Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Running so fast...

With another week having passed in a whirlwind of business on the work front, I'm struggling to think what I've actually achieved - or of anything much worth writing about for that matter. It seems that I'm permanently thinking about work or forums and websites, with very little time in between for doing or thinking about anything else.

The weeekend just gone started well enough, with a lock-in at Lush in Coventry's lower precinct. I'd been invited by Esther and as a Lush virgin, who'd never had a reason to set foot inside the store before I headed off intending to be virtuous and pure, resisting the lure of cosmetics. Sadly, at heart I'm as girly as the next woman and so I headed home again a few hours later with my bag full of purchases and 'smelling of soap' (as Dave said when I came in). Fortunately though this did mean I was armed with multiple types of luxury bath products and so was able to relax and de-stress Saturday evening in a pool of bubbly and very pink goodness.

I'm sad to say that I spent the majority of the weekend chained to a computer, struggling with forums as I kept my promise to help set up a website. More on the details once it's released and available to the public, but I now know more about PHP, CSS and HTML than I did before. I've also become reacquainted with the fickleness of open source developed software, lack of documentation and the hit and miss approach to whether such software will work or not.

For breaks in the logic nightmare I continued to tackle my lace knitting.

Now, this may not have been the best strategy to relax but at least it gave me a new frustration which sent me back to the keyboard with nenewed optimism that nothing could be as fiddly as lace!

As previously reported I've abandonned the Ziggy scarf for now; the complexities of YO,YO were just too much for me. Instead I'm working on a 'Shell Lace Scarf' from One Skein Wonders which is actually quite an easy pattern in comparison. My problem is concentration rather than the ability to knit or following the instructions. I keep loosing track of whether I'm in a pattern row or a knit row. And when I am in the latter, my fingers insist on thinking I'm in a pattern row and if I don't keep an eye on them, they start knitting of their own accord.

Due to my naughty fingers, I must have ripped out at least three foot of scarf by now! As I type, the scarf is finally approaching two foot in length and I mourn those missing three feet because if I'd have left them in place I'd be nearly done by now!

No pictures as of yet because I haven't had time to take any...

And finally, a link to the BBC news site and an article that caught my eye.

And really finally, it appears I am 8827th in the list for my Ravelry invite which is an improvement on the 12000 or so position I was at last week. I keep checking in there once every few days and it seems I get a couple of hundred places closer to being invited on each time I look. One day soon I may be able to see what all the fuss is about!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Of tents and men

This weekend just gone was a busy one. Not that I did anything terribly exciting - I didn't really have time.

Saturday morning was spent doing essential domestic things like cleaning the bathroom and kitchen before something nasty could move in. The rest of the weekend was spent becoming familiar with the intricacies of phpBB, glowering at lace or wrestling with tents.

Lace and phpBB will undoubtedly get revisited, but for now the topic of choice is that of tents.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new tent to replace my good old faithful blue and red tent that I use when camping without Dave. I chose the Vango V500 and picked one up from Go Outdoors. Sadly, the first one I picked up was missing a toggle on one of the window covers so I took it back for an exchange which they willing did because I not only swapped it for a replacement I also bought a second one for Richard.

Not wanting to leave it until arriving on site to discover something more vital than a toggle was missing, I decided a test pitch was necessary. And being helpful, I volunteered to test pitch the one I picked up for Richard at the same time.

Cue a good two hours of fun on Saturday afternoon and another hour or so on Sunday morning as Dave and I unpacked, pitched, collapsed and repacked two tents. Our efforts were of course carefully monitored and at times aided by our feline companions, with Charlie being particularly keen to oversee the operation.

As you can see the tent is a good size and practically fills our lawn.

Sunday's efforts were much more efficient than Saturday's with the tent going up in under half an hour. It was fairly easy, but definitely a two man job as you need quite a bit of tension on the poles to get them hooked onto the pointy thing (a technical term for the pin on the straps) but no where near so bad as my big green tent.

Dave was quick to volunteer to check the inside of the tents for size which as you can see is quite roomy. Dave's final verdict being that he could happily see himself camping in one of them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Time to wheel out the goats

You know its been a bad week when you're sitting in a meeting giving a progress update when the suggestion comes up (jokingly I assure you) that perhaps we should take a leaf out of Nepal Airlines book when it comes to dealing with ongoing and as yet undiagnosed problems. However, we all agreed to a far more British offering of a nice cup of tea and a scone rather than involving livestock in any way. Of course, that would mean going against the rules banning all food and beverages from the machine rooms which is why it was said in jest...

Moving swiftly on before this post degenerates into a work based whinge, things have not been going too well on the lace front either. I have temporarily given up on the Ziggy scarf after spectacularly failing to make it past row two of the pattern on a repeated basis. Even my little sixteen stitch swatch to try to get my head and fingers around it refused to behave... I ask you "SSK, YO, YO, SSK", it doesn't look particularly frightening does it? But followed up with a purl row, and I'm getting nothing but a mess with inconsistent numbers of stitches every time. After Steelbreeze told me I'd picked a hard pattern and sitting there for two hours last night trying to get my head around it, I became despondent so I've decided to put Ziggy aside and knit something else. Only now I'm going to have to find something else.

On the good news front, I finished the wobbly lined scarf a week or so ago now. I've refrained from posting about it because it was intended as a present for someone who may have found his way onto this blog. However, now that it has been handed over and duly admired, I can show it here with impunity.

The scarf is in blue DK weight merino wool, loosely based on this pattern. I added some stitches since I tend to steer away from skinny scarves and increased the lenght, until blocked this one measured in at 7ft 6in. The recipient is very tall and had repeatedly told me that he can't find scarves long enough for his liking as most of them are a measly 60 inches (5ft). The first thing he commented on was how long the scarf was followed by he liked it and judging by the grin on his face and the immediate modelling of the scarf, I think it was a genuine hit.

And finally...

Some pictures of the supervising crew in charge of the photography featured in this post...

Charlie decided it was all too much like hard work and had a little snooze, while Missy took over and supervised closely.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A weekend of Pot Watching

Well, it's September and the month is off to a fine old start, showing all the signs of being as hectic as it always is. Today may only be Tuesday but I'm already embroiled in a few crises in potentia, which seem to be picking up political undertones. I remember the far off days of old when if you saw something was broken, you fixed it and that was that. These days... These days I have to justify every I do and even if a fix is urgently needed or horrible bad things will happen, I face something of an Inquisition.

Still I refuse to have my good mood broken and I'm still basking in the success of the Strangehaven event at the weekend.

Friday I set off for York, braving the M1 to collect Richard by which time it was evident that this particular motorway was not the place to be. After sitting in stop/start traffic all the way from Coventry (J21) to South Normington (J28) and then waiting in a queue to get back onto the motorway after collecting Richard, we made the decision to go cross country, shunning the M1 for A roads. This added probably an hour or so onto our journey time, but since we'd have spent at least that sitting in traffic queues had we stuck with the motorway, I don't think its a bad tradeoff. As it was, we arrived at 7pm and once we'd got settled and briefed the crew, we got stuck in.

The plot this weekend involved the NPC I was playing being kidnapped and brutally beaten before she made good her escape, so it was time to apply the bruise makeup.

I also got to react to my NPC's father dying and even wore some armour although I must hasten to add that the armour was worn by a different NPC to the one who was beaten up.

Me aside, we had set pieces, managed to get some combat in, choosing small skirmishes with lots of sneaking to take the nature of the site into account. The set pieces were fantastic (and boy do I wish I had photo's) and I raided Dave's supply of masks so everyone got to look the part. We managed the tension nicely and the plot happily buzzed along the mood shifting from jovial to sinister and eventually horror as planned. All in all, it worked well and compared with the first game felt a lot easier as it played out. I'm just hoping the players enjoyed themselves as much as they seemed to.

With lots of plot to cram in, we finished a bit later than anticipated on Sunday afternoon but packed in a speedy fashion. By the time we were done though, a cuppa was needed so we stopped for a little while in the cafe before setting off. Thankfully, the roads were much better on the way back and apart from being horrified by the antics of some drivers with fat exhausts, the drive home was uneventful. Even so, by the time I'd dropped Richard off and set off for Coventry, it was gone eight by the time I got home.

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

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lessons in lace

Last night I decided to have a go at starting the Ziggy scarf and full of optimism I got out a ball of mohair, some needles and the pattern. I wish I could say I made lots of progress, but after three failed attempts with the mohair and one failed attempt with cotton I'm going to have to admit I couldn't even get past the first row of the lace pattern.

But, all is not lost I am learning from the experience and I've picked up several gems of knowledge from those failed run throughs.

First up, Steelbreeze is right... It takes a lot of concentration to knit a lace pattern, even a really simple one like this. It is shockingly easy to make a mistake as the instructions for each row are very complicated and read like some sort of intricate encrypted code. Watching television is not doable. Holding a conversation is not doable. And having an insistant cat trying to get you to tickle his belly, steal your pattern or eat your wool is not at all helpful.

Second up, mohair is near impossible to rip out (or frog if you prefer). It sticks to itself like mad and subsequently tangles the instant you try to rip it back. It is also very delicate and prone to breaking with very little effort, so once tangled or knotted it is doomed. I went through three attempts at knitting this, ripping it out and starting again before putting the mohair away and reaching for some simple dishcloth cotton.

Third, swatch. Try out the pattern on something simple, cheap and easily ripped out - such as dishcloth cotton. Make sure you can understand the pattern, know what all the stiches are and have practiced them before going near your yarn of choice.

Fourth, use stitch markers. Trying to keep track of where you are on the row and is hard enough, so put something on your needles to help. The best method of using them I'm not sure of yet, since I'm still experimenting but the row where I used them was the closest I came to a good row.

And finally, count your stitches. I can't emphasise this enough. Every single row I tried, I lost stitches and then spent a good ten minutes staring at the row I'd just knitted trying to work out where they'd gone.

Which about sums things up. As things stand I need to rip out everything I've done, take a deep breath and start again... Perhaps perseverance and patience should be on the above list of lessons learnt?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Going round in circles

I do believe it is Wednesday once more and this week has seen me back at work. The knock on effect of this, is of course that I am absolutely shattered since I got back and hit the ground running as it were; September and October being horrible months if you work for IT at a University.

I've been too tired to really achieve much in the evenings this week, but I've started crocheting a bag which I hope turns out OK. So far, I've made the bottom which is crocheted in the round and is a good size as I've taken it out to about 25cm before stopping the increase.

What can I say? I hate small bags that are bursting at the seams before you've put anything more than the most basic of essentials in them.

Next up, I need to crochet the sides, which just means doing round after round until it's big enough.

This is a bit of an experiment really, as I've never really tried to crochet anything other than blankets, squares and the occasional hat or scarf. I'm using a basic DK acrylic yarn, but intend to work in random stripes to add interest, so should end up with a multicoloured cylinder. I'll work a shoulder strap across that and then maybe edge the whole lot to reinforce it before finding a suitable lining.

I've also castoff the blue wobbly lined scarf I was working on, which ended up 7ft (210cm) long but increased by a further 18cm (7 inches) once I'd blocked it, with a nice even width of 20cm.

Note the mixing of imperial and decimal unit measurements here. I'm afraid I do this all the time, switching between the two without really thinking about it. I do take serious pains when noting a person's measurements to keep them all in one unit, usually opting for centimeters and writing down which I've used. I blame my parents and grandparents. Using decimal at school but imperial at home, means you end up using them interchangeably and causing much confusion.

But back to the subject in hand. The scarf is done and at some point I will post some pictures here once I've uploaded them from the camera.

I've also decided on my next project, which is of course a scarf - namely Ziggy from Magknits. It looks to me to be a fairly gentle introduction to lace knitting without the super skinny yarn and quite a simple selection of stitches. I have some Mohair at home which I think will do this quite nicely and Charlie has given my choice his seal of approval... Apparently, Charlie likes the taste of goat!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Broken tentage

The past few days have flown by, as they always do when I have a few days off work. Mostly I've been slowly recovering from my holiday, thrown in with a few necessary errands.

While we were away the door zip on our canvas bell tent gave up the ghost. It's always been a bit tempermental, but after the heavy rain of the first weekend and the resulting dramatic shrinking of the canvas, it went from slightly dodgy to near unusable. Hence the tent is going to need a bit of attention before it gets used again.

Now, anyone who's ever priced up a real cotton canvas tent will know they are darned expensive and not at all of the disposable variety. Which is the reason why I intend to replace the zip with dutch lacing.

A trip out to Jackson's of Old Arley later and I have big eyelets all ready to fit. A rummage through my stash produced lightweight canvas which should do the trick for re-enforcing the door flap, making canvas tape loops and an underflap. I'm currently thinking I need to add a couple of inches to the flap so that the loops sit behind the eyelets when the tent door is closed and I'm veering towards tape loops since I think the resulting fastening will be more stable. Input from those who know about such things is of course welcome.

Also on the tent front, my modern dome is also on its last legs. The last time it was used, during the deluge that saw huge parts of the Midlands under water, Richard pointed out the poles have split again. After careful inspection, it looks like all of the poles have hairline fractures, plus the inner tent's ground sheet is wearing very thin across a wide area. The tent goes up inner first which makes it less than ideal in rain and since I've already replaced pole segments twice I think the time has come to buy a new one.

The dilemma here is of course, do I buy now at the end of season or wait until next year?

I have seen a tent I like at Go Outdoors, so now I'm deliberating on whether to go buy it or not. The price is OK and the discount reasonable, but not mind blowing... However, judging by how few tents were available at Old Arley if I leave it for much longer there may not be any tents to buy until the beginning of the year.

All of which means I may need to go back and buy it...