Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Have I got the right Gauge?

There is a point in knitting where you have chosen a pattern, then found the yarn of your dreams, then knitted squares to get gauge. Sometimes, and I have been guilty of this, you might have knitted several gauges in all different sizes. And then you stop and you ponder, and you hope that you have got the right gauge.

And this is where I am in life.

Son no.2 is off to University next week, I've certainly chosen his pattern in life, I've carefully chosen where he lived, his schooling, his extra curriculum activities, along with our use of bribery and corruption on pocket money which was worth twice the amount if he bought reading books. (that worked incredibly well)

There have been many times that we have thought that the gauge was off, it was too wide, or it was too long, or was not knitted up tight enough so that all the loops understood each other. And sometimes I didn't think it was right but it was as good as we can achieve at that very moment.

I myself am pretty tired, three days worth of wandering around and purchasing 'stuff' for "his nibs"

But within that, that purchasing of everything a child might want, and most probably all that he might need if he was to get ill, cold, hungry or need money, let alone clean clothing or giving him enough that he can find his way home again quickly if he so needed to.

Sometimes there is a just a perfect moment of looking at a gauge. When you know its right. And sometimes that gauge looks back at you and says that it is happy to be a jumper or a shawl or a hat. Knitters know when that happens, it makes their day much brighter.

I am hoping, after all of these years,

that I got the right gauge and that my boy is happy.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Scotch Eggs, diet, what diet.

As some of my local readers are aware due to the steroids and in not anyway the extra cake I have put on a considerable amount of weight in the last year. The time had come where it was buy a whole new wardrobe full of clothes or bite the bullet. I don't lose weight very quickly so I won't wow you with my weight loss.

But I will wow you with this.

Diet Food.

Scotch eggs before going in the oven,

and after. Yum, yum, yum.

Actually I was stuffed and had to save a scotch egg for later, what with the jacket potato with it as well. And how is this trickery performed I hear you ask. For one scotch egg you need one sausage of the be good to yourself 'extra lean' Cumberland, one egg, an extra egg beaten up to dip the scotch eggs in and then 1 oz of breadcrumbs will do four scotch eggs and some spray light and pop in the oven. And this adds up to less than one syn per scotch egg. (if your going by slimming worlds) its surprisingly low in calories and very filling. Which is exactly what a girl needs when she is trying to lose the weight.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A star is born (well, not quite!)

Firstly we are all waiting for this little star to be born,

I think Mum is doing wonderfully well at coping with the tardiness of her baby and the sheer level of pains and aches when your 9 1/2 months pregnant! On a positive note Mum was able to come to patch working this weekend which was an unexpected gift and we all had a good giggle at just how big Mum was. Fortunately she giggled with us and has allowed me to post this picture so you too can see how big the bump is and perhaps have a little giggle with us - or those who are pregnant their knees might go a little bit weak!

We are all sending positive thoughts for a quick and speedy delivery and next time I see her she will have a baby mewing in her arms.

Onto the patch working, we worked on Anita's star (as named by Carie and carried on by Mandy)

Which is amusing as we both chose the dark red for the same pieces,

and Jackie's which will be fun with her lovely bright sunflowers.

I've sewn it together and I can see many faults with it in the morning light, which will mean I will be ripping some of the seams to resew them to try and get a better result, so this star hasn't been born yet either.

But I have other news. I have been trying to catch up on some of my other patches. One of which is called Roman Stripes.

and last night, I made this. Which is truly awful, here's a close up.

I have no idea what I have done wrong. But there is no way that is going into my quilt as it is. I could start completely again, but bearing in mind that this square has been sat in my bag for quite a while I was worried that the redoing wouldn't happen. So I undid one seam and turned it around and came up with this.

Which is not in anyway as pretty as what I was trying to achieve, but it doesn't show any major errors and once it is in the quilt it will be fine. But there will always be a small part of me that is annoyed that I didn't manage to complete a Roman Stripe patch properly, so watch this space because I will try again when I next have a moment to play. I am playing catch up on quite a few projects at the moment, not least son no.2 has decided he would like the quilt to go to University with - eek!, after Thursday I will will be working on that constantly.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A little something for a lovely friend.

At last I can reveal the counting to six post. You see one of my lovely friends is (and I hope I'm not revealing too much) is just about to undergo a stage in her life that is not very pleasant. It played on my mind, I love her so, and wanted to send my best of all best wishes to her.

I realised I wanted to give her something lovely and soft along with something that would keep her warm and comfortable in her darkest of days, along with cheering her up to bring her gently to her usual sunny position.

I'd found a pattern for a shawl that I had just knit for my Mum, but I wanted it bigger and warmer and in colours that I knew she would adore.

So at some silly o'clock time in the morning, I started to talk to people on Ravelry and sure enough there are people as insomniac as me, and I had a starting point, I looked at the yarn's suggested and quickly found a yarn. What happened was the choice I was looking at sent me giddy with delight, the colours were perfect for what I had in mind. Credit card in hand, the deed was done by four a.m. and I went back to bed, dreaming dreams about how pretty it would all be. (or how one hoped it would be)

Sure enough Fyberspate Scrumptious DK in colourway Blue Lagoon arrived within a couple of days and I cast on. I've been chugging away at it ever since, hoping I would get it finished in time. I did, just.

On Monday I finished knitting Multnomah by Kate Flagg and set about washing it (the advise is that there will be bleeding from this yarn, keep rinsing until it runs clear) gently softening it, spinning it (ooh ahh - but I needed it to dry that day) and using my blocking wires.

Son no.2 helped. He was very good actually, in a manly technical sort of way.

It certainly made life easier to have two involved.

And I might add he picked up any errors in blocking I was making.

Not bad for a boy who refuses to knit. We were both pleased with how it was blocking.

And then I didn't catch chance to photograph it in sunlight, so boy no.1 came into action..

He is almost like a blue moth,

just unveiling itself whilst its wings become firm enough to fly.

Fly, fly away, enjoy the the moonlit wonders of the night.

I wrapped it carefully last night and gave my friend this gift today, I think she was very happy, which makes me glad.

One fiber cuddle just ready to be stroked and wrapped warm in, accomplished.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

First pumpkin of the season.

I've always loved pumpkins. We didn't see many pumpkins as a child, marrows yes, pumpkins no. American soaps and sit coms were in full flow during my late teenage years often with the story line of family's sharing pumpkin pie and I would peer at the small television screen very carefully to see if I could see what was being eaten. Strangely I still haven't made a pumpkin pie I think mainly because my taste buds much prefer a savoury dish. I've made handmade ravioli with pumpkin and a sage and butter sauce which were delicious, there have been butternut squash risottos, pumpkin mash with and without cheese, various soups, chunks of roasted pumpkin with roasts, but no pie.

During the last couple of years we have been trying various varieties. Although some of the varieties were interesting last year I felt that there was something still missing. That we hadn't reached the heady heights of the most flavourful pumpkin. So with a little research we have a couple of different varieties in the ground one of which is Crown Prince.

Isn't it pretty. I love the mark where the flower would have been.

And I must show you this, I am very proud.

We tried a new variety of pepper this year. (I'll need to look in my seed catalogue to identify it) What a whopper, I've placed an average sized lemon next to it to give you some perspective.

I then gave son no.2 a lesson in how to cut up a chicken into eight pieces, as cooks we know that a whole chicken is much cheaper to buy than the equivalent pieces of the bird, and eventually one will tire of plain roasted chicken, where pieces can take you to all sorts of recipes. Tonight we just cut up a lemon and with that scattered garlic cloves in their skin, salt, pepper and thyme, gave it a good stir around with our hands, covered it with foil and popped it in the oven on a low light.

Just a quick aside, Son no.2 is doing extremely well in his cooking, he can knock up many savoury dishes now, bolognese, chilli's, curry's, pasta sauces, cottage pie, fajitas, chow mien etc and he understands the basics of soup from homemade stock and how to make a salad dressing. Although he hasn't mastered pastries and cakes, (although he does make very good pancakes), and hasn't done a roast from start to finish and has yet to master a roux sauce, he won't starve.

Getting back to pumpkins.

I've just dribbled some olive oil over them, lightly scattered them with salt and pepper and then grated nutmeg over them. I love the warm notes of nutmeg with pumpkin.

I am not worried about vegetables with this meal as we will be starting with fresh (they are being picked as we speak) corn on the cobs, which we have been eating for a just over a week now and they are delicious. There has been much eating from the plot, just not much blogging. I have been trialling another variety of tomato at the plot which is just proving so yummy that as soon as one is ripe its eaten.. I am sorry about that, I must try harder...

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Counting to six.

I am pretty sure that I learnt to count to six quite quickly in life. I can remember counting to five and then using the thumb of my left hand to aid me in my counting to six and then quickly mastered counting to ten. And after the terrible eleven and twelve and being able to remember which way around they came the rest came pretty quickly.

I never thought this would ever be a problem again, how wrong I was.

This morning I was near the end of a shawl. I haven't counted the stitches but it takes a jolly good while to knit a row. There is a saving grace in this pattern that half way it is obvious whether you are correct in your counting, and on this row I wasn't correct. At once there was a slight feeling of dread. You see I had been gaily knitting my shawl from nine until one in the morning. I'd occupied my knitting time with a soppy film called Hachi, which had the bonus of Richard Gere, a gorgeous dog and was based on a true story and there were many tears from me, (I'm a real gusher when watching a soppy film) and then I happened to click on another film, again based on a true story Miss Marie Lloyd - Queen of the Music Hall. So I was concerned that I had dropped a stitch whilst gaily joining in the singing of 'My old man said follow the van.'

And as knitters we know that we should stop knitting before we get tired. But the pattern was easy, the company was great - even if it was only the T.V. and I was enjoying myself. And I had stopped just before the next tricky row. So I was feeling pleased with myself, lots of quality knitting time that I had enjoyed immensely.

Fast forward to this morning when I next picked up my shawl. And started on the tricky row which involves counting to six. At the half way point I realised there was an error, I was one stitch out. And as I say the feeling of dread came over me. Had I made a mistake during the previous evening? So, I counted the sixes, backwards and forwards over the row. I counted them several times, then I switched on my side light next to my chair and counted them a couple of times again. I carefully stretched out that half, a section at a time to see if I had dropped a stitch. I looked again to see where the pattern changed that showed the error, and thought I could identify it where it had, but couldn't find the error in that area.

I stopped for lunch, deeply frustrated.

I came back from lunch and started the whole process again, the counting of sixes and the looking for a dropped stitch. I considered botching it and actually picking up an extra stitch!, but I am just not that kind of girl. So after another three quarters of an hour I decide to tink back that half row and whilst I am doing it I count the sixes, and as I am tinking back everything is how it should be and they are perfect sixes every single time. Eventually I am at the start of the row. I have found no error in my maths and I cannot see a dropped stitch, the yarn fumes seem heavy at this point, they have me ensnared in their power but if I could have grabbed hold of a yarn sprite at this point, I would have given them a severe telling off.

I pause, I drink tea. I wonder what to do.

I check for any dropped stitches again to no avail and reconsider adding a stitch and botching it, but again I am not that kind of knitter.

And then in the end I decide there is only one thing to do. Before I frog a whole section of lace which will be tricky because I have no life lines in place. Just one stitch can make you this crazy.

I decide to knit the same section again. Now there is no reason for this, I have proved to myself several times that my counting to six is correct, that if I knit it again it will have exactly the same result. But if I don't do it, if I haven't followed every possible action to find a solution and when I am picking up the hundreds of stitches from frogging it, it will give my mind plenty of time to jab me with a sharp and pointy stick that maybe I should have tried, just tried to reknit it.

Okay, I breath deeply and knit the row again, counting carefully..

And this time, its absolutely perfect, the row is how it should be.

Why? I have no idea, although I can hear the yarn sprites laughing!

And then I find that I am very lucky indeed to live in such a technological age, because no one in my household will truly understand the lost three hours and the complex ways that I tried to find a solution, apart from my knitting friends, some of which I will never meet, but am lucky to know and share this story with.

And that is what I learnt today, I am truly blessed being able to meet like minded knitters so easily, that and I can't count to six.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Windows! talk to me about windows or should I say double glazing.

The time has come that we need to look at replacing our windows. For two reasons really, we have steel window frames which have a wooden surround which on most windows is screaming to be replaced as they are rotten. But also because of the nature of single glazed steel windows, the mold collects very rapidly and one wonders whether that didn't help the two bouts of pneumonia I suffered last winter and the one my husband did.

So, three major double glazing companies later... and one to follow tomorrow. (this is not my idea of fun on how to spend a weeks holiday with one's hubby)

Its seems extremely difficult to say to these chaps these things.

1. Please don't ring your boss for the discount, just give us your best price first time.

2. If I say I have an appointment, I don't expect you to dilly dally and tell me all the benefits I will get by becoming a showhome, (really have you seen the state of the drive and the garden?!) and the credit agreement with a bank I've never heard of, and yes you will be kicked out after 1 3/4 hours because I will make that appointment.

3. Please don't deny that it is a spiel. I am far to long in the tooth as is my hubby that we simply recognise a salespersons techniques.

4. Why? If we take credit, is it cheaper by several thousand pounds rather than paying by cash. (I really don't understand that one)

There was only one thing for it, I've taken to knitting whilst they talk. Well it was that or gin!

To be honest they have been really nice blokes, (in the same way that politicians are when looking for your vote, although the first one was a bit too sleazy) but they just don't seem to understand that I just want a quote, and a look at your product and it will go into the pot with the others and then we will make a decision. And if you can drop the price by 'several thousand of our english pounds' with one phone call, somehow you loose your credibility.

Its double glazing, not rocket science. - although they would beg to differ. All three so far have said that they are the largest double glazing firm in the country.. yawn.

Has anyone got similar experiences? Did you or your friends ever find a company that they were happy with both the quality and financially.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pretty pictures of mums shawl and the blocking curse.

First of all I will show you all the pretty pictures that I took earlier in the day of mum's shawl.













I took the shawl around to Mum and she loves it. I am so pleased.

And now to wonder about the blocking curse I and my son seem to have brought upon us. You see the last time I used his bed to block an item, just as soon as I had my beautiful cardigan laid out to how I wanted it, and my hubby and I were just about to settle ourselves into some very high end theatre seats my mobile rang to say my son needed to come home. Sadly he and his girlfriend had parted and we picked up a rather wet rag of a son at something silly o'clock from the train station.

Fast forward 18 months, son no.1 decides to go on holiday with a college friend. "Ha, ha" says his mother, "I can use his bed to block the shawl on, surely the same thing cannot happen twice" Seriously I actually thought about it.

And after a very disturbed night last night involving dreams of train stations and not being able to find my way into Birmingham New Street and weird dreams about a dilated pupil and black eye.... My son rings me shortly after nine, very upset, saying he wants to come home, he had fallen out with his friend last night, who had grabbed my son by the throat and punched him with full force in the face. Why? Because the girl who was prettier out of the two that they had got chatting to, was quite taken with my son and his friend had decided that she was his. (I don't know I don't understand male testosterone at the best of times) Suffice it to say that my son did not throw any punches and packed his bags that night.

We sorted him out (although I am still quite emotional about it all) and picked him up from Birmingham New Street and yes he does have a black eye. Although his eyesight does look normal, I shall get him to go to the opticians tomorrow for a checkup.

There is a blocking curse on that bed... And I have no idea how to break it!

Monday, 6 September 2010

When the mice are away...

the she cat will play!

My eldest boy has gone off on his travels to Devon for the week, and obligingly stripped his bed. Apart from missing him terribly (and if you'll believe that you'll believe anything!) a plan slowly formed in my mind.

I gathered together my blocking wires and my crumbled and rather wet scraggy piece of knitting and entered his room. And paused. Of course he hadn't tidied his bedroom so it was a little like playing a game of islands, lakes and crocodiles my sister and I used to play as I made my way to his bed. Fortunately I was quite good at that game and managed to arrive without a twisted ankle. (must have words with son about crockery and glasses, dirty washing and oh that's where most of my towels are!)

I started to lay out the rather crumpled rag that was before me. It took a while but slowly, it came into shape. And soon, I had a rather beautiful garment before me that looked rather like,

a beautiful moth. (the photography is not how I would wish - the colours are more vibrant in true life)

A moth with dusty greens, greys, limes and purples which even though you may be a yarn stasher you cannot but admire the beauty of such a delicately winged creature of the night.

I've rather enjoyed this pattern which was Multnomah by Kate Flagg and the reason it is knitted is that I started a pair of socks but decided that the sock yarn - Sheeppaints Sock'n Go in Tulip- was far too pretty to be hidden by shoes.

and although it was meant for Christmas.. I may have to give it earlier, because my mother is a moth in human form. She may be in her mid seventies but on nights out when abroad, my folks go out at ten and come home at two! And looking at the photographs that various people publish on facebook! she always looks as pretty as the most delicate of moths or butterflies. And I am hoping this rather pretty shawl may keep the chill off as they walk back to their apartment.

I have no idea where there stamina comes from, one can only guess that it was from raising five children whilst working hard.

And about that boy, I do miss him, I may ring him for the second time shortly.