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Archive Entries for August 2008

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Sunday August 31, 2008

Books in August

  • The Good Husband of Zebra Drive Alexander McCall Smith
    Book-ZebraDrive.jpg I was introduced to this set of novels by Robert, somewhat before they achieved quite such world-wide acclaim. I would like to say I was immediately charmed, but I did think them childish, as I began to read the first one. By the end of the book though, I was charmed like everyone else. Ordinary people coming to terms with their problems and overcoming difficulties. The characters value the richness of their lives, and although they do not necessarily have the choice to be richer in a material sense, they do not spend their time in longing for some life they don't have. A nice parable for our own lives told in a simple way. However, as I have said before, to regard his straight-forward writing style as simple is to seriously under-rate the skill of the author.

  • The Jupiter Myth Lindsey Davis [Read by Christian Rodska]
    Book-JupiterMyth.jpg My friend Diane loaned me the very first Falco book (The Silver Pigs) in the late 1980s and I was hooked. Since then I have read the steady stream of Lindsey Davis' output ever since, usually borrowing the books from Diane, Helen, and the library (!). Lindsey has an excellent website covering her books and lots of other interesting material.
    I read the Jupiter Myth quite a while ago, but to my delight I found the talking book in the library read by none other than the fantastic Christian Rodska** - what a perfect combination! I swear CR could make any book he reads fascinating - he has such an array of voices that he can adopt, and he produces them very subtly, making the books really come to life. However, the Falco books are full of lively characters for him to play with - a complete joy.
    ** Since "discovering" Christian Rodska as a narrator I have taken great delight in watching his (again very subtle) character performances in what seems like every single British TV series ever produced - all the TV detectives through to a recent appearance in Doc Martin I noticed.

Posted on August 31, 2008 at 3:31 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Sunday August 17, 2008

Feeling blue - part II

A little more metaphorically and a little less literally blue this time.... but only a bit!
Alison and I had such a lovely day a week ago last Saturday, that even the Creative Fibre day yesterday was less of a highlight. Lots of folk were off on holiday so just a small band of us - I did get a lot of useful information from my fellow spinners and dyers though, and Eve confirmed that preparing Wensleydale is a nightmare and there is a lot of wastage. Pam had a fleece, which, with my tiny but dedicated knowledge of one sheep, I was able to confirm is a Suffolk - it even had the cute little occasional black hair. It amused me how instantly recognisable it was - other people had been suggesting it was South Down, so I was even able to go home and check out the SouthDown fleece from my sister to make sure.

LamourS.jpg Last weekend, Alison and I spent the day in London - haunting the knitting department in John Lewis. It was great - the Rowan staff were lots of fun and we bought books and wool. Alison bought some Kaffe Fasset sock wool and the Latest Rowan book with some Wool/Cotton, (in colour 954 "Grand", I think), in order to knit "Lamour" which was also on display in the shop. StillS.jpg

She was also very smitten with "Still" from the Kim Hargreaves book "Thrown Together" (though it's in Calmer which Alison does not like knitting), and we admired the cardigans that the staff were wearing from "Nectar". I was delighted to find that they had copies of the new book "British Sheep Breeds" - so -
net result we came away with stacks of books and inspiration.

Sheep Breeds Nectar

Posted on August 17, 2008 at 5:38 PM. Category: Knitting.

Friday August 15, 2008

Feeling blue - part I


Blue grass, blue floor, blue cooker - blue everything basically.

My knowledge about dyeing advanced in leaps and bounds while I was in France. Sheila gave me an old Dylon pod just before I went, (Riviera Blue), which turned out to be a cold water dye and needed a "fixer". On reading up about this I found it's a reactive dye and the fixer is sodium carbonate or soda ash. I know alkali is bad for wool - and I had no fixer - so I pondered getting some and experimenting. Luckily, I was able to read all about what to do on this great website under the section "Fiber reactive dyes on protein fibers". Basically use acid (vinegar) instead of sodium carbonate.

So I cooked up a bath for my newly plied skeins. Here was the result:


I was especially pleased, as at one point I accidentally boiled the dye bath - but the Suffolk wool skeins seemed to cope OK. I resisted the temptation to panic, and avoided poking them, and allowed them to cool slowly in the bath before rinsing.
I had thought I had cracked this spinning lark (har har I hear you laugh) so was a bit sad that I still had very uneven twist and artistic wobbly yarn. However, the yarn picked up the colour unevenly to produce a rather nice tweedy effect.

Finally I went on to knit it into a pair of socks - again, a slight disappointment that my very thin 2 ply is still almost a double knit (worsted weight). But I am getting there. The uneven colour lines are produced as I changed over my spun bobbins, and purely to do with the colour absorption, not a change of skein.


After this success, I bought another reactive black dye in the French supermarket and tried that on my fleece; it produced a much better result than the Dylon all-purpose. I am unsure if this is inherent in the dye type or was due to my increasing experience. The only negative point here is that it is quite expensive dying black - you need about twice as much dye per weight of wool than for other colours (about one pack for 100g).

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 4:57 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday August 6, 2008

La Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel

We went for a walk on the coast and a pleasant lunch at Saint Léonard







Posted on August 6, 2008 at 5:29 PM. Category: France.

Sunday August 3, 2008

La Colombe

We attended another fête and demonstration of les vieux métiers. The weather was (sadly) poor - but we ate sausages and crêpes and watched the dancing.


Here is a nice view of the pretty Normandie bonnets.


There was also spinning on display but the ladies seemed to be having more trouble than I do with their old traditional wheel, so eventually we went home so I could have a go on my own...

Posted on August 3, 2008 at 4:33 PM. Category: France.

Friday August 1, 2008

Dogs and Knitting

They don't exactly go together like a horse and carriage, but they do go together a lot better than cats and knitting. However, the cats are not very interested in much except food - whereas the dogs sit faithfully at my feet as I knit. They are in a permanent state of alert in case there is any sign of a game happening; periodically they lose patience and come over and prod me with a frisbee.


Our holiday weather has been excellent so far. We picked more cherries, but they are not as wonderful as they were a couple of weeks ago, and the raspberries have mostly gone now.

I have spent my time preparing - that is flick carding to remove the vegetable matter and remaining dirt - and then dyeing some of my fleece. [I know this looks in rather intimate proximity to my cooking facilities but I was very careful to keep the dying equipment quite separate.]


Perversely, I am interested in dying some fleece black, and it has been a moderate success. As expected, it is grey, or a charcoal black, but it has rather good blue/black overtones, which may work out as I want.


It did take an awfully long time to comb through 200g, though - and I need 600g of the black colour and more of other colours.

Posted on August 1, 2008 at 3:27 PM. Category: France.