Saturday, 31 May 2008


I have had a great holiday from work. I had my stress thinking about the pupils' grades, but I think I am alright about that now. I've done the maths and they can still get the good grades they deserve.

I have an unwritten rule that I am only allowed to spin at weekends and holidays because it takes away from your knitting time and you need to do it for longer periods to get it even. Doing half an hour here, half an hour there after work is not ideal and that's better for knitting.

I am busy knitting with the Merino Bamboo and Soya and I am so pleased with the colours. I really want to knit these in stripes so I need to learn Navajo plying. I've had a brief go with Caroline and I've looked at some videos on youtube, but it isn't happening yet. I've spun a load of the pink on its own for the cuffs, heel and toes and the rest will be in stripes of different sizes and different combinations. I think they will look great; I just need to learn the technique now.

Promises, promises

Today I had a nice afternoon with Lucy. I met Treacle, the cutest rabbit ever and we went to the markets together. Inevitably Lucy and I started discussing stash and knitting projects and we both quickly realised we had too much yarn and too many unfinished projects. We have promised to complete a number of projects each before we buy any more yarn.

My promised projects are:

Rowan's Tulip cardigan

Rowan's Twisted cardigan from the Studio

Colinette's Camomile throw

I really want to complete these projects because I have all the yarn and these are the projects taking up most room in the stash.

I am knitting far too many socks and as much as I love them, there is more to knitting and I have just had a great sense of achievement with the cardigan. I am also promising too many knitted socks to other people and this has to stop. I've got to start knitting for myself so watch this space a wardrobe may appear.


I am so pleased that I have managed to finish a project other than socks. Here is the child's cardigan and hat which I started many moons ago and which, thankfully, will still fit the recipient (just). I have hated this project passionately and the sewing up is not the best, but it is fine for a baby and I just hope it does get worn and not just sent to a charity shop like I fear.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Worries and fun

A week away from school and you'll never guess what I'm thinking about at past one in the morning... School! I am in a total panic and no matter how much I try to avoid thinking about it, a school worry keeps popping back into my mind.

To cut a long story short, last week my pupils had their Spanish GCSE exams and I entered a small number of them for the Higher Reading exam because they are my better pupils and have been doing really well in reading this year. I could have entered them for Foundation, but I wanted them to go for the higher grades and this is only possible with the Higher paper. They did Higher Speaking and did well and they have good coursework grades. I put them all in for Foundation Listening because this is traditionally the most tricky linguistic skill and they have struggled with this. I felt confident for them the day of the exam, but when the Higher candidates left the exam hall they were all in a panic and I was too after seeing the paper. It was really difficult and some of the questions were very ambiguous. I went through the answers with a couple and they had scored some marks, but my fear is that it won't be enough for them to secure the grades they deserve. I keep doing the maths in my head, but I'm just so worried that I have cost them a decent grade in the subject. Maybe I should have settled for the C grades and entered them for the Foundation tier. I've been to my friend's house for tea tonight and she is a fellow languages teacher. She says her pupils didn't struggle so much, so I fear I have overestimated the kids' abilities. I just hope that other pupils across the country have struggled so the boundaries come down.

I know there is absolutely nothing I can do now but wait until the results come out in August. One of the pupils bought me a lovely bottle of wine this week and the nicest card I have ever received from anyone ever. I feel really awful and I hope that her good thoughts of me don't change come results' day.

In the meantime, I have been enjoying the first days of my holidays. Ezzie, Shona and I have been camping again this weekend and we only got back this afternoon. Bank Holidays really are great things and we were fortunate that the rain held off. It has been very windy, and at times the tent felt very precarious, but it all added to the fun. We went to our favourite place in Lathkilldale again. There is a large campsite there and it's very chilled out. I've been watching the 'Child of our time' programme on the BBC and the kids on there are a year older than Shona, but the clips we see are of last year when they were Shona's age now. (Does that make sense?) Recently they were discussing and analysing play and saying that children might not be getting enough spontaneous, unstructured, adult-free play these days. Well, Shona has done nothing but play this weekend because there are loads of kids on the campsite and there is loads of space for them to play, but they also have some space from adults. There was actually a boy we'd met last time, so Shona already had a friend when she got there.

On Sunday we did a four mile hike, which was lovely. We went to Monyash, which is quaint and has a nice café and a great pub with a fantastic play area. Shona was very impressed with the facilities and spent many a moment on an Indiana Jones-esque aerial runway. Today we've done some more walking around Monsel Head. Our friend Esther was supposed to be coming with us, but unfortunately she hurt her back and couldn't come with us. This was a shame because she would have enjoyed herself. But, there are always other times and we hope to go camping again in a few weeks.

This evening we were invited for tea at Carol's and Kin came as well. Apart from not calming my fears about the kids and their Spanish GCSE, we did have a great time at Carol's. We had fajitas and Shona really enjoyed these, which amazed me because she is a fussy eater. This was followed by Ben and Jerry's ice cream. This was a great meal and we finished the evening watching Shrek 2 and I continued knitting a sock for Ezzie. Life doesn't get any better than than.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Blog's Birthday

My blog is one year old today. This seems quite incredible. On the one hand I'm pleased to have kept going with my blog and it is a nice record of the things I've done over the last twelve months. On the other hand. sometimes it feels like I've not covered half the things that have gone on and I'm surprised that I've kept going with it for this long. I'd love to be able to post more often, have better photographs, have funny anecdotes, but I guess no one is ever 100% happy with their blog, so what I have will have to do and hopefully, one day, it will improve. I must say that the colour scheme and layout I chose last year are decidedly dull now and maybe I need to get more technically smart and tart this thing up a little.

I have just had such a lovely weekend. On Saturday I went and walked the greyhounds, had a Spanish lesson and spent the afternoon at Mara's with a lovely group of knitters. One knitter in particular I had not seen for a while and it was great to see her and catch up. I really love knitting with other people and since I became a knitter, this has definitely been one of the best things about this hobby. I love seeking advice with other knitters, I like offering advice and expressing my opinions, I like discussing yarns and textures and stitches and colours and needles and there is never a lull in the conversation, whether it be knitting conversation or life conversation. However, I was overwhelmed this Saturday when Mara gave me this:

It is her very beautiful, very colourful, very neat, very soft, very stunning and very appreciated Clapotis scarf. I had seen this when it was only a baby a few weeks ago and loved it then and I still cannot believe she has given it to me. I was almost out of the house because I felt embarrassed accepting such a treasure, especially considering the work she has put in. All I can say is, thank you, Mara. Your scarf could not have ended up with a more appreciative recipient. I wore it all Saturday night and all day yesterday, despite the nice weather. I've already teamed it with other clothes I own and cannot wait for the winter when I'll be able to wear it all the time.

On Saturday night Ezzie and I went to the dogs and sold tip sheets to make money for the retired greyhounds. We had a really good time and did well. It was really nice going there because I've not been to the dogs for years. I always went as a child when we went to Blackpool and I loved it then, although there was one time when I was really sick after eating too much food and the sick was coming out of my nose as well as my mouth. It was really unpleasant and I remember it well because it burned my nose, but apart from that I've always loved it. We had a couple of bets ourselves but foolishly ignored the tips we'd been giving out. We won nothing, although Ezzie felt with my addictive personality this was the best outcome possible.

Yesterday I did more dog walking and went to the allotment afterwards. I saved a cat's life. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration but I found a cat looking awfully lost and crying. It was only young but it had a phone number on its collar so I 'phoned it and it was ages away from home and near a busy main road. Ezzie and I drove it to its home so we felt like superheroes. It wasn't injured or anything, but I was sure it would have been knocked down had we not intervened. The cat's mum was very pleased to see him again and she couldn't believe how far he had roamed.

In the afternoon I did some school work, knitting, spinning and dyeing wool. I have made good progress on the cardigan I hate. I've only a sleeve and some horrid sewing up to go now. I'm not posting a photo because I hate everything about this project and as soon as I have finished it, it will be blanked out from my own memory. It's taught me an invaluable lesson about knitting gifts. This is a present for someone to give to someone else. Does that make sense? The thing is, I don't really know the final recipient and I don't think she will appreciate it. In the future, I'm just knitting for people I know directly and wish to knit for.

I've spun some of the Blue Faced Leicester, but I really don't like the result. The spinning seems regular and like sock yarn, but when the two strands are plyed, the effect is rather insipid and I don't do insipid. The changes between blue and green are not vivid or different enough. I don't know whether to continue with this or to start something else.

I do have something else in the pipeline because I popped into Wingham's yesterday. It's only a stone's throw from the greyhound place so it makes perfect sense to do a little detour. I found a ten pound note in a pocket of my handbag which I had forgotten about, so I treated myself to some dye. I bought the colour Opal, which is actually more of a turquoise, because I like a lot of this colour in my life. Yesterday I dyed the Merino/Bamboo/Soya in three colours and I am really excited about spinning and knitting socks with these. The colours are turquoise, blue and pink. I've done considerably more than the pink because I want to do some plain pink for cuffs, heels and toes. I want to have stripes with this yarn so I need to practise Navajo spinning and will be getting in contact with a spinner I know for help and advice. (She knows who she is...)

Spinning really is exciting, even when you have disappointments such as I have had with the Blue Faced Leicester. I've just learned that I need to add more dye, create more vibrant colours and see how that works out. A year ago when I started the blog I never would have imagined I could learn to spin wool, so I'm not just McKnitty, but also McSpinny now.
Another four days and I'm on holiday so I am hoping to do lots of spinning then. Shona is coming for the weekend to go camping with us again, which will be lovely. Esther is coming camping again as well, so we will be knitting and chatting outside again. It really is something to look forward to. Let's hope the weather is nice and sunny.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

The joys of spring

I don't know whether it is the nice weather affecting my mood, but I've been really enjoying life during the past week or so. I've been feeling really positive and have done all sorts of nice things in my free time.

Last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I was knitting with friends in three different places. At each place I had a great time and made good progress on some Opal Hundertwasser socks for a friend at my reading group. I can't quite believe this, but during these knitting sessions I found out that there are serious and dedicated sock knitters out there, who have never knitted with Opal sock yarn. Admittedly, they are not the softest of sock yarns, but they have a lot going for them. They are not ticklish, they're incredibly hard-wearing and have so many fantastic designs from lots of different inspirations that spur you on. They are a good all-rounder and I love going back to knitting with them.

It was actually reading group on Tuesday and Paul wasn't there to receive this gift, so it will be another month before I see him again. Ezzie has taken a shine to these socks, so I might end up giving them to him and making another pair for Paul. A month is plenty of time.

I've also finished my first pair of handspun socks for Shona. They do fit her, but they are not identical on so many levels. Firstly, the colours are not the same because I was experimenting with plying two colours and one colour, but I think they certainly look 'related'. The second sock is smaller because during this skein I became much more even. I also sat for a long time doing the second skein, whereas the first skein was done half an hour here, half an hour there. This is something I am going to avoid so I've decided to dye and spin at the weekend because you do need longer periods of time. I must say it has been deeply satisfying to dye, spin and knit my own unique pair of socks and I'm pleased that Shona likes them.

I've got stuff ready for the wheel on the weekend. My Blue Faced Leicester is dyed in three colours: yellow, blue and green and these will be another pair of socks eventually. The yellow is lighter than I intended, so there is still a lot to learn about dyeing to a desired colour, but I am happy enough with it. Caroline also kindly gave me some carded Merino last week. I have struggled so far with Merino. I had a go with the bright red and orange stuff last week, but it wasn't to be.

I had a fantastic weekend. I was constantly busy, but it was 'nice busy'. I went and picked Shona up on Saturday to spend the weekend here with us. We then went camping with Esther over the Bank Holiday weekend. When I am feeling fit and full of beans, I really love camping. It was so nice being outside, knitting with Esther, chatting, having a laugh. There was a bit of rain, but it didn't dampen our spirit and it created something Shona loves...mud.

This picture is actually very tame. By the end of the Bank Holiday that pink tracksuit was no longer pink, but it didn't bother her in the slightest. She just smiled and laughed even more. She made us laugh so much when the sky was black and she was making up bedtime stories. In one story I was scared of a firework and Ezzie (and I quote) "just popped his midget head out of the tent and did nothing!" Now that's a line you'll not find in your usual bedtime storybook.

Esther's Finnish stepmum got me some lovely Finnish yarn for some lovely woolly winter socks. Esther did some socks in this wool a while back and I got a little obsessed by it because of the bright colours, the stripes and the lovely feel. She very kindly got me some this weekend, so thank you very much, Hilka.

Over the weekend I did some more greyhound walking. I really love those dogs and I really like going there. You feel you are doing something useful, the dogs are really lovely on the lead, you get a nice walk and there are some nice people to talk to. This week they got me an official t-shirt so I feel I've been accepted into the fold. In a couple of weeks I'm going out with some of the guys to raise some money for the dogs. I'm really looking forward to it, so I'm saving my t-shirt until then.

On Monday when we took Shona back we let Roxie off the lead so she could have a run. Now, I do know she is a greyhound and should be fast, but it was still amazing to watch her run and she looked like she was enjoying herself so much. If she is retired, I just cannot imagine how fast those in their prime must be. It was incredible and she went straight to my mum, which was lovely because she was worried about letting her off. In the future I definitely want a couple of these dogs; they are just so gentle and friendly. Roxie likes to be fussed and then to sleep in her chair. She's just so chilled out.
With the nice weather today Ezzie, Kin (our neighbour and friend) all went to the allotment and had a barbecue. It was lovely. I planted out some peas and then did some knitting. It has been lovely because work has been non-stop with all the speaking exams at the moment. Some kids have clearly worked hard, revised hard, prepared well and done a good job in the exam. Others have clearly not done the work beforehand and it's always somewhat disheartening. I've had the usual bizarre conversations:
me (in Spanish): do you like sports?
pupil: fútbol
me: do you watch tv?
pupil: fútbol
me: what are you doing this weekend?
pupil: fútbol
I decided to give up then. They weren't trying to be funny, they just didn't know what to say. At least they turned up; some don't even have a go and are mysteriously absent on the day of the test.
Anyway, I think I've rabbited on enough already. I hope that wherever you are, the weather is nice and that you too are full of the joys of spring. It is still spring, isn't it?