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December 2008

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In Retrospect: 2008 in wool (and other fibres)

31/12/2008

To whit:

31 (ish) pairs of socks, 14 of which were for me – I promise you I never run out of socks
17 Lizard Ridge Squares (still a work in progress)
9 mystery diamonds – which turned into a baby blanket for a friend
7 baby surprise jackets
6 hats
4 tops for me
3 tiny wee socks
2 pairs of mittens
2 dishcloths
1 baby Crocus cardigan
1 entire baby’s layette
1 jacket designed from scratch
1 shawl
1 scarf

It’s like a really wonky version of the 12 days of Christmas.

Most of the knitting has been showcased on the blog at some point or other. A late arrival, knit in the middle of frantic Christmas knitting and finished on 21 December was the wonderful Unoriginal Hat:

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There may be no such thing as a new idea but this is a very good not-new idea. Anything knit on 7mm needles is never going to take too long and this was no exception. The yarn is Arucania Limari and I used a skein and a smidge.

Unlike my mermaid hat which is largely for show, this hat keeps your head warm and your ears toasty and I love it. It even got positive comments from a non-knitting new acquaintance which suggests that either (a) it is a good hat or (b) she is open to being introduced to the ways of the wool. Clearly whilst the hat is good, the answer is (b). Poor girl, she won’t know what hit her.

The biggest hit of the year for me has got to be my Icarus shawl – I have worn it almost to death, certainly it is starting to need a re-block, but I need to wait until I finish something else that can be shawl and scarf and comforter all in one. I wear that shawl tucked up on the sofa, as my scarf on frosty mornings and at work to protect against the chill creeping round the window frames. In the summer it was the perfect early evening cover up – small enough to squash into a handbag.

In terms of knits that were given away, I like the Quarterpint cardigan jacket that I designed and knit for Mum and I think she does too. Of the 61 new projects finished (or mostly finished) this year, 35 have been gifts, so this has clearly been the year for knitting for friends and family, whether I realised it or not. If you get the right victims, knitting for family and friends is great (if I ever needed proof I just watch my husband showing off his hand knit socks) but hopefully next year there will be a few fewer babies to knit for, and a little more time to knit some bigger projects for me.

Having said all of that there’s also quilting and spinning and …. and… life is good but it doesn’t get any less busy.

Now then, before I can say “Roll on 2009”, I have a sock and a half to knit to complete the Christmas knitting – anyone think I can do it by midnight?

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30 Years ago today

30/12/2008

In a cold and snowy corner of England …

My parents tied the knot:

Happy Pearl Wedding Anniversary – we’ll be thinking happy thoughts for you today, and watch out for a few little surprises!
Christmas Sewing

Underneath the purple rain

29/12/2008

Did I mention that my Sister-in-law likes purple? Just a little bit? Just a tiny touch?

She likes purple. Things that come in purple tend to meet with approval. She is also a most enthusiastic recipient of knitwear, hence the mittens, and that’s why, when I went digging in the stash before Christmas and found a skein of Jitterbug that spoke of purple I knew it was meant for her.

I wanted a pattern that wasn’t too complicated to overshadow the colours of the Jitterbug, but wasn’t just another plain pair of socks and rooting about on Ravelry I found the Anastasia Socks.

And here they are:
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The Jitterbug colour is Florentina (incidentally it’s the same as the silk Tao in one of my hats, and on both occasions, H picked out the colour, it’s a pity it’s just too far on the girly side for him) and the socks are knit toe up which helps to use as much of the Jitterbug as possible, it not being overly generous in the yardage.

I knit the swirls going in opposite directions as suggested in the pattern but I changed the ribbing at the top. If you start ribbing at the point where the spiral is about to start, work (k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2) x 4; the single ribbing should line up with the purl stitches over the yarn overs and it gives a nice flow from the leg to the ribbing.

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In purple, more is more, is more, is more, and purple socks and mittens require just a little more purple!

Back in August when H and I went to the Quilt festival at the NEC we found some wonderful batik prints and panels from the African Fabric Shop, including two elephants on a lilac background and a deep royal purple covered with littler elephants. It is not uncharacteristic of my tendencies towards prevarication that I waited until yesterday to turn the fabric into the intended bag. My story is that I needed to go shopping for the handles and I’m sticking to it.

The pattern as such was rather made up on the fly, governed entirely by how much fabric I had, and I used most of it. I started with half a yard of backing fabric and the two panels that were about 8″x6.5″.

I cut two 12 1/2 inch squares from the background fabric to be the lining and then played around with the offcuts to make borders for the elephant panels:

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One has short stubby side borders (2.5″x6.5″) and then long thinner top and bottom borders (12.5″ x 2″ and 12.5″ x 4.5″) and the other has short top and bottom borders and long thin side borders. It’s whatever works while making sure that the elephants all stay facing upwards.

The two outer panels turned out to be more like 12″x12 1/2″ so I trimmed the lining panels to fit and then sewed up the sides and bottom of each ‘set’.

For the gusset I lined up the seam on the base with the side seam which gives a triangular ‘pinch’ on the corner, then I marked an inch in from the corner and sewed across it. It makes the bag sit a bit more easily.

The handles are a massive amount of purple spotty ribbon – for each handle I sewed two lengths together, wrong sides facing, down each edge to make it nice and strong and spotty both sides but it would work equally well with just one length of ribbon.

To make the whole thing into a bag I put the lining bag inside the panel bag, folded the raw top edges to the wrong side in between the two layers and pinned it together. The handles simply tuck in between the two layers as well and the whole thing is kept together with two rounds of top stitching (using a walking foot to stop it puckering).December 138

Magic – and the best thing is that it’s totally reversible:

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Sizewize it wouldn’t fit an entire A4 book, and it hangs to hip height, but it would fit a small to medium sized knitting project, or as the case may be:
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A pair of mittens and

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A pair of socks!

I might have to see what other fabric is lying around in the stash!

Christmas

Moveable Goalposts

28/12/2008

As of this morning, or possibly this lunchtime, I have finished the Christmas knitting that is required for Monday when we see one half of the family. Yippee!

To finish, by New Year’s Day I need:

– 1 pair of plain socks
– 1 patterned sock
– the cuff of a patterned sock

.. and that’s it. Totally do-able. I hope!

Today’s output included a pair of Heathery Morning Mittens for my SIL in Scotland:
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I had started these a little while ago, and finished incarnation one of mitten one last night when I needed the DPNs for something else. The original version had caused the yarn to pool really badly so I was knitting alternate rounds from each end of the ball to break it up. Incidentally that technique could win prizes for things most likely to break the knitter.

Only when I was finished did I realise that it was missing a pattern repeat on the width and was going to be too small. Ribbit, ribbit, ribbit.

Happily as you see, the proper pattern gives not unpleasant swirls, and knit up in no time.

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The patterns is the Maine Morning Mitts from Clara ParkesKnitters Book of Yarn and the yarn is Manos del Uruguay Classic Wool. I think the colour might be 7306 but I’ve no idea where I put the ball band. It came from K1 in Edinburgh though – Lulla choose it having admired and hankered after H’s mittens so now she has some too. They will match her coat and hat very nicely as purple is rather her colour.

Just wait until she sees her socks!

PS – Mickey and Minnie are this year’s holiday Christmas Decoration to add to the tree; it’s a china ornament and rather cute, if a little heavy. We’re just impressed that we got it home intact.

Christmas

Somewhere in my youth or childhood …

26/12/2008

… I must have done something good

MERRY CHRISTMAS to all and to those whom you love!

We have had a peaceful and magical Christmas, only slightly tempered by the lousy cold that started work on H as soon as it had finished punching me into a paper bag. H was well on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, so he did the food shopping and the last minute bits and bobs but spent Christmas Day wrapped up in a duvet while I was on the mend and cooking Christmas dinner. It was delicious if I say so myself:
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We have yet to eat Christmas pudding (and yes I do know that it’s Boxing Day evening!).

The Christmas knitting required for Christmas Day itself was finished in time and greatly welcomed. Our friend A called us after church full of delight at his scarf and reported great admiration and envy from the rest of his family, all of whom apparently remarked on how well the muted colours suited A. Noro, take a bow – the colours were really nothing to do with me, I always look at the outside of the ball and take a flying leap of faith as to how they will turn out in a scarf!

H, being my one true fan when it comes to handknitted socks, has already worn both pairs of socks in rotation because he couldn’t decide which ones he liked best. Our contenders:
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Spey Valley, from Nancy Bush’s Knitting on the Road in Misti Alpaca Sock Yarn in the Marina colourway. It isn’t perhaps the best colour for showing off the pattern, but you can see the rings around the cuffs – they’re supposed to be the rings on whisky barrels and the rest of the sock is just ribbing. I adjusted the pattern from the book by going up to 2.5mm needles and adding another ribbing repeat (7 sts) which seems to have worked pretty well.

Technically these were finished on 23 December – but as I decided once he’d tried them on that he could do with a little more length, I hold my hands up to Christmas Day itself – I pulled back both toes and reknit yesterday after lunch while H snoozed on the sofa and Dr Who battled cybermen.
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The charm in these socks is all in the knitting – the yarn is so soft and fluffy and wonderful and to be honest, mostly I was thinking how glad I am that there are two more skeins in the stash!

Our rival in H’s affections is a little less Scottish, a little less muted and subtly flavoured. If Spey Valley is an 18 year old malt, these next socks are a Jamaican Acid cocktail*. With flowery yellow umbrella:
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(I went in search of the socks while it was still sunny this morning and found them here. The idea of removing either the socks from the feet or the feet from the bed for the purposes of photography was not entertained. I took pity – the boy is ill)

The yarn is Socks that Rock mediumweight in the now discontinued (I think) Seastone. H chose it over my shoulder, laughed in glee when it arrived … and promptly forgot about it when it disappeared into the stash, so these were a huge surprise.

I knit these as Dove socks from Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways book, but I don’t think these can be turtle doves, despite the song and the season. They look huge and all wrong when not on feet or sock blockers but they fit like a dream – particularly if you have high arches and/or larger ankles. For H’s UK size 10ish feet I knit the largest size but on 3mm needles and I had plenty to spare from my skein of STR.

We were a very happy pair yesterday (and today for that matter) because H excelled himself in things that make me go squee. He handed me a little package which opened up to reveal:
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A very tiny spinning wheel (Doll’s House size) … and a magnifying glass. That’s right – I’M GETTING A SPINNING WHEEL!!!!! (sorry, didn’t mean to shout – still rather excited) (heee heee heeeeeeee!) If I take the tiny spinning wheel to a spinning shop H assures me that he will use magic and the magnifying glass to turn it into a big one – I can’t wait.

My other present left me speechless. In a good way. Now H knows that I enjoy blogging, and taking the photos to put on the blog, and has shown me how to play around with photoshop to crop out the bits of my desk and other gubbins that ends up in the corners of photos. He had also apparently been listening when I said a couple of times that ‘sometime’ (meaning when I’d saved up and done some research into what would be best) I’d like to get a better camera to take really lovely photos without having to tie myself in knots with our little (and very excellent) point and shoot.

Not only has he been listening, he also spoke to A who is a talented photographer (he took all of our wedding photos) and A’s father who is a pretty committed art photographer (he’s just submitted his MA thesis and exhibited at a gallery in Sheffield) to see what would be best. And so after H’s post-lunch restorative nap yesterday he presented me with a box. And in the box was a new camera. It’s another Nikon and it’s wonderful – just look:
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These are the pictures that I’ve been trying to show you for weeks
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This is what my Amaryllis really looks like.
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It takes a lot to make me speechless but for several minutes I sat on the floor with the camera in my lap making delighted fish faces while H smiled and wiggled his woolly toes at me from underneath the duvet.

It has been a very happy Christmas.

* I drank one once in a bar in York in a scavenger hunt so that we could get the umbrella – it involved Malibu, cranberry juice and Jagermeister among other things. It was bright!