Wednesday, 28 December 2011

OK, I can knit - but what?

My mother taught me to knit, and I dutifully knitted all the usual stuff, culminating in delicate lacy shawls for all the babies of the family - and friends - and work colleagues - until everything went dormant and my home was a knit free zone. That is, until my daughter went off to knitting classes at a new place and I took up the knitting needles again in sheer self defence. But what to knit? I'd no need for jumpers or cardigans, no one within about five hundred miles (whom I knew) was expecting a baby, yet I wanted to show that I, too, could create beautiful and practical things.

The word "practical" sparked off an idea from childhood. My mother had used scraps of wool to knit blankets from squares: 20 stitches, quite often multi-striped, as no scrap of wool was wasted. We'd unravel the hand knitted jumpers when they'd outlived their usefulness and recycle the wool.

So I started knitting blankets: with a twist. This time I used diamonds instead of squares (far more interesting, as I'd be increasing or decreasing with every row) and instead of random bits of wool (I had none, all my knitwear was machine knitted, so non-unravelable), I went bulk buying in the sales and got a whole load of wool in shades of ice blue.

ice blue quilt

Several months later, I had enough squares for not one, but two blankets: one for Waterside, one for Edinburgh. What to do next? Surprisingly enough, another blanket!

This one was more ambitious, colour wise, I christened it pebbles on the shore. The background theme was brown, and there was some crinkly wool of autumn shades: brown, red and orange. There was also some soft brown with little flecks of warmer colours. I edged it with brown satin ribbon.

'pebbles in the sea' quilt

All this knitting went to my head, as the next idea was to use a theme of green. Getting green wool is not the easiest thing and the squares ended up roughly two thirds yellow-green, one third blue-green.

I'm now running out of beds, but somehow have even more wool than ever, so I'm proposing to use the leftovers to make hand crocheted rugs. And my resolution for the new year is to absolutely not buy any more wool until I've used up my stockpile.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Keep calm and cast on

Spent the night with my boyfriend again- he lives in town, which is very convenient for many things (I've spent too many expensive afternoons burning through the local charity shops!), but not what you'd call peaceful.

Well, not when you're back from Iona, anyway. I've been hearing from Jenny about how peaceful the nights are and how nice it is to hear the rain on the roof when you're tucked up in bed with a book and a hot chocolate (or sitting in the veranda bit of the Argyll Hotel, who do lovely shortbread, but that's another post)- lucky her, she got a whole week up there recently! I'm on a full time course right now, so I'm stuck playing the city mouse until the holidays next year. I can keep a steady stream of hats and scarves on my needles, but the main benefit I'll be getting from them will be the soothing click of the needles.

Then again, there's no farmer's market on Iona, and I'm due at the local one for breakfast pretty soon, so I'd better wrap this and myself up. I ran out of money before finding the raspberry gin last time, and it looks too good to miss again...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Island of the misfit knitwear

One of the good things about Iona is that hats, gloves and scarves are always appreciated- any patterns that didn't quite come out right, or got altered too enthusiastically go up there to wait for their day in the sun (or wind and rain, more likely).

The fingerless mitts I was knitting today are definitely taking a trip as soon as they're done. My boyfriend bought me some Colinette Calligraphy, and it's lovely, but the pattern for the right mitten isn't quite right (something which only became apparent while I was knitting it!). Bit of a shame, but I have plenty more patterns to knit, right after I make some progress on thick black socks for my boyfriend.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Who'd be a Queen?

One of the most common comments I get about beekeeping is "My grandfather used to do it!" which is a slightly ambiguous comment, as I'm not quite sure I want to be grouped in the grand parent category for the immediate future - which is why I was so pleased to find this web site. I wouldn't quite go as far as to confirm the sexy suggestion, though there's nothing so appealing as seeing a queen bee sidle round the brood box - after watching what seems like millions of bees, her petite wings and elongate abdomen have a certain appeal. And when I'm poised with some queen marking paint, she represents the Holy Grail!

I don't like the idea of painting the queen with the appropriate colour for the year: queens have their own personality which dominates the hive and, quite often, the behaviour of the bee keeper. I'd toyed with the idea of using a metallic red or bronze nail varnish, but that has to remain a fantasy: queens are too valuable to be damaged with any chemicals which may hurt her, though I maintain the right to use them on my own fingers.

My feelings about queens are muddled too. The traditional view of a queen adored and cared for by the entire population of the colony is quite close to my own heart, if, of course, I am scheduled for the role of queen and not of worker bee. And yet, part of the casual brutality of the bee world emerges with the birth of the queen, who seeks out any rivals, at which point there is a duel to the death after which there is only one queen in that hive.

When the queen emerges for her mating flight, it's something to make watching bee keepers catch their breath with fascination. Drones may fly for long distances to join her, though mating is the supreme climax of their life, as they die immediately afterwards. But after that brief moment of glory, the queen's life is confined to the safe darkness of the hive, laying eggs until such time as her colony decides that it's time for her to be superseded, at which point she is either killed or has to go into exile with a swarm.

So, who'd be a queen? That's the question of the day I ponder when removing the queen excluders for the winter, to give all the bees access to the whole of the honey stores which will keep them through the winter..

Friday, 18 November 2011

But will the bees like it?

I wish I could take credit for this! I started my own this week, and I have ten stuffed hexagons so far (knitted on 5mm DPNs rather than the recommended 3.5mm, because on Iona, blankets need to be at least double thickness!).

I can only assume the bees are fairly dozy today- the weather in Edinburgh's starting to turn, and I can't see Iona being much better. J will be finding out next week, when she goes up to finish her latest blanket and plant some fruit bushes- today's trip to the garden centre could have gone on a lot longer!