Saturday, June 30, 2007


So another series of Doctor Who ends with tears streaming down my face…

Russell T. Davies. Genius.

Prizes Galore!

A while ago I entered a draw in aid of a breast cancer charity run by Wendy at Wendy’s Woolies. Guess what? I won one of the prizes! Last Saturday I received my prize – a Kool Aid dye kit and some yarn from Bright Dyes! I’m really looking forward to using this in the holidays, but I forgot to blog about it during the week – I’m having problems with the internet connection at the moment – I can connect, but can only send emails sporadically, web pages need to be refreshed maybe 8 or 10 times before I can load the page and I can’t sign on to Blogger. All blogging is currently taking place in the library, at school or via borrowed connections, so if I don’t make a note of something I forget totally to blog about it. I love technology…

Secret Pal - Reveals All Round!

Well, today is the last day of Secret Pal 10, so all the revealing has been done – well, between me, my Spoiler and my Spoilee, anyway!

I was spoilt by Hanna from Helsinki, who writes the blog Puikottelua. She sent me some gorgeous presents, which I blogged about here, here and here. The purple yarn she sent me is currently being knitted into an Icarus shawl, although I haven’t done any work on it for ages! The Emily Posh Yarn is gorgeous, I’ve started socks several times with it but it’s so beautiful the socks need to be just right and I can’t quite get it yet. The lilac yarn could well be the Waving Lace socks from Favourite Socks, but they are joining a growing queue…

In turn, I spoilt another Hanna, also from Finland, but this time living in the Arctic Circle and blogging here. In April, I sent her a parcel with Opal and TOFUtsies sock yarn, among other things. In May, it was a project parcel for the Icarus shawl including some stitch markers I made myself. The final parcel in June included gorgeous Lazy Kate handspun sock yarn and the cotton socks that I re-knit the cuffs on. Hanna doesn’t have any photos of that parcel up yet, but I did take a picture of the finished socks:

Pattern: Lavender Time by Rita Taylor in Knit Today Magazine (May 2007)
Yarn: Rowan Calmer (75% cotton 25% acrylic/microfibre) in shade 477
Needles: 3.75mm Addi DPNs for the foot, 3.25mm Addi DPNs for the cuff
Mods: The needles for the cuffs, also I used wraps on the short row heel.

The colour is better in the first photo (with the flash) but the bluebell lace pattern shows up better in the second photo.

Secret Pal was brilliant fun, and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank our hostess, Bobbi, who must have spent ages matching up the 70-odd European participants, then reading our blogs each and every week. Thanks Bobbi!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

All Quiet...?

It's been a bit quiet here in Plain Tales Towers because the PC seems to have the technical equivalent of ADHD and cannot concentrate on anything to do with an internet connection for long. Don't you just love all these new speedy ways to communicate? Not.

Anyway, I digress... I've ground that axe often enough this week to anyone who will listen, and no I'm taking advantage of a necessary long stay at work for the Summer Bingo this evening to catch up with you all.

(Adopts bad impersonation of Australian accent)
Can you tell what it is yet?

Yep, it's the heel flap on my Sockapalooza4 Pal's socks. Overall, I think I'm pleased with the way they are turning out. I have now got further than this, having completed the decreases on the gusset. I've mastered the seamless intarsia for the foot (white instep, red sole but dead battery hense no photo), but I've now reached that horrible stage where I can see where I could have done things slightly differently to make an improvement and I can't decide whether to just stop now and view this as a prototype or whether to soldier on and waste time. I'm veering towards the restart, since my Pal's preference was for short cuffs. I have indeed knitted shorter cuffs than I do for my own socks, but I think they could look cuter shorter with a turned down top. The top of the cuff is also navy blue, I hasten to add.

Springwatch at the Plain

In the past few weeks, it's all been hapening in my garden. First of all, Lilly nearly wet herself with fright coming face to face with a hedgehog three weeks ago. I took a photo but forgot to put it on my memory stick, so phoo-ey.

Then I had a mini-invasion by a magpie and a grey squirrel simultaneously, neither of which have been seen here before.

Then two weeks ago tomorrow I was about to rinse out my breakfast bowl, when I spotted a bird of prey in the middle of the lawn during a toenrial downpour. It flew onto the seat at the back, where I took a pretty dreadful picture of it from an upstairs window.

It was trying to eat its breakfast and left feathers all over the back of the chair... I haven't been able to identify it, since the light flash on the back of its head is foxing Dad and I but it could well be a juvenile.

Then finally, last Tuesday I came into the kitchen in time to see a Greater spotted Woodpecker dangling off of the peanut feeder. Sadly it flew away before I could get my camera.

Who needs Bill Oddie?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kicking Back

The reports and assessments are in, so it's time to kick back and try to get my sense of perspective back. Writing results aren't what I would have wished, the post mortem on that has still to happen, but it's actually better than I thought it was 2 weeks ago. I had hoped that I would have got better at both teaching and assessing writing, but it appears not. However I have at least stopped wanting to hurl myself off of the Runcorn Bridge and I'm not so desperate to give it all up as I was when I found myself looking at the vacancies in Tesco. I wish I could tell you I was joking, but that would be a lie.

Learn and move on, as they say.

Anyway, last night and today I have kicked back, knitting furiously on socks for my Sockapalooza4 pal. I have designed them myself, including intarsia on the heelflap and seamless intarsia on the foot (if that works!) I'll post photos of the work in progress soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Father's Day

At the weekend I popped down to see Mum & Dad. They must have had so much fun, I sat in the front room, immediately borrowed their laptop and proceeded to spend the majority of the time I was there writing reports.

Fantastic company, me.

Anyway, as you can see from the ticker bar, I'm nearly done. The more observant of you will have noticed I have missed today's deadline, but I have squared it with the boss - and since part of it's because we're horse trading over the writing assessments, I can hardly write the Literacy part of the report, can I?

Anyway, it was lovely to see Mum and Dad, and I couldn't help think about how different it was compared to last year, when we were so worried about Dad. Things are looking good, however; the consultant recently told him he didn't want to see him for another year, so that's good news. I was also able to give Dad his Father's Day present:

Ta da! Plain Tales Productions Proudly Present: Nic's first ever design!

OK, so it's not actually that taxing, these socks, but I did work from measurements and make them up all by myself!

Pattern: My own, based on a 4x2 rib cuff with stocking stitch heel flap, 4x2 rib instep and stocking stitch sole
Yarn: Regia 4 ply in Helsinki
Needle: 2.5mm DPNs

The ankle fits fine, which was what I was most concerned about, but next time, I need about 6 stitches less in each round of the foot and about 5 rows less. He also says next time can he have a longer cuff (don't you just love the assumptions made here?). However, the fit isn't too bad at all bearing in mind I cast on for the first one the last time I saw him and there has been no opportunity for trying on for size.

The next pair are for my Sockapalooza4 pal. Again, I'm branching out into design for a very personal pair - no photos yet, but I'll show soon!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Want it. Can't get it. Can't focus.

No wonder sleep deprivation is against the Geneva Convention.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The hats were a bad idea...

...because now it's 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and I am nowhere near the end of that list of work to do that I bleated on about earlier this week.


Saturday, June 09, 2007


Today is Worldwide Knit in Public Day, so no prizes for guessing what I did today...

Lots of us from the knit group met in Knutsford for lunch and sat at the largest table of the wine bar knitting little hats for Innocent smoothie bottles. I know that sounds strange, but they will be part of the Supergran project, which will take place this winter, raising money for Age Concern. Read more about it here.

Of course, being me, I'd completely forgotten that Rowan had got together with Innocent to promote WWKIP Day, so I turned up with my large knitting bag and a whole lot of sock yarn, not double knitting. Luckily, everyone else had more brains than me and Bethany had brought along a huge bag of odds and ends that she very kindly let me dive into.

For a slow knitter like me, today was fab. I finished three hats whilst I was out and a lovely child who had come along with her mum made matching pom-poms for us all to sew onto them. Caroline made three rabbit hats, complete with ears. Here is the first one:

Isn’t it brilliant?

After a nice lunch and a few stares from passers-by who could see us through the open window, we decamped to Costa Coffee for a couple of hours, where we met up with some knitters who hadn't come for lunch. I'm not quite sure what they thought of us in Costa, because we were sent right to the back and later on, we realised we'd been cordoned off down at that end! No matter, because after the best part of 5 hours knitting, we had quite a range of hats.

The photo above shows a selection of them, expertly modelled by some smoothie bottles and our pom-pom maker extraordinaire. Look for Una's, with the pigtails - I can almost hear the yodelling that goes with that one! I love the ladybird with the enormous antennae, too. There were loads of stripy ones, which was the intermediate pattern on the Innocent card, and a couple of ladybirds, like the advanced pattern (but customised, of course!).

Most of us deviated from the basic pattern at some point. Mine were a little more conservative, using one colour yarn and the basic pattern for the first one, with a tassel instead of a pom-pom to be different. Then I started experimenting with texture on the second and third ones. I started a stripy one just before we packed up for the afternoon. The photo on the right is one I took when I got home (oh look, it's the laminate floor again!). These hats are very addictive, since they are so quick. I have a whole pile of coloured yarn now and lots of ideas swirling round me head. Doctor Who beckons, so I'm off to knit me some more little hats!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Parcel Goodies!

Well, as promised, here is my latest parcel from Helsinki from my wonderful Secret Pal, who still hasn’t revealed her identity.

First of all, the anticipation generated by the lovely packaging:

Then, the first peek:

Isn’t it exciting!

Then, the gradual discovery of all the items, a layer at a time. I mean, just how much can you cram into the box?

Treats for us all – Finnish chocolates, salty liquorice, and a box of Party Fish! Stella wasn’t sure what to make of them, but Lilly loves them, as you can see…

Knitty goodness starts with a plain lilac sock yarn, all the better to display an intricate design from Favourite Socks, using the rosewood needles.

Then come handmade stitchmarkers and a fiberhider, made by a fellow knitter, Kaarine.

And finally, this…

…which is the Clementine shawlette from IK Spring 2007, knitted by my SP in a 68/32 bamboo/cotton mix. Even just folded in half it looks lovely! We’re hoping to go to Italy this summer and it will be just the thing for breezy evenings.

Secret Pal, you have spoilt me rotten. Thank you so much!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Where’s the ChronoGuard when you need it?

Work (and therefore life as we currently know it) is very busy at the moment. Reports need to be completed by 19th June, speaking & listening and science assessments need to be annotated and in order for the moderators’ visit next week, the writing assessment I’ll do on Friday needs to be marked over the weekend, also in readiness for moderation next week, and next week’s planning needs to be done. Oh and tonight and tomorrow it’s Parents’ Evening.

I am determined to go to lunch with the knitting group on Saturday, so therefore, I really do need the help of SpecOps 12*, aka the ChronoGuard, to freeze time for me and let me get a head start.

However, I did managed to find time to ooh and aah over my latest parcel from my Secret Pal. More details tomorrow…

*Don’t know what SpecOps 12 is? You obviously don’t read Jasper Fforde, then…

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Meet the Husband...

I'm not really being nasty, this is exactly how he was made to feel yesterday when he was shopping...

Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago, his old Nokia hands-free kit (you know, the type with a wire) finally bit the dust, so we went yesterday to buy another. Easy, huh?

Well, no.

It took until the sixth shop to find one. Every single assistant asked what he wanted, he explained, and then the tumbleweed would roll across the shop floor as they gathered their thoughts and replied "We only sell Bluetooth, now, sir".

After the fourth shop, I said, "You'll have to just get a Bluetooth, love".

"No", he yelped, "I refuse to look like a sci-fi extra. Ten years ago you knew if you saw someone talking to themselves in the street, they were a loon. Now, you can't tell! I refuse to look like an eejit".

With that, the dinosaur turned and lumbered on to the next shop.

He was thrilled to find what he wanted in the sixth shop, but it should be noted that it was the last one in stock...

Friday, June 01, 2007

They're at it again!

The government, I mean.


See here, if you're unaware of the latest piece of spectacular advice from the Department of Education.

Actually to be fair, the BBC has a less patronising slant to it than the ITV news that I have just watched that stated that the Govenment wants teachers to stop asking children to put their hands up.

I am speechless.


Does it not occur to these ... cretins that teachers are on the whole aware of the pushy "me, me, ooo, ooo" kids who always have their hands up (and bottoms off the chair at the same time usually) and are equally aware of the ones they need to target otherwise they won't say a thing?

Oh silly me, it's only good teachers who do that.

And the DFES thinks that we're all pretty pants, really.

Excuse me while I go and lie down with a damp flannel on my forehead...