Monday, September 25, 2006

One day at a time

I'm friends with Flickr again, I'm glad to say. So here are some happy snappies.

First up, the silk sock.

silk sock

This is just a tad blurry (I hope - otherwise, it's me, but I suppose that has to be a possibility........) I think because I still am not used to the new camera and how close to get on what setting, if you see what I mean.

I am improving at not sticking the end of the dpn into the singles silk and making a nasty fuzzy mess. I am not finding this the easiest of yarns to work with.

Then, I couldn't resist starting another shawl.

Next shawl in progress

This is a nice soft handspun singles (I confess to running it back through the wheel to remove overtwist, but what the heck, it worked!) Lesson learnt here: consider very carefully when buying luscious multi-coloured batts just how they are going to perform when spun. This one was composed of fibres of different lengths, so it tended to spin up with the colours separating out. Thus, I have one skein with a lot of yellow, another with pink. I am alternating balls to allow for that. I don't think it was avoidable, at least not without a massive amount of effort and care in the spinning that would have made it not fun to do, but if anyone knows any different, I would be glad to hear about it.

Hey! Got an invitation to teach a cotton spinning workshop next March at a guild we know and love. Quite out of the blue. I'll tell you what, it's going to be a busy old year.

I've been sitting and knitting in the sitting room, by the window where there is of course most light. The builders don't seem to be over that part of the house yet, so it is marginally more peaceful. Just outside, there is a pyracantha, completely smothered in berries - it is that sort of year, we have elderberries across the lane, and the bush is festooned with blackbirds and wood pigeons, from time to time at least.

I had become aware of a funny little tapping noise off and on, and eventually realised that a robin was visiting the pyracantha and nibbling on the bright red berries. But that isn't all he is doing. He keeps tapping on the glass as well, seems to be aware that there is something the other side - but not of the two siamese cats that are keeping a sharp eye on him. I sat in a different chair for a while this afternoon,camera by my side. Worth the wait?

Robin at the sitting room window

Maybe I should make this one my Christmas card this year.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Night owl, night owl

That's what I used to be, and at heart still am. So when the DSM is away, even though I make earnest resolutions not to stay up late, I somehow just do. I revert to type, yes.

Usually he is only away for one night at a time. It is I who occasionally takes myself off for anything up to a fortnight, although not for a while and not for the foreseeable future (I sadly realised that it was not an option to jet off to the atoll in the Maldives on the trip I saw advertised in the paper today, such a shame.) But here on night two, I find myself writing up a blog entry again, and the end of the day seems just right for it.

Dear Diary...well, maybe not.

I have had a lovely peaceful day after the clatter and bang of the last week. And a night spent in two-hour periods of reasonable slumber, waking myself up as usual two hours in, being bounced on two hours after that by my two friends - who spent most of the night sitting on my feet for reasons best known to themselves - and finally waking at 6.45 and leaping out of bed to go feed them before they awoke the Troll with their siamese roaring. I went back to bed, but slept no more.

I had to go to town to get a paper - can't miss out on my Saturday Grauniad, and so glad I didn't, there was a wonderful photograph of Meryl Streep on the front of the mag section, looking perfectly beautiful and I would swear unreconstructed. Yay for her. If she has a surgeon he must be the best gol'darnit one in the world, but I don't think so.

In town, I wandered for a while, few essential errands to be run, treated myself to rare visits to the seconds china shop, where I acquired two very pale pink (he's gonna love that!) pasta bowls, a lavender latte mug and two new little bowls for les mogs. Right next door is our tiny yarn shop, so I browsed there as well and succumbed to an autumn colour + glitz ball of Noro "Aurora" for no very good reason other than I felt like it. Fell in to conversation with the woman working in there today, and asked her if there was any hope of a Stitch'nBitch group starting up. Interesting - she fell on the idea, apparently had been getting crosser and crosser that the shop merely ticked over, and thought this could be just the thing to light a fire under the whole thing.

Back home, I have spent most of the day fiddling with a skein of Noro abaka yarn that I bought in Clapham. It's a bit of a pig. I bought it with a bag in mind, and felt that it would work to make a neck bag for the new iPod. I tried knitting, crochet, tunisian and back to knitting which is where I am at at the moment. Dare I say it, I actually think that it would look best woven but it would be such a little bit...not really right for the inkle loom, but what? Could it work on the rigid heddle, I wonder. Oh, groan, I do wish I had never had this particular thought.

Again, no photographs. I need to decide what to do about my Flickr account. I think I will cough up and upgrade, it's a cheap enough price and then we can get to see all the pics again.

Heigh ho.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I always do this

Stay up way too late when the DSM is away, I mean. He has jetted - well, turbo-propped - off to Cornwall to see his mum on her 91st birthday. Left after work, 7.30ish from Manchester, was in St A sandwich and drink in hand phoning me by 10.30. So while I hear all the arguments against, it makes sense for us, sorry folks.

So here I am at 11.30, blogging. I have been knitting all evening, nice and relaxing, cats on knee and not even one tiny bit interested in yarns. A friend popped in to see if I was surviving just as I was having alluring thoughts about a bottle of red, so that settled that, very nice. Watched a bit of telly. Peace perfect peace.

I realised somewhere around 3pm that It Had Gone Very Quiet. Getting up to see what was happening - or not - I realised that it had also gone very dark. Yes, folks, our own little bit of Gordon had arrived, and for a few hours we had a young monsoon out there. The builders had very sensibly given up and gone home early, no fun being drenched to the skin and sliding about on a steeply pitched roof. I certainly can't blame them, particularly as they had done what they had promised and cleared up more than the minimum before quitting. They are making reasonable progress, I just need to keep my fingers crossed that we don't get too much rain in the next couple of weeks, or this could drag on.

I had to make a small request of them this morning. Not to put left over lunch into the skip. For why? Because my elegant pedigree moggies when allowed out yesterday afternoon after the builders had gone, made a bee-line for the skip, executed some pretty frantic digging in amongst the splintery wood, bent nails and tile crumbs to drag out - half a pork pie. A new trick - dumpster diving. Little buggers.

If they go in the skip tonight, they will probably get stuck in there - it has been emptied!


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


So I'm sitting in front of the computer attempting to breathe at all, never mind deep, slow, calming breathes (sic). It is working somewhat. Hands are functioning, I can replace my jaw from the side-slanting, locked and rigid position to an approximation of the right alignment and with some hingeing possible.

And they are only delivering the scaffolding. Not yet ripping holes in my roof in the teeth of the tail-end of Hurricane Gordon, scheduled to come roaring through the country from across the Atlantic and likely to cause structural damagebreathebreathebreathe........

I HATE having even the most essential of work done on the house. I KNOW he roof tiles need replacing before they all crumble away to....crumbs...and the rain comes pouring in anyway. I suffer from the illusion that the workmen will now spend all their time peering in through the windows CRITICISING me ("Cor blimey, guv, look at 'er sitting there in front of the telly KNITTING!! and 'er 'aving only hoovered six times this week so far."

Dear Betula (I'm trying out new expletives, but want them to be meaningful, insert deity of choice) I'm trying!

And now, I find that the builders have disappeared. Which is worse, a roofless house, and chaos, or vanishing builders? Both, probably. Which will no doubt happen. I must try to stay positive........

As a distraction, and to prove that I am completely barking, I have just spent more time wrestling with my brand new, new generation iPod nano. It is all singing all dancing with bells and whistles, and as a consequence, I am having extreme difficulty fathoming it. The teeny booklet that comes with it is worse than useless, having been created with teenagers in mind. Fortunately, the online manual is written in passable English, so I have now successfully stopped the thing filling up with every item in my library (I hadn't realised just how much more capacity it has than the Shuffle!) and set it up with what I actually want to listen to.

In a while, I am going to make myself a nice strong cup of coffee and find a quiet corner (they are all quiet at the moment, what with the invisible builders) to lurk in with aforementioned nano+audiobook and knitting. I started the silk toe up sock last night, with no alarums and excursions - a little tricky picking up the two wraps on the descending half, but I think not too bad and I can but improve.

I also want to try out the freebie fleece, which is sitting on the spare bed glowering at me "I'm really quite nice - why not give me a whirl? Could be good for the soul.

But first coffee, and a bit more breathing. Oh, and I think the builders are back.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Time passes

A few days since I blogged last. I have not been idle, but I am not necessarily sure what I achieved!

So, Friday's class, with a little help from my friends, went pretty well. I had a good time, anyway, and the two novices that I had sprung on me seemed to have a whale of a time. Most of those that pas through my hands are well-motivated and usually have "got it" by the end of the day; one of Friday's had it by lunch time, and went on to experiment with knitting, crocheting and tunisian crocheting samples of her own newly spindle spun yarn, whilst the other took longer but got there by mid-afternoon and had a really good time in the process. I have lost count - never kept it - of the people I have taught to spin over the last few years, but it is not inconsiderable, and gives me a certain small satisfaction.

I quite surprise myself starting out this blog entry like that. I was feeling distinctly subdued after a visit to my mother, who when we went in to her room on Saturday was lying on the bed looking exactly and I do mean exactly as my grandmother, her mother, used to look when I visited her twenty years ago. She has started following certain behaviours as well. Allotting some of her possessions to my sister and herself and making sure that we know what is hers and what to do with it. When she is dead is the ever-unspoken rationale. She is very melancholy and dissatisfied and there is not one thing I can do about it. She wants the impossible - her lost youth; to be living in her old home; and to win several millions on the Lottery (and she is not entirely joking.)

So to focus on the pleasures of introducing others to fibre crafts forms a wonderful antidote, as does the pursuit thereof myself. A little pursuing has been accomplished - I have finished to latest Opal socks, and have started sampling for the next pair, the Debbie Bliss silk. In the post this morning was some very nice Regia wool and cotton; after this, it is handspun all the way - oh, well, no, there is the Noro pair as well. Plenty to keep me occupied whilst travelling nest month, anyway. I also wound a couple of balls of handspun to sample for the next shawl last night, and will attempt that tonight. I have spindle spun a little in the sunshine, and the glorious day that we had yesterday; and if I manage to carve out a little time over the next few days when I am not mucking out the house which has got ridiculous, I will continue with the Jacob.

I cook, too. When you grow any veggies yourself you tend to get gluts. We have a glut of lettuce, bolting so furiously that they have passports, their suitcases are packed, and they are even contemplating emigrating to Alpha Centauri. Except that they are all now chopped and in a pot, destined for Lettucesoupsville. I have made it before, but can't remember what it tasted like. Presumably edible, or I would have remembered? I also adapted a Sophie Grigson recipe for red flannel hash involving corned beef (which of course, we don't eat)as we had a lot more beetroot in last week's veggie box. I used quorn pieces instead and it was absolutely delicious.

To decorate the blog and because it is such a lovely colourful image, I give you - AH begonias from sunny Friday afternoon. Enjoy.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

At last, tunisian crochet

I finally got around to taking some photographs of some of the tunisian samples.

Tunisian crochet simple stitch

This is the basic stitch, in which you hook your loop around the "post" of the stitch below, much as in crochet "rib". I like this very much.

Tunisian crochet knit stitch

This is the "knit" stitch, and it really does look very like. My hand is in the shot because this sample is curling like crazy, but at least it also shows the row of loops in the first stage pass. (At the risk of teaching my granny to suck eggs, in tunisian crochet you use a longer hook with a stop at the non-hook end, go along the work picking up loops, then come back hooking through them. These two passes count as one row.)

So, curly, wanna see curly>

How Tunisian crochet curls

What I don't know with this is whether the knit stitch is more prone to curling than the other. I am doing this with an odd ball of Noro Kureyon, which is of course a single, so it may be that this is influencing things. Certainly, if you look carefully, you can see how the work is biasing - the wrong side ridges are on a distinct slant in relation to the hook. I can see some more experimenting in my future.

I have been enjoying this sampling, and am going to dig out some yarn and have a go at making a garment. Tunisian tends to work up extremely chunky, so I need to hang on to one of the largest of the hooks that I have been buying up on eBay, I may sell on some to class members, who knows. But despite the curling and the thickness, I am liking the resulting fabrics rather more than regular crochet.

We shall see.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

As you can see.......

....this is not Yorkshire.

Leaning tower of Nelson

Don't you just love the "Leaning Tower of Nelson"?

Big Ben

Another fairly iconic view.

We had an easy train ride down to London, only hit anything like trouble when we got on to the Tube bit of the journey when practically every line, especially the bits we needed, were experiencing difficulties or closed for maintenance. We also met a demented ticket machine, there were far too many people and it was very hot and airless.

So the first thing we did was fall into a restaurant and fortify ourselves with food and beer. Not too dusty, either.

After that, we walked down to Trafalgar Square which was very close, and was all we had time to do on this madcap whistlestop visit. We were muttering about what might be on the fourth plinth, not having read anything about it for ages, and I was really pleased to see that it was this:

Fourth plinth

I remember the ridiculous fuss about its selection for the fourth plinth, how inappropriate it was. I can't remember all the foot-shuffling that went on to attempt a justification for that opinion, but basically, the Establishment couldn't hack the notion of a strong, feisty, pregnant, disabled woman being in full public view instead of keeping her place discreetly out of sight somewhere. I could go on; but I will spare you a rant!

I would at this point be showing you one last picture, of a fountain in Trafalgar Square, but for some unaccountable reason Flickr has set its face against it and rejected it twice. I might try to find the time to play around with it tomorrow, try resizing it or something although I don't think it is any larger than most.

The play was brilliant and Rufus Sewell even more so, and I am not being silly. His performance was the best thing I have seen him do. Not, maybe, as many verbal pyrotechnics as in some Stoppard plays, but sufficient for me to have ordered a copy of the text from Amazon today. Very glad that we made the effort and went - even if it does now tour, we can always go again!

The entire day being taken up with travelling and theatre, little of a fibre nature took place. Except that we knitted socks, both of us, all the way down and all the way back and Not One Person made any comment whatsoever. Sometimes, I really don't understand the English!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Pish and botheration

I'm struggling a bit with the software for my new camera. The process of saving to a file is very laborious and prone to user error (yes, I admit it) My hand can slip on the mouse wheel all to easily, and then I can't find where I have actually saved the image to. Frustrating. I have also just tried for the first time to use the editing software that comes with it - I took a charming picture of my two charming cats, not to mention the vegetables for our supper that I was preparing. Tried to use the red eye reduction tool and ended up with an image that looked like something out of a Stephen King movie, cats with their eyes.....obliterated. Ugh. It's part of the Adobe stable, and therefore not in the least intuitive to use and the help is useless.

Still, here is a photograph of where I went on Tuesday.

Gawthorpe Hall

Gawthorpe Hall, in Lancashire. I would show you images of the mind-blowing embroidery collection if I could, but photography ain't allowed, and I didn't see a guide book. Probably there was one - I got a bit boggled by all that there was to see, or rather in my case not totally see. I can't cope very well with the extremely low light levels now de rigueur in museums, plus exhibits are always set at just the wrong distance for me to see only by contorting my protesting body. But despite all that, it was a good day and I am glad I went.

When I got a bit overwhelmed by all the aforementioned and the rather humid atmosphere inside, I abandoned my companions and went outside. Where I found a totally amazing fungus, one small section of which I offer here.

Yet more fungus

I think this is in fact the same type as the last one I saw. It is obviously a fantastic year for fungi - there were lots and lots of little tiddly ones as well, but I didn't fancy lying prone on wet grass, not even for the sake of art.

I have been out to lunch etc for three days in the last week, which is not getting the baby a new dress, as my maternal grandmother used to say. I finally yesterday managed to get my new AH programme drawn up, and spent a decent length of time trying out tunisian crochet stitches. I want to have a bag finished by next Friday. I also want to have dyed four small skeins of yarn with natural dyes and spun a ditto of a fancy yarn to put in for the classes at Masham Sheep Fair. Am I quite mad? All this and a trip to The Great Wen as well on Saturday. Ooh, scary.

OK, so back to the tunisian. The DSM is away until tomorrow evening, I've had lunch, I don;t need to cook, just get myself out to the Coven meeting this evening.

Oh, and I had better feed a cat or two.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A little of this, a little of that

The rain stops. (Told you I would be complaining about the weather again soon....)

We go out into the garden for a bit of a wander round, me with my camera in hand.

At this point, I was about to start putting in the photographs that I had taken and uploaded to Flickr. But for some reason, Flickr was having a conniption fit, and none had arrived there. Later on, two appeared, but it was too late then to do a blog post. This morning, I had three copies of another image - not what I had intended! So I went through the entire procedure again. Seems to have worked this time, so here we go.

First up, garden produce, looking a picture as well as good enough to eat. My fave chard - the rainbow variety - peas and beans.



Runner beans & birch tree

And a courgette flower, just because.

courgette flower

Some may think I am a tad weird, cataloguing our veggies, but for me, I am doing all at once several of the things I appreciate most in this life; being creative both by growing things, things that I can in turn prepare and cook, but also by photographing then and making visual art. (Have I said how much I love my new camera - a Samsung Digimax V700? Only scratching the surface of the possibilities so far.)

And lest you think I have abandoned all things textile - ta da. One shawl, badly in need of pressing, and one pair of finished socks, one sock in progress (although now completed!)

Noro shawl


We also went for a bit of a walk around. The river is running fairly fast, this is the weir just by the Blue Pig.


This next is the aforementioned fungus that proliferated all over my blog. The image is very slightly fuzzy - I used the digital zoom rather than the optical, and it shows. Interesting. Handsome, though.

yet another fungus

Finally - an experiment. Fingers crossed.

Hey, it worked!! How very, very cool. Wow - what can I do next? The possibilities, as they say, are endless! (OK, so it isn't the most exciting....but everyone has to start somewhere.)