Friday, 28 December 2007

Santy Claws

The scarf was not lost after all. It was buried in the mouldering mess of what is now my old house. I've moved to a room in a new house, shared with two nice women and two insanely cute cats. Unfortunately, these cats were plainly sheepdogs in a previous life, and they love nothing better than hunting down and interfering with wool.

Santa Claus brought me, as requested, loads of spinnable stuff from Wingham Wool Work. Here it is, and here am I, feeling just returning to my toes after the traditional Christmas day swim down by the harbour, which was every bit as cold as it sounds.

It turns out that Wingham Wool Work is only half an hour up the road from where my wee brother now lives, so I will be dropping in some time in the spring.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

We was robbed

We've been burgled, and the little so-and-sos took my digital camera, so no knitting pictures for some time. This is sad. However, I don't mind the camera being stolen half so much as I mind losing the Patons Jet multicoloured, garterlac scarf I had JUST FINISHED before I took it shopping and apparently abandoned it somewhere. I hope that some appreciative shop assistant or passer-by is wearing it, and it's not languishing, discarded in an alley. It was so pretty! Trying to be stoical about it, because the alternative is running round Belfast screaming 'Where's my scarf?'.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

If alpaca grew out of my arse, I'd look snooty too

Blogger does video! All is forgiven.

I'm almost halfway through the border of the piney path shawl. It's the most enjoyable knitting I've done in ages. Seeing each leaf appear is a little triumph, even when it's also time to think 'twenty down, fifty-one to go'. Now that some of the circle is off the needles, I'm starting to worry about whether it's big enough, but only blocking will tell.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Woolfest, Ravelry and Masochistic Knitting

I realised as an obsessively diary-keeping child that there is nothing more boring to read than apologies for not having written in a while, so I won't bother with any of that. I have been spinning my ass off, and the gunmetal grey Gotland I got at Woolfest is looking very much like real yarn, which I am determined to knit rather than add to the pile of little handspun bundles of potential. As Dylan Moran says, stay away from your potential (

So, Woolfest! It was thrilling. There were people doing all sorts of things I had only seen on the internet, so I am now at last convinced that there are real fibre people out there and the whole thing isn't an elaborate web-based hoax. Not only were there people, there were animals, including alpacas, the funkiest beasts on the planet. Their disdainful chewing motion was so funny I took loads of video of them. Blogger won't let me post it here, so a couple of randomly placed stills will have to do. Bugger Blogger.
The wonderful people at Ravelry have got through enough of the waiting list to let me in, and it is really impressive. I love being able to search for patterns and see so many finished creations, even though I'm a mostly patternless knitter. Being able to search so much blog material so easily makes a huge difference, and there are far more knitters near me than I thought, which is exciting. I've been very lazy about entering my projects, and I doubt I'll ever get round to them all. The one I've so far put in my notebook shows why - I get carried away when I start explaining why I made something the way I did, because I have my reasons and they are weird. They look even more weird when I write them down, so I need to explain more and more, and end up revealing far more about the workings of my mind than any description of EZ's brilliantly simple Pi shawl should really demand.

The shawl lies in a crumpled heap beside my laptop, being tinked for the millionth and, I vow, the last time. The thing is, I've frogged and tinked and sworn at this thing so many times that some strange part of me has started to enjoy it! I still hate the part when you are working out whether or not you need to rip it back, what you have done wrong and whether you can live with it. Once you've made the decision, though, there's a perverse pleasure in unravelling your mistake, however much time you spent making it, and setting off again towards the perfect completed object. That said, whatever I next cast on will be plain and straightforward. It will probably also bore me so much I never finish it.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Lots of our stuff is still in boxes, but the dyeing and spinning equipment is out, and as Himself is away for a fortnight, the house is festooned with dripping roving. I've got hardly any left to dye, but that's perfect timing, as next weekend is Woolfest! ( It's still uncertain how I will get there, but any mode of transport should leave me enough money to buy some roving.

The idea of seeing other people spinning at last is extremely exciting. For all I know, I've been doing it all wrong. I am told by email lists that, as in knitting, the thing to remember is that there are no spinning police, but I'm hoping there's a spinning St John's Ambulance, ready to offer advice and assistance in emergencies.

Dyeing is so much fun I tend to get carried away. I'm slowly learning to restrain myself from chucking umpteen contrasting colours onto one small bit of roving, mainly by hissing under my breath It will turn out brown...It will turn out brown...

I've started experimenting with the hot pour method outlined in The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, which is much less complicated than the cold pour technique I began with, and results in more interesting transitions between colours. I still get carried away, though - for instance, after spinning up the green single at the top, I needed something to ply it with, so started dyeing a grey/black potful of wool. However, simply adding different concentrations of black dye was too boring, so I ended up with the pink/purple/blue/grey single in the foreground above. Which would look crap against the green, so I had to dye and spin the slightly darker version of the same combination below. I still have that green to deal with, but I can't wait to ply these two together.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Wonky wool works!

The Lendrum and I have been getting to know each other. We've reached a compromise where I get very gradually better, while the Lendrum throws up a sudden shock every now and again to keep me on my toes. I'm having to restrain myself from getting the dyeing equipment out and making a big dripping mess, because we are moving house (finally!) the day after tomorrow, and if I add to the resulting chaos any more, I may have to move alone.

Here's some hard-to-photograph handspun, random blues and greens with the odd bit of purple, because a length of roving without a bit of purple seems like a waste to me. This is the first handspun I've ever actually knitted into something. All the rest seemed too precious; now I know I can make more, and better. A lot better! Knitting it really shows you how it needs to be different - in this case, it could do with being plied about half as much again, at least.

Still, it works. Its lumpiness looks pretty good in the intentional lumpiness of a garter feather and fan stitch scarf. The random colours are fun to knit, too, especially when you should really be packing and cleaning.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Come live with me and be my Lendrum

...and we will all the pleasures prove. It's here! It got here on Wednesday, 11/04/07, so it shares my father's birthday. I am totally in love with it, which is just as well - buying the most expensive item of your life, then waiting four months for it to arrive, is nervewracking. I'd never even seen a spinning wheel 'in the flesh' before. Would it cooperate with my cackhanded efforts? Would it turn into a three-foot wooden reproach, lurking in the living room, festooned with woolly tangles and mocking my recklessness in the pursuit of craft? Nah.

It's amazing. It's so much fun the rest of my life is threatening to disappear into a whirling vortex of wheel. Every stage of the process is so pretty. The things that happen to colours when you spin them with other colours are beautiful and always surprising. The camera has of course run out of batteries, so the parade of ever-less-lumpen skeins will have to wait. The wheel makes roving disappear really fast when you're used to a spindle. I'll have to get dying again.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Fungus the Bogeyman

Filth, filth, filth. Fungus the Bogeyman may have left too deep an impression on my infant mind. We are trying to get up the momentum to move house, which means digging ourselves out of our filthy flat and rendering it fit for inspection by landlords and their minions. We are a pair of mucky pups, and much of the mess is due to our minimal cleaning regime, but the level of stomach-churning squalor around us is also due to the sponge-like quality of this building, which is why we are leaving. There are some things that just should not be inside. Such as these:

Wednesday, 7 March 2007


The big green cardigan is finished. It fits, I love it and I may never, ever take it off. Everything else around me is in squalid wool-strewn confusion, after my week-long wrestling match with the button band from hell, but the jumper is as close to perfect as I'm likely to get. (Note to self - next time you pick up large numbers of stitches in a visible place, do it the right way round so it doesn't create an inappropriate purl row.) I can't believe it's actually finished, because the finishing process took so long - the bulk of the actual knitting was done in a couple of weeks. I'm flushed with success, flu-related fever and the fact that I'm wearing a bloody great woolly cardigan with the hood up. Now to slump in front of the TV knitting a sock and dreaming up the next jumper.

And the Spring Knitty is finally here! O frabtious day.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

New wool, woo hoo, mess

I wandered into a half price sale in the single local wool shop the other day, and actually found some stuff I wanted. Ended up with 550gm Patons Fusion in a red/pink/purple colourway, and 100gm of the same stuff in blueish mixtures. It's 45% acrylic, 55% wool, which is more acrylic than I'd usually buy but for 1.50 a ball it's pretty damn good. I'm thinking of a sideways-knit sleeveless jumper with the red stuff, and a bag or hot-water-bottle cover with the blue.

Also, I got 300gm of this 70% wool, 30% alpaca multicoloured stuff which is fabulous! I've no idea what it will be, but I love it.

Now I've got to find somewhere to put it. I used to feel quite smug about the STABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy) people whose garages and attics are lined with vacuum bags and storage boxes of unused yarn, as being a wool snob with no money I never had a problem with space. However, what with spinning, dyeing, Ebay, and funding, my poor boyfriend has to live with this:


Monday, 26 February 2007

Radioactive-snot-coloured cardigan

This is nearly a cardigan, the first fruit of my new year's resolution to make this the year I finish jumpers. This is becoming urgent, as I find myself not buying knitted jumpers because they're not up to knitterly standards, but not producing them myself either, and in our freezing flat you need a lot of woolly layers.

I did little cables up the middle of the front, back and sleeves, and along the raglan decrease lines. With a bit of tinkering these end up in a 4 by 2 rib pattern, which continues up into what's going to be the hood.
The violently green shade of Rowanspun Aran, with little specks of darker green and orange, looks like the product of some very ill person's sinuses, but in a good way... Radioactive snot colour is surprisingly fetching on pasty redheads.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Big pink sock

Me and the man went to Amsterdam for a few blissful days. I couldn't face going without knitting, but neither could I face lugging around 700gm of cardigan, so it was out with the Christmas present sock yarn (Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Bittersweet) and on with some travel knitting.

Here's a short row toe, nestling beside a glass of tea.

I now realise that, meaning to take holiday photos with knitting in them, I've actually taken photos of my knitting and left Amsterdam out of shot! It's like my dad taking millions of photos of deserted mountainsides that mean nothing to non-climbers.

This is my first afterthought heel.

Next time I do these I'll try decreasing more slowly, to make a deeper heel. This one fits OK but I prefer the heel part to cover more of my foot, and I think it would wear better that way, too.

I did the leg in a double eyelet rib, which makes the finished sock stay up really well, finished off with a bit of plainer rib at the top.

I had the usual trouble casting off loosely enough, but after a few attempts with different techniques and needles, the sock no longer threatens my circulation.

Yay! Halfway there, but back to the cardigan...

Thursday, 22 February 2007

I am not the only knitter of things other than pastel baby clothes in Northern Ireland

This is something I tell myself a lot, in moments when my beloved's sweet but unconvincing attempts at enthusiasm about my latest masterpiece/experiment/discovery are not enough. Usually, I tell myself 'I am not the only knitter of things other than pastel baby clothes in Northern Ireland. There's Anna as well, and she's bolshie enough to count for a few'. Now, however, I am spinning round the office on my twirly chair with excitement, for not only does yarnmonkey ( live in Belfast, she is part of a Stitch n Bitch-type knitting group that just started here. So our only-gay-in-the-village days may be over.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Dye Happy

I have roving dyed in my kitchen that doesn't look too mangled, and a digital camera that works! My cup runneth over.

This is some of the Bluefaced Leicester I got for Christmas, after some encounters with Jacquard acid dyes. There's 45gm of the first one, which came out in colours I didn't mean to use at all, but I like surprises! I doubt I'll ever know enough about dyeing to get more than semi-predictable results, but seeing how it comes out is the most exciting part so I'm happy to muddle along serendipitously.

There's 95gm of this one, which is beautiful. I have to put it somewhere out of the way before I pet it to death. The greens are stronger and bluer than in the photo. I can't wait to spin it, but I don't want to start it until the Bosworth arrives. I might ply it with a plain purple single.
By the time the Bosworth gets here, something even more exciting might have arrived. I did it...I ordered a Lendrum. As soon as a long, inefficient chain of postal fairies do their mysterious work, which may take months, I will have a wheel. Right now, I just have the fast flyer that goes with it, sitting on my desk looking enticing.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Spinning and Stench

I would never have believed spinning could be this addictive. Until recently I thought of it as an interesting, but not very important, adjunct to knitting. Now I'm sitting in the office I'm meant to be doing Big Girl's Work in, unable to concentrate on the pile of books in front of me because in my mind, I'm drafting. ALL THE TIME.

A professor recently asked me where in the world I would like to do research, if I could go anywhere. "Somewhere in the Andes" sounded like a sensible anthropologist's answer, until I explained that the attraction was the spinning and knitting. What a dream job that would be.

I dyed roving for the first time last night. It was so much fun, like fingerpainting in primary school. I did it in the microwave because I didn't have the right equipment for other methods. The colours came out much better than I expected, but there is one huge drawback...this roving STINKS. I don't know if it's an unavoidable side-effect of acid dyes, or whether it's to do with the microwave technique, but I now have two beautiful bits of fibre that give off a pungent, lingering chemical stench, like the smell of depilatory cream but more potent. Bad.