Monday, January 30, 2012


In the case of the Einstein coat, technically not quite, as I need buttons. But knitting and finishing done - it needs a good press, and it has its little quirks, but it looks ok on and is going to be very warm and useful.

I love the colourway, and am really sorry that I shall never be able to get any more.

I do also like the finished garment, and daft as I am will probably do another one, this time according to the pattern not just thinking my way would be better....Having said that, I could not fathom the instructions for knitting on the collar, which is why my version has a small crocheted edging to stabilise it. But I do know someone who has done a couple of them, so I could always get her advice.

The second FO is my very first piece of colourwork!

Very, very simple, and I not quite in jest reckon that I chose the colours so that mistakes wouldn't show up. Actually, I had some Cascade 220 I had bought for a different project, and thought that it would be much better used for a hat, mitten and scarf combo for my Canada trip. If I was to have any hope of finishing at least two out of the three, I wouldn't have time to spin or dye the yarn as well. So far, so good - the hat was even for me a very nice quick and easy knit (I loved doing the pattern!) and I am just starting to cast on for a pair of mittens with a similar design. Any luck and I can get them done during the Cornwall trip next week.

Haven't decided on a scarf pattern yet, but it could be airplane knitting and I could start wrapping it around my neck as I went.....or I could choose to do a cowl!

Other than that, I have got bored with monochrome, chunky spinning and am going to switch to another lot of "Rovings" Polwarth. To be spun as a medium weight singles for crochet, so a change of wheel to the Lendrum with the jumbo head. And I have yet to quite finish the pretty Felt Studio UK stuff on the Timbertops downstairs, destined to be a lacy scarf. But nearly there.

Please take note of the fact that I mention "lace" and "colourwork" projects in the same breath.

I think I am spreading my knitting wings!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

And all the rest

I suppose we could be called a bit daft, really. But having decided to have a few days in London for an exhibition, it seemed a shame not to do one or two other things whilst we were down there. This turned in to two performances on Saturday and two exhibitions on Sunday. Fortunately, each "pair" of events were greatly contrasting, which helped us survive, I think - we haven't done two theatre visits in one day for a great many years, when we were very much younger!

I have wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil performance for a long time, so when I realised that there was a show at the Albert Hall while we were down, that was a given. Great spectacle and amazing skill and talent - I am so glad we went, and now want to get to another one! I even liked the "clowning" bits, which thank goodness were not like the conventional ones. These were clever, funny and relevant to the overall theme of evolution. So, success number one.

We had to do a fast turn-around to get a bus to the next venue, and no time for a meal, had to make do with a sandwich (I think Pret made a lot of money out of us over this trip!) Completely different thing - "Masterclass" with Tyne Daly. Now, she has been a hero of mine since Cagney and Lacey, but I was blown away by her talent as a stage performer. The play has an interesting construction, based on some masterclasses that Maria Callas did at the Juillard in the 80s (??) The theatre audience is treated as the students attending, with some interaction, which could have been truly naff but was well enough done not to be. The actual theatre was - or seemed - even smaller than the old-style London theatres usually are, so the whole thing was very focussed and intimate. Some humour, some intensly moving sections, and a very little glorious singing from the unfortunate "victim" students. I just loved it. Very much success number two.

Sunday, we had to get up and do it all over again, kinda sorta. (Why do we never have restful lying on the beach type holidays, eh?) At the last minute we had realised that the David Hockney exhibition was starting at the Royal Academy that weekend, so of course we had to go.


Total blast of colour, room after room of immersion into the East Yorkshire landscape, with a few side trips to the Yosemite. Yet another interesting contrast. An entire room of iPad works - I earwigged a fascinating conversation involving a woman who obviously was an artist herself and familiar with the apps he uses. She was pointing out how skilfully he is overcoming the limitations imposed by the software, and also some instances where you could discern where those limitations did show somewhat - curves of branches, for instance.

The colours that he has been using have caused quite a lot of controversy. We have been practising observing the woodland we have seen since, and it is quite amazing just what colours are in fact there when you open your eyes and really look. So - success (and how) number three.

Now, the entire reason for going to London this particular weekend was because we wanted to see - and managed to get tickets for - the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery. So that was our final destination. We had yet another sandwich and walked down to Trafalgar Square, with plenty of time to spare. So we sat in the Square, managing to find a bit of actual sunshine to keep us warm.

We were sitting next to this. I really do not get why hundreds of tourists were queuing up to have their photographs taken next to it. Or is it only me that finds it seriously ugly? Tends to make me fear for the integrity of the opening ceremony....

Anyway, our alloted time duly arrived and in we went. And in my case very nearly came straight back out again, but the DSM prevailed upon me to not go and ask for my money back. Why? Massive, massive overcrowding, that's why. A combination of far too many people, most with audioguides that were over-verbose (according to the DSM who had one) meaning that there were crowds around each work. Some of these were tiny fragments and you needed to get close to see them. Some were so faded that there was little left to see. Far too much was not by Leonardo himself, but "school of".

Yes, there were some great works there. Some of the sketches had a delicacy and sensitivity - particularly those of tiny babies - that was very moving. And the one thing that will remain in my memory is of an entire surviving notebook of Leonardo's, even though it is so fragile and so precious that it sat in distant solitary splendour in a glass case. But did the exhibition match my expectations?

No. Very much not a success! Do you know, they even had some of the pieces hung in a different order from that printed in the guides, which strikes me as a bit unprofessional. And whilst I don't want to penalise those with young children, I did object to nearly being rammed by the biggest pushchair I have ever seen (and that is saying something) and nearly tripping over far too many very young kids who could not in any way have appreciated what they were seeing. (In contrast, there were slightly older children at the Hockney who were obviously enjoying the art, and were even sitting quietly on the floor sketching! So I am not a total curmudgeon.)

So, somewhat ironic that the very reason for our trip turned out to be the one disappointment!

We walked round Trafalgar Square afterwards to catch our bus back to our hotel.

The Olympic countdown thingy looked a bit better in the twilight!

I did actually manage to find the energy to do a bit of knitting - more on this in another post.

We were on the same train coming home on Monday as David Cameron. The DSM would not let me out of my seat to go and have a quick word. I wonder why?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Up, up, up past the Russell Hotel..........

Quite the grandiose building! We did not of course stay there, but at the Holiday Inn a few blocks away. But I couldn't resist.

Just over the road in Russell Square, I came across this.

Debris had collected in the shoots from the base of a tree; as my sister and I had spent time on the lookout in New England for rubbish for an ongoing project that my niece is working on, I couldn't resist this.

And a little further on, another tree grabbed my attention:

This is screaming out to be the inspiration for.......something.

It had been my intention to blog day by day whilst we were in London, but photos were slow to upload, someone else needed the netbook, and there was an awful lot else to do even if it was just recovering from all the activity. So here is a cut-down whistle-stop version.

Thursday night, having had a brief rest and a pleasant meal, we went to see "Chicago". Very good, of course, if you like musicals, which I do. Only disconcerting thing - Billy Flynn was actually Helios, from "Merlin"!

Friday, the DSM wanted to visit a specialist chess shop for some book shopping, and as I didn't want to do that, I meandered down Oxford Street for old times sake. My cousin had a flat in a street just opposite Marble Arch, so I visited quite a lot about a millenium ago.) Not so wildly exciting. Shops are so hot, and shopping is much easier on the internet, not that I had all that much I wanted to do.

So, the DSM and I met up for a quick lunch in a Starbucks, before going off to...

Liberty, which is still an interesting shop. Lots to delight the eye - although we didn't buy anything! Even the lifts are interesting.

A few more photos - I did get some funny looks taking them, but did not get thrown out.

I was severely tempted by this cuahion...

But resisted. Cushions are a horrible price in Liberty, along with everything else. I did comment to the DSM as we browsed through a gorgeous display of Arts and Crafts style furniture that there were times that I wished that I was rich, though.....

So, back to the hotel, and then out for a very nice Chinese meal. Just a chain restaurant, I think, but full of Chinese people eating there, which was probably a good sign. Although to our huge surprise, not all of them were eating with chopsticks (and neither were we - we keep trying, and keep failing.)

You know, this post is going to be too big. Lots more to say, but not so many more photos, so I think I will stop now, and do another one later.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two go mad in Oldham

That would be me and my sister.

As an indirect result of a series of email and actual conversations with various people, we have decided to go on a trip in March.

To Canada.

Where it will still be cold and snowy - bliss!

All has come about in just a couple of weeks, and we are very excited about it. Neither of us had particularly thought about visiting Canada, but all of a sudden it seemed just the right thing to do. P has quite a lot of her annual leave to use up by the end of March, and I happened to have a couple of weeks free at just the right time....

So, we are going to go to Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec! Flights booked, but nothing else as yet, but what the heck, what else is the internet for, eh? Oh, wow, cor, &etc. Can't quite believe it yet.

Today, the weather has been letting us practice. Very cold, and a super hoar frost. I love that, very nearly as nice as snow. So I took the opportunity to go out and play with my new camera. (Very impressed.)

This, would you believe, is the top of our wheelie bin, using the macro function!

And as well as frosty, it was misty this morning, although by lunch time the sun had come out and it was a beautiful sunny day - as well as cold. Lovely.

I made a marvellous beetroot soup in the Machine, and this evening we went out with P and had a very good curry - well, three of them to share.

A most excellent day.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One goes mad in Halifax

Actually, there were two of us. The DSM, living up to his name, came with me as an extra pair of ears. I was doing some heavy duty shopping.

People are always very rude about PC World, but I have to say that the young man who was our salesperson on Friday was very knowledgeable, helpful, polite and personable. And he didn't push me in to making extra purchases that I didn't want.

What I did want - and got - was an iPad. I have been lusting after one of these, well, since they first came out. I could manage fine without one, even though the DSM has almost totally appropriated my netbook, know how it is.

There is at least one practical reason for getting one - I want to move magazine subscriptions to digital before the house runs out of room! Same priciple as the Kindle really - and yes, I have got the Kindle app. Now I need recommendations for knitting, spinning or otherwise fibre-type apps.

I'm doing quite well with the learning curve - I think it helps having had a Touch for a while. But I still have a long way to go before I can get all the very best out of it. The process, however, is such fun.

That's not the end of it. My nice little Samsung digital camera has been getting very flaky recently. Having dropped it on the floor a few times hasn't helped. Plus, having had a digital for a while, I had pretty much worked out the features that I wanted/needed and hadn't got. So we moved on to the camera shop (it's an independent, and very good.)

I ended up with another Samsung at a very good price. The optical zoom is x15, which is a huge improvement on x3, and the shutter lag is greatly better as well. It has a kind of built in macro facility which should be great for textiles. Again, quite a learning curve, especially as even following the minimalist instructions, the camera didn't show/do what the instructions said it would do - but I got there, more or less. I've got it just in time to take on the London jaunt next week.

The other thing we did that day was make a return visit to the people who have the nice wheel that they are trying to rehome (I didn't succumb to that.) I'm making an attempt to find out who the maker was, and would have thought that it would be relatively easy as it has a very distinctive "signature". But no luck so far.

And this is the bit that is most distinctive:

Sorry it's a bit blurry, I've zoomed it. (This was before the new camera!)

Anyone have any clues? The owners thought that it came from somewhere around the Hull area, but Yorkshire Guild contacts have not recognised it so far. And that could just be a family legend, of course.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Spindle spinning cormo

I had intended to write this blog post over the weekend, but yet again life went a tiny bit pear-shaped. I did a quick log on to Facebook before I started on Saturday, only to find that my top feed was a message to the world from my niece that just said baldly "Hospitalised!". Needless to say, part of the world at least was going not so quietly bananas. As I know that her mother makes the horned fingers sign at any mention of Facebook, I rang her to gently ask if she had heard anything, and the remainder of the evening passed with multiple phonecalls and exchanges of information.

Anyway, my niece is ok-ish and at home. She will have to have surgery in the next couple of weeks, but it is a relatively common and very treatable condition, so we don't need to get too anxious. Yesterday was spent with a briefish but nice knitting meet-up and then P and I went on to see the invalid.

OK, to my subject. I decided to have a brief change from wheel spinning and to sample my beautiful moorit (if you can call it that, but it is just that colour) cormo that I got from Beth Smith at The Spinning Loft. I had washed a little bit of it previously, so I rounded up my Forsyth mini-combs and a suitable spindle and got going.

(I rather fear that these photos are all going to be a bit blurred, my camera is playing up somewhat. But you will get the gist.)

The lock structure looked to have been a bit disturbed by my less than perfect washing, but in fact, the fleece is so nice that it was quite easy to sort of reconstruct it. The tips still appeared to be a little matted and possibly dry, but again, not so bad. very little detritus, and it combed out quite well.

I didn't diz off the fibre - my one complaint about the Forsyth combs is that you can't easily clamp them, but I don't use mini-combs often enough to justify replacing them with a pair than can be fixed. So I just gently pull off the roving with my hand, and reorganise it if I have to afterwards.

After I had made a few little coils, I started spinning.

Really, really nice fibre to spin - I was getting a very fine and even thread. I think that I will probably spindle spin the whole lot - we have a week in Cornwall coming up, and this will make a good project.

And yes - the spindle is pretty special!

I had been lusting after this one on the Golding website for ages, and fortunately they had one at SOAR. So it was one of the ones that came home with me.

Other than that, Falkland has given way to oatmeal BFL on the Sidekick, and it is coming out very nicely. Again to be overdyed, but that won't happen for ages. I have a lot of oatmeal BFL and BFL and silk to spin up!

It is very soothing.

And other than that, someone needs to stop it raining, or something very nasty will happen perpetrated by moi. Which reminds me for litle good reason of last night's "Sherlock", The Hounds of Baskerville, which I thought was brilliant!

But at lest the foul weather is driving me to do a bit of much needed housework. Pine needles everywhere.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Beautiful soup

I am, I think, quite well-known as a Soup Queen. I love making soup - I love eating soup! It's mostly pretty healthy, and economical and time saving and all sorts of useful things. For years, I have chugged along with my stock pots and food processor and latterly a little hand held gizmo to use if I wanted a really smooth and velvety end product.

So, a couple of years ago now, I saw an advert for a Cuisinart soup maker. Now, I am not a huge fan of kitchen gadgets, aprt from my beloved and trusty Magimix. At times I am tempted and I fall - the stashed away smoothie maker and juicer are testament to that, not to mention the pasta maker. (That one I would really love to learn how to use - all attempts so far have failed dismally. Any advice gratefully received!) But I digress.

I ruminated upon the soup maker, not wanting to rush in to an expensive purchase that would prove less than wise. I ruminated for these past two years. And then - I succumbed. Having looked at them on line, I stuck with the original and twice as expensive as the rest Cuisinart as I reckoned that it would be sturdier, certainly a bit larger, and the brand had a good track record.

The verdict? I have used it three times since Christmas, and I (and others) are impressed. It is basically a heavy duty blender with a pretty powerful heating element. The controls are simple - it is very easy to use (once you have twigged that it heats up very quickly and that you really do need to have all the ingredients prepared before switching on, otherwise you incinerate your garlic or onion.....) It makes a quantity that is plenty for three and ok for four as a starter, or with biscuits and cheese. I like it!

I shall still use the stock pots &etc for the chunky soups - this comes in to its own for lunches. The DSM is somewhat wedded to his old routine of sturdy, worthy sandwiches which these days (sigh) I find a bit much. Problem solved, no?

In fibre news - I have still not finished the damned Einstein jacket. I have been too clever for my own good, and have had to pull out the first sleeve a few times. Why did I not realise that there was a reason for not knitting the sleeve in the round, eh? So the first attempt was frogged when it dawned on me that knitting garter stitch in the round gives one stocking stitch; the second when I realised that knitting purl in the round gives one reverse stocking stitch; the DSM then kindly pointed out to me that alternating knit and purl would work - which indeed it does, but I then eventully realised that the decreasing wasn't working out well, and so.....but I am now making progress.

And I am still spinning quite a bit.

The weather is filthy. Disgusting. A trip to Bettys in Ilkley for essential supplies today (ahem - you didn't know that "essential" could be applied thusly, did you?) driving over the moor in the torrential rain and blustering gale was only just compensated for by the lovely lunch.

Mulligatawny soup!