Wednesday, February 27, 2008

a peep inside the yellow bag...

Remember the yellow bag that I showed you on Friday?

Karen has enquired about the contents and now I can reveal (almost) all.*

At the bottom of the picture, two King Penguins from the 1940s. The Microcosm of London is a Mothering Sunday gift (no prizes for guessing where my Ma comes from!). Popular English Art , a book about folk art, is a celebration of almost all the things that I love best: roundabout gallopers, elaborate tombstones, finely decorated carts, lacemaking, Staffordshire china, 17th century trade cards... But, taking pride of place at the top of the picture, is the Penguin Modern Painters volume (also from the 1940s) on Stanley Spencer. And it contains that most wonderful of paintings, The Wool Shop (1940), where Spencer celebrates what I love most of all**

Apparently Spencer was inspired to paint the picture after visiting a shop in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. And he clearly understands the true allure of such a shop, the fabulous skeins of yarn and bolts of material and, above all, the customers' yarn lust. Their selection of yarn that matches their own hair has, I feel, a decided touch of autoeroticism.

Ah, yarnlust, there's nothing quite like it. Which reminds me that I promised to reveal my purchases from Textiles In Focus***:
From left to right: a skein of handpainted laceweight yarn from Liz, and a skein of her DK. There are more temptations in her Etsy shop. Next, a nostepinne, two skeins of Claudia Handpaint and some Quill casein needles from Gill's Woolly Workshop. The nostepinne is such a delight. I was faced with the difficult, yet delightful, task of selecting from four different woods and it didn't really take me very long to settle for the Yew. And then I realised that I needed something to carry my purchases in. Well, in Popular English Art (see above)Noel Carrington states "I believe one of the few objects of daily use which has resisted the ingenuity of the machine is the wicker basket, and that retains its traditional patterns in full vigour". Hmm, presumably there weren't so many plastic carrier bags in 1945. But, whilst at Textiles in Focus, I found (and fell in love with) this basket, which comes from Northern Ghana and was on the African Fabrics Stand.
That basket has been on several outings since I bought it. Today it accompanied me to the Fitzwilliam Museum for an entertaining lecture on rabbits and hares and also to various charity shops, as I tracked down eggcups to model my latest project: egg cosies made from some of the yarns I've handpainted in the last few months. Easter is on its way...

* I actually came home with two of these delightful yellow bags, but the other one is TOP SECRET as it contains something for someone taking part in this swap
** with the obvious exception of my spouse, that is.
*** once again, I am supressing something that is TOP SECRET. (See * above).

Friday, February 22, 2008

recipe for a perfect Friday

Take one spouse. Saunter across Sheeps Green (or is it Coe Fen)*? en route

for a tasty treat. Then wander back across the fen
and head for another treat!

Return home and spend weekend enjoying the treasures inside the yellow paper bag**...

* never have worked out which is which. I'm pretty convinced that the bit between the two mill ponds (the one near the Grad Pad and the one near the Granta) is Sheep's Green, but Graham always calls it Coe Fen, which I think is the strip of land behind the Fitzwilliam. Anyone willing to be ref?

** note crumpled appearance of bag, our cat fell in love with Edward Bawden's cat logo, and sat on the bag all evening!


I spent a happy lunchtime yesterday in a sandwich bar that looks out over Christ's College and the rather Baroque LLoyds Bank building in Cambridge town centre. And as I sat there, alternating smoked salmon sandwich with crocheting (keeping my fingers very clean, of course!), I saw a banner come into view, followed by smaller banners ("say not to fees") and little flags ("socialist students"). It was a very small demo, with about 25 students in all (actually, the count was 23 students and a big issue seller, plus dog) but they were followed by two policemen, which made it look much more impressive, and provoked the following exchange between the two young men sitting behind me:

"Do you think those policmen are policing the march, or have they joined in? Maybe they got a taste for it during their wages protest last month?"
"I don't know, but they've swelled the marchers numbers by about 10%"

It all looked so tame, especially compared to 40 years ago!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

places where I'd love to sit and knit (number one in an occasional series)

Well, I should be busily sewing brooch backs onto corsages and adding price labels to scarves but instead I've been daydreaming about the places where, if time and money were no object, I would love to sit and knit.

And tonight I'm imagining myself (in high summer) at Dunster Yarn Market. In fact, I'm imagining re-establishing a yarn market at Dunster Yarn Market: a one-day festival where we could all sit and knit, spin, crochet and trade yarns and equipment. Since this is on the fringes of Exmoor, there must be a bunkhouse where we could stay, and we could arrive in style via the West Somerset steam railway...

It must be 23 years since I last went to Dunster and I have vivid memories of a sign by a car park warning people about a wasp/bee nest in the roots of a tree. It had been left there for the badgers who used to come and feast (but I've forgotten whether they would dine on the bees or on honey). But I digress!

Where would you like to sit and knit, and why?

Monday, February 18, 2008

could this be the dawn of a new trend?

Well, after last night's confession to you about the joys of travelling on the bus with my towel rail, can you imagine my shock (and mirth) when I spotted this on the luggage rack of the C6 Cambridge-Oakington bus this evening:

Yes, that is indeed a clothes airer on top of a laundry basket. (Honest. Sorry about the picture quality but I wasn't brave enough to snap this as I walked past it, and had to use the zoom lens from the back of the bus. )

And the camera simply had to come out again when I got off the bus. Same view as last night, but about 20 minutes later. What a sky!
And I think you can just about make out the rolling mist in this one.
When I got home I spotted the first fallen bird egg of the year...spring is coming. And here's more proof, the frist of this year's grape hyacinths, captured in our front garden this morning.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

have towel rail, will travel

It may not quite be the silliest thing I've ever had to take onto a bus (that would be the brand new standard lamp and lampshade combo, where maybe I didn't do myself any favours by wearing the shade as a hat)but I have to say there are few things more likely to get you stared at than carting a towel rail about with you. Now, let me point out that this isn't a common or garden towel rail. No, Mr Caught Knitting would have me believe that it is a family heirloom. Apparently, it is well over 70 years old, used to be bright blue and have plaster of paris mouldings on it. "Actually, it was a very ugly blue, the sort of colour that public lavatories used to be, so it wasn't really a bright blue, it was an ugly blue.*" But here it is in its present incarnation, posing (on Friday) against the elegant backdrop of Stop J, Emmanuel Street, Cambridge.

We (that is to say, the towel rail and I) were en route to Cottenham for this year's Textiles in Focus event, as Liz had invited me to sell some of my wares alongside her fabulous yarns, bags, scarves and patterns. Sue (who is, alas, blogless) was also there, with her fabulous "Captain Jack Sparrow Scarf" --red, greys and soft plum, interspersed with glass and wooden beads, trimmed with wild curly tails--which I forgot to photograph, grr. In fact, having immortalised the towel rail, I promptly forgot that I had a camera with me. Which is a scandal, as Liz's stall looked incredibly inviting, as did Gill's Woolly Workshop (which was next to it) and 21st Century Yarns' booth (opposite it). We had a wonderful time: the towel rail sat very nicely on top of the stall, displaying scarves for all to see, and I sat behind the stall, knitting, crocheting and selling things to people and answering a stream of enquiries about how I'd made the scarves/pots etc. Oddly, I also spent some time buying things: I'm hoping that this Wednesday will be sunny enough for you to get pictures of my loot.

Today, of course, would have been perfect for photographing my swag, but I had to go to work. I was given a lift though, which meant that I got to cross The Backs, where I captured this icy scene as I walked towards Trinity Bridge:

Finally, if you've read yesterday evening's post about last Sunday's glorious sunset, here's the difference a week makes: same sky, same place, same time of day, one week closer to summer...

*Aha, it seems that all those audio typing lessons I took many moons ago were not worthless, after all. I can now capture Mr CK, famous literature lecturer, verbatim!

Monday, February 11, 2008

shepherd's delight

It has been a busy week in the Caught Knitting Household. Here's just a taste of what's been afoot. Saturday 16th saw Graham having a cataract op, whilst I was teaching modular knitting to some of the East Herts & West Essex Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. Graham's op seems to have been very successful: I wish I could capture the joy in his voice and the glee written all over his face when he took the dressing off on Sunday and announced, excitedly, that he could see in 3D!

I'd been a bit nervous about the teaching, as next month the group have Kaffe Fassett giving them a lecture. But they turned out to be one of the friendliest groups that I've ever met and produced lots of colourful log cabin squares, mitered squares and a few shells, too.

The squares in the lower left-hand corner had been dyed at one of their previous workshops, using cow parsely and broad bean, amongst other materials, some mordanted with copper, some with tin. I adore the colours and can see that I'll have to track down a similar workshop.

Sunday found me back at work, but at least I work in a shop with a huge window, so I was able to soak up some of that superb sunshine. And when I saw the deep crimson sunset whilst on my way home, I knew we were in for more good weather! After all:

Red sky at night,
Shepherd's delight.

Red sky at morning,
Shepherd's warning


A few paces later, I realised that the local sparrowhawk had been visiting:
and I think that poor, deceased, pigeon must have been in the back of my mind when I selected yarns for this scarf:

which, much as I love it, appears to have a certain hint of shredded peacock about it... This week also saw the beginning of 2008's corsage mountain. Here are the first few brooches surrounding some of the twirly scarves I made in January. (I love the way the green ones can double-up as artificial cabbages).

Sorry about the quality of the photos, particularly the indoor ones. Needless to say, the one day I spent at home this week was the one day when the fog didn't lift all day!

Friday, February 08, 2008

On Leaping Over the Moon

Did anyone else see the moon this evening? I could scarcely take my eyes off it on my journey home: the most slender sickle of shimmering light, but with the full disc faintly visible behind it. Technically, this is a waxing crescent (4% of full) but I'd say that it is magic! And it reminded me of one of my favourite poems: "On Leaping over the Moon", by Thomas Traherne (1637-1674)

I saw new Worlds beneath the Water lie,
New People; yea, another Sky
And sun, which seen by Day
Might things more clear display.
Just such another
Of late my Brother
Did in his Travel see, and saw by Night,
A much more strange and wondrous Sight:
Nor could the World exhibit such another,
So great a Sight, but in a Brother.

Adventure strange! No such in Story we,
New or old, true or feigned, see.
On Earth he seem’d to move
Yet Heaven went above;
Up in the Skies
His body flies
In open, visible, yet Magic, sort:
As he along the Way did sport,
Over the Flood he takes his nimble Course
Without the help of feigned Horse.

As he went tripping o’er the King’s high-way,
A little pearly river lay
O’er which, without a wing
Or Oar, he dar’d to swim,
Swim through the air
On body fair;
He would not use or trust Icarian wings
Lest they should prove deceitful things;
For had he fall’n, it had been wondrous high,
Not from, but from above, the sky:

He might have dropt through that thin element
Into a fathomless descent;
Unto the nether sky
That did beneath him lie,
And there might tell
What wonders dwell
On eath above. Yet doth he briskly run,
And bold the danger overcome;
Who, as he leapt, with joy related soon
How happy he o’er-leapt the Moon.

What wondrous things upon the Earth are done
Beneath, and yet above the sun?
Deeds all appear again
In higher spheres; remain
In clouds as yet:
But there they get
Another light, and in another way
Themselves to us above display.
The skies themselves this earthly globe surround;
W’are even here within them found.

On heav’nly ground within the skies we walk,
And in this middle centre talk:
Did we but wisely move,
On earth in heav’n above,
Then soon should we
Exalted be
Above the sky: from whence whoever falls,
Through the long dismal precipice,
Sinks to the deep abyss where Satan crawls
Where horrid Death and Despair lies.

As much as others thought themselves to lie
Beneath the moon, so much more high
Himself and thought to fly
Above the skarry sky,
As that he spied
Below the tide.
Thus did he yield me in the shady night
A wonsdrous and instructive light,
Which taught me that under our feet there is
As o’er our heads, a place of bliss.

To the same purpose; he, not long before
Brought home from nurse, going to the door
To do some little thing
He must not do within,
With wonder cries,
As in the skies
He saw the moon, "O yonder is the moon
Newly come after me to town,
That shin’d at Lugwardin but yesternight,
Where I enjoy’d the self-same light."

As if it had ev’n twenty thousand faces,
It shined at once in many places;
To all the earth so wide
God doth the stars divide
With so much art
The moon impart,
They serve us all; serve wholly ev’ry one
As if they served him alone.
While every single person hath such store,
’Tis want of sense that makes us poor.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Esmeralda's Flopsies

I had to smile when browsing through the small ads in a knitting mag today: one of the shops is called "Withit Witch". Is it me, or does that name sound incredibly 60s/70s-ish?

It reminds me of some of the names of local boutiques in the 70s. Bear in mind that I grew up in a sleepy market town (King's Lynn) on the edge of the Fens, so excitement was HUGE when boutiques (as opposed to Richards, Dorothy Perkins and Etam) opened. First came Emma's, which doesn't sound like a very novel name. But soon it was joined by a shop for men, called "Emma's Mate". I loved that, especially as the word "mate" carried slightly rude overtones (ooh, they're mating...").

This was quickly rivalled by "Man's World", memorable only for the truly hideous men they had in their cinema ad. Meanwhile, I saved up all my wages (25p/hour as Saturday girl in Cale's hairdresser) to spend either in Bayes Recordium or in Doves, which had wonderful smocks and dresses with leg-o-mutton sleeves and corduroy skirts, all printed with art nouveau-inspired florals, or medieval-looking beasties. Doves seems such a "love and peace" name, but actually came from the location of their other branch: Dove Street in Norwich.

But best of all was, "Esmeralda's Flopsies". I never did go in (perhaps put off by my mother's scathing comment: "who on earth wants to dress in a flopsy?") but, oh, what a name.

Sometimes I daydream about running my own retail business. The ideas always seem to be influenced by punning names. First (and we're talking 1982 here) came the idea for a mobile wholefood shop (which would tour the back lanes of rural Norfolk), to be called "Rosy Future": the promise of good health for all who purchased from it and my name--albeit spelt slightly differently--to satisfy my ego. Can you see the fatal flaw in this plan: just how many homes are there in rural Norfolk where the inhabitants are at home all day and don't have access to the wholefood shops or delicatessens of Diss/Sheringham/Burnham Market? (This last must be the second homes capital of the UK!) More recent ideas have included an upmarket fairtrade/organic/ethical brands gift/booze/fashion store to be called "Ethics Girls." Say it aloud, see if it doesn't remind you of an alleged tribe of white-sandal wearing permatanned women who dance around their handbags. The trouble is, I suspect that the name might repel the wealthier among the Cambridge undergrads, who would have been my target market.

But the sad truth is that retail space in Cambridge is incredibly expensive. The city that bred Andy's Records (motto: "purveyor of fine music at cheapo prices") is now in grave danger of becoming a clone town*. And with the imminent opening of The Grand Arcade--my idea of a nightmare: a roofed in expanse of wall-upon-wall of so-called "exclusive" brands ie retail chains with aggresive marketing, designer logos and big price labels, --I'm beginning to wonder how smaller, independant shops can survive unless they, too, target the luxury (more money than sense) market. (I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at a quote on the arcade's website: "Grand Arcade is not just an exciting and modern addition to the Cambridge retail offer, but fundamentally transforms and reinvigorates it.")

So, for now at least, I'm delighting in the punning name of our local yarn shop ("Sew Creative" is, well, so creative!) and I'm longing for the innovative and innocent days of Esmeralda's Flopsies!

*King's Lynn has turned into a bargain-hunters paradise, surely there are more pound stores per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world?)

ps I have a plethora of FOs (albeit mainly crocheted twirly scarves) that I must photgraph...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

suitable for the virgin?

Here's my latest treasure from the local Oxfam shop. First, let me explain that Liz has been recommending Zola's novels to me for quite some time and I've finally caved in, after Karen posted rave reviews of The Paradise of Ladies aka Au Bonheur des Dames(which I bought on Thursday and drank in enormous gulps, leaving me bereft when I finished!) so imagine how great my glee was when I spotted this today:

At first I hesitated a little, as the plates of "8 illustrations by George Jeannoit" have been cut out by a vandal at some stage in the book's history, and someone has spilt coffee/tea over it in 2 different places! It is, mind you 108 years since it was printed, and I'm sure I'll have had rather more misadventures should I reach that age... I also love the floral motifs on the cover, which look rather like sprigged muslin given a Japanese spin.

And then I read this irresistable announcement:
M. Zola has sought in this charming story to prove to the world that he too can write for the virgin, and that he can paint the better side of human nature in colours as tender and true as those employed by any of his contemporaries. ... It is a beautiful story, admirably told." (The quotation comes from a publication called, simplySpeaker). Sold!

I've only had time to read a few pages (and those, believe me, are packed with virgins:one little waif and no fewer than 7 virgin martyrs) but I'm utterly hooked!

I got so immersed in The Paradise of Ladies, that I totally forgot about this year's silent poetry reading for St Bridget's Day, which took place yesterday. Today, however, is the feast of St Blaise, "[who] was widely popular in Britain from the eighth century to beyond the Middle Ages" (see Roud, Steve, The English Year, Penguin 2006, p41) and he rates a mention here at Caught Knitting because in England he was:

adopted as the patron saint of woolcombers -- and important ans widespread occupation before machinery wiped it out. Every year on or around his feast day, the woolcombers organized a trade procession, which eveni in small towns was an impressive event, and in larger centres of the wool industry these processions became truly spectacular affairs. (Roud, ibid)

Well, I've not been together enough to organise a revival of the traditon this year (and no doubt my beloved--he who goes to church several times each week-- would point out that there might be something rather strange in a pagan like me organising a revival of a saint's day, but we'll gloss over that...). But here's a picture of some of this week's woolwinding (which is close as I've got to woolcombing):Don't you love my vintage metal woolwinder, which belonged to my grandmother before I inherited it? (Fortunately I can't remember which of my KTog friends told me that it looked like something that had fallen off Sputnik!)