Friday, January 29, 2010

The Raven has Landed

My yarn ball arrived! I don't think it could have been more perfect if I'd wrapped it up and sent it to myself. No surprise that I wasn't the patient type that would wait and knit through the ball finding the presents on the way, goodness I didn't even have time to photograph the giant ball before I had to investigate what was in there - answer:
A completely overwhelming haul of lovely, thoughtfully chosen things - Clover Chibi needles and needle holders, Burt's Bees lip balm and cuticle cream, notepad, paperclips, stamp, chocolate, magnets, a shell pendant, handmade tissue holder, a bead S and the world's cutest pincushion:
And the yarn that held all these treasures? It's my holy grail of yarn - the yarn I've loved from afar - the yarn that the Pacific Northwest did not want to sell me last year. Wendy sent me a corvid in yarn form and I don't think I've stopped flapping with excitement yet.
Yes it really is Socks that Rock in Thraven - oh me, oh my - what pattern shall I choose for it?

For how the yarn ball looked before the frenzy of unwinding see it all wrapped up here at Wendy's post. And yes Wendy I'd do this swap again in a heartbeat too! Thank you so much once again and thank you T for organising.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preserves and Bumblebees

Preserves are a new and growing obsession of mine.

This weekend I managed to put down the sock of beauty just long enough to make some lime marmalade.Green tomato chutney was a regular feature of childhood and I can remember my first adult foray into preserving was some plum jam circa summer 2004. We moved in to a new house share to be greeted by plums overflowing every surface and house mates heading off on holiday shouting some hasty instructions over their shoulders.

Since then I've dabbled increasingly, getting over the fear that it was all a bit complicated to bother with. No more plum jam as enjoying the finished item is the major driving force behind any preserving effort which does tarnish my 'domestic goddess using up abundant produce' image a leetle bit, but wasting ingredients and effort on turning something into a preserve I'm likely to leave on the shelf until it's finally gone rotten seems like throwing too much good after bad.
We made a big batch of various chutneys, sauces and some lemon curd for Christmas gifts this year and got some really nice responses from the giftees, so preserves are going to be a continuing part of the trying to increase the giving of handmade items. So far we've taken recipes mainly from the internet with mixed success. For a new year of preserving we invested in a new book and by chance seem to have hit on a great one - The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.
In a few quick reads through the preliminaries I've already learnt a lot. It quickly became apparent why our chilli jam had to be labelled as chilli sauce this year. Us novices had assumed jam sugar and preserving sugar were one and the same thing whereas jam sugar has added pectin for a firm set, preserving sugar tends to just have big grains for easy dissolving. I'm looking forward to lots more playing with the pans and jam thermometer this year with Pam as our guide.

And so we move seamlessly from preserves to bumblebees, another obsession of mine. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are in the running for some funding for a wonderful project in Pembrokeshire introducing a wild flower habitat along a pathway linking sites that should assist in the protection of an endangered species of bumblebee - if you wanted to visit the Live for the Outdoors site and read about the projects that have been proposed and vote for whichever you most support that would be great, if you wanted to vote for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust project then that would be the greatest :)


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Finding beauty

Oh there was beauty to be found in the sparkling silver parcel that was waiting on the doorstep when I got home on Friday. A great start to my first yarn club. Here's a little spoiler shield in case any Knit Love club members who haven't had their parcel yet are reading here (and because the owls are so darned cute)..
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And now on to the socktacular beauty.
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Oh my the yarn! Alchemy Juniper - not something I've ever got my paws on before - a plumptious 100% merino. The colour is so warm and rich, the label says that inspiration comes from the natural world and this is so like the gold of certain lichen. Absolutely amazing. The beautiful pattern - Rumpled - designed by Alice is so clever, beautiful texture and detail but not overly complicated to knit.

If all that wasn't enough the labels also have little quotes on the back, while knitting this sock I can ponder the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson "Though we travel the world to find beauty, we must carry it with us, or we find it not."

Or for this yarn, Frankie Valli also has something to say "You're just too good to be true. Can't take my eyes off you. You'd be like Heaven to touch. I wanna hold you so much."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Yarn Ball Swap - Sneak Preview

Back in November when T suggested a yarn ball swap for the month of January I knew I wanted to be part of it. I'd never heard of the idea before - taking a skein of yarn and wrapping in little treasures to make a magic ball full of surprises. Here's a peep at the ball that should be on it's way in the post to Wendy tomorrow. Wendy's to me is already winging its way here - so much fun!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A new project, an old way

Another January weekend = time for casting on another new project.
A little cardigan for one of the several babies that one of several friends are busy growing right now. It promises to be quite the year for hatching amongst my friends so I've been checking out a whole new section of patterns.

It occurred to me the other day that in my three and a bit years of knitting I have never gone to a yarn shop and looked at their patterns and bought a pattern and the yarn then and there. So I did. I tell you the excitement never stops round here, if I tell you I cleaned out the food cupboard too I know you'll be blown away by my weekend :o)
I checked out the yarns, decided that the Baby Bamboo was the right mix of practicality/affordability/knit desirability and looked at the folder of patterns. It was really quite soothing to have a reasonably small selection of patterns. Sometimes looking at all the patterns on the kniternet I just don't know where to begin. This little bubs hasn't expressed her style just yet so it was nice to have some parameters enforced.

It was also super exciting to get home, get the yarns out of the bag and just get knitting with the excitement of the pattern choice and yarn kill fresh in the air! Little things for little people should mean quick FOs I hope :)

This is the way I remember my Mum shopping for a new project and I think it's something I'll enjoy doing again - though please don't take my internet away, some days I like endless options and I am looking forward to making these free online baby patterns.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My what a Kool Hat you're wearing...

... you must be the very much loved and not at all neglected beloved of a knitter.May it keep your ears warm and your head full of memories of Seattle Public Library and our wonderful holiday.
Pattern: Koolhaas Hat - Jared Flood
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted - Violetas (about 2/3 of a skein)
Needles: 4mm long DPNs for ribbing, 5.5mm 40cm circular for main hat
Started: 3 January 2010
Finished: 14 January 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Very un-Mean Reds

I loved the red quilt background to my little scarf in that last post. Winter is the one time of year when I genuinely have one favourite colour. I love the antidote red things provide to the lack of colour in nature and finding hidden patches of red berries when outside is like a surprise for the eyes.

However for all the need for red I'm enjoying this month so much more than I normally do. Something about the bout of snow here has given me permission to start the year at a more Sarah-ish speed. I can't get up for January and its new this, new that-ness, I need to just hunker down and for once it feels like many people around me are doing the same. It's as if the focus has shifted to the basics of everyday life. Getting about, getting provisions, keeping warm have all required more care and attention and in spending more time on them they've become events in themselves rather than background chores to get out of the way and then move on to doing more more more.

Don't get me wrong I'm excited to go the supermarket in the car this weekend and stock up on some heavy items that didn't get carried home on foot last weekend! The novelty of certain tasks could soon wear off but I hope I don't lose the sense of how to let the quietness of winter take centre stage. I want to remember throughout the year that time spent on humdrum things will lift them into part of this life well lived and give me the sense of accomplishment that I often only feel with my knitting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New book, new pattern,

new year, new lace:
Promises to be a very pretty whisper of a scarf knit in Kidsilk Night.

One of many very beautiful patterns from this book that hopefully will encourage me to use up some luxurious single skeins being saved for something special. Maybe it will just help me to buy single skeins of something other than sock yarn when I'm in my dazed and confused "I'm in a yarn shop" state. Win win.There are so many patterns I'm sure most people would find things they'd like to knit in here and they cover a good range of projects given the one skein limitation.

I don't love the way the photos are all in one section at the front but I guess that was a way to control costs but still incorporate a full colour photo for each of the projects.
I do love the grouping of the patterns according to the weight of yarn. Very handy.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Ways to Keep Warm

One:
Curl up in a fur coat.

Two:
Mmm mmm macaroni cheese.

Three:
No fur coat? Find some wool and a hot water bottle.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Excitement: in the form of New Toys and Snow

Ah Christmas, almost a distant memory but the fun of some of my gifts will live on and on:
Exhibit A: a TOYota ball winder. (And there are two great books in the back of these shots that I'll post more about soon.)
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Makes the most delicious yarn cakes. I didn't even know I wanted one of these, thought that the swift devised and handmade two years ago was enough for me, but perhaps that's because I normally 'employ' a labourer for the ball winding. He could see the benefit of a winder! This was wound at the weekend and I should have had a Koolhaas well on the way by now but needle trouble is slowing me down - ah poor neglected labourer!

Newest excitement is that Oxford finally got some of the snow that's been drifting around much of the UK for a while now. This was from our back door step at 7am.Garden photos are mine, other Oxford shots from the 1TB as he ventured out while I stayed snug and got to work from home. I love the snow so long as I don't have to get anywhere!Definitely the most snow I've seen in one go in Oxford and more forecast for tonight.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Last and the First

The last knit of 2009 and the first of 2010. First FO; surely not the last for the year?Pattern: Springtime Bandit - Kate Gagnon Osborn
Yarn: Rowanspun DK - Sugar Almond - 70 grams
Needles: 4.5mm circular, 5.5mm tips used for the bind off
Started: 2 December 2009
Finished: 1 January 2010First succumbing to small shawl fever, not my first knitted love and not the last I'm sure, but definitely my most favoured finished item so far. A hard gift to give!
I kept gazing proudly at it as it grew. I loved photographing it and playing around with it when it was washed, blocked and dry. I need to work on my blocking technique and equipment - this little piece was quite a challenge with my towel and pin kit. The lacy elements opened up nicely but some points ended up, well, pointing, much better than others and I might have had a second go if time had permitted.It was a joy to knit, a pattern that flowed for me - except the first row of the final chart - with the pattern printed two pages to a page I ended up with symbols I couldn't read - if you knit this do yourself a favour and avoid that pitfall!

I love the combination of the open lace and the rich texture in the pattern, the way the tweedy yarn accentuates this aspect.This is surely the first step on a long lacy path - I foresee more shawls in mixed weights and sizes on my needles soon. There have been many patterns I've long admired but not quite felt the 'must knit now' pull. The pleasure of the Bandit convinces me that these are items for me to make.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A New Day

From the ground to the sky I sense the potential; so much to anticipate and hope for.

My only resolutions: enjoy and savour the good parts, learn from the hard parts and end the year as I did 2009, feeling like it was a year well lived.

Wishing everyone much happiness and little heartache today and every day for 2010.
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