Saturday, October 29, 2011

Essential tools - or, if you are being uncharitable, indulgences

Spindles, of course. Can one ever have enough? After all, they have to fulfil a number of differing needs - aesthetic, soul-satisfying, practical, examples for teaching - not to mention ooh, shiiiinny.....or whatever the spindle equivalent is.

We brought some Spindlewoods back with us, of course. In going through them, this one threw itself at me. Gorgeous (osage and ebony) to look at, so I put it on one side to try it out. Instant love - a beautifully balanced spindle, that had, absolutely, to be mine.

Then - and I may have mentioned this - the Goldings were at the SOAR market. Now, I am not one of those who is afeared of ordering online, and indeed, I had been lusting after one in particular that had been on their website for some time. But I decided to wait until I could try it out.

In order to accomplish this, I had to hurtle in to the market as it opened, so that I had half an hour before my class started. I did a very rapid whirl through their display, and found two, including the silver flower one that I had had my eye on, which I just had time to purchase before needing to leave. I am, by the way, extremely glad that I did this, as when I returned the next day, the booth looked as if a plague of locusts had swarmed all over it - I did manage to find one more to fall in love with, though. Who can resist Goldings, eh?

Then, I have been conversing on line with a spindle maker in Australia,
Malcolm Fielding

These two arrived yesterday, and are looking more than promising - the regular hook top whorl is certainly quite straightforward and very nice; the other one - on the left - has a spiral grove in the shaft, and is taking a little while to get used to. It is operator error - I need to refine a technique for getting it twirling. Using just my fingers, I seem to pretty much always get a nice smooth spin, but using my preferred method of leg-rolling, not quite so much. I've got to practice getting it just right, and then we shall be set. Beautifully made and lovely woods, which can't be bad!

I saw in the paper today that the government in its wisdom is thinking about not inflicting the clock change - due tonight - for a trial period. I am not quite sure, but I think that we would be permanently two hours ahead of GMT. Not so certain about that, although doing away with the change would be wonderful, I hates it, Baggins. However, I wish that at the same time they would wangle in another hour or two in to the day. So many things that I want to do!

Anyway, we had a nice morning - had to do the shopping that I overlooked on Thursday, had coffee and cake in our fav cafe, called in to see a friend who was being "Maker in Residence" for the day in one of the local shops (and bought two pieces of hers as Christmas presents) and then went to an art exhibition in one of the local galleries, which the DSM had thought I might particularly like as it was a Norfolk artist. Er - no. The painter might just as well have been domiciled in an inner city (run down at that) as rural Norfolk. Most were meant to be landscapes, but where, I ask, were those gorgeous Norfolk vistas and skies? Nothing but randomly placed smears of mud (can you tell I didn't like the work??) Still, can't win 'em all.

And now, despite all the new spindles, back to my wheels!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Real life (tm)

Have I said already how nice it is to be back home with not too much travelling in prospect, and time to catch up on the things I really like doing? Yeah, I thought I had!

Like opera - we went in to Leeds to see "The Queen of Spades" by Tschaicovsky last night. Went by train, to save energy, stress and the environment one step at a time. Which proved to be a mistake, as when we rang the theatre to check when the performance ended, we were given the wrong information, so had to leave before the final scene to make sure of catching the last train home.

This did not prove to be such a great mistake at least for me, as I was slightly underwhelmed by it. I'm not sure if that was because of the opera per se - although it was one I had really wanted to see; the performers - I wasn't too sure of the soprano; the story - although totally daft stories don't usually bother me in opera if everything else is ok. I think I will have to see it again in a different production!

Our next Opera North is not until in the new year, but our next opera foray is a Met relay in Cambridge with our good friends there. I know - I'm glad to be and want to stay home, but Cambridge and L&M are different!

Fibre stuff. I finished the skein of multi-bright mohair. Which turned out not to be quite as in your face bright, not surprisingly, and the mohair is a little harsh. But it will make a warm and hard wearing hat.

And remember these batts?

Spun and knitted as singles, they have become this:

I am not quite sure why this cowl appears such an odd shape in this pic, although it was taken before washing and blocking. It could be because it is singles, but I was pretty pleased with how consistent a yarn I managed (not always so easy with batts involving different fibres and colours. And I ensured that it wasn't too twisted by both care in spinning - and a judicious run back on to the wheel in the opposite twist direction and no, I do not consider that cheating, at least in this instance!

I used all but the last few yards of the yarn to make a really big cowl - I was somewhat in fear and trembling that it would be too huge and bunchy on my neck. But it isn't, and it does exactly what I wanted it to do, which is to come up over my head as a snood should the weather so dictate.

Now I am slightly stuck for a next project (the mohair is washing and drying.) So I have cast on with a ball of handspun just lying around to try out the very simple lace scarf pattern for which I bought a yummy skein of yarn when on holiday - this is so very fine and fluffy that frogging would be horrible, so, best to experiment and learn the pattern with something else, eh?

And finally, a quick update on my mother. There isn't one, really. She is hanging on, but every time the phone rings, I think - that's it. Bit stressful, but there you go. All part of life's rich pattern.

I shan't go on too much about it here, at least for the moment. Just needs to be mentioned from time to time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A puzzlement

For quite a while now, those of us involved in crafting, whether textile or otherwise, have been happily aware of a big upsurge in interest. In fact, the DSM was at a neighbouring Guild on Saturday, and was hearing reports of many new members. Even more excitingly, lots of these are younger people. I have been and broadly still am expecting this state of affairs to continue for quite a while yet. All the signs are that it will.

But. For the second month in a row, the regular AH class has had to be cancelled because of too few people signing up for it.

The college and I are baffled. We can't think of any reason for this, there has been no warning, or if there has we have all missed it. Numbers had been keeping up very well, slightly down on the big classes of some months ago, but more than satisfactory until suddenly - bump. I have yet to have The Talk with someone from the college, but it is looking worrisome. It had been my hope that in the fullness of time, I would find a new person with a different perspective to replace me, and that one of the few existing regular classes for those struck by the urge to learn to spin would continue for the foreseeable future. Now I am not so sure.

We feel baffled - but I am not certain that there is any one big reason (it might be easier if there were, we would have a chance at least working out a solution.) No, I think that there are diverse reasons for the diverse class attendees that have suddenly all come together quite coincidentally. Everyone has busy lives, with only so much time to spread around family, work, other interests - and of course, it isn't compulsory that they should turn up month after month at this particular class! (Any minute now, I am going to sound like the cabin manager on a flight doing her - we know you have choices and we appreciate....bit over the intercom!) All we can do for the moment is watch this space.

Feedback to us on other classes and so on remains very positive. We get lovely emails from people who are happily spindling away, and have had our busiest year ever teaching. As I said, Guild memberships seem to be up all round, boards on Ravelry hum and fibre festivals are increasing and prospering. Things are in general still looking good out there. So I am not going to go totally doom and gloom!

I'll be back with a proper post soon, with some completed projects and some new toys (just one guess.....)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The final round-up

SOAR over, we headed back to towards Boston, having decided to finish our stay there. In retrospect, this may have not been such a good idea. My thinking had been that, usually, we would fly in to a city all jetlagged, and not enjoy the experience as much as we should because of that very thing. But being more country mice than town mice, to have ended up on the Cape might have worked better? But, we did enjoy ourselves, anyway, so, who knows?

My sister had expressed a desire to visit Salem - the witch-trial one - and although not overwhelmed by the idea, we decided to indulge her (I don't think she reads this!) So glad we did - Salem is a charming town, notwithstanding the month-long spooky festival in full flow, and is definitely on our list of places-we-must-return-to. Beautiful old houses, many labelled with date of building and original owner and what they did. Nice sense of community - we ate our lunch in a little park near the centre, full of people enjoying the unseasonal autumn warmth and sunshine. Lovely, but not photos, I'm afraid.

We drove on, stopping again in Marblehead, another very nice town. We sat overlooking the huge and busy marina. Despite many people having already taken their boats from the water ready for winter, there was much scudding and puttering about going on - it looked idyllic.

Then on to Boston, or to be strictly accurate, Cambridge, wilds of, for three nights until our return home. The hotel was probably the worst of the lot, but bearable, and conventiently situated near a train/bus station. Now, the last time we had intended to visit Boston, we failed because the other two of the same three were variously under the weather - this time, it was me.

We had arranged to spend the day in Cambridge with a SOAR friend who lives locally, but I had a day of feeling decidedly ropey, so I sent them off and I lurked and rested. I was really sorry to miss the opportunity of spending a day with Elaine, but there you go. The three of them had a good time, she did them proud with the tourist services apparently.

I was much better the next day, thank goddness, and we set off on a tourist bus ride around Boston, which took us to some rather odd places, but saw all the high spots as well. A random selection of photos from that trip and the river boat trip the next morning.

By mistake - by which I mean, we walked in knowingly, but hadn't intended particularly to go there - we had lunch in "Cheers". Actually, quite a comfortable feel to the place, reasonable food, and our server was a Boston grad student, so quite a nice experience all round!

By design, we had dinner in Cambrisge that night with a Rav friend of the DSM. What was to lose, we thought, we had to eat somewhere. Soooooo glad we did - we got so spend the evening with a charming and interesting young woman (conversation never, ever flagged, and was barely about knitting at all!) in one of the most mind-blowing restaurants I have ever been to. Almost literally - the music was pretty loud, the place was packed out and the decibel level of the conversations all around us was off the scale. Cuchi Cuchi
was a million miles from a place we would have chosen ourselves, and we would have missed a rare treat if we hadn't gone. Wonderful ambience - loved the vintage dresses worn by the wait staff! Fabulous cocktails, simply couldn't resist, and I was able to find one that only involved one sort of alcohol. Great food, and as the ethic is food to share, it really worked well for us. We had a terrific time, a super way to spend our last evening.

Then the next morning, we left our luggage at the hotel and did a Charles river tour - we like to spend time outside before flying if we possibly can, and this worked well. (Although I was rather wickedly amused by how the man on the mike designated the boat - Charles l - as Charles One instead of Charles the First, as we had read it!) Left us plenty of time to get to the airport, only a short drive away, and after a lengthy but calm wait, we had an amazingly short flight back to Dublin and then on to Manchester. Flying via Dublin is definitely to be recommended!

And it was lovely to be home! I had a really good time, but even so, the thought of my own bed, not to mention the cats to cuddle was hugely appealing. The weather is pretty dire, hail would you believe, and it is cold, but we have new fibre and tools (upcoming post...) to play with, and workshops to arrange, and, and, and......

Monday, October 17, 2011

Re-entry and more recap

We had a very easy journey home - it is only a five hour flight from Boston to Dublin, and the short hop on to Manchester a mere nothing. Despite having picked up a very minor cold, I really am doing pretty well. Usual slight sleeping problems, but on the whole, I am nearly back to what passes for normal.

We have yet to gloat over the fibre purchases, but the washing is done and everything else prety much sorted. And yesterday, we went to York to visit my mother. I had totally convinced myself that she could not possibly hang on until we returned, and the edge was taken off the trip with some guilt, and the twice daily anxious moment of checking the emails. To our amazement, she is still with us, and indeed was better yesterday (relatively speaking) than when I had last seen her. She is having trouble with her breathing, and can't talk all that much, but managed a bit and we also managed to get her to giggle a bit at some of our lunacy. She is not totally aware of the passage of time, and doesn't seem to have noticed our absence, although she could remember that her grandaughter had visited, which was nice for her, and very good of Alice. It is a question of time, but I feel better about things now.

So, I suppose I should be calling these posts "Guilty Pleasures!" The next was our minimalist SOAR. I did not like Manchester, New Hampshire as a location, but have to admit that the hotel made an excellent venue. Very spacious common areas (as was our suite!) and the Expo Center made for a wonderful market space. Seeing people was as ever a joy, albeit bitter-sweet, as our visit was so short. Still, worth it, though.

And worth it - well worth it - was our Thursday workshop with DY Begay. I enjoyed myself so much - a gently-paced workshop, but with plenty to take in. She had us sitting and practicing with the super spindles, that we got to keep, for long enough to start feeling comfortable before attempting to spin. Her techniques are, I think, somewhat modified from those described by earlier Navajo teachers - things do change and develop - and I didn't have to feel daunted by multiple drafting and winding off. As we practised, as well as discussing spinning and weaving practices, she added little bits of relevant Navajo culture, which was extraordinarily interesting. I feel very fortunate to have been able to take this opportunity.

DY demonstrating spindling.

A sampler spun and woven by DY's aunt, using blends of dark and light churro fleece to obtain different shades - we did some of this blending in class.

The next day, the three of us absented ourselves from SOAR while everyone else was in class and went to the Shaker village at Canterbury. We had been fourteen years ago, and were keen to go again, and to actually do the tour this time! The weather was fabulous - not as hot as it had been, but clear blue skies and lovely sunshine. No Fall foliage, though, unlike our previous visit!

In my memory, I had thought all the buildings were white - obviously, I was wrong!

We had a great time, the docent was as ever, excellent, and there was something of a satisfaction coming from Manchester, England, England to Manchester NH and Canterbury, founded by a group with their roots back in the origianl Manchester. What goes around, comes around, eh? I kind of wish.....The Shakers had a thing or two right, I think.

Now, in all the years we have been going to SOAR, the Saturday night spin-in has always been terrific - lots of tired and happy people, some fun, some music. The DSM and I went down this time, and ..... WTF?? A barn of a room, glaring light, canned music tinkling away in the background, and hardly anybody there. Atmosphere? Celebration? Nope. A total let-down, I fear. We stayed a while chatting with the few friends who were there, and then made our excuses and left. Sad. I know things change, and change can be good, but this particular one can go right back again, please!

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that we went, and I did enjoy myself - differently from previous years, but still good. And as next year is a return to Granlibakken - well, we might just go again....

So, we left Manchester, NH, and moved on to the last stage, which will come in another post as this one is getting huge.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Viewed retrospectively

I have been so remiss at doing blog posts! All sorts of reasons, mainly having a good time, but also the difficulty in getting Pete off the netbook. So I am going to do a bit of rapid catch-up while I have a bit of time in Boston before we fly home the day after tomorrow.

We continued to travel around Cape Cod, which is a very nice way of spending time. There are a lot of lighthouses......

Alongside one of them was this unassuming little wooden hut, which turned out to be (moved from its original location) the home of the end of the Transatlantic Cable. I am sure that I can remember dimly those days so long ago when calls to overseas had to be "booked" and were full of crackles and whooshes and lines dropping and all sorts. Now we travel with a computer and headset and use Skype!

We did make it down as far as Provincetown, which I loved. The epitome of "seaside" - all in the best possible taste, of course - and very picturesque with it. After lunching there, we went back up the Cape a ways to (?) Nauset to do an Audubon Society pontoon boat wildlife trip. Absolutely fabulous. Maybe not quite as intense a thrill as the whale watching, but wonderful none the less. A beautiful day, a really knowledgable coulpe of guides, and enough birds to make us very happy anyway. Best sightings of the huge and beautiful blue herons, but lots of others as well. Being a marshland/lagoony sort of place, and the birds too far away to photograph, this is the best I can offer here.

So, that all seems quite a long while ago. We left Onset and the nice little apartment we had found to rent (reminded both Pennie and me of the flat that we used to have in Cromer) and set off south heading for Bridgeport, CT. SOAR friends have a wonderful vegetarian restaurant there, and we couldn't bear not to visit whilst in the neighbourhood, so to speak.

We stopped in Mystic for lunch (one day, when we come back, I should like to visit Mystic Seaport, but we simply didn't have time. Just a quick walk and a picnic near the harbour.

Our visit lived up to expectations and more. Then the next day, we hit the road for Manchester, NH and SOAR. Going via Northampton MA, a good halfway lunch spot, but also the home of Webs. Ahem. (We also found a nice little LYS in the centre of town - I've lost count of how many we visited in all, but the first and the last were the best of a very nice yarn crawl. I think I forgot to mention the one in Mystic!)

I was quite restrained in Webs, but did find a very nice set of dpns in pretty colours - one can never have enough, eh? Very glad we visited though, and the icing on the cake was that we spent ages chatting to one of the assistants about The Archers! (She too thought that the murder of Nigel was a heinous crime, but she remains a listener.)

OK, that brings me up to Manchester and SOAR, and this post is quite large enough. I will do that another time. May even be after we get home - we have one more day in Boston, and most of Wednesday too before flying home, where it will be nice to be - I am getting serious cat withdrawal symptoms, and although Ceezburger and the new Simon's Cat (which is terrific if you haven't seen it) are good, not quite a sufficient substitute.

So, later.....

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Further adventures on Cape Cod

We have been looking at some more of the towns on the Cape. Thursday, we went to Sandwich - very pretty, both town and shore. We went to the boardwalk.

Walking across was a bit scary as it isn't all that wide and there was quite a breeze blowing. But worth it when you got to the other side, though.

We visited the Farmers' Market - not very large, but quite good. We did get bread and a fabulous peach crisp (crumble to us) but we didn't get one of these ginormous squash.

And we had a great lunch!

We also visited the second yarn shop that we had found - although I think the first was better, this one was certainly good. I found a couple of magazines and a rather cute little shawl pin.

As for knitting, I have now finished the first cowl and cast on the second. I don't seem to have done as much as I would have thought - too busy gadding around the Cape, I guess.

I was going to cover Friday in the post as well, but I think it will make it to big and cumbersome - so, more later.