Sunday, 31 January 2010

Knitwits Yarns

Any of you who have been reading this for a while will know that I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love hearing from customers, I really love receiving your orders and I love the instant communications we can now have all round the world. I really, really, really hate it when your computer suddenly, with no prior warning stops doing all the things it has been and refuses to play ball. Why does that happen? Is there a little gremlin in there who suddenly thinks "ha - they've been having it too cushy for a while, let's mix things up a bit" - and the gremlin does and the computer stops.

Well, that's what happened to me on Thursday afternoon. Sitting in the shop, updating stock and writing a blog entry, went to publish the post and "bingo" nothing happened. Couldn't publish the post, couldn't access emails, couldn't go on the web. Absolutely dead as a dodo. So I turned the blasted thing off and went home and prayed it would sort itself out on Friday morning. It didn't. I work from home on Fridays (the dreaded paperwork) so Tracey was in. Nothing from the computer - nien, nada, nothing.

Went in yesterday - long conversation with a very nice and helpful man in Calcutta who clearly recognised a technological dimwit when he heard one as he started by saying "click the start key - that's the one at the bottom left hand corner of the screen" - I knew immediately I had a good man on the end of the phone. He then went through some whizzy system which enabled him to control my computer from Calcutta (it's nice and warm in Calcutta at the moment, by the way) - which was very weird - watching my mouse moving remotely around the screen entering numbers and clicking on things - very weird indeed. Anyhoo - miracle of miracles - he fixed it! If he wasn't so damned far away I'd have given him a kiss.

So ladies and gentlemen - I give you the much delayed blog entry for Thursday:

So - I finished the Colinette Tagliatelle jumper, which I love and will wear to a dinner party on Sunday night and will take photos for you to see. So - there's always the question of what to knit next, isn't there?

I've been eyeing up this:

which is, basically, a rectangle but is (according to Tracey) very "me". I also like this:

and, indeed, this:

But then - in the spirit of the new houseproud, tidying, finishing jobs me - I remembered The Cornish Gansey (TCG). TCG was one of those impromptu, bargain Car Boot buys - £5.00 for 11 balls of pure wool 5ply in bright red. Needless to say the previous owner of the 11 balls had started one, knitted about a third of it and called the whole project off. I bought the wool, bought Mary Wright's definitive book on knitting Cornish Ganseys, bought the frighteningly miniscule needles and cracked on - and really did quite well:

As you can clearly see, I've knitted both the front and back, joined up the shoulder seams and knitted the neck and have started one sleeve. I do remember getting in a real pickle at the top of the first sleeve as it's knitted in the round and I had far too many stitches for my needles and the stitches kept dropping off the ends so I had corks on the ends and it all got horribly messy. But - as can be clearly seen here:

(take note of optional sleeve detail I added in myself) the stitches are on a circular needle (which I have no recollection of buying) so, what on earth stopped me from continuing? At the bottom of the bag lay the answer - the Estate Agent's details for this shop! Whilst battling with the top of the sleeve I was buying the shop and, therefore, knitting samples for the window (wool shops don't come ready stocked with knitted samples, you know) became the priority.

I also have a great memory of Mary Wright (author of the definitive book) - who should really be Lady Mary of the Cornish Gansey (in my humble opinion) - coming into the shop and I was talking to her about my stitch/needle problem and she said "well you don't have to have the stitches on 4 needles - put them on 8" - as Homer would say "Doh".

So, I re-started the Gansey last night and immediately remembered why I'd stopped knitting it (apart from the shop samples issue) - I have 111 stitches and the circular is a nightmare - the stitches are so tight that I can only knit about 15 and then the plastic bit of the circular pokes through between 2 stitches and I then have to shove it through the next few stitches and then knit them and shove it through again - and so it went on last night and I knitted about 8 rows, which on 2.25mm needles (old money 13 and US 13) is not very much of a sleeve.

So I'm now back at Lady Mary's 8 (or more) dpn theory - but where to find 2.25 dpn's? My supplier doesn't sell them and I own a wool shop for heaven's sake. In the shower this morning (anyone else get inspiration in the shower?) it dawned on me - Naomi's needles. Do you remember darling Naomi who designed these:

for Cornish Organic Wool? Well, when she died, her lovely family gave me all her needles. Naomi's bound to have 2.25's I thought - she was always knitting gorgeous lovely little things - and, lo, it was so and I now have 12 dpn's of the right size (4 of them bamboo). So tonight the 111 stitches will be transferred to about 8 needles or so and I'll see if progress is any quicker.

The only remaining problem to overcome then is the "line" that I always get when knitting on dpn's when you go from one needle to the next. The trick, I know, is to pull the yarn tighter but - good grief - these are pretty tiny, tight stitches anyway. Naomi's advice to me on this one is to slip the first stitch of every needle onto the needle you're knitting on and, that way, the "line" is always moving - I'll let you know! Maybe the stitches are so tight it'll be all right - let's see.

I rather suspect TCG is going to be the project for the entire summer, which is OK and will mean I can wear it next winter but I was also planning to design a hot water bottle cover (or two) in Cornish Organic ....................... so much knitting, so little time.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Knitwits Yarns

There is a story of an Italian lady who was a fanatical house cleaner - she cleaned every day and kept her house spic and span. Gradually, over time, she became less fanatical and the house got dirtier and she got lazier. Her husband was so concerned that he took her to a doctor, who did a load of tests and discovered that she had a non-malignant brain tumour. They removed the tumour and she started cleaning the house again.

FB thinks I may have this condition in reverse. I knitted not one, but two, dishcloths on Saturday night and then spent 6 hours on Sunday on my knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. The floor is now shining and I have very bruised knees, a sore back and aching fingers.

FB says he's not taking me to the doctor until I've done the whole house.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Dishcloth Knitting

Knitwits Yarns

Conversation between Tracey and myself earlier this week:

Tracey, "What are you knitting with that dishcloth cotton?"

Me, "A dishcloth"...........

The new, chilled, less stressed me has taken to spring cleaning the house with enthusiasm. This is delighting and worrying my family in equal measure. To be blunt, I'm not renowned for being the tidiest person in the world - not because I'm lazy but I just can't see the point in putting something away when I'm going to need it again tomorrow.

We do have a weekly cleaner but she's given up with the tidying and, frankly, I can't blame her. So last week I blitzed the boys' bathroom and this week it's the kitchen. Specifically, the kitchen floor. We have a very large kitchen (as seen in photos of kilos of wool drying in front of the Aga), with a wooden floor. We also have 2 boys who come and go in wellies en route to the chicken run and we have 3 cats. Tina (the cleaner) does her best but there are some pretty nasty ingrained unidentified, unidentifiable "things" stuck in the floor and I'm removing them tomorrow, along with the cobwebs down the side of the fridge etc, etc, etc.

So my brain was thinking - what I really need is a really good, really strong, textured cloth to clean the nasties off with. "Bing!!!" - knit a discloth out of dishcloth cotton - that'll do it and it'll fulfil the "knit more" New Year's Resolution. So - it's now Saturday late afternoon and I have 2" of dishcloth knitted. Lots of knitting tonight or no clean floor ............. no pressure.

And as for Tracey? Well - she's knitted a fantastic Debbie Bliss short cardi in 3 colours for the shop and she has about 6 hours of sewing in of ends to do tonight - think I prefer the dishcloth!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Knitwits Yarns

I've been fiddling on the site today as the shop has been pretty quiet and I've left Tracey in charge there. Nearly froze to death though as the back office has no heating and a thin carpet on top of a concrete floor - had to come out and defrost in the end!

Only one new addition, which is the latest Yarn Forward magazine:

I've now separated the knitting magazines into Yarn Forward (monthly) and Debbie Bliss (bi-annually) so that should make it a bit simpler for you.

I had one rep in yesterday with the summer yarns!! One tried to come and see me with summer stuff back in November but I, very politely(!), said "no". I really can't cope with summer yarns before Christmas - it's a bit like Christmas decorations in September and Easter eggs in January - anyone had a creme egg yet? - I've been good and haven't.

He had some nice looking yarns but no patterns yet so it's hard to tell what they'll be like. One very unusual one though which is made of paper. Yes, you did read that right - machine washable (gentle wash) paper - whatever next? I'm sure it'll sell well just from the novelty value - watch this space!

My bike is currently being put in the boot of the car as it's lashing with rain - paper sweater, anyone?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Online Fraud Part 3

Knitwits Yarns

My alleged online fraudster sent me a cheque this morning! This has now fully restored my faith in the knitting community and all knitters! I've also contacted the bank to explain the mistake - they said the same that I said last night - make sure all customers enter their card details correctly. As I can't physically sit next to all of you as you enter your card details, I can only plead that you take note.

2 new colours in King Cole Aero:

the eternally popular lime green; and

the even more eternally popular purple.
Also new patterns - this one is my favourite:

My bicyclette is restored with a new light so think of me tonight as I flog up the hill!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Online Fraud Part 2

Knitwits Yarns

The online fraud saga gets more and more bizarre. At the suggestion of my card machine company I paid a little visit to CID in Penzance this morning. They were very helpful but couldn't actually help as there was no suggestion that the card had been stolen or cloned - very odd. It was just simply that the cardholder hadn't authorised the payment. From their experience, their suggestion was that the cardholder might be a partner or friend who had then not been paid so had refused to authorise the transaction. I had three recommended courses of action:

1. contact my card machine company again and say that, as the card wasn't stolen or cloned and my customer had the goods, I shouldn't have the money taken from me;

2. contact the customer again; and

3. go to the small claims court to get the money back.

So - I started with 1 - which was a non-starter. As the cardholder hadn't authorised the transaction, I wasn't getting anything.

So I phoned the customer - who was in shock - having just read my (slightly cross) email of yesterday. She couldn't understand what had happened. She hadn't wanted to de-fraud me and she is sending me a cheque for the wool. So - what had happened? Well, we went through her card details and - would you believe it - she had transposed the last 4 digits of the 16 digit number. However, all the other security information you have to give (start date, expiry date, last 3 digits on the back of signature strip) were identical. So - in essence - apart from the last 3 digits of her number (and they are very similar) the other cardholders card is identical to hers. She is now contacting her bank for a new card!!

So - the moral of all this is:

1. My faith in the knitting community has been restored!

2. Make sure you double check your card details when you buy online!

In other - happier - news. I've inputted a new yarn on the site today! It's called Misty and it's from the ever-popular King Cole. There are just 4 colours and 4 patterns (but you get 2 designs on each pattern so that's really 8 patterns) to start with and it feels lovely. It's a sort of astrakhan-style and the colours change subtly as you knit. Sample patterns:

There are also four new patterns in Waves. I really like this one:

Waves is a slubby yarn so you get lots of texture too - and it's really, really soft.

Very excitingly, I got onto my trusty bicyclette yesterday and cycled into work. Apart from the track being a tad muddy, it was lovely and even the hill home wasn't too bad. One small disaster though - one of my front lights (I have 2 for when I run out of street lights) fell off going round the only roundabout I have to navigate. I pulled over (safely) and waited for a gap in the traffic. Two cars avoided it beautifully, the third went straight over the top. And it was my really expensive rechargeable one, as well. I replaced it today at Poundland. Tonight I'm leaving bicyclette in the shop as the weather has come in again and it's pouring and freezing - do you think the weather gods could give us a break?!

Mind you - bad weather + dark evenings = good knitting time.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Online Fraud

Knitwits Yarns

When I came into the shop on Saturday I found a letter from HSBC Card Services with details of an online transaction that had taken place back in December and which, apparently, hadn't had the consent of the cardholder.

To be honest, I didn't think much of it. I quickly found the order details and phoned the customer. She said she'd had no contact from her bank so I phoned my bank and they said that department wasn't open on Saturdays!

Phoned back today and it transpires the transaction was, indeed, fraudulent. The cardholder's name and my customer's name are in no way alike, or even similar. The money will be credited back to the genuine cardholder and I am £45 down.

I've got so many emotions running through me, I don't know where to start. Do knitters really do this? If so, it's not the knitting community I know and love. Is it a huge mistake and she's going to phone me up all apologetic and confused? Somehow I doubt it. Can I trust other orders in the future? I sincerely hope so and trust it was a "one off".

I have had items stolen from the shop before and it's just as devastating and leaves the same foul taste in the mouth. I won't get my money back and she's sitting there knitting (and probably laughing) with her rather beautiful wool.

.................... and it started off as quite a nice day.

PS: Dawn from Portugal, if you're reading this, I've tried replying to your email but all my replies come back - not sure why but the system doesn't like your email address! Place your order, enter your card details and address and the system will then calculate your postage. Only, once it's worked it out do you "Submit" the order. Hope this helps!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Knitwits Yarns

Continuing on the Resolutions thread from the last entry, FB reminded me that we have a 4th resolution, which is to see more mates and go out more. This one has, actually, been almost as successful as the others so far as we've certainly seen more friends since Jan 1st than we probably did in the previous six months. However, I've realised that it leads to a quandary: we've been invited out to dinner on Saturday night - fantastic - moment's wobble when we considered that G is out beating all day on Saturday and has GCSE modules on Monday and T has a v important rugby match on Sunday. OK - so - leave the boys at home with supper and promises of an early night and out we go - sorted.

But - then - what to wear? Do I push to wear the Colinette on the needles - thereby completing the "knit more" resolution but potentially jeapordising the "less stress" resolution?

Discussed the matter with Tracey in the shop and she agreed that, whilst aiming for more knitting is a good and justifiable goal (we checked out patterns for my next project today), getting stressed in order to wear it on Saturday was silly and - anyway - under the 4th Resolution, there should be plenty of other opportunities to wear the Colinette.

It's a quandary, though.

Tomorrow I have the first full paperwork day of 2010 - this might test the "stress" resolution - think of me.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Not Snow

Knitwits Yarns

The snow has gone! Almost as quickly as it came, it went. We have one large snowball left and an awful lot of slush and the very sad remnants of the fab igloo and we also have a lot of happy memories and a lot of GCSE revision to do, which wasn't getting done at the same time as snowboarding.

It's now pouring and blowing a hoolly (Cornish expression - not sure of the spelling) - whooly, whoolly, hooly - who knows? In any event, it's about a force 9 and it's making things very cold and yucky. So the shop is very quiet and I'm catching up.

Over the past few days I've been quietly adding on a few more patterns which FB formatted for me a lifetime ago. All for babies and children they include such lovelies as:


and, for boys

Check them out in the babies and children's sections. Generally, they go from birth to about 7 years so there's enough to keep most people happy although, as ever, there are far more for girls than boys.

After the unbearably stressful last few months I've had, it's really nice to be back in the shop and updating things and blogging and talking to customers and just doing what I should be. I took time out and went to the chiropractor this morning (she crunched my neck in an alarming manner but my headache was instantly cured - marvellous!) and may even push the boat out and book a hair appointment (missed the one in December).

My New Year's resolutions for 2010 are to take Sundays off (yes, I know - shouldn't really have to make that a resolution), get less stressed and knit more. So far (12 days in) am succeeding on all 3 - yay!!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Sunday (written on Monday)

Knitwits Yarns

My Sunday morning went like this:

FB and T up relatively early for T's rugby training. Both went downstairs for healthy, warming breakfast of porridge. (Me knitting sleeves of jumper in bed)

FB yelling: "T, there's a dead rat on the kitchen floor".

General argument ensued as to who was going to remove said dead rat, which could be heard throughout the whole house.

I carried on knitting.

Please tell me that your Sunday mornings also start this way and it's not just me.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snow Part II

Knitwits Yarns

OK, so I may be slightly over-egging the pudding here but snow in Penzance is so unusual that I've got 2 consecutive blogs about it. Yes, I know this blog is supposed to be about knitting so I'll do a little bit about that but the main news is the snow!

The igloo was completed late on Wednesday night - in the dark - lit only by head torches (I told you they were stubborn). Personally, I think every home should have one and, evidently, it is really warm inside - these Eskimos really know their stuff. Ladies and gentlemen - I give you - the Hopson family igloo (T inside):

Here is a picture of T inside which slightly reveals a little engineering help they had with some chicken wire - OK, so they're not Eskimos but I think you have to agree it's a pretty fine effort:

The last two days have been spent snowboarding (if any teachers are reading this, snowboarding is the cool word for revising, OK). Now, we don't actually possess a snow board but, hey, if you can make an igloo, you can make a snow board. Take one skateboard, remove its wheels and attachments and, bingo, one snowboard:

Evidently, body boards (usually seen in the water) are pretty good too and go damn fast:

The trick is to break before you get to the bottom and career into the Cornish hedge (or - worse) barbed wire!

T tried sledging on his skateboard conversion too:

And then they built a ramp and one of our lovely neighbours who is a fab artist (Chris Hankey - check out his website - here) showed off a bit!

OK, I hear you cry - so you're snowboarding and sledging in Cornwall so I guess there was a pretty fab view as well was there? Well, thank you for asking. There was a pretty splendid view, yes:-

Snowboarding, sledging and THAT view!

I guess I'd better talk about knitting for a bit - knitting - well, yes, I'm knitting another garter stitch scarf for when life gets a little stressed and I need some mind numbing garter stitch - pretty yarn with sparkle in it - not on the site yet but, watch this space. And then I'm also knitting (yes, broke all the rules - 2 projects on the go at the same time) a sweater in Colinette Tagliatelle which I found in the back of the shop (for "back of shop" you can randomly insert "Julia's stash".) We've got some odd bits of Colinette left over and there was enough to knit a sweater (said 4 skeins but I'm pretty damn sure I'm going to need 5) and I'm pleased with it despite having to rip half of the front out as I messed up the pattern, so it must be good. Front and back finished now - will start sleeves tonight (I always knit 2 at the same time) and might do some knitting in bed tomorrow. T has rugby training at 11.00 so I can slob and knit - yay!

Having said that - not sure how we're going to get home tonight - we slid gently down our half mile drive/private glacier and going back up might be a struggle. Got stuck yesterday and had to call out reinforcements (G&T) to push the car up the last bit. It's frozen even more since then so I can see the car being abandoned in a field - and we're due more snow tonight.

So - in the meantime - admire THAT view!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Knitwits Yarns

Today it snowed in West Cornwall! I realise, obviously, that most of the rest of the country has been blanketed in the white stuff for several days, if not weeks, now. However, here in the far West it's a relatively unusual event so everything grinds to a halt. The boys are delighted - one day back at school, one day at home - hey, this must be good! They did promise this morning that they would a) remove the Christmas tree and decorations and b) do some work but no sign of either so far. What we have had though is:

a very large snow ball being pushed by G;

a snow wall across the lane so no-one could get out and, specifically, no-one could get taken to school. (Snow wall didn't go down so well with some of the neighbours, by the way.)

Igloo construction. I like to think that, in some small way, this constitutes some form of education for the day. It's not as easy as it looks, apparently.

Evidently the plan was for T (on right) to remain inside the igloo and then bash a hole through to crawl out. Not sure if this is how the eskimos do it but, this is a Cornish igloo. The problem is that the roof keeps caving in - they're still at it now - stubborn (like their mother!). T did want to sleep in it but FB pointed out that if it melted it would all land on him and kill him so he's abandoned that idea and will sleep in his bed.

We also had glorious views - if you look carefully you can see St Michael's Mount in the background.

Oh happy day!


Knitwits Yarns

We sell a lot of Katia yarns both in the shop and on-line and they are beautiful yarns with some gorgeous patterns and they are a really nice company to deal with. I had always been told by our English rep (Katia is a Spanish company) that we could photocopy the patterns from their books and sell them individually. This is what we've been doing for some time and is possibly one of the reasons we sell so much of their yarn!

However, yesterday I was contacted by Katia and told that what I was doing contravened their copyright and could I stop, please. This I have now done and all Katia patterns are now sold in book form at the correct book price.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to Katia for any misunderstanding and to customers who have been misled. Had I not been assured that it was OK, obviously I wouldn't have done it.

We will, obviously, continue to sell Katia yarns (they are too gorgeous not to) and hope that customers understand that you now have to buy the book of patterns - as with many other companies.

Apologies all round.

In happier news - we have 6" of snow this morning, school is cancelled - very happy boys, very confused chickens.

Will post photos later.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Knitwits Yarns

Got up disgustingly late.

Knitted in bed (as promised) 'til run out of yarn. Wound off another skein (got in a bit of a mess with that). Knitted some more.

Watched trash on TV. Ate large dinner. Watched more trash on TV. Knitted some more (pretty sparkly yarn - yum).

Total and utter bliss!!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Knitwits Yarns

Happy New Year to all our customers and knitters! I hope you had a happy and healthy festive season and, if you're anything like me, you're now into a healthy eating, chocolate-free, alcohol-free phase (except the birthday party I'm going to tonight, which doesn't count).

Some time ago (25th November to be precise) I mentioned that I'd been very busy with "something else" which was taking up all of my time. I guess you all assumed the "something else" was knitting related - sadly it wasn't. One of my other hats (other than Knit Wits, Cornish Organic Wool, wife to FB, mother to G&T) is Chair of Governors at our boys' school (The Bolitho School in Penzance). I can now hear you crying - "good grief, woman - haven't you enough on your plate? What on earth made you take that on". Well, you'd be right - I have a lot on my plate but you know the saying - when you want something done, ask a busy person!

I've been a Governor at the school for the past 6 years and it was clear this summer that there were some worries and I was put in as Chair to sort them out - "oh, great Julia - good one (I hear you cry) - not just Chair but Chair to sort things out - clever" - yes, I know, I know - believe me, I know!!

Well, the culmination of all the "sorting out" was that we've spent the last 2 months trying to sell the school and, on December 23rd (what wonderful timing) it was clear that we weren't going to manage it in time so I had the absolutely horrendous job of putting the School into Administration. It was one of the saddest moments of my life. The School is the largest private employer in Penzance (165 on the payroll) and educates over 300 children brilliantly.

However, the good news is that we battled on (took Christmas Day off - yippee!), worked hard, put in ridiculous hours, had fantastic solicitors and Administrators and exchanged conracts on the sale of the school at 10.30pm on New Year's Eve!

It's been the most agonising roller-coaster I've ever been on and, as someone else said, if Disney named a roller-coaster Bolitho no-one would get on it as it would be far too frightening!

I'm now exhausted but happy and am looking forward to life getting back to some kind of normality and being able to input new yarns and patterns when they come in, rather than 3 months later. Marie and Tracy have manned the fort womanfully and Tracey has pretty much managed single handedly since Christmas so huge thanks to her (and Rosie, her daughter) for their massive support.

I'm going to take the day off tomorrow and knit in bed - I can strongly recommend you do the same!