Thursday, 26 August 2010

Clearing the Air

I mentioned recently that eBay is absolutely lethal at the moment. By this I meant that bags and balls of yarn are going for such low prices that well, one couldn't possibly let them go.

I've had my eye open for some Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran for a while, because I want to make the Lace Edge Cardigan from the pattern book of that name. It's all garter stitch so it uses a vast amount of yarn and any lots that came up were 5 balls, or dark purple, or in some other way not quite what I was looking for. And then recently someone posted 26 balls of it at a very reasonable Buy It Now.

Did I actually have the money? Well, not exactly, but it wasn't going to get any cheaper if I waited, was it? I've done a swatch but I'm not going to let myself cast on until I've finished, or at least got to the hood of, Billie.

And then a Ravelry friend faved the Sprout baby blanket, which is very tempting.

It could be knitted with All Seasons Cotton so I idly checked eBay and someone was selling a bag of that in a splendid green called - Sprout! I would say it's more sort of Spinach, but I wasn't in the mood to quibble.

The same person subsequently posted some Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply in white, which would be perfect for a christening blanket. Or something else. And then, a fortnight later, she posted another three balls of the same.

No-one else bid for any of these - what else was I supposed to do?

And now, an explanation of the photo of the green yarn. This is a Handy Tip. The yarn had a very faint whiff of cigarette smoke about it. It probably would have aired out while I was knitting it, but I didn't want to wait. If you burn a candle, any candle, in a room containing cigarette smoke, the smell of smoke will disappear. It takes a longer or a shorter time according to the size of the room and the amount of smoke, but it works. This isn't anything to do with masking smells, but is something to do with carbon chemistry which I wouldn't claim to understand. If you use more candles, it will happen quicker.

Thus, if you have a garment which smells of smoke, hang it in the bathroom - or any other small room - and burn a candle. The smell of smoke will vanish as if by magic. I usually use the bathroom because it's quicker and because I reckon it's a safer place to leave candles burning.

So you see, in the photo I wasn't worshipping at the altar of the yarn, I was just cleansing the atmosphere. It works for curtains and everything, even your hair.

But I really must stop checking for yarn on eBay.

I finished casting off the Beachy Blue Swallowtail Shawl and it's waiting to be blocked.

And I'm finishing the denimy Pinwheel. Depending on which pattern you use, this blanket can have eight sections or ten: by some cunning maneouvre, I 've got nine. Oh well. Once I knew Baby is a girl, I was going to put a pink frill around the dge, but after peering at Ravelry for a while, I've done some rows of garter stitch and a picot bind off, which is what I did on the Blue Pinwheel I made last year.

I like this a lot - if the yarn looks hauntingly familiar, it's the same as the Distressed Sweater. It's discontinued but you can still get it at Cucumber Patch. I love it, and the blanket is very soft and cosy.
I think I might have to make one of these for myself.

There was a doco about online dating on BBC2 on Tuesday night, Wink, Meet, Delete. It was fairly light-hearted and mostly consisted of people telling their favourite stories about their experiences. They all emphasised how addictive it got for them for a while, how much time they spent clicking another photo, and another, and another. It made me very glad that I spend my time online looking for the perfect sweater rather than the perfect man.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Sunset Boulevard, Two Fashion Docos and the Cutest Baby Hat Evah

I watched Sunset Boulevard again recently. Between viewings I tend to forget how good it is. What a script, what actors. I always enjoy William Holden's performances, although I don't think anyone who worked with him latterly is on record as saying he was a great guy. And Gloria Swanson, well - one thing about watching it again over the years is how one's attitude to Norma Desmond changes. At first you think she's old, then you think she's not so old and then you think, 'My God, she's only fifty!' The first time I saw it, I thought William Holden was old too. He was 32.

For me, the best thing about Sunset Boulevard is the script, but I can't get enough of the behind-the-scenes Hollywood stuff too - the lots, the writers' offices, the blend of the real with the invented. Cecil B. de Mille playing Cecil B. de Mille, how cool is that?

Here's Gloria Swanson some years later, describing making Male and Female in 1919, with Cecil B. de Mille. Watch it to the end for the punchline.

I put Beyond Biba on my LoveFilm list rcently, but it showed up on television first.

I was a total Biba fan in my day.

Biba poster

Your correspondent

My beret was dark blue and my mother crocheted it. I couldn't learn to crochet from my mother because she was left-handed. Yes, I did paint on my lower lashes individually - didn't everybody?

I enjoyed the film but the earlier part of her career was covered too much by people talking about it and not enough by photographs or artefacts. There must be some copies of her mail order catalogue intact in fashion libraries, even although my mother threw mine out when she threw out a lot of other stuff when she moved house, and there must be plenty of the clothes in museum collections - or they could have bought some off eBay. It would have made the first part much livelier. I remember the shop in Kensington Church Street, and I think I bought one dress there. I think I bought a pair of trousers too, although I may have dreamt that. The fashion world's idea of 'affordable' fashion has never quite coincided with mine. I had moved to London by the time she opened the big shop in Ken High Street and I haunted it; I can't remember that I bought much but I must have because I still have the carrier bags. I use them as drawer liners.

She moved to Florida and began a second career designing hotel and bar interiors. She seems like a patient, unfussy kind of a person but unless you have a special interest in her, I don't think you need to track it down.

I also caught up with Lagerfeld Confidential. There's not enough frocks in this, hardly any at all, but there is a lot of Karl. I loved it. For a man who uses La Prairie skincare, he's remarkably down to earth. The interviewer spends too much time asking him silly questions like whether he believes in God (who is going to change their minds on this subject because of what a dress designer says?), but he also talks to him about more relevant things too. Some of the interviews take place while Karl sits on a sofa draped in a fabulous white cotton bedspread of knitted octagons. I can't find a still so you'll have to watch the film.

One of my favourite bits is when he's asked about his childhood and his mother. I must have watched that bit five times. His mother was wonderful, all other mothers were stupid. He was rather a spoilt little boy, nothing was ever quite good enough. We see a little of his apartment, or perhaps it's a house. His bedroom looks like a library with a bed in it, albeit a white frilly bed with four posts consisting of white neon tubes. Sounds good to me.

He is constantly surrounded by books and apparently has a vast collection, some of it stored in rolling stacks, although this part is more picturesque.

Why do gay men store books on their sides instead of properly shelved? I know they do, because I see it all the time in interiors mags and in my gay friends' houses. It's bad for books' spines.

There is a selection of extras, some of which are more interesting than the actual film. He doesn't take himself too seriously, certainly not as seriously as the interviewer takes him.

For frocks, watch the multi-part doco; for the man, watch this.

Just a little bit of knitting, before I go. Here's Baby Cora in her new hat.

The baby daddy is a flying buff, so I made her an aviatrix's hat in white Paton's Jet.

The first one was too big, so I made another in Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply.

This pattern is tremendous - a brilliant idea and one of the best written patterns ever. I often find myself re-writing patterns in my head while I'm knitting them but with this one I just nodded approvingly and gasped in admiration. And the hat is cutest thing. I'm looking forward to knitting it many times.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Patience and a Crochet Hook

Sorry about the long silence. I have, as usual at this time of year, been very relapsey and pathetic. I always hope it won't happen but it unfailingly does. Galloping insomnia does help with the knitting though, albeit largely of the simpler kind. Billie is still progressing steadily and I'm doing the shaping for the first front armhole.

I finished the two baby hats, forgot to photograph them, and posted them along with the green stripy Pinwheel. Maybe I'll get a photo of them in situ.

The possible owner of the third arrived last night and is a girl, so she will be the actual owner. She's called Cora, which is rather lovely. Here is her hat. I've photographed it in a pot of lavender on the windowsill because I can't find a tidy place in the flat.

I've also started a denimy blanket for her, a Pinwheel in All Seasons Cotton Print. I'll do another couple of balls of the blue, and then finish off with a frilly edge in the pink.

You may have noticed a suspicious silence about the Blue Swallowtail. This wasn't because I had thrown it in a corner and forgotten about it, but because I kept on frogging it. I changed the lily of the valley pattern to a 12-stitch repeat as planned, so that it flowed from the 6-stitch earlier pattern. That all worked and I'm happy with that bit.

I had intended to alter the next pattern too. I put in a lifeline and then knitted it and ripped it three times. I kept on ending up too many sitches, and not in a good way. In the end, I just did the pattern as written, on a 10-stitch repeat. I finished that satisfactorily, removed the lifeline and started on the border. I didn't need to put in a lifeline before the border, did I? I mean, I've knitted that border plenty of times. Sigh. After about eight rows I finally listened to the voices, which were saying, 'This doesn't look right.' I tried inserting a lifeline after the fact, but that proved more difficult and likely to lead to insanity than just ripping it and picking up the stitches, which is where patience and the crochet hook came in.

Since I took this photo, I've finished the border and I'm now casting off. It's going to be a bit small, but that's fine. Fabulous yarn though; after all of this handling it is still smooth, unfrayed, bouncy and cheerful. Ella Rae Merino Lace, in the Seven Seas colourway. If I had to knit with one colourway for the rest of my life, this would be my choice. I cannot tire of the water and pebbles in it.

Oh and I finished the third pink Looped Bracelet and have sent them off to the set of girls they are for. The owner of the smallest one started school yesterday and was rather disappointed that she didn't learn to read during the three hours she was there.

Less knitting and more movies in the next post. Oh and some accidental yarn purchases. eBay is absolutely lethal at the moment.