47) Square dance

The latest Lizard Ridge square (square 5):


This is the second entire square I've managed to get out of the first ball, and there's still some yarn left! It's sibling is this one.  It's weird that I easily got two squares out of this ball, but I had to make up the weight from a different ball for this second square.

That blue-green in the top right hand corner is the next one – cast on but so far unknitted.  This is the second half of the ball from my second square.  Since I used some of this skein for the make-weight just mentioned, it will be interesting to see how far the yarn goes on this square.

Of course, I could just assume that there won't be enough, and insert the leftover purple from this square in the middle of this new one…

Dandelion wine (recipe in progress)

6 cups dandelion flowers
550g sultanas
1080g white sugar
4 1/2 tsp acid blend1
4.5 litres boiling water

Wash flowers, and pull petals, leaving behind as much of the green calyx as possible.  All the stem must go!
Chop sultanas roughly (I used a food processor)
Add to bucket with acids, sugar and sultanas.
Add boiling water and stir well.
Crush and add Campden tablet, cover, and leave for 24 hours.

Start yeast in a cupful of the must, and add to body of must

Ferment till activity stops, and rack into second demijohn.  (NB not all activity had stopped for me; I came back to the demijohn a month or two later, and it was somewhat pressurised.  I let the pressure off…)

1citric:malic:tartaric acid, 1:2:3

46) Dandelion wine

Ray Bradbury famously described dandelion wine as "bottled sunshine".


But then, the starting product is pretty darn sunshiney, too.

I've always wanted to make dandelion wine, and when I realised that we had a *fine* crop in the garden, which not along the sides of any busy roads and free of weedkillers and pesticides, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

I found that there are about as many recipes for dandelion wine as I had dandelions in my garden.  I found that an alternative name for it is "George's Day Wine" because it's traditional to pick the flowers on St. George's day (so I'm not far off there, then).  I read that many folks believe you should pick them at midday, when the sun is on the petals and the flowers are fully open.

This is possibly because you're about to spend the *rest* of the day picking all the petals off the flowers, because you want no stalk at all in the brew, and as little of the calyx (the short, green outer 'petals' and the bit they join to) as possible.  This takes much, much longer than picking the flowers in the first place.  The petals:


The leftovers:


Good job I had some sunshine to sit in, really.

45) Rip back and rib?


I can't get rid of the idea that Eloise should have ribbing at the cuffs.  The body pieces have really deep ribbing:


The sleeves, however, are pure reverse stockinette, from cuff to sleeve cap.  So of course, the hem rolls, but, being reverse stockinette, it rolls under:


I can't help feeling that lovely, deep ribbing, echoing the body pieces, would look so much more awesome.  There are no photos of the cuffs in the booklet that this pattern comes from; this is pretty much cause for suspicion in and of itself.

There are multiple project photos on Ravelry, including some whose creators *have* added ribbing to the bottom of the sleeve.  All of them look nice, though there is a distinct dearth of *modelled* shots.

J thinks that a deep ribbing would look 'stupid' and prefers the idea of a sweatshirt-depth ribbing, to which I say 'eww'.

So, I'm not sure.  Rip and reknit this paltry partial sleeve?  Or bull onwards with the design as written?

44) Earth day and choices

Today is Earth Day, a fact that has been almost totally unpublicised over here in the UK.  Normally, thing-days make me a little itchy, somewhat uncomfortable.  If something is 'good' for one day of the year, then one day per year probably isn't enough.  If there's one thing that attempting to lose weight (or gain strength, or start a business, or build fitness) has taught me, it's that One Big Push is almost never the way to go.  Little and often is far more effective.

I try to live with a light touch on the earth; I try to give back.  I'm by no means an 'eco-freak', – I fly, but it makes me feel guilty – but I think about what I do and how I do it. I probably think too much.  But it's not easy: so often the would-be conscious consumer is beset by decisions which have to be made if we're ever going to get to the checkout, or to the dinner plate.  So this post is about choices – and choosing between choices – and what we can do best.  It's also been brewing for some time, so I hope it's coherent in the reading.

Organic or fair-trade?
Wow.  This is a *biggie*.  Sometimes, of course, you can do both – coffee is a good example, and chocolate, too.  Both is great, but today I found I could buy either organic sugar or fair-trade sugar (both in plastic packages).  How do you choose between a fair wage for workers and destroying the planet?  Come to that, what does organic really mean?  We like to think that an 'organic' coffee farm is a lovely, homely, small, family-run business that practises shade-growing and promotes biodiversity yadda yadda – but is it?  Until recently, I have tried to only eat organic meat, because I felt it was one way, every day, that I could vote with my money for improved animal welfare standards.  Then I read this very intelligent blog post, and am slowly switching to buying meat at the local farm shop.

Local or imported?
This looks like a 'duh' moment, right?  I think that 'food miles' were featured in the Archers sometime in the early nineties.  But did you know that tomatoes grown locally, out of season in glasshouses, have a similar 'carbon footprint' to tomatoes flown in from Spain?  Check it out.  Turns out it's better to have them grown in Spain or Italy, and transported to England by road.

Grow your own, or veg box?
Speaking of Riverford Organics, what happens if you grow your own veg?  I love my local Riverford distributor, and I love supporting them, but the minimum order is £12.50.  If I grow my own potatoes, carrots, onions and broccoli, it becomes increasingly hard for me to scrape together an order that large.  So I end up 'topping up' my veg at Tesco, or Morrison's.  Would it be better not to grow my own veg but to support the small businesses working in my space?

Loose or packaged?
should be another no-brainer, right?  But in just about any supermarket near
me, the would-be purchaser of any but the middle-of-the-road product
has to accept that their food will come wrapped in at least one layer
of plastic.  I understand why.  The multiple varieties of each veg need
labelling, andthe store believes that if the labels are too
transferrable, the sneaky good-for-nothings that are lining up to hand
over their money will take the label off an organic cabbage and slap a
value label on in its place.  But since plastic recycling facilities
near me are limited, and biodegradable plastic seems only to have made
it to the carrier bags and not to the produce packaging, I am left to
decide whether I wantto contribute a significant amount of plastic to a landfill in order to prevent pesticides being added to the land.

I don't have the answers.  I don't know if there are any right answers, maybe just a choice between evils; hopefully lesser evils.  But maybe asking questions on Earth Day will spark some changes that last for longer than turning the telly off for an hour can manage.

43) What really happened next!

OK, I might have been swatching, washing and measuring, but, when push came to shove, I needed to cast on a new project and *knit* it, already!

Since the Noro Blossom/Eloise combo was working so well, I cast on…

and knit.


And knit some more.


It turns out that Noro's colouf changes, coupled with 5mm needles, mindless (reverse) stockinette and simple 2×2 rib is fairly addictive.  In fact, I finished the back in one day, the first front the next day, the second front two days later, and now….  my arms hurt again.  A sleeve is underway, though only progressing slowly.


42) The wisdom of the washed swatch

We left our saga with four swatches, all washed, still damp, and no new project on the needles…  Well, surprise!!

Katarina washed up beautifully; the yarn bloomed and fulled and we went from 20 to 19 stitches per four inches, and from 28 to 30 rows per four inches.  Yes, it got shorter, wider and less net-like.  It even lies flat on its own now:


Eloise didn't change much; the gauge was pretty much the same before and after blocking – spot on – but I did remember to take a photo of it this time:


The real ace in the pack was Serrano; the nasty, hard, cardboardy fabric softened and relaxed, and the gauge changed hugely.  The lace swatch went from measuring 3.75" square to measuring 4.75" wide and 4" high.  And the feel!  Wow, the hand of the fabric softened massively, and though it would still like to curl, it's not nearly as fierce about it:


The lace has also opened somewhat, and the pattern is much clearer.  I really, really wish I could take photographs in touch-o-vision, though, because it's the texture which has really come through.  Knitting this yarn more firmly gives it a little more body, and I think it will wear more sturdily, too.

I didn't pin this out to block it, just laid it flat.  That way, the finished item will still have some stretch, which is probably a good thing in a garment…

The stockinette still rows out like crazy, but again, is softer, smoother and generally more polite:


Moral of the story: always, ALWAYS wash your swatches!  Even (and possibly especially) the most hopeless looking ones.  They may well surprise you…

41) Catch up part II – the swatches

It was obvious that I was going to finish Veste Evereste whilst away for Easter, so the night before I left became a proper swatchfest.  That evening, I swatched for not one but THREE potential new projects, all of which I am itching to get underway.

First up, we have Serrano (not Cyrano, no).  This has been a 'must knit' for me ever since that issue of Knitty came out – so that'll be two and a half years ago, then.  It's slated for a fingering weight yarn, but I wanted to try a DK weight yarn – James C. Brett pure merino – that I bought a year ago at Easter time.  Appropriate, non?


So I got gauge, but I really didn't like the fabric – cardboardy and stiff.  I thought I might get away with the thicker yarn, because this is seriously soft stuff with not much 'body', but apart from the general feel of the fabric, the stockinette was rowing out something fierce.  Can
you see the stripes caused by the difference between the knit and purl
rows?  Ugh.

But since denial is always a powerful motivator, I decided to swatch the lace pattern, too, just in case all those holes improved the feel of the thing:


Well, that lace swatch is curling massively, and the lace pattern is somewhat obscured.  Maybe I'm not going to win on this one.  OMG, I really, really need a new project for the double-long weekend…

So next, I swatched some handspun for Katarina.  I love this design; just love it.  The handspun in question is the twenty ounces of Lorna's Laces roving that I've spent months slowly chipping away at over the last year.  Sadly, there's quite a difference between the colours in the two 10-oz bumps of roving, so this swatch is knit two rows from one lot, two from the other:


And it's gorgeous!!  At least, I love the colours.  But… I'm not 100% sure that this gauge isn't just a tad too loose for the yarn.  Arrgh!  The Goldilocks swatches!  One too tight, the second too loose… OK, the pattern does call for knitting a commercial Dk-weight yarn at a much looser gauge than the ballband recommendatiaon, but…  I like firm, crisp fabrics, and I'm just not sure that this is right for my precious handspun.  What to do?  What to do??  I still have no new project, and it's getting late!

In a total panic, I swatch my zealously hoarded Noro Blossom for the Eloise cardigan, from Noro Knits.  By now, it's nearly time for bed, but that's OK because this is knit on biiiiig needles – 5mm, OMG!!  Quick knitting!!  This is another sweater I've wanted to do *forever*; so much so that I leapt on a bag of Blossom when I heard it was being discontinued, without too much regard for the colourway.  This would not have been my first choice, but it is growing on me:


This one's working.  But it's late, so I no photograph.  But I got gauge!  And I like the fabric!!  Past bedtime now, so, obviously … I washed all my swatches, laid them out on the studio floor, and went to bed.  They were still damp the next morning, so I took 'em with me to Middlesbrough and…

…what happened next?  Tune in for the next installment at a random undisclosed time in the future!

40) Vested interest

I quite like this one…


I have catch-up to do after the last week – extra-long weekends visiting family, mucho knitting, loadsa progress.  But this is the completed Veste Evereste, and the latest in my series of FO shots taken in the bathrooms at work…

A few quick notes about this vest:

  • I lengthened it by one pattern repeat (14 rows) for the size I made; it could possibly have used another repeat or two.  J thinks it looks 'short'.
  • I forgot to use the smaller needle size for the first 6 or so rows of the body, and it does 'kick' out a wee bit.  I don't think I mind that toooo much, but it would have been interesting to see what difference it made…
  • I picked up stitches for the neckline at the recommended rate of two stitches per three rows, which looked superb, but I was really worried that it would make the armholes too tight, so I picked those up at three stitches per four rows.  As luck would have it, they are possibly a tiiiny bit too loose.  But I can't stand tight armholes, so better this way than the other!
  • I slipped a stitch at the start of each row.  This does not make an easy edge to pick up from at a rate of more than one stitch per two rows.  I got around this by picking up both knitwise and purlwise (since I was going to be knitting K1P1 rib anyway), which makes it possible to pick up two stitches in one selvedge stitch.  I don't see any other way to pick up multiple stitches in a single stitch, unless I've been doing it wrong all these years…  And yet I've never heard this issue mentioned before.  Anyone??

39) What is endorsement, anyway?

OK, I know someone who works for a company that has a social committee.  They organise fun, social events for employees of that company.  They recently proposed a trip to the local greyhound racing track.  It will probably not surprise most readers of this blog to be told that I do not support the greyhound racing industry.  Neither does my friend.

We worked together on an email which was designed to be informative, non-ranty and polite, but which also suggested that the committee might want to re-think their proposal.  Their reply, when it came, was also polite and full of 'respect' for the views expressed.  It said that even the committee had mixed feelings about the event, but that if there was enough support for the event, it would go ahead.

They started the final paragraph of their reply with the following phrase:

Please be reassured that we are not endorsing the industry in any way…

Hm.  Read that again.

A dictionary definition of 'endorse' is "to approve, support or
sustain".  To my mind, the committee is both supporting and sustaining
the industry by organising this trip, because it is likely to encourage
people to go to a greyhound race who would not otherwise have gone.  Also, the very act of proposing the trip actually implies company-sanctioned

At the very least, they are encouraging others to endorse
the industry, and encouraging someone to commit a morally reprehensible
act is, in itself, morally reprehensible.  To attempt to remove
onesself from the moral implications of such encouragement is a nauseatingly disingenuous
piece of political backhandedness.

If, as some events committees do, they subsidise the cost of events for employees, then they are, actually, directly endorsing the industry.

Do you think they would be allowed to say they 'did not endorse' the stripping industry if they organised a lad's night out to a lapdancing club?  When a decision is made by committee, is it really an opportunity for
the members of that committee to abrogate all moral responsibility for
the decision?

Irrespective of my support – or not – for the event itself, I am infuriated by the refusal of the committee to recognise their implicit support for the events that they not only suggest but organise.

I used to work for a company that organised a day-long pub crawl every year.  It was fab.  They didn't give us money towards alcohol, but they subsidised lunch and dinner for the participants.  But I would have understood if the event had been abolished as offensive to a section of the workforce.

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