The oranges are up


The oranges are interesting. Either they dried out a bit more and stopped smelling so bad or I got used to the smell. I’ve put some across the windows where they are pretty colours when the sun is out and brown when it is dark (from inside) and just brown all the time from the outside. I put the left over ones on the tree and they look ok – if you can line them up with the fairy lights then they look like little bits of stained glass. The oranges, lemons and limes made the most even and round slices, the grapefruits were much harder to slice thinly and came out a bit thick and lumpy. The ruby grapefruits were good for a bit of colour but I probably wouldn’t bother with the ordinary grapefruits again and the limes look more brown than green. So on the whole it was an interesting experiment. Maybe they would look more Christmassy with some holly and mistletoe.



I am supposed to be tidying up but I had a request on the way to school this morning and I am a sucker for small people with knitting requests (and large people with knitting requests. And large people with strange requests for Christmas backdrops and collapsable trees, now I come to think of it). Small asked if I could please make him some of those flippy-top gloves that are sort of like gloves and sort of like mittens in red and orange and black and blue and with stripes but ones that go that way not ones that go that way. I said ok apart from the vertical stripes because I didn’t think that would work and how about some little squares and we did some hasty hand measuring in the playground. (Four of his fingers are as wide as three of mine.) So far I have this:


which is made up out of my head somehow, I’m not too fussed on the colours but then they aren’t my gloves. I didn’t know I knew how to make gloves and then I thought I had made rather a lot of them recently and I probably did so I guessed how many stitches to cast on and off I went! I decided I’d better stop there and make sure it fits before I do the flippy-top bit or start the second one and plus I am supposed to be cleaning or ironing or generally not knitting. I hope I don’t forget what I did before I make the second one…

Stirring and paws

Sorry for the dearth of posts, I’ve been knitting secret Christmas things and haven’t got good enough at arty farty close up shots to show you anything without giving away what things are and also we’ve had a house full of plasterers followed by damp and black mould so I’ve been alternately too busy painting/too busy moping about the damp to feel like writing anything.

I have no idea when stir up Sunday was this year because our church doesn’t do the collect, (Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…) but we thought it must be about time to make the Christmas cake and puddings. I usually make a couple of puddings in basins, we eat one at Christmas and the second one has variously been given away, eaten at the next big family do, eaten at Easter or once eaten the following Christmas when we found it lurking in the back of the cupboard. Last year the small people had an advent calendar thing on the computer about an Edwardian house at Christmas with animations and interesting stuff and Small asked if we could make a round pudding like they did in that house. My first reaction was, ‘No!’ thinking of the mess but they did some research with the Man in the Shed and they persuaded me to have a go. We boiled a couple of old muslins up for some Tuesdays before tying up the puddings and they are currently being boiled (for even more Tuesdays than the cloths were) as I type. The photo was taken by my small assistant at about eight o’clock this morning from a height of four feet.



The other thing I’ve been doing is knitting some bear paws for a friend who has acquired a bear hat for his birthday, he seems quite pleased with his hat and excited to have ears (despite his wife pointing out that he did already have ears) and I suggested that he needed paws to go with it. Here is the first one, I’m hoping it will look a bit better with the right sized hand in it. I have also discovered I don’t possess long enough arms to take photos of my own hands. It’s not quite finished, I need to dig out some grey fleece that I have got in a box somewhere and then I can sew on some pads but it’s not looking too bad.


In which the house plants are confused

Generally I am death to pot plants, I either totally ignore them for months on end or drown them because I feel so guilty about having neglected them previously. I have one not-quite-an-orchid-thing in the bathroom (which has been quite happy there for the last few years and I haven’t managed to kill yet because I at least remember to water it on the odd occasion that I clean the bathroom) and one enormous Christmas cactus that after years in my parents’ kitchen got too big (not too big for the whole kitchen, just too big for the space it was in) and they gave to me so long ago that I can’t remember when. I neglect that as well but it is a camel and keeps going on its reserves. Last year it went really wrinkly and old and miserable looking because I forgot to water it for months and months and months so I gave it a shower every day for a week and it looks quite happy again now. But it is a little bit confused – it thinks it is Christmas this week rather than Easter.

IMG_0438Can old man cactuses have dementia? I think it needs a name, it has been around that long but I haven’t quite worked out what it is yet.

The other thing I was going to tell you about is the spiders. I haven’t got any pictures because Dennis didn’t go down too well last time with someone who shall remain nameless (Kay) but I am going to tell you about them so stop reading if you like.

We have an annual infestation of small yellow spiders in the greenhouse, they hatch out and most years I manage to see them before they disperse (unless they find a really good hiding place). There are hundreds of them, they are smaller than one millimetre, bright yellow with a brown triangle on their bum and given the number of garden spiders who inhabit the tomato plants later in the year I’m guessing that’s what they turn into. I’m not too keen on spiders normally but I like these ones, they are fantastic – the first year they were all suspended in a brown clump a couple of inches across and you couldn’t see the cobweb because it was so fine and I couldn’t work out what it was that was floating there until I accidentally brushed the web and they all exploded outwards into a big cloud of wriggly, baby spiders, after a few minutes they settled back down and went back to a clump in the middle. It was amazing though and it always makes me smile to see them (maybe because of reading Charlotte’s Web too many times).

This year they were hiding under a bag of compost, I’m glad I got to see them because I think I missed it last time. I might not be so pleased once I need to water the tomatoes without getting a face full of cobweb – I’ve told them they are welcome to live in the plants as long as they don’t make webs across the path but they always forget. I keep a stick by the door now and have an imaginary fencing match every time I walk in there, they normally remember again by the time the tomatoes are ripe and have rearranged themselves parallel to the path. Somebody remind me how much I like the baby ones when I am hopping up and down and cursing with a face full of spider web in August, will you?

Oh, and I’ve done about three fifths of the ends so far and I don’t think I am insane yet. Judge for yourself. Happy Christmas!

In which there is almost no knitting and definitely no bees

This is a nice thing that we made as a Christmas present for the small people, someone else thought it up – the instructions are here, but isn’t it a good idea? The cover is an old patched up duvet cover that was in the back of the cupboard for emergencies, the wood cost a couple of quid because for once there wasn’t quite the right sized bit in stores, the nice man in the shed drilled the holes (although the specification I gave him wasn’t quite clear enough so we have extra holes for hanging things on) and varnished the wood without being asked because he is a Really Useful Engineer (apologies to the Rev. W. Awdry) and I sewed some elastic loops onto the corners of the duvet cover.

Apologies for the blurriness, my photographer has gone to work and I am clearly not competent to operate the camera.

Apologies for the blurriness, my photographer has gone to work and I am clearly not competent to operate the camera.

It can be tall and thin for being the highest room in the tallest tower or it can be wide and flat when a giant has stood on your cottage and squished it, it can be a tent for sleeping under and if you speak to the nice man in the shed in your best polite voice then he will cut you a little piece of wood with a hole in it and glue it to your periscope (also made in the shed) so that you can hang it off the end of the crossbar and use it as a submarine, or you can use it as a stable for your horses that I’ll tell you all about some other time.

Sorry for the proliferation of posts, I was aiming for one or two a week but I am putting off sorting out the shop on my website, (the Really Useful Engineer has taken it on himself to revamp my shop and has kindly installed some software on the website for having a proper checkout, it will still use Paypal but it won’t have to have the nasty yellow Paypal buttons that don’t match anything else and change character sets when you aren’t looking, it’s not live yet so don’t try looking for it.) finishing a jumper, knitting another hat from the pattern to see if I wrote it down properly, doing the ironing, looking up how much poster tubes cost to buy and to post and about a dozen other things which mostly involve cleaning…

In which we go round and round and round

This is one of the three jumpers that need finishing (actually only two jumpers need finishing, one needs starting) it is a birthday and Christmas present for a relative which was started far too close to Christmas  to have a hope of finishing it.

Half a jumper

My idea was that I might have two sleeves finished for him to unwrap and that I could do some more of it over Christmas, I merrily started on one sleeve a couple of days before Christmas when we were going out for the day on the train, I took plenty of wool with me and thought I might get it done on the journey. I did check the tension, for once I checked it really carefully first and when I got to the number of rows where the sleeve should be about the right length I realised it was far too small and measured the tension on the sleeve and it was too tight, I have no idea what I did when I measured it the first time but I had to sit on the train and unravel it all, much to the bafflement of the other passengers I should imagine. The most frustrating bit was I didn’t have any bigger needles with me, the train was held up for about three hours because of the floods and I couldn’t get on with it, then when we got home I didn’t even have a needle the right size. Christmas Eve was spent dashing out to the shop to get one and knitting like fury all day to get one sleeve done so there was at least something to unwrap and the second sleeve was done on Boxing Day. I’ve now done the body up to the arms and am waiting to see my victim to check the length on him before joining the three pieces for the yoke.


The pattern is a free one by Istex which is available here. It is knit in the round up to the armpits, then the sleeves and body are joined and it has a fairisle yoke. I’ve done some small bits in the round before like hats and gloves on double pointed needles (which is always fun as people make comments about knitting ninjas or say things like, ‘What ARE you doing?’) but I’ve only recently tried doing big things in the round on circular needles and (once you get the right size needle) it is great, I don’t like stocking stitch normally because I get bored but stocking stitch in the round with some Christmas DVDs to watch is great, you just go round and round and round and don’t have to think about or even look much at what you are doing, and jumpers in the round are amazing because there is no sewing up, just a little bit of Kitchener stitch under the arms.

Tubular cast on

I’ve also done a tubular cast on on this jumper which I discovered recently, I really like the way it looks, but I’ll tell you more about that another day.