Knitting And The Creative Art Of Parking

So I’ve been working funny days this week, and in between times I’ve been knitting and knitting and knitting an Yvette hat because, (i) it’s getting seriously nippy round here and the Stoic Spouse nicked my other hat, and (ii) my friend gave me some chunky, colourful yarn that’s perfect for the job. At precisely 3pm this afternoon I’m due to take my place outside in the twinnage’s school playground in order to help with the class cake sale, and if I’m going to stand out there freezing my bits off for very long, I NEED a hat. I also need some cakes, so I’d better go and pop the oven on in a minute…

Knitting at the twinnage's music group.

Knitting at the twinnage’s music group.

So all week I’ve been driving my car (known without any affection at all as the Stinkwagon) through the crisp and misty winter Oxfordshire countryside to work. The driving is the easy bit. Parking at the hospital is… a tad trickier. Unless you’re super-early for work, you need to be a wee bit strategic. Really, creative parking is an essential vocational skill. Given that all hospitals have parking issues, they should cover this stuff in clinical training.

A bit of progress, as I walk the streets (NO, not like THAT!) of Oxfordshire.

A bit of progress, as I walk the streets (NO, not like THAT!) of Oxfordshire.

Various options exist:-

  • Legitimate parking spaces. Congratulations: not only are you early for work, but you can also bask in your moral rectitude as you roll neatly into a designated space. Of course the downside is that any time you venture near the car park during the day, a convoy of hopeful drivers will follow you slowly and dolefully, sensing the blood of a possible imminently available space, and promising themselves that they’ll definitely get up for work earlier tomorrow in order to avoid this agony. That’ll be awkward if you’re just popping out to your car to eat your sandwiches in peace.
Yup, still knitting. Still, erm, streetwalking.

Yup, still knitting. Still, erm, streetwalking.

  • Not-strictly-proscribed places that nobody has previously thought of. We’re all creative people here, yes? Well some folk apply that creativity to their parking. You’ve gotta admire them for their originality in manoeuvring their car on to the old tennis court or up a tree, but let’s allow them to test out that newfound option first to see whether they get into trouble before you risk parking there tomorrow.
Still at it.

Still at it.

  • The mildly forbidden areas that would, in a more benevolent universe, be legitimate parking spaces. So let’s get something straight. Enthusiasm for your job is a good thing: everyone appreciates the employee who goes the extra mile. But the chap who painted the double yellow no-parking lines at work took the ‘going the extra mile’ concept a tad too literally and wiped out yards and yards of roadside space in the process. The cautious-by-nature and the super-well-behaved will avoid these spots, so really they’re just parking areas reserved for the mildly reckless. Count me in.
No way is that 11 inches.

No way is that 11 inches. (Oo-er…)

  • The ‘No (Parking) And I Mean It This Time’ places. If double yellow lines mean ‘no parking’, then double red lines mean ‘really really no parking and I’m not joking’ in the same tone of voice that your mum used when you were six and she was properly cross with you. Sometimes they’ll even add a couple of traffic cones as well, which ramps it up to ‘RIGHT, THAT’S IT! DO THAT ONE MORE TIME AND I’LL CONFISCATE YOUR TOYS’. Parking here is the best way to get a photo of your car emailed round the entire hospital with a sarcastic description of your idiocy. Of course if you’re madly proud of your car then you might want everyone to see a picture of it, but leaving your Lamborghini in the ambulance bay probably wasn’t the cleverest way of achieving that, yeah?
If I stay facing front, dyou think they'll notice that my hat is half-finished? No?

If I stay facing front, d’you think they’ll notice that my hat is half-finished? No?

And would you like to know the really sad thing? When I’d taken the selfie above, I decided to do a bit more knitting, but I couldn’t find my hat. Until I happened to glance at that picture again. Sigh.

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Giveaway Winners!

And the Bloomsbury giveaway is now closed! Thank you to each and every person who entered, and a big apology to those of you who were unable to enter for a few days because of my technological tribulations. Before I announce the winner, here are some rather tidily organized trees that I spotted the other day. They were photographed from the trailer of a moving tractor (don’t ask), so I make no promises of photographic perfection. They’re kind of cool, though, don’t you think?

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…But back to the business at hand, the giveaway of five spangly new copies of Stanley The Amazing Knitting Cat, courtesy of the generous folk at Bloomsbury. The entries are in: they’ve been numbered and fed into an insatiable random number generator (at random.org), which burped out the following five winners:-

winners

So, as the twinnage play a low drumroll and the stoic spouse prepares to pour the champagne, here are the names of the five lucky winners. Hurrah!

Please step forward, Anne Westbrook Mursin!

Take a bow, Dramatic Lyric!

You’ve won, NanaMamah!

I hope you like champagne, Patsy Coates!

Finally on the podium, Mothermaryblog!

I’ll be in touch with each of you to request your addresses, which I’ll forward on to Bloomsbury, so that they can send off your prizes, pronto. I hope you all enjoy this lovely book.

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And for everyone else, Stanley The Amazing Knitting Cat is available in all good bookshops, and quite a few mediocre ones, too. It’s even on Amazon.com. Thanks again to Bloomsbury for your generosity.

And… back to the knitting. And to the frustration of a hand-knitted mitt lost on its first outing. (Now do you see why I didn’t make elaborate fairisle gloves in handspun cashmere for the twinnage?)

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Have you any IDEA how much bribery went into the making of this picture?!

Still, they were fun whilst they were all together. Yes I do know about sewing them to elastic: that was to be tonight’s job.

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T’was the purple one that vanished. RIP purple mitt. You’ll be missed, at least until I get round to knitting another. The pattern is this one, and its free. The yarn is Stylecraft Special DK.

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Wobbly Blog Is No Longer Wobbly

Never work with children or animals, they say. I’d add technology: never work with technology… except for the fact that you can’t avoid the stuff. It’s great when it’s doing what it should: I have a gadget strapped to my wrist that buzzes and shouts MOVE! if I’ve been sitting still for longer than is healthy – this thing is a little like my husband, reproduced in electronic form.

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Meanwhile, I’ve nearly finished knitting the twinnage their mis-matched mitts.

But I’m sorry to report that we’ve had a wobble here at TTY that made it impossible for people to comment/like for about a week, although it’s all fixed now with the help of an abundance of Sellotape and some magic spells. Of course this happened in the week when Bloomsbury and I were running a giveaway that involved commenting, because the universe has a great sense of humour and it likes to mess with my head.

But at least the mittens are going well.

But at least the mittens are going well.

Anyway, in recognition of this disruption to the giveaway, the executive committee here at TTY (aka me and my glass of wine) have had a bit of a conflab, and in the interests of fairness, we’ve decided to extend the competition for an extra three days, so it will now close at midday GMT on Monday 8th February.

That's 1.5 of the twinnage's hands clothed so far...

That’s 3 of the twinnage’s hands clothed so far…

If you tried to enter during the barren period when my computer refused to talk to your computer, I apologize for the inconvenience, and encourage you to please submit your entry again by leaving your comment at the end of the giveaway post. My computer is now out of its sulk and is happy to chat.

Last one started! Might even get these done whilst the weather's still cold.

Last one started! Might even get these done whilst the weather’s still cold.

So if you haven’t entered already, give it a go. There are five copies of this marvellous book to be won.

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Good luck!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish knitting some mittens.

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Anyway, I Digress…

Don’t forget the Bloomsbury children’s book giveaway in the previous post. There’s still time to enter.

As it is in yarn, so it is in life. Honestly, my head’s been all over the place this past week, and so has my knitting/crochet. One minute I’m tinkering in the undergrowth in the garden of that crochet project, the next minute I’m wondering what sort of mittens to knit for the twinnage because I made the mistake of buying them some gloves with fingers which turns out to be more fiddly hassle than any self-respecting five-year-old round here is willing to tolerate. When I was a child, I viewed mittens as the poor relation of gloves, but my good friend Selma at EclecticHomeLife has pointed out that your hands will be warmer when your fingers are all cosily nestled together in one place, and frankly I’m happy to trust the word of a woman of Norwegian heritage when it comes to cold-weather-wear.

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Anyway, due to the urgency of the situation, I’m whipping up some plain and simple mitts in childproof Stylecraft Special DK. Each one of the four will be a different colour because, well, matching gloves has so been done before.

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Maybe it’s the season that’s making me so inconstant. Pesky weather can’t make its mind up. One minute I’m off for a run in this:-

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And the next day I’m out in this:-

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Folks in the eastern US, whilst I sincerely hope you’re warm and dry, I can’t help a little jealousy that your clouds are doing winter properly, whereas our clouds just think it’s hilarious to dump bucket after bucket of cold rain on our heads. Ha bloomin’ ha. I haven’t dared go down to the cellar lately to check whether it’s flooded at the moment. (Did I tell you about the time – and stop me if I did – when the Stoic Spouse went down there without putting the light on first? It was after a period of extreme rain. I heard the following as he plodded down the steps: stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, SPLASH, “Aaaaaaaaargh!” Honestly I was sympathetic, I really was, but his unwitting comic timing was just too perfect.)

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And if the yarnery has been all over the place, then so has my head in real life. It’s been a strange time, what with moving back into the third of our ward at work that wasn’t burned/melted in the fire, whilst juggling everything else that’s going on.

Do you find the same thing? That when your head’s all over the place, your knitting/crochet is too?

Anyway, before I leave you to get back to your knitting/crochet, I just wanted to show you a rather gorgeous someone whom I met the other day when out and about with the twinnage. How beautiful? Couldn’t you almost knit that fluff?

mooooooo

 

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Booky Giveaway! Hurrah!

Woah, it’s cold. Like, wearing-woolly-hats-inside-the-house-all-day cold. The Stoic Spouse is sporting headgear that makes him look like a burglar, but he refuses to be photographed for the blog.

Anyway, who’s in the mood for a giveaway to brighten up a dull grey-brown day? Do I see a hand raised at the back, there? (It’s hard to tell through all this mist and drizzle.) Yes? So let me tell you about a children’s book that’s just this minute been published by Bloomsbury. Look! It’s called Stanley The Amazing Knitting Cat, and it’s by Emily MacKenzie.

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Now Stanley is an unusual cat. He’s nothing like your cat who claws your qiviut shawl and hides your merino behind the fridge. No, Stanley has overcome his lack of opposable thumbs in order to become a knitter.

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Fortunately he has many animal friends to whom he gives his completed hats and scarves and tail-warmers.

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As well as reading about Stanley, you can knit Stanley, or a rather splendidly cool Stanley hat. The patterns are right HERE. But back to the book. I won’t spoil the story by revealing what happens to Stanley, but suffice to say that he faces his biggest knitting challenge yet, and it’s going to take all of his yarny resources to succeed.

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In the interests of science, I road-tested this book with the twinnage (aged five). These boys do not do tact, so I’m fairly sure that we can trust the genuineness of their responses. They were both enchanted by the tale, and having spent most of their lives surrounded by knitting, they especially loved the images of tangled yarn. Not that they’ve ever had to witness their mother cursing a stubbornly knotted ball of fluff, oh no… The twinnage are probably towards the upper end of the age spectrum that will appreciate this book, so I’d estimate its appeal as from roughly 2-6 years old. The illustrations are witty and original and cheerfully colourful.

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Information about the book can be found on the Bloomsbury site HERE.

So let’s skip to the giveaway, shall we?

C’mon, even if you haven’t got children, you must know some children, yes? Don’t you think that they’d rather like this story?

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who knits in the bath...

I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who knits in the bath…

Here’s the deal. (It’s a good’un.) Bloomsbury is kindly offering FIVE lucky readers of this blog from anywhere in the world the chance to win a copy of Stanley The Amazing Knitting Cat. To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post. To gain an additional entry, hop, skip and jump over to TheTwistedYarn’s Facebook page, make sure that you’ve ‘liked’ the overall page, and leave a comment on the relevant post there (including some means of contacting you, e.g. Ravelry name or email address). Feel free to share details of this giveaway with friends on social media: the more, the merrier!

The competition is open from now until 12.00 midday GMT on Friday 5th February, and is open worldwide. The five winners will then be chosen using an online random number generator, and asked to provide their postal addresses so that the prizes can be sent out. The prizes will be sent directly by Bloomsbury, so I will pass the winners’ details on to them so that this can occur. All OK?

Oh, and only one prize per winner. So if anyone wins via Facebook AND this blog post, only one prize will be sent to that person, and another winner will be randomly selected.

Best o’luck to you, and if you’re not one of the winners, you can always buy a copy from your friendly neighbourhood bookshop, or of course from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.

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Ooh Look, A Shiny New Knitting Magazine!

And now for a review.

I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the old adage that there’s somebody out there for everyone. Could be tricky if your particular someone is working the oil rigs off the Norwegian coast whilst you’re herding llamas in Chile. However I do think that these days, there’s probably a knitting/crochet magazine out there for every knitter/hooker: it’s just a matter of trying a few until you hit the right one.

Hence this post. The folks at De Agostini sent their carrier pigeon my way with a message. (De Agostini publish part-works about all sorts of creative things: you want to build a life-size replica WW2 submarine out of matchsticks over the course of 20 weeks? They’re your chaps.*) Anyway, they’re just starting a new magazine, and they very kindly sent me a copy of the first issue for review. (That was tough on the poor carrier pigeon, I tell you.)

*OK, I made that example up.

Simply Stylish Knitting

With me so far? Jolly good. Let’s get the practicalities out of the way first. It’s available directly in a few countries, by which I mean that De Agostini have made themselves at home in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Malta. It’s published weekly and in the UK, the first issue is available for 99p, issue 2 will cost £1.99, and subsequent issues will be £3.99. I believe that Issue 2 is just out now.

So if you’ve ever bought part-works before, you’ll recognize the format here. Yes this is a magazine, but its pages are pre-punched and detachable so that you can file them in a binder, assuming that you’re of an organized persuasion. Every issue comes with a couple of balls of yarn which enable you to make squares which will eventually be joined together to make a colourful throw. (There are other patterns and techniques, too, but I’ll get to those in a minute.) The idea is that each square teaches you a different stitch. As you can probably tell, this publication is pitched more towards the beginner end of the knitting spectrum.

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Now maybe my fickle head has been swayed by a free magazine (unlikely), but I happen to think that this is a rather splendid way of learning to knit, if you’re newish to the craft and want to expand your repertoire of skills. When I came back to knitting as an adult, I started out by working lots and lots of different squares in all sorts of stitches, just to get my confidence back. I keep meaning to dig these squares out and use them as dishcloths. And working from this magazine, at least if you miss an issue, it’s not going to ruin your whole project. The throw that you end up making may be larger or it may be smaller, but it’ll still be a throw.

Want to have a look at the kit that comes with it?

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The yarn is 50% wool and 50% acrylic DK, and although it doesn’t feel like it was handspun under moonlight by your favourite local indie yarn magician, it is better quality than the yarn that comes with many magazines, and it’s adequate for learning and practising. The needles that came with mine were of slightly wonky bamboo, but they’re good enough to use, and I think the publishers have got this the right way round by prioritizing quality of yarn over quality of needles. Oh, and there’s a darning needle, too. A lass can never own too many darning needles.

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Now I said earlier that this mag is pitched firmly at beginners. Absolutely no previous knowledge is assumed, and  they’ve devoted more space than other magazines to the real basics of things like casting on, working garter stitch, etc. There’s backup via online videos too, so you should be able to master this stuff from scratch even if you haven’t got your Great Aunt Ethel ‘The Entrelac’ Evans looking over your shoulder to guide you.

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In addition to squares for your throw, each issue covers a few other skills and patterns, in this case techniques such as winding yarn into a ball, and making pompoms, and patterns such as a simple mug cosy and an iPad cover. (There’s a smart fox on the front of the iPad cover, but it’s worked as Swiss darning rather than actual knitted colourwork.)

The layout is bright, clear, and uncluttered, and I think that there has been a real attempt to think through what a beginner needs to know. Oh, and there’s no advertising whatsoever, except for subscriptions to the magazine itself. All of the content is around patterns and techniques: there is no industry gossip, news, or reviews. I tell you this so that you can make your own mind up: you may love it or you may loathe it.

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Hmm, I do worry that this post is sounding a little overly sane by Twisted Yarn standards, so at this point we get to the slightly more unhinged bit. Here, for your general edification and magazine budget decision-making, is a quiz in order to determine whether Simply Stylish Knitting is your lifelong partner in the knitting mag world, or whether you’d scarcely get beyond the first date. Ready? Go…

 

Why do you read knitting magazines?

A: To learn as much as I can and to get ideas.

B: To get the low-down on what’s new.

C: I don’t. I’ve got Ferret-Fancier’s Weekly hidden inside the cover of this knitting magazine, but I didn’t want anyone to see that when I got on the bus.

 

How experienced a knitter are you?

A: Which way round do you hold the needles again?

B: Hmm, I’m doing OK. I can churn out scarves, but I’m a little scared of fairisle.

C: Have you not read all six of my publications on advanced intarsia?

 

How chatty do you like your knitting magazines to be?

A: Not at all. I just want to knit, thanks very much. I’ll save the gossip for Stitch-n-Bitch night at the pub.

B: A little. I’d like to read about major knitting shows and new yarn brands.

C: Sister, give me all the gossip. First of all, I want to know whether there’s any truth in the rumour that the editor of Knitting World magazine was seen holding a crochet hook!

 

Do you like gifts included with your magazine?

A: Yes please. Some yarn wouldn’t go amiss, especially if it comes with ideas for using it.

B: Maybe, although I’ve already got WoolWarehouse on speed-dial, and my stash is causing local subsidence.

C: No thanks. I’m quite capable of finding my own way to the yarn shop. (Hardly surprising, given how much time I spend there.)

 

What style of writing do you like to read?

A: Clear, practical, calm text (which does slightly beg the question, WHY ARE YOU READING THE TWISTED YARN??), and with lots of how-to explanations.

B: Informal, chatty, and with personal anecdotes.

C: Yo, wassup? I like my mags totes down wiv da kidz, innit. I’m cravin’ da word on da knittin’ street! What gives, bro?

 

What type of magazine buyer are you?

A: Loyal. I like to build up a collection and it drives me mad if I miss an issue. I keep all my back copies in a binder.

B: I do have a favourite that I tend to buy the most.

C: Changeable. Last month I bought Knitter’s World because of the free gifts, but this month I might get World Knitting, or Mum might just lend me her latest Knitting The World.

 

What’s your attitude to adverts?

A: Don’t like ’em. They make the magazine look cheap and cluttered.

B: I don’t mind a few ads for yarn suppliers.

C: You kidding me? I only buy magazines to get retail discount codes.

 

And finally, what’s your aesthetic?

A: Light and white with brights. Modern. Tending towards minimalist. Zingy citrusy shades. I like pink.

B: Um, not fussy really. Pink is OK.

C: Victorian gothic. Dark and complex. I hate pink.

 

Right, the moment of earth-shattering truth revelation has arrived. Have a look at your answers to see whether they’re:-

Mostly A: I think that we may have just found your perfect knitting magazine. Enjoy!

Mostly B: OK so the publishers didn’t have a life-size cardboard cut-out of you at their planning meetings as inspiration, but there’s probably some stuff in Simply Stylish Knitting that you’d enjoy.

Mostly C: Look my friend, I’m all for trying new things, but I really don’t think that this publication was written with you in mind. Oh, and it’s not true that the editor of Knitting World was seen with a crochet hook: that was a malicious rumour started by her rival at World Knitting, OK?

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This Really Is Terribly Important

So I’m busy writing an extremely important letter to the Met Office on the subject of SNOW. (For non-UK readers, the Met(eorological) Office is our publically-funded national weather forecasting/monitoring service.) Feel free to knit and crochet whilst I talk. Oh, and help yourself to some of that wine.

So what do you think of what I’ve drafted so far?

This post is mostly about snow. Or the lack thereof. Here's the view from my bedroom window in our last house.

This post is mostly about snow. Or the lack thereof. Here’s the view from my bedroom window in our last house.

Dear Sirs/Madams (Madams? That sounds dodgy.)

I am writing to respectfully request that you cease your current practice of knowingly and deliberately tormenting me with forecasts of snowfall that you later retract shortly before they are due to occur. Every single day for the past week, since winter finally arrived in Oxfordshire, I’ve checked the weather forecast online, and each and every time it’s promised snowfall in precisely 48 hours’ time. But always, as the hour of anticipated blizzards draws close, you move the predicted snow forward so that it’s once again an elusive 48 hours away.

Proper weather by my parents' old house in Herefordshire.

Proper weather by my parents’ old house in Herefordshire.

As a fellow human being, I can only ask you to examine your consciences. Do you consider your behaviour to be fair? If I, as a clinical psychologist, continually told my patients that I’d see them in two days’ time but never delivered, do you honestly think that I’d still be drawing a salary from the National Health Service? It’s just like the sign outside a pub that I used to drive past on the way to my parents’ old house that said, ‘FREE BEER TOMORROW’. Obviously the landlord set out this sign to amuse passers-by, safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t actually be pouring anyone a free pint. And mildly amusing it was too for at least the first twenty-six times that I saw it, but this isn’t about something as trivial as beer, this is about snow. There are two small children and a child-at-heart here who ask nothing more than for a fair chance to rampage around in the slush, lobbing snowballs at the Stoic Spouse. Would you consider this an unreasonable demand?

Obviously this snowball didn't get lobbed at the photographer moments after this snap was shot.

Obviously this snowball didn’t get lobbed at the photographer moments after this snap was shot.

And yes, I do realize that snow can be inconvenient in a lot of ways. I say this as someone who once had to take a spade and dig her car out of the car park at work, in order to even attempt to get home. Am I bad for having found this enormously good fun? In those days, I lived closer to work than I do now, and as the snow rapidly deepened and the dark got darker, I just made it home before the roads became impassable and drivers were forced to spend the night immobile and shivering on the dual carriageway. That said, when I came through on the road’s re-opening, I noticed that people had built some pretty funky snow sculptures on the central reservation, so maybe there was a sense of camaraderie and fun that snowy night.

It's been too long since I looked out of the window to see this view.

It’s been too long since I looked out of the window to see this view. Far too long. A lass can only be so patient.

I can’t help noticing that many parts of the United Kingdom have received at least a flurry of snowfall these past few days, yet south Oxfordshire has once again been neglected. Do we not pay our taxes the same as everywhere else? And so I ask how you, as a publically-funded body, can justify such inequality? Why is it right that folks in Birmingham get to go sledging but we don’t?

Perhaps I’m overreacting? You see, I’m writing this as a 43-year-old woman who has amassed a lifetime of bitterness over hardly ever being where the snow is. I swear that the only thing that’s stopped me going on a once-in-a-life trip to Antarctica is the knowledge that there’d be no snow when I got there, which would be kinda bad for planetary welfare.

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Some more snow. Just in case I completely forget what it looks like. Which is becoming quite likely.

I still remember (and I’m being deadly serious, here) the heartbreak of how at an impressionable and formative age – 35, say – I watched a gathering crescendo of weather forecasts promising the absolute certainty of heavy snowfall overnight, right where I lived. We were to be at the very epicentre of the apocalyptic mega-blizzard. These projections left no room for doubt. At last, I thought, a lifetime’s yearnings will be fulfilled. So I went to bed excited, but somehow managed a few hours’ sleep. And then, it was morning. The morning. For the very first time in my life, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, morning person. With a deep breath, I flung wide the curtains to see… a grey, drizzly day, with nary a hint of a snowflake. Never in my life have I been more disappointed. (Well, almost never, but let’s not go there.) Weather forecasters, please know that I have never since forgiven you, and that this let-down has cast a long, stubborn shadow over my emotional wellbeing ever since.

So I finish by asking you whether you sleep easy at night, knowing that your callous actions have caused such distress to a semi-innocent knitter and her small twins? Also, I politely request that you reconsider your behaviour. Please may we have some snow, not in 48 hours’ time, but now? Thank you.

Respectfully yours,

TheTwistedYarn

 

Is it OK, do you think? Letters of complaint are so tricky to get right, don’t you think? Shall I send it off by first class mail?

Meanwhile in other news, there is to be a rather marvellous giveaway on this ‘ere blog, very soon. Hurrah! Details just being finalised.

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Hunkering Down

January is a good month for hunkering down and getting on with some serious stitchery. Time to put the hours in to those projects where you’re well past the ‘Ooh, this is new and fun’ stage and on to the ‘Only another eleventy thousand purls to go and I’ll have finished the left sleeve cuff’ stage. Speaking of which, I’ve finally, finally finished my ‘Thermal‘, which is a good thing because right now, it’s all that stands between me and acute hypothermia. Look at that ice-cold background behind me:-

Thermal www.thetwistedyarn.com

(By the way, a lot of people ask about the pocket watch pendant, assuming it’s a valuable antique. Err, it’s really not, it’s here. But the only person who knows how to set the time correctly is our ward clerk at work.)

The camera strap is my own free design: see here if you want to make one.

Anyway, January. A bit of a rubbish month in my humble opinion: none of the parties and sparkly lights of December, and none of the signs of spring you see in March except when unseasonal daffodils start appearing right after Christmas, but I’ve already blogged about that. So people are busy knitting. My Mum is knitting a twiddlemuff for a friend’s wife who has advanced dementia. These muffs are supposed to be varied in colour and texture with lots of different buttons/ribbons/bobbles/tufts/loops/anything, to provide sensory stimulation for people with dementia. A very clever idea, and a perfect project for eating up random bits of yarn. When my big crochet project is done, I think I’ll make one too. Dementia wards are generally happy to take donations.

Mum sewing up

Mum sewing up

I love watching people’s hands at work.

Meanwhile, my lovely friend Gill came to stay on her way home from a conference. (Sneaky blog link included as a way of cruelly pressuring her to resume blogging because I love her blog, especially her photography.) Needless to say, we knitted and drank wine. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. She’s making a gorgeous fairisle jumper:-

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Look at this colourwork!

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The jumper is this one. It’s worked flat, bottom-up.

photo credit: Gill Loomes

photo credit: Gill Loomes

…And you can find the pattern in this book, available from Amazon etc:-

photo credit: Gill Loomes

photo credit: Gill Loomes

The crocheters at Bagalong With Crafternoon Treats are busy too this January. (It’s a closed group, but anyone can request to join.) I’m honoured that they’ve decided to make my cottage bag this month. I’m also slightly nervous, in case they all get frustrated working the fiddly window stitches and end up hating me by the end of the month. I’m on standby, ready to rush round to all their houses with emergency gin and sympathy if it all gets too frustrating. They do seem like a very friendly, encouraging group, though, if you’re looking for something to join.

bagalong www.thetwistedyarn.com

Finally, a tip from the fabulous Selma that I’ve shamelessly copied: you know that naked Christmas tree that’s now sitting forlorn outside, waiting to be chopped up or recycled? Well its branches do make very good kindling for the fire:-

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So whatever January projects you’re working on, have fun. And stay warm.

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In Which You All Get To Laugh At Me.

Smugness comes before a fall. Every time. I really should have learned that life-lesson by now. It never ends well when I start getting smug about anything at all. As soon as I do, life smirks to itself and throws a slippery banana skin in my path.

Anyway, I mention this now because of running. Since I wrote months ago about how much I dislike running, I’ve been doggedly forcing myself out of the door to run at least 2¼ miles, four times every week. Yes that quarter matters thank you very much, in the same way that the quarter matters to a small child when they say, “I’m 6¼ years old.”

I still dislike running. It still hurts. But I grudgingly admit that it’s brought health/energy benefits and I’m definitely getting faster. I can even run up hills without concerned bystanders offering to phone the paramedics. Result!

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Can you see the teeniest bit of smugdom beginning to creep in? Really it shouldn’t, because I’m not all that. When there are no other people in sight, I’ve been known to pause and cling to a lamp-post, cursing and wheezing heavily, only to set off again as though nothing is wrong as soon as I hear a car coming round the corner. And just in case you’re imagining some vision of designer lycra speeding past, my running kit includes baggy grey tracksuit trousers of such perfect hideousness that the Stoic Spouse has banned them from the house. His stoicism goes a long way, but not as far as ugly sportswear.

So on Sunday, I went for my usual run. I was thinking about the blog and about y’all as I ran, and mentally composing a post about how this ridiculously mild winter is making nature go a bit bonkers.

This post was going to be erudite. It was going to be fascinating. And I am not at all delusional.

I mean, look! There are daffodils in early January!

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By the way, you can probably already see the photography deteriorating as this post progresses. I’m a shaky camera-holder at the best of times, and mid-run is not the best of times. You may wish to cling on to something solid whilst you view the rest of this post, to avoid yourself from feeling seasick.

Anyway, unseasonal daffodils! It’s an abomination! What’s going to happen to them at Easter when they should be flowering? And what’ll happen to all the bloggers who are waiting to write posts about all the lovely spring flowers?

Yes yes, I’m getting to the bit where I make an idiot of myself, honest. Gotta set the scene, my friend, gotta set the scene.

So… it was unseasonably, unreasonably, unfeasibly mild, and if you’re in the UK then you’ll know that it’s been raining a lot (enough to flood people’s homes in the north, unfortunately). It’s not reached an apocalyptic scale here down south, but it is a trifle soggy underfoot.

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Non-Ideal Running Conditions

Despite all this, I was having a pretty good run. (See? Smug.) So I decided to add in a detour up to the allotment so that I could show you its progress. At which point I met the biggest of all puddles, the mother of all water accumulations, the emperor of all soggy toddler-magnets. (Free parenting tip from TTY: Want your toddler to come back from wherever they’re currently trying to run off to? Pour some water on the ground and call it a puddle. They won’t be able to resist. You’re welcome.) Anyway this puddle was like the nearest one in the photo above, but worse. There was no space down either side. I was wearing running shoes, not wellies, and thus could not just cheerfully splash through it, although with hindsight that’s exactly what I should have done. Ah hindsight, my old friend: I do wish that you wouldn’t always show up so late.

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The obvious solution, I reasoned, was to sort of sidestep along the narrow edge of the lake puddle, hanging from the branches above and trying to ignore the brambles that were clawing at my clothes. What could possibly go wrong?

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Yeah? Well I’d challenge YOU to take a decent picture whilst hanging from a tree.

Anyway, it all went fine.

Oh wait, no: that was just my fantasy. It didn’t go fine at all.

So there I was, swinging from tree to tree like a drunken monkey. No matter that a family of dog-walkers appeared at that moment. No matter that they got to stride through the puddle in their comfy wellies whilst I grinned manically at them from the bushes as though this was totally normal behaviour. Do you know, they looked at me almost as though I was being odd.

You can probably anticipate where this is going, can’t you? It’s going downwards. Because when you’re hanging from a tree, the only way is down. Rapidly. But hey, at least I had a soft landing. In the puddle. Which turned out to be surprisingly deep. And cold. And wet. And humiliating. Who’d have thought? And no I don’t have a photo of this happy event.

The family of dog-walkers must be credited for their heroic attempt not to laugh. Note, I merely say attempt. I swear that even the dog was sniggering. You can’t really blame them. I did land rather spectacularly splashily on all fours in muddy water at their feet. In their shoes (sorry, waterproof, fur-lined wellies), I’d have struggled to stifle a titter, too.

“Are you OK?” one of them asked.

This was when, with my dignity lost in the water around my feet, I resorted to extreme Englishness as a strategy and apologised, just in case I’d inadvertently splashed any of them, and asked if they were OK. Jeez, I couldn’t have been any more of a national stereotype if I’d worn a bowler hat and offered them tea. Still, it’s not as bad as the time I was polite(ish) to the scumbag who unsuccessfully attempted to mug me. “I say dear chap, do please refrain from stealing my handbag.” OK I’m paraphrasing – those weren’t my exact words.

Anyway, once again life has slapped me round the face with a wet haddock and reminded me, Don’t bother getting smug.

So I hope you’ll understand if the photo of our broad beans and onions at the allotment is unlikely to win any artistic awards, OK? It was the best I could do in the circumstances.

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And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve earned some knitting-time.

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Knitting The New Year In

It’s grey and damp here, which is pretty much perfect weather for keeping your head down and knitting. Oh hang on, who am I trying to kid? Any weather is just perfect for knitting in my book. This may be the only advantage of being the sort of person who feels cold year-round.

Gratuitous Christmas Tree Shot Whilst I Still Can, Because I Love The Sparkles That The Glitter-Ball Baubles Throw Onto The Wall

Gratuitous Christmas Tree Shot Whilst I Still Can, Because I Love The Sparkles That The Glitter-Ball Baubles Throw Onto The Wall, But Tonight I’ve Got To Take It All Down

With sadness about the fatal fire at work, I confess that I’ve been craving mindless stitchery as a wee break from that crazy-but-monstrous crochet project. I needed to switch my brain off and work someone else’s pattern. So I returned – not for the first time – to my jumper-of-doom. This is a project that I started well over two years ago, just before beginning this blog. But having billed the blog as knitting and crochet for the home, all work on making clothes was paused. The poor jumper has languished in a corner of my bedroom for most of the time since then. In my defence, I should point out that it’s a s-l-o-w knit, worked in yarn thin enough for sock-knitting, and using waffle stitch. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure of waffle stitch, let’s just say that there’s a lot of flicking back and forth between knits and purls. It’s slow. Very slow.

I shouldn’t be mean about this jumper (transl. for non-UK: ‘sweater’). It’s a brilliant free pattern called Thermal. I chose it because all those yarny blobs are supposed to trap insulating air against your skin, which sounds very appealing in this chilly house. (Ice on the inside of windows has been known, although not during the ridiculously mild winter that we’re currently experiencing.)

The last time I showed you this jumper, I was labouring on its sleeves in an Escher-like parody:-

Escher knitting www.thetwistedyarn.com

But now, I’m making some serious progress. It’s come even further since this photo was taken:-

thermal jumper www.thetwistedyarn.com

This is a lesson in how not to make a jumper. As the knitting sat neglected, I got involved with other projects, and borrowed needles and stitch markers from this piece. A wise knitter, one with the forethought to realize that I might not be back on the job any time soon, would have made a note of the needle sizes when I removed them. But I am not a wise knitter. Let’s just call the wildly fluctuating gauge a design feature and move on, OK? Also, the first half was worked with wooden KnitPro Symfonies and the second half using carbon fibre KnitPro Karbonz: my rap sheet with the Knitting Police is starting to look bad.

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I’ve written before about how, despite attentive swatching, this jumper was coming out way too baggy. It’s supposed to have negative ease, not hang like a curtain. Again, a wise knitter would merely have sighed, unravelled several tens of thousands of stitches, and started anew with unfailing dignity and patience, possibly comforting themselves with a cup of tea along the way. Pah, my dignity is lost somewhere in the bottom of my knitting bag amongst the scraps of yarn and the tape-measures. So I poured some wine and went for the scissors. And then I conducted some slightly manic sewing. I know it’s bad bloggy form to recycle content, but here’s a reminder of the carnage at the crime scene:-

image

Anyway, I seem to have got away with this cut-and-shut job. Let’s just call the bulky seam down my left side extra insulation, OK?

It’s nearly done. In a few days’ time, I shall be warm. Especially down the left side of my body. And I’m feeling sufficiently restored to get back to the crochet design craziness. Thank you for your patience.

twisted rib at the cuffs

twisted rib at the cuffs

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