Friday, 24 October 2008

Travelling scarf update

Eurgh, before I start talking about scarves and the like I just want to say that one more time- eurgh.
I have been suffering from a horrid little cold all week that has finally decided to manifest itself on the day that I am due to be travelling to see my best friend and celebrate her birthday. Boo! Have been feeling crappy all week but now the snot goblins have moved in (attractive) along with extra fluff monsters that are making it almost impossible to think. To make things worse everyone else at work is feeling the same way so there's no sympathy coming from there and once I'm finished here I've got to go sit on what may well turn out to be the worlds most uncomfortable bus for three hours. At least I have books and knitting to keep me company and I packed a nice thick jumper so I can curl up and try and sleep if needs be.
Anyway, the reason for my post was to show you my next block of completed travelling scarf:

The only remit for this scarf was that it be in autumnal colours so I picked out a lovely thick fire engine red. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be considered 'manly' enough (these scarves are supposed to be for our SOs after all) but red is one of the most evocative colours for me when it comes to the fall and I figured that it would look nice once accompanied by more sedate browns and russet colours. I used a very simple broken slip stitch to give it a little bit of texture for interest. This stitch leaves an almost plain back however so there is no really obvious right or wrong side to the scarf. The stitch markers that are pinned to the scarf are ones that I made for the lady that this belongs to. I decided that I would send a little set of stitch markers for each of the ladies that are in my group so I've been pinning them to the sections as I finish. As I don't know much about any of them however I've just had to guess at what people might like so for this one I picked out beads that matched the block that I had done. I think that the scarf group will slow down a little now after all the initial excitement which gives me a chance to finish off my first afghan block for the pratghan-along that I joined. I washed and blocked my square last night so that all I have left to do is some embroidery and a bit of needle felting to embellish it to add the detail in. This will have to wait until Monday now however- I'm off to party for the weekend!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Further weekend fun

So after all the fun at the bug fair during the day on Saturday I then managed to make it back in Oxford in time to get to my friends house for a girly evening. I met lots of new people, the thought of which would normally have me hiding in a cupboard but I was brave and had a good time. There was pizza, Guinea pigs and watching of Heathers (which is film that I haven't seen since I was in my teens and made me realise just why I had such a bad crush on Christian Slater at the time. Mmmmmmmm. Still think it was a bit criminal letting him kill himself at the end of the movie- oops, that's gonna spoil it for a few people isn't it? Sorry, but I have a soft spot for the bad guy in movies- it's normally the man in black that makes me go weak at the knees rather than the hero of the piece). Getting to cuddle the piggies was the high point of the whole evening though- so fat and warm and squeaky!! And they make such cute noises when they crunch their way through lettuce leaves. Squee.
So I got home late and decided that rather than going to bed and getting up again an hour later to watch baseball I might as well just stay up and read for an hour. I set the game up for my husband so that it was ready for him when he came down from bed and watched the first three innings with him before retiring myself from the side. Luckily the Saturday night game was one that the Red Sox won so he was in a pretty good mood come Sunday despite the lack of sleep.
Sunday we finally got our carpets fitted!!! I am soooooo pleased with them its unbelievable. And they make such a difference to the house. It no longer sounds like a herd of elephants when someone goes up or down the stairs. The landing is all squishy and comfy on the feet. My bedroom has a floor that is one colour- it looks finished and grown up and comfortable. But the best bit is that we had to empty the back bedroom in order to get carpets in. This now gives me a chance to go through all my knitting, sewing and beading stuff and put it away properly in a wonderfully anal order. I can set my work area up properly- get my sewing machine out of storage and be able to use the space rather than just having a stack of stuff that we keep meaning to go through two years on from having moved in. The back bedroom is the most multifunctional out of all of our rooms. It acts as a spare bedroom, a library, an office space for the husband, a storage space for craft goods and misc sundries and as a work space for me. Except its only ever managed to perform three of those functions at any one time since we moved in. Normally it only manages one. At the moment it remains empty yet full of potential. The contents of the room are stacked in our lounge currently which isn't so fun for the husband and I but the cats love it. I'm going to start slowly taking stuff up over the course of the week. There will be much, much sorting out of things. Bliss.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Bug show

So I held off posting at the end of last week as I knew I'd have a ton of stuff to talk about today. I've had a super, super busy weekend but above all a FUN weekend.
Most of Saturday was taken up with attending the AES (Amateur Entomologists Society) Show at Kempton Park Racecourse. This is the biggest insect show in the UK as far as I'm aware. It has everything insect/arachnid related that you could possibly want from live specimens, to collecting equipment, to storage, to squishy rubber toys you can bounce off of the floor. I love going as it's a great chance to catch up with people. I've been going for about four years now and each time I go I have a great time. I spent this year wandering around with one of my best friends who I hadn't seen in ages. She was hunk spotting (normally quite a difficult thing to do with entomologists- we are not the prettiest race) and we giggled our way around the show assessing what was on offer. There was one particularly attractive young man who put me in mind of an elf from LOTR that won first place. As expected he has a girlfriend though so she was unable to pick up that bargain.
What I did get for myself was a couple of keys to identifying flies, some stripey cockroaches (I'll try and remember to take a picture of these for you. I defy anyone to tell me that they are icky after they've seen how pretty they are), some prints that I intend to frame and put on my bedroom wall and some stick insects for my husband to take to school. It was a fairly restrained outing all in all but then I wasn't on a mission to purchase much in the way of livestock and I have access to most of the books that I need so I only bought my keys because they where going cheap.
I also got given five Chile Rose tarantulas which was unexpected but seeing as how they are so cute and fluffy I couldn't help but be chuffed. There is one in particular that is just adorable expect a picture of her soon as well. My love of spiders is slowly growing and having to look after so many forces me to get used to being around them (we now have 10 in the department). One day I'll work up the courage to hold one but until then I think we will just have to be friends that remain separated by a pane of glass.
The really exciting point of the day had to be the fact that Bill Bailey turned up with Mrs Bailey and all the little Baileys. My friend and I squeed over this from a distance- I'm not the sort of person to go rushing up to someone just because they are famous but I do appreciate the fact that I've been within ten metres of them. It was also completely unexpected. I think Mr Bailey is about the most famous person that has turned up to an entomology gig that I've been aware of so far. I'm just holding out for Johnny Depp...
Anyway, getting away from that thought for a moment, I also got to play with a bunch of other live things (those with six legs not eight that is) including some of the most beautiful mantids I have seen yet. I managed to swap a couple of my red legged millipedes for some white legged ones which was cool and hopefully managed to encourage the people who run Metamorphosis (the ultimate livestock supplier and owners of all the mantids that I was playing with) to come in and spend some time in the collections.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Peruvian alpaca

Hmm, after all my alpaca yearnings yesterday, it seems weird that I should be gifted with some today. Oh, yes, you heard me right. I am now the proud owner of two balls of genuine Peruvian alpaca blend yarn. One of my friends has just returned from a once in a lifetime round the world trip and was wonderful enough to get me some yarn whilst she was in Peru. I asked her to get me any yarn, any colour as long as it was the same stuff that the locals use rather than the stuff that we get over here. And look what I got- one ball of green and one ball of white:

There's a 100gs worth in each ball and it looks to be about a 4 ply or maybe a little thinner. It's an alpaca/acrylic blend that's knits to a tension of 15 stitches and 20 rows over a 10x10 cm swatch on number 5 needles. Oh, and it was produced in Lima.
The two things it doesn't tell me is the percentage blend (though it does have good washing instructions) or the yardage. I'm estimating it at about 400m a ball which seems to be standard for a 100g of 4 ply sock yarn.
I have yet to come up with any good ideas as to what to do with it (answers on a postcard please) though I'm kind of thinking of maybe doing lace shawl over Christmas. I feel as though I should try and make something special out of it that I can keep for a while, after all my friend went to all the effort of carrying it around the world for me!

Monday, 13 October 2008

I opened the trapdoor...

Have just out for lunch with a friend of mine from my knitting group (mmmm, bean soup and hot bread) and I may have accidentally ended up in Port Meadow designs afterwards. It totally wasn't my fault in any way, shape or form I should just point out. But she was going there after lunch and I knew that they had yarn and I hadn't been in in aagggggggggeeeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssssss.
So I went in.
I just about managed to restrain myself from purchasing anything but it was close. They have a new and expanded range of yummy, yummy yarns. Previously they only had a few select lines and most of these where high end Rowan or Debbie Bliss (from what I can remember- it has been about 2 years since I went in last). Now, they still only have high end stuff but they have lots of it- and lots of choice. They have started stocking Manos yarns which I feel in love with the minute I saw so I was really pleased to see an Oxford outlet for them. They also have other Artesano yarns and some Jitterbug, which is great as I think I've only seen it for sale in other shop in the UK. So it looks as though Oxford might be crawling to the point of having a decent Yarn store. We'd almost have one if you combined Port Meadow designs with Brambles which kinda does the low end stuff. Oh, if only I had the capitol to invest and then I could have a yarn store all of my very own.
Anyway, of course the major problem with all of this is that I now know about it. Whereas before I was living in blissful ignorance, now I know that those nice yarns are there. And the lady who runs the shop just had to go and show me some wonderful alpaca yarn which was both reasonably priced and had great yardage. What am I to do? I feel like Berk who knows he shouldn't open that trapdoor but week after week, goes right on ahead and does just that...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Lets go Red Sox!

Yes, game 1 of the AL final is in the bag. The husband and I got up real early this morning to watch it. The game started at 1:37am our time so we camped out in the lounge and caught a few zzzs before it started. Luckily it was a good game full of suspense and excitement. Not that I wouldn't have liked to have seen a sluggers game where we piled on ten runs or so but with DiceK and Shields up to pitch it wasn't going to be that kind of game. Game 2 is on at about the same time tonight but I think we are going to be sensible and not stay up for this one. This will also give the cats a chance to get a bit of sleep. They stayed up with us last night bless. Fenway came and snuggled down on my lap and watched the baseball with me. Look I have proof!

Travelling scarf spoiler

So as promised, here are some pictures of the first travelling scarf that has passed through my hands. I'm really pleased with the section that I knitted up for it and it was so much fun to try out a new stitch. I'm not a huge fan of knitting swatches as it always feels like it is eating into time when I could be doing some real knitting but I am a big believer in the process. You have to knit swatches to try things out. Doing these travelling scarves is kind of an ultimate swatch method for me as it feels like each little section is like knitting a swatch- it's about the same size and I get to try out new stitches but it's not pointless. It's going on to make something beautiful and useful and best of all, I can maintain my enthusiasm without any effort. I always find that no matter how excited I am about starting a project the swatch knitting bit beforehand always gets me down. But not with this- it's great!

This is the scarf so far. I'm only the second person to have it hence it's so short. The first section is double moss stitch and my section which is in the slightly lighter grey is a mock cable stitch from volume 1 of the Vogue stitchonary series. It's the first time I'd tried it and after spending some time puzzling out the instructions (vogue always seems to be using another language to me) it turned out to be easy as pie. I will def be using this one again at some point.

Grey yarn is a real pig to photograph though! The final picture should hopefully give you some idea of how the mock cable is constructed but it basically comes from knitting into a stitch three down the left hand needle, then the first (which would be the next stitch normally), then the second and then dropping all three off of the left had needle at the same time. In essence all you are doing is creating a really long stitch over the top to make it look at though there is a twist there. Sneaky clever- I love it!

Friday, 10 October 2008

A very insecty day

I treated myself to a new knitting bag today- I've been oggling these in the museum shop for a few days now and finally decided that seeing as I have been so good with getting myself organised for Christmas this year that it was time I bought something for myself. They are being sold as wash bags or pencil cases but it turns out that they are perfect for a set of dpns and a skein of sock yarn. I took a shot of the inside of the bag with a smaller ball of yarn in for y'all to see but I reckon a big 100g ball of Opal or something similar would fit perfectly in there.

NOTE: I have now tried this out and I can get a 100g ball in as well as the one in this photo which is a skein of Rowan cotton 4 ply (it fits in sideways at the end) which means I now love this bag even more than I did before.

I was so pleased with it being covered in insects that I then got a bit carried away taking pictures of some of the things that I have been working on today- as well as some of my favourite beetles . So attached for pleasure below are a couple of shots of the bugs that I re-curated this afternoon (all go aaah, pretty...!) along with my favourite beetle from this week.

The two photos above are species belonging to the Hemiptera (true bugs that includes things like shield bugs, cicadas and leaf hoppers) family Scutellaridae. All members of this family have an enlarged scutellarum that has evolved to form a hard waterproof covering for their wings. They still have two pairs of wings which differentiates them from beetles along with different mouth parts. Scutellarids tend to be well camouflaged with spots and camo patterns but there are some that go for the metallic shiny version as well. The species in the second photo range in colour from green through blue/purple and onto hot pink. The ones in the above photo are green/purple/blue as their colour changes as you move them in the light. They are much prettier in real life than the picture would have you believe.

The beastie above belongs to the beetle family Erotylidae which is the one that I have chosen to study. They come in all sorts of glorious patterns and colours as well as having interesting biology. Nearly all of the members of this family are nocturnal fungus feeders which makes them fun to hunt out at night. The ones that I am particularly interested in live in tropical rain forests of central and south America.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Right, I've thought of a compromise

One of the other projects (besides my travelling scarf) that I have signed myself up for on Ravelry is the Pratghan project run by the Discworld group. We are doing one afghan square a month for the next three years, each square being modelled on a Discworld book. This is the first month and we are starting with The Colour of Magic. Now, I haven't finished working out everything that I want to put on my square just yet but I have made a couple of decisions about things to go around the edges. One idea is to add in some octarine coloured yarn. Octarine is described a being a 'greenish-yellowish-purple' so, and here comes the compromise, I'm going to spin myself some octarine coloured yarn to use in the square using my new spindle. I have a ton of fluff ready for spinning thanks to my mum and it's in all the colours of the rainbow so finding green, yellow and purple is no problem. I'm going to make it my mission for this evening after I've finished grumbling over my choice of stitch for the travelling scarf (I found a lovely stitch but I just can't make my mind up as to whether it needs slightly thicker yarn than the one that I'm using. I need to knit a bit more before deciding I think). This way I get to play with my new toy, have a go at spinning AND fulfill my need for knitting as I only have to make a small amount of yarn that I will be using almost straight away. See, a compromise!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Check me out

I got 2 projects finished last night! Yay, I love it when I complete things in time for my knitting group. In fact, I think that's where I get the energy from to get them done because I love taking stuff in to show people, especially when they've all been so helpful and supportive when I was making it. I've found that there is nothing better for spurring me along with something than having other people take an interest in what I'm doing as it makes me feel it's worthwhile. And the ladies in my knitting group are just brilliant and hopefully they feel just as proud about the things I make as I do, as without them there'd be heap of things that would have been put aside or never even attempted. Speaking for support of the things I do, I love the fact that people are reading my blog and leaving comments. I'll admit that I didn't think it was going to make all that much difference- I mean I have always written my blog with the thought that it didn't matter if anyone else read it or not but I have found that it is so much more satisfying writing when I feel that there is an audience. The Lesser Known Skeins group on Ravelry is to thank for all of this, but you know what the best part of it all is? It's finding other peoples blogs to read. It's been so distracting over the last week that I have to keep on reminding myself that I really should be working and not giggling over other peoples posts or dribbling over their knitting. I have major amounts of yarn envy and I'm trying not to think about how much fun it would be to learn to spin*.
Luckily for me I received scarf 1 of the travelling scarf round robin. I now have a couple of weeks to find a nice yarn and stitch for my section before I have to post it on. The colour palette is black/grey/white which means that I should have something in my stash to fit the bill and picking out the perfect stitch should take up a lot of brain space that might have been diverted to other things. I have time after my knitting group this evening to read the stitch dictionary (I love that I will have a bimonthly excuse to do this) and come up with a few ideas. I might need some help though so look out for future questions on the subject!
Oh, meant to post this earlier- here's a picture of one of my newly finished projects:
Can you tell that it's meant to be Fenway?

*For those of you that are new to my blog I feel it's important to state that I am desperately trying to avoid becoming entangled in spinning as I know it would suck away any of my free time that I might have had left in my life. That and it would eat into my knitting time which is too precious to me for anything else to come along and remove it. Having said this I was recently gifted a spindle. I am managing to be good at the moment but then I have had fun projects with which to distract myself. These are now done... (eek).

Monday, 6 October 2008

The start of the travelling scarf

I finished my section of my travelling scarf yesterday. It's only the start- the seed of a scarf if you will. It's off and in the post as I type and I almost can't wait to see what I get back. What's even more exciting is that the next scarf- and the first one that I will have contributed to- is on it's way as well. I have my wool, needles and stitch dictionary on standby awaiting it's arrival and the husband has promised to help me pick out appropriate things seeing as these scarves are mostly going to be for grumpy menfolk who will only want to wear things in black.
Upon request, I took a few happy snaps of my scarf before it left home this morning which I present below. Hopefully when it gets back it will be all grown up...

I was feeling a bit ridiculous when I knitted it up so I added in a pocket which I will line with fleece when it gets back. I will have to put some kind of backing on the scarf as well (so probably fleece) as stripes give a right-side and a wrong-side to a scarf and I hate it when you can see the wrong-side of a piece of work like this.

After the smug satisfaction of getting this done and away I decided that I had best tackle getting my craftyalien kitty finished as well as my mystery present project. This meant a trip to the awful haberdashery which as suspected was indeed truly awful. It was looking particularly shabby and low on stock when I went in today and much to my horror I discovered that it didn't sell pre-cut felt squares. If I had wanted a metres worth of felt then that was fine as they seemed to have lots of rolls of the stuff but craft squares, one of the most basic of all craft store items, was completely missing! I mean WTF? I almost couldn't find the other item that I wanted either at which point I started getting in a strop so thought I'd buy buttons to placate myself. They have an okay selection of buttons thank goodness, as they stock the Vogue range but even then there where big gaps on the stand. After amusing myself for a couple of minutes looking at squiffy penguin buttons I was feeling a little better and that was when it hit me that the art shop might have some felt. I abandoned my button buying plan and exited swiftly from the hellshop. This was a pleasing little brainwave as I had to walk past it on the way back to work and lo! I discovered a lovely rainbow heap of the stuff so in the end I managed to get all the necessary goodies required for finishing two projects which was deeply satisfying and cheered me up no end. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be able to sign both projects off.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Brrrr, it's cold

Am freezing today- I am sat in my office wearing two jumpers and my sexy pink Spirogyras (the more I wear them, the more I love them), extra socks and a scarf and I'm STILL cold. I've tried filling up on tea but then I somewhat inevitably end up needing the loo and the ladies room is icy cold- you can practically see the icicles forming around the rim of the loo so I had to give that idea up. I've also been getting up and walking around but I've found that I actually remain warmer when curled up in a ball on my office chair. I can't wait until the turn the heating on in the building. We have been promised that it will be on on Monday which is great but doesn't help much right now. I've started having little daydreams about being at home under my blanket on the sofa with Fenway on my lap and knitting in hand. On an aside to my general moan about about lack of warmth, Fenway is being such a soppy cat at the moment. I got home yesterday and the minute I sat down he jumped up onto my lap, stretched out and fell asleep. He stayed like that until I was forced to move because dinner had arrived and the rumbly-tumbly took over, and even then he attempted to cling on and maintain his snoozing position. He came back and cuddled down after dinner was over but was dumped onto the floor after he started trying to play with my knitting. He should know by now that playing with the wool is not allowed and I think he only did it because I wasn't paying him any attention.
In knitting news I have now started my travelling scarf for the Ravelry group, detached the cat from it and done a bit more. After a lengthy debate the husband and I have settled on stripes and a muted colour palette. I was desperate for him not to just insist on a black scarf. He is very monochromatic as far as colours and clothing go though I have been working hard over the last five years and he now owns things that aren't black, grey or navy blue. In fact he even owns a number of red things as I reasoned with him that on the basis that it is the colour of our baseball team (oh, BTW- Go Sox!) he should wear it in support. That and I hate football strips with a passion and it was the next best thing that I found acceptable.
So anyway, he is getting a colourful scarf. I dug out all the darkish yarns I had in my stash and got him to pick three for starters and was pleasantly surprised by his choices. He picked out a dark purple, a rich plum colour and a muted forest green which look really good together but were not anything I would have thought he'd have gone for. He wants a long scarf so in order to save the rest of my group having to do extra work just for me I am making my start and finish sections longer and just because I can, I'm adding in pockets that you can use to put your hands in when you've forgotten your gloves. I can't wait to see what others will add on and I reckon it will make a lovely scarf when it's done. I can see there being a fight over it when it gets back at this rate!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Photographic nonsense

I have decided that I need better photographs of my knitting. I have been taking loads of pictures recently to go on Flickr and Ravelry but yet again, after having a look at others peoples things (maybe I should just stop looking?!) I have been shamed. And in a way it might actually be a good thing. Some of my photos really don't show off my FOs in the best light and there's things that I have avoided adding to Ravelry for that very reason. That and the fact that I can never remember which pattern I used for things but I think that that is a product of having come to Ravelry after having already made a ton of stuff that I then needed to back date and go over. I'm also missing a lot of things. There is stuff that I made for my mum or presents to people that have since disappeared into the ether never to be seen again including a jumper I made from ribbon yarn which took forever to knit up and whilst I felt that the finished product was pretty horrible it was still a feat of accomplishment. Made all the more special by the fact that I'm never going to do it again I guess.
Anyway, as the title suggests, this is all nonsense really and not terribly interesting for you guys I guess. Well, a bit interesting as there is the possibility of good photos being waved in front of your noses but only a little tiny bit. In other news I have now nearly finished the 'Mystery gift'. I can't say any more than that as I know that the person for whom they are intended will find out about it but I will tease her with fact that I showed the ladies at my knitting group yesterday and got lots of praise for it. It just need a couple of finishing touches and its done. I only mention it to make sure that she gets it. The further along with this project that I have gotten the more enthusiastic I have become and I'm now at the point where one starts thinking about keeping it rather than giving it away it's that nice. But it is publicly promised now so keeping them is no longer an option- you may all hold me to my word on this.
My there's a lot of 'it's in there. I had to go back and edit all that to make sure I wasn't giving anything away!
No further news on my craftyalien kitty though. I need to go into town at some point to buy the last bits and I can't really drag up the impetuous to do it no matter how much I like it as it involves going to the horrible, rubbish, miserable fabric shop in town. Can you believe that we only have one haberdashery in Oxford? Well, I say haberdashery but only because I wouldn't know what else to call it. It truly is crap. But they do sell felt which is what I need and I can't think of anywhere else within walking distance where such a thing may be purchased. I will have to try the art shop first- slim hope but I'd much rather give them my money and it'll make the trip to the pit of doom a bit more bearable if I can go and look at paper products beforehand. Mmmm, paper products. It's almost as much fun as stationary shops...