Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Beads, Beads, And More Beads

I think that I now know why I have studiously avoided knitting a lace shawl that had beads as an additional form of decoration. It is bad enough trying to get the beads in the right place on the shawl without having to worry about how to get them off again when you discover an error several rows back that requires careful unpicking stitch by stitch to get to the spot where the mistake occurred.

The beads are applied using a very fine crochet hook; a hook so fine that it is almost impossible to see the actual hook. My beads, although small, have a hole large enough to allow me to use a crochet hook 0.75mm in size. The problem with this is the fact that the yarn, which itself is very fine, is still more than twice the diameter of the hook. Splitting of the plies of the yarn are a frequent hazard but so far I have managed reasonably well and as I am approaching the end of the second section of the pattern I have not incurred any major damage to the yarn which would require repair of the yarn with splices.

The shawl is being knitted in a very pale blue, something akin to the colour of a cloudless winter sky, while the pattern which forms the background to the shawl reminds me of the patterns of frozen water that would be seen on bedroom windows in the days before central heating. The clear beads with their iridescent centre are reminiscent of the appearance of snow which appear to be like diamonds in the winter sun. It is, therefore, probably no surprise to know that I have named the shawl 'Ice and Snow'.

I haven't progressed quite as quickly as I had hoped, partly because I am coming out of a period of depression and have not been able to concentrate in quite the way that I need to so that significant progress could be made each day. However, I am starting to feel much better and it is hoped that progress will now speed up so that I can move onto another project. I have a scarf that needs a little work on part of its pattern charts so as to enable me to finish knitting it and it is fortunate that when the pattern has been corrected, completing the scarf will possibly be as little as eight hours. Then there is the writing up of the pattern for a hat that has already been knitted and the drafting of the pattern and knitting of a pair of mittens to go with the hat. After that there will still be four more projects to be knitted; two with patterns already created and two which require an awful lot of work before knitting can even begin.

The hope is still that the book will be published before Christmas, but as September seems to be vanishing with alarming speed I know that this could still mean a lot of long nights with the needles and in front of the computer screen in order to meet the deadline. If you had told me a year ago that I would be working towards the publication of a book that contained things that I had designed I would probably have laughed at you. It's amazing what can happen in the space of a year.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Waiting For The Curry To Arrive

Sunday evenings have become curry night for me. Having found an Indian restaurant that delivers to my area, I now ring with my request just before I start my stint in the office and can then eat it while I am working.

Tonight I will be working at the computer while I eat. I have drafted the first part of another shawl pattern and managed to knit the part that has been drafted. Now I need to think about how the rest of the shawl will look so that I can draft the chart ready for further knitting. If I can work out what is needed tonight then the next few days should see me knitting at a frantic rate to see if I can finish another project for my book. That will see six items finished and another three in the pipeline.

The curry is ordered and I have moved my laptop to the office to work while I am waiting for it to arrive. There are a number of specialist computer programs for knitting designers and I have two of them. One would expect that such specialist applications would be very expensive, but they are, in fact, very reasonably priced. My more recent purchase has the accepted symbols for the specialist stitches to be used for Estonian patterns. The Estonian lace knitters use a number of stitches that are found nowhere else in the lace knitting world. Even Shetland knitted lace uses little more than a combination of increases and decreases to create the filmy fabric that the Shetland knitters are famous for.

My current work in progress uses an Estonian gathered stitch to form the background fabric for the shawl and the diamond-shaped insertions will have more traditional Shetland-type patterns within them with the somewhat unusual addition of some lovely little clear glass beads which have a slightly iridescent centre to them. Adding the beads does slow me down quite a bit but the finished effect is so beautiful that it is worth it.

So now you know what I will be doing this evening. Tucking into a delicious curry and trying to decide what pattern I am going to put where on my current project.

Monday, 12 September 2011

I Know That I've Said It Before...

I have of late become a very bad blogger. I keep looking at the blog and thinking that I really ought to write a post now and then but somehow something (usually knitting) always gets in the way.

Since I last wrote anything here I have spent all of my spare time designing shawls, scarves, hats and cowls, and then having designed them and created the patterns I have been knitting the various items. So far I have completed one hat, two scarves, one cowl, and one huge shawl. I also have two more shawls on needles being worked on morning, noon and night, a scarf that is half completed but needs a little bit of work done on its pattern before it can be completed, and a cowl which is being knitted by a friend. I also have ideas for a pair of mittens to match the hat, a large circular shawl which I have started to design and that I know how I want it to look but it is creating the pattern for it that is a bit more of a problem. I also have another shawl based on the four seasons that I have thought about but have yet to start on the design.

On top of this I am still teaching knitting and crochet classes and I'm due to teach some classes later in the year where the subject will be lace knitting. As this is a new set of classes for me I have yet to formulate what will be taught. One is for beginners to the art so that will require some careful thought and probably the preparation of a few slides to illustrate what we are doing. The second class is for more advanced knitters who already have some experience in lace knitting and will focus on creating a scarf or shawl to their own design so much of the three hour class will be spent actually creating a design and then test knitting it.

One of the shawls that I am actually working on at the moment has been on and off the needles four times over the last two days but I think that I have got it exactly how I want it now. This means that I can sit down to do a few more rows before going to bed and possibly getting to the stage where I am going to do something that I have never done before. I'm going to be adding beads to the shawl as part of the overall pattern. I know how to do it, I just haven't ever done it for real.

It's going to be a very busy month or so trying to get everything drafted, knitted, edited and then prepared for publication so that we can have the book ready for sale at the end of October. With that in mind I will try to sneak a few minutes every now and then and try to keep this blog updated. I might even try and sneak a few photographs of the various items into my posts so that you can see what I have been up to while I have been silent.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Working Hard And Making Mistakes

Last week I wrote a post saying that I was back and that I would start blogging again regularly. Nearly a week has gone by and I don't know where the days have gone. It seems that I am working harder now that I am unemployed (well, retired on medical grounds) than I was when I had a full-time job and was studying for a degree at the same time.

Perhaps it is the fact that what I am doing now does not come intuitively as things did during my working days. I found a job that I loved and that I was determined to do to the best of my ability. There were rewards along the way: promotion, opportunities to help develop better working practices, and a lot of travelling the world to see my counterparts in other organisations in Australia, Canada and the United States of America.

I have never seen myself as being creative in the artistic sense of the word. I can knit, I can crochet, I can do embroidery and dress making, but in each of these things I was always following someone else's pattern. Now that I am designing things for other people to knit I am having to be creative in a way that I have never been before. Trying to create original items, deciding which stitch patterns to put together and what the finished article should be are alien to me and therefore not very easy.

And yet, I am being able to create these designs. In a few week time I should have enough patterns for the book and all that will remain is the knitting of the samples that will be used to produce the photographs to illustrate each of these designs. As regular readers of this blog will know, I invariably have more than one project on the go at any given time. Things have not changed. At the moment I have two different scarves on the go at the moment and both of them require me to spend some time sorting out mistakes that I have made through not looking at the pattern properly. In one instance it was because I couldn't be bothered to print a copy of the chart that I have made a mistake which is going to involve me in unpicking approximately 10 rows. Fortunately the other mistake is only a row back and should be easy to correct if I can find a spare half hour this evening.

Much of today has been spent sat at the computer working on the chart for one of the larger items that I have designed. I still have a little work to do on it but I am hoping that I can get it finished this evening and updated on the computer ready for me to turn it into pdf format for my sample knitter. I also have to write the instructions about how the charts need to be laid out and what size needles it is to be knitted on. It is very fine yarn made of 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk and 10% cashmere (the alpaca and cashmere make it very soft when knitted and the silk gives it sheen and strength) and is a beautiful emerald green in colour. Choosing the needle size is important because I want use needles that are large enough to give the finished shawl plenty of drape, but not so large that it makes the finished knitting too floppy. I just might knit a few test swatches to see which needle size I like best.

Unfortunately, I am also having a bit of a battle with depression again as well as the arthritis in my hip. And to top it all off I have got a frozen shoulder again which is making it difficult to move my right arm without causing a great deal of pain and is even affecting me when I am knitting and I have never considered that to be a particularly strenuous occupation in the past. Perhaps my body is telling me that I am not getting any younger and that I have to accept that things aren't going to work so well as they did 20 or 30 years ago. The depression is making it difficult for me to always focus on the things that I need to do and is perhaps why I am making mistakes in my knitting. However, I am spotting the mistakes and I know how to rectify them so all is not lost and I am nowhere near as ill as I was this time last year.

Having written a quick update, I must go and get myself something to eat before settling down to work again. Who says that life gets easier when you are retired?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

MSG Is Back!

Okay, so it's been a while since I wrote anything here. The weekly statistics were still being sent to my personal email address so I knew that there were still people looking at the blog, which I must admit I found somewhat amazing, and it was this that has caused me to reconsider whether to start writing it again.

One of the reasons that I stopped posting was because I thought it would be difficult for me to find things to write about now that my life has changed from what it was. I knew that it would be difficult to write about the daily goings on in the house and I wasn't sure that there was that much more going on in my life that I could write about and that anyone would want to read about. On reflection I have decided that there is probably enough going on that does not require me to break confidentiality and therefore I am going to try blogging again on a fairly regular basis.

So what has been going on in Madsadgirl's life over the last four months? Quite a lot really.

The crochet classes have continued throughout Spring and into the Summer. And I have also been teaching a knitting class each week. My own knitting has been suffering over the last month or so because I am busy designing items for a book. Yes, MSG is writing a knitting book, and not the one that she had in mind. The book is going to be about knitting lace and lace knitting.

Yes, I know that they may sound that they are the same thing but there is a very subtle difference. Lace knitting involves working the increases, decreases and yarnovers that create the pattern on right-side rows only and the wrong side rows being either knitted or purled with no patterning. Knitted lace involves working these pattern-forming stitches on both right and wrong side rows. Consequently knitted lace is far more complicated and you are likely to make more mistakes if you don't follow the pattern closely and those mistakes can be more difficult to pick up until you are several rows further through the pattern and can lead to a bit of silent swearing before sitting down to unpick the rows to get back to where the mistake is.

It is hoped that the patterns for the book and the samples for the photographs will be ready in September so that the book can be printed and released in time for the Christmas market. A few book signing opportunities have already been pencilled into the calendar so I have to keep my nose to the grindstone as far as designing is concerned. I already have one sample being knitted by a friend and I am busy working on two more. One pattern is waiting for the sample knitter to come back from a trip home to the US so that it can be worked on and a couple more have been written and are waiting for sample knitters to become available.

So, that is a brief update on what I have been doing and hopefully I can find things to write at least a couple of times a week so that the blog can become active again.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Rearrange These Words Into A Well Know Phrase Or Saying


Sometimes I try to do too much. I know that I shouldn't take on more than I can reasonably manage, but there is something inside me that makes me say 'yes' to things when perhaps I ought to say 'maybe'.

I didn't think that I had done too much over the last couple of weeks, but the fact that one of the staff members knocked at the door of my flat this morning and I didn't hear it because I was so deeply asleep indicates that maybe I have done more than I should have. They did manage to rouse me at 10.40 this morning and having sleepily answered the door and assured them that I was okay I went to find my glasses so that I could see what time it was. Panic ensued because I was due at a meeting at the council offices at 11am.

So after a quick wash, brushing my teeth and my hair, throwing on some clothes and picking up my notebook I headed to the kitchen to let the staff know that I was on my way to a meeting. Fortunately the council offices are only two minutes walk from where I am living so I knew that I could just make it in time.

"Is your meeting with R?" asked the member of staff. "Yes," I replied. "Oh, S took a message this morning to say that it is cancelled."

Having rushed to get ready for a meeting that wasn't going to happen, I decided that the only thing that I could do today to be kind to myself was to do nothing. And apart from a quick trip out to have a look at computers in the local PC World and the completion of a few rows of knitting, that is pretty much what I have done today. Nothing.

I now just have to remember to say 'no' a bit more often and then I won't end up burning the candle at both ends!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

What An Honour

As you know I am an inveterate knitter. Knitting has been one of the most important things in my life for the last few years and has been responsible for keeping me sane at times. I starting designing socks last year in response to the suggestion that I enter I Knit London's design competition. Since then I have designed a hat that was a Christmas present for one of my knitting friends and I have designed a shawl which is being test knitted at the moment.

At the beginning of the year I started to teach knitting classes at the shop in addition to the crochet classes that I have been doing since about October last year. All of this keeps me pretty busy and I don't think that I have the time to be depressed at the moment.

One of the problems with knitting (and crochet) as a hobby is that there is a shortage of good yarn shops about these days. Twenty or thirty years ago there would have been at least one shop on every high street around the country selling knitting wool, knitting needles and crochet hooks, and some would have major haberdashery areas too. Today, such shops are few and far between, which for a yarn junkie such as myself can be a problem. I found I Knit London last year and it has rejuvenated my knitting because it has such spectacular yarns on the shelves.

Yesterday, when I arrived at the shop in readiness for my knitting class, Gerard, I Knit's owner, asked me what I thought about the idea of the shop running a sock club. For those that don't know what a sock club is, the idea is that knitters subscribe and are sent a pattern for an exclusive sock design and a suitable amount of specially selected sock yarn to be able to knit a pair of socks every couple of months. Although I have never actually joined such a club, I think that they are a great idea especially as they can introduce knitters to yarns that they may never have used before.

So, why am I telling you all about this? Well, Gerard has asked me to design the first pair of socks to be presented to the sock club. Having spent so much of last summer knitting socks while trying to come up with my design for the competition, I have a basic sock pattern which lends itself to being used as the basis for practically any design that I can come up with. And that is what I have to do now; come up with a design that is different to anything that is out there already.

This really is a big honour for me and I am determined to come up with something really special for Gerard and his sock club.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

No Pterodactyls Here

It's Tuesday. Tuesday is psychotherapy day and in the past I have written about the butterflies in my stomach that seemed to be the size of pterodactyls as the awful hour approached. I used to try everything I could on a Friday morning to keep the anxiety under control but usually it was in vain.

When I was having psychotherapy with J last year I found that I rarely had any signs of anxiety until he called me into his office, at which point I would be overcome with such gut-wrenching anxiety that it was possible to see the physical effect that it was having on me. J always used to say that to see me like this made him feel as though he was torturing me.

But one thing I have noticed since I started group psychotherapy just a month ago is that there don't seem to be any particularly signs of anxiety at all. It still isn't the most comfortable experience in the world but there is no stomach churning, no feeling of butterflies, and definitely no pterodactyls.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Just Filling You In

Yes, it's really true, I am back blogging again and I have been amazed to receive comments from some old regulars because I had thought that everybody would have forgotten me.

I'm afraid that I don't have a particularly good excuse for not blogging, just complete inertia on my part. The depression has been relatively stable over the last few months although there have been a couple of blips but nothing that I haven't been able to cope with.

When I last posted I was talking about all the Christmas presents that I was knitting. I'm pleased to say that all of them except one were ready and given in time for the big day and the one that was late was only a few days late. Since then, I have continued with my knitting but I have started to work on a new project which may take me a while but will, I hope, be of great benefit to new knitters (I'll tell you more in another post).

So, what have I been up to? My crochet classes on a Thursday evening fill up almost as soon as they are put on the website and four courses have now been completed. And I have now started teaching knitting on a Tuesday evening. I still can't believe that I am being paid to do something that I love so much and I am glad that I am able to impart some of my knowledge to a new generation of knitters and crocheters.

As regular readers will know when I was receiving psychotherapy last year my therapist referred me for group therapy. I joined a group at the end of January so my Tuesdays are now quite busy. It's a quick lunch then on to the bus to take me to the hospital where the group meets, and hour and a half of talking and then across the road to catch a bus to the shop where I can indulge in a couple of hours knitting before the knitting class starts.

The biggest change, however, is my move to new accommodation. I now live in a basement flat situated in a house which provides accommodation and support for 21 people with mental health problems. My accommodation comes free of charge because I provide night cover for the residents. On the evenings that I am teaching one of the day staff takes care of the evening routine until I return at about 10pm. The job is not exactly demanding requiring me to only 'work' for a couple of hours each evening, and once completed I am free to return to my accommodation and go to bed whenever I want.

It seems that for the first time in many years that I am having some good luck for a change and that I do seem to have a bit of a future.

I'm Back

After an absence of a couple of months I am back. I've nagged myself several times over the last month or so about not blogging and this morning I have been jogged into logging in to the blog because of a new comment about my Christmas knitting.

A lot has happened since I last posted on here and I shall give details over the next few days, until then may I wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and an early Happy Easter!