Thursday 31 December 2020

Ten Things about 2020

There doesn't seem to be much point in doing one of my usual long, picture-filled, month-by-month posts about the year that has just passed. I do love reading them, but what is there to say about this year, when I have spent most of it at home? Definitely my greatest achievement will be the knitting: I am 3 rows off finishing my 6th adult garment and my yardage total for the year is almost 10,000m, an unprecedented amount in a normal year (last year I managed around 8,500). Knitting post to come separately. 

Here are the things I'd like to remember 2020 for:

1. Belfast. 

Right after New Year I flew to Belfast with my friends Rachael and Kate to visit another friend, Naomi, who moved back there last year. We did a massive walk to the Giant's Causeway, a walk all around Belfast centre with a visit to Crumlin Gaol, and a castle visit on the last day. It was a deeply relaxing and superfun way to eke out the last few days of the Christmas holidays. 

Here we all are, enjoying a cocktail in the highest bar in Northern Ireland. 

2. Skiing

Who could have guessed that we'd be skiing in northern Italy the week before northern Italy shut down with the pandemic? It was a great trip, regardless. We were in the South Tirol which doesn't really consider itself to be northern Italy, and we had a lovely hotel were Alex and I essentially shared our own flat (talk about a private room - this one had a kitchen) and the owners let us use their hot tub. Throw in some lovely coach drivers, Cieran and Kamal, a terrifying evening of night-toboganning, a go in a tubing park that wasn't technically open to the public and some skiing around statues of dinosaurs, and this trip was an absolute winner. It was an awful journey back with some terrible delays, which spelled trouble for me as I was preparing for a big job interview on the Monday, but other than that, it was a great 'last trip outside the UK for 2020'. 

3. The Lake District

My friend Zoe and I were meant to be going to Costa Rica in the summer. Many hours had been spent planning the route. We'd booked tickets through a questionable third party as they were literally half the price, so naturally cancellation and refund took a long, long time, but it did happen eventually, phew.

Instead, we decided to do a domestic holiday. 'Anywhere except Scotland,' I told Zoe, sympathising with my little car. So naturally, she picked Cumbria. 'I really want to see Hadrian's Wall,' she said. OK, I guess it's not technically Scotland...

We had a really lovely time. We went the second week of August, in what turned out to be something of a national heatwave, only in the western Lakes I can report that it was Not Too Awful. We had one stormy night and one muggy day, but the rest of the time it was just sunny and lovely. We saw Hadrian's Wall. We visited the tree from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (my choice). We did a paddle boarding session - my coccyx still hurts from falling off (not kidding). We did a 5 hour walk to Black Moss Pots that was less than 2 hours on the way back; Zoe had a sore foot and I never mind walking slow, so we took our time and had a good long stop on the way up, but picked up the pace on the return as we were afraid it would be dark before we got back. We went to the beach at St Bee's, had lunch at the Lakes Distillery, a gorgeous cream tea at a very posh hotel where my car was valet parked, and a boat ride around Derwentwater. I lost my GoPro but it was handed in! So the memory card was returned to me in October. 

It was all just beautiful. What an amazing place. I am looking forward to having another trip back there one day - preferably when I am fitter and enjoying walking a bit more. It's all about the walking, it seems. 

4. Spending more time with friends

For various reasons, the pandemic has enabled more spending time with friends. There was a weekend in the Forest of Dean, a couple of days in a cabin on Oxwich Bay, a few fun nights in at various houses, picnics in the park and at school after the end of the day, more WhatsApp video calls, weekly knitting groups on Zoom, and, of course, masses more time spent with Mr Z, which we both found we enjoyed. There was a fun party at Rachael's house in January. I got a new group of friends to compete alongside in all the history online quizzes there have been this year and we send each other nice things in the post, which is lovely. 

This has all been enjoyable and a definite upshot of the pandemic: more time, more interest in hanging out with people. I hope it lasts beyond corona. 

5. Becoming an auntie

My sister in law gave birth to the bonniest of babies, Lara, on December 29th last year. I have been lucky enough to have a hold of her twice so far, and also feel fortunate that she won't remember this year, or the absence of family. 

Here she is, submitting to wearing my glasses at 11 days old (top) and around 8 weeks (bottom).

6. Getting kittens

Undoubtedly the joy of lockdown. Alex's girlfriend's cats both had a wild night out and conceived at the same time, so we got one from each litter. They have been endlessly entertaining and it has been such a treat to be able to spend so much time with them when they've been little. As a result, we've got some very cuddly cats now. Lenin even sleeps on my desk when I'm working. Krupskaya is, meanwhile, a big fan of the bathroom and likes to supervise all teeth cleaning and baths. 

Sadly, Cromwell the rabbit went off with Frith in November, after a few days of not eating. Luckily Earl seems unconcerned, but we do miss Crom and his entertaining ways. Bonus Crom pic.

7. Some big work wins

It was a weird work year. At the start of it I applied to be the subject adviser at the big O. I wasn't sure if I wanted it, but I knew I would be able to do a good job and it seemed interesting and exciting. I was invited to complete an assessment and then, at the top of a mountain in half term, I got the call inviting me to interview. This gave me approximately no time to prepare, so (as predicted) I did ok on the subject specific questions, less well on the general ones. I spent the rest of the week trying to decide what I would say if they offered me the job, and had pretty much decided on no, due to the requirement to stop all other work; but they thankfully took the decision out of my hands by not offering it to me. It was an interesting process, at any rate.

Perhaps partly as an upshot of this - she was very clear she did not want me to leave - the head at school decided she would create a new Head of Faculty post, which I duly applied for and got. So I've gone from managing a department of senior teachers, to managing one NQT, to managing 4 other subjects alongside my own. I am enjoying the new challenge a lot. 

In the non-school work side of things, I've been working on a new textbook with a bunch of other local teachers since the summer and I am so flipping excited for it to come out. It's been something I've wanted to write for a couple of years and watching it actually happen has been a highlight of the year.

In fact, only one thing could trump it, and that was writing something for the exam board: an addition to the units currently being offered. I won't be more specific than that because this is public but also my personal ramblings and preferably kept on the DL. But, this has been my long-term goal and I am bursting with pride at having had the opportunity to achieve it this year. It has been a long and, at times, frustrating process, and we're still waiting on approval, but it was a definite win.

8. Better self-care

Lockdown has taught me that I don't naturally only need 6 and a half hours of sleep a night. Lockdown has taught me that I don't have to be at the gym to exercise and if I make cake then I'm the only one likely to be eating it and this will make my clothes shrink. Lockdown has taught me that screentime should not be unlimited and that hobbies are things to be encouraged. 

So, I'm ending 2020 with an earlier bedtime, more at-home workout equipment, a 72-day intermittent fasting streak and a larger pile of finished books and completed knitting projects than is usual for a year. Go me. I wish I had blogged a bit more, but then - what was there to say? I'm struggling to get to 10 on this list tbh. 

9. A diagnosis for Mother Hand

We were probably a bit complacent about Mother Hand's mental health during lockdown because, by the time she visited us in July, it was becoming clear that all was no well. This time it was a very hyper episode, which involved flinging things from windows and being very blunt about things. Sib took over and eventually she was sectioned again, though only for a short time while they got her medication right. Either the hospital or the private psychiatrist Sib employed diagnosed her with bi-polar, which is a diagnosis she has welcomed. She seems fine at the moment so I guess we will just wait and see what happens. But this is the first time she has been under medical care during a high episode, so this should hopefully mean that she can access the system more easily the next time. 

10. Working less hard

2020 has been simultaneously a good and bad year to be a teacher. Good - when the exams were cancelled in March, my teaching load instantly halved and I suddenly won back June and July from the grip of the exam board. Bad - I had to learn a whole new system for delivering lessons. Good - for the rest of last academic year, I was only expected to be in school once a fortnight. Bad - I was only expected to be in school once a fortnight: I don't thrive when I'm having to do school work without being in school. Good - it reminded me that I love being in the classroom and cemented my feelings about the job I didn't get in February. Bad - teaching online and in person at the same time is hard; keeping on top of student work is hard; replanning everything for social distancing and distance learning is hard. We have worked very hard, since September, in an environment that has felt increasingly more threatening. 

But from March-August, it was a dream, really. I worked all day on what felt like mostly silly little annoying things, but I did no work in the evenings or at weekends. There was no stress around exam entries or coursework. No intervention or hours of extra marking. GCSE results day was worry-free. I did remember thinking that, in the best tradition of these things, the lack of work in the spring could only mean more work in the autumn (which has proved true) but it was a breath of fresh air, to be honest. 

That said, I hope it's never repeated.

Happy 2021 all. 

Sunday 29 November 2020

Deck the halls with FOs and holly

The pandemic has given me a lot of opportunities for poring over my Ravelry queue this year and I was inspired to get my hands on some Big Softie off ebay and get on with knitting myself a door wreath for the festive period. Then I made the mistake of posting about it on Twitter and got a request for one, but since it takes all of 4 hours to finish and I bought 10 balls of Big Softie, and since the request came from Yul and Me'Julie (if you happened to read this blog back in 2002 you might remember them) and they've had a horrible year of it, being pub landlords, I decided to oblige. 

Pattern: Hampstead Wreath (Rav link)
Yarn: Sirdar Big Softie, now sadly discontinued. 
Needle: 10mm
Mods: On the first one, on the left, I knitted 14 repeats of the cable instead of 13. The result was a bit too oversized for the pipe lagging - Wilko's only had 15mm lagging, so I stuffed one length into another to get the girth. So, on the second one, I cut to 13 repeats, as per the pattern, but narrowed the width by 2 stitches on each side, resulting in a slightly more stretched cover. I believe the third time will be the charm, when I will probably reduce by one stitch each side and knit 14 repeats, but who knows when I will get round to that? I think knitting two in the space of a week is probably enough. 

Now just to decorate, but how? I'm thinking a big glossy red ribbon bow and some fresh holly and mistletoe, and the toy robin that Krupskaya keeps trying to destroy. 

Sunday 18 October 2020

Weekend WIP

This sweater has been a long time in the WIP pile, for no good reason. Yes it is 4-ply and yes there were short rows and yes it has a few texture rounds that knit like 1x1 rib, but it's not THAT many texture rounds. I think I'm going to fall back on our excellent reason for why anything is anything these days, which is, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Please let this be the middle and not still the beginning. 

Anyway, good news - I finished the body of the sweater this weekend. Just the sleeves to go, and some sort of pick-up-and-bind-off neckband. I'm very pleased with the fit and marvelling at how the v neck was created just through the shaping - so clever. 

Naturally my thoughts now turn to the next project(s) and I'm thinking of a bunny jumper for my niece (I dreamt about this last night, and in my dream I had accidentally knitted the whole jumper in stripes without any bunny ears and also it was an adult size and fit Mother Hand, so I'm not sure what that was all about), a couple of Christmas wreaths for gifting and a colourwork jumper using some of my oldest stash yarn. We will see what I pick up when the sleeves are finished cast on. 

Thursday 17 September 2020

Scenes from the Classroom #40

 Y11: Oooofff urggghhh it's soooo hot in here

Me: You think this is hot! My dad lives in Las Vegas and it hasn't rained there for 154 days!

Y11: Wooaahhh, that's ages!

(A minute or so passes)

T: Miss, does that mean your dad hasn't showered in like....150 days or something?

It's like a gift that keeps on giving. 

Sunday 13 September 2020

Scenes from the Classroom #39

I'm not well-known to most of the younger students in the school. Sadly my timetable is really top heavy these days, so they don't tend to have me as a teacher until they get to GCSE, meaning their only interaction with me is as a grumpy cover teacher or when I'm on duty. Plus I'm, yknow, me, so it isn't unusual to find that students are a bit nervous around me when I start teaching them. 

By lunchtime on Friday, when I met my year 10 class for the first time, we were also all exhausted: new term tiredness compounded by months of lockdown. So I wasn't surprised when they were really quiet. But I was surprised when they stayed really quiet, for an extended period of time. I can't wander the room anymore to check on them, so I had to ask, instead. 

'Year 10, are you being this quiet because you're exhausted, or I'm terrifying?' I stage-whispered into the room.

'It's about half and half, Miss,' someone whispered back. 

I expect we all slept well on Friday night. 

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Scenes from the Classroom #38

 It's been a while since we had one of these. I'm sure it's because I have forgotten to share, rather than fewer funny things have happened. 

Today was my first lesson back with a full class, since March. It's day 6 of the new year but there has been a lot of faffing and fortunate timetabling which has meant a respite, although I get grumpy when I have to spend too much time in school without teaching - what's the point? 

My first lesson was with my y11 group. I had two y10 classes last year but gave up the nicer one to a colleague, on the basis that this year would be long and catching them up would be difficult. The class I kept would have coped a lot less well with the transition to a new teacher, I feared. But, in the past, they have been hard work. There are a lot of them and a small number are not very nice to each other. I have to say though, that it was a joy getting them back and I gave myself a telling off for being negative. 

At some point in the double lesson, I showed them kitten pictures.

Chorus: What are their names?
Me: This is Lenin...
Me: No, Lenin. 
T: Whose that?
Me: He was a Russian ruler. And this is Krupskaya...
T: KRU..KRI...KRIPSKAYA?! What...who...who names their cat Kripskaya?
Me: I do. Me. I name my cat that. 

Meanwhile my student of Georgian heritage was hysterical with laughter, being pretty much the only one who has heard these names before. 

SO nice to get back to it. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about how nice it would be not to work anymore but this ignores the fact that, actually, it is quite nice to work, too. Though I wish I didn't have to work right now, but those Politics quizzes won't write themselves. 

Wednesday 2 September 2020

Things I learned in lockdown

We're back in school now, trying to work out how to manoeuvre around the new distancing rules. I remember realising early on in lockdown that Covid was not going to just GO AWAY one day but that, much like that niggling pain in my foot that began as something that hurt when I walked, it would just slowly fade away until, one day, you realise it's not there anymore. At the time I decided it was going to be intensely irritating and I was correct. So I'm irritated, but also pleased I was right about it. 

During lockdown I started a list of things I had learned but I only put two things on it. I didn't think I learned much. Reflecting has made me realise there are a few things to add.

1. You can use a cafetiere to froth milk for a latte (definitely my number one discovery). You heat it and then pump the filter up and down through the milk until it froths. Jenny from knitting group pointed out that this is unhelpful for anybody that doesn't have two cafetieres; apparently you can also put it in a jar and shake it until it foams. Anyway, I can make my lattes at home now which is exciting. 

2. Isle of Wight Tomatoes will ship you a box of their delicious tomatoes in 2-3 days. If you order more than £25 of produce, they will ship them for free. What a time to be alive. I really hope they don't withdraw this service. 

3. I don't wash my hands anywhere near enough and I touch things I don't need to touch. I cannot stop touching my face and I gave up trying very quickly.

4. I need more sleep than I get on the regular. I'd started waking up some time between 6 and 7, 7 days a week, all year round, excluding after very late nights, even if I went back to sleep; I'd therefore concluded that I was naturally meant to sleep for 6-7 hours a night. This is not the case. 

5. I could probably do very well living in the middle of nowhere, actually. Mr Z and I have the constant tension of me wanting to live further into a city and him wanting to live in the middle of nowhere, which is why we live in the worst of both worlds. Spending weeks on end with only a once-a-week visit to the supermarket was surprisingly calming, though. Online gatherings are sufficient. There's mail order for everything. So, maybe. 

6. Those beds-of-nails mat things really do work if you've got a sore back. The Shakti Mat was my first inappropriate lockdown purchase (I wish I could say it was my last - much like my first year as a senior examiner, the hours I spent glued to my computer meant that I bought a lot of things I really didn't need). I still can't quite manage to lie on it with bare skin for more than about 30 seconds, but it got rid of my too-much-sitting lower back pain pretty tidily.

7. If you've got stubby eyelashes and you really want them to grow, Revitalash really works. It's expensive. I bought it because there was a stonking goody bag on offer from Cult Beauty with a fairly high minimum spend. But it was worth it. And if it lasts 6 months, as it claims this tube will, that works out to be about 70p a day. Yes it's a lot, no matter how you pitch it. 

That's probably it, actually. I also learned how to use Zoom and MS Teams, and worked out the perfect position for napping on the couch, but these are all pretty trivial. 

I hope you learned some good things in lockdown, too. 

Sunday 30 August 2020

Weekend WIP


I picked up this yarn at the Flock gathering back in November. It's Mr B's Hiddlestone 4-ply, a merino nylon blend. I haven't really gone for flecky yarn before but this had an irresistible combination - grey yarn, purple and peppermint green flecks - and I had recently queued a pattern that had been knitted with a flecky yarn, so it came home with me. 

The pattern is Candy Shop (Rav link) and it's a v-neck. 'Oh, you're knitting another grey v-neck?' I hear you cry. Yes. I have a type. This is my type. We all thought it was blue, or watermelon-themed things, but it turns out that this is my most commonly knitted garment. 

This is an interesting v-neck because the whole thing is knitted in the round from the very beginning, with the front dipped lower first through short rows (so far, so ordinary) and then through cleverly placed raglan increases. The need for double stitch markers has driven me a little bit bonkers and I quite often forgot to slip the stitch in between the markers every other round, but luckily this is easily rectified. I finally divided the sleeves today so I am looking forward to it maybe going a bit quicker now. 

At some point, the disparity in the length at the front/back is evened out with short rows, which should provide some interesting knitting. Four-ply jumpers are time consuming, but I have to admit that they are the ones that get the most wear in my wardrobe. 

Sunday 23 August 2020

Weekend FO

I finished this on the first weekend in August, just in time to take on holiday to the Lake District. I was convinced the weather would be dire and I would definitely need a cosy, woollen bralette to warm me up after a day of tramping around in the drizzle; I packed 4 jumpers and 2 long sleeved tops. Naturally the weather was, therefore, glorious and I didn't have the opportunity to wear any of my woollens, but, on balance, I think I'd rather have had it and not needed it than had bad weather. 

Just the one picture because Mr Z was in some weird mood and didn't bother to focus on any of the back shots, so they're all blurry - the line is the same at the back, with slightly lower strap points. 

Pattern: The Everyday Bralette by Tiara Duncan (Rav link so don't click if you have a problem with their new interface)
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Honor in Royal Wedding, about a skein
Needle: 2.75mm
Mods: I knitted the straps as a 5st icord, to make them a bit more robust. I used Jeny's stretchy cast on. 

This yarn was leftover from 2011 when I knitted a shrug with 2 skeins of it, that doesn't really fit. A shame, or I could have had some kind of weird twinset, a la Katie Holmes. It's a lovely soft silk alpaca blend that feels really lovely against the skin.

I wondered for a while about putting up a picture of me in this with my midriff showing, wondering if it was wise, given my job. In the end I decided that it didn't matter. It's just a bit of skin, even if it is really pale and flabby. 

These trousers are Alexas from Lucy and Yak, by the way, and I can heartily recommend them - unbelievably comfy for lounging and I bet they will be great for wearing on long journeys, too. 

Weekend Cooking

 I haven't done masses of baking in lockdown. I did a bit to begin with, until I realised I was the only one going to be eating it and that this would just require a lot of exercise and dieting at the end of lockdown.

However, I have tried to do a bit more cooking, now and again. Early on in lockdown, I discovered IoW Tomatoes, who will ship boxes of delicious tomatoes (and assorted other vegetables, including asparagus when it was in season) direct to your door. We have had many boxes of tomatoes pass through the front door since. I forced myself to lay off it for a while but, when I went back this week, I found that there were many different varieties available, presumably having recently come into season, and I ended up placing my biggest order yet. 

In order to sneak these in past Mr Z, I earmarked this 3kg box to making marinara sauce.

Look how shiny! I hadn't made a marinara sauce before and most of those available are for tinned tomatoes, so I made a bit of an experiment and it turned out great. 

3kg tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 small red onions (or one large, I guess - I only had small), chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tbsp salt
1.5 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Half tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs each of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme
A good scrunch of black pepper

If I'd had basil and oregano I would have added these too, but I didn't. 

Skin the tomatoes and deseed. The way I do this is with a big pot of hot water on the stove and a big bowl of cold water: immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water for 1-2 minutes, in batches, then plunge into the cold water - slip off the skins and give them a really good squeeze under the water to get all the seeds out. I was taught this method on an Italian cooking course run by a nonna in southern Italy and I can highly recommend.

Put the tomatoes in a pot with all the other ingredients - I tied the fresh herbs and bay leaves together into a bundle and put them in whole. Put over the heat and simmer gently for 2 hours or so. You'll probably have an idea about the desired thickness; I went until there was no liquid fill of a spoon draw, after stirring - if you make chutney you will hopefully know what that means. Take it off the heat, remove the herb bundle and blend with a stick blender until it's your desired thickness. This made about 5 and a half cups of sauce and I've frozen it in one-cup bags. 

It is really, really tasty. Dealing with the tomatoes was definitely the most time-consuming bit but I think there is a huge pay-off for using fresh over tinned.

I'm constantly trying to get better at using TikTok (I don't know why, don't ask me) so I filmed myself making this sauce, for practice. I am not very good at pausing before talking so I get cut off a bit at the start. I also don't know how to film more than a minute's worth of clips and then chop it down. But it is always fun to give it a go. 

Sunday 5 July 2020

Weekend Frog: A Cautionary Tale

I'm currently knitting a new version of this using the same yarn, in cream/beige. It's not very interesting yet, but I am going to add a racer back when I get to the top, when it will become a bit more challenging.

In search of a challenge, therefore, I pulled out this. It's been a while since I worked on it; it may even be that I haven't touched it since 2018. It's a 12 row lace repeat that patterns on every side, although once you get into the rhythm of it, as I remembered today, it is quite straightforward.

What was less straightforward was working out where on earth I had stopped, on the pattern. I remember vividly thinking, you need to make sure you stop this in a place that is obvious so you can pick it up again. Well, good thinking past Sally, but would it have killed you to write it down in your project notes? I couldn't figure it out. I was staring at it for over an hour. It helped when I realised I had finished on a wrong side row - this epiphany took a good 20 minutes to arrive, which is utterly tragic. In the end, I counted the stitches and did some pattern maths, and worked out I had finished on a row 6. I duly began knitting row 7, only to realise that, probably the reason why I had had such trouble is that I had messed up the last row I had knitted, and managed to knit half the row from one pattern row and the other half from another. So I tinked back the new knitting. I tinked back part of the row of the old. I knitted anew. It all came together.

This morning, I picked it up and started again. I have no idea what went wrong, but it went really wrong, very quickly. This is a pattern of carefully placed circles and it's not forgiving of mistakes. I tried tinking but I had lost track of where I'd restarted and decided that it was a lost cause, since I'd clearly not restarted in the right place and couldn't work out where it should be. So I frogged the lot. Except, it's a pure silk single, so I frogged about half of it, cut the yarn and gave the rest to the kittens to play with, because it was getting a bit ratty - now I see that I've frogged it before, the first time I tried.

Maybe I should give this up as a lost cause .... but, third time lucky. 

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Lockdown FO

I am cheating on this a bit and backdating it to when it was actually FO'd, although I have been waiting for pictures of its recipient wearing it to write about it. 

Such a little cutie, my niece!

Pattern: Crumpets
Yarn: 4 balls of Rowan Calmer - discontinued now; this has been in my destash for ages. 
Needle: 3.75mm - I should have gone up a size to 4mm, it ended up being pretty bullet proof
Mods: Very few. I knitted a beaded bind off instead of crocheting a picot edge because, as we know, crochet = dark art. Likewise, I avoided crochet straps and knitted on icord straps with little beaded ends. 

This pattern had been in my queue for about a decade - it was on the first page. I think I had intended to knit it for Jen's daughter Abi, who is now 10...possibly 11. The beaded bodice came out beautifully but it was pretty fiddly to knit. I was so looking forward to the skirt part, but then that had double the number of stitches and was boring as hell. The Calmer is splitty and feels weird to knit with, being ridiculously stretchy. I spent ages stringing beads for the bind off, only to come across a knot a few rows into the new ball; I cut and restrung, and then decided that the beaded bind off I liked to most was done with a crochet hook, so it was all for nothing.

So yeah, not my favourite thing to knit! - which is a shame, because this pattern goes up to 6 years and I'd love to make her another. Definitely not in Calmer, though. 

This bind off is divine, even if it did make me want to throw the garment across the room in frustration. It took 3 days. I slipped a bead onto a stitch, knitted it, slipped it back to the left hand needle together with the previous stitch, and k2togtbl. It's lucky she looks so cute in it, haha. 

Sunday 31 May 2020

Weekend FO and WIPs

I keep coming across caches of yarn that are not listed in my Ravelry stash. I don't like it when this happens because it means that, when I knit it up, I can't clear something out of stash. Reading that back makes me worry about myself but, there it is. 

This ball of yarn was one such missing. I bought it from Pook online around NY 2018/19, prompted by Jo at knitting group who knows I am a fan of the watermelon. When I saw this Star Trek comm badge inspired pattern by the Yarniad, I knew that it was made for this ball.

Pattern: Engage
Yarn: One 100g ball of Pook Gradient Cake Merino Nylon sock yarn. The pattern called for a yarn that had 100m or so more in the skein, but I just knit to the end of the ball and was happy.
Needle: 3.75mm
Mods: None needed, other than making it a few repeats shorter. This was the easiest pattern I have ever come across, I think, short of a straight st-st scarf. It was done in about a week. 

I keep meaning to take post-blocking photographs. I blocked for length rather than width, so it has become a long, airy wisp, that folds lengthways to become a compact cowlish thing. I love the colours.

Now thinking about that OTHER watermelon gradient I got at Wonderwool and never listed on Ravelry. Sigh. 

Once this was done I got straight onto the baby dress I am knitting for my niece, mainly because I talked Mr Z into stringing the beads for me and I didn't want to look this gift horse in the mouth by putting the yarn back into a bag and not touching it for another year. 

This pattern is called Crumpets and has been in my queue for about 10 years - it was on the first page. The yarn is Rowan Calmer that has been listed on my destash page for ages but nobody was interested. I was surprised, people love Calmer. I'm not loving it, though. It's so stretchy. I think I should have gone for a bigger needle but the gauge seems to be working. I'm knitting the 1 year old size, thinking that my niece will be able to wear it next December when she is visiting her Peruvian family. But I'd like to finish it and get it off to her soon, just in case she outgrows it before then. 

I love, love the beaded effect but, omg, what a hassle. It would help if I learned to cable without a cable needle but it is still a faff, purling two together tbl. I was thinking of making this in a 2yo size too but I think I'd better be honest with myself and go for the 4yo size because I think that is how long it will take me to pluck up the nerve. I've seen some great versions of it with the beaded bodice and a fabric skirt, though, so I'm sure I will have another crack at it - only this time, I will get Mr Z to string way more beads than the pattern calls for. I used about 50% more than were specified. Had to cut the yarn and restart it. Annoying.

And then, there have been some more of these...

I haven't knitted a pinwheel since 2017 so I thought it was high time I started on some of those double skeins I've got stashed. This is a LE I bought out of someone's Ravelry destash. It's a lovely combination of soft blues, very restful. I've smashed out four this weekend. Expect another four by...well, Christmas, maybe. 

Sunday 17 May 2020

Recent FOs

Lockdown continues to do wonders for my knitting productivity. It's getting the point now where I am slightly resentful of having to spend all my weekdays sitting at a computer and working when I would rather be knitting. The very nice thing, though, is that I find I don't have to do any work in the evenings or at weekends, something I mainly attribute to the loss of my exam classes, meaning I'm really only planning for 11 hours of lessons a week (and some of those are double ups). I've certainly been very busy during the day but my leisure time is my own.

Ergo -

Pattern: Climb Every Mountain
Yarn: Triskelion Mona Sport, a lovely blend of silk, alpaca and linen. This took about 4 and a quarter skeins.
Needle: 3mm and 3.5mm
Mods: I knitted an extra pattern repeat at the bottom and 6 extra garter rows on the sleeves. I knitted 5 rounds of ribbing around the bottom edge, instead of the icord bind off.

This is a really comfortable garment to just throw on and feels wonderful against the skin. I can imagine it being a good post-yoga top as well as good for the beach, hence the inspiration for the photo shoot. And I managed to complete the whole garment in under 2 weeks! I was very pleased with myself.

No sooner was that done than I dived straight into this -

Pattern: Flutter Sleeve Cardigan, Interweave Knits Spring 2008
Yarn: John Arbon Knit by Numbers, so long in my stash that the label still says 'a new yarn', just under 4 skeins
Needle: 3.25mm, 3.5mm, 3.75mm
Mods: I knitted it in the round instead of pieced and added a reverse st-st line on either side where the seam would be. I picked up and knitted the button bands instead of knitting separately and sewing on - I used the smallest needle and calculated the stitch count using the same formula applied to the sleeves, which came out ever so slightly bowed on the middle needle, hence using the smallest one. Both of these mods were partly due to not enjoying seaming and partly due to working this pattern in a sproingy merino instead of the drapey silk blend it was meant for - I just didn't think this yarn would have the sag to necessitate the structural details.
I haven't knitted the tabs for the sleeves, yet, but I might add them in if I can find buttons I like for the sleeves.
You can't tell yet, but it will only have one button instead of two.

This garment is the one that has been in my queue for longest - since 2008. I bought this yarn in 2011, specifically for this cardigan, and I had even wound one skein of it ready to begin. I am really pleased I've finally managed to get round to it. It took a little longer - three and a half weeks - but then it was term time by the time I made a start on it.

In both cases, though, I am annoyed by the yarn requirements being so under what the pattern specified. I have more than a whole skein of Knit by Numbers left and most of a skein of Mona, and I was knitting to the correct gauge both times. Where does leftover yarn go to die? At least I could pair the Knit by Numbers with the leftovers from the Wonderwoman jumper for something. Maybe little felted toys or something.

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Lockdown knits

Well, this is a weird old world, isn't it?

I went home from work on March 20th, fully expecting to be in on the Monday, only to find a rota drawn up which I appeared on just once before the Easter break. To begin with this was jarring: I can't work a hundred miles a minute and come to a complete stop. However, I have found it actually quite easy to slide into a plateau of idleness. I've lost nearly half my timetable hours now that there is no summer series. I've gained weeks of time in the summer now that there is no summer series. What will I do?

Well, naturally there's been a lot of knitting. I finished this:

Pattern: Ravello by Isabel Kramer in size XXL - last year I was knitting her Westbourne so it seems the year has to always begin with a Kramer 4-ply sweater, because I started this in December.
Yarn: Isager Strik Tweed, bought in Copenhagen in the summer, in Topaz (2 and a half skeins) and Navy (2 and a bit skeins); Freyalyn BFL/Dinegal Nep, bought at Wonderwool in 2014.
Needle: 2.5mm and 3mm.
Mods: Almost none. I didn't even knit a bigger top than bottom. I did stripe the full sleeve instead of just half, however - the Freyalyn is so pretty that I couldn't just save it for the meagre stripes dictated. And the sleeves are a little longer than dictated, on account of my gibbon arms.

It's a lovely fit and I really should put it on for pictures, but there doesn't seem to be as much time as there should be, really.

Wanting something quick and easy, I moved straight on to a big tit.

This was a Sue Stratford kit I bought at Wonderwool in 2016. It was satisfyingly quick - the whole thing knitted up in a day and then I made myself find stuffing for it so the sewing up has begun. It's not yet finished because I'm debating stuffing some catnip in the middle. We're getting kittens later this month (SO exciting) so this might make a good plaything for them, although it is considerably bigger than either of them will be when they arrive.

Then, I cast on Climb Every Mountain using yarn I bought in the Triskelion sale last Wonderwool.

It's not a cape - it's a cape-like jumper. I have been desperately plugging away to get to the division for the sleeves and reached it today, one week after starting. Because the sleeve division is so low, this leaves me with only 62 rows left, plus the sleeve cuffs, which means I'm on course for this to be my second fastest garment ever, a record currently held by Cabo da Roca which took me 24 days but was (a) in a DK weight, not sport, (b) only 840m where this is going to be (my best guess) 1100 and (c) not knitted during a period of enforced sitting. In fact, my fastest garment ever, a camisole I knitted in 6 days, was completed during a period of enforced sitting, so this is obviously a good portent.

That said, I've got a sore shoulder and neck now. It might be from the resurrection of Wii Fit boxing, but it might be from the endless rounds of st-st in front of endless episodes of anything I can find that's good to watch (Tiger King, Grey's Anatomy, Unorthodox, The Crown, Ozark, the repeat of Wolf Hall...).

The colours are nothing like I'd normally choose but they are really glowy. I remember being torn between these two and a delightful spring green, which would have matched the tan quite well, but I'm not sorry about my choice (in fact I probably just wish I'd bought both, this is nice yarn to work with).

I can imagine throwing this on over my swimsuit at the beach and looking like a massive, luscious, custard cream.

Sunday 1 March 2020

Sunday Selfie

Just proving to you that I'm still alive -

It's been a busy couple of months. I went on the ski trip to Northern Italy (it's ok, no sign of the virus) so, as usual, large chunks of my mental energy were taken up preparing for that. I had a job interview for a job I wasn't sure I wanted, which I (therefore luckily) didn't get, but it was a very big job and the application and interview prep used up all remaining mental energy. I haven't even had time to re-read the first two Wolf Hall trilogy in preparation for the third part finally being released this week.

But, here I am (was), drinking a margarita in TGI Friday's last month, being sociable. More soon, honest.