Moved to moblog

For anyone interested in art & or mental ill health or the incredible amazing collision of the two I can’t recommend highly enough the current exhibition at the Wellcome Collection called Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings: Mental illness and me, 1997-2008.

So many incredible images, issues, hyoooj STUFF going on here. Superb. Would love to write more but keyboard doesn’t permit loquacity. (Is that a word? If not it should be.)

PS The picture is her representation of mindfulness meditation. Hope it’s legible at whatever size this (hugely cunning and clever) widget chooses to publish it.

You know how to whistle, don't you?

Thank you, Oliver Postgate.

“When the BBC got the script, [they] rang me up and said ‘At the beginning of episode three, where the doors get stuck, Major Clanger says sod it, the bloody thing’s stuck again,'” he said. [At about 59″ in the video above.]

“‘You can’t say that on children’s television’ … I said ‘It’s not going to be said, it’s going to be whistled’, but [they] just said ‘But people will know!’ … If you watch the episode, the one where the rocket goes up and shoots down the Iron Chicken, Major Clanger kicks the door to make it work and his first words are ‘Sod it, the bloody thing’s stuck again’.”

Pissed off with the morning chorus of microsoft startup music that happened every day at work I swapped out the corporate drone on my computer and replaced it with the cluck of the iron chicken (she first arrives at 3’59” in the above video). It amused me greatly, particularly because it infuriated the boss who otherwise prided himself on his iconoclasm.

I promised a wonderful friend, also from work, that I’d knit him a clanger but he died before it was done.

Socks of the evening, beautiful socks

I’m cold and, frankly, miserable. Sad and difficult stuff. Stuff that pokes at my “yeah, yeah, all in the past, gotta be strong, worse things happen at sea” veneer and makes me howl as said veneer collapses after a brief but bitter struggle. Makes me want to go to bed and sleep for weeks, months, years.

So I’m compromising. Ok, I say, let’s howl. It’s not a weak and snivelling concession of victory to the forces of darkness and nihilism, I say. Really, it isn’t. (Gotta work harder on this one.) Instead of going to bed I’ll curl up on the sofa under a blanket (with the hot(waterbottle)dog of course). And instead of sticking fingers in a wound the nature and extent of which I don’t really understand I’ll do knitting stuff. Because that makes me happy. Even when howling. And it’s national knitting week.

So here are my beautiful malabrigo socks, just finished. So warm, so soft, so gorgeous in every respect. I’m wriggling my toes in them as I type.

beautiful socks

FirstBoy insists it’s his turn next (true, both SecondBoy and I now have two pairs of socks each, he only has one). And these are what he wants. I’ve adapted the chart a bit for a smaller size.

I’m glad, of course, that the boys love their socks. I can understand it, having some of my own. So much warmer and more comfortable than shop-bought. But with great love comes… great holes. And darning. In fact this one had to have a whole new bit of heel knitted in to the gaping void which had been worn through the bottom.


I have to confess to a certain amount of impatience with children’s socks, though. Because really what I want to do is make more for ME. The autumn Knitty is out and there are some storming patterns – Garden Gate, Interlocking Leaves and Hourglass for a start. Not to mention the other hourglass sock project, Los Pequeñeos de Arena over at the AntiCraft.

And there’s also the blanket, hovering in the background, awaiting further strips.


So much knitting, so little time.

Of late

I keep starting blog posts and never finishing them.

Shit’s been happening and lovely stuff’s been happening. Light ‘n shade, innit.

six legs


The lovely stuff has involved other people, food and the extraordinary autumn sunlight of the last few days.

blue chair


It’s also included my pusher enabler leading me astray from my blanket

broken rib

but that’s probably a good thing because the blanket was driving me seriously insane. I’ve done five of the twelve strips so it’s not been entirely deserted.

There’s been art, too, and “art” (aka pile-of-shite) and wine and beer and chocolate. And flasks of coffee. And I had a lucid dream!

Speaking of which, it’s getting late and I must go to bed.

The shawls of Tess

I haven’t been watching the BBC’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles – mainly because I never watch the TV at all but also because, even had I known it was on I would have chosen not to because of the less-than-gleeful subject matter. But F has, and she’s much enamoured of Tess’s shawls.

I have had to watch an entire episode on the iPlayer to get these screenshots but did so with the sound down to protect my delicate depressive sensibilities. I mean, really. It’s just too corrosively gruesomely capriciously unremittingly tragic for the likes of me. And it was one of my A-level O-level set texts. I had more than enough of it then.

Anyhow. The point is not the programme but the shawls. F has some wool which would be ideal for the purpose and wanted to reproduce the garment which, for the knitlit among you, is garter stitch, but not a simple top-down (or bottom up) triangle, rather garter stitch constructed in such a way that the ridges run aslant. And there’s a “spine” of “holes” running up the centre from tip to top.


How, we wondered, is this achieved, since neither of us is a shawl-head. Was it short rows? something like entrelac picking up stiches on a bias whilst also making holes? We just didn’t know. Luckily such is the geeky joy quota of ravelry that an answer can easily be found. Search the hugely sophisticated pattern database for knitted shawls tagged with “garter stitch” and the perfect, and free, pattern is soon revealed. Turns out it’s hugely simple – yarn-over increases on either side of the centre resulting in both the holes, the triangular shape and the angled ridges.

Tess has two – a brown one as well as the black one. Rustic, definitely – thick, plain and unadorned. Homespun, probably. Hand knitted – certainly. But above all versatile.

Here we have the brown one worn over the shoulders, crossed at the front and tied behind. Practical warmth for physical labour.

brown shawl

And here the black version (appropriately enough for this moment in the narrative which involves the death of an infant) over the head with the “wings” wrapped scarf-like around the neck and tied at the nape.

black over head and neck

And, for those frequent bouts of particularly hard manual labour in freezing conditions – both at once:

black and brown

And here we have a brief, lighter, spring-like moment (existing of course only and entirely to make the stygian gloom even blacker) with the brown shawl draped loosely over the shoulders. It’s huge, incidentally, the “wings” come down almost to her knees and the central point behind reaches below the small of her back.

brown loose

The black one is smaller with the ends of the “wings” not even reaching her wrists, as can be seen here:

black shawl loose

Clothes appear to be loaded very heavily with symbolism in the production, from my random sound-down viewings, and I love the whole late Victorian vibe. There’s a particularly delicious red, scooped neck, button-fronted garment which flares over the hips as well as some exciting peplum action. Apparently most of the costumes were destroyed in an arson attack and had to be remade at great speed.

There are many different shawls on display in the programme:

many shawls

enough perhaps to fill a book, but pride of place would have to go to the baby’s:

baby shawl

His name? Sorrow. You don’t need me to tell you it all goes horribly wrong.

Two circs, wedges and a shower

To Richmond, on Saturday, where we found tropical weather and a pair of recycled shoes.


They were attached to Pix, who was accompanied by a sock being knitted on two circular needles. She darned in some of my ends (yay!) while I knitted about half an inch of her sock (double yay!) and discovered the delight that is two circ socking. A win-win-win situation for me, really.

two circs sock

We (as in Pix and I) hope we persuaded Karen to join us on a future knitting jaunt. After all, she’s got a lovely wip on the way.

On Sunday we (as in the spawn and I) attended the UK premier of The Rise of Darkrai courtesy of 1stSon who had won tickets in a competition. I shall draw a discreet veil over the experience of the film itself, the screaming children, the fighting for freebies, the hearing-loss resulting from the volume of the soundtrack, the stench of stale popcorn and the brain-death resulting from the narrative.

Afterwards, in the centre of Leicester Square, we drew (relatively) free breath in the small and unexpected park and watched a pigeon take a shower in the fountain.

For a brief moment, what with the sunshine and the birdsong and the gentle sound of water, we might have been somewhere else entirely than the place where we were. Which just went to show how lovely the place where we really were really had been all the time, just without our noticing.

Atmospheric noise and its utility for knitters

My cousin J is having a baby in December. This is storming news. I’ve always loved and admired her very much so obviously the baby must have a very superior knitted something.

Whilst at I Knit Day I saw, pinned up on the wall, this blanket:

It was love.

It’s a pattern by and designed for yarn from The Natural Dye Studio, which is all absolutely beautiful. However from my point of view there were a couple of problems. Firstly the pattern didn’t say how much yarn in total was required and secondly how many different colours were used. The first was simply remedied – I asked to weigh the finished blanket and discovered it was 560g. But as to the second… it was obvious that a very large number of different colourways had been used, but with each 100g skein of alpaca/merino retailing for (a perfectly reasonable) £10.99 the cost of making something similar was rapidly going to become totally prohibitive.

Luckily I had to hand a top advisor (and “enabler”, aka pusher) in the shape of Pixeldiva and a compromise was reached. I purchased three skeins of the luscious alpaca/merino and made up the rest from my (extensive) collection of random balls of similar-weight yarn.

So I ended up with 12 different balls of yarn to make a blanket of 15×12=180 squares, each requiring two colours. The next challenge was distribute the different colours evenly across the grid. I know for certain that it’s definitely got to be worked out in advance (making it up as you go along is a recipe, or rather non-recipe, for disaster) and I also know that I’m not very good at keeping my pet colour combination preferences from dominating the mix.

Enter, tab left, RANDOM.ORG:

RANDOM.ORG offers true random numbers to anyone on the Internet. The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs. People use RANDOM.ORG for holding draws, lotteries and sweepstakes, to drive games and gambling sites, for scientific applications and for art and music.

Knitting comes under the “art” category of course.

The blanket is constructed in 12 strips of 15 squares each (which will be sewn together) giving a total of 180 squares requiring two colours/numbers each. I allocated a number between 1 and 12 to each of the yarn colours. What I needed was 180 random sets of two numbers between 1 and 12. So I went to the integer generator and asked for just that – set the total of numbers required to 360, set the integers to be used to any between 1 and 12 and ask for the output to be generated in two columns.

It’s like magic.

I had, of course, to tidy it up just a teeny weeny bit because I didn’t want to have squares with the same colour centre as border. Nor did I want two adjacent squares to have the same border colour. But it was the work of a few minutes to eliminate these results, generate a few more numbers to replace those removed, and then slip the whole lot into a 12×15 spreadsheet.

This makes me almost unbelievably happy. Firstly because I’m deeply sad geeky, secondly because it gives the knitting (which is very very simple) a level of interest to keep me motivated – finding out what each square is going to look like and how it relates to all the others as I go along.

12 yarns required

There are, however, a couple of drawbacks to this otherwise very satisfying project. The first is the necessity to cart around 12 balls of wool at all times thus making the project less than totally portable. The second is the humungous number of ends which will need darning in. Six ends per square, 180 squares… that’s… that’s… 1080 ends! Greater love hath no woman than that she darn in any ends, never mind more than a thousand, for her friend.

the first strip in progress

Meanwhile in other knitting news there are two satisfied customers – Fresca loves her Jayne so much she’s prepared to risk sautéed brain disease by wearing it in 76 degrees of heat; 2ndSon loves his birthday socks so much he’s wearing them literally day and night and contracted extreme smelly feet disease. I’ve had to remove them by force to wash them.

birthday socks

Selling out every day and crapping on my skills

Oh what a joy and a delight it is to sink into the depths of a sofa in the company of London’s knitting elite and run up a few rows of garter stitch (more on what will almost certainly be the best, but undoubtedly the randomest, baby blanket in the entire world in a later post I hope).

But I have sad and troubling news. According to Wikipedia (which, as we all know, is infallible) belonging to a group that stitches can be a thoroughly detrimental experience because of the dynamics of social order:

An example of this would be a person attempting to join a sewing team. If belonging to a group like this is very important to someone, they will be more likely to conform to the group’s norms, such as selling out every day, attending sewing circles, committing completely to the dirtiness and crapping on their skills outside of mandatory sessions or meetings in order to gain the groups trust and respect. In this case, the status that the group gives a person is more important than what they lose by descending to the group’s metroness.

I was wondering where I’d put my status. Obviously it’s not neglected under a pile of washing after all, it’s been lost during the descent to the group’s metroness.

More knitting – this time with noises

My friend Jonathan Bee has, for many years, combined knitting, crochet and other fibre arts to make the most incredible wild and whacky garments. Now he’s branched out and has created a huge art installation – The Garden of Eden Reclaimed – incorporating found objects with his fibre creations.

The installation includes a Tower of Babel for which he commissioned our friend Alistair to write a piece of music to emerge from the structure. I prevailed on friends and former colleagues (and offspring) to provide some of the languages.

And here it is!

The installation itself is at The Canal Gallery, Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Firefly fan friend F

Has a Jayne Cobb hat!

a human model

I’ve never seen Firefly and have no idea who Jayne Cobb is but I can follow a knitting pattern.

Since Fresca channels the dog (or is it the other way round?) and the dog managed to refrain from eating the yarn when it came through the letterbox (merely contenting herself with mangling the packaging and chomping a ball-band) I wanted the dog to model the hat but it was too big.

It took two days to knit – and would have been less if I hadn’t cast on far too many stitches and got all the way to the crown shaping before noticing. I then had to unravel the whole thing and start again. Duh!

The pom-pom was made using the finger-winding method which gave a fantastically scraggy result.

Now it’s back to the birthday socks (which seem to have become an annual tradition) for 2ndSon.