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...