Category Archives: projects

Let The Summer Time Roll

I enjoyed our two weeks away, and it was definitely long enough for me to start thinking about all the things I wanted to do when I got back.

There are many writing-related things, of course, but I’m trying to let them take a back-seat to family life, since I have my boys (9 and 7) all to myself for two and a bit more months. That’s a backseat, not ‘getting out of the car and wandering off’, Write-Brain, ya hear me?

So anyhoo, today was the first day of Operation Summer.

Before we left I had purchased three recorders (yes, the musical kind) and two instructional books with the plan of getting the boys good enough to play from the Star Wars and Harry Potter books I had also bought. A has already had some recorder lessons at school and scurried off in an ‘it’s-too-early’ grump this morning, but I managed to snag the sweetly-enthusiastic 7 yo, G. I got him to stop making hideous screeching noises by showing him how the holes make impressions on your finger pads — if you’re doing it right. He was quite tickled by that. Then we went through the book’s lessons on note-length. I’ll say it one more time: the boy has rhythm!

He managed to successfully, if not consistently, play B, A & G, and I left the lesson there for today.

I confess to being a complete wimp when it comes to grocery shopping and doing it almost always when the boys are at school. So much so that the thought of having to take them with me today filled me with a kind of cold horror reserved by most people for public speaking and death. But I know that part of my job as a parent is to prepare my children to take their place in the real world and function without a mum or a wife or a paid staff to manage their affairs. So I made a list and told myself that I would take them to the shop and send them out to find things and all would be well.

Still I managed to stave it off for a while by saying ‘no, no, leave him with me’ when one of the neighbours sent her son over to play then sneakily announced her intention to slope off to the doctor’s. (Really, it was great; the boys burned off some energy and I got to feel like I did a good deed – even though it mostly involved not-having-to-entertain-my-kids-myself. Win!)

But eventually I could put it off no longer (well, I could have. Of course I could have. We could have eaten chicken breast with Kraft Mac’n’cheese instead of with broccoli and beets and I could have fed the boys month-old Frosties for breakfast).

i put on some soothing classical music in the car, to calm things down on the drive to the store. (It actually worked pretty well. I’m sure it will never work again.) All was calm and serene as we piled out of the minivan and scampered across the grocery store parking lot, the soles of our shoes threatening to melt right off on the boiling tarmac (really! It was like that scene from Terminator 2 where the T-1000 gets stuck to the ground by the liquid nitrogen. Except hot. Not cold. And our feet didn’t actually break off. OK it was nothing like that, but we just watched it again and the image is stuck in my head. Sue me. Unless you’re James Cameron in which case, don’t. You don’t need my money.)

The serenity was quickly broken by cries of ‘quit it’ and “he’s touching me!” and all sorts of joys of childhood that MY children are supposed to be above. I don’t know why this drives parents quite as crazy as it does, given that we were all once children imprisoned in relationships with irritating siblings who knew just which buttons to press to get us in trouble for whining about something THEY did, but it does. Maybe it’s the sheer relentlessness of it. I have been poked so often in that one spot, that just hearing the edge of a whine in a voice makes me wince as if someone has punched me.

In the store I let A drive the trolley for a while until my nerves finally frayed (lord help me when he’s old enough to actually drive). Then I sent the boys out on errands for various fruits and vegetables, but confess to losing heart a little when both boys forsook their quest for their stated heart’s desire – raspberries – to instead marvel at (and hit each other in the face with) a fruit that looked like Banakaffalatta from that Spaceship Titanic Doctor Who Christmas Special with Kyle Minogue. Sending A alone into the dark interior of the produce section to find a solitary orange resulted in my having to mount a rescue party and retrieve him from his position staring blankly at the orange display, clutching a little net bag of pearl onions hopefully in one hand. (“We could make pickled onions!” he said, quite truthfully. We still, however, lacked an orange.)

Somewhere along the line G touched something then stuck his finger in his eye, resulting in a frighteningly blood-red orb leering up from among the brassicas, and A managed to convince met to buy more chips and chocolate than were strictly necessary, but we finally made it to the checkout. Where we were slo-o-o-wly checked out by a boy whose mother really should have taken HIM to the grocery store more often when he was 9 or 7. (“Is this celery?” “No dear, it’s broccoli.”)

All I can say is ‘thank you, Reader’s Digest, for placing your humor issue on the supermarket checkout stands this week. Both boys seized upon it and all was calm as “Zack” picked his red-faced way through my spring onions and (heaven help us!) beets.


My celery sensitivity has made many pre-prepared foods a minefield for me -soup and stock among them – so I am currently simmering up a batch of chicken stock, and have already made a teriyaki marinade for tomorrow night’s flank steak (hello, barbecue!). I have part of a chicken tikka marinade ready too, so I’m feeling pretty good about this shopping trip and its results.

Tomorrow morning I plan to use some of the bounty of apples I inadvertently let the boys sneak into the cart to teach A how to make apple pie. From scratch. With nothing but a knife and a rolling pin and the able tutelage of Delia Smith. And that’ll give us a good home for the evaporated milk A wanted to buy.


A insisted on picking up some living parsley while we were in the produce section. I was quite surprised when he, very responsibly insisted on planting it this evening. Sadly he decided to do it right when the mozzies were at their most voracious, but hey. We also scratched out a couple of lines in the soil for carrots. A could definitely be a gardener. That’s something to work on this summer as one of the many ongoing little projects.


I’m also planning on making the boys memorize poetry this summer, because it’s awesome and a huge contributor to one’s ability to use the language properly. While I wait for their materials to arrive, I stalked around the upstairs of the house re-familiarizing myself with “Casey At The Bat” which I learned a couple of years ago but then forgot. I’m using the ‘memory palace’ method to assist me (Google it). In my head, the outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine on my front porch, and Casey advances to the bat in my dining room. And if that didn’t make any sense at all, you need to a, read the poem and b, Google ‘memory palace’.


I’m making fingerless gauntlets. Because it’s 100 degrees.

And that’s what I did on my summer vacation. So far.

Hand Shoe

Hand Shoes

Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks Stripes Colour: 55614. Needles: 5xbamboo Takumi dpns 3.25mm

This started out as a sock, but I made a mistake with the heel and put it aside for a few days. That sock had been conceived as my auto-pilot, thinking -about-other-things project, and I was mightily annoyed at it for demanding more attention that I was prepared to give it (especially as it was my second attempt, my first one having been too small. I really need to use patterns more!). It was in danger of being left on the naughty step for ever.

Then G’s other mittens’ cuffs got all stretched out after an outing in the snow, and I decided, hey, the snoozing sock could easily become a mitten. So it has.

[This bit serves as pattern notes to myself, so that I can make the second one the same size — something I’m incredibly skilled at not doing!]

Turns out I cast on 45 stitches, not 44, so I did a 2×1 rib for 20 rows.rounds then switched to stocking stitch for another 20.
Then, just for fun, I started adding 2 purl stitches at the start and middle of the round. Did that for six rows, then continued it while I decreased every other row to 12 (13 stitches) then grafted the top.

Picked up 8 stitches on either side of the 8th row to knit an afterthought thumb and will unpick when finished.Hand Shoes
Thumb is on the edge, so the mittens will be ambidextrous.

[end pattern notes to myself]

It’s turning out nicely. Hope it fits him. Maybe I’ll finish up the thumb and try it on him when he comes home from school instead of  starting the second one immediately then cursing my ‘bad luck’ when neither fits him.

(Hooray! She can be taught!)

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

-Seneca (5 BC-65AD)

Unripened Hanami, Nearly Ripe

I’m so excited.

My Knit Picks blocking wires arrived today.

I promptly dunked my Hanami stole into a vat of water, drained it and began threading the wires in.

It wasn’t as easy as I had imagined, but still way WAY easier than trying to stretch out this stole with pins alone. Hooray for whoever thought of blocking wires the first time!

Anyhoo, it took me some time, two glasses of wine, and a crick in my back, but the stole is finally blocking. (Don’t look too closely if you’re a perfectionist).

Strangely enough, although I used the same yarn and needles as the designer, I seem to have ended up with a stole that is about a foot shorter than it’s supposed to be. Maybe I was too cautious in the blocking, but when the yarn is extremely taut and making an ominous creaking noise, I have to stop tugging. Call me cowardly, but there you have it. (Maybe if I didn’t have people who needed things like ‘dinner’ and ‘bedtime stories’ kicking around, I could have stretched it out when it was still sopping wet and not re-sprayed-wet and it’d have gone further. Or maybe not. I have not found the Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud to be very stretchy in the past).

So here we have it, blocking on some mats I originally bought for gymnastic toddlers:

Hanami Stole

Hanami Stole

"Vestes" Chugging Along

My Estes Vest (aka “Vestes) is coming along nicely.


Actually, I have more done, up to the first increase after the waist.

As with all cable projects (and lace), the first couple of times through the pattern repeats have me cursing and unpicking and wondering what the h*ll the designer was thinking. Then, once I see it unspooling beneath my needles, I get all comfortable and jolly and mentally pat the designer on the back.

It’s coming along much more smoothly now that I have added a couple of row counters and an index card and pencil to my arsenal. ‘I’m _just_ knitting’, eh? Ha!

I need to keep the momentum up though. The temptation is strong to congratulate myself on how well I’m doing and slow down.

I must keep reminding myself how painfully short (and fast approaching) is Spring in these here parts.

Who-In-The What-Now?

I was feeling the need for a new sweater project, since I finished off the black one, so I sat down and scoured my magazines and Ravelry to find something I wanted to make.

I made a decision. I decided on yarn. I ordered yarn. I ordered extra cables for my interchangeable circular needles (because I don’t have long cables). I felt proud of my decisiveness.

Yesterday the first part of my supplies arrived (the cables).

I looked at them.

My eyes did that little darty, left-to-right-and-back-again thing as I thought really hard.

I had no clue what pattern I had decided to work on.medieval red

Even looking up my yarn order was no help. Sure I remembered picking out the Lamb’s Pride Bulky and deciding between “Orange You Glad” (which I loved for the name) and “Medieval Red” (which I ultimately chose, since I was more likely to actually wear it), but none of that helped me remember what in the heck I had decided to make with it.

This has never happened to me before. Normally I spend so long agonising over my choices that there is no danger of me ever forgetting any detail of the torturous process. This time I had been so bloody decisive that I’d instantly put the decision behind me and out of my life. And with two small boys and a husband rampaging around the house it seemed there was no way I was going to find that small, quiet space I needed to crawl inside my head and root around a bit. It was quite a worry, especially since, for once, I had not skimped on the yarn and had bought a fairly pricey brand that people seem to really like (thank you Webs for making it more affordable than I expected, though. Love you guys and your automatic discounts!)

Happily I found my little piece of peace, and got to excavate inside my memory for a while and things began to gradually come back to me. I was pretty sure it was in a paper magazine, not online. I was pretty sure it was in Interweave Knits. I was fairly sure there was cabling….EUREKA.

Estes Vest from Interweave Knits Fall 2008

‘Twas the  Estes Cabled Vest I had planned on making. Hoorah!

I’m hoping it is a quick knit because the breathe of spring is teasing us here and I’d love to have it before it gets too hot to contemplating even holding wool for three months, never mind wear it.

Now I just have to clear the decks of any guilt-inducing Unfinished Objects and wait for the yarn to arrive. Woo-hoo!


I’ve finally made my cardigan wearable!

I made this cardigan from the Rebecca magazine, and ‘finished’ it over a year ago. But I didn’t add the ruffle and I was never happy with how wide it was at the neck. Also, I always meant to go back and add a lace edging to the sleeves but never got around to it. As a result I had a 3/4 length-sleeved cardigan that looked like it didn’t quite fit me around the bust either. It looked like I was wearing my skinny niece’s cardi.

So I went back last week and started adding a band to the front edge. I cast on 11 stitches and joined the end one to the existing edge. (I’m sure there’s a term for that. You do it with applied i-cords and lace edgings and stuff).

I knitted it from the bottom hem, up one front, across the back and down the other side, and now my cardi looks like it fits me. Woo-hoo!
Lace edging

I used the Eyelet Lattice Insertion The Harmony Guides: Lace & Eyelets: 250 Stitches to Knit (p.191) from Interweave Press.

Now I’m happy. I may or may not add a lace edging to the sleeves. For now I’m goign to wear the cardi and feel smug.

Jaywalker Bag

I failed to get a birthday present to my sister this summer. When I called (on her birthday) to ask what she wanted, she had just seen pics of my knitted Twiggy Tweedish bag and said she wated one of them, please.

I asked what colours, and she said she liked my Jaywalker socks on Ravelry. (She’s stalking me).

They, of course, are made from a pre-dyed, self-striping yarn. But I had an inspiration.

I could buy all the colours in the yarn, look at the pattern, and recreate it in worsted.

So I did.


I’m really with pleased how it’s coming along.


So, I cast on a Hanami Stole yesterday.

I’m here to write about my experience today, so we’ll skip over the beaded cast-on (which went well), and the knitting-of-the-first-row and the unpicking-of-the-first-row-when-working-with-tiny-fuzzy-yarn and the part where I reached that point after getting to the end of the first row for the third time where I just went ‘sod it, I’ll do a couple of yarn overs. No-one will ever notice” and which I’ll probably live to regret.

No, today we get to the part where I”m sitting here and my yarn is tangling (because I couldn’t find my ball winder and had had far to much wine by that point to effectively search for it, and wound it by hand instead) and I’m working back and forth on slippery circular needles, and losing my place on the chart (I have a complicated relationship with charts. I love them dearly, but quite often they betray me) and…

I realised that my breathing was shallow, my shoulders hunched and my face fixed in a grimace.

Now, normally I very much knit to relax. This is not relaxing. But I’m hoping that as I get to grips with the chart and the repeats, as I get comfortable with the yarn and as the chart starts to take on less importance, that I’ll be able to relax into this and enjoy it.

Of course it’s entirely possible that it’s not the stole’s fault. The tension could have something to with the fact that I’m trying to knit this pretty complicated lace project at the dining table while supervising two small boys (one 5, one 3) who have been let loose with ink stamps, paints and water and who insist on saying “Mum, look at MY picture” “No, look at MY picture!” “I need more blue”, “NO! The BLUE is MY-INE!!!!” every four seconds.