Saturday, May 27, 2006

To the end of the rainbow

Well, we are off to the seaside on Saturday morning and I will probably not have access to a computer during that time. Normal service will be resumed next weekend.

I am taking plenty of knitting for the evenings (optimistically hoping I will have some time to sit and knit!). As well as finishing Birch I am taking my mystery project so I have plenty to keep me busy.

The children are very excited about the break and we will be staying in a place called Rainbow Cottage - a place name filled with fantasy and dreams...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mystery stripes

So, I have started something new (not pink!), and here it is, but it is hush hush as it will be going to my secret pal in the end. Here is a tease:

Can you guess what it is? I took it to my knitting group in Putney yesterday but didn't get any done because I went to Stash Yarns and helped out Michelle and Nathalie with pricing yarn. They have a whizzy till which does stock-taking, but the downside is that each ball of yarn has to have its own bar code and someone needs to stick it there! Most of the knitting group turned up there in the end and we got quite a lot done, which was great as Michelle and Nathalie are working really hard to make the shop a fantastic hang-out for knitters. It opens on 6 June and we are all very excited!

At last week's group Mandy had a fantastic book for children:

which I have managed to find and which arrived today. It is full of lovely things to knit. Mandy was knitting Barbapapa

I am very into the idea of teaching children to knit and Jill very kindly gave me this magazine yesterday, which is chock full of useful tips on teaching children to knit.

It also had this rather cute pattern for footlets, which is very tempting...

But I must concentrate on work in hand. We are going away for half-term on Saturday and are heading to Dorset, which we are all really looking forward to. But before then I have heaps to do, not least planning my holiday knitting. I want to finish Birch and am taking my secret knitting and something else. I am thinking of knitting Lara by Debbie Bliss. Paul will be driving so I have some good knitting time in the car, which will be great. My mum is coming too, which will be lovely for us all - and it means I'll have some help with the cooking - bliss!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pink and grey

Yesterday was grey and damp and what better pursuit than a bit of cake baking and pink icing to cheer everyone up:

Edward spent the afternoon playing with his trains (as did his Dad!) and the girls and I went to the swings for a bit of fresh air and made fairy cakes. I also found these lovely vintage buttons (I just love buttons!) in a local junk store:

Well, a glance outside today proved equally uninspiring but after yet more ironing (yes, it is never-ending!) we headed off to the Wetlands Centre for some fresh air. The yellow irises were out in force and were a good antidote to the rain:

We had a rather miserable walk around the centre in the unrelenting drizzle but did see some great crested grebes and lots of wading birds in the shallows. After a good run around we headed home and I managed to get some knitting done:

Yes, it is finished at last, and will be posted tomorrow along with this (well, after three boys, a girl's got to have some pink!):

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Knitting at school - day 2

Today we were knitting with the other Year 3 class and again the children loved the big needles:

It has proved to be a fantastic way of teaching the children how to knit and I have been very pleased with what we have achieved in two mornings. The children started off by doing the big knitting, where they can clearly see the construction of the knitted fabric, and then we moved on to smaller knitting and making more worms:

When I got home from school, an exciting parcel was waiting for me - my latest eBay purchase - some vintage coloured needles (I just love these!). Aren't they pretty?

Although it was quite hard to take a photo because they are very shiny and because a certain someone kept getting in the way...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Knitting at school - day 1

Well, it was the start of arts week at my children's school today and I was doing some knitting with one of the classes. The big needles were a huge hit

and what was interesting was that the children could see really easily how to knit on this scale and had few problems with the manipulation, despite the massive needles. What was much harder for them was when we moved on to a smaller scale and started working on some bookworm bookmarks, a fabulous pattern I found on the internet:

This was much more fiddly for them and required far more dexterity and some of the children found it quite a challenge. The pattern for the bookworm calls for knit2tog across a row (this is what gives the worm its twist) and the children understood this but were not always able to manipulate the needles easily. However, at the end of the morning we had this fine array of worms

and the children were really pleased with their handiwork! This was a great project and the children felt a huge sense of achievement that they had something to show at the end of the morning.

I am knitting with another class tomorrow, so have cast on more worms tonight!

Here are some close-ups of the identity parade so far...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Flower power

Our garden is probably at its best this time of year. I love the delicacy and poise of the aquilegias

the enduring sweetness and cheery presence of the bluebells

and the beauty and mystery of the bleeding hearts

Spring really is here!
I have some small confessions to make. My long-awaited order from Amazon has finally arrived:

and, something I have been desperate to get my paws on:

Wendy Knits is an entertaining read, with some good patterns and anecdotes, but The Curious Knitters' Guide is in a league of its own. This is a beautiful book, artistically designed and produced, and full of projects that have me itching to pick up my needles. Like this:

and this

I can see myself log-cabining just about anything and am very tempted to try and make a bag using this technique! It really is inspirational and I love the page layout and design!
I am gearing up this weekend for helping at school on Monday and Tuesday with some knitting for arts week and have lots of casting on to do. I also need to make a start on my big knitting as well, as I plan for the children to come and have a go on with it too - I hope it will enable them to see the structure of the knitted fabric better, but might just make them giggle - we'll see!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Secret Pal 8 questionnaire

How exciting - the Secret Pal 8 questionnaire is through. So, here goes...
1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I really like knitting with 4-ply yarns, particularly merino wool, silk/wool mixes and cotton yarns. I do not like synthetic yarns.
2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
Anything! I have a lovely handmade wooden box and also an old sweet tin!
3. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I have been knitting for about 30 years and am probably advanced, although I don't like working from charts much - I like my instructions written out! I like the rhythm of knitting more than anything, so always have several things on the go as I like to have projects for different levels of concentration!
4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
No. But maybe I should set one up - check back later! Have added one here.
5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)
Lavender and anything by Space NK!
6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Yes - much more so since having children! I love chocolate and also anything fruity!
7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I have dabbled in canvaswork and used to own a spinning wheel, but do not any longer - although I had a go at spinning again recently and really enjoyed it! I have done patchwork but mostly I just love knitting!
8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I like modern pop (to do the ironing too - I listen to Magic FM a lot) and also like Bach, Mozart - anything rhythmic! I do not have an MP3 player (though am very tempted to get one).
9. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?
Purples and reds and dark greens are my favourites, although I like autumn colours too. I do not like blue or yellow. I find blues too cold and yellow makes me look ill! I like colours to be rich, so do not really like pastels either.
10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I am married, with three young children, Ellen aged 7 and twins Edward and Lily, who are 5. I have a ginger cat, Max, and a goldfish.
11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
All of the above!
12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
It depends on my mood. I really like knitting presents for people, so, whatever I think people will like!
13. What are you knitting right now?
A shawl, Birch, for my sister and a baby cardigan for a friend and a cardigan for me. (This does not include all my UFOs!)
14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
Yes! There is nothing better!
15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
It depends on the project - probably straight, although I like Addi circulars and would like to try their bamboo circulars. I really like vintage metal needles - the coloured aluminium ones, and also bamboo or wood (especially unusual woods, like ebony and rosewood).
16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
I own a swift, but do not have a ball winder (that would be me!).
17. How did you learn to knit?
When I was a child, but my tension was all over the place and I retaught myself at university. I have been an obsessive knitter ever since.
18. How old is your oldest UFO?
Oooh - about 15 years (gulp!).
19. What is your favorite holiday?
By the sea. Preferably with some time to myself - not something that happens very often.
20. Is there anything that you collect?
Vintage patterns and knitting paraphernalia such as old gauges and needles, although I have been selling some of my patterns recently on eBay in an effort to declutter. Yarn! I also love vintage clothes, although find it hard to get these in my size (I am a 16-18).
21. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I subscribe to Interweave Knits and Knitting magazine and Rowan International. I usually buy Vogue Knitting from the newsagent. I would love some back issues of Interweave Knits as I have only been a subscriber since last autumn. I would also really like any of the Barbara Walker books. I would love some Crystal Palace sock needles and would love to try some Lorna's Laces yarn or Art Yarns or Koigu.
22. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
Continental knitting because it is quicker and, because so many patterns now seem to incorporate crochet, I would like to learn crochet.
23. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I do knit socks although I have very strange feet with very high insteps, so am difficult to knit for! My shoe size is 7.
24. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
26 July

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Farewell, Jack

Today was my father-in-law's funeral and Paul and I went to Chichester for the service. We had a mixed sad/happy day, with fond memories remembering Jack, and Paul bravely spoke at the service (which took a lot of courage - I would not be able to do it). We had a lovely lunch afterwards in The Royal Oak nearby and my mum kindly came up yesterday to do the school runs to give us time to send him off properly. Jack would have approved.

On the brighter side, the four hours in the car meant four hours of knitting, as Paul was driving, so here, especially for Michelle, is Birch in progress (knitted in Rowan Kid Silk Haze, colour Trance):

According to the progress calculator I am 71% of the way there! Here is one leaf, to show you how pretty the pattern is:

Michelle, of course, has very exciting things on her mind, as she and Nathalie are soon going to be opening a yarn store, Stash Yarns, in Putney, south-west London. Us fellow knitters can hardly contain our excitement!

In the meantime, here are some exciting finds from a local junk shop, Memories of Mortlake, which sells a wonderfully eclectic mix of things. I found some knitting needles, including some faux tortoiseshell ones and some others that I am pretty sure are bone as they have the most wonderful weight to them, and some giant wooden needles that I thought were fun:

I also found this lovely purple yarn:

I am a bit of a sucker for the colour purple and this feels lovely so I could not resist. Not bad for £3.50!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More ironing than knitting

Well, some knitting has been going on but I have been very bogged down in work and domesticity. Today, I tackled the ironing mountain and managed 9 men's shirts, 15 school shirts, sundry other children's items, several of my shirts, one set of bedlinen, and various other household items. What a list! I have let it all pile up this week - always a mistake - but am up to date once more. It always amazes me how much washing a family of five creates!

I am also very bogged down in work and need to get on with it this week otherwise I shall be burning the midnight oil!

I am on to the 10th repeat of Birch, which means I am more than halfway there, according to the shawl progress calculator (although I find this hard to believe!). We have a long car journey on Tuesday, so I hope to make more progress and will update you with a photo then.

The children all went to a birthday party today which meant that Paul and I could go out for a relaxing lunch, which was wonderful. We ate by the river

and although the tide was out, it was still an uplifting sight!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Woodland Wonders

First thing this morning it was pouring with rain and the day did not look promising. By 10am things looked brighter and we decided to stick with our original plan of cycling to Kew to go to the Woodland Wonders exhibition. At Kew Gardens this weekend, near Queen Charlotte's Cottage and the giant stag beetles

was a whole outdoor exhibition, with music, plays, and all kinds of country crafts. There were men with painted faces, indulging in that traditional British pastime of Morris dancing. The children loved it and even danced to the rhythm of the drum.

There were heavy horses

and to my delight there was knitting, run by Sue, and where better to display it than among the rhododendrons:

Most of the knitting was done on giant needles and here I am, having a go, with Ellen showing me something on the other side of the arena:

Once I got the hang on the knitting, I could work up a rhythm and, if you keep the weight of the broom-handle-sized needles on the ground, then it was really good fun, although my hands did hurt after a few rows.

I also tried to remember how to spin:

and, to my amazement, it came back quite easily and I really enjoyed it. I also had a go at spinning with a drop spindle, which I had not done before, and was surprised at how satisfying that was too. I am doing a project at school for arts week in a couple of weeks' time and could not resist buying some giant needles (I know that the children will love them).

I thought that we could make a wall hanging or a rug and know that the novelty will appeal to the children (it certainly appealed to me!).
We had a great day and I even got home in time to go to the movies with a friend in the afternoon, to see The Squid and the Whale. What a wonderful film - insightful, funny and tender. I'd recommend it!