Sunday, 30 December 2012

Catching Up

Well, Kaffe Fassett was a long time ago. Remember that? I was just about to write a post about that evening when I was felled by a very bad bout of the Damned Disease. Somehow, after all this time, I sort of expect that I've learnt to manage it or that it has eased off, but this was one of the worst bouts I've ever had. It came at that critical juncture when I might have bought some Christmas cards or some wrapping paper, so neither task got carried out. I'm hoping to send New Year cards.

Anyway, Kaffe was very good. He started by telling us how to pronounce his name - Kay-fe, with a long A - and I realized that I used to pronounce it that way but at some point got lost and started saying Kaff instead. So I'm now back on track. He gave a nice self-mocking account of his early days as a painter of white still lifes, with occasional touches of beige, and his snottiness about colour. It seems extraordinary to me that someone who grew up in Californian light should have been indifferent to colour, but there you are. His story brought the '70s back to me very vividly, possibly because of his friendship with Bill Gibb, whose creations I used to follow in Vogue and the Sunday colour supplements. It's hard to credit now just what an important blast of visuals and information Sunday newspapers were then.

One of Bill Gibb's gypsy dresses for Baccarat, c. 1970: photograph by Mike Davidson

More Bill Gibb dresses, with his trademark tiny yoke and voluminous swathes of mosaic-ed colour

Kaffe even learnt to knit on a train in Scotland, returning to London after buying armfuls of Shetland yarn while visiting BG's family in Aberdeenshre. Nice to think that the country which is so often characterized as grey and cold should have been the place that turned this Californian on to colour.

His book looks gorgeous too: I had foolishly assumed it would be full of words, but it's bright and gorgeous.

During the bad bout I didn't pick up the needles at all for a week, so the Doctor Who scarves ended up being a bit of a rush after all, with ends being woven in at the last minute. I've seldom been so pleased to receive a text saying 'Held up in traffic.'

As you can see, they didn't get fringes. Sublime Chunky Merino on 8mm needles, 25 stitches. I'm now doing a teddy bear-sized one with 7 stitches. I think these were about 6 or 7 feet long, but I'm banking on them stretching a lot once they get into the hands of the owners. I'm hoping very much to get a pic of them in wear, so I'll keep you updated.

When the people who were stuck in traffic arrived, one of them was wearing these.

Sequinned boots. I am so jealous.

Speaking of boots, we know now that next year's baby will require pink clothes, so I made one of these. Elizabeth Zimmermann's Bootees from The Opinionated Knitter. I've knitted these before.

Little sewing scissors for scale.

The floorboard is six inches wide.

 Very simple pattern, even when watching Christmas films.

I used too small a needle size (2.75mm) so it's a bit cardboardy: I'll try again with a 3mm or a 3.25mm. Madelinetosh  merino light in Sugarplum.

And I'm doing this for myself, in the Alder shade of Rowan's Kidsilk Trio. Heaven. I don't know why it's called Alder (isn't that a tree? A green tree?) because it's denim blue, pure and simple. It's the Five By Five Cowl pattern and I'm half-way through the second skein. It looks shorter here, but should be a little over 40 inches when it's finished. I found that I was getting a big hole in the column where I switched from plain to purl, so big that it looked like a lace effect. I tried doing the plain stitches in twisted rib, but that made the rib very flat and I want it to look billowy and relaxed and puffy so instead I'm just twisting the last of the five plain stitches each time. This seems to be working quite well.

I got a cold over Christmas, a very noisy spluttery one with a barking cough. My neighbours probably think I got a sea lion for Christmas. Although having a cold is like a holiday after that bout of CFS, it has meant that I still haven't recovered my appetite. This is a) very unlike me, and b) a damned nuisance at Christmas. I keep opening cupboards and finding more food that I haven't got round to eating, and drink that I haven't got round to drinking. I made a Nigella chocolate salame on Christmas Eve

and in spite of the best efforts of visitors there is still some of left. Unbelievable. I keep asking people how long refrigerator cake lasts and they laugh and say, 'In my house it usually lasts a couple of hours,' but I had a slice tonight and it was fine. (Yes, I know, one slice. I'm pathetic.)

I expect however that this problem will resolve itself in the usual way and by part-way through January the cupboards will all be picked clean again, and the recycling bag will be full of bottles, and things will be back to normal.

I hope you all had lovely Christmases, surrounded by the people you most wish to be surrounded by, that Santa was good to you, and that you managed to eat more than I did.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Safely Back

The stripy cowl came whizzing home much faster than it went, in six days as opposed to over three weeks. Very mysterious. It has been impeccably joined. Thank you a million times, Jocelyn.

I'm not entirely happy about how I put the colours together. An artist friend told me that this is part of the creative process and that there's always a stage at which you think it's all wrong, wrong, wrong, but I think she's being kind and I could have done a better job of it. Ho hum.

I was going to wash it and dry it flat to get out the crease at the join, but the cotton makes it quite heavy and I thought it would take ages to dry, so I didn't.

You can see the jogless join here or, I hope, not see it. Actually you can here, but it's not so obvious in real life and a little more steaming and finagling would have concealed it.

I was also thinking of knitting a matching hat but I realized that with the cotton (it's Rowan Wool Cotton) it might not be as warm as is needed at this time of year, so I didn't do that either. I will knit a warm hat for her, but it needn't delay this.

I've also had a very generous offer from someone closer to home, should any further grafting be required in the future. Aren't knitters nice?

I'm about two-thirds of the way through the second Doctor Who Scarf, although if there's enough time I hope to make both of them a bit longer.

I have also sneaked in a Marsan cap in scarlet Sublime Chunky Tweed, the yarn I'm using for the scarves, which is for someone who works outdoors. It's a perfect red, not a blue-red and not an orange-red, just red.   It looks a bit orange in this photograph but that's the flash.

Kaffe Fassett
Our appointment with Kaffe is this week. I found myself wondering about what I'm going to wear. I expect there will be a lot of fabulous intarsia pieces casually showing up and seating themselves in the audience (like a David Bowie concert where the fans show up in lots of gold eyeshadow). I don't think I've ever made any of his patterns, although I would probably list them as an influence. I did make a beanie hat from one of his sock yarns, but I don't wear hats indoors, or in daylight for that matter. I could break my neck knitting something out of that ball of Kidsilk Stripe that I have, but I will probably stick to the second Doctor Who scarf, the end of which is in sight.

I watched a wonderful Swedish film recently, Everlasting Moments. I bought it off eBay ages ago and hadn't got around to watching it. Based on a true story, it's about a poor young woman called Maria Larsson who wins a camera as a lottery prize.

The film covers most of her life, from before World War I, and her marriage to an intermittently drunk and intermittently violent husband, with the camera and her photographs cropping up when her situation permits. It's shot in a subdued but not dingy light, and the actors look like real people, not actors. If I knew more about Swedish cinema I would have recognized some of them but I'm glad I didn't as it made it more realistic.

It also has some very good knitting. I think my friend got rather tired of my shouting Shawl! or Child's cardigan! at intervals, but it was hard not to.

This long, waisted jacket appears frequently.

One of the things I liked about the film was that when it portrayed something shocking, it didn't then proceed to point out to you that you should be shocked: too many films do that nowadays. There's a lot of information available about it online, much of it better expressed than I can here, and I would strongly recommend it if you're interested in photography, the unrecorded lives of women or good films.

It made me think of Mette's recent blog post, with the photograph of Mette Sofie Larsdatter. Do have a look.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kaffe Fassett

I finished knitting the stripy cowl a while ago and did my best to have a go at grafting it but my poor old befuddled brain couldn't get a grip on it at all. In fact, I just made a mess which I then had to unpick. Sometimes it's best to give up before you've started. However, an enormously kind knitting-and-blogging friend offered to help me out - I shan't give her away here, or you'll all be sending your unfinished garments to her - and I wrapped it up with the spare ball of yarn and sent it off, enclosing a little something to sweeten the task. When I was filling in the Customs slip (because yes, I send my garments overseas for finishing) I wrote 'Woollen scarf' and thought, 'I won't mention the chocolate on here, and then it'll be a surprise for her when she opens it.' Only after I'd posted it did I think that perhaps Customs might think I was concealing it from them. (I told you I was befuddled.)

Three weeks later it still hadn't arrived. Airmail to the U.S. usually takes about a week, sometimes even five days, and I've never known it to take more than two weeks, except when there was some sort of complication going on, like terrorists or Christmas. So I had pretty well written it off: I decided that the sniffer dogs had opened it and eaten the chocolate.

While I was facing that ghastly possibility I considered whether I would be prepared to knit it again but decided I couldn't really face it: it would just have to be written off. So imagine my joy when I received an email saying that it had arrived, intact, and on Hallowe'en - perhaps the Universe, which I understand sometimes takes an interest in these things, had decided to deliver it on the most chocolatey night of the year. Thank you, Universe.

Kaffe Fassett
I spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter these days but don't actually follow many knitters so it was pure chance I picked up this gem, tweeted by Sophie Hannah, the novelist, to fellow novelist Ian Rankin:
Isn't that brilliant? My mother loved malapropisms and she would have treasured that one.

It's topical too, because Kaffe is making an appearance in Edinburgh shortly, organized by John Lewis. It's on 29 November, which is a Thursday, at 6.00 p.m. He'll be talking about his new book, his autobiography, Dreaming in Colour.

His talk is being held in the Café Camino which is the café at St Mary's Cathedral, just across the road and down from the back entrance to JL, in Little King Street. Tickets are £10 each and you can buy them in the Haberdashery at JL, or by phone on 0131 556 9121 extension 4809.

He'll sign his books too, either the new one or old ones that you bring along (looks at shelf, wonders how many she can carry...). I'm looking forward to it. Just don't expect Yasser Arafat to be there. For so many reasons.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

All Saints' Day

I've probably nearly finished the first Doctor Who scarf. I'm not going to cast off now; I'm going to knit the other one and then see if I want to add to this one. I should be finished them both, but I haven't been knitting much.

It's longer than it looks in these photographs.

It's about three yards long but the garter stitch will stretch a lot and I dare say by the time a  boy has tied it around a lamp post and swung on it, it will be nearer four. I expect I will do fringes at the ends.

I bought an Addi 8mm circ, quite a short one again, and I'm using it with the KnitPro which doesn't seem so pointy now. I've got so many needles already that it hadn't occurred to me to buy an interchangeable set, plus I have a suspicion that the cord I needed would always be the one I couldn't find, but perhaps I should be more adventurous.

I won't be attempting to match the stripes in the second one, Joan. It's probably better if the boys can tell them apart easily, although they're cousins not brothers so the rivalry may not be too intense, and anyway it would do my head in.

My thoughts of knitting Cerulean have been supplanted by thoughts of knitting Boxy. The designer has hit on a way of giving the sweater a boxy shape without imposing it on the wearer as well; it's genius. It must be because of what she's done over the shoulders. Of course it's miles of stocking stitch on smallish needles but as long as it's lovely yarn, who cares? I've been looking for something like this since I decided that the collar of Slow Line was a swatch, and I still have those skeins of two shades of blue madeleinetosh Merino Light.

And I also fell in love with something Norwegian that I can't spell or pronounce which I shall call my Beatnik Sweater. I usually think garter switch sweaters are a bad idea for my current figure type because it stretches over all the wrong places and emphasises them, but the very open gauge on this pattern seems to avoid that. It looks particularly lovely in neutrals, I think, although I don't wear them very often apart from my beloved grey.

kmkat has beaten me to the new Henri film again, but here it is in case you missed it. He takes a very sombre view of Hallowe'en.

And if you need something to cheer you up after that, I can recommend this from the girls, and one boy, of Portland State University Department of Social Work,  via Feminist Ryan Gosling.

Very uplifting.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Not So Grim After All

Perhaps because I was expecting it to be a chore, knitting the Doctor Who scarves hasn't been too bad so far. I've put in an inordinate amount of time in what can only be described as farting about, choosing the best needles. I started with a pair  of Boye straights, but they're 14 inches long and I can't get comfortable with them. I bought a KnitPro circ, but the points are awfully pointy and hurt my finger, so for the moment I've gone back to the Boyes. The yarn label says 10 1/2s (US) or 6.5mm , and the Boyes are 10 1/2, but in my needle gauge they definitely measure 8mm and that's the size of the KnitPro.

I should really buy an 8mm Addi metal circ, but I'm sure I must have one somewhere already so I'm reluctant, although I know I'll give up in the end.

The yarn is nice, a looser twist than I expect from a tweedy yarn, but it doesn't fall to bits or split. I'm doing the ends as I go along. There's actually another colour, a grey; that ball in the middle that looks grey is a light blue called Camper.

I bought f-a-r too much wool. I nearly laughed when I opened the door and saw the enormous parcel the postman had for me, so I think other people may be getting hats and cowls for their Christmases - another reason why I should get over myself and buy some needles in the right size.

Once I've got the right needle  I shall pick up speed. No doubt when I finish these I will be yearning to knit on tiny needles with fairy yarn, but someone has whispered to me that she is a tiny bit pregnant so that should fit in nicely. Time to dig out my copy of Zoe Mellor's lovely 50 Baby Bootees To Knit.

I hope that's better, Joan. I've changed the other one too :)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Quick Knitting, I Hope

This is just a quick note about the yarn I've chosen for the Doctor Who scarf, for Fiona, and anyone else who might be considering setting themselves up with this chore.

The yarn I have chosen is Sublime Chunky Merino Tweed. This is because, in no particular order,

  • it is chunky
  • it is discontinued so it's available at about half-price. There's quite a lot on eBay and Kemp's have got it for £2.79 per ball. I bought some on eBay from a seller who had sets of it which went very cheaply, and got the rest from Kemps.
  • it is 80% wool, with a little viscose and a little acrylic
  • it is chunky
  • it comes in a wide range of colours
  • it is tweed so there will be a bit of variety in the colour to keep me interested
  • did I say it was chunky?

You won't find it on the Kemps' website by using their Search box: you need to go to Clearance Wools and then click through to the third page.

I also noticed this chunky 100% wool yarn which looks worth investigating - terrific choice of colours.

If I'd been going to use aran / worsted weight, I would probably have settled on Wendy Traditional Aran, which is 100% wool and comes in a wide range of colours. There was an Irish tweed yarn I got very excited about but the postage was very high, so it wasn't a bargain in the end.

In the end, I've spent more than I intended, but it's still a very good price for two good long woolly scarves and probably less than I'd pay for purchased acrylic ones. And I suspect I'll have some left over and it's a lovely yarn for quick cowls.

And Joan, I don't know how I'll avoid expiring of boredom but a stack of very demanding films should help. Some years ago I knitted four Harry Potter sweaters, and when one of them was accidentally put in the drier I knitted a fifth, so I'm capable of tremendous feats of endurance when my small relations are involved.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Not a Lot

I didn't manage to get Rayures finished before I went to see the cat, and although I've finished the knitting since I got back there has been a strange lack of progress on the kitchener front. I did do a bit of wrestling with it, but the brain fog prevented any progress being made. (The first time I typed that, I typed 'barin fog', so you see what I'm up against. Sigh.)

 I didn't do much knitting while I was away. The cat was snuggling a lot and at first I thought this meant that she remembered me and I was very touched, but then I realized it was probably down to the cold weather. Cats are like that. I didn't get any lace knitting done at all, and only managed a few rounds of the turquoise Navigator. I still have about four inches to go before I start dividing for sleeves and so on.

Doctor Who scarves have become fashionable again and in a moment of rashness I asked one of my younger relations if he would like one for Christmas, expecting a polite rejection, but he was quite keen. I then realized that someone else might like one too so I asked him, and now I find myself having to knit two Doctor Who scarves in three months. You will remember that Doctor Who scarves are very long.

I'm not hugely concerned about matching the colours to this series or that, and won't be following a pattern, but I've spent an unfeasible amount of time looking for an acceptable (to me) yarn at an acceptable (low) price. It has to be chunky because I'm not one of Nature's scarf knitters, and it has to be wool, or mostly wool, because I couldn't bear to put all that effort into something that wasn't actually going to be warm. On the other hand, there's no point in paying a lot when there's always the chance it'll get left on the bus, is there?

I think I've identified an appropriate yarn on eBay and will report back. The last time I knitted a Doctor Who scarf was in the late 1970s for my then boyfriend's housemate but I don't think I persevered to any extreme length. I had better try harder this time. Perhaps I should knit them both at the same time, so that I don't crack up, or break down, half-way tyhrough the second one.

Cat videos
And finally, proof that cats are better than dogs. Not that we needed it.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Dis n Dat

I think I've nearly finished the Rayures. It's almost five feet long.

I'm doing two shades of purple now and am tempted to add more but I think I'm just procrastinating because I don't want to do the kitchenering. In the round. I'm going cat-sitting again on Saturday so I'm trying to use that as a deadline for getting this finished.

I haven't decided whether I will resume the dusty denimy Shetland Triangle that I started last time, or just take the turquoise in-the-round Navigator from the previous post. I reckon I could really get a lot of that done while I'm Netflixing.

I spotted this photograph which was taken on the night of the London Olympics opening ceremony. I'm not particularly a fan of any of the people in it, but my eye was drawn to the shawl over H.M.'s arm - that yarn is Kidsilk Aura in Coral, isn't it?

I'm sure it is. I can't name the pattern but it looks familiar. I wonder who knitted it? I expect Ladies in Waiting have lots of time for knitting, or she might have knitted it herself. Or perhaps the designer of the dress arranged it. Anyway, it reminded me that I knitted a shawl in this very yarn and forgot to show it to you.

I'm sorry it's so crumpled but as you can see it hasn't been finished and blocked, and it had got dug into the clutter on the sofa. It was meant to be an Opal, which is a lovely, simple and effective pattern, but I lost concentration at a crucial moment and it went wrong. If the pattern had a stitch count for each row I could have recovered, but it doesn't. Anyway, it's smaller than an Opal should be but it's still very soft and fluffy and a wonderful colour, so I'm sure it'll come in handy at some point. Once I've blocked it and sewn in the ends.

The Flickering Screen
I saw a film from Sri Lanka which was on Film Four recently, called Machan, a co-production between Sri Lanka, Italy and Germany. It's about a bunch of poor young men who are desperate to go abroad and make some money but cannot get visas, and come up with the idea of forming the Sri Lankan National Handball Team so that they can get to Germany for the international games. They don't know the rules, and don't actually have a handball, but they get some tee shirts printed and get their visas.

 Their plan is to disperse as soon as they arrive, and I won't tell you any more than that. Apparently it's based on a true story, which I didn't realize when I saw it.  It's has a cast of actors and non-actors and it's very good. I was expecting it to be quite light-hearted, maybe a variation on Cool Runnings, but although it's funny it certainly has its dark side too.

Tonight I watched Young Adult, which I hadn't realized was written by Diablo Cody, who wrote Juno. I liked it and it was funnier than I expected. It's about a very unsympathetic character, a no-longer-girl who goes back to her small home town to disrupt her old boyfriend's marriage. She's played by Charlize Theron, who doesn't try to win us over at all and everyone else is good too.

And Inspector Montalbano is back for the winter on BBC4, bringing fabulous sunshine - which we need, I can tell you - and stunning architecture, exquisite tailoring, lots of shrugging and sensationally bad driving.

It's funny, we get a prim little warning beforehand about bad language, even although it's in Italian. For people who are offended by subtitles. Fortunately I have a friend who spent a year in Naples and she can help me out with translations and explications of the finer points, although as usual one often finds that insults are much less breathtaking when taken out of context.

And kmkat has already blogged about the Internet Cat Video Film Festival, so I don't have to. Thanks, kmkat.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Round and round we go

There's not been a lot going on around here, due to the Summer Awfulness descending as it usually does, but there has been a little activity. I mentioned in my last post that I had started something else. First of all I did swatches. Ignore the one at top left.

It still always surprises me how much difference half a millimetre makes. This is one of my favourite yarns, Rowan All Season Cotton, in my favourite colour, turquoise, so when it was half-price in the John Lewis sale it was, as we used to say, a no-brainer. After the usual endless perusal of patterns I thought first of all of re-knitting Chrissy, which went horribly wrong last time owing to the yarn coming up in different weights, but I haven't kept the original and can't remember how it fitted so I've settled instead on re-knitting Navigator, my Distressed Sweater.

 I wear the original quite a lot so I know I'll wear this one, and the shoulders fit me. I'm going to do the neck differently this time, or at least try not to knit it three times, and I'm going to do the rips again. They are borrowed from another pattern, Raspy. I'm knitting the body in the round, so I'm going round and round with a single purl stitch at each side as a fake seam, and my fake rip on the front.

While I was searching through cupboards for something that wasn't too hot to wear, I found Dapper, which I knew was a mistake even as I was finishing it two years ago but decided to put away until I could face ripping it. I ripped it. It's Rowan Wool Cotton in Cypress and the colour is just about right in the picture. A very nice shade, sort of verdigris.

 Which was very well timed because I got distracted by something bright and shiny in the form of Rayures, a stripy cowl. I had a stash of Rowan Wool Cotton in lots of colours and this seemd the perfect way to use them up. The first time I photographed it, it looked like this.

Now it looks like this. The colours look less muddy in reality.

You can see I've just begun to incorporate the Cypress.  I'm going to switch into Cypress and pink, and then two pinks, and then I think I'll have a section of single stripes, if it hasn't got too bizarrely long by then. I want it to be easily long enough to be doubled.

I didn't buy the pattern, just cast on 90-odd stitches and set off. Three rows is the perfect width for a stripe beacuse you can always do just one more. I'm doing a jogless join from TECHknits, where you slip the first stitch of the second round. I've foolishly forgotten to photograph it for you, but I'll correct that later. I'm inordinately pleased with how it's turned out as I had a total lack of success the last time I tried to do a jogless join.

So I've got two projects that involve going round and round in circles, not all that different from all the garter stitch I was doing before, but with less counting.

I've been meaning to blog about this for ages, actual years. When my friend trekked to Everest Base Camp she brought me back two gifts. One was a length of silk yarn which I made into a long skinny scarf, and the other was this.

Apparently it's yak, but I don't know what do with it. It hasn't been spun, it's just sort of stranded along a length of white thread which I'm guessing is cotton. Click on it and you can probably see how soft and flimsy it is.

I haven't even dared try to wind it into balls. Does anyone have any idea what I should do with it? Is it ready to be spun?

The Goggle Box, or Idiot's Lantern
I've been sitting in front of the flickering screen quite a lot, although I can't really remember much about it at the moment. But I was very sad to learn early on Monday morning (damn you, Twitter) that the director Tony Scott had died. I've written before about his True Romance. Even although I don't watch most of the violent bits, of which there are many, the remainder adds up to one of my absolutely favouritest films ever. A gem of a script, a well chosen cast and photography to make your teeth water. He also made Top Gun, which I was too snobbish to see when it came out but have since grown to love as a camp and knowing joy.

 The films he made with Denzel Washington are all compelling.

People have often said of him that he was more about form than content as if it were some sort of virtue for a film to be visually uninteresting; his lighting and composition are never merely technical, the feeling is always there. 

 Enemy of the State I love too, where Will Smith does his Cary Grant. If you've ever wondered where the film and television convention of strapping the location and date across the opening of a shot came from, watch Enemy of the State .

Here's a sample from True Romance, voiceover by Patricia Arquette. If the music sounds familiar, it's because it was first used in Badlands, an old Martin Sheen movie which isn't bad either.

Nearly all of the people he worked with have said how nice he was, that he knew everyone's name, and how generous he was with time and help and advice. When did you last read that about anyone in Hollywood? If you listen the the commentaries on the True Romance dvd (yes, I've listened to them all) his tells you about how the film was made and why he did the things he did, and Quentin Tarantino's (he wrote the script) tells you about, well, Quentin Tarantino.