Wednesday, 29 December 2010

'Tis the season for questionable hats

There’s a couple more card links I just wanted to show you – Amy got her card from Laura at Suddenexpression, Laura got her card from Eileen, Emma has got her card from Jill, Stephcuddles got her card from me, and Ina got her card from Julie. Sorry to be slow linking, and again apologies if I’ve missed anyone (my computer really is quite slow :-( ). Don’t they all look nice?
Note to family: in case of my ever being kidnapped by Somali pirates, please don't let News At Ten use this photo
And a finished object. This is one of the perils of being a knitter. There comes a point, right in the depth of winter, where you think, I know what I need to cheer myself up. I need a comedy hat. Now, if you actually had to get your coat on and go out and then lay down cold hard cash in Accessorize and see the assistant’s expression, you might think twice. But sitting indoors over Christmas with a bumper box of Thornton’s, surprisingly little on the telly, and a leftover skein of Cascade 220: well, it’s a dangerous situation in which normal aesthetic standards are subject to distortion.
feel the quality
It’s the Official Kittyville Hat from Stitch ‘n Bitch. It was easy to knit, although I’m not so good at making pompoms (Techknitter has a how-to on her blog, and in my experience this is the only way). So, if you’re looking at that and thinking, gosh why are those pompoms so big, it’s because, well, that’s the size they came out. I can’t adjust for size. That’s all I can say to you.

And a January Sales Warning: wool sale in John Lewis: nichts, nada, rien, a couple of half-unwound balls of Kidsilk Aura and a bit of ginger Cocoon. Ginger! I ask you.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Blood and Goats

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas! I had a lovely time, apart from Partner’s mother disowning him again on Christmas Day, although this does happen every six months or so so it is not as it we are not used to it. It is just a little unfortunate that he was on the phone to her this year being disowned just as I was unknowingly on the computer in another room buying her an Oxfam Goat for Christmas, so in a few days’ time she will get a card with a great big picture of a goat on it and my cheery message inside, and I can’t think that it won’t look pointed. Anyway, at least someone gets a goat out of it.

Actually, I might start a Christmas Tradition of a charity donation/ sponsorship in Partner’s Mother’s (possibly unknowing) honour. I once sponsored the most unpleasant cat in Cambridge with some money she gave me as a contribution towards petrol costs, which I couldn't get her to take back but felt I couldn't morally keep (we were inbetween disownings, but there is always one coming up). Her name was Cruella (the cat – really, it was) and before she passed to roll in catnip in the Summerlands we used to receive newsletters about her exploits, with pictures of her crouched, looking absolutely furious, in corners and under furniture. The newsletters were always very bouncy and cheerful: ‘And we think the cat groomer who Cruella bit last week is going to be absolutely fine! He’s on his third set of antibiotics now, and the swelling’s gone down quite a lot!’. Perhaps I should sponsor something else unrehomable? (I didn’t tell Partner’s mother about Cruella. Cruella was a secret. That would have looked pointed).

I am frantically getting presents together now because we see all my family for New Year, and I have left it right to the last minute, I am rubbish. Partner only buys presents for me, and so he is done. However, it was quite an experience this year. Partner leaves all his wrapping until 11pm on Christmas Eve: his approach to wrapping is roughly what mine would be to abseiling, i.e. do it as quickly as possible, without looking, and take a year to recover. So at 11pm on Christmas Eve I pressed the Sellotape and a pair of scissors into Partner’s hot little hand and went upstairs to read Moby Dick. Half an hour later, Partner appeared like a Wraith by the side of the bed, holding the sellotape.

‘This sellotape is faulty’ he said, furiously.

And handed it to me. I had used the sellotape to wrap presents earlier in the day so I knew it wasn’t. I corrected the horrendous mess Partner had made of it, folded over the end so he wouldn’t lose it, and gave it back. Within 2 seconds he had buggered it up again. I decided to choose my battles, so went and got some parcel tape. ‘Why don’t you use this?’ I said, encouragingly. ‘Or give me the things in their carrier bag?’ But no, apparently at midnight on Christmas Eve after a bottle of wine, aesthetic standards become elevated. So Partner stomped off, muttering about parcel tape ‘not being very pretty’. I resumed reading Moby Dick.

Half an hour later and again a Wraith rose up at the side of my bed, this time bleeding quite a lot. ‘I need a plaster’ Partner muttered. Apparently at some point the idea of Mastering The Sellotape With A Craft Knife had occurred to him, and he had blood dripping right down his arm. I ascertained that all digits were still attached, plastered him up, and sent him on his way. 15 minutes later there he was again. ‘I just need you to check I’ve got all the blood out of the carpet’ he said, mournfully. ‘There was quite a lot of blood’. At this point I suggested that an alternative, but equally much-appreciated, gift, might be the Gift Of Not Having To Drive Anyone To Casualty At Midnight On Christmas Eve. But no! Apparently this couldn’t compare to having a DVD of The Third Man wrapped in spotty paper with the correct sellotape! So I sent him off again with some trepidation and sounds of paper being folded and swearing were heard until 2am, when apparently enough blood had been extracted from the carpet and everything had been wrapped to his satisfaction. (Everything folded in a mad origami-type fashion and then secured with one tiny piece of sellotape. No wonder it stresses him!). Although obviously I try to encourage any embryonic signs of altruism I see in Partner, I do think next year I am going to insist on a different wrapping system. Perhaps we need to start a fornight earlier so teething troubles can be ironed out and any necessary coaching given.

I think actually this is why the goats are so popular. You don’t have to wrap the bloody things.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas to me! (And to all of you, too ;-) )

This Christmas I am giving myself a special present.
When Candles Go Feral
And not just the joy of cleaning the wax out of the carpet because the Yule Candle went quite wild, although it did go quite wild (Partner said, ‘are you going to try to use this candle to prophesise something or other? Because it’s looking very funny. I can’t think it can be a good sign’. I have, however, decided to take it as a sign that 2011 will be delightfully complex, and will have lots going on. Hooray!).

No. I thought I would do something different. Now, you may be like me, or you may not, but I will tell you something I do. I make lots of things: I knit, I sew, I crochet, I am always making something. And everything I make is either for the shop, or for someone else, or a sample. I never make anything attractive for myself. I am like the cobbler’s children who had to go barefoot. I practically take things off my back in my eagerness to give them to other people. (‘You like this? Have it. No, no problem, I can get home just in my pants. I’m fine. You want the pants as well? Hmm. Perhaps if I run’). I am producing pretty things (not these slippers) and wandering about myself in my tracky bottoms or pre-pre-pre samples and weird experiments with threads hanging off them. God knows what the man who delivers the veg box thinks (although, veg box disaster this week, folks! The cauliflowers were frozen in the soil! They had to hack them out!). So for Christmas I am going to make myself something lovely, out of lovely yarn/ fabric, not out of something at the bottom of the wardrobe that needs using up. It may take longer than Christmas to come to fruition because even I don’t think it would be quite the thing to spend all of Christmas hunched over an overlocker, swearing, and if I knit something, obviously empires normally rise and fall before I have finished. So it may be begun, it may be finished, or it may just be chosen. I have not worked out the details. But, whatever, it will be just for me. And it will be beautiful (I hope).

I will try and take some pictures for you over Christmas, but I have started a silk patchwork skirt (out of tiny scrappy leftovers – you know if I see a proper length of any kind of fabric it makes me have a hot flush) of which I have high hopes, and I have also purchased, gasp, this pattern. For my three beautiful skeins of Malabrigo lace, which I feel I should do something with apart from occasionally getting out of the bag and laying thoughtfully against my cheek. I am not convinced I can knit it and make it look like that, but, I am going to try. So, so far my Gifts To Me have cost me the price of the pattern and a zip. Ha! Ker-ching. Merry Christmas, Susie!

But that is not all. I have had this in my favourites on Ravelry for a long time. A long, long time. A long, long, long time. Now, knitting lace makes me want to chew off my own ears, knitting anything laceweight ditto, and long rows actually make me hyperventilate. Also, lace shawls are not my personal style: every time I see a lace shawl on someone’s blog I admire it without exception and think it looks stylish and wonderful on the person who has knitted it, but I always doubt whether it would look quite as wonderful on me. But, I think this one would: I think it is the shawl for me. And I wonder if it might be possible for me to end 2011 with this shawl in my possession (i.e. by knitting it. Not by pinching someone else’s. Although...). I just wonder. What do you think? Shall I keep a thoughtful weather eye out for laceweight in the sales, or shall I accept that it is possibly too ambitious and go and knit something functional and rugged out of garter stitch?

What would you do? What do you have on your ‘to knit/ sew/ create one day’ lists?

Do you think that day has come?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Of hedges and magazines

I thought I hadn’t mentioned recently how cold it was, and you might be wondering, so you nearly got a post about that.
The ducks had had to find the bit of the Cam that isn't frozen, poor things
And I almost told you about the hedge incident yesterday. In fact, I will tell you briefly. A woman spun her car right round and flattened the hedge in our front garden, so Partner and I had to spend yesterday morning heaving it upright again and then it was very wobbly. There is (another) woman who walks the Two Saddest Dogs In The World past our house every day: they look exactly like tiny beige toupees and I don’t think they have a braincell between them. They stop randomly and stare in different directions and if anyone walks past them it confuses them so much it is the end of everything. Anyway, all I could think was, what if the hedge fell over while this woman was walking past thinking, how did I end up with two wigs on a string when what I wanted was an Alsatian, and flattened one of them and there I would be, a headline in the Cambridge Evening News (North Cambridge Woman Shamed As Unruly Hedge Kills Pedigree). So I had to get a man out to do things to it and it was a huge performance the upshot of which is, goodbye hedge, and if anyone has any suggestions for an attractive flowering bush do let me know. But! What I really want to tell you about is this.

I’m in Sewing World and Sew Hip this month! Yes I am! I have a recycled scarf skirt in Sewing World!
Eeeeeeek! Go and buy Sewing World!
And I have an overlocked upcycled jersey skirt in Sew Hip!
And go and buy Sew Hip as well! (also it is brilliant)
Please excuse my rubbishy photos, as ever we have absolutely no light here (although the front of the house is a bit lighter without that hedge). It’s so exciting to see my designs photographed on models, and styled and everything! I’m completely thrilled. I love the way both magazines have shown my skirts, and I’m particularly impressed by the height of the shoes on the Sewing World model. Go girl. Thank you, Wendy and Alice, for including my designs: my day = completely made.

The scarf skirt in Sewing World is actually the very one I wear and I wear it all the time, so if anyone is thinking of making it I can vouch for the fact that it is enormously, enormously comfy, works on thin and fat days, and I have to say, I think it looks pretty killer. It has just one drawback and I am going to be very honest and tell you what that is. It is very, very light and wafty – it looks great (really). But if you are at all the type of person who is liable to get your skirt tucked into the back of your knickers, this is the skirt you are going to do it in. So check and double check, please, scarf recyclers, every time you leave the bathroom, or perhaps set up a secret signalling system with a close friend. That way we will all stay stylish in our recycled scarf skirts. I will be wearing mine over the New Year and I will let you know how well I do especially once I have started on the Snowballs.

Happy Yule, pagan friends. Are you completely delighted the Wheel is turning in the direction of longer evenings? (Eventually?) – I am! 

Monday, 20 December 2010

Wrapping up the Card Swap

Just a quick one today to say, could anyone who hasn't got a card yet from the card swap let me know by leaving me a comment? We've been having snow here in the UK, so the post has got a bit slow but I'd just like to check that everyone's got a card, or got one coming to them!

(Stephcuddles, I'm sending you a replacement - your swapper hasn't been very well and hasn't been able to post. Sorry for delay! I've found my silver pen now though, so you will be able to read the message).

Thank you everyone for taking part, it's been loads of fun seeing all the cards appearing, and I'm sure we've still got a few more to go.

(Hope everyone's not too cold - we're ok but our hedge has fallen tragically victim to the cold snap. Drive carefully everyone and please take particular care of other people's hedges).

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Friday Interview: Ely Wool Shop

It’s The Friday Interview again!
Sandra in Ely Wool Shop
Today’s interview is with Sandra, who owns Ely Wool Shop. I went to interview Sandra on Wednesday morning and arrived just as her knitting group were finishing up: it was all looking very busy and cheerful (note to self, I do sometimes wonder if I’d like to join a knitting group, although I might turn up with something like in the previous post and be ignominiously shown the door. Anyway, it did look a lot of fun). Ely Wool Shop opened about a year ago (in fact that means I pretty much interviewed Sandra on her anniversary, how cool is that?) and it was quite an exciting thing to happen. Because, although internet wool shopping is a wonderful thing, there is something special about being able to go and meet your wool in person, and become seduced by colours, etc, that I don’t think internet shopping can ever entirely replace.

I didn’t get a photograph of the view from the window because it was a bit of a grey day outside, but the wool shop is in a nice bit of Ely, looking out onto the Cromwell Museum. For those of you knitters reading this who live anywhere near Ely, it really is worth a trip.

I would like you to admire the fact that I restrained myself in the following interview from just asking, OMG, is running a wool shop, like, the best thing Evah?, and thought of other questions. But, I have to say, I did come away with the impression that yes, it pretty much is, which was great. More power to your elbow, Sandy, and may your skeins of Malabrigo multiply. On with the interview!
A handknitted bauble and chain in the window. Festive decorations, wool shop-style
1/ Are you a knitter yourself? What do you like knitting?
Yes, I certainly am! I mostly knit scarves and accessories and other small items, like baby items, or little toys. I did a dressmaking course a few years ago - I also really like dressmaking - and it sparked me off being crafty. I knitted when I was a child, but I didn’t pick it up again until relatively recently: there seemed to be a real hiatus in knitting, dressmaking and other crafts in the 80s and early nineties, when everything started being so cheap that making your own didn’t seem worth it, and you couldn’t really get decent dressmaking fabrics. [Note from me, this is exactly how I remember it too, that period was a real desert if you were a crafty-type person, because all you could find were balls of mohair that were rough enough to take the top layer of skin off and cross stitch kits of teddy bears looking a bit cross-eyed. At least The People’s Friend kept the flag flying ;-) ].
A festive display incorporating some rather lovely Manos Maxima. Also crackers! And fluffiness!
2/ Why did you decide to open a wool shop, and were you inspired by other wool shops?
I opened this wool shop purely for the love of it. I used to be a health and safety consultant, but then a couple of things happened - my daughter was born, and my dad died. Then the wool shop on the high street closed, and I was wanting to get out of the rat run: everything came together, and it seemed a good time to just go for it. So I did! And I'm really enjoying everything about it - I love being around people and craft, so it's ideal for me.

I didn’t want to just discard all the things you get in traditional wool shops. I thought about the wool shop which had closed [note from me: I went in this once and it was indeed quite traditional], and I wanted to follow along with some of the existing stuff, but also do some new stuff.

3/ What are your most popular items?
Stylecraft and Rico always sell well – the basic ranges are very popular. And novelty scarf yarns are still going well, and young people like them. I have a customer with a nine year old son who is knitting his way through the pom pom yarn, very successfully.

4/ What’s been the strangest thing a customer’s ever asked for?
[Strangely enough, the minute I asked this question, a customer came in looking for a Bodger tool because she had seen rag rug making on Kirstie’s Homemade Home, which gave us the opportunity of learning what a bodger tool was. So I modified my question to be, what’s been the strangest thing, apart from a bodger tool. For those of you who have also seen Kirstie’s Homemade Home and would like a bodger tool, I think they have them on ebay but they do seem quite expensive. Customer if you are reading this, I hope your quest was successful and your rug turns out lovely and bright and fluffy].
A man once came in and wanted to buy bra extender elastic to hold his trousers up. And a very large man who looked like a farmer wanted to buy ‘a really big sewing needle’. I don’t know what he was going to use it for but I found him the biggest one in the shop and he went away happy.
The woolly wares, shown panoramically
5/ [I channelled my friend Loretta for this next one, because Loretta is very into British sheep and emails me links to websites with the most dramatic-looking animals on them, staring stoically across fields]. Do you stock wool from rare British sheep?
Not at the moment, but I definitely might in the future. I’m doing research into it currently – I’ve been looking at wool from Norfolk Horn sheep, and I’ve also been looking into wool from New Lanark Mills, although I’m not sure the wool itself is British. The thing with wool from British sheep is, it’s often not been dyed and it looks as if it’s come quite directly from the sheep. It’s a different kind of look, which I really like. The subtle colours are really nice.

6/ Do you encounter any anti-knitting prejudice? [Because I do!].
Yes! I went out for a drink with some ex-colleagues recently and there was quite a lot of banter about, have you brought your knitting, are you wearing anything woolly, did you knit that, stuff like that. People do make comments, although it's all done in a friendly way.

7/ Does having a wool shop make you look differently at mass-produced knitwear? [Note from me, in my experience you can tell a knitter by the fact that they are sloping round M&S prodding their jumpers and muttering, look at that, £35 for a bit of garter stitch, or irritating the staff in designer boutiques by holding hats aloft with the rallying cry of, I Could Knit That Myself!].
Definitely! I look at the quality, price, where it’s made, what it’s made from, all things like that. Knitwear that you buy in shops generally tends to be made of acrylic, but, acrylic is actually getting more expensive (because it’s a byproduct of the oil industry). I can see a point in the future where it’ll be much more expensive than pure wool. I can see us perhaps over the next ten years going back to using pure wool as a basic, and we’ll look back and be really surprised how cheap acrylic used to be. [Readers, you can imagine my fascination, because if acrylic ever becomes a luxury item then the Ravelry forums will just implode in confusion and what will we do then. However, it makes absolute sense that it will get more expensive as oil gets scarcer. I ran this idea past Partner in the car going back because I was so taken with it and he said ‘Ha! They’ll be stockpiling it!’. ‘Who?’ I said. Partner looked at me in a way that conveyed effectively ‘the evil faceless proponents of global capitalism’. So as well as Partner loving Moby Dick beyond all things, he also believes in secret EU mountains of Cygnet acrylic which are possibly locked up and protected from the common gaze by armed guards. I only tell you these things to make you jealous of my relationship].
A crocheted cushion, and a selection of fabrics to the left
8/ Do you attract a lot of new knitters, or does it seem that your customers are mostly people who have been knitting for a while?
I get a bit of both. I do get a lot of youngsters, I think also because it’s a newish shop and they want to come and have a look and see what it's all about. We also get complete beginners coming to the knitting group (Sandra runs a knitting group at the shop every Wednesday morning). I do get experienced knitters as well, though. [We discussed how well served Ely is for woolly-type shops – as well as Sandra’s shop there is also Yarn on The Square and Ely Cycle Centre, which doesn’t sound like it ought to sell anything fibre-y but does. There are also lots of knitting groups – as well as Sandra’s there are also the Lighthouse Knitters, and knitters who meet in the Lamb hotel].

9/ Which of your lines are you most excited about?
I like the British wools. Surprisingly, though, some of the organic and natural lines haven’t been selling so well overall and have been discontinued, which is surprising, because people who knit are often people who are very aware of ethical production and things like that. And of course, Malabrigo! I went on a visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show a few years ago and bought a skein of Malabrigo and a pattern, and enjoyed knitting it so much it started me off knitting again.
So that confirms what we’ve always known. Malabrigo – the gateway yarn. Who knows where it might lead? To piles of surprisingly-soft woolly items, a maxed-out credit card, or, in this case, to a lovely wool shop. That doesn’t seem like too bad an outcome to me. You can see more about Ely Wool Shop on its website and do go and say hello if you’re in the area (take your credit card).

Thank you for being interviewed, Sandy, I really enjoyed it, and I hope Ely Wool Shop is sating the woolly needs of the Eastern region for years to come.

Have a good weekend everyone and stay warm. It’s going to be Snow Armageddon tomorrow. I’m knitting a hat with ears, and I think I’m going to need it.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The ugliest knitted item(s) in the world

I have knitted something so ugly that I actually don’t know what to say about it. I’m just going to present it to you wordlessly. Make sure you’re sitting down.
The quality of that seaming is why I am so fond of the top-down raglan
It’s a slipper! I’m wearing them!
The high heel he used to be has been ground down/ And he listens for the footsteps that would follow him around
I styled them with handmade woolly socks in a clashing colour for extra oomph. I think what makes them even more alluring is how I’ve seamed them really badly and used random colours which don’t go together. I actually think that was a master stroke. Move over, Missoni.

If you want to make a pair of similar slippers – although I think you’ll agree that they can’t ever be quite like mine – the pattern is here. They’re terribly warm and comfortable, and to be fair there are some quite attractive versions on Ravelry. There’s something they’ve forgotten to add to the pattern, though. They need to just add a line at the beginning that says ‘Only make these slippers if you’re either happily single FOREVER or in a relationship of more than 10 years’ standing where you are mutually trapped by living in an area so expensive neither of you could ever get a mortgage on your own. Because no-one who has ever seen you in these slippers could ever imagine you in an erotic context again’.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Book Masochism Challenge 2011

You may remember, a while ago I did a post about how I never read fiction.
Words oppressing me in a monolithic kind of way
Well, predictably, since then all I’ve done is read fiction, I’ve read loads. But. I still feel quite divided about it. For example, this was on the news a while ago, and had me muttering sarcastic things and grinding my teeth. Because I still kind of resent the idea that reading fiction is Good For You or Something You Should Do. However. Although I don’t think reading fiction is important for everybody and should not be forced on people, because everybody takes part in art & culture in different ways and fiction may be your thing or it may not, I have come to the conclusion that I do, on some level, think it is important to me. Yes. My name is Susie, and I appreciate literature. I don’t appreciate anything surrounding literature – I cannot care about bindings, endpapers, authors spouting on at Kirsty Wark on Newsnight Review, or anything to do with Hay on Wye: and I will never, ever, ever go to see the childhood home of the Brontes or read anything about what Jane Austen ate for dinner. In that respect I am a Philistine. But, you know, these fragments I have shored against my ruins, (line 430) and all that.
I have not got to Steppenwolf yet. On The Road was quite an experience
So. What would a person with a very mixed view of the world of literature (me) undertake to do in 2011? They would undertake the Book Masochism Challenge (I have just made that up, to reflect my mixed views on reading and the possible biting off more than can chew-ness of it all. Oh yes. Read on). And that is what I am going to do!

The Guardian published this list ages ago of the 100 best books. Lists of best books are difficult, aren’t they, and obviously probably the only person in the world who believes this is actually a list of the best 100 books is the person who made the list, but, this is the thing. I have read 27 of the books on that list (I have just counted), and apart from Jude The Obscure which is rubbish, they were all definitely worth reading. Definitely. So I feel there is a good chance the others might be good as well. And I am going to find out! And at the very least I think this list will introduce me to a couple of books I wouldn’t otherwise have read.

I am not going to read all the ones I haven’t read, because 73 is quite a lot. I am going to aim for 30, and see how I get on (some of the books on the list are quite long, {cough} Clarissa {cough}). I will make a page and list my progress on it and update you occasionally, perhaps once a month. Another bonus is that these are exactly the kind of books you would find in the library, or in the 50p bin at Oxfam, so I am not anticipating having to spend lots of money. Partner is excited because he thinks this means I will read Moby Dick, which is his favourite book Evah and we will be able to, I don’t know, form some kind of very small and exclusive Moby Dick admiration society. I have seen the length of Moby Dick and I don’t know how you could possibly talk about chasing a whale for that long. I may start with something shorter.

(I don’t expect anyone to join me in the Book Masochism Challenge, because that’s quite a lot of very long books and you all have busy lives. But if anyone does want to, you’re obviously more than welcome and I would add a Mr Linky to my monthly updates so we could encourage each other. You don’t have to go for 30, obviously, you could just set your own number. If I get to 30, though, I shall Buy Myself A Treat!).

Now. What shall I read first?

ETA, I've put in a Mr Linky below for people to link to their own book masochism challenges. Come on masochists, show me what you've got x

More cards finding homes + a dog who wanted to find his

CJ over at Oh Miss West has received her cards from Marushka (look Marushka, it took much less time than they told you, and look how nice they look) and Mumma Troll has blogged about her card from my mother (and other lovely swap cards). Anyone else got any more? I shall go and have a look on people’s blogs to see if I’ve missed anything.
I am but a very small dog. Please do not abandon me in the terrifying badlands of Ely Waitrose
And a bonus dog picture. Is there anything sadder than dogs waiting for people? You’ll be pleased to know this little chap had been picked up when we came out, and I’m sure he was much loved (judging by that jacket). Remember though. A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.

Monday, 13 December 2010

More cards and a Bonus Life Lesson!

Quick update to show you a few more Christmas cards, and to tell you the meaning of life (if you get to the end)! Now, on Saturday I logged on and read this lovely post from Mumma Troll and was quite delighted even though it takes quite a lot to get through my steely emotional defences, so, thank you Mumma Troll, and also what a lovely card you made. I have realised the recipient of Mumma Troll’s card doesn’t have a blog and I know it was posted long enough ago that hopefully we are not spoiling the surprise, so Eileen, I hope you have the card safe, and that you liked it. Leileigh has also updated on the card she received from Emma, in a lovely blog post about Christmas in Germany, go and have a look! And here is my mother’s card from Halfpint.
With heel shaping! This is hardcore
Isn’t that clever? That looks to me like a proper tiny sock with all the proper shaping! And I love how the fireplace is done as a line drawing as a contrast to the stocking, very clever. And this is my mother’s card which she sent out
This may come as a surprise to you, but my mother lives in Derbyshire
To Mumma Troll, who I know has got it now and who is going to blog about it tomorrow (so mother, go and look tomorrow!).

Also wanted to quickly share this link which Susie from First Floor Flat sent me: I love this. I’ve been looking for a pattern for a hat with earflaps on Ravelry, and you’d be surprised how difficult it is to actually find a straightforward one. I almost bought one off the market. Which had eyes on. So I’d like to cast on for this straight away, but I’ll have to see if I’ve got any suitable wool. Talking of which, I’m hoping to have an interview on the blog perhaps this Friday with Sandra, who owns Ely Wool Shop, and I’m thinking I might have to say to her, please don’t let me buy any wool while I am interviewing you. Because otherwise I know I am going to leave not only wiser about the commercial realities of the wool trade but also clutching a skein of malabrigo chunky, and I am supposed to be saving money.

And to end, a heartening story of personal success (this is ‘success’ in a ‘not really success at all’ kind of sense. Just call me Pollyanna. But! Bear with, bear with, as they say on Miranda. Do you watch it? It’s very funny). So. One of the things I am very bad at in life, and which, if I was better at it would make me a better person, is that I am not good at doggedness, routine, and repetitive effort. If you ever have a crisis which can only be solved by a huge one-off coup de foudre, personal dynamism and an innovative solution, I’m your woman. If you need someone to do something boring on a regular basis, I’m going to make you very frustrated (although, when we have a crisis due to it not having been done on a regular basis – I’m your woman!). Anyway, I realise this and I try to address it in myself by finding repetitive things and doing them regularly (I bet I’m selling you on this). So for instance, last year I took up running. When I say running, I mean lurching round the park looking like death and fending off the advances of various surprisingly furry dogs, because dogs love me, even at inappropriate moments. And when I started I literally could not run for a minute at a time. But I stuck with it and by summer I could run for – 3 minutes at a time! (You have to understand quite how unathletic I am to be impressed by this, because I agree it doesn’t sound all that impressive). However in late summer I kind of got out of the rhythm and stopped, and I thought now that all my progress would be for naught and I would have to start again, getting to 30 seconds and falling over on a passing Spaniel and crying. But no, I have been ‘running’ again today, and although I would not say I can just take up where I left off, I can get back on the Couch to 5K programme (well, at the beginning, but, you know), and start again! All is not lost! And the moral I am taking from that, is, that even if you break your routine/ stop practising something, don’t give up, because actually what you have done is you have created a path through the undergrowth of Life, and when you next choose to go down that path, although it may have overgrown a bit, there will never again be a great big hedge in your way like there was to start with.

I hope you found that encouraging. ;-). Me, I shall be ‘running’ again tomorrow. Yay!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Received cards update

Quick card update, now we have hopefully all posted ours off (and if you haven't, go on, you, get it posted, it's not too late! I say this this in an encouraging and loving way ;-) ).  Moomin Mama (OT diversion. I want to read the Moomin books and actually I read the beginning of one standing in these people's shop last weekend but then didn’t buy it to finish it. Because I am 36. But I kind of wish I had. Would this be wrong, or could someone think of a justification whereby it is ok for me to read children’s books? NB I loved Harry Potter but Twilight made me want to gnaw my own leg off) has received her card from Amy and has blogged about it. Amy, that looks like one fantastic card, wow, is all I can say, and a bookmark as well. I love the idea of incorporating knitting!

I can also report that my mother has received her card from Halfpint, she has described it to me and it also sounds absolutely brilliant: it is a knitted stocking on a fireplace and you can use the stocking as a tree ornament. My mother will be taking photographs of her card as soon as Dan shows her how to use the macro button on her camera (Dan – menu, focus, macro), so then I will blog it. I suspect other people might be getting their cards soon as well soon, so we will keep our collective eyes peeled. And to the recipient of mine, I can only apologise that I couldn’t find my silver pen and thus it might be quite hard to read (probably not the biggest challenge of the festive season, but a little bit hard. Sorry!).

Why tedium is good for you

I’m making a custom reconstructed tie skirt for someone. I’m almost all the way through piecing the top. (I’m sorry for the lack of light. Please imagine when looking at these photos that they are a bit lighter, even if you have to squint a bit, because if I got the laptop out and adjusted the colour balance it would take me much longer and I might sound a tiny bit grumpy).
Ties and pink woodchip! I don't know why they haven't asked me to be on Kirstie's Homemade Home
I hit tie pay dirt with this skirt. I found ties, in the right colours, in substantial silk, for reasonable prices, locally. How often does that happen? It doesn’t happen. I love how they’re going together, and I hope the recipient likes it.
There. Now you can see a bit better
I’ve been thinking, and I think the thing I like about any kind of patchwork is the balance between creativity and process: the fun of putting the colours together, the – I hesitate to say, tedium, but you know what I mean, of sewing it all together, slowly, piece by piece. It’s like a lesson in life: inspiration only gets you so far, and the rest is dogged sewing, sewing, sewing and pressing seams open. (Do you know what you could do, actually, though? You could make patchwork out of everyday life. You could go about combining random things that were interesting colours, photographing them quickly, and then letting them go on their way. So for instance, you could put some lemons next to something cobalt blue, or arrange tomatoes on green grass (in the summer), surround a ginger dog with oranges, or something like that. I may resurrect my Guerrilla Patchwork idea in a new way!).
Sewing in inadequate light, how Dickensian. I'm poor but I'm honest, Guv'nor
I’m sewing while listening to Imagine and pondering How Do You Sleep. How could anyone be so rude about the man who gave us The Frog Chorus? Incomprehensible. And I was admiring this video earlier. This is the thing: I’m not surprised it likes it (says she carefully), because cats are, well, they are interesting creatures. I’m just surprised how they found out about it to start with. I will definitely not be doing this to my Aunty Kath’s Big Hairy Ginger AKA Beowulf when I see him over Christmas, though, because I’m not up to date on my tetanus shots and I understand Casualty on New Year’s Eve is not that much fun.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Card Swap reminder (post by Friday), ++ stuff I baked

I have received my first card swap card! Not even the one from my swap partner, which is still to come, a lovely bonus card! Here it is,
Isn't that pretty? I love it. I'm worried mine are too phallic
and it’s from Emma of Emma’s Crazy Days who you may remember was the winner of the lavender bag giveaway. Thank you very much, Emma, it’s a lovely card and it’s actually our first Christmas card. Hooray! So, Christmas starts here. Just a quick reminder about the card swap, the deadline for posting is this Friday, and I shall be posting my own effort tomorrow (barring snow, floods or other natural disasters. Actually our post office is 100 yards away so I will probably be ok). Thank you to those of you who’ve let me know they’ve posted theirs already ;-), and for the rest of us, we have two days! It’s all fine. And then we can see the finished cards appearing in the blogosphere and it will be exciting. Also, my mother will stop worrying about the card she is sending and we will be able to worry about something else.

One card has got there already – Erin at Gradschoolknitter made these cards which I thought were lovely and unusual (and Erin, I applaud your going down the minimalist route there, it is very effective and I wish I had thought of it), and one has been received by Marushka at It Might Be A Metaphor. Cards! Swapped! Go us! I am also enjoying the various references to making of cards which I keep seeing on everyone’s blogs – if I’ve missed anyone who’s got a card from their swappee, please let me know, because I do miss things as my computer is very slow and repeatedly gets crashed by Blogger. Then I have to swear, restart it, and go and look out of the window, furiously. And I do not like to miss things, you can imagine. So do let me know so I can link and we can all have a look!
When Baking meets Origami everyone's a winner
Despite Denise’s wildly iconoclastic views on Christmas cake in the comments on my previous post (Denise, you’ll be telling me no-one eats Christmas pudding and mince pies in America next, and then I’ll have to have a lie down in a darkened room because of the shock), I have made my Christmas cake today. It took me longer to line the baking tin with baking parchment and wrap it up in brown paper than it did to make the cake. Never let it be said I am not hardcore. The cake will be taken out shortly after I have finished this blog post, having been baked for 4 and 3/4, yes, that’s 4  3/4, hours, and then I will put it in my special big Tupperware and feed it brandy until Christmas (insert joke about, I wish someone would put me in a Tupperware and feed me brandy, etc etc).
Or I could just have injected sugar straight into a vein
When I had put the cake in I felt the need for something a bit more short term in the baking department. So I made some of the Sparkled Ginger Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance. And then I ate quite a few, because wrapping the baking tin in brown paper had quite taken it out of me. I know they look a bit unpromising, but they were quite delicious ;-).

Monday, 6 December 2010

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Have you got nuts? I want nuts. Have you got nuts?
This weekend I survived a squirrel attack in Tavistock Square. I did have a moment while taking this photo where I thought it might go for my throat, and I might end up as one of those embarrassing statistics, like people who die while tripping over a biscuit. And then everybody would have to gloss over it at my funeral and the eulogy would have had to be worded really carefully. But it was ok, he turned tail, waggled his bottom at us and disappeared, having ascertained that we weren’t going to produce a sack of nuts (look, I’m feeding half the squirrels in Cambridge, greedy little devils, I can’t branch out into London ones as well), and I was able to get home in one piece and make a start on my cards.
I like a nice bright Christmas card, do you?
And then today I soaked the dried fruits for my Christmas cake. Do you make your own Christmas cake, blog readers? I don’t always get round to it (and, you know, I’ve only soaked the fruits, I might not get any further. Nigella says in one of her books she once couldn’t face actually making the cake and just left the fruits she was soaking in the cupboard and made it the next year instead and it was ok. Mind you, I always think Nigella has had quite a difficult go of it in some respects, money and large townhouses notwithstanding), but I do like having a homemade one hanging about. Heavy fruit cake is one of my favourite things, so I spend all of January carving bits off and nibbling it with cups of tea. I iced it the first year I made one, but the icing was too much, and now we have it plain, in a thrilling Christmas Cake Minimalism kind of way. I always use the Delia Christmas Cake recipe and I can say with some confidence that this is a recipe with which very little can go wrong, so feel free to use it too, although, unless you are the kind of person who habitually has a cupboard full of currants and nutmeg (luckily I am, as it happens), buying all the ingredients will bankrupt you (although you can use some of them to make mincemeat as well). I don’t quite know how you get round that. I suppose that’s why Christmas is a Feast. You can imagine, actually, in times gone by, when you had been eating turnips for two months in increasing desperation, having foods in the middle of the winter that required things like nutmeg and thrilling dried fruits from europe would have seemed impossibly delicious and glamorous. There is still something appropriately-seasonally-exotic about it, in a way.
The trick is not to drink the brandy and forget about the cake. Cake first, brandy after
So now all the kitchen smells of citrus, raisins and brandy and I am tortured by having the Glade air freshener advert running through my head, where a woman who sounds as if someone has performed an amateur lobotomy on her, possibly with a Glade Touch'n Fresh, tells us that ‘It’s time to go all Christmassy’. I think Glade actually make their adverts terrible on purpose, because I didn’t realise until I was trying to find a link for that one, but they also did the Shake n’Vac advert of blessed memory, and, more recently, the one featuring the little boy who wanted to go and do a poo at Paul’s. I just hope that little boy doesn’t grow up to be anything where that advert might resurface and embarrass him. I know a child star who grew up to become a very serious Oxford academic, I’m just putting that out there, because it would be awful if that little boy ends up lecturing on nuclear fission or something and all his students chorus ‘I want to do a poo at Paul’s!’ every time he walks up to the lectern. (I wonder if Glade are like the Daily Mail, who do things just to annoy us. Someone posted this link at a very nice forum I visit. Read, despair of womankind, feel astonishment that access to Boden for the middle classes isn't included in the human rights act. Lawyer up, Charlotte! Fight for your right to leopardskin ballet flats and quirky appliqué skirts!).

Anyway the point of this diversion is that I think my fruits soaking in brandy smell more Christmassy than a Glade Touch'n Fresh and I would recommend my room fragrancing method to you, because with a cake, not only do you get the scents of brandy and raisins while you are making it, but you also get, well, you also get a cake. And with a Glade air freshener there are no hidden bonuses. Even if it is a spiced apple one (in fact - you could make a baked apple! And then you also get - a baked apple! You get the picture ;-) ).

Thursday, 2 December 2010

I have gone to the bad

Oh gosh an exhausting day. Partner has decided to clear his office out, even though it is so cold it is completely unparalleled and I am expecting to see polar bears wandering along Kings Parade very soon, nibbling tourists. So we had to drive to the tip with 5 small boxes of rubbish so we could put them in the skip. However, we were thrown out of the tip unceremoniously by quite a rude man from the council who said our boxes were ‘commercial waste’, because one of the papers on the top had a college crest on, which let me tell you they were not. Despite my protestations we were sent to the ‘commercial waste disposal depot’ where we waited in a queue with enormous articulated lorries carrying lorry-loads of rubbish. I began to feel this was perhaps not entirely the place for us and our five small boxes, as the proximity of the lorries made our Punto look quite small and ridiculous, and when we were told it would cost us £100 to throw away our papers I began to feel it even more strongly, so we drove to another tip in absolutely the middle of nowhere down a fen, put our rubbish carefully and neatly in the skip, and drove away very quickly like Bonnie and Clyde while a man with a huge beard and a flourescent jacket watched us thoughtfully. And throughout this entire thing, Partner criticised the hat I was wearing. When I was having to be a getaway driver! So I have now crossed the line into criminality and who knows where it will end, today putting commercial waste (it was not commercial waste!) in a skip, soon perhaps armed robbery and a life on the run thumbing my nose at the law and responsible citizens. Who knows!

Partner is shredding the rest of his rubbish. I think that will work much better.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

WIP Wednesday: A little quilt, + nice weather for huskies

I’ve missed the last couple of WIP Wednesdays, which is a shame, so I wanted to do this one even though I’ve not got much in the way of WIPs to share: so apologies for the lack, please bear with me and hopefully I'll do better next week! I’ve been busy photographing things for etsy, and I began to feel this morning that perhaps things had got a bit out of control: the postman brought something to the door and as he gave it to me he said, really cheerfully, ‘I can see you, hanging bags up and taking photos! I don’t know what that’s all about!’ And then he skippety-skipped off down the path, laughing all the way. So now the postman thinks I am some kind of Foldaway Shopper fetishist, possibly bombarding some disreputable magazine or other with pictures for the cloth bag Readers’ Wives equivalent. Anyway! Thanks to Tami from Tami’s Amis for her hosting, and to see people with more stuff than me – much of it woolly – go and have a look at the WIP Wednesday post on her blog.
Actually I quite like it there. Perhaps I could just put a chair in front of the hole instead. Or stand in front of it when visitors come
This is my WIP. It’s a mini art quilt. I’m calling it a mini art quilt even though it’s made to go over a hole in the other chimney breast so we don’t have to have more builders until next year. I’m pretty sure art quilts aren’t intended to camouflage inadequate housing, in fact I’m absolutely certain that the kind of people who have Art Quilts don’t also have woodchip and dodgy chimney breasts. I think they have functional houses and furniture which doesn’t come from Argos and Sofa Sofa. But at least I’m being innovative! It’s made from 2.5 inch squares, which were a bugger to cut out and made no discernable difference to the Scrap Bag, which has taken on a life of its own to the extent that I’m going to have to start giving it voting rights and a cup of tea in the mornings.
Spot the purple spotty fabric. That is my top favourite
It needs binding, backing and quilting and then I shall hang it and we will pretend the hole in the wall doesn’t exist. Hooray! Can I take a similar approach to the structural crack in the bedroom, do you think? (Also wanted to say, Mumma Troll made a lovely small quilt recently - have a look at hers!). And to finish, here’s a photo of a certain someone enjoying the snow.
Hmm. Race memories stir while I am kept toasty by my fur, which is so thick it is actually impenetrable
This is Milo the Very Friendly Husky, who is my brother’s dog, and he is frolicking here in my parents’ garden in Derbyshire. Look at all that snow! No doubt for my family it is bringing back memories of the terrible Winter of 1990, when we had no water or electricity for weeks and all had to huddle round my cousin John’s gigantic flashlight and melt snow on the gas ring so we could flush the toilet. Gosh it was terrible. We in Cambridge are just very cold and icy so far, though, which is good because I am no good with physical hardship, as you may remember from the bathroom performance. Anyway, I am glad Milo is having a good time. Keep warm, everyone, and may all your WIPs flourish.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The kids are alright

I must be a bit dim, and I certainly ought to read some kind of idiot’s guide to Economics, but I absolutely fundamentally don’t understand how banks lending inappropriately and losing money means that we now have to cut basic services and benefits and ramp up tuition fees. I don’t. I’m not being coy or rhetorical or faux-naïve or anything. It seems to me like if you say you don’t believe in fairies a fairy dies, and everybody’s suddenly decided they don’t believe in the money markets at the same time. I was hoping never have to dig out the Dummy’s Guide To Why Capitalism Is Fundamentally Unsustainable but perhaps that day has come.
Down with this sort of thing!
Anyway, here are students protesting in Cambridge and having a sit-in at the central admin section, the Old Schools, in the Senior Combination Room, which is the Old Schools café (I use this term loosely). I imagine this has confused the Old Schools hugely because, on a point of etiquette which I can assure you would have been a bit much for Jane Austen, you are not actually allowed in the Senior Combination Room unless you are an Officer or have a Cambridge MA (or are invited and accompanied by one), and now they have got people who aren’t even technically BAs sitting about knitting and twittering. Someone in the Old Schools must be frantically writing a sub clause in the rule book somewhere (Paragraph 311 clause f: non-MAs may exceptionally be admitted into the Senior Combination Room in case of sit-in, revolution, plague, breakdown of society as we know it or the M&S café across the road having run out of millionaire’s shortbread). Go students!

Anyway, I do think everybody’s wasting their time getting riled up by poor old Nick Clegg when honestly he’s only doing what he has to do, and he’s actually set us all a really fine example. Indeed, those of us who sell things could make direct use of it to sell lots of stuff and try to prop up our economy. I myself feel quite inspired. So to recap, Nick Clegg was voted in on a pledge that the Lib Dems would oppose tuition fees, and now obviously he’s, like, in actual power, and he’s realised it’s not really that practical. Well, that’s fair enough, isn’t it? Anybody can rethink things and realise they wouldn’t really work. So I’ve been thinking about things myself, and I want you to know that if anybody buys anything from my etsy shop between now and Christmas I’ll send you a free bar of gold bullion and a Maine Coon kitten. Completely free. No, really, I will do. A great big shiny 24 carat bar! And I’ll make sure Fluffy’s all housetrained and brushed nicely and everything. And I’ll come round and hug you. Personally. Sorry? What’s that you say? You don’t believe I’ll actually do it? Look, just paypal me the money, OK? We’ll worry about the details later.

/ end sarcasm ;-). / end Lib Dems as well though, probably...

Monday, 29 November 2010

The sad tale of a Droopy Dirndl

Well, I was a bit under the weather last week, so I slipped behind with my blogging activity and reading blogs, but it's nice to be back and I shall be catching up this week (oh, yes. Grit your teeth). I did notice, though, that Resa at Discovering Asterisms had made some amazing lino cut cards, one of which may be for the swap – Resa, goodness me woman, you have raised the bar. How is everyone else getting on? We've got (almost) a fortnight to go so no need to panic yet (don't worry, I'll let you know when it's time to panic, because I'll be panicking right along with you).
Snow. Post - nice & fresh, pre - slush
Anyway, it's snowed here now. Partner has cracked and we've got the central heating on all day, also he has trotted out to work today in his yellow scarf and gloves (Partner is very, very colour blind, but he just loves yellow. We think perhaps it's one of the only colours he can see) looking like a bad-tempered Rupert Bear. I have been hunkered down sewing, drinking tea and listening to the Dresden Dolls. I've taken some photos of the silky scarves and put them on etsy.
I have produced a non-mad product photo that has the side benefit of making our house look normal. Which it isn't. Go me
I'm linking them here because I actually think the photos don't look bad, and I'm quite pleased with them. (Those of you who've tried to take photos of things for etsy/ folksy/ blogs/ anything – which is probably pretty much all of you – will know how difficult it is. It is difficult, isn't it? It isn't just me?). Can you see my rug? I got that from ebay. I'm never too ill for ebay*. It's made from recycled fleece bits. I don't know how I'm going to hoover it. Perhaps I'll just buy a new one when it gets dirty. (That was a joke).
Back to the mad photos. Sorry
And I've been having a go at a pouffy kind of a skirt from recycled men's shirts. I've had the idea to do this for a while, because the one thing I always seem to be able to find in charity shops is nice, good quality, cotton men's shirts. Those of you who are squeamish are now thinking, yes, that's because they come from dead people, but I'm not squeamish. Or not about that, at any rate. So I'm not bothered. Bring on the dead people shirts, that's what I say. Let's get some use out of them!
This is the side. This is an informative rather than a funny caption
It's made from two shirts (although these ones are from my dad, who, I should point out, is very much alive), and I've sewn it so that the button bands run down each side, and one of the button bands forms the closure (I'd quite like to play up the button bands, but I'm not sure how to pick them out. Perhaps with contrast buttons?).

This is just much my very initial prototype (almost a pre-prototype. A pretotype?), but I think when I've made a few improvements it actually won't be a bad design. I can see it working quite well. I made this sample from short-sleeved shirts, so it's got a contrast waistband from some fabric I'd got hanging about, but if I made it from long-sleeved shirts I'd use the sleeves to make the waistband. The waistband needs narrowing, tapering and interfacing. Actually, that's my one sewing tip, listen carefully: Interface Everything. There, you'll thank me for that one day. No probs, you're welcome.
It's a bit of a droopy dirndl. I'm working on it
I'd like a bit more fullness. I considered lining it and I might try that, but I don't want to get too far away from the simplicity of making it just from two shirts. I think if I use slightly stiffer shirts it might help. I could make a petticoat, as well, I suppose. Of course, the fuller you get with a skirt like this, the more you risk it making you look like Anne Widdecombe, so I might see if I can shape the waistband a bit and bring it further down the stomach. Anyway, I'll do another version, and see how I feel.

* On the subject of ebay, there may have been an incident involving boots. It was late. I was weak. I may need to blog for absolution when they arrive. I do hope you won't begrudge me.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Silk Scarves

Well, it continues cold here, cold and bright. I swear I feel the cold more than other people. I’m not going to say ‘God I’m bloody cold’ in every blog entry between now and April but I’m afraid I’m going to be thinking it. I won’t say it though, I do accept that might be a bit boring. God, I’m cold! OK, it’s out of my system now.
It's like living in a picture postcard, and then I wander past in my Parka and spoil it
It’s been windy as well.
What do you want in circumstances like this? Brandy. No. What you want is a lovely scarf. So I have been making scarves from the tie silk, and I must say, I’m rather pleased with them.
Silk. Thick and lovely
What I couldn’t capture in the photo is quite how nice and thick the silk is. Because it’s so thick, the scarves hang really nicely. They’re Statement Scarves. They're the kind of scarves you imagine a louche aristocrat wearing to the opera or to oppress somebody, in fact if you have heard Edith Piaf's Milord (lyrics in French, the English version seems completely different, sorry) I think he is actually wearing one in that ('foulard de soie'). I’m really enjoying making them.
And again the standard disclaimer: Must Trim Threads
The only drawback (and this is a drawback for me, not for the scarves) is, the silk frays and leaves threads everywhere, so all our carpets are covered in threads and I have to keep hoovering it up. Partner in particular has become covered in threads. I’m not quite sure how, but he’s like a great big bit of Velcro and if he walks past a bit of silk it attaches itself to him. So I’m following him round subtly plucking bits of thread off his back, because if he catches me he goes off into a Thread Rant. (‘This entire house is covered in thread! Thread! All over this carpet! Thread! Everywhere!').
And now we've had the fire done I can take photos in front of it. That wasn't why I did it. It kind of was
But I don’t care, because I love this silk and I’m going to keep going with more scarves until I run out of big enough bits. Threads be damned! Ha.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sewing Problems. Resolved! Ha! Take that, sucker!

It is very possible I am the dimmest person in the world. However I will share this discovery with you in case anyone else is equally dim. Because in that case what I am about to tell you will be very helpful and if, as is likely, you are not as dim as me, then you can feel superior. And that is always nice, and that is why I am typing this while watching Four In A Bed because however much of a prima donna I may have been in my life I have never yet cried in an Indian restaurant because I could smell curry, as one of the participants has just done. Anyway on with the dimness. I made my bag out of the patchworked silk scraps
There is no light in this house and there will be no light until APRIL
and although I usually give this type of bag a ribbon tie closure I thought it would be nice to use a magnetic snap for this one. For a change. To see what it was like. Now, I have used magnetic snaps before with no success, because I have found they pull away from the bag and I do not trust them to be sturdy, which is fine for a bag I am using myself but not for a bag I am going to sell. Well, the reason they have been pulling away in the past is because there is a washer you are supposed to fit behind them which the prongs fold around, and if you fit this washer rather than completely ignoring it and indeed not even unwrapping the paper it came in, then the snaps fit beautifully tightly and are secure enough for anyone.
Magnetic snappy fasteners! Functioning
So the bag will be going in the shop if we ever get light good enough for me to take photographs of anything (I got the magnetic fasteners from U-handbag – I always thought she seemed like a nice person so I wondered why her fasteners didn't work properly. Well now I know it was not the fasteners, it was me, so I can recommend U-handbag with no hesitation).
A stripey handle of stripeyness and yes I do see a loose thread, they haunt me
While we are on sewing, I will just share quickly this other thing I have just realised. You know how you are sewing along happily, thinking of things like what steps to take towards world peace, whether to eat a biscuit etc when suddenly your sewing machine goes chug chug chug and starts looping thread wildly on the wrong side so you have no longer got a row of stitches, you have got something that looks like Evil Spaghetti with added knots? Well if you are like me, at this point you swear, kick something, look how much new sewing machines cost on the John Lewis website, swear again, consider what you can sell on ebay to pay for a new sewing machine, change the needle, make a cup of tea, look at Cats Riding Roombas on Youtube and give up. Well, no need to do all that! Your machine has gone mad because the bobbin is near the end and needs changing. Take the bobbin out, change the bobbin. Your machine will work again. This works every time. Ha! Take that, sewing machine! I have made you submit to my will!

It takes me a long time to work things out, but I get there eventually.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Trying to keep warm

It’s cold here. Is it cold where you are? It feels like winter now, but it’s the nice part of winter where the air is cold and fresh and feels a bit sparkly and expectant, and if you walk along briskly enough you can warm up. It’s not yet that terrible January-type-winter where you can’t get warm whatever you do, and everywhere looks damp and faded. Even so, though, I have to say that active life is mainly being sustained at the moment by endless cups of tea (or, shall we say, endless great big mugs of tea. Do you recognise the Herdy mug? It’s the one I got in the blog hub swap earlier this year, and it’s been in constant use ever since!).
On the Road, when I've never got further on a road trip than Cromer. And why is my tea spotty? It wasn't spotty
As the sun goes down – like, in the middle of the afternoon – it gets colder still. Every evening I can be found positioning myself in front of the new fire, the better to soak up any residual heat.
Fire, der der der, I'll teach you to burn, der der der derrrrrrr
When I first moved to Cambridge, we lived in a flat with electric storage heaters. I’ll just pause here for those of you who have lived with electric storage heaters to wince with me. Electric storage heaters! What do they store? Nothing but the resentment of people who have to live with them, that’s all. You’d get warmer if you invited a small asthmatic poodle to come in and breathe on you. That was a winter spent in various pubs round Cambridge and walking endlessly round shops to keep warm. I actually think the cold got into my bones that winter and I’ve never properly got it out since. So I am inordinately – let me say that again, inordinately – grateful for our functioning central heating, and the new fire, although I suspect the current happy times of having the fire on every evening will last until we get our electricity bill, when it will be turned off forever in an avalanche of mutual recriminations.
Old skool tie. Deconstructed!
I have been patchworking the lovely silk from Mountain Heirlooms. It’s great to work with. I’m making a bag, and I’m using a mix of bold stripes and small prints on a black background. I was thinking along the lines of a quilt in the Jane Brocket quilt book where she mixes striped tie silk with woollen suit fabric, but I wanted to do something a bit different, and I’m liking the wintry-jewel-colour combination. I must get away from patchwork squares and do a different shape, but I’m still liking squares at the moment and I want to do a few skirts before I move on. After that, log cabin, beware.

I wanted to tell you about a couple of new books and things I’ve seen around.
  • First, Malka Dubrawsky from A Stitch in Dye has a new book out – I love, love, love her style, and although I accept this isn’t strictly relevant, she’s a really nice person as well. I once bought a mini quilt from her etsy shop which got lost in the post, and she was so helpful with trying to track it down and finally making a new one for me that I look at it with fondness every time I see it in its place in our hall (the original apparently turned up eventually, having been on an exciting trip to all sorts of inappropriate places). I think this book looks great, I might have to buy it.
  • Also, there’s a new Stitch’n Bitch book out – did you know? I didn’t know. How could I not know? Anyway, I had a flick through in Heffers, and it looks worth buying, although there don’t seem to be any techniques in it that haven’t been covered all over Ravelry etc. If you’re a fan, though (I do tend to be), it looked worth getting.
  • And a fabric find - I was in Oxfam earlier, and they had packs of fabric squares from The India Shop – they looked at least 4.5” square, and you got 60 for £4.99 – I almost got a couple of packs to make a quilt, and then I thought, no, Susie, step away from the squares. They don’t have them on the website, but if you’re going past Oxfam it might be worth having a look in.
  • And one more thing – I’m late to the party with this as ever, but a while ago my brother Dan gave me a CD of the Dresden Dolls – if you haven’t heard them, go out and buy/ download whatever, now. That’s all I’m saying.
Keep warm, everyone!