Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coming up for air.......

The age of miracles is not yet over - I have actually managed to get in to the studio, on my own!, again. So time to squeeze in a quick blog post before getting down to anything else. In my personal reckoning, that counts. It is surprisingly difficult to manage to do it at home, given the large numbers of kittens trampling about on the keys and husbands who decide to make marmalade just as I am about to get the lap top out.

Last Saturday, we taught a spinning workshop at the studios as part of their regular programme. It went very well - we had seven participants, which is counted to be a good number for a newish class, and they all thrived, enjoying their day very much and making excellent progress. I always seem to feel very apprehensive before a class. This is in part because in order to make one viable, we have to be prepared to take all levels in one group and then deal with them appropriately, something made much easier by there being two of us. But you never can be quite sure just what you are going to be faced with, and there is no denying that it can be quite tiring!

We had the usual mix, I suppose, from the "whee! this is great, I'm getting it!" to the "I will never ever ever get this I am so useless (but she did!) via the one with the unstated problem, perhaps having had a stroke, but sticking to it gamely and getting to a good place in the end. This was a particularly rewarding group, that will have given birth to some real new spinners, I am glad to say.

I have talked before about the "tribe". There are different but overlapping groups within the tribe, and the class situation is one. Not quite the same as the "family" tribe of Guild, or dare I mention it, SOAR, but equally important to me. We shall see in August how the DSM and I get on with a class of twenty five! at Summer School. I am sure that I have said before that doing a week-long class is so particularly rewarding, and I am really looking forward to it. Although I still have a mountain of work to do before then in preparation.........

Of late - little bit of spinning, little bit of knitting. The Spiral shawl is growing and has moved on to a longer cir. It remains my only live knitting project at the moment. Must do something about that.

The kittens are gorgeous, affectionate little beasts and really, not too naughty. All four are getting on pretty well, we leave them together when we are both out now, and this weekend, they are going in to the cattery together. We are off to Cambridge for a few days.

And, my sister - has finished chemo. Quite where that leaves us, I don't know. I read an interview in the Guardian yesterday with a GP who said that she liked being one better than working in hospitals because a hospital doctor treated a condition, a GP a patient. Yes! It is very frustrating, especially as the bystander, not the patient. We see a different member of the team at each appointment, sometimes someone who has very obviously only just read the case notes. They tell us what we already know, or rather, some variant of it. Each time, we are promised a fuller review - next time. I am not doubting the standard of the medical care one bit, but yes, my sister has a condition and is not a real person. As exemplified by her being given an appointment to an 8am blood transfusion the day after the last clinic appointment, despite a plea for it being a bit early when it means a two hour+ drive through rush hour traffic. And not explaining that a first ever transfusion has to be done very slowly, and then a second unit given rather faster, so that it is going to take all day, sending us home just in time for the afternoon rush hour.....A five minute explanation would have been nice! However - it did a good job, and she is feeling much better. Fingers crossed that this is the start of a good bit.

Onward and upward, eh?

Monday, February 16, 2015

I'm not doing too well at this blogging caper at the moment, am I? I do keep meaning to get down to it, but like the fibre crafts, I'm not being very successful!

So, a bit of a mixed bag coming up.

To the usual chaos, add a filthy cold! I was supposed to be joining the DSM on the visit to Cornwall, but had to cancel, partly for DMIL's benefit, partly mine. That was over two weeks ago and I am still not completely free of it' which seems very unfair. Still, it did mean that I could really buckle down to the Landscape shawl and get it finished. In the end, I only managed three stitch patterns with the amount of yarn that I had, but it looks ok and is a generous enough size. It is washed, but would be better for a light steam press which I suppose means that I should do the rest of the ironing, too, dammit.

So then I cast on the Spiral shawl with the gradient three-ply. Quite how I managed to make a fundamental error in such a straightforward pattern within twenty rows I really do not know. But I did - suddenly the repeats weren't working, the DSM had a look, and seemingly I had achieved ten repeats instead of the eight that the pattern called for. Oops. I got back on track last night and so far, so good, but until I start to see the colour changes and do enough to get on a circ instead of dpns, I won't be able to really know if I am going to like it or not. But I think I will, ok?

So, the great big thing........well, two little ones. Yes, crazy old cat people ride again. Two more snowshoe brothers were collected last weekend. I was really quite worried by how Barni would be, but in the event, he is actually being very good, with very little display of bad temper. Ferdi has taken to them immediately - I had rather thought that he might - and they are already quite friendly. They arrived with toys, including some catnip ones. We have shared these with Barni, but we have to ration his exposure or he goes too completely doolally. A little nip has helped to reconcile him to the interlopers, though.

They are of course, monsters. In one week they have learned to jump up on to the kitchen counters and one of them can get through the inner cat flap with ease. In all other respects they seem totally at home and as if they had lived with us all their lives, which I suppose is a compliment to us as well as their breeders. Just as soon as I can find my camera, I will put up some photos - the ones I have done with phone or iPad are not very good, the shutter delay is too long and the beasts move too dam' fast. Oh - Bruno and Madoc, by the way.

One very nice thing that has happened is that at last the UK copies of Ply magazine arrived, having been delayed in the Christmas posts. So at long last I got to see my Worstead article in print. Very nicely laid out, with some of the photos that I took, it looks very well. I feel very proud - Ply may be fairly new, but it hit the ground running when it came out and has since gone from strength to strength. Now I need to watch for another opportunity to pitch an article!

What I really need to be doing now is to get stuck in to putting words down on paper, so to speak, for our Summer School course. It is all in my head all right, but not all out there for all to read. I do know it will not take me long once I really get down to it, but that part really needs to be done before gathering the actual materials. There is a lot of really good buzz about this Summer School, I am looking forward to it, and I do enjoy the planning stage, too. Of course, I still have a fair few samples to do as well.....please can I have a bit more mojo and a few more hours in the day?

OK, the cancer bit.
So, we had something of an alarm and excursion a few weeks back when we heard from my sister that she had gone to A&E. The side effects of the chemo got rather worse and she had to have a transfusion of platelets. After having her next regular appointment with the oncologist her dosage was reduced, and the next round went so much better! And the other piece of good news is that her scan results came back, and her tumour has reduced - from what was said, not massively, but satisfactorily. The chemo this week is the last one, after which things should revert to something quite comfortable for a while, and we are all hoping that she and we and have some good times as the Spring comes on.

And I should have said - our snowdrops are out! one of my favourite landmarks in the wheel of the year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Indeed. Where has the last month and a bit gone?

Oh, but first, fair warning, practically zero fibre content in this. It has been like that. I have knitted, often in a state perilously close to slumber (and therefore immediately frogged) and that it about it.

What has happened? My sister moved out of her old house and then in to ours temporarily. We took her for her third chemo. Huge fun. Because of some adverse reactions she is infused at half speed, and as they are often very late starting, it isn't finished until early evening. Then she moved in to her own house in HB at long, long last. Then it was Christmas - everybody to us, which was lovely. Then it was the next chemo, an even slower and longer day. We are all in recovery from that at the moment.

It has been almost impossible to think much at all about fibre, spinning and whatever. But slowly, it has begun to happen, a bit like the shoots of the first snowdrops. First of all, a few things previously scheduled decided to rearrange themselves. A non-fibre trip to Cambridge, off again - on again. A workshop cancelled at a month's notice, about which I probably should have been cross, but am not as they couldn't help not getting the numbers and it gives me some extra unexpected time.

And Woolfest. We have with great sadness decided to withdraw our application this year. Too much family stuff around, with part of it centred pretty much directly on the fortnight in which we would have been in Cumbria. We could have left it awhile to see how things went, but if we had cancelled down the line it seemed to us not to be fair to others, like the show, the people we rent accommodation from and so on. If things work out ok, we will try our damndest to get up there for the two days of Woolfest itself. After all, I shall need to replenish my stash!

I did spend some time over the holidays having a very good look at the Knitsonik book on inspirations and techniques for working out colour schemes for stranded knitting. It is fabulous and indeed inspirational, so much so that I have brought it down to the studio together with a coffee table book of David Hockney paintings and a book on Fairisle patterns to get working on some samples. I lighted on Hockney because I love his use of colour, and the Yorkshire woodland series of paintings in particular. Anyway, if I can get you-know-who to ever stop wittering when we are here, I hope to start on that very soon.

And yes, we are in the studio today for the first time since the beginning of December. I knew I had to do it soon, or I would lose the habit, and not really start doing anything very much at home either. First few visits will be a case of Keep It Simple Stupid, no high-flown ideas of anything grand, it is getting back into the groove that matters. Hence this blog post as first on the list (nearly time to tick!) And I have a huge bobbinful of gradient yarn that I finished spinning ages ago on my Hansen, and could not face winding off on a niddy noddy. So it is down here to be done on the skein winder, much easier. Then I shall just spin - such simple words, but they do sound good.

In a couple of weeks time, we are going down to Cornwall to see DMIL for a couple of days, then when we get back, there will be an announcement, and finally some photos, I promise. I am not making resolutions, intentions or whatever exactly this year. Principally just one foot in front of the other, but maybe also to do what I am doing that little bit more mindfully. (Sorry about the buzz word du jour, but it works.)

Onward, eh?

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Open Studios

OK, so we have got round to 6th December, and it is the weekend of Open Studios at Northlight. This is primarily intended as a selling event for all the real artists who are attempting to wholly or partly make their living here, but it is also a showcase for what goes on and to advertise the fact that you can rent a studio or take a course chosen from the education programme.

So what we get is a lovely two days of sitting and spinning and chatting to interesting people, which can't be bad. We do occasionally even get the odd student.

I know we live in the fourth funkiest little town on the planet (at least according to BA we do) and several former mills have been transformed in to artistic/craft ventures of one sort or another. But I do really think that there is still generally a strong tide of interest in crafts running, even if it is only an interest in or awareness of existence of such things. So the conversations are good - someone just now actually knew about mordanting in natural dyeing, even though she had never done any herself, and I had an informed discussion with a knitter on the appeal and nature of Noro.

Whoah! And a short interruption while I sell three batts!!)

And just had a conversation with someone who has been studying Alchemy in the States. H'mm.

And I don't think this is just the rosy glow of the mulled wine I am drinking influencing me unduly! The fragmentary nature of this post is due to blogging whilst openstudioing.

Nothing else all that exciting to report, really. Well, apart from a lovely weekend in Cambridge celebrating a friend's 70th birthday. (Yes, we are all getting to be that old - the next one is next week......) It was a super do, in a typically Cambridge pub (which is a bit like HB but a bit more up-market. And the entertainment came from a busker, playing Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Too cool.

The Landscape shawl was frogged as I had made a massive error in the construction, but it is now back on track. I am totally surprised at how boring a knit it is. I had thought that with increases, different stitch patterns and a picot edging that there would be sufficient interest, but somehow, not quite. It will be lovely when it is finished, though, and it does make good TV knitting.

Everlasting alpaca and silk at the studio - I have been plying this morning, and got a broken end that lost itself, much to my annoyance - had a crowd of people in as well, I did NOT look competent. Back to that grindstone soon. At home, some decent cashmere. I had to make a run to World of Wool for class supplies last week, so decided to get some more. About half spun now.

I am going to draw this to a close, too many people around to concentrate. Back before Christmas, I hope.

The Cancer Journal

Good and bad. The latter, Pennie's hair has gone. it started falling out after the first chemo and was shedding so fast, she shaved the remainder off. She was very self-conscious about it, but I was able to reassure by saying that it would look perfectly normal for HB. That is a good - the house sales have finally, finally gone through, at least on the property she is buying not completed until tomorrow, but that is not a problem. She is coming to stay with us next week until the bit of work she wants doing is finished. The other good is that after the second chemo, she didn't feel quite as wiped out, and was eating better. Dare we hope that this could indicate that the tumour has indeed started to shrink a bit? Fingers crossed. We journey on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I'm busy!

But I haven't forgotten that I am a blogger again.

Just been (ugh) having my photo taken for publicity for the Christmas Open Studios event. If you know me, you know I loathe this process, even if part of a group which this was. A vain, I fear, attempt to hide behind other people and a spindle. I am, though, looking forward to the weekend, I get to spin for two whole days and talk to interesting people. We don't usually have stuff to sell, but I have even had people begging me to sell them some yarn, although I have to admit, not often!

Saturday was a Guild day. These meetings of late have been really, really good. We have a whole gang of new and enthusiastic members, and frequently have visitors as well. This all makes for happy, noisy and vibrant meetings. The last couple of ideas, we have been following an idea that one of our members pinched from another Guild, which has to be uncredited as even she can't remember which it was! You have "four corners" (although this can be variable) and something takes place at each station. It is a kind of skill sharing, taster day, which generates in our experience a grand buzz.

This one was fibre prep, and I did combing. I don't know about the people I demonstrated to, but I had a wonderful time. I love combing, especially with English combs, but rarely make the time to do it. And I used a gorgeous Shetland fleece that we had got from Jamieson and Smith last year, an additional pleasure.

We have been trying hard to do a good job for our newer members recently. It is very easy to forget that there are things that we, as veterans, take for granted but they may be less familiar with. So we have organised a few beginner/refresher spinning sessions at ordinary guild days, and these Four Corner days, all of which have been popular and useful. And us veterans can learn a thing or two as well (as is always the case in any teaching situation, or should be!) This time, one of the areas ended up being blending boards, with people who had made their own. Now, the DSM bought carding cloth back at Woolfest, which was languishing somewhere or other.........as we speak, he is manfully wielding a staple gun, and will soon be blending away with the best of them, having been shown again how to do it.

To continue the mish mash of this post.........a cautionary tale. Recently, I wanted to spin something very soft and luxurious, so rootled in the stash and found some cashmere. Well, I think it is - it could be bunny fluff, but the former is more likely, and the same point holds for both. (Plus the extra reminder to LABEL YOUR STASH.) Cashmere seemingly does not have a long storage life. Whilst most other fibres take little harm from being kept for a good while, cashmere, being so very fine, compresses. Because it is more expensive and precious than most of our stash might be, we don't want to waste it, so have to go through a truly tedious process of returning it to a spinnable state. There is no quick fix, whatever method you use - I normally open it up over and over again, but you can card it (don't particularly recommend drum carding, myself.) I have had a somewhat similar experience with mohair, but that is easier to fix, it tends to open up enough to spin reasonably by just stripping the top down into thin strips. So, be warned!

The Cancer Journal

Time passes, slowly. My sister has had her first cycle of chemo. The first few days afterwards were hellish, but the next few better, and now, in the run up to the next session she is feeling quite reasonable and able to get out and about, so is happy to keep going for the time being. She will have two more, then the oncology team review progress - or not - and decide accordingly. That is going to be another difficult time (amongst many.) Reasonable progress on the moving front, as well. Doing it is not going to be fun either, but things will be a lot better afterwards. So, not so much to say at the moment.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back again, still without photographs

The afghan is finished. I really like it, after fearing that I might not. But I still haven't managed to photograph it, sorry.

I attempted an attached i-cord edging, and it looked absolutely ghastly. So, remembering that I was supposed to have this interest in blending crochet with knit, I did a simple double crochet (single if you are from the USA) for four rounds, and finished off with a crab stitch round. Crab stitch is also double crochet, but worked in the opposite direction, which gives the stitch a nice little twisted bump and a more defined look. I had thought I might make tassels for each corner, but they looked really naff. So I managed to find my pom-pom maker and did four in each colour, putting one of each on each corner instead. It makes me think of a camel blanket, or something, but in a good way. An actual Finished Object!

The orange-tawny Landscape shawl is progressing, but I am having to ignore at the moment that I have as usual gone awry with the moss stitch section. I am waiting until I have done a bit more of the next, stocking stitch, section to have a good look at it and see if I can get away with leaving it. I know I shouldn't, but..........

Spinning - continuing with the alpaca and silk, which has given me an excellent (well, I think so) idea for a "module" in the Spin to Knit class. I have even written up a first draft. Sometimes I amaze myself. Unfortunately, I have just realised that probably we should really have a Mission Statement, and dare I say it, Outcomes. As a matter of fact, I always do have these, but they tend to be in my head rather than set out, and take on their life during and after the actual workshop. Maybe it is time I grew up.

I had a great thrill this morning. One of the things that has happened whilst I had my blogging absence was that Sam, one of the two younger Snowshoes when missing and never returned. Today, their breeder emailed me to say that she has not one but two new litters of kittens, too young to give colours yet, but they look very well-sized, healthy little pink things......and are we still interested.

What a silly question. We shall go and see them in December and hopefully fall in love with two to come live with us and Barni and Ferdi. The former is not going to be too impressed, but I think that Ferdi will enjoy having galloping kits to play with, which will take the pressure off B. Those two are still hunting like crazy as winter refuses to descend. I am so glad that the DSM gets up first!

Ok, update on my sister.

Yesterday, she had her first appointment at Christies. We didn't really learn anything new, except that they are going to try palliative chemo. The long, long list of side effects and terrible things that can happen was daunting, but she fully appreciates that it is worth trying. The doctor was quite clear that if at any time she feels that it is not worth continuing, then that is her decision alone to stop. We were both very impressed by that - it puts a little control back in to her hands in a situation where there is practically none. All the medical people we have met have been very straightforward, although the word "death" has not been mentioned once. It is left hanging in the air. No false pretence, but nothing explicit.

I did sort of ask the question (another thing that is greatly appreciated, that it is taken for granted that I should be there, and am included in the consultation and can ask questions too), not "how long" but "presumably you can't give any sort of timescale. Seemingly, they really don't like doing that. Pennie didn't want to, but he did offer to speak to me alone. I refused, not fair to her, but I might later on if an opportunity presents itself. However, he did tell her that he was certain that she would still be around for a particular event a few months down the line, a relief in many ways, for me because I had uncharacteristically stuck my neck out and told her that yes, she would be there, I promised. So not like me, that......

So, chemo starts for her next Wednesday, and I don't think I shall be there as we are going to Cornwall for a few days - you can't ignore a 99 year old MIL totally, after all. But Pennie has very good friends who are more than willing to help too, so \I shall try not to feel too guilty.

I know really that I am not going to wake up and find it has all been a dream........

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Zombie Apocalypse

Bit dusty in here, eh?

Well, that was a long pause. I have been thinking for some time that I didn't actually want to give up blogging, but not getting round to actually doing anything about it. So many reasons for the hiatus, so many for starting again. So I shall kick off with explaining both as best I can. (Minus photos for now.)

Last time I wrote, we were about to set of for Mexico. Which was a highly enjoyable and mind-blowing experience, which maybe I will document one of these days. When we got back, I was totally knackered, then overwhelmed by the wealth of bloggable material that I had. I procrastinated.

One of my problems (yes, I have many and many excuses.....) was that our desk top pc was dying. I had been using mu iPad, and wasn't finding that completely satisfactory for writing stuff. OK, so we finally get acts together and buy ourselves lovely new laptops, yeay!! Except that nobody warned us about Windows 8. Do I really need to say more? It took me weeks and weeks to feel anything like able to use the thing and actually be creative, and by then I had two or three articles to write so blogging fell lower and lower down the list of priorities. And we were teaching, vending, travelling - all seriously good fun, but....distracting.

Anyway, the articles are done - in fact the first of them has just landed in glorious technicolour on my doormat, about the silk spinners in Oaxaca, in the brand new Yarnmaker. There are more to be published and more to write, which I am very happy about as contrary to what you might think given the non-appearance of this blog, I do really like writing!

We still have our studio, and long may that continue so. In fact, I am there now, as it is much easier to find a little peace and quiet there than at home. You wouldn't think that one husband could be quite so - well, not disruptive, maybe the right word will come to me! Let us just say that he and I have different modus operandi.

We have taught some at the studio, both in our own space and a weekend workshop for the education programme. There should be another such coming up next year, which is great, and we have a few Guild workshops booked. The two big ones should be Fibre East, if we can persuade people to sign up for the homegrown tutors (we visited as vendors this year, to give us the excuse to catch up with SOAR friends, which was just lovely). And then there is Summer School, that I am greatly looking forward to. When we first taught a Summer School I was hugely apprehensive about keeping interest up for an entire week. I have come to relish the in-depth experience, and am really glad to be given the opportunity to teach our Spin to Knit class once more. I am working on a revised version, and that is going to take up quite a bit of my time, not only the course design, notes, etc bu also the samples, and the examples of work both for that and for the tutors display. My work is so very utilitarian. Still, there are ideas, and stuff on the go, and the studio is going to really come in to its own.

At the moment I am finishing off an afghan, natural brown Polwarth and silk, edged with what was white similar, dyed bright scarlet by me. I have a pygora lace scarf just about on the needles, but it has been frogged a few times and I am a bit scared of it now, to be honest. It will be something, though, the yarn is lovely, and also dyed by me to a rather nice royal blue.

I must, it seems, have been on a bit of a dyeing jag, as number three project is a shawl - the Landscape shawl, one I have long wanted to do - in a tawny orange overdyed BFL/silk blend. Simple, but is, I think, going to be nice.

In sitting down and writing this, I can see that the feeling that I sometimes have of not really doing/achieving anything is baseless! I am not putting the half of it down here. This gives me hope that I can actually manage to get back to maintaining a blog again, although I think that I shall try to be realistic and not aim for more than perhaps every other week, every week at most.

And it is, I think, going to be good to be back. If there is anyone out there to read this, not all driven away in disgust by my shabby treatment, please do let me know!

OK, so that is all pretty much in my usual vein. When I started blogging, I did not want to do a baring my soul, all my innermost thoughts type of thing. Mostly fibre, spinning, dyeing, knitting, my cultural interests, travel and so on. Only occasional personal stuff. So I give warning now that I am about to write about something very personal and emotional that is going to be dominating my life for a while and so cannot be ignored. If you don't like that sort of thing, stop reading right now. (I will always put the updates at the end of posts, so they can be easily avoided.)

I have a sister, eight years younger than me, and originally a huge nuisance in my life, as I am sure that those of you with younger siblings can imagine. As we grew up, we became good friends, and for the last umpty years living only an hours drive away from one another, we have met frequently, gone out together, gone on holiday together, moaned about the state of the world together. Been sisters.

Two weeks ago, she was told that she had inoperable, terminal stomach cancer.

Even writing that here, I still do not, at some level, believe it. Although at another, it is the only thought in my head, a constant background chatter in my life, it is the bell deep in the Tardis tolling away, minute after minute, second after second.

There is not much else to say at the moment. She is being taken to Italy for a holiday, to celebrate a special birthday, by her daughter and family. When she gets back, she has an appointment at Christies, which I will also attend, to set out......all that has to be set out. Which will include some chemo, for various practical reasons.

There are one or two other things thrown into this chalice, but I will get to those as and when. I can't actually write any more just now.