Tag Archives: knitting

Casting off

This evening I sat on the floor for twenty minutes casting off.

There was this knitting thing, you see. Back in May I had opened the bottom drawer of the bureau in the hall and found a bag with knitting in it. In May I was busy looking at nursing homes. My brain can only cope with one thing at a time. I’d closed the drawer and gone back to whatever else I was doing at the time, just like I had closed cupboard doors on moulding jam and half-used lipsticks and left them for another day, another trip.

Now I can do it. I can open those drawers and I’m ready to consign much of their contents to the skip that’s handily outside the house (yes, I arranged for it to be there). In May I threw out the tissue paper that was everywhere, consolidated items, put all the lone gloves into one drawer and socks into another, found the jewellery that had been secreted away in odd shoes and cubbyholes and hinged tchotchkes. Now it’s September and I’m ready to put them in boxes and send them away: to donate them, to bag them up, to remove them from the spaces they were placed into and set them free.

So when I saw the knitting this evening, that I had pulled out of the drawer yesterday, I said to myself, I need to just do away with that so that I can put the needles and the wool with all the other knitting needles and donate them to the charity shop.

And then, because I had twenty minutes to spare before I had to be somewhere, I thought, No, wait. I don’t need to unravel it. I can just cast this off. And I sat on the floor where the kitchen meets the hall, and in the dimming light I put my basic knitting ability to use and I cast it off.

It was going to be something in baby blue. I don’t know what, though I think there was a pattern in the bag. I suspect it was for Dash, when he was a baby, that it was found too frustrating and stuffed away. My mother was never a great knitter. The biggest thing she ever knitted, to my knowledge, was a moss green waistcoat for my father some time in the 80s. I found it on his shelf yesterday when I went through his wardrobe, but I put it in the donation pile because I don’t think he needs it in the well-heated nursing home. I have no sentimentality, no soul, apparently. Also, I don’t think he ever wore it much, he just couldn’t throw it away.

So I cast it off, the blue knitting that was going to be a cardigan for my baby boy, or whatever, sitting there on the floor in the evening light. I’ll take it with me for the girlchild to use as a doll blanket. Knit one, pick it up, push it over the one before. Off she goes. My baby boy is eleven now, he’d never fit it. I saw my mother today and she was delighted to see me, disbelieving that I was really me, asking me how my exams had gone, moving on to generic questions about mum and dad or the boys, things she could ask anyone, because she wasn’t sure any more who it was but she couldn’t let on.

And then I cut the yarn, pulled the knot through, put the rest of the ball of wool in the bag with all the knitting needles and the patterns, ready to go to the charity shop tomorrow.

And as I sat there I thought how poignant it should be, and how metaphorical it was, and how I could write a great blog post about casting off the past and all that jazz. But really, I was just knitting, waiting, in a messy house, full of memories; it’s reached its time, it’s moving on, as all things have to. Finished off, undone, sent on, sent away. An end and a beginning. There’s always a beginning too.

Seafront at dawn


New obsessions – late autumn edition

Fried eggs. One day last month Deb at Smitten Kitchen talked about crispy fried eggs, and I’m not sure I even made it to the end of the page before I was headed to the fridge. If it’s in the fridge, be it vegetable or carb, I will now put a fried egg on it and call it lunch.

Beet salad with fried egg on top

Boots. This is an old obsession, not a new one. Don’t tell my husband, but I own seven pairs of boots (if you include the snow boots from the thrift store and the hiking boots from about 1999). And I still need wellies. I was all set for boots this winter. I really really had no need for any boots. But then I got free money to spend at Target as a credit card reward, and I bought these. Because when the universe gives you free money, you have to spend it on something truly frivolous.

Ugg-like boots

Source: http://www.target.com/p/women-s-kamar-suede-shearling-boot/-/A-15310907#prodSlot=medium_1_24&term=womens+boots

The knitting thing shows little sign of abating. I’m starting socks, but I don’t know how that’s going to go. I’ve made fingerless mittens and finger-full mittens and hats and scarves and I have a sweater pattern pinned, though that seems a bit large. I just bought some crochet hooks too, in case of a snow-day emergency.

Knitted hats, scarves, mittens.

This is everything I’ve knitted, pretty much. Some things are in daily use; others were mostly experimental.

This stuff. If you find it, on no account should you buy it. Believe me.

The Snack Artist Sweet and Salty Chili Crunch

Note the empty bag.

Finally, three words to change your life: fleece-lined tights. I heard of these last year but they seemed esoteric. This year I found them easily and bought a pair for me and one for Mabel. No more complaining that it’s too cold for skirts or that her leggings are too thin. Genius.

What are you loving at the moment?



It’s been a busy week, but I think I’m getting the hang of things.

I effectively took September “off”, to see if I could be a famous novelist or something, but instead I just started knitting a lot. So I think I’ve decided that I can’t, and that’s okay. I’ll put it on the back burner for the time being. In the meantime, I have an actual paying copyediting job where I have committed to ten hours a week, and I’m keeping up with that.

I have this terror of committing to a certain amount of time, even though ten hours sounds eminently doable when, technically, I have six hours five days a week all to myself, making thirty. Surely I can assign a third of that to a particular thing. But you know how it is, someone gets sick or there’s a meeting or you have to go to Target for that one thing, and before you know it your day is gone.

(Not to mention housework. I don’t mention housework. It happens if it happens. So long as my kitchen is tidy enough to bake in, and the bathrooms not completely vile, I’m not all that bothered about housework.)

I’m still writing for Parent.ie, though our rate of output has slowed to a more manageable five posts a week. It’s a hobby for all of us, and the pressure of churning out three or four a day was a bit much. We took a break, and then we came back to it in a more relaxed way, and now it’s fun again. It’s a learning experience; but it was nice to have the site listed on the Blog Awards shortlist in two categories and finalist in one, even if we didn’t win anything this year.

I really function much better when I have some sort of schedule to ground me, even if it’s simply a toddler’s naptime habits. So the idea that now I can sit down and edit for two hours every day, whether it’s first thing in the morning or last thing before the school run, is good for me. And the work itself, though seemingly tedious, is strangely addictive and satisfying.

Much like the knitting, actually. At the time of writing I’ve made three pairs of mittens and am on my third hat. You’re supposed to knit a little square to see if your item will work out the right size for the pattern, given everyone’s different knitting tension, not to mention possible differences in yarn and needles. But so far I seem to be just knitting the thing with what I have, hoping it’ll fit someone, and then amending as needed for the next one.

Mabel in multicoloured knitted hat

Knit knot knat that

So I apparently lost the run of myself entirely on Sunday and decided that I should knit some mittens. I looked up some patterns and they mostly seemed to call for circular needles, which sounded far too scary and not what I was envisaging at all, but all it took was some mild encouragement from a friend on Facebook and I was out the door ostensibly to replenish our milk and beer supplies but actually to sneak in a quick trip to Joanne’s Fabrics and Crafts for another ball of wool and a pair of circular needles.

I didn’t even buy what the pattern told me to – I had the audacity to think I knew better than that – so I picked up some chunky (but not extra chunky) yarn in a nice aubergine colour that I thought nobody in the family would object to and the needles it said would be best for it. My thinking was that I would knit an experimental mitten and it – and, all going well, its mate – would go to whomever it happened to fit.

I also picked up milk and beer, to keep the ravening hordes at bay while I immersed myself in knit one purl two and also discovering, thanks to the delights of YouTube tutorials, the arcane skills of ssk (that’s slip slip knit) and M1 (make one) and other such hieroglyphs. And I cast on my stitches and started to knit.

Mitten in progress

Fillet o’ mitten

It was a strangely euphoric experience, watching something grow from my own hands. I gestated a mitten, shall we say. (Clearly I am having some issues with this no-more-babies thing.)

By later that evening I was live-tweeting the mitten’s creation. You probably missed it, so I will helpfully reproduce my tweets here.

You want to know the knitting joke, don’t you? Dash asked how I knew how to do braille. He meant purl, but I thought it was pretty good because purl is the bumpy side, just like braille. Sort of.

I spent last night dreaming stitches and needles. Today I finished the second mitten. They fit Dash, who is gratifyingly delighted with them. I have another ball of wool in my bag and I’m just itching to get off to Joanne’s and buy the right size circular needles to make Mabel a pair of gloves. In fact, in their absence I’m researching hat patterns. And I still have to finish my scarf…

Dash in mittens

Be-mittened boy

I’m sorry. I know you didn’t come here looking for a craft blog. I wouldn’t either. I’ll try to keep the knitting talk to a minimum.

(But if you really want to know, here’s the technical stuff. I’d never followed a knitting pattern of any sort before, or used circular needles, so that’s got to be a good recommendation for it being pretty simple.

I used this pattern for 45-minute mittens from Susan B Anderson. I made them with Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky in aubergine on 10.5 US (6.5mm) circular needles. The only other things I needed were a row counter – helpful, not essential – and a yarn or darning needle.)


Things that are giving me quite a degree of satisfaction these days, smug or otherwise:

– Since school started, I have been to two yoga classes and plonked down actual money to pay for nine more in advance, so I have to go. And they feel really good.

[I have no photo to go here. Imagine me looking fabulously strong and bendy.]

– I took some photos that were in the kids’ rooms in little frames that were always falling down and being off kilter, and put them in one big frame per child. It’s a ginormous improvement, even if I’m the only person in the house who appreciates this.

Two sets of framed baby photos

– My children clamour to hear Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up“, so we must be doing something right. (You’re welcome for the earworm, by the way.)

– Remember that scarf I diffidently began knitting during a brief rush of blood to the head in June? I’m still knitting it. I’m onto my second ball of yarn. I have never in my life knitted something this large, and the last time I knitted anything even approaching it was when I was 12. I really think I’m going to finish it.

long scarf, half knit–  I have new glasses. While my internal jury is still out on how much I love the frames (yes, I picked them, but I might have been momentarily deluded or something), being able to see through unscratched lenses is a wonderful novelty.

Me with new glasses and Dash

– I have advanced to the Finalists stage of the Blog Awards Ireland. This, as you might gather, is actually the final stage in a fairly interminable process, and I’m mightily chuffed to be here as I stopped at “Shortlisted” last year. My category is “Best Blog of the Irish Diaspora” and I’m up against a bunch of gorgeous, enticing, and beautifully written blogs. It’s truly an honour to be included in that group. It would be lovely to have the night out and an opportunity to wear a posh frock, but I don’t get to do that because, well, diaspora.

blog awards ireland

There are, no doubt, plenty of other things that are making me peeved rather than smug, but let’s stop there for today.

Knit you

I had more to say about Harry Potter, but that will have to wait till another day. My children are forcing me to do crafting again. It’s like a snow day around here, except with 90 degrees and blazing sunshine and humidity to boot.

Two summers ago Dash took a notion to learn to knit. (I mentioned it briefly here, actually.) So, since we had nothing better to do and I’m all about the reasons-to-shop, we pottered off to the nice knitting shop and bought two sets of knitting needles and two big balls of wool. (Yarn, it’s called here.) Since Mabel was only 3 at the time, the idea was that she would learn to finger knit and the second pair of needles was for me.

Dash tried hard, but his fine motor skills just weren’t up to it, and Mabel got bored and wandered off very soon. We knitted a couple of small squares between us, and then the needles were stashed away on the high shelf so that nobody could stab anyone with them in a moment of passion.

Dash knitting


But when Dash announced two days ago that he wanted to knit again, we were well set up. We still had the yarn, even; except that it had mostly been chopped into little bits while still in its skein. He salvaged enough to make a very small ball and we went over the basics again: In through the bunny hole, around the tree, out through the bunny hole, and off goes he. (Or she, if you’re a girl.) This time he got it much more easily.

Dash showing off his knitting

Proud crafter

So off we went again to the yarn shop to buy some new balls of wool. Dash chose pitch black, Mabel chose white with a little thread of sparkle running through it, and I got myself a beautiful blue/green one and a new pair of needles because I have always wanted to know how those lovely multicoloured wools knit up. And since I never managed more than two inches of my scarf in sixth class, maybe now’s the time to find out.

Dash wearing a knitted moustache

See how useful small pieces of black knitting are?

Since then he’s made various bits of black stuff with some holes in them, and all I have to do is cast on and cast off for him. Mabel has made a lovely loo-paper-roll sheep and a wolf (I knew those IKEA pencils would come in handy some day) and I am ambitiously knitting a beautiful scarf. (Or square.)

toilet-roll sheep


Mabel with her sheep

Momentarily enamoured

blue and green knitting

This is mine. Knit two, purl two…