Thursday, 5 April 2018

Skincare: Morning Cleanse

As you probably know, but in case you don't, I work part time for The Body Shop, and have gotten a reputation for being able to explain Beauty Stuff(tm) to people who Don't Beauty. I kept meaning to do a few blogposts about what I use and how I use it. A few caveats: I am not an expert. I have no formal training in skincare or cosmetology.  I was never interested in skincare until I moved to a foreign country and got a job selling "lotions and potions" - I am not au fait with any beauty brands other than The Body Shop. I lack cultural knowledge of British brands and I am 10 years out of date with American ones. I have dry (lack of oil), dehydrated (lack of water) skin, small children, and I'm in my mid-late 30s. Oh, and I blog from my tablet which hates html so no links, but Google is your friend. 

That out of the way, lets start at the beginning with a morning cleanse! Many years ago, when I started working at The Body Shop, I mostly used the Nutriganics range (now revamped as the Drops of Youth range) and my favourite product was the Softening Cleansing Gel(-to-oil). It was lovely. It was discontinued. Eventually I ran out of my horded stock and then I needed a new cleanser. I tried most of the ones The Body Shop did, a few of the Boots No 7 cleansers, and finally settled on Clinique's liquid facial soap extra mild (lack of capitalisation theirs) which is neither a soap nor extra mild but is perfectly adequate and I considered my search over until February when I got back from maternity leave just in time for our new Oils of Life Intensely Revitalising Cleansing Oil-in-Gel. Move over, Clinique!

The OiG cleanser is intended to be applied and massaged onto dry skin where it breaks down from a tacky gel to a silky oil, and then to a milky liquid when you wash it off (I wash it off in the shower, so no pictures, sorrynotsorry!). Facial massage is possibly the nicest thing you can do for your skin and the easiest way to "step up" your beauty regimen - massage promotes blood-flow, increasing the amount of oxygen and other nutrients reaching your skin, and flushing out toxins. Use your knuckles to save your fingers and really have at. If you aren't used to it or have a cold, your sinuses may be sore. You know the difference between good pain (this is tender because it's new) and bad pain (ow ow ow stop!). 

If you're pressed for time, and I almost always am, I almost always have small children banging on the shower door, you can apply to wet skin for a faster cleanse without the full benefits of the oils, but still getting lovely clean skin. The product promises skin will look revitalised (agree), look radiant (agree), and provided 72hrs of moisture (untested). 

I am a The Body Shop employee. I purchased this product with my employee discount. All opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017


I have a lot to be thankful this year, starting with our newest family member, Katherine who is healthy and happy and very goal driven. What goals? Nobody knows, but she is a baby on a mission and she is determined to Do All the Things right now! 

I am thankful for Kristina who is the best big sister one could imagine, delighted with her baby sister about 90% of the time. And she is blossoming in school. Last year was a bit touch-and-go as she slowly moved from fearing other kids to tolerating them but going into the summer holidays she suddenly decided that she -likes- other kids (some of them) and wants to play -with- them. She has a best friend (R) and a group she usually plays with. They're currently getting to spend Mondays in the woods with minimal guidance and that's wonderful, too. 

I am most thankful for Chris, husband and father to our little family. He works so hard at work and around the house to keep us safe, warm, and fed. We have had little to no adult time in the last year and that's hard but I know we'll get to talk to one another again soon. 

I am also thankful for our small group of friends. We don't have family nearby but we have people we get together with frequently (if only on Skype), people who have relationships with us and our children, and we aren't alone. 

I am always grateful for knitting and books and Netflix and social media that lets me discuss what I watch, read, and knit with fellow enthusiasts. I am particularly grateful for A Year of Techniques which has led me to a great Ravelry group, the first where I really feel I fit in (even if I can't remotely keep up with all the threads!) and I am enjoying all of the projects, though it's all I can do to finish the in time for the next project and very little outside knitting is getting done. 

I am grateful for our cats, or at least the two we officially own. One of the neighbours' cats is trying to move in so we will see how that goes. 

And I am very grateful for Scotland, for the socialist government, the welcoming population, the doctors and hospitals, teachers and schools, our neighbours and neighbourhood, for the changing seasons and the beautiful and varied landscape. 

There's a lot going wrong right now, but there's a lot of good, too. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

AYoT: Heel Turn ( July)

The fifth month of A Year of Techniques was for working on heel-turns in cuff-down socks and featured the Antirrhinum (snapdragon) Socks by Rachel Coopey in her eponymous CoopKnits Socks Yeah! yarn which was previously used to knit Alex the Mouse. I didn't buy the summer kit and, though I found Socks Yeah to be a beautiful yarn, soft and with subtly heathered colours, I worry that it's too soft for socks (I prefer my socks to err on the side of bulletproof - if you have socks in Socks Yeah! I would love to hear how they're holding up) so I did a little stash diving and came up with a skein of Ripplescrafts' reliable sock in Sweet Greens, a colour like iceberg lettuce, that I got years ago in a "waifs and strays" promotion. 

I started with the small size, reasoning that it was close in stitch count to my default vanilla sock, I was using an ever so slightly thicker yarn (Socks Yeah! is a 3-ply, most sock yarns are 4-ply) so I'd get a slightly bigger end project, and the pattern is lacy and lace opens up to be larger than plain knitting. Yeah, that didn't work. I turned the heel on the first sock and knit for about an inch, tried it on, and decided it was not going to fit comfortably so I had to frog and start again with the medium size recommend for my foot size. 

Between having to knit the first sock almost twice and July being a short month for AYoT, for the first time the following month's pattern was released before I finished that month's. But I finished and that's the important thing. 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

AYoT: Knitted on Border (June)

I am almost caught up with my A Year of Techniques posts, now that July is 2/3rds gone. The patterns have been released on the first Thursday of each month, which was only the 1st of the month once, so while I think of the deadline for finishing on time as the end of the month, there's usually an extra almost week to do so. Not that I needed the extra time for July's project, the Talmadge Cloche by Romi Hill, featuring a knitted-on edging.

It's a top-down lace ribbing hat that looks -way- too small until it's almost done and then, magically, it fits when you add the moss stitch border. Except in my case where I finished and blocked it and, while  I could wear it,  it was too small and squishing my head. I gave it to Kristina who is peak gamin in the above picture. My yarn, as I didn't buy the summer kit yarn, was RipplesCrafts Reliable Sock Yarn in a custom Christmas colourway Helen dyed up for me many moons ago. Red Red Wine would be close. As a sock yarn, it lacked the drape of the suggested 100% merino Fyberspates Vivacious which I expect is why it came out a little small. I don't tend to swatch for hats as they're barely larger than a swatch and will fit someone. There's a similar shaped cloche knit in DK weight yarn in Romi Hill's recent publication, New Lace, which I bought in an Interview sale, should I wish something similar for me. Although, I do prefer berets and tams and it so happens that there is just such a pattern in the book based on the same leaf motif. 

I also signed up for a technique KAL, The 7 Resizeable Shawls, that Romi Hill is running with two simultaneous publications, a book with the seven full-size shawls and instructions for making them bigger or smaller, and a workbook with a doll-sized version of the shawl, detailed instructions on the technique featured, and an accessory that also uses the technique. I bought just the workbook because as much as I love beautiful shawls (and Romi Hill is known for incredibly beautiful shawls), I don't wear them. 

The first shawl is out, the Reciprocate (doll) Shawl, and the technique bit on mosaic stitches (colourwork formed with slipped stitches), but the accessory project isn't out and other than a start (February 2016) and end (August 2018) date, I can't find any information about when patterns can be expected. It's not a deal-breaker, I'm don't regret my purchase, I just wish I had some idea when I will get to play along. Not that I'm hurting for projects or techniques, obviously. I just like to know, if only vaguely. 

And that's me caught up on the finished AYoT projects. I am well underway for the July project, a pair of top-down, heel-flap socks, which I will tell you about at the end of the month. There's still time to sign up and KAL 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

AYoT: Pinhole Cast-On (May)

After not having much experience with the first two techniques, the third was one I have some experience with, the Pinhole Cast-On which is a way of casting on in the round without leaving a hole. It's the same cast-on used to make the blanket squares for the Vivid blanket by Tin Can Knits (they're having a summer sale on their patterns - no links because I blog from my pad and can't do much, sorry).  

May's project was an adorable plush toy called Alex the Mouse designed by Ella Austin, with stranded colourwork (surprising as two-handed colourwork is another project) body and ears. The head and arms (I think, it's been a while!) start with pinhole cast-ons. Because I had bought the spring kit, I had the Sock Yeah! light-fingering yarn the pattern called for and it is beautiful, soft and the colours have subtle heathers get that helps the colours blend together across the whole range. Because it's so soft, I'm not sure I'd want to knit socks in it, I worry they wouldn't be durable but I would use it for anything else you can wear. 

Kristina generously decided that Alex would be for Katherine and Katherine agreed. The ears have never been the same. I am also almost finished with my Vivid blanket, which is entirely West Yorkshire Spinners except the purple which is Opal. 

I just need two more purple squares (one is on the needles) and one more mustard. Unless, of course, I decide to make it bigger. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

AYoT: Intarsia (April)

The April project for A Year of Techniques was the Brambling Shawl, an Intarsia project by Bristol Ivy, knit in five colours of Fyberspates Cumulus yarn, and is the only project from AYoT where I have correctly guessed all of the elements of a month's project. Or any of them. Twelve techniques, twelve designers, infinite (small) projects and even just three choices of yarn in the quarterly kits is apparently just too much for me. 

The Brambling Shawl is a shallow, asymetrical triangle shawl knit side to side with different colour blocks swooping gently across it. The Cumulus yarn is a thin fuzzy strand of alpaca/silk that looks like light fingering (3ply) but is intended to knit up at a sportweight gauge for a light, soft, flowing (warm) fabric that drapes beautifully. The fuzz makes the stitches blend together, but also makes it really difficult to unpick mistakes. And I made just about every mistake one could: knitting a purl row, knitting the wrong colour, shifting the wrong direction, dropping stitches... It was definitely a case of making bigger mistakes, faster.

The one thing I never screwed up was the intarsia. A few rows after joining my second colour and I had it down. The stickiness of the yarn made tensioning the yarn a dream and the increases and decreases were all within the colours so the colour changes always happen at the same place(s). 

The big learning curve for myself and most of the KAL-ers was how to keep track of a long, written out pattern with different things happening at different rates. The KAL thread is full of pictures of row counters, spreadsheets, and notes in the margins. 

If you're considering joining the A Year of Techniques KAL, there's still time. July's technique and pattern have just been released (heel turn) or you can join any of the on-going threads for previous months. You don't need to buy the book, or the yarn kits; the tutorial videos are on YouTube and any project that uses the technique counts. Just join the group, tag your project, and post a picture of it in progress in the appropriate thread. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

My Platonic Ideal of Shawls: A Cowl

This cowl is everything I want in a shawl. I know that should be a colon followed by a list of all the attributes of a shawl that I'm looking for but now that I come to write this post, I can't think of anything to say except that unlike all the (beautiful) shawls I've knit in the past, I want to wear this one. Not because I want to show it off (I do) but because it wears effortlessly. I never have to tug it or spend five minutes trying to put it on "right", or worry it'll get caught on something. I just...put it on. And wear it.

The yarn is a self-made gradient of Old Maiden Aunt sparkle 4-ply in the colours Twu Luv, Berry Good, Bramble, and Midnight. The first three were leftovers from Havra, Gudrun Johnson's first MKAL two years ago. 

It's the Starshower Cowl by Hilary Smith Callis, and it starts off as a semi-circle knit flat and then you switch to knitting it in the round to make a cowl. The pattern is easy enough although she has you switch which direction you're knitting in the round to reduce purl rows and keep you from having to work the lace on a knit round but i found it much easier to knit the lace by working the passed-over stitch on the following round. If you have the pattern, that will make sense. 

Would I knit it again or another shawl/cowl hybrid by the same designer? Probably not. The pattern as written comes in one size with a 39" circumpherance at the bottom. Now, shawls don't generally need sizes, unless it's "small or huge", but the pictures show it pulled down over her shoulders with what looks like plenty of positive ease, which is the look that sold me on the pattern only to find there's no support for modifying it. She suggest that if it doesn't fit around your shoulders, you just wear it bunched up. At the time of my knitting mine, she had responded every question and comment on the pattern except the one about making it bigger which she ignored completely. I worked out how to do so for myself and it wasn't so difficult that her refusal to do so feels like body-shaming. 

And that's fine; if she doesn't want fat bodies wearing her designs then this fat body is more than capable of modifying shawls in a similar way and there are plenty of size-inclusive designers out there to give my money to.