It’s just wrong.

I love Bendigo Woollen Mills in that way you love an old aunt. She’s the aunt that has conservative tastes, who’d never wear strong, bright colours and adores pastels. Though she’d happily knit lacy cardigans in pastel mint green 4ply, she can’t understand why anyone would knit socks. She’s sturdy and reliable, and you love her for it.

But if she ever tries to be ‘trendy’ you cringe because she’s using lingo or wearing fashions that were ‘in’ about five years ago, and to be honest it just sounds ridiculous coming from a 70 year old.

A few days ago I received this in the mail:

Which reminded me of an incident on a train a few weeks back. I was knitting my beau’s socks on the way home from the city. Two women of advanced age – one more advanced than the other so I figure they were mother and daughter – entered the carriage and sat opposite me. One leans forward to ogle my knitting.

“Did you make that?” she asked. I bit my lip against the facetious replies that always enter my mind at that question, and said I had.

“Oh, have you tried these new fluffy yarns? They make lovely scarves.”

“You mean the feathers yarns. No, they’re not really my thing.”

They pressed me for reasons, so I explained how, four years ago, I saw that everyone in Spotlight was wearing them, from the staff to the customers, so I figured it was a fashion that had been around for a while, and was probably already common enough to be called a fad.

They made that face. You know the one. My Mum calls it the ‘cat’s bum’ face. But they were on a mission. A mission to convert the world to fun fur. The woman leaned forward again.

“You know, the best place to buy those scarves is op shops. They’re much cheaper.”

I’m quite proud of the fact that I didn’t laugh at that point.

Anyway, if Bendigo Woollen Mills was my aunt, I’d probably plead with her to stop trying to be trendy and it probably wouldn’t have any effect. Stop it, Bendy. Stick to what you do best. And if you must branch out, just make us some plain old reliable 4ply wool/nylon mix so us knitters in Australia can dye our own socks without the sock yarn and dye costing us more than buying hand painted yarn from the US.

In more recent news:

I went shopping yesterday. First I headed to The Button Shop in Malvern with Peeve. I found some suitable buttons for the Squares Jacket within minutes, but poor Peeve was unwell – perhaps less well than she’d realised when she agreed to come out with me. Still, she managed to buy some nice wool for a shawl. When I dropped her off home I imagined her curled up in the sun, knitting something glorious, with cats snuggling on all sides. Get well soon, Peeve!

Afterwards I headed to Chadstone Shopping Centre. I used to live half an hour walk from there, but then life happened and I haven’t visited in about five years. In Borders I found The Happy Hooker, the only book in my wish list that they had.

I learned to crochet around the same time as I learned to knit, and I think it was my favourite of the two early on. There are some nice patterns in this book, and the intro certainly got me thinking about when a project is more suited to crochet (with it’s lack of stretchiness) than knitting, and visa versa.

I’d like to do more crochet. Perhaps when I’ve finished knitting socks.

———

The chocolate is Cocoa Farm Merlot Vintage Chocolate, which contains merlot infused currants. I’m don’t usually like ‘dead flies’ in my food, but I didn’t mind them in this. I think I’ve had the Shiraz version of this range and didn’t like it much, but that’s no surprise because I don’t like Shiraz. But the Merlot one gets my thumbs up.

Saving the Best for Last

There was a parcel from my Secret Pal at the post office today. I gathered what self-control I had and carried it home unopened. Then I grabbed my camera and took both outside into the cat run, so I could do the Grand Opening Ceremony while sitting next to the bonsaied jade tree one of the builders gave me, in the sunshine.

Peri Peri seemed to sense the importance of the occasion, and positioned himself in a warm spot to observe.

The box opened to reveal a collection of wonderful knitterly treats. There was my favourite sock yarn. There was the cutest sheep bookmark. There was chocolates.

And there was a pair of handknit socks.

I just sat and stared at those socks, picking them up, turning them over and over and gazing at them in amazement. Something struck me at that moment that I hadn’t realised before.

Nobody has knitted me anything since I was a child.

Or had they? Maybe I’d forgotten. Surely in the frenzy of knitting that’s been happening in the last few years, someone had knit me something. I made a cup of tea, opened the chocolates and tried on the socks. They fit perfectly.

And though I racked (or is that wracked?) my brain, I still couldn’t think of a knitted item I owned that someone had knit me. The closest object to a knitted gift I own is Sarina the sock monkey.

So I just sat there and enjoyed the chocolates, tea, sunshine and the awe that came from knowing that a near-stranger had spent hours knitting me these beautiful socks then sent them to me. I was caught between wanting to take them off and frame them, and wear them for the rest of the day – and every day from now on.

And Peri Peri’s expression pretty much summed up the way I felt:

So thankyou, Secret Pal (or can I call you Michelle?), from the bottom of my heart.

There are SEX shops in Canberra!

My friends in Canberra took me to a yarn store on Friday. I think it was called Stitch ‘N Time. It was stocked with quite a good range – including lots of Italian wool.

I bought 500 grams of Vero, an Italian wool.

I want to see if I can come up with a pattern that shows the colours as a gradual change, rather than stripes across the body. That probably means knitting narrow strips.

I also picked up some Corridale Clip on special, and navy St Ives yarn for socks for the beau.

And then I discovered this when I got home:

My Neopolitan Pomatomus Icecream socks bled when they were washed. I’m not overly fussed about it, but I thought I should mention it. The dark chocolate bits have lightened to milk chocolate.

Mmmm. Chocolate…

Knitting, chocolate and public speaking.

It’s doubtful that I’ll find the time, or a computer, with which to blog this weekend, so apologies in advance for the lack of posts. I’m leaving the beau alone at home and heading to the Canberra Writers Festival, where I have a schedule of work and play so full I’m wondering if I’ll end up sleeping most of next week.

Or, more importantly, if I’ll get time to knit.

Friend there are threatening to take me to a yarn store and a chocolate shop on the same afternoon. That might just make up for the growing and inevitable dread of public speaking that’s descended in the last 24 hours. Maybe I should keep a little ball of yarn in my pocket to squeeze, much like a stress ball, while I face those scary microphones.

Probably safer than dpns, anyway!

Oh Fr*g!

You know how I said I hadn’t stuffed up yet? I lied. Or so I realised last night, anyway.

For some reason I started skipping rows 9 and 10 of the lace pattern after the first two repeats. This dawned on me when I realised the tops of the smaller ‘leaves’ weren’t coming to a point. Bottom circle indicates the correct bit, top circle shows where it isn’t.

And I didn’t realise until I’d knit the fifth repeat last night. So last night I frogged back and determinedly reknit until I had at least made it back to the position I was in at the start of the night.

Knitterly Isolation and Embarassing Outbreaks of Dissatisfaction

A big THANKYOU to everyone who commented yesterday. I really wasn’t fishing for comments and I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty for not commenting enough – I’m certainly not a prolific commenter myself.

But I’d be a liar if I said the comments everyone left didn’t make me feel a lot better. There was a shallow ego boost, and there was insight. It is reassuring to see that others feel much like I do – that I don’t feel my blog is significant but I don’t mind, and that I’m a bit slack in commenting because I’m a bit shy, or too tired, or feel silly complimenting over and over.

The more I thought about it yesterday, the more convinced I was that the no-comments thing was just a side-effect of another source of dissatisfaction. So I did what I used to do pre-blogging. I sat down and just wrote. I let the words follow one after another then stopped and read them to see what I thought.

(The liquorish allsorts beanie, delivered to its new owner today. In fact, a few hours later Dad was still wearing it. Inside the house. I think he’d forgotton it was there.)

What I ended up with was an article on isolation – the effects of isolation on knitters in Australia. It pointed out how the low population meant fewer knitters spread over greater distances. It also talked about the difficulties and delays in getting hold of yarn and magazines, despite the internet, and how this made it hard for Australian knitters to join in with the latest product or pattern. And if we weren’t able to get hold of it, we wouldn’t be blogging about it, so overseas blog readers would have less reason to find and read our sites. Or listen to our podcasts.

And then I wondered about Aussie yarn manufacturers, asking why US knitters would bother mail-ordering anything here if something just as good was available in their shops. (At this point it started to get a bit off-topic, and the writing frenzy petered out, so I knew I’d pretty much encompassed what was bothering me.)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an article that I’d imagine any magazine wanting to publish. At least not in it’s current state. I could beat it into a more saleable shape… but that would be too much like Work. (As in, what I do for a living.)

(The Zhivago Top is coming along nicely. Though the lace pattern takes concentration, I haven’t stuffed it up once. Yet.)

I also realised I had more personal issues about isolation contributing to my state of mind. Almost a year ago a long-term close friendship I had began to go pear-shaped and it’s been creeping into my thoughts lately. (It was your classic ‘don’t get involved in a friend’s marriage problems… but what can you do when they insist on trying to get you waaaaaay too involved then get p*ssed off when you run screaming?’ scenario.) I miss having the sort of friend you talk out things with when either of you needs a good natter. The beau really isn’t a substitute, sweet and understanding though he is. I suspect I’ve been telling anyone who would listen (the post office staff, the lawnmowing man, my art teacher, the hairdresser) about my house/work/life stresses. It’s embarrassing. (I realise that admitting this means any potential crafting buddies are going to run screaming, but I figure the damage is done. You all probably think I’m insane already.)

(The house extension is really coming along. Last week we got roof beams. Today the metal support framework for the decking went up.)

Anyway, like all Moments of Questioning, this one has run its term and left me a bit wiser (with emphasis on the ‘bit’) and somewhat embarrassed. I reckon it was sparked as much by listening to several hours of podcasts on the weekend as a lack of comments. There’s only so much Maryland Sheep Festival and shop/yarn/gadget reviewing and knit-buddy yarn-crawl road-trip romping you can take before you want to impode from envy.

(We discovered on the weekend that the house extension can be seen from the freeway extension. It’s the blue bit on top of the red bit just above the right top of the sound barrior.)

And the podcast? Just after I made the first one, I got the flu. I didn’t have the energy to go looking for music and by the time I did two thirds of the podcast was out of date. Since then I’ve had a persistent, annoying cough that keeps coming back as soon as I think I’ve lost it. Now that work is going to be getting much more demanding on my time and energy, I’m going to put the idea on hold for a while.

After all, there’s all that knitting to be done.

Who am I kidding?

I’ve been thinking a bit about this knitblogging thing lately. More than just the blogging, actually. The whole knitting community thing, online and off.

It sort of started on Sunday, when I had three recent posts with no comments. It’s a familiar chain of thought, really. I wonder why my blog has attracted so few commenters. Then I mock myself for being disappointed. After all, I’m not doing this in order to get lots of comments. I tell myself I’m just keeping a knitting diary. After all, I used to write about knitting in my ordinary, offline diary anyway.

But then why make it public? I tell myself it’s so I can show my friends what I’m doing. But most of my friends aren’t knitters. Oh, a few have dropped by when I posted a recipe or photos of the house extension, but generally they’re not interested in the knitting. And it’s not like I have family dropping by. I have one sibling I haven’t spoken to in years, and even if I had I would expect them to read this blog in a million years. My Dad surfs the internet, but he is the only family member I knit for, so I haven’t directed him here. Mum won’t even let Dad keep That Evil Box Called A Computer in the house.

There are a couple of people who I’ve befriended via the knitting thing who do comment now and then. I’m grateful for that. I’d like to give them a big hug for it. But still, if those people didn’t comment, would I bother keeping up this blog?

Is it in order to join in the Great Worldwide Knitting Community? Maybe…

I joined a U3A knitting group a couple of years back. U3A stands for “University of the Third Age”, which is basically a fancy name for a social club for oldies, though it’s not restricted to senior citizens. I thought if I hung out with older, more experienced knitters I’d learn heaps. Instead I ended up teaching them – and being asked to demonstrate the lastest knitting technique in each monthly class. It was fun, but ultimately a bit disappointing. And the group shifted focus from sharing knowledge and enthusiams about knitting to charity knitting at about the time the chronic fatigue I had got to it’s worse state, so I stopped going and wasn’t too disappointed about it.

I tried the Stitch’n'bitch meeting thing. It was fun and I met a few nice knitters. But the only one within a manageable distance to my home was held during a weekday, which doesn’t really suit anyone with a full time job. Eventually they stopped the meets, which was sad, but I could hardly complain when I only managed to make a few meets.

That left me with the online community. I read blogs. I joined the Aussie s’n'b yahoo group and participated in discussions. I’ve been to kip events. I’ve read books by bloggers. I started a blog. I entered it in a local blog ring (I’m sure it’d be lost in the zillions of blogs in the os ones). I’ve met a few fellow bloggers and (fatigue willing) even manage to hang out with them now and then. I joined Project Spectrum and Secret Pal and enjoyed both. I listen to podcasts. I’m so in there.

So why do I feel this strange disconnection from it all? Why do I feel something is missing? Does anyone else feel this way?

And is it completely and utterly pointless for me to even ask this question, when only a handful of people are going to read this anyway?

Podcast Review Update

Since my last review of knitting podcasts I’ve abandoned some, continued listening to others, tried some new ones and worked my way through the ‘backlist’ on those I liked. So here’s an update:

Cast-On by Brenda Danyne is still my favourite. It’s a great combination of professionalism and a relaxed personable feel.

Knitcast is back! I downloaded her new podcast last night, but haven’t listened to it yet. Very happy Marie is podcasting again.

Knittingnewscast, It’s a Purl Man & Pointy Sticks. I gave these the four episode text and found that while they improved, they just weren’t ‘must hear’ podcasts for me.

Knitcentric, by Shannon. I like this one, and I’ve now listened to all 15 episodes. Shannon is taking a break now, but when she gets back to podcasting I’ll probably keep listening.

Since then I’ve tried:

Knit2BTied – despite my “four episodes before judgement” policy, I didn’t get past the first episode. In fact, I didn’t get through the first episode. Sometimes you know straight away that something isn’t for you. Not that it wouldn’t suit other podcast listeners. Don’t let me put you off!

KnitWit – again, only one episode. I grabbed a later episode and found that all it contained was a personal story. I’m not against personal stories in knitting podcasts, but I do want substantial knitting related content in my podcast, so this one ain’t for me.

Aussie Knit - I tried three episodes, one later in the series, and found it didn’t keep my attention.

Pixie Purls - I tried four episodes and while it was an okay podcast, I wasn’t hanging out to listen to another episode. Again, not for me; might work for you.

Insubordiknit – this one got under my skin and I was really disappointed when she stopped podcasting.

Math4Knitters – I’m still a bit undecided on this one. It made it past the four episode test and I think I’ll keep going. But it’s not one of my favourites.

The Mosh Knit - one episode so far. Was okay. Will keep going.

Knitty D and the City - tried only one episode so far – the first one. After Knit2BTied I was a bit dubious about the podcasting duo idea, but with these two it might work. Or it might not. I’ve only listened to the first episode, and I can see there’s potential there once they get a handle on things.

Knitting Psychos - one episode from later in the series. I found myself liking this podcaster straight away. She has a wicked little laugh. I listened to the knitalong episode and found myself laughing along with her at her knitalong habit.

Lime & Violet - one episode later in the series. Another duo. Manic and madcap, they’re funny and despite endless digressions still manage to enthuse a lot about knitting.

Missing or not-a-podcast podcasts:

Musings of a Peaceful Knitter - I didn’t get a chance to listen to this one. When I went to the site it said it was closed, and there didn’t appear to be a link to archived episodes.

Time2Knit – First impressions… I don’t think this is actually a knitcast, but someone reading one of those “Anne of Green Gables” books. Or is it?

Overall the podcasts are quite varied. I have to admit, I was relieved to find Knitting Psychos and Lime & Violet yesterday, because I hadn’t found any that grabbed me like Cast-On, KnitCast and Knitcentric do for months. I also tried one small non-knitting podcast – Dr Karl’s Great Moments in Science – for filling in gaps (when your podcast is finished, but you’ve still got 5 mins to wait at the docs, or until the tv show you’re waiting for starts). I wouldn’t mind more of that sort of podcast on my ipod. And maybe some talking books.

The re-soleable sock

On Wednesday the tarp over the hole in my roof came partly undone in the wind, and the noises it made flapping around were so loud I decided to work on my laptop, on the dining table.

But when I got to the lounge I laid eyes on the beginnings of my re-soleable sock and all thought of work went out of my head. I just had to work out this pattern. By the end of the day I had the main piece of the sock knitted up and cast off:

The next night I picked up stitches for the heel over and over and frogged the heel over and over as I worked out how best to work it. Then I headed down the foot, picked up stitches for the toe and last night I finally finished.

Now I just need Dad to try them on for fit. I’ll make any adjustments needed and knit the second pair, then I’ll convert the pattern to sock yarn. It’s much faster to design in dk/8ply yarn. And my Dad likes warm, robust socks.

(Oh, and I’ve decided that I need to add chocolate to my knitting photos. I always intended to review and talk about chocolate as much as knitting, but I never got around to it. Or I ate the chocolate before I had a chance to blog about it. I figure the only way I’ll get chocolate into this site is if I include the packaging of chocolate I’ve eaten, or am in the process of eating, in my knitting photos.)

Last, but by no means least, here’s two new possessions – one practical, one delightfully impractical. Meet Sarina, the sock monkey life drawing model, made by Gibbering Mododrums. With starry eyes and a preference for the ‘natural look’ (she has pubic and underarm hair), she has a natural grace artists long to capture.

Today she is posing on my new electronic kitchen scale, useful for weighing yarn by the gram. In future, if I can find one, she will drape herself languidly over a doll-sized chaise lounge in my new artist workroom. If I can find a second-hand one somewhere. And the house extension is ever finished…