Saturday, March 26, 2011


Sometimes in the wonderful world that is Ravelry, a few random clicks will lead you to something special, something that youjusthavetoknit - right now.

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Eiki is a new pattern by Janel Laidman, with all proceeds until the end of April being donated to relief efforts in Japan - how could I resist? Eiki in Japanese means strength, willpower and energy - things they will certainly need at this heartbreaking time.

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I cast on for this project the night before we left on our little trip away, knowing that I had to have around 200 stitches before the lace part, and the soothing garter stitch seemed perfect for some relaxed holiday knitting. I had 3 skeins of Merino Mania by Fibre Alive (which is the handdyed yarn that James of Joy of Yarn dyes and sells from his sock wool boutique) to choose from and finally decided on the Berrylicious colourway that my Mum bought me for Christmas.
The colours are a beautiful blend of grape, lavender and deep pinks.

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Unfortunately in my haste I didnt check yardage and only later realized I would be about 80yards short - so in the end I decided to simply remove one repeat from each side - my Eiki being slightly smaller than the pattern. You will need about 430g of fingering to make a full size Eiki. I had about 14g left over which probably wouldn't have been enough for 2 extra charts plus the extra section of garter to get to the right stitch count. In any event, the size of my Eiki is certainly no smaller than the Ishbel and Multnomah shawls I have made in the past. Mods on my project page.

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My experience with knitting from charts is limited, so I was quite worried when, after already purchasing and downloading the pdf, I realized all of the lace was charted. And not only that but you work from 4 charts across the row. You have to repeat chart2 to give you the triangle parts up the side (I removed one repeat on each side) so there is a lot of swapping between charts and trying to keep track of which way you are reading across. I'm very proud of how well I coped though, and I think knitting this quite quickly was a good plan as it kept me motivated.

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I did run into difficulties near the end and messaged the designer after going crosseyed trying to work out what was going wrong. Within 24 hours the errors on the chart had been corrected and a new pdf with updated charts had been loaded on Ravelry - wonderfully quick response from Janel. Although some concentration is required, it is also quite a fun knit and it's interesting to see the triangle lace parts emerge as you knit.

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Once again this yarn knit into wonderfully smooshy and soft garter stitch. I used a blue colour for the Multnomah shawl I made late last year, the colours seem to suit the garter stitch so well. It's a dream to wind up from the skein, nice and tightly plied which makes the lace stitches stand out well and I have nothing but praise for the dye job.

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Knitting this lead me to the 11 shawls in 2011 you guessed it. New challenge for me for the year. 2 down already - and Eiki and a Hitchhiker (it counts on yardage and because it can be draped over the shoulders). At the moment some external goals seem to be helpful for keeping me focused on positive things and keeping me engaged and busy.

I'm busy queuing shawl patterns - if you have a favourite I'd love to know, leave me a comment :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A break away

We've been away for a few days - having a break, relaxing in the country, enjoying the quiet and getting a full nights sleep.

The countryside in Otago was so lush with green rolling hills and the smell of autumn on the air.

I think my city kids would be very happy living in the country. Not so sure about their Mum - the quiet was so nice though.

I've been informed that "when" we move to the country, a horse is at the top of our list. We're very much in the horse phase at the moment with this one.

On the way home we visited the boulders at Moeraki. It was bitterly cold with a howling wind so we didnt stay long but the kids climbed up on some of the smaller ones and I got some quick photos. They are well worth the visit if you are ever heading south of Oamaru.

They are just so spectacular.

Another must see if you are in the Oamaru area is the complex at Riverstone, ten or so minutes north of the city. An amazing wood "fortress" playground with carts, flying fox, merrygoround and playhut. An amazing garden with monster pumpkins and vegetables galore. Award winning restaurants and gift shops that made me gasp. It's set off the road, basically in the middle of nowhere but what a gem it is. They even have a few animals, including a goat with a penchant for climbing...

A few days away has been good for the soul. While the kids were busy out on the farm I knit my fingers off, completing a scarf and about half a shawl! I also read a book and a half and just enjoyed the chance to escape for a bit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My cat likes to hide in boxes

One of our favourite books, illustrated by Lynley Dodd of Hairy Maclary fame.

Any box, any size. Also fond of lying on blocking knitting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quake knitting

Thuja socks knit in Paton's Jet. The photo is not the best, taken a moment after I finished them with my ipod the night before we left Mums and came home. I was going to give them to my brother for Christmas since he now lives in Dunedin (nice thick winter socks seemed a good idea) but my stepdad tried them on and loved them. I left them with him as a thank you for housing our refugee family after the earthquake. Great pattern - I remember Bells making these in Jet ages ago and the idea of worsted weight "man socks" has stayed with me since then. It was nice to leave a little thank you behind.

I haven't knitted at all since coming home. I have been working on a secret project that I can share soon, but no actual knitting. My concentration, motivation and energy is pretty low at the moment - the stress of being home again has pretty much turned me into some sort of hermit-zombie (it's not pretty believe me). We have water again though, so at least I am clean.

If someone could just turn off the aftershocks that would be great. We all need some sleep and a break from the near constant adrenaline rushes every time the earth moves.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

February book totals

15! books read this month. Now, more than ever, I can use the distraction and the escape from reality.

As well as the books mentioned in this post, my reading tally for the month also included:

The Giver and Gossamer by Lois Lowry.
The Giver is often on "best YA book" type lists and was a title I keep coming across on peoples favourite books and such like on so I reserved it at the library. It was a thought provoking read set in a futuristic society where every page just leaves you with more questions about the nature of utopia, choice and freedom. I think if I had not already read a lot of sci-fi, dystopian type novels in my teenage years this would have had more impact on me ; thats not to say it wasn't good, it was, but I didn't think it was tremendously wow in the way many people have found it. I'd like my girls to read it one day - the writing was excellent, and I think the idea of different societies and how they deal with danger and choice is important for them to question and consider.

Gossamer is actually a childrens "older fiction" book and this was a delightfully touching and sweet story about Gossamer - a dreamgiver and two of the humans she visits in the night to make and safely deliver their dreams. It was a very quick read but quite lovely. I've given this to my 8yo to read - I'll let you know what she thinks of it.

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood is one that will appeal to the knitters. Its a bit of a tear jerker in places and I did find some of the pulling of heart strings a little over the top at times, but overall it was a touching and sweet story about finding hope, dealing with grief and what most of us know - that knitting is good for those in troubled times. The knitting details were well researched, and I thought the journey of the main character felt very real - through every stage of grief to her troubles getting those sock needles to behave. This is my first knitting meets fiction novel and I was pleasantly surprised. If you're looking for an easy, knitting novel then this could be a good one for you. Just make sure you have the box of tissues close by.

Sara Gruen is the author of the bestseller Water for Elephants and this is her latest novel - Ape House. I read this in 2 days while we were away. 5 stars from me and a simple comment - Excellent. The story follows Isabel Duncan, a scientist at a Great Ape laboratory where her "family" of bonobo apes live. The apes are capable of reason, of forming strong relationships and can communicate using American Sign Language. An explosion tears the lab apart - the apes are "liberated" and Isabel is injured. Unexpectedly, reality TV turns the apes into a worldwide phenomenon - one that is frighteningly realistic in its depiction of human appetite for voyeurism. The book is quite fast paced, plenty of action and suspense - I thoroughly enjoyed it. I downloaded Water for Elephants from my library as an audiobook so am looking forward to reading/listening to that soon.

And finally... The Book Thief by Marcus Zusack. This is one of those books you will either love or hate and I know there are plenty of haters out there. The style *is* different and the very-present narrator takes a little getting used to but once I got going I could not put this down. Set during WWII, the narrator - Death - makes some grim (and sometimes heartbreaking) observations of the time and whilst some people may have found him/her obtrusive, I liked feeling like I was sitting down listening to Death's recollections of the Book Thief and her life in Nazi Germany. This is a YA book apparently - I'm not sure why. I read a lot of YA and this was longer, with a much heavier poetic writing style, and some interesting "devices" - Max's illustrated books, the definitions/translations, and the interspersed "sidenotes" as Death tells the story - not what I would have typically pegged as YA. I know some people found it gimmicky and I have also heard comments that it trivialized the Holocaust - I thought it was brave and well written. Another excellent read this month.

Current tally 2011 - 24 books - 46% of my goal.

Any great reads for you this month?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

the new normal

Back home, reunited with our pets. It's been a long day, leaving before dawn to travel 2.5hours home, then facing the mess that has been sitting here for almost two weeks. The house was gross, and smelly. I did the best I could but simple tasks like doing dishes, wiping benches and disinfecting floors are not so easy when there is no water. I have enormous respect for those families that stayed, and have been coping without water (and in some cases without water AND power) since the 22nd of February.

The kids are pretty upset. The house holds memories of fear, and there have been lots of tired, stressed tears tonight. We haven't had any aftershocks since being home again, so I can only guess how traumatic those will be. I am trying to be brave but I don't know how long I can keep it together. Although we are all OK, with enough drinking water to see us through until the services are fixed, a car with fuel and supermarkets full of food and water, the emotional weight of everything is huge.

I worry about another big one, I worry about the kids getting sick from sewerage contaminated water, I worry about what lasting impact this will have on them. I spent a good portion of the day fighting back my own tears. I'm tired, grouchy and after a really hot day working hard getting things back to order quite smelly - but there wont be a hot shower tonight or a relaxing bath.

I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and this nightmare will be over. Except these images of a city in ruins will haunt me forever. This post has a selection I stole from google. I've been to all the buildings you see. I could have been driving down that road, been on that bus. This isn't some far away place. This is happening here. I still find it hard to comprehend.

We drove through the northern suburbs today which look untouched, a little bit of silt in some places but life looks like it is carrying on as normal. Then closer to the city, you begin to see the destruction. The central city is a wasteland. My mind can't stop imagining those bodies still lying in the rubble. Army soldiers guard the cordon - it looks like something out of a war zone, something I would see on the news happening in a third world country . Not here, not to us. Around our house there are lots of roads where driving is not pleasant, the ashphalt buckled and muddy. Evidence of liquefaction is everywhere. On our street there is a portaloo on the corner. It looks so wrong.

This is the new normal. Hand sanitizer, piles of dirty dishes and laundry, baby wipes to clean the table, duct tape on the taps so the kids dont accidentally play/drink in dangerous water. Going down the road to a communal portaloo to do your basic bodily functions (which is a little disconcerting when you can hear a car driving past right behind you!!!).

It's not pleasant but we'll be fine. Plenty of friends have water we can go to for washing and showers. The supermarkets have bottled water. Hopefully soon water will go on everywhere, schools will go back, old routines will be re-established. Until then we just wait and make do. Check in with friends and neighbours. Try and find some semblance of normality.

Thank you to everyone who has sent messages, emails, PMs and comments. I have had many offers of yarn, parcels of love, help in whatever form I need (even had a friend offer to come down and hook up our guttering to a tank so we can collect rainwater if we need it). I have vented and cried to internet friends I have never met in real life and been overwhelmed with all the virtual hugs and support from all over the world. It has been wonderful for the soul. Thank you.

My stash is unscathed! I have tons of yarn - if you offered to send me some yarn love, thank you, but really I am fine and we are all good for everything. If you would like to do something please consider donating to the RED CROSS - there are people here living in welfare centres, families who have lost everything, homes destroyed, or who have lost jobs/businesses. These are the people who need the extra help now so if you can please give to them.

There is a disaster relief group on Ravelry who are running a "yard sale" to raise funds - have a look, some awesome things, all proceeds to quake relief. Also multiple facebook and trademe auctions and other fundraising activities.

On facebook I found a knitting for christchurch group which might be another avenue for knitters who want to help.

Tomorrow is another day forward.

Kia kaha Otautahi