Thursday, 28 August 2008

Dis 'n' Dat

Two of my current non-knitting obsessions were combined on Sunday night in Britain from Above, when Andrew Marr showed the track made by an osprey's GPS signal on its way from Africa to the north of Scotland. It starts at 2:30 into this clip. Do you think he's been reading the blog? I got quite excited as you can imagine, and re-played it several times. Apparently pigeons are known to follow motorways when they're on the last stretch of the journey home - and have been observed to fly around roundabouts. I wonder if they give way to the right or the left?

I have belatedly realized that there were two series of BFA being shown at the same time, one showing current activities and one showing the effects of history. I expect they will be repeated endlessly and I will have plenty of opportunities to catch up on television as well as on the web.

Icarus has reached the stage where I need to choose beads, so there will be a short pause while I swatch and dither.

I've picked up the baby shawl again and am on the edging. I have to decide whether to ask Heike to spin a little more yarn, or take it back one pattern. I know it'll grow a lot in the blocking, but I still think it might be too small if I rip any of it.
You can see here that I've placed a marker earlier; now I can't remember what it marks. Sigh.

I don't know about watching Sleepers online, Knitting Linguist. I don't know much about watching things online legally. It's available on DVD in the USA and Canada, but not in the UK - althugh we can buy the Region 1 version. It's time the dvd business started thinking globally, or they're going to be left behind the like the record companies.

Speaking, or rather writing, of old television series, Takin' Over the Asylum is being repeated on BBC4 just now and has been released on DVD in the UK. This is a superb drama, set in a psychiatric hospital: there are lots of excellent performances, but the outstanding one is by David Tennant - he was 21 and was already clearly something special. He plays a boy with bi-polar disorder and is, well, luminous.
The DVD release has been held up until now because the soundtrack includes some Beatles songs and it was too expensive or complicated to get the rights for the DVD. I have had this on a dodgy DVD made from an ancient videotape, so it will be good to upgrade. Katy Murphy is in it too, whom we don't see often enough.

While I'm swatching and dithering, and deciding whether to rip back the baby shawl, I'll cast on for a hat for the shawl baby.

Gretchen - yes, I have Big Girl Knits and I think it's very good. I haven't actually knitted anything from it, but that doesn't mean anything. I've got the second one on my wishlist.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Empty Nest Syndrome

The osprey chicks are gone, on their way to Africa. Their mum left over a week ago, before they had learnt to fish, but they've been seen with muddy feet so presumably they mastered it without her. Neither of them brought a fish back to the nest but that's maybe because they didn't want a hungry brother or sister to take it from them. You can track them here: you can see that Deshar (the male, who is a few days younger) made a big loop out over the sea while Nethy, his big sister, headed south right away. Maybe he was looking for something to eat.

Icarus is progressing: this was yesterday afternoon. Since then I have finished Chart 3 and am one third of the way through Chart 4.
I've just started the fourth ball of yarn. I'm not too worried about running out because I've almost decided to finish off with two or four rows of plain black -well, maybe not too plain; Kidsilk Night comes in a black with little twinkles in it which I think I like. I've ordered the beads, but it's a holiday weekend in the south so I expect they won't get here for ages.

In the ball the Graphite is very grey but the black and white are more pronounced when it's knitted up. I think the twinkly black will add definition to the edge.

It doesn't look like much at the moment but blocking will work wonders. Honest.

I have been asked to provide a stripy hat and scarf for my youngest relation so I think I might try brooklyn tweed's Turn a Square hat: it will give me an opportunity to practise jogless stripes. The colours will probably be purp and pinkle.

BBC4 has recently repeated Sleepers which I must have missed first time round in 1991: I can't imagine why I missed it because I had a television that year and I like the actors - Warren Clarke and Nigel Havers - and it's a lovely script. It's about two Russian deep cover spies who got forgotten in Britain for 25 years and then go on the run and are chased by MI5, the KGB and the CIA. The comedy arises from the three agencies misinterpreting each others' actions, and the fact that the two spies have absorbed the prejudices of their adopted classes, and it's very gently done. I've watched most of it and am saving the last half-hour as a treat.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Socks, Sweaters and Sunday Roasts

I wasn't well enough to go out on Saturday, so I didn't get to K1Yarns for Old Maiden Aunt's do. I hope the shop still has some left when I do get there to buy the lace needles for Adamas: maybe once the Festival's over. I was going to buy some yarn online as a consolation, but I decided to save my pennies for some beads to put on Icarus. Not in huge numbers, but on the edge and at the beginning of the border, I think: crystal or silver.

I finished the first ball, the Kidsilk Haze, and moved onto the Kidsilk Spray. I ordered a longer Addi bamboo needle but somebody at Royal Mail has eaten it or thrown it away, or possibly sent it to Beijing to be used as the handover in the relay races, and the 60cm needle I was using had got very crowded, so I had a dig around and wrenched the Kauni off its needle (remember that? still waiting for me to decide on the last pattern) and transferred the Icarus.

The rows are getting r-a-t-h-e-r long now. I've started on Chart 2, the feathers, which is very exciting. When I started the third row I realized that I had forgotten about the plain stitches in Row 2 so I unhitched them and reversed them while I was doing Row 3. I'm sure I bought a tiny crochet hook recently which would have been excellent for this purpose, but I couldn't find it. I did, however, find the camera batteries I was looking for last week, so that wasn't completely wasted time. (Which is just as well, because Royal Mail has thrown away the replacement batteries I ordered too.)

I think I will change some of the plain stitches in the pattern in Icarus: I have been peering at Icaruses on Ravelry and quite a few people seem to have done this without disaster striking. I also caught myself referring to it as 'Uterus' instead of Icarus: I shall have to watch out for that.

Mentioning that my mother knitted the cat sweater in my last post set me thinking, plus the fact that it was her birthday on Saturday: she would have been 87. She didn't always knit: she took it up whenever she was trying to give up smoking, which was often. Although she was a woman of immense will-power, she always struggled with that. The needles would replace the cigarette, and 'Just one more row' replaced 'Just one more cigarette,' while a garment grew rapidly beneath her hands: I sometimes think she just started smoking again because she got bored with knitting. Perhaps she should have tried lace - a Forest Canopy Shawl and Kidsilk crack might have taken care of a mere nicotine habit.

The Swallowtail Shawl has arrived safely with its new owner in Canada, on Vancouver Island.

Maureen, aka Nellie, sent me these pictures of its new surroundings. The deer are in her garden: she reckons they don't like yellow plants so she grows quite a lot of them.

I like the look of injured innocence on the one on the right.

This one has given up pretending.

I watched the second Britain from Above tonight and am totally hooked. It was about how human activities have shaped the land and itincluded a bit about how grazing sheep have changed the landscape, which is where I got the title for this post. Andrew Marr said that it was our weakness for 'socks, sweaters and Sunday roasts' which had caused the absence of trees in large parts of the country. So many people on television try to be cool, I find his enthusiasm a welcome change: he's good too at drawing knowledge out of experts, although one of the English Heritage archaeologists was so unforthcoming one wondered why he had agreed to go up in a plane in the first place, but never mind. Maybe he didn't agree: maybe his line manager made him do it.

The film was full of riveting shots which made me shout, 'Yes, but where is it?' as another distraction whizzed by, especially the bit about follies. I suppose I'll have to examine the website more closely. It's got all sorts of riveting things on it. In tonight's show there was a satellite-controlled combine harvester which can work for 24 hours every day. I'll try not to think about that when I'm falling asleep tonight.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Power Surge

I haven't had a power surge myself; quite the reverse in fact. I usually have a relapse around this time of year: I try to be positive and think that maybe this year it won't happen, but then I get sideswiped again and spend a couple of weeks picking myself up off the floor. That's how it's been lately. The actual power surge was on a new television series which started on Sunday, Britain from Above. I watched it; don't know if I'll watch the rest. It reminded me a bit of a schools programme but it was quite hypnotic. Aerial views are always quite compelling somehow. Anyway, the reason I mention it is that there was a bit with a man who manages the national grid or part of it, and he was bracing himself to meet the surge in demand that follows the end of East Enders. I've already forgotten the staggering number of electric kettles that are switched on within six minutes of the end, but what caught my attention was Andrew Marr's assertion that we're the only country in the world that does this, switches on huge numbers of kettles all at once. Bill Bryson says somewhere that it's one of the things he likes about the British, their ability to get excited at the prospect of a hot beverage. I wonder if there's a surge when people open the fridge door to get a cool beer?

I started the Adamas shawl but then I decided that it wasn't a start, it was a swatch. I like my lace holey but this is so open that you can't really see the sweet little intersecting squares that make up the pattern. Plus, I had made a mistake. I'm going to start again with 3.5mm needles, which I don't have in the Addi lace at the moment. I can get them at K1 Yarns on Saturday, if I get there.
The yarn is delicious.

I blocked the Forest Canopy from 40 inches by 20 to 50 inches by 25. So it's not huge, but it's very nice. My friend was very pleased with it. I had thought that blocking would quieten the Kidsilk Haze down a bit but it was still as mad and fluffy and airy as ever, quite difficult to wrap up in tissue.

We read a lotabout SABLE, Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy, but not so much about another besetting sin, Pattern Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. I've been buying some old VKBs off eBay, not respectably ancient ones like Jean buys, but 1980s ones. One of them, Holiday 1986, I must have owned at the time because I have the sweater to prove it. I got my mother to knit it because I was too busy: of course, I can't squeeze into it now but I would never part with it.

I loved this one with the bow too: I still think I might use the chart someday. I know it's not fashionable to say this, but I really like '80s knitting. It was a very exuberant period, with a real joy in what could be done with yarns and colour and I think there are just as many hostages to fortune in the latest pattern books are there are in these.

Speaking of the latest pattern books, I am totally in love with the latest Rowan book, number 44. As I type this, I am horribly aware of all the things I was in love with in last autumn's Rowan book that I never got round to knitting, but we won't dwell on that. Rather than my taking a lot of bad photographs, or stealing them from another site, here is a link to to Colourway's site which has some of the highlights - Rowan themselves are 'moving to a new website' so they have nuttin'. Click on the thumbnails for embiggening and yardage.

One of the best things for somebody as unimaginative as myself is that they have shown some of the styles twice, in different yarns or with and without embroidery, or with and without stripes. I'm not really into embroidering my knitting; I sort of disapprove of it in a way which I can't possibly justify, but it is a lovely look. The 'stories' are Nostalgia, which has already had Vivienne running for her costume book but doesn't pretend to be historically accurate fortunately, Renaissance (likewise, I suspect) and Elegance.

The mag also has a piece about a book by Sharon Brant, Knitting Goes Large, which is due out in theUK next month. She contributed to Martin Storey's Classic Knits for Real Women, which I found very disappointing, but this looks promising. I found the Storey designs included a lot of the things that I avoided after I gained weight, like shirt collars and styles that button right up to the neck, not to mention dull colours and general fussiness. One of the items on the cover is a sleeveless polo-neck, of all things. Rowan has increased the size range in its patterns at about the same rate as I have needed them to, which is handy, but this might be a useful extra.

When I was collecting the mag I had the opportunity to touch, and sniff, some of the new British Sheep Breeds yarns which are just wonderful. They're not for the faint-hearted or those who prefer their yarn suitably distanced from proceedings which produce it, but if you like to bury your face in a sweater and go wibber wibber wibber, you will probably love them.

I feel I should confess that I have been lurking on Ravelry for a little while. As long as images had to be uploaded to Flickr I knew there was no way I could join in wholeheartedly, but Blogger has obligingly uploaded all my blog images to Picasa and Ravelry has obligingly arranged to upload images from there, so I no longer have an excuse. I am chronicknitting, and at the time of writing I have 214 Faves and 3 Friends. Ooops. Obviously I should get out more.

So what did I do when I realized I had a couple of weeks to fill in before I could start knitting Adamas on smaller needles? I cast on for Icarus, of course. I have three balls of Kidsilk Spray in the grey / black / white colourway, Graphite, and the pattern is notorious for eating yarn so I started with a spare ball of plain grey Kidsilk Haze. I'm nearly at the end of it here. I'm not finding this part of it dull; I'm just enjoying the yarn and looking forward to doing the feathers.

Thank you for the Music Box recommendation, Judith. I didn't record it but I've added it to my LoveFilm list. Amazon transferred its dvd rental business to LoveFilm and I don't like them nearly as much so, irrationally, I'm not watching the dvds I've got. I must have a blitz and then I can get some new ones.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Panic Over

Phew. And thanks very much, grannypurple. I was sitting at the pc, thinking of nothing in particular, and there drifted into my mind a picture of the swatch I started knitting in January, which I had thought might turn into a scarf (a swarf?) and which consisted of different shades of Kidsilk Haze worked in garter stitch on different sizes of needles, and I remembered that the first stripe consisted of Meadow.

I burrowed through the heap on the sofa and found it, very near the bottom, and merrily ripped it apart. It's true what they say about ripping Kidsilk but I managed it and had the shawl finished in a trice. No, really, a trice. I haven't blocked it yet because although my back is a lot better I think it will be worth waiting another day or two before I do anything as backbreaking as pinning out a shawl on the bed, but it's good to take quiet looks at it and know that it's finished.

This has nothing do with knitting, but it made me laugh.
If you can't see the whole caption, click on the picture.

Friday, 1 August 2008

No MoreTwist

My back is improving nicely (thank you for the good wishes) and I have knitting progress to report. First, something rather alarming. An emergency, you might say.Do you see that? I've done 16 repeats and I'm casting off... and I've run out of yarn. I could rip the cast-off and a couple of rows of the edging, but I would really rather not. I reckon I need 2 yards, maybe 3 to be on the safe side. It's Rowan Kidsilk Haze, shade 581 aka Meadow. I don't care about the dyelot. I am even toying with the idea of ripping the bind-off and doing the last two rows in a slightly different shade: I have some 601 and a blind man running for a bus would never notice the difference. Eeeek. But it would be nicest just to do it neatly in the right colour - do any of you have a secret KSH leftovers stash?

In spite of this dreadful experience, I am preparing to do my next piece of lace. It's the Adamas Shawl and this is Fyberspates' Scrumptious Lace which I bought shen she visited K1 Yarns. It's 55% merino and 45% silk and there are 1,000 yards of it so I shouldn't run out this time. I had great difficulty stopping myself from casting this on on Sunday night, when I really should have been knitting Chrissy, but I was saved by the fact that my printer had run out of black ink so I couldn't run off the pattern. The ink arrived in the post this morning so I can spend today staring blankly at the charts.

Speaking of K1 Yarns, they're having a visit from Old Maiden Aunt in a couple of weeks, on 16 August. I will so be there. After all, I need more wool, don't I?

This is Chrissy as she currently stands, or hangs. I took the opportunity to try it on, just in case I hated the neck, and I'm quite pleased with it. It is the sort of size and shape that I had intended and it fits me (it doesn't make me look as cute as the girl in the picture, butI was prepared for that). It has, as you can see, a different-dyelot stripe around it. I don't mind this too much as it's a casual sweater for floppy occasions, but what is a bit odd is that the stripe appears to be very slightly heavier yarn and the tension is better on the stripe than it is on the rest. Oh well, as I say I'm not planning to wear it on tv so it doesn't matter. I really like the colour on me: I can't wear beige without looking as I've recently been dug up, but this is definitely cream. I think I might get the sleeves out of what's left of the main dyelot: if not, I can do another stripe on the second arm.

I finally watched Blood Diamond, which had been sitting in my DVD pile for far too long because I kept feeling too squeamish to watch it. When I was young I made myself watch and read all sorts of things because I felt I ought to, but as I've got older and more awful things have happened to me and my loved ones I've felt less inclined to put myself through virtual pain, and I knew this was going to have some difficult scenes so I'd been putting it off. It does have difficult scenes, but of course it has other things too and at least the violence serves a purpose in that it reates to real events and isn't there just because someone thinks it's time for another explosion. Leo DiCaprio did a brilliant job, not only with the Rhodesian accent but also in looking like the person he was meant to be, a sun-dried white from Southern Africa. I know the make-up does a lot of the work, but it doesn't do it all - he even smoked convincingly, how many young actors can do that? Djimon Hounsou was excellent too, and David Harewood, who's a black British actor that we see on television a lot. I think he's played a lot of policemen, but he has a very wide range: he was certainly convincing as a psychopath here.

I watched it again with the director's commentary (once I get started, I'm quite tough really) and enjoyed that too. Commentaries can be very variable, but Edward Zwick had a lot to say.

Now, The Poisoner, Judith. This is a French television series, three hours long altogether, about a woman, Marie Besnard, who was tried after the War (World War II) for the murder of a number of members of her family - a true story. She was tried three times, for a different number of murders each time, between 1952 and 1961. I'm not going to tell you any more about the plot in case you want to watch it. No Spoilers Here. But I do want to write about the production.

I'm the worst person in the world to watch any sort of historical film with. I get very grumbly about the make-up being wrong, the hair wrong, all sorts of things being wrong. Sometimes I try not to, but I still end up doing it. I don't mind if it's something made-up but if it claims to be history, then it should be right - what's the point otherwise? McKnitus had a post about this recently. And I mind a bit when it's classic literature; I mean, Jane Eyre wouldn't wear heavy make-up, would she? That's part of the point. And Fanny Price wouldn't wear her hair down and wouldn't have huge fixed teeth and big black painted-on eyebrows, and wouldn't run about all the time (have they read the book?). I like Billie Piper, she's a good actress, but that was bad casting and worse direction. The fixed teeth and collagen-packed lips are a recurring problem in films, and on television too. I'm not saying that people should look entirely accurate, complete with missing teeth and hair that was washed once a fortnight, but there must be a place in between, where the actors aren't 18th-century from the neck down and 21st-century from the chin up. And the sets and lighting should make an effort too: there's no point in having halogen-bright lighting in a grubby Dickensian kitchen. So, as you can tell, I can go on like this for hours. But The Poisoner was a revelation: the people really looked like people from the '40s and '50s and 60s; the women looked awful, it has to be said, and everybody looked unhealthy by our standards. It was photographed in that sort of colour where the blacks look like navy blue and nothing looks clean so it gets round the fact that it's set in a period we're used to seeing in black and white. And the people - I thought they must have tracked down a village full of real people who were still living on a post-War diet, but I checked and they're all actors with long careers. It was the make-up and lighting. I think that all the actresses should have got some sort of extra payment as compensation for looking so awful - maybe they did. There is a young woman in it and she was allowed to look a bit fresher and lovelier but she didn't look completely out of place.

The film cleverly doesn't offer a final view on Marie Besnard's guilt but lets you come to your own conclusion. Extraordinarily, all of this took place in Loudun, where the devils were supposedly found three-and-a-half centuries earlier, and the atmosphere of small-town gossip seems to have survived and is captured brilliantly.

I'm not sure how available it is. It isn't on U.S. or U.K. Amazon: it's on French Amazon in a Region 2 version. (The extras include 'Le Making Of'.) My dvd player will play any region dvd, but yours might not. Amazon, as usual, doesn't mention whether it has subtitles (I love you, Amazon, but why don't you show whether dvds have subtitles?) but this must be the one that BBC4 showed, which did, so it must. I think. It would probably be worth keeping an eye on eBay, but there isn't one on sale, anywhere, at present. I wish I hadn't erased my recordings and I hope it's shown again.

I was well enough to get to the Post Office yesterday so I posted the Swallowtail Shawl to Nellie, who is in Canada and probably won't need a warm scarf for a few months yet. Last night at midnight, our humidity was 93.8% and it's back up to 87% tonight, after dropping during the day, but at least it's not so hot now. I'm not good at hot.

And to end on a cheerful note, here's another knitter's LOLCAT.