A little wander into town ….

…. is a rare treat these days, as I visit my mother in her nursing home on my two half-days off in the week and on Saturdays. But today I found a spare hour, the sun was shining, and so off I went. And it was a trip that brought rich rewards.

I went in search of the newest issue of ‘Country Life’, because I had learned from Marley that there was a lovely cover picture of a border terrier, and an article inside about Briar’s kinsfolk.

Briar was very pleased that the cover described her as ‘the thinking man’s best friend’ (though in this house it’s more a case of ‘the reading woman’s best friend’) and I was very pleased with the article which explained what wonderful dogs borders are, noted their growing popularity, and expressed concerns about some of the negative consequences of that popularity.

When I went out with Pip, who was dog of the house here before Briar, we rarely saw another border, but Briar meets borders, locals and holiday-makers, on a regular basis.

While I was in the newsagent I spotted the new, early autumn issue of ‘Designer Knitting’ (‘Vogue Knitting’ in most of the rest of the world). It’s not a magazine I’ve knitted much from, but the articles are well worth reading and even the patterns that don’t go into my ever-increasing Ravelry queue are interesting to study for stitch patterns, construction, unusual ideas …

This issue I have my eye on a checkerboard mesh raglan (I’d change the cuffs to something a little simpler and bracelet length), a cable cardigan (I’d lose what the magazine describes as ‘layering details’ and enlarge the shawl collar), and a couple of shawls, should the shawl knitting bug ever bite me again.

And then there was the bookshop …

I found, among the cards and artwork on the table outside, a print from 1907. ‘The Fairies of the Serpentine by Arthur Rackham. It was less than £10 and I couldn’t possibly have left it behind.

Inside I found a copy of The Story of Jessie by Mabel Quiller-Couch. I’ve been looking for a copy for ever since I read about it in the back of an elderly library book earlier in the year.  A Cornish author, the sibling of another author – literary families fascinate me, and such a pretty book.

(I should probably mention that Mabel Quiller-Couch was the sister of Arthur Quiller-Couch.)

And finally there was a little Orange Penguin. When I read Simon’s Five From the Archive Canadian books I noted the name of Stephen Leacock, I checked the library catalogue, and I added a couple of his books to my ‘maybe someday’ list – list making is a very useful feature of my library’s website and I’m hoping it will save me from ordering more book than I can possibly read at the same time. but then a copy of ‘Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town’ appeared on the Penguin shelves. Isn’t fate kind sometimes?!

We have a sock!

And not just any sock – a sock that I have handknitted!

My sock!

After more than thirty years knitting cardigans, pullover, hats, scarves and mittens I have finally joined the ranks of the sock knitters.

There were a few things that did it:

First there was the wealth of lovely yarns and lovely patterns out there.

Second, there were the other sock knitters. Darlene tempted me, as I followed the her knitting of some lovely socks. And Laura inspired me, with her rapid journey from non knitter to sock knitter.

And third, there was my mother. She’s still in a nursing home, because although the infection that laid her low has cleared up she is much, much more  frail than she was before. Right now we’re waiting for a meeting to plan where we go from here.

She’s quite sleepy a lot of the time, and so I decided it would be a good idea to take some knitting when I visit her, so I can sit next to her and knit for a while when she’s having a dozy day. Socks are so portable. Plus, my mother has always liked colourful socks, so she’s been watching this one grow, and she has been promised my first pair, in her favourite colour, when they’re done.

It fits!

And so to the details:The yarn in ZigZag by King Cole.  A good basic sock yarn, but I’m a little disappointed with the colourway: the changes are very short and the contrast between two of them isn’t great.

The pattern is Hermione’s Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder. I wanted something simple, so that I could concentrate on the construction, and I didn’t want to pay money. It’s a nice pattern, but it does need to be read carefully as it isn’t as clear as it might be in one or two places.

I’m still a garment knitter at heart, but now I understand the appeal of socks, and I’m going to try to always have a pair of socks on the go that I can throw into my bag when I go out.

Next up – my second sock!

A little book and yarn shopping ….

…. after nearly a year of unemployment and being very careful. Not too much, because I already have books and yarn aplenty, but just a few very lovely things that I really couldn’t resist.

Back issues of Slightly Foxed!

I very nearly squealed because the edition with the Leo Walmsley article was there.

And now I definitely feel a subscription coming on ….

I really didn’t expect to see the three Dodie Smith novels that were only reissued earlier this month in The Works, but there they were, priced at three for £5. A wonderful bargain, but I was a little sad that they were being sold so cheaply so soon.

I snapped up The Town in Bloom, It Ends With Revelations and The New Moon With The Old – I can already vouch for that one, and it’s lovely to have a copy of my own now that the one I read has gone back to the library.

And that’s it for book shopping …. for now at least ….

And so to knitting.

I was charmed by Ella Austin’s Bunny Mitts in this month’s copy of Knit Now

And when I saw that the yarn came from the wonderful Skein Queen and that she had mitten kits in stock I really couldn’t resist.

So that’s my next small project lined up.

And on Monday we have to go to St Ives, so I’ll have my first chance to look at the Oxfam Bookshop for a while. And I shall take my birthday book token, that I’d forgotten I had, just in case I should spot something in the St Ives Bookshop ….

While Briar sleeps at her end of the sofa ….

…. I have been busy at my end.

Kate has mailed out the schedule for her year-long readalong of Les Miserables. And she mentioned that she has marked the weekly installments on her copy.

I loved that idea and have done the same thing with my copy.

I may fall behind, I may get ahead, but I am sure that seeing the installments so clearly will help me through.

And I’ve been knitting a hat. And, for the very first time, knitting sideways instead of bottom up,

I love the pattern and I have learned, and now love, Japanese short rows No more wrapping stitches and getting confused about what to do with the wrap for me!

And I should mention that the pattern is Anlalya by Mary Kay Gumayagay.

And, of course, I’m reading. Miracle on Regent Street is a wonderful book to get lost in. London in December with just a touch of fairy dust.

I was particularly pleased when the story took me to a tavern in Lamb’s Conduit Street. Oh to have been there and to have had the chance to nip out to the Persephone bookshop. I should love to introduce Evie, the heroine, to Miss Pettigrew …

Meanwhile Briar sleeps. She did head to the front door, but when I opened it and she saw the rain she turned around, glared at me and climbed back on to her cushion.

The Right Kind of Knitting

I’m still knitting, but I haven’t posted for a while because I still lack a decent camera. And what is a knitting post without good pictures?

A better camera is a priority, but first I need a job …

Here’s what I’ve been knitting recently. In each case, the designer’s picture is on the left and mine is on the right.

At the top is Acadia by Carrie Bostick Hodge.

I’d had the yarn for ages – Fyberspates DK that I picked up in a sale – and I just needed the right pattern to come along. This was it. It knitted up very simply and is proving very useful in the damp Cornish autumn.

In the middle is Soay by Gudrun Johnson. I saw it in the colour of some Sublime Merino DK that I’d bought for another project that never quite happened. The yarn was a little heavier than was called for, but it was east to adjust and I love the result. It just needs a little defuzzing and a good pressing.

The pattern taught me how to knit set-in sleeves from the top down by picking up stitches around the armhole. It wasn’t difficult, and I’m glad I’ve done it so I won’t be intimidated by other patterns calling for that technique, but I didn’t really enjoy that bit of the knitting. Interminable short rows!

And at the bottom is Kelly by Anniken Allis, in lovely Sublime Soya Cotton DK. Mine isn’t quite so oversized and I’ve raised the neckline to make a very wearable garment. At least it will be when I pick up the pieces from the back of the sofa and sew them up.

it’s the biggest piece of lace knitting I’ve ever done. For years I though I couldn’t do lace, but a couple of years ago something – I’m not sure what – clicked and I realised that I could.

I have a small project on the go that I’ll write about another day, but on Sunday I decided that I must pick up a long neglected project.

I love Sedgemoor, and I thought I was nearly done when I blogged about it back here. But soon after that post I discovered that I had missed a pattern repeat and that I would have to do a lot of unripping and reknitting. I pushed Sedgemoor to the side and I allowed other projects to distract me.

But I am so glad I picked it up again. The pattern is lovely. The yarn is gorgeous. And I have realised that I am a cable girl at heart. And that I really am more of a process knitter than a project knitter.

Having the right knitting on hand really makes all the difference.

And Then There Were Two !!

I am very good at starting projects but, sadly, not so good at finishing. That’s why I have umpteen books in progress, a good size basket full of knitting projects and a draft folder with multiple posts sitting waiting to be finished and posted.

The work in progress I felt guiltiest about was one single solitary mitten.

I had no good reason for leaving it partnerless.

The pattern, Bella’s Mittens, is lovely. Simple but very effective, very clearly written and laid out, and free to boot.

The yarn, a couple of balls of Adriafil Melodia that I had left over from a bigger project, was lovely; the perfect balance of softness, substance and fuzziness. I am so sorry that it has been discontinued.

The first mitten fitted beautifully, and yet it took me more than a year to get around to knitting it’s partner.

Last weekend though I was inspired, and I pulled out the wool and needles and knitted my second mitten.

It matches perfectly and I really feel silly now for leaving it for so long.

My only small disappointment is that the cuffs turn up a little. It’s nothing I can live with but I think if I knitted the pattern again I’d add in a little hem. I’m sure I will make another pair of these mittens one day. The pattern really is lovely, and it would be very easy to add or subtract a pattern repeat to change the length.

For now though I’m wondering which work in progress to pick up next, and thinking that if the stormy weather that we’ve had for the last few days gets any worse I might even have a chance to wear my new mittens sooner than I thought.

Just a Hat …

… but a very specific hat.

The Brief

This is what my fiance requested:

  • A simple, lightweight hat for the summer.
  • It should be plain and unfussy. A classic style.
  • It should have a brim that can be turned up.
  • It should be loose fitting, but not so loose it could slip off.

The Pattern

With all of that in mind I set out to find a good basic hat pattern in a fine gauge. I found this one. It’s simple and clear and it would be very easy to modify, though all I did was lengthen the ribbing so that it could be turned up – as per the brief!

The Yarn

I dug through my stash looking for something variegated in fingering weight. All of that stocking stitch  would be so boring in a plain colour. I came up with the perfect skein:

  • Green – because he’s a gardener
  • Blue – because he lives by the sea
  • Pale grey – to match his hair!

I bought it on Ebay a very long time ago, and it was handpainted by Misty Yarns. Lovely!

The Hat

After some hours of not very exciting knitting a hat emerged. The knitter in me would like to block it, but the wearer is happy with his new hat as it is.

A very simple hat, but a very satisfied customer.

The View from the Side

The View from Above

The first knitting post in a while …

I always meant to do knitting posts on a regular basis, but I’m not that organised and I still lack a decent camera. I’ve knitted a tunic and a cardigan that have still to be photographed since my last post, but now I have moved on to a few smaller projects.

The first is both finished and photographed!

When I gave up my job I decided that I would knit as many presents as I could, using yarn that I have in hand.First up was something for my aunt, whose birthday is on April 10th. She’s the perfect person to knit for: she doesn’t knit herself but she loves knitted things and appreciates time and trouble taken to make something nice.

I had a lovely skein with her name on it: Posh Yarn Elinor in fingering weight. The shade, Fireworks, was absolutely gorgeous but it wasn’t the sort of colour I’d wear, so it had been hanging around for quite some time. But it was my aunt’s colour exactly.

Once I had the yarn the pattern quickly picked itself – Calystegia Cowl by Lankakomero.

My aunt is a scarf person, but as I’ve knitted her scarves before a neckwarmer seemed to be the way to go this time.

The pattern is lovely and it was very clearly written. A little bit fiddly but after a few rows I could see how it worked and I only had to check the pattern from time to time to make sure I wasn’t going wrong.

The finished effect was wonderful, and definitely worth the time and trouble – I’m definitely tempted to make another one for me.

I couldn’t get a decent picture of the finished neckwarmer lying flat in the house or the garden. Here’s the best of my attempts, taken on Briar’s beanbag in our bay window.

Then I had the bright idea of using a plantpot. A little better. It makes my neckwarmer look rather long and narrow, but it isn’t. I’ve tried it on and the width is perfect and it’s long enough to pull up over your face without looking too bunched up if you don’t.

Finally I took a close up, and it actually shows the pattern properly. Hooray!

And that was the end of that. It just needed a final pressing, wrapping, and delivery next weekend.

And I needed to work out how to explain to my dog, who had been overseeing proceedings from her armchair in the window,  just what I was doing with her beanbag, and why I was spending so much time in the garden with a piece of knitting and a mobile phone …

The Season of the Hat

Hats are definitely the  best knitting project for time of stress. They’re small and portable. There’s a fabulous range of patterns available. And results are pretty quick.

And so as  my life got complicated summer became the season of the hat.

Here are the results:

(I’m sorry that the quality isn’t great, but at the moment I only have a mobile phone camera.)

Here’s the chronology:

Bottom right: Medici by Woolly Wormhead

Now this was the hat that started it all. It was like no hat I’d seen before and it was love at first sight. Not my finest piece of knitting I’m afraid – I was raised to knit cables but I’d never twisted stitches before. More twisting practice is definitely required! I love my finished hat in lovely Flamboyance aran wool though. I think of it as a lovely tarnished antique crown …

Bottom left: Symmetrie by Woolly Wormhead

I never thought that I would knit a hat in fingering weight.  But this pattern grabbed me. And although I love sock yarn I don’t love sock knitting, so this seemed a lovely way to show off some variegated Fyberspates yarn that I hadn’t been sure how to use. Progress was slow but the knitting was easy. I loved seeing the pattern emerge and now I love my new beret.

Top right: 16 Cable Hat by Circé Belles Boucles

I knew that I had to knit this hat as soon as I saw it on Ravelry. I was entranced by those wide cables: exactly the same technique as traditional aran but such a different effect. I pulled out a couple of balls of Sirdar Peru and felt so virtuous as I knitted. It wasn’t another hat that I didn’t really need, it was stashbusting! Mine isn’t as sculptured as some I’ve seen – it came out larger than I anticipate and more than a light blocking might have rendered it unwearable. I love it as it is. I can sit it on the back of my head or pull it right down over my ears to keep the cold out.

Top left: Vernalis by Woolly Wormhead

My fiance, having observed me doing a lot of hat knitting asked for one for his niece’s birthday. I pulled up a selection on Ravelry and this was his clear favourite. It wasn’t the quickest knit. The cable necessitates holding stitches to the front and the back at the same time (tricky!) and the yarn (Artesano Alpaca 4 ply) was very fine. But the work was worth it. The finished hat is so light and pretty and I was sorry to have to give it away.

Centre: Propello by Woolly Wormhead

The yarn came first with this one. Hullaballoo by Colinette. It conjured up autumn leaves and bonfires and it just had to be a hat. A simple hat to focus on the colours. And this pattern appeared. It knitted up very quickly and became my hat of choice for walking Briar in the park….

Now winter is coming and life is settling down I’m back to bigger projects. But I am definitely a hat person and there are a good few hat patterns still in my Ravelry queue …

Books Off Shelves and Knitting Off Needles

Now books off shelves may not sound that newsworthy, but bear in mind that I had to move in with my mother because she’s reached a point where she can’t manage alone, and I really don’t want her to have to leave her home, in the same street where she grew up.

What that means is that most of the bookshelves in the house are double banked and a lot of my books live in boxes. I use my LibraryThing catalogue to note where books live, and I am pleased to report that the system works.

I’ve had The Mermaid’s Child by Jo Baker for ages, and I decided that it was the perfect book for this year’s Once Upon a Time challenge. So I found it in my catalogue, went straight to the right shelf, and there it was! I’ve read the first couple of chapters, and I’m very impressed.

Pulling out Persephone Books is even easier. They have their own shelves, too shallow to double bank, and I even have the books arranged in series order. Today I pulled out two for group reads on GoodReads.

I’m very bad at group reads, but I’m determined to reform. How do you do with group reads? Any tips?

I’m having a library ordering embargo for the month of April whick should help. I was supposed to have one in March, but first I forgot and then I was swayed by the Orange Prize longlist. This month it’s serious!

To Bed With Grand Music by Marghanita Laski is for the Persephone Group. I ‘ve loved Marghanita Laski’s other three Persephones and the subject of this one – the effect of WW2 on lives and relationships – is one that intrigues me.

And The Priory by Dorothy Whipple is for the Between the Wars group. Now how could I resist that?!


I always have at least two pieces of knitting in progress. One interesting bigger project, and one smaller simple project for when I only have a little time and for when I need to knit as a stress-buster.

Today I finished a very simple project.

A Montego Bay scarf in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock. It was so easy, and the yarn was just right for the pattern. So now I have a lovely spring scarf. And a good excuse to rifle through the yarn boxes and the pattern folders for my next simple project.

Then, with my library pile and my reading and knitting works in progress, I’ll have a pretty good reading and knitting plan for the month!

How about you?