Monday, 8 December 2008

She lives!


You'd be forgiven for thinking that this blog had died a typically anonymous Blogland death, but although it's taken a few blows we're talking flesh wounds rather than mortal injuries. Firstly my promised site-revamp, courtesy of Mike, didn't quiiite get off the ground in time for my birthday as planned (my birthday being in, ahem, early August), and secondly - and more of a direct impediment to blogging - I lost my camera. If, that is, "lost" encompasses "idiotically left on the back seat of a Hong Kong taxi". I've filed police reports and filled out insurance claims and the like, but a little pointlessly, really, considering that my particular camera is no longer produced and can therefore only be replaced pending the invention of time travel.

So in homage to my much-missed camera, and as a handy bit of filler until such time as I knit something photogenic enough to bother taking pictures with someone else's, I present a sample photo from its lifetime (well, two years; is that a lifetime in camera terms?) of faithful service. If memory serves it depicts an advert for some sort of pharmaceutical product (which is why I took a picture of it, obviously - I'm all about pharmaceutical advertising campaigns), and if you look carefully - or just zoom in a lot - you can see not only me, but also the departed camera itself. Nifty, no?

Anyway, till next time (which will be this side of the freezing over of Hell, cross my heart), and in the meantime Happy Advent!

Saturday, 2 August 2008

See, this is why I don't post progress pictures very often

There's only so much enthusiasm you can drum up for what is essentially a long, blue knitted worm.

When I was a kid I had a little gizmo called a knitting dolly, which is used for French knitting. French knitting is, as far as I can tell, the art of producing woollen worms. You wrap the yarn around the four pins protruding from the doll's head, in what at the time seemed like an incredibly complicated sequence (what can I say, I was an uncoordinated child), pull on the yarn end dangling from the doll's "foot", and voilà! An inordinately long time later, a worm is born! My interest in French knitting soon dwindled, there being a limited number of things you can do with knitted worms, but I was reminded of it a couple of days ago when making the I-cord drawstring for the Drawstring Chemise. At just shy of two metres long it's the longest worm I've ever produced; a proud achievement for any ex-French knitter. Even better, though, it actually has a purpose in life, which is more than I can say for any of my earlier invertebrate creations.

As you may have already deduced from the fact that I'm now fiddling around with details like I-cord, the chemise is creeping towards the finish line. I mean, it's seamed and everything! All I've still got to do is finish knitting the drawstring casing, attach it and work the underarm edgings. Knitting a separate casing isn't part of the original pattern, but rather the latest strategy in my never-ending struggle to marginally tone down my resemblance to a linebacker. It's a life's work, I tell you.

Anyway, I'll hopefully have something slightly more substantial than a worm to show you sometime next week! If not I'll come up with an excellent and incontrovertible excuse, to be fabricated closer to the time for maximum freshness.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Hell must have frozen over

Because I have a finished object to show you! Unfortunately I have yet to think up a way of taking an action shot of a hat without my head being involved, so you'll just have to do your best to overlook it:

As Mike so kindly pointed out, I haven't quite mastered the "well-adjusted, non-manic human being" look. Also, contrary to appearances, I am not naked in these photos

Apologies for the blurriness, but it was 33 degrees when I took these and my enthusiasm for messing-around-with-camera-settings-while-wearing-a-woolly-hat was beginning to wane. (OK, I could spend all the time in the world fiddling with the settings and I still wouldn't be able to take an in-focus picture, but at least this way I have a pleasing excuse.)

Anyway! The pattern is Robin's Egg Blue Hat, and if the yarn looks familiar it's because it's leftover Lana Grossa Royal Tweed from the Textured Tunic I knit last year. The hat took exactly one ball, so if for some reason I can't yet think of I wanted two more identical hats, then lo, they could be mine! I think I'll change the button at some point though; I'd rather have something with four holes and a rim. As for why I suddenly felt inspired to make a Winter hat in, erm, July, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe next week we'll have freak snow storms and I'll finish the Drawstring Chemise.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

O Summer, where art thou?

I've always had it in for the Gulf Stream. In geography at school we learnt that the current was responsible for our "delightfully" mild maritime climate, and from then on I constantly fantasised that it would one day, in a fit of meteorological pique (because, you know, currents are always having those), re-root itself and usher in scorchingly hot Summers and picture-perfect crisp, snowy Winters. Never mind that I already complained whenever the days dropped below 19°C and got goose bumps at room temperature. In my imaginary Winters I'd somehow acquired the knack of getting fetchingly rosy cheeks without a red nose, my hair behaved itself beautifully in uncannily Heidi-like plaits, and the whole thing was topped off by charming knitted hats which miraculously didn't make me look like a juvenile delinquent.

When I announced my intention of going to university in Edinburgh it was met with general bafflement. "But it'll be...cold," my usually eloquent parents pointed out. They gently suggested that I consider somewhere a little further South, like, say, Spain. But I stood firm, for reasons much too embarrassing to confess to the internet, and my bemused parents duly drove me up, stocked my cupboard with Marmite and Heinz tomato soup, and drove off again. Two hours after they'd left I'd drunk all the soup and was wondering whether wearing a sleeping bag with head- and armholes cut into it would make me too conspicuous in lectures.

Anyway, you've probably got the idea: I don't really do cold. Which is why the current weather is particularly grump-inducing. After a gorgeous May and June, Summer seems to have decided it's done its bit for the year, and July's been a damp squib. Practically British, in fact, except (what with being in Berlin and all) I can't implicate the Gulf Stream in this one. (But it's not over yet, Gulf Stream! Victory will one day be miiine! Ahem.)

All of which is just an extreeemely long-winded way of saying that - you guessed it! - I've made pretty much no progress on the Drawstring Chemise. We're talking not-discernible-to-the-naked-eye progress. In fact, it might even have got shorter since I last posted. But when the forecast gloomily prophesises 18° cloudiness with the odd shower or two thrown in for good measure, finishing up a skimpy Summer top doesn't exactly seem pressing.

I wonder what the German view on sleeping bags as outerwear is?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The finer things in life

Knit So Fine has had very mixed reviews on Amazon, so I thought I'd chip in my two (Euro) cents. First, the not-so-good: I found most of the (26 page long!) introduction supremely irritating. Maybe it's just that in my case the authors were preaching to the converted, but honestly, does anyone need to be told that, "thin yarns weigh less than thick ones", or require visual proof that, "a lace pattern looks better when knitted in a fine yarn"? Their definition of fine yarn seems a bit off to me anyway; they consider anything knitting up at more than 5 stitches per inch to be fine, which means that DK is, according to them, thin. Hmmm.

Some of the reasoning is a little wonky as well - at one point they provide a rather entertaining picture of a Barbie doll dressed first in a bulky knitted dress (3 stitches/inch) and then in a lightweight one (7 stitches/inch). "Even the fashion doll," they enthuse, "looks better in the clingy, thin, curve-hugging fine-guage yarn. If the difference in gauge makes a doll look better, imagine what it will do for real bodies!" Erm, surely it's the other way round? At three stitches per inch, each stitch is a very significant percentage of Barbie's itty-bitty measurements, and she'll look proportionally chunkier wearing a garment knit at this gauge than a human adult would. Or have I grossly misunderstood some basic principle of physics? (It wouldn't be the first time; I've occasionally counted on the laws of gravity charitably overlooking me.)

My final niggle with the introduction is that some of the advantages of fine yarns which the authors wax so lyrical about aren't represented in the patterns. Colour work, for example - zilch! Unless you consider stripes to be colour work, which I have been known to do in unambitious moments.

But, that grumble aside, on with the patterns! There are, I think it's fair to say, some exceptionally iffy ones, but I'm very taken with others. Three of the four in the mini collage above are already sitting impatiently in my Ravelry queue (the fourth - the Bohus jumper in the top left corner - looks gorgeous there but is, in fact, disappointingly frumpy when seen in full). I'm also smitten with the wrap dress, which I'll never have the patience to make, unless perhaps I resurrect my mum's knitting machine from wherever it's currently collecting dust. Or acquire a troupe of dexterous child slaves.

In other news, in the last three weeks I've knit exactly eleven rows of the Drawstring Chemise. A new slothfulness record! And to think that I was seriously toying with the idea of entering the Ravelympics...

Sunday, 6 July 2008


What's that I see in the distance there? Surely it can't be...but wait, it is! That most elusive of creatures, a finished Surplice Bodice Camisole!

Yes, yes, spoilsports, I know it's not an action shot, but do I at least get half points?

Did I mention that this was incredibly, comatose-state-inducingly dull to knit? If I ever start making "maybe-I'll-whip-up-another-one" noises, somebody please prod me reprovingly with a needle.

Pattern: Surplice Bodice Camisole from Knitting Lingerie Style. I don't seem to have kept any notes for this project (pretend to be amazed at this display of disorganisation), but if memory serves I was working at a tighter gauge than stipulated, so followed the instructions for a size 36" or 38" in order to end up with something coming in at just under 32". Which sounds tiny, but my fear of Cotton S-t-r-e-t-c-h Syndrome knows no bounds.

Yarn: 3 skeins of Classic Elite Provence in "Special Walnut". Unfortunately the colour's a bit washed-out in real life, which is a problem I keep running into with dark browns - they look chocolatey rich in the ball, but when knit up turn out to be disappointingly anaemic.

Needles: Presumably I did indeed use some, but my non-existent notes are understandably hazy on specifics.

Mods: Not enough! I tinkered with a couple of things to compensate for my guage and added an inch or two to the length, but I really should have made the whole thing even longer. And in the highly unlikely event that I were to make this again (see needle poking instructions, above) I'd use something other than 100% cotton, so I could knit the lace section in the round without worrying about the dreaded cotton stretch factor. (Plus I had the damndest time working out how to seam the lace, as there weren't any selvage stitches, so knitting in the round would also save much desperate grovelling on Ravelry.)

So there you have it! It's...OK. In order for me to really warm to it I'd need to dye it a darker, cooler shade of brown and add another inch or so to the lace. The chances of either of these things ever happening are about as good as the chances of me changing my name to Honoratia and setting up as a dog aromatherapist, but what's life without a cheering dose of self-delusion?

Friday, 27 June 2008

I think the word I'm looking for is "whoops"

Sorry, I seem to have slipped off the radar for a bit there! But I'll be back with, among other things, the finished Surplice Bodice Camisole (yes, really!) in, ohh, about a week. But a week in Heather Time, obviously, which seems to bear very little relation to real time.

See you then!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Happy Birthday to me! (Well, sort of)

In an act of random coincidence I just decided to read through my very first posts here, and discovered that this blog is one year old today! Other people mark their blogiversaries with exciting giveaways and competitions; I mark mine by posting pictures of out of focus blue things:

This particular out of focus blue thing is, of course, the Drawstring Chemise. Not much I can say about it, really - it seems to be coming along quite nicely; though I suppose now that I've said that I've almost certainly doomed it to some sort of horrible fate. (Possibly involving misplaced stitch markers. Most of my knitting disasters seem to involve misplaced stitch markers.) Tune in next week to find out!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

And it's ohh soooo fii-ine

You know that thing that sometimes happens when you accidentally put a knitting book in your Amazon basket? And then absent-mindedly enter your credit card details? (Why do I have the feeling that's not the first time I've typed those sentences?)

Guess I might have to revise my previously expressed views on sub-2.5mm needles...

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Baby, it's hot outside

So hot, in fact, that my Summer Interweave Knits melted yesterday. (Not the actual pages, obviously, but there's now a muddy-coloured swirl where the picture on the back cover used to be.) Believe it or not, though, I'm not going to use this as a feeble excuse for not having done any knitting - guckt mal!

This is the lace border for the Drawstring Chemise, which I finally cast on for again. I'm not crazy about the diamond mesh pattern, which is a bit geometric for my tastes, but it's certainly fun to knit. I'd never actually worked lace from a chart before, mainly because I have the spacial awareness of a lemming, but this might have won me over from written instructions.

Anyway! All's going well so far, but I still have no idea what I'm going to do once I get above the armholes. I suppose this isn't exactly pressing, given that I've knit precisely 7cm so far, but it's always nice to have a vague game plan. I can't leave it with spaghetti straps, as per the original pattern, because from behind I am regularly mistaken for a pro-wrestler (except, you know, without the arm muscles) and dainty I-cord wouldn't really be the best look. Instead I'm thinking of either leaving the straps off entirely (and relying on sheer willpower to keep the top up - that's bound to work, right?) or making the I-cord casing run all the way around, forming sort of off-shoulder straps. Or making little cap sleeves which, in a way I have yet to fathom, incorporate a casing which is continuous with that of the front and back. Genius! Or possibly overambitious and doomed to failure; I'm not all that good at spotting the difference...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

How long do you think it'll be before someone notices that this blog has no actual knitting content?

Hurrah - my knitting supplies have a new home! Or maybe just "have a home" would be more accurate, seeing as they never actually had an old one (I'm guessing a messy pile dumped unceremoniously on an overflowing desk tidy doesn't really count as a home).

I think it's meant to be a wash bag, hence all the handy pockets which are conveniently knitting-equipment sized. (Incidentally, what are those side pockets in wash bags actually meant to be for? I mean, they're flat. How many flat toiletries do you own?) I tried to take a picture of the interior for your oggling pleasure, but seeing as it's lined in something shiny and pink the photo came out looking disturbingly gynaecological. The outside, though, is a lovely sturdy cotton, and from a distance (admittedly not much of a distance, given my chronic short-sightedness) it looks like the vibrantly coloured leather bags you get in the Middle East. And - because I shallowly reduce everything to mercenary considerations - it only cost 4,90 €! This sounds much better if I persist in my steadfast denial of the current exchange rate.

As for the weekly attempt to scrape the barrel for knitting news, my Drawstring Chemise has been pulled off the needles within 12 hours of being cast on. The lace section was turning out to be huuuge (schoolboy error alert - always swatch for the lace pattern as well as the stocking stitch!), so it's off to the wool shop I go for some smaller needles. (These'll be 2.5mm. I sincerely hope that in my entire knitting career I never have call for anything smaller than that.) It's still fairing better than the Secret Project though, which has been entirely abandoned. From a knitterly perspective, anyway - it's been appropriated by the sewing side of my personality. (Trust me, this isn't a side of my personality you want to get to know.)

Um, so that's it, really! Unimpressive, I know, but just think how blank this page would be if I only ever posted when I had something worth writing about. Ohh, though speaking of things worth writing about, check out these shoes! I'd never heard of Birkis before, but I seem to have accidentally stolen one of their catalogues (well, they should have written 'Schutzgebühr' bigger! Besides, who charges 2,50 € for what is essentially an 80-page advert?). I'm particularly taken with these, not least because I can claim they have a tenuous link to knitting...

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Wait, you mean a blog is for writing things in?

Ah, my poor, neglected blog. You know I love you really, don't you? And I've been knitting, cross my heart! It's just that I'm far too lazy to take photographic evidence, and let's be honest - who's going to read page after page of my rambling without the odd pretty picture to distract them? (Well, "pretty" is highly doubtful, given my ineptitude behind the lens, but you get the point.) At the moment, for instance, I've just finished a huuuuuuge swatch for the Drawstring Chemise (I don't really have the patience to swatch, wash, measure and reswatch, so I've taken to combining swatches on different sized needles into a single Monster Swatch, thus getting it over all in one go). I didn't take a picture of it though because, well, it's a swatch. A stocking stitch rectangle. I bet David Bailey never takes photos of stocking stitch rectangles.

I'm also working on a mini Secret Project, and photographing it would sort of undermine the secrecy. The only thing I can think of to show you is my new yarn, which is goorrgeous! This is the stuff I ordered in for the chemise, Lang Fiorina in a scrumptious but sadly discontinued shade of blue. I spent an embarrassing amount of time dithering between the blue and a green, and eventually went for the former because I had a vague childhood recollection of my dad saying I looked good in blue. Though can the fashion advice of a man who wears convex-soled orthopaedic sandals really be trusted?

Nope, I still haven't befriended the macro button on my camera

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Foiled Again!

The cotton for my Drawstring Chemise now isn't expected in till Monday, which presumably is because God really, really wants me to cast on for the Union Square Market Pullover in the meantime. (Well, He's into creating things, isn't He? And I'm sure He had this very jumper in mind when He created Alpacas.) I bought the yarn for this a while ago but had been putting off starting it because of the weather; it's been so gorgeously sunny that the last thing you want on your lap is a pile of fuzzy warmth. But then yesterday I had my eureka moment - evening knitting! OK, it's not exactly on par with discovering Archimedes' Principle, but this is as close to a eureka moment as I'm ever going to get so humour me. Anyway, feeling highly pleased with myself I started swatching, only to find that I was going to need to go up a size to 3.25mm needles. Which might not sound like a big deal, but (as I found out today) you can't actually get 3.25mm needles in Germany. Bah! What's the point of having a swizzy metric system if you only use half of it? (Any smart Alec pointing out that Britain doesn't exactly make full use of the metric system will be sternly told to stop being such a clever clogs.)

So I've hit a bit of a stumbling block. I can order the needles online, but I have a vague feeling that we might be in the middle of a postal strike (note to self: pay attention the next time someone mentions the word "Streik" instead of letting eyes glaze over). And even if they did arrive OK, it wouldn't be before the yarn for the Chemise, thus rendering the whole "in the meantime" idea sort of redundant. Maybe God's having second thoughts about the jumper after all.

On the bright side, guess what - the Surplice Bodice Camisole, which I finally got round to blocking, actually fits! It could do with being a liiiiiiittle bit longer in the bust, but I've hung it up to promote downwards-stretching so hopefully that'll do the trick. I have no idea what it looks like on me because, as I've only just realised, I don't have a mirror! There's a crappy little headshot-only one in the bathroom, but other than that, zilch. This raises the alarming prospect that I might accidentally go out without wearing a crucial item of clothing, like, say, trousers. Anyway, I'd rather not inflict my self-timer efforts on you, so anyone with Camisole-curiosity will have to wait till my occasionally-resident photographer returns.

I wouldn't want you to go entirely without pictures, though, so: do you remember the Christmassy Ampelmann car? Well, look what I spotted not too long ago:

Yup, there's a Summer version! Wouldn't it be cool if the actual red and green men on traffic lights carried little surfboards? (I suppose it would send out a bit of a confusing message though; people might think you could surf across the roads. Not most people, obviously. But I did once absent-mindedly try to control a traffic light using my house keys, so what I'd do if faced with a surfing green man is anyone's guess.)

Friday, 9 May 2008

Well, I did indeed finish the Surplice Bodice Camisole! (Actually, I still have to sew one of the side seams, but shhh.) And I have to say, 'twas the most boring thing I've ever knit in my life - annoyingly bitty, with approximately a gazillion picked up stitches, and pieces stopping and starting all over the place. I do like the look of it now that it's done, but I have a horrible feeling it's not going to sit right, because like a fool I forgot that I have a back the length of the Mississippi-Missouri and didn't make adjustments accordingly. Anyway, I'll have to wait a bit longer to see if the miracle that is blocking bails me out yet again, because my flat doesn't possess such high-tech gizmos as a washing machine, and so far I've been too lazy to venture forth and find a laundrette. (Also, is it just me or are laundrettes sort of scary? A bit like buses.) (People point and laugh when I attempt to use buses. Though in fairness they sometimes do this when I'm not using buses, too.)

Where was I? Ohhh yes - buoyed by that partial success I went straight out and ordered yarn for my next project! I'd found an ideal substitution for the Cotton Glace but none of the colours in my LYS were really doing it for me, so the lovely shop assistant took pity on me and pulled an enormous sample book out from behind the counter. This is going to make me sound like a knitting hillbilly, but oh my God, I had no idea there was so much choice out there! Seriously, every single yarn comes in just about every single colour! Dork that I am, I got my Colour Me Beautiful wallet out and started eagerly matching swatches up. Why did I not know that you could do this before?! Come to think of it maybe I should have noticed that it was a bit odd that all yarns online were available in a rainbow of shades whereas those stocked in shops came in about three...

Anyway! My order won't arrive till the end of next week, which is a bit lästig because I could really do with some more Summer tops asap. (Yes, I know I could buy a couple of t-shirts in H&M for about 5,- €, but where's the fun in that when you can knit your own for four times the cost and forty times the effort? Chuh, amateurs!) We seem to have skipped Spring and gone straight from eternal Winter to Summer, which has been most excellent for my mood but a bit unsettling for my wardrobe. (Actually, I think the sun might have really got to me, because I bought a white skirt today. On thinking it over, I am fairly sure that a white skirt is the most useless garment known to man, or at least to me. I might start a pool on how long it stays white for.)

Monday, 5 May 2008

Note to self: think of a devestatingly clever title

OK, I misled you slightly about the knitting content of this post (and, as it turns out, the timing - oops!). I have a grand total of one knitting-related line to impart, namely: I finally, finally picked up the Surplice Bodice Camisole again! (What, you were expecting something more interesting? Ptth, you should know me better than that by now...)

I do have a couple of fairly watertight excuses for being such a knitterly slugabed, though. Firstly, I just moved flats (my definition of "just" being "recently enough that I have yet to unpack"), and secondly I disappeared to Munich for a week. I don't know why I bother to take knitting on holiday, seeing as I hardly ever give it so much as a glance while I'm there, but it turns out that I sliiightly underestimated the length of the train journey back to Berlin and the Camisole came to the rescue. Who knows, next time I might even have a finished object to show! (Which would make for a total of, what, three FOs this year? I should really start knitting socks or something.)

Anyway, in the meantime will you accept a couple of holiday pictures in lieu of knitting ones? First up, and possibly the blurriest photo ever to grace this blog (but I didn't take this one! As I suppose should be obvious from the fact that I'm in it):

Beeeer. With my head for scale.

This was in the Hofbräuhaus, apparently Munich's most popular attraction, where the standard measure of beer is a litre. The standard amount of beer I am capable of consuming is about 0.01 litres, so this one was returned to its rightful owner pretty promptly.

And this is Schloss Neuschwanstein, also known (by us, at least) as the fairytale castle. It's got everything you could want from a palace: breathtaking setting, elaborate decor, plastic cave between bedroom and sitting room... (Something must have got lost in the translation there; surely they didn't have plastic in 1869?)

I also managed to fit in a wool shop excursion or two, and can happily recommend both Geknöpft und Zugenäht (which is part of the Ludwig Beck department store) and Wollkorb, which has several branches around town (I went to the one off Sendlingerstr.). The only problem with both of them is that a lot of the stock is behind the counter, so you don't really feel you can browse freely. And in a tragic victory of financial self-preservation over lust, I left empty handed. (Financial self-preservation may not have won the war though - did I mention that my new flat is that little bit closer to La Laine?)

Finally - because I wouldn't want you to think that my television viewing consists solely of late-night boxing - I am now shamelessly addicted to Germany's Next Topmodel. No smirking, it's genius I tell you! Unlike in the virtually unwatchable American version, the contestants are a) capable of forming coherent sentences, and b) generally friendly and non-bitchy. Plus it's presented by Heidi Klum. Heidi Klum! I mean...I've actually heard of her! (No offense, Tyra, but...Heidi Klum!) Obviously my main reason for watching, though, is to improve my German. Ahem. (Incidentally, most used words on the programme: "hammer", "geil" and "aufgeregt". I may have exhausted the show's vocabulary-expanding potential.)

Saturday, 3 May 2008

It's five past midnight and I'm watching a dubbed boxing match on TV. Nope, I don't know why either. (In fact, I'm not even entirely sure it's boxing, such is my level of knowledge and interest in these things.) But tomorrow (well, today, I suppose), I'll be back with some knitting-related stuff! Because I do knit occasionally, honest.

P.S. Am I the only person who isn't really grabbed by anything in the new Interweave Knits?

P.P.S. Ohh, someone's won the random violent sport. Apparently God gave him strength. Who knew He was a boxing fan?

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Donnerwetter, we're getting new coins! Am I the only person who didn't know this?

Not meaning to be a killjoy or anything, but won't it be sort of hard to tell them apart? I mean, I know they're different shapes and sizes, and, um, colours...but still! Ohh, also, what about the £2 coin? (Erm, those still exist, right? I've been out of the loop for a while.)

Friday, 18 April 2008

Had we but world enough, and time, this slowness, Lady, were no crime *

But two centimetres in as many weeks is a bit feeble by anyone's standards.

Interestingly, Photoshop felt the need to correct the red eye in this picture

It's probably just as well I hadn't got round to picking up stitches for the front lace panel, though, because my needles got confiscated at the airport! At least they didn't have any knitting on them. And despite claiming not to speak any German (ptth! Who do the Swiss think they're kidding?) the security guy was actually quite nice, and parcelled the needles up for me to collect from the luggage belt. I suspect his wife may be a knitter.

* In future I promise to try and restrain myself from butchering classics for knitting purposes.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Um...bonjour! (This is the sum total of what I've retained from six years' worth of French lessons. Ah, the good old British education system...) I'm currently in Haute-Savoie with a dial-up internet connection (remember those?) and a mother who's displaying a previously undisclosed belief that champagne is the most suitable accompaniment for all meals. I haven't quite decided which of those factors I'm going to claim as the excuse for not showing you progress on the Surplice Bodice Camisole, so take your pick! The camisole and I will be back next week in slightly more presentable states.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The year that Spring forgot

I don't know, where's global warming when you need it?

But anyway, I digress (not that I'd said anything to digress from yet, I suppose) - I finally got round to the taking-blurry-pictures stage of the Unpronounceable Shell!

And because no blurry photo shoot is complete without dodgy mirror photos:

Can you make out Elefante in the background?

Slightly dodgier than intended close up of the bodice and ribbon detail

I loved knitting this - with the possible exception of the back bodice there was always enough going on to keep my toddler-like attention span engaged. Dull technical stuff ahoy!

Pattern: Aleita Shell from Interweave Knits Spring 2008; size 32 ½" (it's meant to be worn with a couple of inches of negative ease)

Yarn: 3 ½ skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk in blueberry. My excessive love for this yarn is vaguely inappropriate and would no doubt be better expended on family members or something. But it feels luxuriously scrumptious! And it doesn't shed! And I have another 3 ½ skeins left! I originally bought it for my doomed Somewhat Cowl (ahh, my salad days, when I hadn't quite made the connection between swatching and things not turning out eleventy-seven sizes too big), so I feel all virtuous to be finally using some of it up.

Needles: You're actually meant to knit the bodice back and forth on matching circular needles, but - not possessing two 3.75mm circs, and being much too cheap to buy another pair - I worked the mostly knit rows with 3.75s (Boyle 29", if anyone actually cares) and the mostly purl rows on 3.5s (Lang 24"), my logic being that my purl stitches were probably a bit looser anyway.

Mods: Just two (are you impressed at my restraint?): I worked an extra waist decrease (and corresponding increase, obviously), and added the underbust eyelet row.

Anyway, hooray! As I'm sure all professional knittery types say when completing a project.

As for what's next, I decided to interpret your deafening silence as votes for the Surplice Bodice Camisole, which I cast on for a couple of weeks ago. My enthusiasm for it's sort of petered out though - after the lusciousness of the alpaca silk the cotton's a bit harsh and utilitarian to work with, not to mention tiring. Plus I keep casting a wary eye at the enormous "finishing" section of the pattern, which I swear is longer than the actual pattern itself. Hey ho; if I stumble across some surplus motivation lying around somewhere then I might have something to show next time. (Hint to the Weather Gods: there's a mysterious correlation between sunshine and motivation levels.)

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

When a crochet hook is a less surprising thing to find in your bed than another person, your life may have gone ever so slightly skewy somewhere.

But to the point: the knitting on the Unpronounceable Shell is finished! All I need to do now is seam the shoulders, whip up a neckband, block, and take some unintentionally artistically out of focus pictures. I've held off casting on for the Drawstring Chemise, though, because my row gauge is so stratospherically off that my usual turning-a-blind-eye technique might not get me very far. As for the lovely Yosemite, in the end I decided to hold out until I can get (read "afford") some different coloured yarn, as I think the brown Provence would be a bit dull, and the red a bit hard to wear in that kind of top. (Do not attempt to probe too deeply into my logic on this one, as it may not stand up all that well.) So anyway, I'm currently without project! Any suggestions? Should I reinstate my beginning-to-curl-around-the-edges intention of making the Surplice Bodice Camisole? Plow ahead with the Drawstring Chemise, studiously ignoring any gauge issues? Or acknowledge the fact that it's snowed three days in a row and knitting summer tops in cotton might not be the brightest idea I've ever had?

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Spring Knitty is finally up (not that I've been obsessively checking or anything), and I challenge anyone to resist the general scrummyness that is Yosemite:
The best bit? It's 100% cotton! Which surely means that it's meant to be, given the vast quantities of Classic Elite Provence I have lying around. Of course, I had sort of already assigned most of it to other projects, but where would the fun in life be if you couldn't renege on your own decisions on a whim?

I probably won't have the internet for the next couple of weeks due to flat-juggling (though I might sneak in an internet cafe update or two, depending on how severe my withdrawal symptoms get), which will hopefully allow plenty of time for my capricious mind to commit itself to something before next time. Bis nachher!

Monday, 10 March 2008

I knew there was a flaw in this democracy business

Skimming through my inbox this afternoon, I was somewhat surprised to find an email which started, "You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to facilitate the issuing of Biometric Visas in Mogilev in order to avoid the prohibative cost to charities of transporting children to Minsk". Now, normally I don't consider a day complete without signing a petition asking the Prime Minister to facilitate the issuing of biometric visas somewhere or other, but, you know, I've been busy, and I didn't immediately twig what it was going on about. Once I'd worked it out (and established a few pesky geographical details, like where Mogilev actually was), I thought I'd have an idle browse through other petitions to the Prime Minister's Office, which I heartily recommend if you've got a spare half hour and no vested interest in whether the British electorate is fit to vote. Just to give you a flavour of the pressing matters Gordon Brown is forced to deal with (and bear in mind that these all had to get at least 200 signatories to make it through):

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to:

  • "impose a maximum weight limit for women wearing stiletto heels"
  • "establish hedges on central reservations of motorways and dual carriageways"
  • "legalise gay incest"
  • "legalise otter clubbing"
  • "alter the earth’s orbit to compensate for global warming"
  • "do something about bonsai kittens"
  • "make cheese available free of charge"
  • "create a subsidy to make cheese cheaper" (obviously a key topical issue, this)
  • "ban gorgonzola" (not to mention a contentious one)
  • "slaughter every single badger within Great Britain and Northern Ireland, British Overseas Territories, and any Marine Badgers at large within UK territorial waters. Also, to not rule out strategic military strikes against rogue badger elements harboured by other states. (The curious may ask themselves exactly how a badger gives TB to a cow. The truth is unrepeatable on a governement website, but let me assure you the process is as perverse as it is cruel.)"
  • "force the Daily Express to admit that Diana, Princess of Wales, is dead"
  • "remove the green sweets from Starburst and to reinstate the Opal Fruits brand name"
  • "give free houses (near a beach) to people called Mike"
  • "seriously consider not allowing children, unless they have been suitably sedated, to travel on aeroplanes"
  • "invade France, and thus provide us with a war we can all get behind"

and, of course

  • "stop wasting tax money employing people to review online petition requests"
What I particularly like is the fact that the Prime Minister's Office has to give a reason for rejecting any given petition. Thus the official response to a request to "force terestrial television newsreaders to wear underpants on their heads" was, "it was outside the remit or powers of the Prime Minister and Government", whilst a plea to "ban pretty average European scramz from dragging down the quality of global screamo" was turned down because, "it contained wording that is impossible to understand". And just in case further proof were needed that the good ol' British nation is doomed, the third most popular petition on the entire site - with a whopping 46908 signatures - is a motion to make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister. Not meaning to jump to conclusions or anything, but somehow I doubt he'd have much to say about the issuing of biometric visas in Mogilev...

Progress! It's not much to look at, but this is how far along I am with the Aleita Shell (henceforth to be referred to as the Unpronounceable Shell):
You can't tell from the picture (this seems to be a bit of a recurring theme with my photography), but I've added a row of eyelets at the top, just before dividing for the front, so that when it's finished I'll be able to weave through an underbust ribbon. Work's ground to a halt for now though, as I need to buy a smaller crochet hook for the next step. In the meantime I'm toying with the idea of casting on a modified version of this; modified because I have the shoulders of a quarterback and spaghetti straps make me look like an unconvincing drag queen.

And on that pleasant image I'm off to forage for food. Pip pip!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Finished objects come to those who wait a really, really long time

In a vaguely improbable turn of events, I finally finished Mike's Christmas jumper! As I have yet to get a semi-decent picture of it (for which I choose to blame basement flats rather than my own questionable camera skills), you'll have to make do with this for now. (I rather like that "for now"; it misleadingly implies that at some point I might actually get round to taking another one):

Anyone making haircut-related comments will be asked to leave the room

There are lots of things I'm disproportionately proud of, most of which you can't really see in the photos: the rolled hems, raglan seams and neckline ribbing, the stitches for which took an ice-age to pick up evenly because I sort of forgot that the front had many more stitches than the back. The only thing I'm a bit dubious about is how loose the blocked fabric is - can you see the white shirt glowing fetchingly through the jumper?

As for the boring technical-ly bit:

Pattern: Jesse's Flames from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation, size medium

Yarn: 12 balls of Lana Grossa Cool Wool Big (I have my suspicion that a work experience kid with English as a second language comes up with these names) in petrol

Needles: Lang 4.5mm circulars, 80cm long. Have I waxed annoyingly lyrical about these yet? They're by far and away the best circulars I've ever used: the cord's super flexible and the points (which are made of brass) are incredibly light and smooth. Plus they're all metallic-coloured and high-tech looking, which, um, I'm sure aids the knitting process somehow. Lang needles are actually made by Addi, so I suppose they are in fact Addi Turbos in European disguise.

Mods: knit the lower body in 4 x 3 rib in the round; omitted the flames; replaced the contrast colour around the top of the ribbing with a garter stitch band; worked turned hems along the bottom and the cuffs.

If you haven't used up all your incredulity for the day, I actually have something new on the needles! Well, when I say "on the needles" I mean "about to be pulled straight back off the needles in a fit of frustration", because apparently I can't reliably count above about 30. The slightly uncooperative project in question is the Aleita Shell from the Spring 2008 issue of Interweave Knits, which arrived while I was back. Also in the post (because Amazon really shouldn't store your card details so conveniently) were The Knitter's Book of Yarn (some interesting stuff, but not worthy of the hyperbole dished out over at, a couple of cookbooks and, um, Jane Asher's Cakes for Fun. This one was a total mistake, I swear! But you never know when you might need to whip up a cactus cake or an edible pot plant at a moment's notice.

Friday, 15 February 2008

You mean posts are meant to have a point to them?

Look what I saw on my way home today - an Ampelmann car!The Ampelmann, in case you haven't come across him, was the traffic light man of the GDR and is today a cult icon and general pinup for Ostalgie. There are entire shops (well, OK, only a couple, but he's got concessions in department stores too!) given over to selling everything from Ampelmann ice cube trays to stem vases, gummi sweets and flip flops. You can even, should you so wish (and who wouldn't?), buy an Ampelmann flag for your tricycle. (This sort of reminds me of a comedian I once saw going through the merchandise sold by the German political parties. You can get CSU bikinis! Do you think Angela Merkel wears them on holiday?)

Slightly more conventionally, you can still find the Ampelmann on traffic lights in East Berlin, and he's begun making inroads into the West too. As you can see, the staid West German guy just can't compete with the jaunty slant of the Ampelmännchen's hat.

And if you patiently stuck with this in the forlorn hope that there might be knitting news burried somewhere at the end - um, sorry! But tomorrow's the start of a two-and-a-bit week holiday, and I'm determined to have something to show for it by time time I get back...

Monday, 11 February 2008

In which I try to brazen out the fact that I haven't so much as touched a knitting needle in three weeks

Back in the good old days when Mike and I actually lived in the same country (it's the little things that make all the difference to a relationship, don't you think?) we used to take it in turns to cook each other three course meals. Admittedly we had slightly different approaches (I believe in things like recipes and scales; he believes in things like Google and the remoter reaches of his imagination), but there's nothing quite like dispatching your other half to the sitting room with a glass of wine and orders to stay put while you set about dirtying every utensil you own, pausing only to call out things like "erm, you like carbon, right?".

Anyway, with a two-week trip to visit him just a few days away I've been obsessively diligently ploughing through recipes trying to put together the perfect menu, which has been a bit more of a challenge than usual because we'll only have a two-ring hob (electric at that - can you hear the violins?). No oven, no grill, and no separate eating area conveniently out of sight of the culinary devastation I generally leave in my wake. I think, though, that I might have managed it! Stay tuned to see if this confidence is justified, or, if you're anywhere near as impatient as me, snaffle a sneak preview.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Interweave Knits Spring has sprung!

And it looks great! Of course, being a lowly European subscriber my issue presumably won't bowl up until sometime mid-September, but at the rate I'm going I won't be ready for a new project till then anyway. (The Surplice Bodice Camisole is on hold while I wait for the ministering angels at Ravelry to rescue me from the depths of tension despair.) In an unsubtle attempt to distract you from my lack of progress I present my find of the day:

Is it wrong to want children purely as cupcake-making justification?

Monday, 21 January 2008

Who ya gonna call? Stashbusters!

The swatch for the Surplice Bodice Camisole is drying (by which I just mean that I've hung it up to dry - I highly doubt that it actually is drying, given the dismal damp), and I'm now twiddling my thumbs for want of a craftier use to put them to. Did I mention that I'm meant to be working on grammar exercises? So what better procrastination than a spot of mental stash-busting!

When I first started knitting I was sure I'd never accumulate a stash. Don't laugh! My logic was flawless: you buy yarn for a project, you use it for said project; you have, at most, a few odds and ends left over. But somehow things didn't quite pan out like that (yes, yes, hide your astonishment). Irresistible sales, abandoned projects and the odd gift or two have meant that, while I by no means have the kind of mammoth, threatening-to-engulf-entire-loft-extensions yarn collection that most of blog-land seems to, I've got enough to make me think twice about buying more. Most in-need-of-using-up are ten balls of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk DK; seven skeins (or maybe hanks; is there a difference?) of Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk and three of Classic Elite Provence. I'm a bit stumped, to be honest: they all knit up to about 22 st/4", and for some reason very few of my patterns call for that sort of tension. I'm toying with a couple of ideas:

Puff-Sleeved Feminine Cardigan from Fitted Knits

Laced-Front Sweater from Knitting Lingerie Style

...but nothing's really clamouring "knit meeeee!" I may have to put my designing cap on (does anyone else hear that ominous music in the background?).

The real trouble with mental stashbusting is that you come up against so many things you'd like to knit but don't have the right yarn for. Yet. Because as we all know, the simplest solution to not having the right yarn is to buy some! The reason I have a stash problem in the first place may be becoming clearer...

Saturday, 19 January 2008

It's raining, it's pouring!

I don't normally consider rain particularly blog-worthy, what with being British and all, but in the four months I've been in Berlin I've only needed my umbrella once (admittedly this may say more about how often I leave the flat than about the weather), so I think this counts as headline-grabbing stuff.

In knittier news, I've decided to place Mike's jumper in the hands of the blocking fates. I don't much fancy having eleven balls worth of wet wool sitting around in my room, though (our flat's experiencing a bit of a damp problem; add a sodden jumper into the mix and the atmosphere might no longer support human life), so I'm waiting until the imminent arrival of a dehumidifier before attempting it. In the meanwhile, I've started swatching for my next project - je vous présente the Surplice Bodice Camisole from Knitting Lingerie Style!
Isn't it sweet? I chose this example (courtesy of a Raveler named Vilma) because it's more or less the exact colour of the yarn I'm using; the chocolate brown Classic Elite Provence I showed a couple of posts ago. I don't think I've ever knit with pure cotton before, and I've been finding it a bit tiring on the hands. Plus I'm not entirely sure how much tighter you're meant to knit cotton than other fibres; the latest section of my swatch bears a startling resemblance to cardboard.

On a completely unrelated note, marvel at the cutene
ss of my aubergines!
Alright, that's actually a stock photo; I was too lazy to take a picture of mine. But they look exactly like that! In fact, the Chinese supermarket I got them from appears to have an entire refrigerator unit dedicated to unfamiliar aubergine varieties of varying cuteness, the most intriguing of which are these. I thought they were peppercorns until I read the label. Being a sucker for all things miniature (remind me not to go to Japan; my credit rating would never recover) I stocked up on a selection of baby vegetables, and now feel like a giant every time I open the fridge.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

(Apart from the fact that I'm wearing pyjama bottoms at 11am on a Thursday.) Any guesses? How about if I told you that that's Mike's Secret Jumper I'm wearing? OK, the ribbed section's a bit big on me (I do have a waist somewhere in there, honest), and it does stretch out to more Mike-like proportions, but the top part fits me perfectly! If anything it's a bit snug around the armholes. Now, I have great faith in the miracle that is blocking (and am clinging desperately to the fact that my swatch grew when washed), but be honest with me - is there any chance that a me-sized sweater is going to blossom into a Mike-sized one? Should I keep the faith and plough on, or admit defeat and rip back? (Not that this should influence your decision, but in a fit of over complacency I may have already woven the ends in...)

Friday, 11 January 2008

Good job "better time management" wasn't one of my resolutions

Oops, that was a slightly looser interpretation of "another day or two" than I'd intended. Still, without further ado I present the last, ooh, month or so of my life, condensed into handy paragraph-sized format:

First up, I finished my work placement at the Bundestag, and did so without leaving any sort of political mess in my wake! Then it was moreorless (whoops, I keeps forgetting that's not a word) straight off to Vienna for a quick pre-Christmas break. (Average daytime temperature during our trip: -1°C. Percentage of waking hours spent in coffeehouses huddled over assorted steaming beverages: 90. Sightseeing? What sightseeing?) Beautiful city, supremely tacky Christmas markets, scrumptious coffee (apricot liqueur, where have you been all my life?), unpleasantly smoky restaurants, great hotel, curious preponderance of sushi bars. Oh, and Sachertorte is the most overrated thing since, erm...sliced bread. Next, back to Britain! Highlights included the North London derby and the revival of Nicholas Nickleby at the Gielgud; lowlights included the annual ordeal that is Family Christmas (a misleading name, suggesting as it does that a) it takes place at Christmas and b) is a convivial affair. Instead, Family Christmas is a strictly segregated post-festivities hangover, with the "children" [aged 19 to 32] relegated to the kitchen, allowed to integrate with the "adults" only when saying hellos and goodbyes. I have a feeling that one day I'm going to need extremely expensive psychoanalysis for this). But I digress! Christmas itself was lovely. And I have knitting-related bounty!
Meet Elefante, who I found peering out of my stocking on Christmas morning (yes, I still get a stocking. What can I say; I don't keep my inner 6 year-old on a very tight rein). My mother was up till 3am on Christmas Day finishing him (well, I had to get my time management skills from somewhere...), and thinks I'm decidedly peculiar for being so smitten with him.

Yes, I only know how to do one thing in Photoshop

Next up, wool! Well, cotton, technically (Egyptian, no less!), which my mother picked up for me in New York. I see a couple of pretty summer tops in my future...Possibly from this gorgeous book, which was my grandmother's present to me. (My grandma is about to turn 91, and has no idea that she's given me a book with the word "lingerie" in the title. I reciprocated by giving her a DVD player which neither of us has the least idea how to use.) Or possibly from Interweave Knits, because yup, I am now the proud holder of a subscription! A pretty good haul for one year, oder?

Back in the present I'm in Berlin again, dividing my time judiciously between Ravelry and Frasier reruns while waiting for my language course to start. Hopefully I'll have some knitting progress to show at the weekend, when I have a more man-sized model at my disposal.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Happy ever-so-slightly-belated New Year!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (nope, I'm not going to start listing myriad religious and ethnic alternatives - hands up anyone reading this who actually celebrates Kwanzaa?*) and that no-one's fallen off the resolution bandwagon yet! (Having said that, my New Year's resolution is remaining firmly under wraps, the better to avoid public humiliation when I inevitably fail miserably to stick to it.)

The pictures above give some indication of what I've been up to over the past couple of weeks, but, lazy so-and-so that I am, it might be another day or two before the accompanying words materialise. Till then!

* (Digging myself out of my politically incorrect hole) not that I have anything against Kwanzaa, but I'm damned if I'm going to start saying "happy winter holidays" any time soon just to cover all the bases. Though that does remind me of a story I had as a child about a family of Jewish badgers whose daughter... hmm, on second thoughts maybe that's one for another day .