Friday, December 28, 2007

Mistah Death and the Aran Blankie

A while back I mentioned a rush job for Halloween, and then totally forgot to post about it.

Here it is! Based on Knitty's Jackyll & Hide pattern.

Hubby's workplace does a lot of charity work - in fact they're set up as a non-profit-making charity. He's done a 30-mile walk for charity with workmates, including the CEO who lent him suitable socks; once a fortnight he spends an afternoon of worktime helping in the Birmingham Children's Hospital school, and was their Santa this year; and he participates regularly and enthusiastically in their fancy dress / dress-down charity Fridays, as you can see to the right.

The cloak is borrowed, and the plastic scythe came from a charity shop. I didn't bother with the mouth as a) I had no time, b) it involves ~shudder~ embroidery, and c) hubby promised to do it then wimped out.
The yarn used (Ben Nevis Aran 25% Wool) is a bit rubbish* - very furry with no density to it - so I used it doubled on 6mm dpns and circulars. I had it in with the idea of making an heirloom Aran bedspread, over a long period, using 12in x12in 'swatches' whereon I would practice various Aran stitches that took my fancy - swatch 1, to the right, is a rather dense honeycomb pattern from a stitch dictionary which doesn't exist according to its ISBN. I reckon it would take about 42 such swatches - 6' wide x 7' long - for our double bed, maybe 63 or 72 for a more luxuriant look. Though a major part of the appeal of this is that it should be machine-washable, so I may have to sacrifice opulence for being able to fit it in the machine...

'* - Cheap, and available in VAST quantities.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A quickie!

Ickle Baby Cthulhu won't wear gloves. Whereas he has the wit to come in from the cold at home, travelling in the cold weather* can be a problem, notably the childminder run. As I don't drive (yet), this involves a trip across a straight-from-the-Urals windswept quarter-mile twice a day. It doesn't take long, 10mins or so at speed, but sometimes his normally toasty little hands freeze. Need I mention that he won't tolerate a Cozy-Toez(TM) or similar? Only his 'Bilanket' will do, a manky old third-hand ripped-up crib duvet with the stuffing hanging out to which he's taken a fancy simply because his little girlfriend at the childminder's has a blankie too (for the same reason, he also has to travel with Mooly Cow or Sleepy Hippo, and all attempts to separate him from his dummy are doomed. Peer pressure is a terrible thing. They even swap dummies from sheer lurve. And pink dummies can cause all sorts of misunderstandings).

I've bought numerous mittens, even attached them with string through his coats, to no avail. He cunningly manages to lose at least one in the 10-min journey. Now with the tantrums, getting them on him involves holding him down as he's howling No! No! No! and the ringlets slap into my face and the beefy little fists flail and the boots land in painfully intimate areas - let's just say I'm not winning this particular battle.

Daddy, on the other hand (no pun intended. Well, maybe), has his Purple Pirate gloves from a few posts back, and Daddy Can Do No Wrong. Not like boring old Mommy and her stupid mitts! He will happily wear one of Daddy's gloves for some considerable time, admiring the 'Piwate' and shouting "Yarrrh!" intermittently. So cunning old boring Mommy had an idea. A psychology PhD has some uses after all!

So Christmas Day evening, I cast on a pair of purple mitts for him, and finished them last night - two days! Based on a vintage pattern, with some mods. Okay, a lot. The cuff is shorter, the thumb is longer, and the top isn't decreased to a rounded cap. Instead, it is a 'finger muff', a portion of loose ribbing made with the larger size dpns used for the stocking stitch. This muff can be folded back for a fingerless mitt, or rolled up for warmth. The link to the free pattern with these modifications is available on the right, under Knitzsche's Patterns - please note the copyright notice is a bit stricter than the one for the Hair Scrunchies.

They're too small for the skull and crossbones motif on Daddy's gloves and I was in too much of a rush to modify. I had hoped instead to put in an intarsia Makka Pakka (face only!), but wouldn't you know it, I'm permanently low on boring browns in my stash. So I decided to Swiss darn the image using some chenille I have in cream, nutmeg, and black - not the taupe/beige/snoooooore needed, but close enough for a 2-year-old. Sadly I am piss-poor at eye-needlework. The darning did not work, possibly because the chenille was just too different to the DK - flat, ribbony and downright uncooperative - but more likely due to my sewing crapulescence.

So instead I was forced to ~shudder~ For-Real embroider the image on, backstitching 3 times across each stitch in the pattern. I would like to record that each stitch was lovingly crafted with a mother's blessings for her beloved only child, but it would be an infamous lie. Rather, each was filled with blood and cusswords the like of which would shame a sailor as I yelped and stabbed my way through the 47 piddling knit stitches of the design. The imprecations and involuntary donations continued through the simple 2-st smile and french-knot eyes. HOW do you stab yourself with a tapestry needle, I ask you? Once on the going in, once on the way out is how. Grrraaah!

So Makka Pakka only appears on one mitt. Tiny husband did me the good service of removing the tapestry needle from my self-inflicted stigmata and taking me to bed before I could put out an eye or circumcise something.

His little nibs was quite pleased. He even wore them for a long period, exclaiming over Makka Makka (as he calls it), and enquiring in hushed and worried tones as to Makka Makka's absence on the second glove... Ooops. I told him that that Makka Pakka had gone to bed (as it does! end of every episode) and that seemed to satisfy him.

While doing this I was reminded of how much I love working with dpns. Straight needles don't inspire this love. I need 30cm+ needles for most projects, but my forearms are so short I get little bruises on my biceps where the ends dig in. I've never found a comfortable, natural way of knitting that avoids this. Dpns are different. they're short, barely longer than my big man-hands. And I simply adore the juggling of the needles and the speed I can build up, way faster than straights. I feel the same about cable needles. I love 'em. I LOOOOOVE them. I have all sorts, shapes, colours, compositions, but sometimes I use toothpicks, broken dpns, matches, just to live dangerously. Sometimes I store the cable needle in a piercing. Sometimes I light the match. I know two (or 3-ish) ways to do cables without cable needles, all of which feel uncomfortable and inappropriate, and deprive me of the joy of cable-needle juggling. Hurrah for cable needles!

That is all.


* FYI, while we don't get the spectacular snowfalls of some parts of the world, winter night temperatures of -10degC (14degF) to -20degC (-4degF) are getting to be normal here in Brum. People die walking home from work because public transport shuts down.
** I never bother about rows per inch, preferring instead to measure and/or fit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This WILL have HAS pics...

Eventually... The pics are taken and awaiting upload from my phone.

The scarf is finished, ends woven in, washed and blocked. The rather stringy, fine mohair bloomed nicely - the resulting fabric appears solid until you look closely, allowing the lace flowers stand out well. The pics don't really do justice - I was hoping to hang it by a window so you could see the light coming through, but had to settle for laying it on white paper. I shall hand it over on Thursday rather than Friday as she has a do to go to and might like to wear it.

My sister's bag is boarded, lined and sewn up, and lacks only the fastening. The specs cases for Mum and MIL are finished too, including the label inside. These won't be in time for Christmas unfortunately. I won't even get them off until Saturday.

I'm also well into Libby's amigurumi unicorn - head and body completed to the start of the bum, and stuffed as far as possible. I still have a little time to work on it, as I won't see them until after Christmas Day anyway. I'm not entirely thrilled with the shape, as the head and neck extend more or less straight out from the body making it look more like a goose than a horse. Before I started, I did think it needed some short-rowing where the lower neck reaches the body - i.e., no building up of the back until the chest is in place. That would mean turning the work and working backwards. I can't see an amigurumi way of doing it, except maybe by making the pieces separately and sewing them together in the right configuration. There's a lot of shaping involved and correct stuffing is crucial.

ION, the deputy head was most distressed to see me knitting during break. Apparently I should be planning lessons. It has been pointed out that I am not in fact a qualified teacher, have no regular classes and therefore do not have PPA time, and am in possession of a contract that specifically forbids me from planning lessons (even though I DO, because there's usually no coverwork). So he gave it as his opinion that I should be doing anything but knitting. Possibly helping out in the canteen, or cleaning the toilets then.

No scarf for him!

If he had any sense, he'd be begging me to run an after-school club for the tards...


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three weeks till Christmas...

And progress is... progressing.

I managed to get the lining and a fancy button for my sister's bag, though I really need to pick up some board to stiffen it (Yes I'm going with the button closure. Musing is what this blog is for too). The lining is quite lovely - heavy, turquoise with a pale gold sheen from a primrose weft (or warp. Not too sure of my fabric orientation). Although I haven't had time to inspect it closely, I would not be surprised if it was silk, or at least a good quality fake. Only £2 in the Bullring for about 2m of 60" width. Well chuffed. There may even be enough to line a skirt for myself, a little something I've been planning ever since I got the eau de Nil chenille, using crocheted squares from an old tablecloth pattern.

The covers for both specs cases are complete, all I need is to find the craft glue.

The childminder's scarf is almost complete, another 3 repeats to go. IBC has utterly charmed her and her husband by calling them by name, and demanding kisses. I suppose I ought to think of some wee thing to give his playmates there... I've swapped the scarf to my in-school project, and taken the Trellis cardi for Liz's youngest home where I have more time to complete it.

I still need to make a start on the unicorn for Lisa's daughter - in fact I need to get the chenille out and wind my pullcakes.

Santa went to Rackham's on Saturday and picked up IBC's tractor and trailer, wrecking shoulders, back and bum.

We've decided not to send cards this year. Instead we're sending ducks to Bangladesh, or possibly midwife kits to Burkina Faso - haven't decided. We may also substitute something like this for presents for the adults in the family, as it is SO difficult to buy gifts for most of them, in part because we just don't have the time.

Only 3 weeks!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Irish Crochet Christening Shawl

ETA: Google Analytics tells me that this is my most popular page, so I'm editing it to add more information. IF YOU FIND THIS USEFUL, please let me know via the comments. IF THERE'S ANYTHING THAT NEEDS MORE EXPLANATION, let me know!

1) The FREE crochet pattern is here.
2) It's lace/thread/Irish crochet. That is why it is NOT wholly crocheted. If you are a lady (or lad) of leisure with servants and have nothing else to do but make a fully crocheted shawl in thread, commence crocheting before the pee has dried on your first positive pregnancy test, and you may finish a satisfactory shawl by the time your youngest grandchild graduates university.
3) It's a crochet trim / embellishment of a fake quilt base (see below). If you are 'Irish' American, this may be of interest to you - a way of celebrating both aspects of your heritage: the Irish crocheting part, and the American quilt-making part (my granny was 'American' Irish, born in Philly to immigrants who decided the streets were paved in the same old shite they could get back home, and left).It is a fake quilt because I do not sew. Especially I do not sew tiny flittery wee bits of fabric which for reasons best left to experts in terminal daftitude I have cut from a perfectly good bolt of cloth precisely for the purposes of sewing them back together (my mother quilted. Using saved scraps from torn and clapped clothing, etc. I cut such as this up and crochet cat beds and rugs).

When my sister and then my sister-in-law fell pregnant, I had the idea of making an heirloom lace crochet baptism shawl, similar to the kind of thing my grandmother made, but which vanished on her death. So I got the hooks and the thread - with immense difficulty, as craft shops had all but vanished and eBay didn't exist - and started. After a few months of tinkering, frogging and fruitless searching for patterns, I came to realise there were not enough hours for me to ever finish it. Bear in mind I was also working full-time and completing a PhD at the time.

The shawl never got made. It wasn't made for my niece three years later, or for my next nephew two years after that. By this time I was pregnant with my son, and I determined that he at least would have a handmade shawl. So I had a re-think.

By this time, handcrafts had undergone a revival. There were a few more L- and not-so-LYS, though the pickings for Irish crochet were mighty slim. EBay had finally been invented, and there were online patterns.

Even better, I had remembered an altar cloth I made for my uni chaplains many years ago - must get a pic of it up - and had some new ideas. I knew IBC would be christened in the arse-end of winter, so would need something more substantial than lace. So I thought I'd make a quilt that was trimmed with lace crochet - well, initially I was thinking of making a sort of sleeping bag/papoose affair, but my sewing skills aren't up to it. Now for the original post...

Just remembered this - my son's Christening shawl.

Sewing: It's a raw silk sandwich with a filler of thermal curtain lining (interfacing - the thickest I could find). The silk outer was sewn first in a rough oval, leaving just enough room to poke in the filler, then finished. The filler was then sewn in place by sewing through both silk and interfacing about 1/2" from the edge. I then machine-stitched a pseudo-quilted diamond pattern over the centre by running parallel lines of stitches across from one side to the other, then another set of parallel lines at about 75deg to the first lot.

Crochet: At the crossing points of the diamonds there are 3D Irish crochet roses, and around the outside is a chain made of Irish crochet rings looped together in the making.

I must try to get a better picture sometime.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Bag

Finished the first Christmas bag (for my sister), but it still needs to be lined. Also the instructions call for a fancy button, but I'm leaning towards a couple of plain satchel fastenings.

Also some pics of double-knitting, which I larned masel on a trip to Ireland recently. It's just a practice piece. I've put together some designs for baby blankies, one of which is just on the needles but there's no urgency to complete.

I have also decided to make spectacle cases for Mum and MIL - both occasionally wear glasses and are always losing them. So I got some cheap cases at the weekend and have already knitted a cover for one in Paton's Lush in Autumn, a bright red-yellow-purple mix. Try losing that. The second is half-complete. I may do a mobile phone cosy for SIL.

My friend's daughter has become fascinated by unicorns. And guess what pattern appeared in the last issue of Crochet??! Must start pull-caking the chenille. Wish I could remember what size hook I used last time.

And it turns out Friday is not a training day as I'd thought, but a real, honest-to-goodness day off!! So I'll go into town and get some supplies at the Bullring - lining fabric, fasteners, maybe craft glue - and probably Abraham's Santa present.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New work

Since the last post, I started my first ever lace knitting project, began the Christmas knitathon, am not substantially further on with the Bob the Builder jumper, and went back to Ireland for a night... It was about the right length of time for a visit home!

My big baby brother turned 40 at the end of October, but the surprise party was on the 10th November. And surprise it was - he's been like a wasp since his actual birthday because nobody made any fuss, just the odd card and well-wishing, a small token present or two. Organising the party was no mean feat for his wife, as he has been off work with a broken arm for the last few weeks and was underfoot every time she tried to write an invitation or make a phone call. But he was completely fooled. The only tricky bit was that they had to send him into the North on the day on a series of pointless but "urgent" errands, and of course I was coming down from Aldergrove to Kesh, along any route he might take, staying with my sister who he might drop in on for a cup of tea... Any other guest seen travelling down could be explained, but why would I be coming over to Ireland in secret??? It was a good night, there shall be YouTube evidence of the big man DANCING as soon as YouTube deigns to co-operate, and Mum was looking more relaxed, younger and less strained than she has done for years.

I don't think we're fully aware yet of the toll on her of caring for Dad in the last few years. None of us knew she had to dress him, for example. I knew she was bathing him, but thought that was just back-scrubbing where he couldn't reach - ffs TH does that for me! It seems he was more incapacitated than he let on to anyone. The unravelling of his life continues.

So, to wips: the lace scarf was inspired by a cone of black mohair (or fluffy string) I found dumped outside a late neighbour's house. How grue is that?! She must have been a machine knitter, because there were other bits and bobs - including pieces of knitting machine - lying about, obviously fallen out of bins and not picked up by our delightful and hard-working binmen. The scarf pattern is merely of 8x6-petal flowers with a garter-stitch border, nothing exciting. However it has been frogged about 6 times to date: I have only managed to do 3 rows of flowers, and one of those has only 7 flowers on it. The next row would have had only 5, as the total number of stitches had dropped from 64 to 44! I have no idea how this happened. It's not as if I'm not well used to textured patterns. It's not like I can't count! I checked and rechecked and double-checked the pattern, the number of stitches on the needle, counted and re-counted the pattern stitches off and checked again that the fluffiness or the yos weren't 'creating' stitches - and still I either had too many stitches or too few at the end of each row. The only row that work out right is the one where the Offspring was torturing me for walks and purpo juice and cuggles. If it ever works, I'll give it to the Offspring's childminder.

The knitathon is just to make little token gifts for Mum, my sis, and my MIL. Last year I made a skinny scarf and gloves set in eyelash yarn for them - the gloves were actually purchased black fleece jobs, but I knitted matching eyelash-yarn cuffs for them. And didn't take pics - pity, as it was quite effective. This year, I saw an interesting pattern in Simply Knitting mag. Weeell, pattern. Anyhoo. Tis a baggie. Supposedly, a bedroom cushion (does anyone really have these things, unless they're selling the house?) which doubles as a nightwear holder (again, does ANYONE use these things?), which presumably provides the cushiony goodness, otherwise you wind up with a nightie case and a teeny cushionpad lying on the floor. There's 2 yarns, and something goin on between them. Naturally, the two yarns are only available on the second moon of Tau Ceti 6 during the bicentennial eclipse, but only to quadripeds. But I got some Patons Lush (surprisingly soft) to substitute for the sparkly yarn, and for the other I've quadruple-plied some thin chenille from the stash. That's looking good, like sari yarn. I'll make up two versions, one in blues on eau-de-nil chenille, and the other in autumn colours on wine chenille. I figure I'll just give them, they can use them as they want. In my sis's case, (blue/eau-de-nil version) I hope she will use it to pick out colours for her bedroom in the new house. Please God. Anything so long as next visit I don't have to wander around saying how well I think donkey pink, terracotta and putty beige go together (*shudder*).

On Bob, I'm about halfway up the helmet bit on the front, having begun working flat from the armholes. Ho hum. Erm. That's about it.

And I should be Ravelry -bound in the next couple of days!!!


Ravelry update:

  • You signed up on October 19, 2007
  • You are #46355 on the list.
  • 510 people are ahead of you in line.
  • 10365 people are behind you in line.
  • 79% of the list has been invited so far

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I've joined the Ravelry waiting list....

There are 14659 people are ahead of me. I'm #46355 on the list!

I'm also on loads of Yahoo! groups, which I mostly don't read, like

  • antiquepatternlibrary - fantastic resource of out-of-copyright patterns and books (if you have any, consider contributing), or just eye-candy and craft-porn, as you wish.
  • brumstitchnbitch - Birmingham UK, that is. Mostly an announcement site.
  • Crazy_Knits - for newbies and the more adventurous.
  • CrochetLace - for lace makers who like to include crochet in their lace projects. Covers crochet lace from many countries, but most especially Ireland and Romania.
  • double-knitting - Make seamless tubes (glove fingers, socks, etc.) on two straight needles. Knit two socks simultaneously on one set of double-pointed needles. Knit a reversible two-colour blankie/dishcloth.
  • FFCrochet - Lively, friendly, helpful free-form crochet (think doodling with yarn) group, with some of the top fibre artists in the world as members. Love it or hate it, it's amazing
  • incrediblesweatermachineclub - Another very helpful group, for the Incredible Sweater Machine/ISM/USM, EZ Knittr or Bond. And one day I WILL set mine up and get going.
  • Irish_Crochet_Lovers - This group is dedicated to the creation, care and collection of Irish crochet. Learned this from my granny as a child, though it's a bit of a mystery where/how she learned - it was mostly taught by Roman Catholic nuns but she wouldn't have had any contact with that route! I still do a bit now and again, but I'm too impatient and goal-oriented for this kind of work.
  • knittycontributors - Maybe one day...
  • knittyreader - An announcement site for upcoming issues.
  • nezumiscrochetclub - Often quiet, this group covers any type of crochet-from Filet, Hairpin, Tuisian, Hairpin, Broomstick, Irish to Granny Squares. Less daunting than ICL, where the RC Nuns theory runs strong...
  • wool_soaker_group - Quite chatty and friendly, dedicated to making wool soakers for use as diaper covers (nappy wraps) in all forms: knit, crochet, fabric, recycling other materials, etc.
I'm also a member of AranKnits and Ethnicknits, but too recently to pass comment...

Friday, October 19, 2007

I give you...

... the Glory that is Begotha - the Gothic Aran!

Also known as a black mystery-yarn sweater with a bit of cabling and moss-stitch. Still, TH is happy. He's had it on a few times since, but usually whips it off as soon as he comes indoors because "it's so warm", so even when I've had the camphone there's been no opportunity to snap it. Yesterday, though, he came home early and I cornered him in the back garden and wouldn't let him in till I got the pics.

And here it is, photographing well for black thanks to our wintery sunshine - the stitch detail shows up beautifully. The turtleneck collar is 2x2 rib, over about 76st I think. Clumping a little at the sides because of TH's simian posture and his habit of mugging for the camera, but otherwise a lovely fit for a nine-stone hank of string.

Sadly, TH is not looking his lovely best. His workplace organised the staff flu jabs yesterday, and he had a bad reaction - hence the early homecoming. We were supposed to be going out to a work do of mine last night, babysitter organised and everything, but in the end I went alone, leaving him with his head down the loo, loving spouse that I am.

Apropos of space-filling, and pointedly ignoring a certain 2yr-old putting in some practice for the Toddler Olympics (All-Out Tantrum event), here's the Bob the Builder sweater thus far. There's only 3 or 4 rows of 'face' left before I get into the helmet, and the first 4 rows of the logo on the back are in place - not enough to photograph though. And yes, those are nappy pins - I use them to hold the nyims* of yarn not in play. TH's aversion to washables - odd given he's happy to be coated in all manner of shite from disintegrating disposables - left me with a surplus. The hair is done in a knit version of bullion stitch for a curly look ... that was the plan, but we shall see.

The second pic shows the reverse: all in all, quite neat; most of the tails are on the (inside) left, due to the way I am knitting on the colours (i.e., leaving a long tail to be knitted on the next row). Hopefully this will be tidier in the making-up stage. I really do not enjoy putting garments together, and tbh I would not be dying about picture-knitting/intarsia if it wasn't for seeing the picture appear row by row. Such a pity knitting in the round and intarsia don't go together...

WOOT! TG4 is on the Idirlíon!! Ros na Rún here we come!!!

Oh for Pete's sake - Aran? Irish? black? Begorra? Begotha? Catch up peeps...

* - a mangled anglicisation of the Irish mion (m-YUNN), meaning a very small amount, what can be held in the palm of the hand with the top finger-knuckles straight and fingertips touching the mid-palm.

Friday, October 12, 2007


The Gothic Aran is finished!

Apart from one thread inexplicably left hanging from a sleeve, it is done, laundered, and tried on by a very chuffed hubby. Back-to-front at first, being himself, but ye gods what a fine fit when it was on. I short-rowed the back of the collar as prescribed in EZ, which was rather nasty with the moss-stitch panels, but what a difference it makes. Fits him like a glove. Pics later, once my camphone is recharged.

IBC's Bob the Builder sweater is well under way. I'm putting the face on the front - it's up to the mouth atm - and the logo on the back, which I haven't got to yet. The sweater shape is reversible (front same as back, not inside-out reversible), so it would be nice to have a different view on each side. I'm knitting in the round again. I read somewhere that intarsia couldn't be done in the round, but didn't get why, since Fair Isle is traditionally knitted in the round. Now I do. Duh. Wool ends up at the wrong end of the knitting. I've got a partial solution which cuts down on the bitties of yarn hanging at the sides: leave a long tail when starting a new colour, that can then be used to knit the next row. In the case of the outlining black yarn, the tail may be enough to complete all stitches required.

And I've started a little something for Halloween - rush job, special request from TH. Fingers crossed...

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Not a lot to say, nothing completed.

TH's Gothic Aran proved trickier than anticipated - not disastrously so, not even challenging really, just fiddly around the collar. It worked in the round, which is good, but TH's broad shoulders and slender frame mean that while the front and back are completed to the base of the neck, I need to knit up the shoulders another inch/inch-and-a-half to reach the same point, nibbling off stitches from the front and back as I go. Oh yes - I decided late on to go for EZ's fake raglan method of reducing the yoke, which looks well, despite some very awkward fudging when the decreases started cutting into the moss-stitch panels. Now this shoulder problem is turning it into a combined EZ raglan/saddle sweater.

But this is what comes of taking a pattern for an aran, running it according to another intended for Fair Isle, then changing mind 3/4 of the way through and finishing via a third for a plain sweater, discovering that the final bit needs to be fudged via a fourth (also plain), all the while using an unidentifiable yarn and a needle size not recommended in any of the patterns - and therefore a totally different number of stitches. Hey ho - at least I did swatches this time. I do get TH to try it every so often on to check the fit (so far, perfect).

I do feel that I'm working in the true EZ spirit though, winging it and not being scared. And occasionally lying down in a darkened room to recover.

I have also made it through the ribbing and into the body of IBC's Bob the Builder sweater, and have done the charts - modified one of Bob's face to fit better on the sweater, and made another of the Bob logo, though I think some surface embroidery is going to be necessary to get the detail in on it. I'm also very taken with the idea of a knit or crotchet BtB 'hard' hat... Hmm. When am I going to get my stockings made, I ask you?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Drops that broke the SIL's streak

This is the little set I made for my nephew. The only negative point my SIL made was that it was a pity it wasn't bigger because he'd grow out of it too fast. But look at the folds at the waist, and the cuffs are rolled up. Mind you, look at the socks. They must be four-year-old's socks, poor kid.

In the second photo, it looks like the collar's loose enough to go over his head without opening the buttons. The hat I made in a hurry, so I didn't put the pattern on it. I was already in Ireland, and had to make it overnight. It'd have taken a couple of days if I had put the pattern in. It's a long rectangle, seamed up the back and across the top. It should have pom-poms, but I made i-cord horns at the corners instead.

He's such a sweet child. He's very interactive - tries to get your attention and then burbles and babbles at you with a serious little expression on his face as if he's trying to hold a conversation. Mum says if you sing to him, he yodels and crows along until you stop!

Tiny Husband's sweater continues to knit up fast. The body and one sleeve are complete, and on a long circular needle ready for the EZ finish, and the second sleeve is well underway - 23r in, 100r to go. I laundered the two swatches I made from the yarn, one wash at 30deg only, one wash at 30 deg and tumble dry at 90deg. No effect, except maybe a very slight felting at the cast-off edge on the second, without shrinkage. Unfortunately this leaves me none the wiser as to fibre content. I was veering towards thinking it was wool again, as I read somewhere about one-plied wool that was intended for felting, but I doubt even superwash wool would survive being tumble-dried until, well, dry. Hey ho. So it is probably synthetic.

I just had another great idea for a sweater for my son. When I was pregnant we called him Ickle Baby Cthulhu (Destroyer of Waists, Bringer of the Nappies of the Elder Gods, etc.) or IBC for short. It was quite a theme. We even found a little line-drawing of a Cthulhu in a nappy, which I used as an icon on my pregnancy blog, and a plushie Cthulhu was the first toy we bought for him. So I spent most of the day making a Cthulhu chart for a little sweater... To add to the Bob the Builder (yarn purchased) and the Thomas the Tank Engine sweaters already planned.

And sod the baby socks. I want THESE. I've already fed my numbers through the Hourglass Knee-length Sockulator - though I'd rather have over the knee, maybe stockings? Something to scare the kids at school with...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


According to mum, SIL is delighted with the Drops Norwegian set I sent her, and the ba hasn't been out of it since! She was thrilled with the colours and the pattern, and was particularly floored by the label.

Pics to follow once mum sends them over...

Hubby's sweater grows apace. I have the body completed to the EZ seamless sweater join-up point, and one sleeve almost done after a bit of a hunt for 6mm dpns - I had to settle for 40cm circs in the end. I also had to adjust for TH's elongated torso, as he's 6'1" but his chest's barely 36". I've decided to do the collar as a polo neck, so he can roll it up or down as the weather dictates, and I'll probably have to twiddle the decreases so they don't interfere with the Aran panels. TH can't wait to get his Goth Aran!

I've also begun the calculations for a version for my son - I think the panel plus 7st to either side will be big enough for his wee chest. don't know about the sleeves yet. I've also found a Bob the Builder chart which I might try on the grey marl background, and a Thomas the Tank Engine one currently under consideration. So that's four ideas for him so far, including the Drops!

My own pinwheel cardi has stalled because - aaargh! - I'm running out of wool. As it's vintage, the chances of getting any more are pretty much nil. And it's RED, so I'll never match it... So I have to finish the sleeves, see how much wool is left, then unravel or devise a trim to suit.

And God help me, I want to knit socks...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This is my first attempt at designing something from scratch!!! Details are sketchy below, as I want to market this in some form, either the item itself or the pattern based on it. So be warned this is copyright to me, do not copy, or attempt to recreate/sell or otherwise use the details here for personal gain: this is simply a record for information only.

Though that should be from scratch-ish, now that I think of it... the sleeves from elbow to wrist are the same as those of the shrug I made my sister - using needles of different sizes to create a lacy effect. However, with this the lower sleeves start wide, and are reduced towards the elbow. There's ribbons threaded through at the elbow.

The top however is solid, small needles throughout, with stitches increased towards the middle and then reduced towards the opposite sleeve, where the large needle is re-introduced and stitch number is increased towards the wrist. In the centre portion, a circle for the head is removed by placing stitches on a small circular needle to be knitted up later as a collar. Mine is Dracula's cloak-shaped, with points that stick up round my head, but I have plans for other shapes, including a Scottish Widow's hood. I also have plans for a tight-sleeved (possibly gloved) cyber version in fluorescent colours and stripes, and possibly an open-fronted all-lace one in some yummy Astrakhan wool.

The inspiration is shown in the second photo. Us gothy types can suffer a degree of discomfort as a result of our dress, especially when the weather is too mild for a heavy coat but still chilly enough to require some covering over bosoms and arms. I could see a less ornate version being suitable for wear over strappy summer tops for those barbeques on a breezy summer twilight. It's not really a poncho, too short even for a cropped sweater - it should not obscure the delightful outfit below it: about nipple-length is right.

I call it the Corset Cosy (TM).

Ay thenk yew.

More hats and a scarf

Back when I started knitting again, I went on a bit of a hat-making frenzy - partly because hats are quick projects, partly because Ickle Baby Cthulhu was fast growing out of the many hats we had - indeed, many never fitted in the first place. I don't want to sound like my SIL, but IBC's head is HUGE! Thank God for c-sections. He's not even 2 yet and all his little sunhats this summer were age 6 sized. Otherwise he is but a sturdy 12 to 23-month size.

The first ever hat I made for him was Lion Brand's free pattern Strawberry Patch Cap. I did check most carefully for equivalent-sized yarn - Lion Brand is not to be found here - but I did not do a swatch, haha! I rarely do, naughty me. I do try to match up the right needle-to-yarn size unless I'm going for a particular effect, but it's easier to knit a bit of the pattern, see how it's going size-wise, then frog if necessary and knit a different size given in the pattern (assuming I'm actually following it that religiously) - so if my 36in chest size sweater is coming up a 40in, I knit up the 32in size instead. Easier than faffing about with gauges. Obviously the 32in pattern is going to be shorter, but I always measure it off on the wearer rather than rely on the pattern - on the few occasions when I've done swatches, if I got the stitch-gauge right the row-gauge would be skew-wheef. Elizabeth Zimmerman recommends ignoring row-gauges and measuring your work for the intended wearer as you knit, and who am I to argue with someone who made a living knitting?

I used red and green acrylic DK from a pound shop. It was soooo sweet, though TH didn't approve - it's okay for IBC to wear a leopardskin fun-fur hat with horns, made by one of TH's friends, but wearing a hat made by his mummy might give him a complex, it seems. Or wearing a cute and eminently suitable sailor suit to a wedding. Bah. Sadly, IBC tipped it out of his pram and it's never been seen since, so this is the only evidence of its existence. Quite Tyrolean I thought.

The next one was a Knitty pattern called Baby Tart. As I had green DK left over from the Strawberry Patch Cap, I did the "pie" bit in green, and used some black DK for the "filling", as sepals and berry. I call it the Blackberry Cap, or the Blackberet, hnurh, hnurgh, hnurh. I had real bother with the pattern for the bobbled berry filling - maybe it was having to look in 3 different places to work it, but it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Not one I'll be repeating, I think. TH again not appreciative of my artistry, and IBC ungratefully had a growth spurt before it was done.

I also crocheted the Pompom Hat from Craftown, in black DK with a red stripe around the hatband. However, after a couple of tries I abandoned the pattern and constructed it by measuring off IBC.

Last October I started working at the school, leaving IBC with a childminder during the day. This entails wheeling him across an exposed and windy area in less than clement weather twice a day. Anorak hoods wouldn't stay on, and throwing hats out of the buggy was tremendously entertaining, so I hit on the idea of making a balaclava. After quite a search I found a straightforward one on knitlist. Naturally I made it up in basketweave stitch rather than the stitch pattern recommended, just to be awkward. It was amazingly easy to make up, and IBC can't whip it off - result!

It left a bit much of his face exposed, and, since I had some black and green DK left, I made a second one. This I made a bit longer in the head, and with longer ribbing round the face. Also when I picked up the stitches for the ribbing round the front, I used the same short-rowing technique for the top flap of the balaclava to build up the 'chin' section to cover his mouth and nose. The ribbing kept this piece elastic enough to pull down if it wasn't too cold, which was an unplanned bonus. The black and green pattern was supposed to look like dragon scales, but this was not so successful... TH attempted some dry wit by suggesting I knit him an armalite to go with it.

I've since made a purple version, with purple ostrich fancy yarn twisted along with the yarn for the ribbing round the face only, for a little girl his childminder also looks after - her favourite colour, and she and her mum loved it. No photos though. The ostrich yarn fluffed out really nicely, like the furry bits on the hoods of those snorkel anoraks all the kids used to wear when I was young. Er. Definitely -er.

So to the scarf. Made in beige (MC) and turquoise (Contrast) ostrich yarn for the ex-manager of the Hub Hazelwell when she left for her new job. Quite simple, just with a hole in the middle about a third of the way along, done by just knitting up the first half of the stitches to the desired length, breaking off the yarn and rejoining it to the remaining stitches, knit up to the same length, then just knit across all stitches as normal to the end. You don't even need to put the non-worked stitches on a stitch-holder, just leave them on the needle. In fact you could be making trouble for yourself, transferring ostrich yarn onto and off stitch-holders. Don't do it. Mommy says so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

To get ahead, get a hat

A few posts ago, I mentioned a matinee set I made for my niece. Specifically, how closely I followed the pattern for the beret, or bunnet as it's called in my erstwhile neck of the woods, because I wanted to make one for my son. This was motivated by the fact that he kept slapping my niece's on his head and running away, shrieking "Hat! Hat! HAAAAAT!" and giggling. So, dear reader, I did.

I guesstimated the number of stitches based on some rough measurements and memory, just made sure it had the requisite 7 segment swirl on top. I made it up in the same Blue-faced Leicester wool I used for the Aran cardi - which I still haven't found.

For the stitch pattern, I used a single-repeat Tree of Life motif from Shelagh Hollingworth's book, interspersed with a motif of my own devising (with a little help from Alice Starmore to get it started), repeated 4 times round the underband. My motif was an infinity symbol - an 8 on its side - which is a symbol I've always liked, with the forever and ever, amen. Nice combined with the Tree of Life too. For a bit of interest, I put bobbles inside the loops of the alternating two infinities to represent the point singularity at the start of the universe, just to continue the science theme. T'was only too late that I realised the result looked like boobies!

Around the edge, I put bobbles at 7-st intervals. I'm sure I had a deeply symbolical reason - I had for everything up to then! but it escapes me now. All I can think now is that it gives the bunnet a Henry VIII look... Over the top, I did two stitch patterns, both from the 1988 edition of the Complete Stitch Directory, one called Bee Stitch, the other Honeycomb Stitch. They weren't a great fit into the space, but look okay. Actually, it looks a bit mediaeval, so perhaps I did have a Henry VII theme going on. Reason for Beeing? The Destroyer of Waists has recently become obsessed with flying insects, known collectively as 'Bzzzes'.

I've googled for these two patterns but what comes up is not them - and I'm not certain the Amazon book referenced will contain it, as mine is an older edition by a different publisher, so here goes:

Bee Stitch: Worked over a multiple of 6 st, plus 5. Row 1 & all odd rows (WS) - K. Rows 2 & 4 - P. Row 6 - *P5, K into next st 5rows down, unravelling st in the rows between#, repeat from * to #, end with P5. Rows 8 & 10 - P. Row 12 - P2, K into next st 5rows down, unravelling st in the rows between#, repeat from * to #, end with P2.

Bunnet Top

Honeycomb Stitch: Over an even number of stitches. Row 1 & 3 - K. Row 2 - *K1, K into next st 1row down, rpt from *. Row 4 - *K into next st 1row down, K1, rpt from *.

I like that they both use the same principle of knitting into an earlier row. There's something very fractal-ly about that, similarities across different scales, leaf growth on trees being governed by the same principles that create fjords, etc.

On top, I added a tassle rather than a pompom, carefully set to sit sideways as in the pic. Inside, my new Subh Milis label!

And of course he refuses to wear it...


Back at work again for the last week - snowed under due to a Maths teacher's sick leave and the dopey Yr 11s not sorting out their work experience - and before that a fortnight in Ireland which was anything but restful. Every time I go home I come back swearing I'll never set foot there again, and then I forget how awful it is and go back.

It wasn't too bad when I was single. Going "home" meant being shunted around parents and siblings living up to 50 miles apart, cross-border. Lots of travelling by car. Fine if I had no plans of my own. Things got more trying when I left to live in Birmingham: then, when I came "home", I also wanted to visit friends, sort things out at the bank, etc. The former caused my family to throw a collective fit - why was I bothering to come home at all if I wanted to see other people? The latter rarely happened, and business had to be sorted out by post and the one branch my bank has in Birmingham. Then I met Tiny Husband. Foolishly brought him home one Christmas to meet the family, on condition that we were left at the coach station on the 27th to go to Belfast to meet his family. We finally got away on the 29th, driven up by my pissed-off sister, having spent the intervening time on the farm where there's no phone and no satellite cover. TH's mum was frantic.

Now, with the ba, it's a bloody nightmare. It's not safe for a city baby who doesn't realise that tractors AREN'T just big toys, there's never any food in any of the houses we go to (probably all eaten by my big fat rellies), and I'm not even consulted about where we're going to be dumped, as when my sister walked off and left us on the farm overnight with no bottles, one nappy and no clothes after taking us for a "short visit".

Really, never again - not without a car, and preferably a hotel reservation.

Although on the plus side I did larn maself how to double-knit, and put together some patterns for blankies, with a little help from Jessica Tromp, of which more anon.

While in Ireland I handed over the Drops Norwegian sweater and hat to new nephew Adam, 6 weeks. Stupidly, I didn't take a photo to put up here, but I plan to make another for my wee man, so that'll have to do. I did it in blue (MC) and yellow (2nd) 2-ply laceweight, with a 4-ply natural as the third colour. The laceweights I doubled and re-plied with my Daruma Home Twister, a fabby gadget. Okay, I could live without the re-plying function, but I love those funky fat centre-pullcakes. The sweater looked terrible while I was knitting it up, very cottony-ribbony and cold, but when I wet it for blocking, the fibres bounced up, almost felt-thick, yummy.

Adam's mum will not let him wear it, of course. I made the 6-month size, so it should fit him in a month or two, but SIL is obsessed with proving her children are BIG. The older boy, at 7, is wearing teenage clothes, although keeping the clothes on him involves rolling up hems, rolling down waistbands over belts and wearing 3 or more layers of t-shirts etc to fill out the massive sweaters she has the poor boy in. He looks like a badly stuffed scarecrow. He's certainly tall, but not teenage tall - maybe 10-year-old height. So undoubtedly I'll hear shortly that the sweater was too tight to go over Adam's head (despite one shoulder being a button-through). I sent her over a 6-12month outfit when Adam was born, which "dudn't fut hum" as a newborn. Yeah, right. Madwoman. I told my sister to tell SIL if she didn't want it, to send it back to me because I could sell it for $75 on Etsy, heh-heh.

I've also - finally - been inspired to make Tiny Husband a sweater. We've been together for five years, so it should be safe enough! I'd selected the pattern yonks ago when I was thinking about trying Aran knitting again and wanted something easy to start with - but then went and made something more complicated in the meantime. TH is of course gothically-inclined, so the usual wools in naturals, creams and beiges were out. Not that he wouldn't like a white Aran sweater, but he'd just never have occasion to wear it. So the hunt was on for something darker.

I bought some grey wool off eBay, but when it arrived it was a marl (*spit!*). Fine for him, he'll wear grey and navy at work, but - quite apart from my fear and loathing of the coloured-up wool - I just don't think marls work for Aran. The beauty of the technique is in the sculptural stitchery: the wool is just the vehicle, and shouldn't detract attention by being interesting in itself. Would Michelangelo's David be quite such an eyeful in a mottled green marble? No. I said NO. Peasants. I also got some Welsh Black (aka brown), but it is very rough. Hairshirt rough. I may Aran something from it yet but it requires further thought. I'm still on the look-out for navy or dark blue wool, although just looking for the evilness of blue hurts me in the core of my soul. The sacrifices one must make for love...

However, few months ago I bought some mystery wool in the Bull Ring. No bands, but cheap and with a very pleasant hand to it. It's one single ply of many filaments, very thick, soft and warm, but lightweight and slightly fluffy. I thought it might possibly be wool, maybe a merino or something, but as soon as I've decided it almost definitely is wool, it starts looking synthetic, like what polar fleece would be like to knit with. It's coming up chunky, 14st to 10cm - the moss-stitch panels look like bobbles! It isn't pilling as I knit, which is unexpected if it's synthetic.

And just for fun I decided to muck about with the pattern - as usual. I've been reading Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears and was inspired to try knitting it in the round without seams, apart from a bit of grafting under the pits. It'll mean a possible rethink of the neck - how do I continue the Aran with the decreases? but I wasn't too thrilled with the plain collar any way... So I shall keep this updated.

The free knitting machine is lacking a carriage. But, hey, it was free. Doubtless the universe will see fit to send a carriage my way eventually, in that really unnerving way it does from time to time, just to make me think someone IS actually watching me...

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I've just been offered a chunky knitting machine! It was one of three being thrown out by a school, along with all their hand-knitting needles, crochet hooks etc. Someone rescued them and offered them on Freecycle. Freecycle is great. Go join your local group! Give and receive!

It's a Brother KH260, which is as rare as hens' teeth. So rare that the only times I've seen them for sale they've either been £2-400, or they're undervalued on ebay (still too much for me at £80) because people just don't think to look for them anymore.

The others on offer were a Brother KH836, which I already have, and an Electroknit KH940 which I could have killed for, but I didn't want to be greedy... Well, I did, but I was nice about it - it went elsewhere though. Repairs on the Electroknits can be difficult to impossible as they are, y'know, electronic - motherboards n stuff - so maybe it's as well. They are even more difficult to source than the chunky machines - I can only recall seeing one, an earlier model, going for US$950 - eep!

What I don't get is why none of the original manufacturers has spotted that these machines are all still really popular, still selling for around the original list price. Or indeed someone else with the knowhow who could supply the market with parts, and manufacture new ones. The only company still making knitting machines is Bond America, with the Incredible and Ultimate Sweater Machine (they do more than just make sweaters - I've done crochet-thread net curtains on my ISM), but being Bond AMERICA they're not well represented in the UK. Loads of people are getting into knitting now, discovering machine-knitting, and tearing their hair out trying to get into it....

Must now try to figure out how to get to Longbridge with no transport, when I'm supposed to be getting packed to go to Plymouth tomorrow morning...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Na bPirátaí!

I mentioned a few posts back that I made my hubby a pair of purple fingerless gloves. He had had a pair, given to him by a friend, but they'd fallen apart. He's not really a gloves person - doesn't like having his fingers covered - but his hands do get cold, and he loved these smelly old raggedy things with a passion that struck me as inappropriate and slightly icky. I did want to knit something for him, thinking sweater, scarf, but when I asked what he wanted (because that's the kind of thoughtful, caring spouse I am), his little eyes filled with tears and in a choked and pleading voice he asked for some new purple fingerless gloves.

I momentarily considered thrashing him within an inch of his life, but he knew not whereof he spoke. I'd never knitted gloves before - not even mittens. And he wasn't to know that he'd just asked for the most complicated item in the Big Book Of Things What Am Knitted (TM). I didn't even have a set of dpns! Or, ahem, a pattern...

And so began the great Fingerless Glove Knitting (or indeed crochet) Pattern Hunt of 2006. Now we need to define our terms here. Gloves - at least to me - are hand coverings that have individual finger coverings. Mittens have a communal finger covering - socks without heels, but with a thumb covering. Describing gloves or mittens as fingerless is therefore an oxymoron - both by definition must have some kind of finger-tube. Unfortunately the English language lacks a handy (sic) adjective describing a partial finger - odd, really: people do lose parts of their fingers as well as complete digits. Oh alright you could say knuckleless gloves, fingertipless gloves, fingertip-and-middle-knuckleless gloves - distal-medial-phalangeal abruption gloves if you will, though I think they only come in latex - but these lack a certain something in the tripping off the tongue department. This linguistic paucity leads me to a rather awkward assumption that the term 'fingerless' in connection with gloves or mittens is not to be taken literally as meaning there is no accommodation for the digits. If that is the case - no finger-tubes at all - then we are talking hand-warmers, which I have since discovered are also known as wrist-warmers.... Either of which may or may not have thumb-tubes, either full or partial...

Really, peops. There are times when I wonder if I have one of these SEN problems. Often I find I have no idea what people are talking about. But I also have the same experience with printed material, and that's not my brain going wonky: people do not seem to know how to communicate anymore. Or maybe I've undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome...

I kind of settled on Kim's Sockotta Fingerless Gloves in the end. It seemed like a good basic pattern to learn from, as much as to use - I do like to get a rough mental pattern to work from for any future projects, like a chickenwire framework that I can figuratively bend and pull into the right shape. The first attempt was a disaster - I knit up the biggest size as Tiny Husband has large hands, and the glove was humungous! I used DK yarn, which might knit up to a larger gauge than Kim's Sockotta. Second time around, I made up the smallest size, and that worked pretty well. I went for the tighter 1x1 rib for the wristbands though, because hubby's wrists are quite fine, and did the finger-tubes in the same rib. The other major change was with the placement of the fingers: Hubby's little finger starts further down his hand so I branched off earlier for it, then knit another 5 rows up before starting on the rest of the fingers. I also used dpns rather than circular needles as prescribed in the patterns.

To jazz them up a bit, and because Hubby has recently become obsessed with pirates thanks to Johnny Depp et al., I added a skull and crossbones motif to the back of the gloves in reverse stocking stitch. It's not wildly look-at-me obvious - a grown man in bright purple gloves is bad enough - but there is a nice stereogram effect, like Magic Eye pictures. I got the motif chart from here.

Looking back, I might make the wristband smaller next time, because it has stretched quite a bit. Maybe fewer stitches, increasing on the first stocking stitch row, or using smaller needles for the rib. Though if I recall correctly, the dpns were pretty small anyway - 2mm, 2.5mm? I don't know if I can find any smaller. I'd also probably try a decrease just at the rows below the fingers, as the ring finger especially is very loose for him - big long hands, but dinky wrists and slim fingers.

And then again, I may try adapting the Broad Street Mitten...

Tra fn

Friday, July 20, 2007

Eyelash Shrug

My sister was invited to a rather posh wedding a while ago. She really had nothing suitable to wear - she lives in trackies and trainers and has virtually nothing else. Over the years of trackiedom she'd also lost all sense of glamour, colour, shape, etc and had a hard time finding something to wear. She hadn't even tried on clothes in the shop in about 9 years! Since her evil ex took over her life and decreed that any attempt at looking nice clearly meant she was trying to pick up other men...

In the end she found something that tbh sounded like a trackie dress - i.e., thoroughly lacking in oomph. More phmoo really. Blackish-brown, straight-fitting (which means loose on her), nothing interesting in the way of pattern, fabric, embellishment.

About a week beforehand, she was complaining on the phone to me that she was worried that it wasn't 'grand' enough for the bash, wondering if she should go out and look for something else. And I had an inspiration. I had some lovely glossy black eyelash yarn that I'd bought intending to make myself a shrug, but I hadn't got round to it. Without saying a word to her about this, I figured if I really went for it, I could make it up over the weekend, post it on Monday, and she'd have it Wednesday at the latest. I got off the phone as fast as possible, mumbling something about her not being an important member of the wedding party or anything, who was going to notice what she wore, yada yada. Whipped out the needles and yarn and cast on loosely - Long-tail Cast-On works for me.

The pattern is based loosely around one that I lost yonks ago, no idea where I got it in the first place. It is however burned into my brain for all eternity. Well, sort of. Start by casting on 34st, increase 1st on BOTH ends of every 3rd row by making 1 (M1) into the second st from either end, until there's a total of 50st. Then continue straight for the required length, and start decreasing (k2tog the 2nd and 3rd sts from either end) on every 3rd row until there are 34st left, cast off. See? easy peasy.

I do not, of course, remember the yarn weight, needle size, gauge... But shrugs are flexible! That is the beauty of the things! They do not HAVE to have wrist-length sleeves, they CAN be a bit skimpy, so even if you totally foul up the gauge, or don't have the measurements of the recipient, or any of the millions of other things that can go wrong, it doesn't matter!! A shrug in its simplest form is just a wide rectangle, long enough on its long side to go across the recipient's back - but if it isn't, just borrow a bit off each sleeve so they're shorter. It doesn't matter. I do have one handy hint though - if it's to be a surprise gift, you can get a rough idea of the right size by finding out how TALL the recipient is. The distance from fingertip to fingertip of outstretched arms is equal to height. Knock off 6-8in for the length of the (adult) hands and you have an idea how long the shrug should be from cuff to cuff.

For example, I'm 5'6", with biggish hands, roughly 7in.
5'6" = 66in, minus 2 hands at 7in each (14in) = 52" from wrist to wrist.
Anything shorter than this is fine for a shrug.

I think it was a simple lace pattern - yarn-over between stitches on one row, drop the yarn-over on the next, repeat till you're fit to be tied with boredom - but, obviously, I is not jiggy wit da boredom. As the groovy young things say. And the effect of any lace stitch is wasted with eyelash anyway, as the fluffs hide everything but the 'hole'. So I used one 10mm needle to simulate the yarn-over rows and a 4mm needle for the 'drop' rows.

Wow! Two top tips in one post!

I only did the lacy bit up to approximately the elbows, then switched to two 4mm needles for the section over the upper arms and back, then back to the 10mm and 4mm needles for the other sleeve. Suspended bind-off gives a nice loose edge for this project. Sew up the lacy section of both sleeves right up to about 1-2in of the non-lacy middle section. The type of sewing up doesn't really matter, as the fluffiness of the yarn disguises the neatiness/tidiness of the stitchwork - I've even crocheted up the sleeves on some of these shrugs and it's not noticeable. Then, to tart it up a bit, I threaded a length of 1in black ribbon through the top row of holes in the lace and tied it in a bow opposite the seam - the bow is then on the outside of the arm. Finito!

Sister was thrilled with it, and got loads of compliments at the wedding. So much so that she went all Hyacinth Bucket and told people that she had a "little woman" run it up for her! and no, she didn't really want to say who, or how much her "treasure" charged. Mainly because she had no idea how much something like that WOULD cost, although I think she was alarmed at the figures people were suggesting, to try to winkle the info out of her - "was it more than £150? that's what X charged for my twinset last year and it wasn't this nice", etc. (Sis and I are both frequently alarmed by what people will pay for clothes that aren't anything special. The tight-fisted gene is a terrible curse sometimes). She even got asked if the entire ensemble was run up by her "little woman"!

Not bad for a Primark outfit and a few balls of yarn from a poundshop...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


My beloved big-baby brother occasionally sends Mother off on holidays - his sister-in-law works for an airline so she can arrange cheap flights. Last year he sent her over to me for a while. Very sweet of him - he is a lovely person - but Mum is not a good guest. We don't have a car, and Mother is the sort who would drive to the loo if she could get the car indoors. She's also from a generation of women who never set foot in houses of ill-repute (pubs to the rest of us), and cinema, theatre, etc., is out as she has the attention span of a goldfish with ADD so anything longer than 30mins stops making sense to her. Not to mention her inability to tolerate silences, which must be filled at all costs - this extends to the afore-mentioned cinema, theatre and indeed tv once she's lost track of the plot. She once kept me on the phone for 4 hours and 23 minutes on a Saturday afternoon despite my frequent requests to go and do my shopping, laundry, visit the toilet...

All this would not be too bad if her conversation were interesting - and it could be: she is an intelligent, well-educated person with an interesting life. However, her conversation revolves around soaps which I never watch, and food. Specifically, everything that has entered her mouth and the mouths of all her acquaintances within living memory*. I have IBS and cannot eat wheat, buckwheat, sweetcorn, rye, oats, and cabbage, and since I fell pregnant I've had severe heartburn when I even think about cream, bananas, smoked fish, cheese, citrus fruit, fruit salad... Guess how much I like talking about food. She doesn't ask how I'm doing, and could not tell you one thing that I'm interested in, because I don't get to talk to her, I am talked at. I usually tune her out and just go "ah-ha, mm-hm, oh, dear", and get on with the dishes, marking, having a bath, whatever.

So she came over for a week or so in the summer. I took her shopping a couple of days, once into town which was maddening - 20mins to get to the bus stop 50 ft from the front door? We got as far as Boots before the shops shut - and once along Stirchley high street. One of the shops we got to was a cheapie shop that sells remainders from catalogues. I've got some good stuff there in the past - leather trousers for £10, a suit for £5 - though they generally have a bigger range of 18-plus size clothes. Anyway, she got a lovely swirly patterned skirt and, after a lot of persuasion, a pink suede jacket, both of which looked gorgeous on her.

A while after she'd gone home, I saw some fancy yarns on sale, so I made her 3 scarves, all in pink. The first, at the top is pink and white ostrich yarn, which I made a keyhole scarf out of - there's a hole about one-third of the way in that you can loop the other end of the scarf through, done by knitting half the stitches on the needle up to the required length of the hole, then put them on a stitch holder and breaking off the yarn, and knitting the other half of the stitches to the same length, then joining the two sides together and knitting to the end. I found this yarn very hard to work with. It seemed to lose a lot of fluff - even though it's not fluffy as such - which got into my eyes and nose and irritated them.

The yarn for the second scarf, in the second and third pics, was like bunting! A long string, with little square 'flags', in a range of pinks from palest off-white to a deep plummy purple, at roughly one-inch intervals. Although choosing the needles was tricky - the band said 8mm - it worked up quite easily on one 4mm and one 10mm, to enhance the lacy effect.

The final scarf, in pic 4, was in pink-and-white eyelash. It's just an ordinary rectangular scarf, nothing fancy. I really liked working with this: it flowed well, and produced a lovely furry effect, though counting the stitches was difficult. I've acquired a huge stash of it in a variety of colours, of which more later!

All of these were knitted when I was still working nights at the Hub, hence the model - a very scary Angel left over from the Christmas display in the church next door!

Tra fn

* - Really. The menu from the wedding of the stepdaughter of a cousin of her next door neighbour but one, which was not attended by my mother or her neighbour, was the object of one of our recent telephone conversations.