Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pointy Sticks

As I read a lot of knitting blogs, and as I actually do a lot of knitting, it seems to be time I posted occasionally about what I make. And before you start sounding like my husband, knitting is cool and loads of people my age do it now. So there.

I just pray he never looks under the spare bed and realises just how much stash I own. Moving house will be a major logistical exercise in smuggling.

Anyhoo, this year has been quite productive. I'm rubbish at remembering to take pictures of what I make, but here's a quick run-down of my main FOs.

The Wedding Shawl
First of all was a white feather and fan shawl in a lovely warm merino/alpaca blend called Ethical Twist, which saved me from certain death by pneumonia on our wedding day.

Aran Jumper
Then I made one of these for my husband, and it does actually look like the picture. He's even been known to wear it in public.

Baby Poonan
Then I made a Baby Poonan for my friends' newborn, although like all the newborn garments I've ever knitted, at the age of 5 months he has only just grown into it. Still, it turned out nicely and the sleeves were even, despite what it looks like in the photo.

Then there were various mitts, hats and scarves for Christmas presents, including an Autumn-coloured Katya Big Snow 2-hour quickest-present-ever.

Norman's Scarf
One scarf for my uncle deserves its very own section because I designed it my very own self. The pattern will make it onto Ravelry one day, but it needs translating into language that other people can understand. It might be worth mentioning that my uncle is Scottish, hence the serious cabling going on. The yarn was Ethical Twist again, but a darker colour.

Baby Yoda
Then there were two cotton Baby Yodas for my husband's cousin's twins. Admittedly, they've not quite made it into the mail yet, and the babies were born several months ago, but hey ho. I may try them on for size with a friend's baby and check that it's still reasonable to send them. I think I might get away with it!

Mystery Bag
Then the Sit 'n' Stitch group I go to at my LYS did a Mystery Bag challenge, where we each put some of our stash into a paper bag and swapped them anonymously. It was supposed to be for Christmas, but that didn't quite happen, so we ended up having a swap-back party in March instead. The bag I got contained things in deep reds and pinks, which was good... except that it was mohair (*shudder*), sari ribbon (wtf?!), acrylic, and a LOT of buttons. After three months of alternately ignoring it and cursing the (unknown) evil person who had inflicted this on me, I eventually came up with a mohair scarf, a shoulder bag made from sari ribbon with an acrylic strap that had a length of the ribbon sewn along it, and a little coin purse. Luckily, they all went down well. I did learn, however, just how much I detest mohair.

Greenfield CardiganIn April I decided I needed something smart for work, so I finally got round to making the Greenfield Cardigan from New England Knits. It was really fast - only about six weeks - and the first garment I'd done in one piece. I'm completely sold on the one-piece idea, and the yarn is beautiful (Tosca Light in reds and pinks). I'll get a photo at some point. I don't often buy knitting books (Ravelry is my friend!), but this one had so many patterns I'd like to knit, it seemed worth it. I now have the dilemma of which one to do next.

Mothers' Day
I was a bit stuck for what to get my mum for Mothers' Day in April, so I took all my nicest yarns over to her and she picked out her favourite and a lacy scarf pattern from Ravelry. She went with some beautiful Old Piggery sock yarn in merino and tencel. The colourway is 'Mist' - it's much softer than in the picture, lovely silvery greens and blues. The pattern was Susanna IC's Wings of Desire scarf, and it only took about 2 weeks. It looks complicated, but the lace pattern was very easy to memorise. It has blocked out perfectly, and I'll be giving it to my mum this evening.

Azteca Sweater
Finally, I bought a sweater's worth of Azteca last year and knitted it into an almost-complete garment, before deciding I really didn't like it and frogging the lot. I found a couple of different patterns, but none of them really called to me, so I've settled on a really simple standard sweater, just to use the stuff up and get a nice warm wooly jumper to get me through all the camping trips I have planned for this summer. I don't think it's going to blow me away, and I really don't like the way the colours work in this yarn, but it will do the job. So far, it's turning out to be my quickest knit ever; I cast on last Sunday evening, finished the front on Tuesday evening, the back on Thursday, the first sleeve yesterday and the second sleeve should be finished tonight. The front and back are blocking at the moment, ready for me to start joining together and doing the neck tomorrow evening while the sleeves block, and then I should finish the whole thing on Tuesday evening. I'm having a bit of a race with myself to see how fast I can do it, and guess what? I'm winning! My prize will be casting on a lacy scarf in some droolingly-gorgeous hand-dyed sock yarn, but that can wait to be posted.

So there you go - that's what you get for playing with pointy sticks. Not bad, eh?

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Doing some sums...

This week being half term, I had a bit of time on my hands and sat down and did some sums. Now, Maths is not my strongest subject, but given a pen, paper and soundproofed room, I get there eventually. The sums in question related to my income, such as it is, and it turns out that my calculations last year when I started this job were a little out…actually, WAY out. On paper, my salary is great, or at least far better than most support staff get. But then you reduce it because the job is only 3 days a week (no choice about that)… and reduce it again for pro rata (i.e. I only get paid for term-times, which reduces the whole thing by about 25%, although they split the salary into 12 equal monthly payments)… and then take off tax… and then factor in the travel costs (petrol and car maintenance) for nearly 70 miles a day, three days a week, 39 weeks of the year, at 40p per mile. And that’s when I winced. So I looked at how much I earned in the last year with my extra work (and the last 12 months have been quite good). And, frankly, it doesn’t make much difference. What it boils down to is that when T moves to secondary school in September, I’m not sure I can afford to go with him.

That is a hugely difficult decision to be facing. On the one hand, I absolutely love my job, and I’m getting to develop some great resources which I might be able to market in the future (though that’s never going to make me rich!). On the other hand, I get no training, very little support, and I have student debts that really need to paid off and a household to contribute to. After 3 years working in deaf education, I have no better BSL skills (on paper) than what I came in with, and the Cued Speech training was largely done in my own time, at very little cost to the people I was working for. I’m not very much more employable than I was when I started. And backing out from this job would almost certainly mean leaving the sector all together, because there just aren’t the children out there with enough funding for reasonable salaries. My only hope is to have a chat with the Big Boss and pray that he can find me two extra days of work closer to home. Fingers crossed.

I feel really angry about this. We have a child who has been failed by the system, who is finally getting the support he needs (most of the time), but only as long as highly-skilled people are willing to do the job for a wage that you can't live on. I am very good at what I do, and I could be better, but they simply will not invest in the sort of support or training which would keep me in the job and stop me from burning out. Since they send staff from elsewhere to observe me (which is hugely disruptive to the entire class) and learn what to do with their kids, surely they can see that a bit of investment into me might be a good idea?!

But no, wait, this is the education system. Since when did intelligence come into it? Silly me.