Monday, December 22, 2008

FO: Gold Rosa

I feel like I've not blogged in an age, and my last few blog posts haven't been exactly eventful. The various distractions of living with three other people, cycling and the new job mean I've had little time for knitting, let alone blogging about it. There has also been the usual pre-Xmas secret knitting, so expect another FO post in the new year.

For now though, here's a good-un. Backstory: a while ago, I knitted this beautiful jumper, but it was always a little too big to fit the idea of the perfect aran I had in my head. So I gave it to my mother who is just the cm or so bigger than me needed to make it fit like a glove (plus she didn't have the perfect aran idea in her head to deal with). In exchange she bought me yarn to make Rosa. 

rosa done

Yarn: Rowan Wool Cotton in bronze. About eight and a half balls.
Buttons: Brown shell ones from John Lewis, I turned them back to front so you could see the flaws which were more interesting and gave more bronze colours which I like with the gold yarn.
Needles: 2mm and 2.75mm circs.
Pattern: Rosa, by Kim Hargreaves, from the Thrown Together collection. 
Mods: I used a slightly heavier yarn, but done a size down. To give it a bit more consistency, I did the ruffles in wool-cotton instead of the pattern's suggested kid silk haze. And because these much thicker ruffles looked like scary little worms at first, I sewed the tops of them down too. I rejected her vertical rib sections and went for standard 1x1 ribbing instead. I also added a couple of button holes, but that was accidental (knitting in front of the telly whilst also arguing about how much to feed the fish...).
Verdict: A very wearable piece, and that's about the most important thing, right? It could be smaller*, but the short-row and side shaping Hargraves is so enamoured by does its job - it flatters in the right places. If I did it again, I'd probably do clever things to mean there was less picking up of stitches and less seaming because it wasn't the most fun knit I've ever done. 
Ravelled: here.

*New Year's resolution. Stop knitting everything so bloody loose. Or at least wash all my gauge swatches and go down more than three needle sizes if necessary, no matter how ridiculous it might seem. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There has been knitting

green yarn cake

The yarn cake: product of the ball winder I finally decided to buy. Its amazing. Why didn't I get one before? Not only has there been ball winding, but there has been knitting. This is partly because I realised how close Christmas is, and partly because I took a few days off cycling to work*, thus opening up bus-journey time for the knit. The links below are to ravelry.

* The pause in cycling due to being HIT BY A CAR last week. Driver decided to illegally turn left and not look before he did it. Clever. I was very lucky, a few bruises, and the bike seems equally unscathed. I got straight back on the saddle, and have cycled into town several days since then, but I was a bit shaken up and stiff to manage every day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Failed Socks

zig zag socks close up

Looks pretty, yes? Its Ziggy, from last summer's Knitty, done in two shades of Trekking Pro Natura. Ravelled here.

Lovely to look at, maybe. I was planning to give them to flatmate-Kirsty for Christmas, along with a box of her favourite chocolate-mints, seeing as the colours matched so well. But sadly they fail as socks. Put simply, they are too tight. And fail-socks are never a good present, so I told Kirsty she can have them now if she can get them to fit, and I do her a better present for Christmas. Those with bright screens can follow her struggling to get them on and off the other night.

Yes, I did keep the floats loose. I even knitted them in a much looser gauge than the pattern suggests. Yes, we've tried blocking. They are just too narrow. Plus, the bamboo in trekking means it isn't quite as elastic as a 100% wool sockyarn. Grrr. Once you get them on they are ok. In fact Kirsty says that the support of all that tight fair-isle is really nice (once you have them on, and are happy to keep them on, perhaps forever).

We thought we might steek the inside cuffs and add a couple of rows of stocking stitch - to give a two-way stretch. Do you think it'll work? Either that, or we need to find someone with super-narrow, super-long feet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FO: October Baby Sweater

autumn baby sweater - side

You'll have to excuse the lack of blogging. I do love our new house (the door to the roof terrace has a built in bottle opener, what's not to like?), but the whole moving palaver has certainly been a blow to knit-blogging.

The picture above is a recent FO I've dubbed the October Baby Sweater. Its based on Zimmermann's February Baby Sweater, but I cut out the lace, replaced it with stocking stitch and finished with a bit of autumnal leaf embroidery. The yarn is some tea-dyed bamboo/ wool and a bit of left-over brown 4ply. The leaves are placed to fall across the left side, and down that edge of the back. See also its ravelry page.

autumn baby sweater - back

Its for my lovely friend Nadiya, who along with her also-lovely husband Ian recently reproduced an equally lovely baby, little Jaan. Last week I packaged it up with two Baby Surprise Jackets and a batch of diabetic lactose-free brownies. Recipe follows, its easily adaptable for those who know no fear when it comes to the sugar and cow juice (though hard to vegan-ise, you need the eggs). After many years of searching, its my favourite brownie recipe.
  • 250g good quality dark chocolate.
  • 200g dairy-free margarine. Or, for dairy-freaks, 250g of butter.
  • 100g cocoa.
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder.
  • 200g perfect sweet. Or similar sugar substitute, or 250-300g fine sugar.
  • 40g plain flour. Use whatever type of flour works for your diet, though my personal preference is fine white cake flour.
  • Five eggs. Or four large ones.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Melt chocolate and fat. Slowly. While that's cooling, mix the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs into the choc/fat mix. Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet. You can also add nuts or fruit at this point - a chopped up Mars Bar is ace if you don't mind the sugar. Mix to a thick paste and pour into a brownie tray (or rather splat it rather than pour, the stuff is thick, a spatula is useful). Bake for about 20-25 mins. Its should still be quite squishy in the middle. Leave to cool and cook a bit further while it does so. They are gorgeous while still warm with yoghurt or ice cream, but they actually improve with age, so worth making a large batch and letting them last a day or two.


I'm currently in Leeds, giving a couple of seminars in their philosophy department. I might have an hour or so free tomorrow afternoon, depending on trains - anything I should catch? Next week, I'm off to Dublin for a few days (very excited, never been to Ireland) - again, any recommends?

autumn baby sweater - button band

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


This was meant to be a messy tuesdays post. But of course, I'm behind, and its now wednesday. I've decided that is appropriate.

We moved house over a week ago now, but we're not entirely unpacked yet and the mess is starting to upset me. Every time I walk across a room, I trip over something that hasn't got a home yet. So, to save my sanity, this photo utilises the macro setting to blur it all out behind a kitchen utensil*. I have too much work to do this week** to worry about the rest of the unpacking.

kitchen mess

It will get sorted in evenings and at the weekend(s). Eventually. And then the house will be lovely. We've bought a great bed, which actually has bookshelves built inside the base (its called a 'library bed'). That's got to help the unpacking.

There has been some knitting amongst all of this. Its a cotton tee with a heart texture pattern. Not very much, as the moving, cleaning, phoning up utilities companies (don't get me started on BT...) and general screaming into the abyss of boxes hasn't really left much time for yarn. Plus, as predicted, the bicycle has been a serious competitor to knitting. I hope it'll be done in a couple of weeks though, then I'll write up the pattern.

purple hearts

* I'm not entirely sure what this utensil is. We use it for fishing pasta out of water. Sort of like a slotted spoon, but wire based - more slots than spoon.

** I start my new job today. This afternoon, I'm moving offices.

Friday, September 05, 2008

FO: cosmic radiation scarf

scarf graph - long

Knitting service, as promised, resumed.

It seems to be traditional amongst knitting science types to make your thesis supervisor the DNA cable scarf as a thank you. My PhD over and done with (by the way, thanks for all the congratulations comments, emails and ravelry messages), I guessed it was my turn.

But it felt a tad impersonal. So I checked out what my supervisor's thesis had been on, by typing her name into the library catalogue at the university she did her PhD. Answer: black holes and quantum cosmology. (she changed research interests somewhat since then, my PhD was on kids science books).

scarf graph - close 3

After dabbling with knitting a black hole (could do a great reversible cowl, no?) I asked some advice from a couple of physics friends and the scientist knitters group on ravlery, finally deciding on a wave based loosely on the power spectrum of cosmic microwave background radiation.

I was all set to cable it, but after a swatch or six, it still didn't look right. So, working on the very scientific principle that simplest is best, I did a basic flat scarf and embroidered the pattern over the top.

100g of DK British wool from eco-annie, with a bit of my tea-dyed bamboo/wool sockyarn for the detail.
Needles: 3.25mm, my favourite short smiley-faced ones.
Pattern: basic 2-stitch, 3-row basket-weave stitch pattern over 42 sts (with a stitch slipped at either side).
Ravelled: here.

I'll finish with a shot of the finished scarf's edges against some similarly fluffy clouds. The yarn was so lovely - like working straight from the sheep.

scarf clouds

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

again, excuse the non-knitting

PhD done (noname)

Passed. I have to add a short section to the introduction on methodology, and another short section on theory to the conclusion before I finally submit it to the University library, but its basically done.

Plus, I haven't blogged about this yet, but I have a job. At least for the next year, I'm going to be Lecturer in Science Communication at Imperial College, London.

Normal knitting service will be resumed shortly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quilted computer case: tutorial

For my own record as well as contributing to greater human knowledge, here's a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a quilted computer case. Its deliberately vague about sizes, as it can be made to fit any computer.

Not only does it keep the computer snug while you drag it abouttown, you can keep the cover on while the computer is in use. If you are actually using it on top of your lap this insulates your thighs from the computer's heat. This also makes using your computer slightly more discrete in public. And if that wasn't enough, it means your laptop looks much more personal than the mass-produced object we all try to forget it is.

You can do it in a day or two, depending on speed of sewing and how complected you want to make your quilt. Its a great opportunity to play with quilt-making skills because at the heart of the project, its a tiny-tiny quilt.

Computer Case: step 11

You will need:
  • A sewing machine and the know-how to use it.
  • A tape measure.
  • The computer the case is going to accomodate (or at least careful measurements).
  • A humungous zip which is long enough to run along the two shorter sides and one long side of the computer.
  • Pretty fabric for the outside (or scraps to patchwork).
  • Quilting batting (optional, but I think it makes the quilted bit look nicer)
  • Some backing fabric for the quited bit (this ends up hidden so can be any old rubbish, but it'll be easier to sew if its a similar type of fabric to your pretty outer layer).
  • Some flat foam leftover from packaging or purchased from a stationary or craft store (I used a 5mm thick one, folded double). Please don't ask me how to source this - look around or improvise within your own local area. Basically, you need something thick enough to keep your computer cushioned.
  • Some lining fabric - more than twice the size of the computer. Its probably a good idea if this is cotton, electrical conductivity and all. Though I've never heard of a conducting fabric (e.g. wool) actually causing problems, general wisdom is that if you have the choice of cotton, you might as well not risk it.
  • Thick strips of fabric for edging (though wide bias tape would probably be better). You can do without this and just make the lining fabric bigger.
  • Thread appropriate to your fabric.
  • A few inches of elastic (5mm wide minimum).
  • An iron.
  • Big fat pins.
  • Hand-sewing needle.

Step One:

Using the fabric you've chosen for the outside, along with any batting and the backing fabric make a mini-quilt which is slightly smaller than twice the size of the closed computer.

Computer Case: step 1

Step Two:
Cut out foam and a layer of lining fabric which is big enough to cover the computer, its probably a good idea to use the computer to work this out. At the very least, do remember to take into account the depth of the computer as well as two-times the length by width. You want the foam to be every so slightly smaller than the other pieces.

Computer Case: step 2

Step Three.
Pin these two new layers together with your mini- quilt. Make sure the foam is in the middle, with some space for the fabric to be sewn together around it adn the zip attached. Test out the sizing with the computer.

Computer Case: step 3

Step Four.
Bring these layers together neatly with your edging strips/ bias tape. If not using separate edge pieces, fold the sides of the lining fabric accordingly. Bear in mind the size of the zip when you are making sure the whole caboodle will fit snugly around the computer. Even lazy sewers will want to iron in neat seams at this stage.

Computer Case: step 4

Step Five:
Pin in some elastic to the corners - this hold the computer to the case when working with it open.

Computer Case: step 5

Step Six:
Check the sizing works one last time. Now is also a good point to weave in some ends (so they don't tangle up sewing later) and you might want to give it a bit of an iron. Then sew around the edges to bring it all together.

Computer Case: step 6

Step Seven:
Pin and sew in the zip. Again, its a good idea to check fit with the computer. Finally sew in all remaining ends.

Computer Case: step 8

Thursday, August 14, 2008

is a bell on a bicycle - yes she is

is a bell on a... yes she is!

Above above is a photo of me reflected on the bell of my new bicycle.

Nothing has threatened my knitting output more. Not moths, not a cut on the bit of my right forefinger I use to guide the end of a needle, not the boredom of deadline-knitting the last few days before christmas. None of these come near. This is because I generally knit on the bus to work, and come the start of term in October, I plan to be cycling in at least a couple of days a week. That said, I am yet to master cycling down-hill without getting scared of the increased speed and simply wheeling it down the road.

And as it happens, I'm off to the world of the bicycle (also known as the Netherlands) for the next week. I've got five(ish) days in Amsterdam holiday-time, then five(ish) days in Rotterdam for a conference. Any yarn-y (or un yarn-y) recomends?

Because I've not blogged for a bit, and won't for at least another week and a half, I'll finish with a small photo-matrix of some other bits and bobs I've been up to.

Computer Case: step 10 ours!
uptown socks - toes Portal to New World

Clockwise, from top left-hand corner: 1) Sewing in ends for a quilted computer case I made for a friend (full photo-tute when I'm back). 2) The 'let' sign outside the house we're going to be moving into in mid-September (front view and agent's details). 3) View of the Mersey from Liverpool (taken from just behind the Tate). 4) FO shot of the uptown socks I did for the IW sockalong (my ravelry notes here).

Thursday, July 31, 2008

results are in

So, the answer to the contest question was 533 (148 primary, 385 secondary). Anyone who thought it was over 1000 scared me, though I think my clues might have misled guessers to the bigger numbers. This means the winner is Juicelbee who guessed 539.

The results of some of my tea-dunking experimenting last week as a worn FO:

yellow tee

This was a very economical project. I picked up six balls of the yellow in the summer sales. I was sure I could get a tee out of just six, but also knew it'd be tight, which meant working a size down from what I would normally and a lot of 'will I make it' nail-biting. It is also a winner of a knit. A very wearable garment and if anything the smaller size was a good choice - I wouldn't want it baggy. Its a genius pattern - easy and elegant, I can see why its so popular. More details on the project's ravelry page.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A nice cup of tea and a sit down

Firstly, thanks for all the congratulations about handing in my thesis. If you still want to enter the competition there is another day to get your guess in, have a second guess if you want - only two though (note: I've extended the deadline by a day). If you want to see it knitted up, here's a shot of a skein I dyed at the same time. A few people asked about the dying process, I'm writing it up on the yarn's ravelry page.

More good news: the Interweave preview is up for fall and one of my designs is in it. To celebrate, I brewed up a good old pot of tea.

Except, I stuck a load of yarn in it rather than actually drinking the stuff. I'd read about people dying with tea before, and, still reeling from the smell of koolaid (people drink it?), I thought I'd give it a go. I got a bit carried away and dyed about half my stash, its amazing to see how the different yarns took the tea differently (its all the same brand of tea-bag).

tea-dyed sockyarn

Above is some more bamboo/wool sock yarn, which I think will end up as a baby garment. Below are before and after shots of Orangina I made with some cotton bought in the summer sales. The original colour was a bit too bright yellow. Dunking the FO in a saucepan of tea before I blocked it has just muted it a bit and brought out the golds. Only a slight change, but a much more wearable garment.

knitted corn organina blocking

Some more before and after shots, this time from a shawl of knit/crochet hexagons. Again, the original (this time a bright white) was a bit too strong and the tea calmed things down, but it came out much more bronze than the other two.

hexagons close up bronzed silk

And finally, because you can't have afternoon-tea without some bread and jam, another comparison shot from a taste-test I did today. The front bit of bread has some raspberry jam I made back in April. The one behind is from a batch I did on tuesday, to a recipe from the Guardian. This new batch uses a lot less sugar, and consequentially, to my taste, is a lot yummier - its much more fruity. Still, I'm sure it won't keep nearly so long.

jam face off

Saturday, July 19, 2008

contest: purple sock yarn

Blog contest in celebration of finishing my thesis - guess the number of references in my bibliography. Deadline for answers is 5pm, Thursday 24th July 2008 Friday 25th July (London time). The closest guess wins this skein of sock yarn.

bamboo grape

Its a wool and bamboo mix, dyed by me. 100g, it comes in at about 420 meters - plenty for a pair of socks. From a smoke and pet free home, though it does still smell a bit of grape-flavoured koolaid (my dye of choice). I might throw in some other purple-themed goodies too if I find anything worthy. In event of a tie, I'll pick one winner at random. No one who has read the thesis can enter.

Some clues to get you going:
  • It includes both primary and secondary sources.
  • The actual thesis content these sources support comes in at just under 100,000 words.
  • My case study is this series, though I mentioned many other primary examples, and my secondary source list was much longer.
  • My media studies inclined colleagues felt it was a bit citation-heavy, the litcrit types thought it was sparse.
  • The photo below shows the thesis open at the page the bibliography starts. There are no appendixes after that. It is 1.5x spaced, in 11pt font on A4 paper.
  • Its more than fifty, less than three thousand.
  • You might as well guess something random. When I tried to guess, I was a good hundred off, and I wrote the bleeding thing.

EDIT: I mean 'closest' as in nearest guess either way (you can go over). So, if the answer was 7586 and no one gets that but someone gets 7588 and another 7584, I'll pick one of the two out of a hat.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

excuse the non-knitting content

PHD portrait

NB: This just means I've finished the first big bit. It still has to be examined. I'm now on holiday (though at home, and online) for a week. Much of which I plan to spend knitting in the park, weather allowing.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Finished (ish)

cable tee - my view landscape

I've always wanted to take a photo of something I've knitted from the wearer's point of view, but I've never had a good enough camera before. You will have to excuse these 'in the mirror' shots - no time for a proper photoshoot.

cable tee full cable tee - arm

Anyway, the FO is Catriona by Debbie Bliss. I had wanted to make this top for ages (I just loved the cable pattern) but convinced myself that buying yet another knitting book for just the one pattern was an extravagance. Then I discovered the wonders of prima magazine's online knitting archive. The project is ravelled here, but the stats for blog record are as follows:

Needles: 3.0 mm & 2.5 mm addi circs.
Yarn: 6.5 skeins of Rowan RYC Cashsoft 4 Ply in 'monet'. The first skein was a christmas present from my brother, I just added a few more to make it into a whole garment - thanks for the inspiration Jim!
Mods: I worked in the round till v-neck divide, then seporate pieces flat. I contemplated steeking, but was too much of a wimp. Only two little seams for the shoulders, which if I'd been thinking I could have kitchenered. As usual, I did the entire thing without the aid of a cable needle. I also sketched out a chart as, it being a Debbie Bliss pattern there wasn't one and I prefer things pictorially.

The project actually started out as the chevron lace top from Romantic Style (wip shot here). I also adapted that to work in the round, but just after I divided for the arms I decided it wasn't nearly as nice as it looked in the pattern photos (especially the non-lace bits under the armpits), so frogged it down to the ribbing.

I'm very pleased with it, the sleeves are way more flattering than I thought they'd be - I might work up a design using similar sleeves if I have time this summer.

cable tee & camera

And in non-knitting life, here's a very nearly done work-in-progress and a very exciting 'finished object'. The wip is a print-out of my thesis. My 2nd-supervisor wanted a paper copy to read from, and because I'd just been treating it electronically, only occasionally printing a chapter at a time, I'd not really had an idea of its size before. Thank goodness I inherited a box of my Dad's giant paperclips (he orchestrated film scores, he needed good paperclips). The FO is a book of academic essays I co-edited.

THESIS! book spine

Today is 'polishing off conclusion day'. Then I'm emailing the thesis to my mum for a proof-read and running off to Oxford for the weekend for a History of Science conference.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Treasure Hunt!

Kirsty and Lara and I made up a team for iKnit's Treasure Hunt today (for world-wide knit in public day). There were a whopping 61 questions, many quite cryptic and a few knit-themed anagrams, which took us all over central London. We had a lovely walk about town, saw all the main tourist attractions, stumbled across a giant Thai festival in Trafalgar Square, spotted an amazing fly-over of vintage military planes and er, ran into a naked cycling demonstration, as apparently it was also world-wide cycle naked day (I didn't spot anyone combining the two events).

We had to knit a 15-st wide scarf in DK yarn while we walked around - there was a bonus prize for the longest bit of knitting. I can't believe how long some of the completed scarves were, London has some fast knitters. There were also bonus points for photo-challenges, evidence of some are below (more on flickr).

Challenge: To knit with a celebrity (we cheated a bit outside the National Portrait gallery). A couple of people got Terry Pratchett!

Celeb knitting

Challenge: To knit on a Routemaster bus (i.e. the oldskool pretty ones). The conductor was absolutely delighted to see knitting.

kirsty knitting on a routemaster!

Challenge: Knit in London landmarks starting with the letters P U R & L. This is P for Public Telephone Box.

phone box knitting

... and U for Urinal. I love this photo. But I am a child and love all pee jokes.

we(e) knit

Challenge: To find a street name relating to knitting. We cheated a bit again, with the aid of the magnetic strip of a travelcard. We also had 'The Cut', with a photo mimicking steeking.

wool street (well, wooden...)

We were absolutely exhausted by the end, but it was *ooodles* of fun and great to finally meet Lara. A perfect day off from thesis-editing. Thanks so much to Gerard and Craig for organising it.