Thursday, 22 March 2012

Fabric find

A long time ago, when I was thinking of starting sewing, I found 12m of African Wax Print fabric in a shop somewhere off Brick Lane for £20. I made all the mistakes I was going to make on that fabric and by the time I got to the end of it, I could sew (after a fashion) and there was even some left to make proper things with. So, I have a weakness for Good Strong Cotton Fabric in large quantities because it always comes in useful and indeed you find it popping up in surprising places for years to come. Well, today I was trippety-tripping through Cambridge on my lunch hour and what do I find.
Photo taken in secret like a ninja
A fabric stall. A new fabric stall! (Cambridge residents, it is in the middle of the market, on Wednesdays and Thursdays). So I thought it would be rude not to have a look.
Well might that woman in the bottom right-hand corner look open-mouthed. £2 a metre!
Fabric with lips on! I could not resist. I have bought as much as I could stuff in my bike basket of the one with the dark background, and I am wondering whether to have a go at a Collette Crepe dress. Half of me is saying, Susie, you cannot go out in public wearing a dress covered in big lips. The other half of me is saying, Susie, £2 a metre, you will be essentially a neo-Schiaparelli, get that sewing machine out. Which half will win? I think we know.
It is very possible that an orang-utan lives up that tree. I wish he would come down occasionally and help with the weeding
Bonus picture of the ridiculously huge trees at the bottom of our garden. Whenever I get my bike out of the shed the collared doves squawk at me from them, indignantly. Who pays the mortgage, collared doves? Know your place.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Painting-in-progress and a new-to-me etsy shop

Just wanted to show you quickly my latest painting-in-progress.
It's the cliffs at Hunstanton! I think my many years' experience of painting woodchip-covered rooms helps
I don’t know if you know this (I didn’t before I started), but, oil paints take absolutely ages to dry, so you have to do your base coat first and then do the detail a week or so later. It’s a bit like emulsioning the kitchen and then waiting to do the glossing. So that is why it looks like a bad painting-by-numbers at the moment, it is waiting for the Fine Brushwork. If you want your paints to dry in a sensible timescale you use acrylics, but, obviously I am used to knitting things for months and then them not fitting, so a week is nothing to me. Nothing. In fact I am considering one day knitting Lyra and that may take me the rest of my life.
Slap it on! The man next to me said through gritted teeth, thin your base coats out a bit more otherwise it will crack. I said, in my lifetime? He said, no, I said, well then
While I was doing my painting, the man next to me in the art class (who has read a book) got very anxious because he said I could not paint a cliff scene with my canvas vertical, I had to paint it with my canvas horizontal as that is the only correct way to paint landscapes. He actually turned my canvas round. I said I could live with being wrong and I turned it back again. He is a nice man, though, because when the woman next to him told him his cherub looked like Bart Simpson he took it in excellent part (cherubs are difficult. Start with a cliff, that’s my advice).

We had to lean our canvases against the wall at the end of the class to discuss them, and there was not much space, so one woman leaned hers against the door. Well, we all watched carefully in case anyone was going to come through the door and knock it over (remember, they are completely wet), but, we were not watching for people in the class going out as we thought they ought to realise. Well, do you remember the woman who told me she would never knit? (No Lyra ever for her then!) - She went straight out of the door, did not move the painting so the door knocked it smack on the floor face down, and then did not even come back to check it was ok when we all let out a collective gasp (it survived, just about). If it had been my painting I might have been a bit suspicious, but, perhaps her mind is just on Higher Things. I think it must be: she is clearly a Proper Artist, as she has a smock.

Also just wanted to show you this etsy shop I found: Simply Original Frocks. She is having a half-price sale at the moment and I think she has some really nice things which you could either wear straightforwardly prettily or ironically if that makes sense, so, if you are in the market for some new threads for summer it might be worth a look. She bases her clothes on original 50s patterns and the fabrics she uses are really beautiful. Anyway, her sale is a mothers’ day sale, so, perhaps move quickly if you want something (I’m no connection, I just think her clothes look really nice!).

OK, that’s me done. I’m off to make a marmalade cake. I’ve somehow lost half an inch on my waist (may have just measured myself for possible skirt-buying purposes…) even though I’ve doubled my cake intake, so I’ve decided it’s a health food and our intake probably should be tripled so best get going. Besides, you wouldn’t believe how much marmalade is in this house, honestly, you wouldn’t.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Crappy incidents, happy incident

A day of very slightly crappy incidents (first world problem-style).
You will all be pleased to learn that I have decided officially to declare it Spring
1/ I fell off my bike and skinned my knee. Do you know what happens when other people fall over in cold impersonal cities like Cambridge? They are ignored and thus lick their wounds in peace. Do you know what happens when I fall over? I attract helpful bright-eyed concerned people, even though the only reason I have fallen over is because I am half-asleep and a pratt, and then I feel like a great big fool (although yes it is kind of them). On the other hand, it was going to happen at some point, so now it is over with, and I can go from biking strength to biking strength. Indeed I have already cut up a man in a white van, and avoided mowing down a young girl wandering across the road with earphones on which was a bit of a challenge as she seemed to have a death wish. Go me, top biking person, go me with knobs on.

2/ I was wearing big dangly earrings and I bent down to restock some acrylic paints and hit myself in the eye with one, and it hurt. Luckily it stopped hurting because I would have been embarrassed if I had had to go to casualty. This then joined in my mind with the unfortunate incident on Tuesday when I got my exceptionally cool fringed necklace from I Heart Norwegian Wood stuck in the till and had to press the ‘no sale’ button to free myself.

3/ My favourite candlestick Evar fell off the kitchen table and broke, and I am sad.

But something good happened! My shoes from Fairy Steps arrived!
Do feel free to keep any dingly dell jokes entirely to yourselves
I ordered my shoes from Fairy Steps in a moment of mad impulse when I got my job, and I have been crucified with buyer's remorse ever since. Not because I did not want the shoes, for I did, and not because they are not worth the money, for they most certainly are. But, they were not cheap (they are handmade! I was hoping to wear them forever!), and I was worried they would get here and either not fit or look silly or I just would not like them. Because, do you find it easy to order shoes on the internet? I do not, and I speak as someone who orders everything on the internet. But they came today (they are made to order!), and I love them. They fit perfectly, they are comfortable, they have satin green laces, and I shall wear them loads.

I have put them in a safe place where they can come to no harm, and now I shall go and sit quietly and not do anything complicated, or move much until today is over. I would say it is lucky Partner is cooking dinner (spaghetti), but I'm not sure it is, because once he dropped it all in the sink and once he cooked a giant moth along with it. So I shall just keep my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Going for gold

Even I think that's a rubbish title. (Actually, didn't there used to be a quiz programme? Goooooo-ing for, gooooo-ing for GOLD!)
Is this a small terraced house in the wrong part of Cambridge, or is it in fact Versailles
New clock purchased for the study/ craft room (it isn't wonky in real life). This was cheap cheap from Home Sense, which is TK Maxx but with home things, as indicated by the name. When you admire my pink woodchip I do ask you to remember that this was Literally The Only House In Cambridge We Could Afford (I appreciate that shouldn't stop me wallpapering. We had to stop various parts of this house leaking/ dropping down first though. One day we will get to Aesthetics).
I found a ray of sunlight and I put my knitting in it
Progress so far on Chrissy's nice shawl which I am knitting along. Look at that shiny yarn! It's silk! It's beautiful but completely inflexible! It was getting snagged on my hands but it has gone from Winter to Spring while I have been knitting it so now my hands are smooth again and it is going better.
Remember not to stint on the butter. It's not as if it puts weight on or furs up your arteries or anything
Golden kippers. Partner and I are going through a phase of eating foods that are more traditionally enjoyed by the over-75s. Partner is particularly enjoying faggots, we have staged a mini-revival of corned beef hash (shall I tell you why it went out of fashion? You can't open the tin. I had to google!) and I myself am wild for kippers. You can buy them for £1.29 a packet in Marks and Spencer, then you just pierce the packet and microwave for 2 minutes (ignore the instructions). They are delicious and I eat them like a cavewoman, then regret it all day as the entire house smells like kippers and I can taste them for a week.

Where will it end? I just hope I don't find anywhere that sells polony.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

I made stuff

A few years ago, I was in a job which was not a good situation. When I say it was not a good situation, I mean it was not a good situation in the same way that Hitler had a few unfortunate personality traits. Only, I am understating it considerably. Considerably. Anyway, one day I remembered that I had used to quite like knitting, and I thought I would have a go at making something, which might distract me, rather than my other plan, which was, banging my head repeatedly against a wall (although, that would have been better for me and would have achieved more, objectively, than my going in to work). I sourced yarn on ebay, I laboured mightily, I focused my last waning powers of creativity and concentration and I produced this.

Stress did not affect my love of tasteful subtle colours
And very useful it has been. We use it as a trivet. We used it this week to go under the macaroni cheese dish. I remembered how much effort it had cost me. I remembered the huge cognitive shift I had had to make before I had remembered that I was a person who could make things. I remembered the cotton yarn feeling stiff and unfamiliar in my fingers. I remember I made more dishcloths after this one, and I put them in a bag, thoughtfully.
It is a bit smaller than a kingsize bed. Can you see the skulls? And I had to grapple with double yarnovers. Double!
This too took a bit of concentration but, I have to say, it was less of an effort overall than the trivet/ dishcloth and that just tells me I’m in a different place now. So I thought I would show you as I now have a graphic representation of my states of mind, four years apart, and if that concept isn’t art, then I don’t know what is. (Remember, though, that knitting shouldn't be mentioned in polite company and in the proximity of proper art materials.)
I knitted the centre in the break room at work on double pointed needles, but they don't think I'm too odd to talk to (or, they pretend they don't)
I'm going to wear it, too
This was a joy to knit (I know it’s irritating when people say ‘quick easy pattern!!!’ when clearly it isn’t, but, if you like lace and you’re looking for a first circle shawl project, as I was, this is an excellent one to start with). I didn’t do a single stitch wrong until the cast off, when I discovered that the normal cast off is WAY TOO TIGHT for a circle shawl and I would have ended up with a bowl with skulls on, so I did something with a crochet hook instead, which worked great. But while I was undoing the original cast off, I am afraid to say we had a bit of swearing and muttering, and, Partner lost his nerve. No, honestly. He panicked. Oh no! He said. What if you can’t undo it! This is terrible! Now it is done he has looked at it carefully and pronounced it ‘very intricate work’. Who knew Partner was emotionally invested in knitting? This is a worrying development.
I shall say to Partner next time, look, not only could you not paint a candlestick, you could not have googled cleverly and found art classes in a random church hall to start with
And just showing you quickly my latest painting. This is a study in reflections. Partner said, sympathetically, that it was quite hard to draw things straight, and readers once again he has damned me with faint praise. The very nice art teacher asked me three times if I was quite sure I wanted a yellow background, eventually I had to look at him very seriously and say, yes. Because that is my vision, and that worked. Anyway I am doing more lace now, as I am taking part in Chrissy from Stitched Together’s KAL for her lovely lace shawl, and I have become horribly corrupted as I am doing it in silk. Yes. Silk. Gold silk. Like something from a fairy tale. A certain very bad person who I shall not name has suggested that gold is very close to beige and, frankly, that I am deluding myself, but me, I know that I am channeling Seventies Halston with my metallic neutrals and that I do not have to start buying Marks and Spencer Classic Collection yet. That’s right. I’m still young and cool (although, let’s not talk about that subscription to Gardener’s World. Let's not talk about it ever).

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Not only have I bought a bike

But I've ridden it home.

{Goes off to quiver}.