Sunday, December 20, 2009

tidings of comfort and joy

I knitted a hat. It took less than a week. Which is handy because it snowed. Yes, in London. Before Christmas. It settled and everything (Don't believe Hollywood London: most years we have no snow at all).

wearing selbu beanie

It's supposed to be Selbu Modern, but because my normally abnormally-super-loose gauge gets abnormally-super-tight as soon as I do colourwork, it's more of a Selbu beanie. Which is at least useful for wearing under my bicycle helmet in the cold. It's also slightly square at the top, but that's due to rubbish blocking (might re-block on a balloon or something). Details of yarn, etc on ravelry project page.

mince pies

Mince pies! Made by Kirsty, not me. Though the flaky-lightness of the pastry is at least partly due to me. Tip from one of my students: use vodka instead of water in pastry. Works really well. The mince pies were for a small Christmas party we held this afternoon/evening. Both Lara and Felix had to cry off ill, but we still had a house full (including Emms) of merry-makers.

biscuits, cake, lights

Above is a before shot, some chocolate fruit cake (from Feast. Sounds wrong, but really, really works) surrounded by a pile of pfeffernüsse (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe), and lights draped over our staircase in the background. We also had gingerbread, dundee cake, goblets of mulled wine and about a trillion other things. Very full now. Signs of the remains are below. Season's Greetings to you all.

end of party

Monday, December 07, 2009

Busy-busy-busy as a bee

stripes close up

This jumper took me just under four months to make. Seeing as I'm used to chugging one out in a matter of weeks, this seemed like an age. Cycling-to-work really has cut down my knitting time. Also, it was 4ply, on 2.5mms (2mm for the ribbing), so I guess it was always going to take a while.

It's a product of my stash (which itself is best understood as a product of John Lewis sales). I had a bag of not-quite-a-jumper-worth of yellow 4ply tweed, as well as few balls of brown 4ply left over from this top. Put them together and you get a sweater which stripes pleasingly like a bee. Despite the tiny gauge, it was a very simple project - a basic top-down raglan, done seamlessly in the round. As you can see from the third photos in this post, I didn't bother with any jog-less join (I can do a jog-less join, it just seemed like too much effort).

The stripes are perhaps a little too short, and I definitely made the neck too high/ small - makes me feel slightly as if I'm wearing an optical illusion. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. I really like the triangle shapes it makes around the armpits. Plus, small vertical stripes can be surprisingly flattering. Details on ravelry.

right side bee

It's a Monday, which is always busy for me, but today I've been busier than usual. My MSc students have an essay due (cue: last minute queries about citations, phonecalls asking for extensions...), plus the undergrads have an essay back and I'm running an event this evening which has suddenly become really popular.

But, I've made time for a lunch break when I can make up a pot of tea, switch off work email and write up this post. It's important to take a moment to pause amongst all our business, sit and think about something other than our everyday routine. Today more than ever, perhaps (I mean the Copenhagen conference, if you don't want to bother following the link).

On that ecological note, and considering the bee-like stripes of this jumper, I should probably make some reference to the plight of the honeybee. Bee colonies are collapsing across the world. This is serious. According to this book, bees pollinate 70% of our food. To repeat one of those lines credited to Albert Einstein, if bees disappeared: "No more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Scary stuff. If you're interested there's a nice gallery of photos on the subject from the Guardian here and a nice blogpost from BBC's Newsnight here.

wrong side bee

Right, busy-busy-busy. I'm off to give a lecture on the cultural legacy of mad cow disease. Then it's the exciting seminar this evening - Mike Hulme, Professor for Climate Change at the University of East Anglia (the place with *that* scandal about the emails...). He's written some provocative pieces in the last week (e.g. this, see also interesting discussion here). Our audience will be a mix of science media people and climate scientists. Should be interesting.

face on bee

Sunday, November 08, 2009


me in crochet shawl

Things I did on my holiday, which admittedly was a while ago (bad blogger, etc, etc): I saw a fantastic exhibition on Open Source Embroidery, sat by the beach, took photos of lanterns, and crocheted a shawl (first crochet lace, details on ravelry page). I also split up with Marcus. Which is sad in the short term, but definitely the right thing to do. It was also a while ago now (and, to be honest, the relationship was over a long time before that). Since then I've done a bit of teaching, a fair bit of research, a lot of start of term admin, chunks of lesson planning, oodles of reading, some socialising and a smidgen of baking.

hypertext quilt (greens) crow on beach
china town 3 crochet shawl hangin

I also bought a brand new bike as my old one was stolen from Bloomsbury while I was off seeing an art exhibition (about twine, in a disused tram tunnel - there are some great things about living in London, despite the bike thieves).

bike front bike wheel

Knitwise, my stripy-like-a-bee sweater's been progressing nicely. I've done both sleeves and the neck down till just below the waist. But it is taking ages (4ply, 2.5mm...) and, as a seamless top-down raglan, is getting too large to fit in my everyday bag. As my other FO is very complex lace (for which I require excellent light and silence), I needed a small and easy project I could take to knitting groups. So I picked up a couple of balls of leftover 4ply from the back of my stash, cast on a few hundred stitches, making sure it was divisible by four, and then simply chugged along in mindless 2x2 rib. Perfect for knitting nights, including this brilliant Halloween-themed event at the Hunterian Museum, and the FO's been perfect for keeping my neck warm now the weather's getting colder. Again, full details on raverly project page.

me hiding in cowl

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Without getting too bogged down in a stream of "bad blogger, look how long it has been since I posted", I've not really had much time for knitting, let alone knit-blogging the last few months. I was pretty ill for a couple of weeks (not H1N1 - I wasn't that ill, more incredibly wipe-you-out bad cold than actual flu). Also, it's been summer, so reasonably hot (at least at times, for old Blighty) and I've just not been feeling the desire to produce warm clothes. Plus, it's been the summer, so I've had loads of marking and research to catch up on. And, it's been the summer, so I've been enjoying the outdoors and cycling loads (still haven't mastered the art of knitting whilst cycling).

I'll start with a shot of an FO I finished a while back, but didn't get around to posting. Full details through ravelry. It's a second version of a top I made last summer. The first one was, I felt, a tad on the baggy side. This one, I fear, is a tiny bit small. It's nice enough though, and I do like how the cables pop.

FO: Catriona 2 - arm, top/front

Some things I've been up to whilst not knitting. Felix came round for afternoon tea. I cycled from Henry Tate's Grave to the Tate & Lyle factory via a pair of Tate Libraries and both London Tate Galleries. I read a lot of kids books about being green. Marcus and I had a long weekend in Amsterdam.

felix takes a photo

Tate Britain big old pile of dead tree media telling us to recycle

canal, boats: its Amsterdam

To finish, a shot of my new FO. I've been to a couple of conferences recently. For me, conferences equals knitting time (if only for the 6 hour train journey home) so I have actually got a reasonable amount done. It's a stripy top-down raglan, yellow and brown. So I can pretend to be a bee.

bee jumper, WIP

Monday, May 25, 2009

knitting on the web

I'm in Wired

It's just the UK edition, but I'm in Wired magazine this month. My life as a z-list knit-celeb and that of an academic researching science in popular culture collided, and I was interviewed about why there is so much maths and science themed knitting.

Or rather, we discussed the way 21st century gender and geek identities have collided within various areas of the nerd-knitting subculture, and this ended up as a piece on science themed knitting. I got the impression the journalist was more interested in why there is so much knitting on the web, and was just talking to me for a bit of (likely to be unpublished) background. But clearly other deadline/ interests/ editorial constraints came along. There a pretty graphic of a ball of yarn tangling into a double helix, and I'm quoted with the explanation that 'creating 3D objects out of coded formulae - that's what a knitting pattern is'.

Still, it is a shame that the topic of knitting on the web wasn't taken further - it's an interesting issue. Knitting and the web have gone together for a long time. I remember listening to a Woman's Hour piece on female web-use a couple of years back, and some expert (can't remember who) argued that some of the first female-led podcasts were knitting ones. Now podcasting is so widespread, there are a quite shocking number of knitting ones. Perhaps there is an obvious reason why: you can knit while listening to a podcast (some of us read and even type while knitting, but it is easier just to press play on itunes). However, I wonder if the broader point isn't also true: that knitting is always at the forefront of women's uptake of new media technologies.

(I know lots of men also take part in the online knitting community, but you have to admit it is dominated by women).

Arguably, knitting has been there at the start of all the major new media developments of the last fifteen (more?) years, often producing some of the most polished and innovative products. Even in the largely pre-blog days, there were/are knitting listservs. There were/ are also knitting homepages, complete with patterns, advice and knitting calculators, often members of a bunch of knitting web-rings. There was/is some first-class knitting e-zines, even if the notion of the e-zine has generally been reinterpreted/ dissapeared. Today, many of us play with twitter and flickr, various blogs have come and gone, but really its is all about ravelry.

As I said to the journalist, I think we can read this in the same way we look at science-themed knitting: there are a fair number of knitters out there who like code, so its no surprise that computing abilities and an interest in knitting overlap. This is only part of the story though: the web is a way of communicating and helping to form and strengthen communities, and knitting has always been about communities. Whatever media knitters have taken - from magazine to scrawled handwritten notes lent to a member of our local knitting circle, from television to facebook - they talk, share, discuss and deconstruct whilst they click-click away. We should also remember that knitting is a bit weird, and the web does help special interest freaks find each other. Moreover, knitters like making stuff, whether it is coded or otherwise. Knit-themed blogs often contain references to DIY, baking, sewing or other craft: blog-building is part of this too.

It is these last three (non-geek) reasons why, I think, knitting on the web has exploded in the last five to ten years. Today, you don't need much of a nerdish inclination or any specialist computer knowledge to use most online knitting media. All you really need is a desire to share ideas and nose on what other people are doing, and those are much more widespread characteristics of knitters.

So, in the absence of Wired picking up on the topic, and in the wake of the ravelry twitter trend-bomb last week, I'd be interested to know what the readers of this blog think. I only really got into knitting four or so years ago, so I came to the knit-web reasonably late - I know there are some early adopters out there, what was it like on the knit-web frontier? Similarly, what about the newbies/ non-knitters, were you shocked when you first discovered quite how humongous the online knitting community is?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

knit grumps of a WIP (plus a nice FO)

Pretty as a Peacock WIP

My attempt at the Pretty as a Peacock shawl is kicking my bottom. Doesn't it look pretty up there? Pah! That was *four* false-starts ago.

First, I changed my mind about gauge, and I frogged and started again. The yarn pictured is Fyberspaces infinity, held double. Once the gauge was sorted it was going along pretty well, but I still felt the yarn wasn't the best match for the pattern: the thicker, shinier and evenly-dyed silk I bought in Damascus would do a better job. Again, I frogged and started again.

But this yarn is so slippery if a stitch falls even a little, it'll fall all the way to the end (imagine the complete opposite of kidsilk haze). Plus the pattern, at least in the first few charts, isn't regular enough that its easy to see how to neatly bring the stitch. I'm normally pretty good at using a crochet hook to bring dropped stitches up from several rows down - I'll happily turn cables around the other way or re-situate lace. But for some reason I can't get my head around this one. So, there's been two further full frogs. Grrr.

In happier news, I finished a cardigan, and I love it - even if I do seem to look especially grumpy in all the photos.

Top-down Rambling Rose 4

Its Rambling Rose from Rowan 39. I'd made this ages ago but it came out way too big. Plus, I thought a longer version would look nice, and I much preferred the ones I saw in ravelry which had been made out of a springy wool rather than the recommended cotton. The restult is the basic idea and charts of Rambling Rose, but done as a top down raglan with a load of side shaping. It fits perfectly, and is a pretty and practical cardi. A nice bit of warmth over a tee for the warmer months. Details of yarn, needles etc can be found the project's ravelry page.

Top-down Rambling Rose

In even happier news, Lara is coming round for afternoon tea, so I'm going to put the annoying knitting away, getting out some plain old stocking stitch to talk-and-knit with and putting on a batch of maple-syrup scones (they have oats in them and make the kitchen smell gorgeous, recipe from this book. Eat them with marmite: it shouldn't work but it really does).

Saturday, May 09, 2009

FOs: two lace shawls

Two FOs. Both shawls, both lace, both woolley. Both photographed in Regents park (Marcus' workplace is right next to the park, we sometimes go for a wonder at lunchtime if I'm working at a library nearby). First up, a dk-weight tweedy Aeolian.

Purple Shawl 3

I did the pattern for the shoulderette, but in heavier yarn, so its nearly as big as a shawl - still pretty much a shoulder warmer though. The yarn is a scottish silk/ merino mix I bought at iknit, along with some bamboo dpns in a last minute 'what if Heathrow try to confiscate my knitting' before leaving for Turkey last month. So actually started it, old-school style, on a set of dpns. It got large enough to be very squashed up them very quickly, so as soon as I got home, I swapped to a circular.

Purple Shawl 1

About two thirds of the way through I started to wonder if I liked the big leaf-like frilly edges at the end (they didn't seem to balance the start of the pattern), but as soon as I blocked it and tried it on I could see how well it worked. I'm pleased with this FO. As ever, full details on the project's ravelry page.

Finally, a green Icarus (Interweave Knits, Summer 2006). Again, full details on the project's ravelry page, including links to more photos on flickr.

Green shawl 1

I wanted to make Icarus for ages - I bought the summer 2006 IW espeically for the pattern. First I could't find the right yarn. Then I was put off by people saying the stockingette was dull (it wasn't). Finally, I rolled my sleeves up and got on with it. Again, this is done with heavier weight yarn than called for (although the gauge isn't that far off - its knit a lot denser), but one of the lovely things about the pattern is it is easy to make it larger or smaller, depending on taste/ available yarn. I used Old Maiden Aunt sockwool* and changed skein at the point I started on second lace pattern for the end section. This was handy because one skein was slightly more variegated than the other: the break in patten hides the slight difference in yarn, and I like all the extra colour on the feathery bits.

pointing at shawl

My brother's wedding's won't be happening, so I have less of a deadline for the silk lace shawls I was planning. Still, I've already the completed the first chart of Pretty as a Peacock using the purple yarn I bought in Damascus. A sunny summer has been forecast for England, so I'm imagining lots of outdoor cocktail parties for which I'll need an elegant wrap (More likely: muddy festivals. Most likely: sitting at my desk writing conference papers. But a girl can dream).

* Part of the 'homecoming' collection: the Scottish Parliament have successfully emotionally blackmailed me into celebrating my heritage through consumer goods.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Damascene Silk

Yes. I've been knitting in the desert. Those are Roman remains in the background (Palmrya). The project is a top-down take on Rambling Rose

knitting with ruins in background - landscape

My baby brother's been working in Damascus this year, so my Mother and I decided a visit was in order.  The last family holiday together before baby-bro gets married in the summer. Mum and I flew into Istanbul then made the rest of the trip overland.  We explored Crusader castles, sacred churches and mosques (e.g. where St Paul had his sight returned), amazingly empty Roman ruins, drank minty lemonade and generally pretended to be Agatha Christie (we had coffee in the hotel where she wrote Murder on the Orient Express). I've put some of my favourite photos at the trip at the end of this post, but first: the yarn. 

yarn shop display yarn - pinks and purples

After managing to avoid anything more yarny than spotting a lady knitting socks outside Istanbul university, on our last day I discovered a little store hiding in the spice souk of Damascus's old town. Surrounded by a heady scent of cinnamon, cardamon and freshly ground coffee were shelves upon shelves full of gleaming silk, all in the deepest, brightest colours. Plus, possibly the rudest shop-keeper I've ever met (though I suspect he was watching the shop for a friend, he seemed to care so little about selling anything). Above are some of the yarns I saw, these are the two I bought. 

purple laceweight silk gold silk laceweight 2
scaling for gold laceweight scaling for purple laceweight

I had just bought 3000m of cobweb purple silk from Fyberspates, but the aforementioned baby-bro wedding is set to be a giant Malaysian/Scottish triple-event extravaganza, so I've been planning a bit of a summer of lace as it is. 

lights in handicraft market Froth on minty lemonade
carvings on column satellites

Bell in Bel


Sunday, March 15, 2009

FO: Grassy Green Top-Down

newly knitted jumper 1

I have a new jumper. Or rather, a new tunic. I bought the yarn (rowan cashcotton) in a sale last year, and decided the soft tweediness would be best served with a plan stocking stitch top-down raglan. It has quite baggy three-quarter length sleeves, lots of side-shaping and folded-over seams. Other than that, it's plain vanilla all the way. Full details on the project's ravelry page

I still just under two balls of the yarn left-over. I was contemplating giving it pockets, similar to Norah Gaughan's Kaari, but I'm not sure how flattering it'd be. I was also thinking about embroidering a tree silhouette in brown wool over the top of the tunic's front, but I like the simplicity of it as it is. Or, I could use the spare yarn to covert this into a proper dress. Or I might just stripe the couple of balls of green and brown yarns I have in my stash into some legwarmers. 

I'll see. Right now, I'm going to put my feet up with a bottle of Guinness, Dr Who and some cabling.

newly knitted jumper - side

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Jumpers. Snow & Pie.

Before we get onto the knitting, my contribution to London(ish) knit bloggers' delight in our recent snowfall. As well as the odd juxtaposition of British phonebox and New York Cab, I love the red and yellow shining in all that white light.

Cityscape in Snow closeup

Unfortunately, getting me, daylight, snow and photographer all outside at the same time proved impossible, so these FO shots are quite thawed. Plus, it is still bleeding cold, so it was a matter of running round the corner to the park behind our house, taking photos, running in to de-frost and change jumper, then running back.

Owls close up of yoke

Firstly, O W L S. Even ignoring the wonder of the owls, this is a very well written yoke pattern - I may use it for a plain jumper. I loved the waist-shaping at the back, though if it does mean the unworn jumper looks a bit like it has a bustle (this might be because I gave it an extra inc and dec set to accommodate the smaller row gauge and my over-average height) The owls are fun and cute, but the button-eyes give a pretty detail and though I'm wearing jeans here, it looks smart paired with a plain black skirt, grey tights and boots.

I wasn't sure the owls would be dramatic enough in lighter yarn, but I like them now they are all done and have eyes. I was also worried I’d run out of yarn as the seller only had five left, so I decided to err on the side of a smaller size. The result is tight, but works - I’d much rather this way that too big. I needed have worried about the yarn: I've got a ball to spare (I got the yarn on sale - even with the buttons, a very cheap project). The other worry was that I didn't suit yoked sweaters, but I'm actually quite pleased with it. Despite all these concerns, I was completely convinced by the pattern. Not just for those of us who read The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark too much as a child, a properly lovely jumper. Full stats on ravelry.

I also finished a purple tweed jumper (ravelry page here). But it's really plain, so I'll finish with a shot of some hot cherry pie I made last night instead. Because that's what we need in this weather. Warm jumpers and hot puddings.

cherry pie

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Finish (in memorandum)

Three FOs, all l dedicated to the memory of Tony Hart, who died this weekend. I loved his TV programmes when I was a kid. Art and design via Tony Hart was always so calmly playful, it was about making interesting and beautiful things from stuff around you; exploring the world through shape, colour and texture. It wasn't about impressing posh people, following instructions exactly or being able to achieve measurable results. It was intuitive. It was creative. It was exploratory. It was fun.

Kirsty's bobble hat 3 Kirsty's bobble hat 1
Kirsty's bobble hat 4 Kirsty's bobble hat 2

Made for: Kirsty (housemate)
Pattern: In some ways it's Thorpe, but modified for DK weight and added bobble action. It similar to the one I did for Marcus last Valentine's but with more bobbles - which Kirsty says are very useful for attaching her MP3 headphones to.
Yarn: Wool-cotton in Gold.
Needles: 2.5 addi lace circ.
Ravelled: here.

anthony's socks 2

Made for:
Anthony (another housemate)
Pattern: Basic toe-up sock with stripes. I divided the yarn exactly (weighing on kitchen scales) and worked till I ran out.
Yarn: Cygnet Wool Rich 4 Ply (black), with leftover green of Trekking Pro Natura and Dream in Color Smooshy.
Needles: 2.5 addi lace circ.
Ravelled: here.

embroidered sock 1

Made for:
Marcus' mother, in exchange for a jacket she gave me rather than taking to the charity shop (clothes swapping is *so* the new shopping).
Pattern: Basic toe-up with extra embroidery.
Yarn: tea-dyed bamboo sock yarn, with some brown wool as contrast (again, leftovers).
Needles: 2.5 addi circ, my old one - too short to do them both at once, bah!
Ravelled: here.

I was going to spend the evening continuing the Tony Hart memorial by making Morph-like models with plasticine but now Woolies has gone, I'm not sure where I could buy some on a windy Sunday afternoon in Peckham. Instead, I think I'll just watch the Wallace and Gromit movie (Morph's greatest legacy) and swatch for my next project.