Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

We’ve been using our chickweed ointment as lip balm, so new supplies were in order.  St. Mary’s Cathedral around the corner from us has yielded a wonderful harvest of luscious deep green chickweed, Stellaria media, untouched by dogs, chemicals or pesticides and traffic fumes –  so much so that I have been able to make plenty of ointment, with some infused oil left over for cream, and I have made a tincture from the rest.

To make ointment you need infused oil and beeswax.  For the infused oil take a good handful of chopped chickweed (sort through carefully for foreign bits – mine included loads of Cleavers) and spread out in a small baking tray.  Mine made a layer about a centimetre high.  Cover this completely with olive oil and mix in well.  Place the tray on the hob and heat until sizzling – about 1 minute in my case – then transfer to an oven at 140 C degrees – no fan.  Let this ‘simmer’ until the herb has crisped.  This way you know the aqueous (water) content of the herb has evaporated.  I left this to cool overnight and lengthen the infusion time.

Once the oil has cooled strain it carefully through muslin and squeeze out the last drop of oil from the plant material left over (the marc).  My infused oil turned out a beautiful deep green.  You will need oil to beeswax (organic unbleached) in a ratio of 85g oil to 15g beeswax for a reasonably firm ointment.  I had several containers I wanted to fill so took the trouble to do the maths and use exactly (nearly exactly) enough oil.  I had 5 15g ointment pots and one 60g one, requiring 135g, or slightly less, of finished product.  This worked out at 108g of infused oil and 19g of beeswax, giving me 127g – I didn’t want to overfill the pots.

Oil and beeswax then go in a glass pyrex bowl in a saucepan with boiling water coming not more than half way up the glass bowl.  In other words, a bain marie.  Keep the saucepan on a low heat and wait for the beeswax to melt.  I tend to stir a lot, as I am usually quite excited by this stage.  When the mixture is clear, you can test how firm the ointment is going to be by cooling the mixture on the back of a spoon.  If it’s too runny add a few more grammes beeswax.  If it is setting too hard add a few grammes of infused oil.

Pour it carefully into squeaky clean (sterilized) pots and let cool before putting the lids on.  I labelled as follows:  Stellaria media Lips and Itches ointment, 85:15 oil to beeswax, 05.06.12.  The rest of the oil I bottled and labelled for later use.

For the tincture I followed The Herbarium’s advice again (except I only had 40% vodka and they recommend 30% alcohol) and tried a 1:1 40% tincture with the Stellaria chopped very fine in the Braun blitzer.  This means weighing out your herb and adding the same weight of 40% vodka.  Unless you have 30% something, in which case use that.  Hmmm.  We shall see whether the 40% is the right menstruum for persuading the goodies out of chickweed.  Some herbal constituents are extracted with water and some with alcohol, and sometimes the ratio has to be just right – hopefully with Stellaria it won’t be crucial.  If one is using fresh plant material there is a fair bit of water in any case, and as the alternative is to chop roughly and make a 1:3 mixture, i.e. 1 part herb to 3 parts alcohol, I suspect it will be ok.  Clueless, really, just enthusiastic.

Tempest is finished – photos to follow on ravelry when I can get a moment free.  Am very pleased with it :)

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I’ve cast on in Rowan wool – cotton from stash.  Usually I knit this yarn as a thick 4ply, here it is doing good duty as a DK.  I couldn’t bring myself to use a fine 4ply as the pattern suggests, but it is working out very well so far.  Dark marled grey and off black.  Very easy pattern to follow.  I ignored the hem and knitted a few rows of garter stitch for the bottom edge.

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Browsing ravelry again – overtaken with urge to knit another Daybreak.  Such a good design.  I gave the one I knitted to a friend for her birthday – need one for myself.  Also a Boneyard in finer yarn than the pattern was written for.  And an Arroway…

First, Tempest.  It’s been on my list for so long, and I think I have the yarn for it.  We’ll see.

I’ve been stalled by Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato Heels, not fitting quite right, intriguing, like them, don’t like them.  I’ll try casting on for Tempest tonight at City Knitty.

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Frogging and reknitting

I’ve started a version of Shaelyn – gold stocking stitch with various lemon yellows for the lace parts.  Then I added a longer lace insert, knitted several more pattern repeats and cast off.  Two weeks later, I realised that the reason I hadn’t blocked the shawl was because I didn’t like the longer lace repeat.  Off to the frog pond!

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Blogging again

Blogging?  Haven’t done that for months.  However, I want to marvel again at what wondrous things shawls are.  To think that a mere 5 or 6 years ago I was anxious about starting a shawl lest I should appear (to myself rather than anyone else) of the grandmotherly nature and no good for anything except rocking in a chair.

Moving to Edinburgh has changed all that although I did start the shawl journey before I emigrated from Sussex.  Up here shawls are a wonderful way of ensuring that whatever the weather does, there is protection.  So many shawls have been born:  Victorian Lace, Forest Canopy, Shetland Triangle, Simple (with rather complex adjustments), Ishbel / Fishbel, Ulmus, Lace Shawl, Hamamelis, Day Break, Meandering Vines… and a variation on Day Break which is not on Ravelry yet.

I’m itching to start another one, not sure yet which, but I have in mind Shaelyn or Morlynn Shawl – or maybe Photosynthesis.  So many decisions, and so much yarn in the stash to knit up!

Talking about stash, I did clear out the stash cupboard and re-order my yarns into colour boxes, clear blues, duck egg blues, teals, pinks, oranges, reds, deep purples, dusty lilacs, whites blacks and greys, rich greens, sea greens, yellows and golds, browns, and finally sock yarns.  Yarns I have acquired in the last couple of years, from K1 in Edinburgh and earlier on this year in Stirling Knitcamp are in baskets rather than hidden away in the yarn cupboard.  Rather a lot of lace weight and 4ply appeared.  I’ll be knitting until I’m 303 to get through it all, but that’s fine by me.

Cats update:  they are both doing fine and enjoying being inside when it’s cold and outside when it’s sunny.  Lots of space to play and chase each other, and lots and lots of devoted admirers at our knitting group evenings :)

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Well, I’ve been knitting and buying a flat with Joolz, getting my divorce through, knitting some more, commuting to London from Edinburgh, working, teaching, training, sleeping, not sleeping, getter fatter, getting thinner, learning to spin, not spending enough time in Edinburgh, wanting to own my own home again, worrying, not worrying, all the usual type of stuff.

Knitting:  see me on ravelry for knitting recently.  A couple of scarves and quite a large Susan Pandorf shawl.  Oh yes, and an Ulmus shawl.  It’s been a good knitting season.

Buying a flat:  yes, we finally bought one, the best of the bunch we’ve really wanted to live in, so it was meant to be.  Quite large, on a quiet crescent in the centre of Edinburgh, West End into New Town, just away from the drag with a small garden and very large private gardens owned by the two crescents in the middle.  Moving in on December 4th.

Learning to spin:  with the lovely Sue MacNiven.  She is amazing and taught us over one of the most stressful weekends (last weekend) I’ve experienced in recent times (divorce, buying property, selling property, family members dying, oh, we’ve had it all!).  Sue is a total joy and enormous fun.  She is chicksinrubber on ravelry because she is a fly fishing instructor :)


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The slippery slope has been beckoning for so long, and it is actually Emma and Kate and Anne’s obsession magnificent achievements that have finally persuaded me.  It was actually Joolz who said “would you like to learn to spin?  I would like to learn to spin.  We could learn together and then we could spin yarn for you to knit”.  Little, so little does she know what this means.  Anyway, we are looking at doing a spinning course with Sue Macniven just south of Edinburgh over two days in November, which just happens to coincide with my birthday :)

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Ulmus and various newses

I’m knitting an Ulmus shawl in yellow / gold and a variegated blue / green / red / gold sock yarn with the striped, slip stitch garter beginning and a wavy lace outer section in the darker variegated yarn.  All in 4ply from my stash and very satisfying.  Picis soon. 

My still-husband’s now girlfriend is on the very point of selling her house, so she can  buy me out of mine, which I still own with my still-husband, so this means he won’t have to move (bless!) and I can look for somewhere to buy myself as soon as the divorce comes through, looking like beginning of October.  I can’t believe how amicable this has all been barring the first few weeks of shock, so I am profoundly grateful.  I think the whole process, though, however ‘easy’ in comparison with others’, may be fuelling some of my extensive yarn buying.  Just a hunch.

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Yarn Goddess in Edinburgh

Sunday was the day, and I went to K1 Yarns with the intention of bagging greens. Forest, grass, lime, sage, sea, sap, stem, there they were… lace weight and 4ply, alpaca / merino / cashmere blends… bliss!!! I came away with some 4ply weight in Scottish Thistle, a blend of greens and blue/greys, some light grass green lace weight, and darker, softer, more bluey grass green lace weight, and just 400m of more sock 4ply in, er, green. To round it off I couldn’t resist burnt orange lace weight. YUM!!!

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Mini-tour of London yarn shops

I ws recently in London over a couple of weeks and had three days off to go yarn hunting.  I managed one yarn shop a day, visiting I Knit, Loop and Prick Your Finger.

I Knit in Waterloo is set in a busy little Street just around the corner from the station.  It’s packed with beautiful and rare yarns, many from these isles and others from further afield.  They cater for serious, knowledgeable knitters, truly a knitters’ paradise, and I stayed for rather a long time.   They stock lots and lots of independent UK dyers like Natural Dye Studio to Habu, Manos del Uruguay, Malabrigo and other more exotic names.  Shop samples abound (beautiful!) and the feeling of the place is busy but not cluttered, lots of natural light and masses of inspiration.  The assistants were helpful and very friendly, dealing twice whilst I was there with people wanting sewing related items and directing them further along the road, without a hint of  ‘here we go again’ irritation.  They obviously knew both their stock and the kind of things that independent knitters look for, not at all phased by odd questions about drape or wpi.  They were also happy to suggest yarn substitutions from their vast stock which might seem overwhelming to a new knitter.  I bought some very green Malabrigo lace yarn and left on a blissful cloud of yarny high.

Out in Bethnal Green (10 minutes walk max from the tube station) is Prick Your Finger.  I have to say I was really disappointed here.

The display was made up of crocheted and knitted lizzards, too clunky for much detail, and very grubby, i.e. plain dirty.  In one corner was a toilet either covered with once white/cream, and now filfthy, knitted … well… covers… or the whole thing was a knitted stuffed toilet.  Complete with toilet roll cover.  I didn’t investigate further.  Very few yarns on a few shallow shelves.  So shallow that the one yarn I picked up – the only one on its own shelf – wouldn’t go back on the shelf and I had to reshape the skein substantially to get it to stay on.

They claim to stock UK independent dyers and spinners but had amazingly little stock: no Natural Dye Studio, no Old Maiden Aunt, none of the more obvious UK small producers.  And Yarn Yard?  HipKnits? Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop?  Nude Ewe?  Nope.  A few balls of BFL and Wensleydale, some Jamieson’s, no sign of enough yarn to make a larger project, although that may have been stored out in the back where they had more of a selection of coned carpet yarns.  It wasn’t clear if these were for sale or not.  One had to ask for some of the yarn prices as they were not necessarily marked.  There were a few skeins of very thick yarn, hand-dyed, very little fingering weight.  In fact, the woman in there said I was the FIRST person ever to have asked for 4ply or fingering weight in the shop… What?????

There was some intriguing nettle yarn, 2 balls, and I asked about that (wanting a yarn trophy from my visit, of course!)  Then came the weirdest thing… the shops assistant said she didn’t know the yardage – what??????? and couldn’t ever know the yardage of any of the other yarns because these were spun by small, independent spinners who didn’t have metres on their equipment.  Huh?????  I explained that it’s really useful to know yardage when one is designing, rather a crucial bit of information, in fact.  She got defensive and said she’d been designing for years and always designed by weight not yardage.  Wha…????? Oh, never mind.  I left after a very short time – there was very little to keep me there, and try as I might, there were no trophies either.  Soooooo sad!

On my last day of yarn hunting I went to Loop in Islington, in Camden Passage off Upper Street.  I’ve been there before and left them ’til last, as my experience with them has always been fantastic.   The premises are light and airy, and CLEAN!!!   After my experience with the previous very grubby shop, the cleanliness of Loop and I Knit are particularly welcome.  Their stock is wonderful and eclectic and they will wind from skeins for you while you wait.  The chap who was working there is an amazing sock knitter and spinner and very friendly.  He’s a mine of information about knitting and spinning and totally enthusiastic.  I spent a l-0-n-g time there again, coming away equally inspired and content with some more beautiful Malabrigo lace weight and other little bits and pieces.  Loop now stock Quince yarns and Wollmeise – only for purchase in person, not online. Their online shop is good too, and keeps me well stocked with all the yarn I can’t possibly need :)

It’ll be Loop or I Knit when I next have yarn hunting days in London.

Books to inspire shopping in London:

"Time Out" London’s Best Shops (Shops & Services)

Independent London Store Guide

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