House of Embossed Leaves

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I finally finished Embossed Leaves, which I keep mistakenly referring to as “House of Leaves” – the book by Mark Z. Danielewski that I was deeply into at the time of casting on six months ago.

Though the pattern is very pretty, and the closest thing I’ve ever attempted to knitting lace (“They’ve got holes, Mummy”, as my unimpressed daughter has pointed out) I’m disappointed by the obvious laddering that’s happened between the double-pointed needles. Move to circulars, maybe? I really don’t want to. For whatever reason, I have a fetish for DPNs. I am just going to have to get better at this.

Something for the weekend


Ely was shrouded in an eerie mist when I set off last Friday for I Knit London‘s Weekender. It was the perfect chill morning to don my Alpine Frost for the very first time – a gorgeously soft scarf crocheted from one skein of luxury yarn purchased at last year’s event. By the time I set foot inside the Royal Horticultural Halls, however, I was sweltering, for the haze had given way to the most glorious sunshine, which was to continue all weekend.

And this is a glimpse of the riot of colour that greeted me.

Among the exhibitors was Anita Bruce, whose knitted and crocheted plankton and starfish, fashioned from fine wire, were laid out like specimens and had a delicate beauty.

There was much else to do see and do, but Friday for me was mostly about fondling yarn and spending money, as well as hooking up with friends from the KnitCambridge group, including Rosie, Jackie, Liz (who surprised me with a belated birthday present of three skeins of Mirasol) and the two Heathers.  I also pounced on fellow Twitterer Cat the moment she stepped into the building, startling her and doing little to convince her that I wasn’t some kind of insane stalker. 

Having declared 4pm to be wine o’clock, three of us repaired to the downstairs café for light refreshments. I have pilfered this next image from Liz, who caught me in the act of using a DPN to Twitter on my new Nokia.

I was desperate to Twitpic the day’s haul, which you can see here amidst the forest of glasses and knits in progress: one EasyKnits sushi sock roll in the “Zippy” colourway, a skein of Anna’s Palette handpainted lace yarn in subtle purples and apricots (it’s a blend of baby alpaca, silk and cashmere, soft as feathers, and probably destined to become a crochet scarf) and Cookie A’s excellent book, Sock Innovation.

After my annual visit to the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, I arrived in Trafalgar Square in time to witness a sunset, a 9/11 protest rap and a plinther doing something to a tree.

I spent the night at the Hoxton in Shoreditch, a hotel so trendy it’s not even a hotel, but an “urban lodge”. The whole place made me feel old and unhip, but I loved it. My room was large and comfortable, with simple décor and the cleanest, shiniest black-tiled bathroom I’ve ever seen.

Breakfast was a very fine full English, washed down with a mug of tea at Islington’s The Elk in the Woods with Jo & Anna, after which the three of us took a lovely long bus ride through the city, down to Victoria for day 2 of the I Knit show. My afternoon was then taken up with a workshop by self-professed “mad hatter” Woolly Wormhead, who spent three hours teaching us how to design and knit a custom hat: taking measurements, finding stitch patterns that would work with our size and gauge, and contrasting approaches to different hat styles (beanie, beret and chullo). I had wrongly imagined that knitting on circs using the magic loop technique would be not unlike working in the round on DPNs. Having found out the hard way that this wasn’t the case, my learning curve became ridiculously steep, but thanks to the kind lady sitting next to me, whose name was Karen, I started to get to grips with my circular needle, even if I didn’t have much of a hat to show for it by the end of the afternoon. I learnt tons over those three hours, and the knowledge is stuff I can apply not just to future hat projects but to my knitting in general. I do suspect, though, that my learning was taking place on a much lower level than that of everyone else in the room.

The weekend left me shattered, but excited about the possibilities for developing my knitting skills over the autumn and winter months. They also kick-started progress with my second Embossed Leaves sock, and I hope to have the pair finished and blogged by the end of September. Something for the weekend, indeed, but enough yarn and inspiration to keep me going for a full 12 months until I can do the I Knit Weekender all over again …

Alpine Frost is finished


I purchased a single skein of Knitwitches’ cashmere/silk blend (aptly named “Seriously Gorgeous”) at last year’s I Knit London event with the idea of attempting knitted lace. The yarn was adamant, however, that it wanted to be turned into the Alpine Frost Scarf from Interweave Crochet, and now that’s what it’s become, I can see that it knew its stuff.

This was my carry-everywhere project for a while, as it was so easy to do. A bit of blocking made it quite the most lovely thing I think I’ve ever made: a very simple pattern repeat, yet such a pretty result. It has also taught me that I should always crochet with yarn that’s this luxurious, as it has rewarded me with the beautiful sigh-inducing softness that I associate with knitted garments. I almost can’t wait for the autumn to be here so I can wear it without attracting so many bewildered stares …


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Knit something green!” is the exhortation today on Yarn Harlot’s page-a-day calendar, which sits on my bedside table. Well – I already am. Mona Schmidt’s “Embossed Leaves” is only my second pair of knitted socks, and the learning curve for this inexperienced (green!) knitter is a steep one, but from the struggle I’m learning so much about how they are constructed, and how to interpret a pattern; stuff that will very quickly come to seem obvious. That’s how it works.

17th March is, of course, a day when millions of people go around exaggerating their claims to Irish descent as an excuse to drink Guinness – as though any excuse were needed. Happy St Patrick’s Day.

Have your cake … but don’t eat it


I machine-sewed another felt wrap, based on the pencil-roll project in The Creative Family; Melody will now be able to carry along her crayons on the long train journeys we’ll be making over the Christmas period.

With the many smaller remnants in the crayon box, I had some fun making crayon cakes – an idea for which I must thank CraftSanity. Here they are before …

… and after 10 minutes in the oven on a low heat.

They were so pretty as they melted that I had to resist the urge to grab every crayon and oil pastel in the house and bake ’til we had a stack of cakes in rainbow colours climbing to the very ceiling. Fun though it might have been, I would have regretted it.

And I’ve had cakes on the brain, it seems, because I have also crocheted these little fellas – based on a pattern by KTBdesigns – to go with M’s tea set.

Lastly, my Christmas cards for this year, of which I’ve made only a handful.

This is one of the simpler designs from Paul Jackson’s wonderful collection of paper creations, The Pop-Up Book, which I recently tracked down at my local library, having found much in it to delight and impress me when I first browsed its pages years ago.

My Christmas card-giving has diminished over the past 14 years. This is, I suspect, the very last time I will send them.

I’m free … freeforming


I’ve no idea what this thinks it is, nor what kind of life it envisions for itself, but it is growing … I suspect it may have antibiotic properties …

Oh ma boteh, ma divine …


Two days on, I am still suffering the aftereffects of Too Much Fun on Friday night, but the party/exhibition/gig at the Ada Street Gallery in London was soooo very worth it!

As I’d decided I would present Beee with her Boteh Scarf that evening, I spent the train journey to King’s Cross crocheting like a mad thing to finish the edging, then fastened in the yarn ends in a small hotel room in Bethnal Green, where I hurriedly draped the curtain across a chair as a backdrop for this photo – with just half an hour to go before the party.

I used a 3.0mm hook and 1.5 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in the “Desert Orchid” colourway. I find a sweet symmetry in having both started and finished the scarf on trips to London for events celebrating Anno’s Africa.

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