Dennis the Pirate socks

For various complicated reasons involving a chip wrapper, a golf umbrella, a bin, a karategi, a bus journey and an action similar to the earlier sock-hoovering incident, I am prevented from spending any money on birthday presents for Firstspawn.

The forthcoming occasion cannot, obviously, go unmarked. So I am currently constructing his worst nightmare, a pair of mother-made socks. They’re being knitted from wool I already had lying about the place thus not incurring any expenditure.

I am, though, making a slight gesture towards his tastes. He likes Dennis the Menace, as exemplified by the character’s red-and-black striped jumper, and he likes skulls and crossbones so I decided to combine the two.

dennis the pirate sock

Fine yarn and fine needles mean 60 stitches to cast on for a child’s sock size allowing enough latitude to adapt a free skull chart off the web to repeat perfectly four times around the sock.

Thus it is that I appear to have sort of kind of designed my first knitting pattern. And it would be easily adapted for larger sizes. Perhaps I shall make myself a pair and with luck my appalling tension over the fairisle section will have improved.

I hope he likes them, at least a little bit. But if he doesn’t he knows where the hoover is kept.

Whirlwind weekend

After Saturday morning’s cat-knitting emergency and some swift multi-tasking (emptying the washing machine and cat litter whilst colouring my hair for example) in the afternoon I went to the cinema with H to see No Country for Old Men, the latest film by the Coen brothers. Don’t read anything about it if you want to see it. It’s almost undoubtedly better approached without prior knowledge. It’s a wonderful film, Fargo-esque but bleaker. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, the ending (controversial I understand) puzzling but ultimately satisfying, the acting (particularly Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones) excellent. It takes a bit of digesting though. Definitely not a quick-fix no-brainer film.

Afterwards a beer in a pub with a large number of mice scampering around the floor, then off to Sainsburys for the evening’s essentials – champagne and cat litter. The former for a birthday party, the latter for, I’m sure you’ll be astonished to hear, the cat. Who still lives, not yet stabbed through the heart with a knitting needle, but has a smaller stash of remaining lives.

There is such joy in making things for people. I’m sure I’ve drivelled on about this before but that doesn’t make it less true. Here are A’s birthday arm-warmers and J’s thank-you socks, both now despatched to their recipients.

dashing with socks

A’s party was wonderful. Fireworks banged and sparkled, champagne popped and fizzed, conversation scintillated, seeds were planted, party poppers, er, snapped and showered golden hearts. On top of the earlier beer went ginger champagne cocktails, straight champagne and caipirinhas made with an unusual additional ingredient – champagne. Even the cake was in the shape of a champagne bottle.

I walked home in the crisp darkness under the twinkling stars considerably more steadily than you might imagine. Progress was marked by the metronomic ringing of the metal tip of my kitten-heeled boots on the pavement which echoed off the pavements and walls of the dark and silent streets. About a third of the way along my own street I heard footsteps behind me. Quiet, furtive footsteps. I stuck to my unhurried rhythm and didn’t look round. The furtive footsteps got closer, faster. The unknown person was now running. I had no bag, no valuables, nothing but my front door keys and phone.

Clang, clang, clang went the unperturbed rhythm of steel on pavement. Then a man appeared, attached to the running feet, who whirled around in front of me and said “lovely weather isn’t it”. Clang, clang, clang went the unchanged beat. I glanced at the sky. “There are no clouds” I replied. Clang, clang, clang. “So, how are you?” he asked. “I’m absolutely fine thank you very much” I said. At that he turned and loped away, back in the direction from which he had come. Clang, clang, clang said the unhurried heels to the pavement.

Sunday morning was bright, beautiful and entirely without hangover. I met Jean

pagoda3 - co-snapper

and we went on a lovely walk, with cameras, to Battersea Park

bauble not baobab

and the Peace Pagoda

pagoda1

neither of which I had visited before. The light was absolutely fantastic.

Then we had an exquisite lunch in beautiful, tranquil surroundings and for dessert visited the haberdashery department where Jean was good and I was not.

Well what’s a girl to do? the stockings are rough-going and I need something to ring the changes now that all my other projects have been finished. And besides, the yarn is fair trade and I shall be contributing to the health and well-being of Peruvian children. It would be churlish not to. Thus it is that I shall shortly be casting on the lazaro sleeveless top using hacho yarn shade 303 (coral reef). I managed not quite to hear Jean’s muttering about my cupboard full of wool at home.

Photographs of the day are here.

Time to re-home the animals

I am spitting blood and feathers. The cat is spitting shredded bamboo.

i *hate* my cat

Just look at the end of that needle. I leave my knitting unattended for a microsecond and he’s pounced. Not content with destroying the ball of wool he attacks my precious, rare-as-a-hen’s-tooth, perfect, gorgeous bamboo needle. Destroys the point. Utterly ruined. Unusable.

It took me three weeks to get hold of that pair of needles. Scouring the interwebbing. 23cm long, 2.25mm in diameter (US size 1) and made out of bamboo. Absolutely perfect for the task. Almost IMPOSSIBLE to find.

Firstly many companies don’t do needles as fine as 2.25mm. Secondly, if they do, they’re 33cm long rather than 23cm. Thirdly, if you can actually find the right size/length/material combination you are forced to buy hundreds of other pairs at the same time. Which you don’t want. Or they’re available, singly, but only ship to America. The major European manufacturer does not make any needle in 2.25mm. To say that I am pissed off is the understatement of the year.

Meanwhile, over by the letterbox, the dog is spitting shredded paper.

i *hate* my dog

That is the back cover of a superb book of patterns which came through the post. The holes were made by the dog’s canine teeth. There are similar holes, decreasing in size, through 46 of the book’s pages. Not to mention the padded envelope and cardboard packaging within which the book was enclosed.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

Matching

j's socks

So clever this modern wool. One ball per sock, bog-standard basic pattern but funkadelic wool makes it look like fairisle and they even appear like a properly matching pair. Being DK weight (ie thicker than that of the other two pairs) they’re knitting up like shit off a shovel. These are birthday-Christmas-thankyou hiking socks for J, our new-year hostess.

Third pair of socks in less than a month. Where have they been all my life? Still, better late than never. The structure of them is so pleasing. Everything divisible by four. And no seams to sew up at the end, all marvellously 3D and sculptural by virtue of the nest of needles.

Next project has to be bed socks in the cashmere yarn I got in the summer sales. It’s a rather nasty colour, but it’s the warmth that’s the point. For ME. Because my feet get horribly cold in bed in the winter, and if I don’t make them soon winter will be over.

Momently

I have finished my jaywalker socks. Hurrah!

on foot above

I was showing them off to Secondspawn this morning. “Will they shrink if you put them in the washing machine?” was his first and rather unexpected reaction, but probably prompted by the recent deliberate shrinkage of the so-called rasta hat to more beret-like dimensions. Having been assured that they were made of special non-shrinking sock wool he then advised me to wear them today. “Oh no”, I replied, shocked at the suggestion, “they’re far too special for walking to school in”.

WRONG.

Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

This is something I’ve been doing all my life. Saving things up for the “special occasion” which very seldom, if ever, manifests itself. Is this the right occasion? is it really, truly going to be special enough? am I sure? This results in cupboards and drawers and boxes full of things waiting, gathering dust, decaying gently, utterly unused.

There is, as my father still says with annoying frequency, no time like the present. He generally employs the term to persuade me to do something I’d rather not. But it’s just as applicable to other circumstances. Why is why I’m wriggling my toes inside my lovely socks right now, as I type.

Next project onto the needles is a pair of thick hiking socks for J who also sent me this, which I feel is appropriate.

Infinite incommensurability

Word pouches clutched the heart of earth as the lead-lark plummeted. Schr√∂dinger’s quantum addressivity exploded in its firework multiplicity. Ambiguously undulating pigeons frighted chaos and old night.

There was also liquid quintessence of christmas pudding with emperor’s ice cream.

sherry with a spot of ice cream

And mushrooms.

mushrooms

But not necessarily in that order.

travis

A damn fine, unboxed, cat.

cannibal jaywalker

And I knat.

UPDATE: And if you want some depth and sense and beauty on the matter, go here.

Conclusive evidence

conclusive evidence

…that one skein is not enough.

A kitchen balance is useful in so many ways. On this occasion it is showing me that the first of the pair has already used more than half the available yarn, as I had feared might be the case. On other occasions it demonstrates things like Little  Blue Teddy being heavier than Baby Bear despite the latter having larger dimensions.

Oh bother.

I have a choice. Unravel the item and make a pair shorter than instructed so one skein will be sufficient or get another skein and have 3/4 of it left over.

Common sense and fiscal prudence dictate the former. Love of yarn and an excuse to go back to the shop tug in the other direction.

Sense and suitability

So. You have dry skin. Very dry skin. You are prone to eczema in the winter. You decide to make, of all things, a pair of knitted stockings. Out of wool, that fibre so well known for its not-soothing properties. You have the opportunity to choose something called “4 ply soft” which is, as its name implies, softly fluffsome. But no. You choose something called “4 ply tweed” which is as itchy, scratchy and close to barbed wire as its name might lead you to believe.

I believe that throughout history women have suffered for this and that thing (amongst them beauty) but voluntarily to construct, at great expense of time and effort, what amounts to a nether garment of ground glass seems a bizarre thing to do. But in life, as they say, one must take the rough with the smooth. It makes little sense, but is a suitable project (on the theme of “pairs”) to knit while listening to Emma.

stocking top

I have made a start on sorting out the drifts of detritus with which the house is infested. Sorting out and culling the vast numbers of books, videos and cds for a start. Ruthlessly. In this process I came across handfuls of photographs from various lengths of time ago and distances away. Some I’m keeping in order to embarrass the children at a future date but many I’m chucking. However the ruthlessness faltered on discovering the ancient school exercise book, carefully covered in plastic, containing a detailed history of my first ever dog, Vicky.

vicky

The home-made height and weight chart is reminiscent of those one is obliged to keep for babies but I recall enormous levels of anxiety about the health, nutritional status and well-being of my new puppy and not batting an eyelid over those of either of the babies. Maybe the one had prepared me for the other. Certainly for the first few days of puppy care I went to bed in fear and terror that she’d die in the night, probably as the result of some mistake on my part.

It is extraordinary the overwhelming rush of physical sensation that picture provoked. I recalled, instantly and vividly, the exact feel of hugging Vicky while she sat in that attitude, the dimensions of her neck and the texture of her fur. The “rough” in rough collie (in contrast to the smooth collie) refers mostly to the abundance rather than texture of the fur. And indeed compared to Maizy’s her fur was smooth indeed, long overcoat over a dense undercoat of softest fleece. I loved to bury my face in her ruff. I loved brushing her from the tips of her ears to the tip of her tail. Which was fortunate really since the breed requires regular and thorough grooming. I remember lying on the grass on my stomach in the summer reading a book and the heft of her as she lay on the backs of my legs, the press of her as she lay next to me with her nose against my arm. Hers was the only physical contact I had and all the sweeter for it.

I love to watch the children building up their own sense-memories with the cat and the dog. Both boys were, for a long time, much more keen on doing so with the cat. Who can blame them. The appeal is obvious. Quiet, phlegmatic, soft as angora and manufacturer of delightful sounds of cuteness. Maizy, on the other hand, is a hyperactive small yappy-type dog of uncertain temper and, least forgivable of all, coated in fur akin to coconut matting.

However my wise words about beauty being more than fur deep appear to be bearing fruit and both Mario and Maizy are now appreciated for more than merely their surface charms. “One has,” I intone sagely and no doubt in a highly irritating fashion, “to make the best of both the rough and the smooth”. I point out the extraordinary utility of rough shaggy fur for a dog in an uncertain climate in which rain and cold predominate. And how this means she doesn’t have to wear a wussy knitted coat when out and about. Unless at some future date I choose to make one and force her to wear it for reasons entirely unconnected with protection from the elements.

Hmm. I wonder. Perhaps there is a way in which a pair of extra-long scratchy socks might be adapted… but no. I have a cunning plan with respect to the stockings-of-sandpaper. I have various pairs of sheer, brightly-coloured and, most important of all, smooth tights which I can wear beneath the unsuitably textured accessories and thus both protect the over-delicate skin and provide added visual interest as the under-colour will show through the (deliberate) holes in the pattern of the stockings. And I shall hold them up with a ribbon in a suitably toning/clashing shade. Always assuming, of course, that I actually finish them.

Yoohoo! Mr Darcy!

mr darcy, where are you?

The Austenesque is complete. Now where’s Colin Firth got to?

Many thanks to: stylist – Neha; location scout – Neha; fashion adviser – Neha; photographer’s assistant – Neha; photographer – Neha.