Monday, 31 March 2008

The Return of Lumpy Liverhead...

...a West London Mustachioed Avenger. With her fella Chim-Chim Apple-Tush.

But pray tell, why would Lumpy look so preoccupied, piqued even, while the Fella looks affable, relaxed and happy?

Perhaps Lumpy is reflecting on the appalling manner in which she managed to pick up the stitches along the heel flap of her second ever sock?

"Damn, that will take some tinking," Lumpy says out loud.

The smile suddenly vanishes from Chim-Chim's face.

It seems that the thought of tinking back 3-4 rows of 64 stitches on 2.5mm dpns has caused Lumpy's hand to clench involuntarily, forming a death grip on a rather sensitive area

"Ooh, well done darling," chortles Lumpy," Quelle Erqsome did suggest solemn and aloof".

Lumpy wasn't sure but Chim-Chim may have muttered something, quietly and through gritted teeth, about needing his balls back.


Notes: clearly no Fellas were injured in the taking of these photographs as this woman is not in the filthy habit of public manhandling but heck, why let the truth get in the way of a good eyeliner moustache and an awful heel flap?!

I have tinked, I have redone and I think it looks better but I have been warned by a sock pro friend that I caught up with at the Twisted Stitch, Knit and Stitch event on Sunday that my heel is not square. As soon as I am a few rows away from the stitch pick up, I will try it on to see.

Hmm, what's the bet that could be more red sock tinking in my future?!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

ORK HQ - The Easter Lowdown!

The weather in London over Easter was cold, rainy, windy with snow flurries. In fact, a London newspaper reported this week that Retail sales were down over our long weekend break because the weather was so awful that everybody sane stayed at home.

Clearly there was no one sane in residence at ORK HQ: bad weather? Pah! Suck it up - we jump for bad weather! So instead of a long, warm and cosy weekend indoors, hugging a radiator with my knitting, Easter was a rollercoaster of mainly outdoor activities. Any members of the ORK HQ unit who flagged by the roadside were rallied by the sharp cry of, ‘C’mon, stop slacking - what do you think this is? A holiday?!’

On Good Friday, we braved the inclement weather to spend time on the South Bank up in London. This featured the acquisition of Blackie* the sheep, a few cocktails, a trip on the London Eye, a pizza at Gabriel’s Wharf, being seriously hailed on while lightening cracked fiercely overhead (survival rated over photography at that point) and then we jumped in a cab to Leicester Square to go see 10,000 BC (please, do not bother) before heading home for…yup, the start of the Easter Scrabble Tournament.

Photos of me and the kneeling girl
appear courtsey of Fella's Son (the camera shy one)

On Easter Saturday, we bundled Blackie into the car and took off around the M25 to Suffolk for a traditional pub lunch and a walk around Sutton Hoo, an Anglo Saxon Ship burial. You may have seen some of the antiquities from this burial at the British Museum. Well, after introducing Blackie to some older, rather more accomplished examples of metalwork and frogmarching ourselves around the mounds to avoid freezing to the grassy knolls, we trooped the 2.5hours back home again to…yup, continue the Easter Scrabble Tournament.

If you look carefully behind Fella, there is a faint trace of his camera shy Son

Easter Sunday and Monday whistled past in a full on frenzy of family, friends, a wagonload of food^, chocolate, DVDs, a visit to Hampton Court Palace and oh yes….continuance of the Easter Scrabble Tournament.

Centre right and bottom centre photos appear courtesy of
the ever elusive Son. Almost captured on camera, top left.

I would like to point out that I was not behind all of this energetic activity. While I was back at work after Easter, Fella and Son took themselves off to see the Dr Who and Terracotta Warriors exhibitions as well. Then, in the evenings, yes...more DVDs and Scrabble.

So I know, I know - where are the photos of my knitting? Good grief, with all that going on?!

Bah humbug, give me a break! Ohhh yes, preferably one somewhere nice and warm, with nothing to do except rest, eat, sleep, sip drinks, squidge soft golden sand between my toes, read and knit.



* Blackie: the sheep, as named by the Fella. It might be obvious but it could have been a lot worse. (Trust me.)

^ Food: while we did our best to protect Blackie from the grim reality of being a sheep over the Easter period (by focusing strongly on humans’ overwhelming love of fibre) it was hard for us to protect him completely from the rather delicious truth about sheep. After all, it is a tradition that goes back a very long way – it seems that the warrior buried with his horse at Sutton Hoo, was buried with some lamb chops in his satchel.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

1st Blog Anniversary

Today is my very first blog anniversary - 1 whole year of blogging!

However, I am sitting here trying to type and being prodded by a two metre extendable ruler by the Fella, while Son sets up Scrabble ready for a last game before they head home tomorrow.

Oh now, Son is joining in with the prodding action. Not-sure-how-long-I-can-hold-out!

So I will blog tomorrow and provide an update on our Easter exploits...things around here have been a touch busy. (If I am lucky, it will distract me from the void created by their departure.)

Progress on sock two is slow but hey, I am working on this one and plotting more socks, a pair for Fella, actually..., opps. Damn, where are those brownies? Huh? Huh?!

27/03/08 Edited to add: at last - success! After 6 days of being destroyed at Scrabble by Fella and Son, I finally triumphed on home turf, in our last game! So ok, who knew that freshly Fella baked, warm Cornbread (with chopped hot chilli pepper and cheese) is in fact, Scrabble brain food?

Fella and Son are currently trundling down a runway on their way home, so my house will feel very empty this evening - I will miss them both. It's been a very good Easter at ORK HQ!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Very Quickly...

...I am rushed off my feet preparing for the fella and his son to arrive for Easter this week (hurray!) and I am delighted that Amazon has just delivered:
  • Super Scrabble, Scrabble Timer and Dictionary: so, let the Easter re-match tournament begin!

    Please note that this time, Fella and Son, I am DETERMINED reign supreme on my home turf. (Quite unlike my February performance in Vancouver!)

    So anyone who is up for a knit and scrabble contest in London after Easter, just let me know;

  • Erika Knight Classic Knits: required for the Debbie Bliss yarn that I got in a sale last summer (plus other projects);

  • Good Housekeeping - Knitting Pattern Library, 2nd hand book: just in case someone needs help with bobbles and to legitimise my scrawling of the gooseberry pattern on the back of a napkin last week; and

  • Poor Cook, Recipe Book, 2nd hand version: a recipe book from my youth that was one of our family food bibles. Sadly, this is simply a paperback, not the larger format, hardback that I remember. If you have a copy of this book - please treasure it as it is worth money over at Amazon. (Or just send it to me, to love and take care of it until I pop my clogs!)

I have almost finished my purple hat pattern test knit - it's knitted, I just have to finish its hat band. Oh and um, I ball wound that other ball of Koigu and I am working my way through the 2nd plain and boring sock. Yknow, I just want to see if I can solve the heel problem posed by the first one I knitted.

Pictures soon!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Wha'? A Gooseberry?

If I were feeling generous, I would stretch my imagination. I would suggest that gooseberry stitch really resembles something a lot closer to a regimented rows of raspberries or popcorn.

If I were not, I would suggest that it looks a lot more like a serious outbreak of common warts - I will spare you the images.

Either way, I cannot see, not in the slightest, how it might resemble gooseberries, can you?!

Unless, gooseberry in this instance, actually refers to this stitch being perfect for that special garment one should knit and reserve for dinner outings with smug, gooey couples?

After all, if you have to sit there and politely endure their PDAs in the middle of a restaurant, you may as well feel frumpy, as well as a spare, unnecessary part, in a gooseberry stitch garment?

Hmm, judging by this very brief experience, I have decided that I am not cut out for a true appreciation of very, densely bobbled stitch patterns. Oh well, I'll live!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Gooseberry Fool?!*

I am not sure that I am a good person.

Last night I popped along to an I Knit meeting at Craig and Gerard’s new local pub, in Lower Marsh Street (in lieu of being able to get to their shop relocation opening on Saturday).

Although they hardly know me, I like them both and as a London based knitter, I really appreciate what I Knit has to offer - it is not just a yarn shop, it feels to me like an important part of the London knitting community. So...

...there I was, tucked up on a squashy leather sofa, halfway through a large glass of Italian chardonnay, working my way through the last 30% of my Castle Couture hat pattern test knitting and quietly observing the knitters around me when...

…a slightly shy figure loomed up behind the knitter on my right.

She eyed the space on the sofa next to me. She had a mug of tea wobbling on a saucer in one hand (it had a teabag bobbing about in it that had gently stewed her cuppa to a very bright tan colour) and her knitting bag dangling from the other.

Then, with a sudden grit of determination that didn’t quite tally with her uncertain posture, she clambered across knitters, rucksacks and settled into position beside me, unpacking a pair of long wooden dpns (size unknown), a book and a plastic bag full of an assortment of odds and ends, mostly synthetic looking yarns.

In retrospect, the contents of her bag should have been my clue - no distinct project, no pattern, just odds and ends of yarn and a stitch book? Perhaps I should have stuck with my friendly welcome smile, then just kept my eyes averted, my head down, remained focused on my own knitting and simply sung quietly to myself (the pub’s ‘Best of 80s’ pop CD)?

Nope - that's just not us community minded knitters, is it?! To seal my fate, it just so happened that I glanced across (at the very same time as the knitter, sitting on my right) to find her very carefully applying herself to her needles, with her book open on her lap,

She took our glances as interest in her book, which she generously proffered in our joint direction. It was a well preserved library copy of a ‘Good Housekeeping - Knitting - Pattern Library’ (1981). In summary, she was very enthusiastic about it, was delighted by its vintage, 1970s aspect, it looked like she had renewed it twice from the library and she was living in hope to find a copy in a charity shop somewhere soon.

The knitter on my right dutifully thumbed through it (while Ann Budd’s ‘Knitting from the Top Down’ and Barbara G Walker’s ‘A Treasury of Charted Stitch Patterns’ poked out of the top of her bag) and then handed it back, making nice noises and suggesting some names of online second hand bookstores where it might be possible to find a copy. She went back to her knitting.

As the shy knitter reached out to take her book, it fell open at Gooseberry stitch, whereupon she declared, ‘I love that pattern - it is all bobbly! But I tried…and I couldn’t do it.’

I glanced at the instructions and without thinking, I said, ‘That’s not difficult.’

Yep, the next time you are in my company and this looks like it might happen, please feel free to pop a shoe in my mouth as it opens. Seriously - before I’d even closed my mouth - the shy knitter had pulled her current piece off her needles and was casting on again.

Now…I would be crowing like mad about my teaching brilliance right now...if the penny had dropped for her at any point during the 4 rows we completed of the 8 row repeat .

It is just that it did not. I felt so bad for her that every single stitch ended up being a replay of repeated explanation and demonstration. Also, I felt very frustrated that I was unable to show or explain in a way that she could ‘see’ it. Was I doing something wrong?

Our communication (both visual and aural) was hampered by the fact that she holds her needles in a very different way to me. So my demonstrations and suggestions did not work well for her. Also, the way that she positions her needles, made it very difficult for her to see how to move the yarn backwards and forwards during the bobbles.

The Good Housekeeping book ended up being treated like a phrase book. I would demonstrate and then she would flip back to the explanatory diagrams to see if she could work out what I was getting at from the book illustrations - completely hopeless.

The worst bit was that I had to run out on her before the end of the 8 row repeat to catch my train home. Before I left, I scribbled the stitch instructions down on a napkin+ and handed my dismal teaching baton over to Gerard who looked exhausted.

‘What? Gooseberry stitch? What’s that?’

I showed him. At that point, the shy knitter was in the process of trying to stab one of her needles through a p3tog, with a look of absolute concentration on her face. His tired face fell about an inch. ‘It’s not often that you’ll hear me suggest trying something a bit easier but…’

‘…Oh no,’ I interrupted, ‘she’s halfway through, it would be wrong for her to give up now?’

His face fell another inch. If I hadn't spent the previous hour or so attempting to explain p1,yo,p1,yo,p1 into the same stitch, I might have felt more sympathetic for his predicament?!

As it was, on my way out, I am ashamed to say that I chuckled (just a little bit, sorry Gerard).

Now d’you see? I am not sure that I am a very good person at all!

In fact (see photo) when I got home last night, I needed another glass of wine to recover.
PS, on my way home tonight, I cast on a gooseberry stitch swatch. I am not the fastest in the world but I did have a fairly good idea about what I was trying to achieve. As it took me half an hour to complete 4 rows, across 23 stitches, I now realise that the shy knitter was doing a pretty good job yesterday evening! (I hope that she didn't give up.)

I'll photo it to show tomorrow - apparently, Good Housekeeping recommends this stitch for things like cot blankets? Well, from what I have seen so far? Only if one is happy to spend a lot time trying to pick baby sick out of the bobbles with a pin.

* Gooseberry Fool (just in case you have no idea what it is)

+ For those of you shocked at my scribbling down a stitch pattern out of a library book, I went online today and bought myself a second hand copy of the book for 40p. (Just in case, it might come in handy as a translation device at any point in the future.)

Saturday, 8 March 2008

A Red, Red Rose

In a classic twist of fate, I was working at home on Friday when B sent flowers to my office.

I am in the second half of my thirties and I think that this is the third time in my life that I have received flowers at work?

So when I say that it's not often that I get the chance to bask in the glory of receiving flowers at work, I do mean it!

It worked out very well though. It seems that in my absence, these flowers spent time on the desk of every woman who works in my immediate vicinity - so B cheered up a lot of Fridays, not just mine.

So how comes I have photos on my blog? I arranged to collect them at Waterloo Station, from one of my colleagues on her way home.

I am glad that I did, even though I had that weird moment in the train station when she had gone and I was stood there like a muppet (being bumped by hoards of commuters, all racing to get trains home), while I admired and smelt my flowers.

I have to be nauseatingly honest. I was thinking,
'You know that you are with the right person when...

'...and how did he know that this pick-me-up was just what I needed, just right now?'

Of course, the answer to my question, is probably answered by my very first thought on seeing my flowers, rendering the rest of this blog post utterly superfluous.

According to this website, my partner lives approximately 4727 miles away (9.5-10.5 hours as the plane flies). It's actually Sunday morning here and I am tucked up in bed with my morning mug of coffee, my laptop and my knitting. I am sober, about to get up and head off to the swimming pool.

His day is 8 hours behind mine. I just skyped to see if he was still up. He was - he spent Saturday having 'a boys day out' (a very loose description applied to two men in their late 40s) with his best buddy and now they are at home, in the process of putting away a serious quantity of alcohol. They are not sober.

It's one of the difficulties of very long distance relationships - it's not just the miles that separate us, it is also the 8 timezones.

So when I am about to go to bed at the end of my day, tired, inarticulate and/or tipsy and/or I want to discuss couple stuff, it is mid afternoon for him, he is usually at work and not in a position to talk openly.

Vice versa when he wakes up and I am in the office, in the middle of my day.

If I wake up very early, I might catch him before he goes to bed. This is when he might want to chat but I am focused on catching my train into work, having some breakfast and getting a big mug of coffee from somewhere.

It is not easy to find time when our heads are synchronised and we can talk without one or other of us being at work, only just awake or very tired.

I do get to 'see' him via Skype most weekends but neither of us can (or should) put our lives on hold, so it is not always possible for us to 'meet' at a good compromise time of day.

To be honest, a video-call is not any kind of substitute for real time together either - life is best experienced in three dimensions.

I am not complaining, I am just explaining the challenge. In fact, the distance we live apart was pivotal to the original decision to remain friends when we first met back in July 2006. (We met through our sport.)

As our friendship has now developed into a relationship and we have decided to become a couple, we have to accept the challenge presented by the distance that we live apart (at least until we have decided what we do next).

It is interesting - this whole long distance experience has highlighted to me, just how my mindset and emotional needs alter throughout the day.

Actually, not just during the day but also across the week. I appreciate that it is the same for my partner too.

I think that it takes a decent level of awareness from us both to avoid the traps set by busy lives plus the fact that our time zones, bodyclocks and mindsets rarely coincide.

It is not hard work, it is just a fact of our relationship. I am sure that couples who live in the same timezone and even in the same city, street or house have an equal or different set of challenges to manage.

What does any of this have to do with flowers?

Well, bearing in mind the above, it's been two weeks since I saw my fella and it'll be another two until I see him again. I hate the midpoint between visits. It's a bit like Wednesdays - two days since the weekend and two days until your next weekend. It feels like an age since I saw him and I need to wait the same duration before I see him again.

As a result, I have been feeling a little bit flat.

Luckily enough, I happen to be seeing a man who understands me well enough to realise that flowers, which I love, delivered right at this moment, are the perfect boost to propel me positively through week 3.

It would be wrong of me to lay claim, on his behalf, to any of the sentiment stated in Robert Burn's 'A red, red rose'. Even though it is tempting. After all, these roses are very red and a return trip for us to see each other does almost add up to 10,000 miles!

I am simply going to get up, go look at my beautiful, scented roses for a bit and think about the man who sent them to me, to let me know how wonderful he thinks I am - it's not necessarily a bad way to spend some time on a Sunday?

Even though, the man in question has probably had so much to drink by now that he is currently passed out in bed. We-ll, it is his Saturday night, after all?!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Nature: a bit too close for comfort?!

I am working from home today and I keep catching flashes of movement out of the corner of my eye, while I am at my desk. It took me a moment to realise what was happening:

Something tells me that I have nesting blue tits?!

The little girl part of me who remembers putting nesting boxes up in back gardens with my mother when I was small is absolutely delighted. Although I don't remember any birds ever nesting in them - perhaps the fact that we had voracious, bird hunting cats had something to do with that?! As a home owner, I am a bit worried about the fact that I appear to have birds nesting underneath my weatherboard. What are the perils? Will they do any damage?

Okay, lunch over - time to get back to work and stop worrying about nesting birds!

This weekend, I plan to continue test knitting my Puss in Boots hat pattern (see above), as I have made a few modifications to make it easier for people to find standard sources on the technique to finish it. I just want to check this before I send it over to Robynn.

Edited to add: I keep forgetting to mention who I got this yarn from over at Ravelry - I bought it from the lovely yet blogless Kleindorf. You see, I spotted it languishing in her stash and so, between us, we are gifting this yarn a useful future in life - as a hat. A purple sparkly hat. Why not?!

Monday, 3 March 2008

What's in Blog Post Room 101?

It can be only one thing: socks!

I have always been clear, "I can't knit and I won't knit socks!" My reasons are:

  1. I loathe working with short needles of any kind, especially circulars and dpns. It comes from finally having learnt how to knit in Primary 7 (for those of you who are familiar with the Scottish education system) by tucking a needle under one arm.

    Anything other than long needles reduces my 'leisurely stroll in the park' knitting pace to an absolute, 'museum exhibit tourist crawl' as I struggle to keep my needles from exploding out of my hands in an outburst of pointy chaos and dropped stitches.

  2. I've always been very content that my socks are either black or white and bought in huge cheap bumper packs. This increases my chances of defeating the Sock Monster (who dwells inside my washing machine) and maximises my chances of finding a matching pair of socks at 6:45am (approximately) each morning, when dressing for work.

  3. I have an inherent suspicion of anything, even remotely, evangelically promoted by others. Included in this list are bananas and jaffa cake biscuits. The first is tolerable (if slightly green), the second is simply orangey, cakey, chocolately nastiness.

With the result that I have been a bit nonplussed by other knitters' facination with knitting socks: the process, the output and their ardent enthusiasm.

I have sat and watched strangers and good friends alike, knit sock, after sock, after sock with a determined, passionate glint in their eyes. I have witnessed the love and enjoyment of sock knitting on blogs and on Ravelry. I have quietly entertained (and ignored) many, sock knitting recruitment drives.

Don't get me wrong. I can appreciate the beauty of a well crafted sock. I enjoy looking at them and I am happy to celebrate other people's sock successes. However, you would still be hard put to explain why I should make something that people will rarely see (I wear my trousers long and I do not wear socks with skirts), is not in keeping with my character (loud socks), that would take me an age to create (really) and that overall, costs a lot more than a durable, long lasting pair of commercial socks.

For me, socks are a discreet, non-item, worn to keep feet warm, stop shoes from rubbing and prevent grime adhering to the foot when walking around shoeless at home. Simple, no?

So, given my clear, reasoned and firm anti-sock knitting stance, can ANYONE explain this abberration on my part?!

Yes, a sock. I have knitted and finished a sock (apart from the kitchener stitch bit). Albeit a rather plain and simple, badly knitted, red sock. A sock, nonetheless. Of my own free will too. I am perplexed - I don't recall anyone willingly locking themselves into their very own Room 101 in Orwell's 1984? Either I am ill or there are dark knitting forces at work?

Personally, I favour the idea of dark knitting forces and to be quite frank, I think that there have been scattered hints that the Dark Side of Knit has had me in its sights for weeks! The evidence:

  • inadvertant influx of sock yarn into my stash

  • a sock knitting Christmas package, lovingingly hand dyed and packaged

  • a mini sock knitting lesson from Dotty

  • the suspicious sight of a single skein of Koigu KPM in my Vancouver yarn stash photo

  • even my mother gave me a set of sock knitting bamboo dpns at Christmas.
I am not really sure that I stood a chance. However, there may yet be hope:

I have only knitted one sock and it doesn't fit very well. Hence the reason I have not yet kitchenered it. How can something be baggy and at the same time, be pulled forwards, off the heel, despite my knitting it to the correct length before decreasing for the toe?

So all that work and I find myself a bit discouraged by the outcome. I did hope that once I had put this sock on, I would 'get it' because handknitted socks might be far more comfortable than machine made ones. I thought that this might prompt me to become an instant hand knitted sock convert?

While I was intrigued by the overall construction of my sock, I did find it very needles-all-getting-in-the-way-fiddly and a little bit dull to work (sorry). In fairness, people sitting near me were lucky not to find themselves harpooned by flying toothpicks.

I made hard and lengthy going of it. While sock knitters around the globe have churned out 1-2 pairs of socks in the past two weeks or so (some impressively patterned, I might add)...

...this sock was cast on somewhere over Canada on the 18th February. So it's taken over two painful weeks to get this far. (This includes a 3 hour train journey to visit my parents last weekend, on top of my usual weekday commutes).

So right now the idea of repeating this experience to make another ill fitting sock does not appeal - I have other, very overdue knitting to tackle on my list.

Also, now that I have made one sock, I understand their construction and proven that I can make them - so, mission accomplished. There's really no immediate reason to make another one, is there? Certainly not another sock exactly the same - why would I want to make the same thing twice? (Shh, I know I knitted three almost identical scarves recently!)

Mind you, I guess that it is a shame to have a lonely sock circling the house. I suppose that I could try feeding it to my washing machine. You know, play the monster at its own game, by feeding it a single sock - just in the hope that it will confound all known convention and spit me out two identical red hand knitted socks, so I don't have to knit another for myself?

What? You mean I am supposed to lovingly handwash this thing? Um, if this sock doesn't survive the machine, it does not survive at all - items that require expensive dry cleaning or labour intensive hand washing in my house, tend to lie forgotten at the bottom of my linen basket. I have already had a rashy run-in with Eucalan via the scratchy Noro.

I think that the only thing that could possibly entice me to keep going and make the second sock (at some point) is something that Rabbitch said when I was in Vancouver. This was seconded by Dotty who wrote something a little similiar in a comment about my mini sock knitting lesson:

You are knitting socks?! Ha! Welcome to the Dark Side of Knit (it's ok, we have cookies)!

So there it is, in black and white - the typed out price for my anti-sock knitting soul: the chance to join a knitting club with cookies on offer. Good grief, is that all it would take?!

So um, Dark Side of Knit - how about upping that offer from cookies to chocolate brownies?

Y'know, just so I don't feel too cheap when I get around to ball winding that second ball of Koigu.