Wednesday, December 31, 2008

where did 2008 go?!

New Year's Eve already?!! The last few weeks have vanished in a fog of germs, so here's to a happy and healthy 2009.

this evening's post should have been accompanied by a compilation of pictures of Graham's back (in Granchester, in Oxford, at Woolfest, in Safforn Walden, in London, in Norfolk) but Blogger ate my pictures again...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

mid-December already???!!

Where has time gone? It certainly hasn't been spent on the TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects): I had 6 items to complete and progress to date consists of 9 rows on the first one. Ooops. And I rather urgently need to get on with some jellyfish and anemones for the IFF's crochet reef in LA. Think the TSKPs will have to be handed over at Easter. (Note to self: do I really dare give IOU notes for Xmas?)

Ma's surprise party was a huge success and though I wasn't actually there, I was thrilled to find half a bottle of champagne waiting for me when I got home from work. Bookselling has been huge fun--I'll miss the job when the contract ends soon--and I'm now keeping my eyes out for new employ.

Must dash: I've got brooch backs to sew on ready for the market tomorrow and a top secret wet felting/sewing project to complete.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Panicking, moi? Oh yes. Parents arriving in about 2.5 hours for weekend visit. Need to clean/tidy and catch up on laundry (but have realised that normal winter laundry drying place, viz spare room) is off limits as I'll be sleeping in there. also, need to make large batch of corsage brooches by about 4pm.

We're having a very small surprise party here tomorrow for Mum's 80th birthday. But I'll miss it as I'll be at work. I've bought all the savoury food (sis is seeing to drinks and sweet stuff) and have no idea when I'll prep the crudites without Ma cottoning on. Oh, I'll just have to rpetend that I've offerd to take a batch in to work, or something else equally implausible.

But it will be great to spend today with Ma and Daddy.

Must go housework calls. (A call I usually igonore, but one which is deafening me today!)

Friday, November 28, 2008

why, oh why, didn't I take my camera*?

To Bury St Edmunds today, as I simply had to go to Wibbling Wools to get some yarn for some TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects). And, since Bury St Edmunds must surely have the highest gift shop:population ratio of anywhere on the planet, I also planned to succeed at Christmas Shopping. (NB, most of said shops are a touch too frou-frou for my liking but some of them are brilliant). None of this screamed "take the camera!" at me, so I didn't...

Mistake! Within seconds of leaving the bus, I heard the words "Red Hat Society", looked up and, sure enough, there was a sea of elderly ladies dressed in purple, with red hats.. They were moving towards a veritable landmass of similarly-dressed ladies. I remember being utterly stunned when I first saw them congregating in Cambridge earlier this year!

Red Hat ladies at Queen's College, Cambridge, Spring 2008

Oh well. Photo opportunity missed but, what the heck, on with the shopping. I began at the council-run Art Gallery, always a good bet for an interesting exhibition, as well as fabulous gifts and cards. I scored a direct hit (oh, yes), not only finding something that a gallery in Cambridge had promised (and failed) to find me, but also finding it for less money. Result!

Buoyed-up, I headed down the hill to Wibbling Wools, pausing only to be astonished by the enormous crowds of shoppers. Think December Saturdays in Oxford Street and you'll get the idea. Weird. Getting closer to Wibbling Wools, the crowds grew thicker and I could hear jazz over a PA system. Then I caught sight of stalls and carousels on Angel Hill. A Christmas Market, I'd found a Christmas Market. (If any of you have ever heard me squealing with excitement, do, please, insert relevant sound effects here).

But first, there were TSKPs (Top Secret Knitting Projects) to be attended to, though I did stop to look at the "genuine Victorian" Galloping Horses roundabout where I was rather amused to note horses with positively 20th/21st century names like "Kelly" and "Dionne-Lauren" as well as the more traditional "Elsie" and "Joan". I was very, very tempted to take a spin but then realised that it just wouldn't be the same when you've nobody to wave to as you whizz round. Resolve strenghtened, I entered Wibbling Wools and realised that, truly, I had found Paradise. Purchasing materials for the TSKPs was a positive delight.

Off, then, to view the Christmas Fair. It wasn't quite up to the standard of those I saw in Vienna last year; here the range of things on sale reminded me very much of the sort of stalls that you get at County Shows, etc, but many stallholders were in Victorian dress and, despite the cold drizzle, spirits were high. (I could see rather a lot of mulled wine being quaffed). There was a French market where, somehow, I resisted the many delicacies on offer. There were stalls in the Abbey Gardens and the jazz trio I'd heard earlier turned out to be playing in the Abbey Gateway. Back to Angel Hill and walking further along towards the Cathedral I found some craft stalls, where several purchases were effected. And then I saw the highlight: the "Living Nativity" near the entrance to the Cathedral Refectory. No more Victorian dress, here were kings and shepherds with sheep (real) and donkeys (real) leading us to a stable (recreated) populated with more donkeys (real) and llamas (real). It was breathtaking. Why, oh why, didn't I have my camera*?

After all this excitement I needed food and cider, so headed to the Mason's Arms (which Liz and I discovered a few months ago). Yum (and hic!). (Eavesdropping on the many Christmas Fair-goers I gathered that many of them had come by coach from all over East Anglia). After lunch, on to the the Corn Exchange for more Christmas stalls and a recital of carols--some in sign language-- from a local school.

Finally I thought I'd better go and pay Rendell's Yarns a visit. Oh dear. Regia 6-ply in Kaffe Fasset colours, calling out to be another TSKP (one I wasn't even planning). This purchase necessitated a return trip to Wibbling Wools (what a shame) for a set of Britanny 3.5mm dpns followed by a determined I-will-not-buy-anything-else march to the bus station.

The bus journey was long (70 minutes) and slow, but how I wish I'd had my camera. As we left Newmarket the sky was ablaze. No painting could have captured this sunset, though maybe some dichroic glass might have captured the scintillation.

All in all: a most productive trip.

* and why didn't I have my camera? The batteries are flat and Mrs Meanie (aka me) has been too mean to replace them. That'll learn me (as we Norfolkians say).

Monday, November 24, 2008

How (not) to Shop for the Festive Season

Today must be my least successful round of present buying ever. I headed off into town with vague ideas about what to get for whom. I walked through town rejecting each and every idea. And I failed to find any alternatives...

Back to the drawing board!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Banksy strikes again!

Banksy's knitting (though ungrammatical) grannies made me smile!

And it looks as though there could be rather a lot of knitted tags appearing in Cambridge soon, with the news that Magda Seyeg, aka knittaplease, will be hitting The Shop in the New Year.

Meantime, I leave you with a picture of (part) of the birthday cake my nieces made for my should have seen it when the candles were blazing!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Thanks to everybody who sent such kind and thoughtful messages about poor old Jiminey; we miss her but at least we've got past the stage where every time the (new)boiler switches itself we think we can hear Jimbles coming in through the cat flap: the two sounds were so alike.

I've been rather busy since my last post: learning the ropes at my new job (I love it!); teaching modular knitting to a wonderful bunch of spinners, weavers and dyers; making more brooches and scarves for the Country Market stall (though my sales have ground to a halt, so I'm doubly relieved to have a "proper" job again, albeit just for a few weeks).

Now I've gone down with some lurgy or other. I took myself off to the spare room last night, in the hope that at least Graham would get a good night's sleep. Somewhere in the small hours I was woken by somebody talking to me. Nobody was there, but I heard thumps and bumps coming from the garage. I realised it must be burglars and (very bravely, I thought) locked the door that connects the garage to the hallway, then went upstairs to wake Graham and ask him to confront the burglars (note how limited my bravery reserves are). He felt my forehead, rolled his eyes and then, gamely, came downstairs with me, and we proceeeded to check not just the garage, but every possible hidey hole in the entire house. No burglars. We both headed back to our respective beds. An hour or so later: thump! I screamed. "Get out burglars, go away." (Why can I never find any swear words when they might be appropriate?) This time the "burglars" groaned and "they" turned out to be poor old Graham, in the kitchen making himself hot chocolate, as he (unlike me) had been unable to get back to sleep after the first batch of burglars. (OOps).

Back to sleep. Except now there was a motorbike crunching all over the gravel outside the front of our house. I opened the window of my room and croaked "go away", very crossly. But neither the man with the motorbike, nor the two men who were banging the garage door would go away. I'd had enough at this point, and thought I'd better call the police. Decided it didn't merit a 999 call, so went off to find the 'phone directory. To my horror, though, even though I'd gone to the study to fetch the thing, I was suddenly back in my bed. And then I'd realised that I'd woken up, this time had just been a nightmare: oh, the relief.

Next time I woke up was about 8am, so the burglars had obviously gone home. Today I just feel like a puppet that has had all its strings cut but at least yesterday's awful hot and cold, shivering and sweating has gone. I've cancelled all engagements for today and tomorrow, and am hoping to have a burglar-free night.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

endings, beginnings...

Just back from a wonderful week in Devon (with my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and their dog). Looking forward eagerly to my birthday (tomorrow: I'm an All Souls Day girl, unlike my late grandmother, who was born on All Saints day) and to starting my new job (temporary,very few hours, low pay but it is in a bookshop: yay!)on Tuesday.

But, as another year turns, I came home to a rather forlorn household: Graham and Laura (his daughter) had to take our beloved Jiminey Cricket to the vet's this morning, and her spirit left this life at about 9.40am... She was 17.5 years old, quite an age for a cat, and will be sorely missed. She was a shy cat and the most gentle creature I've ever encountered (though Graham, too, is a very gentle soul). I'll never forget the first day I let her out of the house here in Girton, about 8 days after we moved here. She vanished for almost 12 hours and I got the nasty feeling that she wouldn't be coming back, that I'd have to 'phone Graham (in South Africa) and Laura (in Luton) to tell them that I'd lost their cat... then I heard the most extraordinary keening sound and little miss puus was there on the lawn, busily torturing a mouse. I knew then that she'd be happy in this new home, with her newly enlarged family which suddenly contained me, as well as those she knew and loved. Darling Jimbles (Minx, Little Miss, Snoof Cat, Squeaklepuss, Prooples, Jimbulatories, Squeaky Girl, Pumpkin): you'll be sorely missed.

With the reality slowly sinking in, I've just been to unpack my bags and, as I went to place my laundry in the washing machine I've discovered, to my horror, that the garage is underwater again! This time we know its not the washing machine. It might be that water has seeped in under the garage door as the rain has been lashing in that direction, rather than flooding the back garden, as it usually does (but flooding the garage to a depth of a quarter to half an inch, though? Hmm, am not convinced.) Poor Graham thought I was joking when I called out to him. Most of the things we store in there are up on raised platforms after the last flood. We're going to sleep on the problem. Now I must wash my hair, slathering on tons of conditioner: my poor sister has just 'phoned to say that she has just discovered that she has nits and I'm taking no chances.

Life, eh?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Diving down: seeking shelter. Nothing to worry about, it happens from time-to-time and I always bounce back.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Bad, bad, bad me. Not only did I spend too much at Ally Pally (I got seduced by roving from finland and Kauni yarn from Denmark) I've just visited amazon and this and this have accidentally made their way through the checkout... (strange, that).

Off to Ally Pally again tomorrow but this time to look at the exhibitions and get people adding bits to the coral reef.

Stash shot will appear soon...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

No darned socks!

I've just had an email from Twisted Thread (organisers of that infamous yarn orgy, politely known as "The Knitting & Stitching Show") asking me to bring a darned sock or two with me for this man's darning project .

It is a very polite request. But I say "no darned socks". Once upon a time, long ago, in a different marriage, I offered to darn my husband's socks. What I didn't bargain for was being asked to darn the same socks over and again. I started using slightly different coloured thread each time, and when I could see 3 different mends, the socks went out. I got rather tired of darning and let a massive pile of socks build up. One day, husband returned with about 27 pairs of socks that he'd got on a multibuy at BHS. I took it as implied criticism and that was (as they say) the beginning of the end.

(And that is the most intimate fact I'll ever reveal on this blog!)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

still soggy, much less anxious and thinking about udders

Thanks so much for for all your kind thoughts.

There's good news (well, comparatively good): Graham threw some things in the washing machine this morning, set it going, closed the garage door and then heard the sound of running water. Yes, it seems that our machine has decided to wash floors rather than laundry. (I do clean the fluff filter regularly, but maybe we'd better not mention all that felting I do?) I've left voicemail for a repair man and am now need to handwash some towels (joy).

Life looks so much better today! And Ravelry has come to my rescue again, thanks to the members of the UK Spinners group and, especially, Natalie from The Yarn Yard. I'd been producing very strange yarn, that managed to alternate overspun and drastically underspun sections. Natalie has not only explained to me where I'm going wrong, she's also likened what I was doing to milking a cow then trying to drive the milk back up into the udders. With vivid imagery like I've really realised the whys and wherefores of my errors.

Monday, October 06, 2008

soggy and anxious

Life has been so action-packed of late (learning about colour on a Rowan course, being part of the teaching team on a patchwork knitting day, editiong SlipKnot for the Knitting & Crochet Guild), that I've wondered how I ever managed to fit in a job, as well.

But I think I'd better find one, fast. I heard a horrified gasp from the garage this morning, followed by "water! Where's it all come from?". We're still trying to find where its all come from (though we've a sinking feeling that it may well have something to do with the stream which, locals tell us, used to flow where our house is built...) So far we've had to throw out a futon mattress and lots of carboard storage boxes. My sewing machines have both got damp. I have rather a lot of LPs drying out (I've placed them in the dish drainer!) and I've had to put lots of my stepdaughter's toys and books into the airing cupboard (she'll be home tomorrow to assess the damage).

I can't thank Graham, and Bob (who is the world's best neighbour) for all the sterling clearance and investigative work they're doing. We did wonder, to start with, if it was just storm water that had leaked in under the garage door but, alas, it does look as if it has been coming through from under the wooden platform where we've got our washing machine. I suppose there's a chance that water has gradually been leaking down from the back of the washing machine into the back of the platform, but having seen the back garden turn into a pond yesterday, and having seen water lapping just below the ventilation bricks under the living room, (and the living room slopes gently downhill toward the garage, which is part of the house, rather than a seperate building) I'm very nervous...

To cheer myself up, I must (i)remind myself that it could be just a plumbing problem! (ii) I shall insert a picture of the fabulous posy that I bought on the country market stall a couple of weeks ago! And (iii) note that life still goes on: I'll be papermaking in the textiles course that I go to each Thursday and Friday is Knitting & Stitching Show. Maybe I should knit a yurt?

But now I must do some serious income-hunting...

Monday, September 29, 2008


Has anyone seen this yet? I get the feeling that I need to own it! (Oh, the perils of checking amazon during a sleepless night!)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

me, right now

I switched on the computer to do some work on SlipKnot but got sidetracked (as I often do) by Ravelry, where I spotted that Mary had updated her blog, and I felt that I simply had to join here's me on Sunday 27 September, 2008 at 9.50am. In the background: a corner of Graham's desk and a bit of his filing cabinet.

Here are the instructions, so that you can join in, too:
1. Take a picture of yourself right now.
2. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair…just take a picture.
3. Post that picture with NO editing.
4. Post these instructions with your picture.
5. Add it to the Pool.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

caught knitting caught knitting shock... (and mr caught knitting caught napping)

I know that I tend to crochet (or, indeed, spin) far more than I knit these days but I wasn't prepared for the shocked expressions as I was caught knitting at Tuesday's KTog. In fact more than one person said "I've never seen you knit before". I have, in fact, cast on 2 cardigans in the last 12 months, but neither has got vey far. My foxtail got abandoned as I hated the way the hem was rolling and I really don't know why I abandoned the little silk garden number I was making (yes I do, I decided that it wouldn't be remotely flattering). So a certain Mr Caught Knitting has been casting aspersions about my ability to finish my current project: a tank top (I can't get used to calling them slipovers) in Noro sock yarn.

We shall see. In the meantime, here is a picture of Mr Caught Knitting slumbering on a friend's smallholding last friday afternoon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

equinoctal ramble

Yesterday, alongside the footpaths between Girton and Coton: teasel, reedmace, crab apples, blackberries

And, in Coton itself, medlar (or "open-ers" as Chaucer called them... that's "ers" as in "*rse", owing to the way the fruit split open when "bletted", which is to say, frost-damaged and very ripe...) edited to add: excellent, the Wikipedia entry on medlars, quotes not only chaucer but some nice, bawdy, Shakespeare
medlar with small yellow snail the village tapestry (brilliant idea, every village should have one) on display in the church
detail from the tapestry
and a monument which we weren't able to read (couldn't get close enough) but--with the hourglasses, the angel and the skull and crossbones--we got the general message (the sort of message that is always on my mind at the year's quarter days). Mind you, I'd have liked to have known more about the whys and wherefores of the mattock and spade underneath the skull...
Agriculture has clearly played an important part in this village over the centuries. The stook of corn made me smile (most of the corn cut hereabouts gets rolled up into big tubes and shrink-wrapped in black plastic). And a wonderfully wonky house...As we left Coton we stopped at the Plough, to imbibe cider, then we ambled along the cyclepath to Cambridge where, after pausing to imbibe more cider at the Eagle, we caught a bus home.

Autumn is my favourite season: fruit, falling leaves to crunch through, puddles to splash in, bonfires and brilliant sunsets.

a surreal safari...

Forget Hunting Tigers Out in Africa (are there any other Bonzo Dog fans out there?)
Earlier this month (or was it the end of last month?) Liz and I went hunting elephants in Norwich...

We didn't see all 54 of the baby elephants, but we did find about 30 of them, as well as this herd of tiny elephants

decorated by local schools. I loved the stories that went with these "We didn't tell the children that the elephant was coming" (you could pciture the surprise on the faces as the children spotted an elephant in the playground)and "the children were worried that the elephant had lost its Mummy, so we painted it bright colours so that Mummy could spot it easily".

Some of the artists and community groups involved went for bright colours, too. Meet "Split and Polish" the multi-tasking nail bar elephant that was in Jarrold's department store:

We met an Ancient Mariner (with an uncanny likeness to Catweazle) on an elephant's posterior

a recylcing elephant:
a daffodil-strewn trunk
swans on an elephant's flanks
frogspawn on its trunk
and pebbles and waterweed on its feet
More pictures over on flickr.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

darn it (but don't stone the crows)!

I've lusted over some strange things in my time (I have vague memories here, for instance, of a schoolboy on the 35b bus, referred to by my friends as "the tall, greasy, spotty one", but who I though was rather gorgeous, not least because he always had his head buried on a book on how to build synthesisers.) But, honestly, darning wool? Who falls in love with darning wool?

Well, me, obviously. But head here, and you, too may be smitten (natural dyes, made in France, ravishing colours). And then drop in here (one of my favourite blogs) to view some truly jolly packaging for mending wool.

My heart has also been captured by some amazing (textile) crows. I've always rather liked the various rooks, crows, jackdaws and ravens; the way they strut, their raucous cries and (especially) the magnificent iridescence of their feathers.... Now here, at last, thanks to a link from Jo's blog, I've found someone who shares one of my more outre passions, just take a look at all these corvidae-inspired yarns over at Blue Moon Fiber Arts. Major lust...I feel some raven socks coming on...

Unfortunately the association of socks and crows reminds me of one rather gruesome (though secretly rather fascinating) aspects of growing up on the fringes of the countryside: the crows' legs and heads that local gamekeepers used to nail up on gates. For a more scientific, and less macabre, account of crows and the Norfolk countryside I can recommend Crow Country, by Mark Cocker, which is now available in paperback.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

when I grow up, I want to be...

I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up! I'd love to go back to primary school, but as a pupil, rather than a teacher.

From what I remember, primary school meants hours of painiting and lots of singing. I didn't have any talent for either, but I put plenty of passion into them! At home I did more of the same, plus lots of reading. I presume there were other lessons, but they've not left any impression.

In fact, the only lesson I do remember was one we had to do when I was 10 years old, one that I thought was pointless. We used a textbook of some sort, that had little snippets of information about various animals. Then we were told to write about otters and draw a picture. I asked if there were other books we could look at, and was told there weren't. So the lesson was simply a "copy out or paraphrase" one: so disappointing, as I thought the otters sounded wonderful and I wanted to know more. (I think my mother, too, needs to take some of the credit here, the first film she took me to see was Ring of Bright Water). Since then I've read many books on otters. But I've still never seen a real one.

So just imagine my envy when I discovered this whilst blog-hopping this morning! I love my own life but am feeling a wee bit envious...

But back to primary school. I've decided that this autumn is going to be full of colour. I've enrolled on an experimental textiles course, every Thursday evening. (We've been screen printing: beats potato printing!) And I spent yesterday skeining up over a mile of assorted yarns to dye (white Sublime merino DK, some creamy-yellow Adriafil angora, Kidsilk Haze in pale apricot/green blend) and am about to do more. I've also got a good quantity of Cascade 220 which is already in hanks, but I think I'd better put some extra ties in it...

Graham's away until tomorrow so I'm turning the kitchen into primary school. I shall sing, I shall paint my yarn and whilst there isn't an otter for company, I do have a wonderful cat! And I'm going to be joined for some of the time by a pig wot knits(though I think I'll limit the singing whilst Bekki's around, my voice is all cracked and rusty these days).

Friday, September 12, 2008

illusions (optical and otherwise)

Wot? Still no pictures? My dearly beloved has, alas, been proved wrong: the internet connection has been even worse during daytime hours than it is in the evening. So you'll just have to pretend that there are pictures to go with this post (which is, after all, about illusions...)

Sitting browsing through The Times this afternoon I spotted an article about a scientific survey which shows that...wait for it..."a stastically significant number" of those surveyed felt that women look slimmer in horizontal stripes than they do in vertical strips. Whilst this goes against the received wisdom passed on to us by fashion editors, grandmothers etc it is no surprise to those of us who used to love the pages in annuals devoted to optical illusions. If you take 2 squares of the same size and fill one with veretical parallel lines and the other with horizontal ones, the vertical square actualy looks dumpier: both broader and shorter than the horizontal "square" which actually looks more like a tall oblong. I particularly liked one observation in the article--that vertical lines going over a large behind will look distorted--and the suggestion that this accounted for the fact that whilst horizontally striped tights come in and out of fashion, vertically striped tights haven't been repeated since Mary Quant first tried them out! (We're talking coloured stripes rather than ribs/welts). And then there was the very wounding (to those of us who fall in the broad and short category) comment that "fat people will always look fat".

After that sobering thought I felt the urge to treat myself to the latest issue of Let's Knit!. I do wish I hadn't, as (a) I'm broke and (b) it has a decidedly 80s feel to the patterns and styling. Which might be OK if you are 30 or under but is positively undesirable for those of us who are nearing 50... Not only are we treated to a long-line, short-sleeved, deeply-v-necked, jumper in wide bands of bright blue and white (though, it must be admitted, the bands are horizontal, so there is a saving grace) we are also shown models in sequinned frocks teamed with metallic-looking cowboy boots. Nice.

But it did contain an illusion: someone on the editorial team ( see "Splurge versus Steal, pp56-57)suggests that spending £11.00 on a 100g (270m) skein of Manos Silk Blend is a "luxury option", then proposes Malibrigio Bahia (£5.25 for 50g/ 137m) as a "Budget" alternative. Here we have the "I didn't do the maths illusion": yes, if you are buying 100g, the Malibrigio saves an entire 50p whilst offering you an extra 4m... Frankly, at least until I find myself some gainful employment, both are "luxury options". Then again, if I can resist the next 5 issues of Let's Knit (£4.99 each) I'll have more than enough money to buy 100g of each of them...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Knit Day

Hmm, well, I've just reviewed my pictures of I Knit Day and found: one out-of-focus-shot of The Yarn Harlot (think I must have been laughing too hard to focus!); one shot of my knee and, erm, that's it.

And so, alas, here comes another photo-less blog post. Socks will be pulled up soon, I promise!

But back to Saturday, a day that falls so firmly into the "day to remember" category that all I can remember now is the utter exhilaration rather than the detail. So I'll just cluster a few words together to give the effect:
friends (too numerous to mention but vigorous waves to you all); delayed trains (all the better for getting on with one's crochet and I want one of those mechanical grab things that was loading scrap metal into a goods train while we were delayed at Hitchin); so much yarn that I got yarn blindness and didn't buy any (!); yummy fibre for spinning (I caved in); falling under The Yarn Harlot's spell; unbelievably talented knitters from all over the world; an abundance of aliens (mine looked so small amd mous-y compared to everyone else's that I now have a complex and fear that middle age is eliminating my creativity and bravado). (Sorry about the existential wail. Today was my last day at work and whilst I'm overjoyed I'm also feeling terrified). Back to exhilaration: a fudge stall with free samples (I thought I'd gone off fudge but this was just like the stuff I remember from childhood!), poetry readings, fashion shows and (especially) enjoying hearing squeals, squeaks and squees as each and everyone of us found his/her own personal fibre nirvana.

Whilst money was being spent left, right and centre this didn't feel like a commercial event. Some of this was because there were many charitable causes present. But I think most of it was because this was a day run by yarn lovers for yarn lovers. And love it I did.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

long time, no blog

Sorry about the recent silence: let's just say that my broadband connection is rubbish and that even my dial-up service is often on the blink because of problems with our 'phone line. We're hoping to effect some improvements before too long. I've done so much in the last few weeks, and have plenty of photos to share, but think they'd better wait until one of those (rare) days when the broadband service is in a good mood! (Graham tells me that weekday daytimes are good. I've not had any of those free recently, as I've been working extra days prior to escaping my job, but come the end of this week daytimes will be mine again.)

Meanwhile, here's a whirlwind summary of the last 3 weeks or so.

The trip to Walsingham was a great success. Graham throughly enjoyed the service and I had fun mooching around, watching the arrival of the travelling community for whom Assumptiontide is an important gathering. One of the travellers was wearing the finest hoodie I've ever seen (I adore hooded garments): it was a soft mink colour and the hood was lined with the largest, most bronze sequins I've ever seen. After Walsingham we caught a bus to Wells Next the Sea, where we lazed and lunched, then caught the coasthopper right the way round to King's Lynn, where my parents live. Two weeks on, and I made another trip to Norfolk, as Liz and I went elephant hunting in Norwich. This will make sense if you follow the elephant link, promise. It was a very entertaining day and I've got some great pictures to share. (The time our broadband connection functions best is weekdays during the hours of daylight. Since my last day at work is Weds and I've still no job to go to I should soon have the chance to bring you proper reports and pictures!

I've not only been to Norfolk, but also to Suffolk. First for the KTog Knitting Picnic/visit to Wibbling Wools in Bury St Edmunds and then (3 days later) to see Beguiling, an exhibition of art inspired by witchcraft and myth. Some pieces, like Lyndall Phelps's witches balls filled with crochet chains, captivated me instantaneously; others took longer to work their spell. So that's another post I'll have to write. I also had to return to Wibbling Wools as I'd been totally bewitched by the Cascade 220. It is economical, felts like a dream and comes in a wide range of colours. Better still, it comes in skeins and is available in a nice natural colour, making it ideal for dyeing. (Ooh, roll on end of job: I want to get into my kitchen splashing my dyes around! I'm hoping to be doing lots of splashing outside the home, as as I've enrolled on an experimental textiles evening class.)

This leads me on to recent FOs. I've lots to show: a "pilgrimmage pot" (made in Cascade 220!) as a souvenir of our trip to Walsingham, a nudibranch (sea slug)-inspired scarf and several small, crocheted aliens... so please bear with me, and drop back in a week or so!

The aliens were for I Knit that really deserves an entry all of its own (for now I'd just like to note that it was amazing and that Liz not only has a brilliant reports on her blog, she also has some rather compromising pictures of a slightly sozzled me posing with the stupendously gorgeous plait of merino tops that I purchased from Jo, an erstwhile swap pal, whom I was very excited to finally meet in person) .

As I've had to reconnect about 18 times whilst typing this I'm calling it a day for now. (Alternates between sighing and cursing!) I've also just managed to delete about 30% of this post, including links to I Knit Day. Time to wallow in the bath, methinks, or to carry on crocheting an ever-increasing circle. I have no idea why I'm crocheting it, nor what it will eventually become but I'm having fun!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008


We're off to Norfolk for a couple of nights. though we're staying with my parents in King's Lynn, Graham's aim is to go to an Assumptiontide service in Walsingham. I won't be joining him in the church but will go along for the (very complicated) ride. We're taking a bus from Lynn to Fakenham; another from Fakenham to Walsingham; after the service we'll catch a bus to Wells Next the Sea. We'll then return to Lynn on the Coast Hopper, which runs through such alluring places as Holkham, Burnham Market and Thornham (I think Thornham Creek has to be one of the most beautiful places that I know) before going on to Hunstanton and Heacham, then along the main road back to Lynn. If the weather is good we'll do a bit of hopping off and walking, but we're not holding any breath! (We could also, of course, hop from Wells to Sheringham or even Cromer before hopping back to Lynn but that might be too much excitement for one day).

And now on to the real escape...I've handed my notice in at work despite not having found another job yet. Sometimes bold moves have to be made and this is one of those times.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Sorry I've been a bit quiet of late, nothing really wrong (but let's just say I'm scanning job ads very eagerly!)

I've also been quite busy. Sunday before last saw my first-ever solo stall. The event was truly charming: cream tea in the Needham Institute (part of Cambridge Uni's Oriental Studies Department), organised by a small committee that raises money to sponsor children overseas through primary school. This is the same committee that organises the village's art show each year. I'd asked if I could be included in that but, apparently, the overall feeling is that crochet isn't art so I was offered the chance to do this instead, with the comittee taking 20% commission on sales.

Needless to say the footfall was far lower than it would have been at the art exhibition and I'm not sure that people attending had been told that there would be craft on sale. Add to that an overwhelmingly hot day (would you want to pick up, let alone buy, a mohair scarf on a hot day?) and, well,

unsurpisingly, I didn't sell a great deal but I did have fun setting the stall up and finally got round to investing in some Moo mini cards to hand out. Time to track down some craft fairs I think.

Since then I've been hard at work on yet another crop of corsages and now I'm working on a project for the "Ravelympics". (Note for the uninitiated: the "Ravelympics" is simply a challenge to Ravelry members to do something new/different/challenging during the duration of the Olympics.) A large bevy of KToggers gathered in the garden of the Cambridge Blue early yesterday evening to start our projects off. I'm freeforming an alien lifeform, here's my progress so far...

Last, but by no means least, if you get a chance to go and see Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, seize it. I managed to get some preview tickets, so Liz and I went to see it on Tuesday evening. A gentle, jazz-age fairy tale: fabulous soundtrack, gorgeous costumes and just enough reality mixed in with the champagne bubbles.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Her first KIP

There are days in a young girl's life that she'll never forget; so I wonder how my niece will look back on her first KIP (that's Knitting In Public, for the uninitiated)?

We had a brilliant time together at the end of last week. She added a request to my list of things to do:"help nate wrist warmer" and by 5.30am (!) she was rewinding some of the yarn she painted on her visit here last year. She selected a wonderful mulitcoloured wool: mainly pinks and turquoises, with shots of purples, greens and yellow but also asked if we could buy some black yarn as she wanted stripes. (vertical stripes at that, this was also her first knitting design). She also discovered that her older sister must have appropriated all the needles. So we set off to Chelmsford with a cunning plan: buy black yarn, buy needles, visit all-you-can-eat-Chinese-buffet, buy purple nail varnish (all the better for showing off your wristwarmer).

Having eaten far too much (neither of us had room for the free ice cream, imagine that) we plonked ourselves on a bench and cast on. At first she was a bit anxious ("suppose people stare at us, what if I someone I know sees me?") but soon she was engrossed. As Miss Pegs knitted, I crocheted. We weren't jeered at but I did see several people looking on in surprise and one elderly lady gave me a thumbs up, which was rather wonderful).

Once home, Pegs put the dvd of St Trinians (new version) on, and soon proved that she could multi-task, quickly getting the hang of knitting whilst watching (it took me years to get that far, clearly my Mum has had a far better pupil in Miss Pegs than she had in me!) She stopped, reluctantly, for a meal of cheese and lettuce followed by raspberries, cream and chocolate cake (the sort of meal that aunties devise for hot days, particularly aunties who want maximum crocheting, minimum meal prepping time) then knitted on whilst watching strange programmes on strange channels with names like "Scuzz" and "Dave". (How can you have a TV channel called Dave? Yes, Auntie has yet to enter the brave, far-from-new, world of Freeview).

Towards the end she started to get a bit tired, so asked me to do the last 10 rows, whilst she made a dress out of a blue bin liner, ready for scout camp. Note how both wristwarmer and dress were very successful.

And I was amused to see that she was still wearing the wristwarmer when she headed off to Scout camp the next day, with a pack that is almost as large as she is.

I was delighted to see her showing the wrist warmer off to her friends, too, saying, very proudly: "I made that!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

fun in the offing...

My sister has put out an SOS to The Flying Auntie Serivce, so I'm off to have some fun with my younger niece. Here she is mowing the garden for us whilst visiting last year. Note that she has stolen Uncle Graham's hat.

I gather that her current interests are makeup and getting muddy (and, apparently, it is vital to put make up on before going out and getting muddy)so I'll be taking plenty of cleanser and soap with me...

Friday, July 18, 2008

mossy wall pot (updated)

There are times when a girl falls in love with the oddest things, such as this wall, just outside Cockermouth:

As Lakeland walls go, it isn't an especially romantic one. The stones are quite large and I feel sure that mortar has been deployed in its construction (no doubt there are health and safety rules to ensure that any wall with integral stile must be constructed so that it is held together by more than gravity!) But I loved the variety in colour in the stone (there are iron seams very close by, which may explain the pinky-red colour that you can see in places) and, in particular, the lumpy, bumpy surfaces. I was also quite struck by the splotchy wash of mud (or was it cowdung?) at the bottom.

Even as I squeezed through the stile (and it was a squeeze, believe me) a pot began to take shape in my brain. Grey wool, shot through with flashes of other shades of stone. (How would I do that? Tapestry crochet? Applying another colour on the surface later? Spike stitches?) A few muddy lowlights at the bottom. Lumps and bumps. How about capturing some of the greenery that was sprouting from the side, or would that be too much? Before long we were in a wooded valley, where virtually every surface was covered with moss. Moss that reminded me of some very green, very frondy yarn (something by Crystal Palace, I think) that I'd purchased from Woolly Workshop 2 or 3 years ago, with no particular project in view. I pictured a wall topped with moss, then turned my mind, eyes and ears towards the urgent business of squirrel-spotting; all thoughts of crochet were forgotten.

Once back home, on the edge of the Fens, I decided to use one of my mossy photos (the "green candyfloss" of last week's blog entry) as my avatar on Ravelry. Fellow Raveller Danielle mentioned that she thought it might have been something that I'd crocheted... prompting me to remember the walk, the wall, the moss, the planned pot....

A quick dip into the "yarns for felting" bag and I had grey eco wool (for the stone), a scrap of brown eco wool (for the mud/cowdung), Freedom spirit in a greyish/reddish/brownish mix for the colour variation in the stone). Then a dive into my freeform stash (subcategory: posh/expensive/use in moderation yarns) for Rowan tweedy 4-plys (which I've been collecting for years) in 2 shades of green and for the aforementioned Crystal Palace frondy stuff.

Then the fun began. Streaks of mud and lumps and bumps. Seams of ore. Always two yarns spiralling their way up the pot, but only one colour at a time being used for the stitches, the other just being caught in place. Most of the time I was working in half trebles but, whenever I felt like it, I'd put a few more wraps round the hook and work into a stitch further down or off to one side. Sudden increases and decreases were carefully stacked to form pouches in the sides.

It was slow going (though it guzzled up yarn alarmingly quickly), but I enjoyed it. Finally, it was moss time. For most of the time I worked with all three moss yarns held together, increasing in every third or fourth stitch on the first row and every stitch on the second. I (deliberately) worked just the first fifth or so of the third row, to emphasise a bulge. And every so often I made a tiny deviation. Using just one of the greens and a small hook I did a small chain, worked a few half trebles in the end of it and slipstitched my way back, to make a few little fruiting fronds.

Then the terror set in. This would be the first time I'd felted something with so many different yarns and textures. Into the machine it went (with one small sea anemone pot, and two pots destined to be fringed anemones). I kept going through to the garage to see what was happening. Would the synthetic green fluff melt at 40 degrees? (Fortunately not).Would it shed over the other pots? (No, thank goodness.) Would all my textural and colour work be flattened out and muted by the felting process? (Slightly, but not too much).

And here, at last, is a more respectable photo than that originally used!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

green candlyfloss and cumberland sausage

I think one of the greatest joys of our recent trip to Cumbria was the chance to explore a landscape so very different from the flatlands that we live in. Here's Graham hitting the trail, somewhere between Strawberry How Farm and Slate Fell It was a fairly short walk (about 5 miles) but even so we found a remarkable range of wildflowers, including ragged robin and some orchids.

I'd hoped that we might get a glimpse of red squirrels, particularly as we staying very near Cockermouth's cemetery, a known red squirrel haunt. Someone managed to spot one next to the road. Someone else saw two of them playing in the grounds of the Youth Hostel. Alas, I failed, even though we also went on a 10-mile hike to another top red squirrel-sighting point. But I wouldn't have missed that walk for anything!

We headed out from Cockermouth towards Redmaine, then from there we went across clover-strewn pasture into a steeply-sided, deeply-wooded hidden valley

before emerging in Isel. Passing through the valley, I was particularly amused by some branches so thickly wrapped in moss that they looked like green candyfloss.

Whilst we totally failed to find the local squirrel colony, we did enjoy visiting Isel Church.

There are even ancient sundials carved into the church wall:

From Isel, we headed steeply uphill through a wooded track (where Graham acquired a rather stunning stick),

then descended through pastureland back into Cockermouth. Here I saw a mustelid of some type (still not sure whether it was a weasel or a stoat) and some fabulous views.

Back in Cockermouth, we headed straight for liquid refreshment (in my case, a couple of pints of lime and soda with ginger beer chasers: I was seriously thirsty). And then I had a rare outbreak of meat-eating! somehow it seemed rude to be in Cumbria and not order Cumberland sausage. It was every bit as tasty as it looks!

New outbreak of ripplemania

Uh, oh, the contagion spreads... I think a new pandemic may be on the horizon...

Friday, July 11, 2008

UK Swap - question(s) for week 5

This week we've been asked to answer lots of quick fire questions, then type the answers into goolge images, select one image from the first page for each search term and paste URLs into a mosaic-maker... I'm just going with the questions, as our internet connection is so cussed at the moment that I can't ven upload pics to blogger without it cutting out, boo!

1. Stop or go? Go.
2. Going out or Staying in? Staying in.
3. Small town or big city? Neither; give me villages, market towns of any size and small cities, please!
4. Happy or sad? Happy.
5. Straights or Circulars? Crochet hooks!
6. Red or Blue? Red.
7. Seaside or countryside? Both together.
8. Fish or chips? Mushy peas.
9. Surprises or plans? Surprises.
10. Wine or beer? Cider (or gin).
11. Sweaters or cardigans? Cardis
12. Pizza or Pasta? Pasta.
13. Chopsticks or fork? Fork.
14. Early Bird or Night Owl? Early owl (ie up at 7.45am, bed by 11pm)
15. Knitting or crochet? Crochet.
16. Hot or cold? Cold.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

sea anemone mania

Yes, after last year's dose of ripplemania, I'm now totally hooked on sea anemones. I've been making my hyperbolic pots for several months now (and they're selling really well) but I've also decided to make some variations.

Firstly, after I accidentally felted some pots in a 60 degree wash, rather than a 40 degree, I discovered that the smaller size as popular with customers. (Thus proving that every cloud has a silver lining). I also decided to follow up on my hunch that some colours of The Freedom Spirit yarn felted much more drastically than others. This meant getting (by my standards, at least), all serious and scientific. I crocheted 3 pots to exactly the same pattern (I usually just increase/decrease wherever and whenever I feel like it, varying the rate of shaping following my mood). I threw them into the washing machine together. And look:

three distinctly different sizes. The red pot has felted to the same degree as most of the larget pots I'd made. The lightest colour has shrunk least (sometimes I've had to give pots in this colour a second wash to get them fulled enough, but this one isn't too bad). And as for the tuquoise one: plumptious and tactile, but oh-so-tiny.

Then on to my next plan. When visiting Norfolk Yarn earlier in the year I saw some dyed Wensleydale locks and hit on the idea of some fringed anemones. I felt that a mad fringe deserved a sober background, so was delighted to discover Sirdar's Eco DK in Sew Creative. I picked out the natural brown colour and had 2 pots ready and waiting for their fringes before heading to Woolfest. Whilst there were locks aplenty for sale (Teesdale, as well as Wensleydale) I fell for the utterly gorgeous colours (and bargain price) of Willo Alpacas' bags of rainbow dyed shetland/masham cross fleece. I've still got plenty of the red left and some fabulous blues and greens to play with, so I bought more Eco Wool at Sew Creative today, in grey and in cream. It'll be particularly interesting to see how the various shades of Eco wool felt.

Finally, here's a little cluster of anemones on the table. I love arranging them en masse.