Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2015!

When last we blogged, I had just finished my Byatt in time to show it off at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. In fact I was weaving in ends (only four, thankfully) on the train ride down on Friday. The train ride was...long. It's usually only 3.5 hrs to Edinburgh, but we were sharing a car with both hen and stag parties, which quickly merged into one big cacophony. Then the doors wouldn't lock so we sat there for a good span of time before they decided to continue straight to Perth with the conductor running up and down the train begging people to stay away from the doors. When we got to Perth, they said we could wait for the next train in about an hour (two cars to our four) and take our chances, or go outside and coaches would take us to Edinburgh. Coaches, right? Only after we'd all been standing outside for about 10 minutes did they admit that the coaches would arrive at the same time as the train and we couldn't go back and wait for it because it was already full. We almost missed the coaches arriving as they'd parked around the corner and we'd go inside to get out of the wind, which made us just about the last people on. The good news is that our coach was less than half full, the bad news is that it had the drunk hen and stag parties and now they were playing music on someone's phone and singing along without knowing the words. By the time we got to Edinburgh I was...twitchy.


Fortunately the rest of our trip passed smoothly, including the first class train ride back (our first Virgin train in Scotland, the big service from London with all the free food and drinks). Amy came up from London that evening and we had dinner at the hotel (we'd talked about going for Mexican but, despite taking a nap, Little Djinn was manic and liable to fall apart which eventually she did, so we opted to stay close. Highlight from dinner, Little Djinn got the waiter to do Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes with her.


I caught a taxi over early to get to my Professional Finishing class. Towards the end, the woman on my right asked if I'd actually learned anything as I seemed to be familiar with most of the things the instructor mentioned. I hadn't really, but being largely self-taught as a knitter I've discovered some, uh, interesting stylistic techniques in knitting that were making things a lot more difficult than they need to be and, as she herself had said at the beginning, one doesn't know where the holes in one's knowledge are. I do read a lot of knitting blogs (if you wonder if anyone reads blogs: yes, yes I do. I just, as a general rule, never respond) and have picked up a lot of "expert" tips, I just may not have actually tried them myself. So I didn't learn anything new, but I did have a really really fun time being in the class. I wish all of those knitters were regulars at my local knit night. Then I snapped my seat-mates brand new knit pro interchangeable tip when showing her how to tighten them properly. Gah. I was mortified. I gave her my extra fixed length circs (pony, and I never use them). It was only the knowledge that knit pro are guaranteed against things like that and there'd be a dozen retailers in the marketplace who could exchange them for new kept me from dying on the spot. It was a close thing. 

After the class, I walked with another lady over to the market place (yay for someone who knew where we were going - I'd left my phone at home and couldn't even google for directions). I was a little early for meeting Amy (I'd picked a stall near the entrance and named a time by which I should be done with my class) so I went to the Old Maiden Aunt stall for a quick look-see as two patterns on my "wool to acquire for projects on the short list" called for her yarn. I'd ordered wool from her in the past and, while it was nice, the colours weren't quite what I was expected and I really wanted to see them in person before buying anything else. Lilith's colours are as lovely in person as I'd hoped. I settled on one skein of superwash BFL DK in "midnight", a dark mottled purple (which I see as grey on her website). It is deliciously soft and I've already used it.

Amy and I wandered around the market place together, doing a quick flyby to see what there was, and then we caught up with Chris and Little Djinn, who had decided to join us at the convention rather than do their own thing and risk not meeting up in time for the train. LD elected to go with me while Daddy got coffee and then as soon as he'd walked off, started in with wanting food. Gah. We finished our circuit (I bought one more skein of yarn, a silk alpaca lace weight that changes from pale pink to dark purple for a pi shawl; a pair of 2.75 chiaogoo circs; and some soak Flatter spray for freshening wool between washes), found Chris again, and got lunch for LD and me and then it was time to go so Amy could catch her train.



It's not really surprising, given how briefly I was at the market place, that I didn't run into many people I know. I saw Hellen of Ripplescrafts long enough to exchange a moment of significant eye contact (her booth was hopping and I only had time to squish her two new bases - I'll see her and her yarns at the Highland Wool Festival in Dingwall in May). I also saw Karie, designer of my Byatt shawl, just barely long enough for a quick hug as we rushed in opposite directions. (Her partner, the famous Dave, snapped this quick picture - I think I was halfway through taking my hat off when I saw them!) that's it. Those are the only people I know to say hello to who I saw at EYF - and one of them I didn't even get to say hello to! 



My Byatt did receive admiration, both for the beautiful wool and lovely design. A woman in my class recognized it as the "infamous Byatt" and Lilith of OMA said she had hoped it was her yarn so she'd have been responsible for such beautiful colours. The woman at Baa Ram Ewe asked for permission to stroke the shawl on my shoulder, wanting to touch such loveliness. Later, another knitter walked up and ran her finger down the shawl - down my cleavage - and said "very nice." Those two interactions are pretty much a masterclass in the difference between "good touch" and "bad touch".


Next year we are not traveling on EYF day, it's just too stressful. Dates have been announced, the 18th and 19th of March (a Friday and Saturday), with classes starting Thursday. Life willing, we will be there!



Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A Byatt for EYF

In the build up to The Edinburgh Yarn Festival, one of my favourite designers, Karie Westermann, released a new shawl pattern, Byatt. I used to be a shawl knitter, back when things like not having to match gauge or select a similar yarn and it not really mattering how big or small the finished item came out were my primary considerations in deciding what to knit. But a few years ago I decided that I really want to be a garment knitter, socks and sweaters, with a selection of head- and hand-coverings to get me through the winter. But as my Twitter timeline filled with people's (judiciously retweeted) plans to make and wear Byatts to EYF, my No More Shawls resolve melted and, I reasoned, I had appropriate wool (two skeins or Ripples Crafts 100% BFL superwash in a natural cream and teal blue) -already wound into cakes. Kismet!

I cast-on in plenty of time and worked away on the garter stitch section and had just reached the two colour stripy section when I looked in my project and realized...I was almost out of my main colour! It hadn't been a mistake when I listed them as 50g balls, they really were half the length I needed! I searched Helen's site for the same colours on the same base to no avail, and settled on a skein of blue with a hint of teal and a complimentary silver, hoping I could switch to a similar colour-way on the stripes without having a jarring change and having to start over.


Readers, I had to start over. The blue did have hints of teal but nothing like the colour I'd started with. That's the bad new; the good news is that the new shade was a million billion times better (and it's not like I disliked the teal, I'd bought it after all) than the first one. The blue and silver took my Byatt from a project I'd planned to knit, wear to EYF, and give away if I found it didn't suit (after all, I have a cupboard full of shawls I never wear) to something I reach for every day. 

I spent every waking moment, the week before EYF knitting. I ran out of my main colour, the blue, with exactly one row left to knit so I skipped it and started on the other side with the silver. I finished the picot bind-off (is there anything worse when you're down to the wire?) with just enough time to soak and block it Thursday night before our Friday morning train to Edinburgh. I didn't find a shawl pin I liked at EYF, so I ordered one from Nicholas And Felic off etsy.

I could not be happier with my Byatt. My ravelry queue may have suddenly acquired a bunch of two-colour shawls.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A lot to catch up on

Since my last post in which we learned I was going to have a miscarriage we've, in no particular order, had a miscarriage, Little Djinn turned two, Chris had shingles, Little Djinn had chicken pox, a pipe burst at the new house, we actually started construction at the new house, and we went to the Edinburgh yarn festival. Almost all of these deserve a post of their own, but let's see what we can knock out:

Having a miscarriage sucked salty donkey balls. I'm just talking physically here, people, emotionally it's been a constant layer of low-level sad with occasional spikes of high-level sad. Sad, not soul-destroying or shattering or some of the other valid emotional responses people have to losing a pregnancy. My emotions tend to run quieter than that. But physically, it was excruciating. It was al,out two full weeks of waiting for something to happen and then a couple hours of, frankly, labour with nothing to show for it. Highlights include having been at work when it started and getting to take a taxi home while absolutely hemp raging blood (Dear sir, thank you, I'm sorry.), feeling like a lava lamp in reverse (I'll not explain, for the sake of the squeamish), not being able to leave the toilet for several hours while at the same time being so light headed that sitting up for more than two minutes made me black out. It was...certainly not something I'd do a third time. Then I had the heaviest, crampiest, menstrual cycle of my life and it lasted a full two weeks and another week after that to stop having lightheaded spells. 

Meanwhile, K turned two three days after my scan. I'd not managed to plan anything more involved than asking two of her friends to meet us at the soft play. I didn't say anything about it being her birthday but they each brought a present and each got a goodie bag in return. One gift was a playdoh kitchen thing and K went wild for it. We gave her a little play kitchen, grandma got her a little helper stool for the kitchen, and she got some farm themed toys. She's been doing really well at eating "real" food, suddenly has All the Words, and regressed slightly on sleeping when I had the miscarriage, which we figure was stress about Mama and Daddy both being poorly.

A few weeks after Chris' shingles finally cleared up, I noticed Little Djinn had a pimple on her temple and we went out to play with some friends. That night she had more pimples and I thought it was a reaction to the new cream the doctor gave her for her eczema. The next morning the first pimple was definitely a pox and looking back over our week the symptoms all fit. We spent a little over a week staying home (except going to see E, her family having had it already) and at this point even the scabs have fallen off. She never particularly noticed that she had chicken pox until the scabs formed and those itched, and it's been about 21 days and none of her friends have reported symptoms so it looks like that's done and dusted. Yay for having a toddler with zero interest in touching or being touched by other children?

Meanwhile, at the new house, the boiler had a slow leak. Aged Parent had called out people to look for it, we'd called out people to look for it, nothing was found or fixed, and we just had to keep an eye on the water level. Then there was a cold snap and the radiator in the conservatory popped a cap, the boiler bleed dry, a pipe froze and the two front rooms, the ones we weren't fixing up, got flooded. Did I mention our insurance only covered the first six months for unoccupied water damage? Bugger. That was also the day the building warrant finally came through so the rooms are fixed and the extension and office are being built.

And that's how much time Little Djinn is willing to give me. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Not the update I'd planned

One of the reasons I haven't done an end-of-the year round up is that my what-to-knit for the New Year was heavily influenced by the exciting but not ready to be public news that we were expecting our second child, a little Sylph. My head was full of baby blankets and shawl front cardigans, not something one can discuss without tipping one's hand.

I was 12 weeks on Sunday, just out of the "danger zone" of early miscarriages and finally starting to feel better except for coming down with an absolutely horrendous head cold the same day. Being pregnant means a weakened immune system and not being able to take any drugs so bad colds are that much worse. And today, finally, my dating scan, the ultrasound where they revise your Estimated Due Date by the size of the fetus. Children are strongly discouraged from attending so C stayed with Little Djinn and I set off alone, pockets carefully loaded with money for pictures of the scan (exact change only, please).

There is no fetus. I have what is called an anembryonic pregnancy - conception happened, cells started dividing, hormones went crazy, but the cells that were supposed to become the baby...well, they didn't. For now we're waiting to see if my body will spontaneously abort or I can get surgical or medical "treatment". The word abortion was never, ever uttered.

Goodbye Sylph. I know you never actually existed but we were really happy when we thought you did.

Friday, 2 January 2015

23 Months and a New Year

Happy 2015! Things continue to go well for us, but we can't wait for all of Little Djinn's classes and playgroups to start up again. The ones at the local theatre ended in early November so they could use the rooms for rehearsals and storage for the Christmas Panto* so we've been missing her favourite Wednesday class. It starts up again in a fortnight and hopefully it will be a similar mix of mellow kids. Swim lessons and soft play at the leisure centre (gym) have been on a fortnight hiatus for the school holidays; they resume next week and we have two sessions left. I want to enrol Little Djinn in the 2-3 yo swim lessons but she doesn't turn two until the Sunday after classes start so I'm not allowed. She's blowing bubbles, jumping off the wall, and putting her whole face under water to pick the ring up from the bottom of the pool and the other babies...aren't. Her friend, C, turns two this week so they'll be moving up without us.

Little Djinn isn't making huge progress on feeding herself. She eats pretty well if you give her something to do and spoon it in for her, but she's not interested in feeding herself unless it's cereal. If we leave out bowls of snack foods she'll graze through the day, but not "enough". The first half of December she ate really well, asking for food (which we had to feed her) and then she grew again and had pretty much zero interest in eating for a week and her ribs were standing out again. Getting her to feed herself is definitely a goal for the early part of 2015. I suspect we're going to have to go cold turkey on her food pouches and let her get hungry enough to feed herself but she's so slender, she can't really afford the week or more of not eating. And yes, I honestly think, based on past behaviour, that it'll take weeks of not eating for her to decide to do it for herself.

She's starting to pick up words, though most of them are missing key letters. She has a lot of "b" words like Blue, Ball, Bowl, and (light)Bulb but not the L's. She can stay Story, Star, and Stool but not that first S. She says "please" (sometimes, mostly she signs it) and up, on and off which she uses for conceptually different things like lights, wearing clothing, and stacking blocks. She gets new words weekly if not daily but you largely have to work it out from context.

Little Djinn loved Christmas. Christmas Trees are her new favourite thing and she always wanted to poke at the baubles, the lights, and the stars. We put ours up pretty early for her, a potted tree we'd bought last year and put on the table so she couldn't pull it over, and it dominated the room. Every morning she'd ask Daddy to turn the lights on first thing, then when I came down I'd turn on the snowflake fairy/Christmas lights in the windows. We had a fill-your-own advent calender which I filled with the conveniently sized 24 mini-bar Green & Blacks tasting box. Each day I'd break the little bar in thirds and LD would hand the first piece to Daddy, take one for herself, and feed me the last piece. Except for the day, about halfway through, when she ate the first piece, then, having been chided, spit it out and offered it to him. Cheers for that. We also had an Eric Carle pop-up advent with ornaments and presents to decorate a tree which she liked but sat on fairly early. I mentioned to my mother that I want to get an ornament tree advent calender like we had growing up and she offered us the one she made, but then later she said that she wants it for the Christmas Open House in her neighbourhood next year so I'll look into getting our own.

We took Little Djinn to see the mall Santa twice but, while she liked the trees in the grotto and the animatronic mice, she wasn't interested in going anywhere near Santa. Oh well, maybe next year. We let her open presents as they arrived so as not to overwhelm her, but I think present opening could have ended after stockings and she would have still thought herself the luckiest little toddler in the whole world. She's hardly let go of the two little matchbox cars she got. My most notable gifts were a tea-of-the-month subscription from the cats and an auto-brewing teapot from Little Djinn (C must have seen me blanche slightly at that one as he hastened to let me know it was a deal-of-the-day and we did not pay full retail for it). It's shiny. I'm going to be ruined for the average cuppa. C got a pie maker (like a waffle maker but for individual pies) and cookbook, and a weather tracking kit which we'll put up at the new house. The kitties got a larger litter box (Oliver is a heffalump) and mat, and a bunch of catnip mice. Little Djinn keeps playing with the latter.

We had to take down the tree on NYD. It wasn't happy inside and was in serious danger of losing all its needles. Little Djinn screamed a bit when she realized what I was doing, and was sad this morning when it was still gone, but she's largely okay with it. I showed her where the tree is outside so we can check up on it from time to time.

In non-Christmas news, her favourite things are playdough and youtube videos. She's actually learning things from her videos even though studies say kids don't, she's much stronger on her colours and shapes and that's largely the videos. This was all well and good until her first gen fruit tablet (the one I replaced with a second gen mini because it was no longer supported, I couldn't get new apps, and the old ones kept crashing) finally died so now we're having to time share mine. We're going to get her a replacement android tablet with a less than stellar battery life (we used to leave her tablet only partially charged so she'd have a built-in time limit).

In older news, we once more hosted a successful international Thanksgiving. From California we had B and K (he was in country for a conference and she was doing a semester abroad in Cardiff). A came up from London, and our down-the-road neighbours T and Miss A came around. Little Djinn was delighted to have everyone except T, with whom she didn't want to share her toys. At one point she took her tricycle away from him so I pointed him to the push-pram and she scooted over and started pushing it while riding her tricycle. It turns out he really wanted her toy police car which was perfect because she didn't care if he played with that. Clearly we need to work on sharing on the home turf.

*Pantomime, a slapstick musical comedy, usually based on fairy tales or the like. Huge Christmas entertainment over here, usually aimed at families but there are "adult" ones as well.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The World's Slowest Knitter

The esteemed Yarn Harlot recently asked Twitter how long it takes (the rest of us) to knit a pair of socks. This is a woman who is known to be a very fast knitter and can knit a pair of socks in a day which is, um, yeah. BLD (Before Little Djinn) I could knit a pair of socks in two or three weeks which means if I knit nothing but socks I could have, say, 14 pairs a year. That's not a lot of socks. ALD (After Little Djinn), well, my mother bought me a skein of Opal 6-ply (sportweight) sock yarn and Hiya Hiya needles for my birthday when I was in California in June. I started them on the 16th and finished them last weekend. This was not exclusive knitting, but they were my handbag project, the one that went with me to knit night ever week, the ones I worked on when I finished a ball of yarn for my red cardigan and didn't want to wind another ball just yet, or when Little Djinn and I were playing at the Floral Hall and I would knit as I trailed after her. They weren't exclusive but I did work on them a lot. And 6-ply yarn is thicker so it knits up quicker than the usual 4-ply sock yarn. I am the world's slowest knitter.

I am not a process knitter. I mean, I knit because I enjoy the process of knitting, but I'm not knitting for the sake of knitting, I'm knitting because I want to make things. I want to have a stable of toys for Little Djinn, a closet full of hats and scarves/cowls and gloves/mitts/mittens. I want all three of us to have a closet full of sweaters for any mood and weather. I want to wear hand knit socks every day and twice on Tuesday, and slippers for around the house. Heck, when I have knit all the things I may turn my hand to charity knitting (the kind where you make actual things for actual people, not "raise awareness" on behalf of global corporations), and things for the house like blankets, cushions, and bathmats. Heck, when I knit all the things I'll even have time for sewing because I wouldn't be thinking "if I take an afternoon to sew that toybox together I'll never finish my knitting!"

I'm already dedicating as many hours a day as I can to knitting so clearly I need to knit faster. Any way you hold your yarn and needles and get stitches is the correct way to do it, but clearly some ways are more efficient than others and my way isn't high on that list. A fellow knitter posted a review of a Craftsy course that improved her knitting, helpfully titled "Improve Your Knitting: Alternate Methods and Styles". Ms Lyons (a Lion Brand scion) talks about different ways to hold your yarn and needles (English, Continental, Portuguese) and different ways of mounting the stitches and situations where one method or another (or switching between them - two handed colourwork, knitting back and forth for short-rows rather than turning the work) can make knitting easier.

I've already noticed an improvement in my knitting, though I've only been able to practice the "new" techniques on new projects, not my previously cast on ones as my gauge has changed dramatically. One of the knitters at knit night asked if it might be faster to frog some of my extant projects and start over with the faster method and I almost had to go for a lie-down. Give up on hours and hours of work? Can't do it. I am making a big push to finish off projects so I can just switch and wipe my bad habits from muscle memory.

As a note about Craftsy, I'm a big proponent of TV;DW* and for most things I prefer to learn by reading and looking at some pictures (and doing). I've signed up for a few Craftsy classes, both free and paid-for and I don't think I've watched all of any of them. But knitting - how to make the basic knit or purl stitch - is fundamentally a movement and as a movement it helps to see the motion. So while I'm not particularly a fan of Craftsy, I found this class to be useful. Yes, you can probably look up all the different techniques as free youtube videos but you have to know to look for them and sort out your own pros and cons list for each. In the Craftsy class Ms Lyons has collated it all for me and I can concentrate on figuring out what works for me.

And now if you'll excuse me, I need to pick my next handbag sock project.

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* Too Video; Didn't Watch, a play on TL;DR - Too Long; Didn't Read.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Knitted Ted (and friends)

For Christmas last year I requested and received a subscription to Knit Now magazine, a British monthly that started exclusively with accessories and quick knits (not to be confused with simple or boring knits) which has branched out to include garments and more time-intensive projects. I'm the world's slowest knitter so I've not knit a lot of the projects (I hoard patterns and wool which I figure means I hoard dreams of projects) but when I saw Bartholomew Bear from Brown-Eyed Babs I wanted it for Little Djinn. Chris gave me the wool for Easter, a super bulky "fur" wool from Erika Knight made from something like 98% (British) wool with just enough nylon to hold it together.

I started it end of May and finished early July, though again I was in California for almost all of June, so really it took just over two weeks. My favourite thing about toys is how quickly they knit up. And there's the gratification of seeing my daughter play with them long after she'd have outgrown a jumper. While the yarn is wonderful and made a fabulous bear, I don't much fancy knitting with it again. Lovely result, but "fun" yarn isn't.

Another project from Knit Now magazine was Finlay Fox by Barbara Prime, which came with yarn as a kit in the June issue. I knit Finlay for Chris as the safety eyes aren't intended for children under 3. That lasted about five minutes. She* looks so clean in these pictures. The live version, having been taken on several adventures including a few to the park and at least one run in with a mud puddle, is somewhat dingier.

I knit her with the kit yarn which I believe is a house label. Finlay went to the October Highland Wool Festival at Eden Court here in Inverness with us and got lots of compliments. I was especially impressed that Little Djinn held her the whole time and never dropped her. Here's a picture of the kit and pattern if you want to see an example of the quality:

The third toy I knit this year was actually the first, Little Lamb from Spud and Chloe Visit the Farm by Susan B Anderson, which I knit for Little Djinn but also to enter in the knitted farm animal competition for the Highland Wool Festival in May at the Dingwall Mart**. She didn't place. She's knit out of North Ronaldsay wool (held double) for her body and Shetland wool for her face and legs. She took a fair time to knit (almost a month) because every other stitch got pulled out to make a twisty loop for her fleece. It was fiddly. Then I finished her one day before the submission deadline so I paid to have her next-day special delivered and then that evening at knitnight I found out that while the webpage still listed the original deadline, it had been extended on their FB page and I'd wasted the money. I'm still fairly irked about that (saying something on FB and not the "real" website).

Rumour has it that the contest for this year upcomming will be tea cosies. I have the pattern for Kate Davie's Sheep Carousel and planned to use the leftover yarn from my Sheep Heid, but I'm worried it wouldn't be the only one submitted (there were three of the same cow toys this year). Things to think about.

All of my toys are stuffed with Jamieson and Smith's wool filling (from which I try and pick the bits of not-fleece). Wool is naturally anti-microbrial, retains warmth, holds lots of water without feeling soggy, and fire-retardant - all good things in general but especially useful when the toys anticipate being loved by a toddler.

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* everything in our house is feminine unless there's an actual reason it shouldn't be, such as Peter the Team GB lion with a full mane. Finlay, despite the masculine name, lacks gender markings.

** hey, two Highland Wool Festivals in one year! Result! though the October one this year was, I think, under-advertised and I would be surprised it it happens again next year. That said I was surprised it happened this year and as long as it's here in Inverness I'll be attending.