Monday, May 19, 2008

Say goodbye, say hello...

I've decided to relocate this blog, moving it to a new address at where I'll be undoubtedly waffling away about the same sort of things as I do here.

Back when I first set up this blog, Blogger was running under release one which was considerably more clunky, slow and limited in functionality than the Blogger of today. That Blogger took my then Google login id, which was not tied to any other Google utilities and set the blog's URL using it.

Since I was only playing around back then and was using the more robust Live Journal for my primary blogging activities the default URL didn't particularly worry me. Nowadays though, Blogger is my blog of choice with my LiveJournal having fallen into disuse, other than for reading entries from folks I know occasionally. Since it looks like I'm sticking with Blogger, at least for the foreseeable future, I thought it was about time I sorted out that URL.

I'm leaving this site up and running so that any links to pages here continue to function as before, but any new updates will be to the new site. So come on over and visit me there.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thinking bags...

Go Outdoors! called a few days back, agreeing completely that my tent did indeed have a three foot gash in the built in ground sheet and that this damage probably happened before it left the factory. I headed over on Friday night after work and picked up a replacement and fingers crossed that this time, it's as it should be.

Now we just have to find time to do a test pitch and this time, inspect it thoroughly!

I bought a couple of new books this week, Making Handbags and Chic Bags, both bought from The Book Depository. My thought was to have a go at making bags, since it would keep my sewing hand in but each bag should be relatively quick to make. Of course I hadn't reckoned on how hard it would be to find suitable supplies in Coventry.

I flicked through Making Handbags, which is a fairly basic book compared to Chic Bags (which has some very, very nice bags in it) covering basic bag designs - namely the tote, the clutch, the drawstring and the beach bag - and variations on each. I'd decided to have a go at making a basic drawstring bag, which is not disimilar to a tote, but with gromits set into the top and finished off with a clip on strap.

Sadly it was not to be.

I found some upholstery fabric offcuts I liked without difficulty after sticking my head into Busy Fingers in town. I rather fell of the wagon there, buying fabric, despite the fact that I've probably got suitable fabric in my stash, but it was pretty... And I justified the purchase after Dave commented that the fabric would make excellent breeches, so it has a secondary purpose already.

Then I walked up to Hobbycraft, thinking I'd pick up some grommits and either dog leash clips (as the book describes them) or key ring split rings. This is where I was thwarted. Hobbycraft had 8mm grommits which are possibly too small but no starter kits or die sets, to fit them. The 11mm grommits, were sold in starter kits but it was a case of you can have any colour you like, so long as it's black. Clips and keyring split rings were not to be found.

After scouring the store, I sought out a shop assistant... who proceeded to patronise me and act in a generally terse and aggressive fashion. She did try to help I suppose, but only after I stopped acting like I knew what I was talking about and apologised for expecting her to do her job.

I left the store without buying anything at all, which demonstrates just how frustrated and generally demoralised I felt by the time this woman was done with me.

So, no gromits and no clips which means I'll need to hunt down the required bits online.

On the plus side, we popped over to see Esther and family yesterday for a natter. I got to hold the latest addition and received some tips for the kind of store to search for. So far, the places which seem promising are Corsetry Suppliers (a store I already use here), leather working suppliers, saddlers and pet shops. I did look at online chandlers, who sell all manner of interesting clips but nothing quite like I was looking for. Bead shops sell lots of other things I'd like to buy and are very tempting, so I'm going to have to return for a second look. And of course, camping suppliers...

I did find out the proper name for a dog leash clip is a trigger hook - which helps no end when trying to do a search.

Friday, May 02, 2008

A sense of achievement

Yesterday was a first for me. I cycled to work and home again, which not only makes it the first time I've made that journey on a bicycle, it was also my first solo bike ride, since every previous cycle ride has been in the company of Dave.

That means I cycled somewhere between eight and nine miles, sometimes on the road and sometimes on the pavement (where the pavement was wide and had no pedestrian traffic). I made it in and back without needing to stop, managed to get up hills (slowly I admit) and all without incident. I did note how many unexpected hazzards there were... Potholes and poor road surface, pedestrians who seem oblivious to bicycles and will step out right in front of you, dithering drivers, parked cars and their doors... But I coped and at the low speed I was travelling, had plenty of time to react, so all was good.

Today, not surprisingly, I hurt - mostly in the vicinity of my right knee, which really is not happy.

However, other than the expected knee pain, everything else seems to be OK... My legs don't feel like they've been through some sort of torture and even the saddle soreness seems to be less than it was after those first journeys a few weeks back - thank goodness for gel saddle covers - all of which suggests my general stamina must be improving, even if my knee is not.

A win methinks.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

On going battles

Friday I worked from home as I was expecting a workman to come look at my front door again. This was a good thing as my front door which is not even three years old is particularly problematic. It lets in drafts, which it definitely shouldn't and the frame doesn't feel as well anchored into the hole as I'd expect either. Oh and it jams a lot, which was why I replaced the original door in the first place.

This was the second scheduled visit, the first having achieved nothing because the workman arrived without the tools to do the job and not enough time allocated to complete it. Not to mention how difficult it was to get hold of Amber Windows in the first place.

Anyhow, the man from Amber Windows came. He was pleasant and friendly. He made all the right noises. He sucked in the air through his teeth a lot and he fiddled with the door for over an hour. And the result? It's worse than when he started and he still didn't have the parts he needed to finish the job.

I am not happy and shall be phoning again tomorrow morning. Which of course means I need to arrange to work from home again. For some reason, I don't hold out much hope that whenever this next visit is arranged, that that will be the end of the matter. So watch this space.

In more entertaining news, I drove up to Ripley last night to help out Richard with the latest wargame associated with AscendancyLRP which was held in Andy and Heather's shop, Chimera.

I was scribe, my task being to record everything that happened so it could be written up properly. I've had a go at wargaming in the past, I know how it goes... A turn takes typically anything from twenty minutes to an hour, involving a lot of discussion and shaking of dice and sometimes arguments about interpretation of the rules as little men are moved around the table. I checked first and confirmed that my job involved no more than writing down about four lines per turn, I expected to get a lot of sock knitted.

After five turns and four full A4 pages of notes and not a single stitch knitted, I think maybe I was misled. Bad Richard!

It was an entertaining day although I got lost during the rule discussions and it was such a big game, with huge numbers of points on the table, that I couldn't keep track of which unit was which or what just happened. This led to me asking lots of questions in hurried whispers to the players, as I scribbled away frantically.

I even whipped out my camera and took some photo's.

Click on images, to see bigger versions...

Although they probably don't mean much without the context, but some of those figures are very nicely done.

The player's side won.


And I do mean just. It was an incredibly close call, but I don't think anyone other than those watching the game will have any appreciation for how close they came to losing.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Joking aside

I'm beginning to think I might need to censor Dave's bed time reading.

Last night, just as I was dropping off to sleep he starts to chortle. I asked what was up and he replied...

"I went to the supermarket to buy some H.P. Sauce. I'm paying it off monthly, in sixpence installments."

This morning, while I'm still stumbing around in a caffiene deprived state, he asked "Why do elephant's have big ears?"

I, wondering why he was suddenly putting me on the spot and quizzing me about trivia, replied suitably only to have him smirk and reply. "No. It's because Noddy wouldn't pay the the ransom!"

Cue much mirth on his part.

Can't you tell he's reading a book all about jokes?

In other news, I went along to the knitting group last night where I scored four skeins of Louisa Harding Sari Ribbon (Ravelry Link) in a sort of pale green colour. No idea what I'm going to do with it, but it is very pretty... Ideas anyone?

No pictures, because I didn't think of it and my camera's batteries are playing up again (at some point I will give up and buy new ones).

I also came home with some vintage crochet patterns from the seventies. Everyone else seemed to think they were hilarious, but my response to most of the designs was 'Oooh, nice.' said in a not at all sarcastic way. What can I say, my costuming gene went off big time! I resisted for the most part, but did nab a crocheted cloak pattern (the ultimate in 70's style I tell you and possibly coming to an Eidolan near you) and a couple of very pretty lace waistcoats.

I also finished sock number one. I'll weave in the ends tonight and then, hopefully cast on sock number two.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Not exactly restful

Friday night I took my new tent back to Go Outdoors! to see about getting an exchange.

The good news was that they still stock the Vango Venture 500...

The bad news, they were not willing to take my word for it regarding the damage and said I'd have to wait until a manager had time to inspect the tent and give their opinion as to whether the damage warranted a replacement or not. No one was available there and then and there wasn't much chance of anyone being around until some point next week. Rather than argue I filled out the necessary paperwork, including an extensive description of the tear and left the tent with them.

I now await their call with interest...

So far, this has a been a quiet and damp weekend. It's not particularly cold, just dark, damp and miserable out there. I'm still worn out from last weekend and with the work the way it is, my priority this weekend has been on recharging my batteries and spending some quality time with my other half.

We've cycled a fair distance this weekend and went swimming this morning (cycling to and from the sports centre, despite the persistant drizzle), which serves the purpose of spending time with Dave but has been hardly restful. The other thing I've discovered about all this exercise is it makes me very hungry!

My only contribution to decluttering this weekend was to pass a couple of kit items to Dave to see if he can find new owners for them via Maelstrom. Two were items I've never used, having picked them up new on speculation but never had a reason to wear them... And since then, my costuming eye has, er... developed a tad... Which means I've become more selective in what I consider suitable kit.

The other, a lightly used (one and a half events) dress I'm still deliberating on whether to let go or not. It's a fairly simple smock in cotton/linen, with beading and fringing detail on collar and cuffs, to make it more interesting.

At the moment it's in the 'go' pile, mostly because I can't see me needing it currently and I could always make something similar if I needed it. Finding suitable fabric would be a pain, but that is always the case.

What it does represent is a trip down memory lane and creative investment. Every costume piece I make has a bit of me in it and so, letting it go is always a problem. Not to say I shouldn't shed kit I'm unlikely to use again, but it's hard when you've an emotional attachment. At the very least, I wanted to record that I'd made this and hence why I've put a picture here.

I finally got around to blocking the scarf I knitted last month which has been sitting waiting for my attention for the past two weeks.

This is 'Scarf Askew' which I originally found on the now sadly no more Magknits site. So far I haven't found it published anywhere else on the internet, but hopefully its designer will upload it somewhere else in due course. The yarn is an aran weight, the discontinued Jaeger Sport in an interesting bluey/green which I think complements the manly nature of this scarf.

The only modification I've made is to add a moss stitch border, in an effort to curb the curl on this one and boy oh boy, does this scarf curl! I think it really wants to be knitted in the round and I think the stitch pattern would make some wonderfully subdued and manly socks. For now, I've blocked the living daylights out of the scarf and I shall wait to see if it holds.

Finally to end...

My current sock in progress.

As always, click on the images to see bigger versions...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tension seems to be a theme here

With the end of the week looming fast, I've just realised that I've not written an update on here since the beginning of last week, which perhaps is a fair indicator of how things have been of late.

Work is being work and I'm under a lot of pressure at the moment, mostly because I've been given the go ahead for a project which has been on and off and then on and off and on... (you get the idea) All of which means I'm in full steam ahead mode without much time to do anything else, let alone think of blogging.

When I managed to squeeze in a lunchtime last week, I was working my way through an Anti SpamBot fix for the forums I look after, with a supposedly easy fix having so far accrued at least three hours of my time as I try to get it ready to copy up to server. Since its open source I can't guarantee it will work, but once I finish the last few tweaks (and I have a good clear hour to spare) I'll be ready to give it a go on the test boards before starting to do the same for the real thing.

Last weekend was the first proper camping Ascendancy event of the year and I was preparing for it to be a wet and cold one. As it turned out, things weren't too bad. Friday night the weather waited until we'd got the tents up and then rained heavily, on and off all night and in the early morning, but cleared for the rest of the day. It was cold but I was prepared and so it was definitely copable.

One thing of note was my new tent, bought last September and on its first outing, which turned out to have a three foot tear in the built in ground sheet. It had been partially repaired using tape very similar to the groundsheet, suggesting the damage happened at the factory. How it got past QA I don't know and it certainly shouldn't have been sold that way. I'm not impressed and will be taking it back to the store tomorrow, where I shall be pressing for a replacement.

Plotwise, it was an interesting event which turned into a very uncomfortable situation as plans came unravelled, carefully negotiated deals were thwarted and the whole thing descended into player versus player rather than trying to constructively deal with the problem at hand.

I'm still rather bemused by the way in which we were sabotaged; this happens to me on a regular basis and given the consequences of what happened I'm inclined to react this time. Still pondering how to do this and keep the character playable in such a small game, but it is going to take some doing to repair the damage, something which is going to have to be played out.

Overall, it was a lively game with (I suspect) some OOC personal issues getting in the way which didn't help. The way things went should represent something of a set back for the players, although if they pull together things could work out but we shall have to see what happens.

Knitting wise, I took a sock camping which I diligently worked on while drinking tea in the morning. Talking about turning heels with Gail also proved a helpful distraction to what was going on. A plain sock is easy and relaxing knitting and I heartily recommend it if plot you've been working on for over two years goes horribly wrong, it may save your sanity!

Hmmm... Maybe I should teach Andy to knit? ;)

The same sock went with me to the knitting group last night, where I asked for help from Jane in ripping out the heel. As soon as I showed it to Jane she could see the problem and said I should have photographed it to illustrate what can happen when your tension is way off. I knitted that heel flap on Monday and Tuesday night and to look at it, you'd have said it had been knitted by two different people with completely different needle sizes. On the Monday night it was way too loose and on the Tuesday I seem to have compensated and gone the other way, tightening the stitches so I was strangling the life out of the yarn!

I asked Jane to rip out the heel as the last time I tried that with a sock, I ended up having to redo the whole thing.

All is good now though, with the sock back on its needles and the heel about two thirds done with an even tension throughout.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Wind, rain, sleet, snow, hail and sunshine outside; meanwhile back at the ranch...

Monday has arrived again in the wake of a weekend where the weather seems to have thrown everything it could think of at us. We had wind, rain, sleet, snow and hail all interspersed with periods of glorious sunshine which made you think Spring had arrived... Except of course it was so cold outside that if you weren't wearing gloves all sensation in fingers was lost within seconds!

No snow pictures because I didn't think of it until this morning and if I had I don't think my camera's batteries are changed so disappointment would have followed.

This weekend was a slow one where nothing much seems to have happened, although I know I spent most of the time being busy in one way or another.

Friday, I went for a long-ish bike ride after work, deciding to cycle towards my place of work and see how far I got - I actually did OK, getting within the last mile before deciding to go home.

One downside of this was I got to see that not only drivers but pedestrians can be a problem when you're on a bicycle, with one youth in particular letting off a foul mouthed tirade when I stopped at a junction and dithered for a moment while trying to find the peddles to start again. Totally oblivious of the large white van waiting patiently (no really, he was no problem at all) behind me or my gender, this lad seemed rather put out that I was there when he wanted to cross the road. I also got beeped at by a white purgeot for no apparent reason that I can think of, but that was less shocking since I kind of expect that.

The other downside of this is that I've been in pain, knee-wise, all weekend with it still persisting today, and I really didn't peddle all that hard. The challenge now is how to build up stamina so that I can get to work and back without crippling myself...

Saturday we walked into town, intending to go swimming but discovered the pool was closed, which will teach me not to check the website before setting off. We bumped into Evelyn123 en route and Dave persuaded the lucky lady that what she really needs is a rhubarb plant cutting (now potted and ready to go) in his efforts to tame the beast which regularly dominates the back step, Triffid style.

I bought wool. I'm thinking of trying to knit a waistcoat or something similar, which will be a departure from the norm for me.

I also did some spinning, both on Saturday and Sunday, with the spindle getting heavier and the bag of fluff getting noticeably smaller, so I'm slowly making progress there. The yarn is still very variable, going between perfect to overspun, to slightly blobby, to laceweight with each additional meter... But I am getting up speed now and I have started standing up to increase my reach. Dave asked me what I'm going to make with the yarn last night and the answer is I have no idea as I haven't really thought that far ahead yet.

Otherwise, this weekend I did some knitting, strung the amulet pouch I made last week, did some housework and pulled another couple of bags of bits together for the charity shop and thought about making some of these... Which are of course row counter, abacus bracelets...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's all in the spin...

Last night I headed off to the Knit-Wit's knitting group as I normally do on a Wednesday night, unexploded WWII bombs permitting, where we had a spinning workshop scheduled. Kellie (who sadly doesn't get to make it as often as we'd all like) was along to show us how it should be done, bringing with her a basket full of bits of fleece, hooks, spindles and samples of handspun yarn.

We started out with a table full of interested potential spinners, as Kellie took us through using a hook to practice drafting/spinning on. I'm afraid I couldn't get it. I had no problems with drafting, but I just couldn't maintain tension using a hook to set the spin - I just ran out hands! After staring at my hands and the hook in bafflement for a good fifteen minutes, exchanging bemused glances with an equally baffled Mandy, I reverted to my spindle after which all was good.

Kellie showed me a new technique for applying the Park and Draft method of spinning which was considerably more fluid than my previous attempts. I also learnt a more stable way of attaching and wrapping the yarn around the spindle than the one I'd been using, as well as being shown me how far I could draft out the fibre before spinning, which helped no end.

What a difference having someone show you rather than just reading about how to do something makes!

By the end of the evening I was making good progress, doubling the amount of spun yarn on my spindle. I even managed to join new some new roving without making a complete hash of it and as always, watching the fluff turn into yarn was fascinating.

I was also interested to see the difference between a re-enactment spindle (which both of mine and all of Kellie's are) and a modern American style spindle, which Mandy was using.

The whorl on Mandy's was much larger than either of the ones on my spindles and it's position was more central - although not completely centred, it was definitely a bottom whorl spindle. There was also a little hook set into the top, to help keep the yarn in place I guess, whereas my spindles just have a notch to give the half hitch knot something to catch on. The modern spindle was also far more ornate and highly decorated, with someone having spent a lot of time making it pretty to look at. The re-enactment spindles have a certain simple beauty about them (I like them) but are functional items first and foremost.

I came away with a couple of pieces of merino fleece to practice with, so I can try out spinning with something other than the Blue Faced Leicester silver tops that I picked up from the Mulberry Dyers. Although I have to say that I like the Blue Faced Leicester... When I draw a fibre out, it's typical length is something like 9cm which means it is very easy to spin. It's also soft, fluffy and feels nice.

Of course, that doesn't mean that any yarn I'm spinning at the moment will knit up nicely, given my beginner status, the quality and spin on the resulting yarn is very variable. Hopefully, when I get to having a go at plying, some of that will sort itself out but if it doesn't, I'm not too worried as I'm treating this as very much a learning exercise at the moment.

I have found myself starting to look at online sources for fibre, with Blue Faced Direct, The Yarn Yard, Shunklies and Violet Green all catching my eye.

So far I'm resisting though...

Monday, March 31, 2008

Mend and make do...

This weekend marked the official start of British Summer Time with the clocks all going forward by an hour on Sunday morning. Personally, I hate it when the clock gets adjusted as it takes at least another week for my body to catch on. It seems to have thrown the cats as well, who were decidedly late in their waking yesterday morning and again today, rather than being ready with the CPR at 6am to get me going.

Today I ache in all the wrong places and my right knee has a definite whinge going on, the cause being too much cycling. Taking advantage of the break in the weather, Dave and I cycled about seven miles on Saturday and another three or so, yesterday.

The ride on Saturday was the more productive of the two and I actually rode on the road, surviving my first encounters with inconsiderate drivers who blocked me in and rode so close, they seemed determined to knock me off the bike. I say 'seemed', since I'm sure they weren't trying to send me flying, just agressively claiming the road, which in turn pushed me into the gutter and made trying to pull out so I could turn right impossible.

Sunday's jaunt was more sedate as well as shorter, since within moments of getting on the bicycle, muscles I hadn't realised I had started to complain very loudly! I persevered and then discovered a new issue, namely the bike seemed to be trying to throw me off every time I changed gear. In the end, Dave had a go, riding my bicycle for a short while around the park before deciding there was a genuine problem with the gear transition. A brief visit by Dave to the bicycle shop later (I let him go, since he knows bike speak) and it was sorted (I hope) and turned out to be a stretched gear cable, which the man in the shop said is normal on new bicycles.

Dave has cycled to work this morning, but for me I think more practice and confidence will be needed before I can do the same.

When not risking life and limb on the road this weekend, I pottered around the house (as I regularly do), performing household chores. In between all this, the focus was on 'mend and make do' type activities, as I get ready for the next AscendancyLRP event.

I started off by spending about three hours on Saturday repairing the robe I wear, which was damaged by a clumsy viking at the last event. Since I couldn't find any replacements for the torn frogs last week, I carefully removed the frogs from under the sleeves on the short jacket I made last year, then transferred them to the dress.

Pictures from when it was brand new and pristine...

The removal of the frogs, took quite a while as I'd sewn them on to stay sewn on, so getting them off without damaging the jacket fabric was very fiddly and time consuming. Then I had to do the same with the damaged frogs, carefully feeling for the stitching with my unpicker so I could cut it, but not the threads of the robe itself. Then came the fun of sewing the frogs back on, both for the robe and the jacket (replacing the burgandy frogs with black ones), since I didn't want to leave it in a canibalised state - knowing me I'd have never got around to fixing it again.

When I was finally done with the robe, I moved onto making an amulet pouch or a little bag to hang around the neck.

This little pouch illustrates and vindicates all my insecurities about why I should never throw away scrap! You never know when you might have to rustle something up which looks like it is and always has been part of your character's costume.

The main fabric of the bag is part of the left overs from a jacket I made... er... five (maybe) years ago. That fabric turns up again on the robe as part of the colar, and the gores (or godets) in the skirt. The lining is scrap left over from the robe I made for Dave last summer. The ribbon came off a chocolate box and the beaded bit is one of the frogs I'd just cut off the robe. Dave has retouched the beads for me, as the paint was worn off and I just need to thread a cord through and it's done.

Not too shabby for something made entirely out of left overs and all in about three hours work.

As always, click on images to see bigger versions...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

By way of experimentation...

Dave has been safely returned from camping at the Maelstrom event last night and many thanks are due to Sarah who gallantly stepped in as his substitute lift, after his first ride had repeated car trouble. I was on the verge of going to fetch him myself (shoes on, directions from website in hand) when she kindly stepped into the breech, which saved me a two hour round trip. Dave himself is slowly recovering, no longer looks so plasticky (ye gods, the horrors of makeup!) but has a cold to show for his exploits.

Myself, I spent the weekend pottering around the house, running errands and experimenting in a fibery way.

I bravely dodged snow, sleet and hail showers to visit Coventry market in search of frogs. The habberdashery stall there does a range of very pretty, if horribly expensive, frogs and was where I found the originals I'm trying to replace, so it seemed a logical place to start. Sadly, it wasn't to be with nothing even remotely suitable on offer and so I'm preparing to canibalise the jacket I made last year so I can repair my kit in time for the next Ascendancy event.

I'm thinking of stealing the frogs under the arms and replacing them with plain black ones, which shouldn't be too jarring to the eye should I ever wear it again. Looking at the forums, it seems I'm going to have to make an amulet of some sort as well, so I anticipate I will be doing a spot of sewing next weekend.

Feeling an urge for experimentation, I decided to have a tentative first stab at felting knitted fabric. I've been curious for a while now as to how easy it is to hand felt as opposed to machine felting and I wanted to know if an acrylic/wool mix would felt or not. I've not been able to find a definite answer on this one, with opinions being varied and so I decided there was nothing for it but to resort to the swatch...

This rather dashing green Katia Azteca is a 50% Wool/50% Acrylic yarn of about Aran weight...

It knitted up into this 13cm square on 6.5mm needles as everything I've heard suggests that felting is more likely with a looser stitch guage...

The result was actually quite nice; while the stitches weren't overly tight, they weren't terribly loose either and felt good in the hand, with a very soft drape.

For the felting part, I set to work in the kitchen sink alternating between hot tap water, cold water and occasional input from the kettle, as I attacked the fabric square with my agitator (a whisk). It took about two minutes for the first sign of felting to appear and I stopped after about 30 minutes, satisfied the little square did indeed look like felt now...

So to answer my own question, yes, a 50:50 acrylic/wool mix will felt.

Although in this case, I also discovered that I don't particularly like the result.

Unfelted, this yarn produced a nice fabric but felted it looks like nothing so much as one of my kitchen scouring pads - which is of course a good thing to find out now before I try to use it in a proper felting project!

My plan for this little square is to give it a trim, as it may look a bit tidier with fewer fluffy, straggly bits and then I may needlefelt on a spiral or something similar... After which I should have a coaster.

On a more positive note, I finally seem to be getting somewhere on the spinning front!

After Mandy mentioned the 'park and draft' method of spinning, I googled and hit on this tutorial. I gave it a go and this is the result!

(As always, click on the images to see bigger versions.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Arctic Easter and Pink Fuzziness

With certain British papers starting the week with headlines of 'Artic Easter!', you can imagine the theme of the past couple of days. Brrrrrh!

Having never coped well with being cold, this did not bode well for me but even more so it did not bode well for the players at the Easter Maelstrom event, which includes my other half. I'd kept an eye on the forecasts so knew what was coming and spent a considerable part of last week persuading him to take a stove along, as well as lecturing him on not sleeping on the floor! Thursday night Dave weakened and finally consented to take along a small single ring, one gas cylinder, a billy, some tea and some soup (in addition to his usual snack foods).

As it turns out, Dave is one of the better prepared players on site - something of a shock in itself! Tents have been blown down or apart by the high winds, which combined with the snow/sleet/hail showers has driven quite a few people to abandon the event, which Dave says is very quiet (numbers wise) compared to normal. Quite a few of those who've remained have had to give up on their tents, bailing out for the relative comfort and safety of sleeping in their cars.

Not so Dave though, who slept soundly in his two sleeping bags and four blankets. He says the worst his tent has suffered was one lifted peg which meant the inner and outer tent froze to each other. His other complaint was that a billy isn't as good as a kettle when it comes to boiling water.

What a relief that he is OK!

On a knitting note, I finished the pink fuzzy scarf on Friday.

This is "Warm Fuzzies" from Stitch n'Bitch Nation. It is knitted in Paton's Studio Mohair, with two strands held double.

I pretty much followed the pattern, except that my version is considerably longer than the measly 54" suggested in the book. Since the scarf is only 4 1/2 inches wide, I wanted it to have a good length so it could be wrapped around the wearer's neck a couple of times, hence I kept going until the scarf was just over 72" long.

The result is very fluffy, soft and thick scarf which is very pretty as well as warm, which has pleased me no end. Hopefully it will go down well with its intended recipient come Christmas and yes, I'm thinking of Christmas already.

As always, click on the image to see a bigger version...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pretty in pink

Yesterday and today have been spent at home, as I had a couple of days leave to use up or I'd lose them. I'm back to work tomorrow and Thursday and then of course it's Easter so I have a long bank holiday weekend to look forward to.

The theme for yesterday was looking at forum software and trying to remember how to install it. Fortunately, I am a compulsive note taker so once I'd dug out my scribbles I was away and had a fairly productive day. Still lots to do as I want to set up a test bed, so I need to bring it in line with the forums I set up earlier at Then... I shall be able to play with impunity and not worry about breaking anything, which will be good as I have a few tweaks I want to make to the Ascendancy boards. Nothing too drastic initially, but I want to see what I can do to further inconvenience that particular breed of internet pest called the SPAMbot.

I also blocked the Victorian lace scarf which I finished a couple of weeks ago, but was waiting for a clear run (and a clear floor) of days when I didn't have other commitments.

A straightforward shot of it lying on the bed and here are a couple of close ups of the pattern.

I also hung it up in front of the window to see if I could show how the light is coming through the weave as I'm not convinced the photographs are doing it justice.

This is taken from Victorian Lace Today and is "Scarf with the striped boarder from Weldon's, Volume 5 1890". I knitted it in a 4-ply Merino from Tess Dawson, which I bought from Angel Yarns a while back and the colour is cherry.

The result is very light and floaty; it looked good straight off the needles but really came to life once I'd blocked it. It looks equally pretty as a head scarf or worn around the neck and I just love the way the light shines through it making it look like proper lace.

My one reservation is not with the pattern but my blocking technique. After gently hand washing the scarf, wrapping it in a towel and stomping up and down on it to get the water out, I duly pinned it out to dry (i.e. blocking it). Unfortunately, the points where I pinned it seem to have distorted the stitches so the edge is no where near as smooth as I wanted it to be. I steamed the edge after blocking which relaxed things somewhat, but I can still see where the pins were. Any suggestions for how you pin something out to dry so this doesn't happen?

In other news, I can report that I do remember how to ride a bicycle. I took the new bike to the park on Sunday afternoon, taking advantage of a brief let up in the rain. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that once I'd pushed off, I had no problems with cycling, other than being a bit wobbly if I wasn't moving very fast and gears remain a mystery to me but I think I'll get there with a little more practice.

Not quite so successful were my first attempts at spinning using my newly acquired spindles. I tried out the smaller one, thinking it would be easier to handle and so far I'm not having much success. At the moment, my problem is trying to keep the spindle spinning and not back spinning while at the same time trying to tease a small amount of wool out so I can allow the twist into it. I appear to have a distinct lack of hands, with the invariable result being that I can't keep the spindle going, it spins the other way undoing the tentative spin in the wool and then crashing to the ground. Suggestions on how I acquire more hands (or better use the two I've got) gratefully received!

And to answer Frizbe's question - I don't know where I'll find the time and suspect that mostly I won't, but I'm optimistic and do like to try new crafts, you know? Especially if they're pretty, involve yarn, sewing, beads, buttons or sparkly things. :)

As always, click on the images to see bigger versions...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

So now I have a spindle or two...

So far this weekend is turning into one of those expensive ones, where I seem to be falling over myself to spend money.

Yesterday afternoon, with a few hours off work at my disposal I headed off to the camping shop to stock up on gas and buy a new single airbed, so we're sorted for the beginning of season.

Then I had an unexpected visit from an electrician to deal with a dodgy socket and light switch. Unexpected in that I'd actually booked him for Monday, but he had an empty slot so wanted to come there and then.

Next up, I hurried over to a cycling shop where I took a good hour or so to pick out and buy a bicycle. This is something of a gamble for me, since I haven't been on a bike since my teens... Then, low and behold if Dave (who'd dropped in to see what I was up to) didn't decide to buy one as well!

Then today, to top it off we headed to the Re-enactors Market where I acquired these...

I picked up two spindles of differing weights because I wanted to see what they feel like, along with a little booklet explaining the basics and a couple of 50g bags of wool 'tops'. I've no idea at this point whether I'll take to using a spindle, but I'm determined to have a go.

I also picked up a costume book called "Historic Costumes and How to Make Them" which caught my eye. It's a generic instruction book covering the fifth century through to late eighteenth so I'm hoping might be useful.

Hopefully that's about it for spending money for a while!

Knitting wise this week, I've been working on this...

It's a mock cable scarf in pink mohair taken from Stitch N'Bitch Nation, which is a book I bought right back when I started to teach myself knitting. I remember when I first looked at most of the patterns in this book, I classified them as scary - meaning they looked far too complicated for me to even consider. Having picked it up again, it's comforting to be able to say that there are actually things in there I'd think about making now, which shows how far I've come since Christmas 2006.

Anyhow, I picked out the mock cable scarf because it's pretty, pink and girly, which I'm hoping will suit the intended recipient. It's a fairly mindless knit, which has suited me well this week as I'm feeling rather brain dead after being force fed project management jargon for three days. All of which means, that half way in I'm pleased with it so far.