Saturday, 28 June 2008

Dear Neglected Baby Jumper... a UFO, you are finished - done - sorted!

I can barely articulate the very heartfelt relief I feel at your completion.

This said, I am very sorry but I am afraid that I shall wave you off without a tear because you became a very guilty millstone around my neck - one that winked at me, reminding me of my slow knitting speed, short attention span and my failure to meet a deadline, each and every time I opened a cupboard or a drawer (depending on the year). Hurray, no more!

It's astonishing but do you realise that I was knitting you the very first time that I met Mel at the gym and she invited me to join a new knitting group that she was setting up - Amida Knitters?

Now...I know that you were intended for an older brother* but this does not in any way negate the sentiment with which I gift you to the youngest child of a friend.

Actually, I thank the very big hole in the ozone layer that I was given another opportunity - another pregnancy, another boy, another chance. (It would have felt wrong to gift this jumper to any other family.)

So please - do your best and serve your wearer well. It's summer, you are cotton - easy to wear and easy to wash. Please do not come undone at the seams and please do not cast off your buttons.

Most of all, please enjoy the next phase of your existence - after all, whatever gets smeared into you or whatever you roll in, it all has to be a much better than you living a life unfulfilled, half finished in a project bag, tucked away and taking up the time of two stitch holders?

So this is your time - revel in it and make me proud!

Lots of love,

Your Rather Slow Maker

* * *

1) Finished Object Stats:
Pattern: Striped Top - Quick Baby Knits - Debbie Bliss

Yarn: Rowan Glace Cotton - DK
Project Duration: March 2005 - June 2008
Worked: at the gym, during work commutes and at knit nights!

2) Just over a year ago, the older brother received a different handknit jumper for his second birthday. I learned my lesson - it was Dumpling from Rowan Babies, worked in Rowan Big Wool - he loved it and wore it half to pieces!

3) I did not use the teddy bear buttons because they were freaking me out. I looked at them and to be honest, they gave me an insight into teddy bear and clown phobia. How could I inflict these buttons, with this strange look in their eyes, on a one year old little boy?

I doubt that he would have been able to sleep at night!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008



The UFO busting continues. I don't want to say much, just in case I jinx progress. It's not red, it's purple but y'know, clearing the decks, getting there.

No I have not knitted a pocket onto the front of the baby jumper. I think that everyone who has commented is right yet I cannot bring myself to knit another stitch on it. I have lost my poppers and I cannot find my mini-aeroplane buttons. So its finishing has to wait until this weekend when I want it done (and gone)!

In other news, I had an email from one of my sisters the other day who asked me for my blog address..., I felt a bit nervous about it because my sister knits and she teaches fashion-textiles.
GULP, no pressure here to be stylish then! As it happens, my sister is one of the most effortlessly fashionable people that I know. I am not sure that I know anyone else who could succesfully twin a shop bought gillet and handknit scarf (I think) to such good effect?!

She just sorta does?

Note: I have only chopped off my sister's head because I didn't have her permission to blog this photo. She is, in fact, is extremely lovely and goodlooking. She is also a lot of fun!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Bare, Bears, Planes or What...?!

(Photos taken on my mobile phone as I was leaving the house this morning).

I don't know, what do you think?

What am I talking about?! Okay, here are some bears and planes for your consideration:

What are they for? Well, I have sewn up the neglected baby jumper UFO at long last and I am even almost happy with my seaming. Hurray! Sadly, it seems that I am the creator of the most boring (duck egg?) blue cotton baby jumper on earth. Sigh:

Not only is it exceptionally plain, it's surprisingly heavy. There is another problem too. The buttonholes in the pattern were simple YOs, created on 2.75mm needles.

As a result of this, my tension or both, they are too small for any buttons that I can think of. So I plan to use poppers and sew decorative buttons over the top. Maybe. So okay then, how do I save this top from its plainness?

1) Get over myself and leave it bare?

2) Sew these oversized novelty baby buttons to its front? Or is this a 'pull off and chew' risk for a one year old? If it is okay to sew a choking hazard to the front of a dull jumper, which ones do I use - teddy bears or aeroplanes?!

3) Do something else? A duplicate stitch something? What? I haven't found any decent duplicate stitch motifs on the web yet. Any suggestions?

She quietly winces, thinking that this is all just more time that needs to be spent trying to doll up something that she started about three years ago, which missed its deadline and if she doesn't pull her finger out, will also miss her second chance deadline (the original gift recepient's parents had another baby boy who has just had his first birthday).

The moral of the story is that if you are newly returned to knitting, standing in the queue to pay for a book that suggests that it is full of quick, achievable baby knits and you are holding sufficient 4-ply yarn for one of its patterns?

The book is fibbing - there'll be nothing quick about the knit at all.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Ribbed Shrug (of Doom)

I have removed a project from my guilt pile and added it to my summer wardrobe.

It was easy to achieve in the end. I simply decided that life is too short to stuff mushrooms (as delicious as they are) or rip back, then reknit 8 inches of ribbing on 7mm circular needles to correct a too tight cast off and bagging across the back of a shrug.

Actually, in truth, I needed to go to a BBQ (friend's husband's birthday), it was after a long day of competitions and I was late. I knew that the evening would be breezy and I knew that I needed a shrug that I didn't have...

..or didn't I?

I caught sight of the green, shrug project bag in the corner, thought about my previous blog post, then decided not to fuss over perfecting something that only another knitter would spot or care about. It was quite the revelation - there are less of you than there are of everyone else!

Once I had made that mental leap, that was it - 15 mins later, the ball was cut, the ends were woven in and I was out the door... drink diet coke, eat a burger and spend an hour chatting to people that I did not know very well.

In the final analysis, I am not sure that I quite cut the dash of the model in the Glamour Knits pattern styling photo (huddled next to the BBQ and trying not to catch fire while I retrieved a cooked, nutella'd banana).

But then hey - isn't that the difference between photo shoots and real life?!

The two photos to the left are pictures that I took of the shrug when I got home after the BBQ and was saying goodnight to the Fella. I miss him quite a bit you know.

In terms of feedback - on Saturday night two women asked me where I'd bought it (there were no knitters there to my knowledge), a teenager commented on what a good idea it was to wear something like it to a BBQ, how snuggly I looked and said how they wished that they had something like that to wear in their wardrobe.

A few others asked if they could touch it as it looked so soft (it is). Noone told me that it looked too baggy across the top, noone pointed out my cast off and they were all gratifyingly astonished when I told them that I had made it, not bought it! Hurrah!

At knit night last night, I went through it with my friends and we discussed how its fit could be improved if I were to knit it again. They were kind so I am reassured!

The two photos below are the ones that I took when I got home from the second day of competitions today - which I hope will help explain why I look a bit pink, yet a bit washed out!

Project Statistics

Pattern: Erika Knight - Ribbed Shrug - Glamour Knits
Yarn: 7 skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky
Needles: 7mm & 8mm Needles (it's a quick knit)
Worked: in Jersey during a sporting event and finished on South West Trains

Friday, 13 June 2008

In this week a year ago...

...I was devastated by the death of my friend Alan who committed suicide.

On one hand it was just a dreadful, dreadful shock. Yet on the other, I now realise that the signs that he had been depressed had been there for a while. I just did not know how to recognise the severity of how he was feeling and what that might really mean - it simply did not occur to me that he would deliberately harm himself.

I miss him terribly. I recently bought home a letter that he wrote to me last Spring. It has been sitting in my Captain’s letter tray in the Clubhouse for all this time as I have not been able to bear to throw it away. My heart catches each time I see the wide, flamboyant arc of his signature.

As you will guess from this, I knew Alan through my sport. Since before I took it up, in fact. My father and I are involved in the same sport, Alan was about the same age as my father and they were so strikingly similar in looks that they could have been brothers. They were constantly being mistaken for each other, which amused them both endlessly - particularly if they managed to wriggle out of something as a result of it! As a result, they knew each other fairly well.

Now I took up my sport up in my early twenties. If my father was not around, I used to give Alan a hug and joke that he would have to stand in as his surrogate – i.e. put up with hearing about my awful scores over lunch or a cup of tea. I do not remember ever discussing my scores, instead Alan would distract me with fascinating anecdotes from his professional life.

This tradition continued right up until almost the last time that I saw him. I miss his stories, his occasional company over lunch, his most infectious, distinctive giggle and also, I miss his delighted to be of service, stand-in father hugs. It upsets me endlessly that someone I cared about ended up somewhere unfathomable in their head - a place where such a lonely, awful exit appeared to be the only way forwards.

Over the course of the past year, I have noted a number of people who have been open about their depression and blogged about it. I am so very glad that this is the case. It's important that people feel able to be honest, know that it is okay, receive the support they need and have the best possible chance to own what is happening, rather than feel to feel isolated, alone, frightened and overwhelmed.

You see, before Alan’s death, my father and I both noted that he was feeling down. We even discussed it. I kept checking on Alan, gently probing and trying to give him every opportunity to talk. However he always managed to put me off or explain it away. Alan was both kind and jovial. He was also a very private, proper and polite man. While I wish very much now that he had managed to reach out to someone (anyone), I do realise that this is easier said than done; he may have found that a very difficult thing to do. Many people had no idea that there was a problem at all, they were truly stunned by his exit.

His death does make me realise that social convention (not to mention fear of stigma or being seen as weak?) can be a real barrier. My father and I knew that something was wrong, yet neither of us felt able to push our probing beyond what we felt was acceptably polite. We may not have been his first choice anyway but Alan did not feel able to tell us what was wrong.

It has also made me realise that people can bottle problems up inside until they have grown into items of overpowering, towering magnitude that appear impossible to solve. Sometimes, I do this to myself, so I know that it is an easy hole to fall into - I value my friends greatly, as they have the ability to hoik me out of my hole and show me the thing for what it really is, at it's actual size.

It also makes me realise that I could be faced with the same situation again in the future and I just would not know what to do differently, that might make a difference - I wonder what advice people can give?

You see, I would love to be able to end this post by saying something like, 'If you read this and you have someone in your life who appears to be down, then please - take some extra time out for them. Just to let them know that you are there for them if they need you - so that they know that you care and that you are there if there if they need to talk. Most problems have a solution.'

Yet that is glib. I would not know whether this is the right thing to do. Perhaps it would just make things worse? Would your well meaning attention simply be another pressure that they cannot cope with?

Thursday, 12 June 2008


...I know. Be quiet. Why on earth am I reading when I-should-be-attending-to-the-old-WIP?

Truth be told, I did not enjoy The Tenderness of Wolves at all - it is just testament to how much I have old WIP aversion that I plugged my way through it.

I think that I am / have been trying to put myself in the position where the drive to start a new project new plus the awfulness of the books I happen to have picked up in a 3 for 2 deal will push aside my old WIP aversion - you know, creating a situation where the pain of staying put is worse than the pain of moving forwards and dealing with the old WIP?

Well, I broke on the train on the way in today.

Suddenly pulling out a needle, spare yarn and the old project was a more enjoyable prospect than reading Bill Bryson's caricatures of Contential Europe.

Mind you, note that it has taken since Monday morning for me to crack.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

I am not knitting this week...

...I am reading books on my commute. I made this deal with myself.

Something new (the silk scarf), something old (unfinished WIP). Silly really as it is 15 mins before I need to leave for the last acceptable train that I can catch into work and I am feeling the pinch. Nothing to knit and 'not allowed' to start anything new.

The books that I am reading are not that great either - The Tenderness of Wolves - by this, I really just mean that it is not good enough to replace my knitting between home and Waterloo.

I finished it last night, so Bill Bryson is coming into work with me today. If you notice someone grinding their teeth throughout their commute today - it may be me.

Opps, 9 minutes - better go!

Monday, 9 June 2008

My Very Precious Weekend...

...started with a Friday evening date with the Fella at Skylon on the South Bank (as recommended by Robynn for cocktails). The Fella opted wisely for a Kir Royale while I had something called an Adriatic River. Hmm, surely this counts as one of my 5 a day?!

I am pleased to report that I was turned out neatly and that my outfit had the desired effect - the Fella's mouth did actually drop open a little when I exited Reception to greet him on the steps outside my office. Hurray!

I did not take any images of the Thames river view that we had in front of us. However, here is an image of an exhibition that is on at the Haywood Gallery that I would love to go see. Are there any takers for a brief immersion in art, followed by a knit and sip of wine somewhere one week day evening in June?!

Saturday was absorbed wholly by a team match. It was a glorious, sunny day, the Fella had to struggle manfully with borrowed kit, our team won and the event was followed by a quintessentially British afternoon tea of delicate sandwiches (including cucumber), scones with clotted cream and jam, plus a choice of other cakes in a late 1800s wooden clubhouse - just perfect.

Sunday witnessed scenes of diligent domesticity, including caravan washing in blazing sunshine. We were working on getting ourselves organised for a big competition in July - it may sound odd but it was lovely to work on getting everything ready together, rather than having to do it all on my own. So tired, sunburned and feeling very pleased with ourselves we trailed quietly home on Sunday evening to shower, apply suncream and chill.

We arrived home rather later than we expected, so although I am clean and doused with after-Ssun in these pictures, you will need to forgive me if the light is not the very best. Not to mention the fact that I found it dificult to remain serious and artistically composed with the fella on hand! Here is a photo to show its scarf-to-human scale:

This is me trying to stand still, so that the fella can capture a picture of the ends of the scarf:

This is the close up of the main stitch, the amethyst beads and the 'frilly bit' on the edge, as my mother put it in the comments to my last post!

I have no idea whether anyone would be interested in making this scarf for themselves. I will write up the pattern (such as it is) and give it to my mother to offer as a project idea, alongside her hand dyed yarns. I don't know how to set up pdf downloads on Blogger (is it even possible?). If anyone knows how to do it, happy to post it here too.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Semi-Precious Scarf

Here is the scarf that I created with my Artisan Yarns, plant dyed silk:

I was curious about the yarn and I wanted to see what I could do with it. It took a bit of swatching to see what would work before the penny dropped and I fixed on an idea that I thought I could live with.

It is odd, it doesn't look as interesting in these photos as it does in person. I ended up working the yarn together with something else, plus some beads but my camera battery died before I managed to get any decent photos of my beading. So I can post some more photos later if anyone is interested.

So far, feedback from both knitters and non knitters has been positive. So I am thinking that this might be a good way to knit up those skeins of strange yarn that you fall for at knitting shows but have absolutely no idea what to do with later?

Hmm, who knows?!

MeMe Alert!

Ok, ok, ok - I was resisting but I give in as I have been tagged twice!

Here is my contribution to the latest MeMe doing the rounds:

What was I doing ten years ago?
It was all very romantic, you know. Ten years ago, the bank and I bought a house together. From a dead person who, very sadly, had lain undiscovered for about two weeks with both gas fires on. Yes, it was the smell that alerted my neighbours to his expired state. For the record, I did not know this before I bought my house; my neighbours all fell over themselves to tell me afterwards. No I do not know which room he died in and no, I do not ever want to know – after all, I was the person who sanded all my floors.

The romance does not end there. Around May-June, my first ever house was completely uninhabitable and I was living in a caravan. I was trying to come and go from my house (to do and inspect work in progress) without being spotted by my neighbours.

Well, they were not really speaking to me. On one side, my neighbour was obliged to cut down a favourite tree because its roots were attacking my drains and house foundations (it took me over two years to battle its dead roots out of the ground). On the other side? Well, my builders set fire to their house - on April 1st, no less. This had something to do with highly flammable damp proofing chemicals, holes drilled accidentally all the way through a wall and a fully functioning, floor mounted gas boiler on the other side.

The good news was that my neighbour was in. So the alarm was raised immediately, they got their pets out and my builders managed to switch off the gas at the mains before the fire got out of control and razed the entire terrace to the ground. The Fire Brigade said that the fire, fuelled by their gas supplier, would have taken no more than 5 minutes to reach that sort of ferocity. By the time that I got there (yes, I did think it was an April Fools prank until I heard the sirens in the background), the neighbour was handing out mugs of tea and biscuits to firemen with hands that were visibly shaking. Her husband was frothing at the mouth, with hamster cheeks (courtesy of a root canal procedure earlier that day), and literally hopping with rage on their front doorstep. I had never seen anyone actually hop with rage before.

The bad news, which may have been a very small part of his ire, was that the fire happened the day after my neighbours had put their freshly painted house on the market and it was just at the start of the Easter school holiday - so a family of 5, plus three small dogs found themselves out on the pavement, sitting on suitcases packed with smoky clothing.

So, neighbourly relations were a little strained? Ten years on (once that family had moved), I am delighted to say that I am on good speaking terms with my neighbours and in fact, I count myself very lucky to have such decent people living in at least three houses, in both directions.

What 5 non work things am I doing today?
Speak to the Fella who is up in Liverpool on business (he is here again this week), try not to eat too much food (too late), try not to drink any alcohol, do some match administration and weave in some ends on a project.

What snacks do I enjoy?
I am not really allowed snacks. Let me rephrase that, after my very strict diet last year I try my best not to let myself down and snack. Try being the operative word - my weaknesses are:

  • a big mug of black coffee made with Monmouth Street Coffee Company coffee
  • a very cold glass of chardonnay (or three)
  • a Rye Finn crisp bread (or 10)
  • a matchbox size piece of cheese (or 2)
  • a Haribo Star Mix jelly sweet stolen from a packet left open on a colleague’s desk.

What things would I do if I was a billionaire?
Give it all away to achieve world peace and happiness? Sadly, I do not think that a mere billion would be enough to make that happen, otherwise I would consider it.

I cannot fib and say that my life would remain the same. It is likely that I would resign from my job, pay off my mortgage and then leave things a while to settle. After that, I would retrain to do something I truly enjoyed. I would travel a little to see the things I have always wanted to see but never thought I would be able to afford to visit. I would take care of my family and I would employ someone qualified to help with financial management. As part of this, I would expect to identify ventures to invest in, or causes to donate money to, where I feel that my contribution will make a direct positive difference.

Yes, it’s low key but I just don't have a body that would look good in a bikini, sprawled across the deck of an oversized boat - I'd look like a cooked lobster. Mind you, I might not entirely rule out the purchase of an decent apartment in a ski resort. Or possibly - just the purchase of a house where a body was not scraped off the floor before I bought it?!

What places have I lived in?
London, Wales, Scotland and Italy.

What jobs have I had?
I have answered this before – my career history is very dull, so I’ll pass!

Which people do I tag?
The majority of you have already done this. However if you have not and you read this, consider yourself tagged! Let me know whether you are taking part and I'll pop over to read what you have written!