Sunday, December 31, 2006

memories of the (faux) millennium

Happy New Year (yes, I'm about 5 hours early, but I plan to sleep the New year in, as I'll be at work tomorrow!)

Graham and I saw 2000 in at my shoe-box of a flat in Bar Hill (just outside Cambridge. New Year's Eve isn't the easiest of times for Graham, as Nola (Laura's mother) died on 1 January (about 14 years ago, now). Also, being the pedants that we are, we insist that the 21st-century started on 1 January 2001. And then I found a wonderful book: Time's Tidings, edited by Carol Ann Duffy. This is Duffy's selection of 50 contemporary poems, 25 by men, 25 by women, which touch on the subject of time; and it also contains one "old" poem selected by each of the selected contemporary poets.

I bought it so that Graham and I could while the evening away reading poetry to each other. And through it I discovered the work of Gillian Clarke, who is now my favourite poet. If you know my love of sea creatures (whether real, or crocheted), and fossils, and sculpture and hares, you'll understand why this poem spoke to me:

For Meic Watts, who sculpted the limestone hare.

The Stone Hare
Think of it waiting three hundred million years,
not a hare hiding in the last stand of wheat,
but a premonition of stone, a moonlit reef
where corals reach for the light through clear waters of warm Palaeozoic seas.
In its limbs lies the story of the earth,
the living ocean, then the slow birth
of limestone from the long trajectories
of starfish, feather stars, crinoids and crushed shells
that fill with calcite, harden, wait for the quarryman,
the timed explosion and the sculptor's hand.
Then the hare, its eye a planet, springs from the chisel
to stand in the grass, moonlight's muscle and bone,
the stems of sea lilies slowly turned to stone.

(I've lifted the poem from here)

I'll just add that after a peaceful evening reading poetry, and detonating a tiny bottle of champagne, we slept, then awoke to the most glorious January day: clear, not a cloud in the sky. We set out along the footpath to Dry Drayton churchyard,(where Graham spent a few quiet minutes remembering Nola), then walked on to Madingley. It was so warm that we had to peel our coats off, and we laughed to think of the many poor souls who were probably still sound asleep. the only other person we saw was a cyclist, and the only sound was a woodpecker drumming on the trunk of a tree in the grounds of Madingley Hall. As we returned to Dry Drayton the bell ringers were playing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", so we were lured in to the Millennium service there. And on the way out I was embraced by the vicar!

And now: felting news! The "sack" shrank rather more than I expected but it is beautiful. Whilst I never make New year's resolutions, I do write lists of things I'd like to achieve in the coming year. Since about 1998 I've been writing "learn to crochet". In 2005 I finally picked up that art of granny squares (thanks to Jan Eaton's wonderful book on crochet blocks) and 2006 is the year that I've really gained confidence. Hmm, what shall I aim for in 2007?

Once again: Happy New year!

festive interlude

Well, there's nothing like working in a gift shop for making the festive season seem simultaneously never-ending (Christmas merchandise arrives in later summer) and over in the blink of an eye.

But what a wonderful day we had on 25 December! Blogger appears to be eating my pictures again (boo, third day in a row)so I'll have to paint with words. Christmas Eve found our tree looking more picturesque than ever, as Laura wraps all our parcels using scraps of silk and organza and ties them with ribbons and braids. And Graham and I had wrapped all our gifts in one of those wonderful packs of tissue paper that contains several shades of every colour under the rainbow. We were all thoroughly spolit by each other and by our family and friends. I don't think I've had this much fun unwrapping pressies since I was about 6! Highlights for me were some sumptuous yarn hand-dyed by Liz, a wonderful parcel of all sorts of knitterly goodies from my secret pal (I really must persevere with getting the photos to upload) and lots of crochet-inspired items (book, hooks, calendar) from Graham and Laura. Graham also got me England in Particular, and those who know me well won't be surprised to hear that opening the book for the very first time, completely at random, there was the entry on cider!

And speaking of cider, we come to the crowning glories, the wonderful feast that Laura cooked (featuring onion and champagne soup, followed by a pie of vegetables braised in a cider and cream sauce) and the present that was so exciting that we saved it until after lunch, just so that we could keep looking at it. To explain. A very large, brown box turned up at our house on 22 December. On 23 December my sister, brother-in-law and nieces arrived and (hidden away in the spare room) proceeded to remove something from the box, fill it with lots of mystery parcels, then seal it back into the box. Thus on 25 December we opened the box, to find a bright green wicker picnic hamper filled to overflowing with brightly-coloured parcels and topped off with one of those Alan Dart knitted gnomes, clucthing a home-made cracker. My younger niece, who knows how much I love knitted toys, and how little I love knitting them myself, purchased the gnome at her school bazaar)! When we finally opened the parcels we found wines (which were not only South African and Fairtrade, but organic, too), cider (which hasn't lasted long), Green & Blacks chocolate, very special grissini, home-made chutney, locally-gathered walnuts and a Lindt chocolate reindeer (I swear that this is a Lindt chocolate bunny in drag!).

What a rambling entry this is! But I'm trying to take my mind off the fact that I have an (almost) FO felting away in the washing machine at the moment. And not just any FO, oh no. For the first time in my life I have followed a crochet pattern. And so, tumbling and turning and spinning in the hotpoint we have a "deliberate shrinkage sack" from Not Your Mama's Crochet (one of my pressies from Graham) made from Kureyon using one of the Brittany crochet hooks G gave me. I didn't quite get gauge and I managed to seam one side right sides together and the other wrong sides (that's a design feature, ahem) but so far, so good. Right time to be brave: off to the machine to see if I still have a "sack" or just a mess of felted yarn!

Deep breaths...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

uncannily accurate

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You're probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people's grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Cripes! How did they suss the PhD bit out? (Not that I've any intnetion of ever finishing the wretched thing). Thanks to Lyndsey-Jane for her link to this quiz.

Friday, December 15, 2006

wonders of winter

The sky took my breath away this morning: inky indigo shot through with reds and pinks. I vowed that when I got to the bus stop I'd stand with my back to the road, soaking up the beauty of the sky. Only then I turned and got fixated on the crescent moon, then finally I glanced across the road to the field opposite (a rather tatty bit of fallow ground) and blinked in disbelief. There was a barn owl flying low, quartering the field in search of delicacies (aka rodents). The wide expanse of sand-coloured wings and round white face were unmistakable. Got a full 5 minutes of watching in before the bus arrived. What a start to the day!

The journey home was fun, too, as not only was a friend from the village on the bus, but I also got to wave at Liz (take a look at her Molly Dancing Angel!), who was waiting for her bus home.

I'm still excited about the owl. I've heard them nearby recently but didn't expect to see one. (Having said that, I finally saw a green woodpecker on our driveway a fortnight ago, and had been hearing that ever since we moved in 4 years ago!)

Meantime, am being seriously confused by blogger, which keeps urging me to migrate to some new version, but then insists that I can't because my blog is too baffled.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

St Lucy's Day

Today is St Lucy's Day, giving me the excuse to post one of my very favourite poems: John Donne's Nocturnall Upon St Lucie's Day, composed before 1582 (and the Julian calendar reform) when 13 December was the longest day. It is a mourning poem, at once depressing yet beautiful. (Mind you, what first made me fall in love with St Lucy's Day was watching Blue Peter back in the 60s, when they showed footage of little Scandinavian girls celebrating St Lucy's Day as a festival of light, wearing crowns of greenery and candles, and it looks as if alan Dart, who designs knitted toys, was impressed, too, see his pattern for the latest edition of Simply Knitting!)

by John Donne

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucie's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death - things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death-which word wrongs her-
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

Meanwhile, today is late night shopping night at work, so even though St Lucy's Day is no longer the solstice, and therefore the longest day of the year, it might just feel like it for me! At least I'm not working all day. Hope to finish my crocheted scarf for Ma and to get knitting a scarf for Dad (I've some Noro Silk Garden in surprisingly restrained shades of brown and grey which will be perfect).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

oh wow

For all my obsession with sea creatures (real and crocheted) and slug genitalia, I've never really stopped to think about sea slugs, but now this pattern in the new Knitty has given me a new passion (like I've got time for passion!).


Before getting onto the main subject of this post,please, is there anyone out there who can tell me what possessed me to work in retail? Remind me that I *love* my job. Thank you! (Think the 60-hr weeks in the run-up to Giftmas are getting to me...)

Well, from crotchety to crochet. It is official, I'm addicted. Since E-J made me marvellous stitch markers (see my blog entry on 3 September!) which stop my work unravelling when in transit, I've discovered that it is easier to crochet on the bus each morning than it is to knit. Queue the maddest of curly whirly scarves, made using Rowan Tapestry (NB no rowan never did get back to me re the provenance of the soy content!) and my new Brittany crochet hook. Don't think I've had so much yarny fun for years. Edgar is no longer my true love! Even my lovely husband has been captivated by the shape of the scarf ("it looks like sea creatures") and he asked where I'd got the "magnificent" hook. As a result, this year's letter to Father Xmas (which resides on the fridge door), which initially said (unimaginatively) "Dear Santa, this year I'd like 36hrs/day" now has the following items added: Annie Modesitt's crochet pattern a day desk calendar, Not Your Mama's Crochet (Amy Swenson) and Brittany crochet hooks in an assortment of sizes. (er, does Father Xmas read blogs?)

Back to my hooking!

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Which reindeer are you?

You're Dancer! You are agile, graceful, and can bend in ways no one thought possible.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Friday, December 01, 2006

Xmas shopping

ZZZZZZzzzzzz. Ooops, just dozed off at the keyboard again, sorry. Things are finally hotting up at the Wonderful World of Retail so, on my day off on Tuesday, I thought it was high time that I did my own Christmas shopping. Here's what I bought: a 5mm Britanny Crochet hook (for me), some yarn (for me), some tissue paper (to wrap gifts for my SP), a novel (for me), 3 candles (for a relative who may actually read this!, some tights (for me) and 2 cuddly monkeys (for me). Didn't I do well? Since then I've bought some really exciting stuff that I'm not going to blog about.

After my very self-indulgent shopping trip I headed off the Cambridge Blue for a KTog. I quickly decided to ease my conscience by getting to work on a curly whirly scarf using the hook and yarn I'd just purchased. So that's one Xmas gift well underway. I also decided that the monkeys just couldn't be left languishing in a plastic bag, so I hooked their paws together (they have velcro pads on their paws) and wore them slung arouhd my neck. Good job nobody had a camera... The monkeys are now happily swigning from the wardrobe door in our bedroom. I'll get some pictures within the next few days.

I'm off to grab some sleep now, ready for another dose of festive cheer tomorrow.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

now that I've found my camera cable

At last I've managed to download, then upload some pictures. I've still not managed to control the order in which they appear on the page, but here's a selection of my favourites from the last few weeks:
*Josie and Vee, 2 of the participants on the patchwork knitting workshop I did last month. I had the loveliest thank you letter from Josie.
*a wonderful East Anglia sunset, captured from my doorstep a couple of weeks ago.
*astonishingly thoughtful (and tasty) SP9 goodies from "The Secret Socker"; I'm hoping to immerse myself (and that yarn, prewound to self-striping sock proportions)in the Kool Aid, probably on Boxing Day.

Sunday in Cambridge

One of the greatest joys of Cambridge life is the organic veg stall on the Sunday market. (The picture above was taken a fortnight ago, I was most amused to spot the wallflowers in amongst the veg). So how did I spend the morning whilst Graham went to a service at St Edwards (said to be the "cradle of the English Reformation")? I went to work! I've always scoffed at workaholics and suddenly... But I was eager to do some number crunching (nothing like numbers to soothe my soul). Will spare you the details though, as I'm sure nobody else will be interested.

After that, we lunched at Loch Fyne, one of my favourite places for people watching (and definately my favourite place for eating fish). From the corner of my eye today I spotted twins in highchairs (probably aged about 18 months)one moment they were tipping bits of jigsaw on the fllor, the next they were licking oyster shells. What sophisticated taste. Meanwhile, poor Graham blanched when he saw my squid, don't think he's ever seen it in anything but rings before.

Once home I blog hopped for a bit (and found that Wyesue had posted a picture especially for me: thanks Sue, I'll raise my glass to that!) then buried myself in Freakonomics, which is the most entertaining book I've read in a long while and very thought-provoking. If you share my fascination with numbers and cause and effect and haven't come across this book yet, go get it now. Match-fixing amongst Sumo wrestlers, Superman v. the Ku Klux Klan, and what (statistically) makes a perfect parent.

Now, though, I'm listening to a choir competition on Radio 3, and poised to complete EdgarII. Or so I thought. Graham has, alas, just asked me what we can make out of 6 mushrooms, half a cabbage, a slimey green pepper and one cherry tomato. How I rue going to work rather than food shopping!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

First Santa Sighting of 2006

EEk! Dashing to the bus stations last night I was accosted by Father Xmas, outside Boots where he was handing out promotional material (how the mighty fall!). My ears were assailed by the sound of a jazz band across the road in Marks & Spencer. Yes, the Xmas late-night shopping season was being launched but there seemd to ba a decided dearth of late-night shoppers.

And if you see a madwoman bouncing around Cambridge on a space hopper tomorrow that'll be me (or one of my team...I'm rather good at delegation, tee hee) advertising extra special bargains on all our lines, even the space hoppers!

But for true eccentricity, take a look at this extraordinary pattern, which I found whilst bloghopping (as opposed to spacehopping) this evening!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Spending the night with Edgar

With both Graham and Laura away at parties in far flung places last night I have to confess to
*hitting the gin and tonic
*eating a ready meal from Sainsburys
*scoffing almost an entire packet of chocolate biscuits
*succumbing to the allure ofEdgar with Charles crooning romantically in the background!

BLISS (and just as well, too, as my day off today has just vanished with staff phoning in sick.) Hey ho, Edgar and I are now off to take the bus together!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

things that make me go hmmm

the state of britain's railways; (I suppose that I have to heave a sigh and admit that re-nationalisation is unlikely, then gracefully agree with Ms Dunwoody's insistence that more operators need to be involved)
idiotic individuals stirring up intolerance...and note how the journalist sensationalizes things: making hyperbolic statements--"medieval witch hunts"-- and implying that lots of people were involved, rather than just a minority of the group.

I do seem in a grumpy mood tonight, don't I?!

I've actually had a brilliant day immersed in books( an old favourite, Paul Smith's you can find inspiration in everything and my latest favourite Re-imagine! by Tom Peters, although actually much of this book makes me furiously cross, so much so that I've scribbled on it in places, but there are some extraordinary ideas at work behind the giant ego!) and dreaming (retail) dreams (that's retail as in me doing the retail, rather than me indulging in retail therapy, which makes a change); dreams inspired by William Morris's dream of artifacts that bring "a happiness to the maker and the user".

Think I'd better soothe my aching brain (and cold hands) with more work on my scarf!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Birthday treats

another year older, and 3 days of partying draw to a close... on tuesday Liz and I enjoyed cocktails at the maypole (a singapore sling for me) then knitted at the mitre. yesterday evening, my colleagues interrupted our staff meeting to ply me with crisps and chocolate cake and present me with flowers. today I was overwhelmed with delightful presents and dined with graham and laura at cafe adriatic. (was also wined which is why i'm not venturing into the realms of using the shift key to create capital letters).

lots of thoughtful and indulgent pressies came my way, too. The main themes were yarn and food (how well people know me)..Pate de fruits, Noro Blossom and matching hand-dyed yarn from Liz (she did the dyeing herself and has come up with a perfect match for the Blossom) assortment of nuts, seeds, chocolate, biscuits and Rowan yarn (in my favourite shades of green) from Carole, Claire and Lil, all presented in a wicker basket...Graham and Laura have ordered me some of Opal's Hundertwasser yarns from Get Knitted, as well as supplying me with munchy seeds, a new wallet (bright pink) and a voucher for a massage. Goth niece and Miss Pegs have given me a stunning glass pendant.

How can anyone object to being a year older when surrounded by family and friends like this?

Pictures follow as soon as I can find which folder the computer has hidden them in...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The year turns: I've always been thrilled by Hallowe'en/Samhain (and not just because of the proximity to my birthday!). As a little girl I thrilled with genuine terror (and secret longing) at the thought of witches, insisting that Ma and Daddy should put horseshoes up at both the front and back doors, and sleeping with an extra horseshoe by my bed for luck! We lived in a new house built on what had been farmland, so (usefully) we turned up the odd horseshoe in the garden, as well as fascinating remnants of clay pipes...and whilst my little sister played at schools (she was always the teacher, I had to be a pupil along with the dolls), I used to play at shops and (more relevant to this post!) museums, featuring lots of exciting finds from the garden (and even rudely rounding Ma up as one of the exhibits).

I don't need to worry about evil witches/thunderbolts where we are living now, as a houseleek appeared in our driveway last year, and a thoughtful bird or squirrel has seeded a rowan for us... But I still believe in magic!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Perfect day!

Details and pictures will follow tomorrow, but can you imagine anything better than a day spent teaching modular knitting, bumping into a SkipNorth friend (hello Ellen!), heading off to Loop (with Ellen plus Jane and Marjorie who were also modular knitting with me) for a spot of retail therapy, then finding that Erika Knight had dropped in, with some of her fantastic designs, to promote her 2 new books. I floated back to Camrbidge on a cloud, then returned home to find a parcel stuffed full of treats (kniterly and otherwise) from a secret pal, who is known to me only as the "secret socker".

This is my last Saturday off between now and January, so I knew it would be special, but I didn't know how special.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cat joins knitting circle

Had huge fun at the KTog at the Cambridge Blue last night, where we were joined by Ajax, the pub cat. You can see a picture of him here. And, yes, for the second time within a week my image has been captured on film. That's me on the right of the picture. I'm amazed that Bekki's camera survived!

As ever, there were lots of gorgeous projects being worked on (especially Julie's crochet and Liz's shawl), and a great deal of laughter. It was good to see lots of bits of stash that had been traded during the two recent stash swaps being put to good use, too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

neglected spouse behaviour

You know you've been neglecting your husband when you discover that he's been watching Strictly Come Dancing... That he's been watching it so avidly that he can tell you who scored what...

For those of you who don't know my husband, he's a very intellectual chap, who usually spends his spare time writing learned articles, or immersed in tomes on philosophy or abstruse literary theory. And if you've not seen Strictly Come Dancing; think C-list celebs, funny frocks, sarcastic judges, and unintentionally hilarious facial expressions.

Still, at least we sat and watched the highlights together on Sunday. And I have to admit that his daughter was just as shocked to find out about his new viewing habit as I was. Though she tells me that they used to watch World's Strongest Man together when she was younger. I used to watch that with my Auntie Joan, whose other strange viewing quirk was playing endless videos of *anything* starring Paul Daniels whilst doing the ironing. And could that auntie iron? She even ironed drip-dry petticoats.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

uncreative writing

After discovering my rapacious Scorpio dark side yesterday evening I thought I'd better investigate this:

You Are 24% Evil

A bit of evil lurks in your heart, but you hide it well.

In some ways, you are the most dangerous kind of evil.

Oh dear! I'm always joking about knitted dolls and sticking pins in people... anyway, have decided that finding things to post about by visiting blogthings is *not* the way forward. So this week my aim is to work smarter so that I can get more knitting time and thus have something more intersting to blog about! Must get some pix, too.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Me to a tee, not!

Your Birthdate: November 2

You're so intuitive, it's like you have a sixth, seventh, and eighth sense.

You connect with others freely and easily - and you tend to have many best friends.

Warm and caring, it's hard for you to close your heart to anyone.

Affection is like air for you - you need to give and receive it to survive.

Your strength: Your universal compassion

Your weakness: Your unpredictable mood swings

Your power color: Mauve

Your power symbol: Butterfly

Your power month: February

Found the above whilst visiting Shona's blog. And as a certain "Secret Socker" who is spoiling me in the current round of SP wants to know a bit more about me, I couldn't resist giving it a go. But that description is *so* not me! Maybe I'll accept the compassionate bit. Mauve? I can't begin to imagine mauve as powerful. February. Huh! Give me October and November, anytime (but make October a bit more nippy and frosty than this one has been).

Nope, I get the feeling that I'm more of a typical Scorpio A quick trip over to Wikipedia suggests that the only famous person born on the same day and year as me is a Bosnian war criminal. I do remember reading years ago (in a Time Life book on the history of mathematics, which is the sort of thing that I have a hidden passion for) that more American presidents had been born on 2 Nov than any other date. And I notice that Marie Antoinette was also born on 2 November. Bet she thought mauve was sissy, too.

But the best thing about my birthdate is that it is All Souls Day. I was due on 1 November, can you imagine what I'd have had to live up to had I been born on All Saints Day??!

Apart from dreaming of my birthday (am looking forward to it, especially as I have directed my beloved to here) I've had an amazingly taxing day at work, thanks an absence-of-customers situation and to a throat bug that has knocked all my colleagues for six. Only one could come in, and she had such terrible sinus pain that I wished I could've sent her home. Bang goes my day off tomorrow, too. World domination will have to wait until next week!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

no, I did not say that

Help! Am expecting sacksful of protest mail from older knitters objecting to the quote from me in today's Cambridge Evening News. They left a crucial word out of the following statement: "ours was possibly the first knitting group outside London"...and the crucial word is "pub". (Note distressing perponderance of alcohol in recent posts).

ps am delighted to note that the areticle and pic aren't available in the online edition, so at least I'll only be getting letters from "outraged of Ely" and "disgusted of Newmarkedt".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

2 umbrellas, no hairbrush

Today started innocently enough (overslept, had 7 minutes to get to bus, decided to go for tousled hair and just a slick of lipstick look). At work by 8, powering through the to-do list. And then...

Colleague arrived late. Just as I was reprimanding her, the 'phone rang. Yes, my pet bugbear, the personal 'phone call during trading hours. It was the Cambridge Evening News, for me. Answered a few quick questions (no, the group is not called Cambridge Stitch'nBitch. Why not? Because we're not very bitchy!), promised to get in touch with my top knitting tips and returned to work. 'Phone rings again. The photographer will be along sometime between 9.30 and 5. Photographer?????

Those of you who know me know that I hate, detest and abhor having my 'photo taken. If you look at the SkipNorth pics, I'm hiding behind my hat. In Cambridge KTog pics I'm the one holding my knitting up in front of my face (whilst simultaneously downing a pint of cider to calm my nerves). Explain to journalist that my face breaks camera lenses. That I'm rushed off my feet. No, no way can they take my picture in the store. Oh, outside, OK then. Can you see how I fell into the trap?

Stick myself back into my busy day and forget about the looming threat. But all too soon... Dash downstairs to grab my knitting (if they must take a pic, at least it should feature my knitting) and find hairbrush, warpaint etc.

I have knitting, I have lipstick, I have 2 umbrellas (2?) (how?) (why?) but no sniff of a brush or comb.

The awful truth is scheduled to appear in the Cambridge Evening News on Thursday...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

questions, questions

We've been asked to answer a few more questions for SP, so here goes... I have to say that the only one I found easy to answer was "favourite yarn"! I don't really think about having favourites, there's a whole world out there to explore. (Oh, and for any cynical friends saying "yes, but we all know your favourite drink" it was a close-call, I do like a G&T now and then, as several of you witnessed on Tuesday, ahem).

List your favorite:

Actor - I don't watch many films or much TV, so this one is rather difficult. But I do go all gooey over Luke Wilson and the spectaculalry desirable man who plays Dr Kovac in ER. Hmm, which one? Make it the guy who plays Dr Kovac...
Actress - Juliette Binoche made a real impression when I saw _The English Patient_ quite a few years ago.
Animal - hare. I also love it when I find frogs and hedgehogs in the garden. Favourite bird: owl.
Band - Rolling Stones, though my tastes really veer towards world, early and classical music.
Book - only one?! Then it will have to be a poetry anthology. The one I keep dipping into is _The Thunder Mutters: 101 Poems for the Planet_ edited by Alice Oswald.
Bubble Bath - my favourite addition to a bath is one of Lush's bath melts, especially the "Nude" variety. But they don't create bubbles. So I'll have to say Faith in nature's foam baths, especially the seaweed one. The most important thing is that my bath products are cruelty-free and as natural as possible.
Candy - dark chocolate, especially if combined with cherries or ginger. If you don't count choc as candy, I've recently discovered some gelatine-free sour jelly babies, far healthier than the Haribo Tangfastics I sometimes gorge myself on.
Colour - Green, but not bottle or kelly green-type greens (too much like my school uniform!), I prefer sharp greens, mudgy greens, olive greens, yellow greens, acid greens.
Drink- I love cloudy, sharp, apple juices, especially if they've been fremented. Oh, let's be honest: I'm a cider drinker!
Flower - Aquilegia. But I find autumn fruit and baerries and fungus every bit as beautiful.
Food - a plate laden with celery, rye and caraway bread and goat's cheese (not the very hard kind of goat's cheese, and not the soft spready sort, either, it has to be one of those log-shaped ones, mmm) . And can I have thinly-sliced apple (a nice sharp one) and some grapes on there, too, please? (Plus, if the vegetarian members of the family aren't watching, some air-dried ham eg parma).
Lip Balm - now, here, I really am defeated. I don't like anything too soft and gooey (prefer sticks to pots), it has to be cruelty-free and I prefer organic. Not big on flavoured ones, but my husband gave me a nice one with a little hint of honey that he got free from somewhere.
Lotion - Neal's Yard cocoa butter body lotion, it has the most glorious smell, from the frankincense, I think.
Movie - For a feelgood movie: _Practical Magic_. (Though I thinked I like the original book, by Alice Hoffman, even more). And I have every Wallace & Grommit film! (Strictly for the knitting scenes, you understand). But as a teenager I was totally captivated by _Lacombe, Lucien_, set in wartime France, it is the heartbreaking tale of a boy who is refused entry to the Resistance, so becomes a Nazi sympathiser, just because they'll let him join in, only then he falls in love with a Jewish girl. I wonder how I'd feel about the film if I saw it again now?
Place- none in particular but I'm at my happiest walking along windswept coasts and by rivers. And I do love the study in our house. It has a radio/cd player, comfy chairs, the computer, lots of books, a little yarn, two desks and (more often than not) my husband.
Song - Well, if I had a glorious singing voice I think I'd spend my days singing "The Irish Rover". And I've finally got the wherewithal to play my vinyl collection again (yay!) so keep singing along tunelessly to "Love Over and Over" by Kate and Anna McGarrigal.
TV Show - None (unless you count my ER habit, which is strictly for the pleasure of Dr Kovac) Yarn- Noro silver thaw, closely followed by Noro silk garden.
Vacation Spot - this is even harder than favourite book! I give up!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

from fuming to laughter

The last couple of days have been stressful, but not without their lighter moments. Yesterday thieves managed to leave my store with vast quantities of items that did not belong to them. I was beyond p*ssed off but, happily, it was KTog night, and gin and the company of knitters worked wonders on my mood. Then today, whilst giving my statement, I almost stole the constable's pen! And there may be a prosecution in the offing (no, not of me for the pen).

Meanwhile (over at Jan's blog) I've discovered a sublime combination of yarn and my favourite artist. Have hintingly emailed details to my husband!

Friday, October 06, 2006


Having had such a wonderful time during SP8, I've signed up for SP9. As before, it seems that I need to publish my answers to the following questionnaire.

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I adore natural fibres (especially merino, silk and anyhting that felts) although mohair makes me sneeze! Until a couple of months ago, Noro Silk Garden was my favourite, but now I'm utterly smitten with Noro Silver Thaw: the angora doesn't shed and it doesn't make me sneeze. I like good quality blended yarns and do use acrylic and novelty yarns but have rather a lot of those piling up in my stash...

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
I have a wonderful pouch for my circulars thanks to Francesca, my SP8 buddy, and assorted holders, vases, biscuit tins etc, too.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I've been knitting for some 30 years now. My Ma and nanna tried to teach me (tears and tantrums galore) but eventually I got a book and got on with it. I'm an intermediate knitter but really struggle reading charts.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

5. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products, etc.)
I like citrus scents (bergamot, lemon and grapefruit rather than orange); woody smells (cedarwood, frankincense) and spices (ginger, amber). Apples and pears are good, too.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I adore dark chocolate! Other than that, I really prefer savoury snacks or luscious cherries and raspberries. Ooo, and blueberry youghurt raisins: scrumyum!

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I'm a novice crocheter but apart from darning and sewing buttons back on (sssh! don't tell my husband I'm actually rather good at those!) I don't really dablle in any craft apart from knitting. I have tried to spin with a drop spindle but my wrist screamed in pain. Would love to have a wheel and a loom (oh, and lots of spcae!) I'm quite keen to have a go at dyeing.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD) Rather an eclectic mix: world music (especially traditional dance); medieval, renaissance and baroque; some 20th century classical composers; folk; French cafe tunes (Charles Trenet etc); Django Reinhardt and other 1930s jazz; Cole Porter and The Rolling Stones. No MP3 facilities.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand? I love autumnal shades and most reds/purples/oranges/ pinks; greens (especially rather acid or leafy ones) are my top favourite; I adore the crazy mixes that Noro put together. I'm not all fond of "baby" pastels and (for reasons I cannot fathom) I've not been much into blue for a few years now.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I'm married with a 26-year old stepdaughter and a delightful, elderly cat, Jiminey, who always manages to evade the camera.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
Yes to all the above, but I'm really particular about ponchos: they have to be very smart and to flatter me.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Small projects: scarves (love coming up with new designs), hats, gloves and baby clothes. I simply cannot make socks to fit myself. Somehow I always either make the leg too narrow (I've rather chunky legs) or the foot a bit too short (must have long toes). My (slimmer, slightly smaller-footed) sister does rather well out of my inaccuracies!

13. What are you knitting right now?
A modular scarf, using Twilleys Freedom Spirit in a glorious blend of pinks with tiny highlights of yellow and blue.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic? I've got very wide-ranging tastes. I can no longer use very short circs (shooting pains in the hand if I try!) but, as I knit on the bus a lot, I do love circulars and short pins, I'll often use dpns for my modular prjects. My current faves are a pair of short peace fleece needles and I love Brittanys (looks and feel). I also crave more the look of gorgeous coloured transpartent plastic needles, adore the beads bedecking peace fleece needles.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
No yarn winder, but I have a creaky metal swift that belonged to my grandmother.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
I hate to think! I've a nasty feeling that I've a cardigan that I sarted about 7 years ago in my attic; and that my parents' attic may harbour things from nearly 30 years ago.

18. What is your favorite holiday?
If this is holidays as in festivals, then I love harvest and spring celebrations. I'll never forget the Erdeven Onion Festival in Brittainy (France, a carnival with a parade, and lots of stalls including one with over 40 varieties of onion. there were even more types of garlic and almost as many apple ciders. I do enjoy Christmas, but as I work in a gift shop I'm usually totally exhausted.
If this is holidays as in vacations, then give me plenty of fresh air; coasts and riverside walks, scenic train journeys (especially steam trains); interesting museums (especially social history/folk life) and amazing knitting shops. Having said that, 2 of my favourite trips have been to Vienna and Stockholm!

19. Is there anything that you collect?
Yarn!!! Library book fines (must get more organised). I've also got a few frogs, hares and owls.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
Books: I love anything new and inventive but have snapped up most of what I desire on publication. Can't get hold of the Twisted sisters Modular patterns in the UK, though.
Magazines:I subscribe to Selvedge (a fabulous UK textiles magazine) and buy most issues of Interweave Knits, Knitting (a UK publication) and VK. I've also fallen in love with a bizarre, arty tome called Foxy Dreamy, Yes Indeedy, which features the somewhat adult adventures (passive dope smoking, lust) of a group of knitted toys.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I try to be a sock knitter (see q12). I've got rather chubby feet, European size 40/UK 6.5-7.

23. When is your birthday? (mm/dd) 11/02 (All Souls Day)

It really does seem rather introspective and greedy filling this in!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

je m'amuse

Whilst this is not a good thing to admit on a knitting blog, I have to admit that I really haven't been caught knitting much for the last 2 or 3 weeks. Caught stressing, yes, caught overworking, and caught sniffling, too. But not knitting.

After yet another sleepless, coughing-fit-filled night on Tuesday I decided to take myself in hand. Booked myself a massage and promised myself a day along the lines of "follow your nose wherever it goes...". And my nose took me here, S'Amuser, leading me into a bizarre and entertaining venue which opened a couple of weeks ago. It is quite crazy but lots of fun. One of the "muses" sits you down (actually you're perched vertiginously on top of a very high up chair) and works through an extraordinary process to come up with your signature blend. That's all I'm telling you, as I don't want to spoil the fun.

Normal knitting news should be resumed tomorrow evening...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


finally made it to a Cambridge KTog this evening (have had to miss the last 2 or 3), took my camera with me and forgot to take pictures. Grrr. I blame the stupid cold/virus I have at the moment! Two new members along this evening (Morfydd, at work on Larry the Lamb, Heather making a cardigan for her daughter, due in January) as well as Jackie working on a very strokable mohair cardigan, Carole working on a cross stitch picture, Claire knitting scarves for the local night shelter and Liz at work on a Gryffindor scarf for a friend's 8th birthday. I finished off a short row scarf in Silk Garden for Graham, but he's decided that he might prefer one of the triangular scarves that I made in whitby. We'll take a closer look in daylight and see what matches his jacket both. He's not getting both!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Life is so busy in the Wonderful World of Retail TM (superscript courtesy of Francesca) that I've barely glanced at my needles of late, and, to my great shame, I've *still* not taken pictures of my gorgeous gifts from the afore-mentioned Francesca, and from Elaine. Sorry, this will be remedied soon, I hope. But I have been keeping apace with people's blogs and am constantly awe-inspired by the talent that's out there. Ruth's had a horrid setback today, but just look at her latest hat and the mention she's had for her handspun. Liz has been exhibiting at the NEC and Anne has had a pattern accepted for the 2007 Stitch n Bitch calendar. Sue's been at work on the knit and relax stall at the NEC and is off again this weekend.

Time I stopped writing and started knitting, I think, though I do have an intriguing book on Influencing with Integrity calling out to me, too...

Friday, September 08, 2006


Perquisite: n. 1. an incidental benefit gained from a certain type of employment, such as the use of a company car.

"Perquisites" how I love that word (and so much more than its more frequently-used abbreviation: "perks")! When I did my BA (as a mature student) I was taught history by an extremely gorgeous young man (swoon!) who had a real lust for the seamier sides of (historical) life. His x-rated, enthusiastic description of hanging, drawing and quartering will haunt my nightmares forever. One day I told my mother about him. From my description she said, "hang on, I remember him, he was at my graduation "(Ma did history with the OU). Evidently the degree congregation got particularly interesting when an extraordinarily attractive young man approached the stage. When the title of his PhD dissertation was announced the audience came alive in a chorus of laughter and cheers. As Ma says, who will ever forget such a striking young man who had worked on "Perquisites of the London Dockyards". (To my shame , I forget what century he specialised in...)

This post however, is not about the perquisites of the London dockyards, but about an unexpected perquisite of my job in the Wonderful World of Retail (incidentally, can anyone tell me how to add superscript in Blogger, so that I can add TM after the Wonderful World of etc?). I've taken on an extra sideline which means I have to work at HQ from time-to-time and just look where I got to stay! (Er, not in the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall, or by the shaggy inkcap/lawyer's wig fungus, nor on the road through Minster Lovell, come to that, but in the hotel pictured at the top. One day I'll suss out how to place the shots just where I want them, meantime I'm glad that Blogger has finally allowed me to upload images, have been trying to since Thursday pm.) I also got home to presents. Thank you emails have been despatched but have not had time to take pix...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Emma-Jane's Amazing Creations

Look what was waiting for me when I got back from Whitby...crochet stitch markers/stitch holders and a postcard from the amazingly talented E-J. The postcard shows one of her incredible pet portraits (I really felt as if I could stroke the fur) and the crochet markers she's made are utterly ingenious: by using a lobster claw fastening you can insert them into your last stitch (as you'll see from the picture below) and it won't come unravelled on the bus. Thank you, thank you.

But it is E-J's latest creation that has to be the very best, as you'll see.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Skipping North (again)

Yippee, booking has opened for Britain's best-ever knitting break, and I've just booked my place. See you there?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

trains and countryside

Absolutely the last post for today, promise (especially as I'm still trying to get a decent picture of E-J's lovely crochet stitch holders, waiting for me when I got home!) At the top, a view of a steam engine on the North York Moors line from Grosmont to Pickering. How I wish I could centre shots properly...Pickering is the sort of quaint market town that is full of delicatessens, flea markets etc and hardly anywhere for clothes or run-of-the-mill groceries (maybe those are in the slightly less picturesque parts?!) The rest of the photos were taken on a circular walk from Grosmont station, along the banks of the Murk Esk (you can see the river eddying in one of the shots)to Beck Hole (where I spotted the plums and rowanberries) and back. The first stretch went through incredibly muddy woodland, with treacherous descents, and here I discovered that whilst the new boots are, indeed, waterproof, their vibram soles are quite slippery: eek. Still there was lots of interesting fungus to admire and some intrepid sheep, far better at coping with steep slopes than I am! The way back, on the other hand, was largely along a wide path suitable for wheelchair access. Just one steep uphill stretch at the end, but look at the view from the top: a lush green field full of cows (and bullocks) with the distant puff of steam from trains at Grosmont. I just wish I'd been quick enough to flick the shutter as the heron swooped down low in front of us. Magical. So that's more than enough about my holidays, shan't ramble on this much in future, just the novelty of having time off work and a camera, too.

Paper Anniversary!

Here are the gifts that Graham and I exchanged for our first (paper) anniversary (or "any worse-ary?" as G insisted on calling it!) For Graham, 3 volumes of Ruskin's Stones of Venice, which he'd been hunting for for ages, and which we found in a tiny shop in the Shambles Market. For me, a reproduction--on photographic paper-- of a photograph by Frank Meadows Sutcliffe, who took genre-style photos of life in and around Whitby in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This is one of his many knitting shots (treated myself to a book that contains quite a few more as well as lots of views of Whitby, children playing etc). Knitting was a major part of women's lives hereabouts. As well as there being many local gansey styles (Bobbins website tells you more), the museum has a sizeable collection of lovingly crafted knitting sheaths, a knitting belt and the most beautiful leather needle case, decorated with a leaf design and inscribed with a badly-spelt but heartfelt verse (about remembering the maker whenever looking at the case). The knitting was probably just for family use, or for pin money, but jet and jet jewellery had a big part to play in the local economy. Jet is fossilized aracuria (monkeypuzzle tree) wood, still found in and around Whitby. Hence Graham's other gift to me: the silver and Whitby jet necklace. The design of this one is inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (from Glasgow, rather than Whitby) but we both saw it and said "that one".


Yes, I'm really overdoing it with posts today but (alas) I'm not going to have much time to blog over the next few weeks: tomorrow sees my return to The Wonderful World of Retail (and with 2 overnight trips to HQ and a training day coming up in the next fortnight my time won't be my own) and I've got to write a paper for a colloquim in 3 weeks' time plus write the syllabus and prepare the first handout for a knitting course starting (subject to enrolment) at much the same time and I need to file my tax return by the end of Septmeber. So let's forget all that and talk knitting. First of all, here are the 2.5 scarves surrounded by lots of luscious new yarns from Bobbins of Whitby and magazines acquired from various newsagents in the town. the scarf on the right and the 0.5 of a scarf in the middle are made from Noro yarns acquired at Bobbins.

The scarves were inspired by the gorgeous multidrectional scarf that Annarella has made, but are knitted to my own recipe, using modular equilateral triangles with chain selvedge: no sewing up required. On the left we have the first one (cast on as the train pulled out of Cambridge, and cast off in The Shambles, a wonderful bar above the Shambles market)made from Wendy Fusion. There are some very long colour runs in this yarn, so I had several blue triangles in succession. I think I'll need to add a bit of decoration to this one (as I did with this scarf, knitted to my short row recipe, for my no-longer secret pal, Elaine). In the middle we have .5 of a scarf, knitted in Noro Silk Garden. I think I'll need just over 2 balls for this one and the colours are man-friendly (someone sitting near me has his beady eye on it). On the right is the star of the show, knitted in just two balls Noro Silver Thaw. I love this yarn. It is a wool/angora/nylon blend, so slightly more yardage than Silk Garden and the softest, most strokable feel (despite the inevitable bits of Japanese hedgerow!). Lots of people came up to ask me about this one, and I had to keep a very firm grip on it when I let people stroke it/examine its construction.

challenged by sheep

Aha! Give a girl a camera and look what happens. Yes, she could be taking landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and what does she snap? She snaps sheep and we all know who is to blame. So here we have (in totally random order, as blogger has thwarted my attempts to organise them)
dinky pink case in shop window in Flowergate, Whitby;
handpump in the most extraordinary pub I've ever encountered*;
sheep glovepuppet and sheep-strewn fleeces in shop window in Church Street, Whitby;
landscape shot (as a sop to Graham, who intially didn't get the hang of what I was doing and said "this is getting silly" when I took photos of sheep in shop windows!)** genuine sheep (although Graham alleges that they have been crossed with lemmings as one appeared to be about to hurl itself over the cliff edge) on top of cliffs between Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay;
and finally the other end of the shop window in Church Street...sheep keyring on zip of fleece, embroidered sheep on pocket of fleece, long draught excluder sheep and a naughty wolf club glove puppet who just can't believe his luck at being displayed with all these sheep. Whoever did the window display here has a great sense of humour!
* The most amazing pub is the Birch Hall Inn, Beck Hole. It has two bars (one claiming to be the world's smallest) divided by a tiny little sweetshop, full of old-fashioned delights. I tried to take photos, but the camera batteries were on the blink, which is also why I didn't get a picture of the sheep on a house sign (The White House) in Beck Hole. As we sat outside the pub-- Graham with a half of Black Sheep Bitter, me with a half of cider, knitting away on scarf number 2-- an elderly lady walked past and said "now I've seen it all". Obviously ladies do not drink cider in Yorkshire!!! Or maybe men don't drink halves?
** The penny finally dropped when I explained the sheep challenge to the landlord of the aformentioned Inn

return of the Whitby wanderers, with 2.5 scarves

Blogger's in one of its "I've let you upload one photo so that's your lot" moods at the moment
so here's Graham looking back towards Whitby Abbey whilst we walked along the coast to Robin Hood's Bay last Monday. Note blue sky and sunshine! So much for the long-range weather forecast that predicted cold, wet weather. We had mainly bright sunshine, with just a few light showers and a distant thunder storm on the Wednesday. We realised on that first walk that we were going to have to carry more water with us. Lime and soda (or "slime and odour", as I like to say to Graham when he's off to order the drinks and, yes, he has ended up asking for that more than once!)has never tasted so good as the one I consumed in seconds at the first pub we encountered when we reached Robin Hood's Bay. If you're looking at the backpack Graham's wearing and wondering what on earth we had in there (apart from water) here's the list of essentails for a good day out: map, water, oat cakes (lots), chocolate (ditto), plasters, blister plasters, sunscreen, book and, of course, knitting. I knitted on the cliff tops, I knitted in pubs and cafes, I knitted on trains, I knitted whilst watching morris dancers, knitted during music sessions in the local taverns (it was Whitby Folk Week). In all, 2.5 scarves were whipped up in Whitby and environs (pix to follow). On the train from Middlesborough to Whitby a little boy picked up the yarn that I'd dropped on the floor, asked me what I was doing and then turned to his mother and said, very solemnly, "Mum, can we buy some knitting to do?" Mum replied that she'd plenty of yarn and needles at home so he could have a go then. Wonder if he will?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A year and a day

Caught marrying at Cambridge Register Office, 25/08/05! Note handbag designed and knitted by the bride.
(We've just got back from Whitby: more on that tomorrow).

Friday, August 18, 2006

off to the moors and seaside

Yes, it is going to be cold and wet next week, so Caught Knitting is off to get soaked and wind-swept. Good job that the sheep challenge is for indoor sheep, rather than real ones. I think I'll have to investigate every handpump in every bar along the North Yorks Coast, then head inland to do the same on the moors. Actually, I don't care what the weather does as I'm taking Dracula to read (local colour) and I'll have this scenic railway route and this steam railway to explore. I've also already checked the opening times for Bobbins! And at least I'll find out whether the new, waterproof hiking boots are indeed waterproof.

Look forward to plenty of pictures of sheep, rain and (I hope) an FO or two. And for a real challenge I'm going to try to get a picture of the husband, who is very, very camera-shy. Now, how much yarn can I cram in to my rucksack?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Join the sheep hunt!

Yay! See that new button (caught knitting's first ever button, added thanks to Isabella's kind help?) It's for woolywormhead's brilliant sheep hunt. It has made me realise that there are not enough sheep in my house (note to readers who've not yet heard about the sheep challenge, the idea is to find pictures of sheep on things, not *real* sheep, before you get visions of chez caught knitting being overrun with ewes, lambs and a ram or two!) I had high hopes of finding one here and found a mole, a dove, a horse, a hare, a goat, a cow, a pig, two big, fat, black flies, a dog and turds aplenty...but no sheep. Hmm, this is one challenging challenge.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Yes, Bobbi, hostess for the SP8 group that I've been part of has posted a list of (almost) everyone she's matched, so that we can track one another down! Which gives me a good excuse to upload this image, the very first that I've taken (and transferred to the computer) with my new digital camera. Francesca (who's been spoling me rotten, and who told me how to add links) was so right when she said I should've taken pix yesterday, so I took the plunge today and bought the camera. Then it all went downhill. Believe me, blood, sweat and tears (and a small G&T) have been involved. For reasons I fail to understand, I accidentally started to set up the camera with Finnish as the default language (prompting long call to HP Technical help). Then I accidentally shot several videos of my leg (hmm, crumpled brown linen, the new box office sensation, not!!). Then I managed to take this picture and transfer it to the computer. Then I spent , eek, more than 2 hours trying to find where the image was stored so that I could upload it. In the meantime I kept accidentally uploading all sorts of things, hooray for Blogger's draft mode which let me delete the utterly random images. I hope it gets easier!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

knitting in the library

Caught up with my crafty nieces today.

The older one, Goth Niece (sporting very striking red eyeshadow and astonishing lashings of black eyeliner), spends her spare time hanging out with fellow goths in a park. Sometimes she takes her knitting along, as does a male friend (who can cable and make cardigans: Goth Niece is impressed). If it rains, the entire group descends (noisily) on the local library, where GN and friend continue to knit. Needless to say, noisy goths are not tolerated for long, but the naughty knitters always refuse to leave until they have got to the end of the current row. GN's latest crafty project has been using felt to customise one of her teddy bears, who now sports a very fetching mohican crest and a black jacket with black and white tie. She's contemplating entering him in the junior needlework category of the village show...would love to see the judges' faces...

Younger niece, Miss Pegs, has been busy on the gonks I mentioned a couple of posts ago. These gonks are constructed around a ring (about 2.5cm diameter) which has 15cm lengths of yarn looped all around it, then has googly eyes stuck on. These can then be attached to chains for use as keyrings, 'phone charms etc. GN has one attached to her Dougal shoulder bag. Miss P leads a very hectic social life: today was Irish dancing, tomorrow is more dancing followed by swimming.

Both girls are beautiful and talented (just like their mother) and they can both talk the hind legs off a donkey (suspect they get this from their aunt!)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Soy Source?

Last Tuesday I went to Robert Sayle (local branch of John Lewis) just to take a look. The look (as seems to happen all too often!) turned into some serious stash enhancement, as I left clutching the new Rowan magazine, 3 balls of Wendy Fusion in fenugreek, glorious blue/green colourway and 3 balls of Rowan Tapestry in the pot pourri colourway (soft browns and pink). I was totally seduced by the Tapestry yarn but how I wish I'd read the label more closely. Fondling my new treasure just before the KTog that evening, I spotted the words "soybean protein fibre" and alarm bells started to ring. I've nothing against soy (I really enjoy well-crisped tofu) but I always take great care to ensure that any soy I buy is neither genetically modified, nor produced in Brazil, where soy growing is hastening the uprooting of rainforest! To make things even more ethically challenging, my step-daughter has just pointed out that the yarn comes from China, too, making me wonder about the conditions and pay of the workers involved in its production (this is a very unsettling point for me, as I work for a company that sells Chinese-made goods, though it is increasingly finding suppliers in Britain and Europe). today is the first day of my holiday, but as I'm feeling too unwell to go out/knit/do housework I've just written to Rowan for more information and suggested that "if these are issues you have not considered before and the yarn does turn out to be contributing to rainforest depletion or exploiting Chinese labourers, would you consider making a donation to environmental/ethical charities by way of compensation?"

Watch this space!

Sunday, August 13, 2006


cheerful post! the sun's come out, my SP has received her final parcel and really seems to like it and the lovely person spoiling me has sent me a lovely email to cheer me up. and whilst I had to go into work today (on what was supposed to be a day off) I got home at a reasonable time and have now got an entire fortnight's holiday coming up. time to get on with the bootees I'm knitting, then to finish one or two Xmas presents (one of which was started this time last year). and I'm off to visit my wonderful crafty nieces on tuesday. the younger one has asked me to bring lots of oddments of brightly coloured yarn for the gonks she is making...sounds fun!


grumpy post: heavy cold, sleepless night and such bad weather that I'm wearing a tweed skirt today...still, I have plenty of lovely yarn to play with!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sue's sensational knitted mole

I rarely knit toys but I've fallen in love with Wye Sue's amazing mole (complete with molehill). Sue has very generously posted her pattern here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This sounds good...

This sounds good! Wonder whether they'd like an article on the design possibilities of molluscs (ahem!)?!

And now, just in case you fancy a little stash enhancement in Singapore, here is a list of yarn shops which has just appeared in The Straits Times and been sent to me by my friend Tamy, who doesn't have a blog but does have a very impressive web presence! The list appeared with an article about Singapore's male knitters and how shy they are.

Spotlight, Plaza Singapura, Level 5: wool and acrylic yarns, magazines, lessons
Golden Dragon Store
, 02-51 Peopke's Park Centre: yarns from England, japan and France. Knitting mags.
Ishida Craft Centre, 01-04 Tanglin Mall: over 70 brands of yarn, linen, cashmere, silk, Japanese and English knitting magazines.
Knitting Shop Enterprise, 390 Victoria Street: yarns from Italy, Germany and Japan, knitting magazines, children's knitting tools, free knitting lessons for the completion of one project given for purchases of $50 and above.
Ng Lang Quee, 682 Hougang Ave 4, 01-336: yarn from Italy, England and Taiwan, any purchase entitles you to free knitting lessons in the course of 3 months.
Yong Herng Co, 02-12Holland Road Shooping Centre: predominantly English Yarn, also stocks knitting magazines. No knitting lessons.

I especially like the sound of the yarns and Japanese magazines at Ishida Craft Centre, whilst Knitting Shop Entreprise (with its mention fo children's tools and lessons in exchange for yarn purchase) really does sound entreprising.

I've not been able to set up a link to the article but if you Google "Straits Times Men Knitting" and click the first link you may be able to get it as a pdf (I've tried 3 times and it worked once).

Sleepless at Lammastide, knitting at Lughnasa and slug genitalia

Sleep is eluding me tonight; wonder whether it is because the night of 1-2 August is Lammastide, originally Lughnsadh (festival of the god Lugh) one of the "quarter days" of the Celtic year, later Christianised as Lammas (loaf-mass), an early version of the harvest festival and also, traditionally, a time for sheep fairs.

If you ever get the chance to see (or read) Brian Friel's amazing, moving, play Dancing at Lughnasa (click here for a reasonable plot summary, though one that omits to mention the knitting content) or the film version, starring Meryl Streep, do so. The story features knitters (see below) and the knitwear in the film is gorgeous! It tells the tale of an Irish family of several sisters, one illegitimate son and an uncle, a former Catholic priest who has been overseas for many years and "gone native". The oldest sister, a teacher, desperately tries to hold the family together and to keep "pagan" values (smoking, as well as festivals) at bay in a time of social and economic change. Several of the other sisters are professional knitters, work that is drying up. The changes and clashes, cultural, religious and economic, come to a head at Lughnasadh. The play is extraordinary for the way it features incredible energy (the scene when the sisters all dance is utterly uplifting) and contrasts it with frozen tableau at beginning and end, suggesting thta the family is trapped by circumstances, even as the dynamics have shifted. Stop reading this and try to read/watch the play/film instead!

I'm off to try to sleep now, and if that fails, I'll work some more on my latest curly whirly scarf: hop over here (see especially the picture labelled "flared reproductive structures") for a vivid pictorial explanation of why I refer to any spiralling scarves and anything with masses of frills (like anything made from Wendy Knitit) as slug genitalia. One of the best books that I have ever read is Garden Creepy-Crawlies by Michael Chinnery (Whitett Books, 1986). I confess to having been one of those little girls who preferred keeping caterpillars/watching worms in the garden to boring stuff like knitting, yuk, but Chinnery's book (which I read whilst commuting to work) reavealed all sorts of things that I'd never been aware of, most memorably the mating ritual of the great grey slug limax maximus...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

thank you, SP

Hmm, Blogger seems to have eaten the pictures I've just scanned in! This is supposed to show you scans of my amazing gifts from my SP...Twice it has told me that my pictures have uploaded and twice I just seem to have text. Grrr. Will try again later...

Update 5th August: yay! we have pictures. One lantern moon needle case and card with the most excellent cat illustration that I've seen in a long while; and one totally fantastic case for circular needles, beautifully made by my SP (which I could machine as neatly as she does) from provencale fabric.

I blame Borders

Naughty, naughty Borders bookshop. Not only have they placed their Cambridge branch within a minute's walk of where I work, they've also somehow arranged to get new influxes of knitting books on the very day that I am paid. Bad, bad Borders. It is, therefore, entirely Borders fault that I left yesterday £16.95 lighter (wish that was 16.5lbs lighter, but that's another story) clutching a copy of Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan. I've been in love with tesselations ever since I was a little girl, fell in love with Fibonacci, sea creatures and (ahem) slug genitalia in my 20s and then, whilst doing my MA, developed an obsession with Pangolins
Another armored animal--scale
lapping scale with spruce-cone regularity until the
form the uniterrrupted central

and paper nautliluses (nautilii?)
for she is in
a sense a devil-
fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight
is hid but is not crushed

for which Marianne Moore is entirely responsible.
Add to that my passion for short rows and modular knitting, and just one look at the skirt composed of hexagons on the front cover sucked me in to this book. I've hardly pulled my nose out of it since. I don't think I'll be making many exact replicas of the patterns in this book, except, perhaps, the Ram's Horn Jacket, although all the fun knitting there is in the collar. But I can see endless possibilities spiralling out from the basalt tank and spiral scarf: in crochet, as well as knitting. So, money well-spent. Mind you, some of the garments do rather seem to have elevated form over function (don't think you'll be finding me in the nautilus poncho but it has major possibilities for making a cushion!). I'd also have liked to see more photos of natural objects, a bit more background on the maths and some choice quotations from Marianne Moore but there is a reading list at the back...
Now I must get back to work--the great post-carpet laying reorganisation: dragging files back into the study and stash back into everywhere I can possibly cram it; copywriting which I should've done on Friday afternoon but it was too hot; and my latest curly whirly scarf (yes, more slug genitalia, this one is turquoise cotton, may feature a lace panel, and will definately be finished with a scary stand-out eyelash edge.) Watch this space!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Calling California

I've just received the most wonderful package from my SP. She'd tipped me off that something was on its way and warned me that it would come under the name and address of a friend of hers. So I must begin by saying "thank you" to "the friend of Thersa Robinett". Theresa's friend has already sent me fabulous yarn that she spun herself. Now she's sent me a needle sheath from Lantern Moon and, better still, she's made another gift herself, a wonderful needle case for my circular needles. Words can't do either of these items justice, so I'll try to get some pictures sorted out somehow but the care and attention that have gone into the case for the circulars is astonishing. I've really got a wonderful Pal here!

Also on the SP front, Bobbi, our group's hostess, has sent us a question to answer:

Someone has stolen your stash and all your books: now what are you going to do? Well, I think I'd sit down and cry, but I suspect that husband and step-daughter would throw a party to celebrate suddenly getting about 25% of their house back. (I exagerrate but only slightly...)I think I'd have to put some music on and dance the fury out of my system. And then I'd see whether my drop spindle and wool tops had gone too. If not, I'd set to work with those, even though I'm totally rubbish at spinning. Actually, felting might be quite theraputic, too.

Bobbi goes on to ask ;What would be the first thing you'd replace? What would you live without? I think that I'd have to get some needles and yarn first (surprise!) but, more specifically, some short wooden needles (peace fleece/brittany) and some Kureyon or Silk Garden yarn. Watching all those colours unfurl would cheer me up and destress me in no time. And what would I live without? Think it would have to be extra-chunky yarn and big needles,as my fingers are starting to find these painful in anything but short doses. Oh, and if any of the stolen books relate to how to do a PhD the burglar can keep those. They didn't help me but might give him/her something better to do than going round pilfering yarn and books!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Chaos Central

Well, guess which household has chosen the hottest time of the year to replace almost all the ground floor carpets?! Spouse has spent most of w/end moving furniture and ripping up carpet from the hallway and spare room but today we have to get to work on the study. This means that I have to clear my foot-high stack of random paperwork (some crucial, some rubbish) off my desk, and the foot-high piles of paperwork off the floor. And I have to disconnect this computer for a couple of days (so you will experience blissful peace and quiet).

First of all, though, I'm going to remove my little cache of SP goodies and put them somewhere both safe and obvious! Not only do I have a couple of packages lined up for the person I'm spoiling but I've also just received a card from the lovely person spoiling me. I started to open it last night and then remembered that she'd emailed me asking me not to open it until a parcel arrvies as the card mentions what's in the parcel. This is *very* exciting.

And now I must go into removal mode and start excavating the desk. Last time we had to turn this room upside down was when our darling kitty bought a mouse in. speaking of said cat, we were joking the other evening about how she's given up briding and mousing during the heatwave. half an hour later we had a freshly-killed mouse on the patio. Jiminey had obviously taken our comments to heart!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

anniversary gifts for knitters

Here we are, Rosie's cut-out-and-leave-lying-where-your-partner-will-find-it guide to what to buy on that special day! No partner right now? Take the age you'll be on your birthday and divide the figure up into smaller numbers then persuade your best mates/mum/cat that as you'll be 46 (well, I will, anyway) that makes 4 (linen) times 10 (tin) plus 3 (leather) plus 5 (wood) minus 1 (paper), so you'll give the wrapping back, and (on reflection) possibly check your maths! But you get my drift...

I've used the list of anniversaruies supplied by Wikipedia:
1 year: paper... a year's subscription to Interweave Knits/Selvedge magazine (that way you'll get gifts throughout they year, yay!)
2 years: cotton... enough choice cotton yarn to make a stunning garment
3 years: leather (wow!)...enough pliable leather thonging to knit a belt/make bag handles/a bag
4 years: linen ...that has to be more yarn, I feel
5 years: wood ... needles, the selection should include birch, surina and rosewood
6 years: iron ... how about a steamer to help with blocking (OK, so it isn't meant to be *that* kind of iron)
7 years: wool ... yes, oh yes, oh, yes, oh,oh (moving swiftly on...)
8 years: bronze ...this calls for a specially commissioned piece of jewellery with a knitting theme
9 years:copper...more jewellery
10 years: tin (or aluminium) ... a tin trunk bursting with yarn, or a selection of aluminium needles, preferably in gorgeous colours
11 years: steel ... traditional steel knitting pins (dpns) with a knitting sheath to anchor them (hey! you could have the sheath for your leather anniversary)
12 years: silk ...even more yarn, I'm loving this!
13 years: lace ...lace patterns/books with accompanying laceweight yarn
14 years: real ivory here, that's cruel, but how about some ivore casein needles (Boye make them, I think)
15 years: crystal... more knitting themed jewellery. Actually, no, I think it is high time to go for the champgne flutes (plus the champagne, of course).
25 years: silver ... silver-plated needles, silver stitch markers...
and, unblievable as it might sound...
80 years: Oak ... personally, I'd go for a mega-comfy rocking chair but if you've got offspring, how about a trunk for all those heirlooms you've knitted up over the years? (Have just realised that at this point I'll be 124 and my husband 145, so we're probably talking coffins, though actaully I want to go for a green burial in cardboard when my time comes!)

Please add your suggestions!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

bad start, better finish

Only had to go in to work for a brief bit this morning so (given current astonishing heatwave) decided not to lug large bag full of knitting, book etc with me and took just cards, keys, bus pass, 'phone and sun block. So guess whose bus broke down?

But I got home to discover that there is a new UK knitting magazine in the offing, offering more advanced designs and srticles. You can read the gossip here.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

You Had To Be There

I really struggle to put into words the sheer delight of the Cambridge Knit Togethers (our local S'n'B). Today the extraordinary temperature seems to have cut numbers right back, though Avril, Emily and I had a wonderful time knitting whilst basking in the sun. Avril was at work in a cardi in the most luscious shades of green and burgundy and Emily set to work on her first-ever sock (her first-ever go on four needles, too). But it was the Tuesday meeting that I shall never forget! I'd gone feeling rather world-weary but am so glad that I did. It wasn't just the knitting (socks, socks, more socks, a baby's bolero and Jackie's ultra-gorgeous-I'm-going-to-have-to-steal-it Koigu shell) it wasn't just the helpfulness of other knitters when someone is bogged down in the finer points of an abstruse pattern, it wasn't just the, it was the conversation. Monogamous knitting, the links between modernity and fundamentalism and creative ways to overcome insomnia...To get an idea of what the evening was like, head here. I think that I'm going to have to give it a go!

It was also the last time that Mary was able to knit with us, as she's off home to Canada. We first found Mary when four intrepid members of the KTog group ventured outside Cambridge to go to this little outpost of paradise en route to this amazing event. Whilst in the yarn shop we overheard someone saying something about "train from Cambridge", so when we spotted her again en route to the big event we introduced ourselves and got her email. And Mary, in turn, put us in touch with various knit bloggers around Cambridge, and she was instrumental in creating Team Cambridge during the Knitting Olympics.

Who needs to network when you belong to a knitting group?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

seven year itch

The older I get, the more shallow I become...was in the corner shop yesterday (hunting out suitably cute birthday card for my lovely Auntie Joyce) when I saw a wedding anniversary card, that pictured all the "themes" for the first 10 years of marriage (you know the sort of thing, 1st year: cotton depicted by a reel of cotton, 2nd year, er, something else, depicted by something else) and I saw that 7 years = wool (depicted by a ball of pink yarn with some nice bamboo needles speared through it). So now I want to celebrate seven years of marriage (have notched up nearly 11 months since last year's nuptials) and I think I understand what people mean by "seven year itch": it is (obviously) the insatiable desire to have been married 7 years and to be showered with balls of wool by one's loving spouse. And, in the spirit of being "21 again", I can see knitters everywhere celebrating their 7th anniversary over and over again.

Enough: I'm off to feed my neighbours' very affectionate cat. (Graham drew the short straw and has to water their kitv=chen garden, which doesn't mew, purr and generally *adore* in the same way).

Sunday, July 02, 2006

hot, hot, hot

wouldn't you know it? the temperature soared yesterday, so the aircon broke down at work (lots of other electrical equipment was affected, too, including the lights, but not the till so we were still able to trade). I now know far more about "phases" and power cuts than I ever wanted to! Luckily everything was up and running again by 12.15, so I went down to the basement and calmed down with some short rows (my ultimate meditation practice). I'd have done that earlier if it weren't for the fact that all the basement lights were affected, too (but not the CCTV screen, which glowed eerily). And big thanks to Open Air (neighbouring outdoor activities store) for lending us a torch so that we could visit our basement to use the "facilities" when required...). the day took an even better turn when I got home to an email telling me that my amazon order is on its way. yay! Mason Dixon knitting for me and something top secret for my secret pal!

On the hooking front, curly whirly is finished and looks very fine. Graham says it is more like jewellery than a scarf but also says that it looks like slug genitalia...(I have only myself to blame as those of you who heard my comments whilst working with Wendy Knitit will realise!)

Finally: anyone got any recommendations for digital cameras? I want something that will take knitting pix for blog, glorious landscape shots and general mugshots. also, is there anything that can edit out my double chin?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

how it strikes a contemporary

No, this is not post about Robert Browning (although anyone who can write a line like "treat of radish in April" is going to be near the top of my must-read-and-reread list). Instead this is going to be one of my digressions on the shifting nuances of the English language. (Hmm, perhaps blog should be retitled "caught thinking", which does happen once in a while).

About 4 years or so ago, I noticed that it was no longer, er, "a la mode" to say that something was (or, indeed, wasn't) "fashionable". Rather, one could say that--should an item be "cutting edge"-- it was "edgy" (sounds painful) or "directional" (sounds confusing, which direction?*), and if it was merely "trendy" (now there's a word that's dated!), it would be "contemporary" or, possibly, "funky". More recently, publications like Vogue Knitting, have favoured the "fashion forward" touch (at least that "forward" indicates direction). But now, in these days of politicians being "on message", it seems that we are required to be "on trend", as this rather erratic collection of garments shows.

No way! I've decided to be "behind trend" and have been crocheting myself a curly whirly scarf, using a rather nice DMC kit that I found here on Saturday. For £9.99 I got four balls of Senseo wool/cotton in luscious shades of purples, plus a soft yellow/green as well as the pattern and a crochet hook. What a bargain. My only gripe is that the kit says "takes about a week" and mine took 3 days (OK, so I was off work for 2 of those days, but still...). And just a tip for fellow UK hookers (especially fellow newbies), the instructions use American crochet terms (so read "treble" for "double").

*Many years ago my friend Felicity gave me a wonderful patch saying "don't follow me, I'm lost too" I stitched onto my favourite rucksack of the time (made in Hong Kong, purchased in France, it had an inaccurate stab at a Union Jack as its logo). Was I a mixed-up teen or what?