Thursday, December 27, 2007

silver lining (and gold rim)!

The only downside of my job is that there is no "little girls' room." (NB. This IS legal, long story...) There are some "public" facilities nearby and (needless to say) I'll wend my way there once or twice a day. When I got there today I was greeted by an annoying sign saying "closed for cleaning", so I decided to spend 5 minutes browsing in the Oxfam shop across the road. When I went back, the loos were still closed (worse, they were still closed 3 hours later, so I had to use the expensive ones at Park St car park).

But, it is true: every cloud has a silver lining (and, in this case, a gold rim, too) because LOOK WHAT I SCORED IN THE OXFAM SHOP. (I make no apology for shouting).
OK, so I'm a stepmother, as opposed to a mother, but that still puts me in the "mothers" category (and it gives me more time for knitting than genuine motherhood would, but I digress). Maybe this out-of-focus saucer might give you some idea as to why a non-tea drinker falls in love with a cup.
Needles and yarn, thimble and thread, killer heels... And on the back of the cup, a woman reading by a blazing fire (that's me that is, though I don't have quite such a shapely figure).
And on the front of the mug: yay! She's been caught knitting...
The cup is an oversize one of the "breakfast cup" type, the manufacturer is Fieldings Crown Devon, the pattern number 5599. Fieldings ceased trading in 1982, but I can't find any info online as to what date this might be from. Maybe 1950s?
I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't believe the price (and went and double-checked it with the manager) and the woman queueing behind me was very, very envious. Sorry the pictures are so poor, but I won't be at home during daylight until 1 Jan and I wanted to show it off now!

Monday, December 24, 2007

(Christmas) Windows on Vienna

How much is that doggie in the (Kunsthaus) window?

I was so busy snapping this rather wonderful window display (the bear is about 8 feet tall) that I failed to notice what the shop actually sells...

And finally, Father Christmas fails to find a chimney so has to clamber up the side of the building!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Take the N Tram

Whilst I spent most of my time in Vienna with Tamy, she had to stay at home on the morning of her brother's graduation, so I set off on a quest of my own...

Here's tram N, at Schwedenplatz, ready to take me in search of the works of perhaps my favourite artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the man who inspired an Opal sock yarn range (NB the link is given merely for the picture, this isn't a company I've used). I travelled as far as Hetzgasse (where I dived into a supermarket for an Almdudler, an Austrian soft drink (allegedly a herbal lemonade, but it tastes rather like ginger ale blended with lucozade) which I actually prefer to "cola light"! A few steps later I found the first object of the morning's quest: the Hundertwasserhaus
The House is a block of flats that was given the Hundertwasser treatment (no straight lines, trees growing on rooftops and balconies) etc. Really, since he was an artist, not an arhitect, he has merely desinged the cladding. But it is so exhilarating! (What the residents think, though, I'm not sure: the street outside crawls with tourists and school groups). Somewhere near here is, apparently, a house designed by a philosopher, Wittgenstein (the Wittgensteinhaus). The Rough Guide recoomends that you visit the Hundertwasserhaus and give the Wittgensteinhaus a miss. The MAK guide, however (the MAK is Vienna's museum of applied design, which manages the increidble feat of being welcoming, cutting edge and shcolarly in equal measure) lists the Wittgensteinhaus as an architectural must-see and mysteriously fails to mention the Hundertwasserhaus... I did not go to see the Wittgensteinhaus but I have visited one of the houses he lived in whilst in Cambridge: it's where Tamy lived when she was studying for her PhD! After I'd browsed round the Kalke (Hundertwasser shopping arcade) I turned left and (following the instructions in the Rough Guide) "headed 4 blocks North" to reach the Kunsthaus Wien (Vienna Arthouse), another Hundertwasser conversion which houses a fabulous collection of his art. This was one of the highlights of my last trip to Vienna and I almost didn't go back. First, it made such an impression on me during my first visit that I can actually replay my time there like a video. And, secondly, I was concerned that the second visit would be anticlimactic.
I needn't have worried! From the moment the lady at the ticket desk flicked through the tickets to find me the most interesting one (they actually form a jigsaw of a painting of the Kunsthaus which, as you will see above, is decorated rather like a jigsaw) till the moment I left I just drank in the colour, the undulations (be warned, such is Hundertwasser's dislike of straight lines that even the floors curve up and down), the sheer exuberance. And I did spot a couple of things thta I overlooked last time, including a model of the power station which Hundertwasser "made over". Id seen the power station from the S-bahn when travelling from the airport to the hotel but I saw a very unexpected feature on the model: the top of one of the chimneys is clad in a replica of Hundertwasser's flamboyant, velvet, oversized, hippy cap. And, as I took the S-bahn back to the airport the following day, there I saw it: one mad hat with snow and steam swirling round it.

Incidentally, the KunstHaus's giftshop sells the Hudnertwasser Opal sock yarn, but at a premium. And, since my next stop was to be the yarn shop on Josefstadterstr. (tram N, tram 1, tram J...I did feel adventurous!) I gave the Opal a miss. (Probably just as well, I got to the yarn shop at 12.25 and it closed from 12.30 to 2.30 for lunch. As a sales assistant myself, I must say that I remain quite bemused by the brevity of Austrian shop opening hours).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum...

As I sit here trying to sort my thoughts about (and pictures of ) Vienna into order, I'm listening to Frohe Weihnacht, a wonderful selection of carols and classical music that I discovered in Vienna. Hearing "O Tannenbaum" ("O, Christmas Tree") gave me the inspiration I was looking for: here is a selection of trees, ranging from the cunning (my parents' use of their weeping fig), to the altogether shocking (the "altogether" being a clue!). Apologies in advance for the picture quality, these are definately snapshots!

First, my parents' tree. We had hoped they would come and spend Christmas with us, but Ma isn't feeling well enough, so we visited them yesterday. I'd forgotten my father's cunning take on Christmas trees (he started doing this about 5 or 6 years ago). Far from traditional, but --swathed in tiny white lights and decked out with red wooden pears, knitted santa and angel, felt stars and a few other traditional favourites--it fits beautifully into their sitting room.

Next, a stunningly beautiful tree in Freyung, a Viennese shopping arcade. Tamara is in front, clutching a bottle of diet coke (or "cola lite" as I learned to call it in Austria! The infamous straw --see Weds 19--is stowed safelyinside the bottle...) Many people say that our modern-day Father Christmases and Santa Clauses are dressed in red solely because of a coca cola advertising campaign that ousted the traditional green.

And now... this is the window of BluMax on Mariahilferstrasse, Vienna's main shopping street.
At first glance, just an ordinary tree, swathed in net, feathers and angels. But let's take a closer look...these certainly ain't angels!
Some may have been wearing scanty panties, but others were in the altogether, their modesty protected merely by the afore-mentioned feathers and net...
Yes, what can only be described as a Burlesque Christmas tree, in all its glory!

I have to confess to having been a little shocked by this but Tamy was more disturbed by the gingerbread nativity scene that we saw in one of the booths at the Christmas market in Freyung Square. We assume that it was for display only, and not for consumption...

Viennese Whirl Scarves

Recipe: yarn shops in a favourite city, focussing on luscious textures and colours.
2.let rip with crochet hooks (size according to personal whim)

I sold both scarves on Thursday. The one on the right is off to New Zealand!

from the backblog: a wonderful prize

Look at this most gorgeous yarn:

It is 2 x 50g skeins of Angels & Elephants Shetland 2-ply, Candy Floss colourway. It arrived when my parents were here for lunch. Mum asked if she could take a closer look, and, believe me, I had a tough job getting it back again...
It arrived courtesy of Isabella (and her daughter), after I entered a competition on her blog. Do take a look at the tempting offer Isabella has just discovered!

the secret's out!

On my return from Vienna last week, before I'd even got my coat off, Graham thrust the most enormous package into my hands. It was a squidgy, lime green jiffy bag that had been sent from Germany. "I think it is from your secret pal" said G (who gets as excited about these things as I do!). And sure enough, as well as these lovely goodies:

(the yarn is composed of several strands of differing, but all scrumptiously soft, textures) there was a note revealing that my upstream pal is QuiltKarin. Many, many thanks Karin, for all the delights you've sent me (and apologies for my dreadful German!). This is the first time, in 3 rounds of SP, that I've not managed to "catch" my upstream pal before she's revealed herself to me. Meanwhile, in Estonia, my downstream pal decided to play at being Sherlock Holmes and tracked me down via Ravelry: Siret, you were an absolute joy to spoil and I adore reading your blog!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Viennese Whirls!

Not only am I back safely from Vienna, I've also managed to convert much of the yarn that I bought there into curly whirly scarves. A proper post (featuring photos of Xmas markets and some rather varied window displays) should follow by the weekend. Here, however, is one of the more urgent items: the yarn report!

Nicole asked about the yarn stores. In a word: "Wow!". I didn't get to visit all the ones recommended by The Austrian Addicts group on Ravelry but the three that I found within 10-15 minutes walk of each other (and my hotel) were fabulous. More details of those anon.

First, I must tell you about the one I decided to give a miss. Some of you may know that I was a wee bit anxious about the salubriousness of the area I was going to be staying in. (Note to self: next time you book dirt cheap hotel room, do read reviews of hotel before booking, not after. Or maybe just ignore them completely: many reviews panned the hotel but I found very clean and very comfortable). The "problem" was that it was just off the Gurtel (main ring road round Vienna) long stretches of which are used for soliciting, "erotic shops" and the like... I soon discovered that the short stretch I had to walk along (from Alser Strasse tube station to the street I was staying in) had only a drive-in MacDonalds on one side of the road and a parade of abandoned shops on the other. But one of the shops, whilst dingy and dirty, dusty and abandoned-looking, did appear to be open, albeit only on Mondays and Tuesdays. The window was full of tapestry kits and yarn (mostly brown, all very dusty). I gave it a miss, assuming that it was probably a front for a drug dealer. But, yes, I suspect my imagination had run away with me again. And a fleeting glance in daylight on Friday morning revealed that it stocked Austermann yarns. Ah well...

So that was the one that got away. The three I visited (and fell in love with) were:
Glatt & Verkehrt
Alser Strasse (towards the Gurtel end of the road), tram 44
Sells mainly Gedifra plus Regia sock yarns. It also sells OTT light-up needles and hooks. It was here that I attempted my most adventurous-ever foray into speaking German (which I did not get the chance to learn at school, boo): "Sechs batterien fur halke needlen, bitte". (Apologies for not typing in the accents, I'd probably get those wildly wrong). I ruined it not only by (a) pronouncing everything wrong but also (b) saying "pour" instead of "fur". (Yes, French is my second language, and the one I automatically find myself using whenever overseas. I have bumped into people in Stockholm, Vienna and San Diego and baffled them by saying "Oh, pardon Monsieuer/Madame". I think that it must be a reflex reaction triggered when I see cars driving on the right.)
But I digress! The amazing lady in the shop understood what I wanted (I was able to point at the hooks/needles as I spoke, which could be what gave her the clue) and I now have plenty of spare batteries (anyone nearby who'd like one, just let me know!)
Wollboutique Balder
Alserstrasse 21 (at the junction with Langegasse) trams 43/44. Pingouin sign outside.
I'd been here before (when I was in Vienna for Tamy's wedding about 3 years ago) and found it even better than last time. It is very well-organised and packed full of Lana Grosse (inclduing several covetable yarns on incredibly good special offer, plus some Rowan Tapestry and Opal and Regia for socks. I was struck by how many mroe variegated yarns are available than back in the UK and also lots of boucle yarns, too. Lots of rich, winter colours and almost every yarn has a sample knitted up and yardage/stithces to 10cm. I made 3 trips here (once to browse, twice to buy)and the shop was full of customers each time I went. (You can fit about 5 in at once!) My first purchase was some worsted-weight merino (variegated, greens and bright pinks and oranges) and a fluffy microfibre/merino/mohair blend that is as soft and alluring as a marmalade cat. These have been combined into a curly whirly scarf. I also got a couple of odd balls to work into other projects. And on my last morning treated myself to co-ordinating boucle and smooth yarns for a warm hat. That was a special outing: it was finally snowing, the last of my Euros were burning a hole in my pocket and I spotted a young woman knitting on the tram).
Last, but by no means least:
Josefstadterstrasse 14 tram J (at the Rathaus end of the street)
Again, one I've been to before. Bursting at the seams with beautiful knitted items (look out for the conical, welted, Noro hats
with pony tail holes at the top!) and sumptuous yarns from all over the globe. Yarns stocked include Noro, Anny Blatt, Rowan, Lang, some gorgeous shetland in hanks, and many, many other distractions. But (with rather dodgy timing) I had arrived at 12.25 and she closes for lunch from 12.30-2.30. So I quickly swept my eyes round the shop and made a snap decision. Using the virtually foolproof method of pointing, I requested "drei" of some Lang Mille Colori (now transformed into a scarf) and "ein" of something for someone who reads this blog...
Buoyed up by this success, I went to a newspaper kiosk and (pointing) requested "Anna Weinachts" (Anna Christmas Special). Unfortunately I pronounced it as "Wien nachts" (Anna Vienna Nights special) which made the kiosk man roar the correct pronunciation back at me... One learns!

The yarns I bought were probably about 20% cheaper than I would have paid for comparable things in the UK, but Rowan is far more expensive in Austria.

Hope this is helpful, Nicole, (though you certainly didn't need to know about my dodgy German). And you should have seen me in a bakery, miming a "can my friend have a straw,please?"!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

hibernating until 15/12

off on my travels (first a wedding, then Vienna). back soon!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

hiding the evidence

Uh-oh. Caught Knitting's been blowing the housekeeping (again) on fancy organic cider...

How's she going to hide the evidence before Graham gets home?

Yay! Problem solved thanks to Monkee Maker! This is the amazing bottle warmer that I won earlier this month. Thanks Kerry. The workmanship on this handy hidey holder is superb and I'm hoping to buy a bag from Kerry's shop very soon, but they keep selling out...

Why do I need the bag? Er, well, I've also been blowing the housekeeping on yumptious Hip Knits silk yarn from Sew Creative (blush).

ps Sorry about the rubbish photos. NB I don't really have a housekeeping budget to juggle. The real reason I have to disguise the cider is so that Graham doesn't drink it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

potty question...

I've been crocheting and felting small baskets/pots from my hand-dyed yarn over the last 3 or 4 weeks and I'm wondering whether or not to add them to my market stock. Do you think they would sell? (NB I haven't really been storing my make-up/beads/hooks in this set, Graham suggested I took a photo like this just to prove that they have a purpose!).

They do look rather, shall we say, "organic", and they aren't ultra-stiff. I love them but I'm not sure the shoppers at the stall formerly known as Cambridge WI Market would appreciate them. I'd appreciate your feedback and will review the situation next week. Whilst they're small, they have a minimum of 25g of yarn in each and I was thinking of pricing them at about £7.50-£10. the reason that I'm not keeping for myself is that I have some larger ones that I made earlier, and those are used for storing my makeup and beads.

from the back(b)log: SP package

Look at the exciting parcels that I received earlier this month! Inside were chocs (consumed almost instantly), a selection of teas, some soap (already in use) and

the most wonderful linen/wool sock yarn, composed of several ultra-fine yarns would together. I'm really looking forward to trying this out.
Thanks, SP (and sorry about the poor photos).

roses in November!

Graham picked these in our garden on 26 November. And my father picked a daffodil in his garden on 24 November.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Wasted quite a bit of time on the 'phone yesterday trying to get my card protection plan updated. The problem? I failed their security check. Apparently I gave the wrong password (oh no I didn't) and (wait for it) the date of birth that I gave was wrong. Despite assuring them that I was only born once they insisted that I was wrong. It was so surreal that I burst out laughing. I pointed out that they'd also got the number on one of my cards wrong! After several minutes of stalemate I suggested that maybe they'd let me add the correct card number on to the existing policy (even though they wouldn't let me cancel the incorrect cards), but that when the policy is due for renewal I wouldn't renew. The young man said he'd speak to a supervisor and ring me back in 5 minutes, which he duly did. "We'd like to suggest that we add the card but that we don't renew the policy when it expires". "Good suggestion" says I!

I can see the problem from their point of view. I could (if we explore the outer reaches of probability) have been someone totally malicious who wanted to cancel someone else's card protection. But the shock of realising that for the last 4 years I've been trusting this company with details of all my cards, my passport number etc and they'd entered much of that data incorrectly....That's £80 down the drain, that is. Grr.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Before I Clear the Back(b)log...

Before I even attempt to clear the backlog of pictures and thank you mentions that I owe I must make a


(You'll see why if you read her blog). So sorry to have vanished and I really am looking forward to receiving that most gorgeous yarn.

I've also finally got new batteries for my camera, so watch out for some picture posts (not before time). Meanwhile, here's why I've been so silent of late (apart, that is, from the mouldy after-effects of 'flu which mean I need to be in bed by about 8.30pm each night!).

I was back at work last Friday (not normally a day on which I work).

Saturday was a KTog.

On Sunday a friend and I went here. We enjoyed ourselves but felt that the venue was very overcrowded and that many of the stands seemd to be clones of one another. But we met a fabulous man using a vintage sock-knitting machine and came home with lots of inspiration for things to make. Interestingly, neither of us saw anything where we thought "I want one of those!". Instead it was a case of seeing, for example, lovely butterflies made out of felt, beads and embroidery and thinking "ooh, I could make a little felt owl brooch with tiny crocheted eyes"

Monday was work (and I also had an order to complete for a market customer).

On Tuesday my boss and I went to London, so that I could see the other branches of the shop I work for (A concession in Harrods, and a shop in Burlington Arcade). We also managed to explore Harrod's Christmas shop and Fortnum and Mason's food hall. And it was Burlington Arcade's Christmas Shopping Evening, so I got free champagne (bliss!) and saw this lady switchon the Christmas lights. She is so tiny that I am astonished that she didn't topple over under the weight of her (many) eyelashes...

Wednesday was work. But after work I spent hours online booking flights and a hotel for a trip here in December. (I've managed to book cheap, but incredibly long flights via Zurich, and the area the hotel is in isn't the most salubrious, but what the heck...) The main point of this visit is that my friend Tamy, who works in Singapore, will be at her parents' house in Vienna and the 2 of us plan to do Christmas Markets (hence my choice of webcam link), art galleries and coffee houses!

Yesterday was the market. The evening was spent tracking down flights to Crete for a friend who is staying with us, but wants to head home before fares shoot up too much!

And today has been spent coughing, sneezing and slowly registering the fact that my temperature is rather higher than it should be. So tomorrow, when I should have been going to a friend's art exhibition, will probably be another day here at home!

Despite the current exhaustion, I'm hoping to go to Girton College's advent service after work on Sunday. You may have noticed a Christmas theme running through this post (Country Living Christmas Fair, Christmas lights in Burlington Arcade, Christmas Markets in Vienna and the advent service). After 3 years of spending virtually every waking hour of November and December slaving away in a certain gift emporium, I'm determined that this year I'll get to enjoy the run-up! I'm going to pick up my old habit of reading favourite Christmas-y books (Under the Greenwood Tree will accompany me to Vienna; once back I'll be reading The Country Child) and, of course, I'll be blowing the dust off my many CDs of Christmas Music: I've got medieval carols, Victorian carols, rustic carols, carols from cathedrals, classical pieces associated with winter but absolutely no crooners or pop singers whatsoever at all! (Nothing against the crooners and pop groups, just that a certain gift emporium rather played them to death). Graham finds it rather funny that a pagan like me delights in Christmas, but I just like feeling part of centuries of midwinter celebrations (and the promise of lengthening days, yippee).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

quince essential?

Yay! Crochet resumed yesterday (albeit interspersed by frequent naps) and today my voice is making a reappearance. Daren't risk the KTog tonight, though.

Thanks for all your good wishes. Graham said he realised how ill I was on Friday, when it struck him that I hadn't even mentioned crochet/knitting/yarn for over 24 hours. I did manage to read the Saturday colour supplement though. And I spotted something rather amusing. Do you remember that really awful review of Yarnstorm's new book a few weeks ago? The title was: "My recipe for happiness: no quince jelly". Well, it seems that many cookery writers are begging to differ. On Saturday The Guardian carried 2 quince recipes: Hugh Fernley-Whitingstall served them as a desert and another chef offered them as part of a salad. So the quince's rehabilitation has begun. And I'm sure that Jane's star is soaring after she appeared at the Stitch'n'Bitch day. I knew I wouldn't be able to go to that, as I'd already booked to go on a Nuno Felt Making Day at White House Arts, and needless to say, being bedridden, I had to miss that too, Boo!

Still, if I keep recovering at the current rate, I've got Saturday's KTog to look forward to! And I've just found some more oddments to make into corsages. I was beginning to worry that I might have to buy more yarn. (Ahem!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

time out...

thanks for all your good wishes. it seems as if I have genuine 'flu (for only the 3rd time in my life). today is the first time I've ventured out of bed for more than 10 minutes since thursday and after half an hour I'm sweating and exhausted, so back to bed I go.

But first I must report that Graham is an excellent nurse! And I'm really regretting going and doing my stint on the market on Thursday. isn't hindsight wonderful? since then I've been watching the clouds go by and trying to read...

normal service will be resumed asap!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Lots to report, thank yous to send, presents to show off...but I've got a miserable fever (reading hurts eyes, crochet makes even eyelids sweat), so all will have to wait. Back soon with lots of pictures.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And the winner is...

6.05pm and our judge is rudely awoken from a nap. He is given his fee (he asked me if I could scan and enlarge some pictures from his childhood) and then given the pattern and captions. "Too crude". "Knitted moustache?". "What's Grecian 2000?". "Who's Jason King?" and suddenly a large grin spreads across his face. "This one", he said

"Hmmm, next time I go for a Brazilian, I think he'd better come too...."

And so, I hereby declare that Monkee Maker is the winner! Embarassingly, I've just won a prize in a draw on her blog but Graham was blisfully unware of that. We have, however, subsequently done a lucky dip of all the other entries, and I hereby declare Jayne as runner up. I'm about to email both of you for your snail mail addresses.

And thanks to everyone who took part, there's been quite a bit of giggling as I've found the comments in my in-box.

ps Graham (who has been consulting Style magazine, a publication that those of you who live in Cambridge will know well) tells me that "a Brazilian takes 15 minutes and a Hollywood takes 30 minutes". At this point (knowing more about Jason King and Grecian 2000 than about the waxing of ladies' nether regions) I had to ask the difference. I wish I hadn't!

(crocheted) flower power

Actually, before we get on to the knitting content, a brief frog update: Graham and I have both spent quite some time over at "Miss Fangs*"'s house, with the kitchen door left wide open, hoping that the frog will find its way out again, but we really don't know whether/not the frog is back outdoors. We can't see it inside but it is such a tiny creature that it could have insinuated itself who knows where. The cat's owners have been informed!

And now: an outbreak of corsage making!

The last few days have been devoted to making a stock of corsages to sell. I love diving into the bag of my most colourful leftovers (or raiding my cotton perle threads) and seeing what combinations I can come up with, then working a spiral (or an irish rose), then adding wavy borders and (sometimes) decoration in the middle.

What I do not like is sewing brooch backs on, so I do that once I've a large batch of flowers. Thus it was that I sewed on 19 brooch backs yesterday...

And here's a picture of another item that I made last week, but was unable to blog at the time, as it was a gift for someone who visits the blog from time to time.
This scarf designed itself, I swear it did. Again, I raided my stash and found some Rowan Cotton Chenille, a little bit of a kid mohair blend that toned and some wonderful Jo Sharp yarn (a SkipNorth bargain) for the picot edge. It was huge fun to make and lots of people came to ask what it was as I crocheted away in various buses and coffee bars in and around Cambridge.

Oh, and fellow ripplers will be pleased to hear that another ripple stitch scarf is close to completion!

* cat's name changed to protect identity (and actually this is how I refer to her, as the first time I had to look after her she had major tooth trouble!)

Finally, remember that the caption competition closes at 6pm GMT tonight!

Results will be revealed tomorrow...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

lovely weather for frogs...

So there we were, Graham and I, the ace petcare duo.

We'd just dosed our neighbours' cat with her medicine (definately a two-person job: me on restraint and mouth opening, Graham on firing the tablets), I was filling her bowl and Graham (who always gets the best jobs) was in the garden cleaning out the litter tray. And it was raining, which could be why Graham found a great big frog by the tray. Knowing that I love frogs, he called me out to see it. But on the way back in I spotted a tiny frog that hopped into the kitchen just in front of me. I called for the trowel, but Graham must have been humming away happily to himself, since he didn't hear me. By the time he was back in, the froglet had taken refuge under the fridge freezer. I tried to get it out (using a long stick) but no joy.

When we got home, guess what was waiting on our doorstep? Yes, another frog (this one quite gigantic). Happily it hopped gardenwards, rather than in to the house.

Three hours later and the rain has stopped. I've just been back to see whether I can get the froglet outside but, no luck, it is still under the fridge. (I'm so glad the neighbours keep their floor clean, I've had to lie flat on my tum to do the searching).

As my poor mother once remarked "I don't know where I've gone wrong, what with you and your passion for frogs, and your sister and her creepy crawlies!"

Friday, October 26, 2007

doing a double-take

I've long cherished the dream of owning an Edward Bawden print,so was thrilled to find this delightful greetings card a few weeks ago:

How could I resist? I then shot straight to a nearby picture-frame shop to get a smart frame for it, and it is currently on my dressing table, waiting for he-who-is-better-at-hammering to affix it to the wall.

So imagine my surprise today when, in the gift shop at the truly amazing Kettle's Yard, I spotted this card:

See the picture above the fireplace? That's "my" Edward Bawden, that is. Flipped the card over to see who the artist-with-the-penchant-for-Bawden is. Answer: Richard Bawden, who turns out to be Eric Bawden's son. This card is published by ART Angels, who also publish work by Angie Lewin, one of my more recent discoveries.
Anyway, guess who's off to buy a matching frame tomorrow, so that we can have the two images juxtaposed on the bedroom wall.

And speaking of he-who-is-better-at-hammering, a concerned friend writes "There seem to be rather a lot of pictures of your beloved in strange poses recently, I hope he doesn’t mind!". Well, Sue, I can reassure you that I always ask his permission before uploading his likeness to my blog, but (since seeing the picture that inspired the caption competition--scroll back a couple of days on this here blog, still plenty of time to enter--) he has now asked me to try to avoid getting his neck in the frame when he models the latest FOs. Here's one of them:

A nicely-curling scarf made from some of my Ally Pally sock yarn haul. Look! No ripples. The other item I've finished in the last couple of days is also ripple-free, but must remain secret for a little while... I would like to reassure regular readers, however, that I do now have another ripple project on the hook.

I'm also trying to decide what to make with the yarn that Sue surprised me with yesterday. Here it is, accompanied by lovely fungus photo:

Isn't the yarn gorgeous?
Sue reckons there'll be enough for a waistcoat, so I'm looking forward to finding/designing a suitable pattern. I very naughtily treated myself to the new Weardowney book yesterday, so am thinking 3-D sculptural. But then the Weardowney models are all about a UK size 6, and the patterns are all for a max size of about 34" bust...not sure whether my cuddly form needs any extra dimensions!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Went to get the bread and butter pudding out of the oven, only to find that I had turned the oven off when I removed the baked fish and roasted fennel and apples. Whereas last night, I left the oven on (fortunately Graham realised this and turned it off at 11pm).

I have FOs and WIPs and the most wonderful surprise gift to report (thanks, Sue) but you''l get those tomorrow, as I'm off to bed for an early night.

In the meantime, why not enter my daft competition (see yesterday's post).

Night, night.

(ps I cheated, the pud is from M&S)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

caption competition!

Here's the wonderful knitting pattern that Liz gave me on Saturday.

The knitting is actually rather desirable but that tends to be overlooked as one takes in the appearance, poses and hairstyles of the models... Liz and blogless Sue apparently had a great deal of fun trying to decide what the two of them were saying/thinking and I'd love to hear your views!

You can either tell me what they are saying to each other/thinking about each other, or come up with one, overall caption. I'll find a suitably entertining prize and the judge will be this learned gentleman (pictured here in uncharacteristic pose, but he does have a weakness for Strictly Come Dancing...):

Just leave a comment (or several) on this blog entry between now and 6pm (GMT) Wednesday 31 October 2007.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

knitting and noise

Oh, my poor mother. She and dad have been to stay for a few days, and she said she'd love to come along to this week's KTog. I'm not quite sure what she was expecting. On reflection, I think something along the lines of half-a-dozen quiet, demure, elderly ladies knitting subtle fairisles of fiendish complexity. (Quite where she saw me fitting in to this, I hate to think).

She ran away after the first half dozen arrived (about the time we dissolved into fits of laughter over the rather choice vintage pattern Liz brought along for me to add to my knitting cheese collection...I'll have to scan this masterpiece in for you all to see). Later on she said to me "I don't like to say this, dear, but the group is very loud and people were looking at you in horror."

Then, this morning, I was introduced to a lady of 90+ who lives in sheltered accommodation in my village. She is a very skilled knitter (still producing wedding ring shawls) and attends a weekly knitting circle in her accommodation. I ventured that it might be quieter than the one I attend. "Oh my dear, no, you should hear us when the gossip gets going!"

It will be most interesting to see what the new landlord and landlady of The Cambridge Blue make of us on Tuesday! Watch this space...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

chocolate wars; free yarn and patterns!

mmm, chocolate, yumm. But first more on the free yarn and patterns, as it is all in aid of one of my favourite causes: Oxfam

Oxfam shops throughout the country are currently offering free yarn and patterns to knitters who would like to make accessories for them to sell in stores. I was a bit concerned that maybe they might then sell the items for less than the rpice of wool but, no, the instructions to shop managers on pricing remind them that "each garment is handmade and unique", or, as Csilla in Cambridge's Bridge Street branch said, "we're not going to be offering gloves for £1 or anything silly like that". The patterns available include Rowan designs, and some designed specially for Oxfam. I'll be showing off a pattern for a peaked cap at the KTog this Saturday, and Csilla says that their best-selling knitted graments have been these and ear-flap hats. They're very happy to accept other designs if none of their patterns appeals.

And now onto choc wars. Read this in the business pages today, but can't remember which paper. Apparently Thorntons' master chocolatier has been fired after going into the Nottingham branch of Hotel Chocolat and squidging 60 truffles with his thumb! Hotel choclat reckon it was a case of professional jealousy, but I wonder whether he was just intrigued by the consistency.

Personally, I find the majority of offerings from both chains a little too sweet, but will never say "no" to anything involving dark choc and nuts, or dark choc and cherries. Sadly such purchases were the first casualty of my economy drive when I switched to working part-time. Give me yarn any time!

Meanwhile, Blogger has just eaten my links (presumably mistaking them for chocolate...)

Monday, October 15, 2007


After getting home from work yesterday, and after adding a wild fringe to the latest ripple scarf (Meet Raspeberry Ripple, aka Ally Pally Ripple)

I decided it was time for a change(!). So, instead of starting yet another ripple scarf, I set to work on a neckwarmer. Shorter and narrower than a scarf, fastened with buttons, neckwarmers use less yarn, they take less time, you have all the fun of choosing buttons AND you can make them in ripple stitch.

Yes, I get to play with more colours, more often, and my pile of ripples grows even quicker. Result! These work up so quickly, in fact, that by lunchtime today I was off to Sew Creative to select my buttons.
This caused quite a few "Goldilocks" moments, as buttons were deemed too big, too small, too green (?! since green is my favourite colour, I'd have thought that too green is an impossibility but, alas, no) and also (though the flash fails to do justice to the problem here) too blue:

But then Linda (who had been very patient whilst I played with her entire stock) made an intriguing suggestion. "Try the blue ones upside down". So I did and look:

Linda is a genius! (And Graham is a good model).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

hmm, ugh, grr (or, what the dickens?) By A Lady

I don't know, all that lovely new stash to play with and I get distracted by English Literature and Ancient Languages , a book that Graham had left lying on the bedroom floor whilst he was outside hosing the septic tank (sorry, you didn't really need to know that bit).

The section that caught my attention was a discussion of the use of monosyllables and words of Anglo Saxon origin, which might sound dry as dust but contains some hugely entertaining nuggets.

Did you know, for instance, (and I certainly didn't, despite far too many years spent studying Eng Lit!) that we have Charles Dickens to thank for the following words and phrases:
butterfingers, the creeps, in the same boat, round the corner? Or that Browning "introduced hmm and ugh into non-dramatic verse .... and grrr into literature"?

And whilst we're on the subject of books, if you were travelling between Finsbury Park and Cambridge last night and saw a madwoman alternately crocheting and laughing out loud over Mrs Gaskell's Cranford, that would have been me! Yarnstorm (or, more precisley, her Gentle Art of Domesticity) made me go and buy a book I had hitherto avoided like the plague. Cranford is a wonderfully bizarre and entertaining novel, with lots of knitting and retail references. It is also a very slender volume, which means it slips neatly into the handbag whilst leaving room for yarn and hooks. Bliss.

(Incidentally, if you've been tempted to get your own copy of The Gentle Art of Domesticity, or are thinking of requesting it from Santa Claus, Amazon have it at a bargain price at the moment. (Yes, of course, Santa reads Amazon wishlists). (You can tell I've got a high temperature this evening, can't you? Grrr and Ugh.)

the most unlikely tout

So there I was, en route to Ally Pally (aka The Knitting & Stitching Show 2008), standing on Potters Bar station (where I had to change trains) when a perfectly respectable-looking elderly lady came up to me, and others near me, saying "do you have tickets ladies?". (Don't you love the way she intuitively knew where everybody was intending to go, and we all knew which tickets she was referring to.)

It seems (hmm...) that she was a group organiser with spare tickets. But, being ticketless myself, I decided not to ask any questions and got one for £8. Saving money on the entrance fee was highly welcome, as my train fare (which I'd expected to be £17) turned out to be £31. I'd forgotten that afternoon fare restrictions apply to anywhere in the Capitalcard area, and not just to central London. Boo.

Actually, the price surprise wasn't as bad as the dream I'd had in the small hours of Friday morning. I'd arrived at Ally Pally only to find the halls filled with market stalls stacked high with cleaning products. Everyone else was walking round with bags full of Toilet Duck and Mr Muscle, saying "isn't this wonderful" and I was standing there (feeling tears streaming down my face) saying "no, it ruins the world's resources and I can't even knit with it". I was very glad to wake up and realise that it had all been a (bad) dream.

Once (genuinely) there I had a great time. Here's what went into my bag:

I'm NOT going to detail all the yarn (all of it is either 100% wool dk, or alpaca and wool dk or 75% wool, 25 % nylon sock yarn... and it will probably all get rippled between now and Xmas) but here's a close up of the tools I got:

On the left the I-couldn't-resist-it mini sock blocker keyring from Foreign Strand, where the lovely Woolly Wormhead was helping out. Next, some delightful treats which are going to be my birthday present from my sister. Firstly, an Aztec pattern chatelaine (I'm forever forgetting where I've put my scissors), then 2 wonderful crochet-lite hooks from Gill's Woolly Workshop. These should enable me to ripple with confidence at KTogs in even the darkest of pubs. Finally (not quite in shot, grr) a surina crochet hook from the Natural Dye Studio. I also bought something else from them but it is a secret, so not pictured!

To my great surprise everything in the 2 pictures above fitted into one large paper carrier bag and--by sticking rigidly to my policy of only buying yarns to make into things to sell (thus eliminating the lure of the luxury yarns)--I came home within my budget!

I also spent ages returning to the exhibition of Primmy and Jessie Chroley's work. The "Eden" series of embroiderred tea cosies by Primmy Chorley just kept drawing me back.

But, as ever, the best bit about the show was bumping into knitting friends from all over the country. So many, in fact, that I shall borrow a phrase from Annie Nightingale and say "names too numerous to mention".

The best of days!

Friday, October 12, 2007

It's infectious...

Just back (footsore, broke and very happy) from the Knitting & Stitching Show, where (between exhausting bouts of exhibition viewing and retail therapy) I sat down at every opportunity to continue my latest ripple scarf. I'm delighted to report that one passer by stopped to "ooh and aahh" over it and that the proprietor of Laughing Hens (who had also come to flop at the Relax and Knit stand) wanted to know what stitch I was using.

The epidemic begins...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

To Make Gosky Patties

The following "recipe" appeared (along with Isabella Beeton's recipe for Baked Beef) on a Cambridge University exam paper in June. The question read
"How, and with what effects, does Edward Lear pastiche and subvert the conventions of Victorian recipe writing?"

Here's the Lear (from the Nonsense Gazette, 1870)

To Make Gosky Patties

Take a Pig, three or four years of age, and tie him by the off-hind leg to a post. Place 5 pounds of currants, 3 of sugar, 2 pecks of peas, 18 roast chestnuts, a cabdle, and six bushels of turnips, within his reach; if he eats these, constantly provide him with more.

Then procure some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four quires of foolscap paper, and a packet of black pins. Work the whole into a paste, and spread it out to dry on a sheet of clean brown waterproof linen.

When the paste is perfectly dry, but not before, proceed to beat the Pig violently, with the handle of a large broom. If he squeals, beat him again.

Visit the paste and beat the pig alternately for some days, and ascertain if at the end of the period the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties.

If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the Pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished.

Do not try this at home! (neither the recipe, nor the exam question!) But do visit Spinning Fishwife's blog for the best birthday cake I've seen in years!

Meanwhile there was a roaring trade in quinces and quince jelly on the "country market" (ie WI) market stall today: the quinces sold faster than usual and we sold out of quince jelly! Could it be the influence of Yarnstorm's wonderful book? Or maybe that dreadful article has acutally prompted people to find out what quinces and quince jelly actually are!

Not only that, 2 of my ripple scarves were snapped up! (One by a discerning member of the public and one by a lady whose husband had bid for one of my scarves in a charity auction). Needless to say, there was already another one on the hook before the first one was sold.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Wanted: a cure for ripple mania (vagusfacerephilia ad absurdum).

Symptoms: an obsessive desire to crochet undulating lines.

In the early stages of the disease victims tend to use only one yarn (albeit a multi-coloured one) per item.

As the mania takes hold, the victim will progress to using 2 or 3 subtle shades.

In later stages of the disease even more colours and curious fringes may be added.

In extreme cases victims may be observed hand-painting yarns and introducing clashing/70s-inspired colour shcemes:

(these extreme examples produced by patient CK between 07/10/07 and 10/10/07)

causes: uncertain, but may include: exposure to 200 Ripple Stitches by Jan Eaton; hanging out with knitters; the desire to do something relaxing and meditative without all the faff of meditating.

diagnosis: a tentative diagnosis of ripple mania may be confirmed by viewing the patient's notebook on Ravelry.

prognosis: we dread to think...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

oh, my aching limbs

Well I woke up this morning and my limbs did protest...

Could it be because, ever eager to try new things and expand my skills, I headed out here

yesterday morning?

Whoooops. That's just the view from where I headed yesterday. This is where I actually went:

the rather wonderful White House Arts.

Here Roger Prime

(felter, teacher and textiles whizz extraordinaire) showed us how to make reversible, seam-free bags in our very own felt. Roger is a wonderful tutor, enthusiastic, encouraging and able to diagnose why I went wrong when I did.

Once I was over my initial excitement at seeing a plethora of vivid shades of merino tops (from Wingham Woolwork), it all seemed so peaceful and relaxing...just roll gently, rub for a while, but I'd forgotten how my legs lock if I stand still for any length of time, and after 8 hours at the work bench, and rolling each of my 3 felt items over 800 times...I limped to the bus stop!

But look what I made: a small piece of felt (ideal for a tiny purse) with impressionistic "birds" (an idea pinched from Navajo weavings), a brown clutch bag to go with my favourite dress and also with one of my favourite hat/scarf combos (still got some finishing touches to add to the clutch bag, so watch this space)
and (hidden in the bubblewrap) a large, freeform pouch in a soft white, sandwiched around around the colour of kingfisher wing feathers, with highlights of terracotta, violet, lime, eau de nil, pink... This, too isn't quite ready for you to see yet (even though I completed the rolling and rubbing once I got home) as it has a hole at the bottom, so I'm going to be sewing later this week.

All in all, a brilliant day and I can't wait for the nuno felt course Roger is teaching next month! (But I will remind myself to walk round a bit more, in the hope of having less ouchy legs).

Friday, October 05, 2007

the recipe for happiness?

It has to be said that caught knitting is rarely caught cake baking. In fact, since the great Rock-Cakes-at-My-Birthday-Party Debacle of 1977 (is it really polite to point out to the hostess--me-that her rock-cakes are so solid they could do duty as genuine rocks?) I have entirely abandoned such culinary pursuits. Oh, apart from the time I was dragooned into helping my nieces assemble a gingerbread cottage. It ended up looking more like an abandoned shack, and I solemnly informed them that this was due to "too much excitement", rather than admitting to my complete lack of skill in the sweetmeats department...

Caught knitting is also (a)untidy, (b)incapable of sewing a straight seam and (c)very fond of buying cookery, needlework and beautiful homes-type books and magazines. In fact, poor old Graham once came to visit my bachelorette pad, tripped over a pile of (dirty) laundry, then nearly got smothered by a landslide of balls of yarn and snapped "if only you would spend time doing good housekeeping rather than reading it". These days I am a reforming character. Well, the laundry is under control and the yarn is stowed in baskets, and pop-up landry bins, and duvet bags and hampers, and cardboard boxes and.... Just don't look at my desk, which is the untidiest spot in the house!

But I still indulge my idle dreams of domestic perfection, so I've been eagerly awaiting the publication of Yarnstorm's book: The Gentle Art of Domesticity. I hadn't actually been planning to buy it until a paperback became available, but then I discovered My Recipe for Happiness: no quince jelly. This is a mealy-mouthed attack on Jane Brocket (Yarnstorm) by Liz Hunt inThe Telegraph, and such viscious writing that I felt compelled to go and view the book immediately.

This took quite some doing, as the book itself is hard to classify. In Waterstones I was told that it was in "Crafts" but it eventually turned up in "Household". In Heffers it was in the cookery section, though there is scarcely a recipe in it. (There are, however, some illustrations of awesome shark attack cakes complete with red jam injuries. Yum. Maybe it is time to do more cake-decorating wtih the nieces?)

Difficult as the book may be to categorise, Liz Hunt certainly has some choice labels for Jane Brocket, though. How about "yet another proselytising former high-flyer turned homemaker"?

I'll let you make up your own minds about both the book and the article. But (inspired by Brocket's photography) I'm now off to arrange lots of pretty still-life shots of yarn and needles to make labels for all those items that I try to sell alongside the quince jelly on the market each Thursday!

edited to add several hours of reading later, I'm delighted that I bought the book. Got so absorbed in it, in fact, that I forgot to take the pictures. Ah well, maybe tomorrow (after a day's felting course, yippee).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

wot? no ripples?

Fanfare and drum roll, please! It is now 7 days since I last rippled. Instead, I've been knitting a short-sleeved kimono-style top from the Rowan Tapestry Collection, using some Freedom Spirit. It is going to loook very peculiar, as (against my better judgment) I followed the instructions... the garment is knitted entirely in stocking stitch, even though there are no welts/borders at the base of the sleeves and body. So we have major rolling up. I think I'll be trying to at least stabilise the edges with double crochet, and maybe even work a couple of chains across the fabric of the body to stop it curling. (I knew I should've done a couple of garter ridges after the first 8 or 10 rows but just carried on following the instructions). The Rowan stylists must've blocked the heck out of the Tapestry to get non-rolling seams. Snarl...

And now for something much better:

Surprises from my secret pal! Not one, but two, selections of chocolatey delights

and some glorious self-striping sock yarn which will probably be used to make some eye-catching headgear to liven up my black-going-to-work outfits. The parcel came from Germany, but I don't think I've found my spoiler's blog yet...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

ripple mania

Here we are: two more ripple scarves since Saturday...

I wonder whether this obsession might not be getting a wee bit out of control?

When not either at work or rippling madly, I've spent most of the last few days with my friend Tamy, in Cambridge on a flying visit from Singapore. Here she is wrapped up against the elements

as we explored the Botanic Gardens

Lastly, I found this over at Shona's blog. As I'm generally sound asleep at midnight and don't strike myself as even remotely eccentric, this was a real surprise. (Others may beg to differ).
You Are Midnight

You are more than a little eccentric, and you're apt to keep very unusual habits.
Whether you're a nightowl, living in a commune, or taking a vow of silence - you like to experiment with your lifestyle.
Expressing your individuality is important to you, and you often lie awake in bed thinking about the world and your place in it.
You enjoy staying home, but that doesn't mean you're a hermit. You also appreciate quality time with family and close friends.