Friday, 9 January 2009

Forge Valley

Well, you can't spend the entire holiday indoors knitting, can you?

So we took ourselves off to a regular haunt, to see what the birds were doing. Forge Valley is inland from Scarborough, on the south side of the North York Moors. The valley is probably glacial, and the River Derwent starts here somewhere. It's closely wooded, steep-sided, and has several stopping places, one of which is specifically for birdwatchers - there are lots of bird tables and hanging feeders, and after Xmas these are piled high with food for the local birds - and they are not shy about coming to take advantage of it. If you sit in the car, reasonably quietly, they ignore you; on occasion we have put food on the bonnet and had the birds queuing up on the aerial to feed! There is great variety, blackbirds, pheasants, woodpigeons, and loads of 'small stuff'... like these...

Treecreepers are one of the less common visitors, but this one seemed quite comfortable.

Long-tailed tits travel in flocks and don't often come to bird tables, but there was a small flock of about six or seven hanging about. In winter, they gather together at night in huddled groups to share warmth.

Great spotted woodpecker - if you're lucky, they'll even come down to the bird feeders... but not today. This was as close as this one got.

Of course, even with a lot of feeders, there is sometimes a queue.

And everybody has to wait their turn.

But there's enough for everyone. Blue tits aren't shy about a bit of push and shove.

At this time of year, the light fades too soon, especially at the bottom of the valley, so we headed home after about an hour, partly frozen but happy.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Bloomin' Knitwit!

I don't do domestic.

I say this for the start, in case someone gets the wrong idea.

When I used to cook for the Scout troop, they reckoned that my middle L stood for Lucretia. I was asked to leave Domestic Science at school; the teacher refused to teach me. I made a pair of pyjamas with both sleeves and both legs set in backwards.

Later, I made ball-gowns from scratch, building them like engineering projects. They were pretty good - mind you, I need engineering rather than dressmaking, being on a larger scale.....I learned to knit out of bloody-mindedness.

Now, being a bit arthritic, I need to keep my joints warm, otherwise I grind to a horrible stop. I've found the ideal thing for my wrists and knuckles - "mitten-thingies".
These are basically tubular with a hole for the thumb, simple, practical and effective. A friend and I discussed how they might be knitted. Seemed simple.

Can you see the flaws yet?

So I was at Mum's place, and needing to do something... she has plenty of spare wool from old Fair Isle sweaters. Ideal!
I acquired wool and round needles. These make life incredibly simple by allowing you to just knit on and on and on round and round.

I cast on 76 stitches, and knitted.

After a couple of rounds, I realised things were not going quite to plan... somewhere in joining up the threads, I'd managed to turn the thing, and had now managed to knit the beginnings of a wonderful Moebius glove.
Stop. Unravel. Knit back. Start again.
Cast on 76 stitches and knit three successful rounds. Try the thing against my wrist. Hmmmmmm. Too big.
Unravel. Start again. Discover that 76 stitches is the minimum the round needle will hold. Ah. Too big.

Oh hell. I need to try to do this with 4 needles. How much do I REALLY want to do this?
Come on. It's just wool and stuff. How fearsome can it be? It's not french seams, or white sauce, for heaven's sake!

So here we go. I reckon 50 stitches. Cast on. Ok.
K2P2 for about 15 rows (I'm knitting stripes, so about 3 rows per colour at this point).

AUGH!! How the heck do you shift from one needle to another? After a while it becomes clear, and I decide I need to knit at least 4 stitches on from the previous 'changeover' each round, in order to prevent holes at the corners. Yes. I think I'm smart, huh? Smart is not having the left needle stuck up your right nostril...

So here I am, knitting with 4 needles for the first time. It is not going well.

For a start, my eyes want to focus on the needle I have just deserted and which is waving around loosely under my nose. and threatening to insert itself in that same organ. I need to focus on the business end of the thing, not being one who can watch TV and knit at the same time - I need to see what the needles are doing, as they are inclined to do random stuff if I take my attention off them. There is also another needle waving about errantly, likely to get stuck in my ear, or my jumper. Do NOT wear knitted jumper whilst knitting. Everything ends up stuck in the stitches...or your underwear.... I am knitting with 2 active needles and have 2 'hangers-on', most of the time. My decision to carry stitches forward means that sometimes I only have 3 needles in play. The spare I stick in my mouth, as a convenient place.

The only trouble is, I tend to forget the needle in my gob. If I'm not talking to Mum, particularly. If I am, it's still likely to get overlooked, our conversation being of the muffled kind. Which means that - on occasion - I'm likely to end up with all the knitting on two needles, and a problem turning the corners.....

And so it progresses. Knit one, purl one, slip one, drop one, scream as half the last 10 stitches fall off the needle, change colour, discover a new stitch where one has failed to slide the stitch last time round, count the stitches and find an extra 4, cast off extra 4, knit another round, discover one is 3 stitches under target....

The whole thing is a bloody mystery to me. It's a women's thing, and despite gender, I just don't get it. I knit the bloody thing, and end up with a tube of the right size and shape, finally cast off the k1p1 top end (see, I do know technical!) and then... oh shit. I have to do another one the same. Including the bit early on where it all went inside out and the knit became purl and I ended up with an inside out bit, which I thought I'd wound back but when I knitted the next couple of rounds I found there was still a reverse row there..augh....And the bits where I missed stitches and will have to tie them in again. Gods, why did I start this???

They're pretty, though, and they're warm. Mum's modelling them here...

I am not designed for domesticity.