Friday, August 31, 2007

Transformation (crochet content!)

Do you remember these rather sickly looking yarns?

Thanks to Liz's tuition (hop over to Liz's blog and scroll down to 8 July to see just what went on), and thanks to some money invested in dyes and a steamer,I was able to convert them into this:

Whilst at Liz's I noticed that she had a wonderful storage solution: lots of knitted, felted pots and baskets. So I decided to follow suit (albeit in crochet).
So far I have created 2 tubs for my dressing table

But those monkeys who hang out in our bedroom seem to have different ideas...

so near, and yet...

Ravelry seems to be inviting about 240-250 people a day.

Now look at where I am

Found you!
You signed up on June 25, 2007
You are #11030 on the list.
301 people are ahead of you in line.
18720 people are behind you in line.
36% of the list has been invited so far

Yes, there's an entire weekend in the way!

(Here ends the grumpy post, look out for some crochet content coming soon!)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

some bank holiday entertainment

As recommended by the nieces!

Altogether now: "Snape, Snape, Severus Snape..."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tying the knot... (Crochet content!)

What on earth is Graham doing

putting a tie on

on what must be one of the hottest days of the year?

A. He is showing what a devoted husband he is by modelling the tie I've crocheted him to celebrate the fact that, two years ago today, we "tied the knot" at Cambridge Register Office.

The yarn is Jaeger baby merino 4-ply (formerly cream but now green burgundy and indigo after a dyeing session at Liz's) and the pattern came from one of those ancient Patons crochet brochures. I'm not sure that the tapering at the point is ideal, and I hope that wet pressing will cure it, but I could not face the iron this afternoon!

We've celebrated with a delicious meal and a few glasses of wine, and Graham has uttered his inevitable pun: "Anniversary? Don't you mean "Any worse-ery?"

Having a monster time...

Peace and quiet have returned to our home as the nieces were collected by their mother at 1pm, to be taken on to Nanny and Grandad. Actually, their visit was much quieter than it might have been, as Fashion Victim was unable to play the guitar she'd brought with her!

As you will see, Uncle Graham decided to exploit Miss Pegs's youthful energy:

Yesterday was spent crafting: friendship bracelets, hand-painting yarn and sewing monsters, inspired by the fantastic ones in Monda's etsy shop. Here's a close-up (taken by Fashion Victim) of some of our efforts:

(Somehow I don't think we'll be competing with Monda for Etsy sales, but these were huge fun to make!)

This morning was spent in the garden, soaking up the unexpectedly bright weather:

(The models' hats kindly loaned by Uncle Graham. Note very shy model on the right!)

Yet more friendship bracelets were produced, bubbles were blown and FV got to play with auntie's camera:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

a true fashion victim

Fun and games here today, as my nieces have come to stay! The day got off to a bad start when I walloped my head and shoulder on a sloping ceiling. Surely, after that, things could only get better?

We had fun trying out crochet chains, we had a really great meal, and then.... E&J went to get themselves ice-creams. Only J came back, telling me that E had fallen over and hurt herself. A rather woebegone E told me that she'd dislocated her wrist. Happily, there was a first-aider close at hand who applied an icepack and suggested that maybe we got the writst looked at by A&E. I was still baffled about the cause of E's fall. Hmmm.... Turned out that she'd tripped on her amazingly long, decidedly ripped jeans....

One trip to A&E later and we have a broken bone to report! The niece formerly-known as Goth Niece is henceforward known as Fashion Victim Niece. Once we got home we decided to postpone our yarn-painting session until tomorrow, not least because cruel Uncle Graham was making jokes along the lines of "at 1pm I broke my wrist, at 6pm I dyed".

Let's hope that Fashion Victim Niece (E), Miss Pegs (J) and I have a less eventful day tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

On drying the dyeing

It was a wee bit overcast when Marianne and Maisie came over to dye on Friday but, as you can see (and there's a much better picture here) it was dry enough to put the skeins out on the washing line...

As you can see, we steam set the skeins. Liz likens this stage to cumberland sausages and those little steamed cloths you get in Indian restaurants. But, well, this one reminded us of something far less savoury. Or, as Marianne put it: "What would Gillian McKeith make of this one?"

Unfortunately, I decided that it would be a good idea to leave my yarn on the line overnight. Huge mistake. It ended up even wetter than when it went out, necessitating a long spell in the airing cupboard.

But what's a girl to do when even the airing cupboard isn't drying things? Clearly these skeins needed to be hung up to air, with a little help from my monkeys:

Having done such sterling work in finally gettting the yarn dry, I gave in to the monkeys' request to look after everything that emerged from the cauldron on Friday.

My favourites are the lengths of nylon velvet ribbon which you might just about be able to make out, as I've coiled them onto spools. But Graham has fallen in love with the 100% silk on the right.

Jenn's SP11 Contest (yet more questions)

I'm in Jenn's group for SP11 and she's asked us to Blog the answers to some questions. They may look easy, but I've had a tought time answering some of them...

1. What is the one knitting accessory you could not live without?

I'm assuming that yarn, needles and time (albeit in tiny snatches!) don't count as accessories, so the only other thing I always have is me is my trusty Chibi case and sewing-up needles. This was a gift from Liz and the first time I tried one of the needles out I was really frustrated by the curved end, but the more I use it, the more I love it.

2. If you're heading on vacation, do you take knitting with you? If so, how much and what type of project?
Yes (the thought of travelling without it is unthinkable) but I've learned to travel very light: I take oddments of 4-ply yarn and perle sewing thread, 3.25mm dpns and 3mm and 1.5mm crochet hooks then I'm all set to work anything from crocheted corsages to baby bootees to small modular knit bags. they're in my bag even for my journey to work. For a vacation I'll add a pair of 5.5mm needles (sometimes my Peace fleece ones, sometimes my Britanny needles) and the addresses of any yarn stores within a 20-mile radius of wherever I'm staying. The 5.5mm needles are on the offchance that I might encounter some Noro (Kureyon, Blossom or Silk Garden)...I made 3 scarves after visiting Bobbins in Whitby this time last year....

3. Where have you travelled to that you'd consider your favorite spot?
Didima Camp in the Drakensburg Mountains, South Africa. With this view

plus some modular knitting, my husband and a gin & tonic, well, what more can a girl ask? But the yarn shop I found in Gamla Stan (the old town of Stockholm) a few years ago runs a very close second (it is where I first saw, and purchased Noro yarn)!

4. What is your favorite knitting book at the moment? Do you own it?
I've not seen it in real life but I'm lusting after Invisible Threads in Knitting by Annemor Sundbo. Sadly it does not seem to be available in the UK, sigh.

5. Do you listen to podcasts? Which is your favorite(s)?
Sadly not, as my broadband connection is very unreliable.

Friday, August 17, 2007

secret things, exciting things

Yippee, I've just had details of the person I'm spoiling in SP11. And just in case the person spoiling me has dropped in, head back to my entry on 7 August to view the SP11 questionnaire.

Now I must go and transform the kitchen into a dyeing zone, as Marianne and Maisie are coming to play this afternoon and I've bought pale yellow silk, patchily faded mauve merion and odds and ends of strangely-textured nylon yarns and ribbons to experiment with. (And thanks to Liz, for tipping me off that nylon yarns need a good prewash and musn't have any areas left unpainted, unless I want white dots!)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Absence of knitting content...

I'm in a grumpy don't-know-what-to-make-next mood. And I'm beginning to wonder whether I should change the name of this blog!

Since escaping from the joys of retail management 10 weeks ago (10 weeks already?!) I have only one knitted FO to report (a pair of modular knit bootees, designed and dyed by me. They sold rather faster than I expected, so I failed to get a photo of them!).

But I've handpainted 14 skeins of yarn and crocheted at least 8 scarves (mainly in chevrons using yarns that provide plenty of colour changes like Twilleys Freedom Spirit and Rowan Tapestry). I've made a very strange hat: it doubles up as a drawstring bag and would be ideal for a medieval peasant who suddenly came across oh, I don't know, truffles. I've crocheted and felted a slightly lopsided but altogether lovely basket to hold my lipstick collection. And I've lost count of how many corsages and brooches I've made (I'd hazard a guess at around 20). I've been doing a brisk trade in these via Cambridge country market and the scarves are destined for there, too, once the weather cools down.

On the hook at the moment is a crochet bootee from a 1970s pattern. I'm still a bit uncertain about my patten reading skills when it comes to crochet and this is more of a "recipe" book, by which I mean it will say things like "crochet along side of foot, across toe, down side of foot and across heel" but doesn't tell you how many stitches to crochet up from the sides. It looks a bit weird and puckered!

Ideas started and abandoned include my old amour Edgar, but worked with crocheted mitres, rather than knitted ones. I dabbled with this on Saturday and it looked quite good but, as I hate crocheting the first row from a foundation chain, and this pattern requires stitches to be added every few rows, I gave up.

So now I'm looking for a simple project demanding zilch concentration to work on at tomorrow night's KTog.One that doesn't involve crochet. Or chevrons.

Edited to correct links (thanks to Mary for the heads up!) I'm used to Blogger swallowing my photos but it has only done this to my links once before...

What a shower!

Graham and I spent a happy ten minutes in our back garden last night watching the shooting stars of the perseid meteor shower. Amazing to think that these vivid streaks in the sky were travelling at 135,000 miles/hour...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

only in Cambridge...

The infamous Cambridge "bin busker" is back. Follow the link and you'll see that this is a chap who sits inside a rubbish bin, with just the neck of his guitar sticking out, serenading passers-by and those of us waiting at the Bridge Street bus stop.

So there I was, enjoying the strains of "where do you go to my lovely," when suddenly the bin busker was drowned out by an amplified voice singing "if I were a rich man". The new, more high-tech busker, was being pedalled round in a tri-shaw, which was doing a very short circuit centred on, yes, the Bridge Street Busker.

Busker Wars! Whatever next?

Friday, August 10, 2007

the joy of surprises

Today has been huge fun. We invited a friend to lunch (a very simple collation of mushrooms a la grecque; a dip made from canellini beans, carrot and dill; baked halloumi cheese; all washed down with white wine spritzers) and finally, finally we brought out our picnic table and dined in the garden for the first time this year.

Despite the blistering heat, I gave Margie a scarf that I'd crocheted for the occasion(today is the 20th anniversary of her arrival in the UK from South Africa) and she presented us with a bunch of deep red sweet peas (such seductive scent) and a large bundle of spinach and spinach beet from her garden. But she had an ever better surprise up her sleeve: a trip to the gardens of Docwra Manor, just on the other side of Cambridge. Here 2.5 acres of erstwhile farmland have been transformed into a series of garden "rooms" (I was going to say "miniature gardens" but as each of these little enclosures is about the size of our backgarden, that might be exaggeration!)

You can take a virtual tour here! But if you live within travelling distance I recommend going in peson. Every corner holds a new surprise (my favourite was a tiny circular water feature with a resident frog) and there are lots of gorgeous sights, scents and sounds to enjoy.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

strange slogans on t-shirts

I've always been a bit fussy about words on t-shirts. In my early teens I fell in love with a beautiful design in C&A but then spotted that the "French" slogan was really just gibberish. So back on the rail it went.

Alas, the many teenagers currently studying at Cambridge's many language schools are less concerned. In the last 10 days I've spotted

* "let the fon begin"
(as a hopeless typist myself I suspect that this one is just a typo)

* "if I want to make stool in my pants now, you are the only one who can stop me"

* "100% B&B Chivalry Style Sportwear made in Texas"(this one even had some washing instruction icons printed underneath it)

let me know if you spot anything interesting!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

SP 11

Goody! There's going to be lots of blog-reading and gift buying and all-round secret stuff coming up between now and November, and no, I am not doing my Xmas shopping early this year. (AAArgh, I've just broken my never mention you-know-what before November embargo.) I'm doing something MUCH better. I've signed up for the latest Secret Pal knitting exchange. And here are my answers to the SP11 questionnaire, as whilst I'm busy devising treats and surprises for an anonymous someone, somewhere a different anonymous someone, somewhere wll be doing the same for me!

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
I love natural fibres, especially wool, bamboo, cashmere and blends of any of these with nylon. I find that mohair makes me sneeze (though I get round that by storing it in the freezer) and I don't often use cotton. As for "fibres you absolutely do not like" can there really be such a thing?

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
I've got needle rolls, pencil pots, biscuit tins, carrier bags. My husband would probably sigh and point out that despite all these storage options there are still many hooks and needles strewn (apparently) randomly around the house.

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 almost 30 years, and crocheting for 2. I'd say I'm intermediate at both.

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

5. What's your favorite scent?
The scent of yarn! But I also love lemons, lemongrass, bergamot and woody smells, also lavender and geranium.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
I love dried fruit (except prunes, yuk) and dark chocolate.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I crochet, hand paint yarn and do a little bit of feltmaking. I've signed up for dayschools in felt and nuno felt during October and November. I'm not terribly good at drop spindling but a certain spouse has been dropping hints about spinning wheels...

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I like world and folk music, early music (especially medieval dance tunes) and contemporary classical music (well, some of it anyway!). My computer refuses to play MP3s, sob.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
I like most of the colours found in nature, especially grassy and citrussy greens and berry colours of any description. But I do not like bottle green (yes, my school uniform was bottle green; if you watch the Harry Potter films, think Slytherin!) When it comes to yarns, I adore multi-coloured yarns, especially Noro.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I live with the world's best man, his daughter (aged 27) and a 16-year old tortoisehell cat, who is the gentlest cat ever.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?

13. What are you knitting right now?
Nothing! But I'm about to cast on some bootees and I'm busily crocheting funky brooches out of cotton perle embroidery thread.

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
Is there anything better?

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
All of them, depending on how the mood takes me and how the implements and yarn get on. I have to say that I'm also influenced by looks (peace fleece needles and Britanny crochet hooks!) and colour. I do not like Pony brand crochet hooks as they make almost everything split.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
I've a very ricketty metal skein holder that belonged to my grandma. Also my husband can be very useful for holding skeins. I'm the ball winder.

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
I dread to think, but take heart from the fact that my mother completed a short-sleeved jumper over 40 years after she started it.

18. What is your favorite holiday?
I love coast and countryside (in the UK and overseas) and enjoy exploring European cities. Yarn shopping is compulsory and steam trains should be prsent whenever possible.
edited to add: have just realised that I've based my answer on the British English definiton of "holiday" (vacation) rather than the American English one (something along the lines of festival/national holiday) for which I have no answer...!

19. Is there anything that you collect?
Yarn! and I'm slowly building a collection of prints/postcards featuring people knitting.

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?
I've reached the stage where technique-type books are more alluring than patterns but I still can't get enough vintage or regional/ethnic/folk-type knitting books and social history. I don't subscribe to any mags but regularly buy Interweave Knits, Knit 1 and Selvedge (a wonderful textiles mag published in the UK).

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

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I flirt with sock knitting but suffer second sock syndrome. My feet are a UK size 6.5-7 (continental 40) and rather wide (as are my calves).

23. When is your birthday?

2 November

24. Are you on Ravelry? If so, what's your ID?
I'm awaiting my invite (see q21).

Monday, August 06, 2007

A very hard act to follow

Sorry about recent blog silence but have been deeply immersed in

(a) crochet: 3 scarves and about 14 corsages in the last 10 days! However, to stave off another bout of RSI I made sure that I also did plenty of...

(b) reading:

whilst I don't know any of R S Thomas's poetry (yet!) I was seduced into buying this book by a review in The Guardian. And I agree with those eulogies you can probably just about make out on the cover ( "A biography touched by genius" "Brilliant and unique....A masterpiece") It is also quite irritating at times, swinging around wildly from narrator to narrator, place to place, time to time (I'm too used to dry-as-dust, sequential academic tomes) but, oh, what fun. And so moving.

Beautifully produced, too, with endpapers that look as though they may have been by Stanley Spencer (or maybe, at a push, Laura Knight) but which turn out to have been by M E Eldridge, who--until I read this book--was just a name on the back of a postcard (published by Medici, in the 80s, I think) of exquisite illustrations of mice and foliage including a rosemary branch (which is why I, Rosemary, had it on my desk for many years). It turns out that "M E" was Thomas's wife, Elsi, who clearly merits a biography (and illustrated catalogue) of her own. (And I need a course in how to avoid overusing parantheses).