Thursday, May 31, 2007


Have you met Eliza? She's been staying with me since the Easter holidays, but has been hiding in a paper bag for most of that time. However, last night she finally pulled herself together and got properly dressed and this morning she fancied going out into the garden, so here she is:

Isn't she gorgeous? I particularly like the little flowers on the end:

Pattern: Eliza from Knit On The Net
Yarn: Blue Faced Leicester hand-spun hand-dyed from
Needles: 7mm bamboo
Mods: None

I've not knit with hand-spun before and it is lovely! It has such a gorgeous sheen to it and it slides really easily on my (very cheap job lot from eBay) bamboos. The tips of the needles picked up a little green dye, but none got on my hands at all, so excellent work all round! I even blocked this properly, my first ever blocking with pins, so I felt very grown up!

When I started knitting it in April, A laughed his socks off, as we were going through a heat wave at the time. Who's laughing now, huh? I've had the fire on for the last three nights and have been sleeping in joggers and long sleeve tops! Eliza will be getting her first airing out tonight at knitting group, I feel!

So what else this week? Well, yesterday I caught up with virtually all of the work I should have done before the holidays. I've created all the front pages for my reports, but haven't yet started on the individual boxes - hence the ticker at the top! I couldn't find a general one, so decided that a debt reduction one suited my needs. Watch for progress - I have to have them ready to hand in on June 18th. 336 individual boxes to be completed... joy indeed.

Yesterday I went out with L, K and the babies, which was a first one for me - I've visited coffee shops with babies but never a restaurant with a pushchair and a pram. both babes were asleep and fantastic. K had to leave so missed the part where Anna, having woken and wanting some lunch, pulled her bowl down and plastered the floor with chicken, apple and sweet potato (L is creating stirling baby meals!) L was mortified, but I didn't think it was a nightmare - after all, she's six and a half months old and interested in everything. I've seen a lot worse, L, honest!

And to top it off, the postman has just been and delivered two balls of gorgeous Lana Grossa Luxor, as a prize from the draw Carrie Anne made on the last episode of BritKnitCast. Here they are:

And since I'm showing yarn, let's go the whole hog and show my latest sock yarn acquisition from LazyKate:

I know, I know, I have a box full of the stuff. So hang me.

I've just realised - the whole reason I took Eliza outside was to give you a break from looking at the laminate floor... ho hum.

Soundtrack: Genesis - The Carpet Crawlers; Jellyfish - Baby's Coming Back; The Who - Baba O'Riley; Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall; Genesis - Keep It Dark; Blue Ă–yster Cult - (Don't Fear) The Reaper; Crowded House - There Goes God

Monday, May 28, 2007

15 seconds of fame

Yes, I know Andy Warhol said 15 minutes, but mine is nowhere near that long. A message I left for Carrie Anne from BritKnitCast, describing the gorgeousness that is the handspun hand dyed yarn from LazyKate, has been broadcast on the latest episode.

You'll be pleased to know, that in best Nic fashion, I sound like a dork.

That Knitting Meme

If You Knit Long Enough…

I lifted this meme from Krafty1, having seen it pretty much everywhere around recently. Bold for projects/techniques you’ve done, italics for those you plan to do one day, and anything you’re not planning on doing is left normal.

Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Socks: toe-up
Stockinette stitch
Socks: top-down
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Top-down

Knitting with silk
Moebius band knitting
Participating in a KAL
Knitting with bananafiber yarn
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Domino knitting (=modular knitting)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
Two end knitting
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
Toy/doll clothing
Knitting with circular needles
Knitting with your own handspun yarn
Baby items
Graffitti knitting (knitting items on, or to be left on the street)
Continental knitting
Designing knitted garments
Cable stitch patterns (incl. Aran)
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book
Teaching a child to knit
American/English knitting (as opposed to continental)
Knitting to make money
Button holes
Norwegian knitting
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle knitting
Dying with plant colours
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items (dishcloths, washcloths, tea cosies…)
Knitting socks (or other small tubular items)on two circulars
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with dpns
Holiday related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dying yarn
Knitting art
Knitting two socks (or other small tubular items) on two circulars simultaneously
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Knitting with beads
Long Tail CO
Entrelac Knitting and purling backwards
Machine knitting
Knitting with selfpatterning/selfstriping/variegating yarn
Stuffed toys
Baby items
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mits/armwarmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom
Thrummed knitting
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair
Hair accessories
Knitting in public

Feel free to copy this and post it on your blog, if you are the only knitter left in the world (after me) who hasn't done this one yet!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sock update

Nearly two weeks ago, I boldly stated that since Dad's sock had turned up, I would be on for finishing a pair by the end of the month.

Well, I have.

But not Dad's...

Once I had finished it, I couldn't stop myself casting on for a pair for my Secret Pal, in a lovely squishy cotton. It was knit on bigger needles than I usually use for socks, but i followed that pattern faithfully and my tension was right, so I was concerned when the first sock was slightly baggy around my ankles, which I would imagine are somewhat bigger than my Secret Pal's. (I don't know this for sure, but she has smaller feet that me and my ankles are bigger than most knitting pattern specs.) Anyway, after generating some giggles at Thursday's knitting group, I decided that the second sock needed to have the cuff knit on smaller needles. Here is the photographic proof:

The one on the right does look like it's been knit for someone with elephantitis.

So I ripped it. What else could I do?

It didn't end up fully in the frog pond, I just took it back to a couple of cm above the heel and I am much happier with the result. They are currently blocking as I speak, so I have no finished photos, but believe me, they are done. In less than a fortnight, too. Speedy Gonzales! I won't publish full details until after they've been received, towards the end of June.

Eagle-eyed readers may also have spotted a new button on the side. I have signed up for Sockapalooza, which is a sock exchange. I already have in mind what I would like to knit for my Sock Pal, but I really can't give any details here - she and I are both newbies to Sockapalooza, so it's not inconceivable she could stumble on my blog and what I have in mind is VERY personal to her - if I can pull it off, mind! It's all in my head, I just need to work out how to construct it...

Is it the weekend yet?

Gosh, the last week has been hectic.

In school, all the Y2 SATs papers have been administered and I've made lots of judgements regarding the teacher assessments. On Friday J and I had the day out of class to mark the writing assessments. I'm sure there are some people out there that find this really easy, but I'm not one of them. For each piece of writing, there are assessment foci to mark against - sentence structure, punctuation, composition and effect. Trying to decide the best fit place in the descriptions for each piece of writing is tortuous to me. I agonise over and over again, finally decide that a piece of work doesn't have enough of whatever to put it into the third bad, only to then read the example piece in the teacher's handbook that has made it into that band and think - bugger me, this piece is miles better than that.

I laughingly said to J, "Come on, if we crack on, we'll have done all of these by lunchtime!"

Ha bloody ha.

There are 42 children in the cohort. By 3 o'clock we'd done 18.

Guess what I spent yesterday doing.

And we just haven't got enough children to the higher level.

Maniac Mum and I have had conversations about unrealistic expectations and the effects of feeling that teachers have to get children to jump through hoops in the past. There is an element of that, I suppose, but that's not what upsets me.

I just feel that I've let them down.

The children, I mean, not the system.

I'm just not good enough at helping them marshal all the brilliant ideas that are tumbling out of their heads. I've got children to level 2B in reading and maths (national average) this year that I would have said would never get there back in September, but did I do that at the expense of the more able writers?

I've spent the last week or so being very introspective here - did the extra guided writing sessions for the less able jeopardise the more able children's chances? Did I learn enough from L before she went on maternity? Should I have asked for help from the consultant team?

But then teaching is full of "What ifs..."

And then of course, if I didn't feel bad enough already, I have to deal with this lovely suggestion from the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson.

On initial reading, it appears that Mr Johnson thinks the entire state education system is in need of severe help. My only concern is that it's not actually a statutory requirement* for a teacher in a public school to have a teaching qualification...

*And before I get comments from irate public sector teachers, I know lots of public schools do ask for one, I'm just sayin'...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Very funny...

If you missed Jonathan Ross tonight, you might be advised to watch tomorrow's repeat, unless you have a delicate disposition. I haven't laughed so hard since, ooh, last week, when R,S and I wrapped the Deputy Head up in toilet roll...

But seriously, Eddie Izzard makes me laugh anyway, then follow it with mad model Janice Dickinson and top it off with John Barowman and Andrew Lloyd Webber camping it up and the tears rolled down my cheeks. Sadly A was so cream-crackered that he didn't even stir through the howls.

What is that woman on? I need some of it to get me through the week!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Another Centenary

This time, it's one hundred years since my Thame Granddad was born. He could be a gruff old so-and-so, but I still miss him. Whenever I hug or kiss A on holiday when he hasn't shaved, I'm transported right back to their house and Grandad scrubbing my face against his bristly whiskers. Funny what scraps of memory are still lodged in the brain...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

SP10 context #2

Bobbi has set us another blog contest, this time on the subject of travel:

With the weather turning warmer, many of you are thinking of traveling. 1) What do you pack to knit? and 2) What do you hope to shop for?

Assume that you will be gone for ten days to someplace "foreign" that is known for having great knitting locations. (Bonus: Where would you go on a "knitting holiday"?)

Well, since I have been knitting seriously, I have been away for several weekends. The minimum that goes with me is sock knitting, which I keep in a little green bag I picked up on my one and only trip to Primark (my God, that was hell!). If I can sneak the main bag (also a Primark special, looks a bit like a Jordana Paige, but was about a twelfth of the price!) past A, I will take it, as I did to the Lakes at Easter. Then I can pick up and put down different projects depending on the light available, how much I need to concentrate on whatever I'm watching on the TV, etc. I also love to take my knitting on public transport, mainly socks but I did work on Bruce's blanket on the train back in February. I haven't been abroad since I picked up the needles, so haven't had to make a decision about whether to chance my arm with airport security...

What would I shop for? Haven't the foggiest! Something unusual I suppose (was seriously tempted by cones of alpaca in the Lakes) that I could get at a bargain without import duties or suchlike.

Where would I go for a knitting holiday? I'd love to learn Fair Isle on the Fair Isles!

Monday, May 14, 2007


Thank you for the concern about Dad's sock (no, really, people have contacted me to comiserate!). You will, no doubt be as thrilled as I was when R tapped me on the shoulder today at lunchtime and presented me with my knitting bag!


So I will finish the first sock tonight - would have been Friday and therefore a 12 day sock had it not hitched a lift back to Widnes on Friday afternoon...

Looks like I'm back on for May's socks for SAM3!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Missing in Action

It's all been quiet here in Plain Tales Towers for the last few days. My apologies. It's the assessment season, so I've been planning assessment timetables, marking papers and going through my children's books with a fine tooth comb to be absolutely convinced about the level they are working at this week. Add to that the Year 5 residential that left for Cumbria at 8.30 on Friday morning that I have just got home from and I hope you understand my tardiness.

The residential was brilliant, we went to Robinwood North Pennines Centre and it was brill. I will go into more detail at some later point, but I need to go and have a bath in the lovely rose petal bath bombs my Secret Pal sent (the joints are protesting a bit!). I loved it, the kids loved it, I actually did the caving (thanks to Daniel in my group, it's quite likely I'd have had a panic attack without him talking me through it), but there was one teeny little down side...

My sock knitting bag was put in a bin bag on the coach with the kids' hand luggage, and was inadvertently taken back to Widnes. The bin bag was spotted at some point over the weekend in the depot, but the coach driver could not find it this morning, having already put it into and taken it out of the bin once...

It has a brand new set of Addi DPNs and some brand new Rowan Calmer for a new project, but worse than that, I was about 8 rows away from grafting the toe on a sock that I'd designed and knitted for my Dad. OK, it was only 4x2 rib, nothing fancy, but I was working on measurements, not a pattern.

So... my very first own designed sock is MIA.

Ho hum.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I was thrilled to find another Otway fan out there! Thanks Mrs T, although I'm guessing pogo-ing to Otway is probably out of the question for you right now.

Any how, after I wrote my last post, I had a brainwave and went looking for this on YouTube. I was not disappointed.

Part of Otway's appeal is that he never changes. He started off performing in black trousers and a white M&S men's shirt and 30 years later he's still doing it (albeit with rather less hair). Looking at the chart for the week The Hit reached the heady heights of number 27 (w/e 17th December 1977), it was rather eclectic fashion wise. Punk was waning (shame really, as Stiff Records had pigeonholed Otway as a punk artist) and there was a fair smattering of disco, retro and all sorts. To give an indication, the charts that week included Wings, Bee Gees, Darts, Showaddywaddy, Chic, Status Quo, Queen, the Barron Knights, Boomtown Rats, Elvis Costello, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and the Brighouse And Rastrick Brass Band with The Floral Dance. Otway stood out rather, in more ways than one.

Anyway, about the time of The Hit, or maybe a little later, Otway and Barrett went on that great stalwart of "grown up" music shows, The Old Grey Whistle Test, playing a popular song from their live set, Cheryl's Going Home (later turned into a rock opera by Otway in collaboration with Attila the Stockbroker). You have to remember that Wild Willy Barratt was (and indeed still is) a serious musician and that Otway was, well, Otway, really. He had been told by a gypsy that his future lay with a long-haired blond, so he took that to mean Wild Willy and badgered him into forming a duo. Otway, however did prove to much for him and the relationship is probably best summed up by the record that has Wild Willy sawing up Otway's guitar in the background.

Anyway. I beg of you to watch this and watch it in its entirety. It will give you a real flavour of what an Otway gig is like, including the forward rolls and an ambitious hurdle across the amp, which did make it into one of those 100 most excrutiating moments ever type shows, probably voted for by sympathetic male viewers.

Go on.

Watch it.

It's less than 5 minutes long. The tea can wait just that bit longer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day

When I was a child, in fact, when I was first at school in the Infants, we used to have our country dancing actually on May Day. I always wanted to be big enough to dance around the maypole, but I was never chosen (sob).

Scarred for life.

But there are other May Day traditions that began to replace it, the main one being going into Oxford very early, to hear the choristers sing on the top of Magdalen Tower at 6 am and then have a dance in front of the Radcliffe Camera (Cumberland Square Eight was my particular speciality). The first time I went was the day after my 18th birthday, so I kind of lumped it altogether with my birthday celebrations, although I did go to sleep in between.

It's hard to explain May morning in Oxford unless you've been there. I think it's magical, but many others do just see it as an excuse to drink huge amounts - after all, the pubs open at 6 am (if they even closed). The last time I went was the morning after my 30th, when I went in on my own (A wouldn't get out of bed!) and went to go and see John Otway at the Gloucester Arms. I've never been to a gig that starts at 6.30 am before. It was a slightly surreal experience, made all the more so because I had lingered on Magdalen Bridge to hear the choir and consequently arrived at the pub just as the gig was starting (it's impossible to run up the High on May morning). the pub was full to capacity and a burly looking Hell's Angel type, all leathers shaved head and ZZ Top beard, was on the door.

"You can't come in, love, we're full"

"Oh no, you can't be" (points to badge on jumper, thrusts chest towards doorman) "it's my birthday and my mates are in there" (God strike me down for lying)


"How about if I give you a kiss?" (brazen hussy!)


In his confusion after, the doorman just didn't stop me as I walked past.

But I couldn't miss Otway on a May morning. It's hard to categorise Otway, really. He can't sing, but he is such a lunatic performer that you can't fail to laugh at his gigs. And he's managed to make a living from it for over 30 years, so all power to him. I first saw him 20 years ago today at Aylesbury Civic Centre, with my bf of the time and one of his mates. That night he sang "Josephine", about a girl who is to be crowned Queen of the May at the tender age of 17. Sod the fact that my name was Nic, he was singing this love song to me, surely?! After all, it was May Day and I was (literally) just 17! Ah, fanciful dreams.... I also laughed like a drain when he sat on his speakers and inadvertently pulled some ceiling tiles down when he punched the air in excitement...

God I loved being 17.