Tag Archives: Swearing and throwing things

Oh, not again!

Why do things happen in clumps? I mean, when one thing happens – say someone reversing into your car – why is it then followed by other things? And why do these things happen when you’re already busy?

(Warning: there is no, or very little, actual knitting content in this post. There aren’t even any sheep. Because when other things were going pear-shaped, at least the knitting held up. And nobody actually reveresed into my car. I reversed it into a fence post getting out of the way of a caravan – it’s December, people, FFS – but it was slow and nothing was damaged.)

All in all, I needed a bit of refreshment. So, dealing with Disaster 3, I decided to take the back way to the big city – that would be Bangor – and get a bit of a reminder that there were good things too.

Gwynant

This is Nant Gwynant, and it is so beautiful…

So, Thing 1. Just before work, I went into the bathroom. The sink was full of glass, broken glass. First thought? I’d broken a tooth glass. Second thought? I do not have a tooth glass.

Looked up. Inner layer of Velux window had failed.

Spend ages putting cardboard up so more glass does not descend, place hoover across door so don’t forget about glass, go to work. Come back, replace cardboard which has fallen down, hoover glass. Repeat three hours later. Repeat next morning, before ringing home insurance. Apparently there was a product recall for these windows manufactured at a certain time. Ring Velux. My window is one. Will be replaced. Fast forward a few days, man from Velux appears. Replaces bathroom window. Checks massive double Velux in kitchen roof – and they need doing too. It’s about 4 metres up, but he’s prepared though a little surprised. (I am trying to work, meanwhile, and there is some, er, disruption.)

Time for pretty pic.

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OK, Thing 2. Have heating engineer here trying to work out why one rad has stopped working. This is going smoothly, even though it involves a hosepipe through the front door and black gunk in the garden, when my MacBook Pro decides to have a kernel panic.

This is my first. Run around room shouting ‘someone’s taken over my computer!!!’ until I stop and see the giveaway screen box on top of the chaos. Restart MBP. All seems well, but am not fooling self – really need extra memory. Unfortunately I am the Queen of Static so this will need doing by someone who does not rule the electric realm. Think a female version of Thor, but without the cloak and the muscles. And the facial hair. Hammer, mind, I could do with a (}#%$!! hammer. Now.

Another calming shot.

Llanberis Pass

Thing 3: Sodding washing machine decides to have its annual near-Christmas collapse. I know how it feels, but I do not stop in mid cycle with a load of ringing wet bedding inside, with all my lights flashing, making a terrible noise, and then refuse to give up my prize of a partly washed duvet, sheet, and pillowcases to their rightful owner. However at least it did not do it on Boxing Day this year, and I did find a hammer and released my washing through the exercise of physical violence.

And this is why I found myself driving around the base of Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon, avoiding a strolling family of wild goats, even though I suspected I would actually get my new machine from my lovely local retailer. As I have. It arrives tomorrow.

Snowdon

And the craft fair went fine, thanks. But my takings are going on a new washing machine. Oh yes, and on top of all that I developed a lung infection that I thought was just my usual winter athsma until it was a bit late, so I’ve been on heavy-duty antibiotics. I have now finished the course so I can hit the GIN, and boy do I need the €$^#{\!!! gin.

Ouch ti pouch ti

First, let me apologise. ‘Ouch ti pouch ti’ is family slang – but essentially it just means ‘ow’. And ‘ow’ is something I’ve been saying quite a bit lately (along with a few other things), because I developed contact dermatitis. No, I’ve not been near poison ivy because we don’t have it this side of the pond; I’ve not suddenly developed a sensitivity to the cat; I’ve not sprayed myself with cleaning fluid.

I cuddled a fleece cushion.

I pulled a muscle in my right shoulder, and almost the only way I could be comfortable when lying down was if my arm was supported – hence the cushion. Small, convenient, not filled with feathers so it held its shape: perfect. Except for the consequences, that is.

I didn’t realise anything was amiss until I woke with the cushion almost sticking to me and the beginnings of an angry rash (no, there won’t be any photographs, so anyone who blog-surfs at breakfast can carry on eating). This rapidly deteriorated – I didn’t expect it to hurt quite as much as it did – but it’s finally responding to the steroids. Now the swelling has gone down somewhat the culprit is even more clearly defined: I have a clear zipper mark where the fleece didn’t come into direct contact with my skin. My doctor had never heard of a link before, so I hit the internet and discovered that I’m not alone. This not-uncommon reaction has been blamed on polar fleece being treated with fire retardant (possibly the case with my cushion), on the way it is manufactured, on the fact that it can get very hot. It all got me thinking: how much did I know about polar fleece? Not a lot, it turned out.

polar fleece 1We’ve all got fleeces, I bet. I have – had – a fleece throw which went on the bed when it got cold. I’ve got a couple of hats, gloves I wear when scraping ice off the car, a crappy garden fleece, a walking fleece, an almost smart fleece – and that’s even though I’m a knitter and spinner. They’re handy. I keep one by the door, chuck it on when I go to get logs. And not as bulky as a big sweater, either. Nice and light. But what are they made of?

Oil.

Really. Oil. They’re polyester, which is made by reacting one petroleum derivative (terephthlic acid) with another (ethylene glycol, aka antifreeze). These create a polymer, which becomes thick and syrupy as it cools. It’s forced through tiny holes in a ‘spinneret’ – a metal disk – forming strands and, as these come into contact with air, they harden. The chemical name for this polymer is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET – yes, that’s the same stuff that is formed into plastic for soft drink bottles. And that’s how come some fleeces are made today from recycled bottles, and many more have at least an element of recycled material.

polar fleece 2The fibres are spun together, and collected onto huge spools. They are then mechanically knitted on a circular knitting machine into an enormous tube. Fleece is, of course, fuzzy. That’s because the resulting material is then fed through a ‘napper’ which raises the surface, and then to a shearing machine, which cuts the fibres – as in the manufacture of, say, velvets. The resulting fabric is then finished (if necessary), which can involve spraying it with waterproofing or fire retardant or something to set the texture. This could have been the source of my dermatitis.

But that’s not the end of the story. So fleece can be green with its recycled content, even though it’s made from petroleum derivatives and we might be better off using what oil we have as a source of power? Er, no, not really. The Guardian described synthetic microplastic as ‘the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of’ in a 2014 piece. It’s worth clicking on the link but, very briefly, the problem is fibres.

Mark Browne, a ecologist researching shoreline sediments, noticed something incredibly common: lots and lots of tiny synthetic fibres. Everywhere. He found them in the largest quantities near sewage outlets, so the source was clear: human activity. (It’s OK, you can go back to your croissants: washing machine waste water goes into the sewage system too.) They were ‘microplastics’, used in clothing. And further sampling showed that around 1,900 fibres can be washed off a single garment in a single wash. Of course, they don’t just sit there doing nothing. They can find their way into the food chain…

I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with all my fleeces now. I do know one thing, though: after a rather reckless experiment involving a fleece scarf, I’m not going to be wearing any of them any time soon.

Earworms and felted bags

I need to apologise for this, but just in case you thought I was getting a bit sensible… and I accept no responsibility for the consequences, by the way.

I clicked onto Facebook yesterday, and a friend of mine who lives inland was lamenting the presence of an earworm – she’d popped out to feed her hens, seen that the Moelwyns were looking spectacularly blue in the early light, and started channelling Laurel and Hardy with a slight adaptation – ‘In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Ffestiniog / in the shade of the lonesome pine…’. All. Day.

I felt (ouch – wait for it) for her, because I’d also been suffering. Only I’d been channelling Gilbert and Sullivan, and I don’t even like Gilbert and Sullivan. And I’d been singing to some cute felted bags I’ve been making for a commission. At least she’d been singing to something animated: her hens.

Think Mikado, OK?

IMG_3495

Three little bags from Wales are we,
Fat as a felted bag can be,
We’re really sweet, not ‘ach a fi’,
Three little bags from Wales…

IMG_3518

Three little bags which slightly vary,
Due to the kemp we are still quite hairy,
Even so, we are soft not scary,
Three little bags from Wales,
Three little bags from Wales…

IMG_3522

There is more, but personally I would like to get through the day without conjuring up visions of dancing bags in Japanese wigs (though it is worth clicking on the YouTube rendition of ‘Three Little Maids’ which involves Lily Savage, who is surprisingly restrained but a good antidote to the cod geishas which populate amateur versions – and some professional ones – of The Mikado).

Oh, and ‘ach a fi’ (‘fi’ is a ‘vee’, not ‘fee’ sound), in case you didn’t know, is a Welsh expression of disgust. Quite.

So. Small bags knitted in a 100% pure wool – Hebridean, in this case, with a stripe in some left-over New Lanark Falklands wool – and felted. Stuffed with newspaper,

IMG_3498

which you can just see here, to give them a nice rounded shape, then dried on a radiator during a brief period (soon to be back) when the heating clicked on. Buttons added, labelled, packaged and delivered, all to the accompaniment of fecking Gilbert and fecking fecking Sullivan. And if WordPress changes ‘fecking’ to ‘decking’ once more I will hunt them down and sing to them.

(I haven’t been this irritated by an earworm since the time slugs drove me to rewrite the national anthem. They did, honest.)

Life is learning (and sometimes swearing)

One of the kicks I get from knitting is learning something new. Last week, for instance, we had a visitor at our knit and natter (we love having visitors) who showed us a knitting mill – a sort-of hand-powered knitting dolly for producing fine i-cord. I need one, and I need it now. But the big plus for me this week has been the provisional cast on.

OK, I can hear the gales of laughter now. I know, everyone can do this. Yeah, maybe everyone can – but the people I know who could actually show me use a crochet provisional cast on and, as almost everyone on the surface of the planet knows, I do not crochet. OK?

I’ve been knitting cowls for the various fairs and pop-ups I’ve been involved with this summer (it’s a testament to the sort of summer we’ve been having that big cowls have been flying out) and have also developed a little bias-knitted cowl-stroke-necklace which uses one skein of Louisa Harding’s fabulous – and about-to-be discontinued – mulberry silk:

neck warmer

I’ll pop the pattern on Ravelry just as soon as the mad rush is over, and as soon as I’ve come up with a catchy name for it. But the whole point is that even my fine-stitched seam is a little too untidy – for me, that is, nobody else seems (ho ho, did ya see what I did there?) bothered by it. So out came the books, including the wonderful Cast on, Bind Off, and out also came the bad language and the evil temper. But I did glean one thing – use smooth thread, like cotton, which can be pulled out easily.

Or, indeed, frequently.

However, I’ve got it now.

tah dah

Tah, as they say, dah.

This is entirely due to YouTube, though perhaps not quite in the way you’d expect. There are plenty of vids on there of people doing a provional cast on, some of which are clear but which I am too daft to follow, but many are either too fast or too badly filmed to follow (well, for me, anyway). Every time I hit pause in my attempts to flipping follow I dropped my knitting; cue more swearing.

But then I fiddled about and thought about what I was doing, or rather trying to do: wrap live stitches round a string. And I started from exactly the opposite point as the YT vids I’d been watching and the instructional books I found – I began with the working yarn at the bottom as opposed to the top and ZIP! It was like Audrey Hepburn being sung (or rather shouted) at by Rex Harrison playing Professor Higgins: by George, she’s got it!

the start

So here is the working yarn (the orange silk) and a short-but-long-enough length (too much is silly and leads to more bad language) of the waste yarn knotted together like this, with the needle on top of the yarns and in the middle. Oh, and using a circular needle is not easy. I know this. You just end up with a mystery third ‘yarn’ which inexplicably has a needle tip attached, and a lot more swearing.

I then take the needle under the working yarn from the top and lift it over the waste yarn, keeping the two threads to the left of the needle separated by the thumb of my left hand. Then I  take the needle and yarn and pass them under both threads (don’t worry about following this…) and pop them through the middle. Really don’t worry about following this.

ker zap

It looked a bit messy, but as you can see I had achieved live stitches wrapping round string. I went back for the next row and half the stitches fell off, so the next time I did it – after I’d chanted ‘under yarn, over waste, under both, through the gap’ as a mantra several times as I redid the cast on – I knitted into the back of alternate stitches carefully. And it worked!

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d got it. I pulled it out and did it again, still chanting the provisional cast on mantra. It still worked.

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d invented something new, solved a problem that surely must have affected more people than just me, but I did seem to have done so. Now I often have difficulties following knitting etc instructions others take for granted, and I suspect that’s because I am one of those naturally left-handed people whose handedness was changed from babyhood by parents who carefully made me use my right hand all the time – my instincts really came to the fore when I had surgery on my left hand (I’m a left-handed spinner, which is why I damaged that hand through being overenthusiastic/stupid) and found life really difficult, even when it came to simple things like pouring water from a kettle. I’m not alone in this. I know, I thought, such depth of insight for us ‘not actually southpaws but who ought to be’ lot should be on YouTube.

Er, it already is. I should have looked further.

Or possibly I should just have clicked on the first one that came up.

I’d run out of bad words by then, so I just shrugged. But hey, at least it’s there, and nobody will have to look at my nail varnish (or not) instead…

Silence is golden… and my broadband is irritating

Apologies for the lack of activity, but the fact is that since before Easter our broadband has been abominable. Partly this is down to the massive population explosion – all with phones and tablets and laptops and even smart TVs in their caravans – that Snowdonia experiences in any holiday season, and partly this is down to ancient cabling.

I’ve been largely reliant on free broadband in cafés – and pleasant though this may be, it’s not really an environment conducive to peaceful, thoughtful, incisive blogging about sheep. You get comments, apart from anything else. But on Monday the road is being excavated on behalf of BT Broadband for new ducting and ‘improvements’. This is essentially happening because there are some new houses being built, but I’m hoping there’ll be an upside for the rest of us. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, this is me and Rumplestiltskin waiting for a site to load:

Rumpelstiltskin / BTI suppose I could do some housework.

Normal service will be resumed shortly… gobeithio (extremely useful Welsh word, meaning ‘hopefully’). Hopefully.

(And as an indication, it has just taken me nearly an hour to post this, and that’s without searching for the image; I had it in my files. AGH!)

We are allowed to make mistakes…

Oh yes we are. We all are.

I’ve been knitting for AHEM years, and I’ve just managed to produce a cardigan with one front longer than the other, not something I noticed until it had been made up (how is this even possible?). There are the same number of rows, but it’s longer – has to be down to needle size. A combination of me and (principally) my mate Angharad have come up with a classically bodged solution but it’s going to be tricky. Given that I’ve woven in all the ends, done the button bands and even sewn on the buttons.

Oh, and it’s in Noro.

Noro disaster

It’s lovely – when viewed as individual parts. (This is me picking up exactly the same number of stitches on the left side as I had on the right, and yet somehow failing to notice that I really needed to pick up another, oh, 20 or so to make the band match the extra-long piece. This is the stage at which disaster could have been averted, at which I could have reknitted the offending front. But I did not.) And it’s in Noro. You know, Noro. Second mortgage time. A whole garment. In NORO.

That’s the difference between the mistakes I made as a baby knitter and the mistakes I make now. Then, I made mistakes in cheap acrylic and laughed as I threw away the sweater which gave me a third boob, the tank top (?!) which made me look dead, the purple ‘mohair’ sweater which made me look as though I weighed 24 stone when I was borderline anorexic, and the Unlined Skirt We Do Not Mention But Which We Could See Straight Through. Now, I buy 10 balls of Noro Silk Garden Lite and screw them up instead.

It was at roughly this point that I found the ‘for the love of Ravelry‘ forum on Ravelry, and the ‘Your ugliest FO?’ thread (FO: finished object). If, like me, you don’t know about this, do check it out, and specifically select posts with images – but, unlike me, make sure you are not drinking a cup of tea at the time (an iPad is surprisingly resistant to being sprayed with acai and goji berry tea, is all I can say – and do join if you’re not on Rav; it’s free and fab).

There are some things which only the knitter considers hideous, but there are many others which are – um, challenging. There are distorted and psychotic toys, immense sweaters, far too many things in eyelash yarn, shawls which look as though they’ve been knitted in vomit, socks with heels halfway down the foot or halfway up the leg, trapezoidal blankets, a pink glove which one member commented on quite accurately: ‘oh my god, you knitted an udder‘…

You are only allowed to post your own disasters, and I am waiting to see what can be done about the Noro No-No before putting it on. But my Nipple Hat of Innuendo had to be there:

hat disaster

It’s handspun. What possessed me to add a perky little, er, bobble to the top of a red hat, I do not know, but at least I realised and turned it inside pretty quickly. That doesn’t alter the fact that the hat is so big that it’s reached the tip of my nose in this pic, and that’s after being felted twice.

I’m so glad I found that forum thread. It’s so reassuring. And now I must go and add one of my Colinette Catastrophes: the sweater in Tagilatelle which has grown and grown and grown and grown and which would now make a passable tent. Hey ho….

Cool, man (look what I found!)

When I go shopping, I like to splash out. I like to spend, flash the cash, put my hand in my wallet,  undo the purse strings, give my last penny, spend money like water, blow everything, waste my inheritance – and anything else that Roget’s Thesaurus can come up with.

In this case, I splashed out all of 50p.

wooo!

Well, it had been marked down from £1 – how could I walk away?

This book is a gem. I wasn’t knitting when it was published, so somehow it passed me by, but I do remember Jackie magazine – not that my mother would let me have Jackie, oh dear no, far too silly, I had to borrow it from school friends on the quiet – and I think they used the same illustrator:

old knitting book

It’s the incidental details that get me – love the chairs – and what the heck is that black-clad old lady doing? The 1976 equivalent of Shreddies’ offensive knitting nanas?  Mind you, the way she’s drawn, she could be some refugee from a hippy commune.

I like ‘visiting the woolshop’ (and as an editor, I’m intrigued by the early running together of ‘wool’ and ‘shop’ – oh, it’s Patons, by the way; I think they must have had something to do with this publication), and the trip on the tube to get there:

old knitting book madness

Note the concession to multiculturalism, though I bet it wasn’t called that then, just eight years after Enoch Powell’s notorious ‘rivers of blood’ speech (don’t just get distracted by the bobble cap). Oh, maybe the Sun sponsored this book in conjunction with Patons?

But it is very easy to be distracted by details, like phones and decor:

old knitting book 2

Don’t do it, Maggie! Have you never heard the saying about not knitting anything for a man until you’ve got his ring on your finger (highly apt for the time, I think)? And you don’t want that; in a later frame he’s puffing away on – a pipe. Plus, what about the magic word, you sexist git? Yes, you can make one for him, Maggie, but will you? Haven’t you heard of feminism? Don’t just say ‘certainly’!

And what about that decor? Some unsettling motifs keep cropping up throughout the book. I must draw your attention to the strange doll-type harlequin-clown thing hanging from the shelves here. Hanging…?

old knitting book

It appears in several frames, sometimes without any apparent support. Or context. Also, who’s ‘Buck’? Is this all in code? Perhaps this book isn’t really about knitting, perhaps it’s actually about some weird sinister-doll-worsphipping cult. (The teddy is migratory too, but doesn’t have the doll’s force of personality.)

There are sections, named to tempt you in: Woolly Waistcoats, anyone? Jaunty Jackets? Tank Tops? (The sub evidently couldn’t think of an alliterative terms to go with tank tops, having sensibly rejected ‘terrible’.) No actual patterns, mind, just named sections.

They knit on the beach:

old knitting bookwhich personally I’d have thought a little sandy (this is a beach, honest, it’s clearer in other frames), and take bags of knitting on picnics. Oh come on, we’ve all been there. Admittedly probably not in a maxi-skirt and strange shapeless waistcoat, but hey. (And if she hadn’t stitched the shoulders together, wasn’t it a bit risky holding up as though she had, over a beach full of sand?)

It’s easy to sneer, and I know I’ve indulged myself a bit. But hidden inside here are some pretty clear technical instructions, like these for splicing wool,

splicing

and mattress stitch:

mattress stitch

and I’ve just found some buttonhole instructions which remind me of the very neat way my mother taught me, and which I have managed to forget in the (good heavens, that long?) fifteen years since she died.

Where are my needles? Not to mention my stripy kaftan and devil doll…