Saturday, 28 September 2013

Stupid cold

The season has definitely changed, and there is the usual spate of seasonal germs making the rounds.  I now have a head cold which is not helping at a time when we are losing the will to live on the house-selling front.  We found out that our buyers had lost their buyers, and although they found new buyers right away, it sets the whole process back by an unspecified number of weeks as the new buyers start from scratch with mortgages, surveys and valuations.  It's beginning to feel like we may never move. Meanwhile we are getting heartily sick of 'camping' in our house doing without so many things that are packed away.

The next milestone is getting DS packed up and off to university.  I think once he's gone we will sell his bed and wardrobe because we don't want to move them to the next house.  If we are still here by the time his term is finished, he can sleep on his mattress on the floor which I don't think he will mind.

I finished knitting the yoke on my Harvest Moon cardigan.  It's easier to knit now that I am using the Knit Pro acrylic tips I bought on the yarn crawl last weekend.  They are a bit blunter and don't split the Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran yarn as much as the metal tips I was using.  I've now divided for the sleeves and have started knitting the body.

And I ordered four skeins of Spindrift from Jamieson & Smith yarns which I will use to knit the Winterland mittens by Wenche Roald. They are a cute fair isle pattern of a winter scene against a deep blue sky.

I can do a product review on The Gleener, which is a de-pilling gadget that I heard about on various podcasts last year when it launched.  When I got out my London yoke cardigan to start wearing it again, I found the soft yarn had pilled a lot especially under the arms, making it look a bit grubby.  I used to have one of those battery operator 'shaver' type de pillers, which never worked that well and had eventually died.  I decided that I have so many hand knits now that it was worth investing in something better for maintaining them.  I remembered The Gleener and looked it up online.  It turned out to be cheaper to order it here in the UK for £19.99 from QVC than direct from the American supplier.

For the money, you get a well made double-ended handle which comes in a drawstring pouch with simple instructions.  One end of the handle has a lint brush, and the other end can clip on to one of three heads.  The heads are for fine, medium, and coarse fabrics/pills.  I think the medium will do almost all of my knits.  I tried it out on my London cardigan and found it effective and easy to use.  You just drag the head along the knit, it's sort of bumpy like sandpaper and it hooks immediately onto all of the pills and pulls them off.  Then you can use the lint brush end to tidy up any loose fuzz.  It worked really well, it didn't feel like there was any risk of damaging the knit because there are no blades, and the cardigan looks much better now.

I had a finish this week - I finally finished my rectangular version of the Shaelyn Shawl.  I knit mine in Chickadee, which I wasn't that impressed with but it has softened with washing a few times.  I knit it from the middle out in both directions until I ran out of yarn.  Then I just repeated the lace pattern to make an edging at both ends, using two strands of Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn held together.  It's about 29 inches wide but not sure how long it is, but it's a useful size.

Other than that, not much to report except that I am now Level 50 in Skyrim (the video game I have become hooked on).  I am now Thane of Winterrun, Winterhold and Dawnstar; Arch Mage; head of the Thieves Guild; a Companion; a Bard; a Werewolf; a Legionnaire and I've finally managed to exceed the armour cap (my armour rating is 867 I think).  I'm still really enjoying it, and it's a nice pastime during a period where I don't have a sewing room or a knitting machine shed anymore. Once DS is off at uni then I won't have to compete with him for time on the game, which may be a bad thing...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Keep calm and carry on yarn crawling

Yesterday I took part in the inaugural Great London Yarn Crawl, organised by two Canadian expats based on annual yarn crawls in Toronto, Canada.  It is quite a neat idea: you pay £15 and choose one of five routes around various yarn stores in the capital, joining a group of up to 16 people led by two volunteers.  Your ticket includes a travelcard to cover your public transport, a goodie bag,a 10% discount at many of the shops, and entry to the after party at the pub where there were generous door prizes.

It was a fun idea and everyone in the Green Route party was in high spirits when I joined them at our first stop, I-knit near Waterloo station. From there we moved on to Sharp Works in Herne Hill, Knit with Attitude in Stoke Newington, and Village Haberdashery in West Hampstead, before retracing our steps to the after party at the Mulberry Bush on Upper Ground near Waterloo Station. I think it would be fair to say that energy levels decreased as we racked up the public transport miles (including almost an hour stuck on the 76 bus) and also that sixteen people was too many for all of the shops apart from I-knit which is a bit bigger.  It led to a lot of queuing to get to the yarn, plus a lot of hanging about while people finished shopping. But overall I did enjoy it and would go again if I could go to different shops on another route.

I went with a shopping list of which I was able to get some things:  buttons for my blue Opium cardigan, white Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace yarn for my October MKAL shawl, an advance birthday present of Knit Pro acrylic interchangeable needles, and some more stitch markers (where do the pesky beggars get to?), benefiting from the 10% discount on most of these.  I was hoping to get some shetland-type yarn for mittens, and some beads for the MKAL shawl, but these weren't stocked at any of the shops we visited.

The goodie bag was a custom little tote bag printed with the logo, and stocked with the following:

  • mini skein of merino fingering from The Uncommon Thread
  • two mini skeins of King of the Jungle fingering weight from Lioness Arts
  • A download code for the Gemelli sock pattern by Ruth Gardia-Alcantud at
  • A download code for a choice of free pattern (Antler or Lush) from Tin Can Knits
  • A 10% off voucher for Knit with Attitude
  • A single-use sachet of Soak
  • Information pamphlet on the charity Refuge being supported by the yarn crawl proceeds
  • A pattern for 'Circlet', a child's knitted crown, from Dani Sunshine through Lioness Arts
  • A free pattern for knitted bracelets 'Les Petits Bracelets' by Rachel Brown of Porpoise Designs
  • A coupon for 10% off our first order from Kettle Yarn Co plus a generous yarn sample of their Falkland superwash wool
  • A 10% off code for Inked Yarn who do hand-dyed yarn and stitch markers
  • our yarn crawl badge identifying us as members
  • a 10% off code for ILoveYarn, handmade jewellery for knitters
  • a flyer for the UK Hand Knitting Association
  • A project bag ID marker from
I was very lucky at the afterparty to win a door prize:  a lovely skein of Merino Silk Sport by Skein, donated by I-knit (the bluey-green yarn in the photo); plus a set of cute Alice in Wonderland themed stitch markers donated by Inked Yarn as above.

We were all very grateful to the shops, volunteers and sponsors for making the day such a success.

As we went around I was knitting on my second lacy sock (when I could do it without getting bus-sick) and managed to finish the leg, turn the heel and pick up for the gusset on the day.  I wore my blue cardigan knit from Rowan Scottish Tweed DK and everyone else was sporting some kind of knitwear.  The volunteers got cool t-shirts featuring the banner "Keep calm and carry on yarn crawling" which we were all coveting.


Things on the house moving front have taken a bit of a turn for the worse.  Our survey came back with an alarming list of exterior maintenance issues, featuring red flag words like 'wet rot'.  Even more alarmingly, the surveyor says it's overpriced and has valued it at £20,000 less than we offered.  Needless to say the buyers are not keen to reduce by £20,000 and have offered us a token £5,000 reduction to cover some repainting.  Negotiations continue.  There are so many issues of concern now with this house that we are very close to walking away, in which case we will move into rented accommodation when the sale completes on our house.  I spent a few depressing hours this week scouring the internet for other possibilities, every house seems to have something wrong with it so that instead of choosing a dream house, it's more a case of choosing the house with an amount of faults that we are willing to settle for.  Bleah.

Right, I'm going to go and make yet another apple pie with our endless supply of apples off our tree.  Luckily they are so good that we never get sick of pie.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Suddenly autumn

The weather has turned quite dramatically and suddenly.  My first day at work last week was 29 degrees and I was sweltering in my interview suit.  The second day was 30 degrees and having sussed out the local dress culture, I was relieved to dress more informally and coolly.

This week it was only 22 degrees C on Wednesday, then started raining on Thursday and hasn't really stopped since.  I even wore a knitted hat for the first time today, and my fingerless mitts (but then I am a big wuss).  It's chilly enough in the house in the mornings that I've even considered putting the heating on but we are still holding out and putting on extra jumpers.

The last of the apples are falling off the apple tree but of course are now wet and muddy so I have to wash them when I bring them in, then let them dry on a tea towel before I store them in the fridge.  We're still having a big apple pie every couple of days which isn't doing my waistline any favours.

My second week at work was fine, I feel like I know what I'm doing a bit more.  It's not a terribly exciting job so far but I'm not going to judge it until I've been in it for a while.  Still loving the whole three day a week thing too.

I thought I had better get some pictures in here before I lose all my readers, so I snapped a few projects in progress.

This is my King Cole Opium cardigan - this is one of the fronts.  As you can see it's a very slubby yarn.  I've now knit all the main pieces but I want to block it before I start seaming it together and knitting the bands.  Hopefully I'll get that done tomorrow, although it's not going to dry very quickly in this damp weather.

This is the next square for my GAA Afghan, I can't actually remember what the name is.  The knitting is easy, it's keeping track of the four different charts which I am finding difficult.  I'm using Goodreader on the iPad, and have put all four charts onto one page.

This is the start of my Harvest Moon cardigan in Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran  which I am finding a bit splitty.  I have knit the garter short rowed yoke, and have picked up all around it to start knitting the cardigan top down.  The yoke has a knitted on i-cord edging which gives quite a neat finish even with my tension.

I have done some stitching on my Hawaiiann applique quilt but it has just vanished into the ocean of stitching waiting to be done.  This week I went as far as getting my sewing machine out of the closet thinking I would work on my Sarah's Stars Stack and Whack, but that's as far as it went.  And a few dollshouse kits turned up in the post.  I briefly considered making them, but as everything I would need is either packed or hidden inaccessibly in a closet, I abandoned the idea.  Sigh.  I don't think I'm going to Miniatura either because there is no point, plus I should save money for the move.

However next weekend I am joining the The Great London Yarn Crawl which hopefully will be fun.  I want to get some lace yarn for the Halloween Mystery Knit Along that I have signed up for on Ravelry, although I am not ruling out other purchases finding their way into my knapsack!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Favourite words of the past week: "see you next Wednesday!"

Yes, I had the immense joy of wishing my new colleagues a good weekend and uttering my new favourite words: "see you next Wednesday!"   I am so happy that I'm not going to work tomorrow, or the day after, and yet I am still earning a pay cheque.  The concept of earning money just for sitting around in boring meetings or performing relatively menial tasks at a desk is also still delighting me, after six months of not getting paid anything.

The new job is ok.  It's a bit chaotic, and it's been a bit hard to work out what my 'job' is supposed to be because they don't have a lot of systems in place, but I'm getting there.  It was hard work, two really long days and working through my lunch on the third day, but I'm slowly picking things up and starting to contribute.  My new colleagues are all really nice, just frantically busy.  I've a long list of things I'm supposed to read but no time to actually do that or even find where they are on the system.  The actual job seems a bit lower-level than I've had in the recent past, but I'm getting paid a good rate and I'm only working three days, so I'm not complaining.  During the most boring meetings I was doing mental arithmetic to work out how much I was earning for the time that I was sitting there, hugely delightful compared to the answer being 'zero' over the last few months of sitting around the livingroom.

On the train commutes I was knitting on my Lacy Sock and am most of the way down the leg now.

At home I've been knitting on the King Cole cardigan in Opium yarn.  The extra balls I ordered turned up and they are a pretty good match.  I was just able to finish the second front out of my original three balls.  I'm using the new balls for the sleeves so if there is any colour difference, it will be disguised.  I knit the first sleeve when we drove up to Oxford yesterday, and I knit half of the second sleeve while I was walking on the treadmill this morning.

I spent my first week's earnings and then some on kitting out my son yesterday in Oxford with his undergraduate robes, mortar board, and white bow tie, plus a black tie suit and dress shirt for formal functions.  He wasn't that thrilled at having to try it all on, but he looked very mature and smart in them. I expect he will feel better about it once he is surrounded by loads of other students wearing the same thing.

And that's pretty much it.  I was so exhausted after my long working days that I wasn't even playing Skyrim, much less doing much crafting.  I'm conscious looking back over my posts that my craft pictures have been pretty scarce lately, but it's just a strange time in my life with the house on the market etc.  Hopefully well before the end of the year we will be in the new house and life can start getting back to normal.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mild panic ensues

I start work on Wednesday  this week and I feel pretty worried about it.  I've started getting up earlier and am trying to train myself out of my midday tendency towards yawning, napping or putting my feet up in front of the telly. It's going to be a shock to the system to be back in the daily grind, commuting to London, but hopefully my 20+ years of experience will quickly snap me back into the groove.  I might get a bit more knitting done on the train that I am getting done at home, where the lure of playing the video game (Skyrim) is ever present.

Yes, I must shamefully admit that there has once again been relatively little crafting going on as I explore Skyrim and slowly climb the ranks.  I'm up to level 30 now and possess improved armour, so I am not dying as frequently as I used to (still dying sufficiently often to prompt mocking from DS and even from DH who doesn't actually play the game).  Although DS has paid me the rather limp compliment that I am probably the best parent of his friends' circle at playing video games.  At least it gives us something to talk about together.

I've done some knitting on the usual suspect projects this week:  GAAA square, lacy sock, Opium cardigan.  I've also done a bit more stitching on the Hawaiian applique quilt.  So no new crafty pictures to share.

I will show you this doublepointed needle (dpns) holder that I bought at Fibre East.  It's made out of quilting fabric, about one inch wide, in the form of a casing with wide elastic inside.  The ends are stiffened with something (card? interfacing?) so that they slip over the pointy ends of the needles without harm.  It's surprisingly effective and fairly attractive.  I might try making a few more for my other project bags. Sorry the pics are slightly out of focus.  The needles are not bent because of pressure from the holder, they are permanently bent from my death grip knitting style.

Yesterday we drove up to IKEA to get a few things, and then went on to a garden that I had read about, Capel Manor Gardens in Enfield. I had formed the impression from what I had read that it was similar to Kew Gardens.  In fact it is a college that teaches garden design, animal husbandry and saddlery.  The gardens turned out to be a higgledy-piggledy assortment of individual gardens spanning the spectrum from gorgeous to tatty. all sandwiched into 30 acres like puzzle pieces making it easy to miss things.  We started off unknowingly in the tattiest bit, which were the very small gardens simulating typical British front or back gardens.  It all felt rather neglected although there were some good ideas for hard landscaping and for making the most of limited space.  But the further we pressed on, the more lovely things we discovered.

Which? magazine does its gardening trials of plants on the grounds, so we first came to their beds of glowing colour as they trialled various roses, snapdragons, dahlias and other mixtures.  Then we found this lovely pool fed by a cascade.

After walking along a French-style boulevard bordered by trees, we came to a stunning Australian garden which I think had been at the Chelsea garden show, and then found a gorgeous traditional large walled garden with fabulous herbaceous borders.  Then there was a huge holly maze where we got lost long enough that I was getting rather worried that we wouldn't get out again, and then we found this small lake with a grand fountain in it.

We saw signs to the stockyard and went in on a whim, to find that it was a mini-zoo including meerkats (that looked exactly like the Compare-the-meerkat commercials), wallabees, and some recently-sheared llamas (I wonder what they do with the fleeces?).

The final garden, on the way to find lunch in the cafe, was almost the best one in terms of "I want that now" fantasy.  It's deceivingly called "The Old Manor Garden" and at first glance looks like the crumbling remains of a gothic/tudor manor house set amongst a garden. I paused to look at a display stand which turned out to be a laminated catalogue for a company called Redwood Stone, who are a modern day folly manufacturer.  That's right, they make follies, just like the nobility were ordering back in the day for their gardens.  All of the seeming ruins were products from their catalogue.  I fell in love immediately and if I get my hands on a windfall, one of those babies is going up in the garden of our new house.

I forgot to take a picture as I was so in love wandering amidst the ruins, but here is one from the Redwood website.

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