Sunday, 29 June 2008

Bug validation

We did a lot of work in the garden yesterday: destroying the old compost bin and deploying the new one, shifting the remains of the old shed to the dump, poisoning the ivy again. Sometime during the afternoon, DH turned to me: "Is that one of the beetles that landed on your neck on Tuesday?".

There, on the patio was a slightly squished black beetle, approximately 4cm long.

"Yes", I replied.

"No wonder you screamed!"

Gee. Thanks, Lover. Next time believe me when I say it was a big bug/spider/whatever.

- Pam

Friday, 27 June 2008

Wool, glorious wool

“What’s that you’re carrying?”, DH asked when I got home last night.

“It’s an emergency wool parcel from Australia.”

The Cleckheaton Country 12-ply was on my desk when I got into work yesterday (thank you Tapestry Craft). It’s the right weight and the shade seems a good match although I won’t know for sure until I knit it up. The only major difference between the original yarn and the new is that the old yarn was more heavily plied – it really was 12 ply, with the four major strands being made up of three thinner strands plied together (sorry, I only speak pigeon “spinner”). The new Country 12-ply only has four strands plied together.

If my plan of attack works correctly, any differences won’t be noticeable at all. I’m going to frog the existing sleeve back to the cuff and knit it up again, alternating yarns every two rows. For the second sleeve, I’ll do the cuff in the old yarn and then proceed as for the first. This should leave me with enough yarn (I hope) to do the button/neck band in the old yarn. I figure that so long as the bands all match, it will fool the eye into ignoring any discrepancies in shading or plying that may be visible. The heavy patterning should work to my advantage in this because it distorts the light and creates tiny patches of shade on the fabric.

The Must Have Cardigan is still in the penalty box, but only because I have to finish my “interim project” first. I’m making a present for my MIL (so no pictures, sorry). It'll get interrupted again when my next Yarn Parcel arrives from the Yarn Barn of Kansas because I have to make not one, not two, but three Five Hour Baby Sweaters within the next couple of weeks. Two are definitely girl flavoured, so I ordered some Plymouth Encore in Baby Pink. I'll wait to see what flavour the third baby is; if it's a boy, I'll use up the Aqua that I have left over from last year.

There is a definite "thrill of the chase" to ordering yarn on-line. First you have the browsing: "what yarn will I use?" "Is it in my colour?" "Who stocks it?"; then you have the placing of the order (in my case, this usually includes the Ceremony of the International Postage, where Melissa at the Yarn Barn emails me to ask if that's all I want to order because "right now, your postage costs more than the yarn*"); followed by the long wait and finally the delivery! (On that last point, Mr Postman, could you hurry up, please!)

So much to knit, so little time.

- Pam

* My response, "Does that mean I have to buy more yarn? Such a pity. What will I do...." :o)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

To the beetle that landed on the back of my neck when I went to open the front door this evening:

I'm sorry, but I can only assume you deliberately chose to commit suicide. If not, then it was a big mistake on your part. At least your death was swift. Stupid on your part, but swift.

- Pam

(Honestly, it was two inches long and black. I only saw it upside down, after I'd flung it away from me. It just lay there until I squished it.)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Oh Bugger!

Thursday started well enough: good day's work, photograph taking of some FO's, nice relaxed evening, etc. Then it all went to hell.

We (DH mostly) finished building the shed on Wednesday evening. This was a saga of it-wouldn't-stop-raining-on-the-weekends-we-were-home through to our drill not charging properly. Remember the pictures of it in the snow?

In the end, he borrowed a drill and batteries from a work colleague. Here is the shed, although not in the right place - we have yet to lift it back to where it belongs.

Thursday morning, DH was running for the bus lugging said drill when he twinged his back. When I went to bed, DH was lying in a hot bath feeling the muscle relax. Then bad luck came a-calling....

DH pulled up the plug and also pulled up the plug hole (a.ka. the "trap"). Net result = small flood. The bathwater cascaded through the bathroom floor onto the ceiling in the corner of the lounge. And through that onto the suspended ceiling previous owners had put up in the 1970's. It dripped through one of the light fittings onto the futon which sits in that corner.

To be fair, it wasn't his fault. A couple of weeks ago, I'd been trying to remove hair from the trap when it had lifted up. Not knowing what else to do, I cut off the accumulated crap and put it back. (See how corroded it is. In the middle was once a screw.)

At the time, the bit underneath hadn't dropped. It was still firmly attached to the bath. I mentioned it to DH and, not thinking it through, put it on "watch and wait". That was a mistake - we have no idea how long it had been dripping. We only have one bath and the shower is over it.

The pressure of the bath water caused the underside of the trap to drop. You can see it is no longer lined up.

For several weeks it was only held in place by the pipework and some silicon sealant.

When I grow up, I want to get given B&Q gift vouchers. Their resident plumber gave me a lot of help and advice when I popped in there on Friday afternoon to buy the replacement bits since their kits don't come with written instructions.

DH put the bath back together on Friday night.

We had to wait until this morning for the silicon sealant to dry and I carefully tested it out before having a shower. Not one drop of moisture anywhere. YAY!

And the shower? After two days of sponge baths and not being able to wash my hair, it was absolute bliss!

- Pam (Oh, and the avocado bathroom suite wasn't our choice. It came with the house.)

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

News on Must Have Cardigan

I received the following email from Cleckheaton this morning:

Dear Pamela Please contact the following online retailer here in Australia to purchase Cleckheaton Country 12ply shade 0006 Black to complete your garment as this is the closest replacement.

Result! (I hope.) I dashed off a quick thank you email.

Sadly the retailer they linked to didn't have any Country 12ply in stock(!) which is why I'm not displaying their link. Instead, I did a quick "visit" to one of my favourite shops EVER: Tapestry Craft in Sydney and purchased 6 skeins for $27 plus p&p. Yes, I know, that equates to 300g but given my past experiences with this yarn running short, I thought buying far too much was a wise move.

I've decided to knit the second sleeve alternating both yarns, in order to blend the new yarn in as much as possible. Depending on how successful the colour and texture match is, I may have to rip out the original sleeve and do it the same way so that they match.

In the meantime, the cardi remains in my penalty-box and I've turned to small projects to fill the gap. I finished crochetting this scarf on Saturday. My pattern differs a bit from the Interweave one - I'll post the details when I get the chance to put up a photo. I'm currently working on a beret for my MIL.

- Pam

PS: If you are into needlepoint, have a look at Tapestry Craft's kits, particularly the Sydney Habour series. I've travelled half way around the world to get Sydney Harbour by Night .

Friday, 13 June 2008


I still haven't heard from Cleckheaton. In fact, the email I submitted via the form on their website bounced - the pillocks haven't set up an account for the email address it was sent to! Eventually, I found an email address: and sent it there.


For the last two years, I've been saving up to purchase some knitting designing software, but I'm yet to make the leap. I want something that does everything including slotting in cables, lace, etc, and I am prepared to pay for it (hence the saving up bit). Right now though, I'd be willing to settle for something simpler if I could get it to do what I want - I want to design a bolero or shrug to knit out of the 1000 metres of pink lace weight I was given as a reward for subscribing to a knitting magazine. I thought a lacy shrug would work - I don't do shawls or wraps. I don't have the kind of lifestyle any more that demands wearing lots of ball gowns (thus providing an excuse to wear said wrap). Anyway, I'm busty. Anything that hangs on/from my bust makes me look pregnant.

Tama, I know you have Sweater Wizard. I don't remember from the demo I downloaded ages ago, but would it let me design a shrug?


Did I ever tell you I "collect" yarn shops? They are such a rarity here that I always make a note of them. In the past 4 months, I've found a new yarn shop in Rochester (Annie's on the high street), Leominster and Hay on Wye. If there is nothing else on my "I want to knit that" list, I'll purchase a skein of sock yarn so at least I've given them some business. (DH tells me that doing so doesn't break my yarn diet since it's purchased in a good cause.)

Yesterday, I had to be up in central London. My choir was performing Verdi's Requiem last night and we spent the afternoon in rehearsals with the orchestra and soloists. The venue was about a mile from the newish I Knit London shop. I've been on their mailing list since Fluff told me they're hosting the Yarn Harlot in September (Yes. I have tickets.). Anyway, I took the opportunity to check out their shop on my way to rehearsals.

They have made really good use of the space in what is technically quite a small shop. Physically, it's about the same size as my living room (approximately 19 feet by 12), with a couple of couches forming a cozy sitting area on one side of the door, the till/desk backing onto one of the couches, yarn in cubes line the walls, books across the back, a table and chairs in the back half for classes. It doesn't feel crowded or cramped.

I was really impressed by the range of yarns they stock: Wensleydale Longwool; Cornish Organic Wool; springy Icelandic wool; and the legendary Shetland wool by Reynolds (which I didn't believe was sold in the UK at all!). They had Opal and Regia, plus some more exotic sock yarns from America (exotic for me). There were yarns from other small British producers, but I don't remember their names.

I could have spent a fortune; instead, I contented myself with a couple of skeins of silk lace-weight (at £7/skein), some cotton to make this from Knitty as a present for a friend (if I have enough yarn, I may modify it to add sleeves), and a skein of sock yarn. I promised myself that I will go mad at the I Knit London Show in September.


The concert went well despite some of the quirks of our current conductor. It was his last concert with us (he's retiring). I'd feel sadder about that if he'd spent some time enhancing the musicality of his choristers - he doesn't even believe in warming up! Also I have it on reliable authority that the fact he gave us cues to come in last night was almost revolutionary.

I was about 80% happy with my performance: my inner musician awoke sometime on Wednesday evening (we rehearsed then, too), and I began to feel the count of the music from the accompaniment. That is a skill I have missed for a long time. And my "pitch a note off anything" is coming back, too. My negativity comes from knowing that I wasn't projecting properly - something that could have been alleviated if we'd done vocal warm-ups prior to the rehearsals and performance. I felt my voice catching in my throat several times and made a concious attempt to lift it "up" (hard when you're racing at full tilt through the Dies Irae). But we had a good sing, got a standing ovation from what looked like a sell-out crowd, and DH loved it.

- Pam

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Moment of Truth

I've been loath to change the "What's On My Needles" box to my latest project, mainly because of my worries over yarn quantities. I did the back, both fronts and looked at the two big balls and two smaller balls left of, thinking "yes, of course I have enough yarn". Well, I was wrong. Two thirds of the way through the first sleeve, the alarm bells started ringing. I decided to finish the sleeve, weigh it and see how far short I was. Here is the moment of truth. The first sleeve:-

The remaining wool:-

see how I'm 55g short, just to finish the sleeve? I'm not sure what to do now. I've emailed Cleckheaton (see below) on the off-chance that they still manufacture the yarn.

In the meantime, here is a picture of the body of the cardigan. Instead of sewing up the shoulders, I did a three-needle cast off. It was so easy that I don't think I'll ever sew another shoulder seam.

- Pam (what the hell do I knit now?)

Dear Cleckheaton

Dear Cleckheaton

I guess I'm emailing asking for a miracle. 20-odd years ago, I crocheted a jumper from the Australian Wool Corporation's Crochet Book which used Cleckheaton 12 Ply. The jumper wasn't a great success, so eventually I frogged it and recycled the yarn to use in a cardigan.

I've done the back, both fronts and one sleeve. Half way through the sleeve, I began to worry that I'd run out of yarn so, when I finished it, I weighed it and the remaining wool. I'm probably 200g short (50g to finish the remaining sleeve and 100g to do the bands, plus 50g for comfort).

You don't by any chance still manufacture this yarn? Even under a different name? If so, could you sell it to me? Or give me the website address or email address of a supplier who would be willing to sell to the UK (I'm a misplaced Aussie)? I need it in black. I don't have a ball band, so I couldn't supply the dye number/dye lot for you to look up.

If you don't still manufacture this yarn, could you please supply me with any details of the spinning that might be useful to help me find a reasonable substitute? Any information would help.

Many thanks.


Sunday, 8 June 2008

Garden wars

I'm shattered. We've spent a long weekend doing what can only be described as "gorilla gardening". Every year we go through this: hacking down weeds, trimming the shrubs back by two thirds, and yet nothing changes. This morning I found dandelion weeds growing through the weedproofing barrier I laid last year over the vegetable patch. The tenacious little bastards had pushed their roots right through the pores.

In two weeks time, all our efforts will be obliterated and warfare will have to start again. I have ivy wars. Battles with the blackberries over territory. I buried the bindweed under black plastic for two years and still it grows!

I'm at a total loss. I don't know how other people win the garden war. How do you get from weekly battles with the weeds to having a neat garden you can be proud of? This year has been particularly bad; we've had very few weekends where you could get out and just mow the lawn. It has rained a lot and the hot weather has only just arrived. In less than two weeks, the grass and weeds grew over a foot.

[ sigh ]

All I want is an easy care, low maintenance garden that grows some fruit and vegetables. Is that too much to ask?

- Pam

Saturday, 7 June 2008

I've been lead astray

A few weeks ago, I decided that I had too much yarn. I have enough yarn for at least five sweaters for me plus two tops, several hats and multiple pairs of socks. I'm not even sure what I want to make when this lot is used up. The lid of the "Stash" (a pine blanket box) doesn't close properly, even with the sewing machine sitting on it.

So I decided to go on a yarn diet. No more yarn purchases until at least the I-Knit-London show in September (that's where I'll get to meet the Yarn Harlot). And I'd have to use up enough Stash that I could close the lid in the meantime.

The diet lasted 2 weeks.

At lunch on Wednesday, a colleague "N" took me and another colleague "K" to a nearby shopping centre; somewhere off the main roads, where I'd never been before. "K" is a knitter. She's also a bargain shopper, who finds most of her yarn in charity shops. There are at least four charity shops in the shopping precinct, although we only managed to visit two.

We hit paydirt! "K" purchased 12 x50g balls of a cotton ribbon yarn that I'd never heard of (and don't remember), for 50p a ball. Even better, the shop manager was the person who donated the yarn in the first place so could verify it was all one dye lot. "K" plans to make a blouse with it.

Me? I purchased this:

55g of some unlabeled ?aran pink fuzzy yarn (feels like mohair, but who knows?). It cost me 50p.

I want to make the ruffle scarf from Interweave Crochet, Fall 2005. I know I don't have enough to make the scarf as shown, but I'll use it as my inspiration and go from there.

Oops! Look like the diet failed.

- Pam (also purchased a pink wool suit for £7.50!)

Tuesday, we had a craft fair

I've been a bit quiet recently on the blogging front. That is partially because I've been spending my spare time preparing for this:-

A table load of Bridal Horseshoes for Tuesday's craft fair, organised by the Social Committee at work.

In a moment of madness, about a month ago, I volunteered to take a table. Yes, I know, I've always made horseshoes as gifts. And I've never sold one in my life before. And I couldn't produce them in huge volumes (they take time) but aren't you meant to cover the table with stuff at shows? And there isn't much of a market here for them - the tradition has nearly died out, whereas in Australia it's booming. And.... And....

I must be mad. This time last week, there were hundreds of excuses and reasons why I should pull out. DH talked me out of it. He gallantly cut me out 15 bases, made me hot chocolates, bought me bits and pieces, and laminated me signs. (Sorry, no picture of the signs - they show my work phone number.) The net result were these:-

I think they are really pretty.

I took 14 horseshoes with me (somehow managed to miss making the 15th), and sold a grand total of ..... Are you ready for this?..... Two. Yes, that's right, two.

I reckon we had 30 people through the door in the hour and a half of the craft fair. It is a new thing and I can't blame the Social Committee for trying - of all the places I've worked, this is the least sociable - but they're fighting an uphill battle. The location was pants for a start - we were tucked into a conference room well away from the main flow of traffic through the building. They could also do with a better publicist.

I think I'll put them up on Etsy.

- Pam