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Saturday, April 28, 2007

A little breather...

It's been in 'interesting' weekend. I've been feeling under the weather for a few days but I got out of the flat for the men's knit night on Friday and it was a really good evening - just nice to get out of the flat. You know that feeling when you're ill or run-down and then you spend so much time wallowing in your own pity that you end up feeling worse? Well that's what happened Thursday and Friday, so getting out and seeing the film on Thursday and the friends at the men's night on Friday was a tonic! Sadly, I went on to a friends house afterwards and had a bad turn with their cat!

I've been asthmatic since I was born and weirdly, when I moved to London 10 years ago it was the best time for me - I didn't use my reliever for about 7 years, and then it all started again. Well, the cat had it in for me on Friday and to cut a long story short here I am in A&E at 4.30am on Saturday morning! I've lived with this for 34 years and I just usually get on with it, but it still scares me when I'm unable to catch breath. I often forget just how debilitating it can be - I am a fairly active person and this just closes me down. It's depressing but I suppose I can't worry about it too much, although seeing myself as an old codger, housebound and wheezing is an image that prays on me sometimes. All this from being in the cold air and in the presence of a cat for ten minutes! Ironically enough I had an allergy test a few weeks ago and I am still waiting to hear if I'm allergic to sheep...

This is sheer coincidence too, but I was going to link to an asthma charity here, because if this scares me then I can't imagine how the thousands of children cope with it and I came across World Asthma Day, which is next Tuesday. I remember when I was young it didn't really stop me, I always had my inhaler to hand, but I was larking around and playing in the fields opposite my childhood home with the rest of my mates. Playing on the railway, running from the police etc! I do remember a few big attacks, one of which left me and my sister calling for an emergency doctor at 3am - but it's remarkable to think that this happens to young kids every day, and you have to just admire their strength of mind for it not to destroy them. believe me, not being able to breathe, to feel like your drowning in air is frightening.

Sorry, this post wasn't about knitting but after last night's shenanigans and little sleep I really just wanted to talk about myself!


Friday, April 27, 2007

knit (and sew) a river

Sometimes I wake up and I'm swimming in a big blue river. It's a great feeling being enveloped in such warmth that it feels a little like love. It feels like the river has been made with all the love there is.

Then I really wake up and catch my breath and wonder whether we are going to get the river sewn in time for the 12 May when we march with it to Downing Street.

If you are reading this you will not be surprised by another post about the river and how much support we have received etc etc but I have to go on to say that I am amazed every day about the different levels that the campaign is working on.

In June last year we got very excited because we thought we had come up with a great quirky idea to campaign for WaterAid. We thought Knit a river might help to disseminate the issues that an extraordinary amount of people face due to lack of access to safe, clean drinking water.

Then we received some blue squares. Then some more and more and more and you know the rest.

We are sewing it at the moment and we are getting a lot done thanks to many, many individuals and lots of groups. We put a call out to the schools in the area local to the WaterAid office (who knew there were so many?) and the response has been, obviously by now, great.

I have just taken 2 bin bags, to add to the first, to another secondary school around the corner. They have sewn a whole bin bag in less than 2 days. Some of them have even taken them home to sew! While I was there talking to them in their library one of the questions was 'If I come to the march will I get on the telly?'

'Of course,' I said. ' Why wouldn't you? But you must ask your mum and dad to bring you.'

'I can come on my own, I'm 14!'

'I'm sure you can. I will speak to the press people at WaterAid and find out if they can get a story in the local paper about how great you are for helping. Shall I?'

'Yeah! Will we have a picture, too? I think it will be good with a picture of us all but I think they should take a picture of just me because they would probably want to use that one. What's this for anyway?'

That was my cue. I told them more about WaterAid and offered to come and speak to them in an assembly. I hope they take me up on that, I love speaking to kids about water issues, they pick it up easier than I once thought. It's very easy for young people to engage with these massive issues as the fact that they affect so many children in Africa and Asia makes it very easy for them to relate to it.

Knit a river hasn't just reached the knitters. It is doing much more.
The WaterAid Campaigns Manager was on a course this week and the tutor gave them a presentation about strategies and building campaigner support and she actually sited Knit a river (with a picture in her powerpoint presentation!) as one of the best campaigns ever as it was quirky, engaging, unusual and promoted a great action - knitting a square! Charity knitting is not new to us but I am not sure there has been anything like this before.

Our next item on the campaigning agenda is writing to your MP. An End Water Poverty Early Day Motion has been tabled with the House of Parliament. An EDM is an internal petition for MP's and if lots (over 200) sign it then it will be discussed within the house.
It's very easy to write to your MP using this website. All you have to do is encourage them to sign EDM 1113 End Water Poverty. The global crisis in sanitation and water is an outrage. We can not choose to tackle or not tackle this crisis. This is the fundamental issue on which the eradication of poverty depends.
Please write to your MP and urge them to sign EDM 1113.

Now, what have I done with that sewing needle!?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Brandon Mably

Brandon came to see us all at the shop last night. We had a great time listening to Brandon talking about his work and his new book, Knitting Colour.

I have to admit to feeling a little bit ashamed as I have never done much colour nitting and last night was a revelation. I was very inspired by him and his book. I am about to start knitting with colour! I have to finish the couple of other things first but I doubt that 1 colour tank top will ever get finished.
I think I may start with a cushion cover. I love the hand print and the stone wall print but my favorite was the crown. It was complete with gold and silver lurex. I am a bit nervous because I've always shyed away from colour, not just in knitting ( I once came out of a shop with 3 tops, each one a different shade of green). Brandon said that knitting with colour was similar to building muscles, the more you do it the easy and better it gets.
He told us so many stories of his work with colour and about managing Kaffe Fassett's studio and gave us so many tips. We are really grateful and very glad you came, Brandon!
Brandon signed a few extra copies of his book for the shop so if you missed it and you want a copy you know where to find it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I've got a loverly bunch of.....

Yesterday was St George's day of course, and we English, being very restrained and stiff upper lipped as we are don't really seem to celebrate it the way our Irish cousins do. It's almost as if we're ashamed of ourselves somehow! Anyway, about 4500 of us packed into Trafalgar Square last night to break the world record for the largest coconut orchestra - New York held the record but London tripled that! Led by Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and the cast of Spamalot (including cuddly SRB) the square was crammed with coconuts playing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. I especially liked the fact that someone had written in each coconut (that's about 8000!) the letter 'L' and 'R' just so we all knew what we were doing! trust the English to break the silliest world record imaginable. But we were all very proud of ourselves and it was a laugh and no mistake.

Ha ha. It was brilliant. Afterwards we celebrated with a Thai Curry!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Why Paint Cats? and coconuts

So I was sitting at my desk at (my other) work today, the NT box office and there was a book lying on the table next to me - Why Paint Cats? - why indeed! This reminded me of the sheep we saw at Unravel last year, although there's something more sinister about dyeing cat's fur, I think because it seems less etchical somehow, as the sheep will be shorn, the cats won't. It doesn't really make much sense in my head, and I have to admit that some of these do look amazing, but I'm not sure I'm convinced that cats should be used as works of art, or indeed whether we have the right to modify our animals to be cosmetically more interesting to look at! And why oh why would you want to make your cat's bumhole look like Charlie Chaplin!? I know there's lots of you knitters out there who are by nature cat lovers so I thought I'd share. It's one of the most bizarre books I've seen since the brilliant Dancing With Cats.

Totally worn out today anyway after yesterday's exertion - i did five loads of washing, whilst watching the marathon on the telly. I was really hoping to get down to the Grapes pub and joint Cast Off and fellow knitters to cheer on Susie Hewer who set the first world record for the longest scarf knitted whilst running a marathon! We saw Susie being interviewed on the BBC before she set off though and there's more to come so you can still sponsor her at the Just Giving website. Well done to her, and to everyone who ran yesterday. G was at the finish line helping out with the many WaterAid runners who take part each year and was inspired to do it next year - he's trying to convince me that it's something everyone should do once in their life - but we'll see how long his enthusiasm lasts.

Off tonight to play coconuts in Trafalgar Square - first day it's rained in ages!


Friday, April 20, 2007

Coronation Street knits...

A couple of these I thought of sending to What Not To Knit (but they never put my contributions up!!) Anyway, my boss surprised me t'other day with a glorious pattern book from 1968 featuring the stars of Corrie. We really love this one - I'd be happy with just the pic of harridan Ena Sharples all smiles in Sirdar Caprine. It's priceless! But that's just the tip of the Sirdar/Weatherfield iceberg...check out Albert Tatlock relaxing in his holiday-mood raglan sweater (how does a sweater put you in a 'holiday mood'?), or Emily Bishop looking a bit racy for her 'special occasion'...or kiddie fiddler Len Fairclough 'At Your Leisure'. Enough said. Enjoy!

Audrey and Dickie Fleming

Len Fairclough....

...Albert Tatlock in a holiday mood

Emily Nugent (now Bishop)....

Elsie Tanner...

Jack Walker...

Val Barlow...

Minnie Caldwell relaxing in, erm, elegance...

Gordon Clegg....


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Summer's here...

...and so is the latest Vogue Knitting. I adore this mag so much - it's full of all that stuff that I would just love to knit, but I know I'm a few years away from it! But I find it really inspirational, and believe me for a rookie knitter that's dead important. I see Gerard's knitting, and loads of folk in the knitting group knitting up a storm and it just keeps me going. With G around I'll always have a knitter to look up to! Anyway, this season's issue is trés sexy...two of my favourites are this lovely lacy number by Vladimir Teriokhin and the incredible summer beach rainbow cape by Linda Morse (just beware the baby couture on page 74 - they can't be great all the time I spose!). (And before anyone gets any ideas I don't have a white knicker fetish, it's just a coincidence).

Aren't these just exquisite? I only wish the patterns for blokes were as thrilling, sexy or just as interesting as this. It's enough to drive a man to drag, just to feel a lil' bit special now and then. On the subject of being special, the ever amazing Sue unveiled her lacy shawl, made (in about 5 minutes no doubt) from Jitterbug. I forgot to take a pic but check it out here (scroll to the 11 April post), I just LOOOOVVVEE IT! And I feel privileged to have touched it's gorgeousness!
With all this sun though it looks like the knitters are keeping a low profile. That's my excuse, anyway, for tonight's film night being so, er, well attended. I'm sure G is wrong when he suggests that Footloose wasn't a great choice! How can you resist a bit of Kevin Bacon leaping around a disused warehouse, all pent-up rage and teen angst. I know that's how I used to get my stress levels down. Tractor chicken with Bonnie Tyler on the soundtrack, it just doesn't get any better!

Wanna be in our gang...?

It's late Wednesday night (midnight exactly!) and just got in from our Weds night knit meet - this week we went back to one of our favourite haunts, The Crown and Two Chairmen in the middle of Soho. We had a great time, and funnily enough the usual suspects were all left standing when the 'last round' was called! Thanks to everyone who came along tonight, it's always nice to welcome new and old faces alike. Special mention to Christine, who I must send best of luck to, who was resolutely knitting away with 2 books on her lap AND a copy of her own lace pattern. You go girl! Then there was Philip, who met first at the last meeting at the Retro Bar, knitting his fried eggs, sausage, toast and mushrooms....you go girl too. In fact we owe Philip a debt for renaming us tonight, we are no longer the IKL knitting group, we are officially the IKL gang, and we welcome new members anytime. I haven't been in a gang since 1984 so it feels a bit special - we're a nice gang though, not some kind if knitting mafia! I blame Skins meself, look out for the official IKL trash the house party soon...

We also decided tonight that we'll be taking part in the world record attempt for the largest coconut orchestra, being held in Trafalgar Square on Monday night. It's all something to do with those crazy Monty Python kids and the day of St George. Come along and meet us in the Retro Bar between 5 and 6pm and then head off to Traf. Sq. to play your coconuts. Should be a laugh and no mistake. On the subject of fruit, I'm pleased to report that IKL is possibly the only knitting gang where you can also pick up some rhubarb. Here's Valerie taking home her rhubarb stash, and thanks to the always unpredictable Esther for providing said vegetable (I was reliably informed by Roy that rhubarb is indeed a veg that is eaten like a fruit, but isn't a fruit. And a banana is a herb. And a cucumber is a fruit). Esther the unpredictable has also promised to bring along her horse, Bounty, to the coconut orchestra on Monday, and , y'know, I wouldn't be surprised if that actually happened.
As far as the knitting goes, I got started on the back of the tank top, but stalled fairly early on thanks to the Brothers Pear Cider. G and I first had a taste of this at Glastonbury two years ago (which reminds me I have to get up early Sunday for my second ticket buying ordeal - Shirley demands it). Nice to see it's now available in London, and not only that, but I bypassed the 4% stuff and went straight for the 'festival strength' 7% - it's no wonder after three goes at casting on I called it a night! Kudos to Esther though who was working on the sock design for our new sock club right to the bitter end. You go girl..

Not only did Philip rename us, he also brought a bit of style to the night (excepting the poo-like sausage, above). Here's his T-shirt and bag design that's winging it's way to Japan as we speak to be printed and bought up by a heaving throng of cool Japanesey types. On the subject of cool Japanesey types, we got a surprise package at the shop today laden with the first bit of our Habu order form the NYC trip in March...ooooh, cones of silk, tiny globules of silk and huge chunks of mohair and alpaca. It's fracking* gorgeous! What's also fracking* gorgeous are Elly's shoes - she wears the sexiest shoes in the city and I cannot believe we haven't mentioned them before. Here they are on the Dean Street pavement looking every bit as fabulous as the woman in them. Which reminds me....we're showing Footloose tomorrow at the IKL film night! Haha, what a tenuous link!
Until next time then, night-night,

*this is a special superlative-stroke-swear word reserved for those who watch Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi channel (or from Lovefilm). It's better than the original and doesn't have that stupid dog thingy in it anymore.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I knit London Sock Club

The first sock club is up and running! It's quite popular, which is great but not surprising as we all love to knit a good sock!

The first yarn to be sent out on 1 June is being hand dyed by fibrespates as I write, 100% merino superwash - we love the fibrespates colourways!

The second batch is being dyed in South London over the next couple of weeks and we're very excited about this as we've seen the samples!!!!

The other batch, Colinette Jitterbug, speaks for itself! I wish I could join!

My Dad's birthday is this week, guess what he's getting!

Friday, April 13, 2007


I received this most amazing book in the post yesterday! I have been a bit confused, though, as it came straight from the seller. I can only guess that it is from my Secret Pal.

I am right I am sure. Thank you. I love it! I have never done lace and I am very excited to start!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a little scared to be sure as some of the patterns I can't even read but they are described as experienced lace so I am sure I will get to these.

I've spent the winter wrapped in a half finished crochet blanket that became known, thanks to Esther, as a Celtic Warrior Shawl. I will now have a proper ladie warrior shawl.

Thank you Secret Pal. I love you.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

12 May, march to Downing Street with the river

We are very excited to annouce news of the first major outing of the knitted river!!!!

On 12 May 2007 we will march to Downing Street to End Water Poverty

The march is the first activity of this kind for WaterAid so we must be very proud of ourselves - knitters are brilliant and the contribution made to WaterAid through the Knit a river campaign is incredible. The river is truely magnificent and I think with lots of us knitters being there to carry it it will look even better.

The beauty of this is, of course, that it is not a fundraising campaign, it is simply asking for more attention to be given to the billions of people who struggle without accss to safe water and basic sanitaion. Even now 4 children die every minute as a result of prevenatble water related diseases such as diarrhea. The idea that diarrhea could kill a child in the UK is crazy - it would simply never happen. The short walk from Vauxhall to Downing Street will be representative of the hours wasted each day by women and children walking miles and miles for water for their families. The time wasted impacts on everything - women can't work, children can't go to school- billions of people are locked in a stranglehold of poverty just because they lack access to water. But you are helping! The river is helping, and on the 12 May we will be able to use the river to amplify our simple request - End Water Poverty.

The assembly point is still being confirmed but it is very likely to be Spring Gardens in Vauxhall, just minutes away from Vauxhall Station. We will start around 11am and the whole show will be over by 2pm. The idea of marching with the river to Downing Street is incredible; I hope many of you can make it on the day, we could never have got this far without your support.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Friday

As the National Theatre and WaterAid (our other jobs) were both closed yesterday we took the opportunity to spend the day in the shop together, and get stuff done that we'd usually leave to Sundays. We discovered our local Bookers first thing in the day which is one of those warehouse cash-and-carries loaded with boxes of stuff for shops, restaurants etc. We are stocking up on beer, wine and cider for the IKL meetings - it was fairly mouth-watering to see it all stacked high and cheap!

It was a gorgeous day in the square yesterday. Sun shining and quiet. Gerard was getting on with his Colinette Jitterbug socks - they are for his dad, but on finishing the first one he discovered that his feet might be a bit too chunky for them. Luckily we've got our own feet to display them on now. Amy popped in with gorgeous hot cross buns and we spent the afternoon nattering away - topic of conversation at one point was our first gig. I eventually decided it was Jason Donovan at Whitley Bay Ice Rink, Gerard went for a Beatles tribute band (!), and Amy trumped us both with The Ramones in New York when she was about 15. OK, so we could be cooler I suppose. She has the benefit of being born in New Jersey (it's near NYC!) and having an crazy, cool uncle though. I was listening to Shakin' Stevens records in Carlisle while the rest of my classmates were into The Smiths and Jesus and Mary Chain. I've always been a proud geek.

Amy's off to Malaysia for a couple of weeks to write for The Times, and Tom, who's birthday it is on Tuesday, flies off to Sri Lanka. Nice. Meanwhile we'll stick to London, hoping that the weather stays balmy. Tom's riding high at the moment after been discovered by chance at Vauxhall station last month by a TV director. He's landed a part in an up-coming TV series based around a set of football supporters, which will hopefully make it onto the BBC later this year. Shows you that hanging around Vauxhall of an evening can be an exciting experience! Happy 71st Tom T. We expect you back from Sri Lanka with your Giotto scarf compete and raring to get onto the next project....three scarves down, how's about a change? I know you like this pic!

Tom arrived at about 5.30 last night and after starting him off on his new project we went off to our new local - The Vauxhall Griffin. This used to be a dodgy local called Wyvil's, tucked out of the way down a nondescript side street. But it's taken on a new lease of life. It's a bit like the Retro Bar, only it's 2 minutes away from our flat. I can see we'll be in there quite a bit!
It's a quiet day here at the National today (just as well, too much beer last night). Gerard is manning the shop and hopefully enjoying a few glasses of red with fellow knitters. Meanwhile I'll console myself with a sneaky peek of Daniel Craig who's coming tonight to see one of our plays tonight.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter knits and other stuff

I did another sock. I have only done 1 as I might just use it for display in the shop, it's very tempting to do the other, though. It's Colinette Jitterbug. It's my first in this yarn and it's gorgeous.

I was distracted by a baby cardigan in Rowan Cashsoft dk.

I've only done the back up to now, it's great yarn to knit with, it just glides on the needles. The bank holiday weekend has been knit free. I've watched the last 6 hours of 24, though. It's a bit strange how much I love this show. The last few episodes do require a great level of commitment that I think challenges even the most faithful fans but it's worth it. I've never really though of myself of a man's man, in a manner of speaking, but I love Jack Bauer. After watching 5 series I do believe that if, after a series of unfortunate events, the future safety of the United States or indeed the world, ever rested in my hands I would be able to make the right decisions that would get us through the crisis. I doubt I would be able to use a gun, though. I think I would knit my way out.

We also watched the pilot episode of the new Battlestar Galactica. I don't remember anything from the original so this was mostly new, it's great, by the way. I love watching nonsense escapism. Especially at Easter!

From the sublime to the ridiculous, or the other way around. On the telly behind me, Maria is currenty singing about how she has confidence in herself; bag and guitar swinging, skirt twirling! On second thoughts I think if I was ever charged with ensuring the saftey of the world Maria and the rest of the Von Trapps would be my only inspiration.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Barnyard Chicks and Garden Birds

Are these not brilliant! They were designed and made by Gethan Dick. We love them. I haven't made one yet, still doing socks - I just can't put them down! The pattern is available from the shop in a gorgeous hand made picture booklet, though. They are perfect for Spring, I think I will make a swarm of them!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

alpaca blanket and last night's Retro Bar...

I've just finished this baby blanket. I think it is among the top 5 of my favorite knitted things. Not just because it's so simple!

There is a moss stitch border to the central stocking stitch panel, 110 stitches on 44mm needles - simple as that. I used Artesano Hummingbird 100% alpaca in Woodpecker. It's designed to be a thick sock yarn but I need a blanket. It is so soft that I think I might have to cover my pillow with it!

The colours are amazing, you can see the pattern is incredible! It came out all on it's own! People keep talking about why knitting is so popular at the moment - it's due, at least in part, to the amazing yarns available that not only look and feel great but they are exciting to knit with, too!


Last night's knitting group met up at our favourite bar in London, Retro Bar, down George Court. This is our local when we're not knitting (even if it's not actually that local!), but the upstairs bar is a great place to snuggle up in the booths and get the needles out. It was a good laugh last night - we taught Phillip the barman how to cast on, cast off, knit and purl all while he was in between serving up the drinks!
I have a sneaky suspicion he's done it before because he picked it up like a natural! It's always great to meet new knitters and the best thing about the meetings for me is that it's got really nothing to do with I Knit London - - everyone just turns up and gets on with it, meets new knit mates and has a laugh. So, thanks to all the old and new faces who popped in during the night - as always a few hearty souls managed to knit all the way to last orders....

Ann, Donna (aka Dolly) and Jo

Tanja, who we haven't seen for a while, was there and I just had to share her ingenious double-magic-loop method for knitting socks. She said that she once knitted from the top down down but on one pair of extra long socks she got to the end of sock 2 only to run out of yarn. Since then she's knitted from the toe up, both socks at the same time from the same ball of yarn! The mind boggles but it makes so much sense - both socks will be the same length AND all the yarn is used up. I love it, and it probably eliminates SSS (second sock syndrome)



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Dear secret pal

Thank you for the postacrd! I received it on Saturday. I wanted to publish in here but keep forgetting to bring it with me to a scanner! The picture of the woman knitting a forest scene that plays out under the coffee table is fantastic!

It's very exciting to know you are all the way in Australia!

Thank you.


Knitting karma and Glastonbury stress...

I don't know about you but knitting seems to just be generally good for your karma. I take my needles everywhere with me and try to get a bit of stitching in when I can, and it just seems to make people want to talk to you (in a nice way). I was sewing up bits for the river in the canteen at the National Theatre the other day and I was soon chatting away to folk who just found the whole thing fascinating...then there was the unexpected celeb moment on the Tube on the way home from Dolly (see previous post)...and then tonight I was at the Donmar watching a dark and brooding Ibsen play (John Gabriel Borkman, which, incidentally, opens with Deborah Findlay crocheting a fetching shawl) so got my knitting out in the interval. Had a lovely lady sitting next to me who said it was so nice to see someone knitting. It makes me feel all warm inside, it surely does! Usually people won't talk to anyone in this city - so get your knitting out wherever you are and get busy making small talk, it's good for you!

Speaking of which, I wanted to mention the Stitchlinks questionnaire - get on their website and fill it out and show your support for those who have come through hard times, or beaten poor health with magic needles. They are hoping to present their anecdotal evidence for the therapeutic effects of knitting and raise awareness of just how good it can be for those in emotional or physical stress.

Talking of stress...the tank-top is coming along, slowly. I did hope to finish it in time for my birthday but as that was 2 weks ago and I've just finished the back I think maybe Christmas is more likely. Still, I ain't giving up and will start on the front (and do the neck, and then do the armholes)...soon. I've got my next project lined up and it's my first socks, using the gorgeous hand-dyed yarn from Jon...

I'm still emotionally distressed from the 3 hour ordeal of trying to get Glastonbury tickets on Sunday morning too! No luck...but all is not lost. I will see Dame Shirley if it's the last thing I do! Gerard is already there, backstage, working with WaterAid, so he may have to wheel me in in a suitcase...

Craig IKL