Sunday, 28 August 2011

Almost Finished: Husband Swing Socks

I have turned the heel and am almost done with the gusset decreases for the Husband Swing Socks (modelled above, by yours truly as my husband's feet seem to have walked off). I've taken to reading knitting blogs, that being my inspiration to start one, and I keep adding more and more as I find them. I could - and sometimes do! - spend hours reading my RSS feed. One of the best parts of this, aside from inspiration both as a knitter and a writer (and hopefully someday a woman who can take decent photographs), has been reading about techniques and how to properly execute them. Most of it I glance over, taking in the barest details as they don't pertain to current knitting projects. But then, having turned the heel, I remember I read something about different ways to "pick-up and knit", which is what I'm going to do now, and it looked nothing like how I've been doing it* so I googled "pick-up and knit" and found a tutorial on Knitty which explained how to pick up sock gussets and away I went!

I finished my Glasgow-trip shawl last week and finally got my office cleared out enough that I could block it so it's stretched out upstairs thinking decreasingly damp and increasingly stretched thoughts. My husband said, "oh, wow!" a lot and declared it to be his favourite shawl yet. I'll try and stage some decent pictures once it's dry and do a proper write up then (hence neither pictures nor details here, though I've done a few "sneak peeks" on Twitter and Plus.

Speaking of Plus, I've read about knitter communities there and I am eager to wade my toes in that pool. The problem of course is that I don't know who any of the bloggers are (darn "real name" policy) and I feel weird about "following" people who don't know me from Adam. I guess I'll just have to put myself forward and hope for the best.

In other news, because this whole "only working on one project" thing was very bizarre, I've cast on the Monkey Socks in my blue/purple Opal wool for me. Now I'm going to have to force myself to finish Chris' socks sooner rather than later!

*I'm mostly self-taught as a knitter. A friend of a friend showed me how but she is allergic to the wool yarn I was learning with and took a decidedly "hands-off" approach. She showed me "knit" and "purl" and everything else I figured out on my own, trying to make patterns "work". No wonder I've been afraid to make fitted garments!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Autumnal Acceptance

I gave up on summer back in July and found that I've been much happier with the weather since then. Never getting above 20C/68F is much easier to accept in autumn than summer, even if the calendar still says "August". Chris was sad when I gave up on summer, mostly I think because he wants me to be happy and I'm meant to spend warm afternoons on a deckchair, reading in my bathing suit but that's never going to be my life in Scotland. Happiness is in accepting your life for what it is, not railing for what it isn't, so I've decided to accept that I've moved from a land of three seasons (spring-summer-fall) to a land of three seasons (spring-autumn-winter). The good news, of course, is that I now live in a land where knitting is always appropriate and everyone can use a pair of mittens or a wooly hat or scarf for Christmas ("if you wanted a cable-knit scarf, I wish you would've said something in June!").

Anyway, Chris said it wasn't autumn yet and that we still have a bit of summer left but the trees agree with me - their leaves are starting to turn the colour of sunset and drop. There's a tiny maple(?) in our back garden that's always the first to turn: it gave up on summer the same time I did and now other trees are trying to catch up. The days are also noticeably shorter. No longer is the sky still light with twilight when we seek our beds at midnight. No, the sun goes down by half-eight/eight-thirty and a little earlier every day, and we have to turn on the lights, when we got to bed at ten.

Autumn is a time of hearty food so I turn to my crock-pot and the infinite variety of stews that "bung in whatever you have to hand" can bring. Last week I did a beef and scotch broth with celery, carrots, potatoes, garlic, and rosemary and sage from the garden. This week it's turkey with green/runner beans, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and thyme and sage from the garden. I'm quite proud of my little herbs, the ones that haven't gone to seed (I'm looking at you coriander/cilantro and oregano). The nice thing about a big pot of stew is being able to freeze it and defrost two servings at a time, heated up with a fresh made dumpling/biscuit topping, and getting a week's worth of dinners with very little effort. Stew can also be heated from frozen, so even if you don't think to pull out a lock'n'lock/tupperware in the morning, you have a last-minute meal that doesn't involve take-away/take-out.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


I have made good progress on Chris' Sunday Swing Socks, having done four repeats of the "lace" pattern (one yarn-over every quarter the way 'round doesn't really qualify as lace but I don't know what else to call it - YOs = lace, right?) and I'm now working on the heel flaps (boring!). I switched from Magic Loop to two circs, though still knitting two-at-a-time, for convenience. Mind you it would be more convenient if I owned a 2.5mm circ that's less than 100cm, but I'd rather my needles be too long than too short.

I am happy to report that, flying to London and back, security didn't blink at my knitting needles. They did, however, need to search the coarse-ground oatmeal (as in ground oats, not porridge) that I was bringing for Tonnvane. I also had no trouble knitting on the tube, using my drawstring bag from The Yarn Cake looped over one wrist and both yarn sources (the skein and the unraveling sock) inside. Easier than knitting on the sofa with a quantity of yarn to either side of me, even.

Chris gamely went to three yarn shops with me (two LYS and one department store with a haberdashery). I bought three skeins of a bulky Rowan for a multi-coloured hat with ear flaps for Chris at the haberdashery and one skein of a gorgeous blue Wollemeise sock yarn, another project bag, and some special "safety pin" stitch markers for me from one of the LYS. The other one had some beautiful wool, but the internet was full of bad reviews (confirmed later by a local knitter)) and I'm a little tired of buying a beautiful skein of something and then not knowing what to do with it. That always seems to end in shawls and, as previously discussed, I don't need 400 shawls. So I decided to not buy yarn for the sake of buying yarn from a shop with a bad reputation.

Speaking of buying yarn for the sake of buying yarn, I showed Chris the "Happy Birthday, Dear Knitter" video from Franklin of The Panopticon and he kept guffawing. He says that even a year ago he wouldn't have found it funny, but now it's hilarious and he beseeched me to share it, so here you go.

I caught Oliver playing with my yarn. He said he could explain, but so far nothing:

* Credit for the pun goes to Tonnvane who was quite amused at the unraveling of one sock to knit another. She may have been inspired by margaritas.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Resumes and Me

First of all, thank you to the people who have helped me with my resume. You are all brilliant, wonderful people without whom I wouldn't have a functional resume. I know this because just thinking about my resume induces flu-like symptoms. I'm mostly okay as long as someone is figuratively holding my hand and working out for me how to phrase things, how to style things, and basically building my resume for me. It all makes sense then and my anxiety levels drop.

But then it inevitably happens. My guide, my guru, my savoir says something along the lines of "okay, now you do the rest." They push the fledgling from the nest, confident they've provided the skills I need to fly, and I plummet. I freeze up. My head feels too small for my brain, my scalp gets hot - it feels like my blood is boiling and I experience tunnel-vision. I'm alternatingly too hot and too cold. Sometimes I even cry - to put things in perspective, my husband is awed by the emotional display if I get misty-eyed and fear of working on a resume makes me cry. Needless to say, nothing productive happens to my resume.

People commiserate with me, they tell me that they find resume-building and tailoring (I have to tailor the darn thing, too? I can't just create one and be done with it until my next period of job-hunting? If anyone needs me, I'll be throwing up) to be stressful and unpleasant. But it doesn't reduce you to a quivering pile of goo in a bad way? Then yeah, it doesn't compare.

I told my husband that I know how Oliver, our little scaredy-cat, feels. Any time there's unexpected movement, or sound, he crouches down very low and tries to be very small. Things he enjoys doing himself, rustling plastic bags, are terrifying if done by anyone else. He runs away very, very fast and hides behind the printer or in a cupboard, and he waits, trembling with ears perked and the whites showing around his eyes, for horrible things to happen. For me, resumes are that horrible thing

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Blue Period (shawls and socks)

I've been going through a Blue Period - buying a lot of things that are blue. It started with the wedding: Chris and I settled on a bluey tartan for his kilt so I had my dress detailed in blue and my bridesmaids picked navy for their dresses and lo, we were well and truly settled on blue for our "colours". Somehow this idea of matching colours spilled out into the rest of my life. I realized I'd lost weight* and needed to buy an almost entirely new (to me) wardrobe and anything that was a wedding-coordinated shade of blue got bonus points as something I could wear in the days leader up to and following the wedding. I also spent a fairly substantial amount of time looking for the perfect blue yarn with which to knit myself a wedding shawl. Chris even bought a blue coffee machine. It also helps that blue is one of the few colours for which I love almost every shade. I'd be hard-pressed to name a shade of blue I'd be just as happy to never see again, which is not something that can be said of green or red - though purple fairs better. It is perhaps, then, unsurprising that a lot of things in my life, right now, are blue.

A while back, in Judith Glue (a "tourist" shop that sells things made locally rather than China) I picked up an 100g cake of two-ply lambswool in a dark teal described as "ocean spray". That's everything I know about it. It's more of a sock weight than fingering but I have no idea how much yardage I'll get out of 100g! I kept picking it up to make something and then set it back down again, worried I wouldn't have enough yarn. It's not really something I want to snuggle against my skin, so no scarves, hats, or mittens. The best "knit until you run out of yarn" idea that I could think of was a top-down shawl and I finally settled on Evelyn C. Clark's popular Swallowtail Shawl. I made her "Flower Basket Shawl" for Miss Krissy and really enjoyed knitting it, so it seemed perfect. Also if almost 9000** other knitters have cast it on, it must be a great shawl, right?

The only real downside is that part of me would rather be knitting socks. I love shawls - I've knit 7 of them so far this year and this shawl will make 8. Three of those I gave away and one I plan to frog, but I'm still going to be four shawls richer this year. My first "real" project was the Tri-Aran-Angle Shawl from Knitty back in 2003 (but only blocked this May) and I have a couple pashminas that I wear regularly. Eventually a girl has to ask - do I need more shawls? Is there a shawl-niche I haven't filled? For a while this spring there was, when I had a small dark rose shawl and a small red shawl and the wedding shawl I couldn't wear yet and, unless I was wearing something that went well with red or rose, I couldn't drape on a shawl. So yes, I probably have room for a black shawl and maybe a few stoles/scarves, but I can't just sit around knitting shawls that I'll never or rarely wear. If nothing else, where will I store all these shawls?

But I can use an unlimited variation of socks. Socks in different colours, weights, patterns, lengths... I wear socks most ever day (more than one pair in the winter) and need a selection to rotate through. I can also knit socks for my husband who has, as of yet, expressed no desire for a lacy shawl. Socks are about the same investment as a small shawl - most sock and shawl patterns seem to call for one skein of sock-weight yarn. Socks should be the perfect answer to enjoyable, productive knitting. I am starting to buy sock yarn and patterns, to read about knitting socks and construction techniques and am completely hooked on socks.

The only problem, of course, is that I've yet to knit my first pair of socks. They'll be blue though.

* I'd known I was losing weight but it wasn't until I stopped wearing 3 or 4 layers under my jeans that it became, um, obvious that all my clothes were falling off.

** I occasionally hear people say they won't knit something if the pattern is really popular. I can understand not wanting to show up at a party and have everyone else sporting the same knitwear, but I tend to figure if that many people have previously knit it then all mistakes in the pattern have been sussed out and corrected. Also, I like having a wide selection of "yarn suggestions", looking at the pictures of other people's finished projects, and reading their notes. And, quite frankly, the odds of me running into another knitter who has knit the same thing as me and we're both wearing it, living here in urban-rural Scotland are remote.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sock It to Me, Baby

Well, I haven't run out of sock puns yet. I also haven't managed to finish my first pair of socks yet. I frogged my husband's Sunday Swing Sock when he wasn't looking and cast on 80 stitches based on my gauge when trying to knit the second sock (much, much smaller than the first sock) but my gauge seems to have loosened up again. This probably means I could have not frogged the first sock and managed to get the second one to be the same size, but this way I'm not taking any chances.

Anyway, I CO 80 stitches (twice, since I'm doing them two-at-a-time now) and suspected they were too big but wanted to knit a few inches to be sure so I did two repeats of the pattern and if I'd finished them they'd just have been huge, slouchy socks. I was tempted to just finish the darn things to be done but while I figure my husband could comfortably wear them if the calf is slouchy, he wouldn't want to if the heel and foot were too big around and I really do want to knit something he can wear so, again when he wasn't looking, I forgged them and CO 72 stitches - the next smaller size. I spent the whole evening working on them only to realize that somewhere along the way I'd gotten off on the 1x1 ribbing and the easiest thing was just to frog them again.

That was last night. Today I cast them on again and have completed the inch of ribbing and am halfway through the first repeat of the pattern and I think *knock on/touch wood* that this time I will knit a pair of socks.

And then I can revel in the new yarn I bought in Glasgow. Mmmm, yarn.

Achievement Unlocked: FLR(M)

My Biometrics ID card arrived today so I officially have Further Leave to Remain (for two more years)!

Chris and I took the train down to Glasgow Friday morning, or rather we tried to - the East Coast from London never showed up the night before so there was no train to take back down. They found three coaches, two of which were going directly to Edinburgh and one was hitting the scheduled stops in between - only no one really knew what was going on. There were four railway employees standing around in the station telling people to "go over there" and no one by the coaches to say "Where are you going? You want this coach." There were no loos on the coach and no trolley service and the coach took the back roads rather than the A9 so it took about 3hrs to get to Perth where we were transferring to a train to Glasgow. Not the train we had seat reservations on, of course, as we'd already missed that one. But we could finally use toilets and drink water, the sun had come out, and we would still make it to Glasgow a few hours before my UKBA appointment.

We stayed at the Carlton George which is half a block from the train station and has king-size beds as standard (Chris hates sharing a double). The room was very nice, though very loud with the window open and/or the AC on and very stuffy if they weren't. There was a complimentary (read: already paid for) mini-bar though that didn't get restocked until later. We dropped our bags and made sure we had everything for our appointment and took a taxi from the station to the "business park" where UKBA is housed. We were a little early so we got sandwiches at the forgettable place across the street and then walked around the block a bit and found the subway station, and we were still a little early (my appointment was 2:20, they advise you get there half an hour early, and it was about 10 minutes before that window) but they decided to let us in. I'd brought my knitting, my kindle, and a paperback in case they took those away when they collected our phones. They did take my knitting (because of the needles) but let me keep my kindle. Almost as soon as I got my number and sat down I was called up and handed over my documents to Worker 1 who said it would take him ten minutes to look over so we sat down again. Very shortly thereafter he called us up again, told me he'd hand it over to a second set of eyes (per regulations), in the meantime I would have my biometrics (fingerprints and photo) taken and then if I wanted to leave and walk around, someone else would call me up in about 40 minutes. About a minute later I was called up for biometrics and Worker 2 was laughing and having a gay old time, though she did lament the "no smiling" rule for photos as everyone turns out looking like a serial killer. I did like that they did the four fingers together, rather than trying to do each individually. The two previous times I'd had biometrics done took forever, trying to get a clean scan of each fingerprint, without smudging or smearing.

I sat down again and very shortly thereafter I was called up by Worker 3 who asked if I had anything with regards to my Tier 4 (student) visa, to show that I'd been attending and passing my course. I explained that it had ended in June, the weekend before we got married, and that I hadn't had any communication from them since. He grumbled a bit about needing proof and that chasing down information like this isn't part of the express service of an in-person application and that they could refund us our money and we could get the proof and either mail it in or apply for another appointment, grumble grumble, but he'd ask his supervisor if he could try calling UHI to see if they could confirm my being in good standing. His supervisor said to go ahead and call and, if he couldn't get a hold of anyone that I could get something typed up by UHI and have it faxed in on Monday and they could approve it then without the postal application or having to come back. Phew! Chris was still very angsty, but Worker 2 was able to get through to Claire, the guidance councillor for international students (like me!) and she verified that I showed up for classes and had passed them and was eligible to enroll in the next years' course! So that's two happy things for the day - FLR(M) and an HNC in Computing!

He returned all of my documents and a letter saying "You can stay! Here's how! (not all guidances will apply to everyone we hand this sheet to)", put a "superseded" stamp across my previous visa, and told me that my biometric card, which replaces the traditional sticker in one's passport, would arrive in the post in 7-10 business days. It showed up today, a mere three business days later. I am now a Probationary Almost-Person!

We took the very cute subway (third oldest in the world!) back to the train station and our hotel - much easier and quicker than ordering a taxi, though I wouldn't have wanted to wander around looking for UKBA before my appointment. We spent quite a bit of time grinning at each other and doing little happy dances. Chris had forgotten his nice trousers (which I'd ironed for him) so after dropping the visa stuff off at the hotel we wandered around Glasgow for a bit and found a nice pair of trousers that fit (Chris is tiny so this isn't a given) but continued to be unsuccessful in our quest for a non-black or grey cardigan for him. We had a cuppa at Costa and by then the excitement of the day had caught up with us so we went back to the hotel room, Chris opened the half bottle of Muscat d'Asti he'd brought, and we collapsed on the bed until it was time to get ready for dinner at the rooftop restaurant in our hotel. I wore my wedding jewellery and shoes, a black velvet dress, and my wedding shawl. Chris wore a black shirt and trousers with a red tie and his nice cuff links and tie pin and we were by far the gussiest people in the joint. We ate too much and drank till we giggled and generally celebrated getting to stay together (for two more years!) in this country we call home.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

FO: Eleanor Cowl

Eleanor Cowl - Audrey Knight, Knitty Deep Fall 2010
Misti Alpaca, Tonos Carnaval: Symphony Blue - 100g/400m - 50% Alpaca/30% Merino/10% Nylon/10% Silk

This is my finished Eleanor Cowl, out of the leftover yarn from my wedding shawl. I switched to my smallest needles when I changed charts instead of waiting for the repeat of the second chart - one day I will learn to read patterns carefully. I want the cowl snug around my neck, so I'm going to consider it a fortuitous happenstance rather than a blunder. As I believe I mentioned before, my interchangeable set is metric with whole and half-sizes so I lack a 3.75mm (US5) needle and used 4.5mm, 4.0mm, and 3.5mm for the needles.

I haven't yet blocked the cowl and I don't think I will beyond, perhaps, the very bottom. As I said, I like it snug around my neck. I'm worried that, with winter being cold and all, stretching the lace out will just make it less useful. If this upcoming winter is anything like the last, I will be using it under a scarf and probably considering layering it with another. This is what happens when a Delicate Mediterranean Flower moves to Scotland.

Posting in my dreams

I often lie in bed at night, staring at the light peeking around the curtains*, thinking about the things I want to post. I compose essays on our daily life; the adventures of our kittens; thoughts on governments and politics; novels I've read and novels I would like to read; the weather (currently sunny! first sunshine all week!); things I am knitting and things I'm not knitting; wedding memories; cooking successes and disasters; having my FiL, Aged Parent, over for tea... I find the right phrases, the hook and development, draw pictures with words, and get very excited about the potential and realization. And then, because I don't want to get up and keep my husband from sleeping**, I fall asleep and those thoughts are at best dim shadows when I awake. That, in case you're curious, is why I don't post more.

One of my RSS feeds posted about hand cream for knitters, fast drying without residue, containing willow bark extract: topical pain reliever. At first I was excited - imagine if after a day of knitting socks on tiny needles and pulling my tension too tight my hands didn't ache for a week! Then reality came crashing in - questions about its effectiveness beyond mere placebo aside, do I really want something that would let me knit on oblivious to the pain? Pain is my body's way of saying, "don't do that! or at least, don't do so much of that!" I experience pain when my body is hurt, as a warning of damage. It's one thing to, after a day of knitting, take some ibuprofen and rest my hands on a hot water bottle and switch to a larger, looser project. It's another thing to push on, ignoring my body's cries, to do - what? Finish a pair of socks in days rather than weeks or months? Risk crippling my hands so that in five years or less I've done actual damage and, like a friend, have to crochet with a special hook attached to arm-bands? Thanks, I'll pass.

In other news, I finished my neck-warmer (note to self - take pictures and write a post) and have re-cast on Chris' socks as two-at-a-time, but I think my gauge loosened up again so I may have to frog them again and start over with fewer stitches - don't tell Chris!

In other, other news, my immigration appointment is Friday so we should get the last of that ready for our trip down to Glasgow. Wish me luck!

* around midnight. yeah. But it's starting to get dark-ish and I can believe that eventually it will get properly dark.

** he can't sleep unless he thinks I'm asleep