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...