Saturday, 22 December 2007

A certain delivery company and I may no longer be friends...

Hurrah! No more work until January 2nd! Off to spend the time with my family - what fun we shall have, how much knitting I shall get done. All I have to do today is wait for a delivery from the aforementioned national carrier ,pack my bags and go! Hmmmm.... it's nearly four in the afternoon and I am still here. This is the end of a long saga with this company. Back in August, August I tell you, I ordered some more blockers from my favourite supplier in the US. Knee length, children's and most exciting of all, glove blockers! To cut this whingefest short, they have been back to the US once already and I have just paid £12 for the privilege of a Saturday delivery and nothing doing... I know this is probably a very busy day for them and they may well yet turn up but I want to go home! In the meantime, let's talk about yarn.

I have now set the hand spun that I showed you in my last post. It does look a lot better and it's the first thing I shall put in my knitting bag for the journey. So far so good.

As I have said before, I am very keen to tackle some of these traditional mitten and glove styles. In go these three books.

Whilst I have narrowed down the patterns that I want to start on and the colour schemes, I may find I need to revise my choices so it is probably a good idea to pack plenty of colours...

Even the most optimistic knitter of infinite speed and dedication might begin to feel that their family might consider them some sort of knitting fanatic if they were to exercise the sort of exclusion of other activities to enable them to get all this knitting done so some sort of diversion is in order. I know - indoctrinate ,I mean teach the children!

I have bought them some children's needles and some red and green yarn and am planning to teach them to make some of these . I was thinking to get them to do a simple piece of garter stitch for the bodies and I would make the hats. The family just need to drink the wine! That'll divert them from my habits.

It also occurs to me that all that intricate work and teaching may require a bit of mindless knitting to break things up a bit so an odd skein of organic cotton to make a washcloth can be squeezed into the bag somewhere. This is lovely stuff, a gorgeous avocado green which is a colour bred in the cotton rather than dyed and is very soft - perfect for sensitive skin.

Finally, no finished object today but it isn't for the want of trying - my sister's Christmas mitts - I'm sure I could have finished them by now if I hadn't had to tear out a large portion for messing up the star on the back of the hand. More haste less speed but I am determined that they will be finished before Christmas!

I'd better sign off now and see how much of my enormous wool supply I can squeeze into my bag. I'm not sure whether I will be able to get internet access while I am away so may I take this opportunity of wishing everyone the compliments of the season and look forward to many more woolly adventures in 2008!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Labours bear fruit

I seem to have been spinning this Yarn Yard merino sock yarn for ever! I'm sure that it has nothing to do with the seductive steely merino silk that I am now free to devour...

I do love the way that this yarn barber poles randomly on itself and the colours blend beautifully. I plan to make some toe up socks with it so that I can make them good and long and use up every scrap. I can't wait to see how it knits up.

The yarn in the picture has yet to be set. I am hoping that if I give it a thorough pummelling and whacking it will even out more. Whilst it is much more balanced than my last sock yarn it is still more uneven than I would like. Perhaps it is because I have only had 15 to 20 minutes at a time to work on it and perhaps haven't got into an even rhythm. I may have to start counting treadles and brace myself to a bit of spinning theory!

I have, in the meantime started on another simple sock to while away my monstrous commutes to work. The watery winter morning light makes it difficult to convey the moist, luscious shades of green in this yarn which is Handmaiden Somoko, a rather decadent blend of merino,silk and mohair.
When I held this yarn in my hands it took me back to one of my favourite places in the whole world, Tarra Bulga National Park in Victoria, Australia. It is the most wonderful fragment of untouched temperate rain forest full of ancient trees and stately tree ferns creating a lush, atmospheric landscape.
I wanted to create a sock which reminded me of this landscape and chose the twisting, twining clematis that hangs in trees and bushes and contributes to the dappled light that filters through. The pattern is called waterfall stitch and is a simple six row repeat. Somehow, however, I can't seem to fix row four in my mind - I had to resort to writing it on the back of my hand to save carting the book on the bus this morning. Does that ever happen to you?

I will sign off with the customary finished object (I'm on a roll now!) Here are the finished Fassett mansocks - rather a smart addition to a dapper gentleman's wardrobe don't you think?

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Of generous friends and lifestyle fantasies

As I have probably said before, the greatest pleasure I have gained from being part of the online knitting community has been the generous and talented people that I have met. The picture below encapsulates both of those virtues. This morning I received an unexpected parcel with some beautiful Yarn Yard sock yarn in it with a note from my friend Elaine. She explained that she had taken the photo that you can see tucked behind the yarn on a cycle ride beside one of the networks of canals in London. Loving the colours of the grafitti she thought it would serve as a great inspiration for a yarn so.... She sent the photo to Natalie who designed this yarn based on the colours in the photograph - how clever is that? Thank you so much Elaine for your warm generosity and to Natalie for your beautiful yarn. I look forward to catching up with both of you in the new year.

Observant readers may have noticed that my fascination for socks and mitts and intricate colour work has meant that I have been working away on small needles most of the time recently. Sometimes this work needs to be interleaved with some larger scale, simple work. Rummaging around in my knitting bag I found just the thing. This long forgotten WIP. The soothing furrows of garter stitch below are from Truly Tasha's Shawl by Nancy Bush. It is a simple project, a triangular shawl which is made with an increase at the beginning of every row modestly decorated with a knitted on border. The yarn is one of my very favourites, Jo Sharp's Silkroad DK Tweed in a colour called Ambrosia. This yarn is a blend of merino, cashmere and silk and has a lovely blend of softness and tweediness - what more could I ask?

I have made a number of these shawls. I admit that sometimes I have a fancy of myself wafting around the house elegantly swathed in a shawl or lounging in the garden, grabbing a shawl when the evening chill arises. In truth, my at-home attire is usually whatever eccentric combination of pyjamas and wool might be closest at hand. Not much elegant wafting of languorous lounging happens in this house - but I have plenty of shawls with which to practise!

The purple shawl is in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed and the red one is Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK.

Finally, I have a finished object to share. The Latvian Mitts are finished. I am very pleased with them and enjoyed making them - apart from sewing in all the ends!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Inspirations and holiday knitting (sisters are not allowed to peep)

Such is the life of those of us who cannot be faithful to one project. Despite the fact that I have been beavering away on various projects I haven't got much to show that wouldn't just look like a few more inches of something I've shown you before.

Suffice to say, spinning has been happening and I am still resisting the siren call of the blue and grey merino silk I showed you the other day. I should finish the second bobbin of merino and be ready to ply very soon.

The entrelac scarf is now nearly as tall as me but needs a bit more length so that I can throw it over my shoulder with adequate drama.

I've started the second Fassett sock and every now again do a few rounds on my Thermal (yes, still plugging away on that old friend... )

I have started one new thing but more of that later.

I wanted to show you a couple of things that I am hoping will help me develop my skills. The first is this book:

It is a very pretty and well presented book with clear and simple technical information although it has the look of a coffee table book with lots of photography. The thing that I enjoy most as a beginner spinner is that is presented like a recipe book with a range of projects inspired by nature which give instructions for creating different yarns and effects from various types of fibre using different sorts of spinning techniques. I think that if I try a few of these projects it will help me to make the transition from the Janespinning that I am currently doing to understanding and controlling the way that I spin.

Here are a couple of examples:

I am also planning to attempt glove making - the thought of all those fingers is rather daunting so I thought a child sized version would be a good place to start! I love these vintage patterns from EBay although I'm not quite sure how that child is keeping the hat on...

Finally, the new project...

The warning at the beginning of this post is to make sure that my sister doesn't peep at her Christmas present. My sister had mentioned that she would really like a pair of fingerless mitts after seeing some that I was wearing last Christmas. When she saw my purple and gold Marvellous Mitts we decided that I would make a pair in a different palette for her. The cream and green yarn I showed you in my last post really gives a completely different effect but I like it very much. The blue faced Leicester is knitting up into a lovely silky soft fabric. I'd better get on with them, otherwise I will be wrapping them up on Christmas Eve, needles and all with an IOU for the rest of the knitting!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


My needles have been on the move in more ways than one this week. I've just come back from five days in wild and wuthering Wales celebrating my niece's fifth birthday and have only narrowly avoided consuming my body weight in fridge cake - my sister is a culinary genius! Travelling means that I have had to concentrate on maximum entertainment from minimum wool. I really am doing my best not to overdo the knitting packing these days.

First, however we have a finished object to show off. Here are the Rose hip socks, done and dusted. Having had another look at this picture my photography skills are somewhat questionable, however. In my defense, the light is so miserably low at this time of year that I thought I would get my tripod out and have a go at using a slightly slower shutter speed. That worked reasonably well. What I have failed to grasp yet is how to avoid taking the photo at such an angle that the socks look like they are about to slide off the table. You will, of course be relieved to know that I discarded the shot that included the camera strap and the foot of the tripod.

Much of the knitting that I managed to do while I was away was on a secret project that I should be able to reveal in a week or so. Suffice to say it is probably my most exciting secret project to date...

Mind you, when children were in bed and we could have our fill of gloriously dreadful television I got quite a lot of work done on my Latvian mitts, including the sewing in of the squillion ends that are by far the biggest disadvantage of this knitting style. At least I haven't left the ends on both mitts to be done at once.

Knitters of a nervous disposition may wish to take a powder after reading this but while I was away the unthinkable happened... I ran out of the dark plum yarn before finishing the second mitt. I know.... I had to declare a state of emergency and BUY MORE YARN!!

There is a very respectably stocked wool shop in Aberystwyth called Clare's which had a good selection of Rowan and Jaeger, Brittany needles and Regia sock yarn so I chose a few balls of the Kaffe Fassett range. I have rather gone off the self striping and patterning yarns that I was so fond of when I first started sock knitting but these are rather a cut above the usual with Fassett's eye for colour and bands of varying width. In fact, after all the intricate stuff I have been doing recently it was just the thing for mindless train knitting. I have several outstanding requests for generic mansocks so this yarn was in the right place at the right time!

Finally, I have the yarn for my next project lined up - a bit more colour work I think. This is a new favourite of mine. Oxford Kitchen 4 ply in Stone and Willow. I love the shades that natural dying produces and for some reason am particularly in love with the creamy neutrality of the Stone. It is such a perfect foil for some of the retina blasting colours I have been using recently. A real balm for the eyes.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Still whirling

Now I'd hate for you to think that I am so consumed by mitten love that my enthusiasm for spinning had lapsed. Oh dear no. When it comes to the fibre arts I am shamelessly promiscuous.

There may be some of you with gym memberships and quantities of Lycra clothing. Not me. I have embarked upon a quite different form of fitness regime. Every so often during a happy evening's knitting I might prise myself from the comfy corner of the sofa for an invigorating spin on the wheel - so much more productive than an exercise bike! It's surprising how much yarn a health fanatic like me can produce!

I have been steadily working away on the Lady Eleanor, such that I have had to spin up another skein of the predominantly purple. As you can see, I spun the purple up rather more thickly than the blue so they have been consumed at a somewhat differential rate. Luckily, the entrelac is very forgiving of the unevenness of yarn weight which just adds to its abstract quality. The stole is now about a metre and a half long. I think I need another metre for a really big swishy scarf. Looks like I might be able to spin away a few more grams of flab before I'm finished!

Once the purple merino silk had cleared the bobbin I set about the October Yarn Yard fibre which is a lovely space dyed merino pencil roving. I think it will make lovely socks so I am spinning it up fairly thinly and will ply it on itself for a barber pole ragg wool effect which I enjoy in socks. However, it is taking all my self control not to tear this bobbin off the wheel so that I can start on this....

Merino silk roving which is the November Yarn Yard fibre club offering. I have to say that tears almost came to my eyes when I saw this. It is absolutely beautiful, both in colour and texture. The roving is dyed all over in a luminous silver grey then over dyed in sky blue and teal. Simply perfect.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Grand Passion

It's official. I have been seized by mitten mania. They are such wonderful, small projects, the perfect place to experiment with new techniques, to be playful with colours and delicious yarns. The most sober of winter outfits can be livened up with a flash of multicoloured mitt. The significant advantage over socks being that they can be surreptitiously admired by the wearer at all times without the need to make obvious contortions or shed footwear.

The Marvelous Mittens are finished. I can't speak highly enough of this pattern and would recommend it to anyone planning to take the plunge with stranded colour work. Using only two colours at once and letting the yarn do all the work gives an effect way more complex than might be expected. The variegation, particularly in the Strange Harvest colourway of the Smooshy has added a really attractive dimension to the appearance of the pattern. Can you tell I'm chuffed to pieces with these mitts? I'll be quiet now...

They have inspired me to take a further step...

... working with on more than two colours in a project! These are the Latvian Mittens from Veronik Avery's new book Knitting Classic Style . As I didn't have the yarn called for, I substituted Jamieson's Spindrift from my stash. I think I did a much better job than my previous attempts at choosing and placing colours as I am happy with the way the mitten looks. The colors are distinct but none of them is elbowing the others out of the way in a bid to be noticed.This mitten is complete apart from edging the thumb and turning up the hem. I made it slightly longer than the pattern suggests and work a row of decreases into the cast off to stop the edge flaring which seems to have done the trick.

We're expecting a cold snap at the weekend - which mitts shall I wear first?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A Tale of two Mitties...

... I know, I'm sorry...

My enthusiasm for colour work remains undimmed as work continues on my Marvellous Mitts. With any luck there will be satisfying photographic evidence of my labours shortly.

Working away on the second mitt, having got the hang of the new techniques my mind naturally turns to my next project. I am definitely going to do some more colour work, probably Latvian Mitts which means that I am going to have to get to grips with choosing more than two colours. A few weeks ago I was talking with friends about understanding enough colour theory to choose a combination of colours that will give me a finished article that lives up to my expectations. I found this article very helpful in explaining what went wrong here...

The mitt on the left is one of the my first experiments in colour work. I didn't have a great choice of colours but somehow, through luck rather than judgement I manage to choose a combination of colours for the central panel that made it stand out but draw the eye towards the whole pattern in a harmonious way. The two outside stripes, whilst not actively ugly are way too close in colour value to stand out as they should.

However, buoyed up by this partial success, I bought myself a palette of some of my favourite colours in Jamieson's Spindrift, very excited about creating a pair of mitts which would be superior in every way. Because of my ignorance of the importance of colour value the two colours in the central band of the pattern are so much out of balance with the rest of the mitt that they draw the eye away from the pattern and focus entirely on the stripe through the middle. This mitt is not likely to acquire a thumb or a partner, poor thing. In terms of helping me learn a lesson, however, it is invaluable.

Other knitting carries on. I have finished the first of the Rose Hip socks. I am very pleased with it as the pattern suits the yarn well. As I brace myself for another glorious week of commuting I can content myself with the prospect of finishing the other one.

I spent yesterday on another fabulous day with knitters, this time in Swindon with a group of people from the Crafty Threads and Yarns forum. It seems to me that knitting draws together the most amiable of people but as usual I was far too busy to get my camera out. Someone asked me if the rose hip sock was another one of my patterns. As all it consists of is a four row repeating pattern incorporated into a standard sock pattern with a picot edge I didn't really feel I could claim it as a sock pattern but it got me thinking. Most patterns use established formulas of some sort so it's not possible to be completely original but how much originality is enough?

We were all looking at the new Cat Bordhi book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters which revolutionises sock patterns by placing the gusset increase/ decreases in all kinds of places and combinations. Something like this is clearly a new development but at what point can we claim to have designed a sock pattern?

For me, I feel I need to find something a little novel and different that will capture a knitter's imagination and be fun to do or encourage someone to tackle a technique they might not have thought about before. The basic discipline of a sock remains. I'm no Cat Bordhi!

I really must tackle one of her patterns very soon. Back to the knitting...

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

More knitters than you can shake a needle at!

Along with several hundred knitters I went to the I Knit S 'n B day in central London on Saturday. Now I am a veteran of a number of knitting events and I have to say that I can't remember enjoying myself more. There was music, entertainment, classes, talks, retail therapy but the most important thing was that there was space and opportunity for knitters to mingle and talk. Over half the space was given over to places for us to sit and do what we like to do best, knit, chat, gloat, enable, catch up with old friends and just be somewhere that gets why we love to knit! A huge thank you to Gerard and Craig for organising it and for having the confidence and insight to know what knitters want and to make it work.

The Golders Green Knitters were out in force. it was also wonderful to catch up with dozens of knitters, too numerous to mention from the different parts of my knitting life, Skipnorth, the Knitterati, The Knitting and Crochet Guild to name but a few. A special hello to Franney and Aunty Noo from the Crafty Threads and Yarns forum who I met for the first time in person. Within five minutes we were chatting away as if we had known each other for years. Knitting's like that...

Despite bringing my camera with me, I managed to take a grand total of one photograph. I give you the I Knit 'Knit a River' , the world's first knitted petition, made by thousands of knitters as a campaign tool for Water Aid, who work for access to clean water for the millions of people who don't get to take turning on the tap for granted. I had no idea how big it had got - I wonder where my square is...

Because there were so many people to talk to and things to do, despite there being plenty of stalls with glorious fibres, yarns and knitterly paraphernalia, my haul is modest.

This gorgeous Blue Faced Leicester in a pinky brown semi solid colour is from Pixeldiva, who I have known since she was a beginner knitter! It's great to see the lovely stuff she is producing.

Blue Faced Leicester seems to be a recurrent theme as this sock yarn is naturally dyed, 100% BFL from Oxford Kitchen Yarns . I could have quite happily bought up their entire stock, the colours are so translucent and complex.

However, I haven't touched them yet as I continue to be obsessed with my Marvelous Mitts. I have now finished the right hand one. It fits absolutely perfectly and I love how the colour combination has worked. Although the purple is more solid than the yellow, it has enough movement in it to give the whole mitt a slightly handspun quality to it. I am indecently pleased with this mitt. I had no idea that with a bit of patience and concentration I could produce something that looks so complex and beautifully shaped. You can have no idea of the flight of fancy I am having about my next project!

I have already cast on for the second mitt and won't be disappointed by a cold snap should one arise...

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Of rooftops, rose hips and too clever by half...

The Umbrian Rooftop socks are finished. They are comfortable, well fitting and handsome. They are definitely what the yarn wanted to be. As I can only really cope with a simple pattern for travelling on the train to work, I had the happy dilemma of finding another sock project.

This time, I had a little more time so I chose to wind up the skein of Fleece Artist Casbah that I bought from Alice at Socktopus. This is sumptuous yarn, with just a touch of cashmere to give it a lovely texture. Looking at the colour of the yarn it reminded me of a packet of rose hip tea that I had just finished. The red is rich and autumnal and warm in tone. I wanted, therefore to find a pattern that evoked rose hips so I found a simple eyelet cable pattern which does the trick but is simple enough for travel knitting. I am pleased with how they are turning out so far.

You know, I've been thinking about how I choose to match designs with the colours of yarns. For me, the colour seems to come first and will evoke a memory or impression which I then try to interpret in a stitch pattern. Having no formal design training I am aware that this is probably a rather naive approach. I am reminded of the choreography of Pan's People, the dance troupe who used to perform on Top of the Pops which was the most influential pop music programme on British television when I was growing up. When they were called upon to interpret a record, they would take the most literal approach possible such that they were sometimes simply acting out the words of the song.It was highly amusing. I worry that my design style is a bit reminiscent of their approach. Still, it makes me happy and I'm learning all the time. Speaking of learning...

I have thoroughly raised my colour work game and am working on the Marvellous Mittens from Karendipity . This is a wonderful pattern which is more of a tutorial in stranded knitting techniques than a pattern. So far I have learned to do, a braided cast on (this took a whole evening....), a herringbone braid, and how to catch in a float without letting go of the needles. I am very happy. The yarns I have chosen are Dream in Colour Smooshy (more Socktopus...) in Vivid Purple and Strange Harvest.I love the colour combination although I wonder if it offers enough contrast. The pattern asks for a solid and a hand paint but I preferred to go for a pair of semi solids as I am looking for a slightly less busy effect. There are certainly enough patterns and features on the mitts to catch the eye and warm up the chilliest day.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to the first I Knit S n'B day which was one of the best knitting events I have ever been to. Further report follows!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Surprised by a gentleman in the shrubbery

It is fair to say that when it comes to knitting, I find those 19th century values of fidelity, constancy and perseverance somewhat lacking in my character. However, when I am gripped by a project I am capable of working on it to the exclusion of all others until I have seen it through.

So it has been with the end paper mitts. They have been a real joy to knit. I am really pleased with the colour combination, it gives the mitts an almost medieval quality. This is the first time that I have been satisfied with the fabric I have produced using a stranded technique. However, were I to make them again I think I would do a folded picot edge as the ribbing, certainly using this yarn, Jamiesons Spindrift, has a slightly 'unfinished' look compared with the opulent density of the colour work sections. I haven't blocked them so the fabric may yet bloom.

The other inducement that I have had to apply myself to what is for me, a complex project requiring a level of consistency and concentration is the recent discovery of Craftlit, a podcast for crafters who like books. It has been around for a couple of years. I heard mention of it some time ago but finally got round to listening to it this last weekend. The presenter, Heather Ordover, has a very deft touch, weaving life, craft and intelligent but accessible literary criticism around readings from classic books. Her serialisation of Pride and Prejudice was quite addictive and was responsible for me reclining on my chaise longue ( or in my case, saggy old sofa) for way more hours than is good for me in the company of Mr Darcy and my end paper mitts. I have a substantial stock of back episodes to get through so the television hasn't been on for a week in my house. My knitting and vocabulary are improving daily.

In fact my stranded colour work has improved so much my ambition is running miles ahead of it so I can't wait to show you the project I have embarked upon now...

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Fingers and thumbs...and heads

As the season turns and we all start anticipating colder and greyer days it seems that lots of us are thinking and talking about colour work. A quick whizz around Ravelry is at once inspiring and humbling when I see the beautiful work done by talented knitters. I still find colour work, particularly stranded colour work quite a challenge. For many years, any attempts that I made ended in a tangled, scrunched up disappointment.

My big breakthroughs came a couple of years ago with discovering knitting in the round on circular needles and the technique of holding one strand in each hand. In this way, the right side of the work was always facing me and it was so much easier to keep the strands of yarn untangled and my tension even. I may have got a little carried away...

Through that whole winter I developed a positive mania for knitting colourful hats. Anna Zillboorg must bear the responsibility for this. Using her book '45 Fine and Fanciful Hats to Knit' no head at Yarn Archive HQ need go uncovered. They really are great fun to knit especially as they are sized for the use of DK weight yarn which is great for beginners. These are by no means some of the most outrageous designs in her book. Even I drew the line at the Stacked Star...

I also had fun with her mitten book - although once again, the eccentricities of many of them were a little too much even for me. I have noticed when linking these books that they are changing hands for an extraordinary amount of money now that they are out of print. They are great fun and a wonderful introduction to colour work but I'm not someone who is prepared to part with £80 for a mitten knitting book!

Having developed my skills on these larger scale projects I attempted some finer work by starting some fairisle socks but became frustrated at my poor technique with stranded knitting and double pointed needles (way too much like patting my head and rubbing my stomach) so confined it to embellishment and having discovered slip stitch knitting set aside the challenge of further developing my skills.

All the beautiful examples of stranded knitting that I have been looking at, particularly on Natalie's blog have spurred me into action! Having some time to myself at home this weekend I decided that I needed to grasp this particular nettle and brush up my skills. I decided that the Endpaper Mitts by Eunny Jang would be a good place to start as the pattern is regular and designed for beginners. I also love fingerless mittens. Surprisingly, they are going quite well. The pattern is well written with Eunny's trademark attention to detail. I am using Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in Yellow Ochre and Rose Heather which make a rather regal combination. I am also rather proud that I am dealing with my 'Issues with yellow'.

I set out this year to improve my skills and am sometimes struck by the fact that things I might have found difficult a few months ago can now be tackled and I wonder what I was making all the fuss about!

Buoyed up by this discovery, my ambitions are now running well ahead of my skill base so, having limbered up on the endpaper mitts I am determined to try something a little more challenging next time.

I may have to get my glasses fixed first...

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Umbrian rooftops

What with all this finishing of projects, the other morning, with five minutes before I was due to leave the house, I realised that I had no portable, mindless knitting to put in my bag. With no time to get out the swift and ball winder I had to make a lunge at whatever pre-wound ball of yarn could be rummaged from the sock yarn box. Voila! A ball of Cherry Tree Hill Super Sock in a colourway called Serengeti.

I have had this yarn for about three years and tried to make something complicated from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road with it before I learned that busy hand painted yarns can look like a present left on the carpet by the cat if the pattern isn't properly selected. Burdened with this unpalatable image this yarn has lain forgotten. With no time to prevaricate I grabbed the ball and a set of needles and ran for the train.

As we chugged along on a grim, grey morning through the less than inspiring regeneration of the London Docklands my mind mercifully wandered back to my recent visit to Umbria and the beautiful relationship between light and colour and shape in some of the things I had seen there. Looking at the yarn in my hands as I completed a basic ribbing I was reminded of the views out across rooftops in the various medieval hill towns that I had visited and the way that even repeatedly repaired buildings were beautiful because of rather than despite their longevity and changes of use.

It occurred to me that if I used a simple waffle rib I could recreate something of the effect of the Umbrian rooftop views and bring just a little bit of the late summer warmth of Italy into my dreary early morning commute.

Looks like this yarn was in the right place at the right time.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Out and Proud!

I am delighted to announce that the pattern for the Have you Checked your Breasts socks is finished and ready for you to download should you wish to. I thought long and hard about the title of this post to continue with the message that we need to be open and unembarrassed about breast awareness but I didn't want to attract the attention of the wrong sort of googler. I wouldn't want to be the cause of any disappointment for those in search of fruitier fantasies.

On the side bar on the right you will see a section with three elements. Firstly, a link to the file hosting site from which this pattern can be downloaded as a pdf file free of charge.

Second is a link to a Justgiving page that I have set up in support of Breast Cancer Care which I would ask you to visit and make a small donation to support this important organisation. I chose Breast Cancer Care as their objectives match up with the spirit in which this pattern was developed, to encourage women to seek information and support in the care of their breasts in an open and positive way.

I was brought up on an island, in a small rural community. When people wanted to offer fruit and vegetables from their gardens for sale they would place the produce at the front gate with an 'honesty box' next to it which they trusted people to put money into in return. It is in this spirit that the request for small donations is made. We have created a wonderful online knitting community where I feel safe to revive old community traditions.

Of course, if you can't afford to make a donation, please take a copy of the pattern with my best wishes. If it helps you to remember to check your breasts and speak to your loved ones and ask them to do so too then this pattern will have done what it meant for.

Third is a link to the Yarn Yard. Natalie, Mrs Yarn Yard, has been both an inspiration and a collaborator in this project from the beginning. Not only did she write the piece on her blog which got me thinking about the concept for these socks, she has been busy dying up mini skeins of a beautiful crushed raspberry yarn which will be plenty enough to work the ribbons which she is offering free of charge with any purchase of sock yarn from her. She has also developed a lovely warm, creamy yarn called 'Porage Oats' which is a close cousin of the one off skein that I used for the original. Natalie will be launching this yarn at an online party that she will be holding on Saturday - do pop over and join us!

This has been a really satisfying project for me. I have had to work quickly to get this launched before the end of October so whilst Natalie has read it through for me to ensure that my explanations make sense, it hasn't been test knitted so of course I will be on hand to deal with any queries you might have. A Have you Checked your Breasts sock isn't just for October!