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


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Twelfth Sweater of the Year

I finished my twelfth pair of socks of the year a week ago - another of my own design to use up leftovers with a simple colourwork design:

And now I am working on my twelfth sweater of the year... Okay, I am including a sleeveless top in the category but even so...

I am making use of my new knitting books that I got for my birthday. MIL asked me what I wanted and then said to get them and she would pay for them. So three bargain second hand Harmony Guides including Aran stitches. And then from myself, to make up for Paul's complete fail on my birthday front, I sent off for Ann Budd's new handy book of top-down sweaters and a second hand copy of Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Stitches from the USA, which seemed to be most people's choice when the topic came up in Ravelry discussions.

So I decided the time had come to make my own design cabled jumper. I sat down with my stitch dictionaries and chose which cable patterns I would like.

And then I made another spreadsheet... I have to say I have found that a colour chart for the cables is soooo much easier to read than all the standard chart abbreviations for C4B, C5F, RT, LT etc! I have laid it out so that the colour key is aligned with the use of it in the chart and I just have to glance at it to know what I am supposed to be doing.

Although I decided to make this in the round, bottom up I have also been making use of the sweater book for reverse engineering as far as possible my neck and for the sleeve cap shaping. My head has been spinning on the subject of sleeve caps as I decided I wanted saddle shoulders and my chosen cable panel for the saddle was wider than the examples. So the sleeves are being done top down. I am halfway down the first one, and having tried it on this morning I think my adjustments are okay...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two Twit Twoo

I was very kindly gifted the knitting pattern by a fellow ravelry member to make the popular Owls sweater by Kate Davies a couple of month back. I was originally planning to knit it using Debbie Bliss Merino chunky that I bought on ebay last year, but the pattern said it suited more rustic yarns.

So I broke into a knitting kit of Alafoss Lopi that I bought in Iceland in 1996 - there were 700g of a nice charcoal black which should be more than enough. As it was, being short in arm and body, I completed the sweater in four and a half days using just 550 grammes!

I have ordered buttons from Ebay - cheaper to buy 600 buttons from China than the 38 required for the Owl's eyes in the UK. They should arrive in a couple of weeks time...

And then I decided to go straight ahead and make another one...

I have a cunning plan.

Janet gave me some Icelandic Soft Spun yarn earlier this year - not enough to make a sweater on its own but it is an almost perfect match for the remaining Alafoss Lopi from the kit. It should be enough to make the body and sleeves up to the owls. And then I will finish off the black for the owls which should mean that any slight variation in colour on the top of the yoke/neck will not be noticeable.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Using Up The Scraps

I finished knitting  my Interlock Socks and am really happy with them.

And posted them on Ravelry.

And someone sent me a message saying they would love to test knit them. So I wrote up the pattern and posted it in the Free Pattern Testers forum. I now have half a dozen people testing my pattern and so far the feedback has been good :)

I went straight on to playing with my next idea. Colourwork socks with no stranding to use up those gorgeous scraps of sock yarn. I had great fun making up colour charts and decided to start with a relatively simple one as a test run to prove whether the technique works. And it does!

I wrote up the pattern after sock 1 and proof read/tested it on sock 2, incorporating the comments from my testers above where relevant.

I used Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20 Twin as my main colour for these, which is a relatively thick sock yarn and gave me a woman's M width (8") sock with the chosen test chart and needle size.

I am having another test run using thinner sock yarn and a different colourwork design to make a narrower sock.

I have just turned the heel on sock 1. I think I should have gone down a needle size too as I am a slightly loose knitter! These are coming out at about 7.5" width, which is fine for me but half an inch over size small. Once I have finished I will be able to work out the formula for the contrast colours yarn requirements fairly accurately and slot these in to my patterns.

My only problem now is that I am being tempted to break in to full skeins to get 'oddments' for the contrast colours :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012


So as I may or may not have mentioned previously I have been trying to knit a mile a month - I did get rather carried away with restocking my yarn mountain last year. Probably why the blog is looking sad and neglected. Not every month has been successful, but my average is slightly over the target.

I have also got quite in to designing more patterns for myself and am really enjoying letting my more artistic side out. Although I still prefer ordered, geometric artistic rather than chaotic, random, abstract artistic, when it comes to making a knitting pattern. I may no longer design computer programs but I still need to apply rules and symmetry - it is in my nature. Colours, however, can range free within the limitations of the yarns I possess...

And it does have a purpose - to use up those pesky oddments, partial and single skeins. Yeah, I could keep knitting scarfs but there really is a limit. Unlike socks and sweaters...

2000 Triangles Jacket

Patchwork Fields Sweater

Interlock Socks

These are my current project. I have just reached the heel on sock number 2.

The thing with socks is that they are knitted in the round. To use colours you need to either knit it all the way round or carry it along the inside until it is needed again. And that can be a pain in the a**e. Especially when switching from one needle to the next - too loose and you get ladders, too tight and you may not be able to get the sock on over your heel.

This pattern is actually very simple. On the rounds with two colours I am only ever knitting two consecutive stitches in the same colour so I don't have long floats and no need to catch the alternating colour down - switching needles is not a problem. And each round slips the colours across by one stitch so no need to twist the yarns. And I am carrying the pattern all the way around the foot and leg.

But for patterns where colour work is only wanted on the front/top of foot... I have been contemplating this for quite a while now... And think I may have come up with something that could be quite interesting and fun... well, if you are a sock knitter.

Monday, June 25, 2012

King's Cup 2012 Part 2

What can I say? I am shocked and so happy!

I went in to day 4 lying in 6th place, with Thacha almost assured a place barring meltdown on 19 wins, Goutham on 17, Taewan and Pakorn on 16, and Alastair on 15 and slightly better spread than me. And another 4 players also on 15 with worse spread...
I knew that I probably needed to win 5 out of 6 and for Thacha to keep winning to stand a chance of making the final in second place, but didn't really think I stood a hope. Four would probably guarantee I was in the prizes. Okay, just take it a game at a time.

Taewan first, one win ahead of me but inferior spread. A good win, helped by a couple of attempts at a non-existent bingo early in the game by Taewan, but I am still in 6th but have made up some ground, being now only one win behind second place. Pakorn had beaten Thacha - bad for me, Gautham lost to Alastair - good for me, Jakkrit had a large win and thus overtook me on spread.

Pakorn next - MUST WIN game. Pakorn opened with GALAX for 42, but I had YODLING sitting on my rack. And I came through, suddenly finding myself in second place when Thacha beat Alastair and Gautham and Jakkrit also both lost. And suddenly Vannitha had leapt up to third place. Five of us now on 17 wins and Thacha out in front on 20.

I had Goutham next, and after having lost to him twice already in the tourney I at last got to show him that I can play. A big win - spread was very likely to decide the second place and another 211 points did me no harm whatsoever.

A very short lunch break - I had time for a ciggie, pee, and grab a coffee - as we had started slightly late (a knock-on affect from playing Pakorn the round before) and had run our clocks right down. Luckily I still had a small muffin and bananas in my bag.

Thacha next. Hmm. He started with WIREMAN for 82. I had ELOOOOT... Not quite what I had wanted but I dumped (M)OOLOO for 9. He bingoed with CLAWERS for another 87. I would like to say I performed a miracle, but did manage to get the losing spread down to double figures. Back to third place, Pakorn now a win ahead again.

Thacha was now Gibsonised so pairings were king-of-the-hill from second place, so Pakorn again. I started with a bonus and never looked back.

Game 29. The winner between myself and Jakkrit would make the final. Pakorn needed to win and us to draw...

Jakkrit started with HOG. I dumped DANIO below it, holding another AN. This apparently blocked Jakkrit's bonus so he started a farmyard theme, playing off PIG. I bingoed on move 4 to take a healthy lead on a semi blocked board, and maintained control. With a 60+ lead and holding a blank I declined playing a face-value bonus in the only bonus line, that opened a 9-x, but dumped off DE for a mere 13, keeping EIST?. Jakkrit played onto a triple, giving me a floater for a safe bingo of lAMITE(R)S. A pick of AEINSZ? meant I was home and dry.

I had 27/58 blanks, but much more importantly only a few games where a had prolonged runs of unbalanced racks.

My nicest bonuses were J(I)HADEEN and B(A)RnEYI(N)G, both against Nigel in a game I lost.

For those of you who are interested details of the whole event, including the final, can be found here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bangkok 2012 - Part 1

I have been neglecting my blog. Probably because after the early good start in the garden things have gone pear shaped - other than the pears.
Most of my veggies that I planted out became slug food. We seem to have had a lot more than normal - probably due to the constant rain from April onwards.
The only decent weather we have had since March seems to coincide with when I am off on my travels.
A really nice week+, ending a day or two after I got back from Malta.
Now I am in Bangkok, and I hear from Paul that yesterday was lovely.

My scrabble has been so-so. Fourth in both the tourneys in Malta, fourth in the Scottish Open and an improvement to third in the NSC regional. BEST has been better though. I am through to the group final having had a bye in the first round and then two matches where I actually got a higher match rating than my actual rating. This was a novelty - up until this year I had amazingly never achieved that despite progressing quite well several times.

An interesting situation on the LHR-Doha leg of my flight yesterday. It was not full and I managed to move seat to one with extra leg room at the front. A young boy of about 5 or 6 I am guessing was moved by his mother into seat next to me. She then deserted him after stewardess denied her request to allow him to move into business class to be with her!

A couple of quiet days here before scrabble battle commences on Thursday. I am settled in on Gerry's sofa with fans on full blast. And I have been told that it is much cooler now that the rains have started!!!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Growing My Own 2012

It hasn't really been gardening weather for most of April but I have been busy sowing more veggie seeds in pots - the sunroom is an ideal greenhouse substitute.

Yesterday I did a third sowing of peas and mangetout, a month after the first lot which are now having to take their chances in the veggie plot. The second batch are just about ready to go out, but frosts are forecast for the weekend so I am holding off.

I have leeks in the small container on the right.

 And lettuces growing away on the utility room windowsill.

Beans (runner, dwarf purple and French climbing) were also sown yesterday

The tomatoes and cucumbers have been potted on. So far only partial success with the cabbages, 5 out of 9. The seeds I collected from an unknown variety seem to be doing best!

In the garden itself the rhubarb is really taking off. It is doing so well that I picked some and had it stewed with some yoghurt for lunch today!

The fruit garden appears to be thriving.

I was a little concerned at how advanced the gooseberry bushes were when I eventually got around to pruning them last month, but they look very healthy at the moment, with a large number of flowers. I am inspecting them regularly as last year they were really badly infected with powdery mildew and I didn't bother to try to pick any fruit. The blackcurrants were already flowering so I decided against pruning them.

The new apple and pear trees are in blossom. I think I am supposed to remove the apple blossom this year but I can't quite bring myself to do it. I will just remove the majority of fruits if they get successfully pollinated to relieve the stress on the young trees.

On the ornamental side of the garden I am now reaping the benefits of all the work I got done in February/March of this year on the long bank extension. It is now a joy to walk past it every day with the dogs. And I have spotted a lot of other people taking a good look too :)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Toys

The Jim Clark Rally will be coming past our house again this year. And again we are planning to hold a barbecue.

Paul decided it was about time to upgrade our old one to a new superduper larger gas one - last year there were 15+ of us and it is likely to be similar again this year. He was very happy when I suggested getting this one:

as it was more than he thought I would let him spend :)

It arrived while Paul was still in the States - delivery man not overly happy at having to get it from the drive to our front door - literally. I had to drag it a couple of feet to the side to get free access again. So when Paul asked why hadn't I brought it in I let him know! It kept him busy for an hour or so assembling it. On Thursday gas was purchased (twice - first attempt got the wrong fitting) and yesterday Paul did a leak test and fired it up. All should be well come June - just need the weather to be as good as it has been in March!

I have also treated myself to a new bathroom scale. I am convinced that my old ones underweigh by about 3 lbs, and while some may like to delude themselves I would rather know the truth. So when they arrived I tried them out. Disaster - on our carpeted bathroom floor they were giving ridiculous readings. So I tried them on the tiled floor in the lobby - much better. When they say a hard flat surface they mean it! So I have improvised a hard flat surface with the use of a solid wood chopping board that I rarely use. On testing I got the same result as downstairs...

Unfortunately I cannot currently test the old ones under the same conditions as Sod's Law kicked in with the battery giving up the ghost.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Good with Food, Bad for Wallet!

Paul has been gone over a week now and I have been very successful in sticking to my diet.

So much so that I ran out of yoghurt and eggs yesterday.

Needing so little it was not worth the cost in petrol to go to Berwick. I was going to nip to the co-op in Chirnside but I received a cheque in the morning so ended up going in to Duns instead. And I would get a free cup of coffee chez Lady Penelope's.

Now time for rant.

The yoghurt cost twice as much as at Morrisons. Not organic, not free roaming yoghurt bacteria, not Greek-style fancy yoghurt. Just plain low fat yoghurt...

But that is as nothing compared to the eggs. Here I had no choice but free-range and/or organic. Okay, they were twice the price I normally pay but I would expect to pay more so didn't mind too much. However, they are actually over THREE times the price in reality as when I looked they were only 60% the size of what I normally buy! I would need to use 5 eggs to make the equivalent 3 egg omelette! You may think that is fair for giving these hens a better quality of life. But studies have shown that free-range hens are actually almost if not equally stressed as battery hens. Just different stresses. Every time a bird flies overhead they think it is a predator. And if they are so happy why are they producing runt eggs?

I also needed milk, and to be fair they did have 4-pint containers on offer so that was about the same price as Aldi's.

I don't mind supporting local shops but I don't like being fleeced!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Back in the Groove

Paul left for Memphis on Friday for his annual "bridge holiday".

I am now settling into a new routine.

I have been trying to lose weight (again) and succeeded to some extent - about 6 lbs down from my post-Christmas peak. I suffered a slight setback before Paul went, when after two slices of Jean's home made ginger cake (very good it was too), Paul still wanted Aunt Bessies Spotted Dick and custard for pudding in the evening - and unbeknownst to me, until I saw the packaging, gave us double portions. I was not happy. But now, three days down and a week to go without temptation, I am determined to drop another couple of pounds. Luckily I am content eating the approximate same things day in day out when dieting - saves thinking...

Lunch = 1/3 large pot of low fat plain yoghurt with my own added flavor* and a couple of plain digestive biscuits crumbled and mixed in.
* any of stewed rhubarb, a heaped teaspoonful of homemade blackcurrant/strawberry/raspberry jam and today I have got some redcurrants out of the freezer. It tastes a lot better than commercial flavored yoghurt and is a fraction of the cost!
Dinner = soup/sandwich or omelette with a couple of slices of bread

Target is to have lost another 7 pounds by the time I leave for Malta in about 7 weeks time.

Talking of which, I have at last got back in to some sort of word studying after a layoff of about 4 months - I have a title to defend! Mornings are spent on revision, afternoons are gardening if weather permits and evenings are knitting, with dog duties interspersed.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Down on the Farms

No, I'm not starting a Farming Weekly post.

But I had wanted to go over to Jean's to see the new lambs. So when Penny said we had been invited to go over on Monday I was ready with my camera.

When we got down to the shed we found an escapee mother and child - in the corridor. A bit of shooing from Jean with Penny blocking it's exit and they were re-penned.

Then we went down the far end to see the pet lambs. So cute - they suck on your fingers but unfortunately milk does not come out :)

Some of the lambs have personalities. I was especially taken with Number 35. A feisty character, twice the size of his? pen mates and the loudest baa in the place...

Didn't put me off having lamb chops for dinner last night...

Not to be outdone Margaret said we must go round to see her newest editions - twins. Apparently the first was already suckling by the time the second was born. They were too busy feeding again for me to get a photo of them both

but one came away from mum briefly to pose for the camera...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting Ahead

I really shouldn't say it because I got a great head start last year in the garden and then it all came to a grinding halt.

But I have weeded the LBE and even done some planting - the heucheras Penny bought me for my birthday and a couple of sisyrinchiums. I then pottered a bit, transplanting a few self-seeded primroses and self-rooted violets moved from other parts of the LBE.

I still have about 4 or 5 metres to convert from weed patch to LBE, to join up with the existing long bank. I had hoped it would get done last year. I did make a start on it last year, digging out the clay from the bottom metre or so, but never got any further :(

And today the veggie patch has been attacked. I started out only intending to weed it. Then I decided it needed some muck spreading. I managed a couple of barrow loads before deciding that was enough for the day. And then Paul came out so I asked him to do a few loads. I had fully intended coming in once those had been dug in, but as I was drinking the cup of coffee he had brought out for me I decided I wanted to change the layout. So I have ended up digging the whole lot over and moving all of my 'paths' to divide the area into 4 long narrower sections that hopefully can be weeded without me having to stand on the soil. The rhubarb is already growing away, and I seem to have three leeks from somewhere...

Monday, March 05, 2012

February Knitting FOs

I met my February mile - 2041.6 yards to be precise.

As well as completing the Aran sweater and the stripey Summer sweater I also made these:

February sock club Blodeuwedd socks. I amended the pattern to toe-up and a plain foot.

Scarf from the remains of the stripey sweater

Double-sided cushion cover from some ancient acrylic chenille. I have enough left to make at least another two...

YTD: 3879.6 yards

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I have been starting to tidy the garden, given the mild weather so far. The snowdrops were being hidden underneath the autumn debris and general leaf litter and crud that had accumulated.

I had a slight set back last week when I managed to cut my left index finger with the secateurs. A surprising amount of blood. It is healing slowly and the tip of my finger still feels quite numb.

Anyway, I finished of tidying the LBE this afternoon, and a bit more besides. I will probably be aching again tomorrow.

But spring is definitely on its way early this year.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stashdown 2012

I bought too much yarn last year. I bought it on ebay. I bought it from a couple of Ravelers destashing. I bought it from on-line stores. And I discovered Wollmeise on-line store updates. In fact the only way I didn't buy it was from bricks-and-mortar shops.

So this year I am trying very hard to not buy any.

This is helped by Paul getting me a sock club subscription for Christmas so I know I will get one package of colourful squishy goodness through the door each month.

I have set myself the goal of averaging a mile a month for the whole year. Reward will be a skein of something nice and another for each mile over and above...


The January socks have been knitted.. The February yarn is actually two mini skeins for a colourwork pair, which look wowee but I haven't decided yet whether to do the pattern.

I finished my Aran shirt at the start of February and then discovered a mis-crossed cable on the back. This caused my a lot of anguish, but I have decided to live with it as a design feature and a way of determining the front from the back. 

And then I decided to make something quick and easy from the Rowan natural silk aran I had accumulated in sweater quantity but not enough in any one colour (7 blue, 4 dark pink, 2 light pink and two white/cream). I searched the Rav database for a suitable pattern that could be adapted for stripes. This is my first ever top down jumper. 

And now I am using the leftovers(2 dark pink and part balls of the others) for a quick and easy scarf...

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Chester Tourney 2012

Almost a month on from my last post.

Was off playing my first scrabble tourney of 2012 last weekend at Chester. I went with no great expectations having had about 2 months off from studying. The journey down there was a little stressful when my third train leg from Manchester to Chester terminated at Stockport because there was a freight train stuck further down the line. An hour's wait for the next train (I was not allowed to re-route because I had to go via Altrincham according to my ticket). This meant that as we proceeded to stop at every station the train was invaded by school kids...

Anyway I finally arrived around 5.15 p.m., still with enough time to chill out before a very good 3-course dinner and then two games of scrabble. A flowing game 1 against Phil Robertshaw with (T)ITRATOr to counter his early bonus, ASS(I)GNED as a 4x and a late GUESSER gave me a rare large win. I followed this up with a 4 bingo game against Steve Perry, including t(O)RQUING for 124.

Day 2 also went well, starting off with a 2 point win against Wayne Kelly with a nice bonus spot of S(U)BOCEAn, and also (B)URSTONE and SPANKER. My winning ways continued, although I was in severe trouble against Janet Phillips. Trailing slightly on a blocked board and holding rubbish I dumped TUTU/UR, keeping back ELS and was rewarded with BEIG which played parallel to TUTU for 83!

So, 11 out of 11 at the end of the day - but so was Lewis who had accumulated a mega spread.

Day 3 continued well with a couple more wins and then I had to play Jackie, who had just blown her game against Lewis. The writing was on the wall. I started with a bonus on move 2, and turning over my tiles had snagged a blank - and ENUUUV. So I changed UUUV and started a vowelfest. Meanwhile Jackie was bonusing away with gay abandon and when not, playing off the power tiles for hefty scores. I held that blank until the very last move when I got a consolation bonus of FETIDEST. I won the next two games and now for the showdown. I was a win ahead of Lewis but still needed to win as his spread was bigger than mine, And it was a horrible game.He got ahead early on and the board was fairly blocked. My deficit widened to 3 figures, and I was still way behind when I eventually bonused with (R)ePARTEE. Lewis played across it to stop an 8 down on to it, and I played SAZ for 41 for a faint glimmer of hope. It was not to be, and I lost by 21.

Still, second place with 15/17 and a tourney rating of 203 was not bad. I could get used to not studying if I could keep that up!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Year of the Glove

2011 was definitely the Year of the Sock. Nineteen pairs made - two pairs for MIL, one pair for my sister, one pair for Paul and the rest were mine, all mine. Evil laugh...

Sadly three early pairs are no longer with us. The very first pair I made, surprisingly, are still going strong. But pair number 2 bit the dust when the kitchener-stitched toes came apart. Pair number 3, my first attempt at toe-ups never made it to my feet - scrap yarn, socks looked dreadful and were assigned straight to the bin but served their purpose as a learning curve. From this point on all socks have been toe-up. Pair number 4 were fine, but met with a disaster in the washing machine... I have one other pair that almost met the same fate - somewhat felted and shrunk but I could stretch them enough while they were still damp so now they are a tight fit!

The end of 2011/start of 2012 has been all about hands.

My first ever glittens - had a lot of use already on the late night dog walks when Paul is away. My sister requested a pair for her birthday, and they are already done with a different cable pattern.

and mittens - not quite so successful, but used up some leftover yarn from a jumper, and are really warm

and gloves. The saying 'fits like a glove' never applied to my bought gloves which always had a good half inch or more excess finger flopping about. But these fit perfectly, right down to my mismatched thumbs!

Next major project, already underway, is an Aran 'shirt' in a book I have owned for 20+ years but never had the courage to attempt...

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