Monthly Archives: April 2008

Family history, family heirloom

My mum and her sister, my auntie Gilla, are staying with us in our cottage this weekend. Gilla has bought me a really special gift. It is a tablecloth, embroidered by my grandmother in the 1930s, and made from flax grown on my grandmother’s farm.

We spent the evening listening to their stories of growing up in Germany during and after the Second World War. Where they lived was occupied by the Canadians after the war. They said their first English words were ‘Have you chocolate?’, asked frequently to the Canadian soldiers. They also discovered tonight that, unbeknownst to each other, they would both ‘accidentally’ miss their train to school so that they ‘had to’ hitch lifts from said Canadian soldiers!

My grandmother made this cloth for her ‘bottom drawer’, the trousseau traditionally made by girls in preparation for their married lives. Embroidered linens tended to form the basis of these collections.  I also have some beautiful embroidered homespun linen sheets that she made, but as they are on my boys’ beds and rather crumply I’ll photograph them another day!

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Letting the sun shine through

Sometimes I find it too easy to focus on life’s trials, and let them cast a shadow over its treasures. This has been one of those weeks, but it has also been full of special moments. Here are some of them.

This week I have:

  • Had a lunch date with Steve
  • Spent an evening with good friends
  • Done yoga
  • Eaten supper in a pub with Steve and our boys and laughed until we cried
  • Been to an art exhibition (Alexander Rodchenko at the Hayward Gallery)
  • Had a lie-in
  • Cooked dinner for my father and stepmother and seen photos of their trip to Cornell university and Niagra Falls
  • Started re-watching Brideshead Revisited
  • Bought some beautiful yarn (Blue Sky Alpaca Silk) with a special project in mind.
I’m stepping out from under that cloud. There’s too much to be grateful for.

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A great way to block

I got a great idea yesterday from Peaceful Knitter’s blog about using a yoga mat for blocking. I was keen to try this out on what I’ve done so far of my Grannie Smith cardigan. So, I submersed it, towel dried it and pinned it out: This works brilliantly! The mat is squishy enough to be able to be pinned, and the yarn dried really quickly as there was nothing absorbent underneath it. And the best bit? Look at this: The whole thing is a massive grid! Perfect for lining up straight edges: Thanks Sonia!

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New knitter in the family

Alex (son no.2) was helping me take photographs of my knitting yesterday, when he suddenly asked if he could learn to knit. He’d seen these cool skull wristbands and wants to make them. They were published on Magknits, so I wasn’t sure whether they would still be available, but the designer, Jennifer Tallapaneni, kindly sent me a copy yesterday. Thanks Jennifer, you made a young man very happy!

Here he is casting on for the first time:

And the coolest part of this for me? This weekend my auntie Gilla will be coming to stay with us from Germany. She was the person who taught me to knit when I was thirteen, the age that Alex is now – I think it will be lovely for her to see the craft passed down to another generation. 

I checked with Alex if he minded me posting this about him. He said it was fine, but could I link to his Youtube page to show that he could be cool too… Well Alex, I’ve gone one step better (hope it works!):

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Provisional cast on using a circular needle cable

My favourite provisional cast on method uses the cable from a circular needle rather than some waste yarn to hold the live stitches. I prefer this method because:

  • I find it easier to make the stitches in the first place
  • It is easier to knit the awkward first couple of rows
  • It is very easy when the time comes to use the live stitches as they are all ready and waiting on a needle

This is how it is done:

You will need the yarn and needles required for your project, plus an extra circular needle. Make a slip knot with your yarn (this will not count as a stitch). Slide the knot onto the needle:


Hold the needle and the spare cable in your right hand, with the cable underneath the needle. Hold the yarn and the cable in your left hand with the yarn over your index finger and the cable below your thumb. This is how it should look:

Bring the needle behind and under the yarn, then up, in front of yarn, and back to original position. You should have one loop of yarn on the needle.

Now bring the needle behind both cable and yarn, under both, up to the front and back to original position.

These two steps make up one stitch. Repeat them for as many stitches as you need. I often do one or two extra, as they can be dropped after the first row, but help keep the yarn stable on the needle.

Once you have all your stitches, the cable will probably have twisted around the needle. Untwist it and you will have your stitches ready to knit


Turn and knit the first row. This row will feel very strange, sort of stretchy and resistant all at the same time. This is how it is meant to feel, just go with it and it will turn out fine.

Carry on knitting as usual. When you are ready you can simply knit the live stitches straight from the cable they are on. You will need to knit into the back of these stitches, for the first row only.

And there you have it! Please feel free to contact me if any part of this tutorial is unclear; I will be happy to hear from you. Click the Contact link on the left of the page to get in touch with me.

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