Monday, May 19, 2008

Say goodbye, say hello...

I've decided to relocate this blog, moving it to a new address at http://juliemadethis.blogspot.com 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.

Just.

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.

Phew!

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 www.ascendancylrp.co.uk... 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.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Circumstances beyond our control

Having just spent the past three days locked in a room absorbing information on Project Management followed by evenings packed full of homework, I was looking forward to my regular weekly knitting group last night. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against me with workmen uncovering a WWII bomb which led to the entirety of the Coventry city centre being sealed off until this morning.

Fortunately, I knew something was up well in advance so wisely stayed home rather than trying to get into town. The journey home last night took twice as long as it should have done, so I tuned into the local BBC radio which is when I found out what was going on. It turned out that the police had also closed Coventry's Ring Road, a major hub here without which it becomes very difficult to get from one side of the city to the other.

Hopefully, all the other ladies heard similar reports and stayed clear.

In other news, we had an event in York at the weekend which went quite well, despite the strong winds which made staying outside incredibly cold as well as making it impossible to hear what anyone was saying unless they were standing right next to you. Thank goodness for gloves and having drafty huts at our disposal!

There was one worrying moment though, when Dave and Richardxl5 disappeared around the back of our hut to fix the roof with some drawing pins!

One fallout of the weekend is that I now have a minor sewing emergency on my hands. A great big, clumsy, armour wearing viking, decided to throw himself dramatically onto my lap when I tried to roll him over (to tend to his wounds). Fortunately, my knee took the strain. Unfortunately, my costume didn't, with his armour ripping into and tearing the frogs which hold the dress closed.

At the moment, I'm counting my blessings that the fabric itself didn't tear as well, but as it is, getting hold of fancy frogs is hard at the best of times, so this damage is not as trivial as it might seem. My current plan is to try to locate suitable replacements, but if not I'll have to cannibalise another outfit which has less frogs on it... The theory being that I'll have an easier time finding a small number of matching frogging than a large number. Or at least that's what I'm hoping.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A whirlwind of activity

This weekend has gone by in a whirlwind of activity, pretty much as anticipated really.

Dave departed early on Saturday morning and after doing some household chores, I drove down to Warwick for the Ravelry day at Crafty Cottage. The drive to Warwick was made more interesting than usual by the high winds which kept trying to blow the car off the road. I later learnt that I wasn't the only one having scary moments due to the wind, with a couple of freight trains loosing their containers!

I arrived in Warwick, just as Jo was getting her children to cut the ribbon to start the day's festivities. Then, ribbon cut and scissors stowed, knitters began to file into the shop, at first just a handful or so and then in a steady trickle that just didn't seem to stop. I've never seen so many people in the Crafty Cottage and what is normally a spacious shop, became crowded very quickly... So I did the only sensible thing and retreated upstairs out of the way, where it was slightly quieter.

Upstairs, Steelbreeze was knitting away on her knitting machine and a local textiles artist, Emma Price from Charkha Yarns, was giving a first taste of spinning. This was popular with the other attendee's so it took me a while to work up to speaking to Emma and eventually having a go, first with a tickler and then spinning at the wheel itself.

A tickler is essentially just a piece of wood which has been whittled at both ends so it's got a point. You wrap some spun yarn around it and then use that to lead your unspun fleece onto the tickler, turning the piece of wood which puts a twist in and hence spins it. It did seem incredibly complicated to do, but once I'd had a go on the spinning wheel, the theory suddenly made sense. Using the tickler, I managed to spin up a few yards or so of wool and was pleasantly surprised to find that I picked up the essence of how to use a wheel in less than ten minutes.

If I only had room for one, I'd now be sorely tempted to start looking for a spinning wheel because it was very satisfying to see the fluffy fleece turning into yarn right in front of my eyes... And even more satisfying to know I was responsible for that transformation!

Eventually, I had to go home because I was running out of time on my parking ticket, but I did thoroughly enjoy myself.

However, I didn't manage to slip away before buying some yarn. During one of my forays downstairs in search of cake and tea, I spotted some Shades of Cashmere merino and some locally spun heavy wool. I've PM'd Jo because I can't remember the details of the local spun stuff, but it was in a gorgeous raspberry shade which I think would felt well.

Having spent money at the Crafty Cottage, I was far more restrained at the Living History Fair on Sunday. So restrained that other than some jerky and teas, I didn't buy anything at all! I did have fun looking around though and I think this fair is getting better each time I go. My one request would be that they have more craft traders, who'll supply you with the raw materials, tools and instructions to make your own things rather than just presenting us with the finished item.

After a good while, Richardxl5 and I managed to drag Dave out of the fair and we headed to a local pub for a spot of lunch before going home.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Out of uncertainty comes...

This week has been a bit of a tense one at work, with the ominous topic of 'Reorganisation' ringing in our ears. A mandatory meeting along with a huge reem of paper by way of a briefing later and while I'm not directly affected this time, there is an air of uncertainty drifting around the building. Office moves, ongoing building work, drilling which vibrates through the floor and power failures have all contributed to making this a less than pleasant week. I'm also reading through an incredibly dry project management manual and doing exercises in readiness for a course in a couple of weeks. This book is quite honestly enough to make your eyes glaze over within a few minutes... Although I have had fun thoroughly defacing it with post-its and yellow highlighter pen.

This all means that I have been rather brain dead in the evenings and with my weekends continuing to be hectic, I don't see this changing in the near future. Salvation is coming in the form of knitting and crochet, which as always allows me to work on something which is fully under my control even if only for an hour or so a day.

My main distraction for the moment is my first attempt at something out of Victorian Lace Today.
This is my version of 'Scarf with the striped border from Weldon's, Volume 5, 1890', which as you can see is coming along nicely. I'm knitting it in a 4-ply merino, as I really don't want the additional trauma of lace weight or complicated charts at the moment. So far, the scarf is about 60% along, which means that if stretched out (as it will be once blocked), it's about four foot long, with the relaxed length closer to three foot.

Now I'm well under way, this is a relaxing knit with a simple two row repeat where I only have to remember which row I'm currently doing. With a substantial amount of scarf to look at now, it's actually very pretty and drapes well... I'm looking forward to finishing it and seeing how it blocks out.

I've also started this...
Can you tell what it is yet?

It is of course a rabbit's bottom!

Yes, after looking at lots of very cute pictures of crocheted toys on Ravelry and buoyed by Richardxl5's comment that his grandmother used to make fantastic toys, I thought I'd have a go.
The pattern is from Vintage Crochet and is called 'Syd the Rabbit'. Now I don't know if this is a Syd or not yet as it's early days and I can't tell if the rabbit has a personality at this point.

I'm making this proto rabbit out of acrylics that I had lying around, rather than buying anything specific for the project and so far, the body is coming along nicely. I've made a couple of mods, starting with a loop rather than a foundation chain and crocheting in a spiral rather than rounds, as I prefer the effect. The only real problem at the moment, is I'm crocheting a lot tighter than I'm used to and it's proving hard on my hands. I'm thinking that if I get into this toy making lark, I may need to invest in some better hooks.

I also had my first go at Intarsia on Wednesday night, at the regular Knit-Wit's group workshops. Steelbreeze did an excellent job of explaining what we had to do and my effort can be seen here. I'll try to get the sample finished over the weekend and post a proper picture then.

This weekend is looking like a busy one. I'm sending Dave off to Ripley on Saturday for a spot of wargaming with Chimera. In the meantime, I'll be heading to Warwick to the Crafty Cottage, for a Ravelry day hosted by Jo, the shop's owner. I'm hoping I manage to show some restraint while surrounded by so much gorgeous yarn, but having not bought anything really (I'm not counting some discontinued pink stuff I found in Busy Fingers, or the yarn for the Bubbles Blanket... Or sock yarn, sock yarn most certainly does not count) since December, if I do fall off the wagon a little, it will be understandable won't it?

Then on Sunday, with Dave's return we'll be heading off to the Living History Fair at the Warwick Exhibition Centre. The trick here will be to not only watch my spending but Dave's as well. There will be far too many tempting, pretty things... I'm going to suggest that we shop by proxy and help Richardxl5 (and any other friends we see) spend their money instead!

People who know me and see me at the fair, consider yourself warned ;)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tremors in the night

Did the earth move for you?

It did for us in Coventry two nights ago with an earthquake striking a couple of minutes before 1am. The bed shook, there was a bang and a loud rumbling, the cats jumped off the bed and there was the sound of a small herd of tiny elephants running downstairs at speed (Charlie and Missy are not light footed).

Dave woke with an exclamation of "Whuh?!!!!", to which I replied by calmly saying, "It's the cats."

What can I say, other than the normal cause of disturbances in the middle of the night are the cats. I woke as they fled the scene and naturally, my sleep befuddled brain put the noise, the movement and the rapidly departing cats together and came to the most natural conclusion.

I have apologised to the cats.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Speedy socks...

First of all, my thanks to Evelyn123 for her donation of paper bags, which are being presented in a rationed style to Charlie. So far, I've offered him the smallest bag which isn't quite big enough for him. He has developed a habit of diving inside and out again then returning to his old bag which he obviously doesn't want to abandon. I'll switch in one of the bigger ones soon...

This weekend was a busy one in terms of housework and family commitments, which saw us driving off to see Dave's sister and her little ones for Sunday afternoon and evening. Dinner was filling and nice, the children were well behaved and I believe that Dave learnt a few things.

Firstly, he discovered that pirate ships can apparently spontaneously develop flight and the ability to dive bomb their opposing combatants. And secondly, he learnt that a one year old who wants to go outside to play can be quite nimble on her feet and won't wait around for you to put her coat on, find your shoes or do anything else that would delay her embrace of mud. I believe he also discovered that (as an adult) it is not advisable to try to catch a two foot high child once she's escaped out the patio doors when the only thing between your feet and the puddles are a pair of socks.

Fortunately, he was wearing a very nice and sturdy pair of socks...

I finished my second pair of socks during last week, but was waiting to glimpse daylight so I could photograph them. I also had another requirement in that I wanted Dave's feet present while I took the photo's so they could be shown off in all their glory.

These are knitted in Regia's Avenue sock yarn. I've been on the look out for manly colours and this brown and slate grey stripey colourway seemed to hit the spot. I based them on the Yarn Harlot's basic sock recipe from Knitting Rules! They got a lot of admirers at Knit-Wit's on Wednesday, with one gentleman at the pub taking a particular like to them. He's got the same size feet as Dave and was asking very pointed questions about how much the wool cost!

Dave's reaction is that he quite likes them and he would like to order another two pairs.


(As always click on the pictures to see bigger versions)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Searching for inspiration

I spent this weekend at work, applying an application upgrade to a rather important system, which is why it couldn't be done during normal working hours. Today I can feel the start of the descent into the braindead state that normally follows on from one of these stints and I suspect it will get worse. If things go to form, I'll be having problems distinguishing which day it is by midweek.

Sadly, there hasn't been much time for crafting over the weekend as I've worked full days, leaving Dave in charge of the cats at home. I'm not sure what he did to them though, since they were both very quiet when I did get home! Although it was very sweet to watch Charlie lying beside me on the sofa, twitching and squeaking in his sleep as he chased an imaginary paper bag through his dreams.

In lieu of actually doing any knitting, crochet or sewing, I've become very click happy in Ravelry, adding things to my queue which now contains more items than I could possibly knit in five years! Mostly scarves, which I still focus on, some lace thrown in and of course some washcloths. I've even remembered that I've got some patterns for toys at home, which may come in handy for Christmas presents!

And yes, it is the sad truth that I am thinking about Christmas presents already. Buoyed by the reported success of those items I gifted last year (is it really less than two months ago?) I need to get cracking on this years presents if I'm to get them done in time.

I've also been looking at my fabric stash with a speculative eye. It's comprised of mostly natural fibres, cotton, wool, a little linen and a few cotton/silk mixes. Some are good lengths, originally bought with costume in mind, while others are odd meters left over from some project or other. I've decided they need a good sort through, so I can see them properly and be inspired...

Friday, February 15, 2008

One (or two) cat(s) and a paperbag

On Wednesday evening I headed off to knitting group as usual and while there, I asked if anyone had any rugged paper bags they didn't want. When asked why, I explained that I was trying to source a replacement for the rather sorry remains of my cat's favourite toy, which was why it did need to be paper, strong and preferably large tomcat sized.

I also relayed Charlie's latest game where he takes the tissues out of their box, so he can stick his front legs into the now half empty box and push off which his back legs, thus 'sledging' across the carpeted floor. This one is not something we encourage since we'd rather like a box of tissues to be used for their designated purpose, not hijacked by an oversized kitten. I didn't mention his other favourite toys, namely carrots and potatoes or the excitement caused by a box full of vegetables, since I think that one needs to be seen to be believed.

However, I did go home and decide to stake out the paper bag in the hopes of catching Charlie sitting in it. I can now say, that I have an increased appreciation of the difficulties involved in wildlife (wild = boisterous, life = cat) photography.

I managed to get a picture of Charlie sitting staring at the bag, which he'll do for some time as he psyches himself up to attack. After that things became difficult as I discovered the problems with a time lag digital camera. By the time the photo was taken, the cat had moved on...

I sat and waited patiently, while Missy wandered over to see what all the fuss was about.

You'll notice the toys accumulating in the paperbag... Charlie collects toys into one place, where they're all the better for playing with.

Finally, I did manage to get a picture but discovered that a fast moving cat and paperbag can come out rather blurry.

Until, success at last!

Phew, that was harder than I thought it would be!

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


Monday, February 11, 2008

Bubbles

The focus of this weekend was household chores and errands, which seemed to take forever as they all had to be done on my lonesome. Friday night I arrived home to a strongly worded letter from my optician telling me my contact lens supply had been stopped as I apparently hadn't attended for a check up. As someone who remembers going to the optician at least three times last year and even has new specs, this came a bit out of the blue.

Since being without contact lenses is a real pain (and I do wonder if they'd have stopped deducting monies from my account) I phoned and made an appointment there and then, which pretty much put paid to Saturday morning. I complained about the letter, but didn't seem to make any impact - apparently there should have been warning letters (which I haven't recieved) and traffic light stickers on my lenses, which are delivered by mail.

The reason for the letter and the apparent need for frequent visits, is the previous optician to see me had put me down for a six month recall, rather than the usual twelve months one. Absolutely no idea why. But of course, that doesn't explain the jump straight to threatening letters and stopping my lenses completely.

Saturday afternoon, I returned to the house to tackle chores before escaping for a couple of hours by popping over for a chat with Esther and to drop off a pressie.

This is a Bubble's Baby Blanket, which I've been working on for the past month. I downloaded it directly from Ravelry, but it can also be found in the Crochet Pattern Central download area. It's crocheted in two strands, one of a superwash wool and the other a standard baby acrylic. Both yarns are from a local spinner, labelled as Mercia Wools and sold out of the spinner's shop, Busy Fingers in Coventry.
I started this blanket while working on Dave's scarf and it served as a bit of light relief from all that moss stitch. The Bubble stitch was easy to do and working with two strands and a 9mm hook, meant it grew relatively quickly. So much so, that I had no problem working it to a decent cot size in a month, with just a few hours each week spent on it. The resulting fabric is thick and soft, so hopefully will be put to good use.

Sunday was spent doing more household chores, with the usual couple of hours of decluttering thrown in. I did however make a start on the lace and learnt a new cast on - the 'crochet cast on' which is like crocheting a chain but sticking a knitting needle in the way. I'm working on 4.5mm needles and coming straight from sock knitting these past few weeks, the needles seem huge!

Not much to see so far, as I've cast on, knitted two repeats, decided the first repeat was too loose, ripped it out..... Cast on again and knitted two more repeats and that was all I had time for. At the moment, it doesn't look very impressive but as it's lace I'm kind of expecting that... I shall persevere and see where it gets me.

Sock news - the heel is turned on the second sock and I've picked up the stitches for the gusset, so it's coming along. Slowly.

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

Friday, February 08, 2008

Weekend Plans...

Today, Dave is another year older and is off to an Ascendancy LRP event without me. Not on purpose or because it's his birthday - that's just when the dates of the events fell; this year, we're splitting them up so that we don't both do all of the events. The idea is to save some pennies, give time to normal life things and so the cats don't have to go into the cattery quite so often.

This means I'm on my own this weekend, so in addition to much housework and tidying, may feel brave enough to look at a spot of lace knitting.

Lace, while very pretty, requires a bit of concentration; at least it does at the beginning when I'm trying to get my head around the pattern. I'm hankering to have a go at one of the 'easy' patterns from Victorian Lace Today. This has the catchy title - "Scarf with the striped border from Weldon's, Volume 5, 1890" which at first glance doesn't look that easy at all!

The second sock is coming along well, with the heel now under way. The yarn and colour choice got much admiration at knitting group this week where I was taking a workshop in Lucetting. The link should take any who are interested to the group blog where you can admire everyone's efforts as they try out using a lucet for the first time. I was impressed at how everyone picked it up and very brain dead by the time I got home. I'd never realised how tiring taking a workshop was!

Monday, February 04, 2008

With all due diligence

Another weekend seems to have flown by and I'm sat here trying to remember what exactly I got up to. The answer is quite a lot, in that I was busy throughout the weekend although in truth not much progress seems to have been made.

Saturday morning, we headed into Coventry to try out the swimming baths and I at least was pleasantly surprised. I haven't been in a pool since my mid teens after a childhood full of bad swimming experiences which have pretty much turned me into a non-swimmer. Despite being worried about how I'd get on, I actually quite enjoyed myself.

As I'd expected, I appear to have forgotten how to swim but after ten minutes or so of acclimatising, I was managing to swim back and forth with a float... something I did repeatedly for an hour, which is why yesterday and today I ache a lot. But as I said, it was fun. Dave was very patient and we both spent a lot longer in the pool than we'd intended as a result of losing all track of time.

We popped into town briefly, where I resisted buying yarn but found and bought a crochet book (Vintage Crochet) as my willpower momentarily deserted me. I have a list of books I'm keeping my eye on but not buying on Amazon while I try to save some pennies, so really I shouldn't have bought this but perhaps the exercise got to me. Anyhow, I now have another crochet book in my collection.

At home that afternoon, household chores were the main theme which kept us occupied for the rest of the day. I did take a brief break to finish the toe on the first of Dave's socks, something which took me longer than I liked as I had issues with dropped stitches while I was trying to graft the toe shut. Not to worry though, I finally got there and Dave tried on the sock which appeared to fit well.

Dave also took two loads of stuff to the local charity shops, fallout from the ongoing de-cluttering exercise. Of course no sooner had we cleared the pile of items to go out, than we started again and so a new pile of stuff to go to charity has already started to grow.

We did have one tiny and annoying glitch in that one of our neighbours, who was obviously having a clearout of his own, decided the ideal place to dispose of his rubbish was in our garden. This is a bit of an ongoing issue for us and a few years back, we spent a whole summer clearing as much of the rubbish that others had dumped over the fence as we could easily get at. We put a great big shed in front of the junk we couldn't easily move but haven't fenced it off as I worry that will just encourage our neighbours to think it doesn't belong to anyone. Over the past couple of years, random bits of rubbish appear and we do our best to remove them.

This weekend, we came came back from swimming to discover a discarded patio set, some fence panels and a huge plastic tub or tank thrown behind our shed. Dave had words with the neighbour in question. Admission of ownership and platitudes were offered, but the rubbish remained and so Dave has stacked the stuff back in its original owner's garden. We shall see how things develop. One thing is certain, we have enough of our own junk without neighbours adding to it!

Talking about our own junk, yesterday I diligently spent a couple of hours going through the contents of a cupboard, sorting through old paperwork and arguing with the shredder which kept jamming. I didn't get as far as I wanted to, but at this stage I'm taking the attitude that if I keep chipping away at the clutter I will eventually win.

Yesterday afternoon, I dug out my various lucets and reminded myself of the basics in readiness for the workshop at the knitting group on Wednesday, successfully whiling away a couple of hours.

And other than casting on a second sock, that was about it for the weekend.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Quiet week in Coventry

It's been a quiet week on the crafting front, although things have been moving steadily in the right direction. I've nearly reached the toe on the first of Dave's socks and I'm bracing myself for the bit of sock knitting I don't like. For some reason, the toe is where it goes wrong for me, possibly to do with the fiddliness of juggling so few stitches on tiny needles. However, since I believe Dave does want socks equipped with toes I shall have to take a deep breath and push on...

Dave reports the scarf is exactly what he wanted. It is apparently long enough to wrap around his neck twice with enough left over to tuck into his coat. He says it is wide enough that he can pull it up over his face which is the way he likes to wear scarves, it is soft and warm and the colour is perfect. I don't think I've heard him enthuse about a scarf before and he may well be humouring me, but I think I can infer from his comments that he likes the scarf - which is a good thing.

I also had the picture of my first socks selected as a featured photograph in Ravelry this week, which made me smile all day. It's not only an endorsement of my first socks but of my picture taking ability. Knitting is not one of the easiest things to photograph, so these little compliments do wonders for improving my mood.

In other news, I'm racking my brain trying to come up with ways to gradually increase my exercise levels. I've been forced to cut exercise for the past eighteen months or so, due to my knee injury, but with the physio's instructions to gradually increase exercise so I build stamina but no overdoing it, I'm left in a quandry as to what to do to achieve this. At the moment, I considering Tai Chi, Swimming, Yoga and whether I should buy a bicycle.

All have their problems, mostly to do with long working hours and how to fit exercise sessions in; while the thought of cycling to work is worrisome because of the state of the roads, congestion and the insane people who make up a fair percentage of road users. Whatever I do decide on in the way of exercise, it has to be low impact (the knee is still there after all), not too expensive and accessible to someone who works very long days...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Progress of sorts

Not much happened on the tidying front this weekend, despite my best intentions being very much in the foreground. Yes, housework got done - so it isn't any messier or more cluttered at home - but that was about it, mostly due to other commitments on Saturday and the vagarities of fate on Friday night which saw our DVD player give its last cough before kicking its little legs up in the air after Alias and then stubbornly dying on us rather than suffer another episode of My Name is Earl.

There was nothing for it but to head out on Sunday to buy a replacement, but since our VCR is also slowly dying I thought I'd better replace it as well. We have lots of video tapes, but barely watch them and so I decided to get a DVD/hard disk recorder instead. The one stumbling block was the lack of a digital signal in our area, but it turned out that you can get analogue hard disk recorders for about the same money as a digital recorder these days. Cue me spending yesterday afternoon getting the hard disk recorder working and testing it to my satisfaction.

Saturday saw us both head up to Ripley so that Dave could play in a wargame in a friend's shop (Chimera). Richard kindly collected Dave so I could do some housework and then follow them up at lunchtime. Dave's side won (just) and I spent the afternoon looking at fabric - which I didn't buy - and then whiled away a couple of hours with Frizbe before we all went out to be sociable over a meal in a pub.

Frizbe's four year old had done some very pretty abstract artwork for us, which went down very well. We particularly liked the design she did for Dave and both are now on display in our living room as the fridge needs more magnets.

While I was in Ripley, I worked away on a sock which I'd cast on last week. It looks a little different to this picture now, as I've turned the heel and the gusset is nearly done, so I'm about ready to start working down the foot. This sock is in a manly brown, especially for Dave and I'm hoping the sturdy heel I've put in will make them able to stand up to his feet.


I also found time to photograph Dave's scarf, which I finished last weekend.

This scarf has taken me a while. I started it the weekend before Christmas and at first I was having a lot of problems with the pattern. Not that the pattern is wrong or bad, it's just that I kept making silly mistakes in the moss stitch and they showed. This led to frequent ripping back and much muttering under my breath.


Fortunately, I finally got the hang of it and it does look very effective.

The pattern for those interested is "His (Birthday) Scarf" and it was knit on 4mm needles in Jaeger Merino Matchmaker DK. The Jaeger was very easy to work with and other than the silly finger problems, the pattern worked up easily even if it did seem to take forever.

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

Monday, January 21, 2008

Send cake quick!

This weekend has been fairly exhausting. I wish I could say I've done something exciting, but I'm afraid that mostly I was engaged in war on the domestic front. Now before anyone worries, neither Dave or the cats have been hurt in any way although I think a spider may well have met its demise after colliding with a duster. I swear it leaped out at me and menaced me!

Yes, this weekend I decided it was time to start my campaign proper on tidying the house. We started (and this was a joint effort) with the standard household chores such as dusting, vacuuming, laundry, ironing, kitchen and bathroom cleaning. Then, I started - in a very tiny way - to try to chip away at the clutter which the house is drowning in. I didn't get very far, because clearing things out seems to take a long, long time, but I was ruthless and the paper shredder got a lot of use. I now have one clear corner and an empty cupboard, next weekend I move onto its neighbour.

All this cleaning and blitzing the clutter also extended to the loft with Dave producing one black bag of junk so far. We've also set aside several bags worth for a charity shop and a handful of glass and plastic gems which (I hope) are destined for AscendancyLRP's crew treasure box.

This flurry of activity has barely made a dent but I intend to persevere - something I've said before - for my sanity's sake if nothing else. I don't need a spotless house and I like a home to look lived in, but things have got out of hand. Decorating has stalled completely and (to my eyes) the house has a neglected look about it which I'd like to at least make a start on fixing.

The worst moment of the weekend came when I'd finished tidying up after the tidying (how come the act of throwing things away makes so much mess?) and cooked a very nice cabbage, leek and bean soup for our supper. I decided pudding was in order and so rumaged in the freezer only to find there was none, when I was sure I had some left over from Christmas.

I quizzed Dave and he tells me I did pick up cake at the supermarket but put it back!!! That just proves how rough I was feeling prior to and during Christmas itself.

I was so shocked I had to go and cast on a sock to console myself!