Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to suck up to your in-laws:

Spend Christmas week at their place knitting their son a pair of socks.

(Actually, I don't need this kind of PR, because The Limey's parents love me.)

Waffle rib socks
Yarn: Lang Jawoll Silk, 100g, from IKnit
Needles: 2.0mm dpns
Pattern: an easy, mindless, but visually interesting broken rib

Notes: I got tired of plain ribbed socks for The Limey, so this one is done in an easy four row repeat ribbing: two rounds of 2x2 rib and two rounds of plain knit. This gives the sock a great waffley-looking texture when un-worn, like above. When worn, it shows the ribs more prominently, and could be mistaken for the simpler garter rib, which is maybe what I'll try next.

I really like the texture. The rest of the sock is my normal toe-up recipe with figure 8 cast-on and short row heel. This yarn is a wool/nylon/silk blend, but to be honest, I can't really tell there's any silk in it- it's not shinier or smoother than a plain wool/nylon blend sock yarn. It does feel like it will wear well, though.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Science me up, Gok!

As a scientist, one of my personal pet peeves is the amount of pseudo-science that is spewed at people, particularly in advertising. The health and beauty industries are the absolutely worst offenders. The Limey and I keep a folder of pictures of products that are given a "nano" name because it just sounds so cool and cutting edge, even though the product is nothing of the sort. I once saw a bottled water advertised as having "added oxygen". W. T. F?

So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my first episode of Channel 4's "How to Look Good Naked". For those who haven't seen it, it's a show in which our fearless host takes a British woman who hates her body for one reason or another and convinces her that her self-image is what needs work, that her body itself is beautiful and then shows her how to dress and style herself to show that body off. I know, it sounds a little bit...reality-show. Which it is. But I love it.

The first and foremost reason to love it is the host, Gok Wan. I tell you, we need more flamingly gay Asians in the public eye. We do.

The second reason is that, even though this sounds hippy dippy, he always convinces the women that they are beautiful as is. There is no suggestion of dieting or plastic surgery. Nothing of the sort. It's nice.

Third, and getting back to the science bit, is the way the show does its product reviews. They do them really well, and in a manner that is satisfying to my scientist brain.

  1. They have a panel of 100 women, which is a good, large enough number for the data to be believable. If there are a few outliers, it won't affect the result.
  2. They have the women test the products over a period of time. So they use the products as they are meant to be used, and they get to note reactions along the way. This is much better than just a first impressions kind of product trial, obviously.
  3. Most importantly, they decant all the products into plain, un-marked jars. So it doesn't matter how much money is spent on packaging and advertising, and the testers can't be mis-led by scientific-sounding claims from the manufacturer.
As you can imagine with this kind of product testing, the more expensive, "exclusive" products more often than not end up at the bottom of the league. The women are often really surprised that the product they thought was best (at, whatever, wrinkle-removing, tanning, moisturizing, etc.) is the cheapest brand, or the one available at your normal supermarket.

The other result that kinda makes me feel smug and "I told you so" is that, for many of the products, there's very little difference in the ratings. That is to say, the night cream serum for eyes (or whatever) that gets ranked highest had a score only several percentage points away from that which ranked lowest. There's hardly ever a product which was obviously better and preferred by a majority of the testers. Meaning, most of this shite? Yeah, it's the same. And probably doesn't really do much anyway.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Help me out here

I'll get around to taking pictures of the yarn I bought in the US in a few days (it wasn't that much; I have the credit crunch to think about), but I do have a picture of one skein I bought that I want to work on soonest.

Yummy, no? It's a skein of Misti Alpaca Handpaint Lace, bought at Article Pract in Oakland. The colours are pretty true in this picture. Usually, I am very good at resisting most variegated yarns- I'm of the school that they look best in small projects in a plain stitch, so as to be able to show off the colours. Otherwise, it just makes highly-textured and patterned knitting just look kinda messy.

Well, here I am, then, with 800 metres of some of the softest yarn I've had the honour of getting my grubby mitts on. I bought the lace weight because I've had the insistent, nagging feeling for a while now that my next big project is going to be some fantastic lace.

Except...see above about textures and variegated yarns...

So I've been trawling through Ravelry and my books and magazines, but I thought I'd ask you guys: any ideas? Criteria: rectangular shawl/scarf pattern, only one skein of 800m of yarn, looks good in variegated yarn, in a mentally stimulating pattern. I don't mind paying for a good pattern, so anyone care to point me towards something awesome?

(For the non-knitting readers of this blog: The Limey and I went on a quick 24-hour trip to Brussels this weekend, but, uh, forgot to take the camera. I assure you all the city is beautiful. You can imagine it, right?)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Two continent living

So my father has decided to move out of the place we've been living in since I was 12. And for some inexplicable reason, he doesn't want to move the random combined junk of four children that is now taking up most of the volume of the current place. I know- WTF?! So apparently, we are no longer allowed to use the parental home as free storage space. The nerve.

Anyway, I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster I don't have much there. Well, okay, yeah, so when I moved to Dublin, I did send nine years of accumulated stuff from Seattle down to San Francisco. But I was going to move back and reclaim it after the post-doc! At any rate, I got rid of almost everything via Craig's List (have I mentioned how disappointed I am in the lame-ass Craig's List over here?), but I couldn't part with my books. I think, in the end, I sent down 14 or 15 printer-paper-carton-sized boxes, 10 or 11 of which were filled with books. Not too bad, really.

This was back in the day when the US post office still had a book rate option for shipping, so those boxes cost only, like, 10 bucks each to send across three states. However, they've gotten rid of this option, and posting my stuff to the UK would cost crazy amounts of money. So while The Limey and I were over there, we weren't going to waste our free baggage allowance, were we?

Between the two of us, we were allowed 4 bags, 50 lbs (23 kgs) each. So we filled two suitcases solely with books, and stuffed books anywhere we could in the other two to get up to the maximum weight (with some leeway; I wasn't going to get fined for being a pound over!). With this, and some culling of the collection, I've gone down to 6 boxes of books left at my father's, plus a few boxes of random bits and pieces. I think we're going to look into getting those sent over by sea freight or something.

The problem is...uh...where are we going to put all these books now?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Back in our little hovel

Got into Heathrow at silly o'clock this morning. Spent the whole day sleeping, therefore ruining any chance of a good recovery from jetlag.

At some point, we'll probably manage to get some pictures up.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


There is one word that captures my week-and-a-half visiting Seattle/Portland/San Francisco, and that word is: food.

I've been pretty much stuffed to the gills the whole time I've been here. I can barely move most of the time. I still have a list of restaurants to visit.

I'm rolling myself off to bed now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Just about to start packing to go for a visit to the US, for the first time in two years. The last time was right after The Limey and I got married.

Not only is it a long-awaited visit home to San Francisco, but it will also be a 3-state tour. We're seeing some of my old, old friends in Seattle and Portland before we fly down to SF.

I'm really excited because my group of college friends used to have these awesome, really fun Thanksgiving dinners, and I haven't made it to one for four years- ever since I moved out of the country. I timed this visit especially so I'd be in Portland for Turkey Day.

Besides that, I haven't seen these friends in nearly three years. Most of them, therefore, haven't even met The Limey. I have instructed them to queue up beer for him to try, because I'm sick of the crappy reputation American beers have over here. Miller and Budweiser are not representative when you have all the craft and microbreweries of the Pacific Northwest!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tailored Tweed Dress

Have you checked out the new issue of Knotions yet?! If not, go now!

It's only the second issue of Knotions, but Jody's done such a great job with it- the patterns are really fabulous. And I say that not only because this lovely gem is in it:

Tailored Tweed Dress
Yarn: Commodum Aran Tweed
Needles: 3.5mm circulars
Pattern: my own! Available in the Winter 2008 issue of Knotions

Notes: Okay, I can hear the chorus: A knitted dress?! But, honestly, people, you will look good in this dress. I have done absolutely everything I can think of to make sure this dress fits and flatters.

This dress features:
A-line skirt: This shape of skirt looks great on virtually everyone. It skims your hips, and doesn't hug in inappropriate places.

Ribbed waist: The waist on this dress is ribbed and shaped. If you're one of those lucky women with an hourglass figure (like Audrey in these pictures), it will show it off. If you're like me and have the perfect 34-34-34 figure, it will give you a waist.

Shaping by darts: so that the dress is even vaguely woman-shaped, I have used decreases and increases in paired darts instead of just at the sides. At the back hips, I put in darts to nip in the waist. At the bust, I have put in darts at the front because, let's face it, you're carrying a bit more width at the front there than at the back, eh? (Even me!)

Slipped stitch lines: I've put in slipped stitch lines as fake "seams" to have some slimming vertical lines for the eye.

Adjustable length: Though this dress is designed to be knee-length, I know that this is different for everyone. (Oh, don't I know about height issues!) So I've written the pattern in a way that lets you decide your perfect skirt length and knit to that length.

So now that I've convinced you that you would look awesome in this dress, what's in it for you as a knitter?
Knit in the round: 'Nuff said.

Aran-weight yarn: so you're not knitting a bazillion stitches per round, but it doesn't add unacceptable bulk to the wearer. Also, this is a pretty easy weight for substitution.

Herringbone edges: I got bored of ribbed, garter, and moss-stitch edges. The herringbone is interesting.

So, go on! You know you want to!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How's that for unfair?

The Limey was sent off this morning for work... to Dublin.

The decision to send him was made at short notice, and flights for me to Dublin for this weekend (unfortunately too busy at work to take any days off) were too expensive. So I'm stuck here while he's off drinking with our friends at a variety of pubs. Pah!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

City mouse vs. country mouse

For the past few months, The Limey and I have been having a conversation that goes 'round and 'round in circles. We're not disagreeing with each other, we just can't make a decision or figure out what we want.

First, the good news: due to the "current economic climate" and our- okay, The Limey's- saving prowess, we have enough for a deposit on a modestly-priced home. Even here in SE England.

The bad news is: we don't know where we want to live / what we want to buy! (I know, I know, first world problems.)

As mentioned before, I'm a city girl. I've always said that, should the day ever come, I'd choose a teeny city centre flat over a huge suburban house without a moment's hesitation. Now that that day is here, I'm completely confused.

See, when I compared the suburban home vs the city centre flat in my head, I didn't know that I would so desperately want a garden. I also didn't know that the desired flat would mean an extra hour's commute into work. When it was a hypothetical choice without, you know, reality muddying the waters, it was simple. But am I willing to give up space, an extra bedroom, a dining room, a garden, and five extra hours of life a week (on top of my already long commute)?

The Limey is different: he'd always figured he'd choose the larger suburban house, no problem. But for him, the house means he has to drive to work, which means no after work drinking with work buddies, as well as the stress of driving every day. The house means no easy ringing up of friends and saying, "See you down the pub in half an hour." The suburban house means friends and colleagues are too far away to casually invite 'round for dinner.

We've been talking about this for aaages, and we just can't get anywhere. We just don't know what we want. Now that it's time to actually look at possibilities, we're totally stuck.

How did you guys decide where to live? What other issues should we think about when deciding where to buy? How have you coped with commutes and friends? What do you wish you had known before you bought/moved? I know it's ultimately our decision, but I'm begging for any insight into the process, or any information that may sway us one way or another.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Some kind of record, surely?

Since it's been getting distinctly wintery here of late, I've gotten lots of chances to wear my knitted clothing. I've worn my Tailored Tweed Dress three times in the last two weeks. But today, I wore a record-breaking five (5!) pieces of hand-knits:

They're in all different styles and clashing colours, but so what?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


As Kate noted, the title of my last post could have been written about the election results, and so it is.

I was going to write a long post about patriotism and my conflicting and confusing attitudes towards being patriotic, but I'll just say this:

I believe the election- by the American people- of Barack Obama crystallizes everything that is good about the US.

No matter what else happens, if I can hold on to that image of the Obama family as they came out for the victory speech, to know that they were given the chance (by a landslide!) to occupy The White House, I can be proud of my country.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sanity prevails

I thought seriously about staying up all night, nursing a vat of wine and watching the election results come in. But since the polls don't start closing until 11pm UK time, I realized I'd have needed to plan ahead for it and taken tomorrow off work. Not to mention the hangover. Or, more likely, the still being drunk.

So I think I'll just check first thing in the morning.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Back from Crete (schmoozing is tiring work!) where I had only a few minutes a day to check the internet, so it was great to come back to find that Jody has put up the Knotions Winter '08 preview. And hey, lookit this:

Remember that terrible wait for yarn? Well, it was because I had to quite hastily knit the Tailored Tweed Dress up. If I do say so myself, it was worth the wait. It knit up beautifully and is exactly how I envisioned the dress looking.

The Winter issue of Knotions comes out on Nov. 3. I'll be stalking the site.

(Oh, and before I alarm those who may know me: No, I have not magically turned into a hot Frenchwoman. I roped Audrey, our esteemed Lab Manager, into modelling the dress. Damn those perfectly-proportioned Frenchwomen!)

(Also, Ravelry says there are three projects for this pattern already. How?)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This is a pictureless post from Crete...

...because I forgot to bring (among other things):

1. a camera;

2. beach/pool-appropriate footwear;

3. my mp3 player (though, usefully, I remembered its charger); and

4. contact lens case (though I remembered its flight paranoia-compliant solution in <100ml container).

Friday, October 17, 2008

US vs Rest of World

I've just sent in my ballot for the presidential election. For the effect this will have on the election, I may as well have just put £1.80 directly into the post box. This is because:

1) I vote in California, which will go blue; and
2) they don't even count mail-in ballots unless the vote is really close, which it won't be, because see 1).

But I felt I should do my civic responsibility. Before I sent the ballot in, I brought it into work so people could see what it was like. The universal reaction was, "There are more than two choices?!" Ha. The other two things people can't understand are: the electoral college (fair enough; that bewilders lots of Americans, I think) and the fact that we vote for the actual person, not the party. That required a bit of explanation, which I'm uncertain cleared anything up.

But, really, it's amazing how interested people are in the US election. All the major news outlets have journalists over in the US covering it. TV channels here showed all the debates. Everyone is really informed about what's happening and at work, we've spent several lunch hours discussing it.

On the one hand, I think it's cool that people are plugged into what's happening in the world and interested in it. On the other hand, I hate that this feeds into the American egotism of "Of course they have to know what's going on here, 'cause we're that important." On the third hand, more than one Briton has told me (especially after Palin was announced as McCain's VP pick), It sucks that we can't vote in your elections, but at least we can be entertained by them.

As a comparison, I consider myself fairly well-informed, and when I was still in the US, don't at all remember seeing or hearing much about British politics, or, indeed, any international politics. Oh, we'd get wind of new leaders (if they lead "important" enough countries) after election or appointment, but we sure as hell didn't hear much about them otherwise. I don't even remember news of Tony Blair and Nu Labour coming in, in the '90s, and that was fairly major.

That concludes my political analysis. Either way, I'm going to be staying up late on the 4th, and drinking. Lots.


The last couple of weeks of knitting have been disappointing. I guess it was around time that stuff started *not* working out.

First, I've had an idea for a design for a while now, and finally got the yarn to start swatching. It's fairly pricey yarn, so I'm definitely not knitting the damn thing unless someone else buys the yarn! But, three tries later, I think I'm going to have to admit it's not going to work. Either the concept is a no-go, or I just don't have the skill to execute it at this point. Pah. It may work if I buy another ball of the yarn, but I kinda oppose, on principle, spending £15 ($30!) to make a swatch.

Second, I wanted to make The Limey some socks, for Socktoberfest. The yarn is some really squishy Shelridge Farm Soft Touch Ultra I got from Socktopus at Iknit Day. Because of all this, I wanted to make some extra nice ones, instead of the usual plain or ribbed socks I normally knit for him. So instead of my personal recipe for his socks, I decided to try an actual pattern. Again, after two tries, with two different pattersn, I think I'll have to give up and go back to my plain sock recipe.

Third, I finished the Flared Lace Smoke Ring.

Flared Lace Smoke Ring
Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr Wool-Silk, in Admiral, bought from KCG Trading, much less than the 2 oz in the skein (the above picture shows a pretty true colour)
Needles: 3.0mm lace Addis
Pattern: Flared Lace Smoke Ring, from HeartStrings FiberArts

Notes: Well. I am not in love with this. It's no fault of the pattern, though, which is simple and well-written. Lots of charts, can't go wrong, really. No, it's bad yarn choice. This laceweight is really not fuzzy enough to give the resulting knit enough body and shape. It is very drapey. So it just kinda folds and sits at the base of my neck.

It doesn't even really show the "flared" bit very well. I wanted a smoke ring that stood up arond the neck better, had more body- one that looks more like the picture in the pattern, basically. I think I may make another one in a thicker, fuzzier yarn. But I won't make it long enough to wear over my head, as intended by the designer. Because, let's face it: it makes me look like an eejit.

Plus, it's not like it keeps your head warm because, hello!, really open lace!

So, yeah, I'll do this again in a more appropriate yarn. I may also do what Eunny and Jesh did, and change the double yarn-overs to single ones.

I will allow this smoke ring to live until I come across a pattern more appropriate for this drapey yarn. It's scarf season, after all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I must be ill

Work is sending me to a conference next week.

In Crete.

Normally, I would be all over something like this, but I really don't want to go.

It's been getting colder and darker earlier. For other people, this means it's the perfect time to go off to a Mediterranean island, but it makes me really want to just hunker down and ensconce myself at home. I want to wrap myself up in the furry blanket The Limey's grandmother gave us and drink hot chocolate. I don't want to have to do the work of travelling.

Well, it doesn't matter, I guess, 'cause I'm going.

(Got that passport just in time, no?)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Short row bind-offs

Wherever possible, I knit using short row bind-offs in place of stair-step bind-offs. Mainly that means armhole shaping, back neck shaping, and front neckline shaping. Although a really simple concept, it's much wordier when writing out a pattern than the traditional stair-step "BO x sts at the beg of the next y rows," so I really had a fight with myself about whether it was worth it to include in patterns, or just do the usual and let people figure it out on their own. In the end, I thought, Well, one of the reasons I like knitting from patterns is to learn new things, so I write my patterns including the short row bind-offs.

I'm glad now, because I've had some good feedback saying people like it, or at the very least, that it's interesting and was good to learn. So, if you never knit one of my patterns, and have never come across it otherwise, I've written a little tutorial on it here. (Although I haven't read or heard of it, I'm sure someone has done it before, and has probably written about it somewhere.)

I'll use the smallest size of the Mongkok Cardigan for my example. Normally, the armscye for the back would be done with stair-step bind-offs, and would look, to my mind, like this:

The instructions would say, roughly, "Work until piece measures 35.5cm/14 inches. Start armscye shaping: BO 4 sts at the beg of the next two rows. BO 3 sts at the beg of the two rows after that. BO 1 st at the beg of the next two rows after that. Cont in st st until piece measures x cm/y inches." Let's say your work measured the correct length after a wrong side row, so you start your armscye shaping on a right side row by binding off 4 sts.

I would show you a picture of what the stair-step bind-off looks like knitted up, but I honestly don't even have a picture of any I've done.

Short-row shaping and bind-off would make your knitting look more like this:

To do this, you'd replace the the bind-offs with short rows. Now, we'd said your piece measured the correct length after a wrong side row, and you would normally start your stair-step bind-offs on the right side row. Instead, for the short row BO, you'd purl that last wrong side row until you have the last 4 sts left, then wrap and turn. What you're faced with now is a right side row, with 4 sts at the front that you haven't knit- that's equivalent to your binding off those 4 sts. Now knit until you get to the last 4 sts, then wrap and turn. What you've done is the equivalent of the first set of bind-offs- the "BO 4 sts at the beg of the next two rows" set of instructions.

You're now at the beginning of a wrong side row again, and you'd do the equivalent of the next set of bind-offs by purling to the last 7 sts (the original 4 + the next 3), wrap and turn. Knit to the last 7 sts (the original 4 + the next 3), wrap and turn. You've just done the equivalent of the second set of bind-offs- the "BO 3 sts at the beg of the next two rows after that" set of instructions. Now, you're faced with 7 sts at the sides of your work which haven't been worked- the equivalent of binding off 4 sts, then another 3.

The next set of short rows would have you purl to the last 8 sts (4+3+1), wrap and turn, knit to the last 8 sts (4+3+1), wrap and turn.

You've now finished the short row portion of the short row bind-offs; next you'll do the bind-off portion. You're ready to start a wrong side row. On this row, purl all the way to the end, picking up and purling the wraps together with their stitches. On the next, right side, row, bind off the first 8 sts (these are your short row sts) and knit all the way to the end, picking up and knitting the wraps with their stitches. On the next, wrong side, row, bind off the first 8 sts (again, your short row sts) and finish the row as the pattern says. You're now finished with the short row bind-offs and can follow the rest of the pattern.

Basically, wherever it says to "BO x sts," you work to the last x sts, wrap and turn. At the end, you pick up and knit all the wraps before you bind off all at once.

In summary:
Where traditional stair-step bind-offs say: BO x sts at the beg of the next two rows; then BO y sts at the beg of the two rows after that; BO z sts at the beg of the two rows after that; etc.

Use the short row bind-offs as follows: work to last x sts, w+t, work to last x sts, w+t; work to last x+y sts, w+t, work to last x+y sts, w+t; work to last x+y+z sts, w+t, work to last x+y+z sts, w+t; etc until all stair steps are done. Work to end, picking up and working wraps with their sts, BO x+y+z sts, work to end, picking up and working wraps with their sts, BO x+y+z sts.

So you've now bound off the same number of stitches as you would for a stair-step bind-off, but all at once, so the resulting line is smooth and un-jagged, like this (on my swatch for the cardigan):

For me, this makes it much, much easier to seam in the sleeves later on. Note, also, at the top, I've use the same method for the neckline bind-off, which is where this method comes in really useful. Because you have one smooth bind-off line, you can leave that edge as is- it's automatically beautifully, simply, finished. There's no need to go back with a crochet hook and neaten up the stair-steps. So, for sleeveless tops, such as my Draped Lace Shell, when you're done, you're done- no need to finish off the rough edges at the armholes, because there are no rough edges!

Using short rows to shape shoulders is well-known. (I love Nona's tutorial for this.) But if you have a back neckline that's U-shaped, the short row bind-off method can also be used for it. In fact, anything U or half-U shaped, like scoop necks, and the front necklines of cardigans, as I showed above. The back necklines of both the Mongkok Cardigan and the Draped Lace Shell is done with short rows, as is the scoop neck of the Horseshoes Cardigan:

The exercise of how to do a short row bind off for a scoop neck, front or back, is left to the reader. Hint: think of it this way:

Please let me know if none of this made any sense.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Non-deadline knitting

In between knitting non-bloggable things the past couple of months (such as...oh, while waiting for my yarn!), I knit some more socks for The Limey. These are your basic ribbed socks, with two noteworthy points: 1) it contains some white and yet The Limey is willing to wear them; and 2) I put in some calf shaping.

Improved Ribbed Socks
Yarn: Regia Galaxy, from Liberty
Needles: 2.0mm dpns
Pattern: basic ribbed socks with calf-shaping

Notes: For the calf-shaping, I basically increased in pattern on the back of the socks. For the heck of it, and to see which one I liked better, I incorporated the increases differently into the 2x2 rib pattern for each sock. I don't know if you can see it that well on these pictures.

I think maybe I like the one on the left better, but it's not a strong preference. The Limey quite likes them, and I think they fit him much better than the normal straight socks, so this may get incorporated into my usual sock recipe for him.

Onto knitting for me!

Because it's defintely autumn here now, I bought the Flared Lace Smoke Ring pattern from HeartStringFiberArts. (I was paid via PayPal for a couple of the patterns I've published in on-line knitting magazines, and I've decided that money goes right back into knitting.) It's refreshing to just be able to blindly follow a pattern right now!

I started the pattern using some Jaggerspun Zephyr in a beautiful vibrant blue colour (which doens't show up at all in the pictures, unfortunately) and 3.5mm needles. Is it just me, or do the lace holes seem huge? They're double yarnovers, but still, it seems to be knitting up to a very loose lace.

This is puzzling, because Zephyr is one of the commonly recommended yarns for this pattern, and I'm using smaller needles than recommended. I know I normally knit loose, but I'm trying really hard to knit a bit tighter here, and, to be honest, the stitches on the needles and cable are pretty tight. Plus, I'm fairly close on the gauge, and the size is about right. But it doesn't look at all like the picture.

I'm continuing with the pattern anyway. But when I'm done, I may make another one in a fingering weight or 4-ply yarn. I think that would be ideal for this pattern.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What next?

I've just finished knitting and writing up a pattern to be published this winter. In the last three months or so, I've pretty much been working solidly to get out three designs. The Mongkok Cardigan was published by The Inside Loop last month, and the other two will be out sometime in the next few months, probably.

Everything I've done has either been self-published and offered for free, or been published elsewhere with a one-time nominal fee. I'm proud of these designs and feel incredibly happy and lucky that various sources have been so kind as to publish them.

Essentially, the "real" payment is to get my designs out there and be seen. This is great because I, unfortunately, do a crappy job at self-promotion.

Because of my dithering over linking my blog to my real name, I haven't ever provided a link to my blog when I've been published on-line. So my readership -though dear to me and loved!- is small. At any rate, I've failed in keeping the two separate, because my blog now turns up first when you Google my name, anyway. And I've found I'm okay with this. (Especially since I'm no longer job-hunting. What about the next job hunt, you ask? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.)

As well, I'm terrible at networking. I've been in the London yarn stores many, many times, and never have I exchanged more than a hello/good-bye with the owners/workers/other patrons. I just browse, buy or not buy, and leave.

One of my vague plans for the IKnit day was to introduce myself to the stallholders and other yarnies there and get to know some people. I failed miserably. (Actually, I did meet Kate and Diane, the duo who run The Inside Loop, which was really cool. They were both really nice and sweet to me.) Another vague plan was to ask various yarn purveyors about possibly designing for them. But that involved putting together a portfolio to show them, which of course, never happened. Anyway, the stalls were so busy the whole day that I doubt there'd have been time to talk much anyway.

The upshot of all this blather is: what next for my knitting and designing? Is there an obvious or logical next step, even? Should my eventual goal be to self-publish and charge for my patterns? To get a job in a yarn shop? To be a Knitting Superstar?

I don't know. I do know I have lots of swatching to do, though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It makes sense if you think about it

Last weekend, we went foraging for mushrooms in the New Forest. One of the women at work does it regularly, and so she can safely identify at least a few of the edible species. The Limey has been dying to do this forever, and this way, at least I know it's relatively safe.

(He came home one day bearing these huge mushrooms from Bushy Park, near his work, proclaiming them delicious and harmless. Uhh...by what evidence?)

Anyway, so those mushrooms- damn, they are good at camouflaging themselves. I've read you need to get your eyes properly "adjusted" to find mushrooms and it's totally true.

These are chanterelles:

You can identify them by their bright yellow undersides:

You can probably find them in this picture:

But what about here? (I deliberately took a random picture of an area near where we'd found some, so I wouldn't know for sure if there were any):

I tested myself just now, and, yup, can see some:

And I'm sure there are more there I haven't found. Those things are wily, aren't they?! It's amazing how well-hidden they are. We found brown mushrooms, bright yellow mushrooms, white ones, black ones, purple ones, and yet, they all blended perfectly into the forest floor.

We brought home bags of mushrooms. The Limey made the mother of all mushroom risottos, and we still had to freeze a lot of them.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Look what's finally shown up

Looks like the Home Office can find their ass with both hands, if given the help of a flashlight.

What was supposed to take- at most!- six months ended up taking well over eight months. At exactly six months they asked us for "more documentation". This wouldn't rankle so much except that before I sent off the application, I rang them up and asked specifically if I should include more information, but was told no. So, um, yeah, maybe time could be saved if, you know, they knew their own policies.

I know, I know, all immigration is like this. I fully expect to have apoplectic fits and melt-downs should we ever decide to move The Limey over to the US.

But whatever, I have my passport back, and more importantly, I have proof that I'm allowed to live here. So now I can, like, sign up for the NHS and try for a driver's license and stuff. Basically, get on with my life.

So now that I have proof of being legally in the country, I can leave it! Where should I go to celebrate?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Bad blogger! Bad!

Spent a week camping on the Isle of Skye...too many photos to go through yet +

Went to IKnit day...forgot camera +

Finally received wool and have seriously huge deadline knitting to do =

Bad blogger.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The closest thing to actually going to Hong Kong?

Well, hey, look what's in the newest issue of The Inside Loop:

Mongkok Cardigan
Yarn: Rowan Kid Classic, 7 balls
Needles: 4.0mm
Pattern: my own! Available here at The Inside Loop

Background: I actually knit this last year during the last months in Dublin. I wrote up the pattern, but was having lots of trouble with grading the waffle brioche pattern on the bib for different sizes. The math just didn't want to cooperate, which is rare for me. But I really liked the bib detail and wanted to put it into a pattern.

That's how the Pintuck T-shirt came about. Mindful of the math-wrestling, I chose a simple twisted rib for the bib in the t-shirt, and managed to work through the sizing with few problems.

After that was done, I went back and took a fresh look at the Mongkok Cardigan. I tried a different way of knitting the bib, and found that the math came a teeny bit easier with that change. While I was at it, I re-wrote several other major parts of the pattern.

Have you ever tried to reconstruct a knit six months after you knit it? There was lots and lots of swatching. So much so that I could probably have just knit another cardi.

Notes: This will make a great, versatile cardigan for chillier weather. It's cozily fuzzy in this mohair, but plain wool would give a lovely, classic look. If you want a really fancy, evening-appropriate cover-up, this would be unbeatable in silk.

Like nearly all my knits, this piece is an exercise in short rows. Armscye, back and front necklines are done in short rows, so no extra finishing on those edges.

Edges are hemmed to give a clean, finished look. Unlike the Pintuck T-shirt, the bib here is knit as you go on the cardigan fronts. There's no bind-off then picking up of stitches to work the bib later.

I really like this cardi, and I'm so happy I have the chance to share it through The Inside Loop.

This is why I don't buy from the internet

Well, not really the internet, but mail order, anyway.

Last week, I found myself in need of a large amount of a certain yarn, and fairly quickly. I asked around, then bought from a place where I'd bought in person before. I called them to order on Monday and they said it should be with me by the end of the week. Well, it's now a week.

Where's my yarn?!

The thing is, it's not like a week is very long to wait when you order something. But in this case, I need to get this project knitted by early September. Even if that were not the case, once I've bought something, I want it now.

I could have bought similar yarn in London or Southampton. It would have cost probably twice as much. So now I'm left to wonder...would that extra money have been worth it to have had the extra week to knit it?

As someone said: You can have good and fast, or fast and cheap, or good and cheap, but not all three.

I want my fecking yarn!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Knitting to come

The problem with secret knitting is -duh- that I can't blog about it. The other big problem with it is that it is normally deadline knitting, so I don't even have time to knit other things that I *can* blog about. Thank goodness for the long train commute, I tell you.

Finally, though, finally!, one of the projects I've been working on will see the light of day, with the impending publication of the third issue of The Inside Loop.

If you don't know about it, or haven't browsed through their first couple of issues, go do it now. You'll dig it. Take my word for it. Lovely patterns, knit with yarns available in the UK- so you don't have to trawl t'internet and order it from overseas, collecting carbon miles. (Not to mention playing the postal service lottery and HM Customs obstacle course.)

I'm so happy that knitters in this corner of the world have more options for patterns and knitting information. And I'm so excited that I can contribute to it.

But I won't tell you what it is. You'll have to stalk the site until Issue 3 is published in a week or so.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Knitting! (Not mine.)

Since I have no knitting of my own to show you, I'm going to show you other people's knitting. Bwahaha!

I've been delighted with the response to my Pintuck T-shirt pattern. People are actually knitting it! Who'd a thought? I found some people's projects through Ravelry, and my, are there some talented knitters. Here, then, a mini FO gallery. (All pics from the knitters themselves.)

Alexandra's tee, knit for her daughter. In the original blue I chose for my t-shirt, so of course I think she's got great taste!

Amy's tee, knit in SWTC Bamboo. What a great knitting job. The FO looks fantastic. Srsly, if my stockinette ever looks as good as hers, I'll die happy.

Lauren's Pintuck tank, knit in Schulana Sojabama. She knit this for the Project Spectrum Air category. But maybe it should have been put under Fire, 'cause how smokin' hot does she look in her tank?

Susan's Pintuck tee with proper sleeves. This is such a gorgeous knit, and she put so much thought and work into the modifications that it's nearly unrecognizable from my pattern. I love the lace she chose for the bib portion, and love that she went ahead and figured out the actual sleeves for it. Also, I may have to go buy some orange yarn now.

These are just some of the finished objects on Ravelry. If you've knit this, or know someone who has, let me know! I love to see what people have done with the pattern, and I'll keep putting up FO shots.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Whew, a bit of down time

I've been so busy the last couple of weeks that there's been precious little time to collect my thoughts for any kind of blog post.

I've had friends staying with us. I've spent a weekend at a re-creation of the Battle of Tewkesbury. I've been down in Southampton seeing random people. This next weekend is the first that The Limey and I have nothing planned for out of town. Whew. I haven't even bought any fabric to try out on the sewing machine yet!

Another thing that keeps me from blogging is that I seem to have found my reading mojo again. I went into Daunt Books a couple of weekends ago and, for the first time in a while, found a whole bunch of books I wanted to read. I bargained myself down to just a couple, and then went to the Oxfam shop down the street and bought a couple more. I raced through the first two and am well into the third. And, for me, reading doesn't really make good blog fodder.

The thing that does make good blog fodder- knitting- has been dominated by a project I can't talk about. Suffice it to say that I'm totally over-the-moon excited about it, and even though I'm knitting the damn thing right now, I won't believe it's happening until the whole project is presented to the public.

Being excited about reading and knitting on a deadline does mean that I have to parcel out my time very carefully, though. I like to think I've been pretty good about it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Well, I have a sewing machine

I've been mulling over getting a sewing machine for a while now. I used to sew a bit, and have one stored away at my father's, but of course that's useless to me. Recently, I've been thinking more and more that it would be useful to be able to make some of my own clothing again. I put off buying one because, honestly, the knitting is taking up enough time as it is.

But a couple of weeks ago, The Limey and I were doing our usual charity shop crawl (apparently Woking is big enough to support half a dozen of them, but not...oh, say, a fishmonger's...or a greengrocer) and he spotted an old Singer. When asked for the price, the lady running the shop said, Oh, well...I don't know if it works, so I couldn't charge you more than GBP7? We took it home.

After taking it apart and spending a few days cleaning and oiling it up...

...We have ourselves a sewing machine:

It works beautifully and perfectly. All the parts are there. And, in fact, we got replacement bobbins at the Singer sewing shop in town that fit perfectly. Only slightly a surprise, because with the machine's serial number, which is helpfully put on a plaque right on the machine:

We can look it up on the Singer website, which we did. And found that it had been made in 1899.


That would explain why it's completely manually powered. And, according to The Limey, that explains why it still works so well just with a general clean-up.

So it only goes forwards and backwards, and has no fancy stitches programmed into it. And, uh, yeah, buttonholes? Not so much.

Still, it is a joy to see it run. It's smooth, quiet, all perfectly made to fit together *just so*. The Limey is in awe of the engineering.

Now, off to buy fabric. It's good John Lewis is having its summer sale, huh?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Welcome to...?

I've seen that sign twice a day for eight months now, and I'm sick of it.

I don't want to go into it all, but the upshot is I'm beginning to feel very much like I really only live on the weekends. During the week, I go to work, I come back, usually around 7:30 or 8:30, eat, maybe knit a bit, and that's it. I don't do anything else.

During the weekends, we can get into London. There are markets, and really good food options, and movie theatres that don't just play the latest popular shite. There are good bookshops. There are yarn shops. There are knitting groups. We have some friends in London.

Every time we go in, we think, screw it, we should just move into London. My train to work stops at Clapham before it hits Waterloo, so we could move one train stop into London. Clapham would be proper London- it's Zone 2. There are pubs, shops, restaurants, etc. It didn't help that we visited friends of The Limey's who live just a few minutes away from Clapham Junction train station. And it was great!

The bad things about this option:
-Housing would be more expensive, way more expensive;
-my train ticket would be more expensive (update: just checked, the monthly train ticket is actually only GBP25 more);
-it would add 1/2 hour onto my commute, each way;
-we'd spend more money because there would be more opportunities for spending money.

The good things about this option:
-We'd be in London!
-Proper London: it wouldn't cost us GBP10 each to get into London;
-we could take advantage of all the great food markets: right now, it's silly to spend GBP10 just to go in and buy some food. We feel like once we've spent that money, we should make the most of the day. We always feel like we're visiting London;
-The Limey could take public transport into work.

So we keep throwing this idea around. What's stopping us is the expense and the extra hour of commute time for me.

(Also: I've always lived in cities. This is the first time I've lived in a suburb. And I'm not sure I like it.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Almost there

Finally, finally!, knitting on the summer lace cardigan is done. I tell you, I love that Habu Tsumugi Silk, but the nubbiness and teeny gauge got to me after awhile. By the second sleeve, it felt like I had been doing that ladder lace pattern for centuries.

I went with plain sleeves, but 3/4-length, which gives it a summerier feeling than full length. Rarely for me, I actually have lots of yarn left. In fact, out of three cones, I still have one full, untouched cone. Not sure what I'm going to do with it now.

I seamed up the sides tonight at SnB, and pinned one sleeve, ready for seaming.

Those pins are teeny tiny clothes pegs. I saw them at a shop at the top of Brick Lane selling fancy, faux old-fashioned housewares. I didn't know what I could possibly use them for, but I also just knew they would be handy for knitting, somehow. So I bought a package of them.

Then I saw them for sale on the trip to Get Knitted, so I knew I was onto something.

When it came time to seam this cardigan...well, there was no question what tool would be perfect.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

YOU, yes you, personally, are destroying the planet

Do you ever wonder why people commute by car? Driving by themselves, instead of taking public transport, and thereby ruining the planet? And killing all the polar bears? And making Al Gore cry?

Well, does any of this sound familiar:
  • Are you one of those people who, on a crowded commuter train, takes up two seats by putting all your shit on the seat next to you? Instead of at your feet or on the handy overhead shelf?
  • Do you, instead of graciously moving your shit when asked, roll your eyes, sigh heavily, and then look around you for another seat for the seatless commuter, because of course, your St*rb*cks muffin deserves its own tray?
  • Are you one of those people who refuse to move to the back of the fucking bus? Do you ignore the vast area of space behind you, preferring instead to marinate in the miasma of BO and halitosis produced by your little cluster of fellow fuckwits on a muggy damp afternoon? Thus forcing passengers who board the bus after you to squeeze past your backpack and sweaty flesh to get to the back for a bit of oxygen that hasn't spent the last twenty minutes in the vicinity of your armpit?
If you are any of the aforementioned people, then I would like to inform you that you are the reason the earth is becoming an overheated piece of barren rock. You are the murderer of species upon species. Over your behaviour, the baby Jesus cries. You are the reason people don't take public transport.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Field trip!

When was the last time you had a proper field trip? It's one of those things about school that I actually miss. Field trip days were so exciting!

Last weekend, I went on a yarn field trip, which is just awesome, topped with some more awesome, with a little cherry of awesome on top.

Our knitting group decided on a -let's call it by its real name- pilgrimage to Get Knitted in Bristol.
It doesn't look like much from the outside:

But inside...

Masses of yarn, shelves and shelves of the stuff. Get Knitted is also a big on-line retailer of yarn in the UK, so they do quite a lot of business and keep a lot of stock. If you can't find anything in your local, physical yarn stores, Get Knitted is the next place to check.

They also had some fabrics. I don't do much sewing nowadays, so I didn't check it out closely, but I believe it was mostly Amy Butler stuff.

Half a dozen of us from the Southampton Stitch 'n' Bitch made it down to Bristol, but I've only managed a couple of pictures (too busy looking at the yarn...)

Dawn (who organized the trip) and Kate. They are standing in front of a wall of Koigu, people: a wall of Koigu.

Elana (who is always wearing a new and different handknit sweater each time I see her; how does she do it?) and a friend of hers (whose name I forgot- sorry!), and Dawn again. They are sitting in the little knitting area in the shop, which is set amongst the Debbie Bliss yarns.

For some reason, I have no pictures of Erika.

It was a lovely day. I bought a few skeins of Colinette Jitterbug to start swatching for an idea I have. We had a bit of lunch. We had cake. There was time to walk around Bristol a bit and look into a few really cool, independent shops, full of neat things you don't see on every High Street. A great field trip, basically.