Knitting a sock

So it’s been over a month since I last posted. I knew it had been a while but I hadn’t realised it was that long. To be honest, work got a bit much and I was feeling pretty depressed and it was enough work just looking after myself, without adding knitting / sewing / blogging into that.  I’m a bit better now, and i’ve actually done some knitting, so i’m here to share.

I cast on some new socks, even though I have loads on the go, and even though I need to finish other things, because I wanted to. I fancied knitting and I didn’t want to knit anything that i’d already started, so I started something new.

On Ravelry there is a group called “Sock Knitters Anonymous” and every month they have a challenge to knit a particular type of sock. This Month the challenge is “under appreciated pattern” and the idea is to choose a pattern on Ravelry that has less that 15 projects, and knit it to showcase socks that not many people have made. Literally thousands of peoplehave made some of the most popular patterns, so this challenge makes you look for something different. I like the idea of this challenge, so I decided to go for it and knit Matchstick Socks, which I thought would be an ideal pattern for some of the busier yarns in my stash.

Some bright, cheerful yarn!

This is the yarn, Koigu Painters Palette Premium Merino which I bought in 2007 (eek) from the now closed but never forgotton, Stash Yarns which was in Putney. I bought this when I first moved to London and saw Koigu for the first time, having read about it online. It is still one of my favourite yarns to knit with. I have lots more of it, all of a similar vintage… The sock looks like this:

The start of a sock.

Well, I say that the sock looks like this but after some concerted knitting time over the last two days, it is now considerably longer than this.  I am knitting these socks toe up because the pattern is written that way, and because Koigu is not overly generous on yardage and it will be good to makes these socks as long as possible to make the most of the yarn. I usually hate toe up socks because although I can knit short row heels and toes (quite well, I must say) I hate doing so. This toe uses Judy’s Magic Cast On, which lives up to it’s name and just makes toe up seem effortless. Instead of the short row heel called for in the pattern, I intend to knit a toe up heel flap, using instructions from the internet. This may or may not be a good idea, we’ll see.


A complete failure to photograph

I went to pottery yesterday and threw 5 mug-sized pots and one very large pot and completely forgot to take any photographs at all. I also forgot to photograph my new teapot – currently in the kiln – which I painted with decorating slips last week. I painted it to match my colander so it is pale yellow with pineapples on the sides and I love it.

The pots I thrw this week are some of the best i’ve ever done. I don’t know what happened – whether it was having a break from throwing or whether the pottery force was just strong last night or what, but it was almost effortless. I want it that shape. Easy, done. Cant explain it. I intend to use the mug shaped pieces i’ve thrown to work out exactly how much clay I should be using to get the ideal sized mug for me, and to try throwing uniform pieces, which should be good discipline. Last week i tried with 408g of clay. I might try with around 420g next week.

Since I don’t have any photos of those things to show you (utter fail), here are some pictures of some other things I got back last week which were all glazed and finished.

Perfect size for hearty soups or stews.

Yeah, so that’s not a brilliant picture, but you get the idea. Ignore the mess on the table behind. This is one of the first things I successfully threw that was larger than a mug. It looks tiny next to some of the things i’ve thrown since, but I was very pleased with it at the time.

It looks like it has been filled with too much custard!

The drips were deliberately painted on, but I would love to glaze something with some lead glazes which do that drippy thing on their own accord. This is too big for soup, maybe a pasta bowl? Maybe just decorative.

Finally, I made this little head a while ago with some clay we had at work. My colleague and I were messing around with it one evening after work and this is what I came up with.

She looks quite 1920’s I think – I imagine her golfing or playing tennis or something like that.

She will never win any beauty awards, and the camera picks up every little flaw in the clay where it is not quite smooth enough, but apart from that, I was quite pleased with the general execution and detail. Less pleased now I see a photo, since one eye is definitely slightly lower than the other, but still pleased. Ah well, no one is completely symmetrical are they? I think the proportions / dimensions are pretty reasonable. I remember my pottery teacher at school saying that the eyes are actually half way down a head, so I aimed for that. It’s amazing the stuff you remember isn’t it? I gave her to Lisa who works downstairs, so she sits on a shelf above her desk, looking slightly aloof.

Hopefully i’ll get the teapot back next week to glaze, and will remember to take photos of mugs and pots in progress.

Paul’s finished pot…

On Saturday 21st April, with just one day to spare before the day itself, I collected Paul’s glazed and finished pot from Biscuit. Since the day has passed, he has received the pot (and he cheated and looked anyway…) I can now show the finished article.

One painted and glazed Shining-inspired pot.

The colours look much brighter post-glazing, and I am pretty pleased with the overall effect. Paul liked the pattern alot, even before he knew it was from “The Shining”, so that was cool.

The top looks like this:

All work and no play...

Was slightly pushed for time by this point, so the hexagon on the top is not as sharp as i’d like. I think the overall effect is ok though.

I wanted to fill the jar with something, so I went along to  Mr Humbug, an old fashioned sweet shop in Greenwich Market and bought an obscene amount of traditional sweets to fill the pot. the guy behind the counter was very helpful and suggested things he thought someone Paul’s age might like, based on the usual selections. He received: kola kubes, pineapple cubes, rosy apples, rhubarb and custard, bananas and custard, fizzy cola bottles, blackberry and raspberry jellies, blackberry and raspberry bobbly jellies, jelly babies, wine gums (the best i’ve ever had – quality control yeah?) and probably others that i’ve forgotten…

... ah yes, looks like I forgot to mention the fruit drops!

Happy Birthday Paul! Hope you enjoy your present.

… makes Jack a dull boy.

I have to work Friday, bring my rather short and oft-interrupted holiday to an abrubt end. It will probably end my run of daily postings too, but we’ll see. I’m upset that my holiday is ending (though I don’t have to work the weekend, so that’ll be nice) but it hasn’t exactly been restful either. I could do with another week or six.

Anyway, I continued in the spirit with which I started this week and went out for a long lunch in Greenwich with my current book. Because, after all, if you can’t do decadent things like that when you’re supposed to be on holiday, then when can you do them? I have also made progress on Paul’s Birthday Present.

I returned to Biscuit who helpfully fished my pot out of the cupboard as soon as I arrived and got down to work. In case I needed any extra reasons to love Biscuit, I bought an Earl Grey tea when I got there, and they topped it up for free for me, without my asking – they just quietly removed my mug and brought me a new one whilst I was busy painting – how nice is that?

I arrived at 2.45pm and only just finished my painting at 5.30pm as they were closing up! In total, over the two days that’s getting on for 6 hours worth of painting and drawing for one little pot! Here are some in progress shots: with extra red!

I was sad to rub out the pencil markings and paint over where they had been – I liked they way they looked next to the half finished design – a glimpse of the way the design was built up I guess. Once i’d got all the colour on I went back over lines to make them sharper and tidy up any errors. I also painted the bottom with my potters stamp, and the date, and painted the lid of the pot with one big hexagon, and with “All work and no play…” repeating around the edge. The finished item:

A gift from the Overlook Hotel...

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. The lines aren’t perfect, and the hexagons vary slightly in size (but they had to slightly to allow for the increased girth of the pot) – just some of the limitations of drawing freehand. I hope Paul likes it.

All work and no play…

I’ve been reading “The Shining” and am completely obsessed by it. Expect lots of Shining references in the days to come. I love that book, it has jumped into my top five books of all time and as much as I enjoyed “The Stand” last year, it has toppled that as my favourite Stephen King book.  Incidentally, here is a list of my top five books of all time:

  • “Only Forward”: Michael Marshall Smith
  • “Fatherland”: Robert Harris
  • “The Shining”: Stephen King
  • “Night Watch”: Terry Pratchett
  • “Watership Down”: Richard Adams

The presence of “The Shining”, newly instated in my top five books, knocks “The Strew Men” by Michael Marshall down to number six, but it’s a close run thing. Filling up places 6 – 10 (in no particular order) are:

  • “The Straw Men”: Michael Marshall
  • “The Phantom of the Opera”: Gaston Leroux
  • “In the Woods”: Tana French
  • “Harry Potter”: J K Rowling (I can’t name just one of the books, so i’ll go for them as a set)
  • “Airs Above the Ground”: Mary Stewart (I had to look that up, I would have sworn it was K M Peyton, another childhood favourite)

But I didn’t actually intend to tell you about my favourite books. I was going to talk about what i’ve been doing on my holiday. You know, the rest that I needed because of all the work that was making me a dull girl and also rather stressed…

So, I was trying to relax at home this afternoon, but the noise from the adjacent offices was so loud (I live in a flat above where I work) that it was getting on my already-terribly-frayed nerves. Eventually in desperation I went out to Greenwich to have some lunch and just get away from phone calls in foreign languages that were so loud I was struggling to hear the TV. Whilst eating my lunch I had a brain wave – i’d go to Biscuit.

Biscuit is a cafe where you can also paint various ceramic artifacts and they fire them for you and return them to you about a week later. I’ve spent time at Biscuit before and painted two different jugs, each with peacock feathers on them. I’ll put a picture up on here at some point if I remember. I really enjoy going there and just sticking my ipod on, getting a cup of Earl Grey and getting totally absorbed in whatever i’m painting. I can spend hours there without getting bored and it is the perfect escape. Also, the food is very nice (cakes are amazing – I had the best apple pie I have ever had in my life at Biscuit) and the staff, particularly the manager, are friendly and helpful.

So this afternoon I zoned out there for about three hours painting a pot for my friend Paul for his Birthday. A while ago, so long now that i’m not sure I even mentioned it on here, I decided that I was going to give everyone a home made gift this year for their birthdays, unless i’d already bought them something before I made that decision. This started with Erica’s Apron  and will continue with Pauls hand-painted pot (and some socks if I ever get around to finishing them). Here is what I painstakingly hand drew and painted:

You can see the design slowly evolving - those hexagons took ages to draw on.

Kind of a retro, seventies inspired design – the manager at Biscuit certainly thought so as he commented on it. He thought it looked like a Sanderson design, which is probably appropriate as they make fabrics and wall paper. This isn’t based on any of those though, this is based on a carpet. A very specific carpet (this is probably a better picture of the design). I’ve still got to add the red bits, and tidy up some of the lines, but for something I drew freehand and filled in with a slightly worn paintbrush I don’t think it looks bad at all. In fact, i’m pretty pleased with it. I need to go back  (oh no, forced to spend more time at Biscuit, whatever will I do?) to finish it and then i’ll add a picture of the final product. I think i’m going to write “All work and no play…” around the top of the lid and “217” on the bottom. Hopefully Paul will like it. I think he will because I got him to read “The Shining” as well, and he really enjoyed it too. He’s coming to stay for the weekend and we’re going to watch the film, which i’ve never seen, so we can compare it to the book. I love the book so much that Paul says i’m going to be very disappointed by the film, but we’ll see… A final gratuitous picture, because this has been a very word-heavy post.

The growth of a design - from pencil lines to colour.

PS: Whilst I really like the seventies asthetic of this carpet design, my heart belongs to Sandersons eponymous Dandelion design. I’m still going to buy this for my new phone though!

Evolution of a pot

When I started pottery lessons back in February last year, I enjoyed press moulding, I liked coiling and I had fun experimenting with different textures on the clay but the thing that captivated me, the thing that I loved and couldn’t get enough of was the throwing. My very first pot wasn’t bad – I had thrown pots before when I was about 12 and I had vague recollections of how it went and managed something reasonable, but by no means perfect:

My very first little pot.

In the last year I have progressed from this little pot (its about the right size to sit my mobile phone in when i’m watching tv) to my crowning achievement so far – the Pineapple Pot.

It started out like this:

my largest pot, with a mug-sized pot for scale.

Was given some feet, some handles and some pineapples:

Painted, ready for fireing...

Was glazed (painting over the pineapples with the glaze was a rather scary experience).

I'm about to make that pineapple disappear - the glaze goes on opaque...

And ended up finished and shiny, with the pineapples restored to their colourful glory.

The finished pot - I love it even more than the teapot (but don't tell the teapot that...)

Last night I used it for it’s intended purpose: as a colander! I was a bit wary of doing so as I love it so much i’d be devastated if anything happened to it through my own carelessness, but it was absolutely fine and worked beautifully, exactly as I had intended!

Being used as a colander to strain my potatoes!

I love the pineapple motifs – coming soon to pottery near you, pineapple mugs, pineapple pots, pineapple vases, small ceramic pineapples…

What I wore

So, I went to the wedding which was on 31st March. I wore the dress, I wore the shoes, I bought a handbag (I hate handbags) I curled my hair and I stuck a fascinator thingy in it. Everyone thought I looked very nice. Here are some pictures, courtesy of my Mum who kept taking the photo when I wasn’t looking at the camera, or when my cousin said something funny in the background.

Dress, cardigan, shoes, bag, and stupid hair thingy all present and correct...

Dress: BHS
Cardigan: BHS
Shoes: Next (no longer available)
Bag: Per Una at M&S
Hair Fascinator: M&S

I think the one at the bottom right is the best. I am at least looking at the camera. So these photos are proof that I wore the heels at the wedding – I did remove them as soon as we got back to the car and wore some flats that I bought, but I wore the heels for the wedding, and that is the most important thing.

The ceremony was nice, and I enjoyed the reception, not too much waiting around like there is at some weddings!

What i’ve been doing

A post (finally)… Not because I have anything particular to say, but because even I am bored of looking at that picture of me in the dress…

Here is what I have been doing recently…

  • Shopping for shoes.

I never wear shoes. Ever.  I wear boots, the bigger and scarier the better. But you can’t wear boots with a pretty dress to your cousins wedding because it will spoil the look of the dress (i’m told). So I spent Tuesday (the only day off I get) trawling Oxford Street for a combination of a) Shoes I liked and b) Shoes I could walk in. That combination eluded me, so i’m going to wear these instead.

Shoes I can (sort of) walk in.

I’ve had them ages, but never worn them. They don’t exactly match the dress but I don’t have any intention of spending any more time looking at wildly inappropriate and expensive shoes when I already own these and can walk around in them. Mostly. Sort of.

  • Glazing pots.

The white bits you can see on the handles are the clear glaze. I’m hoping i’ll get this back next week and that i’ll still love it this much when I see it finished. At the moment it’s my favourite of all the things i’ve made in pottery.  You can also see the yellow of the decorating slip in this picture – it looked very grey before firing but I love this pale yellow next to the pineapple. I glazed other things too. In fact, all I did on Tuesday was glaze things, so lots of stuff has gone off to be fired.

  • Purchasing expensive electronic equipment.

It is a thing of beauty and wonder... Mostly i'm wondering about how to use it properly.

My other phone (which I loved) kept switching itself off at random moments, as well as other rather annoying things. Also, My beloved (and green) iPod died a “corrupted file” related death, so it made sense to replace two gadgets with one (which saved me quite alot of money).  So far I have worked out how to email (love it), text (growing on me),  add apps (love it) and browse the internet (so much faster). What i’m not good at is phone calls – I have managed to call the Chair of District twice by accident (once at 12 am).

  • Thinking about knitting.

What i’ve mostly thought about is the, by now almost mythic “Davids Jumper”, a present I knitted for my boss for his retirement in July… It still looks like this:

Blocking David's jumper

I have been thinking (only thinking at the moment, mind) but thinking about sewing it up and finally finishing the blessed thing. This has mostly been inspired by the fact that it was his birthday the other week and I still hadn’t finished it. For the record, the picture above was taken in August…

  • Wearing my hair in bunches.

My hair in bunches - please note the obligatory "pen behind ear" which I think particularly sets this look off.

Because I can.

I was told that they suited me, that I looked cute, looked good, and looked sexy… Feel free not to comment on that…

Sadly i’m not doing brilliantly at knitting or sewing every day at the moment. I’m managing most days, but it’s sort of an obligatory row just to say i’ve done it rather than actual proper knitting. It’s a combination of factors, but I mostly just haven’t felt like it. I’m sure that’ll change at some point.

New Dress

Do not adjust your monitors, that really is me wearing a dress...

I went away last week to the Lay Workers Conference (now renamed “Connecting Disciples”) so wasn’t here to post and did very little knitting having spent each evening moaning about how the confernce wasn’t as good as it used to be and drinking white wine. So in the absence of any actual sewing or knitting, here’s me in a dress.

I bought this dress on Saturday after a very fruitful shopping trip with my friend Erica (of reversible apron fame) on Oxford Street on Saturday. My cousin Daniel is getting married at the end of March and I needed something to wear. Since Monsoon had thoughtlessly and shamefully removed the dress I really really wanted from shop floors that week (and it’s not currently available in my size on the website), I bought this dress instead from BHS for £49, which I thought was something of a bargain. I’m more pleased about this than I appear in the photo. I also don’t usually have a light appearing from my head in real life. I’d like to say it’s a halo but it sort of just looks like glowing Playboy Bunny ears…

I do think this dress looks good on though, and I will venture back to Oxford Street in the coming weeks to get some matching (hopefully black wedge) shoes and possibly a little cardigan or jacket to wear over the top as there is no way that Hereford in March will be warm enough for sleeveless.




Organising my sewing and knitting

Yesterday I had one of those days where you set out to do a certain thing and end up doing something completely different because you get sidetracked by a related but totally different job! I had intended to make a start on an apron I promised to make for one of my colleagues, but that led to me checking whether I had the correct thread and bits, which also meant that I looked at my stash of sewing bits I realised what a mess they were in.

I have a big old shelving unit that I rescued from a clearout at tg previous church that i worked for in Birmingham, and for the last 5 years it has been home to my stash of fabric and trimmings. It is now falling apart (well, it always was, but but now it’s much worse) and i’m thinking about replacing it with something nice and Ikea like. In the meantime I came into posession of the ideal thing to store all my sewing bits and pieces in – something I “liberated” from the mezzanine of my current church – an 18 drawer card filing system which hasn’t been used for years and years and years. I brought it down from the mezzanine and up to my flat on New Years Eve and installed it in the dining room and then left it. Apart from giving it a quick dust and polish, i’ve not touched it since.

Hooray for free furniture from where you work!

Yesterday I finally decided to put all my bits and pieces away and organised them into some sort of vaguely logical order in the little drawers. I wrote nice colour coded descriptions for each of the drawers and should (emphasis on the word should here) now be able to find anything I want very easily. Should…

The drawers read, from left to right,

  • Top Row: Pins, Threads, Zips (Short), Buttons, Elastic, Ribbon.
  • Middle Row: Bobbins, Knitting, Zips (Medium), Fastenings, Bias Binding, Trim.
  • Bottom Row: Needles, Cord, Zips (Long), Velcro, Boning, Lace

In the process of sorting this out I also went through the stuff on top of my  knitting storage shelves, and had a good tidy up there too. It made me think that I could do with having a bit of a tidy of the yarn, as I usually do that at this time every year. It’s a good chance to check for moths (I know I have them, it’s more a case of how bad they’ve been), tidy up stray skeins and remind myself of exactly what I have in my stash. One of my resolutions is to not buy any yarn this year, so going through what I already have could be a good way to get ideas of what to knit up next. This is what (most) of the stash looks like at the moment:

Most of the yarn I currently own. Not all, but most...

I’m going to have a bit of a sort through it, maybe organise it a bit differently (though maybe not, I like stuff in colours) and just generally tidy it up. I might also try and take a photograph where you can’t see random crap on my floor and the Dyson cord trailing across the picture. Ah well, at least it prooves I do hoover…

For my daily sewing / knitting yesterday I sewed together some squares to make strips for the blankets we make for the church knitting group. these are mostly Olga’s squares, with some of Flora’s and some of mine thrown in. Mine are the ones that look like they are gradually changing colour (bottom right in the picture).

Hanging over the ironing board - see I don't just hoover, I Iron too.

I am going to sew together six of these strips to make a good lap / cot sized blanket to add to our growing collection. I ought to send them off soon, but maybe i’ll try and take a photo of them all together in the church before I say goodbye to them forever. Once this one is all sewn up I should start work on those thousands of crochet squares!