Monthly Archives: November 2013

Lovely things

Because it can all get a bit gloomy at this time of year with short days and longs nights, chilly winds and that drizzly kind of rain that gets you really wet I thought I would try and brighten up my your life with a list (you know how I love my lists) of lovely things to snuggle into, wrap yourself up in and enjoy (yes, I know that Christmas is a coming but for some of us the festive spirit is a little lacking for now).

1. Clean sheets.
2. Lying in the bath whilst a cute puppy dog licks bubbles from your hand (no, this isn’t a euphemism).

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Said cute puppy dog in this year’s snow (yes! I know, it only lasted for a day though)
3. Alpaca yarn – a bit of a departure from my usual wooliness but I have a yearning for some laceweight alpaca (N.B. Mr Knittingkitten, take note). Not my usual thing at all, not least because it makes my neck itch but I would like to try weaving some.
4. Melted Cadbury’s milk chocolate, in a bowl to be eaten with a teaspoon. Slowly.
5. More food…toasted muffins with lots of butter and cinnamon sugar. What? You haven’t tried this? You must.
6. That feeling you get when you do something nice for someone else without telling anyone.
7. A Winter sunrise (just a gratuitous excuse for another photo really).

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8. Revisiting your ‘favs’ list in Ravelry and being stunned for a second time at how clever knitters are.
9. Discovering a new to you author who has written loads of books so no what-to-read dilemmas for ages. By the way I’ve just finished Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’, very good.
10. Going through old photos. Warning: this can be a little sad-provoking but be sure to remember the laughter as well as the loss.

There you have today’s list – for me really. Life is a bit hard at the moment for no particular reason other than life has many different colours including grey; bring on glitter, gold and fairy dust!

Post-apocalyptic survival skills

I grew up in the 80s (I know, I’m very old) during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war was believed to be significant. I remember reading a booklet that my Dad had been issued with (he worked in the NHS) that outlined what could happen in the event of a nuclear attack (clue: it was bad). If the bomb was dropped in the city centre, we could expect to be instantly vaporised; to be honest this seemed better than the alternatives which included dying slowly and painfully from radiation poisoning or being raped and pillaged in a violent post war society.
There were several films and TV shows set during or after a nuclear attack including a poignant animation in 1986 called ‘When the Wind Blows’.

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(copywrite Virgin/Roger Waters)

It tells the touching but harrowing story of a retired couple who, in the face of a nuclear attack, attempt to prepare for survival by building a shelter from doors and painting their windows white. They survive the initial blast and believe that emergency services will come to their aid but gradually get sicker and sicker until they fade away. I found it very powerful and I couldn’t understand why the powers that be persisted with the belief that nuclear armament was the way forward.

Anyway, moving on,the Cold War ended, I grew up and the idea of destruction via nuclear war has been replaced by fears about the destruction of the planet via global warming.
As an adult I gave my teenage influences little thought until I moved out of my first flat aged 27 when I had to decide what to do with a kitchen cupboard stuffed full of empty glass jars, far too many jars for a bit of jam making.
This was before the idea of recycling glass had become popular and I had to ask myself why I had kept so many jamjars, ‘Just in case…’ I told myself. Just in case of what exactly? My subconscious provided an interesting reply – the answer was just in case of…nuclear war; glass jars would come in very handy for keeping fresh water, storing preserved food and even to defend myself (I know, vivid imagination).

Since then I have been more aware of a subtle instinct underlying some of my behaviours. I find being able to knit, spin and now weave very reassuring as should nuclear war ensue, I will be able to keep those I love warm in the post-war feudal society (can’t really remember what that is but I do know life wouldn’t be quite a comfortable as it is now) we shall no doubt find ourselves in if we were to be unfortunate to survive (can you spot crazy knitting lady raising her head again?!?).
I would also be able to make goods to barter with for things like food, medical supplies and fuel. So, what are your survival skills? Maybe we could trade….
Being able to create something both beautiful and useful from something a as common as fleece is immensely pleasing too.
Which leads me neatly onto my latest project. Some of you may remember me blogging about spinning some Jacob wool to make a sweater, well I have been marching on with said post- holocaust survival project and it is going very well. I’m not sure Mr Knittingkitten is quite so keen, I think he prefers things that don’t look quite so hand spun. I’ll let you make your own minds up.

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Finally, a little weaving (made with hand dyed yarn and deliberate mistakes – honest), another Christmas present.

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The silliest things…

Here are some of the silliest things someone can say to someone with M.E.
( all said to me in the last month)

1. ‘I know, I feel tired all the time too’
2. From a doctor, after two years of being unwell, ‘I think you have a classic case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’…no, really?
3. Said by someone who had just heard we had been on holiday, ‘Oh! So you managed to get away then’ (subtext:you can’t be that ill)
4. By a doctor, ‘you just need to increase the amount of exercise you do’

Sensible things people have said
1. By a different doctor,’ when you feel bad, you need to sit and enjoy the view, when you feel good you need to sit and enjoy the view’
2. Go to bed (said by mr knittingkitten regularly)
3. ‘It could happen to anyone’ said by a friend who then gave me a bunch of flowers
4. Let me know how you are on the day, if you’re not up to it then we’ll just rearrange (said with no strings attached)

Chronic invisible illness is often misunderstood, including by me before I got unwell, my friends and family – the ones who count – humble me by how they understand. Thank you ( you know who you are!).

French fancies, sherbet dips and battenberg

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Pinks are not my usual colour choice but in this top the combination of them with blue, orange, yellow and cream are simply delicious.
It was a joy to knit; fair isle was a knitting skill I envied, thinking it fiddley and difficult. In reality it is much easier than I imagined it to be, helped along by using the right yarn for the job. Shetland yarn, from the home of fair isle, is fabulously soft, warm and ‘sticky’ – that is to say the fibres act a little like Velcro, making steeking or cutting into the knitted fabric to make arm holes and neck much easier.
I was horrified by the thought of that. It seemed to go against all my knitter instincts and I couldn’t understand why on earth anyone, after spending hours and not to forget expense, would in their right mind want to do that. Scissors and knitting?!? Uh?!?
Having undertaken several (show off) fair isle projects I now get why steeks are necessary. You can, of course, knit fair isle flat by knitting and purling backwards and forwards; in some ways purling fair isle makes more sense as you can see your floats (the loose threads caused by carrying a yarn across stitches when not in use) much more clearly, enabling even tension, especially when you are starting off with stranded colourwork. However this does not help with maintaining even tension when switching stitches so knitting in the round is a better plan as well as avoiding seams. Fair isle sweaters are generally knit in the round to make a tube, then the tube is cut to make holes for arms, and in this case, at the neck to make the ‘v’. Most patterns allow for steeks by adding extra stitches which have to be secured before cutting. With previous projects I have done this by machine sewing two vertical rows either side of the stitch to be cut as this makes solid and very secure seams – even when using Shetland wool, you don’t want to risk any loose threads. This time I decided to step out of my comfort zone and use a more traditional method and crochet either side of the steek stitch.

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It worked really well, left very neat edges and is now my steek securer of choice.
Look at the inside, I almost prefer this to the outside, I love how the pattern looks and the little crochet edges are very cute.

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Overall I am very happy with the result and look forward to many years of wearing it.

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Crazy knitting lady (uh, that would be me)

Most of my blog posts seem to be written in the early hours of the morning, maybe something to do with insomnia?!?
Well, where shall I start? It has been really good to get away, I feel a little uncomfortable as I’m signed off work but we’d arranged this prior to my relapse plus Mr Knittingkitten has been working really hard and needed a break so I guess it’s ok.
Usually when we go away I massively overestimate the amount of knitting I’ll do and take about 5 different projects ranging from plain socks (to knit in the car) to a full on complicated cable affair (in case we get snowed in) to the odd hat (Christmas knitting to keep the guilt at bay)…you get my drift? However, this time, I brought with me one project, yes, only one. You may remember I started Alcott a while ago and it’s been on the back burner as I’ve been neglecting ‘Fair Isle Fridays’, so I decided it would be a good plan to really focus on it without any other distractions. It was to be all of my holiday knitting. This time I was going to be Realistic about protected knitting time and Concentrate on Alcott alone. That way I hoped I would make significant progress. Forgetting that I’m no longer able to yomp up mountains and scramble through heather I have discovered, to my horror, that I seriously underestimated quite how much progress I would make. Alcott is actually quite finished, except for, frustratingly, the parts I am unable to do without access to a crochet hook and a decent pair of scissors. In a word…ARRGHHHHH.
I am fantasising about attacking the steeks (as this is all that’s left to do) with a pair of nail scissors whilst trying to convince myself that Jameison and Smith yarn is ‘sticky’ enough not to need securing prior to cutting.
Fortunately I discovered a half completed sock in the glove compartment of Mr Knittingkitten’s car – no doubt casually discarded from a different holiday. Thank Goodness as it’s the only thing between me and a wool massacre.

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Jolly hols

We are having a week on the West Coast, in a small village called Kinlochewe. It’s a part of the Highlands I’d not been to before and very very beautiful. Of course, being somewhere different doesn’t mean that I feel any better, it’s just being unwell but with different scenery. In some ways I am finding it bittersweet as we are surrounded by the kind of hills we would have bounded up pre-ME/CFS. I am hopeful that we shall again though.

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The dogs are having a wonderful time and we have seen more Red Deer than I think I’ve seen in the rest of my life together…I have some good photos waiting to be uploaded once we are home.
Finally, we attended the village Remembrance Service today. Go well, in peace.

Shetland shawl and wonderful weaving

I have finished my Old Shale Shawl in shetland 3ply from Natural Yarn.

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It’s lovely, soft and snuggly and will be a great Christmas present for my mother-in-law (shhhhh, don’t tell her, I think I’m pretty safe as she doesn’t do the internet).

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I have also been enjoying more weaving on my new loom. I invested (note the term!) in an Ashford 4 shaft table loom and enlisted Mr Knittingkitten to help with building it, it looked rather complicated but actually went up fairly easily (we’ve had previous training via Ikea).
However, it took 3 attempts before I managed to warp it, that looked complicated and most definitely is, I’m sure with practice it will become easier (?!?). I’ve started a project using Noro Kureyon, the colour blending works really well.

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Finally, I have, at least, decided upon a pattern for my handspun Jacob, I will fill you in with more details another time but for now here’s a photo.

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