Yes, I've been away! Actually I have been home but been going through a lot of changes recently. So I suppose I'll take you through what these changes are!
I quit my job about a month and a half ago. Technically I was made redundant, but because the company didn't want "redundancies" included on its end-of-the-year pie chart, it put me elsewhere in the company doing something I hated instead - selling insurance. *cough*. I know a lot more about breakdown cover and accidental damage, but I don't think that's going to help me in the long run ... unless I want to submit a fraudulent insurance claim. So I quit, relaxed for three weeks (looking at jobs here and there), bought myself a knitting machine (yes please!) and even played my other half's XBox. I recommend the game Fable II. I beat it and it was pretty cool in my opinion.
After three weeks, I walked into a temp agency and asked for some sort of Admin job. I can't commit long-term to anything because my other half and I are applying for him to gain Permanent Residence in Canada. We don't know when we'll be approved but we haven't even sent off the 98-page-plus-your-supporting-evidence application yet. I got a call back the same day to start at the Ministry of Justice. I'm pretty happy with where I am now. It's a month-long contract and then we'll see where I go next!
Anyway, about the knitting machine: my landlady left me a note one day saying that the local charity shop had a knitting machine for 20 quid. "It's probably old and broken," I thought, but I decided to have a look. I'm glad I did because it looked in good condition. The workers told me that if no one decided to buy it by Sunday (it was Saturday), they were going to throw it out from lack of interest. Surprising, I thought, because while I was checking it out, several older ladies came in saying things like, "That brings back memories," and others showed great interest while I was fiddling about with it. Maybe they just needed to see someone show a little enthusiasm around it, I don't know. The accessories it came with alone were worth over 50 quid. It's a Knitmaster 321 and it came with loads of 60's manuals and charts. My personal favourite picture is the mature yet super hip momma whose demonstrating the ease of machine knitting while a young, naive, and frustrated young girl faces the other way while she hand-knits in shame. Good marketing technique.
I brought it home and tried for ages and couldn't even start my first row. The needles were popping out all over the place and I thought, "Great, now I've got a 20 quid broken knitting machine." I decided to do a little research and found a very helpful Youtuber who has the same machine (and more). She told me I should check the Sponge Retaining Bar (for which she conveniently had a video). Gods and Goddesses bless this woman for this was the problem after all. I quickly ordered one from eBay and off I went!
My first swatch was just a gray piece of knitted acrylic. Then I quickly moved on to my first scarf. I was looking forward to the World Cup (my first in the UK) so I knitted a traditional red-and-white striped scarf. It hung on the window yesterday as my other half showed his support during the England v. USA game last night.
The Knitmaster 321 is a Punch Card knitting machine. What is that, exactly? I wasn't sure. It came with a sleeve filled with cards. The cards had holes punched out in the shape of patterns, and the machine had a slot to put them through. Eventually, I figured out that the punch card automatically dropped row after row as the user slides the carriage back and forth. It somehow makes the needles do a little dance until they match the pattern on the card - brilliant! My first punch card swatch was a Tuck Stitch pattern which turned out pretty well. I did find it quite difficult to do though so I decided after this I'd try something else.
After starting my new job, my knitting has gone on hiatus as I get used to the new schedule and get back into a routine. Eddy (that's my other half) finished this year at University and that means I'm not the sole income-earner any more which takes a bit of the pressure off. We haven't done anything "fun" in a while; no holidays, significant outings, etc. Then I thought, "Hey wait, Canada Day is coming up. I think the embassy does something for it in London." After looking it up on the Canada Day London website and reading all about the free festival, we booked our train tickets. You have no idea how excited it makes me when I think about a big ol' Bison burger and Steak Sandwich BBQ with live Canadian music, Sleeman's Honey Brown lager (how I miss thee!), and Tim Horton's DOUBLE DOUBLES and Iced Cappuccinos. Ahhh, heaven. The angels are smiling upon me now... But what to wear?!
Hopefully it'll be a sunny day in London, but as the event goes well into the night, we'll need something warm and of course festive. That's where the knitting machine comes in. Eddy and I roughly drew up a sketch of something a little more chic than the average maple leaf scarf.
As you can see, I'm hopeless at drawing the Maple Leaf. I don't know a single Canadian who can (try it if you don't believe me!). So instead I found the Canadian Flag on Google Images and printed out the image. After cutting out the Maple Leaf, I traced it onto some custom graph paper using Knit on the Net's fabulous Design Chart generator. I then pencilled a little "X" on all the squares at the edges of the design until I had something leaf-like.
With that, I made a start. It's not finished yet, but I'm taking photos as I go and will keep you posted. For now, I'm going to enjoy a cuppa and get on this Immigration application.