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Archive Entries for February 2007

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Monday February 26, 2007

I love Paris when it's raining


It is raining but not sure if it is Paris.
The hotel staff are surly enough but.... you might otherwise hardly guess.
Yesterday we were ruminating on the fact we were in France, in an American theme park, eating in a pseudo German beer keller.

So now you have guessed it - I am at at Eurodisney attending our annual business conference. It's not always here of course - I think the weirdest was in Crete where we appeared to have been booked into some kind of zoo. Everyone thought it was the drink causing them to see Emus and Ostriches roaming around as they returned to their chalets after hours.
However.... that was in another country....


I bought my Ears as soon as I arrived and wore them to the introductory drinks reception yesterday evening.
Most disconcertingly no-one mentioned them at all. Like having spinach on your teeth.
And I looked so cute in them - even though they are made to fit the under tens; an American colleague was just telling me that in Disneyworld they have Ears with a veil and Ears with a top hat for weddings - that's the spirit!
Anway I plan to give them another outing when we are let into the park on Wednesday - I was assured by another colleague that they will not only be acceptable at the gala dinner but de rigeur on the rides.


Posted on February 26, 2007 at 11:00 PM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday February 17, 2007

A niddy noddy of my very own - part two.

I set off with some trepidation to a spinning workshop at Headley; it was for spinners to improve their techniques so I was not sure that my beginner status would suit the level of the other participants. Actually it was fantastic - no-one cared about how bad I was and I benefited enormously from the day.

It turned out that the objective for many of the participants (about 14 of us) was to master the "long draw" technique. I am quite familiar with this as a concept as the very first spinner I saw in Chichester all those years ago was using this technique and talked about it a lot. However, here, we were taught what the method actually is. In some ways it's quite a good thing for a beginner to try, as you can slow it right down, even though the technique can enable fast spinning. The long draw is for woollen spun wools from a rollag, so most of the morning we learnt (or relearnt) preparation and carding. This was very helpful for me, of course.

In addition, for illustration purposes, Eve demonstrated using Louet mini-combs (which I will definitely be investing in), and drew out some carded wool to make a worsted top. I have been dying to see these things in the flesh, having read lots but feeling I did not quite "get" it.

After lunch it was time to start with the wheel.

wheel.jpg It was my wheel's first outing - here she is (Peggy) strapped into the passenger seat in Mini. I have not used the wheel at all since I bought it, apart from practising treadling. At first I set it up but could not treadle very successfully; I discovered that wool was caught around the shaft of the wheel, so I untangled it, which helped. Then two members (Eve and Betty) told me that the string attaching the treadle to the wheel was too long, and once I had shortened it - well - it was a totally different beast, and I was away. I set up the scotch tensioner properly, (you can also run it as a double band I think but the previous owner used it single band), having purchased the little spring to attach it as I understood it should be. Then Eve was able to check it through and she oiled it for me - and ... fantastic.

I did some "long draw"ing, and I would say that as far as the technique was concerned I wasn't much worse than the others (just that I can't actually spin very well and they can!). Specific points I learnt (and need to read more about) were:

  • although you tend to spin more finely with practice, it is harder to spin thick than thin
  • the thicker the wool the fewer the twists per inch required
  • the direction of spin (Z or S) is pertinant to whether you will use the yarn for knitting or crochet

wheel.jpg wheel.jpg

The workshop ended at 4pm, so I was driving home exactly as an item on indigo dye was being broadcast on BBC Radio 4, which seemed spookily pertinent. The item was giving publicity to an exhibition in Manchester, and you can listen to the item at the Radio 4 website.
The trivia nuggets that I learnt:

  • indigo is the only natural blue dye - I was all set to dispute this until they told me that that woad is actually a form of indigo;
  • Bluebeard comes from the habit of using indigo to dye beards for a black and shiny effect;
  • blue stocking for academics because dark blue indigo wool stockings were cheaper than fine black.

Posted on February 17, 2007 at 9:35 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday February 14, 2007

My funny valentine.

George steels himself for the traditional celebrations.


Posted on February 14, 2007 at 7:26 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Monday February 12, 2007

Harder than I remember.

Diane liked the mittens and sent me this cute card.


For me - knitting is much easier than I remember - and I was taught by my Mother, of course. Memories of winter evenings by the kitchen range. And - no - I am not claiming to be so very old but my childhood was a little Dickensian, for all that.

Posted on February 12, 2007 at 9:18 AM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Sunday February 11, 2007

A day of rest.

What would have been my Dad's birthday (were he still with us), and a day I had planned to spend on a family outing. As it was, I chose not to spread my germs to all my relatives and retired gracelessly to bed. In consequence, the Jaywalker socks were finished prematurely; Alison kindly gave me my instructions, and the wool (Lorna's laces) for my birthday and now here I am wearing them. I like the way that by happy accident the stitch count has produced a sort of spiral stripe around the leg. I lengthened the socks, but really this is not a good idea for this pattern as there is no calf shaping, and for me they have turned out a little like support stockings. Much more flattering length for the chubby calf, though.
I sacrifice all for elegance.


I started these socks last Tuesday when I went to the National theatre - I know how to enjoy an evening out - how cultured I am.

jcottesloe.jpg cottesloedetail.jpg

Posted on February 11, 2007 at 6:51 PM. Category: Knitting.

Friday February 9, 2007

The white stuff.

Yesterday, the whole of the 6pm news was full of nothing but cute snow stories about kids, snowmen, and people having awful journeys to work. This, despite the snow mostly having melted by the end of the day - even though it was quite deep by our standards the temperatures rose and it began raining which happily saw off the white stuff.

The news also showed Canadians in London saying "call this snow?" and I read Yarnharlot's blog entry today saying: "my camera batteries are dead and it's too cold to go to the store. It will warm up later and I'll go (a moment of respect for how quickly the human perspective can shift? I am now calling the change from -20 to -15 "warming up")".

You Canadians..... go on with you...

Posted on February 9, 2007 at 8:15 PM. Category: Oddments and stray thoughts.

Thursday February 8, 2007

Dashing through the snow.

Or rather dragging myself out to take pictures to demonstrate the remarkable change from yesterday. No idea if the pond is frozen or not, as all covered in snow (ok... well, you work it out..).

While outside I heard some persistent biffing noises coming from our big redwood tree; I thought: "I know what this is". I had explored the source of the noise once during the summer, and indeed, it proved to be a Nuthatch. Photographic evidence in extended entry.... (you'll have to trust me on this).

I also put out some more bird seed (on a dry patch under a tree and in one of our oven trays, which will no doubt cause alarm when George finds out). I expect the squirrels will enjoy it - they were much in evidence leaping from tree to tree, causing mini-avalanches.


The nuthatch - you will see that the two photos are of the same portion of tree, and the blurry spot has moved on the trunk (I had quite a good view of it - just no chance of a good photo).

nuthatch1.jpg nuthatch2.jpg

Posted on February 8, 2007 at 10:19 AM. Category: The Garden.

Wednesday February 7, 2007



This subject was called to mind initially by my discovering why the birds always prefer the peanut feeder, over the seed feeder (see left).
I could see from the house that the feeder was somehow discoloured, and even the squirrel seemed to have given up trying to eat from it. I imagined the seeds had gone rotten - but not a bit of it. Due to much rain, poor drainage and the avian penchant for peanuts, the seeds have germinated, effectively blocking the feeding holes.

Add to all this that I am languishing in bed with hot lemon drinks trying to outwit my own personal crop of germs, and the title seems apt; even though it is not strictly the seventh month of the Revolutionary calendar, there is plenty of evidence for it being the time for buds.

We have snowdrops emerging all over our garden, and I snapped some crocus in a sunny spot at the side of the road.
snowdrop.jpg crocus.jpg

Cold and clear day: the early morning frost has remained in shaded areas, in spite of the brilliant sunshine, and you can see the surface of the pond is still frozen, even in the afternoon.


Posted on February 7, 2007 at 3:59 PM. Category: The Garden.

Tuesday February 6, 2007


Just returned from an evening at the Cotttesloe seeing this adaptation of the Virgina Woolf novel: "A fragmented and dreamlike tale of friendship, loss, identity and love". It was a touch bizarre but wonderful, and I feel very lucky to have managed to get tickets to see it so near the end of its run. Unfortunately it's very hard for me to describe what it was like. Robert told me to expect a "sort of multimedia production" and that seems the closest I can get. The book is a stream of consciousness and the play echoes this.

waves.jpg The production and set is rather like being on the set of a radio play, where you see the creation of all sound effects, as well as hearing the play; but not only that, since there are also lighting and visual effects being created and filmed in front of you and projected on screen.

In the first five minutes I felt completely distracted by all the business going on on the stage, and thought it was hopeless; but very quickly I adjusted to the pace of the play and easily followed the real action, and dialogue. Sometimes your eye is drawn to a point-lit actor, sometimes to the creation of the effects, sometimes to the video screening. At a technical level, I think you would have been pleased to have produced a short video of the quality seen in the play, and there they were actually creating it for you as you watched...

The whole is a fantastic collage of theatrical media, which sadly I do not have the journalistic talent to praise enough.

Posted on February 6, 2007 at 11:41 AM. Category: Days Out.

Sunday February 4, 2007

Trashing, stashing, and rehashing.

The 500 polythene bags turned out to be 1000 polythene bags -and apparently they are "food safe" - so that's OK then....Multifiunctional.

I have spent a fruitful day repacking and labelling what I may now fashionably refer to as my stash. It is now cleaner and tidier and better organised. But sadly - no smaller.

Once upon a time, it was obviously my plan to spend all my free time (for ever) knitting socks - in sober manly shades apparently. I discovered that I am already well on my way with a half-knitted sock in 3ply "Little Dorrit" (shade: nutty brown). I have enquired of the sober manly man whether he would wear such socks and had a rather disappointingly negative reply. The ex-manly-man is allergic to wool so that rather rules him out.

Posted on February 4, 2007 at 4:31 PM. Category: Knitting.

Saturday February 3, 2007

Smitten by Aran.

Egged on by the intense competition from Ferretworld I have also completed my fetching mittens: mittens.jpg
I made them using Rowan Calmer as I had some left over from another project and I am very fond of this yarn. It does knit to an Aran weight tension but is slightly stretchy so on the smaller needles they have come out fairly small, but fit me fine.

This is a very nice pattern. It is very clearly explained and uses a method that has never occurred to me before, (even though I have knitted many gloves in my time), creating the thumb opening by means of a piece of waste wool. They were very satisfying to knit - so much so that I also immediately knitted another pair - for my friend Diane, (who is helping her friends by doing pretty well recovering from her illness and has even started back at work for a few days a week). Diane's birthday is in May but I think she needs mittens right now, even though May in Scotland may be a little chillier than further south.

The designer has reversed the cable pattern on each wrist so that "the cables on each hand will twist fetchingly toward your thumbs". This appeals to my Libran nature (or neurosis) for symmetry. This call to mind the first "real" sweater I ever knitted for myself, which was an Aran. It had two main cables either side of the main panel, and the pattern had the cables twisting in the same direction; I did not make it symmetrical - for all I know it's traditional to have them going the same way -some superstition or other... who can guess?

This is the very Aran here (I am guessing it does not fit me any more...). Click on the picture for a giant view.

I knitted it from specially oiled Aran wool by Patons (Capstan) and it was quite awful. The oil soaked into everything, while knitting it and subsequently when wearing it. After the first outing, I washed it (and my T shirt) thoroughly in soapy water; well, I was never planning to go deep sea fishing in it, after all.

The pattern was from one of the women's magazine in around 1969, which I borrowed from my school friend, (and clearly never returned) and I saw it reprinted in a booklet of "favourites" a few years later. My friend knitted the matching skirt as well as the jumper - and she reversed the cables so they were symmetrical. I attach the picture for your delight, and in addition the perfect 1960s trouser suit, for the complete retro experience.

Aran_suit1.jpg Aran_suit2.jpg

Bet you can't wait to knit that suit..... Just contact me if you need the pattern.

If you squint you might notice that the complete retro price tag was about £3 for the wool. I am not too ashamed to say, that in about 1976 I knitted the man's cardigan for my boyfriend Hamish, (a retro kind of guy - even for then!), who failed to stay my boyfriend long enough to claim it. My brother-in-law somehow took it over, and a few years ago it got "mothed". So I knitted him a replacement in a lovely soft Rowan Aran tweed in grey. The price tag for that was £50.

Posted on February 3, 2007 at 4:28 PM. Category: Knitting.

Thursday February 1, 2007

Aft aglay.

I am full of plans. Which is not so good really as I am still trundling on with a lot of old plans. [In my defence I am exclusively working on "Furrow" at the moment, and am half way up the front - it looks good and I have become more used to the strange technique].

Yesterday, while I was at work, 500 polythene bags were delivered - the box was rather larger than I had imagined. The intention is to repack and organise my impressive collection of (vintage) wool and hopefully weed out those half-knitted projects which are unlikely to ever be completed. Not that I think I have 500 packs of wool (we'll see) but they were only supplied in units of 500. I am also anxious to make good use of my new Dymo labelling machine (birthday gift), making it easier to find that perfect little ball of wool that I stored away in 1981.

Posted on February 1, 2007 at 6:50 PM. Category: Knitting.