Fleecing the sheep

“Did you know” ask Craig and Gerard “that there are more than 60 breeds of sheep in the UK?”

We had the best of the weekend weather yesterday, without a doubt. The spawn and I winkled Jean from her work and went to the Alternative Village FĂȘte where, to celebrate all things ovine, we selected beautiful British yarn from the baskets available and Jean, SecondSpawn and I knitted a swatch to attach to the I Knit London sheep.

We were not alone. Large numbers of people leapt at the chance to do likewise, sitting in the sun, accompanied by various attractions ranging from Rediscovered Urban Rituals, the Bollywood Brass Band and (very surreal, this) a man who made a hat entirely out of cake icing (and plastic cups and sugar-coloured-sprinkly-things too, but they weren’t mentioned).

FirstSpawn is not a knitter but he kept us in stitches (sorry, couldn’t resist) with wisecracks about his “new” mobile phone. Due to an unfortunate incident over which I shall draw a discreet veil he is now reduced to using a, uh, vintage (more than ten years old!) handset – my very first mobile in fact. In a youth culture where only the very latest, most complex and most expensive will do his brick is going to stick out like, well, a brick. However he is putting a brave face on things.

“You know how small is good in mobile phone terms”, he says, “well *my* mobile phone has got the smallest screen I’ve ever seen”.


Cats, as we know, have small brains. Much of their limited capacity is utilised in ways the average amoeba would not find challenging. Take, for instance, phototaxis. The average vegetable is capable of phototaxis. And the average vegetable uses it for a useful purpose – photosynthesis. The average cat is also capable of phototaxis, but the purpose is highly maladaptive.

I am talking, of course, about the ability of the average cat to assess the quality of light reflected from its coat and, having done so, move to position itself precisely on a surface displaying exactly the opposite properties. My cat, for instance, is mostly white. This means he comes to rest on the darkest possible surface, ideally an item of my clothing, upon which he can then shed his hair liberally. Black cats, obviously, choose pale clothing to sit on.

Why this should be is a mystery. It would appear to be counter-productive given the average reaction of the average cat owner on discovering their clothing looking like it’s been caught in a pillow fight is not positive and friendly towards the offending cat. My theory is that cats are so unbelievably vain they care not for the opprobrium this behaviour attracts since their only concern is to set themselves off to best advantage.

There is another taxis that cats have refined to an art form, and this is fibretaxis. For there is no place, however obscure and protected, that one can place ones knitting that the average cat will not locate in order then to sit, lie or otherwise lounge squarely on the work in progress. No item of knitting is too small or insignificant. An inch or so of sock is as inviting as, for instance, the completed back of a large garment.

Here we have a typical example of the behaviour in action.

Feline fibretaxis

Reading from top left to bottom right we have the cat insinuating itself on the edge of the knitting (which has been placed on the kitchen table to be measured); total occupation is achieved with the entirety of the cat’s body (including tail) placed inside the boundaries of the knitted surface; any suggestion of removal is greeted with extreme contempt; the territory is defended with vigour.

Why? I ask myself. Why, why, why? I whimper as I nurse my slashed hands and attempt to remove white hairs from my green garment without getting it covered in red blood.

The cat merely looks inscrutable (he is, after all, an oriental breed) and I realise my question is in vain. He has about as much idea of why as a cabbage has of how, but without the advantage of tasting delicious boiled and covered with melted butter and freshly-ground black pepper.

Sock-knitting OMG

Remember Kaffe Fassett’s fabulous Design Line colourways for Regia sock yarn? Six different colour combinations which knit up either in stripes (“landscape”) or marl (“mirage”)?

I’m making a pair of socks for my father in mirage earth:

p's sock 1

Beth‘s been using landscape twilight for her jaywalkers.

Well, seems Regia have just released a new set of yarns by Kaffe Fassett – Design Line Exotic Colors.

exotic socks

Six new palettes, and just look at how they knit up.


“Self-striping” seems an inadequate term for that patterning.

I wonder whether the box shown on this site is for shop display purposes or a kit for purchase containing two balls of each colourway. Unfortunately I don’t speak a word of German so can’t understand the text on the page, but the latter wouldn’t surprise me at all given the popularity of the first edition and the fact that it is being sold in complete sets (although not in wooden boxes – and no cheaper per ball than buying them individually).

Also I’ve just discovered that it’s possible to buy transparent wellington boots in order to ensure that the beauty of your hand-knitted socks is not obscured even in wet weather. OMG.

Peplum and gores

Knitting has been happening, pretty steadily, in the background. The latest onto the needles is the excellently-named Darcy from Heartfelt – The Dark House Collection by Kim Hargreaves.

Not only is it a wonderful pattern – peplum! gores! moss-stitch! short-row shaping! – it’s also a conscience-clearing stash-buster since I’m using some yarn which I bought in a sale probably more than ten years ago and have had hanging around ever since. The shade has the rather puzzling name of “foggy” because to me it looks more like sage green than foggy grey. But maybe it’s a reference to pea-soupers or something. This picture, of course, is not an accurate guide to the shade in question being not green enough.


Speaking of Darcy, as of course we were, I must report that I met a delightful man recently who might well fall into the Darcy category. Smart as a whip, funny, charming and kind – altogether a sparkly refreshing delight to be around. My word, I thought, they do actually exist!

Borrowed threads

This is not my knitting. I merely recorded him.


Isn’t he spectacular? Silk sewing thread and dressmaker’s pins. No pattern. Made by F. She calls it “knitting off piste”. There’s another picture here.

Conclusive evidence of the benefits of five-a-day

Further to yesterday’s post, here is a picture of the garment I was working on at the I Knit London meet-up. The sleeve on the right of the picture was sewn on before I had my five-a-day; the sleeve on the left of the picture was sewn on after consumption of the appropriate number of fruit-and-veg.


QED, I think you’ll agree. It really is necessary to have five cocktails a day. Here are some suggestions to get you started. If you click through to the picture on flickr there are helpful notes on ingredients.

fruit, veg and knitting

Now please excuse me, I have to remove and reinsert a wonky sleeve.

Knitting knote – sock round-counter and cable needle

Sock round-counter and cable needle

I’ve always had a bit of a problem keeping track of what row I’m on. Was it row 122 or 123? Damn and blast. Nothing to do but count them, again. Many of my knitting patterns are covered with notations like those usually depicted on the walls of prisons – endless repetitions of four vertical lines scored through by a diagonal fifth – made in an effort to keep track of where I am. Or there’s the mechanical row-counter, slid onto the end of a needle and turned on a unit each time a row is completed. The problem with both these methods is that it’s very easy to forget to make the mark, turn the bezel.

And that’s just on two needles, knitting flat fabric back and forth. The problem becomes more complex knitting in the round because there’s nowhere useful to stow the row-counter, no needle-end for it to nestle up against. But I’ve come up with a solution so cunning that it’s almost impossible to go wrong. And, I must point out, I thought this up *all by myself* although no doubt it has been known about among those wise in the lore of knitting for several hundreds of years.

So. I always know the beginning of every round because the stitches are on four needles and the start is marked by the tail of the cast on. So I always know which is “needle one”. On it is placed, as you can see above, a stitch marker (in this case a safety-pin with a conveniently-sized circle at the end). It’s placed after the number of stitches indicating the number of rounds that have been repeated. So in the arrangement shown in this photograph I know instantly that I’m on the third round of the 10 round pattern repeat. It’s impossible to forget to move it on because it’s physically there when you knit along the needle.

Oh joy! oh happiness!! No more feverish counting of hundreds of tiny rows to work out whether it’s this row I need to make the cable on, the next row or (worst of all) the row I’ve just completed and will subsequently have to unravel and rework.

The cable needle is half a toothpick, sanded down and varnished with clear nail varnish.

I’m ridiculously pleased with my own ingenuity.

Lesnes Abbey

Another top photo expedition suggested by Neha which took place on a beautiful sunny day. Many pictures were taken. I find this one, of part of an ancient mulberry tree, entirely unintentionally spooky:

mulberry branch

It’s taken me quite some time to sort out the pics, but I’ve had fun messing around with effects in black and white:


I love this one of Neha in typical pose:

no hat

The Abbey itself is an ancient, fascinating and extremely well-kept building. I was most interested, however, in the juxtaposition of the old and the new:


The most important part of the day (apart from eating, of course, which happened in a particularly delicious fashion) was the handing over of Neha’s hat.


I have to say that I’m extremely impressed by her choice of colour. It suits her most excellently.

Have I mentioned how much I love knitting things for people? There’s currently another pair of socks for my father underway and I’m so happy to have a picture of their construction!

Neha’s photoset here, my photoset here.


The sock family.

My father looks as though he has elephantiasis because his sock was retrieved from the laundry basket and he insisted on putting it on over the thick one he was already wearing.

FirstSpawn’s sock has a huge hole under the heel (not visible in this picture) because he’s been wearing it almost constantly since he got it, half the time sliding around on wooden floors without shoes on. He has ordered me to darn it. I have ordered him to take more care of it.

The next sockage will be long ones for my father probably based on this golf hose pattern which dates from when he was two years old.

It is, in our collective experience, quite true that hand-knitted socks are warmer and more comfortable than shop bought.