The Knitting Sailor

How to win friends and influence people…
October 25, 2012, 9:39 pm
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… at a wedding.

  • Tell everyone who comments on your feather fascinator your technique for getting a bird of the right colour to fly into your hair specially.  Feel guilty when someone actually believes you, but not enough to tell them you were making it up.


  • Comment on how great it is they have colour co-ordinated the bridesmaids to the wallpaper.


  • Spend more time photographing the sheep in a neighbouring field than the bride and groom.

What no wedding finery?


  • Turn up with hand knit baby socks to accompany the wedding gift…. Only to start to worry if they are inappropriate half way through the service – and AFTER having given them to the best man to add to the present pile.


  • Tell all of your husband’s work colleagues that you really want an Angora rabbit or an Alpaca to keep in your back garden and that you don’t understand why he won’t let you have one.  Discuss house rabbits at length.


  • Steal all of the best sweets out of the favours on the table before anyone notices – only realising later you might have got away with it if it wasn’t for the chocolate smeared down one side of your mouth.


  • Mention that you are going to have fondue night on Saturday despite the fact you don’t own a fondue set… only to adopt one from another guest that has one in the boot of their car for no discernible reason.


  • Talk to a volunteer special policewoman, only to feel inexplicably guilty about the afore mentioned stolen sweets.


  • Kiss the groom who you don’t know that well on the way out then panic it was inappropriate.


  • Leave early to drive to Bristol for a stupid early appointment – plenty of time to contemplate how you managed all of the above without even having a drink.



Stuck in Norwich
October 23, 2012, 3:17 pm
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Now Norwich is a nice place, with a wealth of history – from Boudicea (we love a strong woman – although I bet she didn’t actually wear what they have her in in a lot of the statues – she’d have frozen) to Nelson – he learnt to sail on the Norfolk broads – which of course actually feature in Coot Club and the Big Six – part of Arthur Ransoms Swallows and Amazons series.

So plenty of sailing tradition – and the venue for this years away cruise from the club – we didn’t make it due to a holiday clash.

But somehow I am not feeling warm and fuzzy about it.  I can’t see any boats from where I am sitting on an industrial estate.  I also can’t see a soon to be fixed car.  Just a very broken and sad little car which didn’t mean to break down on me.  At least I hope that’s what she is thinking.  I’m feeling pretty grumpy about it.  In fact so grumpy that I have bought a Knitting magazine and am now knitting these –

They are made out of sparkly, trashy acrylic.

You know it’s bad when it’s cheering me up this much.

Just a little love and engineering
October 12, 2012, 8:23 am
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The problem with eBay is that you go looking for one thing and end up buying something totally different.  Sometimes this is because you have had a wonderfully convivial evening at the end of which there seems to be nothing more to but to buy a wreck of a boat unseen from the other end of the country.  Sometimes it’s because you only realise you REALLY need something once you have seen it pop up on the screen.  Sometimes you get carried away and get into a bidding war over something you don’t really want just because if other people are bidding then it MUST be good.  On this occasion my downfall was none of these.

I had visited this online emporium to look at spinning wheels. Spinning wheels are very expensive so I thought by having a look here I might be able to pick one up super cheap.  Alas, it was not to be – even on eBay they seem to go for quite a bit.  But just as I was about to give up a surprise item popped up.  It was a knitting machine!

Now I have used a knitting machine before, my mum used to have one and I remember many a happy hour spent untangling wool from it.  I can’t remember what I made – but I’m sure it was good.  I texted my mum to ask what had happened too it… She confidently assured me that she had sold it or given it away.  I was thinking about it lots now.  I had had a lovely time playing with it.  It made a special knitting machine noise and everything.

The auction had a very bad picture.  I like it when that happens as it usually means that no one else would be bidding on it.  The description was a bit pants too, but on closer reading promised the boxed knitting machine came with books and an intarsia carriage!  Wow.  I was getting very excited by this point.  I decided to sleep on it as the auction didn’t finish until the next day.

The morning dawned bright, cheerful, and very,very quickly as I was up at an ungodly time for my team meeting.  It was a really busy day and only after lunch that I realised, horror of horrors, that I had missed the end if the auction!!!!

I was devastated. In my head I had already knit four jumpers and a pair of socks on it.

Unable to resist checking how much it had gone for I called up the listing.  It hadn’t sold.  I couldn’t believe it!  Undeterred I dropped the seller an email offering cash and a collection later that night – it was in the same village as one of my friends from the sailing club and I thought offering to pick it straight up might close the deal.

After a nervous wait I got a response.  YES!  I was now the proud owner of a ‘zippy-punch deluxe’ which I immediately decided to name Jeremy.

I was so excited.  And when it turned up at the club I was beside myself.  I unpacked it from its original box and polystyrene packaging and started to set it up in a corner of the club house.

Unpacking my amazing knitting machine

It was like new and had obviously hardly been used.  Having put it all together I moved the carriage across the needles for the first time.

It was amazing – it sounded just like my mums, all knitty and clippy and zippy!  I threaded it up, and with much reference to the manual, cast on.

This is kind of where it all goes wrong so if you are of a nervous disposition please stop reading now…

Having moved the carriage right to left, I tried to return the carriage to the right.  It wouldn’t move.  On closer inspection it appears that the needles were all getting caught underneath the knitting carriage – when they were meant to be inside it.  Well I had a few words with Jeremy, but even talking nicely to him wasn’t solving the problem.  After half an hour of this a qualified engineer and all round fixer-of-things finally stepped in and brought his years of experience to bear on the problem.

Open carriage surgery

And then it looked like this.

I’m not sure there are meant to be bits left over

That little bit of cardboard is really important.  It’s one of the bits that were screwed into Jeremy to make his knitty mouth bigger so the needles pop back into it.  Special thanks to my special engineer friend!

An hour (and some beer) later and we were ready to go.  It worked!  Well…. kind of.  It turns out the problem with knitting machines is that they don’t quite do what you expect.  After a perfect cast on and rattling backwards and forwards I discovered a little problem.

What’s that bit of loose thread on the right there?

My first bit of knitting looked very exciting.  Except that there were some needles without wool on them any more.

Well that’s OK – I have special tools to pick up stitches with.

Turns out the special tools to pick up stitches need to be used every time you touch Jeremy.  I think he is a bit sensitive having been left in his original box for so long.  It is now past midnight.  Everyone else has had beer and I just have a grumpy Jeremy and some hacky looking wool I have spent most of the night untangling from Jeremy’s innards.

All of a sudden it comes to me – what I made on my Mums knitting machine.  The reason I couldn’t remember was because what I actually made was – nothing.  I just spent hours doing exactly this!  Are knitting machines the biggest con of all time?  How do Marks and Spencers get jumpers knitted if they don’t work?  I must be missing something.

I am sure that Jeremy just needs a little love and he will be just fine.  And after all it could have been worse – an evening playing with wool is never wasted.



Should have bought a spinning wheel.

Fly by
October 10, 2012, 7:23 am
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This Sunday while everyone was standing around talking about it (as there was no wind) and enjoying the gormet lunch I had prepared (bangers and mash with gravy) as I was on duty, and the water authority who runs the resovoir was busy with the marathon, we has a visitor.

What no sails?!?!?

This landed on the lake, taxied round, pulled up the foreshore and stopped for a cup of tea.  The club was fascinated – even if it had broken the speed limit on landing!

The sea plane was home made and flies from Ravenglass every weekend visiting Scottish lochs, southern lakes, and now us!

The wings detach!

It’s wincy!

It’s a first – I’ve never seen anything like it and hopefully the water authorities didn’t see it and its fly past once it took off and headed for home!

Just like a mountain goat
October 9, 2012, 8:59 am
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Having ran the Great North Run I thought I would never run again. Ever. Not even for a bus.

So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself back on the start line this weekend.  I don’t really know how it happened – well I do – it was a really clever marketing mail about two weeks ago suggesting I might like to take part in the Kielder 10k.  Well it was Kielder and we were going to be up for the weekend as we were both on duty for the Sunday – so I thought why not?

Having signed up for this it was then patiently explained to me that this route was basically made up of hills.  Lots of hills.  This made me a little aprehensive  – I know from the GNR they aren’t my strength, but as I had signed up now I decided I just needed to man up and get on with it.  So I’ve actually gone and done some hill training – running up and down the banks off the beach, and even going to Hexham to run up Causey Hill ( got lost on the way, ended up running up and down and through the park about 47 times followed by finally finding said hill by the time I was already totally exhausted and deciding by the time I got half way up that it was a stupid idea anyway and going home for a nice cup if tea and a giant sit down).

It was ‘only’ 10k do I reckoned if I could do it in comparable time to the GNR I should be looking for a 1.15 finish time.  And if it got really tough then I could always get the bus like last years Kielder marathon winner!

So Saturday dawned, bright and cool, and I got changed into my kit.  The idea was that competitors went a parked in a local village and were then shuttle- bussed to the start at the main visitor centre – Leaplish.  But it tuned out that I felt a much better idea would be to save myself the hour or so all of that was going to take and instead abuse my position and get a lift in a rib instead!

Arriving at Leaplish

So 500 competitors turned up in buses, and I turned up in running gear and a buoyancy aid. It was a good look.

I shouldn’t have been scared of the whole thing, but I was starting to get very nervous. In addition to the 10k there was also the run, bike, run starting at the same time (individual or team, run 11k, bike 26, run 6) so the pace was packed. Lots of people had come with me to cheer me on though which was great – and their plan was to go and sit in the pub while I was running – which kind of felt a little unfair.

For the start we all just piled in – I hung back so I was right out of everyone’s way.  The waiting was the worst – I was doing it on my own, so you just start to worry you wont cope and wondering how come everyone else knows how to do stretches and stuff.

Nail biting start

Lots of people in front of me

And then we were off. It was very hard to try and get going as the paths are only 2-3 abreast and it turned out that I wasn’t the slowest there – I actually needed to run past some people.  And then the hill started. I had been warned that the first mile was rough – straight up and it just kept going.   But I was managing.  In fact I was still running past people.  Actually – some people were walking already!  I was a running god!! Until I hit the mile. And it was still going up.  I had been lied too!  I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep it up for and I could see more and more people in front of me stopping. I pushed through, got round a corner… And it levelled out.  I have never been so pleased to see some flat in my life.  It’s amazing what a bit if achievement can do to push you on though – because all of a sudden I wasn’t at the back any more, I wasn’t walking and the kick I got from it was amazing.  I started watching my pace and trying to improve – every mile I managed a little faster, overtook a few and started to think that I was actually doing OK.  I did have a wobble – it was around the 7-8k when we rounded a corner and I saw the waterski club – and by water that is a LONG way to Leaplish (you tend to have to beat all the way too) and my heart just sank – but before I knew it I was past the 8k mark and realised I’d nearly finished!
As I got close to the finish it was clear everyone was stepping up their game – but I didn’t want to push too hard incase I couldn’t finish … I rounded the corner, saw the finish line, heard someone shout my name and just decided to run like billyo – and I did – I took 5 places in that last 200m and sprinted over the finish line.

I was thrilled – I felt I’d actually ran a race, with the the GNR I was just happy to get round.  And my time? 1.03.  Like I said – thrilled.

I just need a podium now…

I think it might be the first time ever I have actually enjoyed running.

I am in love
October 6, 2012, 12:42 am
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I have spent all week spinning.  My results have been a little mixed – there is not a consistent thickness to what I am producing, but I am very excited.  The soundtrack to my spinning goes ‘concentrate, concentrate, no, don’t do that, DON’T… Thunk… Damn’.
Sometimes I say even ruder words.

This used to be fluff

The difficulty with drop spindling is that it’s like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head a the same time.  To produce good wool you really need to have a consistent speed on the spindle and ensure its always going in the one direction.  Having hung the spindle from your fluff, set your spindle spinning you then need to use both hands to ‘draft’ (get me – that’s a technical term) the fibre into a piece thin enough to allow down onto the twisting ‘wool’ so it gets twisted and turns into wool as well.  So the twist runs up the fibre twisting it tight.
The problem is while you’re concentrating in your hands, your spindle has slowed, stopped spinning and is now starting to spin in the opposite direction, turning the wool back into fibre at which point it all falls apart, drops to the ground and rolls under the sofa , liberally applying  purple fluff all over your carpet (and picking up an equal amount of dog hair and differently coloured fluff from the regularly hoovered floor).  Progress is not exactly fast.  And there are lots of lumps from when you get distracted in re spinning the spindle and let too much fibre through.
Apparently the lumps make it more attractive and unique.
So I got two whole spindles full through and rolled into mini-balls and the next step was to ply them together
This involved hooking them both onto the spindle and trying to hold onto them while dropping both threads onto the spindle while spinning it in the opposite direction, so they are twisted together. Well that was never going to work – within seconds one had escaped and was running loose all over the floor – much to the dogs delight.  So having twisted the threads together, it only took another day to get it skeined round the back of a chair.  I ended up with this.

I counted how many times I wrapped it round so I could work out how much wool I had – it’s a hot tip from my spinning friend! I had 56 meters here.

It actually looks like wool!  You can see the thick and thin and lumpy bits, but it looks more cute than when it was just one strand.  I was so excited.  I wanted to knit it straight away.  But there was still one more step – get it wet to set the twist (so it doesn’t unravel when you start to knit it) and then dry it.

Having a bath

So far this has taken about six days.  It finally looked like this.

I’d buy this

Note the artistic lumpyness

In an hour and a half I had knit it up into this.

It’s beautiful – but I’ve only done about a third of it and run out of wool

It is the most gorgeous, soft, beautiful thing because of the work that has gone into it.  I am totally proud.
I am a bit worried that if I am going to do much of this it’s going to take six days to keep me knitting for an hour and a half.  It’s never going to work.

What to do with a punctured tyre
October 3, 2012, 9:19 am
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Friday night a contingent of the knit group from work I go to went to a crafty / sewey / other stuff workshop at the Shipley Art Gallery. It’s the first time I’ve been to something like this and it was great fun.  There were loads of people making braided cords, embellished buttons, jewellery out of inner tubes, darning and lots of other stuff. Out of the seven workshops I made this.

It’s a brooch – not a broach

Other people made braidy things and necklaces out of inner tubes.

Too difficult for me

I then got a bit tired so spent the rest of the night drinking wine and looking at this woman.

Don’t you love the British aristocracy?

This was a fantastic idea as I then had the opportunity to learn how to taste wine. This wasn’t part of the night, just someone in the group who knows how to taste wine. I was quite excited.  So I swilled it around and did some smelling of it.

Smelt like wine to me.

Put a little bit in my mouth and breathed in – WITHOUT spitting it out or choking on it.  My mother would be proud.

Tasted like wine too.

Tried the rest of the bottle with the same result.

It was a great night.

Genuine art crafty-ness made specially for the wine tasting bottle


In which it was meant to be
October 1, 2012, 9:08 am
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I am a firm believe in life having a way of working out – and this last week has just reinforced that.  Somehow the right people and places will appear in your life at just the right time to help you along the way.

When I started sailing it was because my hubby and I had a random conversation and decided it was something we would really like to have a go at.  But having visited a few sailing clubs we didn’t really feel like we fitted in anywhere.  Over a few drinks with friends we discussed this, and identified two other couples who would be keen to start as well.  So without much of a plan we now had a group of us.  Because of this we could then afford to buy a boat.

So we started looking at boats instead of sailing clubs – figuring that one would naturally follow the other.  The boat we eventually went to look at was at a fairly remote club – but that was OK – our intention was to see if it was alright, buy it, bring it home and sort it from there – it wasn’t as if we would need to go back to the club, one of the closer ones would work out sooner or later.  Once we got there however that all changed.  We were immediately approached by members keen to say hello, cups of tea and general chat was provided along with some tyre kicking on the boat (turns out we should have spent more time on the boat, but at the time we understood more about tyres).  By the time we left that day we had bought a boat (an Enterprise.  Hot tip DON’T buy an Ent as your first boat.  Especially not a wooden one.  There’s a reason there are so many for sale so cheaply), joined the club, got on a waiting list for training and had already capsized the boat once.  My husband is now the commodore and we are firmly committed to this remote club up in the wilds of Northumberland.

The Dirty Nelly – post re-furb!

When I moved company some years back I was fairly apprehensive – I had been with the previous company for nearly ten years, so leaving felt like a huge leap of faith.  But on starting my new job I found a welcoming environment and a friend.  It turned out this friend knitted.  It all started with a pair of fingerless mittens (Fetching – I think everyone in the world knit them) that she wore throughout the winter.  And when I admired them for the 47th time she suggested I knit some – remember this is an experienced knitter and was never going to fall into the trap of knitting some FOR me – oh no, knitting my own had to be the answer.  So I bought some needles and wool and after a few lunchtimes of wondering how you were meant to knit with five needles in a circle, I had knitted nine of them.  This might seem an odd number, but it took me this many to get two roughly the same size.  Knitting is now really important to me and although I go through fits and starts, I have made new friends and created beautiful things by persevering… but I needed that help to get me started.

Fetching fingerless mitts!

Which brings me to Spinning.  Spinning and I weren’t getting on.  I was kind of managing.  I knew that I had to set myself a goal or else I was not going to keep going for long enough to get any level of proficiency.  But it was all feeling a little like hard work.  Until i popped into the Knit Studio.  As my favourite yarn shop it’s always a treat – but it was also a surprise to find everyone there spinning with a drop spindle!  This had never happened before – mostly you find people knitting or browsing – but I had never been there when spinning was going on.  In a further stroke of luck – I had my spinning with me!  What followed was 45 minutes of intense teaching and coaching from a new friend.  No wonder I was struggling – I hadn’t understood enough of the basics to make a go of it – I was working against the fibre rather than with it.  By the end of my lunch hour I felt like I had made a bit of progress, and over the weekend I have been spinning my heart out.  In fact it looks a bit like this.

How impressive!

I know – still a bit lumpy, but definitely better!   And now I have someone to take all of my spinning woes too.  (she has no idea what she’s let herself in for by giving me here Ravelry name!)

So it turns out that  if you smile, are pleasant and just ask, it’s amazing how you can find the help you need – and make a friend or two along the way.


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