In the last podcast, Alli and I talked about the new knitalong we're running for the 2015 edition of the Great London Yarn Crawl. Inspired by the idea of The Rhinebeck Sweater (aka knitting a particular item for a particular event), we've launched the new KAL with the goal of knitting objects to wear to the GLYC in September. It started on Monday, and I managed to finally cast on yesterday.

I'm doing the Byatt Shawl by Karie Westermann (who is absolutely wonderful, and who we interviewed on the podcast a few weeks ago about what's happening in the knitting world these days), in some gorgeous fingering weight yarn from Dirty Water Dyeworks. I'm using Juniper as my main colour, and Topaz as the contrast (both on her Lillian base, which is 100% superwash merino).

The first section of the shawl is all one-colour garter stitch, so I'm cruising along. I'm really enjoying the edge made by the increases along the one side of the shawl - the little loops make almost a picot edge. It's not very obvious, but it's a really nice detail.

I'm also really enjoying the subtle variegation in the yarn as it knits up. In the skein, the yarns looked pretty solidly coloured, but there are slight changes to the colour that make for a super rich fabric, particularly in garter stitch. I can't wait to get to the two-colour section to really see how they play together!

If you'd like to join me in knitting something for the GLYC, please do! We've got a thread on the Yarn in the City Ravelry board, and lots of people have posted about what their projects are going to be - I'm impressed by the number of sweaters that will be in the works! And I'm looking forward to bringing this little beauty to Knit Night tonight - nothing is better for pub knitting then garter stitch.

The Design Diaries: Setbacks

I'm sure I'm not unique amongst knitwear designers in that the design process doesn't always run a smoothly as we'd like everyone to believe. I've hit that inevitable point in my design process, the moment that always comes sooner or later - its roadblock time. Otherwise known as: Rachel has screwed something up and would like to consider throwing this damn project in the corner until it comes to a clear understanding of what it's done wrong, and promises to behave better in the future. Sometimes its a mental block in writing the pattern or fixing what my tech editor has picked up, sometimes it's a lack of motivation in knitting the sample. This time around, it's a size issue (TWSS):

I can happily report that the first hat is done, the Rower's version with lots of twisted stitches and lovely ribbing. I've very pleased with how it's turned out.

This hat now has crown shaping and is even blocked!

This hat now has crown shaping and is even blocked!

And I was going great guns on the slouchy Spectator's version - instead of having an all over pattern, this version has a couple of larger boat motifs that come from Swatch #4. Yesterday, I managed to get through the entire 32 rounds of Chart 1.

The first boat is done...

The first boat is done...

And I spread out the hat in my lap, and looked at it. Then I looked at it again. I turned it around and looked a third time. Then I put it on and went to look in the mirror. My suspicion was correct: the damned hat was too big. The ribbing was fine, but I had increased too many stitches at the start of the body of the hat. I wanted it to be slouchy, but not that slouch! So off to the frog pond it went - ouch!

...and undone. 

...and undone. 

Hat #2 has been ripped back to the ribbing, numbers have been re-crunched, and the knitting is back on. In this scenario, the pattern may go to the tech editor without the second hat being finished, but hopefully it will be done soon.

We're going to need a lot more coffee.

We're going to need a lot more coffee.

One Decade

Dear Devil,

This past week you turned ten years old, and the top of my head exploded. How did you get to be 10? How can it possibly be that time has gone by so quickly? (How can I possibly have been a mother for ten entire years? The universe quakes on its foundations...)

Turning nine.

Turning nine.

This past year has been one of much upheaval for all of us, but I think it's been a particular challenge for you. You've unexpectedly had to change schools, and go from the hothouse environment of a London private school, to the somewhat-less protected, vastly more diverse and chaotic life of a London state school. The upside of the move is that your confidence in your academic abilities has gone up, and we are hearing a lot less of "I can't" and seeing a lot more "I can".

I can fire a cannon...

I can fire a cannon...

Although it's been a tough change for you, you have weathered it like a champ. You've also managed very recently to face some pretty serious stuff head on and, with a bit of encouragement from your parents and your teachers, are doing a much better job of speaking out and standing up for yourself. I couldn't be prouder of you.

You have also begun to learn the ways of delayed gratification - you've worked hard to get on top of schoolwork so you could get access to The Game That Shall Not Be Named. You've also set yourself a goal of saving up a chunk of money so you could get your own iPod - this challenge brought out your entrepreneurial side, as you leafleted our street to get jobs walking dogs, and then followed up with neighbors, For someone who's natural tendency is a bit more towards passivity, particularly when interacting with adults you don't really know, this is a Big Deal.

As hard as it is to believe that you are ten, I only have to look at your face, getting ever closer in height to mine, to realize that time is passing very, very quickly. And its so important to recognize and take advantage of those moments when you are still my little girl who wants cuddles - they are becoming less and less common in the onslaught of impending teenager-hood and the overwhelming embarrassment of having me as a mother. Just you wait...

I love you so very much,


A Birthday Letter to Boo

Dear Boo,

On the last day of February, you turned eight years old, much to the chagrin and shock of your Mum. You'd think it wouldn't have been a surprise, and yet it was - how did you get so old?

Boo helping me out by modelling some finished knitting.

Boo helping me out by modelling some finished knitting.

The past year has seen you do a number of quite impressive things. You sailed through the end of one school and into the next (although there were a few blips along the way) with hardly a wobble. You have gone from a small, extrememely nurturing private school environment into a large, busy and chaotic state school with the rock steadiness that you have always had. Your ability to be certain and content in yourself is something I admire greatly, and I wish I had come to that point much earlier in life then I actually did (i.e. sometime in my twenties). You have always been there, and it is an amazing thing to see.

The intrepid explorer in Norway

The intrepid explorer in Norway

You have shot up like a weed - I can't believe that my adorable little cuddle bug is now this tall, gorgeous girl, but there you are. You're still a cuddle bug, thankfully, you just have more sharp corners and take up more space in the bed. And have developed a horrific predilection for Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but that's another blog post...

One of the marvels being a parent to siblings is to see and acknowledge the differences between two children who have the same parents and have grown up in more-or-less the same environment. You and I had a talk last week about your sister's friends expecting you to behave in a certain way because, well, you're her sister and that's how she reacts. You were quite certain that you and Devil are very different, even though you look very much alike. I couldn't agree more. And I'm afraid this is going to be an ongoing challenge for you, particularly if the two of you continue in the same schools: everyone from peers to teachers to parents are going to think they know what they're getting when you come along, simply by virtue of you being D's younger sibling. It's further complicated by the fact that you are both girls - if one of you had been a boy, that expectation might be tempered a bit - but I am confident that you will have absolutely no problems setting people straight as to your existence as a completely independent entity.

Home cloning experiment

Home cloning experiment

Watching you do math warms my geeky heart to its very cockles: in your ability to recognize patterns seemingly without effort, I see something of myself, and it is further evidence (in my mind at least) of the wonder of genetics. I may be a neuroscientist, but my expertise runs to the cellular and molecular rather then cognitive systems. The fact that I can see in you traits that your father and I have is an ongoing revelation. And it is a window on to myself that is hard to escape.

Thank you for who you are and what you bring to my life. You are my sunshine, Sunshine.



Christmas Crafting Madness (no yarn needed)

It's that time of year again. That time when crafters around the globe suddenly take leave of their collective senses and decide that they will craft perfectly beautiful handmade works of art for all of their loved ones. And their neighbors. And the milkman. And their local barista (who is looking awfully chilly now that he's shaved off his Movember stache). Before you know it, the crafters in question are spending precious crafting minutes making spreadsheets to track their progress, gathering their materials and spending long sleepless hours  knitting/hooking/spinning/ embroidering/papercutting themselves in to a lovely New Year's resolution of avoiding RSI for the 2015 Holiday Season.

Or maybe it's just me. Every year, EVERY STINKIN' YEAR, I make a conscious choice to remain steadfast in the face of (solely internally generated) holiday crafting pressure. I will not knit for every single member of my family and their dogs/cats/assorted goldfish. I will not lose sleep over trying to finish just one more present as time winds down to Christmas. I will perhaps gift a few, extremely knit-worthy people with handknitted items, but there is no reason for me to a) make myself crazy, b) make my family crazy (scrambled eggs for dinner will only fly so many times you know) and c) make the world any more crazy then it already is around this time of year by adding my stress vibes to the ether.

And even after all that, every year December 1 hits and I start making lists. Lists of who can be gifted knits already finished. Lists of super quick projects I can knit up in an evening with worsted weight yarn held doubled. Lists of postal timings and who would like yarn for a present and who needs an actual finished object. Things degenerate quickly - Himself needs new (fingering weight) socks, and the girls would love felted slippers. Maybe a lace shawl for my mom. The SCN (Super Cute Nephew) probably needs a new sweater for Christmas, maybe with an intarsia Rudolph face? You can see where this is going...

This year, things are different. Yes indeed. Totally different. Himself is not getting knitwear this time around - maybe a woven scarf, but I can whip that out in no time at all. The in-laws are arriving AFTER Christmas so there's plenty of time to sort out their gifts after December 25. If I'm mailing things back to the States they have to be in the post by the end of next week so pfft! Not going to happen.

This fabulous planning ahead and resisting the urge to START. ALL. THE. THINGS!!!!! means that it's totally reasonable for me to make the girls quilts for Christmas, right?

You can see above the evidence of my weakness in the face of Country Thread's collection of Moda Jelly Rolls from our Bath scouting trip at the beginning of November. I've been obsessed with the idea of making jelly roll quilts for about six months now, and finally have the materials to get started. But let's review the facts:

1) I have a very old, very small Singer Featherweight sewing machine.

2) I have never made a quilt of any size in my entire life.

3) This project will require excavating the desk in my studio which is buried about 1.5 ft deep in Other Very Important Stuff (otherwise known as Junk).

What could go wrong?