Saturday, December 17, 2011

Did you miss me?

So it's been a while. In my feeble defense, I offer the following:
1. I've been on four continents in the past month. I never want to see the inside of a plane again.
2. I've been to three weddings since I last posted. (Four if you count both wedding banquets for my brother.) None of them local.
3. And the biggest time suck- I started a new job!

I have, however, no excuses, feeble or otherwise, for the lack of knitting. I seem to have lost a bit of knitting and design mojo. I've got three designs in various stages of completion- including two sweaters where the knitting has been finished for ages, and yet I can't make myself sit down and work out the maths for the patterns.

But I vow to improve!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just in time

Back from a couple weeks in China for work. I'd show you pictures, but I bought cheapo batteries over there, and I swear each had only, like, two free electrons in them. Also, I had no time for yarn shopping. (Damn you, paid employment!)

But I came back just in time for damson season. So...

...a couple kilos of damsons...

...some sugar...
(The Limey is experimenting and went for a batch of brown sugar- I disagreed with this deviation from tradition.)

...add (lots of) gin, give it a shake...
...then, the hardest part, waaaaiiiiiiting for aaaaaages.

The first year, we made 750ml, and it didn't last past Christmas. The next year, we doubled it, and just finished the last of it this weekend. This year, we doubled it again- predictions as to how long it'll last us?

Damson gin gets better the longer it sits, but we always end up cracking ours open on Thanksgiving, which is a great combination for this culturally mixed household.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Abbey Pullover

More knitting news!

My pattern, the Abbey Pullover, has been published in the Fall 2011 issue of Knitscene.

(Picture from Knitscene)

Needless to say, I'm totally overjoyed to be able to contribute to Knitscene. I was so happy when I saw the pictures in the preview- the ones I took before I sent the sample off were, uh, not up to standard, let's say.

More info on my website, and from Knitscene.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hello! Still here!

Just faded away for a while- this summer has been super busy. But there has been knitting and there is knitting news. The first of which is:

(Picture intentionally crappy to encourage you to buy a copy of the magazine!)

The Oxford Blustockings are in print! Remember I told you I got a lift to Wonderwool Wales from Rosee, deputy editor at The Knitter? Well, she asked if I was in a knitting group and if we'd be interested in being featured on their readery's Gallery pages. As if I'd say no! So a bunch of us sent in some projects and now look! Liz and Jenny each brought a copy of this issue in to the Royal Oak yesterday, and we showed everyone! Most notably the pub staff and a fellow knitter visiting from Austin, TX who just happened to be in the Royal Oak.

More knitting news to come. Watch this space.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oxfordiana, Pt 2

Time for another round?

The Couscous Cafe is on the Cowley road a block from the big roundabout. They serve some great mint tea, but really what I love this place for is the pastries. I never pass by (or near!) without stopping by to buy half a dozen, at least. Little packages of loveliness made with honey, rosewater, almond flour, ground walnuts, pistachios. I am always tempted to buy one of everything, but that would be sugar overload. Also, as each one is only a couple of bites at best, The Limey and I are sometimes too selfish to share.

Continuing along the Cowley road:

As they (didn't) say: You can take the girl out of California, but you can't take California out of the girl. I have undeniable hippy tendencies. I cut it with a lot of cynicism, but there's no getting away from it. Indigo sells fairtrade clothing, accessories and little bits and bobs. There is lots I roll my eyes at (incense, magnetic "remedies", etc.) but it's one of the few places in Oxford I can reliably find good-looking ethically-produced clothing, and wearables made from environmentally-conscious cotton and fabrics, etc. Yes, it is slightly pricey, but I do not live at the poverty line, so I can afford some of my convictions. Plus, their sales are really very good.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A little bit of everything

In this post, I shall write about one event that combines the Oxfordiana series, a little knitting, and a special bit I will call "crazy shit the English do".

Today is May Day, which is celebrated around the world mostly by workers demanding better lives and working conditions, but is celebrated in Oxford pretty differently.

File under Oxfordiana
It starts at dawn, with choirs singing from Magdalen College's tower to greet the day.

Apparently, people used to jump off the bridge into the river below (possibly encouraged by the blood alcohol levels reached from having spent the previous night drinking in order to be up to greet the dawn), but they've stopped that now.

I have to admit I did not actually join the celebrations. I was supposed to be at the Botanic Gardens, across the river from Magdalen College, at dawn, but numbers had to be cut at the last minute, and I wasn't actually going to be useful there. (To be honest, I was pretty happy not to have to get up before dawn and trudge down there. Dawn, people!)

File under "Crazy shit the English do"
But what was going on there?

Oh yes: Morris dancing. I've been living here for three years now, and there are things I never cease to be baffled by. Morris dancing is one of them. (As is separate taps, but we won't rehash that.) In retrospect, I should have seen this coming from miles away. Crazy facial hair? Check. Ponytail? Check. Unholy love of real ale? Check. So I should not have been surprised when The Limey joined Cry Havoc, our local Morris side.

He does not dance for them (yet), but plays the fiddle. I didn't get to see them dance at the Botanic Gardens, but I did go see them later in the day at our local Botley shopping area and in Osney Island, where these pictures are from.

And the knitting?

Gloves with fingers short enough so they don't hinder playing. Knit in Cry Havoc's black and purple colours. Hey, it may be the beginning of summer, but it's feckin' cold at dawn!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The guilt! The guilt!

If this were a story I was analysing in English class, I would have underlined several parts and written "foreshadowing" in huge letters at the margin.

This morning, The Limey and I finally decided to start tending the completely neglected garden. The first thing we wanted to do is cut down the overgrown shrubs and small trees in the planting beds next to the house.

We went out into the lovely day and I remarked, "Just look at this: warmth and sunshine and birdsong, for the love of kittens. Crazy."

We cut down a skeletal, half-dead shrub. The Limey wise-cracked, "I'm uncomfortable with this wholesale habitat destruction." The birds continued chirping.

Next, we cut down a couple of evergreen topiary-type trees. The Limey put out a hand to move a branch away from a third, and saw this.

I feel absolutely awful. We hadn't actually touched the tree the nest is in, but we have cut down the bushes around it. It's not totally exposed because the nest is on the side of the tree facing a fence. But still. We propped up one of the cut-down trees near it, to provide some cover and hiding place, but obviously didn't want to prop it up directly against the nest tree.

We hustled the cat, and ourselves, inside and have been watching to see if the parents come back to the nest. Oh, I feel terrible. We've agreed next spring we'll put up some birdboxes to make up for this. If the babies aren't there (or worse, are there, but dead!) when we check on them later, I don't know what I will do.

Update: We have seen both parents flying to and from the nest with food. Whew!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I am loving Apartment Therapy's Small Cool competition. I love looking through the entrants' pictures. I love that these living spaces are small and yet people have beautifully and thoughtfully decorated them; sometimes, it seems, putting in more effort than those living in larger houses. Most of all, I love how the people are happy to live in their artfully crafted small spaces. I know lots of people think bigger is better, but these pictures show that some places are definitely greater than their parts.

I went to Wonderwool...

...and forgot to take a camera.

Suffice it to say: yarn stalls in a hanger-size space. Nearly passed out from the fumes, but amazingly did not buy very much yarn. One skein of cashmere laceweight from Chopped Tomatoes, a dyer I'd never heard of before. But I loved her colours- I'll try to get a picture of the skein I bought. I also got a skein of Jeni's new high-twist Scrumptious to play with- I have an idea for a new pattern collection...if I can get my ass into gear.

I found that the stalls I was really drawn to this time were the textile ones. Woven blankets, woolen trousers, cotton skirts...all gorgeous. Lots of local Welsh representation here and all just beautiful. I was especially taken with the clothes at the Llynfi stall and picked up their card. Turns out they have an open studio weekend at the end of May, when I may be going to the Hay Festival, so will be in the area!

Had lots of fun. The person who offered me a ride from Bristol turned out to be Rosee, deputy editor at The Knitter, so we had lots to talk about- designing, the UK knitting scene, magazines, oh, everything! Which was great, because it turns out, what with getting from Oxford to Bristol, then Bristol to Builth Wells, I spent way more time travelling on Saturday than actually being at Wonderwool.

Monday, April 04, 2011

A new bit of Wales

Due a confluence of several events, I'm off to Wonderwool on Saturday! The Limey not being home and a very kind offer of a ride from a random stranger on t'interwebs (yay Ravelry! and don't worry, I've totally blog-stalked her to make sure she's not a homocidal maniac) mean I will see a bit of Wales I've never seen before.

(I've only ever gone to Wales for the Hay Literature Festival, which means I've spent quite a few days around the Brecon Beacons, but nowhere else in the country.)

Please, please say hi if you are around and see me- otherwise, I may be too shy and overcome by yarn fumes to remember to be social and speak to people!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Okay, so it took two years and two tries, and I am three weeks shy of my theory test pass certificate expiring. But still!

Anyway, I would have totally passed that first time if it weren't for that stupid little red car at that roundabout. (Only 7 minors! And to fail because of that car!) And it wouldn't have taken me nearly two years to even bother scheduling the practical if it weren't for the crazy instructor I had when I first moved to Oxford.

But it's all behind me now.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


When The Limey and I took the next step in pretending to be adults and bought a house, we did what we were told was the right thing, and bought a house with "good bones" in a good neighbourhood. It was the cheapest place on the block and it needed (needs) lots of mostly cosmetic work, with possibly a bit of minor structural-type changes.

Before we moved in, we repainted the living/dining area and kitchen, and repainted and re-floored our bedroom. We had lots of ideas about the rest of the place: grandiose plans of built-in bookshelves; visions of an artful, useful kitchen; replacing the falling-down lean-to with a conservatory; I demanded an orangerie!; etc.

Well, you all know how this pans out. We've done almost nothing since we've moved in. In fact, the two spare rooms are still filled with boxes yet to be unpacked. We were sensible about getting a mortgage we could afford, so we could save up some money to improve upon the house. Since we've done nothing for months, this little pot is big enough to do one thing. We could re-do the kitchen, dramatically change the garden, get a great bathroom, floor and insulate the loft, put in my orangerie, etc.

One thing.

But we don't know what. Even worse, all those ideas we had? Too vague to price up. And we don't really know what's possible, anyway. And, really, the actual problem is that we don't know what we want. We don't know what kind of kitchen (except "bigger", which, without going into details, is currently not feasible), we don't know whether we really want to spend the money on the bathroom, we don't know whether a conservatory could be used as a kitchen extension...

We basically have no idea. So we are paralyzed with choice and options, afraid to do anything for fear of it being the wrong thing. So we haven't done anything.

What I want is someone to come along, stride purposefully about the house, and say, Do these things! and in this order!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Oxfordiana, Pt 1

I've lived in Oxford for almost two years now, long enough to have favourite local spots. I figure it'd be nice to do little profiles of the places I hang out, the shops I frequent, a general "where I spend my money and time in Oxford" series. I'll try to keep it to interesting local places, so don't worry, I won't be going on about my weekly Sainsbury's shop!

However, having mentioned my weekly shop, I may as well start with a couple of places at which I spend my grocery budget. These are both in the Covered Market, so are not exactly hidden gems!

Feller's is an organic butcher which has been partially responsible for my starting to eat birds and mammals again. I stopped in college and for more than ten years, pretty much stuck to a veggie diet at home, with fish and seafood thrown in if eating out (too lazy to cook fish at home, basically). They sell what I like to call "happy" meat- conscientiously-raised, local if at all possible. They seem to know their stuff, and I love that, in season, they display carcasses, in fur and feather, outside the shop. Currently they have deer and hares hanging up. I find it helps me to remember that meat comes from an animal that was slaughtered for this- that their lives and deaths are my concern.

On the other end of the scale:

One of the two greengrocers I buy from in the Covered Market. Back when I was unemployed and living closer to town, I was at the greengrocers two or three times a week. Now, of course, Saturdays are the only possible times I can shop there and my visits and spending have correspondingly dropped off. We buy most of the basics from the Co-op across the road now, but I still go to the greengrocers for certain items when they are in season: strawberries, broad beans (favas, for the non-Brits), which I buy by the kilo (I love broad beans- we're going to grow some in the garden, but we'd have to turn the whole garden over to them to satisfy me), English asparagus, which, again, I buy by the kilo during their short season. I also stop off and check out what they have as a matter of course if I'm in the Covered Market for any other reason, and will often pick up something that looks particularly good or interesting. (Our Co-op is great, but I struggle to find anything that isn't the standard potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, etc.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Basque Country

Last year, I was complaining that I wasn't taking full advantage of living in Europe to travel. Well, this year I guess I'm making up for it. We went to Lisbon for New Year's, and a couple of weeks ago, we took a long weekend and went to Bilbao and Donostia/San Sebastian for my birthday.

Guys, it was awesome. Two weeks later, The Limey and I keep are still remarking on what a great time we had and how perfect a break it was. We stayed in Bilbao and took a day trip to Donostia/San Sebastian. (Could also have done it the other way around, easily.) It's one of the places I've wanted to visit for ages, but I don't know why. (I once worked with a Basque guy, briefly; maybe that was it?)

I had a vague idea of seeing the Guggenheim, maybe learning a bit of the Basques, and, of course, doing what I most love to do: eat. And boy, did they deliver in this last category.

Pintxos, people, pintxos: a more elaborate, "foodier", pricier kind of tapas. If I could eat like that all the time, I would. All the bar counters, in pretty much all the bars, held plates and plates of little snack-sized finger foods. There were your standard tortillas and little crusty rolls with jamon iberico, but also beautifully cooked pieces of shrimp, mountains of teeny eels on beds of tuna, slices of grilled peppers or aubergine with or without lumps of soft cheese, translucent slices of bacalao with quail's egg, squid swimming in spicy olive oil. All served on or with bread (to make some of it easier to hold? or as a nod towards its tapas roots?), although for some pintxos, the bread seemed superfluous:I had a little bowl of two or three bites of squid ink risotto and one lovely mussel- the slice of baguette stuck into it seemed pretty pointless. Eventually, I stopped eating most of the bread 'cause I figured it was just cutting into my stomach capacity.

In Donostia/San Sebastian, they were a little more fancy about their pintxos than Bilbao and many bars offered a short pintxos calientes menu, so that certain dishes could be cooked to order. In this way, I had the most perfectly cooked scallop ever, some lovely octopus, and a piece of liver that was just...divine. It was seared on the outside and just warm on the inside and was so soft it was basically pate without the bother of having to be processed.

The great thing, for me, is that they serve drinks in smaller measures than over here, so I didn't feel like I was drunk by the time we got to the third or fourth bar.

I'd consider that I've found my gastronomic home, except for the sad lack of noodles. Honestly, The Limey and I just wandered around either eating, or waiting until we could eat. I guess in between we did manage a little bit of sightseeing.

If you get the chance to see this bit of Europe, go! The Limey and I would happily jump on a plane over there right now, but due to everyone and their relatives thinking this is the year to get married, all my holidays for the rest of the year are spoken for. On the plus side, at least some of those weddings will mean we get to travel and see places we haven't yet.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Tarted-up Camber

A while back, I had a round of meetings requiring lots of flying. And to a knitter such as me (i.e., easily distracted), being on an airplane = uninterrupted knitting time. Still, a very small voice warned that maybe a cardigan in cobweb-weight yarn knit at 8sts/in on 2.5mm needles might not have been the best choice. But that small voice was completely drowned out by the louder, more excited one yelling, And you know what'd be even better?! BEADS!

Tarted-up Camber
Yarn: Cashmere/viscose blend in Champagne from Colourmart, 150g cone, with plenty left over
Needles: 2.5mm Addi turbos
Pattern: Jessamyn Leib's Camber Cardigan

Notes: Well, where do I start? This was my first top-down knit and I knit it pretty much as written except for two major changes and a some minor ones.

The first major change: crazy decision to do this in thread-like yarn instead of the more sensible fingering weight it called for. But I really wanted to use this yarn. I worked backwards with my gauge to figure out what size I should knit that would make the cardi come out to my measurements. This worked fine- the only problem this created was that the neckline isn't wide enough to go around my neck. Not really a problem for me, as I don't ever intend to wear it buttoned all the way up.

I've only put in closures up to about boob height, because I never button cardis all the way up, anyway.

Second: Uhh...I added beads, because what's more fun than wrestling with a bunch of teeny beads on a bumpy flight? Nothing!

I had some bronze-ish beads I wanted to use. To make things easier on myself, they were too small for crochet hooks, and I didn't thread them on first because I had no idea when I started knitting where I'd want to put the beads or how many I'd need. So I did a weird maneuvre with the bead and a needle threader. Fiddly, but effective.

The minor changes were things like hemmed edges rather than rolling, bracelet-length sleeves rather than elbow length, and hook-and-eye closure rather than i-cord buttonholes.

I sewed the hooks and eyes to pieces of beautiful velvet ribbon (bought at Loop) and then very carefully sewed the ribbon to the inside of the fronts- I was really afraid the sewing would pull the fine yarn and you'd be able to see it. Happily, this didn't happen, but the fear of it kept me from finishing it. I'd actually finished the knitting months ago, but only now managed to put in the closures.

The pattern is easy to follow. (Too easy! Jesh made it so you can calculate your numbers for your size and gauge, which made working backwards with my particular gauge to get the numbers required a bit more work.) The design itself is beautifully simple. I've always loved those great vintage heavily sequinned and beaded cardigans but knew I can't really carry them off in my life. I satisfied my need for bling with the beads and the lace yoke provides more interest without going into over-the-top mode.

The result is gorgeous; I love it. However, never again a full garment at this gauge!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Scrumptious Selene

Look at this! Two posts in one week!

During the Christmas holidays, I spent a lot of time sitting around at the in-laws' watching TV. Which, of course, meant knitting time. Which was great, because I was behind on knitting a sample for Darn It & Stitch and really just needed one big block of time to finish the thing.

Here's Selene, this time knit in Fyberspates Scrumptious dk in a solid colour:

The original sample was knit in Fyberspates Superwash Merino dk, in a variegated colour, which looked great when worn. However, the variegated-ness photographed badly, and also, my photography skills, being what they were (i.e., nonexistent), did not help matters. I'd actually been meaning to knit another sample because I really think this is a great, versatile pattern that wasn't getting the attention it deserved. So when Jo at Darn It & Stitch started stocking Fyberspates and asked for a display sample, I was happy to finally get the push I needed to do it.

This sample, in a solid colour, looks great. You all know I am a big fan of Scrumptious anyway, but here it really shows off the lace- it's perfect.

I knit the sample in the smallest size and used almost exactly 4 skeins of the dk, and didn't even have to frog the swatch! However, I would definitely advise buying 5 skeins, just in case.

The lace and wide v-neck of the pattern makes the garment pretty stretchy. I'm wearing the pullover with 3 inches / 7.5cm of negative ease and the dress form has 6 inches / 15cm of negative ease! However, I really wouldn't recommend going that extreme- especially as Selene is designed to go over another layer. Pick the size closest to your bust measurement, and round down if you're in between sizes. If you plan to wear anything bulkier than a button-up "proper" shirt under it, then you might round up if in between sizes.

The V is meant to hit just below the bust, and shows up higher on the dress form because of the negative ease.

Selene will be printed up and available to buy at Darn It & Stitch as soon as I figure out which picture to put on it. What do you think? Modelled pic on me, or the dress form pic?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Well into 2011...but happy new year!

The Limey and I went to Lisbon with friends for the new year's celebrations. A friend is Portuguese and was nice enough to show us around a bit. I loved the trip, mostly because I got to eat so much seafood I'm surprised I haven't grown scales. When I wasn't stuffing myself with seafood, I was gorging on cakes and coffee. These people are serious about their cakes, although I am midly disturbed by how much egg and sugar they can stuff into a pastry the size of a golfball.

The NYE fireworks were great!

Lisbon put on a great show. Fireworks were set off from the Tagus as well as from the lovely buildings surrounding the square, so we had 360-degrees of fireworks.

We'd been before, with the same friends, and I rediscovered one of the things I loved about the city then- those tiled pavements!

Aren't they just asking to be knit up with some stranded colourwork?

(All photos by The Limey.)