Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Ceci n'est pas une pipe, and I am not a knitwear designer

OK. So, I wanted to make a downloadable pattern pdf in case anyone wanted to knit my Chunky Cable Cardigan, but, drumroll, Blogger doesn't let you host pdfs. Who knew? So, not to be defeated, I have made my pdf downloadable from Ravelry, here (also link in sidebar), even though it isn't a proper design, I am definitely no knitwear designer, and I am scared someone on Ravelry will look at it and tell me off for being rubbish at writing patterns. However I have been brave, and I have conquered this fear to share the Chunky Cable Cardigan with the world.
Two for the price of one: Chunky Cable Cardigan + recycled tie skirt! Don't look closely at the hem, it isn't finished
I knitted this last year and it was very quick to knit (and I am not quick, so if I say it was quick you can trust me). I love the green wool I made it out of, which is Araucania Nature Wool Chunky and is very smart. I obviously have to warn you here that if you wear green you risk upsetting the fairies, but the fairies don't seem too unhappy with me at the moment so you might be able to get away with it.
I love a good cable. Don't you? Don't you love a good cable?
For those of you who hang out on Ravelry you might perhaps recognise that this is a Buttony made a bit shorter and with a cable added. You are right! It is based on Buttony (and I have attributed it accordingly in the pattern). However, I had to think about how to place the sleeves/ front pieces etc so that the cable would come out dead central, so if you want not to have to do that, do feel free to download my pattern. You can substitute your own cable design – I have calculated for a cable about 20 stitches wide (mine was 18 stitches with an edge stitch on each side) – if yours is different to that you will have to recalculate. Sorry. You can see that the cable does pull it in a bit at the top and bottom but I don't think this looks bad, I think it looks charmingly rustic. You can knit this with only 4 skeins of yarn which, drumroll, is discounted at Stash Fine Yarns (no connection, just that this is where I got mine from and I thought the service was good). So, go knit chunky cardigans if you want to, and I promise you that if you wear something reasonably fitted underneath you won't look like a barrel. You really won't.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

How I am getting on with Shopping Local

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you may remember I had a revelation of sorts in Sheringham, and vowed to try to shop local and not in supermarkets. So, before I plunge back next week into various fibrey & crafty-type things I thought I would give you a quick update on how I was getting on, because it has been quite exciting. I am conscious as I am typing this that some of you shop in independent shops all the time or indeed grow your own veg and have livestock, and will be reading what I am going to write with a rather unimpressed expression.To those of you I can only say, yes, you are quite right and I am embarrassingly deskilled but I am trying. However I am sure there are other people like me who have hitherto done most of their grocery shopping in supermarkets, so, to those people come, come join me on my voyage of adventure away from Tescopoly.
Cambridge Farmers' Market from an admittedly not very attractive angle
So, I started by getting a new veg box. I used to have a veg box from Abel and Cole but I became disenchanted with it because every week I got the same veg. Every week! And I did feel the purpose of a veg box was not to limit your veg horizons but to open them up. Now I pay £10.50 per week for a veg box from the Cambridge Organic Food Company, and for 2 of us I think it is just right (also I choose my veg from what is available each week, which works very well). The veg are so fresh they squeak. I think if you are going to replace anything you buy from the supermarket veg are a good place to start because the supermarket ones are frankly a bit rubbish, and a box just comes every week without you having to think about it. I can also order eggs etc with mine if I wish to do so. Also the man who brings my box is very nice. Partner seems to have struck up some kind of unexpected friendship with the Abel and Cole driver so he was upset initially that we were changing, but he seems now to be reconciled.
Local strawberries for local people. I believe these to be from Oakington which is down the road
I have also started buying our fruit and some supplementary veg from the market. Now, I am not sure it is always local and I am certain it is not organic: but, this is an imperfect world, and I think it’s better to support a local market than a supermarket. This has (says she smugly) been a bit of a success. I am actually a bit astonished by how much better quality the fruit from the market is. And it is much, much cheaper. Marks and Spencer is just off the market square and I must confess I do look at people in there buying their inferior fruit which is 20% more expensive and think, you daft people, what are you thinking of.
Once I had £12.50, but now I am rich in cheese
Cheese and dairy. This is where I came a little unstuck. As I am not used to buying things loose I do not really understand weights, and a visit to the Cambridge Cheese Company resulted in me buying more cheese than you would normally get through in a month even if you were eating Fondue every night, and spending £12.50. £12.50 on cheese! Thank goodness my credit card still works. However (this is a common theme, bear with me) – the cheese is so much better than you would get in the supermarket I cannot actually put the difference into words. It is like hearing Tristan and Isolde properly after only previously having heard someone play it on a Kazoo. I do think it was a little more expensive (although who knows, the whole expedition is a blur of cheese excitement) than you would get in the supermarket, but frankly it is so much better I am never going back, and I will just buy less next time. (Quite a lot less). I have not found a good source of local milk yet, or yoghurt, funnily enough, but if I have time next week I am going to try Arjuna.
Clever marketing idea but not entirely sure how alluring the name is
Meat. I am ex and possibly future vegetarian, and I do not eat a lot of meat, and what I do eat I kind of eat gingerly, I appreciate that that is not morally any better. However, I have started buying my sausages and occasional chicken breast from our local butcher. I have done a side-by-side price comparison and he is no more expensive than the supermarket, indeed sometimes he is cheaper, and again, the difference in quality is like night and day. Seriously: night and day! Partner says he suspects the butcher of being Hilary Briss. I am slightly nervous of the butcher, but when I have plucked up the courage I may quiz him about why his chicken breasts taste quite so different, if I can think of a way to say that which doesn’t sound in any way suggestive, because that is absolutely the last dynamic we need in our relationship.
Handmade pots by a local artisan, deconstructing capitalism by their very existence
So there we are, those are my discoveries so far. Although I do have to shop more often, and admittedly I can only do this easily as I am working from home at the moment, I don’t actually feel like I spend any more time shopping than I did when I did it all once a week. Also, it feels miles less stressful. It’s like the difference between doing your washing up after each meal, or saving it up and doing it once a week (don’t ask me how I know this). Next I am going to look for other sources for things like toilet rolls, wine, cleaning products etc, and in the meantime we are eating so much better I can’t believe what I was missing out on - I actually feel a bit annoyed!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Interview: Libra Aries Bookshop

Well, you remember I promised you interviews on Fridays? Well I had to have a metaphorical break for a week after doing Keith, who was quite, shall we say, an intense experience and rather unusual in his opinion of mass production, but I’m back with my interviews today! This is Tim and Jean from the Libra Aries bookshop.
I used to work just off Mill Road in Cambridge, and the Libra Aries bookshop was close by so I used to go and have a mooch round at lunchtime. It was my absolutely favourite bookshop in Cambridge, and I got some fabulous books and zines from there, including some great seventies craft books which I’ve never seen anywhere else, the Reiki Subversive’s handbook, some brilliant pagan Yule cards, my favourite book ever on Wicca, and lots of other stuff. What I loved about it was that it stocked books and zines from what were clearly tiny producers, and had a wonderful, eclectic range of stock which you just don’t get at the large retailers. Then it closed down, after having been quite an iconic part of that bit of Mill Road, and I thought that was a real shame.

I go on about local shopping (and I’m going to be going on at some length next week, brace yourselves. I’ve been reading up!), but I really think shopping locally for books, and making an effort to buy books from independents AND NOT JUST AMAZON, is something we (and definitely I) need to be much more aware about. We’ve lost so many bookshops recently in Cambridge, really nice bookshops, and if a well-off university town can’t sustain independent bookshops then that’s a bit scary. We all end up losing out. Anyway, before I get too far up on my high horse (neigh!), I’ll just add that I saw the Libra Aries bookshop in its new incarnation on Cambridge market one morning, and it was so fabulous to see that it hadn’t disappeared completely that I leapt on it (I leapt on it in cyberspace!) and I asked Tim & Jean to be interviewed. And so here we are, I hope you enjoy.

1/ Tell us a little bit about you and your shop.
We are Tim and Jean we live in Romsey, and we ran Libra Aries Bookshop for six years, tucked away in a cosy corner of  the Romsey end of Mill Rd. The Bookshop closed in June this year, and frankly we'd been doing very badly for about 18 months. It seems to us that small independent bookshops are becoming a thing of the past, which is a terrible shame.

2/ What makes your shop different?
We always tried to seek out unusual titles from small and sometimes underground publishers, and to deal directly with authors where possible. We decided early on to specialise in subjects that we personally were interested in, and which were not so easily available in larger corporate bookshops. (We call them book-supermarkets because they treat books as if they were tins of beans!)

3/ What would you say has been your biggest learning experience with Libra Aries, and what achievement are you most proud of?
For me our greatest achievement at Libra Aries was our Sunday Tea Party series, which ran every week from March till August 2005, and took the format of a talk or lecture, followed by informal discussion over a cuppa. We were privileged to host talks by a number of published authors - Nigel Pennick, Anna Franklin, Andy Worthington, Bob Trubshaw (publisher of The Folklore Society's Book of the Year), Gordon MacLellan, Prudence Jones - as well as local speakers. Organising and promoting an event every week was exhausting, but rewarding.

Our biggest lesson from running Libra Aries is that nobody EVER got rich selling books.

4/ Are there any of the lines you carry that you’re particularly excited about, or would like to tell us about?
We sell the Earth Pathways 2011 diary, which is a beautiful creature and has contributions by the writer Jean Dark and by the artist Tim Neate, both Tim & Jean live in Cambridge, so there's a local element there. And we are already taking orders for the lovely blue & silver Moon Calendar Posters that were so popular in the Mill Rd shop.

5/ Do you think there’s been an increase in interest in alternative ideas over the last few years, or is it still a niche market?
We think there has certainly been an increase of interest in environmental issues, unfortunately more people are buying books via the internet so the growing awareness has not translated into sales from bookshops, so small independent bookshops will continue to close. Did you know that 4 independent bookshops in Cambridge, including ourselves, have closed in the last 2 years? [Note from me, this includes Galloway and Porter, and Brown's which were also wonderful bookshops].

6/ Does owning an independent shop affect the way you see mass production/ big corporations? Do you try to support independent producers when you shop/ source services yourself?
Obviously we were very aware of the crucial role small & independent authors, publishers and distributors played in supplying books on alternative issues, and we purposely set out to support small independents by buying direct from them, which as a small independent bookshop we could easily do this. It is harder for international giant corporations to be that flexible & work with such diversity. It is a sad fact that centralised ordering based on profitability inevitably leads to a reduction in the range available to the reader. Only the bestsellers get a look in. As more small bookshops close you'll find fewer and fewer titles on sale. We ourselves always shop locally for food and provisions on Mill Road.

7/ What are your plans for Libra Aries for the future?
We are going to continue selling mail order via the internet and taking our bookstall out to camps and festivals, hopefully Strawberry Fair will be back again soon [note from me, this was a bit of a scandal, the police stopped Strawberry Fair], that's one of our favorite events! We also stand on Cambridge market square every wednesday.

You can see more of Libra Aries on their website, where you can buy online, and see them in real life on the market on Wednesdays on their cheerful stall. It’s lovely to have you still around, Tim and Jean, and I hope things go from strength to strength for Libra Aries (the one question I didn’t ask, was, why are you called Libra Aries, and my partner is upset because he wanted to know the answer. Never mind. Interviewing, it is hard ;-).

Thursday, 26 August 2010

In which I attempt to find inspiration

Gradschoolknitter (go and look at her blog) has posted a contest asking about what people do when they want to get their knitting mojo back. Well, when certain orangey-named patterns have killed my knitting mojo stone dead in the manner of Jack The Ruffled Ripper, I crochet instead. But as that’s not particularly helpful, what I also do to feel more creative is, I venture into the wide world and look for things that inspire me, because if I can make myself feel generally more inspired, it sometimes leads to an explosion of useful fabric-craft related progress. Or, sometimes it doesn’t, but I do put really interesting outfits together for a while. Anyway, as I happened to do a quick inspiration-trip yesterday round the East End, (mother, before you ring me up, it rained, we went on impulse, you wouldn’t have enjoyed it), I will share with you the fruits.
Firstly, the one that got away. In the café at the British Museum, I saw a woman wearing the Perfect Shoes For Next Season. Seriously: they were perfect. But, I could not face approaching that woman and asking her whether I could take a photo of her feet for my website. If someone asked me that I would be suspicious, and this woman seemed to be a retired academic (I am assuming this from her conversation with her friend) and I am not, says she carefully, aware that retired academics have been at the forefront of the craft blog explosion: I thought she might be alarmed. So I will tell you that her shoes were flat Oxford laceups in a honey-brown leather with slightly elongated toes and I will be searching for their like until my dying day: and I took a photograph of my scone instead.

Next, dresses in Spitalfields Market:

I think I have a little bit more African Wax Print appreciation left in me, I really do. I actually wonder how African Wax Print would look in a short circle skirt shape. I may try. Then I fought my way through the drizzle and I found this jacket in the window of a shop up the end of Brick Lane:

I didn’t see a price tag (which, says she sagely, tells you all you need to know) but I can tell you that it seemed to be made out of woven thick elastic. I’m not sure how much I like the idea of woven thick elastic, but I love the idea of a jacket made of woven something. It actually reminded me (for some reason) of the bandage skirt by I Heart Norwegian Wood, which I always think is very stylish. Does anyone think a jacket like my picture would be doable?

Tshirts. I am declaring AW10/11 the Season of the T Shirt, despite the going downhill of American Apparel, which I will not crow about although if you wear a thong in meetings you deserve all you get, seriously. What’s that about? Why would you even do that? I can only say, I’ve been to a lot of meetings in my time, Oh God have I ever, and not one of them did I ever feel would be improved by either more nakedness or more sexual tension. More biscuits, certainly, or by not existing at all. Anyway I digress and if I get onto Miserable Meetings I Have Known we will be here all day and I will have to start on the Gin, so just take it on trust that sometimes the solitary redeeming factor was that people kept their clothes on, even though their neuroses were quite exposed. So anyway! Yes! Tshirts! I shall be wearing mine with a short ruched black lycra skirt (which I shall make), black lace tights, heavy boots, and a cardigan. I will look very cool and I may buy a tripod so I can take photographs of outfits to share without pressing Partner into service every time, because he is not supportive of Fashion, and he makes fun of me.

Gradschoolknitter, I have not helped you, have I, although I did mention a cardigan. I hope you get your knitting mojo back soon!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

WIP Wednesday: Food For Thought

Well, it's WIP Wednesday again (thanks to Tami of Tami's Amis!) so I am going to show you my WIPS. But first I'm going to make you wade through an allegory. One of my favourite books In The World is The Star-Bellied Sneetches by Dr Seuss. It is an instructive tale of two different kinds of sneetches, one who had bellies with stars, and the plain-bellied sneetches who had none upon thars (I know thars isn’t a word. I am quoting). Anyway, obviously the plain-bellied sneetches want nothing more than to have stars on their bellies too, so someone invents a machine and they all get them, and for about 5 minutes there they are, right at the absolute apex of fashion, and then they have exactly the same effect on belly stars as Daniella Westbrook did on Burberry. So someone invents a machine for the star-bellied sneetches to be de-starred, as stars are now so far beyond the pale they couldn’t get editorial in My Weekly never mind Vogue, and it all ends up getting quite confused, and in the end some of the sneetches have stars and some don’t. And at that point they all decide that actually it doesn’t matter who had stars originally and who has them now – because both types of Sneech belly are equally valid, and one is not better than another. Hooray!

This has not yet happened with knitters and crocheters. Oh, we have a semblance of co-operation – after all, there are some of us who do both. We all know the right kinds of things to say. Yes! Knitters say, isn’t crochet actually very versatile and of course you can do cables. And crocheters say, no it isn’t really silly wrestling all those stitches on knitting needles it’s probably actually very easy when you’ve got the hang of it. But these are mere words; there is still a distrust there. Crocheters are really thinking, why would you spend all that time knitting holes into something when you could crochet a lacy thing in 5 minutes, and knitters are really thinking, oh yes we can see you pretending it’s possible to crochet a sweater with drape when really all you want to make is a starched doily and a waistcoat out of granny squares.

Well, I don’t want to fan those flames. All I can do is present to you my experience. This is my still half-finished Citron, which now has an unexpected number of stitches on the needles which I must deal with before proceeding, as if things weren’t bad enough. I am half way through the fifth repeat and am aiming to do six.
Aeons seem to have passed while I have been knitting this. Forests have risen and fallen. The elves have gone to the Western Isles and precipitated the Dominion of Man. Seas lap the rocky shoreline forming sand. I must shift from buttock to buttock to avoid forming pressure sores. Liquids are given intravenously while my hands, joints knotted from the frantic knitting of Laceweight on Denise Needles, twitch and jerk like moribund spiders.

And this is my Sezession I shawl. I had to stand on tiptoe to get it all in the photograph.

Half an hour in front of Judge Judy and a bit more in front of Three In A Bed. I rest my case.

I shall finish the Sezession I shawl and I shall take stock. Emotional stock. It will be instructive.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Tie Dye and Autumn Leaves

I'm waiting for Gary the Plumber to come and condemn our bathroom fix the leak so I thought I'd show you some things I've been working on. Because I've managed to actually list some things in my etsy shop, hooray! But first I've got some bad news. I'm sorry about this. There's no easy way to tell you.
O leafy harbinger of Autumn
Yes. It's the first falling leaf. I saw something orange on the grass earlier, while I was standing in the kitchen muttering about how other people have functioning houses and why don't I. What is that, I thought. Is it? No, it can't be. But it was. Readers: autumn is here. Did we have a summer? Did I miss it? But no, the blackberries are reaching their peak
and the nights are drawing in. Never mind, says she brightly, autumn is actually my favourite season of the year. Being able to wear boots. Making chutney. Enjoying knitting rather than feeling you are wrestling a big hot thing on your knee. Bonfire night, Samhain, cosy nights, lighting candles, fighting about when it is cold enough to put on the central heating, yes I can't wait. We won't mention the C word although they are probably getting their displays ready in Asda as I write this (the woman on Create and Craft the other night said brightly, 'It's time to start making your Christmas cards because it's only 130 days till Christmas!'. Well no. I think we've got a bit of time yet).

Anyway here are some things I've been listing. To start with, this is how the tie-dye came out. Red and blue spirals:

And experimental yellow-green-purple -

I thought they looked great, actually, I'm rather pleased. And here is my completed tie skirt.

I actually love this, I think it looks fantastic. And possibly foolishly I am offering the Rainbow Patchwork Skirt

as a custom order. I think enough time has elapsed that I can face ruffling another 50 miles of patchwork without wanting to murder anyone. Indeed I think I would quite like to make another but obviously there is a limit to the number I can have for myself. And I think I have reached that limit. Because I think it is one. So I am hoping the Rainbow Patchwork Skirt will go out into the world and find another home.

Right. Gary the Plumber is here and I must hear my fate. You know how plumbers suck their teeth? Well unfortunately he will be entirely justified.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Everything you didn't want to know and hadn't thought of asking

This is the ‘I am stalking Mumma Troll’ post (no, Mumma Troll, I’m joking, don’t be scared). First, look at this wonderful pencil case she made with some fur I sent her – isn’t that great? Second, she recently did a list of 25 facts about herself which I thought were really interesting and I thought I would do the same. I mostly wanted to see if I could think of 25 discrete facts about me, well I managed discrete but possibly not discreet, we will see.

Friday, 20 August 2010

A Thorny Knitting Etiquette Question

Recently I was in a restaurant having the kind of evening where it would have helped if I had been drunk (I wasn’t drunk), when I noticed a woman on the table next to me wearing what looked like a featherweight cardigan, which is something I covet. I considered tapping her smartly on the back and saying, hey lady, did you knit that yourself and if so, did knitting with laceweight make you want to chew your own ears off, but I’m never sure of the etiquette in this kind of situation. If someone came up to me and asked me if I’d made what I was wearing I wouldn’t be offended (in fact - people often do! And - I’m not!) but it is theoretically possible for someone to interpret it as, you look a bit homespun, can you not afford Marks and Spencers? Have you got a stack of feedsacks at home that you have to make your own knickers out of? Do you have to trim your fringe yourself with the bacon scissors? I think it all depends on your attitude to homemade things. So I decided to leave the woman alone because I wasn’t sure she had knitted it, and she might have had traumatic memories of her mother knitting her swimming costumes or something* or been offended, but if it had been something iconic like, ooh, I don’t know, a great big Clapotis, I would have had no qualms.
Although I admit this looks a bit rubbish, I want you to know that actually it isn't
I’m making a skirt with deconstructed ties – this is it so far, and I’ll show it to you when it’s finished. I’ve got one piece of advice. I started this being snobby about polyester ties but actually they work better in something like this because the fabric is stiffer and I like something with a bit of body. I’m going to have a go at lining it tomorrow. How hard can it be? I think I’ll sleep on it first, though.

* As far as I can ascertain, all British people over about 60 have memories of their mothers knitting their swimming costumes, and it is probably the least practical thing you can knit because knitting stretches as soon as it gets wet, and you can imagine the rest. Therefore there is a whole generation of British people who have been really embarrassed at quite a delicate age by their mothers knitting for them, and it is therefore no surprise that as a society we took to Primark so enthusiastically.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

I have had a Fabric Windfall

Partner and I are engaging with home improvements. We have different approaches to this. While I don't like it, I feel that, as part of the general social contract, you should make a bit of an effort to try to make your house look as if people live in it who have not been brought up by wolves. Partner feels – quite vocally - that if your house has a roof and a flushing toilet you have everything you could possibly need and anything else is Affectation (when I met partner he used to sleep on the floor. Without a mattress). So we spent the other morning having a full and frank discussion in a fireplace showroom. This is what we have got at the moment.
All this and woodchip too, can you even breathe for jealousy
So you can see I am not entirely unreasonable in feeling that some level of improvement might be theoretically possible. Anyway having finished being passive aggressive in front of a gentle old man who was trying to give us a quote (‘I think you’d better give him your phone number, Susie. You’re the person who deals with this kind of thing’), as we drove off so partner could be dropped off at the University Library to argue with them about their electronic catalogue (isn’t my life exciting?), I mentioned that I was heading off to Tesco car park to meet a man I had met on the internet who was going to give me some fabric offcuts. Partner looked at me. ‘You aren’t serious’ he said, flatly. ‘Yes I am’ I said, cheerfully. “I have met him on the internet. He said he had some spare fabric from his curtain business, and he is really nice.’ I saw Partner’s expression. ‘It’ll be fine!’ I said, defensively, as I imagined my final words being read out on News At Ten by someone solemn. ‘What could go wrong?’ Partner considered. ‘He could murder you’ he said. ‘He could murder you and bundle you into his van, and no one would ever see you again.’ He didn’t add, and then I wouldn’t have to bother with a new fireplace, but I’m sure he was thinking it. Honestly, I thought, no-one trusts anyone these days. I thought that in the half of my mind that wasn’t taken up with imagining headlines – Criminally Naïve Person Goes Looking For Fabric Offcuts And Finds Death Instead. Anyway I met my contact and you can tell that Partner was not right and I was, because I am blogging, and not from a deserted garage somewhere in Dartmoor with my leg tied to a chair. But, this is the thing: the fabric offcuts were absolutely amazing. My idea of a fabric offcut is something 5” square and a bit creased. This is what he gave me:
You could furnish a house with that!
This is better furnishing fabric than anything in my house. And in great big bits! I am stroking it thoughtfully. It is a sensory education. But that isn’t all. Look -
I could make something that needs more than a fat quarter!
Fabric on rolls! I am overwhelmed! And there are foam offcuts and bits of wadding as well! And the marvellous thing is, this is leftover fabric that my wonderful contact didn’t need, so we are saving it from being thrown away! I am blown away by my good fortune – thank you, Pelmetman – and I am excitedly thinking of what I can make. I was intending to make my square patchwork bag, but some of the bits of fabric are so big and with such nice prints I’m not sure I want to patchwork them – anyway, I will see. There is some cotton interfacing which is certainly whispering ‘tie-dye me and make me into an a-line skirt’.

I have spent the day deconstructing ties so I can use the silk to make a skirt and now I feel quite cross-eyed but I am going to spend the evening knitting on my Citron because I will finish that Citron even if it kills me, and it very likely will.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Tie-Dyeing For England

I have a new washing machine (hooray!) and a newly enlarged overdraft (boo!) so I am now reasonably confident my machine is washing things at the temperature it says it is. I think the old one washed everything on cold and I think all my fiddling with its dial and rebooting of the motherboard (this involved crawling behind the freezer every time I wanted to wash something, you have no idea of the conditions I am forced to work in here, no idea) was actually pointless and only done to make me feel more in control. Like many things. Anyway, this is important, as it means I can now tie-dye and put my finished articles through a good hot wash afterwards to make sure they are colourfast. Because previously I was feeling nervous about selling someone a tie-dyed tshirt and them taking it off in the evening – perhaps seductively, with an erotic flourish and a coy glance - to reveal a big coloured spiral right across their middle. And I think that would have a detumescent effect. (I know we don’t normally think of tie dye in an erotic context but I think it’s nice to expand our horizons).

So I am frenziedly tie dyeing. So far I have tie dyed the wall, my elbow, a dish I hadn’t put away, and the floor. The white cat from 2 doors down is hanging about thoughtfully outside, and he’d be well advised not to come any closer (wouldn’t that look pretty though? A tie dyed white cat? I promise I won’t).
It looks (relatively) tidy, but we were in chaos
These are my tshirts I did yesterday, all tied up and dyed,
Don't ever say my photographs aren't fascinating. Tomorrow: paint drying.
And these are the same tshirts in the washing machine. I was a little bit nervous about the pink water, but it ran clear in the end – and here they are!
Hooray! They're for the shop but one is for me!
I’m dyeing some new ones at the moment. I am not sure about the colour combination but that’s the exciting thing with tie dye: you just can’t tell what you’ve got till you’ve opened it up. There you see, that would have been a better saying for Forrest Gump than that daft one about chocolates.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Interview: Interesting People. Keith Bennett

OK. Here is my first interview! At the end of these we will know the answer to life, the universe and everything and at the end of this one we know why Simon Cowell is essentially the same as Charles Saatchi. Don’t ever say you don’t learn anything reading this blog, sometimes I tell you about mayonnaise, sometimes I tell you about washing powder, sometimes we learn about the finer points of what Andy Warhol said about mass production.

This is Keith Bennett. Keith and I have known each other for a number of years; we used to work together and the success of our then and subsequent relationship stems from the fact that I never tried to talk to him before 10am or without putting a cup of coffee in his hand first (they don’t tell you that in 7 habits of highly effective people, do they? They should). Keith composes fascinating, complex electronic music; at the conclusion of our working together he suddenly revealed this astonishing talent, produced an extensive back catalogue, and buggered off to Spain to devote himself to his art, just when I had got used to visiting him and stroking his cat. Anyway, here we go (my annotations in square brackets.)

1/ Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.
I'm a composer, I write using computers* and have been doing this with a number of different systems for more than 30 years. I've done this alongside a long working life as a voluntary sector manager. Since retiring, I am now able to concentrate on writing full-time.
[*including, for the information of sad people like me, the Spectrum! I always think this is an achievement in itself as all mine ever did was beep. Indeed that was the sound command in Basic. BEEP 5:2.]

2/ Do you have a dedicated space for creating? Can you show us?
Yes. I'm very lucky to have been able to set up my studio in a Spanish caseta which I have had for many years. It's a very inspirational place in the mountains of Andalucia.
[Isn’t that tidy? It must have been agonising sharing an office with me. You see how much easier it is to keep tidy when you do something that doesn’t involve fabric!]

3/ Which of your creative achievements are you most proud of?
It's really for other people to put value on my work. I write for my satisfaction. The current piece is what absorbs me most.

4/ What’s the worst failure you’ve had, and what did you learn from it?
Regrets, I've had a few ............

5/ Has creating things yourself made you look differently at mass production? (i.e. Keith in your case this could be Britain’s Got Talent etc as well as the obvious.) Do you think creating things is a political act?
The second part of this question seems to need to be answered first. The debate in aesthetics concerning "pure" art has raged for millennia. It seems to me that all art has to eventually be a part of communication. We do what we do for our own satisfaction, but, we are all looking for some sort of recognition. "The respect of my peers" is what it seems to me to be about. Therefore, my view is, art must engage with "the polis"

I think Andy Warhol settled the "art v mass production" debate. [I felt I had been fobbed off with this so I came at it from another angle:]

a/ In the first part of your answer to question 5 (which is not quite what I meant by political but I'm going to let you off), you say (I think) that a function of good art is to be accepted & appreciated by the wider public. I absolutely agree. However, you're writing complex tonal electronic music & opera. In the age of the Domination of Simon Cowell (TM), do you think there's a contradiction there?
I think you may have misunderstood what I meant here. [Readers! I did not. ;-)] All artists work for their own satisfaction - pursuing as far as possible where it goes. Insofar as I raise my sight to outside myself, my first consideration is "the respect of my peers". The appreciation of "the polis" is really just a bonus and, to me, a matter of luck. We have no control over what will become "popular". The response to your next question deals with this further.   

b/ Having googled what Andy Warhol said about mass production (yes I am uncultured), he saw it as a democratising force. Do you think the democratising effect of something like, for example, McDonalds, still outweighs its problems?
This is the subject for an essay - possibly a book!

Using the example of Andy Warhol, I was thinking more about his use of mass production methods in his art. The point, for me, is that they are not incompatible. He (and many more artists at the time) re-discovered the essential communal nature of art. Think about the artist studios of the Renaissance. In establishing The Factory, involving himself in those types of art that use mass production methods such as lithograph, album covers, film, pop music etc, he (and again, many others), as well as re-establishing the purpose of the artist in the community, was going back to the concept of the artist as journeyman that prevailed before the Romantic period. This inevitably interrogates the nineteenth century concept of the artist as "solitary genius". A complex cocktail, difficult to unpack in a few sentences!

My take on the " democratising force" is that it's really about the zeitgeist of the 60's. Art confronting and then assimilating mass production and all its implications. The outcome of these many, often conflicting, forces in the art of the time was the development of Community Art (notice the singular), Community Theatre, the community arts centre movement (starting with the Arts Labs). These opened up the possibility of everybody participating in the production of art, not just its consumption: "famous for 15 minutes". I was active in this movement in the 70s and 80s. Our aim was to open up the possibility of the creation of art in all its forms by everybody.

You seem to be very keen I discuss Simon Cowell! [eek!] In a mass production society, figures such as Mr Cowell will always appear and always have done. I can remember many of them. Realistically they have no affect on the primary production of art as they are the financiers. They occupy a crucial role in the dissemination of art to a wide audience (consider Saatchi and "Britart") and there are many artists who (understandably) are seduced by this. However, the financiers never understand what will become popular. The few, like Mr Cowell and Mr Saatchi, are the recipients of extraordinary luck. Time and again history shows that the financiers are always taken by surprise by the next "popular" form of art. All the artist can, and must do, is plough the furrow. If it's popular, so be it. If not, no matter. But the more who do it, the better it is for all of us.

Trying very hard not to caption this 'between a rock and a hard place.'
6/ Do you find yourself procrastinating, or are you very focused? What do you do to procrastinate?
I always use the term "displacement activity": there's always something important that has to be done before I am free to start work. This evening, while gearing up to answer this questionnaire, I set myself the deadline of starting it after "The Archers". It was well into "Front Row" before I began! I think it's important to find your own way of working. Personally, I set a start and end time for the day and try to keep to it (with variable success).

7/ Who do you admire who’s doing a similar kind of thing (alive or dead) who we should know about?
The person I admire most in my field of work is my former composition tutor at Nottingham University, James Fulkerson. He gave a whole generation of composers, who did not fit the narrow bounds of academic music at the time, confidence in their own work. The wonderful diversity of creative music in our universities today fully vindicates his vision.

Philip Glass, for giving us all the confidence to work tonally again.

The style of music I write in is sometimes called "eclectic". I wouldn't disagree with that title - I am influenced by all music.

8/ What’s the most useful thing anyone’s ever said to you, either about the creative process or about Life?
Alan Bennett: "The rule is; there are no rules."

9/ Where do you want to go from here in terms of your craft?
Get better at it and write the second opera!

10/ Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for asking me to participate. [No problem duck ;-)]

You can see more of Keith on his website or on his Facebook page, where he needs constant monitoring in case he starts playing Farmville.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Giveaway Results! +++ My New Plan.

OK - I've done my random number generator, and it has chosen…. Dragon Knits as recipient of my bag. Dragon Knits (says she solemnly), You Are The Chosen One, and I will be emailing you to ask for your address. I hope you like it! Thanks ever so much everyone for entering and for all your lovely comments, it's nice to see local shops and markets are alive and strong all over the world. I've chosen Patricia as the lucky ( ;-) ) recipient of my extra surprise, because she came in under the wire there and amused me with her Dr Dolittle comment while I was waiting for the man to come and fit the new washer-dryer (don't ask. On the one hand at least I have a reliable washer again, and on the other it's too big and I can't open the cutlery drawer. Partner is walking about with an invisible sign over his head that says 'You Did Not Measure And Now I Do Not Trust You To Organise The New Fireplace.'). Patricia, I shall be sending you my new solid fragrance which is a rather sexy blend of frangipani and lime and other things, but I will check about allergies when I message you to ask for your address, because I don't want Anaphylaxis to result from a Giveaway. That would go entirely against the spirit of the thing. Well thank you again, everyone, I enjoyed that and I will certainly do it again! I do hope my winners enjoy their stuff.

And now to my other plan. As you know, I think the path to happiness lies in making as much as you can yourself, and what you can't make, buying from somewhere independent. I say this because (without sounding too naff), as soon as I began to create things myself, even mad woolly garter stitch squares, it changed me; I felt more involved with the production process, and then I began to question all sorts of things I wasn't questioning before. So for me, the creative process was more than an interesting journey; it was transformative. And, no doubt it is for others! So, tomorrow (and no pressure, first interviewee ;-) ), I'm starting a series of interviews on Fridays. I'm going to talk to a range of people – people who are creating things, people who are fighting back against mass production with their independent shops, people whose work I admire and people I want you to know about. I think I might learn things. (Indeed I've learned something already because I had to google to understand my first interviewee's answers. I've also learned that I 'seem to think I'm John Humphries.' I can assure you I do not.)

OK. Back down to earth and off to see if I can do anything to the cutlery drawer with a hacksaw. (Here's some unsolicited life advice: never live in a house that needs fixing up if you are no good at organising house improvements and you live with a Medieval Latinist. One of you needs to be practical).

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Work-In-Progress Wednesday

Tami over at Tami’s Amis has started up Work In Progress Wednesdays so we can all share what we are working on. On a Wednesday. (You see what she did there?). I think this is an excellent idea (and if you do too, go to her blog and join in, or start next week) so I’m showing you my Citron, sexily reclining on a fur rug.
Citron. I swear I will finish the damn thing.
I’m somewhere in the third repeat and this is hands down by far the most boring thing I have ever knit. God! It’s excruciating. Caveat: I definitely blame me, not it – it’s a great pattern, and I’m confident the finished article will be pretty and wearable and I’ll love it. Don’t let my experience put you off knitting it. Oh but my God, Denise needles and laceweight. I think that's the problem. Every bloody stitch I’m having to maul it about otherwise I can’t poke the needles through. I will finish it because I’m dogged, but it’s a good job I’m dogged, that’s all I can say. Other exciting things that have happened today:
Beautiful Beautiful Fabric. Excited Excited Me.
Mumma Troll of Chronicles of the Troll Family has swapped fabric with me – look how lovely this is! I’m beyond thrilled, and now heatedly looking for quilt block ideas. (Actually, I’ve had this idea for a while that I want to do a quilted wallhanging that says, Odi et Amo (I hate and I love). I can’t decide if that’s a really naff idea or not. This might be my moment to find out.) I really hope Mumma Troll likes the package I’ve sent her (because I’m worried now I’ve seen how nice this one is!),
Possibly not entirely sure about the backstitching.
And I found my favourite way so far of attaching labels to bags (it's all go here. I'm doing World Peace next week). I think that looks pretty good. It’s kind of artfully rustic. Now, I can’t believe this week has gone by so quickly, but it has, so, drumroll, you’ve only got 24 more hours to enter my bag giveaway – I’ll be running the random number generator tomorrow at 7pm for the bag, and also choosing another comment to win my tiny extra surprise (I promise you I won’t just send you a label, proud though I am).

I’ve got another feature coming up on my blog that I’m going to tell you about tomorrow, too – I’m really, really looking forward to doing it, I hope you’ll enjoy reading it! (And if you don't, well, I really am quite excited, so you'll have to pretend. Come on: we got through Mayonnaise.)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

I am in danger of joining the middle classes

I have become a parody of myself
Veg box. Opera CD. The Guardian and the organic muesli aren't in the photo, sadly (actually it's some kind of fairtrade wheaty flakes.) Off to see if I can catch The Archers.

Monday, 9 August 2010

This is not real mayonnaise. A rant.

This is a rant, and I apologise. Grit your teeth, go and make some coffee, we’ll get through it together. You’re actually doing something very charitable in reading this because you’re stopping me firing off a complaint email to Unilever which might be a bit mad and also would mark my official transformation into Disgruntled of Cambridge.
Delicious real food growing in a very real fashion in my garden, with bonus spiky weeds
As you know, I’m trying to buy more local food and cut down on supermarket shopping. It’s going ok so far and I’ve been finding some good local suppliers. However, this is still a work in progress, which is why I recently found myself in Tesco, cross-eyed under those halogen lights, trying not to run my trolley into anything that might feel pain, and reaching out for a new jar of mayonnaise.
ceci n'est pas, etc. Do they think we are daft?
Now, I know they’ve probably been branding it like this for years (‘Real Mayonnaise!’) but I hadn’t really noticed it before. However, seeing an entire shelf full of mayonnaise jars all screaming it at me annoyed me. I actually could not buy it. I reached in again. I am now officially boycotting Hellmann’s mayonnaise. This is why it annoyed me (come on. Teeth gritted. Stop me sending that email.):

Processed food is fake food. It is fake. It is a simulacrum of the real thing: it is not satisfying. We all know that. We all still eat it, (I do, certainly), because we are too busy to cook, or because some of it is quite nice (Waitrose curries!), or we don’t know how to cook something, or we feel like eating something fake (cough Pringles cough. Or Tunnocks teacakes.) There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re not in a who-has-the-most-perfect-diet competition, if we were I would most definitely lose it, and, let’s be honest, some things are a great big faff to make yourself. I’m not eager to try and make marmite, for example, and I think it would have to be quite special circumstances that would induce me to make my own croissants again (hours and hours. Then the butter squashed out everywhere!).

But – fake food is fake food. Call a spade a spade. Don’t tell me it’s real. What does that even mean, anyway? It’s real because it’s the oldest mayonnaise brand? (is it?) It doesn’t have as many chemicals as some of the others? It’s made by a process that bears some resemblance to the way you make it by hand? Whatever the justification (I’m sure there is one somewhere, funnily enough their website is not helpful), the underlying message is actually really nasty and insidious. What they want you to think is, it’s not worth making your own. Processed Food Is Real, providing it’s been around long enough and gives a bit of a cynical nod to fashionable ethics. Hellmann’s is as real as it gets. Well, obviously this is complete rubbish, as well as being a bit scary. So, as I am now boycotting Hellmann’s, I have made my own mayonnaise. It took me 10 minutes and that included washing up a bowl. And I am dopey, you may well do it quicker. This is how you do it:
Delicious mayonnaise made by me. Yum. (No honestly, it really was delicious.)
To make 5ml mayonnaise you need:

1 egg yolk,
1/2 clove garlic, squashed (WARNING this makes it very garlicky – if you don’t want that, put less in - if you live in Forks perhaps use a bit more)
Sprinkle salt/ grind pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder.

Mix all the above together in a bowl. Then take 5ml of oil (I use a mix of light olive oil and sunflower oil, in fact I use the same olive oil I use to make soap, bear that in mind if you ever come to dinner) and add it 1 drop at a time, then whisk it thoroughly after each drop. This is to stop it curdling. However I have never had a mayonnaise curdle on me apart from one time when I used an electric whisk not a handwhisk – I don’t know why that was but I have used a handwhisk ever since with no problems. When your mayonnaise starts to thicken and look like mayonnaise you can start adding bigger drops. When you have added about 3ml oil, add 1 teaspoon white vinegar to loosen it, then add the rest of the oil.

Voilà! Delicious mayonnaise that is a million, million times better than anything you could buy. It only keeps for a few days as it doesn’t contain Calcium Disodium EDTA (but, you wouldn’t expect to scramble eggs and then add preservative and keep them for three months, would you? Make it in small quantities, eat it up. Enjoy it!)

Real food. I don’t think so!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A style crisis and a fish hat

I'm feeling very blah at the moment, style-wise. What I think I need to do is go through my wardrobe and start thinking how to wear all my lovely vintage pieces, or, accept that someone could certainly carry them off, but that someone is not me, and let them out into the world. Pieces like this
Maxidress for being Margot in The Good Life, should one wish
which I love (it’s a seventies maxi dress), but which I’m not sure is entirely my style. I think it’s the nehru collar that doesn’t quite work on me. Or perhaps I’m in a style transition? It’s all very difficult. What am I working next season? Am I doing goth-sophisticate, am I doing ironic hippie, am I doing urban maximalist, what (taps finger to lip, thoughtfully), is my vision for Autumn/ Winter 10/11? I shall go and mooch round shops for inspiration but not purchasing. I’ll tell you what definitely isn’t my style, though, although I am rather proud of it
to prove I do finish things occasionally
It’s a hat in the shape of a fish! It’s the Fish Hat from Knitty! It’s swimming across our bush, dur dur dur dur (that was the theme tune from Jaws, are you scared? ARE YOU SCARED? :-).) This was a great, easy pattern, ideal for using up odds and ends of worsted or aran, and I see more of these in my future. The bit that took longest was getting round to sewing the eyes on, and then it took about 5 minutes, isn’t that always the way? I do have one piece of advice: try and do the lips on a circular needle, not doublepins – I had a lot of stitches, and faffing about with 5 doublepins and short rows was a bit of a challenge. However I don’t think you can see the mistakes ;-) so, welcome Fishy to my gallery of completed works and let us hope you are soon joined by a Citron.

(Thanks to everyone who’s left comments so far on my Giveaway post – I really appreciate it, and I’m thrilled to think of one of my bags going to a new home. You’ve got until next Thursday if anyone else wants to enter. Although. I’m rather sad to announce that I’ve already had to ban someone from all future giveaways. Yes. Official Announcement: My mother cannot enter, as that would be nepotism. Honestly, mother. Honestly.)

Thursday, 5 August 2010

My first Giveaway!

I keep wanting to do a giveaway and then I think, what if no-one wants it. Well, this is silly and I have decided I am going to grit my teeth through the potential embarrassment of no-one wanting my item aaaaaaaaaaand…do my first giveaway!

Because after the pants trauma I thought I’d do some straight seams for a bit, I’ve been sewing shopping bags. And I’d like to give one away to someone. Might that someone be you, perchance? ;-) They’re the kind of shopping bag you take with you and put in your pocket in case you end up ambling round the market or similar, buying Stuff (so they would be useful if you wanted to Shop Local, not banging my drum or anything.) They’re light and foldable, and unlined/ no fastening (and made from good substantial cotton/ all exposed edges serged.) I’ve been using some of the bolder fabrics from my stash – I love both of these equally, so I’m going to give you a choice! These bags are both in the region of 11.5" by 14" (the African Wax Print one is slightly bigger), and they’re both machine washable. The winner can choose either:
A retro flower-print shopper – this is made from a vintage (poss. seventies) cotton from Finland, and has medium and dark blue flowers on a green background,

An African Wax Print shopper. I bought loads and loads of this fabric from a shop just off Brick Lane to sew on when I was first starting (or, starting to sew seriously), and so it has particular sentimental value for me (sigh). They both have my exciting new label on one side, and the other side is blank.

Also I was listening to YMCA and other classics of that ilk when I was sewing these bags, and I was also doing the dance (no really, I was), so I imagine that will have charged them both up with quite a lot of positive energy ;-).

To enter my giveaway:

Since this is my first one, let’s keep it simple. To enter, just leave me a comment below – that’s all! Tell me which one of these bags you’d like if you win, and tell me something about your favourite local market/ shop and why you like it. Make sure you leave a link to your website or somewhere where I can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. I’ll choose the winner through a random number generator a week from now – 7pm Thursday 12th August, and I might try and produce a tiny separate bonus surprise for the person who leaves my favourite comment (although I don’t know what it might be yet, so it could be a bit random!). I don’t mind where you’re from, I’ll post anywhere.

(Hooray! That wasn’t too painful. Perhaps I’ll even do it again in the future. I won’t get ahead of myself, though. I'll wait to see if anyone enters first.)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

I’m too sexy for my pants

OK. Now very, very sadly, I’ve misplaced my camera under the morass that is the craft room today so I’m going to have to wait until it re-emerges to photograph these for you. However... I’ve spent today working on developing my Pants Pattern (this is pants in the UK sense, I never thought quite how parochial my English was until I started this blog!). And… I have pants! They are well sewn and they will last. Indeed, I think those pants will outlive me. They are comfortable (I am wearing them now!). They are made of nice warm cotton jersey. When you put them on they look really quite cool in a retro 40s/ boy-shorts kind of way. I am going to make lots and tie-dye them and take them to the craft fair I am doing in September. All I need to do is grade the pattern (I say that as if I knew how to do it.) Hooray! Pants Success! However, I have a terrible problem.

When the Pants are on a person, they look cool. When they are not on a person, however, they look like a truss. They look like the kind of pants that Hattie Jacques would have worn in Carry on Camping. I wanted Brigitte Bardot: I have got Olive from On The Buses. How am I going to bring out the full retro ironic coolness of my Pants In Action when spread out on the table they will look like Support Pants of the kind that come in those free catalogues in Sunday supplements, along with fleece-lined unislippers and bra extenders? My clothes dummy hasn’t got legs. I am very seriously considering wearing a pair of the Pants over tights, like wonder woman, to show them off (I see this in Vogue occasionally, honestly I do, I think it is a fashion staple, so perhaps people will think I am really directional and not mad?). Oh God. Perhaps I am just no good at attractive underwear? Perhaps I have a mental block? Damn all that reading of Andrea Dworkin books at a formative age!

Underwear design. Harder than it looks. Walking away now. (Albeit in a way that indicates the wearing of Good Strong Supportive Pants.)

Sunday, 1 August 2010

What I did on my holidays

I'm back and unfortunately I've had a revelation, which is always inconvenient. Anyway. Photos first, revelation later.

We had an excellent holiday. We started off in Aldeburgh, and travelled round the Suffolk and Norfolk coast to Hunstanton, then drove back to Cambridge. For my American readers who are used to living in a larger country, this is the equivalent of going on holiday to the other end of the street. However, Suffolk especially was quite an experience, and I felt like I had travelled a very, very long way from Cambridge. This was Aldeburgh.
I have not made it look bleak on purpose. Look at that lowering sky! Don't ever go there with anyone you don't like. I can't imagine anything worse than nursing a failing relationship in Aldeburgh. The word on the street in Aldeburgh was that it was an excellent place to go for birdwatching. So if you are into birdwatching and peace and quiet you will have a great time, not so much perhaps if you are into there being a shop open after 6pm.

After Aldeburgh we started to adjust emotionally to the out-of-the-wayness of it all. This was Southwold, taken from the pier. Southwold had a pier! We were taken aback by the entertainment possibilities. Actually, the pier was rather cool and had these funny machines on it:

There were also lots of beach huts.

I liked the beach huts but I suspect they change hands for large amounts of money as they have a retro middle-class charm. Or it is possible they are controlled by the Mafia.

These were vintage mink stoles in a shop window in Sheringham (I know it's very sad :-(, but I couldn't resist the photo!). And it was in Sheringham that I had my revelation. 'This is so weird' I was muttering to Partner. 'All these places are so weird. Why are they so weird?' We considered. Then it came to me.

All the places we went to had high streets full of independent shops (this is Wells Next The Sea). There were hardly any chain stores – a couple of banks, Budgens, the occasional Boots – but that was it. The streets were absolutely full of independent food shops. And that should have been lovely, but actually it was very disconcerting, which is disconcerting in itself. We are so used to high streets being all the same that honestly, going to town after town and not seeing the same old shops felt really strange. Then I began to like it. Then I also realised that everywhere we drove, houses and farms had home grown produce for sale, and fish they had caught. Now, obviously most of this is because of the tourist economy. However, it did seem to me that the shops were fairly rooted in the community as well, for example this one can't be catering only to tourists:

Let's wish Pete well for his recovery! So, as I was walking round these places where all the food was local and sold in independent shops, and the restaurants and B&Bs all served local food and could tell you where everything came from, it struck me. Isn't it actually really weird to not buy local food? Isn't it odd to be so deracinated that we buy food from huge supermarkets, out of season, and have absolutely no idea where it comes from? How on earth have we come to this?

So I'm going to try to reduce the amount of things I buy from supermarkets. I've made a start today by setting up a new veg box (I became a bit disenchanted with my old veg box which seemed to be aimed at people who don't like veg very much) which comes from organic producers around Cambridge. I cannot say I will be able to give up supermarkets immediately (indeed I've got to go to Waitrose tomorrow and stock up!) but I am going to try to make inroads. Anyway we will see. We also have people selling their own produce at the side of the road when you drive outside Cambridge and when I am feeling a bit more assertive I may go off driving around, quizzing people about the origins of their honey and eggs.

Is anyone else trying to give up supermarket shopping? Or does anyone think I'm being unfair on supermarkets? (I don't think I am, but I'm happy to hear the other side!)