Wednesday, 19 December 2007

S.O.S. IT Afloat at Sea!

In the interests of taking the Pain out of PC and joining everyone else in the 21st Century, I have acquired a new computer.

However, in my brave and valiant attempt to get this wonderful, slick, efficient, bright, shiny piece of machinery onto my wireless network and the internet, I seem to have managed to sever all home contact with the outside world.

Yes, I am afraid that the net result of two evenings of ORK IT ineptitude is that the grubby, black old dinosaur and the sparkly new silver toy, sit - side by side - in a gentle fan whirring of self absorbed yet companionable, almost-silence. They are like old friends, sitting in a lounge area, reading newspapers - quite happy to sit there, ignoring both each other and the outside world. Oblivious to what is going on around them.

Marvelous. For them. I am going up the wall. [said through gritted teeth]

I have even offered to cook for a colleague (and his two children), in a clear and blatent attempt to lure an IT expert around to my home to sort out my self inflicted, IT mess. Funnily enough, it's Christmas and he's busy.

So things are not looking good on the IT front.

Mind you, after the item that I knitted earlier this week, you might be grateful that I do not really have any sensible way to blog. It's a scarf for a 7 year old. I'm thinking of calling it 'Good Karma, Barbie Basic'. It's bright and it is made with plastic yarn. It's no eco-friendly number - so why the good karma?

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Chunky Ribs and Ruffles Scarf (# 4)

Yarn: Misti Alpaca Chunky, 2 skeins
Pattern: Chunky Ribs and Ruffles, free from Misti International website
Modifications: Made scarf wider and longer than the pattern
Reason for knit: a belated birthday present for my friend, Alex

Enough said!


I am wrapped - just about!

Usually, I can be found in the Please Pay Here queue at about 16:45 on Christmas Eve, looking wild eyed because I know that I am almost out of time. This is after I have fought to get my hands on the best of the Christmas leftovers, just about prepared to pay anything for something that does not have ripped, tatty packaging that will make it look like I picked up at a Car Boot sale.

The reasons for this small moment of triumph?

To date, the closest that these gifts get to knitting is the scarf image on the wrapping paper. There are no knitted gifts in amongst that little packaged lot. Not one and I am unrepentant.

I have come to grips with the fact that I do not knit fast enough or have enough knitting time to make Christmas gifts for all of my family and friends (approx 30 presents) - I decided that it would be daft of me to put myself under unneccessary pressure by attempting the impossible.

Last year, I did knit some gifts. However, I failed to make everything I planned - hence the Christmas Eve, wild eyed and panicking experience.

Not to mention the fact that I cast on for Mel's scarf on Christmas Day as I knew that I was not seeing her until Boxing Day. (There's nothing like a deadline to quicken the speed of your needles, is there?!)

In addition, this year I have implemented an agreement to limit physical Christmas gifts to those under 18 within my immediate / close friend family circles (and give some money to charity instead of present swapping with adults).

This seems to have made the whole Christmas present buying and wrapping procedure a bit more manageable. In addition, it has allowed me to focus my knitting efforts on those people I know with birthdays in December and January (6, I mean 7, of those to make for).

It is not the perfect solution but it is always difficult to strike the correct balance at Christmas?

Friday, 14 December 2007

My sister always has me in stitches of laughter

So it is impossible to keep a camera steady when she is around!

It doesn't help that she is usually laughing too. Or just moving too quickly for my camera to focus on properly. So all pictures are very blurry.

My sister popped over for a glass of wine and to collect her birthday present Gaiter from me last night and the email that I have received from her at work this morning states,

"I'm wearing the scarf now and everyone is verra jealous and they all want one. Ha - they can't have one!"

So okay, is it easy to tell that we are sisters?!

Now my sister doesn't knit.

However, last night I did notice that she could not get over how soft her scarf yarn is and better still, I noticed that she was unable to put down the glass Namaste needles.

Heheheh. I think that I see an opportunity to draw her over to the knit side?

I reckon that all it would take is a carefully selected pair of needles and some very soft yarn, in her favourite colours.

Gently, does it. She simply will not realise, until it's too late and she 'comes to' in a yarn store gripping a pair of beautiful, smooth needles and fondling a skein of something mesmerisingly soft and vibrant.

By then, then it will be too late - too late for her to resist the allure of the knit!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Golden Compass

You know, I have read the books and now I am really looking forwards to seeing this film!

In fact, according to a questionnaire that I completed on the film's official website, my daemon is a Snow Leopard - now I would like to point out that as I completed the questionnaire, I think it really suits me *grin*.

However, for the next 12 days, apparently you can help shape the final form of my daemon by giving your feedback on how you perceive me to be. (Why am I opening myself up to this?!) Okay, be kind...please be kind!

13/12 (later in the day) Edited: Oh crikey, I now seem to have become some kind of fox looking creature?!

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Sooo G-l-a-m-o-u-r-o-u-s!

Oi, give me a break!

After the comments received on those Gaiter pictures in my last post, I feel obliged to share the images that you almost got as a post headliner. See?

Don't give this woman alcohol - things could've been worse. Far worse.

In addition, here is one of the last minute pictures that I took to restore the usual levels of sanity at Casa O.R.K.

You know, I was simply doing my best to do the gaiter design a favour by keeping my humour out of sight and my face as straight as possible (under the circumstances).

However, I hope that my earlier pictures do sort of reveal the fact that I enjoy smartening up once in a while (albeit that it does take a scheduled event to propel me towards my make up, hairdryer and straightening irons).

Actually, last Saturday's 'rather more groomed than usual' look was brought to you courtesy of Robynn (left).

Robynn organised some Christmas cocktails and knitting at One Aldwych - very posh, I loved it.

Also, after 3 mohitos and a cocktail called a Toblerone (very, very sickly), I found it very easy (once home and safe in the privacy of my own home) to slip on a few small knits and point a camera at myself in the mirror.

After that much Dutch courage, who wouldn't?!

It was a good, sociable afternoon with people whose company I enjoy - complete with festive drinks and an anti-sock project knitting moment from a new-ish sock knitter battling their 2nd sock cast on. 3rd or 4th attempt being frogged (left).

You know, I appreciate that I mustn't cackle at her misfortune but as a woman faced with ripping out all of her shrug is tempting! Bah humbug!

On a brighter note (with many thanks to Robynn and my older brother), I received an early Christmas present and a belated birthday present this weekend:


Now all I need to do is work out whether I can get these two gifts together for a project.

Just imagine: a Kim Hargreaves design and some luxury yarn worked with Namaste glass needles?
Who ever knew that a London, Zone 5 girl could be so lucky?! Forget the 'Yarn Snob' concept, it's time to get my pencils out to create a 'Knit Snob' tattoo to emblazon across the small of my back.

Just so much more knitting tool and pattern inclusive? Don't'cha think?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Gaiter (#5) - You Must Knit This!

I am determined to kick off a viral knit of this pattern because:

  • it is so bloomin' cool and effective
  • the pattern is dead simple to remember and easy to knit
  • as one of the world's slowest knitters, I am delighted to advise that it only took me 2 hours to complete one of these. It would probably take a normal speed knitter 1-1.5 hours.
So it is an IDEAL thing to knit if you happen to be a few gifts short of your quota for the end of this month and have approx 80-100yards of bulky wool in your stash that you can use with 10mm or 12mm needles. Really, go back and dig out that Autumn 07 Knit.1 again.

In fact, my colleagues are now petitioning me to knit them en masse for them - apparently, they will even supply the yarn. Tempting though that is, I have pointed out which newsagent sells Knit.1 and offered knitting lessons instead.

Personally, I think that the photograph of this pattern in the Autumn 2007, Knit.1, Back to the Future feature sells the pattern a bit short, as the lighting is very moody and it is knitted up in black. This means that you cannot see the pattern, nor its effect. A real shame, as the pattern looks great and gives the Gaiter both structure and texture, adding to its interest when worn.

Version 1: 3.5 skeins of blue Mirasol Sulka, yarn used double on 12mm needles. Commute knit. Knitted 7 repeats, otherwise completed as per the pattern. Birthday present for my sister in colour that she requested. I plan to pick up buttons for it tomorrow. Really pleased with how soft this yarn is and how well it shows off the pattern. Will try to snap a photo of her wearing it at some point in the coming week.

Version 2: 125gms, 68yds of plum Handmaiden Strati, 12mm needles to get gauge. Test knitted during communications event. I worked 5 repeats, ran out of yarn, so cast off by grafting the last row to the cast on edge, to create a cowl. I love it, even though the yarn is a bit 'crunchy' as it's in my colours. So I ain't giving this away. Nope, it's mine.

In the meantime, you will just have to put up with some very dodgy pictures of me over at Flickr in both versions (click link to access) ...which (in reverse order) do indicate that while this is a great cowl or scarflet, it does not double well as a hairband - it just looks silly!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Exiting The Great Smidge Debate

As easily as it started, it was over.

I read the free scarflet pattern. It warned about gauge and the need to increase needle size. So I bundled a whole load of needles into a bag with my pattern and yarn (plus a spare ball of different wool, a copy of Knit.1 and some extra needles, just in case) then I headed off to work, on a day that I knew included an afternoon communications event.

The afternoon yielded unexpected knitting results.

The communications event delivered 4 hours of presentations. For the record, I warned my boss in advance that I planned to knit through it (on the basis that these events tend to leave me with bruised hands*^).

*From digging my fingernails into the soft parts of my hands in order to remain alert and upright in my chair.

^Ok, I didn't put it quite that way - I emphasised my Kinesthetic learning style and underlined how much more information I would retain if I was able to do something during the presentation.

My boss chuckled (in disbelief, I think) and as I didn't spot him all afternoon, I guess that he may have sat elsewhere just in case senior management took a dim view of my knitting?

So while the MD and the senior management team presented, I swatched for a Smidge.

I started at the ball band's recommended needle size and increased needle size until I ran out of needles (6mm-6.5mm-7mm-8mm-9mm). I did a few centimetres of the pattern in each and the blinking thing was still too dense.

Now, while the presentations turned out to be very interesting, the Smidge stitch pattern I'd chosen was very dull to work. (It worked really well having something to do while I listened and watched, so I really hope that I do not find a P45 on my desk at the end of the month!)

I thought of the proud moment when I would gift this hotly debated design to my sister. Then I studied it more closely and I thought, "I am not enjoying knitting this - I wouldn't wear it. So if I wouldn't wear it, my sister definitely won't wear it."

Hmm. Abandon. Abort. Do something else. So I reached back into my bag, pulled out my ball of Handmaiden Strati, Knit.1 magazine, size 12mm needles, I checked a chart and decided to have a play.

Ooooh, you just wait til I next post - with photos.

I am feeling very confident that you are sooo going to want to viral knit one of these (just as soon as you have managed to get your hands on a copy of Knit.1).

Oh ho ho ho (in a Santa way), so certain that you are!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Ravelry Goodies!

My order has arrived!

I picked it up from the Post Office Sorting Office yesterday morning and (just) beat a Traffic Warden to my car - a bonus!

I have not tried anything on yet but watch out for me in a t-shirt very soon.

Hmm, in terms of my Sunday posts below - pace yourselves - there seems to be quite a few of them.

Well, it was raining outside, I felt that I needed to do a bit of catching up and my brain wasn't up to template work.

Ribbed Shrug Rant

Okay, so I knit in public on the train everyday and I asked a passerby to take a photo of me with my phone?

What? You've never done anything weird?!

Well, I felt like a I'd reached a milestone point - I thought that this was the last train journey I'd make with this UFO in tow.

It was a UFO busting moment - I was about to cast off. So proud. It was exciting!

It was certainly (in my mind, at that time) the last time I planned to touch circular needles for a VERY LONG TIME.


Frustrating, wrist hurting, yarn dropping, all fingers and thumbs making, horrid no tension stitches or the reverse, too tight tension stitches, nasty, awful, clumsy, yuck, awful. Off, off off!

It's one of the reasons why this shrug has sat unfinished since October - I was dreading the sewing up and the circular needle part.

So delighted - I finished, cast off with massive relief and the next morning, I jumped out of the shower, got dressed and checked myself out in my mirror.

Bah humbug, I did not like what I saw at all.

It does not look good on me and lives up to the 'puffy' comments made by others who have made the same project. The problems are as follows:
  • rib is knitted to correct length but happens to be too tall to sit upright around my neck without being deeply irritating, yet is too mean to work as a collar when turned over.

    Solution: I have more yarn - undo cast off and continue knitting to see if this gives a more generous collar and perhaps helps to balance the overall look of the shrug at the back?
    [Yes, if you listen, you can hear me wailing. It means that I need to pick up those blooming circulars again]

  • my cast off tension, and possibly the entire rib, is too tight, causing the rib to pull in overly around my body and causing the sleeve section to puff out, resembling a 1980s repro 'bomber' jacket.

    Solution: undo cast off and try casting off more loosely. If that doesn't work, undo cast off again plus the ribbing, go up a needle size and work the ribbing again.
    [Yes, if you listen, you can hear me wailing louder and gnashing my teeth too. That folks, is 4 round commutes worth of ribbing, yup - over 4 hours work with circulars.]

  • while I picked up every stitch I could find around the opening of the shrug (correct size aperture), I could not find 162 stitches to pick up. I ended up about 20 stitches short. After 2-3 hours of trying, I decided to assume that this was because I had substituted yarn (garment is knitted to gauge). So I carried on, hoping that it would work itself out. Has this contributed to the rib pulling in problem? I suspect so.

    Solution: unpick rib and try picking up all stitches again. See if I can find (or invent), the missing 20 stitches. At the same time, try to decide whether I should up the needle size and then knit the whole rib again.
    [Yes, if you listen, you can hear me wailing, gnashing my teeth and banging my forehead against the wall in despair in contemplation of having to redo about 7 hours or so of slow, clumsy work...on circulars.]

You know, I could simply sew in the ends and push this this eagerly anticipated knit angrily to the back of my cupboard? Bother, I don't want to do that.

I was just so certain that this would be the first knit that I made for myself, that I loved to death and wore to bits. So, I present snaps of the saggy back, bomber jacker version of Erika Knight's Glamour Knits Ribbed Shrug:

Good grief.

By the way, the cordinating coloured towel is an accident.

Although strangely, it sort of goes with the overall shrug styling mess.

About that back view, I can say nothing. Nothing at all.

I might, just simply emit a small sigh.


Okay Gabrielle, look on the bright side, the front view of you in this shrug makes your chest look absolutely huge.


Oh what? You wanted this as a simple, cosy shrug to wear in cold meeting rooms ot the office?

So the big chest look was not really what you were after?



A pity.

My Birthday Gift

This is my birthday present from Mel (Yogic Knitter) along with some patterns that she had looked out especially for me.

It takes a knitter to know a knitter? Now I am willing to bet that you are wondering what that item on the left is for.

We-ll, we were on the tube, on our way to the SnB day with Army of Knitters. Somehow, we chatted our way around to the topic of knitting in the dark and illuminated knitting needles.

I cannot remember whether anyone confessed to having some illuminated needles. I pointed out that I want some but that I am going to have to wait until they start making them in 14" versions, as the only ones that I have seen are 10". No good for me.

No, when I knit in the dark (usually happens when I am staying in a caravan during sporting events), I end up trying to clip one of those book night light to my pjs.

It's not a great solution - I told them that the little arm with the light on, usually pokes me under the chin or simply illuminates my cleavage - they laughed.

Then suddenly, Army of Knitters dove into her rucksack, rummaged around and said something like,

'Oh no! What you want is one of these!'

'What on earth is that?!'

'A camping head lamp.'

'A camping head lamp?! What? You sit in bed, next to your boyfriend, with a torch strapped to your forehead?! Give over, no you don't!'

'Yes, I do,' she demonstrated obligingly (much to our delight and the confusion of those sitting around us).

So now I have one of my own.

I am not sure that Mel is aware but because I was away for my birthday this year, her gift was the only one that I received - so it sort of makes it extra special.

Charity & Hand Crafts

Here it is, my inefficient smoothie purchase!

There is no question about it, innocent smoothies are absolutely delicious. However, I do not usually purchase them.

So, sadly, the fact remains that Age Concern would have been better off financially, if I had passed on the smoothie purchase, not knitted my two hats and simply donated its purchase price to them in full.

I am not going to go on about it and I am not trying to make any specific point. It is simply a reminder for me to think things through in future, to make sure that my good intentions, however modest, deliver maximum benefit?

Now that the Big Knit target has been met, I have removed the Innocent Hat-O-Meter and inserted a link direct to Age Concern and the two other UK charities that I try to support, just in case you feel like popping along to see what they do and finding out whether there is anything you would like to do in order to support them.

On an associated note, you know, I was really sorry to read in the comments responding to my earlier post that others have put in serious effort to craft significant pieces for charity that have not realised their full value or covered the cost of the materials taken to produce them - that must have been heartbreaking.

It's natural to expect that the charity would receive more value from your efforts than your individual spend on the project, not the reverse. Or to expect that the value of your donation is equivalent to its known retail value, certainly not less. Otherwise, you could have sold it in the normal way and simply passed the money on?

I wonder why the charity auction attitude has become about snapping up a bargain? I thought that the whole point of a charity auction, was that people attend to overspend ridiculously on things because it is for a good cause?

Is this charity attitude the same towards everything or just handcrafted items?

I am wary of opening up a different can of worms for comment but is it indicative of a wider attitude towards hand crafted items in general? About them being somehow less valuable than 'art' or commercial pieces?

It is not just textiles either. I always watch with interest, people crowded around jewellery display cases in little art galleries. I listen to them cooing over the hand crafted (designer) items, at how lovely and beautiful they are and then losing interest when they see how much they cost, commenting on how ridiculously expensive they are e.g. silver jewellery.

In some respects, it's true. Silver as a base metal, has a limited value and people's expectations of what they will pay for it, has been shaped by the mass produced silver items available on the high street.

When I amble over to look, I look at the pieces, their construction, take off the gallery's mark up and think of the hours it will have taken someone to design, individually saw, solder, file, sand, polish and finish each item (let's forget the whole outlay on specialist workshop space, equipment etc.). When I have thought that through, I review the prices again and, despite being unable to afford them, I often wonder why they are not charging more. Frankly, I wonder how those people can afford to eat.

Not so different from the hand knitted vs commercially shop bought garment argument?

Entering the Great Smidge Debate

There has been a lot of interest in, and discussion about, the Pidge and the marketing statements of the company who produce it. Instead of being pulled into the marketing element of the discussion, I would prefer to focus on the garment itself - put simply, it is a scarflet with buttons, that is produced by hand on a knitting loom.

As it is loom produced, it has an interesting, twisted stitch effect. It is made with cashmere, it retails for a luxury item price (albeit that once you've taken labour and other overheads into account, the company is unlikely to be making an unreasonable profit) and it is available in solid, striped or mottled colourways.

I like it. It's design is simple. It would make a good gift. It's not the first or last scarflet that will ever be designed or marketed. As I can knit for myself and have an ever increasing yarn stash, I would find it hard to justify purchasing a scarflet, when it looks simple and more economical to produce one of my own.

I hope that this sums up the general thought process of a knitter? Many people are ahead of me in this line of thought and have explored a number of different knit and crochet stitch effects (non loom) and whipped up twisted stitch scarflets in a wide range of yarns.

It's been very interesting to see how people responded to the very first discussions about the scarflet and how they have gone about their projects - investigating, then comparing, different stitches, yarns and garment dimensions. They have used Ravelry to gain feedback and confirm their choices. The whole piece has had a lot of energy and drive about it - people have been enquiring and experimental, it's been refreshing to observe.

For the record, I do not think that I have seen a handknit and crochet scarflet project that is an exact or perfect replica of the Pidge - I do not think that this is anyone's real intent. (It's certainly not mine.) I have only seen individual scarflets in a range of really interesting yarns and stitches.

In fact, I plan to make one of my own, as a birthday present for my sister. I may even use this free scarflet pattern. In terms of stitches, so far I have swatched:

1) my So Called Scarf stitch

2) the one from the free scarflet pattern

3) moss/seed stitch.

Rightly or wrongly, outcome below:

Stitches 1 and 2 are dense and really eat yarn. I used the same number of stitches across the sample, for all stitches, note the width difference between the first two stitches and stitch 3.

Ok, I appreciate that I need to up my needle size as the sample is so dense on the first two stitches pattern that it is like a stiff rug, not a scarf.

However, this sample is 55 yards of Mirasol Sulka knitted on 6mm and 6.5mm needles. The whole skein and the sample measures 8.5" x 6" (stitches 1 and 2) or 9.5" (stitch 3). 1 skein -those twisted stitches eat yarn.

My preference so far is stitch 2 (as its reverse is neater than stitch 1) or stitch 3 (which is reversible). Now I used this for one of the recent Spike hats that I knitted. My gift recipent tells me that the yarn is 'very warm'. So stitch 2 might boil my sister's neck alive?

No clue which to choose - especially as I know what I should be knitting right now. It's red and Puss in Boots related. However, this yarn is winking at me and my sister's birthday is on the 11th December. Ngg.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I should curb my tendency to reflect...

...okay, tonight, on my way home, I stopped by a Sainsburys Local. Just to see if I could see any Big Knit Smoothies wearing hats. There were a few left - I was excited - I bought one.

I have brought the smoothie home, I will no doubt photograph it and post the picture. I have given a home to someone else's lovingly knitted hat (made with scrap yarn). I feel good.

I look at the hat sitting on the bottle and I wonder what I will do with it. I decide that I will probably pop it in a cupboard until next year and chuck it back into the Big Knit Hat melee along with any other hats I decide to knit next year (assuming they run the campaign again). After all, I have no other use for it.

I now have an image of hats circulating the UK for years as part of this campaign, rather than being freshly knitted every year - is that healthy?

Hmm. Then, suddenly, I wonder how many of us knitted hats for the Big Knit and have subsequently bought a smoothie in order to give a home to another knitter's Big Knit efforts, at the princely sum of £1.95 per bottle?

So we knitted them and then we bought our hats back (with a drink attached)...?

Shut up Gabrielle, think of the charity element. We knitted all of those hats to be helpful, to part of something and to do good?

But I spent £1.95 on a smoothie, of which £50p goes to charity. So if I knitted two hats (£1.00) and I bought one drink (50p), my total contribution to charity is £1.50, plus yarn and knitting time? I spent £1.95 on a drink that I would not have otherwise bought.

So, in fact, if I had not knitted any hats (time and yarn saving), nor bought a smoothie (pocket emptying), and instead had simply donated the full cost of my smoothie to Age Concern. Then, the charity would be better off and more old people would be warm?

Also, there would be fewer egg cosy sized hats in existence, hanging out in knitter's cupboards?

I am scared. The economics do not pan out. So I just have to hope that this campaign is worth its weight in gold as profile to Age Concern?

I guess that if someone is a regular smoothie drinker, used to paying out that kind of cash on a drink, with the added benefit that 50p is going to charity - that's fine?

Particularly if they do not knit.

Also, I guess if you knitted more hats than you bought smoothies, or contributed at a much higher rate, then your net worth to charity is better?

But how many people out there, like me, only knitted a couple of hats and then went out of their way to buy a smoothie with a hat on?

I feel like I should give an extra 45p to Age Concern, just for being so daft.

PS: I am knitting by the way, just not at a point where it is worth photographing. Update very soon!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Look! Look! Look!

No, not here. OVER THERE, to the right! Look! Look! Look!

The Big Knit has reached its target: 400, 720 hats. (And counting?)

HURRAY HURRAY HURRAY! We will help to keep alive some elderly people this winter. (Although frankly, it is a disgrace, that any senior citizen should need to rely on a charity to keep them warm in winter?)

If you click the link, you get to see hats of the week, celeb design knits, their blog and you know - a picture of of a whole tank of about 9000 hats. Which brings home, just how many hats 400,000 hats might look like?

Unlike Hazel I did not knit 703 hats, I did not learn how to knit as a result of this project, I cannot confess to being as diligent as Yogic Knitter who contributed about 35 hats. My sum contribution was two hats. But every little helps, right? Please do let me know if you spot these two miscreants, wandering around Sainsburys. Photographic evidence welcome:

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Gift Self Esteem Preservation Kit

Or for the more technically minded amongst us: one Blocking Wires and Board kit (two separate items).

Yes, it's arrived - all the way from Texas, via Canada. It has taken weeks and it arrived on the last leg of its journey by personal courier.

I first spotted it wheeling its way towards me last Monday, outside Heathrow Terminal 3 in a cardboard box about 110cm (h) x 30cm (d) x 40cm (w).

I had no idea it would be so big or heavy. Honest. So why all this trouble for something that does not look very interesting? Well for years, I have been following the directions in the back of Rowan booklets:

Finishing Instructions
After working for hours knitting a garment, it seems a great pity that so many garments are spoiled because such little care is taken in the pressing and finishing process... blah blah blah...follow the following tips for a truly professional-looking garment.

Block out each piece of knitting and following the instructions on the ball band press the garment pieces...etc.

Don't get me wrong. I did (and still do) take care when finishing my knitted objects. I spend hours on them - It is just that I have a tendency to very carefully and diligently ruin things.

I always thought that block in this context meant 'pin out'. So I used to pin, dampen some tea towels and get the steam iron out, simply to set to with alarming gusto.

Cue the ubiquituous smell of scorched yarn, followed by the discovery of limp, flat, compressed, out of shape knitting underneath the tea towels.

All bounce and life, vanished. If you add my dreadful inability to seam well into this cement mix of ineptitude - hey presto! I can share with you the self esteem crushing experience of presenting a finished object to its intended gift recipient,

"Hmmm, thank you. You made this for me? You shouldn't have. Really - no, really. Cheap supermarket bath salts would have been more than adequate. Woolworth's vouchers, honest - next year, perfect."

[A crushed Gabrielle smiles brightly, feigns a thick skin and buys more yarn.]

Ok, so my seaming is still suspect. However, this year - enter blocking. Good grief, what a difference this has made - I love it. Spritz item with a little water, ease into shape, pin and leave to dry.

What could be easier? Or more satisfying? My almost compulsive need for symmetry is assuaged by the simple pinning out of garment pieces, aligned and measured out on my ironing board and on the bed in my spare room. This means that all my garment pieces match up when I brave the sewing up part of the making process.

So now that I have acquired this kit, I am full of good quality finishing, self esteem preservation gifting hopes. (Once I have got my dodgy sewing up sorted out.) Well, as soon as I have revved up my knitting speed and created a few Christmas gifts to block?

Ho, ho, ho... (or, if this offends anyone following the Great Father Christmas debate)... Ha, ha, ha!

PS, in my current pursuit of all things in aqua colourways and in memory of a fabulous exhibition that I saw once, I present (purely for worthiness) the Chihuly Chandelier, seen at the V&A again this weekend:

On a slightly less worthy note, have you been to Scoop in Shorts Gardens, near Covent Garden and Neal Street yet?

No? Shame on you. This is the closest to Italian gelato that I have found in London yet...
...yum. I had nutella and hazelnut semi-freddo, with coconut and bourbon vanilla - see?

I must go check out Ryan Air to see my Italian family very soon - very soon. I miss them.

Um...and you see, while Scoop is good, my gelato heart remains firmly loyal to Rosa's, just off Piazza Roma.

ORK Italian gelato opinion: in constant and steady development since 1987.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

2007 Stitch & Bitch Day - London

Note: It is really, Saturday 17th November. You will have to forgive me for posting this so tardily but y'know, I haven't even put my shoes yet away after my Vancouver trip - I am half unpacked, catching up on Other Things and feeling a bit half baked.

I like Gerard and Craig. Two more affable chaps you would be very hard put to meet across the whole of London. The fact that I get to go see them and hang out with other knitters every once in a while, because they run I-Knit, is simply one big, fat enormous bonus.

You know?

So I was very pleased that they managed to pick up their relaxed I-Knit Bonnington Square knit vibe (somehow) and unpack it intact at a big event in the centre of London. Pretty fluffing cool, if I am honest.

Please click for the Stitch and Bitch Day 2007 Flickr Group Photographs and below for a belated O.R.K. round up!

For atmosphere, there was the Shellac Sisters winding out atmospheric classics, Purl and Dean and the poet chap, who I missed because I was attempting to knit a red square for the Children's Society, Guiness Records attempt at the largest ever Christmas you do!

I gave up when my knitting speed let me down and handed it on to Knitjitbiskit who complained that my tension was looser than her own. Quite right too. When you knit as slowly as I do, you have to knit big.

For worthiness, there was a charity/project/group awareness area where you could see the SnB knitted map, knit a red square for the Children's Society, a mini scarf for Shelter, sign up to knit tea cosies (St Johns Ambulance) or enter a competition to design a walking stick cover (Missibility). Yogic Knitter has lots more detail about this over on her blog - go see.

For information and a good splash of designer glam, there were workshops with Jean Moss, Jane Waller and Debbie Stoller. There was a Son of Stitch & Bitch fashion show to support the launch of DS's new book (which I bought).

Further, there was a workshop and book signing with the the authors of a new book for pet accessories. I just cannot remember their names. You see, just as an aside...

...I do not own any pets. Nor do I plan to waste good yarn of any description on any animal with an in-built coat. (Their fur?) If this has mortified all of you out there with pets, I apologise. Yes, I know that there are canines and felines out there who have evolved or been bred to be hairless. Tough - I do not plan to knit them anything either.

I am a slow enough knitter to prefer to focus on animals who don't leap up from licking their own butts, in order to race over and lick my face by way of thanks for their knitted gift - well, mostly.

That said, one of my best friends lives three doors down the road and she has two small dogs that she adores. Naturally, if I loved her enough, I would make things for her two little girls.

Ngg, please DO NOT draw her attention to this new pet accessory book. Else I will never hear the end of it and I will be petitioned. Endlessly.

Of course, now you are all going to do it, just so that I am obliged to eat my words and post pictures of dog booties on my blog. Ach, let's move this topic back to yarn loveliness:

Phew! Sanity restored courtesy of Starry Starry Knit, Army of Knitters and Yogic Knitter. Ok, for yarn, bags, needles and equipment, SnB day had the very best of Alexandra Palace (plus others I have not seen before) totally undiluted by chaff or the merely indifferent. Just the good quality things that people want to see: Purlescence, Socktopus, Knit Witches, Fyberspates, Natural Dye Studio, Easy Knits, Fluffenstuff, Hemp for Knitting etc.

I am not being sappy but what really made it for me though, was the knitters, all enjoying a totally chilled out I-Knit inspired vibe, in a friendly party style atmosphere, chatting and knitting. Yes, knitting - everywhere you looked. Knitting (or spinning). Either for themselves or for charity.

It made Alexandra Palace appear over commercialised, with the manouverability of a beached whale. If I am honest. Not that this will stop me from going to AP next year.

It is just that, like Alice and many others have stated on their blogs already, roll on SnB 2008!

P.S. I think that it's important to retain some self awareness and chuckle at how we are evolving as knitters in the blogosphere. There were cameras everywhere - it seems to have become a compulsion for us to photograph everything and everyone (for Ravelry/project records and to blog):

Question is, are we out of control?!

Don't ask me - I am beyond saving.

Yup, mine.

PPS: What would a good day out be without a spot of lunch with one's mother and friend (Yogic Knitter) followed a bit later by a splash of knitted tea on the way home, courtesy of All the Fun of the Fair?!

Recent Compulsive Yarn Acquisition

I am not going to provide lengthy descriptions of these yarns, I have decided to let the pictures speak for themselves - I will be interested to know what you think. For some reason, not all of my pictures uploaded to Flickr, so I will upload a few more pictures later this evening.

The light was very grey when I took these pictures - it was a Sunday morning in my rainy, grey back yard. I have grouped the yarns by colourway and therefore, by potential project.

For tantalised fibre fiends, the above yarn includes skeins of:
  • Fyberspates Scrumptious
  • Knit Witches 4 ply laceweight silk
  • hand-dyed and spun Yummy Yarn
  • HandMaiden Strata, Casbah and Silk (something)
  • Lorna's Laces
  • Noro - the only yarn that is not hand dyed (I think).
All of these yarns were either acquired at Alexandra Palace, on my recent trip to Vancouver, at the 1st UK SnB Day or at Fun of the Fair, just off Carnaby Street in London.

Oh and just in case you think that I am totally single minded, here are some fat quarters that I picked up for my mother when I was out for the day in Vancouver with Dotty. So can you tell where my colour mood is at the moment?!

This being the case, to tell you the truth, I have no idea how I am going to part with them. It doesn't help that when I mentioned them to my mother last Saturday, she exclaimed, "I don't have any time to sew at the moment!"

Well. Ok. That's that settled then?

As she doesn't need them, I can keep them? Simply nestle them in with my aqua colourway yarns and gaze at them all lovingly?