Saturday, 9 July 2016

What would I do if....

As you know, I'm working from home while waiting for my foot to heal.  Since I find myself sitting and staring at the inevitable "save" icon on the work laptop for what feels like forever, multiple times during the work day, my thoughts wander off to more interesting topics like knitting.  (It's better than thinking about food and recipes - that inevitably just makes me hungry.)  

One of the mental games I play runs, "What would I do if....", the knitting version of which is "How and what would I knit if I were broke?".  Now, in reality, I have a large stash and if I were broke, I could knit from it for about a decade and (possibly) with the exception of sock yarn, still have multiple-garments-worth of yarn left at the end of it.  I have more than enough yarn.  I am seriously contemplating selling some of it to make some space and because it is highly unlikely I will ever knit with it (the pink and the blue Sublime Angora Merino DK if you are interested).  So let's wind the clock back ten-or-so years, before the stash grew large and contemplate how and what I'd knit if I were broke and didn't have much of a stash.

(This version of the game started because ages ago, on a frugality discussion board somewhere - not TMF - someone remarked that she couldn't afford to knit with "real wool" only with acrylic.  Her next comment, which was aimed squarely at me, was that since I could "afford" wool, I obviously didn't need to be on a frugality discussion board.  I think I replied that it was precisely because of the tips and tricks I'd picked up that I could afford to knit with wool, that most of my yarn was purchased at a deep discount from the likes of Black Sheep Yarns and that I saved £5/month for my knitting.  Anyhow, I digress. Let's play the game...)

How and what would I knit if I were broke?  

For a start, I'd knit whatever yarn I had in the house, until it ran out. I'd dig it all out, pile it on the bed and work out what I could do with it.  Even when I only shopped for the next garment to be knitted and not for the stash, there were always balls and ends of balls of yarn left over after whatever was knitted was finished.  There would probably be enough for at least a couple of hats, some fingerless mitts and a pair or two of my use-em-up socks.  Any short lengths could be crocheted into granny squares - it's about time I learned to do one.  (No, even though I've been crocheting all my life, I've never made one.)

In the meantime, while I was busy knitting up the odds and ends, I'd try to save for the next garment.  Surely I could squeeze £2 a week out of the budget?    Three 100g balls of 4-ply sock yarn is approximately 1200 metres, which  is more than enough to make a vintage sweater like the Jan Sweater, which is at least a month's knitting (  There are plenty of free patterns out there, which you can find via Ravelry.  Since I'm using 4-ply, I'd start by searching the library for patterns listed on Trove (the National Library of Australia online archive of vintage knitting patterns). is another place I'd look.

Then onto the yarn.  King Cole Zig Zag is reasonable to knit, consists of 75% wool:25% nylon, would give you 420m a ball and is currently on sale via Amazon for £4.79 plus £2.49 p&p, so £16.86 for yarn for an entire sweater.  You may even be able to get a short sleeved sweater out of two balls.  The hardest part will be trying to find a source that sells plain colours.

Alternatively, if I'd saved up just a little more, I could get three balls of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4-ply, 75% wool:25% nylon, quality British grown and spun yarn, direct from the spinners for £7.20 a ball plus £2.60 p&p, a total of  £24.20.  That is a premium product with 30% BFL for less than £25, including p&p. I know which one I'd prefer.  

Problem solved, yes?

- Pam

Friday, 1 July 2016

Headless chicken syndrome

In the quiet moments during the day while I'm working from home, when it takes 5 minutes to open or save a file, I've been listening to podcasts.  Always, after they download, the BBC money ones - and Kermode* - get queued to "Play next"**.   The money podcasts I listen to are:  Money Box, Money Box Live (a phone in mid-week edition of the show) and 5 Live Consumer Team with Martin Lewis.  

Over the last week, the on-going theme for all three of them has been Brexit and what on earth happens to our personal finances now.  The headless chicken appears to have taken over, with the most frequently asked questions boiling down to:-

1).  I was going to buy a house or remortgage but, with Brexit, should I wait?  What happens if I don't wait?  Will I lose all my money?  (Answer:  don't wait.  You need a roof over your head.  If your personal economics were right two weeks ago, ie you could afford the mortgage and you were sensibly fixing it for a few years, then nothing has changed.)

2).  I have money in the stock market, either directly invested, through a unit trust or a pension scheme.  The stock market fell after Brexit.  What do I do now?  I've lost "money".  Do I sell up?   (Answer:  the stock market moves all the time and is now back to the level it was at two months ago.  You haven't lost any money unless you sell, which is when you crystallise your paper losses.  (Incidentally, the market promptly bounced up again, that afternoon.))

Frankly, if the headless chicken continues, people will talk Britain into a recession, long before we even start the process of leaving the EU.  It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It's a vicious cycle  People will sell their shares, causing a run on the stock market, crystallising their losses.  They'll then stop shopping and stop eating out because they feel poor, which in turn will mean less money coming in to local businesses, which in turn means they'll have to start laying people off and eventually may have to shut up shop, potentially defaulting on loans in the process.  That, in turn, will lead to landlords going bust, which means more loan defaults.  The banks will get stressed out and stop loaning money.  More unemployment leads to more people on benefits which also leads to less money being spent in the economy, which means more businesses going out of business.... And so on, and so on.

As things stand, we don't know what will happen re Europe.  My bet is on us joining the European Economic Area, a la Norway, which means that we have to sign up to almost everything except shared sovereignty, the common agricultural policy, the common fisheries policy and certain VAT, tax and tariff regimes.   All that is in the future, however, because the one BIG problem with Brexit is that no credible alternative policies were put forward by the Leave campaign, even by those who technically are still in the government. 

Into the void has stepped an awful lot of speculation and panic.  Last weekend, the only person talking any sense was Martin Lewis: , with whom I totally agree.

If the headless chicken comes anywhere near me, he's soup!

- Pam

* The Kermode and Mayo Film Review, which is a download of the live, BBC Radio 5 program with anything up to another 45 minutes of them wittering on before and after the show.  I started listening to them broadcasting live on a Friday back in 2008, on my long 200+ mile drives home from Site.  Now, even when I catch part of the live show, I will also download and listen to the Podcast in order to hear all the extras.

**The Podcast App on the iPhone has this wonderful, on going ability to build a playlist.  You can queue "Play next" - and it will play immediately after the current podcast finishes - or "Add to up next", which puts whatever you are queuing to the back of your playlist.