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Archive Entries for December 2009

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Thursday December 31, 2009

Books in December

Frantic activity all through December left little room for reading. However, I received some great books as gifts.

  • Make Do and Mend: Keeping Family and Home Afloat on War Rations (Official WWII Info Reproductions) foreword by Jill Norman
    MakeDo.jpg A wonderful book reflecting my interests in this aspect of history and culture. These are fac similes of the "Make Do and Mend" leaflets issued by the British government during World War II. Clothes rationing was implemented by issuing coupons which allowed minimal purchases of not only clothes but the raw materials to make your own clothes - so recycling of fabrics** and yarns was a necessity. The initial coupon allowances introduced in 1940 were gradually reduced throughout the war, and ironically, when the war was "won", (and America ceased to subsidise the British economy), even stricter rations were imposed.
    There is some suggestion that many of the rules and guidelines could still be applied today - which is true. However, I think it's worth remembering that these makeovers had none of chic associated with the current fad for so-called recycling; everyone loathed it.
    ** I also own an original 1940s sewing pattern telling you how to cut out the two-tone blouse from "two of your husband's old shirts".

  • Spin Control: Techniques for Spinning the Yarns You Want by Amy King
    SpinControl.jpg I have been longing to read this book. I think I already "know" (the theory of) some of the fundamental information in it - with respect to woollen and worsted spin, and different methods of drafting - but there is so much more here. It gives excellent photos and explains clearly the actual effect of what what you are doing with respect to a finished knitted result - concepts I had never really considered.
    Now I have already read it from cover to cover, I am not sure it will actually alter my ability to control what I spin. However, I know I will refer to it again and again to remind myself what to expect from the techniques I am using. And who knows? maybe - gradually - the control will come.

  • Knitted Socks East and West: 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns by Judy Sumner
    SocksEastWest.jpg An interesting book with some great patterns - lots of complex stitch work though, so not so much for patterned yarns. I think this is a lovely and original collection, though I would take issue with the author's assertion that the actual stitches are unknown, or never before conceived of in the West. It's not that she is "wrong" and I am sure that she did spend many interesting hours interpreting Japanese patterns - and making it so much easier for us. However, there are a lot of old "western" patterns with many interesting techniques and frankly bizarre stitches which do reflect the same "kinds of" (that is not identical) techniques described in this book. As to the complexity of the stitches - my past experience of being taught the "Japanese" way of doing short rows and wrapping stitches gave me the impression that the method seemed unnecessarily complex for very little benefit, and very little observed difference in the result.
    But I do not wish to sound churlish - this is a lovely book and I look forward to knitting a number of the patterns from it in the next 12 months. [Maybe not so many of the type indicated on the cover photo ie those without toes or indeed in some cases no feet at all. Just to reassure you that many of the socks depicted are ..... well..... socks].

Posted on December 31, 2009 at 11:29 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Friday December 25, 2009

Christmas Dinner


[For once I remembered to take the picture before we actually ate the food.]

Posted on December 25, 2009 at 5:25 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Monday December 21, 2009

Good enough to eat.

The Bowtells have a website.


Long before "organic" and "green" became positively trendy, (and maybe now almost "normal"), my sister lived in East Tisted, where she was able to shop at Bowtell's Farm. They became good friends over the years, and a couple of times I was able to get my Christmas meat supplies at their Farm Shop. I even sewed them into a sampler, which was a little momento of my sister's time in the village.


I live a little too far away from East Tisted to use them for general food shopping, and I have to admit that in recent years I have been seduced by Waitrose's ability to supply such a good range of options in Organic produce that I usually buy my food there these days. They have obviously got their marketing and maybe their market well sorted out - offering "locally sourced" ranges as well as organic (far better than the larger chains) and give an altogether good impression of having "green" credentials. They have convinced me anyway.

[Waitrose opened their newly refurbished - after the fire - Banstead store on November 21st - and George and I rushed round to experience it that very evening. ]

Posted on December 21, 2009 at 5:27 PM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Monday December 7, 2009


George has long been complaining (quite justifiably) about my walnut collection. He collected them from our trees in France - with husks - some months ago. First they sat around in a plastic bag going mouldy - and at intervals he tried to throw them away. Eventually I put them into an old tin bath supplied by G's Mother with some water and left them to "mature". They have been on the boiler, keeping warm and infusing for a few weeks - and at intervals George has suggested throwing them away.
Now Christmas is approaching and I decided it was now or never - George would stop politely suggesting throwing them away and would be driven to action.

I prepared some fleece, and simmered it in the strained dye bath. My book advises not to leave it in for "longer than necessary" as walnut can harden the fleece; I always struggle with advice like this, though - how can I know what is necessary? However I took out test pieces and washed them through pretty vigorously with soap until the point at which the fleece retained some colour. This was much as advised - 45 minutes simmering at about 80 degrees.


Walnut is self-mordanting and the colour has turned out a pinkish beige - it looks very like the sample photo in my book. It is the pretty much the colour I was looking for ("grey-beige") which I plan to use for the Icelandic Shawl pattern. I have already spun some Southdown 2 ply natural fleece for this project - now I need 3 shades of blue/grey to get started (for which I plan to use a commercial dye).


The other walnut colours shown in my book, Spinning and Dyeing (by Gill Dalby and Liz Christmas), have made me want to try pre-mordanted wool, and to that end I have sent off for some mordants - poisonous and otherwise - to try out further samples with my bath. A little project for after Christmas.

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 12:41 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday December 3, 2009

Amnesty Card Campaign


While I had my sewing things available, I decided to respond to a request from Amnesty International to send them a supportive Greetings card - explicitly not religious. The fabric piecework card took me longer than I had hoped, and I think the point of it was the accompanying donation - but I was quite satisfied with the use of my time.

I chose to send mine in support of the women of Zimbabwe, having attended the Everywoman Awards ceremony for 2009 at the Dorchester in London yesterday. Some of the recipients pointed out that not all women enjoy the same status as we do in the UK - and also how fragile that status can be, as has been proven in other countries where changes in government have caused astonishing reductions in status almost overnight.

Posted on December 3, 2009 at 12:08 PM. Category: Crafts.