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.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

faux fossils

I've been fascinated by fossils ever since I can remember, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before I attempted to make some with yarn. (Though I went off fossils for a while after my 40th birthday, when my cheeky little sister presented me with a tiny Smarties box, filled with even tinier fossils and labelled "fossils for an old fossil". Cheers, Hilla!)

Whenever I looked at the beigey/browny/greyish colourway of Freedom Spirit I'd pictured rock (the non-edible variety, not the lovely pink sticks that Jo has recently recreated in felt!). So I whipped up, and felted, a very simple bowl shape. Then the fun began...

It took four attempts beore I finally had exactly what I needed,

though I have to admit that my favourite is the Mk3 version.

Here's the finished bowl, with Mk 4 sewn on.

If you're interested in how these were made, I've put exhaustive notes up on Flickr and fellow-Ravellers can look at my notebook.

Last, but by no means least, my lovely secret pal has sent me a little "teaser" gift of yummy dark choc (vanishing rapidly) and a fabulous set of stitchmarkers. I'll take photos of these as soon as I can (I'm aiming for Wednesday, when I should be at home during ideal light conditions) and also one of the unbelievably beautiful shawl that Ambermoggie gave me at Woolfest. Speaking of Woolfest, I'm hoping to post more details soon, though all my photos of the event are out-of focus and the stash has yet to be snapped...