't have a cricket tea cosy.
They are both ex-Navy so I made the cosy in Royal Navy colours. I also pointed out on the gift tag that this is not a cat jumper in case their ginger moggy ended up sporting knitwear.
Jane is a Yorkshire lass so I used DK Wensleydale Longwool yarn, held double for the body and singly for the sleeves and collar. The pattern is fun and quick to knit and I will definitely make this again. And it is a p/hop pattern designed by my brilliant friend Ros.
On the morning of the wedding we went into nearby Malborough with my parents to have a look around. Malborough was as lovely and as twee as I expected, the good side of which is it has loads of great charity shops so we picked up some books, including Douglas Adams and John Lloyds Meaning of Liff which has been on my wishlist for ages, a Neil Gaiman book and Kazuo Ishigoro's Never Let Me Go. Mr Gingerknits found an almost new pair of snowblades in a Blue Cross shop which might come in handy if we have a similar winter to last year. I can see us going up to Hampstead Heath to try them out if it snows.
Malborough also has a knitting shop called Fair Isle which had some Jean Greenhowe knits in the window in preparation for the Malborough show which was taking place that afternoon.
The knitting shop stocked lots of acrylic blend yarns such as Sirdar and Wendy and it was handy seeing them in the flesh as my LYS's in london only sell posh yarns and sometimes an acrylic blend is preferable (and cheaper) than pure wool.
I picked up some Sidar Escape which I was going to make mittens with but I have predictably started knitting socks. Quelle Surprise!
The wedding itself was lovely, and there were a few surprises such as the wedding cake being cut with a ceremonial sword! In the evening we went back to my cousin's friends we were staying with. Myself and my parents were expecting a relaxing evening when almost everyone else came back to the same house to carry on the party. Luckily I hadn't quite changed into my PJs but I was sock knitting. I didn't realise I could impress retired Royal Navy commanders with circular needles and some ribbing but I did. I just felt sorry for their wives as they all started requesting socks. I told them to learn to knit, the men that is!
My lovely American Ravelry and twitter friend @mostcurious came to stay last weekend. We visited the British Museum and Eastbourne and Mostcurious did her own exploring too. As a thank you gift she gave me a brilliantly retro tea towel (I have a thing for touristy tea towels) from her home state of Minnesota, which apparently is the Gopher State (Caddyshack anyone?) and a couple of things I have been coveting for a while.
Check out the Pirate DPN holder which will stop my yaaaarn slipping off my needles and the pickle stitch markers. They are made by our fellow internet friend peanutga11ery1 who makes a quirky range of stitch markers, DPN holders and beautiful hand carved lazy kates.
So I have new stitch markers and a DPN holder. You know what this means don't you? More socks!
When I was at KnitNation last month I was chatting to Andie from Renaissance Dyeing (who make gorgeous yarn) and mentioned I'd experimented with dyeing with carrot tops. When she exclaimed "oh you get such a gorgeous silver green with carrot tops" I looked puzzled and a little disappointed and told her about my dayglo yellow yarn. Andie recommended adding Cream of Tartar and more vinegar which I dutifully did the next time I had a bundle of carrot tops from my allotment. Here is the yarn I got. The yarn on the left is Bluefaced Leicester and the right is superwash merino.
It has a greenish tinge but lets face it, this is still yellow yarn. I like yellow, I don't want loads of it in my stash. On our day to to Eastbourne @Goldenblades91 and I were talking about dyeing and she mentioned Kool Aid dyeing. I have a stash of Kool Aid so decided to experiment over the yellow yarn.
I figured I couldn't go wrong if I stuck with colours that blended with yellow so I picked out oranges, mixed up solutions with just orange Kool Aid, orange + a smidgen of purple and orange + red.
I split the skein of superwash yarn into thirds and did a third in each colour allowing the middle portion to take up less dye. Superwash is incredible and sucked up the dye within seconds. Here is the result unwound...
.... twisted into a nest...
I love it and am now decided which sock pattern to make with it. I also dyed the Bluefaced Leicester yarn but need to take some decent photos of it before I show you.
While I'm happy with my new yarn my flat smells like it's been Tangoed!
On Monday I had a marvellous day out at the seaside with some other twitter knitters at Eastbourne and Beachy Head.
It was very easy to get around with a great bus service. 13x runs hourly and stops off at points all the way from Eastbourne to Brighton. The timetable is here. There's another more frequent service, the 12x which you can look up on the same website, though this doesn't get you as close to the sea.
We had ice cream, a pub lunch, walked up and down rolling cliffs, scared ourselves with the huge drop (x1.5 the height of St Paul's cathedral) down to the sea and poked about in rock pools. Sadly the shops were closed by the time we got back to Eastbourne so we didn't get any rock but it was a fab day out with fantastic weather and scenery. I could go on and on but instead I'll show you my photos...
Sorry, BSG reference for those of you who haven't seen it.
Here are the finished socks:
Knit on 2.25mm needles
Cast on 68 stitches, by accident but it worked out OK
Increased to 70, removing some of the purl stitches from the ribbing to accommodate my skinny feet.
Only knit one pattern repeat on the cuff as I have short legs, ended on row 2 before starting heel.
Adapted the toe pattern to create a V of ribbing when starting the toe.
Things I learnt:
I don't need to dither so much. I understand sock construction and can make stuff up as I go.
I can do tricky cables without a cable needle if I pause for a few minutes and think about where the stitches need to go.
Changing the type of needle I use cuts down on wrist and finger strain. I used a mix of Addi circulars and bamboo DPNs. I find metal a bit slippery for cables so drop my stitches more than I do with wood or bamboo but find metal faster for stocking stitch.
When your parents suggest the stitch pattern would make a lovely jumper, especially one knit in sock yarn, know that they are joking.
Viper Pilots is a great, well written pattern, though it is fiddly and maybe not best suited to a three and a half day sock challenge. Unless you are frakking stupid. :D
My next socks will be plain old stocking stitch socks.
I finished the frakking socks on the way to my Uncle's funeral, kitchener stitch and everything!
The funeral went well and on my way back to London I spied this Phillip Larkin statue in Hull Station. I managed to squeeze out one more photo of me with it as I love Larkin's poetry. I tried to persuade my parents to be in the photo so I could quote his most famous work but they weren't having any of it.
I picked up a copy of Caitlin Moran's new book, How to be a Woman, which I started on the train home. It is magnificent and made me guffaw out loud in places, mostly going under the Humber Bridge. You should read it.
Deadline day. I had til midnight to knit another fiddly heel, two feet and two toes.
My camera ran out of juice to document progress but I did take a crummy webcam photo on Mr G's laptop.
Luckily the weather wasn't enticing us outside so I had an excuse to sit in my parents dining room and knit. I did have to stop for lunch, and to chat to Max the notmycat, but mostly I knit.
I work well to deadlines and worked out how to do more complicated cables without a cable needle, making the socks grow much faster, though with slightly gappier cables. I need to work on that, though a bit of tweeking at the end will neaten out the gaps.
By 11pm I had finished one sock and had a "Viper V" and the toe to go on another sock. I made it to the toe by midnight but couldn't knit anymore. Plus I had an early start in the morning. So near, and yet so far....