The Knitting Sailor

Knitting Lipstick
January 29, 2013, 6:06 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,


Have you ever wondered why women have so many lipsticks?  We all have millions of them.  Even I do and I don’t wear lipstick, finding that I find it irresistible to chew off as if it is some strange new food group.

Well a lipstick always fits.  Doesn’t matter how bad the day, if you feel like a blob or have not good hair – a lipstick will sort all of that out.  And it’s easily concealed, so when going ‘cheer me up’ shopping it pops in your bag – no tell-tale shopping bags to take home.

Scarves are exactly the same.  As a knitter they tend to be the first thing you learn, and I have just realised that I now officially have more than I can wear.  There are some great things about knitted scarves – they keep you warm, they are really versatile, they make great gifts, they are quick, they are a fantastic way of trying out new stitches and wool to get a feel for them before you do something bigger.  Gosh the excuses just keep coming.

But do I really need to ONLY knit scarves?  This phenomenon has crept up on me since the cardie incident.  At the time of this disaster I already had a tank top on the needles, so this was finished in a fit of defiance (and ironically was perfect despite no swatching, blocking or measuring), but since then I have not knitted a single thing that actually needs to fit.

Let’s look at my current range of scarves.


Ermmm… do I admit there might be more upstairs?

Seeing a pattern here?  Or rather not a pattern…..

I believe I am a knitting chicken.  This cannot be allowed to continue.


So – I’m starting a hat.  Well I need something to match all those scarves.



Now we are One

It turns out that it was a year ago today I posted my first entry on this site.  It was a bit random and primarily in response to ‘I couldn’t do that – could I?’.  Well so far it’s been a lot of fun – I think!  And looking back over the year, it turns out there are lots of things that I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of this!

Things I have learnt from this year

  • Everyone hates running (apart from Tillerman – but I don’t actually believe him)
  • That the inventor of the Crow’s Nest was born in Whitby
  • Spinning is really hard
  • How to taste wine (sort of – it all still tastes like wine really though)
  • Trying to teach kids anything without the benefit of chocolate is basically a waste of time
  • You actually can buy ANYTHING on E-Bay
  • How to be a better OOD!
  • We all like Dinosaurs (maybe I imagined this?)
  • Woolfest is awesome
  • Not every 50p is worth 50p
  • The Internet definitely thinks I should get a sheep

Amazing things that happened this year

  • I ran the Great North Run– who knew?!?
  • I came third in an actual proper sailing race – and got a prize to prove it
  • It was the Mr’s last year as Commodore
  • I learnt to spin
  • The dog qualified to drive a powerboat
  • We didn’t move to the country
  • I met a real life alpaca and fed it a carrot
  • I got a spinning wheel AND a knitting machine called Jeremy
  • The Olympics and the Jubilee!  Go Britain!
  • I qualified as a Dinghy Instructor
  • The Solstice at Stonehenge – kind of amazing
  • I learnt how to felt… OK it was by mistake – but let’s take it as a positive!
  • I wasn’t last at an open event

I also found some amazing people and blogs out there in the ether of the Internet – I have added a new page so if you would like to go and visit some of them then check this out.  Be warned – some of these people actually know what they are talking about!

But most of all it’s been fun to chat with you all – so thanks for dropping by…. it’s appreciated!

So what about this year?

Well I have a plan.  I need to get better at sailing and knitting.  I also need to delete the email suggesting that I take part in the Sunderland Half Marathon in April.  This is a foolish idea and no amount of looking at the email is going to get rid of the cake and beer induced wobble prior to April.

So I am going to be doing 3LT – this is the name for my new recipe for success.  Every idea needs a good marketing slogan.  And maybe a logo.

Look, Learn, Listen; Turn up, Take part and TRAVEL!

That sounds really exciting doesn’t it?

Tinsel would have been cheaper
January 3, 2013, 7:44 am
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Back in the office today, and the end of the holiday is truly over.  The tinsel is hanging limply, decorations have fallen down over the break, the Merry Christmas sign is a little dusty and the whole place has a slightly abandoned air about it.

With no decorations up at home due to decorating, I have vicariously lived my Christmas through other people’s Christmas trees and by touring houses with exciting lights on them.  But essentially I have had a sparkle deficiency.  This had led to a difficult period of knitting in which I have got a little over excited about knitting with sparkly stuff as I can’t decorate the house.  Lots of it.  Constantly.

Some people can be a little sniffy about sparkly wool – in fact I remember when I first started knitting and wanted to buy a lovely (for ‘lovely’ read scratchy, sparkly, acrylic…. I know…) ball of silver.  The lady in said knitting shop not only was unimpressed by this (it was her stock? Surely she bought it for people just like me?) and I ended up leaving with some blue sock wool.  It’s still at the back of my box (OK, OK, boxES) of yarn.  I have felt scarred by the brutal dismissal of this beautiful yarn which has gone on to attain god-like unattainable status in my eyes.

But this Christmas I have shown no restraint at all.  It all started with these.


Most exciting and sparkly

They are little fingerless gloves from a knitting magazine, knitted out of despair when I was stuck down south.  As a one off they were quite sweet.  But this was only the beginning.

I then went out and bought pink sparkly stuff.  I was knitting it covertly – when asked what I was knitting I would brush over the subject and say ‘oh nothing special – a scarf’ – expecting the kind of judgement I had previously expected once what i was using was discovered.  When finally forced to admit what it actually was, other knitters were surprisingly supportive (at least to my face?) – which is lucky as I love it.

I know you want to dash out and knit one

The pattern is beautiful and so simple you can remember it and knit it without a pattern, but it’s so effective that it looks like a lot more special.  It’s ‘Crest of a Wave’ – you can find it here – I will definitely be doing it again.  The original pattern is in a more substantial wool, but I think that it works really well in the lighter weight and I may well be trying it over a smaller number of stitches to make a skinny delight as well.

Look at how wavy it is!

Over Christmas I then cast on a hood and scarf – in this (it’s sparkly stuff from Yarn Addict)

You can’t tell how sparkly this actually is…

I know I know – but I don’t seem to be able to stop.  In addition I have gone back and bought the pink sparkly stuff in green.  (It’s Rico Creative Reflection)

Did I really need it in green as well?


I also decided to add beads in a fringe to the pink scarf.  At least next year we won’t need a tree.  I can just wear my beaded beautiful festive scarf.

And for now I hope everyone has a very sparkly start to the New Year!

Vive la Revolution!
December 10, 2012, 7:42 pm
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At this time of year, knitters everywhere are frantically knitting away to create hand crafted presents created with love for those about them.  Every year I set myself up for a fall here.  I get stressed and don’t enjoy it and then feel guilty about what I can’t finish.

But everyone loves something made by hand.  I truly believe that the most precious thing that any of us has to give is time – be that at home, at work, with friends, or on knitting a scarf.  When I give you something a bit loppy and holey what I am actually saying is ‘I care enough that I spent this long making something to show you I care’.  When you don’t wear it because it’s green / the wrong size / got holes in it / you don’t even know what it‘s meant to be – I’m hurt.  So for this reason many people will only knit or craft for people who will truly appreciate it.

I truly appreciate – and one of the gifts I received this year was this.

The dog looking extra cute - she's still angling for a sausage

Note the whole family trying to get in on the kudos – they too can stand next to a gorgeous blanket….

I know – hours right?  My Mum made it for me and even colour-coded it to the van – love it.

So I am really on board with crafting to show you care.  Go onto any knitting blog at the moment and everyone is powering through Christmas presents, hats, socks, even jumper are all rolling off needles across the world.  Spreadsheets and lists are created.  Sleep is lost, curses are flung and the desire to strangle someone with your yarn increases.

Not me.

This year I have come to the conclusion that I am going to reconsider the whole thing.

I’m not knitting anything for anyone.  It just makes me feel unsuccessful and lots of people don’t like it anyway.  So I have decided to buy all my gifts this year.  But I am working on the basis that really this shows I care just as much.  After all I will be spending money that I earned by going to work, which is an amount of my time I have spent earning money (instead of knitting), to spend on buying you a present.  It’s just a different route to the same thing.  Honest.

And you can take it back if it doesn’t fit or you don’t like green.

I’ve totally cleared my conscience with that one.

Pass the mulled wine while I go do some random stress free knitting with no deadline….


Is getting good, bad?
November 13, 2012, 6:47 am
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I finished my spinning!  So last time I wrote about this I had spun one ball and knit up half a pattern.  I had done this because

  1. I was too excited to wait
  2. I really really really wanted to prove it was real wool and not pretend wool
  3. Lots of people who spin, spin what they need as they go
  4. I was scared it might turn back into fluff if it wasn’t quickly marshalled into a knitted item
  5. I was too excited to wait

But I only had enough to do half of the collar and it looked like this


You can see why I was excited

Inspired to dash on, I then got straight back on with the spinning!  I was a little bit quicker this time and a little more careful.  If I got a big blobby bit of wool then I would go back, tease it apart and re-spin it all tidily.  I was quite chuffed with my attention to detail.  I seem to have got through a lot of fluff very quickly with this project – I guess because I am making quite thick wool due to inexperience.  I also think that there must be something that you need to do to make thinner wool – if I let the thread get too thin then the weight of the spindle (and the already spun wool) makes it snap.  So I think I have a chunky wool spindle.

It took me another three days to repeat the process, but my spinning was definitely better – more even and finer looking.  I don’t know if you can see it on the photos.


More perfect-er wool?

And two hours later I had finished the knitting.  There are lots of bonus’s here.  For six days making wool I reckon I got three hours knitting (if that).  Based on this calculation I am never going to be able to keep up with enough spinning to fulfil the knitting side of things.  Therefore I am still going to have to buy wool too – yay!

So what does my finished item look like?

I added extra buttons because they are super lovely buttons… and I put the first one in the wrong place.  It’s a lovely pattern, and I definitely think it suits the homespun nature of this wool – it’s also really easy to knit – I am contemplating dashing out 27,000 of them for Christmas presents.  Pattern is HERE.

So this only leaves me with one problem.  The wool looks different!  The first lot is less ‘spun’ than the first lot, and the second lot is definitely got more definition about it – I suspect I would have got different wpi if I had actually checked (of course I didn’t check – who do you think I am!).

So the knitting to the left is more fluffy than the knitting to the right, right?

So I am now doing that thing where people compliment me on it and I say – ‘oh thank you!  I spun the wool myself!  But what you can see is that I did it in two lots and I think I got better as I went on and if you look where these two ends overlap you can really see that there is a big difference in the wool I ended up with so it doesn’t quite match….’.

Please shoot me.  And pass me some more fluff – it won’t spin itself you know.


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.

I am in love
October 6, 2012, 12:42 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,
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.

In which it was meant to be
October 1, 2012, 9:08 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , , , ,

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.


With ice and a slice
September 26, 2012, 9:04 am
Filed under: the Captains Cabin | Tags: , ,

I haven’t posted for a while because its coming up to end of quarter.  Those in sales will now nod understandingly and offer me a gin.

For those not in sales what this essentially means is that my time is currently spent peering at reports and hitting buttons on my calculator while scratching my head and wondering how on earth I am going to make 2 plus 2 equal 5.  Maths was never my strong point – strangely not many children have ambitions to be a sales manager – most want to be an astronaught, train driver or doctor.  In my case I wanted to be Indiana Jones – somehow I never saw being chased by nazis and wearing a hat as being dependent on my maths skills.  So I wasted my youth digging holes in the ground in the rain with people with suspect dress sense and a penchant for facial jewellery.  To be fair – it was probably more fun than maths would have been.

So I am posting today to tell you all about how I am going to chase my end of quarter stress away…. By doing some spinning and then some knitting of the stuff I have done the spinning of!

What could be more fun???

So I am starting with this –

Doesn’t it look pretty?  I got it at woolfest and have been sitting looking at it ever since.  It’s merino and from a purple stripy sheep and I am going to use my drop spindle on it.   This is a drop spindle.

The idea is you hook the woolly stuff on and then spin it and it twists the woolly stuff to start to make it into a strand of twisty wool stuff.  Once you have this you the twist two bits if the woolly strands together and then get it wet and dry and and -ta-dah- designer wool!!!

Bearing in mind the ‘finished’ roundabout yarn (some of which you can still see on the spindle!) I last spun was an unmitigated disaster and is sitting in a sad little heap all on its own I think this is a bit of a challenge.

And then I am going to knit it to make this –

Apparently it doesn’t matter if your wool is lumpy, you can make it all lovely by knitting it into this.

I am doing this so that I can then wear it every day and say ‘This? I spun and knit it myself thank you …. Yes you’re right…. I am hugely talented … What’s that? You happen to need a talented knitter and spinner to come with you on your next search-for-something-hidden-in-a-jungle to document your search via the medium of wool and you would like me to come?  I’ll just get my hat.’


Well, it works in MY head….


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