Monday, January 31, 2011

Once upon a time......

Not much in the way of fibre activity this weekend, due to Other Stuff.

Saturday we went to see "Carmen" at Opera North. I have to say, I really wasn't looking forward to it all that much. Far from being my favourite opera, it had not had a very good review, so I was bribed with a nice lunch, and then we walked up to the theatre in Leeds.

Actually - I enjoyed it much more than I had thought that I would. This was mainly due to the performance of Carmen, a young woman who really looked the part, acted her socks off (well, her top at least!) and could sing to boot. And some of the other parts were really well done too. The direction/staging was....spotty. Seville, Espana had been translated in to Seville, Middle America. Now, there is one very obvious snag with this directorial change - bull-fighting ain't all that common around those parts. So a chorus warbling away about a Toreador is just a tad odd. Having said that, repositioning it as pit bull fighting did actually work quite well. I had forgotten about this major translocation to the US, highlighted and criticised in the review I read, and spent quite a while being puzzled as to why there was a cardinal (bird!) sitting in the large tree that formed the centrepiece of the set. They added a pinata later, which was quite fun.

The director had apparently cut out a lot, but as I am not over-familiar with the libretto, I couldn't tell you which bits - I suspect that poor old Escamillo lost quite a lot, and probably Michaela as well, but in this version we could have done with losing all of her. The singer had a great voice, but the interpretation seemed odd to me - if she is supposed to be the wholesome home-town girl who truly loves Jose, why rig her up as a right slapper, eh? And she was given some very odd business to do.

And again, maybe because of the cutting, the two halves of the performance seemed unbalanced, and the killing of C by J totally anti-climactic. But most puzzling of all was the treatment of the day shift sergeant, who was played by a really good and villainous-seeming black singer. Who then appeared with a whited-up face, and was, a la KKK, strung up from the tree, dressed all in white including a large war bonnet. Totally incomprehensible to me, and somewhat offensive, actually.

So that's one tale.

Sunday we did something really unusual. Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, our social life was very much focussed on having people to dinner and being so entertained in our turn. This was before the days of clubbing (although pubbing sometimes took place) and latterly when we lived in Cumbria and there were no cinemas, theatres of even many concerts to go to. It was great - always interesting new recipes to try, and good conversation to be had.

Those days have pretty much gone, but we did actually have friends over for a meal last night, and it was lovely. Gone too are the days when we used to over-indulge in both alchohol and food (golly, I remember doing two starters, a hefty main course and two puddings sometimes!! I also remember tables surrounded by, I think, up to twelve guests, and rustling up food for that number was a doddle. Wow.)

Anyway, tamale pie (I had never made it before) and my favourite winter pudding of a hot fruit salad with clotted cream, went down a treat. I may have to try to resurrect an old habit.....

But what I have done, having had a couple of days to mull it over, is to partially frog the square throw. I had tried a different knitted join, and I was getting some puckering as well as rather ugly bumps. I didn't take it right back, the first bit looks quite reasonable, but we shall see. I feel much better having come to that decision, which is usually the right one. If you think that maybe something should be frogged, then you are generally right. Much better to do it sooner rather than later, you waste much less time and effort that way!

First day of the week, last day of January - for what that's worth. Dismal weather, too. This weeks major focus - getting on with the samples for the singles project.

But first, tea. Our panacea!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Any excuse.....

When I was at Guild the other week, someone told me - really and truly, no kidding! - that they loved it when I put photographs of the cats on the blog.

Oh dear.

I happened to have the camera to hand this afternoon when young Barni was disporting himself on the Ryeland rug, and well - how could I resist?

But first - the elegant if scrawny senior citizen, Neelix.

Then there is the quiet and good (except in the hunting season) Ruby.

And finally, we get to the shameless beast himself. But he is beautiful!

I have been slaving over a hot computer for most of the day dealing with stuff. But some fibre has passed through my hands, both spinning and knitting. For no particular reason, I decided that this was the right moment to cast on for the square strip throw. Much easier to start than the circular one, that's for sure. There are times when mindless garter stitch knitting is just the job.

But this below is some singles that I have spun for an investigation. It looks as if one lot has much more twist than the other, but I think what has happened is that the first skein was stretched on the niddy noddy for quite a while. I am going to wash them before knitting, and then do some samples.

And finally, the dreaded giant socks. At this stage, they have been through the washing machine twice, and have barely shrunk at all (that is a five pence piece in the middle, roughly the same size as a - um - dime? the little one, anyway.....)

I tried a little bit of hand felting, and nothing seemed to be altering, so then they went in to the tumble dryer quite damp. Nothing. So tomorrow, they will get a very hot wash, and if that doesn't do it - anyone got a man in need of a giant pair of socks who doesn't mind wearing turquoise and purple (I wonder if I overdye them and boil them what would happen? Now there's a thought!)

G'night, folks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mutterings and mumblings

Chunter, chunter, chunter........

Realised on Thursday that I was getting a cold. Buggrit. I absolutely hate having a cold, in case you hadn't noticed.

Fortunately, it wasn't too bad on Friday, as it was the AH class. (I only hope that I haven't given it to anyone there, but the classroom was so hot that it is not impossible. Sorry, if so.) Actually, the day went very well, and I felt fine - until I got home, at which point I collapsed into honks and snuffles.

This meant that it seemed wise to cancel lunch and a certain amount of fibre sampling with DSIL (and DBIL, although he won't have attempted the fibre sampling!) on Saturday. Which I was considerably pissed off about, as I had been looking forward to it. Ah, well.

However, this cold has been what you might call nasty, brutish and short, so it is all over bar the shouting now. Which is just as well, as it was book group this morning.

Not book group as we generally know it, though. There has been a brouhaha. A flurry of emails, hurling insults and accusations. Rights and wrongs on both sides. Which has resulted in one door closing and another one opening, as one might say.

I said my piece, and am clinging on to the wreckage (well, I hope it isn't quite that!) I have been reminded slightly of tots in a kindergarten - a little bit of plain and open speaking might have spared us all the angst. Actually, I am jolly pleased with myself, as I remained entirely calm whilst saying what I wanted to say.

Ay di mi - I thought I was past the age when this sort of thing happened!

All the above has meant not all that much good fibre work has been done, although I have finished the Noro giant socks, which are as we speak going through the washer yet again, as they seem very reluctant to shrink! And I am forging ahead with the blue cormo, despite spinning it at only just a gnat's whisker above frog hair. (I want to get a decent size lace shawl out of ten ounces.) I am extremely glad that I started spinning it so soon rather than composting it, as it is already very, very slightly compacted, enough to mean that an extended draw doesn't go all that well, which is a bit of a pain. Not literally, at least not after the first session - I need to remember to have rests frequently to relieve cramped fingers.

I will get some decent (well, ish) photographs of things eventually, but to be going on with, here is the sunset from Friday afternoon as we were driving away from AH. I am keeping the old camera in the car permanently now for just this sort of eventuality. A very little bit darker overall than it actually was, but the sunset colours are just about right. Glorious.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Proper dyers, look away now!

I had this:

(I had done a cropped version of this photograph, but obviously uploaded the wrong one to Flickr. Ah, well, at least you get to see our genuine Provencale print table cloth....)

Definitely not my preferred shade of grey to make something from, and not my nicest spinning, either (or so I thought). Short of time (ahem), I decided to do a quick and dirty (very) dyebath. A dive into the dye supplies and I come up with three ancients pots of Landscape and Gaywool dyes, one bright red, two ochre/yellow. I throw two of these in to a jug and mix. Too red. So in goes the other yellow. Better.

See what I mean, dyers? I have not weighed the fibre, I have not weighed the dyes, I have No Clue about prospective outcomes. What the hell. Go for, says I.

Simmer, simmer simmer. Leave to cool overnight. Wash - surprisingly little dye residue left in the water. Hey, guess what, it is great! A lovely warm not quite tawny orange, but not quite a rusty red, either. I have tried to photograph it, but the colour isn't coming out true - it is somewhere between these two. (And I am only putting in the blurry one to give the range.)

Now, the nice thing is how the dyeing process has improved some of the deficiencies in the fibre and yarn. I didn't like the fleckiness when grey, but dyed, it looks heathery and interesting. Furthermore, I had spun the yarn as softly as possible, not the easiest thing for me to accomplish, and again, the dyeng process has altered this by very, very slightly fulling the yarn. Now, ordinarily, this would probably not be thought a Good Thing, but in this case, it has improved the yarn both in appearance and structural stability.

Well, gor blimey. I like the stuff, and am really pleased with how, not "knowing" what I was doing, I somehow did "know". Or am I deluding myself.....?

What to do with it? I had thought usual throw or shawl, but maybe it would make a nice new set of hat, scarf, gloves and so on for the projected Norway trip in a year or two?

Watch this space.

Oh - and do not do as I have done, except in similar circumstances - with a fibre or yarn that is Not Much Loved or Does Not Matter. I'm not that crazy.

Edited to add: the colour looks even less right now - I'll try again!

Monday, January 10, 2011

At last!

Any thoughts that I might have had about being a more frequent and regular blogger have obviously failed. Completely. And really, not my fault.

I have been planning a post for days, and things have just been conspiring against me. I might even have sat down to get started and then, yet again, the phone would go, as has happened just now - not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but it all hinders the blogging.

Last week I spent a lot of time on the phone playing hunt-the-mother. We came home from visiting friends last Monday to a frantic message on the answerphone that she was having to go in to hospital suddenly - fortunately immediately followed by another message from my sister saying not to panic, nothing all that much wrong, more later....

Then silence. So Tuesday morning, I rang her room several times, then the actual care home number and finally the local hospital, where she still was. Then there was all the faff of actually getting through to the ward - the staff are all so busy that they tend to ignore the inside lines, but external ones fare better. Eventually found out what she was in for, and that all was going well, and that she might be out in a couple of days....then the next time I rang, she had been moved to another ward, so more numbers to ring. I wasn't worried, per se, just wanted to know what the f.c.u.k. was going on.

Anyway, she is home now - and it seems as though it was not after all an emergency admission, but I still don't really know for sure. Madam is prevaricating..........ah well.

But. I have been making slow progress on fibre stuff. This is the disappointing grey Shetland/Zwartbles fluff, spinning finished, plying nearly so.

It will be overdyed. I would like to achieve burnt orabge, but it remains to be seen if I can. I should finish plying it today. It has become something of an article of faith that I do spin and make something with this stuff, because it isn't what I had thought it would be when I bought it, and I wouldn't have bought it if I had known. For some twisted reason that means that I have to get it done, and fairly fast, and made in to something useful. What a warped mind I have.

But the angora/silk stole is moving on very nicely.

And here it is with the edging started (I've gone rather further than that now, too.)

It was Bear Knitters yesterday - a really nice gathering. But I hadn't wanted to take the stole, so I cast on a ginormous pair of socks in Noro Kureyon to felt down in to "boots", something I have been meaning to do for ages. The hats, by the way, have been hanging around in an unfelted state as the first go through the washing machine did nothing at all. They have been through twice more on a rather hotter temperature today, and are nearly there. In the tumble dryer at the moment, which I hope will do the trick and No More!

So, I am overall quite pleased with how it goes so far. Could do better (couldn't I always....) More bright weather would help.

We have had two more brief bouts of the lovely white stuff, but now have normal winter grey and blah. Very nasty.

As soon as the grey is finished, something bright and gorgeous will go on the wheel. That'll help.