Friday, 7 December 2007

To My Harvest Sock Pal

I have mislaid your address, and I'd like to send your parcel to you. Please can you respond to my note on Ravelry with your address? Thanks.

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Harvest Sock Swap Marathon

Now, I'm not a particularly lithe woman; I always say I'm built for comfort, and not for speed. But that doesn't mean that I like to take FOREVER to get something done. Yet that is exactly what has happened here. I have FINALLY finished my Harvest Sock Swap sock (with only one day to go). I believe you have to post the sock and the goodies out by tomorrow. Well, truth be told, I won't achieve the posting date, but THANK GOD this sock is done.

I won't bore ya with all the details, but suffice to say, I don't love Lantern Moon needles. Well, I do, but they break ... all the time. It really put me off knitting the sock. I used to think that I was a fairly loose knitter, but maybe not. Maybe it's the way I hold my needles. I don't have a single needle that isn't bent.

The yarn, on the other hand, was truly lovely to work with. Helena is a 4ply (sock weight) yarn, made from pure organic merino. I chose a harvest-time colour called Bonfire, which I thought was appropriate. One of the main autumn celebrations here in the UK is Guy Fawkes - aka Bonfire Night on 5th November. We build bonfires, burn the "Guy", let off fireworks, and have a party. It is all in memory of the man who was caught trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

I chose to make Monkey in the end. (Guy Fawkes was a cheeky monkey don'cha know.) What a beautifully written pattern! I had a little difficulty with the working the row above the double yarn overs at first, but with some timely help from my sock guru friend, I soon overcame it. Needle woes aside, I enjoyed doing this pattern, and I'm sure to make this again for myself at another time. I am putting a few goodies in the parcel that I'm sending off to my pal this weekend. I only hope that she likes it.

I'll add pictures at the weekend, when I've got good light to take photos.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Wonderful, kind knitters...

I have only ever knitted one pair of socks in my life. Actually, I have knitted a total of three socks. On the first pair, I got second sock syndrome. The yarn was lovely and soft, but the colour was ... bleh. It looked lovely on the skein, all pastel pink and yellow - the yarn is a cashmere/merino mix, and the colourway was "Tequilla Sunrise". It should have been a joy to knit. The knitting was pretty easy, everything went as planned. But I got bored with the colour. I didn't like the way it striped. I knew I would never have bought socks in this colour. So I gave it up. I really enjoyed knitting on 4/5 DPNs, and wanted to have another go, so when I came across the Harvest Sock Swap, I thought this would be the perfect thing. I only have to knit one sock, so if I get tired of the whole business, I needn't despair as I'd be sending the rest of the supplies to my swap pal for her to knit the second sock. Easy right?

Hmmm, well, the whole business has been fraught with difficulties. I hadn't realised when I signed up, how concerned I would be that my swap pal liked my choices for her. It took me ages to find the right yarn, which after I received it, I forgot what it was called or what the fibre was - but that's all sorted now. Then I dithered for ages over sock patterns. The one I had in mind is not fully written out. The designer assumes the knitter has a certain amount of knowledge of toe-up socks. I've only done top down socks to date. Although the pattern on the sock itself is pretty easy, and I could probably have slotted it into a generic top down pattern, I didn't feel that this would be suitable to send to someone else. Especially as she is a far more experience knitter than I, and could probably see any errors at 10 paces! So after a fair amount of searching, I finally came up with a (well known) pattern. I chose it because of its popularity. I figured if so many people had made it, the instructions must be well written, and it must be fairly easy.

I started knitting about two weeks ago. To cut to the chase, I have ripped back and restarted the same sock four times. FOUR TIMES. I am on my fifth attempt at these socks. On the fourth attempt, I actually managed to break my Lantern Moon DPNs. A cry for help on Ravelry, and in double quick time Robynn of Purlescence came to my rescue. How wonderful is she? Especially considering that I didn't buy the original needles from her. She sent me replacement needles before I could even blink!

On top of that burst of generosity, last week I received a couple of books about spinning in the post from Sarah, whom I met at Ally Pally.

I'm just sitting here with a big grin and shaking my head. I've often read about the kindness of knitters on other people's blogs, and whilst I thought it was all wonderful, I never thought any of those things would happen to me. Yet, twice in one week, I've received help and support from fellow knitters, whom I met online. Isn't it a wonderful world? And I'm getting back to those socks. I WILL conquer them - and the fancy needles...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Damn, damn, damn

I seem to be having one senior moment after another these days...

I found some lovely harvest-like yarn for my sock pal - in a quality yarn that I think she'll like. I buy it. It arrives at my home. I unwrap it. It has no label, but no problem I've bought lots of yarn from this source before, and because it is a relatively young company, yarn labels may or may not always be available. All okay so far...

Problem is it's now two weeks later. I've got my nostepinne in hand to wind it, and suddenly I'm no longer certain what it is. This lady only sells high-end yarns, so it isn't any crap (no worries there). But is it pure cashmere? Or cashmere and merino? Or even lambswool, Angora and cashmere? I'm fairly certain it's not cashmere and silk because I've bought that from her in the past and she sells it in smaller skeins. Argghhh... I'm off to her website again to try to identify my yarn by a process of elimination.

Stupid, stupid, stupid... ~headdesk~

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Ally Pally

Ever since I started reading knitting blogs regularly around this time last year, I've been dying to go to the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally). Last year, I was green with envy at all the wonderful, unusual, and hard-to-find-in-the-UK yarn that people had purchased. I resolved that I was going to find out about the show for 2007, and I was NOT going to miss it. I put the dates in my diary as soon as they were announced at the beginning of the year.

Woo hoo! I went today. I took two days off (today and tomorrow, in case I feel a need to go back again). I got there pretty early, about 45 minutes after they opened. But it seems Ally Pally is THE knitting and stitching show of the year. Even 45 minutes into the four day event, people were already leaving laden down with huge, and I mean HUGE, stashes. I couldn't believe it. I bought my ticket and hurried to the Habu stand. There were loads of women there looking at the yarns and the sample knits. Habu is clearly very popular. There was no actual pushing and shoving. The shoppers were courteous and helpful; one lady even helped me to find a particular colour of silk/stainless steel yarn that I couldn't locate. The main difference at the Habu stand was that people were there to shop; there was no idle patting/stroking of yarn, and then wandering off to return later. It felt like you needed to buy now, or it may not be there when you came back. I bought several items: yarn to make a Kusa Kusa scarf, some bamboo, some silk, and some paper.

A real highlight of the show was meeting people from Ravelry. I knew that Yvonne and Sarah would be there as I had planned to meet them. I brought along my Ravelry bag, and so many people stopped to say hello, to talk about Ravelry and to say that they recognised me from being online. It was great. Sarah was generosity itself. She gave me my first spinning lesson on an elegant light-weight drop spindle, using some beautiful pale blue silk roving that she was working on. It was fascinating, and I can see myself getting a drop spindle so I can try this out. Imagine knitting with yarn that you've spun yourself?

I went to the UKHandKnitting "Relax and Knit" stand, where Tamsyn (also on Ravelry, but blogless I think) showed me how to knit the continental way. I can see that I'm really going to have to practice, it felt so alien holding the yarn in my left hand. Just as I was leaving I got talking to Gerard of I knit London and Mithranstar who were in the queue behind me for coffee. It was amazing how friendly people were.

Sarah also introduced me to Socktopus. I think that this is a fairly new online sock yarn shop. The owner, Alice was there. She was super-nice, and boy does she have some lovely yarn. I bought some Dream in Color "Smooshy" in Cloud Jungle. It looked even better when I got it home and could see it under good lighting. I am so glad to see that she is in the UK. I will definitely be buying more from her. Here is a pic of a bunch of Ravelers/sock yarn lovers at Socktopus's stand... Erm, why didn't I get a photo of me with the group? ~headpalm~

Ooh... I also got some wonderful needles that are made from the remnants of musical instruments in rosewood and ebony. Ooh, and some Lantern Moon DPNs.

Well, what with my Ally Pally SEX and some recent Posh Yarn purchases, I think I've got my haul for the year - no more yarn purchases for me. Let's see how long I can stick to THAT, huh? I've had a wonderful day off. Despite it being foggy on the way in to London, this was the view that greeted me when I left Alexandra Palace. How lovely is that?

Friday, 28 September 2007

Harvest Sock Swap 07

Just recently I seem to be having trouble following directions. I doubt that this is because the directions aren't clear. It's more likely to be because I skim read so much.

Harvest Sock Swap 07 has just got underway. One of the rules is that I'm to make contact with my pal within three days. I managed to do that alright (just, since I was away when the swap partners were announced). Another instruction is that I'm required to update my blog by Tuesday each week with my progress on the sock that I'm making for my pal. Hmmm... failed there so far. I thought it said that I was supposed to contact my pal once a week, or was I supposed to contact the organiser once a week, or... What am I supposed to be doing? I had to go back and read the instructions again.

Anyhoo, here is my update. I've settled on a pattern. I'm not an experienced sock knitter, but I wanted to knit something that is not absolutely plain, but that had a "quiet" design (big, rather obvious clue). As for the yarn - what should I get? Since my pal is American, I'd like to buy a British yarn that is not so easy to get there. I'd like to use an autumnal colour in the spirit of the swap, but I keep being attracted to various shades of green, which is not very autumnal at all really. I am exercising control though; I haven't purchased the green. I have a plan. I regularly buy yarn from a lady in Wales who does some lovely luxurious hand-dyed yarns, and she's bound to have the kind of colour that I'm looking for. In fact, I think I've seen what I'm after. I just hope my fingers are fast enough on Sunday evening...

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

I'm A Knitting Floozy!

I haven't posted for a couple of days (make that SEVERAL days) 'cos I'm ashamed. Ashamed that whatever I say I'm going to do these days, I go off and do the exact opposite. I said I was going to work on my Habu/Shibori-felted scarf and that I was going to leave the buttery Seraphim inspired stole until later. But erm, I've been working on "Seraphim-alike". My explanation? I went to the Birmingham Knitting & Stitching Show a couple of weekends ago, saw a wonderful stand showing superb examples of Shibori-dyeing technique and got scared I guess. Plus I'm not that fast a knitter, and I realised I wouldn't get it done in time for my friend's wedding in a couple of weeks. I haven't even bought my wedding outfit yet... ~sigh~ So I picked up the stole again. The good news is that I've finished the first half. The thing is, now I'm a little nervous about unpicking the provisional cast on to join for knitting in the other direction. I've asked for advice from the folks at Ravelry. I don't want to mess this up, and I saw online somewhere that knitting in the opposite direction can look pretty craptastic if I'm not careful; twisted stitches or some such.
In other knitterly news, I've joined the Harvest Sock Swap 07. It's great, you only have to knit one sock and then send the sock the rest of the yarn and the directions to your swap partner together with some goodies. I think this is great, second sock syndrome blights us all. My swap partner is Jennifer. I've been stalking her blog and her Ravelry page looking for ideas on what she might like. I'm not an experienced sock knitter, but I don't want to disappoint either. I have a pattern in mind, but I just need to find the right yarn. I'd like to use something soft and luxurious but without mohair, as I already know that she's not keen on it, which suits me because I really can't stand it. Yeah, yeah, I know I was drooling all over my Habu, but I swear that is a special mohair/silk mix.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Birmingham (Knitting &) Stitching Show

Last weekend I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show in Birmingham. I didn't get there until the Saturday afternoon, and on the way in to the exhibition halls I felt as though I was walking in the wrong direction - everyone else seemed to be leaving as I arrived.

I have to say that it felt more like a stitching (and knitting) show. The dress-makers, embroiderers, cross-stitchers, beaders all seemed to be better catered for than the knitters. I didn't buy any yarn or needles whilst I was there.

The thing that stood out for me was the Hiroshi Murase Shibori stand. Hiroshi Murase is a master dyer, and there was a gallery of his work available. Whilst I'm not into dying myself, I found this interesting as it relates to learning how to tie Shibori style for the scarf that I am planning to make. I saw a presentation on Shibori by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, and bought a lovely cotton-square that I can dye myself. The pattern is very intricate, I'm not certain it can be seen in this picture, but here goes...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Hasselt "City of Taste" & Beer Tasting in Antwerp

I'm now fully back to the old routine at work, and I've been working in Belgium this week. I've been staying in a small city called Hasselt. It markets itself as the "City of Taste". I decided to wander around the city centre taking a few photographs last night. Here's what I got. Interestingly, I saw at least two other people out doing the same. So, we've all got fairly new cameras, then...

I kept coming across a young arty-type fella who was going around the city on his bicycle taking pictures of random traffic cones and bags of rubbish (clearly, it was rubbish collection day the next day, and there was lots of grey rubbish bags around). I so wanted to take a photo of him photographing the rubbish, but I didn't dare.

This is the view from my hotel window at night. I think it's lovely.
On Thursday night we had our project team building event. Belgium is famous for its artists, its beer and its chocolate. There was some culture to the evening; we went to the Antwerp Fine Art Museum. This is the scene opposite it. However, since I work in engineering with lots of men, you can guess what the main theme of the night was... Here's a clue.

It was strange tasting beer as though it was wine. I have to say that this Gulden 1389 (that's when the original recipe dates from) was pretty delicious. Hands up all of you who like beer?

I would like to tell you that I was the model of decorum, but I am (apparently) a "cheap drunk", and was one of the last to stumble, bleary-eyed, into the office on Friday morning.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Book Club Choice: The Pilot's Wife

It is amazing how your taste in books changes over the years. I don't know whether it is a function of maturity or being a member of my local book club for a couple of years, but I am definitely starting to see a change. Last month's choice was The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve. As soon as the host announced what her choice was, I knew I was in for an easy time.
Why? Because I had already read a few Anita Shreve novels and I knew that I liked her style and subject matter. I was so relaxed about this book that I got a little lazy about reading it and left it until the last day. In the end, I read it in one sitting on an indolent Sunday. I'd pretty much never done that before. I always thought that reading a book in one day was one of those Hollywood cliches, like packing an entire wardrobe into a small suitcase in five minutes flat, and then lifting the thing with ease whilst sobbing hysterically, yet not smudging your mascara... hmmm, I digress.

How was it? It was an extremely easy read, but I was surprised that I wasn't enchanted by it. When I finished it, I thought "that's that then", and put it aside. Last month's book club choice was thought provoking, and this book wasn't. So I'm not sure what I think: is it thumb's up or down? It is probably thumb's horizontal!

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Start of Autumn - The Proms

We are just about to go into my favourite season of the year - autumn. I like the slightly cooler weather. I like smell of autumn. I like the mistiness we sometimes get in the morning, the way leaves turn gold and russet, and I love the smell of bonfires (not that many people burn bonfires any more). September is usually a much more reliable month weather-wise than June, July or August. I think that because school is restarting, and the family summer holidays are now just memories for another year, people think that the summer is over and no longer have any great expectations of the weather, and so are always pleasantly surprised when we get a warm day in September.

Yesterday evening was the Last Night of the Proms. I went with a group of friends to have a picnic and watch/listen in Hyde Park. I am not a huge fan of classical music, so the lighter classical stuff you get in Hyde Park, together with a bit of easy-listening pop is great for me. I think that you need to be a genuine season ticket holding Prommer, or at least very organised to buy tickets for the Albert Hall. What stood out for me this year was that I got a real sense of the Proms being celebrated all round the British Isles. I'd always considered it a London event, so it was great that for the finale, we had choirs from Glasgow, Belfast (I think), Cardiff and Teesside signing songs/arias that are strongly associated with their part of the UK. This is the second time I've gone to this event in the park, and it felt like a great end to the summer/start of autumn.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Knitting Malaise

I seem to have lost my knitting mojo lately. I was happily knitting a lovely buttery-coloured stole inspired by MimKNit's Seraphim Shawl, when I saw that MS3 was announced. I'd never done anything like that before. I had seen a couple of Melanie's designs, and whilst not everything is to my taste, I think that she is very talented. I also liked the sense of virtual community that working on the same piece at the same time as 6,000 other people world-wide would bring. So I joined up.

I bought the materials, did a swatch (for the first time in my life), tried the beading and settled into doing the first few clues. Then I managed to forget my knitting when I went on holiday and got behind. Then the wing was announced, and that put the nail in the coffin for me. It was so completely not to my taste that I knew I would never have embarked on the project had I seen the complete design. What to do? I didn't dare say I didn't like it... One or two brave people had said it in the Yahoo group and were flamed to hell and back. They were told that they were ungrateful, and they didn't appreciate all the hard work that Melanie had put in. I just kept quiet. There is no doubt that she is very talented and gracious (she stepped in to put the flaming to an end), but this was not for me. The conversation in the Yahoo group made me feel as though I "owed" it to someone to complete the stole. But I didn't like it... I couldn't frog it, I couldn't work on it... it seemed to prevent me from working on anything else.

I broke a self-imposed rule by buying some Habu which I'd been lusting after for a loooong time. My rule was that I was not going to have the mother of all stashes, I would buy yarn for specific projects, and I would work on one at a time. However, I allowed myself to do a swatch, and plan what I wanted to make. I know that I'm going to felt it shibori-style, and I've already purchased the glass beads and tiny elastic bands. But since I'd promised myself that I would be a one project knitter (self-imposed rule #2), and the spectre of MS3 was still hanging over me, I haven't started that either.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel. I'm invited to a wedding at the beginning of October. I rather fancy wearing an ethereally elegant pink/brown stole of my own design. I need to find a simple but elegant outfit - preferably a dress. I'm going to frog MS3, I like the yarn very much, but I'll use it for something else. Time to shake that off, and enjoy my Habu! The buttery stole can wait a little longer too; it will be a Christmas gift for my sister.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Japanese Style Part II - Tea

Despite the proliferation of cool and swanky coffee houses all over the place, I'm still a tea drinker. I like the idea of going into a coffee house with a book or the newspapers on a lazy afternoon when I've got nothing better to do. I like the smell of coffee very much, but that is where the love affair ends. For me, coffee smells better than it tastes. With a St*rf*cks [sorry] on the high street of every itty bitty little town (yes, one arrived here this year too), it seems that the British tea drinker is getting left out in the cold.

A few days ago, I heard a discussion on the venerable Radio 4 about the fact that sales of regular black tea is at an all time low
in the UK. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It seems that sales of specialist teas - chai, green teas, red teas, fruit and herbal teas were enjoying a bit of a renaissance. People are starting to get picky about their tea, and not just their tea, but their tea making accoutrements too... It made me think about the type of tea I drank (ahem, any number of teas - green, fruit, herbal, black ...), and what I drink from. I have the mother of all teacups & saucers: it holds three-quarters of a pint, and no one drinks from it but me. I also have a whole variety of teapots, depending on what I'm drinking, e.g. this one is for fruit teas. I got it from Mariage Freres in Paris, home to a tea museum, and some of the most fabulous tea rooms I've ever visited (and yes, my schoolgirl French is hideous).

I reserve this one that I bought in Japan for when I'm feeling ultra-special, and want to have a cup of green or white tea with a touch of honey. Sacrilege, I know - did I introduce you my sweet tooth?

Bettys by Post is a fabulous way to indulge. Not only are teapots becoming small items of desire, I noticed that tea is being packaged ever more attractively... "Woman's Hour" on Radio 4 has an article about the perfect afternoon tea at Claridge's Hotel. Coffee, watch out!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Halcyon Days

My family has always been international. My extended family lives all over the world, and my nuclear family is rarely all in the same place at the same time. At one point we were all in completely different places, several time zones from each other. For example, when I worked in Thailand, I used to call my parents early on a Sunday morning, and they would be answering early on a Saturday evening.

Right now my sister and her family are living in Japan. So we don't get to spend much time together. We tend to meet up in the summer and at Christmas. As I sit here on a dreary weekday morning, I am remembering the fun times we had this summer...

For almost the entire two months that he was here, my nephew insisted on calling me "Ganma". I would say, "Aunty", encouragingly. He would just look at me and repeat "Ganma". When I asked him if I looked like grandma, he nodded emphatically, "Yes". As though I'd asked the world's most stupid question. Okay, then...

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Oh, Habu...

I just couldn't help myself, once I had my hands on the little bundles of gorgeousness, I had to play with them straight away. I'm not normally a fan of mohair; I can't stand all the fluff. But this? Oh my lord, I had to reread the ball band! Is that what silk and mohair feels like? Oh wow, just SOFT... The 100% silk was a completely unexpected texture: almost crispy, without the slipperiness or the sheen that I normally associate with silk.

I started with two strands of the silk/mohair, and got a beautifully soft, but saturated colour. Then I added a strand of silk. The colours blend seamlessly, but with a subtle distinction where I changed yarn combination. Next I removed one of the silk/mohair strands, and got almost a heathered effect. What to try next? I added another strand of crispy silk, and finally I removed all mohair to leave just two silk strands, and then a single silk strand. The texture moves from being luxuriously soft and supple to being quite textural (almost coarse) as the colour shifts from light pink to soft brown. This little swatch has been following me from room to room over the last couple of days. I can't stop looking at it, touching it, and marvelling at the colour/texture combinations.

What will it look and feel like when I block it? I haven't even dared to try the Shibori yet. I bought quite a lot of this yarn, so I have some choices about what to make. All the designs I've seen made of Habu have been kind of zen and spare, and I think that's also what I want to do. An intricate lacey pattern would be a waste, I think. So, whilst I look for a design, I think I'll do another swatch and felt it Shibori-style.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Japanese Style Part I - Yarn

I was going to write a post about my last weekend with my sister and her family before they headed back to Japan. But I got distracted when the postman slipped a little grey card through my letterbox. It was one of those good news/bad news moments.

The good news: my Habu had arrived at long last. I have been lusting after some of their yarn ever since I read a review of their cashmere in Knitter's Review. The bad news: Customs & Excise and the post office between them were "taxing" me another 50% of the purchase value... Grrr. I didn't want to buy it from the US, as I knew I was likely to be clobbered by C&E. I had searched all over the Internet for UK retailers - there are perhaps two, and neither sold what I particularly wanted to buy for my first exposure to this unique company's yarn.

I checked Habu, and saw that they would be putting in an appearance in London in October. I told myself to wait, at least then I would be able to touch the stuff before I bought it. I began to exercise a level of restraint previously unheard of in my lifetime, and then one day I innocently wandered over to Coloursknits and read her post from 31-Jul-07. Oooh boy, oh boy, oh boy... Let's just say that from Vanessa's blog, somehow or other with no conscious thought on my part, and entirely on their own, my fingers typed out Naturesong Yarn. Click, click, click and 15 days later, I received this... Kakishibu Tsumugi Silk A-1B 2/17 (100% silk) in #52 Bengara.
And this... Silk Mohair Kusa A-32B 1/12 (60% mohair and 40% silk) in #26 Madder. I can't begin to tell you how beautiful these yarns are... The colours are so subtle, so natural, so restrained. I can't imagine that I will get anything other than the most elegant article made from this.

I am hoping for many new experiences with these yarns, not least of which is trying the Shibori felting technique.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Book Club Choice: Carry Me Down

Aptly named book... I felt miserable reading it.

This book has been nominated for the "Man Booker Prize 2006", I'm still trying to work out why. In fact I'm trying to work out what happened. Did anything happen at all? Why was this book written? Did I learn anything from reading it? Is my life enriched in any way? Okay, now I'm getting pretentious. Geraldine Bedell of The Observer says, "Carry Me Down is almost claustrophobically narrow...", and I wholeheartedly agree with that. She goes on to say that it is "also enthralling and absorbing and capable of arousing sympathy to a degree that is almost painful". I wholeheartedly disagree with that!
I would count myself as a reader; I'm probably more of a reader than a knitter. I've certainly been reading consistently longer than I've been knitting consistently. In fact, I'm a lifelong reader. I only got reacquainted with knitting again a year ago after a nearly twenty year gap. I read for pleasure, for escapism (especially when I'm someplace I don't want to be), and occasionally to learn something new. I tend not to read non-fiction unless I'm intensely interested in the subject (e.g. David Starkey's Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne). Since reading is a very pleasurable thing for me, I only read what I like, and I didn't like this! Why did I bother? It was the book club choice for last month. I belong to a small book club of around seven women who all live on the same estate/sub-division. Naturally we are all quite diverse: some are stay at home mums; others professional women without children; others run their own small businesses; there is a homeopathic doctor, etc. I've been a member of this book club for a couple of years, and quite often find myself reading books that are out of my comfort zone. I hadn't realised that there were certain things that I want/need from a book. Components, which if they are absent, make me dislike a book intensely and probably not finish it. What I've learned (in no particular order) is:

  • I absolutely loathe books written in the first person. It makes a book narrow in perspective, and generally limits the author's ability to explain the motives behind the various characters' actions.
  • I despair if a book is unrelentingly gloomy (e.g. Jung Chan's Wild Swans - gah) ... I get to a point where I start to get depressed myself. Or I'm so annoyed that the characters don't try to improve their situation, that I lose interest in them.
  • I like books to be descriptive, I want to be taken to the place and time.... I want to be in the book, transported. This may sound crazy, but when I'm reading, I don't actually see the words on the page - for me it is like watching a film. I'm either a disaffected bystander, or I'm the main protagonist experiencing everything first hand. If a book isn't descriptive, I can't get lost in it.
  • I don't like books where time/place/events are uncertain. When did it happen? Did it happen? Was it all a figment of the protagonist's imagination? Yuck, give me a break...
Carry Me Down failed on all points... It wasn't my choice (can't ya tell?). I can't wait for book club tomorrow. Someone can tell me what this book was about. I'd also love to know why it was chosen. The person who picked it told us at least two months in advance that this would be her choice.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Grrr... & Yay!

Grrr... #1
"So", I think to myself, "I can either have this operation at the end of May or the end of July. I know, I'll have it in May, then when I'm at home for ~2 months, I can enjoy the lovely weather...". Only we get the wettest June and July in living memory - people have to be evacuated from their homes 'cos it won't stop raining... Then the day comes when I have to go back to work, and what do we get, people? Glorious freakin' sunshine - for the entire week, no less... So of course, everyone is taking holiday, and I'm sweltering in the office alone. Grrr...

Grrr... #2
How is it that I always do this? I am merrily knitting along, mentally patting myself on the back for getting to the point where I can (a) read my knitting, (b) predict what is coming up in the pattern, and (c) occasionally glance at the TV on a purl row... Except that actually, I can't do (c), 'cos I always drop a stitch. Then I have to tink back trying to locate it; then I have to tink the previous row 'cos I can't find it [grits teeth]; then I stop knitting all together 'cos I'm losing my temper, and I've now managed to drop two stitches, which are merrily unravelling down a couple of rows. At this point I carefully use my crochet hook to prevent the two stitches unravelling further, and gently put the knitting aside. I fume for a day, forget about it for a second day, and come back on day three to find the crochet hook has slipped out. I put in a stitch holder [grinding my teeth], and leave it for yet another day...

Grrr... #3
Over on Ravelry, I see a post about the "Innocent" fete in Regents Park this weekend. There will be a knitting tent, and a number of other UK-based Ravelers will be there. I go on line and buy my ticket in advance, jumping through all kinds of unnecessary hoops to validate the ticket when it finally arrives on Friday. Anyone would think I'd bought tickets for a major music concert! Anyhoo... Saturday morning dawns, beautiful and clear (see Grrr #1 above). I go to my local itty-bitty train station, only to find that someone had "trespassed on the line" at Basingstoke (several stations down line), and all trains are horribly delayed or cancelled... So, nope, I didn't make it, I go home again (and got myself embroiled in Grrr.... #2). I did try to maintain some perspective: someone lost their life yesterday, and irrespective of whether (s)he jumped, was pushed, or was genuinely trespassing, it must have been a tough day for the train driver, who suffers the shock of seeing someone on the line and being unable to stop... My knitting (non)event pales into insignificance by comparison.

Yay #1
I love, love, lurve Ravelry. I've been eyeing some Louet Euroflax yarn to make a Moss Grid Hand Towel from Mason-Dixon Knitting. I couldn't find it in the UK, and I didn't want to feel that I had to buy lots of yarn to justify shipping from the USA. Lo and behold a fellow Raveler has exactly the colour I want, and she's willing to trade/sell! A few quick emails and it's in my hands... Amazing! She was equally surprised at how quickly I got it, given that she lives in California.

Yay #2
I've been drooling over the pictures in Coloursknits blog for some time. Vanessa is extremely talented, and she has knitted a gorgeous Habu pink Silk Mohair Kusa and white stainless steel combo, and then felted it using the Shibori technique. I am so utterly in love with this that I went ahead and ordered some Habu myself. I have ordered the Silk Mohair Kusa and Kakishibu Tsumugi Silk, and it's due here any day now (pictures when it arrives!). I've lusted after Habu for so long, but didn't know what to make with it. When I saw Vanessa's scarf, I knew I wanted to make a version for myself. I wasn't sure how the Tsumugi Silk would felt, and so I asked in the Ravelry forums. I got lots of additional information about Shibori, and a suggestion that I write Vanessa directly, which I did. She wrote back and gave me a pretty full explanation of what she did... How great is that? So now when my yarn arrives, and I finish MS3, I can start it...

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Back to Work....

Well, it's all over for me... free time that is. I have been off work for a grand total of nine weeks due to having had a major operation in May. Recovery was slow, but not painful. I felt so well during the recovery period that at times I was in danger of overdoing things a little. My body soon let me know when I'd gone too far. Then I'd spend a day or two brooding over whether I'd done any lasting damage.

The op represented a pretty defining moment for me, a kind of watershed. Having such a long period away from work and the constant travelling gave me a lot of time to think about my life, and how I want it to be from now on. I'm not making huge changes: I love my job, and the company I work for treats it's staff really well. But I think I've decided to move on a couple of things I'd been putting off. I've decided to treat myself better, I deserve better. This has nothing to do with material things as I think I'm pretty lucky in that department all things considered. I just want my life to be better...

So during my time off, I made a list of things that I wanted to get done before going back to work. It was a pretty extensive list, and included stuff that I'd put off for years [fear can really hold you back]. I am happy to report that I've done all bar one, and that is in progress.

And now it's Sunday evening, I'm about to start my regular checking process before going to bed [the whole thing can take a couple of hours, because I'm easily distracted on a Sunday evening]. However today I feel like I do when returning to school after the holidays. Do I have my books? Where is my favourite pen? Is my BlackBerry fully charged? I know that all emails have been downloaded to my laptop, because I did that on Saturday morning. Have I worked out what I'm wearing? Is it ironed? Are my shoes clean? Where's that doctor's certificate that I have to submit? Arrrrgggghhh...

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

AuntyTS & the "Ferocious Beast"

WARNING - picutre heavy post...

"Man proposes, God disposes" or so a Muslim friend told me when we worked together in Thailand nearly 10 years ago. I've never forgotten it. Remember a plan about finishing clue 3 of MS3 and reading this month's book club choice on holiday? Yeah, well you actually need to bring the knitting and the book with you for that to work. Not leave them prominently positioned on the sofa where you are sure not to see them as you bound through the front door at the last minute.

Where did I go? Center Parcs Sherwood Forest (NAYY). Center Parcs used to have an ad campaign that said "the holiday the weather cannot spoil". Most of you will have seen the weather reports over the last week in the UK; boy, did it rain! We still had a good time despite the weather. "We" were a big group - my parents, my sister, her husband, two children and yours truly. We hired a 15 seater van for the journey, which I drove. My normal car is a small, low two-seater sports car. From this to a honking great bus? It was different, I can tell you that! Unfortunately I didn't think of taking a picture of me driving said bus. Suffice to say it wasn't easy to begin with - my five-year old niece kept referring to us as "AuntyTS and the Ferocious Beast". The thing was so damn big that I couldn't park it in any covered car park. I couldn't park it in a single car bay at motorway service stations either. One time I parked it with the HGVs!

Anyhoo, here are some pics of the niece & nephew having fun, and some of the wildlife that was just outside our villa. Interestingly my nephew (2 years old) generally had no problem with live animals and birds, e.g the falcon in the "The Robin Hood Experience" (we was robbed, I tell ya!), but he didn't like the statue of the horse. Good thing he didn't see the strange cat that I picked up with my camera in the gloom...

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Finished 2nd Clue on MS3!

Yay!, I finished the 2nd clue on MS3 on time - late Thursday evening.

I have realised that I must be a pretty slow knitter. Keeping up with MS3 is a focussed effort. I kinda said to myself, "okay it's only 50 rows for this clue, so if I can do ~10 rows per day, that won't take up too much time and I'll have a couple of days spare". Of course that doesn't take into account the tinking, the need to concentrate, friends visiting, seeing the family, doing the shopping, the cleaning (ahem, not), getting my hair done, going to book club (not having finished last month's book, shame on me) - just ... life.

Then on top of that, there's my addiction to Ravelry. My right shoulder has been a little painful of late. Initially I thought it was the increased amount of knitting, but now I'm thinking it is that plus sitting on the computer half the day. Now I'm not complaining, it's just that I've had burnt offerings for dinner several times this week, because whilst dinner was cooking, I got completely lost in Ravelry, and forgot what I was supposed to be doing...

OK, I'm off on a family holiday next week, so I'm determined to make real progress on this month's book club book "Carry Me Down" by M. J. Hyland AND keep up with MS3. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

My Power Element Is ...

I've seen this on a number of blogs, and thought I'd see what my power element is. I think this is largely right. I was going to say that green and brown are not my favourite colours, but actually I wear these autumnal colours quite a bit. Hmmmm?

Your Power Element is Wood
Your power colors: green and brown
Your energy: generative
Your season: spring
Like a tree, you are always growing and changing. And while your life is dynamic, you are firmly grounded. You have high morals and great confidence in yourself and others. You have a wide set of interests, and you make for intersting company.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

No Really, Socks?

I struggle with knitting socks... Not actually knitting socks, but the idea of knitting them. I only wear socks in my boots, and I only wear boots during the winter, really. Then, I'm a little particular about the socks that I wear. They've got to be very thin (not bulky at all), and the colour/pattern needs to be on the conservative side. My socks are generally grey, or blue, or brown solid colours. So how do you explain the first socks that I ever made?

And how do you explain my desire to make another pair of socks - NOW? I've seen a lovely pattern called Phineas by Rosemary Waits. I plan to make these socks with some beautiful Schaeffer Anne yarn in a gorgeous blue/green/lilac colour. I could not resist this yarn when I saw it.

It is one of my favourite colour combinations. I think this is the reason I feel startitis coming on... However, I am determined to be good. I won't start the socks until I've finished MS3. Oh, and after I've finished my Seraphim inspired wrap (Pictures in another post).

Monday, 2 July 2007

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

Global warming, climate change, environmental issues, being green - you can't ignore it. It's everywhere: on the news, in chain emails, in the papers, online. A number of local councils in the UK have started ABC programmes. One week the regular household rubbish is collected and on alternate weeks recyclable rubbish is taken; glass items are a separate collection, and garden waste is another one again. Our council encourages you to buy a garden waste bag which they collect (pretty sporadically as far as I can tell), and then they sell the compost they have made with your garden waste back to the public... Alternatively, you can have your own compost heap in your back garden - I went for that option. Unfortunately no one told me that you had to nurture a compost heap. Grass and flower cuttings don't just turn into compost on their own! So now I have to take all the grass out, and put a rotting agent in there. It can come as no surprise that I've been putting this off for a while... ~sigh~

Then there are the supermarkets trying to reduce the number of carrier bags we use. Stores are now selling some rather good looking jute totes (or hemp or whatever). They are very popular. This weekend whilst shopping with my sister, we noticed just how many people were carrying reusable bags, and just managed to get the last two in John Lewis. I think they're kinda cute. During the shopping frenzy (we started at 9am for an all day session in the sales), I saw some beautiful glass earrings that I just had to have. When I came to photograph them, I started hunting around the house for something to display them on, and found a glass tumbler that previously had shop bought dessert in it, some gauzy ribbon left over from a present I wrapped for someone eons ago, and a few flowers from a bouquet I'd received last week. Now that's what I call reduce, re-use, recycle!