Tuesday, 29 January 2013


It is possible to find the most delightful things in quite unexpected places.  A friend,  lives in deepest rural Gloucestershire where a local garage sells pasties.  Not unusual you say - doesn't every garage sell  cellophane wrapped parcels, high fat, low meat, together with a handy microwave heating service?  Yes but his garage sells Pasties, the real thing, crunchy pastry, proper meat, perfect seasoning and just enough vegetable to remind us that these were packed lunch for Cornish tin miners.  After my friend wrote about the pasties in his weekly newspaper column the pasties sold out in a week, the chaps at the garage were delighted.  

A week or two later The Writer was filling up his car when the garage proprietor wandered out and in the course of passing the time of day he mentioned how badly his forecourt was broken up by the recent hard frosts, at the same time he laid down a challenge.  "Holes!  I bet you couldn't write about holes, not as easy as pasties are they?"  A little ungrateful I thought and wouldn't have blamed The Writer if he had just paid for his full tank of petrol and forgot the conversation.  But not he, the next week a brilliant and witty piece appeared in The Independent.

I'm not about to write about holes or the produce of my local garage but I am still thinking about challenges while, for reasons I will give later, knitting some pretty straightforward stuff.   Like this scarf for DS1

K2 P2 rib scarf in two colours of  Rialto double knitting by Debbie Bliss

Last week I tried to rise to a challenge set by one of my twitter followers, @Kismetislander wondering in a tweet if I could combine marmalade and knitting.  I have to admit I dashed off last week's blog in great haste. My grandson was ill and became very seriously ill as the week went on, culminating in a lengthy emergency operation in the middle of Wednesday/Thursday night (he's on the road to recovery now).  All of which meant we have done a lot of anxious waiting around in hospitals, hence the plain knitting and The Little Model came to stay with us.  I had forgotten (how could I?) how time consuming 3 year olds are.  @KismetIslander was a bit underwhelmed with my efforts in answering her challenge.

I have also begun knitting a pair of socks in my favourite self striping sock yarn

I promise to do better at another time but also thought it would be fun if I were tested a little more.  I am delighted to say that I have around 400 hits on this blog each week so, I lay down the gauntlet to you.  Please leave a challenge in the comments section and I promise to rise to it.  I will also give your blog a big plug in my post (and set you a dare too if you like).

so much sock yarn

With so much sock yarn in my stash (some very special hand dyed) I have set myself the task of making as many pairs of socks as I can in 2013 but I look forward reading your ideas for new things to do and to scratching my head over the next few weeks



Tuesday, 22 January 2013

A surfeit of exuberance

It's not that I haven't been knitting - I have, every evening.  But I don't have a lot to show for it...  yet.

I really want to finish the half done WIPs (I really do) but I began by un-ravelling.  The Araucania cardigan, begun months ago, was over half finished (back and fronts done, side seams sewn and shoulders grafted) but when I tried it on I knew it was all wrong.  And it's to do with The Problem.

The Problem does not only affect my choice of pattern, and my propensity to further embellish the pattern with little modifications of my own but also my choice of yarn.

When choosing what to knit and what to knit with (or lets be honest what-yarn-to-buy-never-mind-what-I-shall-knit-with-it) it's all about superlatives - gorgeous, beautiful, soft, fluffy, intense, rich, jewelled. Then there is beaded, indy-dyed (and spun) BFL*, alpaca, silk and simple good merino.  Buying yarn is a little like buying sweets or cake - I have a tendency to go for the bright and fancy with lashings of cream.  Patterns are no different - I go for the frills and furbelows. It's my undoing... It's The Problem

Yet if I go to a shop to buy ready made, restrained is my watchword.  I look for elegant lines, cool neutral colours, natural fibres and most definitely no fancy trimmings.  No wonder sometimes I finish something with a big fanfare and much rejoicing only for it to come out very rarely as once more I pull on my old fine cashmere crew necked sweater. Or cotton knits in cream and grey

And so it was that last week  I ripped out my Araucania, marmalade** coloured jacket with its contrasting garter stitched stripes in a slightly different weight and colour yarn, the peplum and the planned button band made of applied i-cord.  The colour is fab, all the colours of  Seville orange deliciousness; the yarn a beautiful blend of hand finished fibres but why was I tempted to embellish?

There's another connection with marmalade as well as colour.  Have you seen how many ways there are to mess with the original, simple stuff made of oranges, sugar and water?  You can buy it with added whiskey, spices, nuts - even marmalade made without oranges!!  But the best way is surely plain and simple, just as with this yarn.

And so I have reined in my imagination and chosen a simple sweater pattern with a shawl collar.   I am not absolutely sure I shall have enough yarn so I began with the sleeves and will knit the body in the round up to the armholes so if necessary I can make it a little bit shorter.

 And so the Araucania is sorted, that just leaves the multi-coloured, multi-textured stash (some with beads) much of it in very small amounts - there might be a lot of hats and scarves (and several pairs of socks!)



(I bought this today, isn't it pretty?)

*BFL - Blue Faced Leicester, a breed of sheep whose fleece spins into the perfect knitters yarn
** Marmalade - after last week's blog a twitter friend @KismetIslander suggested one could not combine Marmalade and knitting.  Ho Hum... 

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Golden Ellixir

My father has been complaining about his aches and pains a lot recently, he's never been quite the same since he took a tumble playing badminton (he never should have run backwards reaching for that shot)  Of course it's hardly unusual to fall playing energetic sports but a little more out of the ordinary if you are 87!

Over the AP's Christmas stay JTH came to the conclusion that contrary to appearances my father does not owe his general rude health to badminton but to marmalade.  Lashings of it, only ever home-made, three heaped spoonfuls on one small piece of toast and licking the spoon afterwards.  As the AP returned home after his Christmas visit carrying the remaining four jars of last year's stock, it is fortunate that Seville oranges made their brief annual appearance in my local green grocers last week.

So yesterday was spend squeezing

...slicing (only minor damage to knuckles)

...and boiling for what seemed like hours

gleaming jars warming in the oven

Aaand the stock is replenished

I just need to get some labelling done