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 stocking...as 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?

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Like Father, Like Son – Two Finished Objects at Play!

I am not sure if you will recall this image from this post?

I was a bit coy about what I might be making, in case my gift recipients were reading my blog.

I am pleased to confirm that the presents have been delivered, so I can reveal that this yarn was worked (double stranded) into two matching Spike hats for my Vancouver hosts.

Spike is a Rowan Yarns Big Wool pattern but as John Lewis did not have the colours I needed, I substituted with Mirasol Sulka and Rowan Cocoon. Each hat took a round train commute to work (1 hour) plus sewing up time.

In some respects it is an odd pattern. You cannot see the crown of the hat in any of the pictures in the pattern booklet, so it looks like a double rib hat all the way up. In fact, it has a reverse stocking stitch crown. You will see from some of the following photos that, unless you pull the hat all the way down, the crown decreases seem to create an almost square effect.

I would like to point out that I knew I was amongst good friends when, not only did my hosts put these hats on long enough for me to photograph them at home, they then wore them out in public (despite some suspicion that they might not be the most flattering hats in the world).

So without further ado, I present two Spikes - like father, like son.

Well... both were almost prepared to be photographed in their hats?!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Happy Divali or Diwali!

I have no pictures and I am keeping my Spikes quietly up my sleeve.

Mostly because it is 01:42 am I am bloomin' tired, mostly inarticulate and frankly, I cannot be trusted to deliver a sensible post. Yet I cannot sleep, I know that I need to meet Yogic Knitter and Army of Knitters by 7:55am later this morning to head off to the UK Stitch and Bitch day in London. Yes, basically, I am all of a muddle.

On a bright cheerful and oddly comforting note, it is my guess, simply judging by the number of fireworks going off around my home (and very beautiful they are too), that this is the last evening of of Divali or Diwali celebrations?

So wherever you are in the world, if you are lucky enough to be either enjoying or simply surrounded by people enjoying the Festival of Light and the Return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya, I hope that you are having a wonderful time!

I hope that you do not mind this overtired, temporary insomniac (I live in hope), living vicariously by watching your fireworks through her double glazing and pretending that she can smell gunpowder!

Sleeep sleeeeeeep sleeeeeeeeeeep.


Thursday, 8 November 2007

Home Again, Home Again...

...jiggedy jig...jetlagged!

My week in Vancouver flashed by - I must confess that I did no knitting at all while I was there. I would like to blame this on the horror of my in-flight circulars experience but the truth is that I was just a bit jetlagged and my holiday flew past in a frenzy of activities that allowed no quiet time to sit and knit.

It was a brilliant week and while the emphasis of my trip was about catching up with old friends, I hope that I have opened the door to some new friendships too.

Sadly Rabbitch wasn't able to make it out due to work overload (so I am going to have to stalk her Etsy shop from afar). However, Dotty, the most kind and lovely Yarn Floozy, took me out for a day to look at quilts, introduce me to Toko's noodles and perform a little yarn enablement.

With the result that, I can heartily recommend the following for stashing, if you ever find yourselves at a loose end in Vancouver:

Urban Yarns - where I stopped off early in my trip to make an emergency straight needles purchase, encountering friendly staff, many yarn brands that I am familiar with from the UK and an impressive array of Fleece Artists kits that I wish I had possessed more time to look at properly. However, I was accompanied by non-knitters and I was jetlagged...perhaps not the best shopping frame of mind?!

Birkeland Brothers (Dotty leading the way!) - one of Vancouver's longest established yarn stores, who stock yarn, fleece and batting. They had a whole range of things that I had not seen before. So next time I am there (think positively, Vancouver is a lovely place), I will browse their catalogue and do my patterns and quantity research before I go.

While Dotty and I were there, two sets of customers bought yarn and calmly used the store's swift and ball winder to deal with their skeins before they left the shop. Can anyone think of a shop that allows you to do that in the UK?! I haven't come across one (to the best of my knowledge).

Three Bags Full (with thanks to Dotty for picture of me gurning inanely outside shop!) - this was a really friendly place with a good mix of yarns, both new and that I have heard of but not touched or felt before, such as Indigo Moon, Hemp for Knitting and Yummy Yarn.

Dotty knows the people who run the store well, so I was made to feel very welcome, which resulted in even more yarn purchases...

...I will post pictures of my yarn trophies, once I have had a chance to photographs them in daylight at the weekend! (With the exception of those items purchased as Christmas presents, of course.)

Actually, while we were at Three Bags Full, Dotty opened her Monkey Sock Swap Package.

Dotty has posted all the details on her blog, so I won't repeat it here but I felt very envious about all the lovely things that she received.

[please pause, for a moment of pure knitting gift swap envy]

Okay, it's a fair cop.

You will all know by now that I do not knit or want to knit socks.

But just look at these - something lovely, knitted just for Dotty. It just tells me that I would like to be involved in a swap! Perhaps I could manage a hat or scarf?

Essentially, something of a manageable size that does not involve either dpns or circulars?

Any suggestions? Sigh, I know, Ravelry will have the answer.

Ahh, well speaking of lovingly hand knitted gifts (oh alright then...O.R.K. burnt offerings), I did deliver my blue and grey knitted gifts while I was in Vancouver.

Now that my head is more or less back in its own timezone, I will blog the mandatory Finished Object photos tomorrow evening! Be warned - the results were not necessarily very flattering!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Where on earth am I?!

Well, it was my birthday this week and I was determined not to be at work, at home or even in the country.

So instead, I am visiting friends in this city, aborbing these kinds of vistas, enjoying Hallow'een (do you like my first ever Jack 'O' Lanterns?!) and generally having a great time!

As it's a 9 hour flight, I travelled with two projects and great intentions. However, magnificently I managed to select two things that were not adapted to long haul aircraft cabin conditions and tiredness.

As a result, I failed dismally to do much more than struggle out 4" of progress using my Denise circulars, watch films and observe how the plane seemed to be chasing the sunset through the window!

As I sat there struggling with my circulars, the woman sitting next to me calmly pulled out a pair of long bamboo knitting needles and set about the second part of a baby jumper that she was making.

I looked at my plastic, component circulars.

I looked at her bamboo straights.

I looked at my circulars and knitting again, then sighed and put my project away.

That lady is lucky she managed to get off the flight without being mugged for her needles - she was saved by the fact that my project bag contained no 4ply or DK yarn..!

I have picked up appropriate straights for the return journey, so I am hoping for better progress!

Tomorrow (Friday), I hope to meet up with a couple of Ravellers for a knit, a coffee and LYS browse before heading home on Saturday.

In general? Hurray for holidays!