Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another Sunday...

...another trip to Granchester. But this time it was dry and often sunny, too. Fields still awash with cow parsley, though the flowers are starting to fade. Saw this year's first dragonfly (or maybe it was a damselfly, didn't get a close look) now I really believe that summer is on the way. We walked alongside the river this time, though the water looks really turgid due to the heavy rain of the last week. Lunch at the Blue Ball (a really unspoiled pub) followed by tea and scones at the Orchard (well, I had ginger beer, and we spilt one scone three ways). We must have missed the last of the apple blossom by a few days (still a few traces underfoot) but it is still such a relaxing place to be. How better to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting knitting in a green deckchair in the shade of apple trees? Except that I'd forgotten my knitting (which is a crochet project, truth to tell). And that I've got about 8 hours of copywriting to plough through today.

Most of the last week has been dominated by work (plus ca change...had to work 6 full days this week, same next, plus I've had about 20 hours of copywriting to do by next Wednesday morning) but managed to get to Tuesday evening's KTog and had knitting class on Wednesday. The slip stitch patterns went down really well, which I'm thrilled about as I consider them vastly underrrated. At the K Tog I fell in love with Trekking XXL (which Liz is knitting with) and can feel an order coming on. I took along some crochet (first time I've cip'd I think) and am really questioning my decision to crochet with a boucle yarn. Not ideal for a beginner, but oh, the colours (I'm using Elle Monet). Once I've made a bit more progress I'll scan some pix to show off.

Funniest moment of the week was when my husband came into the shop where I work and (after serving a customer) I called across to him from the cashdesk: "fancy a night on the town". what I couldn't see was the face of a lady who didn't realise that Graham is my husband and must have thought she'd wondered into a pick up joint! Graham quickly started talking to me (very loudly, I thought, not realising why) about groceries, family etc, then whispered to me about the poor astonished lady. After he'd gone I did explain to her and we had a really good laugh about it but can see I'll have to be more careful in future or the store could get quite an extraordinary reputation...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Wet but wonderful Sunday

Today almost got off to a disastrous start when spouse woke me up saying "ten to nine". What? No? Surely not? AArgh. Had just 12 minutes (max) to wash, dress, grab backpack and find cagoule. I'd arranged to meet my friend Tamy (who works in Singapore but has just arrived here in Cambridge for a research trip) in town by 10am so *had* to get the 9.10 bus. Somehow I made it! We sat around over coffee (and, in my case, cake...well, I'd not had breakfast, had I?) hoping that the lowering grey cloud would pass, but eventually decided to head out along the fen and then on to Granchester Meadows. The fields have turned into forests of cow parsley, with the odd buttercup just about peeping through on the margins. Really stunning and lush. But what is the mian requirement of lush fields? Why, yes, rain. Lots of it. All falling directly on me and Tamy. Now I actually rather enjoy rain (it makes my hair curlier, for one thing) so I marched on with my cagoule hood down, but Tamy was (sensibly) concerned not to catch a chill (this must be so different from Singapore!) . This meant that once in Granchester we had to go straight to a pub to warm up. (Such a pity, don't you think?) The Red Lion was the only one open before noon and, although the menu was a bit on the expensive side, we decided to dine there. Tamy was so excited that there were 3 vegetarian choices. I got a wet behind as I somehow managed to sit up against the hood of my cagoule. Not a good look when I stood up to leave... The "Ladies" was full of ladies wringing out wet socks, trying to wash mud off trousers, squeezing water out of hair etc. After lunch we walked back through the rain, with the meadows looking lusher still, then caught a glimpse of filming for "The Golden Age" (sequel to "Elizabeth", with Cate Blancett playing lead again). I know a few people who're extras in the film and, over the last few days, one of them has managed to get her neck badly sunburnt (Thu) only to get so cold in her costume the next day that she had to be wrapped up in blankets! Tells you a bit about English weather, doesn't it? But it was just so good catching up with Tamy, as we only manage to get together about once/year.

Once home (and dry), I set to work on preparing a handout on slip stitches/mosaic knitting. Thought I'd better test my instructions out before handing them over to the class, hence the sampler at the top of the page. (Yarns are a 4-ply by Stylecraft and Regia stretch). Note how Ms Lazybones here couldn't be bothered to work individual swatches. Still, I rather like the effect and (in the unexpected event of having some knitting time) feel that this could be inspiration for a baby jacket, or even some socks. Watch this space.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

the best loo roll cover in the world, ever

How I wish I'd had a camera at my disposal last night. During the "show and tell section" of the creative knitting class one of my students dipped into her bag saying "this was meant to be a hat but came out rather small" and produced a loo roll covered in a masterpiece. The sides were in short row waves (see post on marble yarn) alternating between red and blue, the top was a riot of red, green, blue and yellow short row wedges forming a circle. The very centre was filled in with a coil of bright green i-cord. It was stunning. Gill who'd made it said that it was one of her family who'd suggested the alternative use, unexpected but great fun. We (the rest of the class) ate trying to encourage her to adapt the pattern to fit a teapot so that she can enter the tea cosy competition in Knitting magazine. We spent the evening working on mitred squares which everyone enjoyed.

Just before the class I spent a happy couple of hours out hunting gifts for my SP. Great fun. Also ransacked the central library's collection of books on Art Nouveau for some web copy that I'm writing for HQ. And I dropped in at Sew Creative for a couple of balls of Elle Monet which may get turned into a crocheted scarf (that's the plan at the moment, anyway). All in all, a grand day off (just as well, as I'm working 6/7 for the next 3 weeks, just Sundays to unwind). Still, finally and offically got promoted today (yay!) so feeling more secure. Celebrated by escaping to Borders where got Debbie Stoller's new crochet book, called something along the lines of "Happy Hooking", thus reducing both Borders staff and my colleagues to fits of laughter. Lastly, realise that I've forgotten to mention that I've received my copy of Critical Essays on Sylvia Townsend Warner (Edwin Mellen Press) featuring a contribution by yours truly. I may have given up on the PhD, but at least I've got a souvenir!

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Oooh, this is so exciting. I've been in touch both with the person who will be spoiling me (don't know that person's name) and the person who I'll be spoiling (know her name and am enjoying her blog but must not say more than that so I don't give the game away). Can't think when I last took part in so much subterfuge! And what a fabulous excuse to go shooting all over the net in search of lovely goodies.


Now that Mexican Wave yarn seems to have been discontinued I've been hunting around for another acrylic yarn to use as what I might call a "poor girl's Noro" for simple modular knit projects. Had to try James C Brett's Marble yarn after hearing wonderful things about it (particularly from Alex's day I'll manage to get links into my posts...) Decided that it would be just the thing for the short row "waves" that I was teaching in my Creative Knitting class and ordered several different colours from Dianne's Knitting Yarns. As ever, Dianne's got the yarn to me in double quick time. And on Wednesday night the students got to work. Some of the colourways seemed very subtle (the orange with grey, the red, see scan on left, though the yarn isn't really *quite* as subtle as the scan suggests) and others had somewhat more dramatic colour changes (the pink with grey, the blue) but they all looked superb. One of the students found the yarn a bit splitty but we all loved the effect. And it feels much more plush than you would expect for 100% acrylic.

This week we'll be working with mitered (domino) squares, so I must get to work on a handout! I like to use garter stitch squares with decreases on the right side (a la Vivian Hoxbro) but the chain selvedge I use (knit first stitch through back, knit to last stitch, yarn forward, slip stitch as if to purl) is the one Horst Schulz uses. I'm still feeling regretful about not having managed to get the time off work to go to Horst's course in Marlow in April, as I know that he has been experimenting with combining short row effects with his patchwork knitting.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cambridge KTogs: May dates

Hooray! Have finally got dates and venues organised for this month's KTogs. If you're anywhere near Cambridge on the evening of Tuesday 23 May or the afternoon of Saturday 27 May and fancy knitting in public, come join us. A huge thank you to Liz, Sue and Jill without whom there wouldn't be any meetings this month. I'm going to try my very bestest to get to (at least) the Tuesday meeting.

Tuesday 23 May 7-9pm
Granta Bar, ground floor, University Centre, Granta Place, off Mill Lane, Cambridge. Good light levels, cheap drinks, good company and knitting. What more could anyone ask?

Saturday 27 May 2-4pm
Grads Cafe, top floor, University Centre, Granta Place, off Mill Lane, Cambridge. Family-friendly venue, young knitters and would-be knitters welcome.

If you've not been to the university centre before, you don't have to sign in at reception or anything like that. Just turn left if you're going to the Granta Bar (which is then through the second set of doors on your left) or take the lift/stairs to the top floor for Grads Cafe.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Found this on thereyougothen's blog and (sitting in my book-filled study which i share with hubby) thought this could be quite amusing...
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 161.
3.Find the fifth sentence.
4.Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

The novelist stands in need of some essential formal and generic mask that could serve to define the position from which he views life, as well as the position from which he makes that life public.

Crumbs! I'd better rearrange the study so that *my* books are nearer *my* desk. Have decided to repeat the excercise using the nearest book that belongs to me. here goes:
attempt 1: Jan Eaton's "Ripple Stitch Patterns" doesn't go up to page 161. (Still the best new book I've bought in a long while. My knitting class students agree, too. Two of them have bought it and one's gone on to get the knitted blocks book)
attempt 2: telephone directory (must tidy this place!)
attempt 3: But what if there's a solution?

Enough. I'm supposed to be editing that CV!


Fun and games here at the Baobab Tree today. (The Baobab Tree is our affectionate nickname for our house). How I wish I had a camera! A neighbour had hired a high-pressure cleaner to blast her patio free from dirt and algae, so we offered to split the cost with her and zap our patio, too. I just did the easy part (turning on the water, turning on the electricity) whilst Graham and Laura (my stepdaughter) did the dirty work. Despite wearing waterproofs and wellies they got very wet. And they had the most wonderful time. Poor old Jiminey cat was not happy, however.

Now that all the hard work is done I might just go and plant the lily of the valley, aquilegia, geranium and mallow that I bought whilst at the Sunday market this morning. For yes, I have a rare day off work. I've been spending it at the market, stocking up on birthday presents for important people and I'm brushing up my CV. Because, much as I love my job, it has meant that I've not been able to go on a course I'd booked with Horst Schultz, that I've arrived late for the evening class I teach (that's never happened before and will never happen again) and I've had to cancel a dayschool that I was going to teach. Once the resume is done I must get to work on preparing handouts and samples of mitered squares and modular fan shapes. Now that most certainly doesn't feel like work!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

sp8 questionnaire

I've signed up for my first-ever Secret Pal exchange. This is the questionnaire that we've been asked to fill in. You will note that i'm not very good at getting to the point.

Q. What is/are your favourite yarn(s) to knit with? What fibres do you absolutely *not* like?
A. Thinking about this I've realised that I'm more influenced by colour than by texture or yarn composition. Since I'm a big fan of multi-directional knitting I love yarns like Noro's Kureyon and Silk Garden that change colour and have wonderful combinations of colour. And I don't think I could ever bring myself to knit with certain pastel shades. But the pastel shades would be even worse if they were made out of a particularly harsh acrylic! I don't rule synthetics out completely, they just have to have a pleasant feel. (That's not much help SP, is it?)

Q. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
A. Might be quicker to list what I don't use. I have to confess to being a rather untidy individual, so carrier bags (ugh) do, I'm afraid, feature. Mind you, the one that I use most often is a rather fabulous paper carrier bag covered in rather smart artwork that I got when I purchased the latest instalment of the Harry Potter saga. For showing off my poshest needles I have a wonderful antique earthenware jar and some very attractive pencil pots; for the everyday needles I've got a fabulous needle roll (an heirloom , it was made by, and belonged to, one of my grandmothers) and for my circulars I have a gorgeous tin (with a William Morris pattern on the top) which once contained some equally gorgeous biscuits.

Q.How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
A. Assorted feamle relatives tried to teach me to knit almost 40 years ago, but I wasn't having any of it. Finally got hooked in my late teens, so we're talking 27 years. (Where've they all gone???) My skill level is, I suppose, intermediate. I've tended to shy away from traditional techniques (fairisle, lace, intarsia, cable) in favour of exploring patchwork knitting (I've studied with Horst Schultz), short rows, slip stitches etc.

Q. Do you have an Amazon or other online wishlist?
A. I'm afraid not. But I love surprises!

Q. What's your favourite scent (for candles, bath products, etc?)
A. I love frankincense, cinnamon, cardomom and lemon-y or apple-based scents. I love the scent of grass when it has been raining, even though it makes me sneeze. I don't do sweet florals.

Q. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favourite Candy?
A. Not really. No, that's a lie! I like really dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa solids). I love dried fruit, especially when coated with blueberry powder, or white chocolate or other naughty additions. OOh, and crystalized ginger. Yummy.

Q. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
A. I'm slowly getting the hang of crochet (taught myself last year) and I do like to make felt when the sun is shining (because I work outside on a pasting table). I have experimented with a drop spindle but not got very far (as anyone who saw my attempts at Skip North will testify). In a rather off-tangent answer I confess to enjoying going outside, sticking my arms out and spinning round and round on the spot until I get very dizzy!

Q. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your pal wants to make you a CD)
A. I love early music (from medieval to baroque) and some C20th composers (esp. Copeland and Peter Maxwell Davies); I enjoy folk and world music and I love the wit of Cole Porter and Charles Trenet. If I hadn't been so exhausted after work today I'd planned to go to a concert of C17th Spanish dance music. Irritatingly, the music (and, indeed, DVD) playing side of my computer has died but there is a CD player in out lounge.

Q. What's your favorite colour? Or--do you have a colour family/season/palette you prefer? Any colours you just can't stand
A. Take a look at the colour combinations you get in Noro yarns, I've never had a duff one yet. And see my previous comment about icky pastels. More precisley, I wear a lot of mossy greens and autumn leaf colours (or, at least I would do if I wasn't expected to wear black to work!) and I also love reddish-purples (plum, burgundy), reds, quite strong pinks (Schiaperelli more than barbie!). Best of all is a certain shade of green that's not quite lime, not quite grass, not quite moss or olive green; rather bright but not *too* yellow. Fussy, moi?

Q. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
A. I live with my lovely husband of 8 months (but partner of several years) and his daughter is usually around, too. We are looked after by a very gentle-natured (female) cat called Jiminey.

Q. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
A. Yes, yes, yes and yes. And stoles and shawls and gloves. I love swishy things. I love cosy things.

Q. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
A. Accessories. I have a very short attention span and (at the moment) precious little time, so I like to think small.

Q. What are you knitting right now?
A. A couple of scarves.

Q. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
A. I most certainly do. I love making them , too.

Q. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
usually circulars, although I also like short needles/dpns for my patchwork knitting projects. I love bamboo and *anything* that is a pretty colour, or beautifully carfted.

Q. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
A. I have a vey unaesthetic metal swift that belonged to my grandma but is very useful.

Q. How did you learn to knit?
Sweat and tears (fortunately blood wasn't involved). Early knitting lessons from mother and grandmother were not appreciated. Later I remembered just enough to let me use a fabulous book with clear diagrams.

Q. How old is your oldest UFO?
A. I dread to think! Suspect there may still be one or two things from the early 1980s tucked away at my parents house. But I take heart from my mother who just 2 years ago finished something that she started (an went wrong on) in 1967.

Q. What is your favourite holiday?
A. Anything that involves fresh air and gentle strolls. If the question refers to "holiday" as in "festival" that's rather a difficult one. I'm not exactly a pagan but I like to mark the solstices and shifting seasons.

Q. Is there anything that you collect?
A. Library book fines and dirty laundry. Oh, and yarn, lots of it.

Q. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
Nothing specific, but I love browsing through new titles (am lucky enough to live in a town that has several very good bookshops). I don't subscribe to any mags at the moment, but my favourties are Knitting (UK), Interweave Knits and Knitty. Actually, I've just told another lie. I subscribe to a fabulous UK textiles magazine called "Selvedge", my mother gives me a sub the UK version of "Country Living" for Xmas each year and I get the Syliva Townsend Warner Society journal. (STW is the author I was writing on for my PhD before I realised that I wanted to do something more practical and less desk-bound).

Q. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
A. I really am going to get more adventurous with sock construction (have yet to try toe up, afterthought heels etc).

Q. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
A. m I'm trying to be but suffer from second sock syndrome. So I've got lots of " nearly" pairs eg a 2x2 rib in variegated blue/cream yarn, with blue heel and toe paired with a 2x2 rib in variegated orange/lilac yarn with lilac heel and toe. Foot measurements: UK size 6.5-7 (about a 40, sometimes 41) and rather broad. Plus I've got chunky calves.

Q. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)
All Souls Day (2 November)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

sometimes it pays to be brave...

Did something I never, ever thought I'd do yesterday and ate an oyster (garnished with onion in red wine vinegar). It tasted excellent (maybe that was the onion or vinegar?!) But isn't there an old saying that you should only eat oysters when there's an "r" in the month? Hmm, maybe this month is really called "Mary"?

Work/life balance still seriously upset but I've cast on a new short row scarf using james brett's Marble yarn in rich autumnal reds. Which reminds me that I've not finished the spring greens. Hope I can remember where i've put the project. Turned up at the polling station to vote in the local election this evening and was thrown when I saw that if you lived in roads beginning A-M you went into one room, N-Z were in another...for a terrifying moment I couldn't remember my own address. Fortunately it was on my poll card. Hmm, is this brain rot from my punishing schedule, or is it the advent of the dreaded "senior moments"? (Don't answer that one!)