Saturday, 30 December 2006

Bits and Pieces

After the excitement of Christmas we have had a very quiet week chez Knitbert. On Wednesday evening we were invited to join friends of mine from university, and their families, for the evening. It was lovely to catch up with everyone again, I only see these friends once a year at most, but somehow we seem to just drop back into a conversation which we have been carrying on now for thirty years or so.

Since then we have been eating simple, plain food, drinking a lot of water and I have been getting on with DSOK's second sock, which is now on the last four inches of the foot, hooray! I have also realised that I used one ball of sock yarn to make the socks, obtained a second in case I didn't have enough and also ordered an additional ball of Opal Lollipop, so I have used one ball of sock yarn and gained two more aaaaargh! That wasn't smart.

This afternoon it is grey and wet outside, indoors it seems to be Stargate Atlantis day, which is good for knitting to, and so I am knitting, DH is reading, Catbert is asleep on the sofa and DSOK is asleep upstairs. They have both just returned from a trip to visit their old schoolfriends, so after scoffing any food they could find in the kitchen they have collapsed. As they will be off tomorrow to celebrate the New Year with yet more dietary excess I suppose they need to recharge their batteries a bit.

I remembered that I have not yet published the third video in the gripping "Mitten Snippin'" series, so this seems like a good time to do so.

In this episode I knit around the thumb stitches, create the thumb and then fasten off.

And finally, I have been tagged (again!) by Bronte. After some thought I think I should try to list six more weird things about me, even though I'm NOT AT ALL WEIRD, so here goes:

1. I actually like to speak in public, for example to give presentations.
2. It isn't just Star Trek Voyager I like, I'm actually a bit of a science fiction nut, and I do think that sci fi is the best TV to knit to
3. After agonising about the decision for twenty years I finally got my nose pierced when I was 40, inspired because my daughter had hers done (at the age of 16) and I thought "if she can I can"
4. I learned to ski at 37 and to sail at 40, both sports terrified me at first! So it's never too late
5. My favourite cake is the Galette des Rois which you can get in France in January, if I have a meeting in France in that month I always ask my colleagues to get one for me (and this year I have....)
6. I really do enjoy cleaning...

In the first few days of the New Year I have signed up to a UFO Buster on the Crafty Threads and Yarns forum, so I'll be publishing some pictures of my UFOs, both knitting and sewing, and maybe asking for some advice on what to do about them. I'm also going to be starting an Ivy knitalong and a sockamonth challenge. Phew! I need a rest already.

Monday, 25 December 2006

A Family Affair

Probably the best part of Christmas for me is now, when the dinner is served and eaten, the presents are unwrapped and received and everyone falls asleep in the quiet of the afternoon. My responsibility is to get Christmas dinner on the table and once that is achieved I can relax.

I have hardly stopped since Friday. I drove for two hours in the fog to fetch Catbert home for Christmas, then another two hours in the fog and darkness to get us back. What are those motorway signs saying "Fog" all about, by the way? I can see there's fog, I don't need a flashing sign to tell me! Does the Highways Agency imagine that drivers are slapping their foreheads when they see this singularly unhelpful sign and crying, "oh, fog! So that's what it is. That's why I can't see anything more than five yards in front of me. What a relief. I'm glad someone told me what was going on".

I spent all day Saturday and Sunday cooking and wrapping presents with Catbert's and DSOK's help, as we had 12 family members coming around on Christmas Eve.

Catbert was amused that the idea I had of a buffet being easier and less effort to prepare than a sit down meal had resulted in two people cooking continuously for a day! It was well worth it though, as we had all the generations of the family represented from seventy years old down to 20 months, which doesn't happen often.
Today we have had a lovely, peaceful day, Christmas Dinner for four was easier to prepare than a buffet for twelve!

DSOK stayed up till 3.00 am to get Catbert's scarf finished, and doesn't it look gorgeous!
I'm afraid I didn't stay up till 3.00 am to finish the socks, and I have had much less time to knit than I expected. DSOK loves his sock anyway, here he is asleep on the sofa after dinner, and I'm knitting as fast as I can to get the second one done! Me feel guilty? Never!Ooh, and I forgot to mention that I got a Vogue Stitchionary, Marianne Kinzel's Lace Knitting part 1 and a pair of Lantern Moon needles amongst my gifts, so I have been lucky.

A happy, peaceful Christmas to you all.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Christmas Packages Arrive

All week parcels have been arriving, most of them for other people. Today my needle case from Ehwa Apron was delivered, isn't it beautiful? It looks like I need to buy some more needles though! It is a 35 slot holder which takes straight needles, dpns, crochet hooks and circular needles.
I have also been getting on well with my Tiger sock, maybe too well! as when I looked at the ball of yarn I thought I might be using more than half on the first sock. I weighed the remaining ball, and this tended to confirm my suspicion. I am using 2mm needles and I think this has probably resulted in my needing more yarn than usual. As Opal Tiger is discontinued and hard to come by I was a little worried, but I was lucky and found a seller on ebay who had a ball available. I'm not sure if it will reach me before Christmas, but then I am not sure if I will get to the end of the second sock before Christmas either! While I was searching I also came across a lovely ball of Opal Lollipop in lilac, which I recently saw knitted into a bag on the Crafty Threads and Yarns Forum and that fell into my basket too. Well, it is discontinued. Best not to miss the opportunity...

Yesterday DSOK had to get up at 6.00 am to catch his train,as he had to do important student things. I happened to pass by his room later, and noticed a large, dark thing lying on the floor by the bed. I went in to investigate. "Oh yes," said Mr Knitbert, noticing where I was going. "He did say he was leaving some things he didn't need right now." The dark thing on the carpet was in fact a rucksack - an enormous, empty rucksack of the kind that you hitchhike around Europe with. In fact it looked a lot as though someone had been doing that quite recently. Next to it was a sleeping bag, admittedly neatly stowed , and under it, dear reader, UNDER it was....
a pile of dirty laundry.

Sunday, 17 December 2006


As I am sending out the Christmas cards this weekend, I have put up a slideshow with some photos of us during 2006, for friends and family (and other readers of course) to have a look at.

Exciting news this afternoon - Mr Knitbert has completed a DIY project in the garden! He has replaced a down pipe on the garage, which was damaged when we had some building work done. And a very nice neat job he has made of it too. It has only taken him four years to get around to it.

It also appears that I have been "tagged" by another blogger (thanks Terri!), which means that I get to list six weird things about me. I should then pick six other bloggers to "tag", but as I am a very new blogger and don't know any others who haven't already been selected, I thought I would just do my own list of six and leave it at that.

Actually, I'm not at all weird, so I have been scratching my head a bit over this, but here goes:

1. I collect Barbie dolls (but I have probably the smallest collection in the world, consisting of precisely 5 dolls)

2. I speak fluent French

3. I wish there was a TV channel dedicated to "Star Trek - Voyager", I like to watch it while I knit

4. I can "carry a colour" - that is to say I can see a colour and remember it visually well enough to match it later

5. I love decorating (the painting a room type), I find it really relaxing to listen to music and watch the transformation of a space by applying colour to the walls.

6. When I was very little, my parents took me to the sea side for my first holiday and I refused to get off the beach mat and walk on the sand because I was afraid of the worm casts - I hated the way they felt on my feet.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

An Unexpected Visitor

Yesterday evening I had an unexpected phone call from DSOK the intern. "I thought I'd crash at your place, if that's OK," he said. I said it was OK. "Erm, am I still on the car insurance?" he asked, nonchalantly. "You might be, " I said, equally nonchalantly.
"Oh, well, I'm going to this tournament, and I just wondered if I could borrow the car?" he confessed. "OK," I said.
"Great! I'll be there at about 8.00pm, any chance of a lift from the station?"
"No," I said, "none at all. You can walk, it'll do you good".
It's only a 30 minute walk from the station, by the way, in case you are appalled at my harsh treatment.
"OK," he said,"what's for dinner?"

And there you have it, life with the modern student.

Anyway, after dinner we were chatting of Christmas presents and DSOK got out the scarf he is knitting for his sister. I thought you might like to see this picture of him knitting it. The scarf is in Sirdar Foxy fur knitted together with a strand of black DK acrylic, following a suggestion from one of the Angel Yarns Forum members. It has worked really well, the scarf is very soft and fluffy and has a nice firm feel to it.

He's a bit short of time to get it finished though!

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Mitten Snippin' Too

For those of you who are sick of the sight of the mittens now, here is a picture of DSOK's Tiger socks, which I am knitting as fast as I can on my new, shiny, teeny tiny 2mm addi turbos. Aren't they sweet? The addi turbos I mean. I'm just about to start the heel flap, so I'll probably get them finished in time. If I knit nothing else for the next 10 days.

And for anyone who would like to see what happened next, here is part two of the mitten saga. In this part I complete unpicking the cut ends and pick up 15 stitches which I then put onto 3 needles and knit around to begin the thumb. Probably you all know how to do this but Mr Knitbert and I spent all Sunday afternoon filming and then cutting and then formatting and I am publishing every. single. video. Don't forget there is still a part three to come!

We are getting close to Christmas now, and time is running out for preparations. Last weekend I either bought or ordered online all remaining presents. The online orders are starting to arrive this week, yippee! I love getting parcels. I should perhaps confess that a needle case from Ehwa Aprons did fall into my basket and is also expected imminently. Hey, it's just a present from me to me...

One of the things I bought on Saturday was for my niece. When I got it home I checked the size that her mother had said I should get (I probably should have done that before going shopping - Mr Knitbert certainly thinks so)and unfortunately I was one size off. So that's got to go back and be exchanged this Saturday (sigh).

I have been helped with getting into the advent spirit by the highly enjoyable Hunk a Day Advent Calendar on the Crafty Threads and Yarns Forum.

This weekend I have got to write all my Christmas cards, I've been putting it off, but this is it, we've run out of time, they've got to be done. The labels and a sheet of photographs are printed out, boxes of cards are ready and waiting. I'm going to set up a production line. I have to do the actual writing, because otherwise Mr Knitbert says "what shall I write in this one, then?" for every single card, so he has to be relegated to putting cards in envelopes and sticking on labels or we'd never be finished.

I also just received a call from Catbert to say that Mr Knitbert sent her and DSOK three emails about his Amazon wishlist.
The first email said "this is the email to use to find my wishlist". The second email said " actually I can't remember if I had an account with that email so I've created a new one with this email, use that one to find my wishlist". The third email said " even I can't find my wishlist using this email address, so here's a link to it". Only unfortunately the link is designed for the logged in person to see their own wishlist, so it still doesn't work. Doh!

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Mitten Snippin' Good

Today I finished the second of the Elizabeth Zimmerman mitred mittens. With Mr Knitbert's assistance I have made a video of me snipping the knitting, picking up stitches and then knitting the thumb, which is in three parts. You can view the first part here:
. The actual snipping is in this part! I'll post the second and third parts over the next few days. I couldn't believe how long it takes for a video to upload compared to a photograph.

I'm very happy with them and now I am casting on a pair of socks for DSOK the intern, in the possibly vain hope that I will have enough time to finish them before Christmas. DSOK's term finished this weekend and he went off to some sports tournament or other, so I've had to guess what size his feet are as he is not answering his phone. By an amazing stroke of luck, however, there were a pair of ghastly worn out trainers of his in the pile of stuff that he doesn't want any more but doesn't want us to throw away either, which is cluttering up a corner of my garage at the moment, and I was able to use these to determine his current shoe size.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

A Cathedral City

I spent last week in Wells, in Somerset, in the South West of England. This photo is of the view from my hotel window, of St Cuthbert's Church.

I know it sounds from the last few posts like I spend all my time travelling around, visiting great places, but actually this time I was working. We worked quite hard, too, starting at 8.00 a.m. and usually finishing around 7.00 p.m., so there was not much time for sightseeing or taking photos, which is a shame because Wells is a lovely little place, the smallest city in England and entitled to call itself a city because of its cathedral, which you can see more about here. I was staying in the Swan Hotel, which is just up the road from the market place and the entrance to the Bishop's Palace.

The Swan is a historic building, and my room this time was in the older part of the hotel, and it looked a little like this

only smaller.

When I am working away from home with such long hours the only time when I can exercise is first thing in the morning, so if the location permits I get up and go for a run before breakfast. In Wells it is possible to run around the Bishops Palace moat and grounds, and I was lucky enough to have a colleague who wanted to run with me, so at 6.00 am each morning we met at reception and set off. The weather was very blustery during my stay, but we were lucky and did not have to run in the rain.

The last time I was working and staying here was in June, when 6.00 a.m. is well after sunrise and we were able to run out through the fields around the city, but at this time of year it is too dark, so we just did circuits of the Palace grounds.
This photo shows the wall along the side of the moat, we ran along the path the other side of the wall.

The circuit finishes here, at Browns Gate which leads back to the road the hotel is in. It's certainly a very picturesque place to run in!

I shall be back here again in early January, let's hope for some crisp, cold, clear skies!

Sunday, 3 December 2006

A little help with tension

Do you suffer from tension problems while knitting?
I used to. My problem was that I never bothered to find out what my tension was. I just didn't want to waste time knitting stupid squares when I could have been getting right on knitting my mis-shapen outsize garment. That's what my mother taught me, anyway.

You'll be surprised to learn that I had quite a lot of bad experiences that way. Most garments I tried to knit came out much larger than the pattern suggested, because my tension is usually quite loose. And I mean really quite a lot. Six inches or so around a chest was not uncommon.

Some of you may have noticed a new item in the sidebar entitled "Needle Size Calculator". This marvellous little widget was created for me by Mr Knitbert, probably when he should have been putting up shelves or mowing the lawn, but I was so pleased with it I didn't mind.

When I began to read US authors on knitting, and read the term gauge, this made much more sense to me than tension, and also my mother had never given me any advice about gauge. I understand the gauge as being the density of my knitted fabric in terms of stitches, which of course is affected by my tension.

Wow, I thought, maybe this is a really important attribute of the knitted fabric, which I really need to know about if I want to be successful with my knitting. I decided that I would begin knitting tension swatches for garments where final size is important, and for new yarn or techniques which I hadn't tried before.

Hmmm, how does this work then? I knit a square with the recommended needles, measure the stitch density, if it's wrong, knit another square with different needles, repeat until square measures correct gauge or all hair is torn out.

Mr Knitbert's clever widget means that you only have to knit ONE SQUARE. I knit the swatch on the recommended needles. If you click on the button under the "Needle Size Calculator" heading you will see that there are some boxes to fill in. You put the size your swatch should have been for the number of stitches you have cast on, the actual measured width of the swatch for that number of stitches, and the size of needles used.

The widget then calculates the size of needles to use to get gauge. You might have to round up or down to the nearest real needle size, as the widget is very literal. I have had excellent results with this approach and I thought others might like to try it.

Let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions for improving it I'll be sure and pass them on to Mr Knitbert. He's got quite a few DIY projects to do in the New Year so he'll probably be in the mood for doing some displacement activities.

Thursday, 30 November 2006

In Which Some Weekend Knitting is Displayed

As promised yesterday, here are some of the items which I made progress on when not walking. First of all, my SWT Oasis Clapotis, hasn't it grown? Well, I've finished the sixth repeat anyway.
Then the second pair of Knucks I have made, these ones for me, in Jamieson's Shetland DK. They are lovely and cosy!
I also knitted this Tychus hat, using some yarn called Katia that I bought in Mallorca this summer and some left-over Schoeller and Stahl Limbo Color DK sock yarn. It is a surprise extra Christmas present for Ratbert, and I thought I was safe in knitting it while she was there as she always complains she can't see anything nowadays and she knows nothing about knitting, but no, the moment I got it out, "isn't that the rest of my sock yarn? What are you making with it?" Never ask questions about stuff this close to Christmas, Ratbert!
Finally, this odd shaped thing is in fact an Elizabeth Zimmerman mitred mitten in progress. It is also in the Katia yarn, which is rather soft and pretty, and it's for my daughter Catbert. It is loads of fun to knit, is progressing fast and I have still got the fun of snipping the stitches to make the thumb to look forward to. *Gulp*
It really is amazing what you can get done when you have no distractions!

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

The Road Goes Ever On

After the Rain
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

J.R.R. Tolkien

This last weekend I spent walking in the Lake District with my friend Ratbert. She and I were at school together, travelled around Europe together when we were students, had children at almost the same time and are now turning into grumpy old women together.

We stayed in a cottage in the South Lakes, which had a lovely view of Wansfell Pike from its windows.View from our window
It was lovely to wake up and eat our breakfast looking out at that view. Although we have climbed Wansfell many times, the weather this weekend was wet and windy and not suitable for climbing the higher fells, so we walked at a lower level.

The first walk started out bright and sunny, and we reached the tarn at the summit and had our sandwiches with no more than a few spots of rain. We could see the weather racing towards us though, Rain Comingso we struggled into our waterproofs and started the descent. We were only a few yards down the path when the squall arrived, with driving rain, stinging hail and a strong wind which swept the waterproof cover off my rucsac and made me think I was going to be strangled by the map case. We were not very high, only about 300m, and the path we were on was not very exposed, but in those few minutes it was easy to see how you could end up in trouble in these conditions if you were higher up where it is colder and more exposed, and the visibility drops to almost nothing.

A few moments later the squall had passed and we were already lower down among the trees with more shelter. But look at the state of poor Ratbert!Drowned Ratbert not that I looked any better.
As we made our way down to the village and tea and cakes, I passed a bush with bright red berries and raindrops sparking among them which I just had to try and capture on film.

The next day was much calmer and brighter. We walked through the woods to Tarn Hows, which I had never visited before in twenty years of holidaying in the Lake District, despite its being one of the most noted beauty spots in the National Park, where we had lunch. The sun was shining and we sat on a rock by the lake. "This is the life", I thought.

After walking around the tarn we continued on through woods and fields to Coniston. On the way we passed a farm, in front of which were lots of sheep in a large pen. We stopped to look at them and Ratbert took a photo of them all looking at us.

We were wondering why the sheep were there, as it was the wrong time of the year for shearing and dipping, when I noticed some other sheep with horns in a separate part of the pen. Yes, dear reader, you have guessed it; the other sheep were in fact rams. Some of the rams had struck up a conversation with some of the ewes, the shameless hussies, but probably just as well, as I do believe those innocent ewes were there to be serviced, if you catch my drift.
As I was imagining I heard the rams leering and saying "Hello m'dear" to the ewes, a landrover drew up behind us, and two chaps looking like farmers jumped out. "Hello m'dears" they said on seeing us. "Meh!" we replied, and departed at a run up the footpath and back into the woods.

While I was away I not only walked but also, not having access to the internet to waste away my evenings, did quite a lot of knitting. I finished my own personal Knucks, knitted a hat out of the left overs of some sock wool and made great progress on my Clapotis. I also spent some time writing out the increases and decreases in rows on the front of Ivy. It doesn't seem as scary as I thought, so as soon as I have finished just a few more things I think I'll be ready to cast on. Photos of all that tomorrow, gentle reader.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

A Little Experiment

At the weekend I saw a slideshow that someone had created of their work over the last year. It looked so great I thought I would try one myself. This one shows a few projects I have completed this year. I must say there are not as many as all that! What have I spent my time doing? If this works I will make a slideshow of some of our family photos, to show what we have been doing over the year.

To see details of the projects just hover your mouse over the picture.
Isn't that fab! I will get Mr Knitbert to publish one of all the aircraft he photographed at the Farnborough Airshow - bet you can't wait.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Projects In Waiting

Yesterday I got some yarn in the post from Knitwell, some Patons Diploma Gold in Lupin to knit Ivy. Then today I went to the Angel Yarns Open Day and I bought the pattern for the Bergere de France cable sweater and then I thought I would just look at the yarn for it, Berlaine, and they had this lovely red colour called Griotte and...
I'm not going to be starting any of these projects until I have finished my Clapotis and a few more gloves, mitts and socks for Christmas, but I'm looking forward to getting started after that.

Friday, 17 November 2006

The Graduate

This summer my daughter graduated from university. We all went for the day, and a beautiful day it was too, nicely hot and sunny with a clear blue sky but not too humid. When we arrived Catbert was just getting dressed in the regulation outfit for wearing under her gown and having the hood pinned into place. As she had to have her arms covered she was wearing a shirt over her skirt, and with all that under a black gown she seemed a little warm.

She looked lovely though, I hope you will agree, and we all went off to have our photos taken in the lovely college garden.

Soon it was time for the graduands to process to the Senate House to be awarded their degrees. We waited with all the other parents as the graduands formed into a crocodile and set off, still of course wearing their heavy clothes in the now blistering heat, for a good 30 minute walk.

After a decent interval the parents followed. There were parents dressed in traditional costume from many countries, including a Japanese family all beautifully dressed in ceremonial kimonos, which gave an exotic international flavour to the proceedings.

Arriving at the Senate house, we were shown upstairs to sit on rather uncomfortable benches from which we could look down upon the ceremony.
Fierce ushers in traditional uniforms menaced people who defied the clearly visible signs saying "no photography" and "no cameras". The ceremony and the institution are over 700 years old so they were not about to have some Johnny-come-latelies with a bit of fancy technology interfering with the way things were done. We hastily put our camera back in its case and settled down to read the programme. The building is not air conditioned and so all the huge sash windows were open to allow some air to circulate. This was pretty much as effective as a fan oven.
The ceremony itself is interminably dull and in any case conducted entirely in Latin. The high spot is of course seeing your own offspring stepping forward and then kneeling to receive their degree.
I thought how strange it was that 28 years ago I had been standing in that very same spot, waiting for my turn to step forward, while my mother watched from the benches in the gallery above. I remember standing in rows waiting for my turn to step forward, and being afraid I would forget what to do.

Suddenly it was all over and we were able to file out of the building and onto the lawn to meet the newly created BAs.

After chatting to Catbert and all her friends it was time to walk back to the garden for a lovely garden party!

Here we managed to secure a table for the six of us in the shade, and there we relaxed and spent a delightful afternoon, feasting on the delicious buffet, listening to a jazz quartet and talking of this and that.
We did not leave until the quartet had packed up their instruments, the buffet had been dismantled and packed away and the sun had started to cast long shadows across the lawn. What a lovely, unforgettable day.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

First Past The Post

It seems fitting that my first post should be about a knitting project. I have knitted since I was about four years old, although I am not sure that it was actually my random manipulations of the pointy sticks that caused the knitting to grow, I think my mother may have helped.

I have knitted on and off, more or less, ever since, but for the last ten years I think we could safely say less. Last November a new friend persuaded me to go to a crochet course with her, and as a result I have taken up knitting again. I know, it's not entirely logical. I have done some crochet too.

I have discovered the wonderful new world of yarns and designs which has come into existence and so a lot of my spare time is spent knitting or thinking about knitting at the moment. I think it will be a while before I have exhausted all the possibilities!

Anyway, enough of this rambling, what I wanted to show you is my current Clapotis. It is in South West Trading Oasis, Chocolate colourway. It's been OTN for a while and was at the bottom of the knitting bag, but I have picked it up again and it is growing fast.