Sunday, October 30, 2005


And I really would like to get it just too much to ask for a slightly less choppy sea, or even an unmixed metaphor?

The recovering cat took a step or two backwards. I am trying to persuade myself/him that he is suffering from post-illness depression. You just never know with siamese. If no improvement in the next couple of days, I'm threatening another trip to the vet, that might do the trick.

Then, I get the phonecall from the residential home wherein resides the mater. On a routine visit to the GP she has described her latest funny turn and they diagnose a heart attack and send her off in an ambulance to hospital. Again. I spend the next several hours trying to establish a) her whereabouts and b) her condition. Go to bed planning early morning dashes to her bedside. Only I do track her down first thing the next morning,, and she is as chirpy as can be, obviously not in any danger from a dodgy ticker as she is not on CCU, and indeed is about to be sent home. (The surgery is literally only a few yards away from her residence, and I imagine that they are finalising plans to move as I write, as there is not room for an entire complement of doctors, nurses, receptionists and mama as a permanent resident)

You would think that after all these years, I would know. But of course, she is now, despite her best Canute-like efforts, an elderly lady, and of course the next time could be The Time. I am not actually a total heartless bitch, I do feel enormous sympathy for her, I just wish she would take up another hobby....

So, we revise our plans for Saturday and head east not west to visit and to see what gladrags we can find for the posh dinner next month. Amazingly, we were both successful, both soon to be tricked out in basic black with the addition in my case of a black/blue/green devore jacket. All it needs is a beaded necklace to complete the progress as we speak. Basically the same design as the kit one that I have not quite finished, using, in an amazing coincidental sort of way, some of the extra pearls I bought last weekend. Seeing the DSM in a dj after all these years is quite a revelation, too. Sigh.

In between whiles, I do the class on crochet, lovely day, all had a good time. I also spent some time with them discussing the programme for the next few months and was very pleased at their enthusiastic responses and suggestions. Suggesting to me that things are going ok. So now I need to buckle down to arranging the programme, and devising the material for the so far one off Uni class. Finishing two necklaces (and maybe a bracelet) and confusing the cat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On the up

Having nose-dived dramatically for no discernible reason on Sunday The Cat decided to make an equally dramatic recovery on Monday morning between 6am when the DSM attempted to feed it and 8am when I did. It is now demanding food at every opportunity and prancing around challenging us ever to think that there was ever possibly anything wrong with it. Who will ever understand the feline mind? Well, I'm glad...

I finished the silk mitts. Oh, I maybe said that already, but here's a photo to prove it.

silk mitts

They look and feel very good on. The thumb bit appears a little clunky just lying there in the pic, but actually on the hand is comfortable and works well. I now fancy making a slightly more elegant pair for when we go to the posh black tie dinner next month, elegant dark purples, maybe, depending on the outfit I end up with. That means spinning and crocheting them in around three weeks...oh, why ever not!

Well, why ever not might just be because I have a new and interesting class to teach which is going to need a bit of preparation. Thanks to a friend from another Guild thinking of me. (She actually did, to be strictly honest, ask if I was interested or knew anyone else who might be, but hell's teeth - I'm not going to turn this down.) The tapestry module teacher at a nearby university wants the students to have a session on basic spinning, learning how to do it themselves, understanding yarn structures and how these influence the weave, different fibres - you know all the stuff. On an expenses-only basis this year, but if it works out, it would be a regular thing. I am hugely enthused by the thought of doing it. A different group from those I have worked with before, new challenges for me, all sorts of benefits in fact. I'm sitting hear thinking of samples that I can do, flax, cotton, silk, the ins and outs of plying, smooth yarns, textured yarns. I'm excited!

I also had a nice morning with the Tuesday Book Group. Not enormously excited by the book, but lots of other good talk, and suddenly about knitting. I was sitting between two people who had recently discovered some of the new fancy yarns and simple scarves, and they were so into it, and very happy about it, plus talking about where they might go next - so, don't knock it, anyone. They might only come up with a couple of formula fuzzy scarves, but there again, they might not - they didn't say no to the notion of learning to spin their own!

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Actually, the cold is finally showing some small signs of retreating. It has been a pig.

But the Wumpus cat actually took a tiny paw-step backwards today. Not so very far, so we think everything is still ok, but could do without the anxiety! I'm threatening him with the vet again, that might do the trick!

Although I would much rather have stayed in bed with the duvet pulled over my head this morning, the DSM dragged me out and took me to the Bead Fair at the Harrogate Showground. Come to think about it, staying under the duvet wouldn't have been all that comfortable, breathing difficulties...Anyway, not being all that early moving and having less oomph than usual, I Devised A Plan. We would go round the halls once, and then return to the stalls with the things I wanted. I was looking for certain things only - a vendor who did seeds beads in hanks or other large quantities instead of silly, mingy little tubes; pearls; a decent bead storage system; an interesting focal bead as a treat; and silver-plated Beadalon.

I was successful in everything except the last item. Obviously, UK vendors consider this way too extravagant, and anyway, the regular looks perfectly all right. Well, I don't think so. I do rather like those airy, floaty necklaces that have a few crystals and so on, with lots of exposed wire, but think that the regular wire looks tacky. Opinions? (Anyone who says, "Oh, those necklaces" is straight off my Christmas card list...) Is it worth sending to the US for the echt silver stuff?

I found a very unextravagant dichroic pendant, which I have tried to photograph and failed miserably. I'll try again tomorrow? If and when my head feels clearer still. I remain hooked on dichroic, love the way it sparkles. Plus most of the other special beads I see are those spotty things that look like they have warts. In very poster paint colours. (Could it be that after all my diatribes against the knitting snobs, I am turning in to a bead snob - perish the thought!) And small blue tabby point just burst into the room with some brio, so I think I may well be worrying unnecessarily on that particular score. That would be nice.

I have nearly finished the pair of silk crocheted mitts. Just got beads to put around the cuff - I just happened to have the perfect colour in the stash......

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oh, ..........bother

First and most important - the geriatric cat (so-called by the nice young woman vet, apparently anything after eight is such, which is about forty five in human terms, urk) is doing ok. Nothing untoward showed up on the blood tests. Something of a relief as the DSM was blenching at the thought of a diabetic mog on two needle stabs per day, which was one of the possibilities. Anyway, everything happening is consistent with a really bad go of enteritis, and slow progress is being made. To say I am relieved would be an understatement, of course. I only have cats to scare the bejasus out of me every so often, well-known fact. Ha. Being me, I am naturally now wishing for rather faster progress. Now there's a surprise.

I am blaming the Troll. It is true that the wretched woman puts a lot of left-overs outside, thereby encouraging passing rats and squirrels to take up permanent residence. But my demon hunter could just as likely have caught one of same that happened to be more bacterialogically challenged than usual. But it does my soul good to have an accusation to silently hurl at her from time to time.

However, the remarkably restrained heading above refers to the fact that the first cold of the season has landed. I hate colds. Yes, yes, I've probably said that before, and will do so again. Tough. I feel cold and shivery, fuzzy headed and nasally insufficient. Nasal insufficiency is a nasty state to be in, breathing has a somewhat central role to play in sustaining life as we know it, J...Oops, sorry. Anoxia can do that to a girl. Ah - again!

Mind you, a good thing about being a yarn-producer in these circumstances is that there is a fine supply of nice warm things to snuggle in to on hand. "The Splotchy", the dark green merino/silk shawl is fabulously warm, and is doing sterling service. I hate this - I don't usually feel the cold, temperature-wise, but a nice handspun, handknit shawl can improve matters no end. Not to mention that the time-honoured remedy can now come in to play. Whisky, lemon juice, honey and hot water, taken internally from a bucket-sized container just before settling down to sleep. May not cure the cold, but you sure as hell feel happier. And warmer.

All I have the strength for (strewth, even I am getting tired of this whining!) is to lift a crochet hook from time to time. The second mitt is finished, and in organising for something else, I found a skein of gold/bronze silk, almost certainly a "Chasing Rainbows" product, that I am going to try out for a classier pair. With beads. I should have some in my steadily-growing bead stash that will do the job. If I warm/perk up, I will do a bit more on the necklace I am doing at the moment. I'll post all the details when it is done.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary - the brain being more fuddled than usual, I had to ask the maths graduate what number we were up to, and then sort of wished I hadn't as the number is getting scary. Yes, yes, I know that is a good thing really, of course it is. Ah, well, another three years, and we will be planning for some sort of extravaganza, and at least we will be still young enough to enjoy it! In fact, we found out that the Scout hostel up the river is available for hire for those sort of functions - who is up for a day-long knees-up in the woods, then?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Neelix, aka Wumpus, has improved in health somewhat. We still don't know what it is - hopefully more news tomorrow when the results of the bloods come back - but it may turn out that the second vet's first guess of enteritis is right, as after some antibiotics he is definitely a bit better. Still not right, but he is eating more. I hate it when animals are ill - we know what our symptoms might mean, and can say "ok, get me to a doctor, this is bad" - they just feel and look quiet and miserable and we have to guess. And make fools of ourselves at the vet's, at least in my case, as I do my hourly obs report, character analysis and so forth. "Er, um, very useful" the nice young woman said yesterday, kindly. You could see the thinks bubble - "yet another besotted middle-aged female doting owner". Means well - mostly harmless.

Anyway, cat-anxiety - any sort, really- usually means doing something fairly mindless with wool.

crocheted mitt

Another thing for the crochet collection. This is working well, looks quite nice - the slightly odd shape and angle in the photo is down to me only having a certain range of angle and distance available given the dimensions of my arms! The other one is well under way.

I am coming to the odd conclusion about crochet with all this. A firm fabric works best for me - given the structure of the stitches, drape isn't too easy to achieve. Double (ie single) crochet, or at a pinch half-treble, makes for a better fabric than anything more open. Holes are not our friend. And continuing the theme, a smaller hook size rather than a larger, again a firmer fabric and minimal holage.

Now, I am quite sure that there are all sorts of crochet aficionados out there who will eloquently assert and prove the exact opposite, and that is fine. But with my yarn and in my opinion, that is what is working best for me so far, and I'm having a good time in the process.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Is this autumn or summer?

It wasn't obvious yesterday. Sunny, with almost clear blue skies and warm enough to sit outside to eat our lunch.

We have a "sitting out area" across from where we park the cars. We used to have a small one and a garden shed, but when we had the garden landscaped (having finally admitted that the 5, er 10 year plan to do it ourselves was not going to ever happen) the chap suggested that we took it down and enlarged the aforementioned. We have a deep-rooted objection to the word "patio", just too suburban, and can't you just hear Niles and Frasier saying that, then!

Anyhow, after discovering the site of the former privy, ie there was a dam' great hole in the ground and the line of the old whitewash on the wall that we hadn't noticed, it was flagstoned and pergola'ed and we rarely use it in the summer because it can get too hot. But spring and autumn, it is warm, sheltered and lovely.

I propped my feet up on the step and unfocussed the eyes, and then realised that there were hundreds and hundreds of insects buzzing all over the ivy that grows all over the wall. Including a cluster of red admirals, their colour absolutely flaming in the sun and against the blue. The ivy is flowering, that's why. More profusely than I have ever seen it do so before.

So, if it berries, which it almost certainly will, and if the berries get to ripen, which is less likely as the birds will think that they have died and gone to heaven and absolutely gorge themselves, then I intend to dye with them.

OK, so I will only get yellow! But I still enjoy trying out the different well-known dye stuffs, just once to say that I have done it.

And this is all displacement activity. I am sitting waiting for the vet to ring me back - she was busy when I rang her. Neelix is ill, and I left him at the surgery this morning for tests and possibly rehydration. So me and Max don't quite know what to do with ourselves.....

Friday, October 14, 2005

Yuck - and not yuck

The second dye job - fewer white bits, the smooshing (nearly) worked. Colour more evenly distributed (is that the right word? Doesn't seem so) throughout the roving, and seemingly no/minimal felting. So far so ok. But remind me never, ever to use Gaywool Wattle Bark again. My poor roving looks like a robin that has flown way to near the Sellafield cooling towers. Who would ever have thought of dayglo brown?

I probably shouldn't say things like that - nothing wrong with the colour, it's the dyer. That's better, no risk of legal action, just me telling the world what a lousy dyer I am, again. Situation normal. Anyway, the DSM came home early enough to see it in natural light and said that he liked it, and would use it if I didn't, so someone thinks it acceptable. Wonder if he has a greater degree of male colour-impaired vision than I had realised? He often labours under the illusion that what we are looking at is green when it is really blue (or vice versa), so maybe he can't tell dayglo brown from....any other more attractive shade. Or maybe he was just being kind?

But this is better.

crochet scarf

The Optim yarn found a good home. All part of the preparation for the crochet class. It is a modified version of the frilly scarf on the cover of the Interweave crochet mag, I thought that a corkscrew effect would look better than just a frill in this particular yarn, and I was right. It was a lengthy process - took me an hour or more a day plus two coven evenings over just a little more than a week. When you get to doubling up stitches, it makes for a very long row. I am going to continue the crochet investigations. More beaded bags upcoming (I just can't help myself.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

More soup

One of the consolations of moving from "summer" to "winter" is soup.

I have always enjoyed making soup, I like the simple task of chopping vegetables and combining them to make something hot, satisfying and tasty on a cold dank evening. And believe me, I am talking about food.

Today for the first time this soup-season, I have made the old standard "cockless leekie". I am sorry if that name is misleading or even offends anyone - but what else do you call a meatless version of the classic "cockaleekie", eh? Actually, I have been throwing it together for so many years that I am not even sure any more that there is any resemblance whatsoever. Mine today consists of onion, leek, carrot, potato and swede. (Yes, SWEDE, that round, yellow root vegetable that is Not A Turnip. Turnips are small, round, but white. I say again - small and white. Let there be no misunderstanding - swede, large and yellow, turnip small and white.) Right. Glad that is settled, then. Oh, ok, I will allow rutabaga if you insist.

Plus pearl barley, vegetable stock, sage and thyme. Simmered until delectable. On the cooker alongside the fish kettle. I am breaking the unbreakable rule again, and dyeing at the same time as I cook. There Is No Alternative.

The first fish kettle experiment went reasonably well. I had white bits rather than the dyes all swooshing together, in other words, I had the thing hot enough when the dyes were poured on and I didn't use too much dye solution. This time, I have risked very gently mashing the fibre very, very slightly with my gloved hand so that the dye solution squidges into the bits I didn't pour it. Isn't my technical language simply marvellous? Despite having sat at the feet of those at the pinnacle of the craft, synthetic dyeing does not come easy for me. Apart from any deficiency of skill on my part, the main reason for that is the aforementioned lack of facilities, and having to shoe-horn each procedure into space occupied already by other activities. But I for one thing would like to be able to produce dyed rovings
for my own use, and also to be able to use this same technique with natural dyes which are more expensive to experiment with. So, get part way thusly.

I fell to musing about the seasons this morning. There was actually some watery sunshine, and with the leaves now changing rapidly if in an unexciting way, it all looked rather pretty. Gone now - back to grey. But I don't think that the seasons used to be like this. Autumn was often quite bright, with the sharp tinge of the first frosts and that lovely crisp smell from the leaves that this engendered. The leaves lay in dry swathes on the ground, and foolish gardeners used to build and fire up bonfires of them instead of making heaps for leaf-mould. By the time we reached 5th November, we would all be snuggled in to scarves and gloves and would need hot drinks around any bonfires we went to stop from freezing to death.

But now, the seasons are all sort of ironed out. We have rare hot days and even rarer chilly days, but I can't remember the last time we had much in the way of a really hard frost, the sort that comes with wall to wall blue skies and a tang in the air that makes you feel good to be alive.

Harrumph. I'm having an old fogeyish spell. Nostalgia rules ok.

Need to go check on my pots. Let's hope I can keep telling them apart.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Bits & Bobs

Sometimes I think that my little Dyson plays games with me. They have a retractable flex, you know? And sometimes I find that it has retracted itself nearly all the way when I come to unplug it, when I know I haven't touched the rocker plate, or whatever you want to call it. Then, sometimes, it doesn't, and really does not want to go in. If that is a punishment for not having given it an outing for way too long, then, well, poot to it. Have I ever mentioned that I hate housework??

Far more interestingly, even if it doesn't work out - the fish kettle is on the cooker, and it even has fibre and dye in it. My conscience smote me right between the eyes this morning, as I hurdled over it for the umpteenth time. I should either put it away or use the damn thing. So.......

fish kettle dyeing

(Steam rather than camera-shake this time, I think.) This is the first step on to a rather steep learning curve, I think. I don't mind is this one doesn't work out, I need to find the best way to do this. The aim, ultimately is to use Earthhues, and to get some subtly different natural dye shades on a roving. I don't think that the Falklands is going to be the best top to do this, something a bit more robust might be better. We shall see.

Spent yesterday on the Guild stand at the Show Formerly Known As Madeira. It was very quiet. I took my charka, and enjoyed spending several hours getting back up to speed, I don't use it enough and the project's worth of green cotton is growing only very slowly! But I was mindful the entire time of Elaine Benfatto's strictures about posture/position and so on. The chair and table I was using would not have won any seals of approval, but there was no alternative. By the end of the day, I definitely had used a few different muscles. Still, it gave me the excuse to get up and wander round a few times, although I didn't spend much, I am saving for the Bead Fair in two weeks time.

It wasn't a bad day, but I have grown a-weary of that sort of demonstrating. We strut our stuff and perform nicely, but I am never sure what purpose is served. Most of our audience consider us prize nutters - or else they are already converted, in which case we can all have a nice chat. Oh, what a grump.....

Did a mad dash over to York on Friday evening to have dinner with a visiting SOAR friend and three of her so guild members, plus a mutual friend from Sheffield (a complicated relationship!) Actually, had a very nice time, good meal, and very pleasant to spend time with people who appreciate what each other does. The very Italian waiter was not sure whether to be amused, bemused or supercilious.

Makes up a tad for not going to SOAR.....

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Design problems

I am sure that I have twined on much about my inability to design anything. Sometimes things work, sometimes they do not - any pre-planning, design, whatever you like to call it is purely accidental. It is a botherment.

And now, I have this -

latest yarn

This being the large pile of grey Falklands tops plus a little bit of coloured stuff (and I do actually have another such, different colour, if it seems necessary, assuming I can find it. It is in my workroom somewhere.......) I was originally thinking sweater, in fact I blogged as such a while back. But the more I mull it over, the more I think that a jacket would be a good thing. I have been racking my poor ancient brain to try to squirrel out what I am after, and not really getting there. However, it suddenly has occurred to me that rather than angsting over it here until driving myself and anyone else who drops by totally insane, that maybe I should spend an afternoon with that large, festering pile of knitting magazines that I have, also somewhere in my workroom, and I do know in which approximate area which is more than I do for the yarn....

So there again we have the power of the blogging process. This was intended to be a post in which I tried to calmly (yes!) go through all the things that I have difficulty with, can't do, angst about, etcblergh. Yes, this was intended to be purposeful - if I did it step by step, maybe I would see a way out. But instead, a plan comes fully formed, as far as it goes - find a design that I like in a magazine and then attempt to adapt it to my particular circumstances....d'er.

Might I actually turn in to a fully-fledged adult one day?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cashmere and crochet

The cashmere is progressing quite nicely. I swapped to the smaller whorl/higher ratios on my Timbertops, and am finding it pretty effortless to spin. I'm still struggling a little bit with consistency, but it's not too bad. My only trouble is that I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do with this when it is all spun up. Mind you, I do have some more very nice cashmere, I could do the lot and then think about it?


Despite having realised that my next class is not until the very end of the month, I am still working on crochet bits and bobs, mostly because I am enjoying so doing. I have said here before, I am sure, that crochet was my first love, rather than knitting, and that I still prefer the physical act of construction, the rhythmic nid-nod of the hook to that of knitting needles. It is just that it doesn't always look right with handspun yarn when completed.

So here we have:

tapestry crochet

a small tapestry crochet bag under construction, and it will remain pretty much like this to show how it is done. I took a class with Elaine Benfatto last year at SOAR, and although I can't do the magic thing that she can, I did get the gist. She can manage both yarns over the fingers of her left hand so that they don't tangle - I have to drop them turn and turn around, plus untangle them from time to time, which is a bit of a pain but you do kind of get in to a rhythm with it. This is a crochet technique that works really well with handspun.

A collection of bits and pieces


The grey fabric in the background is the plain double crochet (single if in the US!) waistcoat I was working on a while back, now completed and slightly fulled by putting through the washer and dryer once each for a short time. I ended up with what I think is quite a useful garment, if unexciting. The fulling worked very well, just firmed the whole thing up a bit, shrinking it only a tad. I am playing around with a bag in the same yarn, fulled a lot more and hopefully ending up with beads in some way, but it isn't done yet, and looks like nothing on earth at the moment. We shall see. Then, there are two silk beaded bags, a stitch sampler and this:

wire crochet bag

I have been wanting to experiment with wire in knitting and crochet for a while, and this is my first attempt. Well, it does actually look reasonable up close, but I can't think what could ever be done with it other than call it an objet d'art. I have though seen some great knitted bracelets, and I think I will try that next.

Now. I mentioned the dread words "web" and "site". And as I have said before, one of the points for me of blogging is that if I put it down in bits and bytes that I am going to do something, then I am honour bound to either give it a go, or explain just why the hell not. And so, I have really and truly started. More than that, I cannot say....but I have begun the designs a Word doc, and am sorting through and taking more photographs. So - ta-da...spindles. (Which is to be the primary focus of the site.)


A small part of my personal collection, and don't they look pretty?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ordinary weekend stuff

Running around type chores yesterday, some of which I should have done on Thursday but parking in town was impossible. Impossible. Our local council, bless its stony little heart, is turning all the free on-street parking into paid parking slots, redoing the space available in the process. Someone, for some unadvertised reason, was digging a large hole in the middle of town, taking away more parking slots, at least temporarily, plus making progress around very slow by virtue of a traffic light system. And it was market day. I spent a tedious half-hour trying to find a space and gave up. What on earth will happen well the new system is completed, I shudder to think. Prolly, we'll all go to Tesco.

I invented another recipe. But not quite so successful this time. Nice, very nice, but not exceptional. Tomato and goats cheese tart. I made a white pastry shell, part-baked it, made a rich tomato sauce with lots of basil and a good slug of sherry, reduced it down a lot and then whizzed it to a thick puree. Put it in the crust, and put fairly thinly sliced bouche de chevre on top, with more basil. (I like basil.) Baked until the cheese was brown and slightly crusty. Did taste good.

Got up early, for a Sunday (sometimes the DSM is a saint.) We went to York to visit the mater - I had decided to see how a morning-only visit went, as she had got pretty tired the last couple of times we had been over, and was still not wanting to go out. She seemed a bit perkier than recently - she will be over the abrupt cessation of the medication that some idiot doctor told her to do, which had put her into a form of withdrawal, and has lead to this latest bout of depression. Anyway, all went quite well, and we stopped in Bishopthorpe for a sandwich, thus finding a very pleasant pub that we can take her to next time.

We visited a garden centre on the way home, and got a pot for the eucalyptus which has survived my total neglect of it all summer. With a bit of luck, it will get through the winter with a bit of nurturing and I can trim it somewhat next year and actually get to dye with it! Did a few other outside bits and bobs.

Around all of these utterly riveting goings on, I have been spinning cashmere. I need to was the mountain of grey Falkland, and the Lambspun blue/green stuff before starting to sample for the next knitting project, and I needed something to spin, after all. I find cashmere rather nervewracking, and I am not getting a totally consistent yarn, dammit - but that may just possibly be because of the source, not from Adelaide Walker, who have the most yummy stuff, but from slightly further south, where I often feel the quality is a tiny bit sus. Going to be nice and soft, though.

The major decision of the weekend, though, is to really start on the website. If I begin on the design for the pages in Word, then just maybe my computer professional could be persuaded to action this winter????? (If you do ever get around to reading this, sweetie, you could leave a comment pledging thus.....) So, tomorrow, to work.

And finally....Neelix's turn. Please note the total mess behind this pair - that's the stash. Not to mention the grubby gardening pants. But cute.....

man & cat