Knitting progress slowing

26-06-19 Progress

Last week I had two sleeves completed of my Norah Gaughan cable-front cardi and, as you can see, I’ve added the two narrow front pieces to it, so I’m about 40% of the way there. Progress will now slow to a crawl as I am back at work for the next month and I can already see that I will only have time in the evenings to eat, tidy, have a bath and do one activity. Luckily the temporary job I’m in is way outside the area I said I’d be prepared to work so I am getting in two hours of brisk walking, meaning I can forget about any additional exercise on work days. However, I am determined not to let the work slip on my novel so the knitting’s got to be relegated to weekends. Such is life. Apparently paying the rent is more important than knitting – don’t ask me who makes up these rules.

I have made a start on the back of the cardigan which seems enormous after the sleeves and the tiny little fronts (they are very narrow because the wide scarf-style collar provides the rest of the coverage at the front of the cardigan). The scarf piece will take the most time because it is the part that has all the cable patterning on it.

Following the item I posted on Friday about the “I can do it” inspiration, I have currently got another of these quotes hammering around in my head: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always had”. I think the idea is that you’ve got to break out of the cycle of repetition if you want to make advances. However, at this minute I am looking at this cardigan which, as I said before, is the third version I have made of it, and I think, yeah, I always want a version of this in my life, so doing what I’ve always done makes great sense. I hope that bit of positivity will help to banish the slightly negative thoughts that have been creeping over me this morning.

Hope your week is going well and you are making progress in your endeavours.

Quote of the Week – Us Two

24-06-19 Two
“Us Two” by A A Milne, from the collection “Now We Are Six”

Yes, it’s a Quote of the Week this Monday, rather than a Word of the Week. Why? Who knows? Just felt like it.

In fact, I was reciting this to myself as I carried out a reconnaissance mission on Saturday to find the office I will be working at for the next month. As I was walking along on my own, it might not seem the most apt poem to be thinking of, and this is emphasised by the fact that I don’t entirely agree with the sentiment that it isn’t much fun for one because an awful lot of things are very pleasant to do on your own. Of course, in the context of the poem it makes much more sense, because Pooh has been doing something he wasn’t keen on (looking for dragons, finding dragons, saying “Boo” to dragons, etc) and it is always better if you have an ally when you are doing something that worries you. That ally doesn’t have to be a real person, and even if they are real, they don’t have to be standing beside you in your moment of need. Most of us have people in our hearts who we are confident would cheer us on if they knew we were feeling trepidation, and knowing that is enough to enourage us.

So, if you come across dragons this Monday morning, think of your allies and then remember to shout “Boo! Silly old dragons!” and it will probably turn out that they are only geese.

3 questions, then I can do it

ICDI a

If you are female, and living in the twenty-first century, you can’t have avoided seeing this inspirational phrase. Indeed, you may have it in your planner, or on your wall, more than likely printed in a calligraphy-style font, quite possibly in minimal black on white, or in rose-gold with some marbling if you’ve gone for more bling. It is a quote which is designed to motivate us and to stop us cowering within our comfort zone and I can see the appeal. However for it to be truly relevant I believe that it needs to be preceded by three very important questions.

ICDI b

As a standalone phrase, “I can do it” is very nebulous, and in reality it may be preferable to interpret the words as meaning “I can do anything I put my mind to”. In order put our minds to anything, we first have to determine exactly what it is. If we fall into the trap of believing we can do anything at all, but don’t decide on specific things to actually do, then we will just sit on a sofa forever (which, if I am honest, is one of the few things about which I can honestly say “I can do it”).

ICDI c

It is entirely probable that each of us can achieve anything we truly set our minds to, but we won’t do things if we do not have sufficient desire to do them. If we are not entirely honest with ourselves we will be able to come up with endless perfectly believable reasons why things are not going to plan and we are not reaching our objectives, but we need to see past those and question whether we really want to do what we are working towards. I have found that self-knowledge is hugely important when it comes time to set goals. I have to understand myself and what I really want to achieve; what makes me happy, or sad, or angry; what I can live with and live without. With a good understanding of myself and my motivations, I can look at the ideas my mind spawns and judge them not simply as to whether they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but whether they are something I really want to do.

ICDI d

The “I can do it” quote is not all alone in the universe, many of us also know the one that goes along the lines of “Good enough is done” – it is often recommended as an antidote for perfectionism. This is sound advice if you struggle with completing things because you are judging the results by unfeasibly high standards. This one always rings a little hollow with me, perhaps because I belong to a generation raised with the idea of achieving the best we possibly can. I know that it is not good for my soul if I feel I am are consistently submitting work that falls short of my best. Hand-in-hand with this goes my attitude that there is no point expending my energy on things that I am not ever going to be particularly good at. Naturally, how well I need to do a thing depends on the level to which I want to pursue it; I am an average swimmer and that is fine, but my standards for the things I do professionally are much higher because I want to be proud of my achievements and not feel that I am simply coasting along doing a “good enough” job.

So, here’s my take on “I can do it”:

21-06-19 ICDI d

Finished object – Inigo Cardigan

19-06-19 Inigo c1

Last week I wrote that I wasn’t going to push myself to complete my knitting, but it turns out I did! My Inigo Cardigan is done and I am almost entirely enchanted by it.

Technical details:

Pattern:  Inigo by Lisa Richardson
Source:  Rowan UK pattern brochure “New Vintage DK” published 2018
Size: To fit bust 32-34″/81-86cm
Materials:  Sublime Yarns Luxurious Tweed DK (discontinued), 60% wool/40% cotton
Needles:  4mm KnitPro Symfonie wood straight needles, 30cm long

The pattern is very well written and explained everything you needed to do very logically. There were a couple of places where I didn’t read it carefully enough, but I can’t blame the designer for my lack of attention. This project is knit in separate pieces and seamed together, which is my preference, but I know it is off-putting for a number of knitters.

19-06-19 Inigo c3

The yarn was surprisingly pleasant to work with and I would say improved slightly when I put the garment through its post-completion wash, dry and pressing. I don’t generally like cotton, but this combination of 60% wool with 40% cotton seems to yield a very nice fabric that doesn’t take too long to dry and feels summery, but still holds shape.

Speaking of shape, I must address the one thing I’m not so happy about with the finished garment and that is the gapping where the fronts meet. I think this is caused by three factors coinciding:

a)  I could do to be five pounds lighter than I am!

b) The front bands are knitted together with the body on the 4mm needles and are therefore not quite as firm as I would like them to be; I think it would be better if the were knitted on a smaller needle to give a tighter gauge, or crocheted.

c)  There are only five buttons; the gapping would be reduced or eliminated if there were more.

19-06-19 Inigo c2

When I had finished the knitting and seamed the pieces together, I searched through my button box for suitable buttons. I decided on the silver ones because I feel the shape of the cardigan coupled with the tweedy yarn lends this garment a slightly Chanelesque air and metal buttons suit this very well.

I am sure I will revisit this pattern, probably knitting a version in wool and addressing the closure issue. However, I love this version and will enjoy wearing it. It is a really strong entry into my spring and summer wardrobe. I wasn’t too sure how many balls of the yarn I started off with (13, 14, 15?), but I have enough left over to make a little sleeveless top at some point.

But, wait, that’s not all the knitting news! I have started the Norah Gaughan Vogue Cabled Cardigan.

19-06-19 NGVCC p1

I have completed two sleeves! I can’t believe how quickly this is knitting up. I love working on it and it feels so good to finally have a project I know I will complete using the old gold Sirdar Country Style yarn. This will be the second project in a row where the yarn has been donated to me when friends and family have been de-stashing. I have been listening to my collection of Blake’s 7 audio books from Big Finish whilst knitting. There are a lot of excellent stories on these CDs and they are just the job for long stretches of stocking stitch with no shaping, which makes up the majority of this pattern. When, in the fullness of time, I move on to the cabled ‘scarf’ part of the pattern I shall need to concentrate fully and that’s when I will need complete silence.

I hope your knitting is coming on apace.

Word of the Week – Snudge

17-06-19 Snudge

My Word of the Week is a bit random, what you might call coming in from left of field. It is a word I stumbled upon when I was looking up something quite different in the dictionary and it really appealed to me.

On the surface, it seems that the two ways to use this word are incompatible. The concept of being snug and quiet engenders nice feelings, whilst saving in a miserly way pictures up a whiney Uriah Heep wringing his hands. However, if we save in a miserly way it is likely to lead to us being able to afford to be snug and quiet, so I think they do work well together after all.

I am all for a snug and quiet life. I will never be the soul of the party; in fact, my perfect party would be me and a cake. I am afraid I’ve never been good at saving in a miserly way, but I am learning through necessity, and I hope it will be a lesson I’ll carry forward out of choice, although I will try to keep the hand-wringing at a minimum.

I hope my readers have greeted the new week with some resolve of their own and now I think I need to make some lunch, which is quite the high point of the day.

Not a whimsy

14-06-19 Darrow Wimsey

This week, I’ve been paying my respects to the late Paul Darrow by re-watching the 1973 BBC production of Murder Must Advertise in which he plays an advertising copywriter. It’s a role which grows in complexity as the four-part story unfolds and Darrow is excellent in it, capably portraying the character as ingratiating, bullying, enmeshed in a derailed lover affair, and, through it all, managing to be utterly charming. He wears the sharp 1930s suit and tie very well, and ultimately, he gets a chance at heroism of a sort. It’s a very good performance as part of a very good ensemble cast.

Five years later, Paul Darrow would don the iconic leathers to portray Avon in Blake’s 7 with pretty much the same set of characteristics! Indeed, Vila (Michael Keating) was often to be seen in a similar pose to the above when Avon spoke to him. I see many parallels between the two performances and I salute Mr Darrow for being able to play characters who might, on the surface, not seem worthy of our admiration, and show that they, too, have their good sides as well as their bad.

I do enjoy this particular set of Lord Peter Wimsey adaptations, the ones starring Ian Carmichael. If you can track down Murder Must Advertise it’s well worth a watch, as are all the other stories in the series. (Blake’s 7 is also represented via an appearance in Wimsey’s The Nine Tailors by David Jackson who played Gan in the sci-fi series. That story also provided a part for a young John Duttine who went on to star in the BBC production The Devil’s Crown in 1978, then To Serve Them All My Days and The Day of the Triffids in 1981.)

Actually, mentioning To Serve Them All My Days leads me nicely into the tin shown in this photo:

14-06-19 Tin

I use it to store ink cartridges, but I am unsure of its original use. It belonged to my maternal grandparents and had been used for many, many years to store a lock of hair, although I have no idea whose hair it was.  For some reason, I always think this tin dates to the First World War, thus the connection with To Serve Them All My Days which begins in that era. This is one of those little items that provides a tangible link with people I loved, and it is my joy to be able to put it to a useful purpose and cradle it through another generation. It also reminds me I am going to have to use up those ink cartridges and to do that I am going to have to use up the red ink in my Cross pen. Perhaps when I finish the green ink I’m currently using to write my daily journal I will have a couple of weeks of writing that in red. Sounds like a plan.

Finally, I wanted to just refer back to last Friday’s post where I wrote about trying to use my memory more. Starting with small steps, this week I’ve been doing a memory exercise which I think some people would think is ridiculously simple and others ridiculously hard. Each morning, immediately upon waking up, I tell myself what day of the week it is and what one thing I really need to get done. It’s easy to wake up befuddled and with a firm belief that it is totally the wrong day of the week, and so this is an interesting challenge.

I hope you have had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. At the moment it looks like we can look forward to rather less rain next week which will be a pleasure.

Growth spurt

12-06-19 progress

This week I have been nursing a head-cold, but that has spurred me on to put in quite a bit of work on the Inigo cardigan by Lisa Richardson from Rowan’s New Vintage DK pattern book.

So, this week I have completed the second sleeve and the first front, and by my calculations I am now 85% of the way through the project. I like that the front bands are knitted in with the main body piece so there will be minimal finishing needed on this project. In fact, if I were to work on it as much as I have the past couple of days I would have it finished by the end of this week, but I am not going to put that much pressure on myself because there are more important things to be attended to than completing this cardigan. However, I am happy to think that I’ll have it in my wardrobe by the end of this month.

This pattern is nice and easy to follow, and every step is well-explained, provided you are happy with following standard instructions for garments knit in pieces. I therefore have to wonder why I have spent so much time unpicking what I’ve knitted. I am going to blame the germs, but it may well be that I just haven’t been thinking about what I’m doing. I cast on the wrong number of stitches for the front, and got through the waist shaping decreases before I realised and even when that happened I was utterly sure I had cast on the correct number and double-checked. Then when I started shaping the neckline decreases I did them at the wrong rate because I didn’t bother to read the instructions carefully enough. Still, all’s well that ends well, as Shakespeare would have it.

I am looking forward to seeing how this fabric washes and wears because it’s the first time I’ve worked with a wool and cotton combination yarn. In my opinion it is nicer to work with than a pure cotton yarn, but not as nice as a pure wool yarn.

Once this is finished I will either cast on for my next big project – the Cable Front Cardigan – or just carry on with the Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. The weather will play a big part in which way I go, because I can’t imagine I will want to work with worsted weight yarn if it’s hot, however much I will crave the finished project come autumn.

I hope your knitting is going well, and I hope that wherever you are in the world your weather is slightly more seasonal than our current dull, rainy, slightly chilly weather is.

Word of the Week – Loquacious

WOTW Loquacious

This is my word of the week; it’s plain and simple; it doesn’t have multiple applications; there is no need for interpretation; it just means what it means; you don’t have to write for ages to describe how and where to use it.

There is one simple reason to explain why I came up with this as my word of the week: I have finally introduced a new character into the first draft of my novel and now my main protagonist has someone to talk to. The first few chapters have been very short on dialogue (I’ll have to have to fix that later) and that has suited me because generally I enjoy writing great swathes of description about inner thoughts and feelings, postponing action and dialogue for as long as possible. However, I experienced a palpable sense of relief last night when I could finally write a whole bit where two people were talking to one another.

They talked about sausages, probably because I was coming down with a cold and when I have a cold I just want to eat and eat and eat. Clearly food is on my mind even when I am supposedly hard at work practising my craft. In fact, now I come to think of it, there are a lot of biscuits so far in this novel. Hmmm, don’t write and diet?

I hope you have a loquacious week and remember: if no-one is listening to you it is the universe’s way of telling you that you are not talking quite enough!

Imagining my brain is exactly the right size

“Come on, Frank, an officer files things in his head. He doesn’t remember them until they pop up, you know that: a face, a street, a name, a number, zabba-dabba-doo, like that…”

Lieutenant Theo Kojak/1976


Listen to – Gladys Knight and the Pips “So Sad The Song” (I know that we both talked it over, said it’s best to forget)
Read or watch – Ray Bradbury “Fahrenheit 451” (people memorising stories because the books are being burned)


My avid consumption of books and videos about various methods of time management/planning has led me to an interesting juncture; a conundrum which is summed up by two equal and opposing concepts:-

  • “Use it or lose it”
  • “Your brain is not for storage, it is for creativity”

Most planning systems are based on the second of these two ideas and posit that you cannot trust your brain to store and organise all of the information about your life. You therefore need a trusted system to capture all your memories, all your thoughts, all your ideas, everything you need to do and everywhere you need to be so that your brain can be clear.

There is a barely disguised suggestion in this that life is so complex and so fast that your brain is not big enough for it.

However, there is an increasing amount of media coverage about the first of the concepts, advising us on how we need to exercise our brains and do crosswords, or Sudoku puzzles, or memorise poetry if we are to avoid our brains atrophying.

Oh, you are not memorising poetry yet? I have several large passages committed to memory and am currently working on “Meeting Point” by Louis MacNeice: I know all the verses, but struggle to keep them in the right order.

The idea of being able to trust my brain appeals to me, perhaps because I have never really been a list-maker and regardless of how many hand-written or device-orientated “to do” lists I have, I tend to do what is uppermost in my mind. Conversely, I find the idea of not being able to trust my brain very upsetting because I want to be in control of my direction; I don’t want to cede that control to a leather-bound planner or a whizzy device, however much I enjoy owning and playing with such items.

My brain, when I choose to use it, is actually pretty good at recalling things, and at prioritising what needs to be done. When I begin to lose track it is usually because I have become over-burdened, either with tasks that need doing or with more insidious “input”. It is not that I have forgotten what is most important at the time, more that I have successfully over-written it with fluff. In fact, I feel that often failure to accomplish something because “I forgot” is inaccurate and I should instead say “I chose not to remember”.

Of course, I am not espousing the rejection of all written or recorded material in favour of brain-power alone, just a more organic and more thoughtful use of both. And now I have to refer back to Kojak to illustrate a way of working that could be relevant now, either between managers and their team members, or just within your own personal task-setting.

Here is the scene – Kojak is sitting in his office and he yells “Crocker!” Detective Crocker appears and Kojak barks one concise instruction at him. Crocker doesn’t need to write it down, he has a single, well-defined task to do and he shoots off and does it. If it involves finding some information, he comes back, maybe with a brief written note, and tells Kojak the answer and that progresses the investigation. (I accept that sometimes even Kojak is a little blurry – like the episode that contained the line “Crocker – do it all.” On the whole he’s pretty good with his instructions.)

You will note that they didn’t have to book a meeting room and work through a long list of items of varying importance which they could only recall because they’d written them on a @Kojak/@Crocker list. I think in the modern workplace we can get bogged down in detail and lose immediacy. If we were giving our brains the leading role in our work, we might focus more on the really important and the really urgent and leave behind some of the purely bureaucratic and petty tasks that we consider so important in our current endeavours.

It is useful to write down times and dates in a diary, to remind ourselves of things that we need to attend to at a given moment and sometimes it is necessary to write a list of everything you need to do because you lack focus on that day, or in that hour. I just don’t want to delegate everything to some other system when using my brain could be a better way all-round.

So, this week I am trying to think hard about what I need to do next to make progress on the important things in my life and I am treating pen and paper, and my electronic devices, as aides-memoire instead of using my brain to assist the all-important List. I hope I will feel more human this way, because no-one wants to be just an organic limb carrying out the demands of a non-sentient catalogue of tasks.

Yes, I have no doubt there will be a lot of things that I forget, but I think that is how we sieve out that good ideas from the not so good ones. I wonder if, somewhere along the line, I might find that my brain is exactly the right size for my life.

What I imagine when I’m knitting

05-06-19 knitprog 1

Haruki Murakami wrote an entire book entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”; I have never read it because, well, running? However, the title of this blog post is a nod to that book.

At its best, knitting, for those of you who don’t do it yourselves, is a soothing, mechanical hobby, which can lull your mind into imaginary worlds full of ponderings and vague, nebulous plans. One of the things I imagine whilst I am knitting is what life will be like when I have finished the project I am working on. I imagine wearing the finished object, what I will wear it with, where I will be when I wear it, how it will make me feel, how it will fit. Sometimes I imagine clothes I might buy to wear with it. Sometimes I imagine an entirely fictional self in a different world, wearing that actual item.

At other times, of course, knitting is a test of skill, dexterity, and calculation which leaves your mind no room for anything but solid facts. You need to keep hawk-like eyes on the pattern to make sure you commit no errors or omissions, you have to count your stitches repeatedly to reassure yourself that none have gone AWOL.

I have two projects on the go at the moment. The sea-blue cardigan is creeping along and I have not worked on it as much as I could have, or should have, this week. Instead, I have started knitting a cosy winter cowl for myself using the set of ten mini skeins of wool from Noodle Soup Yarns that I received at Christmas. I am calling this the Mama, Weer All Crazee Cowl, partly because the range of ten colours is not quite as harmonious as these first two suggest, and partly because working 300 stitches per row of knit one, purl one rib for somewhere around a length of 20 inches is an undertaking that only a crazee mama would consider.

Here is a close-up of the lovely sparkly wool from Charley of Noodle Soup:-

05-06-19 knitprog 2

I have one minor misgiving about this project: I fear I may get to the end and find that I’ve knitted a crazy, sparkly, multi-coloured boob tube!


A big shout-out to Slade’s song “Mama, Weer All Crazee Now” for the name of this project.


Hence These Tears…

The second stripe is the one I was working on when the news came through that one of my favourite actors had died: Paul Darrow, the man behind the wonderful character of Avon in Blake’s 7. Some of the sparkle has left this world, but it lingers on in memory and in this project.

“I am not expendable, I am not stupid, and I am not going.”
Avon, Blake’s 7,

If you’re not familiar with Avon, follow the link for a dollop of his sardonic wit – just try to ignore the lamentable quality of the video capture.