Sunday, July 30, 2006

It's my fault

Although fault isn't the right word, we needed the rain. Plus the sun does seem to back again this morning. Still and all, it may be that the heatwave has broken, even if summer has not yet come to an end.

What did I do? Washed this -


This is the little jacob fleece that followed me home on Friday. I had vowed to myself that it wouldn't simply get put alongside the other fleeces acquired over the last couple of years, that this time I would really do something with it, straight away. So, into the water it went, and then thrown out into the sun to drip.

If this sounds an odd way to wash a fleece, well, not only do I not have that marvel of technology a top loading washing machine (most Brits don't, they are too big for our more bijou residences) but I can't use my front loader to spin the water out either because I don't have a spin cycle without a rinse. Baldly, the DSM bought the washer in an emergency when I was away from home - but I'm not sure that it would have occurred to me either that a washing machine could be so....stupid. So, until this one bites the dust, washing fleece is decidedly problematic.

In other respects, the rain did us a favour, dragged us inside to the computer to do a few things. I do so love the internet! The DSM has booked a flight, for the first time, to Cornwall in September, so he can have a quick visit to his mother for her birthday. And we booked for this. Simple as anything, and I can never get over the thrill of arranging something half a world away with a few clicks and key strokes.

The strange thing is we were supposed to be going to see the same opera in Leeds the month before, but had to give the tickets to friends as we were teaching over in Lancashire and couldn't make the start time. We are spending a few days in the city before SOAR, we maybe need to research a few more things to do!

Friday, July 28, 2006

It was Friday, all day

And yet again, hot and sunny. The weather reports keep on telling us it is all about to go pearshaped, but so far - not. A-mazing.

I was at AH today. I had been slightly dreading it because of the heat, which I normally only cope with by staying quietly in the shade, but in fact it was not too bad. We had three fans in our regular room, all the doors and windows open, and little direct sun. Went the day well? I would say so, but I'm not going to say too much about it because I owned up to having a blog and then wouldn't tell people how to find it, issuing a challenge to hunt me down. I guess that it would be only fair to reward success should anyone who was there today find me, so first comment from one of the nine who all know who they are (well, in theory at least...) will bring forth a fibery bon bouche.

I succumbed to a fleece. A not too huge and very nice looking Jacob. I haven't spun one of those in a very long time, and couldn't resist. Someone suggested I could knit socks with it, and do you know, they could just be right. Working on today's class has totally revived my sock knitting urges, and I am going to indulge them.

I have just spent an infuriating few minutes attempting to get a url to show a photograph of a super pair of boots that I have seen in a catalogue and that would be great with hand spun hand knit socks....but it simply won't co-operate, obviously a serious glitch in their software. I'll have to wait until I actually get them in my hot, sweaty mitts - or rather, on my ditto feet - and photograph them myself.

Drove home via another country, or at least that is what it seemed like. So hot, and everything starting to look so parched. Had to have the windows open in the car, as I don't have air con, so I have warned the DSM that if I fall over on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night he is to just pick me up and slide me back on to the bed. The reason being that my ears can do funny things if assaulted by too much buffetting wind, leading to vertigo, which is quite scary, but does soon pass.

OK, so I've waffled, and need more of the very nice vin de Pays de l'Aude that got opened this evening. Some real fibre doing next week.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Feeling the heat

I have been tagged by Leigh.

Well, I am all too happy to sit in front of the computer, or rather, the fan that I have set on high speed, for a few minutes. So, here goes.

5 things I always have in my purse (trans. handbag)

1. Keys
2. Mobile phone
3. Mini-Filofax
4. Lip salve
5. Bach's Rescue Remedy

5 things I always have in my wallet (trans. purse)

1. Enough change for a car park
2. Credit & debit cards
3. Library card
4. AA membership card
5. Receipts from at least three months' worth of supermarket etc transactions

5 things I always have in my refrigerator

1. Real coffee
2. Skimmed milk
3. Free range eggs
4. Black olives
5. Dead carrots

5 things I always have in my closet (trans. wardrobe?)

1. Several pairs of interesting coloured lace-up ankle boots.
2. Long skirts.
3. Several garments that I haven't worn in a long time.
4. Many funky scarves.
5. Dust mammoths.

5 things I always have in my car

1. The owner's manual
2. Sunglasses
3. A spare pair of OTC reading glasses
4. A windscreen scraper
5. Dead car parking stickers

5 things I always have on my desk

1. A pile of stuff waiting to be actioned.
2. A mug from the Metropolitan Opera Gift Shop with pens in it
3. Sellotape
4. Notebooks
5. Tweezers
(Before anyone panics, the computer is adjacent to the desk)

5 people to tag....will have to wait while I think about it. I'll do my best!

There, nothing too controversial. I should have lied......

As to literally feeling the heat, I had to do a runner from my Tuesday morning Book Group, which I am seriously pissed off about, but I couldn't stand the heat in the room a moment longer. Interestingly, given that I always feel I am the only one out of step, after I got up to go someone else leapt (figuratively speaking)to her feet and left as well. We were upstairs in an old building, on its sunny side, and it was like the proverbial oven. So, after reading email &etc, I am back to my lurking spot by the door, and it is iPod and knitting/spinning for me for a while. This extreme heat is not set to linger for much longer. I don't want to see the end of the beautiful skies and sun, but the temperatures have been a bit much. Never satisfied, are we?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Peaceful Sunday chez nous

Woke up to gentle rain, but nowhere near enough of it, really. It all cleared away within an hour or so, and we were back to blue skies and very warm temperatures, although not quite as hot as some days have been.

So, yet again not much fibre work went on around here, but a fair bit of very enjoyable relaxing in the garden. Gave me time to wander around with the camera, something I have been meaning to do for ages.

I never did post any photographs of the New Pond. So, for your delectation....


The waterlilies have definitely approved of the move to slightly larger premises, and are looking gorgeous. Now, this next is a bit fuzzy - actually taken by the DSM, balancing precariously over the water with the camera on close-up setting, and I did think it would have been a bit churlish to have made any suggestions as to how to reduce camera-shake....


See the orange mark leading away from a gap between two rocks, towards the middle of the photo? And just below that, slightly up from the water, a blodgy blur? That's a frog, that is! There are two or three resident, a bazillion tadpoles, that I am assuming are not going to develop in to frogs, just like they didn't do when I was a kid and fished them out of the bomb crater pond up the lane into a jam jar and fed them on bacon rind (I was a sick kid....) And - there are four resident fish, too. Tiny, three inch long carp (goldfish to most people). Which all seem to be co-existing happily - there's lots of activity, critters rising to the surface and so on. It's good fun to sit and watch for a while.

Next up -


more clematis

Pretty, huh? We've been nurturing this clematis for a few years now, rescuing it from time to time from the megaslugs that inhabit the area. But this location, and the weather this year have really brought it on a treat. The colour, for once for a blue, is about right here.

Couple of other things both quite silly.


Thanks to wonderful killer Nemaslug, this year we have veggie crops for the first time in ages. Runner beans, to be fair, usually manage to escape them mostly, but not always. These are looking good, as are a few peas and some broad beans, not to mention a forest of brassicas various.

But one plant grows like a weed around here - well, apart from the actual weeds, that is. Ladies mantle seeds like crazy and pops up all over the place.
Here's one clinging happily to a brick holding down a bag of potting compost or something. Didn't have the heart to root it out!

ladies mantle

Also in my wanderings, I checked on the jungle that is the "dye garden". Harvested some woad seeds, lovely and ripe, and noted that I have golden rod, genista tinctoria and hemp agrimony doing well. Unfortunately, I am not in the mood for dyeing yellow, but I might harvest some of it to dry.

Tomorrow I need to finish off the sock samples and notes, and I haven't been doing enough spinning, so a wheel might just make it out into the garden. We are being promised sun again. Could get used to this!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Everything you wanted to know about socks but were afraid to ask

Kind of. I am not a sock expert (tm). But after years of being afraid of them, I now find that I really, really like knitting them. Don't do as many as I wish I could - being a knitting-challenged sort of a person, I simply dare not have too many projects on the go at any one time, as some or all of them Will Never Be Finished.

In fact, I should probably at this juncture confess that somewhere in the tangled jungle that is my workroom (sorry, DSM, our workroom) are two odd socks, their pairs incomplete. Plus a sock and a bit, on the needles long I forget (oh, about a minute, then? Heh.) However.

My next AH class, as I have said (see, I don't forget everything) is on socks. A nice, quick, easy class, I thought, nothing complicated. Until I started rounding up the material, and thinking - well, I could just do a sample for that, and this would be nice, and I really ought to do a fairly comprehensive handout telling them.....So far, I have samples of fabric done on wrong needle size, and on right. A cuff. A cuff with a heel flap. A cuff with a heel flap, a turned heel and starting to pick up the instep (I got into the wrong order, ok?). Next - obviously - is a cuff, a heel flap and the start of a heel. And I find I am having a great time doing this, it is fun. I'll maybe round up all the itty bitty sample socklets and photograph them when they are all done. Who would have thought?

I had an interesting hour this afternoon. A nice young woman called Nicola came to see me, bearing a spinning wheel she had bought in a charity shop. She works at a Steiner kindergarten, and does drop spindling with the children, wants to show them wheel spinning, too. I had expected either a traddy, or an incomplete ornament. What she had was in between the two. It was a home-made wheel, not very expertly, at that. It wouldn't work at all - the wheel had so much play on it, due to loose joints, that the drive band threw off after one and a half treadles, every time. But looking at it carefully, I could see that it had been used for a while at some point, as there was a line from where greasy fleece had come off the hooks and towards the orifice - know what I mean? So, I told her that if she could strip it down and tighten the joints, replace the scotch tension set up with fishing line and a rubber band instead of the thick string and a funny little metal strip, replace the drive band for a slightly larger one so that that tensioner could work, and do something about the truly Heat Robinson bobbin, it might, just might, come back to life. I sort of hope it does. It had a desperate, quirky charm.

Ahem. No, I am not going to say it!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What have we here?

Blue sky thinking

There's been a lot of this of late. And it has been very, very hot. Too hot. But today we awoke to grey skies, mist and light rain, bringing the temperature down. Unfortunately, we are being told that this will bring the humidity up, so prepare for more moaning from all us ungrateful Brits in general and this one in particular. Having said all that about the heat, I would rather, much rather, have clear blue skies to gaze at whilst enduring temperatures of around 90 F!

We had both the heat and the humidity on Saturday at the Guild Open Day. I've finally downloaded the pictures I took there, mostly useless, but this one shows what a crowd there was. Good fun, nice people.

Guild Open Day

So, what have I been doing, apart from sitting fairly comfortably in the coolest spot? I did have to venture out one day, to the dentist, although I nearly bottled out several times because of the temps. However, they did have very efficient fans in operation, and I had had the foresight to take a small freezer block with me in my handbag, so I could clutch that whilst in the steamy, unfanned waiting room. Please don't laugh at this weird action - it worked a treat. Maybe there is a fortune to be made for someone who invents devices that could be strapped strategically to the body - ankles, wrists, neck? - that would stay cold for a good long time. Much more ecologically sound than air con. A cleavage shaped one would be good, even my small block looks very bulky stuffed down there.

I have not been totally idle whilst the heatwave has progressed. Now, this is truly mad, and the DSM nearly fainted with shock when he realised that on the hottest day of the year - probably the hottest day in the UK ever - I had been finishing off the brown jacket. The heavy, wool, winter jacket. This one.


(It took me, by the way, three attempts to upload this photo to flickr,for some unknown reason. Which does of course mean that all three may appear at some point. I'm not mad. Quite.)

OK, so this is not perfect. As usual, I "designed" on the wing, which meant that I had some problems to solve at the end that could have been avoided with proper planning. I knitted rectangles for the fronts and back, starting with the orange striped bits, sewed them together and knitted the sleeves down. Now, I know most people don't like the extreme dropped shoulder effect that this style gives, but actually, I love it, find it very comfortable to wear. So I would do that again. I would do the stripes again, but work towards them. I had to do hems to deal with the wavy edge I got by starting out with the two colours. Having said that, I do like the reinforced stand-up collar that has given me, another element to repeat sometime. I was given my biggest problem by the edges. I knew they needed to have some orange about them, or the whole thing would be thrown off-balance. But having struggled a little with the welts, I couldn't see how to achieve that with the stripes. Once I had brought in the hem idea, I decided to somehow go with that, and eventually thought I would do a concealed, plain orange hem, picked up at each front edge - which is what I did, intending to stitch them in place after a good pressing. But whilst working on the other areas, I realised that the add-ons had rolled back on themselves, as stocking stitch does, in what I, at least, think is a most attractive way. So, I've just left it, and I like it. Which is what matters.

I am moderately pleased with the jacket, and uber-pleased with myself. I have battled this through to the end, and have something that I can actually wear. It is not at all a complicated knit, simple stocking stitch, not shaping. But given my track record, it is a work of art. What is more, I enjoyed doing it, both the simple work of the hands, and the mental gymnastics of the problem solving. I see another in my future.

And now - to socks. I am doing socks with the AH class next week, and need to get the examples and the notes done. I nice occupation for a grey day. Although the sun is going to return, we are told. I'm glad summer isn't over just yet!

Monday, July 17, 2006

What's in a name?

This, whilst reading "A Wedding in December" by Anita Shreve, over the morning organic cornflakes:

"And conversely, what price was Jim's wife - Carol, such a cold name - paying...." (Author's italics.)

Oh, thank you.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The play's the thing....

Midsummer Night indeed. Very pretty. Very cold. The play was pretty good, but at the end, the poor players got the most perfunctory round of applause - which could have sounded more like the chattering of teeth - before the audience wrapped itself up in its picnic blankets and started heading for the cars and their heaters.

We did have a really good time, though, most excellent picnic and the play was very well done. I think probably a group of drama students, they all seemed very young, but they made an excellent job of what can be a bit of a cliche. Interesting direction at times.

So. India
asks about yarn abuse, and what it is for other than having fun being nasty to defenceless yarn.

The elements of it are to shock the yarn with hot and cold water, and then to perpetrate further cruelty by rather roughly hitting the skein against a smooth surface like a counter top. This is most often done with a delicate yarn of cashmere, angora, or I guess a fine wool. Usually not highly twisted, so it is lofty, and therefore not very durable. The treatment very slightly felts the yarn, thus making it stronger. It also brings up a slight "bloom". But most importantly, in some miraculous fashion, it evens up the plies and greatly improves the appearance of the yarn. I don't really know why this last works, but it does.

It is also quite fun watching the horrified looks on the faces of an audience when demonstrating the aforementioned technique......

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Eating my words, somewhat

I finished plying the lilac cashmere last night, and this morning washed it in very hot water, rinsed it in cold and then thwacked the bejasus out of it. It looks much better than I had imagined it would. I do so love abusing yarn - relieves a few tensions and improves the yarn no end. I should have done before and after shots, but didn't think - you will just have to take my word for it.

lilac cashmere

Yes, this is lilac. Tricky colour to reproduce, and very bright sunlight. So, in the end, whilst the preparation was nasty to spin, it has ended up with a nice soft hand - if slightly uneven mainly because of the drafting problems. Destined, I hope, for a pair of Mrs Beeton wristlets from Knitty. One day.

On another tack entirely, I picked up a book this morning that I have had for ages on a feminist interpretation of Runes. (Don't ask - I get these wild impulses sometimes.) Glancing through the index I saw - "Tiwaz - spindle". What?? So off I goes to see what it has to say, if it really did refer to a spindle as I know it.

Well, kind of. "Tiwaz. This is Frigg's distaff or spindle...." Excuse me? And later - "She...spins the world on her distaff...." So, I now have huge amounts of confidence in anything else I might read in this book - not. Especially as the author goes on to talk about spinning wheels in Bronze Age rock art. I really don't think so - historian I ain't, but somewhere around the early medieval period in Europe, although maybe earlier in China? I would truly love to be able to do proper research in to this - the history of textile s and textile production is so fascinating, and fundamental to our development (such as it is) socially. But it is possible that there just isn't all that much primary source material there. Certainly, I am horrified at some of the ignorance displayed in many quarters, not just this! Thank heaven for Wayland Barber.

Rant mode off. Back to preparing tonight's picnic. It is the DSM's birthday, and there is a production of "Midsummer Night's Dream at East Riddlesden

The idea is to picnic on the grass before the play. So, I have: crusty french bread, organic smoked salmon, grilled green olives, black olives marinated in herbes de Provence, and an asparagus quiche. Plus a bottle of Prosecco. His brother and wife, who are joining us, are hopefully bringing salads and fruit from their (extensive) garden.

We shouldn't starve.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Time passes....

I've been hot - and busy - and, as a result of those things plus other stuff, not in the most benign of moods. And hence, not blogging. Cwic catchup, anyone?

It was, for a few days, hot, hot, hot. Woolfest had been hot and tiring, I needed to recover. So, I installed myself in the coolest place, just by the door into the cottage, where the sun doesn't quite reach.


Thus, I mostly remained comfortable and relaxed, surrounded by knitting, fizzy designer water, wonderful birdsong - the blackbird outdid himself - and peaceful sights and perfumes.


The blackbird likes to sing from this birch, and I love to see it moving gently in the breeze. One of my favourite trees, along with beech and the larch (which yes, I can indeed recognise from a long way away.)


Not a good photograph, but looking carefully you may see honeysuckle, blooming more prolifically this year than usual. One of the lovely smells drifting on the hot breeze.


And the source of another, Felicite perpetue. We bought original old roses for this garden, which may have been a mistake. They have lovely perfume, look fabulous, but are not repeat bloomers except for one. But great while they last.

It had thankfully cooled somewhat by Thursday, when I spent the day with my sister. She is in plaster, for foot surgery, and had to get to some appointments, so I got to play chauffeuse. I wish I knew why modern hospitals had such woefully inadequate parking. Sick people often can't deal with public transport, it is just so unrealistic to expect them to. I had to abandon her to the tender mercies of a security guard to wheel her to Outpatients, while it took me three quarters of an hour to grab an illegal parking place. By which time I was fit to be hospitalised myself!

Off to the annual Alston Hall weekend the next day. But not before discovering that the shower had broken. Before I had used it. I was not pleased, still in the pleasant state that I was from the day before. Didn't really get the thing off to what you might call a good start.


This is always in bloom whilst we are there. Magnolia grandiflora, I think. Fabulous, anyway.


I love these urns with the hostas in. They flank the steps leading to the croquet lawn, and yes, the DSM and I did play, and of course he won, he always does. But we have to do it - it is, after all, how we met. Not at Alston, but on a croquet lawn. Beyond the croquet lawn is a ha ha. You can't see it, of course, and I never did get around to taking another photo. But you've gotta have a ha ha at a country house, eh?

I'm probably putting in all these photographs in an attempt to disguise the complete lack of fibre work. Knitting has gone on - leetle bit more progress on the jacket, and the Noro shawl is on the needles. Spinning, too - more spindling, and I have finished the rather nasty lilac cashmere that I bought from a very reputable vendor a while back. That's twice that has happened, and it annoys me - you think you can trust these people, but somehow not where cashmere is concerned. Now that the weather is more reasonable, I hope to get the bit between my teeth again.

But one more photo - left over from the Woolfest weekend, but too lovely to leave out. This is Crummock Water, on a still, hot morning. Golly, I miss it!


Monday, July 03, 2006

Before, during and after......

But first, a confession. Despite having remembered to pack the camera in the businesslike attache case, as well as plenty of batteries...there was no time to use it on Day 1, and it was too effing hot on Day 2. So - there are no photographs of Woolfest at all, at all.

Where to begin? Beginning at the beginning and going right through to the end is a plan. But, you know me, is anything eve that simple? I'll try - I'll jump in and swim on.

The beginning, the very beginning was that the cats totally misbehaved, and Thursday started out as a disaster. Eventually, it boiled down to a choice between 1) me not going; 2) me driving up at some point unspecified on my own in my car; or 3) the DSM coming back the 55 miles from the coast and helping. We did plan 3) and in the end, all was well - it meant that we had heard about the horrendous tailbacks on the M6, and could take a back roads route, so we actually arrived in Cockermouth at exactly the time we had said we would.

Set-up was a breeze; the B&B had not lost our booking; we found a reasonable place to eat. So far, so peachy.

We had expected that Friday would be the quiet day. It was not. Friday, the tide flowed in through the door just after ten am and did not stop all day, pretty much. The atmosphere was incredible, such a high! In fact, Midsummer Night's Knitter, the lovely India, was completely of a dither and it seemingly took her all day to calm down. I will find out more next weekend! I look forward to a good story.

I did, in amongst it all meet lots of email listers, bloggers and even - a podcaster! I was talking to someone, and the brain suddenly clicked into something approaching gear, causing me to shriek "I know that voice", which she took very well. My favourite podcaster, too. That was an unexpected bonus. I did get to chat to lots of super people in amongst all the work - but then, it is the sort of work that is fun, n'est-ce-pas?

OK, Saturday was good in many ways, sheer hell in others. We were joined by Jonathan and Sheila Bosworth of Journeywheel, who also make the spindles we sell. Jonathan spent a lot of the day with us, mostly talking about his charkas to show visitors, which went down really well, I think. Didn't do the spindle sales any harm, either! It wasn't such a busy day - maybe the footie made a difference? (Say no more, say no more, nudge, nudge.) but the heat and humidity inside the auction mart was......bad. I have never seen so many dripping and scarlet faced people gathered together in one place before.....

I'm running out of steam, and need a drink of water (hot again). We came back yesterday, good day pottering down past Crummock, lunch in Seatoller, home - through the most massive thunderstorm I had ever seen, until an hour after we got home when an even bigger one struck. Well, actually, I think, if I remember last years discussion by the local weather man, it was one of these 'ere new-fangled super-storms, which boomed, banged and flashed around over our heads for a couple of hours. Fortunately, we never lost power - it went off and on instantly several times, but never for more than a couple of seconds. Very exciting end to the day, eh?

More might surface later. 'Nuff for now.