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Underwater December 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Edinburgh, Knitting, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Small things.
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…That’s a comment on how wet it is up here, by the way.  It’s been raining horizontally on and off for about a week.

I was walking down to the library about ten past eight this morning.  You know, when it’s got to the point where you’re just following your feet, and you’ve stopped noticing things around you?  I’ve been trying to fend it off of late, because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and I don’t have very long to enjoy it – only this year – but it’s caught up with me recently.  And, as I was walking past Bristo Square, I spotted something on the railings.

It was World AIDS day yesterday, which I assume accounts for it.

Yarn bombing is one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ll tell you for why.  I always seem to see it when there’s a lot going on around me, when I’m up to my eyeballs in late nights and my head is spinning with all the things I should have done and I haven’t yet.  And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there are knitters.  If I didn’t knit, it would still say to me that someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to brighten things up.  That would just be fabulous all by itself.  But as a knitter myself, it feels like a reminder that even though it’s getting dark at 4 o’clock, even though I’ve barely seen the outside for quite a while and I haven’t had an evening in to myself where I haven’t had to work in weeks… some things are constant.  There are people out there who take a bit of time to knit red ribbons and tie them on railings.  There are people who still think that’s a worthwhile use of their time – which, of course, I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s like someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to just reach across and say hey, hang on a minute – how are you?

…All the way down the road.  I don’t know if you can see it.

I won NaNoWriMo the other day.  It’s been good to take a bit of time out – I’ve met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself.  It was a lot easier to keep going than this time last year.  I discovered, though, that it’s a bad idea to force myself to research about wartime mental illness when the nights are drawing in.  That on top of work – my first essay went in this morning, one down, two to go.  I’ve had to be pretty careful – yet another reason that seeing knitting just made it all a bit better.

My camera’s playing up at the moment – sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t.  But I have FOs to show you, and I’m determined to find the time soon!  Maybe I should instate WIP Wednesday, or whatever it is that the other bloggers are doing these days.  Something to think about.

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First Things First – Uskglass October 17, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns.
1 comment so far

This is one of the big things I missed out on telling you about in the last few months – in August, I published Uskglass.

Do you remember the green sample hat I christened ‘Strange’? It got a makeover, and I love it very much. It amuses me that I ended up in Edinburgh, actually, because the first sample for Uskglass was knitted the first time I ever came here, and I remember adoring the place and being really worried that I wouldn’t be able to come back. And then, it was published from the Starbucks on the High Street while I was up for the Fringe, and now I’m living here properly. I feel like Uskglass was lucky for me.

It was originally designed around the book Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is one of my favourites, but quite sensibly my tech editor pointed out that calling a hat ‘Strange’ when it wasn’t in the least bit strange was bound to give the wrong impression, so it got renamed after John Uskglass, the Raven King from the book, the most powerful English magician possibly ever to have lived, and who had a strong connection with Britain and its history.  I like to think that that’s fitting – the cables from Uskglass were inspired a bit by traditional ganseys.  The honeycomb band, particularly.

I’m a bit in love with slightly slouchy hats with a deep brim at the moment.  There’s at least one more on the way.  Watch this space.

And can I talk about the yarn for a moment?  It’s grey.  For a change.  I really need to knit something that isn’t grey, it has turned into my default colour.  It’s also Rowan British Sheep Breeds DK, and it’s Bluefaced Leicester.  The more BFL I get to play with, the more I like it.  It’s so shiny.  It smells so sheepy.  It barely pills at all, and it appears to be the warmest thing in the world.  If I could afford a jumper’s worth of Rowan, I’d be knitting one right now – it’s so much fun to knit with.  As it is, I’ve worn this hat about four days a week for the last month (‘warm’ is relative, I think – I know we’re supposed to have had a heatwave!) and I think the combination of the yarn and the cables make it the warmest piece of headgear I own.

So yeah.  New knitwear.  Three sizes.  I love it.  Say it’s not just me?

Uskglass, £3.00

Academia July 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
1 comment so far

It seems fitting that, now that I’ve left Durham altogether – and that they’ve moved the law library to a totally different site to where it used to be – that I should finally be publishing a pattern inspired by weeks and weeks sat in that very library.

I actually had the idea for this cardigan in a café in Lancaster last summer.  I was sat there for a few hours with not a lot to do but read, knit and let my coffee get cold – the best kind of afternoon.  A girl opposite me was wearing a cardigan with a similar sort of back detail and I wondered how one might go about knitting something like that.

It came to me not all that long afterwards, and I knitted up a prototype which is notable only in the fact that it is made of blue Wollmeise, which was lovely, but other than that was totally hideous.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t fit my arms into the sleeves.  Everything about it was too tight, or bulged, or drooped, and it had buttons which were far too heavy for it.  Anyway, I thought I could do without buttons.  I’m not surprised it ended up like this – I had knitted a grand total of most of one cardigan in my entire life by that point, and had really no idea what I was doing.  It was a bit of a learning curve.

This year, I have become a far better knitter.  I’ve met the concepts of ease, and drape, and what might actually look any good, and I’m so proud of what this has turned into.  I named it Academia, after something else that it has taken a lot of effort and trial and error to get the hang of, that I’ve spent a lot of time at, and that quite frankly I love to bits.  This sample was knitted mostly over the second term of this year: cast on in the green room of the Gala theatre before the matinee of The Producers, knitted on during my high points and my low points and as a bit of a distraction from work – and, yes, in the law library.  It was finished within about two days of my dissertation, and I love it and wear it often.

The thing I’m most proud of about it is that my test knitters also loved knitting it, and that it looks fantastic on all of them.  If you’re on Ravelry, you can see their cardigans here, and I’m so pleased that it seems to fit different body shapes and sizes so well.  Several of them are already knitting a second one in different yarn, or intend to do so.  And, of course, the banter was the best of any test-knitting group I’ve come across so far.  I fell on my feet with that one.

Oh, and one more thing – remember August of last year, when I said that the thing I aspired to most in the field of knitting was to design my own cardigan?  So do I.  Just goes to show, doesn’t it, that it’s really not all that complicated when you put your mind to it, and that it’s just a case of having your idea and going at it like you think it’s important.

If you can knit in the round, and do left- and right- slanting decreases (which if you knit I bet you can), then you can knit this with no difficulty at all.  The pattern on the back makes it go faster, too – and it really is ridiculously simple to do.  Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s short rows, they’re laughably simple and you’ll have them down to a fine art in an inch or two.

There’s a fair bit of I-cord, but I swear that’s it.  And besides, I don’t know about you, but I think I-cord looks rather good.

You can get the pattern for Academia here, for the princely sum of £3.25.

Not so strange July 3, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo.
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There are a few types of projects I keep coming back to.

My default no-brainer project is the plain pair of stocking stitch toe-up socks: I’ve made a few for me, one for each parent, His Nibs has a variation on them (one round plain, one round double rib, repeat ad infinitem), and although I haven’t always got one on the go, I always have the yarn for one about ready, just in case.  I can knit the whole thing with no pattern and very little thought, so they’re perfect for times when I want to concentrate on something else, or even on nothing in particular.  I currently have two pairs of these in the works, a throwback to the fact that I’ve just come out of exams and sometimes, you know, you just don’t want to have to think too hard.  These ones are going to be for some very special people who have yet to receive my knitwear but have had to sit through my telling them about it for quite long enough.

The other thing I come back to a lot is the cabled hat.  I’ve talked before about why I love cables – they’re the first knitting ‘trick’ I learned to do, and I love improvising them and seeing where they go.  At the beginning of June, I was given a challenge to knit something based on the last book I’d read, and as luck would have it, I’d just put down my copy of this:

It’s about eighteenth century gentleman magicians in England, it features cameos from Lord Wellington and Byron, and I highly recommend you pick it up.  It takes a while, it’s a long book and it’s not something you can read in a few days but my goodness, it’s worth it for the denouement alone.  The fact that the rest of it is marvellous can only add to things.  Every so often I pick it up again, intending to just revisit the best bits, and find myself reading the whole thing from cover to cover again.

This is comfort reading at its best for me, so I headed straight in the direction of comfort knitting to try and represent it.  This is ‘Strange’:

I wasn’t entirely sure about it to begin with, I have to admit, but it’s grown on me hugely.  I’ve knitted on this for a month – it was the project I took to Edinburgh when Linguistic Housemate and I decided to take an impromptu trip for my 21st birthday (oh yeah, I’m 21 now, sorry – forgot to tell you that.  Oops).

The new short hair is making hats so much easier to wear, I have to say!  I’d never have dared wear something this cloche-y before I had it all cut off.  It’s most exciting – expect it to be very much taken advantage of!

Beyond that… it’s great.  Since I’ve got home, I’ve found time to read again.  It seems so strange not to have anything more deadline-based to do, I have to admit I’m not adapting to it very well.  So I’ve embarked upon Camp NaNoWriMo which debuts this month.  Do you remember the novel I wrote 50,000 words of in November?  At the beginning of July, it stood at almost exactly 60,000 words, and had ground somewhat to a halt.  I’m hoping, in the next few weeks, that having the time and the cheers of other writers will give me the impetus to finish the first draft.  I love the story so much, it’s just getting it out and on paper that’s the problem.

There’s no rest for the wicked, after all!  But would I have it any other way?

Distractions May 18, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Knitting, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
8 comments

Exams are well under way, and my ability to concentrate has gone the way of the sleepless nights once again.  My biggest worry right now is that I’m not doing myself justice, and no amount of Oh You’ll Be Fine is going to change that – I think it’s just the way of things.

I’m hampered slightly at the moment by the fact that there is a kids’ theatre troupe in the theatre this week (seeing as we aren’t using it) and they’re doing a production of Annie which opens tomorrow.  Imagine if you will, trying to get your head round the difference between entrepreneurship and providing services as explained haphazardly but at great length by the ECJ, to the glorious theme tune of It’s A Hard Nut Life. My room backs onto the auditorium.  I don’t like Annie at the best of times.

I’m taking an afternoon out to daydream a bit.  His Nibs and I got these when we were in Dorset over Easter:

I’m afraid I rather fell in love with them – and I know just what I want to do with them.  Now if only I could get these pesky exams out of the way…

The sock I said I’d started the other week has ground to a halt.  Unfortunately my tension the last week or two has got massively skewed, so I ended up having to go down two needle sizes so that the sock wouldn’t swim on me.  It turns out this is only a good idea for so long, and I’ve reknit the heel twice now and it’s still way too tight.  I want to shout it isn’t fair!  Why must my simple exam knitting go horribly wrong?  But I have decided instead, a little reluctantly, to put the damned thing in time out and work on something else in the few spare minutes I have.  There’s no reason to stress over it, not at the moment.  I’m having to reluctantly admit to myself that hey, they’re only socks.

It was my cousin’s wedding on Saturday, which was a welcome few days out.  I think I’ve made a new friend…

(Mum says I’m not allowed one yet and that I should ask His Nibs first.  On reflection, this is probably for the best.  Look at that arm, though!)

This has been your “I’m still alive, promise!” broadcast, May 2011.

Going round again May 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Craftiness, Knitting, University.
5 comments

It’s that time of year.

I seem to be alternating between being unable to sleep for more than three hours at a stretch, and being out like a light for twelve hours straight.  I’m also alternating between subsisting on cous cous and vegetables, and pigging out on bowlfuls of angel delight and bars of Dairy Milk.  My mood is swinging about the place too: one minute, I’m feeling like I have to be alone, and the next, I feel very lonely indeed.  That last is probably kind of related to the first two.  I keep telling myself: this too shall pass.

I don’t really want it to pass, either.

I cast on a sock this afternoon:

The yarn is Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, and the colour is called ‘Seaspray’.  This is pretty accurate, but you can’t see the hints of green particularly well.  It’s such a subtle colour, I had such fun just winding it.

Unlike my usual plain exam sock – I have a pair of toe-up stocking stitch socks for every exam period for about the last three years – this one’s going to be patterned.  I felt like it.  It’s going to be Wendy Johnson’s Catnip socks which are everything I like: toe-up, easily customisable, lacy, with a simple repeat so I don’t have to carry the pattern round with me all the time.  I’m looking forward to them.

I’ve finished a pair of socks, too, in the last day or so – I’ll try and get pictures of them soon, they’re rather lovely.  Again, simple lace.  It’s amazing how comforting it can be sometimes.

It’s all hot and cold hereabouts.  I hardly know what to do with myself.

Captain Shakespeare and I went to see Bellowhead play last week.  They were phenomenal.  Quite possibly the best live act I’ve ever seen – the collective energy was amazing, they can work a crowd like nobody’s business but you just got the impression that they were enjoying themselves and just messing about.  There was spontaneous bursting into jigs, dramatic lunging with a banjo, and trying to make one of the violinists laugh from across the stage while he was doing a solo – as well as at several points the stealing of Jon Boden’s tambourine, whistle, tiny-drum-slash-wind-noise-thing and misc other small percussion instruments.

I’m sure I’ve said before that some musicians have a song that just resonates with me, that I adore above and beyond anything else they’ve done.  Interestingly, that song of Bellowhead’s is one that is very traditional and arranged by a lot of different people.  It’s also the first thing I ever heard them play, and it’s fantastic.  Therefore I’m foisting it on you.  Imagine a theatre full of people bawling their heads off at the words and clapping and stomping along.  What an atmosphere.

It’s never all bad.

Three sweaters May 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did.
6 comments

One.

‘Harvest Moon’ by Heidi Kirrmaier. Wool/alpaca blend DK. Started on Christmas Day, knitted in Brighton and Lincolnshire and Dorset over the Christmas holidays. Grew disconcertingly when blocked so that the bottom of the yoke was around my elbows. Strengthened my resolve to get myself a dress form the moment I have somewhere to put it.

Two.

(Get off my) Cloud by Kate Davies.  Sock weight wool on 3.5mm needles.  (I can’t believe it either.)  Cast on at Larmer Tree Festival, Summer 2010 and knitted on constantly for the entire week.  Taken to my first Ravelry meet-up.  Hood finished over coffee and lunch with the girls in Durham.  I-cord edges knitted over two trips from home to university, alternated with a sock so I wouldn’t go out of my mind with the quantity of it.

Worn, finished, for the first time at my second ever Ravelry meet-up.

Three.

And this one’s mine.  (Wool/angora light fingering.  Conceived last summer.  Cast on last term.  Ripped back, cast on again, ripped back again, cast on again.  Finished a few weeks ago.  Currently being test knit.  More exciting than it looks, but the most interesting detail isn’t visible from this picture.  More to come.)

Coming up for air March 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
7 comments

Well, phew, frankly.

The first draft of my dissertation was handed in about 11 o’clock at night on Friday, which was the deadline.  In the last week, I’ve seen closing time in two different libraries, and opening time in one of them.  I haven’t really had much of a week, frankly – it all seemed to disappear in front of a computer screen.  I’ve slept twelve hours the last two nights, so that should tell you something.  The paper is mammoth, though – twenty-five pages plus bibliography.  Aside from NaNoWriMo, I’ve never written anything that big in my life.  It’s kind of a big deal.  I keep rolling the words undergraduate dissertation around in my head, and they don’t sound any less grand than they did this time two years ago.  Grief.

Anyway, it’s onwards and upwards – I have another essay due in ten days, and there’s no rest for the wicked, so that’s where this week is going.  But you don’t want to hear about that, do you?  You want to see this lovely finished thing:

(Please excuse both the state of my room and the crappiness of the picture – I’m hoping to press-gang the relevant parties into helping me take proper photos tomorrow. You will also note that my house was furnished by the Sprawling Mass of Bureaucracy that is one of the University departments, and hence my bedroom mirror is in three parts. Also, I have a pretty awesome poster on my wall.  You may blame aforementioned Sprawling Mass of Bureaucracy that it appears to be split in two.)

This is SOMETHING I FINISHED!!  I actually have two knitted tops that I’ve finished in about the last six weeks – not because I’ve been knitting so fast my hands are on fire, but because I am a lazy sod who hates sewing things up, so when I do sew things up, it tends to be all in one go.

I started (Get Off My) Cloud (Rav link) by Kate Davies over the summer, if you recall, and it’s involved so much Icord, and so much sewing up, that I finished the main body of it in maybe November, and the hood in December, and I’ve just failed to do anything with it since.  It’s all done now, though, and I wore it to London to meet knitters last weekend and was met with a lot of pointing and “I know what that is!” and compliments, so it definitely feels done.  There’ll be pictures, as soon as I can get someone to take them

The cardigan in the picture is Harvest Moon (Rav link) by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I started it on Christmas Day to make up for all that knitting for everyone else, and it waited for about a month for me to sew the pockets on, and another month for me to block it.  And I adore it.  And it’s alpaca so it’s the warmest thing in the world.  And it sheds cream coloured alpaca all over my black brushed wool coat.  If it didn’t do that, I’d never take it off.

What I’m knitting at the moment, then, is quite mysterious.  I’ve had this on the go for a few weeks:

Why yes, it is a Great Green Thing, and getting greater by the day.  Not so much lately, that’s a lot of stocking stitch, and I tend to need to alternate between it and something a bit more exciting.  The exciting things have been socks, essentially: I’m one down on a pair for Dad, whose birthday is at the end of the month, and I’ve just cast on another pair with this:

I love this yarn very, very much.  It came on Friday, the day I handed my draft in, and my reward for finishing said draft was to cast on the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry’s March Mystery Sock.  The theme for this month is lace, and the mystery sock is gorgeous.  I finished the first clue today, and it reminded me how much I love just blindly following patterns occasionally.  You don’t have to worry about how it’s going to turn out, you don’t have to keep in mind what amendments you might want to make, you can just take the instructions and run with them.  It makes me happy.

The yarn is Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, and it’s a superwash BFL, and I love it. I haven’t knit with Blue Faced Leicester in far too long – I’d forgotten how much it practically glows.  This stuff is so much fun to work with.

So that’s what’s happening knitting-wise at the moment, for the most part.

As for the rest of this blog, I’m afraid you’re rather going to have to bear with me at the moment.  You’ve probably noticed it’s been a bit thin on the ground, of late.  This year is not an easy year, it’s my final year as an undergraduate, and at the moment I feel a bit like I’m treading water.  Of course I’ll do my best to keep going – I love this blog, and when I’m able to do things with it, I love it and I love hearing your feedback and comments.  But if they’re sparse for the next four or five months, please do hang on.  Normal service will be resumed when I’m not up to my ears in the All England Law Reports and for now, well, I like you lot.  So I hope you’ll hang around.

Morstan again February 14, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Lovely people, Patterns.
2 comments

First of all, happy V-day everyone, and I hope you are all good-naturedly but mutinously muttering under your breath in the same way as I am about how it’s all commercialised and you don’t believe in it anyway.  His nibs has come up to stay with me til Friday, so if it’s all a bit quiet on the Western Front over here, that’d be why.

Anyway, it’s also February, and that means that new Knitcircus is out.  I highly recommend going and having a look at it.  It also means, though, that I’ve been able to release my Morstan mittens pattern through Ravelry and this blog.

We went out and took lots of photos outside the cathedral today, even though it was absolutely freezing out – thanks to his nibs for taking all the photos, and to my lovely model Alice for being so obliging.  Also thanks to Sarah, Hayleigh, and Fearn for their general loitering and encouragement – it’s always far more fun to be doing silly things in a public place when there are more of you.

Lacy mittens still make me happy, and I think that shall be so for quite some time.

You can get the pattern now for £2.50 and frankly, if the weather where you are is anything like the weather where I am right now, I think that’s a rather good idea.

Meanwhile, the lace advances…

Inspiration February 8, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, University.
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Sometimes it hits you without warning.  Last Thursday, I wound a ball of Malabrigo Lace, thinking it’d be really nice to just play with it for a bit.  I was picturing a long, kind of skinny scarf, with a repeating lace pattern down it.  Something that says yes, it’s still a bit chilly, but it’s spring dammit and I’m going to act like it.  I browsed a bit, and swatched a few things and found nothing I like.

On Friday, I had my eureka! moment.  Here is my eureka! moment, posing ultra-picturesquely with my notes for an essay on European citizenship and the free movement of workers in the European Union:

Mmm, Regulation 1612/68.  So much better for the application of Malabrigo.  It’s glorious, by the way, although it’s also basically felting as I knit it.  Sometimes inspiration hits you square between the eyes, and I have to say I’m really loving this project right now.  I’ve provisionally christened it ‘Winwhistle’, after a place I was thinking about a lot at the time.

The next few weeks are going to be full of people, and places, and events.  After a sluggish few weeks, I’m really looking forward to them.  I’ve been pretty consistently down in the dumps since the beginning of term, and I’m hoping the application of friends and getting out a bit more will help things turn up a bit.  You may or may not be aware (well, you are now) that Linguistic Housemate was in Egypt for the last few months – fear not, she’s now on our living room floor as we speak and it’s been the greatest relief, and the greatest breath of fresh air, to see her again.  Also his nibs is going to be coming to see me next week so there shall be a selection of my favourite people congregating at Techie Towers.

Oh, and I ran two miles this afternoon.  It definitely feels like the spring is coming.  This is my favourite time of year.