Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ursula Mittens

I did, of course, buy 'Colours of Shetland'  by Kate Davies about half an hour after it went on sale (there are some perks to  being up early, though they usually happen more in the summer than the winter) so I got a signed one, which I wasn't expecting at all!.

The book is lovely, with beautiful photographs and well laid out pages. Kate's essays are informative and entertaining as usual. The one which goes with this - and the main pattern, for a cardigan these mittens match - is about Ursula Venables (writer, naturalist and craftswoman) who I knew nothing about at all until now. I'd quite like to read her memoirs myself.

I knit this in Jamieson & Smith /Hanne Falkenberg/Rowan I had in the giant stash so it was - as with my Rams and Yowes - a way to use up a bit more of it (though despite my best efforts, it doesn't appear to be  shrinking). They've come out looking very '1940s', which is in the design. My choice of a grey background with red, blue and charcoal pattern though, makes them look, I think, a bit more 'urban', or even like mittens made from re-used yarn, as if they were a 'make do and mend' project.

I'm not sure why I went with this muted palette, I have white/cream yarn, and much brighter colours in my piles of available materials - and heaven knows it's been grey enough round here for weeks - but this is what I did:

Taken during a brief window in the deluge

My shed bolt is, I think, actually rusted shut
I fear they won't be seeing a Shetland winter any time soon, but they'll do just as well for winter in Oxfordshire (and at least wet wool still keeps you warm):

There may have been a small amount of 'sun' in the sky for this one
I hope it stops raining soon.

Monday, December 10, 2012


We did have snow here in Oxfordshire last week - a bit of a surprise and it didn't last long, but have you seen the forecast?:
It's cold...
I shall be alright in these freezing temperatures* because I have finished Snawheid. When I say finished I mean  the main knitting is done, but it's not blocked yet, so these are of it in its un-pompommed, unblocked state, otherwise I'll find myself without daylight for photography purposes.

For the main colour I chose some Jamieson and Smith 2ply Jumper Weight shade FC41 which is the most beautiful dark teal with a product code for a name I have ever seen (to be fair, there are a LOT of shades in this yarn, I don't blame them) and the natural white 01A, both from the stash:

Some ribbing in the grass
The snowflakes are beautiful:

Some snowflakes in the grass
And the crown of this hat is just so lovely...

Woolly beauty
...I am almost on the point of not pom-pomming** at all! 

A lonely pom-pom, earlier
Snawheid is yet another smashing pattern from, of course,  Kate Davies, who I think is a genius - everything is so clear and the stitch charts are so well laid out they can be followed after a couple of glasses of merlot, which is what I need from Friday night knitting.

*I just have to fight the boy for this hat...
** Pom Pom update to follow

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Squeeze (and me)

This one isn't about knitting. I love knitting, I also love music, lots of different kinds. And a bit like knitting - which I didn't really pursue for 30 odd years, though would often find myself in the haberdashery section of John Lewis stroking balls of yarn and pondering patterns - Squeeze have also always been there, in the background.

1982 I was 14 when Black Coffee in Bed came out and I must have sought it out (according to the internet it only got to No. 54) and listened to it a lot because I have no memory of not knowing the words to this, more or less. However I don't recall this video at all, - we didn't have MTV. Quite a lot of hairspray here, it was the 1980s. The ozone layer didn't thank us:

I don't actually own a copy (of this or anything) from then. I never bought many records - I didn't have the funds. So I probably heard all their earlier stuff at parties, and on the radio, and I would have borrowed LPs and taped them. Which makes me feel a bit guilty even though it appears that home taping didn't kill music after all.

It didn't
Quite soon after 'Sweets from a Stranger' (I just had to look that up, because I am not a music fan in the way that the hero of High Fidelity is)  the band broke up. I didn't pay much attention because I was discovering boys, cider, cigarettes and how much I could get away with. There were other bands I loved;  the Human League and the Thompson Twins and Heaven 17...lots more (but never, ever, Duran Duran).

1984 ('O' Levels year) and Difford & Tilbrook are back together. I absoloutely remember this video because my 16 year old self had a really, really huge crush on that big furry coat (and Glenn Tilbrook - those curls! and what a lovely voice, and he plays the guitar!). Now I watch it and I think, they must have been absolutely bloody freezing:

Love's Crashing Waves (1984, Difford and Tilbrook):

Very late 80s - early 90s  (I have a bit of a gothy phase, go to University, everything frankly goes a bit pear shaped with the university thing).  I end up working in theatres as a box office manager and I move to London. I recall a very, very long and alcohol soaked evening with Karen (who I have since lost touch with, which is a shame, but how things go) when we drunkenly sang through 45's and Under over and over again, got through five bottles of Chardonnay and smoked a lot of Silk Cut. That wasn't uncommon. Squeeze seemed to be on MTV a lot - Hourglass, Last Time Forever  and Some Fantastic Place (and only now do I know what that one's about)

1995 Eventually I ended up working a summer for Square One Events, who did the mid-90s Heineken Music Festivals. And there they were again, Roundhay Park, Leeds 1995:

Second Column, after Mike and the Mechanics. Poster £4.99 on Ebay. What's really annoying is I had a stack of these hanging about for ages...
I definitely watched them, I may even have said hello!  This event also led to the only time in my life I was practically mobbed, delivering the tickets to the HMV in Sheffield (PULP were newly huge). The tickets were FREE... imagine!

The turn of the Century: Time trundles on, I am not entirely happy with my lot and I become obsessed by archaeology (I don't know if those things are linked). I also start to listen to a lot of folk music after I notice Eliza Carthy when she's nominated for the Mercury prize. I eventually leave London and get a proper job in a normal office in Reading, but it's all a bit dull and I get fairly depressed and behave not nicely.

2005 I start helping out, and eventually being a director of, Oxford Folk Festival (which is not dull) and I go to a lot of gigs - I realise I haven't listened to music properly in years, and perhaps this is not helping. I start to play the melodeon (I' ve never played anything) this is not dull! Finally I got to Cropredy for the first time, and one night soon after extricate myself from Reading and run away to Oxford and my new beloved. In the car on the way up the M4/A34 I listen to 'Loving you Tonight' (included on  Excess Moderation, which I'd bought off the second hand CD stall at Reading University) on a loop, and in god knows what state of mind.

August 2005 -The day after I ran away to Oxford I hared down the A303 to Beautiful Days and arrived just in time for Bellowhead. I hadn't seen the line up for the rest of the festival, I didn't really care, my new love was waiting for me (he already had a ticket, mine was obtained from a Welshman found on the gate who had a genuine spare ticket to sell). But there on the bill was Glenn Tilbrook and The Fluffers...and all those old songs (and some new ones) were back in my head, tangled up with the weekend my life changed, when I thought it never would.

August 2006 -  Cropredy - Glenn is on, on his own, in the bit around teatime before Fairport come on for their marathon Saturday night concert. And he's great, just him and his guitar. He sings loads of Squeeze songs  as well as his own stuff, which I like (and his little boy is on the stage side, with his guitar, which is almost too much cuteness when you're feeling broody).  We're right down the front and I think, crikey, I've been listening to this stuff for years, and it's never, ever boring, and I still love it.

August 2008 - Beautiful Days again. The broodiness ended up in  a small boy and we're planning our wedding. Squeeze are back together and playing festivals. I couldn't for ages think why I wasn't down the front for this appearance, but then realised we had a baby, a fairy light festooned pram, and there was a LOT of mud. I remember still singing very loudly, despite being very sober.

2010 - For some reason - probably the existence of a two year old and a loss of any sense of time or of ourselves as anything other than childcare providers - we don't go to any of the Spot The Difference tour.

2012 - August, Cropredy again. We have a very short discusssion about who is going down the front for Bellowhead.  The four year old says he definately is so his Dad has to take him because I can't get him on my shoulders, and as is pointed out, I will want to go for the last band on that night. Squeeze did a fantastic set, I was buzzing about it for weeks, and I wasn't the only one.  I think I was standing just behind the person who took this video:

I faffed about and didn't book tickets for the Pop Up Shop Tour for ages - and then I watched 'Take me I'm Yours' on BBC4, and did book, and felt a bit poorer, but also happier. The next day I was in the office and Linda was playing 'Cool for Cats' I asked why, and she told me " 'this lot' don't know who Squeeze are...'"

24 November 2012 - Reading Hexagon . There was a lot of dancing, and a lot of singing at the tops of our voices. They did an acoustic bit in the middle which was lovely, and my only regret is we couldn't stay to queue and get CDs signed. Being able to get the gig you were at on CD though is marvellous, even though half of mine doesn't work (I have a working one now, sorted very quickly).

Until I wrote this I hadn't really realised how much they'd always been on in the background. I wouldn't ever have called myself a fan (I might now!). But all those brilliant tunes and clever lyrics, that distinctive octave apart vocal - and they can still sing like that, it's fantastic - I always go back to them! I'm so glad Glenn and Chris are back together writing and performing again, and they have a great band on with them. I'm listening to their songs now more than I ever have for years, and the new stuff is just as good as the old:

Next time, back to knitting...

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Years ago (probably seven or eight, and definitely Before Child) I did some dyeing. Because in the B.C. era I seemed to have a lot of that stuff called 'spare time', and I like to learn new stuff.

This was not complicated dyeing using plants, wood shavings, mordants and so on* but using food dye, and also 'Kool Aid' which is something you can safely ingest, but not to my taste, and heaven knows I have, due to my great age,  eaten icing coloured with actual cochineal - which is made of actual beetles.  I have to say I much prefer to boil yarn up in the Kool Aid than drink it (you can even get turquoise from one of them).

A packet of Kool Aid, this one would turn your yarn pink
Hmm...beetles. Anyway, during this dyeing phase I made a skein of really alarming self striping yarn in Bright Green and Bright Red (this was from Supercook food colouring):

The true horror of the green doesn't come over. Yes that's another Kate Davies going on there, and a glimpse of the chaos that reigns, constantly, over my coffee table.

So, like the good stasher that I am, I put this thing in a the cupboard because it would come in useful One Day. That Day, it turns out, is the day of the great Pom Pom Mania of 2012.
Pom poms are 'the thing' right now - why? I don't really know, but like to think it's more due to Radcliffe and Maconie's cheeky championing of the 'Hoxton Bonnet' (scroll down to the second story) and less with Alexander McQueen and Lady Gaga.  

And, some clever people have invented a doodah (Prym do one, so do Clover) for making pom poms which does away with the cardboard circles of infant school. Clever them, and thank you.
With this new device you wind round one half of the circle, then round the other, and then fasten them together: 
A pom pom in its embryonic stage
After that, you cut round the wound on yarn in the traditional manner, hoping all the while the thing doesn't ping apart before you get the yarn tied round its middle, as it will do if you have wound too much yarn round it and you finish with no pom pom but 100s of lengths of un-useful 4inch pieces of yarn as a result. You only do it once.


Once past this hiccup (it was a very shallow learning curve) I suddenly  - this is quick *and* addictive - had lots of balls. I have no idea what I will do with them though...:
Some balls, this morning.
* it's on my list, I have a vision of me, the washing machine brazier and a big cauldron, boiling stuff up of a summers eve. I could wear my goddess trousers and pixie coat. I might move to Glastonbury... 

Monday, November 05, 2012


I haven't knit anything for the boy since he was but a tot. So I asked him 'What would you like' and he answered  'A red thing', 'Cardigan or jumper?' I replied, 'Cardigan' said he.

Luckily I had bought Millamia's 'Wonderland' at the Knit and Stitch show, so an 'Alexander' Jacket it is (I am not doing the patches, I'm really not sure about them).

And why have 'red' when you can have SCARLET:

Redder than a red thing in a red paint factory
The Millamia yarn is amazing, beautifully soft merino, excellent stitch definition a joy to knit, and machine washable.  I just wish John Lewis hadn't seen fit to package each ball individually, and then in the big silver parcel:

Never knowingly underpackaged

Meanwhile, Wobember is underway here: celebrating all things wool, and well worth a look at (there are pictures of Lincoln Longwools, what more could you want?)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Woolly Wormhead's Mystery Hat Knit Along

I like a mystery. It usually helps if it's Scandinavian and has knitwear in it. This project satisifes at least one of those criteria already - and maybe two, because none of us except Woolly Wormhead know what the hat design is...

I have been deep into the Stash and swatched some Rowanspun 4 ply, but don't think it's quite right.

Then discovered what I believe to be (the ball band is long gone since it was recycled from a top I made for the boy when he was still unborn) some kind of  DK weight merino blend in a smashing almost raspberry red. And it knits to gauge so it's a done deal.

I have never done a KAL before (I did once start a mystery scarf, however  the lace chart got the better of me in week two and it was abandoned) but this is a small project and should be achievable. I also know it'll be a well written pattern, as Woolly's always are.

Here's another 'mystery hat' for you (or gratuitous picture of Cumberbatch, possibly):

A mystery solving hat

P.S. Those socks are finished (!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sock of AGES

Socks are useful as knitting projects because they are small, portable and, in my case, fairly brainless knitting. I admire the many intricate sock patterns out there but can't understand why you would put in all that time and then stick them in shoes for no-one to see - for example look at these stunners from the Twist Collective . But then I am an habitual 'sensible' shoe person, and wearer of slightly too long trousers, so my feet are invisible. The heights of sock complex-ness for me is maybe a little 3 x 1 rib up the cuff, or a Jaywalker and/or self striping yarn. But - back to the portability, you can take them anywhere, and knit on them anywhere. In theory...:

I really don't have clown sized feet
This pair of socks has been on the needles for about two years, I am pretty sure they've been to Beautiful Days (twice), Cropredy (probably twice as well), and Musicport. It's hard to knit outside in the blazing sunshine (or, lets face it) pouring rain, and even harder when your diet mainly consists of cider, or they would have been finished by now.

They have definitely been to Heathrow,  Seattle, Battle Ground Washington and Bend and Portland Oregon. And yet still, here they sit, an inch away from being finished. If certain carriers would allow you to knit while in transit (what do they think knitters will do?) they would have been finished by now.
The needles of doom
If I hadn't become horribly distracted by the Madelaine Tosh in Knit Purl in Portland, and forced to swatch just to see how it knit up in the car on the way back to base, and yet again be beset by the booze too nice to turn down problem (I'm looking at you Deschutes Brewery),  they would have been finished by now.

But most af all, if I hadn't hidden them at the bottom of the knitting basket, only to have them surface again when searching for supplies for another project, they would have been finished by now (this more than one project thing probably isn't helping...)

I don't think I (or they) can take much more, so I have made a decision. I will finish them tonight. If no-one reminds me about that tune I'm supposed to be learning...

So VERY NEARLY finished...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Not Knitting but Sewing...

...last week was the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace.

Dazed crafters in front of the Ally Pally organ
I went with my friend Janey (a truly marvellous quilter and excellent accomplice in stash building). This meant I didn't only fondle wool and fleeces, but also had a good look at the beautiful fabrics on sale. I was quite dazed what with all the yarn fumes, early start and low caffeination levels, which I think is how I ended up with some sewing.

Euro Japan Links had Shonai Sashiko Samplers on sale. I thought, what's the harm? It can't possibly be as addictive as e.g. sock knitting. How wrong could I be. Two evenings later the sampler is finished and I Want More. Started on Saturday night, by Sunday morning I had this:

Two panels down, two to go...
By the end of the Freakzone on Sunday evening, this:
I am sure it shouldn't be this wobbly

These four stitches are from top left: Rice Stitch (my favourite), Persimmon Flower Stitch, Fish Scale Stitch, and Hemp Leaf Stitch.

It all went pretty well for the first three, but the Hemp Leaf panel is a bit skewed (maybe the strange music was to blame):


The wonky Hemp Leaf panel is driving me a bit insane. I keep telling myself it's a sampler so it's practice. But it might have to be re-done all the same. I think I also need to stitch a bit less tightly as the sampler did become increasingly puckered as I filled it up.

I found the process of stitching Sashiko really calming and quite meditative. I can't say I've ever found the same with counted cross-stitch (usually, that makes me want to cry). So I am off now to buy the other two samplers.

There is more about Sashiko here:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

rams and yowes (multi-coloured)

This is a Kate Davies pattern, if that means nothing to you find out about her at - she designs the most beautiful knitted items. They are, apart from the fantastic designs, a joy to knit as they are so well laid out and easy to follow. When I saw rams and yowes I knew I had to make it.

I'd already made 'sheep heid' in (for me) record time. I did this in the natural Shetland colours from Jamieson & Smith the pattern was written for. For 'rams and yowes' I decided to use those up, and a lot of the many, many 'left over from other projects' balls of colourful Rowan (Yorkshire Tweed, Rowanspun etc. etc.), Jamieson & Smith and Hanne Falkenberg wool I seem to have accumulated. All these are 100% wool and, I felt, were still appropriate for the pattern.

I spent a good few hours arranging balls of yarn together on the floor, and then a few more going cross-eyed in front of Excel spread sheets to get the colours to (sort of, I later discovered) work together, and came up with my plan.

This is the result:

I did all my rams in natural Shetland colours, my yowes decided they wanted to be colourful ladies, so how could I deny them.
 I tried to pick up the colours in the sheepy part of the blanket in the border, to tie it all together (however this meant I lost the gradual shading from dark to light in Kate's original design)...
...and picked up the pale purple again in the centre (some of my decisions were based on how much of which colour I had in my stash!). I'm not sure this grey/brown combo really shows off the second row of rams as much as I'd have liked.
It's also a bit crinkly round the border, which I believe I could fix by going down a needle size the next time I knit it - because I do think I need another one.
Here are the yowes again. All the time I was knitting it they reminded me of the 'Mo'hairs'* in Margaret Attwood's 'Year of the Flood'.
*multicoloured sheep used for growing replacement hair. You should read the book.

First Post

Who ever knows what to write in a first post? Not me.

I'll be posting things here mainly to remember what I've been making out of wool, though I expect other things might creep in here too (even cotton, you never know...).