Thursday, December 20, 2007


Wishing everyone Season's Greetings and a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous, yarnbookchocolatewine filled, Knitty Knew Year...
I'm off for a quick visit to Eire to play Santa to my nephews, then back here on Christmas Eve for Christmas day with my men - we've got the neighbours coming over in the evening to play silly games (I bought Cranium 'specially). Then it's off to Horsham to see M-I-L on her birthday and back to work a week Friday. No time/opportunity for blogging next week then.
I can feel a blogging New Year's resolution coming on.

Before I go - couple of rants, just to get 'em off my chest. I met the postie t'other morning, whilst out walking the mutts before work. He gave me a card with £1.06 excess charge to pay. I handed over the money - but read on the envelope whilst strolling home, that £1 was a 'handling charge' because a friend had not realised that her (normal sized) card was a fraction too large and thus fell into the 'large letter' category and should have had 6p over the first class stamp she had affixed. What bloody bureaucratic nonsense is this? Are the Royal Mail so uncharitable that they can't waive 6p at Christmas? I resent paying this penalty, but I can at least afford it. What about pensioners who can ill afford that quid? Take note, card manufacturers and bah humbug to the W****** at the Royal Mail who are responsible. Reckon we should all not bother with cards and donate to charity instead (like I've done for the last couple of years, then felt cosumed with guilt that I'd neglected my friends...)
And later that same day - I phoned Irish Ferries to book a foot passenger ticket for me - and my dogs - to go to Ireland for the weekend. "Sorry", says the telesales person on the end of the 'phone, "Dogs are no longer allowed on board with footpassengers". I do sincerely apologise for my curt response, Mrs telesales person, as I realise it's not YOUR fault that I can't bring my dogs to Eire, but I am outraged that dogs have been banned because of "hygeine and safety". They've never been allowed anywhere but in the kennels on the cardeck anyway. And if I wanted to take them in my car (for an extra £160) then THAT'S ok - and hygeine and safety are no longer an issue - despite having to lodge in those self same kennels.
Shakes fist at anonymous b******* in offices who have no hearts.

See you all next year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I have a new obsession: SPINNING!

I blame it on the knitting blogospere - all that enthusiasm from you lot for spinning just could not go ignored. After the Spin-A-Yarn workshop (which I actually managed to blog about back a while) I bought a fleece - a naturally coloured Ryeland fleece which is gorgeously soft - this is a pic of a Ryeland sheep: isn't she amazing? Cost me all of £6 which I'm told is expensive??? Seemed very cheap to me. I tried to sort the fleece, but apart from the skirt - it ALL seemed really soft and luscious, if a bit mucky.

Now - times that £6 by 10 and you get what my Mum paid for this spinning wheel for my birthday present - courtesy of Susan from the Devon Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers - an Ashford Traditional - isn't it also gorgeous? Tilly looks suitably impressed - NOT (Can you eat it? no. Can you play with it. NO!).

Well I can. Play with it I mean. Tough knitty, dog. And this was my first attempt at spinning on my very own wheel with the roving that WyeSue gave me for my birthday (thank you Sue! HUGS!)
Lumpy, bumpy, thick and thin. What fun! Think I'll try and dye this.
Here's the bag of stash I was presented with at Get Knitted by the incredibly generous WyeSue, a few weeks back. I bought just a few other items too - well you just got to make that long drive worthwhile, don't you? I said DON'T YOU!?

Not sure how to deal with my fleece - I read various tomes and followed various instructions found on the web:

Following Yarn Harlot's instructions - I laid out all the locks in line, inside a ripped apart pillowcase and then laid in a roasting tin. Then I made a neat little parcel of it all. I soaked it once in hot water. Then I put the pan, hot water and a dash of fairy liquid on the cooker and steamed the lot for an hour! Then I rinsed it and rinsed it again. I got lovely clean soft locks all ready for spinning. I've been carding them as well, but the experienced spinners I met at the Guild meeting (my first) on December 8th assured me I could spin it as is...

This next picture is of the fleece drying. I've got fed up with all this sorting out - so next I tried sticking a larger amount in the bathtub and washing it that way - result? Slightly felted and therefore harder to card, but just as clean. I was told that this fleece is easy for beginners to spin up - I'm going to spin enough chunky yarn to knit Sonnet methinks. Probably over ambitious, but WTH I'm sure I'll learn heaps. I've already spun and plied about 8oz of lumpy bumpy chunky which I beat up on the pretext of 'setting the twist' (these spinners are a kinky lot). I've also tried spinning more tops from the pile that WyeSue gave me - coloured stuff (you can see it peeking through the plastic in the picture above) - I didn't know about predrafting when I did it - but now I do. The chunky green result will be a green stripe in the Sonnet.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

When Knitting and Midwifery collide: A Birth Story.

Apologies for the length - but I just got to share this one!

"A midwife should have a good pair of hands and know how to sit on them" says Michel Odent? Or maybe knit with them says I.
I was at O and R's birth the other day - O is a midwife herself and knew exactly what she wanted - a home birth, with a quiet and dimmed atmosphere, with lots of love around. She wanted as few interventions as possible, and wanted to use TENs and for R to use Shiatsu for pain relief. They both had an array of homeopathic and bach flower remedies to hand... O had a long prelabour - she'd been up for two nights before I got there and R hadn't had much sleep either. We'd only met once before, but it's always so much easier for me when a couple know what they want...
I arrived at 11am and she was pleased to be told her cervix was 5cm dilated and the baby was in a good position and his heart was always really reassuring and steady. R has the most amazing smile that lights up the place and great big hands just great for massaging - mine didn't compare and O only wanted R's hands doing their magic on her shoulders and lower back.
I went off to collect the resus equipment and entonox (and grab some lunch). When I got back at about 1pm, O's contractions were still plodding along at about 2-3:10, strong but slightly irregular. Using acupressure would bring them up to speed slightly but they would always drop back to 2-3:10.
Still, O's cervix was 8 cm dilated at 17.15hrs (I'd left it a bit longer to check as I knew that we weren't going to get 1cm an hour!). I'm getting a bit of pressure from Labour Ward by this time - the coordinator would phone and want to know if I was happy and why didn't I do an ARM?!
Again, I can stave off unhelpful advice if I'm backed up by a birthplan!
ho hum, 3 hours later, t'was still the same. But far from getting discouraged O became even more determined. I've called the second midwife who was also really supportive and all the time I'm knitting socks and listening in to baby and checking O and R were OK but they were getting on so well without me doing anything but knit and keep a watchful eye on the slooooow but steady progress. We debate the usefulness of ARM and R gives O caulophyllum (sp?) and SRM happens - wahey! I think the baby heard us. Light meconium staining but we can live with that as junior's heart is still steady as a rock... Contractions are now strong 4:10. so I'm disappointed when O's cervix is STILL the same 2hrs later.
But even as we're arranging transfer for delay, O starts to make that wonderful grunting noise that signifies second stage and there's a show and so, we cancel the ambulance and we say welcome to baby boy just half an hour later. And wait for the cord to stop pulsing and admire the true knot. The placenta only takes 11 minutes to arrive.
Beautiful baby boy is so alert and goes straight on the breast. O has achieved everything on her birth plan - a wonderful normal birth with just a whiff of entonox to get through transition, and R would make a wonderful midwife... His smile lights up the room after its all over. I have such admiration for their love and strength and courage and determination and teamwork.
HA! - I frogged the sock I'd knitted because I'd made it too narrow, but the next day I knitted up a teeny tiny pair of socks in the same yarn for O and R's baby boy, to remind them of that incredible journey - just as O had soaked a silk square in liquor (mec and all) to remind their son of his time in the womb.

I called them I ching socks because the lines remind me of those little pictograms.

If any of my blogland friends have been wondering where I've been - I've been over on Ravelry! What a wonderful place to get lost in. I've also been celebrating my half century - and made my birthday last an entire week - wonderful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I needn't have worried about noone turning up - we gridlocked Lustleigh! It was a lovely, sunny, autumnal day so the walkers turned out in force - but we also had a good crowd appear for the K-TOG. We stuck several laminated posters on the railings outside to draw in the punters and Annie the Sheep from Alison Murray's Gingerbread house greeted everyone at the door.
WE also tried to keep everything really affordable - £1 entrance and only £4 extra for the sockknitting and felting workshops. Here's Jill keeping busy...There was a really happy atmosphere - knitters wondering around with smiles on their faces and children trailing long lengths of fingerknitting behind them...

This is Rosie the blue sheep, hiding under the entrance table...

I didn't take any of the photographs - all credit is due to my young friend Kate.

As you all know, our 'stitch 'n bitch' group had been planning this event for ages - although it's not easy when you only meet up once a month. The planning was helped considerably by the fact that one of our members - Mary - has lots of experience at organising this kind of thing. She's an Honiton Lace Maker as well as a knitter and crocheter of some distinction - and is often asked to judge competetions. She was there good and early to help me set up the hall - but pointed out that we should have had plenty of young men to help us do the manhandling. Point to remember if we ever do it again. Other members turned up later - Jill and Ruth (and Ruth's dh who DID do a lot of manhandling before he went off in his walking boots with the Dartmoor Explorer map to discover Lustleigh Cleave) and Kathryn - with her wonderful knitted bunting. (Again - no pics of bunting - but it's inspired - knit triangles in garter stitch starting at the point and increasing one stitch every row - all different sizes and colours depending on your stash! - we attatched it to a length of fingerknitting and Kathryn sewed beads to the points of all the triangles).

My friend Cath also turned up early to organise the tea squad - She'd asked her mum to bring flowers to decorate the tables - what a star! Here she is standing with her back to us, talking to Sue and Dawn from my bookclub - over half the bookclub supported the K-TOG - yay!I'm busily knitting sock bookmarkers to thank all the helpers. You can get the pattern here
All proceeds went to South Devon Womens Aid - and Christine (the manager of the charity) turned up with a bundle of leaflets and annual reports, to tell people all about the refuge and what the charity does. WE made a grand total of £120 to give them - here's a pic of the raffle prizes - with the first prize being a place on the Christmas Decorations workshop at Spin-a-yarn (lunch provided) --It was won by a local lady from the village.
As well as Annie and Rosie the sheep, we also had a miniature version of a 30ft high Christmas tree on display. This was Alison Murray's project a couple of years before the Gingerbread house. It sat in Atlantic Village shopping Mall in Bideford and raised thousands of pounds for North Devon Children's Hospice and Great Ormond Street Hospital. The Herald Express Article here gave the impression that we would have lots of items from the Gingerbread house and several people came thinking we'd have the entire thing! We WERE hoping to get more objects from the the House but, unfortunately, Anne and Alison had been offered free lockup storage for the house and most of it was inaccessible. It would have been inpractical to put up the whole thing (it's huuuge!) just for the afternoon, so we had to be content with the two sheep, the tree and several knitted cakes intermingling with the real ones that friends donated to the cause! Nice cakes guys! - apart from the one where Sue forgot the egg - hmm - interesting.
Knitted cakes- an interesting new weightloss product.
WE had lots of yarn put out in the Stitch 'n Bitch cafe: that's Mary demonstrating finger knitting on the front right, and Kate the photographer holding Josh the knitting recipient on her knee in the background. Here's a picture of Vinny in green: and some of her pals from Plymouth.The cafe made over £100 - that's a lot of cups of tea!
Here's a picture of moi battling with giant knitting needles in the cafe. Had to be done. And, before you ask, no I didn't knit my cardi - spotted it in a charity shop for a fiver - I recognise good workmanship when I see it - all hand knitted with no seams and pewter clasps to boot.I'd brought my knitting library down so folk could browse in the cafe - The Alice Starmore book on 'Fishermans Sweaters' could have been auctioned off at a grand price if the amount of knitters asking if it was for sale was anything to go by. That's Jill from our S'NB group guarding the books!

WE also had Mary from Ashburton doing spinning demonstrations, ably assisted by Sue (in the foreground who came to my spinning workshop and has come on leaps and bounds since then!)

Lookit Shaun watching the goings on.

Mary had brought her own items to exhibit including this cute sheep (think it must be Shaun's nephew).

The exhibition part of the exhibition must be the least successful part of the afternoon - we weren't able to stick anything on the walls - though we did manage to hang coathangers from the picture rail. I'd hired stands from the Bovey tracey Society of Artists - cheap and cheerful at £5 per stand - but then I lost my double sided tape (found it after it was all over!) which left Ruth and Kathryn trying to be resourceful with needle and thread. I'd also make laminated posters of some of Yarn Harlot's sayings to amuse: eg "sweater 'n': a garment put on the child when the mother feels chilly".

Joyce (our local yarn store proprieter from Spin-A-Yarn) had brought along lots of samples:

Mountains of luscious yarns and goodies - which is, after all, what it's all about!

LYS - speaking of which, I went up to Get Knitted t'other day - what a wonderful place! Spin-a-yarn expanded into supermarket size! I digress.

So we didn't display our knitted items very well - in fact lots remained in bags awaiting labelling as I didn't want to risk losing them! Some of my favourite items were knitted during the second world war: this christening shawl was knitted for a baby that was born on VE day, whilst Churchill was making his famous speech! I also had some (darned) lace stockings knitted during the war. I love the knitted wire and bead bangle I was given by Yvonne - displayed
We also had a WIPS table, which displayed Mary's unblocked lace tablecloth - the one she's been knitting since we started our S'NB group! But Kate didn't photograph it :-(
We also had a list of internet resources and some patterns for people to take away free: French market bag was very popular.
Most popular of all were the feltmaking workshops : Sara (my neighbour and 'environmental artist extraordinaire) explained how to put together a brightly coloured little felt square.

Bright bright dyed fleece. Someone made a green man!

No pics - but Anniken also led a successful workshop on how to knit socks: I saw some gorgeous miniature socks being clutched by pleased owners. Anni also brought along some of her beautiful handdyed yarn and donated a couple of hanks to the raffle.
Then our very own Chris did some wonderful demonstrations and answered lots of queries on dyeing wool yarn with acid dyes in the microwave oven.

Finally we had so many people let us know what a good time they had and wanted us to let them know when we were doing it again. Many non-knitters felt inspired to take up the pins and get knitting.
I think we achieved our aims.

Thanks to Jill, Kathryn, Mary, Ruth and Chris from our Stitch 'n Bitch group, and Chris (Ruth's partner - who helped mantle and dismantle the stands!) . Thanks to Joyce from Spin-a-yarn, Anniken from Cornwall, and Mary from Ashburton - for all your hard work. Also Cath, Sue next door, Sue from Bovey, Dawn, Gill, Cheryl and Caroline from my bookclub who all helped with the teas. Mike and Kirsty from the Village Hall committee also deserve a mention for pitching in at various points during the day and Pete Harvey for fetching and carrying all those stands from Bovey Tracey. That's a lot of little socks for me to knit!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Interweave Press 'Knitting Daily' post is having a UFO count.

I took a big breath and counted up. NINE UFOs. Not quite all my fingers. You want pictures???

Ha, while I was digging out UFOs I discover one more - so that's TEN UFOs (like green bottles hanging on the wall). But then I discovered longest lasting UFO really IS being eaten by moths so in the bin it went. 17years is rather a long time not to finish something anyway - it just wasn't meant to be. So we're back to NINE multicoloured UFOs hanging on the wall.

1) One guernsey languishing in the attic being eaten by moths. I don't think I had enough yarn to finish it. This has been sitting there for getting on 17years. Time to frog it. As noted above - when I fetched it out of the attic to photograph - it was indeed irretrievably moth eaten and holy - in the bin it went, after a pic for posterity. See - blogging DOES have its uses.
2) One guernsey being knitted from a rather attractive tweedy yarn frogged from a jumble sale find. I do like recycling. This has been sitting around several years but not quite as long as UFO number one had.

Both of these are from my own patterns so it takes a bit of figuring out when I go to pick them up again as to where exactly I am, what I'm supposed to be doing and what my name is.

3) The great Kaffe Fassett Tumbling Blocks bedspread. I don't mind that this is a WIP - it's being knitted from all kinds of leftovers from my stash so it doesn't really matter how long it takes. I think. AM I deceiving myself here?

4) The Lars jumper - being knitted in a yarn I got given for last Christmas that I don't really like, or even like knitting with. Probably why I'm not getting on with it. Is there such a thing as a UFO counsellor out there?

5) The Cabin Fever Swing Coat knitted from the top down. Now what HAVE i done with the pattern???

6) Travelling socks. Knitted on teeny tiny needles in 3ply and very hard to see what the hell the pattern is supposed to be doing and where I am. And the diagram doesn't make sense. Or I'm not doing it right. Am I making excuses? Much harder than I thought they would be.

7) Karen's KAL gloves. Suffering from second glove syndrome. Started the second one, but then stalled as I got distracted by the next project.

8) Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Cable Jacket. Yum. I'm zooming on with this and will finish it before the year is out. It's looking really great and I'm pleased with it. I'm doing it with as few seams as I can get away with...

9) One Sock for DS Seth. Oh dear - he's got huge plates of meat and I don't think it will fit - not the length but the width! I added stitches to the original pattern too :-( So I've nearly finished the first sock but they've stalled.

10) The one I forgot when I was counting up - I was messing around with knitting plastic bags over a year ago (when I started blogging I think) - and mixed the plastic with some dire pink acrylic yarn I had hanging around in my stash (I hate pink) - I think I was knitting a peg bag - plastic being fairly indestructible.

Well this is dreadful. I need to really get down to business and finish what I've started. But then I've been looking at Astrid's Dutch Obsessions and hankering after Kauniyarn after seeing at the Harlot's place. I want to knit Ruth Sorenson's Rainbow cardigan (and I've ordered the yarn slap my wrist with a wet lettuce leaf). And this! I've always wanted to knit one of those jackets - Resistance is USELESS!
That all took an age - Blogger playing silly b*****s and refusing to upload pics. Got there in the end and more knitting time wasted...
Thanks for all your welcome backs - mucho appreciated.