Tuesday, 25 November 2014

the colo(u)r purple

Quite by accident, I seem to be into purple knitting at the moment - it is one of favourite colours but not one I knit with very often. Hmm. Don't know why.  So, squishy bed socks (pattern is Elgin, yarn is Drops Nepal, toes are warm) it is. These are my first go at toe-up socks and now that the toe is done they're knitting up quickly, but jings, crivvens and help ma boab, how anyone can say that toe-up socks are 'easier' (because there's no grafting) I have no idea - provisional cast-ons are a monumental pain in the bum! Still, I don't need to think about that until I get to Sock 2.

I'm really looking forward to wearing these socks.  As long as I have warm feet I'm pretty much happy, and every time I look at this sock I'm smiling in anticipation.

I wasn't going to mention the Cabled Thing again because I've done nothing but catalogue my mistakes with it, but I like the picture below so much I'll just mention that even when sewn up and finished, it turned out that there was a problem. Somewhere along the way I'd dropped a stitch - don't know how, I had the right number of stitches.  Hence the crochet hook holding the stitch in place.

I just love the colours in that picture though - the deep blackberry purpliness of the knitting and the coppery orange of the crochet hook. I took the photo yesterday afternoon and although the knitting was on the window sill there was barely enough natural light to get a picture without flash. The camera has overcompensated slightly for the low light, but I like what it's done for the colour, and actually this is the closest that any of my photos have got to the richness and darkness of the wool. I can imagine you can see my problem now!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


This evening I have been Doing Science.

Miss M got last month's Best Work award at school for her bendy bones experiment write-up, but the bone she used at school had been a bit thick and didn't get spectacularly bendy.  So as we had roast chicken for dinner a couple of weekends ago she wanted to have another go. This time we used the wishbone, and left it soaking in a jar of vinegar out in the mini-greenhouse*, then pretty much forgot about it until today. We brought it in, drained the vinegar off and then stared in horrible fascination. It was really bendy. So bendy she could tie a knot in it. Bleurgh!

Then we chucked it out. But having just read that page from the Science Centre link above I'm wondering now if we should have saved it and dried it out, still tied in a not. Oh well.

As she was all fired up by this we got out the chemistry set she got for her birthday and played around with did some experiments from that - just very basic stuff from the start of the booklet, mixing flour and water, oil and water, observing what happens, playing with the pipettes. Lovely word, pipettes!

Breaking news: I have cast off the Cable Headband of Doom. I'm very tempted to sew up the seam but this would no doubt lead to Disaster, so I'll wait for daylight. That makes it sounds as if I'll be waiting, knitting in hand, for the dawn.. Nah, I like my sleep.

* It's an experiment that gets a bit whiffy.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

knitting in the dark

I have come to the conclusion that I am not naturally suited to knitting dark purple things. In the evenings. In winter. While watching telly.

The headband/earwarmer thing proceeds. I won't say 'proceeds apace' because it's been a case of two steps forward, one step back (and occasionally vice versa). It really is a very straightforward pattern but because it's so dark I'm just not spotting mistakes until, ooh, ages later. Thank goodness for those lifelines eh? It's getting there now though, and I'm not seeing any obvious mistakes in that picture.

Despite my talk of dark wintry evenings it's actually clear and sunny today. Cat2 has been sprawling on a chair near the window to make the most of it. Yes, same chair, she hopped up as soon as I moved the knitting and immediately managed to look as if she'd been lying their for several hours. It's a cat talent. The one that allows them to do the 'who me?' face when you came back to a seat you vacated approximately 30 seconds ago to find that it is Taken.

Making the most of the sunshine I went out into the garden to see what's going on on. Not much, though the borage is still flowering:

As is the nigella:

The dyer's chamomile still has a few bedraggled flowers showing:

but it hasn't done as well this year. I seem to recall reading that it's sort of perennial but after two or three years it's not nearly as enthusiastic and runs out of steam, so I'll plant seeds again in the spring. Also I'll pull up the mint I inadvertently planted in that flower bed and is making a bid for flower bed domination. Actually the sunshine in the garden was at about head height and ground level was mostly in shadow due to the houses behind us, so  these pictures make it look gloomier than it is.

The poppies did okay:

The nice thing about them is that they look interesting at pretty much any stage.

This picture however pretty much summarises the garden in November:

Isolated patches of colour, but mostly greeny-brown. I did find some brilliant mushrooms/toadstools, but they didn't photograph well. Actually they looked like pancakes (drop scones, not crepes).

I can't quite believe it's November already.  Ant and Dec, minor celebs and creepy-crawlies are once more on the television so that's my trashy telly sorted for the next few weeks.

Children In Need came and went, and the school did their talent show in aid of it as usual. Miss M was up on stage on her own this time, in front of the whole school plus a lot of parents, doing a dance/gymnastics routine she made up herself*. I was so proud of her - she's much braver (and, needless to say more talented) than me. In fact all the kids were brave and enthusiastic and great. But I'll be glad not to hear Let It Go again. Ever.

I have decided not to make a Christmas cake this year, which is just as well because I should have done it by now really.  Even using a smaller tin and scaling down last year we still had loads left over so it's not worth it. I'll make mince pies instead.  Maybe. And I have done no Christmas shopping yet. I'm in denial at the moment. I'll just finish that cable headband thing first..

* To Crazy by Ms Britney Spears. Miss M is rather a fan of early Britney. Well, who isn't?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

knit on

I am knitting again! Woohoo!

My replacement needles arrived (curiously this didn't make the missing needle turn up again, which is what usually happens in such situations) and I've been cracking on with this cabled headband thing.  It's a plaited cable ear warmer* and I found the pattern in a book from the library.  Er,  just checking, the book is Simple Knitting by Ros Badger. Mostly I knit with 4-ply and tiny needles so to knit with aran and 4.5mm feels really decadent. It's such an easy pattern, so the whole thing is knitting up at warp-speed. Except when I spot a stupid mistake a few rows back and then spend some time un-knitting and re-knitting the same three rows over and over because the beautiful luscious purple is so dark that, except in daylight (of which we are in short supply at the moment), I can't really see what I'm doing. It's more purple than it is in my picture actually.

I could have ripped back to the last turquoise lifeline, but I was feeling stubborn and I wanted to know what I'd done. Still, it's sorted now! The lifelines are mostly there to make it easier to count the pattern repeats, and actually, because I just really like the way that turquoise looks with the purple.  The luscious purple is a Noro yarn I got at a P/hop yarn-swap event raising money for MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières). It's wonderfully soft and squishy, so it's a pleasure to work with even if it's tricky to see in low light. I'll forgive it!

Médecins Sans Frontières
Médecins Sans Frontières)
The reason I was able to throw myself back into knitting is that I finished my OU assignment with plenty of time to spare - submitted electronically on Thursday, a day early in fact. In all my academic adventures I don't believe I've ever submitted an assignment early before!  So I spent all of yesterday bouncing around with that kind of enthusiastic well-being you only get after handing in an assignment, the kind that makes it almost worth the shuffling of multiple pages of notes, the muttered swearing and eventually the sense of resignation ('it's probably rubbish but it'll have to do') that characterised the preceding few days. Of course on Thursday night I had a dream that it had been marked and I'd only got 48% - let's hope not!

UPDATE:  aargh, no, I've just clicked on that picture and spotted another mistake - some of my cables are not plaiting. I'd jotted the pattern down in a small notebook rather than carrying the library book around, but I've written it down wrong and I've had the cable needle in front instead of behind for row 7 in the last three pattern repeats. D'oh.. such a numpty.. Three-fifths wrong, that's fairly impressive even for me! I'm pleased now that I left all those lifelines in.

*for plaited cable ears?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


We had the first frost of the winter last night, and a clear night was followed by a beautifully clear day. I don't know what temperature it got to in the day but it felt chilly all day - the sun was warm, but the moment you went into the shade you felt it.  It was great to see some blue sky again though! Up near the library you could see for miles and miles. I should have taken more pictures really but I was just too cold at that point. It was my first gloves day of the winter too, reminding me that I really should knit that second mitten, y'know, sometime before spring.

Tonight being Bonfire Night, the kids and I ventured out for a walk to see if we could spot fireworks. I took loads of photos but obviously they're mostly useles - that one above is of the moon with fireworks and the tops of some trees. Or alternatively it could be a colony of glow-in-the-dark bats. The cats have been more twitchy at the sound of explosions this year (perhaps there were more fireworks this year because it was a dry night?) but not excessively so. While we were out firework-watching we saw a fox slinking around completely unconcerned about the whole thing. Animals must think humans are very peculiar sometimes.

It was still cold and clear with very little breeze and the moon was particularly beautiful:

We were trying to decide whether it was full or not, but apparently it's waxing gibbous.

My brain is still addled by Cézanne - nearly finished though. I just have to add a bit to the Cleopatra answer and trim a bit more off the Cézanne one. Actually I could easily have written something twice as long for the Cézanne, which I suppose is reassuring in that I have plenty to say, but it's also quite frustrating that I'm having to prune quite so drastically. I'm only good at pruning drastically in the garden!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

the little grey cells

Now that I'm doing the OU again I'm finding bits of my brain reactivating, which is really a rather fantastic feeling! It's not that I never use my brain the rest of the time, of course, but there's something about really immersing yourself in a topic that makes the ol' brain start bouncing around as if I've been on the caffeine but without the attendant jitteriness (I do not tolerate caffeine well any more).

The course I'm doing this year is a 60-point level 1 introduction to the Arts course. It will in fact be my second last course, as I have 240 points hanging around from when I studied with the OU pre-kids, but these days they insist that you have to do a level 1 course (when I started, ahem, last millennium, I skipped straight to level 2). Actually this is probably just as well because after a twelve-year break I'm no doubt fairly rusty and it'll ease me back into it. Also this one is assessed solely by assignments - there's no exam, callooh, callay, oh frabjous day etc! So far it's going fairly well. I have an assignment to do on Cézanne and Cleopatra - not together, it's an assignment with two short questions. Imagine a single question linking Cleopatra and Cézanne! The mind boggles..

I'd written notes on both sections at the end of last week and just needed to get it into some kind of coherent answer, and today I had an intensive scribbling-on-bits-of-paper session at the local library, with both marker pens and post-it notes (get me, such a student), and it seems, touch wood, reasonably okay.  It turns out I'm a note-taker not a drafter when it comes to essay-writing, which is something our area tutor mentioned at the tutorial we had in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago.  I'd never really thought about it before, but as we have to do some reflective writing as part of the course it's probably helpful to think about the way I work and think. The whole reflective writing things is new to me and to be honest scares me silly!

As an aside I must say that I'm really really lucky with the local library. It's small and to be honest doesn't actually have a huge selection of books, though they'll try to order things in for you if there's something you really want, but it is a real community place. The staff are all friendly and lovely and helpful, and there are always things going on. Rhyme time and story time for the teeny-tiny kids, a book club, Minecraft club and regular craft sessions for the older children, and things going on for adults too. It's one of my favourite places and it's lovely to see a library so appreciated by the community.

The other day we were going out with my mother-in-law for a bit so we decided to go to Pollok Park in Glasgow. Aside from some lovely walks, Pollok Park is the home of the Burrell Collection which we used to mooch around a lot pre-children but tend to hurtle around in rather a hurry these day. Among other things the Burrell Collection includes some ancient Egyptian stuff and a collection of paintings, including a Cézanne, so I thought I'd have a look while we were there to get myself in the mood for comparing and contrasting and muttering about brushwork and so forth. Alas, the Cézanne wasn't there, just an empty space on the wall with no obvious sign explaining its absence.  I'd hazard a guess that they'd have noticed if it had been nicked though. My Beloved said there was a suit of armour missing too - the swords and armour section is his favourite bit.

So I bought the postcard:

 Le chateau de Médan

My mother-in-law and her gentlemen friend took the kids off to the café after a bit so My Beloved and I had a little while to have a proper mooch around looking at things, which is something we haven't done at leisure for ages. I had a really good look at the Egyptian stuff for probably the first time ever. I'd never had any interest in Ancient Egypt, but since the Boy did a Topic* on Ancient Egypt in Primary 4 and I had to help him, I've become more interested.  Between that, and chain-reading Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries**, and having just done the chapter on Cleopatra for the OU course I found myself looking at the various Egyptian bits and pieces with a much more knowledgeable eye. For one thing I was looking at the dates of the objects and being struck by the sheer age (and age-range) of them - there were things there which were truly old, as well as some from the Ptolemaic (Hellenistic) dynasty, the dynasty that included and ended with Cleopatra VII, the Cleopatra, which are comparatively recent as the Ptolemaic dynasty ended pretty much with ol' Cleo in 30 BC.

You know what, though? Studying can be really tiring. I'd forgotten. On that note, I'll head off to bed. Good night!

* There are many more Topics in primary school than when I was that age.

** I'm addicted to mysteries especially ones that are not in the least gritty.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

On the necessity of doilies

Sometimes I look around our house and I'm faintly surprised by it, because it's a bit anonymous. I don't mean that it's anonymous in that creepily tidy* way of hotel rooms. It isn't in any way designed, it has just evolved in the way that family homes do, but I don't know that it necessarily shows much of our characters. We have a lot of Ikea furniture  - nothing wrong with that, I like Ikea furniture, but there's a kind of inevitability to the Billy bookcase. I think what I mean is that I was looking round and it occurred to me that considering I'm a knitter and dyer there's not much individuality to our actual furnishing. 

So I thought I'd change that a bit. I went to Liz Lovick's lace-knitting workshop at the Glasgow School of Yarn last year and as part of it started knitting a piece of cat's paw lace intended to be a scarf eventually. Of course I didn't have enough of the wool in that colour for a scarf, and to be honest no real desire for another lace scarf, so the sample piece sat on the needles for ages. Eventually I knitted a bit more so that it was roughly square, did a few rows of garter stitch, cast off, blocked it, and wondered what to do with it. And then I decided my bedside table needed a doily-kind-of-thing. Actually it didn't need it (let's face it, doilies are pretty much pointless) but it did look quite nice. And then I thought a coaster would be handy for when I throw caution to the winds and drink coffee in bed while reading**.  So I knitted a garter-stitch coaster to match the doily-thing. And it looks a bit more comfortable and a bit more personal.

* Perish the thought! It is a house of clutter - there's no way that anybody could walk into our house and not realise that it contains children. And two moderately untidy adults. And two cats, though they're actually the tidiest of all of us.

** I know how to party.