Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Courtesy of Marie, I've been tagged.

1: What was I doing ten years ago?
I was working myself into a frenzy in the final few weeks of the run-up to Odyssey. (That being the 1998 National Exhibition of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.) If you know the long, sad, tangled story of what went on behind the scenes, well - I need say no more. And if you don't, I'm not saying any more anyway! Except that the Exhibition was in my view a huge success, broke new ground in lots of ways that are still not acknowledged today, but there you go. Other than that, I was just getting started out on my brand shiny new teaching career.

2: What were five things on my to do list today (not in any particular order.)
Clean the bathroom.
Finish the laundry.
Knit some of the lace shawl.
Write a letter to go by snail mail.
Make a cake for my mother, who celebrates her 90th birthday tomorrow.

3: What snacks do I enjoy?
Tortilla chips with salsa, or sour cream dip
Scandinavian rusk-type things with too much butter
Olives. Really good ones, not those under-ripe things that have been dunked in something I am told is sulphuric acid. Although those will do in an emergency.

4: Where are some places I have lived?
Northampton, whilst a little sprog, where my parents ran a pub. Cromer, on the North Norfolk coast, still to some extent my spiritual home. Newcastle upon Tyne, where I went to college. Cambridge, first job and where I met the DSM. Kingston upon Thames, for his first job. Cockermouth in Cumbria, so going to Woolfest is extra-special. Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, armpit of the universe, but I met Jenny Dean who lived nearby and who taught me to spin and dye. And here, in the West Yorkshire Pennines, where the only thing wrong is it is too far from the sea.

5: What things would I do if I were a billionaire?
Buy a shop in town to run as a cafe/drop-in/craft centre/place to run workshops for fibre people, and not have to worry about making a profit.
Be ready to help out my niece if she needed extra support to continue her art career.
Fund scholarships to fibre events.
Sponsor kids in the third world somehow.
Buy a narrowboat.
Encourage the DSM to retire so we could travel.

Barbara, India, Freyalyn, consider yourselves tagged in y9our turn. Anyone else who fancies a go, too!

Those of you who are alert will have spotted the cake making reference, and that tomorrow is my mother's 90th birthday. I'm going over, with cake (and I am not the world's best cake maker, but it will have to to) and a ginormous bunch of flowers. I did consider a balloon with 90 on it in big friendly letters, but decided she wouldn't appreciate that all that much. She is - and I kid you not - trying to follow the habits of a lifetime and not let on to anyone.

I'll try to remember to take my camera and record the birthday girl.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Praise be for Bank Holidays!

Because we get two days to recover from the trip!

Which was, as they say, a blast. Great hospitality, and a good workshop. Plus a little grockling and on the way home, a super meal in a little place we know......

I couldn't get a photo of the Angel of the North, we were a bit late and couldn't take the time to stop. One of these days, I will be able to - I saw it from a different angle this time and it was even more impressive.

But we were able to take some time to have a brief wander around Durham Cathedral. They don't allow you to take photos inside, which I suppose is reasonable. I would have loved to have been able to go to town on the famous pillars, which are all carved in different patterns. But I had to make do with a couple of outside things. We didn't have a huge amount of time, and as well, there was a service going on - I was surprised to the bone by how horrible the music was. Normally, there is little so spine-tingling as liturgical singing, but this was ghastly. Weird.


door arch

Carved sandstone around the door. And then, this magnificent beast. (It's a replica, but still quite something.) This was the Sanctuary Knocker.

sanctuary knocker

That was the last of the full day workshops until the autumn. We have two short ones at Woolfest at the end of next month, but otherwise, a bit of a break. I need to do some serious preparation work now, though, so no fear of being unoccupied. I want to get a decent leaflet advertising us prepared by Woolfest, and I have to do all the signage over again as well. Revamp the workshops a bit. Work on the week-long course for next year. Work up another proposal for something.....

And they call this retirement?

This week has other concerns though, so for a couple of days I shall concentrate on spinning. Although I do have new socks on the needles.


Friday, May 23, 2008

And yet again.....

I don't know what it is at the moment, but it seems to be all go. Places to be, things to do. I suppose I shouldn't complain!

Twice to the Big City (well, one of them) this week, and me such a country mouse. I had arranged to meet a friend for lunch on Tuesday, which I duly did and it was very nice. But after I had made the arrangement, I found out that Tom Stoppard's "Hapgood" was on at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The DSM and I didn't have a free slot together to see it during its limited run, so although I would have happily gone on my own, I did check around for companions.

The Coven obliged.

So, another nice day out. "Hapgood" is not my favourite of the Stoppards that I have seen. That accolade has to go to "Arcadia". (I do wish someone would revive that.) But it has sufficient of the typical Stoppard coruscating use of language to be more than satisfying, and I did really enjoy this performance. I did miss what was for me the highlight of the original 1988 London performance which was a perfectly brilliant exposition of waves and particles done with the aid of a park gate, but I gather that the play underwent a fairly extensive revision after I saw it, so maybe that was deemed a bit that had to go.

One of my other doings this week was a routine trip to the doctor, but I took the opportunity to get him to check my wrist. As I thought, it is officially arthritis. Use it, he said. But nothing repetitive. I knit and spin, I said, with him shaking his head. Tough. I'm not giving either up. It isn't that bad. Doctors are so silly sometimes.....oh, I'll take reasonable care, I'm not daft, either. Much.

OK, so now we are off Further Up North for the final workshop of the Spring. Unknown territory, but it should be fun. We have Woolfest at the end of next month (but with a few days holiday immediately beforehand) and I have just been asked if we can do two sessions instead of the one originally arranged. How great to have so many people wanting to learn to spindle spin!

No pics. Nothing of all that much interest. Everything is growing slowly - shawl, shrug, scarf, sock, yarn on bobbins, kittens. Well, in Barni's case, growing quickly.

Maybe with a couple of weekend days after we get back from our workshop, I'll claim some quality time nurturing all of the above.......

Sunday, May 18, 2008


That was time flying past, that was.

Friday was AH, and a really good day for me, at least. I had three very nice complete (or more or less so) beginners, and it was really satisfying. Why? Because they didn't get it instantly, but were trying very hard, and so it was just great for both sides when they got there. As a teacher, whilst it may be fun to have a student who can just Do It, you know that this has little or nothing to do with your skills. But when everyone has to work at it, then you can allow yourself to feel that what you are doing with them does have some bearing on their eventual success. I think all four of us ended up feeling reasonably satisfied with our day.

And, lots of very nice blending was done by others, plus the couple of intermediates made some more good progress as well.

I wandered around a bit at lunchtime and took a few arty shots with my trusty digital camera, of which I liked this the best.

1805 001

Not having slept all that well the night before, I was pretty shattered when I got home, but the DSM made supper and we had a nice relax over a glass of wine with kittens to cuddle.

Saturday was Guild, and another good day. No workshop or speaker, but a nice crowd and lots of pleasant chat. I was talking to the new Speaker Finder (not a task to take on lightly!) and she like me had not been totally overwhelmed by the programme of late. So she has lined up some excellent choices for next year, definitely some meetings to look forward to.

Then the DSM wanted to go to see "Juno" at the local fleapit last night, so we did, as I wanted to drag him to something today. I was glad we went, it was very touching and very funny, with a super performance from the eponymous heroine. I would squabble slightly with a few things, but all in all it was a mainstream feel-good movie made with a bit of class and integrity.

So, today. My niece was exhibiting again over the weekend, and I wanted to go, so we schlepped over to Huddersfield this morning. I liked a couple of her pieces, but the co-exhibitors work didn't grab me particularly. Still, you don't know unless you try.

string bag


I took another arty shot - I really liked this roofscape.

roof, Bates Mill2

I then developed an irresistible craving for coffee, so we dipped into Huddersfield, where the DSM treated himself to a large mocha. With extra cream. And I had to be seen in public with this!

would you sit in public with this?

And now I am about to crash out with some knotting.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Going batts

I've been trying to post since yesterday, and not getting it done. This afternoon when I had loads of time, Flickr was playing silly b's and not working properly. Finally sorted itself out early evening by which time I had supper to prepare and then a friend dropping in. Ah well, better late than never!

I have been having fun creating fibre blends. I had intended using the drum carder - an old Pat Green one - but being old, the drive band suddenly gave up the ghost, and I didn't have a substitute. So, hand cards is was. But this is in preparation for AH tomorrow, and we shall be using hand cards there, so it all worked out for the best, I suppose.

The exercise involved selecting from a range of fibres - wool tops, merino and tencel tops, camel, silk, bamboo, dyed mohair locks and angelina. And breaking all the rules of wool carding by overloading them, and then intentionally not completely homogenising the fibres. I really enjoyed doing it, and was very pleased indeed with my results.



A couple of the batts.


And another, after it has been carefully handled (not) by a kitten.

yarns with added Max

Here are the yarn samples, with added Max. I would like to think he is guarding the yarns from the kittens, but he ain't.

And here is a closer look (though I don't really recommend pulling up the larger views of these, they are all a bit on the blurry side.)

sample yarns from batts

My method was the same for all of them - I selected my base fibre/colour, added a related colour, then a bit of a contrast - the mohair worked wonderfully for that as well as adding textural interest - and then sprinkled on as little angelina as I could manage. I do know from experience that too much just sticks out in spikes and makes a very harsh yarn. I could have got away with more silk or bamboo than I used, but doing it on the hand cards restricted me a bit.

I carded each one just enough to avoid having great lumps of any one element, but sufficient to make - what - a coherent yarn. So you look at it and think red, or green or whatever, with shiny streaks. I really am not explaining this at all well - must be too late at night.

Added bonus today - finally an FO. Not handspun, but socks. (My own yarn next.)


Tofutsies. Ended up quite liking it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where did the week go?

Well, the DSM was a bit poorly when he got home, with what we thought was a throat infection but turns out maybe to have been another virus. So he was at home all week, working sometimes, but sometimes not.

Then, Max had an appointment with the vet for stitches removal, which went very well, except that this (different)vet seems convinced that his tumour was a lymphoma and will therefore recur. We are waiting to see the original one, who did the surgery, and may have another point of view...

But after doing very well for a few days, we both of us thought on Friday that he had relapsed somewhat, so back to the vet again. It is a recurrence of the infection that they found earlier, and is responding so far very well to antibiotics. But again we have to wait and see. This is getting a tad stressful....for him, too, the weather is glorious and he is desperate to get outside, but is forbidden on medical advice!

Then of course, on Tuesday, the new furniture arrived, and boy was that exciting. The lads got it in, but with the deployment of the greatest skill you can imagine. We were so impressed. Then, when they had gone, we looked at the furniture, at one another, back again, and I certainly was thinking "Oh my god, just what have we done!" It looked really startling and huge. But now, having arranged it rather differently from the way we had intended, and having had a few days to get used to the appearance and to appreciate the comfort, we are very pleased with it.

So, the weather. Very pretty, but too suddenly hot. But we couldn't resist going for a stroll this morning before the crowds got overwhelming. It is Spring in full flight out there today, and lovely with it. Viz:

view down the valley1

The view down the meadows to our cottage. We are the right half of that pale blob in the distance, not the nearer cottage.

apple blossom

The crab apple by the road bridge in bloom - such a shame we can never reach the apples!


Bluebells in profusion in Spring Wood.


Pink purslane down by the goyt. (Both bluebells and purslane have a more intense colour than the camera is showing.)

And just to prove that I do still care about fibre crafts, the upstairs spinning (often done in the middle of the night when unable to sleep.)


I have throughout the week managed to cling on to a very little craft activity, and next week should be better. Plus, I have to do some blending for the AH class - which should be good fun. I've found a few things to try out. How about camel, bamboo and a little glitz? Does that appeal?

Results as and when, plus an update on the downstairs spinning - and knitting. Plus a kitten (sabre tooth tiger??) update. They Have Grown.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Holiday Monday

And it has been like Piccadilly Circus around these parts. The weather was fine enough to draw out all the casuals as well as the diehards. There were several huge walking parties - I have absolutely no clue what the attraction is to walking in the countryside in the ambulatory equivalent of a charabanc, but there you go.

Early on, my batty neighbour flung wide her window as one such group passed, and gave forth in her loudest and most abusive tones, slamming the window so hard that I felt my walls shake, let alone what she must have felt. But fortunately, that was the only occasion - I think her poor, long-suffering husband must have taken her out fro the day!

So - the house is squeaky clean (I do have *such* an over-active imagination........) Not that I did that much in the sitting room, as the new furniture comes tomorrow (assuming they can get it through the doors, aargh, the o-a imag again). And I did a mega chunk of ironing as well.

I have managed to fit in a reasonably amount of time playing with the spindle wheel. No photographs, my attempts so far, whilst not absolutely awful, are not that great, either. I need to work on my consistency some more, and I haven't really got the hang of plying yet.

I did a bit of reading up, as well, and according to Patricia Baines in "Spinning wheels &etc", the small size spindle wheel was most often used for cotton. She is the only source I have found for this so far, but it does actually fit in with the (undocumented) provenance that I was given for this wheel. Which was that it was made by David Bryant for use in demonstration at Quarry Bank. Anyway, I gave it a go, and even thought the ratio is only about 20 - 1, it was a very nice way to spin cotton.

It feels very nice and comfortable to spin on, this wheel, I'm enjoying it. I have, however, encountered a snag. A Ruby - shaped snag. She is totally fascinated with it, and leaps up at the fibre (tricky, as she is in danger of impaling herself on the spindle); grabs at and chews on the drive band; puts paws under the wheel rim; and likewise through the spokes. With that last, I am just so glad that I am only turning the wheel slowly by hand, or even my made-of-india-rubber little girl might suffer some damage!

Max has been brilliant today, much more like his old self, and eating like the proverbial. To the vet tomorrow, paws crossed for a good outcome. And my solitary weekend is nearly over, the DSM is back in a couple of hours.

I might just enjoy that!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Best laid plans.......

I was rightly taken to task for not posting a photograph of Max, so first of all I will remedy that!

max & ruby

You can just see a bit of his topiary - he has various shaved bits, of course.

Anyway, I think he is doing quite well. The note of caution is me being pessimistic, as I am still sometimes. This morning he was very bright, enjoying the spring sunshine, all four mogs sitting in the bedroom window basking and showing off to passing walkers. Then, he ate a huge supper, and had a massive drink of water. But Madam Doom-and-Gloom here was thinking he looked a bit uncomfortable. This is more likely the product of my down time of day, and the fact that I am supposed to be arriving in Newquay as I type - but I have had to stay behind and keep a watchful eye on the recovering patient.

The vet was very much of the opinion that Max shouldn't be unattended for long periods because of the still present risk of the stitches failing and the ensuing peritonitis. Plus, he has antibiotics still to take. H, quite reasonably, was unkeen to have the responsibility, and could only call in a couple of times a day anyway. The cattery likewise. So - here I am, having insisted that the DSM went so as not to let DMIL (who really is, and I am deeply regretful of not seeing her this weekend) down.

So, the agenda is to try not to worry too much about topiarised mog; to catch up on a bit of housework (am I mad???); to catch up on several episodes of CSI various; and to play with this:

great wheel

"This" was on eBay. A David Bryant (cottage) great wheel. I have always wanted one of these - at least, one of his Jersey wheels - but I never got around to it. Then this appeared, so, much to the DSM's dismay, I said I was going to have a punt. I fully expected it would go for more than I was prepared to pay, but it didn't. And lo and behold, it was living near Scunthorpe, and thus very convenient for collecting on the way home from Cambridge.

It is nicely made, as one would expect, simple and functional. And of a size to fit in nicely - only very slightly larger than my Timbertops. So my philosophy of "if I buy it, it will fit" worked out. I have had a little play, and find it nice to spin on - rather akin to a charka, of course. So that is one decent way of spending some of my unexpectedly free and solitary Bank Holiday weekend.

Now, here's the coincidental and hilarious thing. The person I bought it from announced that was the spinning tool that was replacing this wheel. And brought to show me......the Alden Amos charka I had sold to someone else via eBay a couple of years ago.

Spoo-ky? Not really, I suppose, but good for a giggle.