i knit because i can ...

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Oh dear, I have been very remiss about blogging, haven’t I? L but I have been very busy, so perhaps I can be forgiven.

At the end of November I went to Killarney to visit No. 1 son, his lovely girlfriend Lisa, and my darling 5-month old grandson, Finn. For the first time in all my visits the weather was beautiful, and I had great fun walking the babe and visiting all sorts of things. The whole family travelled back with me, and stayed for almost a week.

On Saturday, 6th December I drove Jos and Finn to a sponsorship launch for his friend Richard Hume, who together with Tom Barnes is going to row the Atlantic next year to raise funds for Ataxia UK. Richard is godfather to Finn, and a fabulous person who overcomes his own physical problems to do these great things. This is a very worthy cause, as Ataxia strikes down young, healthy people, and does not get nearly enough funds, so do look at the website, and then support them in this great project. Imagine rowing the Atlantic in this little boat?

As usual, Finn played to an audience, and delighted all who saw him, including his other godfather, Pete, who was also there:

On Sunday, 7th my first grandson Luke had his second birthday party – how the time has flown since he made his debut in this world. I have been reading The Baby in the Mirror: A Child’s World from Birth to Three by Charles Ferneyhough, and it describes so interestingly how a child develops his/her personality over the first three years, that I cannot recommend it too highly. I was also able to see the difference that six months makes, by the way his older cousin Ellie behaves in comparison. And of course, joy of joys, my youngest grandchild was able to be present, although I don’t suppose he was aware of how wonderful it was to have all three of them together!

Since Jos and family returned home to Ireland I have been rushing around trying to get everything ready for our departure to spend Christmas with Peter’s son Simon and his family in Singapore. At the same time, precisely because of that departure, I had to prepare and present a pre-Christmas lunch on Saturday gone for two of my children and their families plus my mother!

On Friday last when my mother arrived in London I took her to the new Westfield shopping centre in White City. I have to admit that I, who am no consumerist shopaholic, quite the opposite in fact, was impressed. So much so that I even ended up buying things, mostly Christmas presents, but also a gorgeous cashmere jumper for myself! Oh well, it’s Christmas ain’t it? Surely goodwill to all men should apply to oneself too?

On Sunday I left my mother in the good care of my daughter Kathy, with husband Andy and son Luke. Of course my mother was delighted to spend time with her great grandson, and Andy, who is as I believe I said before an ace cook, produced a lovely lunch for her. The reason for this abandonment was to take husband Peter, who will be 79 tomorrow, to the new (-ish) Wembley stadium to see the Race of Champions. I should explain my l-sh (long-suffering husband) is a Formula 1 fanatic who used in a previous life BI (before Ingrid) to mix in the paddock with all the greats at Formula 1 races throughout Europe. So when I heard of the ROC, I knew that I just had to get tickets for his birthday treat. He had no idea where I was taking him until we got there, when he was just blown away. His hero Lewis Hamilton was there, as well Jensen Button, David Coulthard, Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, and numerous rally champions.

And I should add, I had a wonderful time myself, cheering myself hoarse. Hamilton and Coulthard drove their Formula 1 cars around between the races, and we had a fabulous afternoon. And what’s more, the new Wembley Stadium is so impressive. The facilities are great and the arch looks great against the sky at night. Plus I got mega mega brownie points!! ;)))

So what about the knitting, I hear all you knits out there cry? Well, I have been getting on with my Princess; I am now on to the main border. And for in between times I am working on the Cap Shawl from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Knitting (pp. 28-9). I am using Heirloom Knitting’s Merino Lace in Emerald Green, and KnitPick’s Harmony Wood Circulars, 4mm. These last are from my fantastic Christmas present from l-sh (see above, and yes, I did prompt him! ;) in my defence, he likes to be prompted, because he says he can never think of anything – which is not true, because he has in the past bought me wonderful jewelry, some of which he designed himself!). They are the
Royale Harmony Interchangeable Boxed Set (Gold Plated), and I am in love with these beauties. I now just have to get some of the bigger dpns to complete my collection of Harmony Woods.

So they are the first of my three beautiful things tonight:

The second is my finished Honeybee stole, blocked:

And last but not least, the third is the first picture ever of my three youngest grandchildren all together under one roof, with their proud parents:

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

honeybee stole

Spent the w/e looking after my beautiful grandson Luke (to anybody who thinks references to grandchildren are de trop, I'm sorry, but it's my blog, and I am biassed!!). He is almost two, so there is no rest when he is awake, him being old enough to have strength, but not old enough to have sense! So my w/e end was largely spent on hands and knees playing with trains, puzzles and blocks. Great fun, so no blogging, but I did manage to get a fair bit of knitting done on the rare occasions when he slept. Not the Princess, which would have been way too complex, but the Honeybee Stole, another of Anne Hanson's wonderful designs. This too is in Wooly Wonka's hand-dyed merino laceweight yarn, this time in Tupelo Gold. The colour is stunning, and the yarn is delightful to knit with. Here's the story so far:

Honeybee Stole (unblocked):

Honeybee Stole detail: beehives (unblocked):

Honeybee Stole detail: swarm (unblocked):

Honeybee Stole detail: bees and honeycomb (unblocked):

I particularly like the honeycomb stitch, so much that I am thinking of trying to use it on a top, as I think it would make a terrific allover design.
So that is my first beautiful thing today! My second is my grandson, here learning to cook with his dad, Andy. His dad is a terrific cook and made us a magnificent bolognaise sauce before he left. At this rate, Luke is destined to be a chef, he gets and appreciates the best food, and already helps dad in the kitchen.
And my third? Snow. Yup, snow. I didn't get a picture before it melted, but on Sunday a.m. the world was white, with big fat flakes falling, so beautiful. Snow. Or as Luke would say, snnnooow!! ;))))

Thursday, 20 November 2008

the finished article ...

At long last, my Bee Fields Shawl is finished, washed and blocked. I just love this shawl: I love the patterns; I love the way they all come together; I especially like the way the shading of the yarn works with the patterns. I am usually a purist when it comes to lace knitting. I like nothing better than a plain, preferably pale (read white or cream) shetland style yarn. But this I like, it works really well and I am well pleased. And it snuggles cosily around my shoulders. So here goes, da daa ....

Bee Fields Shawl, blocked:
Bee Fields Shawl, detail 1, beehives, blocked:
Bee Fields Shawl, detail 2, swarm, blocked:
Bee Fields Shawl, detail 3, bee in field and edging, blocked:

I struggled a bit with the blocking. I generally use blocking wires, but the edging on the shawl is quite complex. In the finish I got round it by using wires and then pinning out extra bits. I'm reasonably happy with the results. However, my knees didn't thank me! I prefer to block on the floor, because I like to block fairly fiercely and I find that harder on a soft surface like a bed. This one I didn't block quite so fiercely because I wanted to retain some of the texture of the knitting patterns.

Now I am already quite a way up the Honeybee Stole. Fortunately this is proving a quick knit, so I can alternate it with the Princess edging, which definitely isn't. I'm not entirely sure why, except I think it's the yarn. I am using Gossamer CashSilk, which is slightly unforgiving. It is quite slippy, and can split if one isn't ultra careful. Still, I am enjoying it, as long as I take it in small bites. And I've nearly finished the forty points for the first side, so no complaints.
My cold has almost left me, thank goodness, as I am off to mind grandson Luke for the weekend tomorrow. It's the first time I'll have had sole responsibility for him overnight, so I've lots of plans to keep him happily occupied, to stop him missing his parents, who are off to a farewell do. Happy days! ;)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

just to add to my troubles ...

... I have now got a ghastly cold, the full works, aching joints, sore throat, painful ears, streaming and therefore sore nose. I look like Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer come early! Given my depressive state, and the dull weather outside, I feel thoroughly picked on, and would go out and eat worms if we had a garden to dig for them!

But I have a consolation, nonetheless, I have finished my Bee Fields Shawl. The last section was wonderful, with a complicated manoeuvre which I have never tried before, to represent bee's wings. I am delighted with this, because a) I love to learn something new and b) it looks fantastic, and is my first beautiful thing.

Are these bees not amazing?? I must pay tribute to Anne Hanson, who designed this and the Honeybee Stole. Her designs are fantastic, thank you Anne.
My second beautiful thing I can only tell you about not show you, because I don't have copies of the amazing pictures my ex showed me from his visit to our beautiful baby Irish grandson Finn. So you will just have to take it from me that even allowing for grandmotherly exageration, he is just g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s!!! :))))))

And my third beautiful thing - the sun has just come out from the clouds to brighten my day - who says there's no justice in the world?? I am now going to wash/block my shawl and post pictures of the completed article tomorrow. Then I'm going to work on some more points for my Princess, who is feeling rather neglected, before I start on the Honeybee Stole. Hey, I think I'm on a roll here! ;)

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

why the weather is nearly as moody as I am ...

Sunday night brought high winds and torrential rain, lashing at our balcony window. At one point the wind literally picked up the balcony chairs and threw them at the window. Twice we had to go out to secure things, and I felt myself being buffeted like a rag doll by the gusts, and was relieved to get back inside without being blown over - not a good idea on the twelfth floor! ;)

Monday was less windy, but still torrential rain, so imagine the cheer when Tuesday and today brought bright sunshine. Cold maybe, but still beautiful. And that gave me my first beautiful thing: the view from my window of the garden below, and the trees, some of which still bear their autumn colours, high winds notwithstanding.

My second may seem mundane, but gives me great pleasure nonetheless. A pile of freshly ironed clothes. Even small tasks, properly done, can give pleasure, I think.

And finally, I have reached the second part of the Bee Fields, the swarm. Now don't you just think this just so looks like bees? Especially in this wonderful colourway.
It's giving me such joy, knitting this, that I am tempted to neglect my Princess. But no, I have done another five points in the last two days, and I have almost memorised the pattern now, so it goes quicker and quicker.

Monday, 10 November 2008

the kindness of friends ... and strangers ...

... is my first beautiful thing today. Let me explain. Firstly, many thanks to those who sent kind wishes for my well-being AND compliments for my knitting. I do the work for its own pleasure and the pleasure of wearing or giving the results. However, it is very warming to have such appreciative comments AS WELL! :) So very many thanks indeed.

My second thing is: I met up with an old friend whom I've not seen for ages. We've both got our share of difficulties right now, but it was lovely to see each other, and I came away from our meeting feeling much cheered - I hope I did the same for my friend. Which goes to show, one should never neglect one's friends, however low one might be feeling, because out of such kindnesses is the darkness of the world kept at bay.

My third thing is this:
In October of last year I tragically LOST, yes lost, some knitting on the Berlin underground. It was my Bee Fields KAL shawl. Sadly, it never came to light again, and I can only hope that it went to a good home. As it was about half-finished, it would make a shoulder cape for anyone who knew enough about knitting to finish it off, especially as there was a goodly ball of wool left with it!!
Anyway, although the Princess is a wonderful project, she is a harsh taskmistress, so I was looking for something less demanding to fill in those moments when I can't cope with her, or when I'm on the tube (London underground) or something. So my mind went to the Bee Fields, as I had replaced the yarn as soon as I lost the first lot. This is a lovely knit, fairly easy because one soon picks up the reps, without it being boring. It's a good way to work myself into the Princess, because it's like a warm-up, but it's also good by itself. Moreover the yarn is gorgeous, a lovely soft wool in variegated yellow (Wooly Wonka's hand-dyed merino laceweight yarn in Buckwheat honey) very uplifting, and I'm knitting on my favourite Harmony knit picks laminated wood, 3.5 mm. So that's the note I'll end on for today! :)
Detail (bee hives):

Can't resist adding, I have the yarn in the other colourway (Tupelo gold) and the pattern for the stole, so that's not far behind!! ;)

Sunday, 9 November 2008

in brief ...

3 beautiful things:

1) Went last night to a concert at the Barbican. Rossini's Petite Messe Solonelle. Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchester, combined choirs of the Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Leipzig Opera, 4 fabulous soloists, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Fantastic. So uplifting. It really took me out of myself. I seem to remember a song about the healing power of music, Schubert maybe?

"Thou heavenly art in many hours of sadness
When life’s hard toils my spirit hath oppressed
Hast thou my heart revived with love and gladness
And borne my soul above to realms of rest."

2) My granddaughter Ellie spent the day with us, with her mother. Such fun we had. Her word, one of her favourite expressions of the moment being 'We'll have fun!!!" We fed ducks, or rather the herring gulls, who mobbed the ducks as we fed them, actually tearing bread from their very beaks! Then we went on swing and slide, before walking home with a careful collection of autumn leaves which we then used to make a lovely tree picture, although I must own up I did most of the work - but then Ellie is not quite two and a half! ;)

3) The Princess Shawl. I have now knitted 10 points of the edging for this wonderful design by Sharon Miller, of Heirloom Knitting fame. I can't express enough admiration for Sharon and her wonderful work in rediscovering Shetland Lace. This one's a tough cookie, punishes me sharply for a moment's inattention, but it's well worth the effort, and I look forward to many long hours together before I can at last languish in its embrace:

detail (unblocked):

Saturday, 8 November 2008

what Alastair Campbell and I have in common ...

Depression, that's what. And thank goodness he's come out about it, maybe he'll make it acceptable, if not downright fashionable. Then we can say goodbye to the 'sock' school of psychiatry (you just need to pull your socks up) and the 'curtain' school (just pull yourself together!) and the idea that depression is just another word for not feeling so good, so I won't bother going to work/cooking the supper/writing the essay/fill your own in here.

In spite of my best efforts then: the yoga, pilates, bone breathing, self-hypnosis, aromatherapy, CBT, counting my blessings, listing my virtues and achievements rather than my shortcomings, etc., etc., etc., even knitting (yep, it gets so bad that even knitting can't help), I have not been able to overcome my feelings of doom lately. Thanks to Alastair, however, i.e., after reading some of the recent spate of his interviews, and his refreshingly common sensical take on the subject, I have betaken myself to the doc to get some chemical help, not for the first time, I must admit.

Trouble is, when you're feeling truly depressed, you only need to look around you to feel that depression is the rational response to the awfulness of the world outside: fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo, to name but three. Pollution, energy crisis, world poverty, child labour, excessive consumption, credit crunch, knife crime - what's not to get depressed about?

And that's why I am trying out the 3 beautiful - or good -things idea. The idea being that if I can find three beautiful or good things each day, they will tot up to counteract the dreadful things served up each day by the news media, and remind me that for every horror there is a delight, and that by concentrating on, and where possible adding to, the delights, we may at least keep a balance, and thereby our sanity.

So here goes:
1) The election of Barack Obama! Although I am too old and not stupid enough to imagine he can put the world to rights overnight, or even ever, I do feel it's a step in the right direction. If the good people of the United States can get it right, there's hope in the world.

a wonderful bonfire night on Wednesday. Just a local get-together at Chipstead Rugby Club, with my daughter Kathy, her husband Andy and grandson Luke, but it was great fun, the bonfire was fantastic - 'big hot', Luke informed me - and the fireworks spectacular, although Luke was a bit taken aback - 'big bang, big bang', before he fell silent with a worried look on his face. But that soon gave way to his usual cheerful face when supper appeared!

3) I have finished Scarf from Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today. Great news, as it is to be a Christmas present. I used Habu 2/10 Kusaki-Zome yarn from the fantastic 'I Knit' shop in Waterloo. This Aladdin's cave for knitters stocks the most amazing stuff, and also does knitting get-togethers. Haven't managed to get to one yet, but I will, I will. This is my first time knitting pure silk, and although it was fun, I 'druther' Shetland. But it's good for me to try something new.

This was also my first time using my new 4 mm Harmony Straight Needles. As soon as these came out, I bought a whole set in its own beautiful black damask roll. I am ecstatic about these needles; they rock, they roll, they do everything bar knit on their own when I am asleep (I am working on that). They are made of the same laminate as the circulars and the twin pins, and I would knit anything and everything with them, if I could, but sadly the straights are not (yet) made in the smaller sizes. BTW, I'm first in the queue, so get in line behind me!!

The presentee is a student, so I embellished the scarf with gold beads and shimmery pearl drops on the points - no hint of 'made by grandma' there then! ;) I just hope she'll think it's cool and it's fashionable and it rocks!!

Another good/beautiful thing is that I have reached point eight on the edging for my Princess, but that would be four, so you'll just have to wait!! ;))))

Saturday, 1 November 2008

don't feel much like ...

blogging, because: the rainy, dull weather I see through my study window echoes the rainy dull weather in my head. However, I determined some time ago that I would concentrate on recording only the good things, because I need that reassurance, so I shall simply do three beautiful things, and hope for more!
On Wednesday we spent the day in Cambridge; a beautiful, crisply sunny autumnal day. The cold air brought colours sharply into focus, as I took several photos on the backs, and the seasonal soft shapes and colours were in striking contrast to the stark lines of the stowed punts.

Although this one's ready to go at any moment ... I think ...

One picture alone could be my three beautiful things: this line of three wonderful shaped box bushes really took my fancy:
Friday was my day for looking after my grandson, Luke. We went for a lovely long walk, this time in Surrey, in similar weather. I was amazed how far his little legs could stagger, as long as we went at his pace!! And when his mum, Kathy came home, we shared some hallowe'en fun. Although Luke looks a bit aback at his mother's altered appearance:

Oh well, perhaps it really is mum, after all!! After all, I'm an altered image too, in my pumpkin suit!!!
Kathy, queen of the apple-bobbers,

On the knitting front, I have been working away at a Christmas present scarf, of which more, including pix, tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Our trip to the National Arboretum was so full of beautiful things, that I think I'll just show a selection, and people may pick their own three (and if you let me know, I'll publish a top 3):

Moreover, our hotel, Calcot Manor, had a wonderful spa, and darling Peter had booked a package which gave me a free treatment! Lovely guy, eh? So on Monday morning after a marvellous breakfast - kippers, which I never have at home because you eat them for one meal, but the smell lives with you for one week - and a fabulous facial, off to wander through the most amazing trees, breathing in the pure Cotswold air - bliss.
On the way home we stopped at the lovely town of Tetbury for tea and cakes, and visited the Highgrove shop, where I bought a bar of the most delicious smelling rose soap. Then home in time for an evening's TV watching and knitting!
And for knitters amongst you, how about these? My wonderful new bunny rabbit sock blockers. Can't wait to knit some socks to try them out. :)

To Cambridge tomorrow. The Cambridge Camera Club is honouring my brother-in-law, a keen photographer and erstwhile member, who died just before Christmas last year, by including some of his work in their annual show. Will report back on Thursday.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

another week's gone by ...

Whew! where does the time go? I guess it's true, it flies when you're having fun. And Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were fun; exhausting, but fun. You may remember, I went off to look after granddaughter Ellie, suffering from chickenpox, so that mamma might return to work. Well, Ellie is delightful, even when ill. Now I know the last bit is bias on my part, but any undelightfulness was purely down to her feeling unwell or itchy - and I can relate to that, can't you? ;) So I did my best to counteract the unwellness, and we did stories, songs, play and little walks to feed the ducks. I trust and hope that chickenpox are not transferable to ducks, after all, they're not chickens, are they? And what about swans? On Wednesday there was a fine pair of swans, who left the ducks in no doubt who came first in the pecking order for stale bread. In fact they were so bold, I was a little worried about their pecking Ellie, who of course was fearless. But no harm done. And when the bread ran out, so did the swans, or rather, they sailed majestically and rather snootily on.
By Tuesday Ellie was well on the mend, and by Wednesday her spots had all scabbed, so I adjudged her no longer infectious and took her out out on the town. She was full of life and fun, "I'm no poser, but ..." viz.:

So today Ellie counts as my first beautiful thing!

My second is my knitting. I have finished the back of the Rowan Top:

I am really pleased with how this is looking. Half way up the front now, so am hoping to be wearing this very soon.

And my swatch for the Princess is finished too. The swatch was done in the same yarn I shall be using, i.e., gossamer CashSilk, although the colour here is white, and I shall be using viola. It knits up easily, at least on the bamboo needles, 2 mm, I am using, although it is quite slippy, so one does have to be careful. However, it blocks well, and shows up the patterns beautifully, and retains the benefit of both components, the warmth and softness of the cashmere AND the lustre of the silk:

This means that I can now start on the real thing. Because I want a square shawl, and because I can knit superfast on straight needles but not on circulars, I am changing its construction. However, I do not like sewing shawl pieces together, so I have devised a way of building it up, without using a circular needle OR sewing. I am going to start with enough points for one side, when. leaving the stitches on a pin, I shall knit that side up. Then I shall continue with the points for the second side, still attached to the first section. When I start to knit up the second side, I shall join it to the first side as I knit. The same thing for the third and fourth side, except that on the fourth side I shall be joining both sides, one to the third, and one to the first, grafting the edging. Finally, I shall knit in the centre using the same method as on the original shawl, because I also want the diagonal centre. Whew! Well, it's not as complicated as it sounds, so if you're not sure what's going on, watch this space!?!?;)

And my third beautiful thing? These wonderful books of Barbara Walker, which I arrived from Schoolhouse Press while I was away. Enough there to be going on with, that's for sure!! ;)

Off tomorrow to Westonbirt Arboretum for two days. Apparently the leaves are wonderful this year - probably because of the odd summer we have had, so you see there are compensations. It may not be New England, but it puts on a pretty good show. We intend to wander round soaking up its beauty, which will undoubtedly form part of my next post, together with pix. Have a fabulous w/e, especially the extra hour in bed tomorrow a.m. I guess that really does signal the end of whatever summer we have had, but that means we can start looking forward to the next one!! ;)