Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Lootfest 2009

I went to Woolfest 2009 on Saturday, on the Scottish Fibres bus.

Everyone arrived punctually and we kept good time, superbly and unobtrusively managed by Spinning Fishwife and her clipboard.

I bought blue yarn.
Blue Faced Leicester Sock in Mamba by Fyberspates
I used to think that I wasn't going to make Shawl That Jazz. Now I'm not so sure. This would suit it.

Hand-Dyed Sock in Summer Clouds by Ripples
I think there's enough white in this that it will be like Delft china when it's knitted up. It's an intense blue.

I got it from Helen at Ripples. She lives in a very beautiful part of the world where my mother used to go every summer and we spoke about that. Stall holders must have to get used to customers coming up and launching enthusiastically into an unpredictable range of topics. Helen's blog has a lovely photograph of her stand filled up with yarn, and then another after it was stripped bare and turned back into an animal space. Do go and have a look.

2-ply Expressions from The House of Hemp
I'm going to a wedding in October and have been thinking about making a top from some sort in magical yarn. I'm very tempted by Deep Breath, but I also like the House of Hemp pattern that came with this yarn. The important thing is that I should actually knit it, instead of just making plans for all the things that I could knit with it.

I bought some that isn't blue.

Toddy yarn in Woolfest '09 by The Yarn Yard
When I'm not wearing blue and turquoise and green, I wear neutrals. A Baktus maybe; I keep admiring other people's. Certainly something scarfy. The colours are so much nicer in reality.

I got the two things which were on the very short list of Things I Have To Get, a pair of 5.5mm rosewood needles from Scottish Fibres
and a tapestry-needle holder from Twist Fibre Craft Studio in Newburgh. They're about 46 miles north from where I live, and I have my Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting subscriptions with them, so it was a bit strange to travel 130 miles in the opposite direction to buy it from them. It's from Ireland and made of yew.

I should have taken a photograph of the smell. I was reminded of Loudon Wainwright's line from Dead Skunk - You don't have to look, You don't have to see, You can feel it in your olfactory, but in a good way. It was made by delightful creatures like this.

She's not a sheep; she's an angora goat. (I realize you probably know this, but I didn't.)

There was a couple of newly sheared alpacas but they looked very cross so I didn't take their picture. Ambermoggie did.

I got buttons. Someone on the bus said to me afterwards, 'I never buy buttons unless I know what I'm going to use them for,' and I said, 'Yes, I used to have that rule too, until today. '

Sorry the photo's so dull. We're having very overcast weather and lots of mist just now and everything looks as if it's been put in a hot wash with a black tee shirt. They're from Injabulo. I've pored over their website in the past, unable to make a decision, so I was really pleased to come across their stand. When one of my nieces was small and was faced with a difficult decision, perhaps between two kinds of ice-cream, she said, 'That's a hard choose, Granny.' This was indeed a hard choose.

I don't mind if I don't use them actually. The smiley cats might go up on the kitchen wall.

I started winding some blue yarn on the bus.

Lost label yarn from Fyberspates, possibly Self Striping Sock
I cast on for a Baktus with it, but when it got home it became a swatch because I couldn't get the needle size right. It has now become something else, which you shall be seeing shortly.

Also on the way home, the spinner sitting in front of me turned a bit of something black and scruffy into beautiful fine yarn, before my astonished eyes. It presumably wasn't really scruffy, but if I'd found it, I probably would have thrown it away.

When I was at the Twist stall, my card was 'declined' and I had to use a different one. I thought this was a bit strange, because I knew there was about £300 in the first account and a negative amount in the second one but I rolled with it. On Monday I sent Fyberspates a frantic email because I had used the card with her and I thought she might blacklist me, and I rang the bank (complicated by the fact that my landline is out of order, sigh) who said they had suspended my account because of 'unusual activity' and went through said unusual activity with me, which was my usual few pounds here and there with Amazon and iTunes, nothing odd at all. I thought they were going to say I'd booked a hotel room in Dubai, which happened to a friend of mine. Anyway, it's all sorted now.

Sunday, there was more knitting excitement. Knitting Linguist was passing through Edinburgh before going north and we met for coffee. It was as if someone had pressed a buzzer, and we were off, non-stop talking for 90 minutes until her husband came and took her away - well, no he didn't but you know what I mean. Hi, Rick.

It's very odd, this business of meeting someone whom you already know very well, or think you do. I once met my French pen-pal and we hardly had anything to say to each other, not least because we could write each other's language better than we could speak it. At Woolfest I met three people whom I already knew online, but I thought there were probably others there, whose darkest secrets I have read, but whom I walked past unknowingly. This time anyway, it went very well and it was like talking to someone that I'd known for years.

She gave me these. The amazing thing is that the box isn't empty yet.

What with talking pretty incessantly to my companion Lindsay (who bought even more purple yarn than I bought blue) on the bus most of the way there and most of the way back, and to other passengers, and stall-holders, and then to Jocelyn on Sunday, I reckon I talked more over those two days that I usually do in a week. I had speech difficulties as a child, and it has often been remarked that I've been making up for it ever since, so it was good to know that I still can.

And Phone Guy came today and fixed the phone, so now I can catch up on my calls. More talking.

P.S. I don't know why the font size in this post keeps changing and I have given up trying to put it right. Sorry.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Other, Less Clammy Women

When I first saw this on Mitchell and Webb last week, I replayed it about four times while emitting little shrieks of joy. It says everything about the differences between advertising aimed at women and at men.

Fuzzarelly has linked to it too, and lots of other good things. Great minds?

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Dis 'n' Dat

Thanks for the reassurances about Chrissy and the mysterious fluctuating All Seasons Cotton. It's good to know I wasn't imagining it.

I've barely done any knitting since my last post. I do a few more millimetres on the off-blog project from time to time, but that's about it. I'm reluctant to start anything because I'm going to Woolfest on Saturday and there's not much point in starting something today if I'm only going to cast it aside on Sunday in a frenzy of excitement with my loot. I'm catching the Scottish Fibres bus at an ungodly hour on Saturday along with a couple of dozen other people, and we shall be making our way through the early morning light down to Cockermouth in Cumbria, singing knitting songs and waulking the tweed. Well, perhaps not, but something like that.

Given my limited mobility, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do, but I think it'll be worth it to soak up the atmosphere and see all the wool-stoned faces. Spinning Fishwife assures me that there are lots of seats in the Centre, which should facilitate rests interspersed with short lunges at the merchandise. I got very organised about 3 weeks ago and ordered some Ravelry badges. Can I find them now? Can I b*gg*ry. **

Although I don't usually eat much during the day, I've become convinced that I will be starving - being trapped on a mode of transport can do that to a body - and anyway I don't want to waste my short amount of standing power by standing in queues for food and coffee, so my list of proposed sandwiches, snacks and beverages is getting very long. Between that and my collapsible chair in case of emergency, I suspect that the bus driver may be reluctant to let me aboard with my collection of mysterious bags.

New Book
Lynne Barr, who wrote the fabulous Knitting New Scarves has got a new book coming out, called Reversible Knitting.

It's due out in the U.S. in October, and Amazon U.K. shows the same date. The bumf says:

Most of the stitch dictionaries on knitters’ shelves are remixes of familiar stitch patterns already published elsewhere. Not so for Lynne Barr’s groundbreaking book Reversible Knitting. Not only is every one of the 50 stitch patterns completely new and never before seen, but each is also reversible—for a total of 100 different looks!

Reversible stitch patterns can be used to create projects where either side can be worn facing outward, or where two sides of the piece are visible simultaneously (such as a scarf or a garment with collar or cuffs that that can be worn up or down). In addition to stitch patterns, the book features 20 such projects—from accessories like scarves, hats, and socks to sweaters and dresses—designed by the author and by 12 top knitwear designers including STC authors VĂ©ronik Avery, Norah Gaughan, and Teva Durham. Rounding out the book are in-depth instructions for the specialized techniques required for reversible work.

The cardi on the cover looks like a Norah Gaughan design, doesn't it? One of her may-be-worn-upside-down designs. I can't wait. In fact, I've pre-ordered it.

I watched a Norwegian/Swedish film called Kitchen Stories tonight. It's wonderful. After World War II, the Swedes carried out research on the most efficient use of kitchens, which is a laudable enough idea and I expect we've all benefited from it, but it was carried out by sending inspectors to sit in kitchens on very high chairs, like tennis umpires, and observe the occupants.

They were forbidden to interfere in the work of the kitchen, and indeed weren't permitted to join in at meals or even to have a cup of coffee. The film examines what might have happened when the inspectors found themselves observing in remote parts of Norway, where their presence wasn't welcome and reminds us that human beings like to communicate even in the least promising circumstances.

I think I would have got more out of it if I spoke Norwegian or Swedish as I'm sure there are a lot of in-jokes which escape the sub-titles, or even if I knew a little more of their history than I do, but I thought it was delightful and I want to watch it again some day.

** Found them! At 00.09 on Saturday morning.

Friday, 19 June 2009

More Grumbles about the Post Office

I have finished my finishing, on target.

First, Chrissy is done.
I think I might unpick the neck and do it again on smaller needles - I should really unpick the whole sweater and re-do it on smaller needles actually, but I think that probably isn't on the cards. You see the Different Dyelot Stripe across the front?

Well, that isn't just a different shade, it's a different weight; it forms an amusing modesty panel as a result. I used the needle size suggested in the pattern, the same size as my previous All Seasons Cotton sweater and I think this batch of yarn is just a lighter weight. I like the sweater and it's just the right flopping about sort of size and so-o-o comfortable, but it isn't quite right. The collar should sort of stand up but instead it stretches and it keeps sliding kittenishly off my shoulder. When I get round to re-doing the neck, I might just do a roll-over neckline instead of trying to get this yarn to do what it doesn't really want to do.

More successfully, here's Lara, a Debbie Bliss pattern knitted in shade 08 of Noro Silk Garden and upsized a bit.
The sleeves are a bit long but I like that, and altogther I'm very happy with it. I haven't done anything resembling blocking it yet, not even soaked it and dried it flat.

I'm going to wear it today with the lapis lazuli pendant that I got for my birthday.

My wonderful postman has just told me that he's going on holiday for three weeks, and it took me all my strength not to clutch at his legs as he walked away and beg, 'No, please don't go. Please stay and make sure I get all my mail when I should.' I wished him a happy holiday instead, but it was a struggle. I've just ordered a new camera from Amazon and I don't want it to disappear into the nether regions of the sorting office, or worse.

Our present sorting office is about a mile from my flat, and on the way to all sorts of places; we have just been sent notices saying that our sorting office is moving to an industrial estate 3.5 miles away and on the way to nowhere. This is of course 'part of our continuous drive to deliver great service to customers in Edinburgh.' You could have fooled me. I hope there's a special place in Hell for people who write that sort of Orwellian nonsense.

I've ordered the Berroco Norah Gaughan booklet that has the pattern for Anhinga. It's a terrible price (£3.50 postage, eeek), but I know I'll do it eventually so I might as well get it over with.

Grannypurple, your comment has reconciled me completely to my photos and I've sent off the one I need for the pass: the others have been chopped into very small pieces and thrown away.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Watching Paint Dry, and Watching Films

I've been very good, and since I found the missing sleeve I've been knitting nothing but Chrissy. Quite a lot of the time this has meant that I've been knitting nothing because I would rather stare into space or even wash the dishes than knit another bland row of cream cotton: this is truly the type of knitting that fits into the Watching Paint Dry category. In my last flat, the one I had before where I live now, I painted all the woodwork when I moved in - skirting boards, doors, window frames, shutters - in a shade called Buttersilk, and the Organic shade of All Seasons Cotton is very similar. It's not as dark as it looks on the Dulux page, more the colour of Green and Black's Vanilla Ice Cream, or their White Chocolate. Mmmmmm. I wonder if they'll ever make a White Chocolate Ice Cream... anyway, back to the knitting.

When I've finished Chrissy, which should be this week, and when I've finished Lara, which should also be this week, I can cast on for another sweater with a clear conscience. Actually, I already have the red sandstone jacket on the needles but that doesn't really count because it's a winter thing and I'm thinking more of a summer thing. This heavenly garment is in the latest Norah Gaughan booklet, number 5. Isn't it gorgeous?

It's called Anhinga. I have some Jaeger merino in grey, or I have some All Seasons Cotton (it's the same tension) in some colour or another. A slightly variegated yarn, or a marl, might show off the shaping well.

Or I could do something from Breeze. Oh dear. I feel a fit of indecision coming on. Whatever I do, it will probably have fairly endless sections of stocking stitch, so I had better stock up on subtitled dvds to keep my attention focussed.

I watched Petites Coupures last week. I couldn't remember why I had put it on my list, apart from the fact that Daniel Auteil is in it which is good enough for me, and I couldn't remember whether it was a comedy or a tragedy or a road movie and I'm still not altogether sure. Bits of it were very glum, but I laughed quite a lot too although on reflection I don't think I was meant to, and at one point I got a bad fright. It was one of those films where you keep thinking, Am I meant to think this character is a whole person with deeply interesting problems, or am I meant to think he's a self-absorbed ninny? And her, is she a fascinating whimsical woman, or does she have mental health problems? And why have they made Kristin Scott Thomas wear a bad wig? I settled on the latter in both cases, but I think perhaps that wasn't the director's intention.

Before that I watched Real Women Have Curves, which is a lovely film. It's a bit predictable, but beautifully shot and well acted. It's two stories, one about a girl who wants to go to college but comes from a family that doesn't go to college, and another about the fact that one doesn't have to be thin to be beautiful.
The mother in it is piece of work, performed brilliantly by Lupe Ontiveros, who played Gabriela's mother in Desperate Housewives, and the daughter is America Ferrera who is just terrific. It was her first film; she must have been 17 or 18 when it was made. I would quite happily watch it again. Recommended.

Post Office
I had a bizarre afternoon in the Post Office last week. When I stand in the queue in that Post Office I always wonder why they don't have a Take a Number system and some seats. The Post Office does absolutely nothing for disabled people; if you're not in a wheelchair you can damn well manage like everybody else, however weak you may be or how much pain you may be suffering. Given that a lot of elderly people collect their pensions at the PO, and some disabled people collect their benefits, this is unrealistic. Anyway. When I went in they had rearranged everything and there were people up ladders fiddling with the lights, and there were some more screens advertising 'services'. Do they have any idea how angry this makes people? Advertising more services when you're already standing in a queue because they can't meet demand?

As well as the existing numbers dangling above the clerks' heads, there were now letters as well, and after a while a disembodied voice said 'Customer 37 to Counter E, please.' We all looked around furtively, trying to spot the number-issuing machine, although being Edinburghers we tried to pretend we weren't. The woman behind me was so angry, she was ready to eat someone, but it turned out that there were no numbers, they were just trying out the new system. When I had shuffled up to the front and actually got to talk to a clerk (who probably isn't called a clerk any more, but a customer operative or something), I asked him when the new system was going to be introduced. 'Nine o'clock this morning,' he said drily. 'You haven't seen two maroon leather sofas, have you,' he went on. 'They've been delivered. Signed for.' So apparently, I will get a number and a seat the next time I'm in. If they've found the sofas.

There's a photo machine in the PO, which was my next task. I need a new photo for a pass. I've used that machine before, and it has a disembodied voice and a touchscreen. I sat myself down and put the money in, and then realized the touchscreen wasn't there. The voice went on addressing me, telling me to press this for this and that for that, and some instructions appeared on the photo screen too, including one telling me that I hadn't put in enough money, although I had. I dropped some money on the floor, but decided not to bend down and pick it up, in case the machine took a photo of my bottom. The voice went on, and was plainly under the impression that I had touched the touchscreen, because things whirred a bit and then it told me that the photographs would be ready soon, so I picked up the money and went outside.

The photographs are absolutely terrible. I always look awful in id photos and it was often said at my place of employment that my pass looked like the sort of person they were trying to stop from entering the building, not the sort you would allow in, but these are oustandingly bad. I think it was the combination of listening to the instructions which I couldn't carry out anyway, and trying to keep a straight face, has led to my looking depressed and threatening at the same time, not a good combination. I thought of telling someone in the P.O. that the machine wasn't working properly, but there was a longer queue by now, and anyway you just know that when the photo company paid the P.O. a sum of money to put their machines in Post Offices, the co-ordination stopped there and that there would be nobody who could help. (On the subject of organisations paying each other large sums of money instead of providing a service to us, read this about W.H. Smith and Penguin Books. It's insane.) There was probably something on the side of the machine that said, 'In case of problems, ring this number.' As if.

I'm also trying to contact the tax people at the moment, and keep getting put through a series of loops on the phone before a very charming woman says, 'I'm sorry we've been unable to help you today,' and cuts me off. Everything Kafka and George Orwell said has come true. After half-an-hour of this, I quite look forward to some vanilla knitting.

'Stits' isn't a word, Gretchen. 'Stits and farts' is another way of saying 'Fits and starts'. In English this is called a Spoonerism, after, well, you can read about him here.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Stits and Farts

Things are moving in stits and farts around here. The Silk Garden Lara predictably ran out of yarn just as I approached the ribbing on the last cuff. It's quite long ribbing, about 4 inches. I wasn't quite as exasperated as I might have been because it gives me the chance the arrange the colours, rather than settling for what might just happen to happen. The necessary wool is on its way in the post.

I returned to the off-blog lace and completed the third chart, up to row 125. This means about 544 stitches. The printer fixed the metaphysical problem it was having in my previous post, but has now run out of ink, so I can't print the next chart. The necessary cartridge is on its way in the post.

I was going to get back to Chrissy next but I was diverted by ambermoggie's Jet jacket. I decided I have enough bluey green cardis for the moment and after a lot of peering at Ravelry got the corally colour, which is called Lolly Orange for some reason. I don't know they called it that, because it's not at all bright and not very very orange; it's a soft brownish pink, the colours of weatherworn red sandstone walls.

Stenton, East Lothian
It doesn't match my nail polish, sadly, as I never wear red or pink.

Lolly Orange Jet Sleeve, lightened a little
Come to think of it, I don't know why they called the yarn 'Jet', which sounds hard and shiny and not at all like a soft wool and alpaca yarn - because it knits up quickly, perhaps? It's 70% wool and 30% alpaca and it's lovely. Kemp's are selling it at an unfeasible price and I'm very tempted to get some more for a black winter jacket - oops, dithered too long, maybe I'll do it in navy.

There's another nice cardi in the Jet book, but I'm not sure if I have the strength of character to do an entire jacket in basket stitch. The word basket-case seems uncannily close.

After I finished the first ball, I told myself very sternly to get back to Chrissy and I started looking for the WIP. I found the body,

but I can't find the part-done sleeve, which is in a bag with the remaining yarn. Ahem. Do you have any ideas?

ADDED LATER: Found it. I looked in all the places I might have put it, twice, and then I started to look in the places I wouldn't have put it - found it quite soon. Phew.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Ospreys 'n' Knitting

I've been very remiss about keeping you up-to-date with the ospreys. A lot has happened. The female has stuck with the new male who turned up, and he has been a dab hand at turning up with fish. She laid three eggs, which is the usual osprey clutch, and they have all hatched.

The dad was seen with a length of fishing line attached to him, about 40 feet of it, which caused some anxiety for a while, but it seems to have fallen off and he is back on maximum fish duty. There's lots of feeding going on, and lots of chirping.The chicks are growing stronger by the day, visibly, and things appear at the moment to be going well.

When I was watching this last year, I was optimistic and possibly a little casual about it all, but none of last year's chicks made it - one died in the nest with a fair amount of help from the family, one disappeared over the ocean on the way to Africa, and the last one disappeared just as she was about to return earlier this year - so this year I am a bit more on edge.

I was thinking that the pain I had in my right hand was down to excessive mousing, but I realized on Monday that it was probably down to excessive lace knitting, so I tore myself away, with considerable difficulty, from the off-blog project and have picked up the Silk Garden Lara again. This means I have a great heavy pile of mohair and lambswool on my lap during the hottest days of the year, but then that's what knitting is all about, isn't it?

I am doing the decreases using Fiona's method for getting smooth edges instead of steps. I saw it last year when she posted it, bookmarked it, and was able to find it again when I needed it, amazingly enough. It is absolutely brilliant.

A kind friend gave me a couple more balls of the yarn for my birthday and I think this may see it to the end, or to within about half an inch of the end if my luck is as usual. The colours really are gorgeous, and the greens are even brighter than they look here. And yes, one of the dark blues does match my nail polish, how did you know?

And to finish, the current theme song of the UK House of Commons -