Why do I have a knitting blog?
I’ve been terrible about photographing finished knits recently and in any case Ravelry has completely taken over as a place to record knitted projects.

The greater part of my “writing energy” goes into paper letters to family and friends, in particular weekly letters to one of my sisters.  The good stories, all the funny and wonderful things, and any profound frustrations, are all told there, offline.  I generally don’t like to repeat myself.

So why have this at all? There’s always a chance that I’ll make some major modifications to a pattern and feel the need to share them with the world.  I have some lace patterns in me, but I have to finish all the things I’ve promised people before I start drafting them.  I do like swaps and have been very fortunate when it comes to generous pals in the past.  Even when it is not compulsory to have a blog to participate, having a public space to praise swappers is important.

Poetry Reading Day

So, February 2nd is a day for sharing poetry.  Today Radio 4 repeated a thirty minute programme on Spem in Alium (in the UK one can listen again), with various people speaking about the significance it holds for them.

I love Tallis and Byrd and Palestrina, and firmly believe that there is no more powerful instrument than the human voice.  Spem in Alium is a near indescribably gorgeous piece of music, but I also love the words themselves:

Spem in alium numquam habui praeter in te
Deus Israel
qui irasceris
et propitius eris
et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis
Domine Deus
Creator coeli et terrae
respice humilitatem nostram

I have never put my hope in any other but in you
God of Israel
who will be angry
and yet become again gracious
and who forgives all the sins of suffering man
Lord God
Creator of Heaven and Earth
look upon our lowliness

The motet’s background is somewhat murky, as it is based on a pre-Reformation text but was probably written for Elizabeth I.  I don’t know if the words alone hit me hard because I read the Latin.  The weight of words is always slightly altered in another language and, of course, the real way to appreciate it is in live performance.  It speaks to me of a great and terrible faith, of the kind it is only possible to have in the depths of winter when one’s unconscious mind believes that the dark and the cold will continue forever.  The last line, “look upon our lowliness”, is comforting, acknowledging our utter insignificance in this universe.  It’s a graceful surrender that always leaves me feeling sanguine about the future and the coming of spring, the constant rolling of a wheel that is not affected by our brief and turbulent lives.

UK Swap Weekly Question 2

Q: Do you subscribe to any magazines (knitting or otherwise)? Or do you prefer to purchase magazines at the newstand? Do you subscribe online to any knitting magazines/newsletters? What does a knitting magazine need to have to catch your fancy and get you to fork out that well-earned cash?

In the past I have had subscriptions to British Vogue and Private Eye, which I enjoyed at the time. It’s partly knowing that they will mostly end up unread, because if I have some reading time I will choose a novel, and partly because much of the content is available online at my convenience. If I have a train journey on a Friday I will always buy an Economist. It’s like sitting down with a well-informed friend and a cup of tea.

Knitting-wise, I do have a subscription to Yarn Forward (which I tend to forget because issues are so few and far between). I have yet to find a pattern in it that I would knit but I will keep up with the suscription because I like the idea of what it could be and appreciate the multiple yarn suggestions for each pattern. I get the iKnit email newsletter, but only read it occasionally.

Upside

Since the theft, I’ve been thinking about all the things of value that I have. Recently I’ve been a little too smug about my life, essentially complaining about having too much (too much choice, too many friends &c &c). So, here are some wonderful things of the moment that I wholly appreciate:

P1050002

  1. My mother sent me the gorgeous stitch markers above. She makes glass beads (like these) and has been promising to make me stitch markers for ever – it looks like she won’t get round to it, but I think I can put up with the substitute! Apparently there are even more on the way. These ones are fair trade, made by the ladies of Iziko Lo Lwazi, a women’s education project in Cape Town. They can be bought from Injabulo.
  2. I recognise that I am lucky have many things worth stealing and I try to stay aware of that privilege.
  3. I have so many close family members to ask for help in any situation and am able to ask for that help gracefully, and I know they would ask the same of me.
  4. I have the skills and knowledge to make myself a nutritious and tasty lunch instead of going out to buy something every day, like many people in this country. I really should ‘brown bag’ my lunch every day, because it has a much smaller impact on the planet, but with Selfridges food hall around the corner there are going to be occasional days when I slip!
  5. Making my lunch this week has given me an epiphany – Cheezly melts perfectly in the microwave! I can never get it to go quite right in the oven, but I had some greek style left over from my cousin’s visit and chucked it it in my lunch, which I then heated in the kitchen at work – melty goodness!
  6. Continuing the food theme, winter is the time of baked potatoes! I made one this evening, rubbed with herbs and olive oil. The skin was perfectly crunchy. Yum.
  7. My gorgeous commute by bicycle around the perimeter of Hyde Park. By morning fresh air and birds, by evening chains of bobbing lights as my fellow cyclists sail silently towards home.
  8. I have squeezeable, sniffable Posh Yarn Emily and have been watching the new season of NCIS (Marines! Crime! Sailors! Murder! Endearing characters!) while making a start on Vinnland and doing the ironing. Not at the same time, sadly.
  9. And so many more wonderful things than I could ever count.
  10. P1050004

SP11 package 2

I received my package about two weeks after my pal sent it, as it fell foul of both official and wildcat postal strikes. That was a couple of weeks ago now – I am so sorry didn’t post earlier.

P1040908

It’s a “pamper” package, with some lovely bath salts and a selection of teas. I love having a mixed bag like this, because it means that I can always find something to suit my mood. I haven’t had a bath in a while, but now I have an excuse! Somehow there’s never time, is there?

There were also some tiny boxes of raisins – perfect vegan handbag snacks, and a mercy to my colleagues, because I am not very nice when I am hungry.  She also put in a large mug that says “if the shoe fits, buy it in every colour” – this is certainly true of me, as so few fit in the first place!

P1040910

This is HipKnits laceweight in a really gorgeous colourway. The larger pictures show it a bit better, but I’m afraid my poor photography strikes again. I don’t know what I’m going to make with it, but it’s definitely going to be something for me because it’s just the colour I would choose for myself. Thank you so much secret pal!

I’m having a great time in SP11. My downstream is a voracious reader like me, so I demanded book recommendations. She had just finished A Confederacy of Dunces, and now I have read it too. Run, do not walk, to your local library (I believe in libraries). I enjoyed it so much that I missed my bus stop on two separate occasions, and laughed out loud on more. I can’t think of another book so funny and so human. So many knitters are great readers (and by great I mean they read books I consider great). A lovely lady I de-stashed some of my Koigu to last month had read Lermontov in Russian!

Vegan Pal 2 package

On to the good stuff – my pal warned me that the box was about to explode, and it certainly sprang open with minimal assistance, because it was so full of yarn!

P1040876

I’ve had a lovely time corresponding with Chan, of Knit Tea. She seems like a really steady, centred person, and has had a fascinating life so far. Thank you Chan, for taking the leap into this swap as a non-vegan and for being such a wonderful pal. I’m terribly late in saying thanks. I apologise for the lateness, and the terrible photos – now that the clocks have changed I have given up trying to find time to take pictures in daylight.

Contents under the cut… Continue Reading »

The forces of darkness (including but not limited to Thames “replacing London’s Victorian water mains” Water, my ISP and my workplace) conspired to keep me offline, and to top if off my bank called earlier this week to say that some git in Poland had tried to empty my account.

I wasn’t particularly angry when they told me, but I am now. I’m angry with whoever decided that I looked worth robbing, with the man that decided his best course of action was to take other people’s money, and with the legislation that enforces ‘chip and pin’ in this country. It forces me to use my pin in crowded shops, often leaning awkwardly over a counter, and no matter how much I contort myself someone is going to be able to see it. This is the same number that I use at ATMs. More secure than a signature? Bollocks.

The fraud was noticed straight away, but they were still allowed to withdraw the cash. Why? The card is stopped ( I have to wait for a replacement), and I have to wait for a refund while there is an investigation. The fraud team seem efficient and competent, but it’s another thing to take up my time that I could have done without.

The fraud many people are worried about is on the internet – I’ve been shopping online for years and never had any problems. It’s somewhat tempting to live indoors and have everything delivered.

However, not everything has been horrible. I have received two very lovely packages from swap pals, which made up for a great deal. Posts about them next, after which I shall cast on Vinnland and listen to Christmas music. If this is November, December can’t come soon enough.

In other news – today I was sitting at my desk with one leg tucked under myself, as I often do, when I noticed that I had diamanté on the sole of my shoe.  Although not quite what Paul Simon promised, it cheered me up.

Bermondsey feels like a desert. I’ve been staying there looking after my Aunt’s dog, and have been sharply reminded of how spoilt I am living in an area where I can walk to get anything I need. They are overpriced, but the convenience seemed worth it when I was taking the 30 minute walk or bus ride to the nearest decent food shop. Their flat is lovely, right on the river with a balcony, but watching ships pass through Tower Bridge only entertains me for so long.

Iran, on the other hand, is definitely not a desert. My aunt and uncle returned on Sunday, bearing gifts in thanks for the above-mentioned dog watching. They know I would have done it anyway, but it’s always lovely to receive a present, and I had two!

Continue Reading »

I have a horrible sense of humour. If I’m on form, I make people groan almost every time I open my mouth. My favourite joke of all time is a double wordplay that requires nautical knowledge (Patrick O’Brian’s dogwatches, for those in the know). So let’s get the whole jaywalking-as-verb thing out of the way.

I jaywalk. I jaywalk a lot. I live in London – there are some roads you would never make it across otherwise. I have spent a great deal of time in Europe, where jaywalking often seems safer (Paris, I’m looking at you), and living in Brussels just taught me to keep a third eye out for trams.

P1040488

Sometimes, I jaywalk in these socks. They’re a bit fuzzy now, but holding up after a great deal of wear and I love the colourway just as much as I did when I made them (Curious Yarns, where have you gone?).

I love the Jaywalker pattern. It was the first sock I ever attempted, and I finished the pair in about two days. They gave me the confidence to move straight to lace socks, making the whole experience so easy that when I heard people wailing about turning heels or grafting I thought they must be talking about another kind of knitting entirely.

The point of this post is my puzzlement over the Jaywalker-bashing that seems to pop up every few months. Mine (all three pairs) fit perfectly, and I have neither fat nor thin ankles. I tend to feel that people who have tension problems with them are tight knitters who should either chill out or change needle size, and I really don’t understand complaints that a pattern is “too popular”. Just be happy that a pattern exists that is both easy for learners and a great showcase for hand-dyed yarn. I’m off to cast on.

I’ve had a cousin staying with me for about three months. She lives in Melbourne and is on her gap year, visiting our conveniently spread-out family. I wasn’t expecting a long term guest, but it was lovely to have her here and I’m glad that she felt able to just turn up and put herself in our hands.  I am very fortunate in my family – every single person is fascinating and brilliant, and well worth getting to know.

We got on very easily – so easily I was surprised, because I had never paid much attention to her at the various family events that previously brought us together.  Maybe it’s just that she is a little older and more herself.  There is something ineffably familiar about her way of looking at the world that brings up the nature/nurture debate.

Of course, once I had her in my clutches I had to do my best to get my cousin knitting.  She learnt to knit (just that, the knit stitch) at school, but couldn’t cast on or off or purl.  Happily she seemed keen to give it a go, and the first thing she made was a Panta headband from some of my leftover Lion and Lamb. It turned out to be gorgeous, with very firm but even stitches. I said loosen up! Chill out! It’s not trying to run away.

The second project she chose was Eunny Jang’s Endpaper Mitts (wow, I know!). I explained how important tension is in two-colour knitting. “Loosen up!” I said. The first mitt went beautifully. It was still firmer than I would like, but she is tiny and has very small wrists. I said, “try not to knit quite so tightly.” The second mitt went beautifully – they both looked better than the ones I had done as stash busters. Then she put them next to each other. I wish I had taken a picture. The second mitt was perfect in every way, almost one and a half times the size of it’s mate. I should have thought to check, but her gauge had been so consistent (until she relaxed upon beginning the second mitt) that it had not crossed my mind.

Undeterred, she went on and made this rasta-ish hat in LL Fisherman’s wool Black Pearl (the colourway is gorgeous in this pattern), with no input from me at all.  I was inappropriately proud.  One of her last acts was to wash the Jaywalkers that I had lent her for her chilly Australian feet. They were made from Posh Yarn Lucia and semi-felted for extra cosiness. Now they’re really felted and really cosy and have gone from my size 11 to her size 6. I understood what they were trying to say to me. They’re obviously happier elsewhere and have gone on to the US with my cousin.

Next Page »