Country Strife

The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's In a Name?

I am finding naming my patterns is quite a difficult thing.

You want something fairly unique or descriptive.

For my Helagon scarf/wrap this came out of a FB plea for whether or not there was a proper (and preferably single word) name for a 6-sided 2-D shape with 3 pairs of parallel but unequal length sides. The answer appeared to be no. So I came up with Helagon as Helen's hexagon. The design changed but the name stuck...

For my ribbed/cabled socks the name Boing Boing seemed to obvious to me - they were knit in a yarn colour called Fruehling that means Spring and the socks are springy...

For my latest socks I called my own project (Tyger Tyger) Burning Bright but that would not be a good name for the pattern unless everyone wanted to make them in bright orange!

They feature stripes using an idea I first used in some socks back in 2012, but at that time I hadn't come up with a good method of making the stripes move right to left so I never published the design. However, I decided to revisit them and analysed why they were problematical. And in these socks - It's Stripes, Jim (but not as we know them) - I hope I have overcome the problem. They are currently being tested so I should find out if the solution I came up with is worth pursuing...

Sunday, April 06, 2014


There is one week left until my Helagon scarf/wrap design test finishes.

I have been very lucky in getting a tester for each length for both weight yarns being tested.

 I am really enjoying seeing all the progress photographs.

Some beautiful scarves are being made in wonderful colour combinations. Red seems popular - red and black, red and white, and red and grey, and they all look stunning. Two different shades of blue and a blue and green. White is also popular, being combined with blue, purple and black as well as the aforementioned red. Finally a blue with a contrasting red/orange variegated yarn with small sections of blue to 'join' the two together.

I have had several comments on how fun this pattern is :)

I think my one tester who was having problems with the changing of yarn colour has now "got it". A bit of a language barrier, but I have several German testers and I think between us we managed to explain what to do.

So far only one error has been found but I have re-written a couple of sections for clarity after comments from my testers and done a few other tweaks.

Once the content is finalised (hopefully no more changes) I still need to convert it into my template.

And I want to get some more photographs of the longer version when it isn't blowing a gale.

I asked for advice on the Designers forum on whether to put a collage photograph as my pattern 'hero' shot to show the different ways it can be worn but the overwhelming response was to use the above photograph.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

More Love for My Old Sock Patterns

After releasing my "for sale" pattern I noticed that my other two socks patterns have had some renewed interest.

They are really cute sock patterns and deserve some more love. Both from me and knitters...

So I have put in quite a lot of time and effort in getting them into my new layout and adding more sizing options/information.

I got my Xmas Tree Socks pattern updated yesterday:

Not only have I updated the style but I have included instructions for other stitch counts (widths) and row counts (foot/leg length), and updated the gusset/heel instructions for the different stitch counts.

And have just finished updating my Interlock Socks pattern:

This one I have found harder to do. I don't want to be too prescriptive - the design will work with any sensible stitch count that is a multiple of four. I have provided the finished foot lengths for 3 different row gauges if worked exactly as it is written and leave it up to the knitter to add extra rows if needed for their row gauge in either the main colour rows or the pattern chart rows. When the pattern was originally tested back in 2012 this did not seem to be a problem for my testers - socks were made in UK shoe sizes 4-8 and 60/64/68/72 stitch counts, toe up and cuff down without any issues in a wonderful mix of colours and yarns.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Taking the Designing Plunge

I like designing many of my own patterns. And if I like the end result other people may too.

I have published a couple of free sock patterns on Ravelry already. It is hard to tell how many people have actually made them as not everybody makes a project page but of those that do I have hit double figures. The patterns have been downloaded an order of magnitude times more.

And one group actually picked my Xmas Trees pattern for their KAL at the end of last year.

But if I want to do this more seriously I need to do things properly. I joined the Designers, Budding Designers and the Ravelry Shopkeepers groups and started reading a lot of invaluable advice.

So for my first "pay for" sock pattern, Boing Boing socks, I went through the following steps:

1. Write up the pattern
2. Take photographs
3. Put in a testing request to the Free Pattern Testers group
4. Monitor and respond to the testing thread
5. Make any required corrections/clarifications to the pattern
6. Take better photographs!
Photographing your own feet is not easy. I now drafted in Paul to get some much better photographs outside in natural light. Out of about two dozen I got four I liked!
7. Got it tech edited.
Paul performed this task admirably. He knows nothing about knitting, but give him a document and he is in his element ensuring consistency in layout and style!

And now all the prep has been done it is time to actually take the step over the precipice...

8. Add the pattern to the Ravelry database
9. Link the pattern to your store
10. Activate!

And very importantly, send your pattern as a gift to your testers so they can add it to their library and link their projects.

Advertising and promotion are another matter that I may need to get into at a later date. Maybe when I have a decent portfolio of patterns.

Things I will do differently going forward:
Get good photographs at the outset! The better it looks the more likely you will attract testers.
Create a template from this pattern for follow on patterns so that they all have the same look and feel.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long Bank Extension Epic

I started creating the long bank extension at the start of September 2008. This is what it looked like a couple of days in...

One year on...

Two years on...

Three years on...

And then I did my shoulder in. No progress at all in 2012... And this was left to do...

So after spraying with weed killer yet again in July (and missing one section in the middle of it) come August I started work. I hadn't wanted to do all of it in one go but having missed a year I just went for it.

Nine days work to do the first pass of stones and weeds removal:

Oh, and one ant's nest in the middle which I sprayed and another at the top/path which I left well alone. And the day when the flying ants erupted from that one and were crawling all over the top before flying off haphazardly in all directions.

And did I mention the slates. It was bad enough finding them buried all over the bank - put your spade in and it comes to a full stop so then trowel to determine where it is to get it out, but when I thought I was almost finished I found the mother load buried about 4 inches under the surface about a foot in from where I wanted the edge to be. That cost me an extra day's work...

They stretched from the red hot pokers for a good yard and a half, several deep and were 'flaky'. I don't know how far in they go as I stopped excavating (very carefully - the small shards are as vicious as glass) when I had gone far enough for the garden.

I also dug out three wooden posts, numerous nails especially amongst the above slates and the ubiquitous farmer's nylon rope (orange and blue).

And then I started the second pass. Dig it all over again with a spade and get the rocks in place for my stepping stones. Another five days work. Paul helped getting the very heavy rocks in, and a further four rocks were provided by Allan (in addition to four donated a couple of years ago) to let me complete it just under 5 years on from when I very first started. And Jean still thinks I'm mad...

I had a couple of days off (well, getting nettles out of the high bank) but the last week I have been weeding the rest of the LBE (still not finished) and populating my new section. Other than bulbs and one shrub (a choisya from Morrison's) everything has been transplanted or divided from plants in the rest of the LBE.

I have reclaimed the path stretching the length of the LBE - this involved a lot of digging out of pulmonarias - and to think I started with one that hitch-hiked in a pot from Sandhurst.

And near the end of the path I noticed that the hibiscus that Maureen gave me as a seedling from her hibiscus that was a seedling from my mother's hibiscus is going to flower for the first time!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Far East Adventures - Part 1 - Penang

Things did not go well in Penang... or Bangkok.

Firstly my case never made it to Bangkok. The flight was already late arriving and having to wait until the baggage carousel said that was it, no more baggage coming out, and then having to queue along with another half a dozen people to fill in the paperwork (not helped by not having the full address and they wouldn't phone Gerry to get it) left me feeling completely frazzled. I found the metered taxi rank and finally was on my way to Gerry's. I felt a lot happier when I recognised a few of the landmarks - most notably the elephant building which meant I was almost there. An hour and a half later than expected and I arrived.

Jane phoned the airport in the morning to give them the full address and baggage expected time of arrival kept coming and then going. Eventually at about 4.30 pm men arrived with a case - not mine. They then returned with another case - jackpot!

I had a few days to recover before the 5 am start on our drive to Penang to ensure we cleared Bangkok before rush hour(s). I would like to say that this was an amazing experience, but I hadn't appreciated how flat Thailand is so it was not great sightseeing! There are occasional standalone 'mountains' (too big to really be called hills) that are very dramatic in appearance with their almost sheer sides. A few have temples on top, and one had an enormous Buddha - I cannot imagine how it got there!

Anyway, back to the journey. Firstly miles and miles of salt farms. And that was replaced my hundreds of miles of coconut plantations. And it started to rain in the afternoon and kept going, other than a break of about 10 minutes. That was very unfortunate. Having been driving relatively slowly the traffic speeded up. And then came to a halt. As we slowly moved on around a corner there was a lorry upside down against the large concrete barrier protecting the road from a large drop. The cab was completely flattened... We only saw one other accident, a car overturned in the 'central reservation' (this is mainly a double tree-lined area with a drainage ditch in the middle that runs almost completely the length of the road to Malaysia except in the towns) but no-one looked hurt. However, I had given up counting the number of dead dogs at the outskirts of the towns we passed through.

We had many short breaks for food, a quick ciggie for me, and the necessary. I will just say that the service areas do not have Western lavatories...

Getting across the border was relatively pain free. I was a little wary when Gerry told me he didn't have a license to drive in Malaysia just before we reached the border and I had visions of us being turned back! I was dropped off at my hotel a couple of hours later. In total 1150 km that took us about 15 and a half hours.

The next day was free to recover.

I will skip over the scrabble itself. Suffice it to say that a year off from serious studying combined with some pretty dreadful tiles at times is not a formula for success. But I did have a good time. The Aussies were on the executive floor of the hotel and I got invited to join them for free drinks and nibbles at happy hour on several occasions :)

We set off for home after the prize-giving.

A scary moment as we neared the border. There was a road block across half the road. We slowed but there was no sign of anyone - until after we went through. Suddenly there was a police or army guy waving and blowing a whistle at us. Gerry reversed back, and now there were three of them. The one in charge was shouting at us - didn't we know we had to stop. Well, um, no. We had gone through really fast. Well, um, no. They checked our passports and made Gerry get out and open the boot. We were praying they didn't ask for a driving license... After a few minutes they let us go. Very relieved when we got over the border...

We stopped overnight (well just before midnight by the time Gerry found the hotel he had decided upon). I zapped my way up and down the TV channels trying to find the Wimbledon final - Jane had said she thought it would be on a terrestrial channel - but to no avail. I gave up and tried to sleep - replaced rock (pillow) with a towel and got a few hours. Got up about 7 am and went to breakfast. This was an experience. There appeared to be four coachloads of people staying there, all colour coded. Purples, Blues, Pinks and Yellows. It was a buffet breakfast, fully lined by 'uniformed' tourists. I had been a little concerned on the food front but needn't have worried - I spotted fried eggs, bread and toaster, marmalade, hot water urn and jars of coffee powder. I could have got a job - I appeared to be the only person who knew how to use a toaster! People were putting bread in it, and then removing it again 30 seconds later without pressing the handles down. No sign of Gerry though. I went back for seconds. Still no sign of Gerry, so I went back to my room to collect my bag and checkout. It was getting close to the time Gerry had said he wanted to leave by so I got the desk to phone his room - he was ready to go. And I got given the news of Murray's victory as we got in the car :)

No more incidents on the way back to Bangkok, and we managed to avoid rain most of the way. The last game of the final was being repeated on the TV as we stepped in the door.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Is This Really June?

I think we are a month behind. But we are catching up quickly. It feels as if we have had more nice days so far this month than we had in the whole of last summer!

I contemplated calling this post White Is The Colour...

Not only is the may just coming in to its full glory but the crab apple over the road is dripping with blossom...

And there is the smell of wild garlic in the air...

And when I haven't been playing scrabble I have been busy in the garden.

Veggie seeds sown. So far the only signs of this are two cabbage seedlings.

The high bank has been attacked. I was trying to work out how long it had been neglected. As I normally only venture up there in the spring and autumn and last year I never made it due to weather and my frozen shoulder it was at least 21 months, and possibly nearer 26... And it showed...

The nettles weren't quite as bad as when first we moved up here, but were still about 4 foot high. Two days to pull most of them out and another couple of hours digging out roots. I took the opportunity to then do some planting. Autumn crocuses dug out, split and replanted - still have a couple of dozen left over. Two rhododendrons and a Japanese maple that had survived in their original pots for several years waiting for a home. I also dug up and divided some primroses from the LBE, three dark geraniums self-seeded in the drive and half a dozen geranium Johnson's blue also from the LBE. If they don't survive the trauma I will try again in the autumn.

Today I started with spraying the end of the LBE that is still waiting to be done. Maybe this is the year... Luckily the mice had chewed through the Clinic Ace plastic container half an inch up the side so I still had some left! I also made up a small batch in a jam jar and went out with a paint brush to attack some of the large deep rooted weeds that are impossible to dig out of the long bank. This will be an ongoing campaign.

And then on to the long bank in earnest. Paul had started clearing buttercups but soon got bored after a couple of barrow loads. I got him to make a start on the brambles while I followed up where Paul had started, going deeper into the bank and under the shrubs. I got another three sack loads out (mainly buttercups but also nettles and other weeds) before calling it a day.


To do:

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