Is there a comment that the non-knitters in your life make about patterns that will immediately put you off them?  For me it’s “frumpy”.  They don’t even need to use that particular word, but if I show them a pattern that I’m thinking of making, or have just commenced, and they start along the route of describing it as frumpy, pound to a penny I’ll give up.  Yet, there are very good reasons why I shouldn’t.

1.  I’m not exactly the most hip dresser in the universe.  I would describe my mode of dress as ‘practical’.  I like fashion – and by that I mean couture, not Top Shop’s latest offering – but I enjoy it in the ‘if I was….’ sense.  If I was tall/thin/broad-shouldered/rich/living a totally different life…  My enjoyment of fashion is cerebral; my wardrobe is practical.  So if I knit something and it’s a bit frumpy, it wouldn’t exactly be dragging my outfits down to a less stellar level!

2.  Frumpy is in fashion.  Most women in their mid-20s are pulling off frumpy with laudable sang-froid.

3.  Have you ever knit a garment that looked like the photo accompanying the pattern?  That garment may look frumpy because the whole photo shoot has been styled in a sightly old-fashioned way, or the colour of yarn is rather old-lady.  I am going to knit it in a different colour and wear it with my own clothes.  It won’t look the same.

4.  A great photo of a trendy knitted garment, complete with fresh-faced, if rather gloomy, tall, thin, young model posed in rustic splendour on a Scottish heath, or beside a peat fire, gives no guarantee that you will look nice in said garment.  In fact, those garments (which I have to admit I love looking at) would often only work if worn on a Scottish heath or beside a peat fire.  I don’t have ready access to either.

You’ve probably guessed what’s coming.  After working the leg of the striped sock, I realised I was liking it less and less so have abandoned the idea.  Last night I cast on my bright red wool for a lace cardigan in an old Martin Storey design for Jaeger and I have one outfit I know it will work perfectly with so some incentive there.  I know they will work together because I had the swatch sitting on top of the dress for a couple of days and kept noticing it and thinking how excellent a garment in that colour would go with that dress.  I’m not going to show photos of the design, though, because I just know it’s going to fall into the ‘frumpy’ category and I’m 100% convinced my finished version will be in the ‘wow, that’s really nice’ category.  Let’s face it, nothing could look frumpy in a yarn this very red!  When I’ve progressed beyond the moss stitch welt and made a start on the more interesting lace knitting, I’ll take some in-progress photos.  There may be a bit of sunshine at the weekend to make photography easier.  Right now, though, the clouds are looming and rain is probably unavoidable.  Still, not bad weather for knitting.  And when I’ve finished, together with my finished object shots, I’ll try to remember to take a shot of the photo from the pattern book, and you can judge for yourselves if you’d have categorised it as frumpy.



What we need right now is some sunshine

A finished cardi

Well I’ve had quite a busy time finishing the lingering projects and casting on a (quick) new one.  Now if only we had sunshine (instead of really quite a lot of rain) to facilitate the photography….

“Fake sunshine” shot above shows the cardi lolling nonchalantly on the sofa in a vaguely Noel Coward pose.  Oh, I do hope I won’t have to take up being droll whilst wearing it!!  The buttons really do have that strange iridescent stripe to them when they catch the light.  Oddly, although every other colour in the photo seems right, I still don’t see the cardi in real life being quite that blue – I’m sure it has more of a slight teal tinge to it.  Maybe my eyes are wonky.

I am, of course, pleased as punch with this version of the Slope Rib Cardigan by Nancy Vale, despite a little lurch of the stomach when I finished the post-construction wash and thought I might have shrunk it.   This pattern seems to provide a flattering fit despite having minimal shaping, due probably to the sloping ribs.  Of course, the sloping ribs give a very good visual effect of narrowing the waist too.  As with my previous version, I amended the pattern to give closer-fitting sleeves.  The original 1980s pattern has all the increasing happening at the top of the ribbed cuff then the sleeves worked straight to the armhole.  And I am sure in the 1980s that was a very good thing indeed, but that was then and this is now.  Narrower sleeves are better.

I have not given much thought to my next garment project because I’m on a bit of a sock bender at the moment.  Having finished the Palms socks, I immediately cast on for another nice simple stocking stitch pair using two left-over yarns in alternating 1-row stripes.  This is just slightly more fiddly than I usually like, but I’m loving how the yarns are knitting up together, and I’d rather have a pair of socks than two half-balls of lovely yarn in a box.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself – sock tales will be in the next post.

What’s a girl to do?

This evening it occurred to me that the final two little chores that awaited me with my knitting were likely to take forever.  I had worked desultorily on them at the weekend, sewing on an odd button here, working a row of sock there.  Didn’t even pick them up last night.  When the knitting blahs descend like this, what is a girl to do?

Picture of a French church circa 2009, anyone?

This is not a finished knitted object....

Perhaps you are keen for a quick resume of the Tour de France?  Team Sky’s Juan Antonio Flecha – he of the perfect cycling technique – was going great guns on Sunday until a French TV car covering the race decided to plough right into him, also causing injuries to another rider.  Whilst they’re both still in the race, I think we can be forgiven for thinking they might not be at peak fitness now.

Ah, but surely it hasn’t all been cycling and working and falling off bikes (since it’s proving so popular in the Tour, I thought I’d give it a go myself yesterday!)?  Surely there must have been some knitting-related activity?  I won’t really still be staring at an almost-finished cardigan and almost-finished sock when the final trump sounds?

No, of course not.  Tonight I plugged my iPhone into the stereo, fired up the Norah Lofts audio book (about Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine – very enjoyable) and told myself to just sew the rest of the buttons on the cardi and graft the toe of the sock.  Neither took much time at all, which isn’t really a surprise.  The cardigan needs its post-construction wash and the other sock needs to be knitted.  But right now I don’t technically have anything on the needles.

And whilst not knitting, I have been thinking over future projects.  I have been wondering for a while how to work more jumpers into my list of things to knit when every time a pattern calls out to me it’s a cardigan.  Jumpers are just so much more practical.  However, my new job has suddenly turned everything on its head.  Instead of wearing my usual skirts and jumpers, it looks like I will be spending most of the year in leggings and tunics, and cardigans are going to be just exactly what I need on cooler days.  So perhaps my subconscious knew all along that cardigans were just so much more practical!

I feel this is a bit of a ploddy post, but having motivated myself to work on my projects, the least I could do was let you know that progress is being made, if very slowly.  And one day soon there will be photos of finished objects, not just random old holiday photos.


Why “Palms Socks”?

Heel and gusset worked

You may be wondering why I’ve decided to name this pair of socks “Palms Socks”.  Well, this is why:

Alan Reed photographic prints in my living room

If you click on this photo to see it larger, the print on the left as you look at it is the exact same colours that appear in the yarn for these socks.  The print is called “Palms” and thus the socks are called “Palms Socks”.

A bit of background to these prints.  They are by a photographer called Alan Reed who lives and works locally here in Norwich.  I bought these two prints soon after I moved into my flat and I love them to bits, as I do the majority of his work.  I bought these at my local art gallery “Grapevine” which is literally a five minutes walk from my flat.  The other print is a view inside Norwich Cathedral which is about a 20-minute walk from my flat, so I hope that makes these prints relatively low-carbon-footprint, so long as we ignore the cameras, computers, printers, paper, ink,  possibly chemicals…..  But, hey, lower carbon-footprint than if they’d been shipped all the way from the United States for example!

As you can see from the photo of my knitting, the first sock is coming along well.  I decided to do the heel flap in a twisted rib for a little bit of texture.  My go-to pattern is very plain indeed, but it fits.  I did once try to do a different heel shaping, but the heel flap and gusset works well for me, so I stick with it.

The first week of the Tour de France has been a roller-coaster ride for the team I support – Team Sky.  On Thursday Edvald Boasson-Hagen won the stage, the first stage win in a Tour for Sky, then yesterday their star rider, Bradley Wiggins, crashed out with a broken collar-bone and the team plummeted from second place to bottom just like that.  Let’s see what today brings.

Dubious reasons for buying wool

Got buttons? Need wool!

Okay, this counts as a very dubious purchase.  A little while ago I looked through my button tin and noticed how many perfectly usable sets of brand new buttons I had in there.  Mainly in shades of green.  I am, you see, guilty of buying buttons that don’t quite work in the context of whichever project I bought them for, so into the button tin they go.  Rather than leaving them to languish forever, I have decided to buy wool that they will work with to produce some new cardigans.  My first purchase is a shade called Lush (I trust lush like grass, not like a drunkard) and actually matches these buttons better than the photo suggests.  As the buttons are quite big, this will be a project where the 4-ply wool is held double to give a fabric of heavy DK/Worstead weight.

In order to continue with my button de-stashing, I also ordered the full shade card for this range of wool which will enable me to match button and wool colours much better.   Anyone else struggle with trying to determine shades well enough on-screen?

Perhaps it would be nice to tell a little story about where I store my buttons, which is in a re-purposed Farrah’s Harrogate Toffee tin (400g size).  Whilst I have (almost) always lived in East Anglia, my mum came from Yorkshire and we often headed up to York to stay with my grandparents when I was a little girl.  Farrah’s Harrogate toffee was one of those brands much more prevalent in that area in the 1960s and rarely seen ‘down south’.  Of course now all brands are national or global and you can buy everything anywhere, which in a way slightly devalues it all.  But I digress.  My button tin, whilst being a more recent purchase (only about 10 years old!!) is valued because it reminds me of my childhood.  The tin contains odd buttons, spare buttons, and of course several full sets of buttons, awaiting the time they either get used, or my grandson gets old enough to be allowed to empty them out and play with them.

If you’ve never tried Farrah’s Harrogate Toffee, by the way, you should – it is delicious.

In knitting news, I have finished knitting the second sleeve of the Slope Rib Cardigan but won’t be attaching it to the rest of the cardi and putting it through the wash until the weekend.  I feel I want daylight to do the fiddly bits.  I started my new job this week and between learning new tasks and routines, and trying to work out the optimum cycle route I’m not up to too much complexity in the evenings.  I will probably work on my Palms socks the next couple of evenings.  Unless I just carry on reading my Enid Blyton book and ignore the knits!!  I am currently engrossed in “Five Go Adventuring Again”.  It is my intention to read my way through the series – this is only Book 2 – which I read avidly as a youngster.  I am interspersing my more serious, grown-up reading, with the occasional jaunt into the adventures of Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have five children and give them those names?  Of course, probably resisting the temptation to add ‘the dog’ habitually to the end of Timothy’s name.

It’s a little late to be starting anything new, and a little early to be heading to bed.  Perhaps there is just time to have a quick scan of the blogs I read before I retire.

Long, warm Sunday

All kinds of ribby textures

It has been a long, warm day during which I have slightly run out of steam.  So, no, my slope rib cardigan isn’t complete and as I head off to my new job tomorrow it remains to be seen how long it will take me to finish this cardigan.  Not that there is any need for a thick wool cardi at the moment, and knitting is a relaxing pastime, not a competition.

I did buy some paper and start practicing my handwriting.  This was preceded by the ritual filling of fountain pens then scrubbing of ink off hands.  The pretty pen in the picture above is the most temperamental and it took some coaxing to get it working after a couple of weeks sitting empty.  The other two are rather better-behaved, if less pretty.  Isn’t that always the way?

There was no shortage of knitting time today, as there was another long Tour de France stage.  Unfortunately, the heat put me off the idea of knitting for the duration, although the Tour has been interesting enough to keep my mind off my knitting.  Yesterday Juan Antonio Flecha came in at position 134.  This is quite respectable.  He’s very much a support player for Team Sky in the Tour – just solidly getting on with making sure the team members like Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas get the support they need to do the stellar stuff.  Today it was a team time trial day and Team Sky came in at third place which is very good.  They were only 4 seconds off the lead.  Again, Flecha played a solid part as the team sped through the 23 kilometres.  Tomorrow is another long haul through the French countryside and I’ll be recording to watch in the evening.

And they’re off

The essential equipment

The 2011 Tour de France is underway with the long first stage heading into the countryside of the Vendée after a scenic route along the coast.  I support Team Sky, because they’re British and because Juan Antonio Flecha rides for them.  I have a soft spot for Flecha.

I’ve gathered together the essential equipment for Tour-watching: knitting, route map, Tour guide magazine, remote controls, French biscuits.

Today also marks the start of the Tour de Fleece and across the world spinners and knitters in their hordes will have picked up their fibre or yarn and set off on their own competition to spin or knit their own pre-set goal (for example, spin a set amount of fibre or knit a jumper) through the duration of the Tour.  I don’t have any goals and haven’t joined any groups, I’m just not a joiner-in, but it can’t be argued that a competition like the Tour de France offers great blocks of time to sit on the settee and knit.

Will the sleeve of the Slope Rib Cardigan be finished today?  Will I simply grind to a halt and give in to the attractions of the French biscuits?  Join us tomorrow to hear how the day went.  I might well keep you updated with Flecha’s performance in the Tour too!

Where did my handwriting go?

Lovely pen

I used to be able to write neatly.  When I was at school I won a prize for keeping a neat notebook.  I have a love of all the paraphernalia of writing, the notebooks, the pens, the ink, the heady smell of a stationery shop.  So when did I lose the ability to write, and where did my handwriting go?  Did the rot start the day I first lay fingers on the keys of a typewriter?  Certainly, by the time I was taking my creative writing course I could write much more effectively sitting at a computer than handwriting on paper and then laboriously transcribing it.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but my handwriting was already starting to drift away from me.  Yet even a few short years ago I was capable of turning out page after page of readable script when I put my mind to it.  Now, it disintegrates into an ungainly scrawl which the finest pens and ink cannot remedy, and I can no longer love it.

I don’t know if my handwriting and I can ever be reconciled, but it feels like a part of me is missing if I cannot pick up a pen and produce something sweet.


Settling in

Palms socks
Palms socks

Now we know that Apple will no longer be supporting their web-hosting next year, it is time to make a move to a more ‘professional’ blog host.  Deep breath then jump right in.

Yesterday was crazy-hot and my camera decided to play funny when I tried to take blog photos so I ended up with very little to show for the time I spent.  And it was getting quite dusky by the time I got any photos at all.  Not sure if this is a sign that my beautiful camera is coming to the end of its life.  I do hope not, because I love it so much!

I have cast on for the second sleeve of my Slope Rib cardigan but haven’t got too far with it yet.  This blog set-up is taking a lot longer than expected.

Stick around for a bit more information in the coming days, once I get my head around this interface.