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.