Thursday, 23 July 2009

Pastures New

If you'd like to keep up with Hoxton Handmade and Electric Sheep, please head over to the new website

Sunday, 5 July 2009


I feel very honoured that Stitch & Bitch London have been in touch with a few questions as they're planning to put Electric Sheep in their next newsletter! I've emailed them back with the answers (inevitably, never as witty or clever as I would hope to be with these things) so I hope it's alright.

Feeling slightly nervous at the thought of new folks coming along to check it out, I hope it doesn't disappoint. But if you do have a listen I'd love to hear what you think.

You can click through to the Electric Sheep blog and the podcast by clicking the link on the right.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Keeping Up With The Sheep

Apologies if you're having trouble downloading the new episode or finding it in the iTunes Store. The new server is up and running with lots of lovely bandwidth, but iTunes is a separate entity, so I have to re-submit the podcast to them with the new feed. Boring tech stuff but should be fixed in a day or two. Thanks for bearing with me, and you can still listen to Ep.12 (and the rest) by clicking on the Listen Here link on the Electric Sheep blog (follow the Sheep link on the right).

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Post #100! Stitch 'n' Bitch

It's the 100th post of this blog, so thank you very much for reading this far!

As you probably know, yesterday was World Wide Knit In Public Day.  In honour of the occasion the Stitchettes over at Stitch 'n' Bitch London organised a Knit Crawl, in aid of a prostate cancer charity.  Given the manliness of the cause, they chose a moustache theme to match, meaning that many of the knitters spent the day sporting some seriously cool knitted facial hair.

The Crawl started off at the Tower of London, but I joined them an hour later at Tate Modern on the South Bank.  Walking along the river on a day like this there was no denying I live in a pretty damn fabulous city.  Views like this, of St Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, is what London does best, combining the old and the new: 

At the Tate it was into the vast chasm of the Turbine Hall that knitters could be found:

After an hour's very happy knitting, it was on further down the river to the London Eye. The South Bank is probably my favourite public space in London, and we passed the usual collection of musicians, artists, street performers, dancers and  one very friendly group of people giving out free hugs.  I'm not sure what other kind there are, but I can vouch that these cheerful folk trying to spread a little happiness did dispense a very good hug.
Setting ourselves up on the grass in the sunshine, we all knitted away, mightily impressed with one knitter's cupcakes. How amazing are these?!

Almost too good to eat.  Meanwhile, the Stitchettes had drafted in a couple of passers-by to model a moustache or two:

And very good they look too.  Sadly I had to leave the party at this stage, but the Crawl continued to Trafalgar Square and then a pub or two. Hopefully they've raised lots of money for a very worthy cause and introduced a few more people to the joys of the knit.  So all praise to S'n'B London for organising a great day.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Sweet Enough To Eat

One of my favourite patterns, Wisp, has been drafted into service again as I needed a little wrap for a wedding outfit.  Kidsilk Haze does come in the most fabulous colours, so I've ended up with a Candy Floss scarf:

It's garter stitch and a very simple lace repeat that even I haven't managed to mess up:

I only used one ball, leaving me with the second left over.  I also had four balls of Kidsilk Night in my stash from last year.  So I've taken a fairly generic Rowan pattern in Kidsilk Haze for the basic measurements/maths but am re-fashioning it as a candy-striped jumper:

Loving how it's turning out so far and it should be a very warm but very light sweater to bundle into a bag and throw on of a chilly evening.  A pink and sparkly bumble-bee... 

Monday, 25 May 2009

Bliss & Hanne

Finished at last, here's Bliss (with a one-armed, not-great photo):
And this one shows the colour of the yarn a bit better:

Then Hanne, which is really hard to photograph and see it properly, but it gives you an idea. This is the mitered corner, fastened with a stitch holder, of all things:

And a vague idea of the front as a whole:

On the whole I'm pretty pleased with both, and they've been really useful for the Spring weather, a little warmth around your middle without being overwhelming.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Knitting In Progress

So, I thought it was time for a little update on what I'm knitting at the moment.  Here's Bliss:

After a slight false start and a little chart reading confusion, this has been going along quite speedily and I'm pleased with how its turning out.  The yarn is Jamieson's Heather Aran in Fern although it's a brighter, richer green than the photo.

Then we have Hanne:

This is in Freedom Spirit in Bliss (confusingly enough!) and a grey Artesano Alpaca. I'm not quite sure how this is going to turn out, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for now.  I should have taken a better photo of the mitered corners but you can see one in the top left of the picture.  Nice and simple knitting, nothing too taxing...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Yarn on a Budget

I ventured out to the shops yesterday, thinking I might splurge on a little yarn for Knitty's Hanne. I needed 3 skeins of something colourful and variegated and three of something soft and plain, probably a grey alpaca.

I couldn't face trekking all the way into town to John Lewis and thought I might find something more unusual over at Loop in Islington. And I have to confess I was hopelessly disappointed.

For a start they had very little that wasn't in a solid colour. Only sock yarn and some gorgeous handpainted stuff that was £14.99 (!!!@$$$%£$$!!!!) a skein.

I know it's a boutique shop, but I was surprised at how little 'regular' yarn they stock anymore. A few Rowan, a few Debbie Bliss and that's it. Everything else was high-end, luxury fibre - hardly credit-crunch friendly. The prize went to some very beautiful cashmere that was £32 a skein, and which filled two whole shelves.

The pattern calls for Rowan Tapestry, and I had thought of subbing some Freedom Spirit as it's even cheaper. I didn't really expect Loop to stock either of these but I thought they might have something more original and I would have splashed out if I could have found 100 yds for less than ten quid. 

Anyway, I don't mean to moan and it's hardly their fault if I can't afford most of what they stock. But even if I'd had fistfuls of cash with me, there was very little that would have actually worked for that pattern anyway. It's a few months since I was last in there and I'm sure I remember them having a few more 'normal' brands in there. Ah well, guess from now on I'll be making the trip to Oxford Street after all. But it does rather highlight the problem with supporting a LYS.  It's all very well if you can actually use them but, even aside from the price, if you're after sweater yarns, shops like that aren't always very helpful.

On the bright side I think I've finally worked out what to do with the huge amount of Jamieson's aran I still have lying around, leftover from my brother's seamless hybrid - Heroine. Yes I know it's April. And sunny. And warm. And that a thick felted military jacket isn't really the most practical thing to be considering. But - no really, hear me out - at least if I knit it now it should be finished for when the weather turns again in the Autumn. And if last year is anything to go by, it might prove useful in July, you never know...

Saturday, 11 April 2009

I Caved

Well I finally gave in.  Surrendered.  Followed the herd.  I held out as long as I could but there comes a point where you have to acknowledge the truth.

I'm knitting a Clapotis.

Yes, the ubiquitous scarf has finally found its way into my life.  I'm probably the only knitter who hasn't made one yet, so it was inevitable really.  Of course there's nothing really wrong with this.. The fact is that patterns only become that popular when they're good and Clapotis is undoubtedly a good pattern.  It's complicated enough to hold the interest but blessed with a simple repeat that's easy to memorise.  It looks good in almost any yarn and any size.  More interesting than a regular scarf but infinitely simpler than the lacework shawls that are everywhere.

A few months ago I succumbed to an impulse buy in John Lewis for some Mirasol yarn.  A merino wool and silk blend from Peru it drapes beautifully, has a lovely sheen and is a great shade of royal blue.  A Clapotis seemed the obvious home for it.

As I only have 2 skeins, it's much narrower than the original pattern, I just did two sets of the increase rows, but I'm pleased with how it's turning out so far:

So, not the most original project; more of a classic.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Trouble with Cotton

Episode Two of the Electric Sheep podcast is now up, Knit & Be Damned. Please pop over and have a listen, I'd love to know what you think.

Meanwhile, knitting continues apace over in Hoxton, although nothing drastically exciting to report. I'm still working away on the minimalist cardigan and doing miles and miles of seed stitch. It's looking pretty good but doesn't really make for an exciting photo.

But perhaps you lovely knitterly folk can help with another problem instead. I have a stash of Ddebbie Bliss Cotton DK, in a lovely dark shade of turquoise, and I simply do not know what the hell to do with it. You see, I hate cotton. It's stiff and cumbersome to knit with, it weighs a ton, any garment ends up stretching down to your ankles. I also have some Rowan Bamboo Tape which, although nicer to knit with, suffers from many of the same issues. A fellow Hoxton knitter made the excellent suggestion of a Clapotis, which I think might work for that. But the DK would be much to heavy for that. So, what to do? I've had a look through Ravelry but nothing has grabbed me so far. What am I missing? Answers on a postcard please...

Debbie Bliss Cotton DK
84m/50g (I have 400g)
Gauge: 4mm needles 20sts/28rows

But for now, the sun is shining, the birds are singing (and a helicopter keeps flying over my house but I'm ignoring this intrusion on my pastoral idyll) and I think it's time to head outside. Spring is indeed sprung. Although putting away my cosy, heavier jumpers always makes me a little sad....

Friday, 27 March 2009

Electric Sheep

I'm back! Well rested and geared up for a new project, so allow me to introduce you to Electric Sheep, my new podcast.

Although I may appear to be joining the bandwagon a little late, I was actually something of an early adopter and made a series of podcasts a few years ago. However they weren't about knitting and they weren't hosted by me (rather I was recording some talented friends) so it's new territory to be the one doing the talking this time!

The basic idea is simply to look at what's online and what's in London in the world of knitting. I'm still working out what I want to do with it, so the remit is intentionally a little vague for now. I like to think it's a bit of an adventure, so we'll see where we end up.

I'll still be blogging here, so to keep things simple there's a separate blog page for the podcast:

Or of course you can simply click through the link on the right.

Enjoy, and let me know what you make of it.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

The Wonders of Technology

I'm writing this from Goa. No, really. Having not been on holiday for quite some time (and not to a beach for years) it's quite surreal to be on another continent, swimming in the sea and enjoying a climate that has absolutely no use for woolens.

It's beautiful here, but not really a place for knitting. I brought a couple of small projects, but there's no getting away from the fact that sand, salt and copious quantities of sunscreen are not a good combination with any kind of yarn. On the plus side, I'm doing lots of reading instead (I'm currently enjoying The Secret Scriptures).

So something of a break from the handmade. But sometimes it's good to step back, do other things, enjoy the company of good friends, knowing that the knitting isn't going anywhere.

Normal service will resume in a couple of weeks but, for now, the sea is calling....

Monday, 2 March 2009

O w l s

At last I have been reunited with my camera, which means I can finally introduce you to these little fellows:

Yes, the Owls jumper, designed by Kate Davies, in all its glory. Well, most of its glory, it's kinda tricky to take a photo that best displays the whole jumper when you're essentially a blind one-armed photographer flying solo.

Project Polar is a resounding success. It's a great pattern, perfect fit, Rowan Polar is yummy - super warm and soft. And I love how the owls only look like owls if you pay attention. Most people just see a row of buttons, or a bit of a pattern, and then it's only after you've been talking to them for half an hour that they suddenly exclaim in the middle of the conversation 'oh, they're owls!'.

I admit, I'm a little concerned at how happy knitting this made me. As each little Plop surfaced, as each little face acquired eyes and a personality (particularly one owl on the back who got a rather wonky right eye, which I decided not to fix and who is therefore now called Wally. Yes, I've named one of the owls. Beyond tragic. I've reached a whole new level. But I've decided it's only if I start talking to them that I really need to worry.....) I found I couldn't help but smile.

With doom, gloom, greed and incompetence in every news headline of late, no wonder this pattern has stormed to the top of the Ravelry chart. Sometimes we're all afraid of the dark. But somehow these little faces always raise a smile. Even if they are a bit on the wonky side....

Monday, 23 February 2009

We interrupt our scheduled programming....

So, this whole not having a camera thing is actually pretty annoying. It means I can't show you the progress I'm making on the Tailored Cardigan or the Minimalist Cardigan (I know, I feel your pain and disappointment). I'm alternating between the two as they're both quite repetitive patterns. One's in a lovely, somewhat hairy, alpaca and the other in a crisp tweed, which is making a healthy dent in my stash.

Anyway, I can't show you either for the time being, so what else can we talk about? The weather? It's all gone depressingly tame of late, with not a snowflake in sight.

Given the lack of knitwear, I'll have to turn to this blog's other topic of choice, music. I'm currently enjoying Spotify, although I'm still trying to work out why the hell it exists in the first place.

For the uninitiated, you sign up for free, and can then listen to a whole load of music for nothing. It opens in a player that's set out a bit like iTunes. You can search for artists, albums and songs and there's a healthy amount of stuff on the site - although it's better if you have a wishlist, it's not really geared towards browsing. You can then add whatever you like to your playlist and it's stored there for you to play as and when you wish. Obviously you can't save it to play elsewhere, but if you just want music to play at home or the office, then you're sorted. With my laptop plugged into my stereo I'm discovering just why Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won that Grammy. I'm also trying to work out why the hell anyone cares about Lady Ga Ga (beside her crotch being thrust into our faces at every opportunity and the nuance of her lyrics - 'I wanna take a ride on your disco stick', anyone?) or the plethora of 80s synth girls who all seem to wish they were Annie Lennox or Prince or possibly an interesting combination of the two. So far all they're giving me is the urge to search for Prince's greatest hits (and lo, here they are with all their B sides in one handy album).

Not sure how it benefits the artists so far, I guess the hope is I'll go and buy an album after listening, but it's a good way of finding new gems, or checking out recommendations. The free subscription option does have adverts, but they're barely 20 seconds long and only crop up about once every 15 minutes - bearable.

It doesn't seem to have as many features, or the magazine look, of but it's an interesting development. With all this music available for free you can, at the very least, create your own radio station-style playlist, and save your pennies for the tracks or albums you've thoroughly road-tested and really love. And it's great to be able to try out new artists beyond iTunes' measly 20 second soundbite.

So, after all this research, here is stuff wot I listened to (the top half of the list being my preferred soundtrack, the others being curiosity):

Robert Palmer/Alison Krauss
Alela Diane
Ane Brun
Emiliana Torrini
Angus & Julia Stone
Rosie Brown
Sufjan Stevens
Sigure Ros
Lily Allen
Lady Ga Ga
La Roux
Little Boots

Whatever your musical tastes, I heartily recommend you go forth and Spotify...

Monday, 16 February 2009

Sans Camera

Just as well I included plenty of pictures in my last post as I'm currently without a camera. Yet another justification of the fact that I rarely leave London - I went to the countryside to visit a friend for her birthday (good god it's dark out there at night. I mean proper, actual darkness. You simply don't experience that in a city.) and left the camera sitting on her dining room table, idiot that I am. Which means I have no pictures of The Beast; the Jabberwocky of Jumpers, that took me almost five months and two false starts to complete. But it is done. Honest. Scouts honour. (Actually I was a Brownie, but the oath still counts, right?).

For those not on Ravelry, this was the Seamless Hybrid sweater from Elizabeth Zimmerman's recipe book. And it is a fabulous pattern but good grief you have to be seriously sober, attentive and armed with a very good calculator and possibly a degree in structural engineering. Deciphering her chatty, somewhat vague, instructions is not for the feint of heart, as you discover through the pain of experience that a technique she mentions casually, in passing, in one sentence midway through a paragraph about her children, is actually the foundation of the entire garment, whose neglect will cause the whole thing to morph into either a potato sack or hot water bottle cover. The saving grace is that even though some of the instructions may feel as though your brain is trying to translate Klingon, it actually makes sense once you, to borrow a phrase, just do it (speaking of which, my sister-in-law has recently acquired some Liberty print Nike hightops which are seriously fab). And there is a magic moment when you form the saddle shoulder, knitting and seaming the thing at the same time. The woman knows her stuff.

But it is done. And it is beautiful, even if I do say so myself, in green, jogless stripes. What is even more mind-boggling is that it actually fits my brother. When I have photos I can show you the sweater's one failing, which is that it doesn't sit entirely right at the back, as I couldn't raise the back neck enough (in brief, the shirt yoke across the shoulders raised the back neck, but is based on half the sleeve stitches you started with. Since I was working with a narrower sleeve, I got a narrower shirt yoke. There must be some way to solve this, but it wasn't a complete disaster and I couldn't cope with the thought of re-doing the sleeves at this late stage so, with a little stretching next time it's washed, it should be fine. Something to fix on the next attempt).

Despite the pain, I'd heartily recommend the pattern. Have a quick Google or Ravelry search to get the idea but it's a fabulously flattering design for men. I'm going to make another at some point but in a block colour and a lighter weight.

Anywho, in other news I have finished Plop, the Owls jumper. Well, Plop and his siblings are entirely done, I'm just finishing the neckline. Then it'll be a quick wash and he should be good to go. So far Project Polar is looking like a roaring success, but I shouldn't count my chickens, owls, or poultry in general, at this point. The only problem I'm having is finding buttons. The pattern calls for 32 of them, for the eyes of 16 owls (But of course! I hear you cry). I had thought the simplest thing would be to order them online but all the web-based button shops are full of novelty buttons, or lucky-dip mixed bags of buttons. Nothing close to what I'm looking for, alas. I would have thought the web would be awash with fantastic supplies but it's all looking very thin on the ground. Let me know if I've completely missed a really good UK supplier. I'm probably going to have to trek down to Libertys and hope they have something that will work with enough in stock in those little tubes. Then will come the joy of sewing on 32 bloody buttons onto an owls frickin' face (just whose bright idea was this, anyway?) at which point I may be less enamoured of our nocturnal pals.

They are damn cute though.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Project Polar

With the stark winter sunshine beaming straight through my window it seemed the perfect opportunity to get the camera out for a little knitting update.

This is part of Project Polar - nothing to do with arctic bear conservation or the weather - a couple of years ago I bought two big bags of Rowan Polar in the sale. It's lovely stuff - soft, squishy, knits up quickly on 8mm. And yet. For some reason everything I've tried to knit with it has been a disaster. I think the main problem is that it's so floppy. It's great for hats and scarves but jumpers just seem to become heavy, shapeless sacks. I knit them up, never finish them, or never wear them, and then frog them every few months and try again. Finally, I think I am onto something that might work. This scarf is the same pattern as the giant throw I made a month ago. It still needs blocking to smooth out the kinks from the yarn being knitted into other things so many times, but otherwise it's done.

This is the Icing Swirl Hat from Ysolda. Great pattern, quick knit, although my gauge was off so I knitted the larger size on bigger needles to get the small size. Two balls of my Christmas stash of Rowan Cashmere Tweed. It's so soft, drapes beautifully and is incredibly warm. I love all the flecks of colour hidden amidst the brown. The only problem is it's an awkward weight. It knits up on 6/6.5mm, so it's too chunky for aran patterns and not chunky enough for most bulky patterns. I've got another few skeins and I wanted to make a cowl. The simplest thing might be to just use the yarn over spiral from the hat.

Meanwhile Project Polar continues:

This is Kate Davies' Owls jumper - named Plop, obviously (see earlier post). I only started this on Monday night so it's knitting up incredibly quickly on 7mm. I've already done the body to the armsyce and half of one sleeve.

I know it looks tiny, but it's very stretchy and the finished jumper doesn't have any ease, so it's meant to be close fitting. My only worry now is that I'm going to run out of wool! I think I might manage it if I use every scrap I can find (after so many froggings there are lots of tiny balls a few metres long lying around so it's hard to judge how much I've actually got). If all else fails there appears to be at least one person on Ravelry who has some they're willing to sell. I really like the waist shaping on this - it's done at the back, rather than the sides, which you can just about see here:

Very simple but it makes a nice shape I think. And for those of you wondering what the hell I'm doing with all these when there's still the Beast to contend with, you'll have to look over on Ravelry. I'm almost there. Reckon I'll crack it over the weekend. I just hope it's going to be big enough....

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow Day Continues

Well, it's a proper Snow Day now, since I got a call telling me not to try and go into work. Feel like a kid playing truant, although I do have some bits and pieces I can do from home.

Since I needed milk and since this kind of weather doesn't come along often, I decided to have a little walk in the snow with my camera.

My neighbours were already out and some serious snowman construction was underway:

And on my street everyone was stumbling on the icy pavement. But walking in the snow was great - rather like walking through a mound of icing sugar - and my feet sank satisfyingly up to the ankles. Of course I was muffled to the eyeballs in a hat, cowl and scarf, with my fingerless gloves enabling a few quick snaps:

This block of flats is handsome in any case but today it's looking particularly charming:

There was hardly any traffic on the streets considering it was rush hour and I feared for some of those tiny little tin buckets, weighed down with snow, creeping along the road at about 5mph. It seems others have had the sense not to try and drive today:

I couldn't believe it but I saw people cycling - or trying to. I just hope they're not looking for any directions:

Others have decided they'd rather not risk skidding across the road in front of a passing salt truck:

I know almost everything looks better in the snow, but St Leonard's is the one to beat today I think:

And after a brief hunt, I found the Dickensian lamp I was looking for:

Time for a hot cuppa...

Snow Day

It's snowing. I mean, real, actual snow. And I have proof (just in case you don't own a TV or a window):

This was the view from my living room at about 7am. Anyone reading this from outside the UK, or anyone who has moved here from afar, will no doubt be puzzled as to what's going on. Not so much that it is snowing (although that's rare enough) but our reaction to the snow. London has gone snow-crazy. Allow me to explain.

First of all, it doesn't snow in London. I mean not proper snow. The last time I remember decent snow was about 2003, when I didn't have a job, and could therefore spend the morning in the park with a couple of friends building a snowman (oh those productive months after graduation...) but it was pretty shortlived. Before that, I think you'd have to go back almost twenty years to some very cute snapshots of me as a toddler, running around Kew Green after a heavy snowfall.

Second, you have to remember Britain is a nation obsessed with the weather. Given our schizophrenic climate, you really do have to watch weather reports most mornings to keep an eye out for tropical heatwaves in October, heavy snow in April and, of course, the rain. But this is what happens when you're an island that gets a warm breeze from Spain one minute and arctic winds blowing in from Russia the next.

Thirdly, we don't handle snow well. Last year there was 1cm of snow in the city (yes, that's not a typo. 1cm.) and almost all the train services in and out of London ground to a halt. God it's embarrassing. We're the nation that produced Shackleton for god's sake, Captain Scott, Ranulph Fiennes. We're famous for our Blitz Spirit, our stiff upper lip - we're meant to be the team you want in a crisis with our cool, calm approach and endless supply of decent tea, but throw a bit of adverse weather at us and we fall to pieces. On the other hand, this all used to be a bit more fun. Go back a few hundred years and the Thames used the freeze over every winter and Londoners could enjoy the fair that popped up in the middle of the icy river. I'm guessing the issues of commuting this morning would be more entertaining if we could all simply skate down the river to work.

Which is why most of the morning news programmes are devoting all their airtime to the weather. And, to give them credit, coming up with some very beautiful pictures of central London. Lambeth Bridge looked amazing with icicles hanging from the wrought iron and glass streetlamps - all very Dickensian. It's the perfect postcard image, I imagine a lot of tourists are delighted. Hell, I'm loving it. Currently all the airports are closed (fair enough), all London buses are suspended (and no wonder, with a double length 'bendy-bus', that the rear end keeps sliding out of control every time they try and turn a corner - whose bright idea were those idiotic things anyway?) and the tube lines are suspended or delayed. So getting into work this morning is going to be fun, I'll have to take my camera with me.

But for now, I am drinking coffee as it slowly gets a little lighter, watching the snow and thinking of the aptly named Robert Frost.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Saturday, 31 January 2009


It seems there is no limit to the new ways you can waste, ahem I mean spend, time online. I'm slowly getting to grips with Twitter and pleasantly surprised at the gems it's been throwing my way, from great blogs, to funny videos and daft news stories. My latest discovery is

As the more technologically savvy of you probably already know, blip is a bit like You Tube in that you can post video online, but is where you can create your own radio station. You 'blip' a song - a bit like a Twitter update really - and others can listen to your station, and add your blips to their playlist and you can do likewise with the other people - what would the word be, exactly? Blipping? God the internet revels in infantile language -anyway, where was I? Right, so you play your favourite music, and listen to others. Which is perfect for me as regular radio stations end up annoying the crap out of me - I hate the adverts, the inane chat from mindless djs, the completely unfunny pranks/jokes/studio banter, and the endlessly repeated playlist of about 10 tracks.

So, from the rolling blips on my screen I'm already sampling a load of bands I've never heard of and being reminded of some forgotten classics. Nice.

You'll find yet another icon on the righthand side of this blog for you to click through to hidden treasures. Don't say I don't give you a few new ways to kill some time on your coffee break.

I know, I know. I need to get out more...

The knitting continues apace, just nothing I can show you yet. Bear with me.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


I'm sure I can't be alone in remembering a book we read in my kindergarten class when I was about four years old - The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark. Brilliant, brilliant book.

So I was thrilled to learn that my childhood love of a nyctophobic baby barn owl called Plop can now be put into my knitting, thanks to Kate Davies and her fabulous Owls jumper. It seems there are also plans afoot to create a knit kit for a children's version, which would just be too cute, especially as you could give it with a copy of the book.

Only one problem. Yet another project in my queue....

Monday, 26 January 2009

Thin End of the Wedge

I should warn you now, this post will have nothing to do with knitting. Instead, I have been moved to vent on a subject that tends to get me a little riled, thanks to a BBC documentary that aired tonight.

The doc in question was the rather literally titled 'Why Are Thin People Not Fat?' The basic premise was to take a dozen young slender people, who are naturally at the low end of the weight scale, and get them to double their calorie intake for one month to see if it would explain why some people are unaffected by the so-called obesity epidemic.

To explain my fascination with this subject, I am thin. I have always been thin. I am also fairly tall and I have very long arms and legs which make me appear even more gangly. I'd like to quickly reassure you at this point that I'm happy with the way I look; I have made peace with my simian-like reach and my chicken-like legs.

Unfortunately it seems to bother other people sometimes. There were the nicknames at school - beanpole, stick insect and so on; the school nurse who took me aside to ask if I was doing anything silly - despite having weighed me every term for 7 years she suddenly decided I'd been taking laxatives to lose weight; the boyfriend who was convinced I was bulimic and when I denied it, claimed I was in denial about my condition (you really can't win an argument with an idiot); the other mothers who, when I worked as an au pair, would ask my employer about her 'anorexic' nanny; the complete stranger who took my arm in a bar, loudly exclaiming to all his friends that he could easily wrap his fingers around my wrist; the kindly friend who asked me only two days ago, her voice full of concern, if I was on a diet as she thought I had lost weight. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So I was intrigued to see what happened when this group doubled their intake. I've tried incresing the amount of food I eat. The fact is donuts, burgers, fried chicken, chocolate, coke, beer, and candy floss have had absolutely no effect. I managed to gain a few pounds by eating extra protein and carbohydrates but god, the effort, it was so boring! But doubling your calories?! The only way these guys could manage to hit their daily target was to consume a family-sized pizza, with an entire tub of ice cream, or a litre of coke, pork pies, and a whole chocolate cake in one meal. One guy was reduced to eating a carton of clotted cream as a bedtime snack. Another was delighted to find a cake that contained well over 1000 calories. Needless to say these people felt wretched. Several threw up at some point. Two of them never actually managed it - their bodies increased the amount of the hormone that makes you feel full which rendered them incapable of eating it all without vomiting. So to all those people who keep telling me to just eat more burgers and donuts - it's not that simple. And of course, once the experiment ended, every single one went back to their original weight, leading the doctors to conclude that our bodies set themselves at a certain weight - fat, thin or somewhere in the middle - and simply try to maintain that weight over the course of adult life.

I was a fussy eater as a baby. I've never had a big appetite. I eat when I'm hungry and lose all interest in food when I'm full (something I have in common with all the people in the BBC's study). I come from a family of other long'n'lean types. I have never ever had an eating disorder. I have never ever been on a diet. I have never weighed more than I do right now and I've been pretty much the same weight for at least ten years.

If you follow one of those medical diagrams that charts height vs weight, I am underweight. My BMI is also in the underweight category. But these are both measurements that are based on the average range for people of my height - meaning that there will always be people who fall outside the average at either end without it being the result of under or over-eating, and without it being a medical problem. I'm perfectly healthy. (I was thrilled a few years ago when I went to see a consultant professor about a persistant back ache. In the end he concluded it was simply because I am tall and thin - I have less fat and muscle to support my spine so it takes more stress, thinness ain't all it's cracked up to be - and he asked me if I'd ever had an eating disorder. When I said no, he replied 'No, you don't seem the type'. Vindication!).

All the people in the study did put on weight, but some less than others. Of those, their bodies either increased their metabolic rate, converting the calories into muscle rather than fat (even without exercise), or increased the amount they fidgeted, gestured and so on in order to burn off the extra calories.

I've always maintained that I'm this weight because that's just how I am. I don't eat a huge amount, but it seems to be enough to keep me going and this study seems to confirm that basic idea. And those of you who know me will be able to confirm that I talk at a mile a minute, gesticulate wildly and walk as if the hounds of hell were after me. Fat or thin, our bodies deal with excess calories in different ways, but it seems that your own biology is the main factor in determining this.

People often tell me I'm lucky, simply because I happen conform to a current, arbitrary stereotype . But the truth is, whatever our weight, we all have our own insecurities about our appearance. I have days where I long to look like Kate Winslet or Scarlet Johansson ('real' women, as they're so often called). Whereas some people worry that an outfit may make them look fat, I worry it will make me look anorexic. So, in this image obssessed society we're clearly all as mad as each other. What bothers me is the assumption some people make that I'm either unwell with a serious medical condition, or that I'm somehow artificial, starving myself to try and look more like Posh Spice and rejecting my natural state.

But there's some consolation in knowing that I'm not alone. Along with the people in the programme, there are any number of my lovely friends and family who don't diet and who are slender. And the issues of obesity and health need to be addressed and investigated. But for all those lifetsyle shows and fashion magazines telling women to embrace their natural size and then clammering over photos of some 'anorexic' celebrity, it's worth remembering it goes both ways. We come in all shapes and sizes. Naturally.

Sunday, 25 January 2009


Sorry for the radio silence recently - work has been crazy. But I've finally managed to take some photos of Martha, so here's a speedy post:

Rowan Felted Tweed may be pricey but it's lovely stuff. And a small pattern like this only took 5 balls.

So it's not a bad pattern, but here's the shoulder seam that bugged me. Just a shame to lose the edge of the cable into the shoulder, but I realise I'm being pedantic.

Few other things on the go, including some seriously gorgeous cashmere tweed, so more to follow soon....

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Yey! vs. Meh...

Conflicting emotions when it comes to knitting in the last couple of days.

On the Yey! front, Knit Night over at Prague went a little crazy as not one, not two, but five new faces came through the door, in such quick succession that it was comical. Two of them were a crocheting couple - see, boys do this stuff too you know - and the entire group got a whole crochet envy thing going by the end of the evening. Yet another thing to add to the to-do list.

So there were 11 of us in the end! We had to grab a second table, squeezing everyone in round the door but it was great. Such a lovely atmosphere with everyone happily chatting away - must remember to take my camera next time.

But then there's Martha (scroll down for the pic). Now there are folks over on Ravelry desperately hunting for this pattern as copies of Rowan Studio Two seem to be hard to find in the States, but I'm half tempted to email them saying not to bother. Which is odd, as it's not really a disaster.

It's in Felted Tweed, which is lovely. The cabling is fiddly but looks good when it's done. Unlike some Rowan patterns, it's a pretty good fit and the swing part doesn't turn it into a maternity outfit. And with short sleeves it's sweet for layering over things.

And yet. Meh...

I think part of the problem is that I'm a bit bored of it by now. It took ages to knit, in a fiddly, tiresome sort of way. Then there are three button bands to pick up (about 250 stitches). Then you have to sew together endless bits and pieces, which is frustrating in such a small garment. But also there are aspects of the design that I'm not crazy about.

The cabling,as I say, is pretty but it's so far over that it's not actually very visible (but try and move it and it's running down over your boobs, which wouldn't work either of course). But, more annoyingly, the cables are the edge of the armsyce. After shaping, there are no edge stitches, so when you set the sleeves the seam has to go through the edge of the cabling, which just looks a bit messy. With all that effort it seems such a shame that you don't get a nice clean line to show off the cables. And finally, the textured knit/purl pattern that borders the body and sleeves doesn't quite lit flat. Which I suppose is a nice contrast to the flatness of the stockinette around it, but it sort of rolls, even after ironing/blocking.

In know, I'm being hopelessly pedantic. I'm sure it will settle the more I wear it, or after a wash. At least it's done, instead of sitting on the arm of my sofa and glaring at me every time I pick up something more interesting. Once I have some daylight I'll take some pictures and you can decide for yourself.

On a separate note, it seems the whole Twitter thing is about to get crazy. As you may know, people like Stephen Fry have been tweeting madly for months, with thousands of people following him. Fair enough and I guess it's nice he's talking to his fans, but then Fry is a well known technophile. He's now been joined by some less obvious characters, like Jonathan Ross. I confess I wasn't that interested in what he was up to even before I discovered his Twitter name is Wossy. 'Nuff said. But, as others have pointed out, Fry is one of Ross's guests on his first show back after the suspension and you can bet Twitter is going to come up.

Then there's the Twitterer the Daily Mail threatened with legal action (so he must be doing something right). He was tweeting as The Daily Mail, posting satirical, sarcastic, mildly offensive headlines, but he's now amended it to Not Daily Mail. (Of course this is a classic example of something going a little bit Hawking as it straddles existence in two realities simultaneously - although not The Daily Mail it's so terrifyingly realistic that it essentially is The Daily Mail). Twitter-related stories just seem to keep popping up in the papers lately.

As with blogging and FaceBook, I suspect it may become one of those internet things that no one really needs, but everyone somehow ends up using.

And one final thought for this evening. BSG starts up again in the States on Friday and then on FX over here (but alas, I don't have cable). So how the hell am I meant to avoid the gazillions of internet spoilers that will soon be everywhere, telling us all who the final 12th Cylon is and thus destroying the one key question of a four-season story??!


Realise I'm scaring you now with my sci-fi telly geekery. But seriously. This is going to be a nightmare to avoid...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Cosy in the Cold

As those of you who regularly read my ramblings here will know, I am something of a solitary knitter amongst my immediate friends and family, which at least gives them something to laugh at (it's only fair to keep providing relatives with fresh material - lord knows they give enough to me). However I'm happy to have found a new recruit.

My sister-in-law was taught to knit when she was small and has now decided to give it another go. Imagine my delight at a phonecall a couple of days after Christmas asking me what the hell was all this about slipping a stitch at the end of row? Another convert! I'll be solemnly passing on my faithful copy of Stitch'n'Bitch to her this weekend, along with the warning that this is all going to get somewhat addictive...

And, as I mentioned a little while ago, I've discovered a couple of friends are closet knitters, quietly making bootees without my knowledge. So knitters are lurking in unexpected places and there are a lot more of us than you think.

As promised, here's the Chunky Throw, which I've finally finished.

It's a bit of a beast, but a nice size to cosy up with on the sofa which is pretty perfect for this cold snap. Even though it's a very basic pattern, I'm pleased with how it's turned out. The pattern calls for the Chunky Elite yarn Twinkle uses all the time and which isn't available over here. I found an affordable alternative in Wendy Pampas. Not sure how it will wear, but super chunky yarn tends to pill quickly anyway, regardless of how posh/expensive it is, and it's a nice rich colour. Cucumber Patch have a couple of colors on sale if anyone wants to give it a try.

Hope everyone's keeping warm. One good thing about the current freeze is that it's the perfect opportunity to indulge in all your favourite handknits.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Detox Your Ears

First day back at work feels rather like the first day back at school. Getting up early, battling the commute and bracing against the arctic wind outside wasn’t really as bad as I had feared. I almost enjoyed myself today (although no need to tell the boss that). I’ve had a lovely break but it’s nice to be back in the bustle of things, engaging my brain – or at least trying to. And for all the corniness of resolutions and fresh starts there is something about a clean slate that’s emboldening somehow, especially when it’s crisp and cold outside.

I’ve been watching Once again (possibly the sweetest, saccharine-free film ever) which in turn has got me to put down my knitting needles and pick up the guitar, whilst re-programming my iPod to a playlist of folky singer-songwriters.

Knitting wise, I’ve just finished the Chunky Lacy Throw, but need to wait for daylight for some decent pictures. I’m onto the final button band for the Martha cardigan so again there’ll be pictures once it’s in shape. And the two remaining Christmas presents are making slow but steady progress. Of course today was the perfect weather for both of them if only they’d been ready, but they’ll just have to wait their turn for now. I’m alternating them with other, smaller things to stop myself going crazy but I’m hoping for a full-on attack this weekend (an evening’s babysitting will be put to good use).

So, rather than the knits, today I thought I’d share a brief playlist of tunes that I’ve been playing over and over lately. An excellent New Year’s detox for the festive over-indulgence of Slade, Cliff Richard and Alexandra bloody Burke.

Bon Iver is the ultimate soundtrack for this kind of weather. Recording most of his album For Emma, Forever Ago in a cabin in Wisconsin in the depths of winter, this is music that seems to be drifting to you through a snowstorm. If the thought of a bloke with a guitar angsting in a wooden shed fills you with horror, be brave and give it a chance. It’s way better than the stereotype. Have a listen of Skinny Love. My personal album of 2008.

Followed very closely by the precocious talent of Laura Marling, who recorded Alas, I Cannot Swim at the age of 17 and was therefore thrown out of one of her own gigs for being underage. So she played on the pavement instead, bless her. Night Terror crawled into my head and won’t budge.

The aforementioned Once, featuring the musical talents of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won an Oscar for their efforts. Falling Slowly is the sweet love song that bagged them the statue but there are other tracks with more of a bitter bite.

I’d never heard of Seth Lakeman until I found myself at a gig of his, which turned into some kind of West Country craic by the end of the evening. Lots of fun. Again, if a man with a fiddle isn’t generally your cup of tea, you might be surprised. Watching him play Kitty Jay live is pretty impressive and I find it oddly comforting that people are writing songs about ghosts and shipwrecks and the beast of Bodmin Moor. Makes a nice change from all that post-modern ironic wit flying about.

St. Vincent is another talented lady, often to be found playing with Sufjan Stevens, whose songs vary from waltzes about the French Revolution to marriage proposals to strangers (“We’ll do what Mary and Joseph did. Without the kid”).

And finally, she may have a voice from another planet, but Joanna Newsom (and that bloke from the whiskey advert) show that if you’re not rocking out with a harp then you’re just not trying hard enough. Bridges and Balloons is probably what the Owl and the Pussycat listen to on their travels.

All the hot-tip predictions I’ve heard so far for 2009 have involved electronica/synths/the 80s for some reason, although I’m pleased a lot of them are women, after the recent glut of testosterone-loaded guitar bands. Anyone have any folksome predictions or recommendations?