Thursday, 23 December 2010

Work and Play


Is there anybody there?

I wouldn't blame you if you had given up on ever hearing from this neck of the woods but I am still around, and still knitting. It's taken me some time to get round to writing this post and the longer it has taken, the more difficult it has been to explain the silence.

Knitting has been a pretty constant companion through most of my life. I was taught by my grandmother at the age of four so there have been very few times in my life when knitting has not been a part of it. It has ebbed and flowed as other interests and responsibilities have had to take centre stage but it has always been a quiet, constant part of my life. I can remember many years ago when my mother was terminally ill, how we took refuge in talking about our knitting. I remember the last letter she sent me where she triumphantly announced that she had finally got to grips with using a circular needle. In happier times when my sister told me she was expecting the first child, my nephew, the first thing I did was to make three little cardigans in bright primary colours and ascending sizes and her telling me that opening that parcel was the first time that she really appreciated the changes ahead! Later on, with a new born G fast asleep in his cot she tells me that she woke up feeling very scared and overwhelmed to find me sitting at the end of her bed, peacefully knitting and knew that all would be well.

With the advent of the online knitting community, like many people, knitting has become a greater part of my life, not just from the availability of more interesting materials but in terms of the community that we have grown and the real life friendships that it has led to. Without the internet I would never have become a knitting teacher or designer, wouldn't have had the first idea of how to go about learning to spin. Through this community I have travelled the length and breadth of the country, have visited friends and festivals in the United States and Australia and become the proud owner of more handmade socks than a centipede would need to hike the Pennine Way.

Long term readers of this blog will know that I have always been particularly rigorous in keeping my knitting life and other dimensions of my world quite separate and have rarely reflected on my personal or professional life apart from when it directly interlaces with my knitting. You may have picked up that I have been working as a very senior professional in a large public service in the UK and have found knitting invaluable in helping me deal with the stresses and strains that such a position inevitably brings both as another focus to life but also as a relaxing activity in itself. Sitting on the bus, tuning in to the rhythm of my needles is such a good way to deal with a frustrating and difficult day.

However, there have been some significant and rather wonderful changes to this balancing act which in some ways have contributed to my blog silence as I have been working on how I build them into my blogging and online presence. I have been incredibly lucky and secured a job where my skills as a knitter are as important as my experience as a project manager. I have been appointed by the Charities Advisory Trust to be the project manager for Knit for Peace, one of their major activities.

I t has taken me a few weeks to think about whether I should be keeping this blog completely separate or whether I should be using the Knit for Peace blog that I have set up for the project in a different way and those ideas are still forming in my head but in the first instance I thought that it was time that I tried to articulate some of my thought processes in my own blog as a way of breaking through the log jam and getting back to something I really enjoy writing. it's going to be a very interesting journey, combining my personal interests with my career and so far I am thoroughly enjoying the ride. Whether I use this blog or some other way to tell you about them please be assured - there is knitting and lots of it!

Saturday, 18 September 2010


Sometimes I wonder why I am a knitter. Why do I enjoy the thousands and thousands of small movements that slowly build up a piece of work layer by layer such that rarely a day goes by without sitting down and adding a few rows to one project or another? I quite often ask myself that question myself when I get bogged down in a project that never seems to end or doesn't seem to be turning out to look like it did in my mind's eye. The yarn may not feel comfortable in my hands, the needles too long, too short, too grippy, too slippy.

It is wonderful, therefore when a project defies the odds. It helps to take a yarn in one of my favourite colours, bright, golden yellow, in a gorgeous fibre, merino and silk in lace weight that is neither too heavy or too light. This is Gloaming by the Yarn Yard, an 80% merino 20% silk lace weight yarn which gives 800metres to 100grammes. Light but not insubstantial.

I decided that I would make another Bitterroot from Knitty as I have given away the purple one that I made at the beginning of the year to my friend Cathy in Australia - the colour is perfect for her. This colour is much more me. It helps to have a pattern which whilst rarely static for long has enough predictability and readability for me to really start to relax, enjoying the feel of the yarn through my fingers, devouring every stitch, eager to make progress but also wanting to savour the experience. I've heard this feeling of being completely at one with whatever you are doing is called Flow.

Wikipedia describes it as 'the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity'. Whatever it is, I think it's the feeling that we as knitters and crafts people strive for and are lucky enough to achieve.

Apparently it has all sorts of benefits . Who knew?

As with all lace, at the moment the shawl looks somewhat indifferent whilst under construction. I will have to wait until it is blocked for it to transform itself into something rather special.

Mind you, it will be a shame to lose these textural elements as they appear on the wrong side.

Another positive dimension to this shawl is,just when I think I might get a bit bogged down and lose my Flow, I get to add beads! Luckily I found I had these beads on hand which should blend in pretty well.

And finally, in case I need any more motivation....

I need a shawl to match these shoes.............

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Clean Start

I really have no explanation for why it has taken me so long to return to this blog - probably the longest interval since I started writing. Blame the summer and the lure of the great outdoors.

I think it is fair to say that summer in London is drawing to a close. I believe I have eaten my last home grown red tomatoes and the morning was chilly enough for me to reach for a pair of warm woolly socks from my sadly depleted sock drawer.

Some rummaging in the laundry bag later the reason became clear - a significant backlog on the sock washing front. I know that much sock yarn is perfectly safe to be machine washed but I prefer to wash my hand knitted socks by hand - I think they do stay looking better for longer and having spent so much time in making them I do feel a great deal more responsibility towards them than if they were shop bought.

So there you have it - celebrating the turn of the season with 25 freshly washed, line dried pairs of socks. I think I might even be looking forward to autumn - just a little bit.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Serious sockage!

You must know me well enough by now to know that a temporary lack of blogging certainly doesn't mean that there has been a lack of knitting - oh no. I am, however, still stuck in the sock groove and am, quite miraculously, still on target to achieve the 52 pair plunge. The year is yet young, however, and there are some seriously nice shawl patterns out there....

Anyway, just to reassure you of the continued clicking of my needles here are my Herdy Monkeys. The yarn is Yarn Yard Toddy in a colour which Natalie died especially for Woolfest 2009 in colours that evoke the countryside and also the famous Herdwick Sheep. I have been thinking about what sort of pattern would suit them and then read on the Ravelry UK Sock Knitters Forum about a Knitalong using Los Monos Locos, a sock pattern which is basically the famous Cookie A Monkey sock but knit from the toe up. I think this sort of stitch pattern lends itself quite well to variegated yarns and was particularly pleased with the effect which reminded me of birds feathers. The heel had an unusual construction the heel flap and gussets done together across the sole of the foot then a short row heel cup done afterwards. It looks very pretty but doesn't give the arch expansion that a normal flap and gusset does so the socks fit but are a little snug to manoeuvre over the arch.

Today's second offering is also a pair of Cookie A socks, Lindsay from her book Sock Innovations. I have to say that this pattern isn't at first glance as attractive as a lot of the other designs in the book but as it was this month's sock on the Makin' Cookies Knitalong on Ravelry I thought I would have a go. I have to say that I enjoy the camaraderie and encouragement of Knitalongs so have been doing quite a few recently. I think I will become a little selective as time goes by as there are so many beautiful patterns around that I want to leave some room for tackling them.

These Lindsay socks are a very quick knit and the pattern is very easy to remember. I knit mine in some Koigu in muted greys, lilacs and khaki which I think lent itself well to this pattern. The toe and heel are garter stitch short row, the only part of which I found challenging was grafting the seam between sole and heel to finish them off but it was a learning experience.

I also managed to finish off a pair of socks that had been languishing in my WIP bag for a few months. These are my Tanzelope Crocodile Mansocks knit in Yarn Yard Clan in one of the club colours. I used a simple broken rib which whilst rather time consuming to do worked well with the variegated yarn. I used a basic toe up construction based on Wendyknits universal sock pattern.

There will be more sock coverage soon if you can bear it but you will be relieved to know that I took some spinning classes recently so my next post will probably be all about them. Plus, and this may surprise you, in a couple of weeks I am going away for the weekend with the East London Crochet Group. I may come back a changed woman.....

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I get knocked down....

....But I get up again...

Today's post, whilst still vaguely about sock knitting is really more about the place that knitting has in my life and how it helps me manage the stresses and strains of a responsible job in a busy urban environment. I know that I don't talk much about my life outside my knitting on this blog and this remains my overall intention but nobody does anything in complete isolation so I wanted to tell you a bit about last week.

Last Tuesday I failed my driving test. Again. This is extremely frustrating as my driving standard is good enough to pass, I just get very nervous on the day and make the silliest of errors. This time was no different so I started the long slink back to work with my well groomed tail well and truly between my legs then remembered that my route to work (creatively planned) could include Loop's new shop in Camden Passage. I didn't think it was unreasonable to console myself with a little treat.

Loop is certainly the place for treats and in the end I chose some rather posh handmaiden Casbah in a shade that reminded me of those pieces of glass that are washed up on the beach by the tide, translucent and smooth. This heady mixture of merino, silk and cashmere felt so consoling...

I decided to join the Serpentine Sock, another pattern from Wendy Johnson's first toe up book knitalong which is designed for sport weight yarn on 2.75 mm needles as the yardage on this yarn was quite low and if I knit the big size on 2.5mm I reckoned I had a viable combination.

You can see what I mean about the shade in this photo of the sole of the foot.

I don't think the colours detract from the flow of the stitch pattern.

This was a very quick and satisfying knit which produced a gloriously silky and soft fabric which I think will make perfect bedtime/lounging around the house socks. The fabric isn't as firm and robust as I would use for day to day wear.

It only took me five days to finish these socks and whilst they were a really good comfort project I have to say that I prefer the feel of a good robust sock yarn knit on small needles so have returned to my other projects with renewed enthusiasm.

I've also re booked my driving test.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Tunnel Vision

Well hello! And how is everybody? Me? I'm just fine although I am rather chastened by my lack of blogging recently. It's not that I haven't been busy doing interesting and blogworthy things it's just that I haven't had the energy to write and tell you all about them.

I will try to make brief amends today. You may be surprised to know that I have maintained my focus and am still keeping up with the 52 pair plunge. We are 5 weeks into the challenge and I have completed six pairs of socks. Don't ask me how it happened.

First of all I have a pair of mansocks which in all honestly have been sitting on the needles two thirds finished for a very long time so they were easy pickings. They are knitted in Opal 4ply although I have not managed to locate the ball band so can't tell you what the shade name or number is. Having been used to knitting with hand dyed yarns I did notice that the yarn was a little less pleasant to work with but I'm sure I read somewhere that the yarn has a light coating on it for ease of knitting which is removed by the first wash leaving the finished sock soft and fluffy. I've also found this yarn to be extremely hard wearing and durable.

Next up is my first contribution to the Makin' Cookies Knitalong on Ravelry. I'm a bit of a stranger to formal knitalongs and at first I was a little bamboozled by the acres of rules which I was expected to read and inwardly digest. However, once I started posting comments and pictures I found it to be a very welcoming place to be and have enjoyed the banter and encouragement.

This month's sock has been Milo by Cookie A and whilst reasonably complex turned out to be quite intuitive and quick to knit. The yarn I chose is Nature's Palette in Autumn Leaves which meant I was also able to enter it into another Knitalong where participants are assigned a colour with which to knit any socks they like that month. Much quite amusing debate ensues about when is an orange yarn orange enough but I was relieved to note that my apricot yarn passed muster! I am very pleased with how they came out and grateful to everyone for their kind comments and encouragement.

And finally, on this week's catch up post allow me to present my Ruby Slippers knit in Yarn Yard Clan Rhododendron club yarn. These socks are knit using a construction method that I am not familiar with. They start from the toe up and the gusset expansion happens between the lines of cable on the bridge of the foot followed by the sort of flap and gusset for toe ups heel that I am used to.
All in all I am having a wonderful time knitting away on my various challenges and I haven't become bored by sock knitting yet. What I am discovering is a lot more enthusiastic, friendly knitters as well as huge numbers of new patterns by designers I am as yet unfamiliar with. I would like my annual tally of socks (however many there might end up being) to reflect the diversity of sock knitting opportunities in terms of both pattern and yarn that are out there.
Speaking of yarn, I was fortunate enough to visit Woolfest a couple of weeks ago and decided to confine my shopping to sock yarns and came home with a beautiful bag full of coloured inspiration. I really must take a photo of them to show you.
Anyway, as you can imagine I have tons of socks in progress so next time will have more than enough to tell you - as long as I'm not too busy knitting.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

So far so good!

You will be pleased to know that sock knitting has been going on here in a big way. Surprisingly, I am even up to date on the 52 Pair Plunge! Last week's contribution was Diamonds and Cables from Wendy Johnson's new and very beguiling book knit in Yarn Yard Clan in the Kale colourway. I'm pleased with the combination of yarn and pattern.

In week three I got a little more ambitious. As part of the Anything Nancy Bush knitalong on Ravelry I chose Virve's Stockings from Folk Knitting in Estonia as I wanted to make something slightly more unusual. I also love the way that the coloured band appears at just the right spot between shoe and trouser.

I didn't have quite enough yarn to make them full knee socks - in fact I am quite pleased with my judgement as I finished both socks with a couple of feet a yarn to spare. This didn't stop me making contingency plans about different colour bands on the toes, however.

I am becoming a little more optimistic about my ability to give this challenge a good run for its money. I certainly have the speed and I certainly don't have to turn into some sort of reclusive sock knitting machine. While I was knitting these I spent four days in Wales and four days at the Isle of Wight Music Festival. Either I am becoming more brazen about knitting in public or it is possible to run a normal life while undertaking this foolish game.
We shall see.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Socks and Drugs and Rock and Roll*

I think it's probably quite common after a long and enjoyable trip but since I came back from my holidays I've been feeling a bit flat. None of my knitting has particularly grabbed me and my spinning wheel has been idle for ages.

Then, wandering around in Ravelry I started to pick up rumblings about something called a 52 pair plunge. After further investigation it emerges that there are knitters who are so dedicated to the knitting of socks that they challenge themselves to knit 52 pairs in a year. Apparently this madness is now in its fourth year. And no, we aren't talking 52 pairs of baby socks which are, they say admissible, we are talking knee socks, colour work socks, complicated travelling stitches. These knitters must never sleep!

Of course it wasn't too long before I persuaded myself that of course it was theoretically possible that I could do this although having checked my statistics the most socks I have ever knitted in one year is 29. The long and the short of it is that I have signed up for the full challenge although of course I hold Rachel at Knittingtastic and Natalie at The Yarn Yard entirely responsible for leading me down the paths of sock madness by signing up themselves.

The Plunge officially started on 1st June and as the completion of socks already complete is allowed I set to with some enthusiasm, digging forgotten socks out from all kinds of nooks and crannies and (ahem) maybe starting a few more just to get my hand in. By the time the plunge started I had counted fourteen pairs on the needles...

I have been thinking about how to approach this task and thought that trawling Ravelry and finding a few knitalongs might help a little as I really do enjoy the camaraderie and company of other knitters engaged in a common pursuit so have devised myself a fiendishly complicated schedule that I will try not to bore you with. Basically, I am planning to finish one pair of socks a week. This week I finished these off.

Yes, I admit, they could be described as 'Low Hanging Fruit' being almost complete plain toe up socks in a variegated yarn but we all have to start somewhere. For the record they are Toe up socks largely following Wendy Johnson's generic recipe in Socks that Rock Lightweight in Flower Power on a 2.25mm circular needle. I have also decided to use the good stuff from my stash to make the task as enjoyable as possible.

Here is a (very) small selection of some of the other things I have on my needles.

Last year I bought this lovely skein of yarn from The Yarn Yard. It's the Woolfest 2009 limited edition in colours that make me think of a Herdwick sheep.

I'm knitting less and less with variegated yarn these days but thought that as it's June (Woolfest month!) it was appropriate to use it as my first sock in the Yarn yard's own 12 socks in 12 months challenge as well as the UK Sock Knitters KAL which requires knitters to knit the same pattern - in this case Los Monos Locos, a toe up adaptation of the ubiquitous Monkey Socks by Cookie A. They have an interesting heel construction so I thought I'd have a go. Here is my progress to date.

I also found a very gentle KAL on the Nancy Bush Knitters forum. Now I am a huge fan of Nancy and am excited to report that I will be taking a class with her at Knitnation 2010 so I thought it would be a good opportunity to try one of her patterns. Having seen a beautiful version by my friend Jacqueline in Melbourne I chose Virve's Stockings from Folk Knitting in Estonia. It is a reasonably uncomplicated knit but the thing I really like about it is that the fair isle band sits exactly where they can be seen under a long skirt or trousers - how clever is that? The yarn that I used is Yarn Yard Clan in a charcoal grey solid colour.

The band is made from scraps of Clan in Botanic and two club yarns, Kale and Purple. I knot this stocking in record time largely due to the fact that I had convinced myself that I was going to run out of yarn before I reached the toe and everyone knows that you use less yarn if you knit really, really fast..... Luckily I made it with a couple of metres to spare.

Moving deeper into my mounting obsession I decided to join in with the Making Cookies Group who have been working their way through Cookie A's book, Sock Innovation and have reached Milo. Recently this skein of apricot Nature's Palette fell into my bag at Loop so at the same time these socks are entered for the Solid Socks Groups June KAL which happens to have reached the colour orange! I know what you're thinking, I'm starting to lose the plot...

I haven't got very far with Milo at the moment but it is much simpler and easy to knit than I expected. The yarn is also very soft and cushy.

Finally, before you decide that I am in the grips of some clinical mania I will show you some progress on the Norwegian Roses Sock that I showed you last week. This is my first attempt at an entire sock in stranded colour work so may take me some time. I am also knitting along with a very relaxed group on the Knitgrllls Group with this one.

I think it's fair to say that I have got my knitting mojo well and truly back - the question is, can it be sustained? Keep checking here to find out...
*with apologies to the late lamented Ian Dury.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Australia Diaries Part 8 - Bright lights, big city...

Whilst it was hard to say goodbye to friends in country Victoria the blow was lessened by a few days acclimatising myself to city living once again with my friends Jan and Geoff who really make me feel like Melbourne is my second home.

I was also lucky enough to meet up with my friend Jacqueline who I met some years ago through the Knitters Review Forum and have been trying but failing to meet up with on my trips ever since. I was sad not to be able to catch up with my friend Rose but that just means that I have to come back soon!.

Jacqueline and I met up at what I am led to believe is a traditional meeting point for Melburnians, under the clocks at Flinders Street Station.

While I was waiting I was reminded by these wonderful shop fronts that I was not in London and that even in the big city, the bush is close to the heart, at least in the imagination of many Australians.

Akubra hats are an Australian icon, traditionally made from rabbit fur felt, something that, thanks to European settlement they have in abundance here.

One of the wonderful things about having friends in unfamiliar cities is that they can show you treasures that you would be very hard pressed to find on your own. On leaving Flinders Street, Jacqueline whisked me away into the unprepossessing entrance of the Nicholas Building on Swanson Street, an elderly but characterful building which turned out to be an absolute treasure house.
First we visited Buttonmania where the very helpful assistant with old fashioned grace pulled out drawer after drawer to find the perfect small brown button for a project that Jacqueline is working on.
Next we visited Kimono House where when running my hands over all the beautiful textiles I regretted my limited sewing skills.
Finally, we found, quite by chance, L'uccello , a newly opened shop selling vintage haberdashery and craft kits where Jacqueline found some gorgeously subtle vintage ribbon for edging a skirt to wear with every girl's winter wardrobe essential - red boots!
Of course, all this retail excitement meant that we were soon ready for lunch so we headed for Federation Square.

The architecture of Federation Square which was finished around five years ago has both its admirers and detractors as it is very contemporary and distinctive. I have to say that I really like it and revisiting it now after seeing it first just after it had been finished it is good to see how people have taken it to their hearts and are using it as a focal point for city life as it was intended to be.
We headed to the Chocolate Buddha for lunch and spent the best part of the afternoon putting the world to rights from the importance of knitting a tension square to the peculiarities of the male of the species.
My last day in Melbourne was full of friendship and relaxed conversation and one of the many reasons that it will always be part of my life.
But, life goes on and I have been home for several weeks now and of course have been knitting tirelessly to help acclimatise to real life. Next time I will share with you some of the things I have been doing and also some of the surely misguided plans I have for the year. Here are a couple of tasters to keep you going.

Socks! No surprises there then....

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Australia Diaries Part 7 - Ladies who lunch

We're into the last few days of my trip now and it's hard sometimes not to let the shadow of my imminent departure and farewells to dear friends fall over the memories of these moments. On the road again we headed for eastern Victoria near Lakes Entrance to stay with Leon's brother Brian and his wife, Margaret to spend a couple of days while Leon took a woodworking course at the local technical college.

As you can see the location was, once again idyllic although the slightly brown caste you can see in the distance is smoke from the somewhat controversial practice of cool burning which some argue helps to forestall the catastrophic fires that the area has experienced in recent years.

With the right eye, even the silver gull who is a tireless scavenger and an absolute pest if you want to eat fish and chips peacefully by the sea can be appreciated for the beautiful creature that it is.
Margaret took charge of my entertainment while Leon was at college and what a wonderful job she made of it. Visits to the local wool shop, friends and relatives, I was never short of someone to talk to and best of all, a lot of these women are the most talented crafters so I was treated to looking at wonderful examples of their quilting, needlepoint and knitting.
I was also invited to the monthly fund raising lunch at the local parish church. Oh and by the way said Margaret, casually, they'd like you to do the after lunch speech. Splutter... Shall I talk about my knitting? I offered hopefully. Oh no, she said. They like a slightly more meaty subject than that - can you talk about mental health services in the UK. Blimey, I thought - this is getting me back in the swing for work just a couple of days too early.
As it turned out, it was easy to find enough to talk about a service I feel passionate about and the women were warm and interested and asked a lot of very pertinent questions. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, the lunch was excellent - and I think they let me win the raffle...
On the way back, Leon stopped and let me visit one of my favourite wool shops - the Jolly Jumbuck. They sell some of the most beautiful naturally coloured yarns as well as some very nice hand dyed skeins. I'll admit that I did indulge but I can't show you as when I packed up to head back to Melbourne it soon became clear that there was not enough room in my rucksack for everything so as we speak it is wending its way, at exorbitant cost across the seas to Blighty. It really is worth it!

In knitting news I have to admit that even on a road trip, monogamous knitting is not possible. There are times when it is not very sociable to knit a more complicated pattern so I cast on for another Damson, once again in Wollemeise, this time in shades of blue and green as my reserve project. I l=love the way this pattern is shaped, it makes the scarf so easy to wear that I wish I had half a dozen - although right now I will settle for two.

Next time will be my final post from Australia after which I will be telling you abut what I have been knitting these last couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Australia Diaries Part 6 - on the road again

It only seemed like a couple of days before we were back on the road again, this time to Bendigo, a medium sized town in country Victoria, about a five hour drive from Churinga. The occasion was a weekend of meetings of the Victorian Green Party. I was warmly welcomed as a fellow Green from the UK and wished well in the coming election and then spontaneously invited to stand up and say a few words - into a microphone and everything - I was very glad to get back into my corner and carry on my knitting but it was also lovely to be surrounded by people who are equally concerned and interested in the environment.

I did get some time, however, to slip out and explore the urban environment. Bendigo clearly shows that it was built on prosperity back in the 19th century, prosperity, I understand, largely based on gold mining. There are many imposing buildings designed to showcase this new wealth. I always like to look upwards when I visit a modern town as a lot of the more interesting architecture is above the rather uniform modern shopping street.

Look at this riot of ornamentation high up on a rooftop, largely out of sight.

Leon and I also came across this rather exuberant decorative brickwork along the side of a building.

He has asked me to use the pattern to design him a hat. I think it can be done...

As in any environment, decay stands side by side with new development. I was struck by the way that this ruined building created a confusion between indoors and outdoors. It is clearly considered a rather photogenic location as later in day we came across a wedding party having some photographs done in the 'courtyard' which I imagine was once somebody's home.

Digressing momentarily on the subject of ruins.... Leon and I came across this abandoned house on our travels.

At first glance it looks like one of the fairly common abandoned homes that you come across as you drive around Australia which make you think about what life was like in this country when it was very young and without much in the way of infrastructure and people needed to make their homes with whatever materials came to hand. I am used to seeing the ubiquitous corrugated iron roofs but what made this building so interesting was what had been revealed when the corrugated iron slipped off.

Before the advent of corrugated iron people used to roof their houses with wooden shingles cut from the surrounding trees. Leon tells me that very few examples of these roofs remain in the area and that we were very lucky to see one.

We also managed to have a walk through the park at the centre of Bendigo. Some of the trees are familiar and European . Others aren't. This one looked like a giant monkey puzzle tree.

But just looking at the trunk with all its folds and texture it reminds me of a great elephant's foot.

Just in case you thought that this was no longer a knitting blog there isn't a knitter in Australia who doesn't know what the highlight of any visit to Bendigo is...

Could I leave empty handed? Of course not. On my visit, Lyn had been knitting a baby blanket with some gorgeous, beautifully soft grey yarn. I just had to have some. Here is my skein of Bendigo Luxury 4ply in a colour called Red Earth which is a rich, wholesome brown. It comes in large, satisfying 200g cakes and is quite easy on the purse as well. Whilst not labelled merino it is every bit as soft as many yarns that I have knit with labelled as such.

Of course, I had to cast on straight away so here is my third travel project - the beginnings of a Haruni lace shawl. So far it is knitting up into a warm, substantial shawl.I am finding the pattern easy and straightforward to follow and have decided to add a few repeats to ensure that as a warm shawl it is large enough to swaddle myself in.

In my next post we go back to the Lakes, I find another wool shop and have fun with a church ladies' luncheon club....

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Australia Diaries Part 5 - 56 jars of chutney

After the excitement of my travels it was lovely to get back to Leon and Cathy's house in the bush and spend a few days indulging in more domestic pursuits. In Australia, April marks the beginning of autumn so we spent time in the garden making sure every last bit of the harvest was gathered in before the cold weather.

Tomato plants were stripped and yielded this rather motley collection of unripe fruit.

Which we turned into this:

Added an eye watering quantity of this:

Cooked them up with herbs and spices and all good things to make this: Green tomato chutney.

56 jars of it!

Apparently, I was a little generous with the chili on the first batch so it isn't for the faint hearted. I relented in subsequent boilings and produced a much less exciting brew which is perfectly safe for children and those of a nervous disposition....
Here is the recipe as best as I can remember it.
Nola's Green Tomato Chutney
6lbs green tomatoes
2lbs onions
1lb sugar
cinnamon, cloves and allspice tied up in muslin bag
3pints white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (more if you dare)
1 cup flour
Boil tomatoes, onions and vinegar (reserving a small amount of vinegar for later) with muslin bag of spices for 20 minutes. Add sugar and boil for another hour. Mix remaining ingredients to a paste with reserved vinegar, stir in until thickened.
Bottle in sterilised jars.
In knitting news I finished the Wandering the Moors Shawl. I really like the way it has turned out. I also had a huge amount of yarn left over. The feel is light and airy with no areas of significant over twist or over plying so it is still obviously hand spun .

Of course, I can never be without knitting in my hand so I will show you my next travel project very soon!