Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for August, 2015

Needle Review: Addi Fixed Cable Circs, Short Tips

Monday, August 31st, 2015

I love knitting in the round.  The easiest way to do this is on one needle, but the drawback is that you have to have the right length of needle for the project.  This is fine if your project has 100 stitches or more as you can use a 40 or 50 cm needle, but if it has, say, only 50 stitches, you may be forced to use DPNs, which I also like, or Magic Loop, or 2 short circulars.

I recently ordered a really short Addi circular needle.  It is only 30 cm long, tip to tip.  Of this 30 cm, 14 are tip (7 cm each) and so the remaining 16 cm are cable.  This shortness of tip enables me to knit really quite small numbers of stitches in the round on this needle alone as there is a manageable ratio of tip to flexible cable.  I cast on 54 stitches in DK wool; my needle is 4 mm, old UK size 8.

The first round was tricky, but thereafter, there was no stretching or over-tension of the stitches.  It is always the case that if you are on the margins of the ideal ratio of stitches to length of needle, the first round or two will be tricky but this is not an issue after that – it all just relaxes and the need to stretch out the stitches eases.  If you can just about make the first round work, all will be well.  Otherwise, it will not.

So that is a great success.  I reckon I could get away with 50 stitches if I was prepared to struggle a bit more in the first round or two.  That’s a mitten size.  Result.

What is not going to go away is the fact that this is a very short needle and so it tends to slightly cramp your hands.  I knit with my hands underneath the work; with hands on top, as I can also manage, this is not such an issue, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is a tight space.  My hands are quite small.  If I had long elegant fingers (sigh), I think it might be a problem.  However, it was manageable for me and I soon grew used to it.

I have ordered two more needles in this length but different gauges.

Overall, these are very good value and they have all the usual Addi advantages – good quality, easy transition from needle to cable, reasonable tips, no memory in the cable, etc.  I am really pleased as I love the idea of knitting really small projects, that are also Fairisle, in the round on something with no transitions at all, which all the other method inevitability have.  So if you like the idea too, try one, but be aware that having such a little needle does feel odd and your hands might ache a bit at first.

Note:  these used to be made with bent tips, but they are now all straight – mine are.  Mine are in a package that says Addi Premium, but on the Addi UK website, they term them ‘Addi Short Circulars, ideal for the sock knitter’.  They come in 20 or 30 cm lengths – I think the 20 cm length would be nigh-on impossible even for the 2 short circ method as you  still have to use both ends of the same needle.

Do you know of any other FIXED cable short tipped needles?  If so please let me know and also what you think of them.  Ideally I would like a tip that is only 6 cm long.  I do not like interchangeable needles after a major trauma with one involving a 250+ stitch silk yarn lace pattern…

No Lizards Were Involved in the Preparation of Your Meal (a post about annoying signs)

Friday, August 14th, 2015

You that know I am a grouch, don’t you?  Good.  Then it won’t come as a surprise to know that annoying signs give me rage.  Have you ever actually corrected a public sign, menu or other notice by re-writing it?  No? Frankly I don’t believe you, but in that case I will not confide in you either.

I am going to overlook signs with common grammatical errors because this post would be too long.  For similar reasons, I am not going to explore your versus you’re (and all other examples of the misplaced or omitted abbreviation apostrophe), too versus to and so on.

In order to retain the tenuous grip I still have on my own reason, I am also going to overlook the infestation of misplaced possessive apostrophes.

For personal reasons, I am not including signs that might indicate a characteristic or view point of the occupant of a car.  ‘Powered by Fairy Dust’, for example.  This is because I suspect that I may well one day have a car that really is powered by fairy dust.  Or unicorn breath.

Signs that can cause irritation include:

‘Baby on Board’ stickers in cars.  This is a wider category, really and includes ‘Show Dogs in Transit’ along with other warnings.  At least, I assume they are warnings.  What else could their purpose be?  Boastfulness I suppose, but I take them mean:  ‘Do not crash into my car.  I have a baby in the car. Or a dog.  And this is not just any old dog.  It’s a Show Dog.  Please crash into another car.’  As if, in the absence of the sticker, I would willfully ram them.  Perhaps the existence of these stickers is the only thing that has deterred me from this activity.  I think it would be much more helpful if cars had stickers with insightful warnings about the driver, such as: ‘I have no anger management boundaries, and if you accidentally touch my car, I may stab you rather than resolve the matter via our insurance companies as is conventional.’

‘Good Food’.  Really?  In that case I will take my custom elsewhere.  Because I was looking for mediocre or even unpleasant food.  And anyway, why be so dolefully underwhelming about the food?  Is ‘good’ really the highest praise you can give your own menu?  If I had to write a notice about my pub food, I really do not think I would confine myself to ‘good’.  I would at least venture into the realms of divine, ambrosial, celestial – which may be why I get so few advertising copy-writing gigs.

Hand-cut (insert word such as chips, or sandwiches).  This category of annoyance extends to the sub-genre of hand-shaped.  A burger shaped like a hand.  Nice.  This is supposed to be reassuring I think. No lizards were involved in the preparation of your hand-shaped burger.  Your chips were cut by hand, and not by mouth.  There is a further level to be explored:  hand-finished.  Asda, for example, has a range of Extra Special cakes which are all described as hand-finished.  When you contemplate the many alternatives, this is probably a relief.

Now we will wander briefly into the food description isle of my Annoying Signs library.  I have seen menus where a sauce, served with – perhaps actually upon – another item, such as a steak, is described as ‘enveloping’ or even ‘en-robing’ the steak.  On Rupert’s sweet life, I promise you, this is true.  I almost choked on my hand-pressed juice. Though I was reassured about the juice, as my greatest juice-related fear until then involved concerns about it having been pressed by foot.

More or less any signs that begin:  ‘Polite Notice…’ and then go on (and on) to deliver a passive-aggressive rant about bikes being propped against the shop window sill, people sitting on the wall and so on.  These signs almost always seem to relate to windows and walls.  Odd.  I quite fancy making some notices of my own and festooning my gates with them, but none of them would begin with ‘Polite Notice’ because if I ever catch the phantom dog poo culprit who uses our gateway as a doggy lav (the human owner I mean, not the dog who is innocent of course and who needs to come and live with me), I will be very far from polite.

Jo’s Fairisle

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Look what Jo knitted!

Jo's Fairisle 2 (3)

Her first ever Fairisle, it’s my neck cowl, knitted in the round, in colour-washed Kidsilk Haze plus beads.  I love it.


Rupert’s Dog-Buggy

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

Rupert has been a wonky dog for years, with his IVDD (dog back disease).  He has pulled through three major operations, and even recovered from back leg paralysis.  This makes him tire easily, so walking fast, or far, is not possible.  When we walk, I carry him a lot of the time, which is even slower.

Now he also has heart failure.  He has had heart disease for a couple of years – a heart murmur, which then progressed to a gradual worsening of the condition.  Two weeks ago he had an ECG and this indicates that he is now in the early stages of heart failure.  I had not appreciated that there is a difference between heart disease and heart failure.  All is not lost.  The vet prescribed a tablet every day, and six days in he is definitely livelier, less sleepy.

For ages I have been pondering getting him a dog buggy or pram.  I didn’t do it because I felt the longer we could manage, the better it would be for him, but in practice this meant we hardly ever took him out for proper walks, because I just can’t carry him for more than about half a mile, and he can’t walk happily for more than about fifteen minutes.  The heart failure diagnosis spurred me on.  Last week his new chariot arrived:

He loves it.  I got one that is big enough for two dachshunds, so Arthur, who has no need of it, can share if he has walked say three miles and needs a break.  I reckon a three mile walk for a dachshund is about ten for a human, despite the fact that they have four wheel drive.

Arthur does not love it, but treats and soft cushions are helping his buggy-phobia.  To be fair, Arthur has anxiety about Everything, so I knew he’d be reluctant.  We are getting there.  But I also have some issues to resolve. Note the mesmeric impact on Arthur (right) of a treat being held above his head.

So the main issues regarding the buggy fall into two camps:  logistical; and emotional.

Logistically, it is a bit of a tank. You can buy dog push chairs for as little as about thirty quid, but they seem a bit flimsy.  You can buy them for hundreds of pounds but that seems silly.  Also, not an option financially, so I have one that is sturdy, large enough for two medium sized dogs, and has air-wheels.  I am struggling with the weight of it when lifting it into and out of the boot of the car.

The second issue is about walking dogs on leads, whilst pushing the buggy.  I have to hold the leads in one hand, and also steer this tank which does not have a rotating front wheel.  Two such outings have seen small improvements in my handling technique.  The dogs are getting better at trotting along beside the buggy too.  After a bit, Roo gets a lift and then it’s just Arthur walking alongside.  I must admit to just putting him in with Rupert far sooner than he needs it, just because it’s easier.

The emotional issues are less easy to define.  I know he has a very diseased spine, and a heart condition, but The World doesn’t know this.  I may well be projecting thoughts here, but I worry that The World kind of judges me as – well, mad.  Then my assertive side says:  stuff The World.  And I am fine for a bit.

Last week I took the dogs plus the buggy, plus a picnic, to Weston-s-Mare.  They have a lovely wide paved sea-front prom there now which is miles long, flat and ideal for dogs in prams.  And other uses I suppose.  It was certainly busy, despite being a typical British summer day.  I parked, and began the long, awkward process of unloading and erecting the buggy.  While I was doing this, then loading the picnic into the tray underneath the carriage, another car parked beside me, and they too unloaded and popped up (in record time) a push chair.  We smiled.  We exchanged:  goodness me, isn’t this a miserable summer? murmurs.  We loaded our cargo into our respective ‘prams’.  The couple with their baby – for yes, they had a baby, not a dog – stopped mid-loading and just stared, open-mouthed, as I popped first one, then two dachshunds into my buggy.  I had to cross a busy road to get to the prom so I wanted them both in the blasted buggy before we set off.

I was brought up to believe that it is rude to stare.  It doesn’t actually stop me, as I am extremely nosy, but I do hope I would not have my jaw a-gape, or point.  Which they did.  We set off with as much dignity as I could summon, which wasn’t much as I tried to get going with the brakes on.  We tried again and I fled, burning with embarrassment, over the road.

On the prom, Arthur walked, and Rupert rode.  Here, I noted that for every dog buggy I saw – which was one, if you count mine – I saw eleventy nine human mobility aids.  Prams, push chairs, wheel chairs and motorised mobility scooters.  Then there were skates, skate boards, bikes and trikes.  I reckon that for every two walkers, there was one person (or two dogs) who were not walking.  This was better.  People smiled.  They pointed – but in friendly ways.  Yes, some people laughed a bit – but it felt OK.  Several people delayed us on our walk by wanting to talk to the dogs.

At the far end, past the old ruined pier, we stopped for the picnic.  Once the boys had had their treats, they sat fixedly staring at me, while I had mine.  With the cover up, and viewed from the back, you can’t see that the buggy contains dogs.  It looks like a rather posh jogging push chair.

A young spaniel bounced over, a sandy tennis ball in his mouth.  He was eager to investigate my picnic, but he didn’t actually steal it, or do anything really wrong.  However, he was not on a lead, so he was able to get very close to us, very fast.  This prompted an instant response from both my boys, who were, thankfully, clipped by their harnesses to the interior of the buggy.  Nonetheless, they unleashed a volley of verbal abuse whilst lunging as far as their short leashes would allow, at the spaniel.  He, and his owner, were startled by this.  That is to say, the spaniel reared back on his hind legs and pelted off, whilst his man jumped and then failed to retrieve his dog, as he was laughing so much.  The buggy was rocking as Roo and Arthur whipped one another into a frenzy of spaniel-hate.  To on-lookers, it must have looked like a giant toddler, whom they could not see, was yapping and snarling like at least two dogs, whilst also trying to up-end his pram.  But in a testament to its weight and stability, it did not tip over.  My picnic was partially lost to the playful summer breeze as I had to let it go in order to restore order in the buggy.

Oh well, that spaniel got more than he bargained for and may well now have a life-long pram phobia, poor thing. How Rupert laughed.  He was a proud dachshund on the way back.  He owned that prom and was the boss of All The Dogs.


‘Elements’ Cover Shot

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Here is the final cover shot for my new book, ‘Elements’ jointly authored with Donna Jones. The book is officially available from 1 October 2015.

The cover features a design by each of us.  I hope you like it.

Final Cover

Retailers can buy stock of the book via their Rowan representative or their Rowan account.  It will be with Rowan in September.  If you are a retailer and would like to discuss any promotional activity or teaching opportunities with Smith & Jones, please get in touch.

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