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.