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Archive Entries for October 2010

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Sunday October 31, 2010

Books in October

  • Popco Scarlett Thomas
    Popco.jpg This was an enjoyable book - well written, fun to read. There is a "but" coming as I had some reservations about completely enthusing about it. It has a number of layers to it and retains interest throughout but I think the author showed more inspiration in writing some of the passages than others.
    The opening was excellent and engaging as the heroine commenced her overnight train journey, to join a "team building" exercise run by her huge international company at their own country-house training centre. I found this all well-observed and funny - I could easily empathise as it is all very familiar territory to me (not that my own dear multi-national company ever offers quite such lavish affairs). The coffee-table style explanations of mathematics were interesting enough though not new to me, and Popco's global marketing strategies were very interesting, if somewhat sinister. However, I found the back story and the ending less satisfying - as if the book had been written and then it was simply necessary to tie up loose ends.
    Overall though - do read it. To quote Kim Newman in the Independent in 2004: "..it's hard to resist a book which comes complete with a crossword puzzle, a list of prime numbers, a frequency chart for the occurrence of letters in English (bound to come in useful) and a recipe for "Let Them Eat Cake" cake.

  • Euclid's Window by Leonard Mlodinow
    EuclidsWindow.jpg Reading Popco made me want to read this book again. Before I recommend it, be aware that it definitely is about maths. You don't need to be a mathematician to read or understand it but you do need an interest in that direction. I find it interesting and fun.

    "An optimist would say that although the probability of winning the lottery is 14 million to one, you can't win if you don't buy a ticket.
    However a mathematician would say that the probability of winning is the same whether you buy a ticket or not."

Posted on October 31, 2010 at 9:33 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Thursday October 28, 2010

Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe

A late birthday outing for Robert to the V&A.


We are both interested in this topic; in the 1980s we were lucky enough to see the Ballet Rambert's Rite of Spring, (reconstructed from dance notations and photos of Nijinsky's original ballet). Delightfully, we found they were also performing the Ghost Dances, accompanied by Incantation themselves - a memorable evening. [About which I can find no reference on the web - it being pre-1992!].
Robert's interest is professional as well, since this was an exhibition not only of photos and memorabilia but theatrical costumes and - probably most excitingly - painted back cloths, (which are surprisingly stunning due to their awesome size as well as history). The centrepiece (apparently) of the exhibition is a cloth for Le Train Bleu by Picasso - with contemporary photos of its being painted with Picasso and others. Not many of these cloths survive due to their vast size, and I would think for many cloths in general, debatable merit - so it is fantastic to see them displayed.
Do look at this blog entry from the V&A with a short video of its being hung by the staff - and this one showing the Firebird cloth being rolled up at the end. In fact I would recommend viewing all these blog entries covering the exhibition period!


I was a little underwhelmed by the costumes, only because they are simply that - theatrical costumes - the sort of thing that Rob's students produce. There were of relatively simple construction and were not at their best on close inspection. I think also the designs were in influenced not only by traditional folk costumes, but also by the paired down lines of (what became) the 1920s fashions, which I do not find so appealing.
However, to see such an historical collection of design drawings, costumes, together with "backstage" photos of the people and designs coming together - simply wonderful.

I was very interested to see the Coco Chanel costume designs (used in the V&A publicity materials) for Le Train Bleu as they included knitted swimwear - fabulous.


I am not certain if photography was permitted or not, but I took this to try and show the colour of the lovely knitted swimsuit. As ever, there was very low lighting throughout the exhibition presumably in order to preserve the fabrics, thus, of course, definitely no flash, so you'll have to regard it as an "art" photo due to the excessive camera shake.


Posted on October 28, 2010 at 11:48 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday October 22, 2010

Longwool and combs

A farmer came to our open day with a few fleeces to sell. They were Leicester Long Wool, a rare breed, which I had not heard of before but similar in type to the other "long wools". They were huge fleeces, and in the end I split a "lamb" fleece with Kate. The fleece has some appeal as the colour changes across the sheep - creamy white through to grey, and with a slight sheen (only visible on the inside of the fleece!). Overall they did not look especially promising but this farmer does not keep them for the fleece - we were a kind of charity for him I think.


Uncharacteristically, I washed the fleece the very next day - my usual method of steeping in hot detergent and then rinsing on a very gentle wool cycle in the machine left me slightly disappointed as it came out more matted than I would have liked, but I managed to separate it into reasonable locks.


Today I decided to start the preparation. I began by spending a few minutes reviewing combing techniques on the web (time well spent in fact) and then clamped the Guild's combs to the dining table, covered the floor with a tarp, and started off with the medium grade locks.


The whole thing went much better than I expected. I found the process overall more satisfactory than carding, and the fleece itself seems to be very soft and attractive. I have not really followed all the advice I have read - but one thing I will be doing next time is spraying the locks with oil/water mixture - it really is very fly-away without this.


At this stage I could say it seemed to be the nicest raw fibre I had worked with. I am now looking forward to trying to comb the washed but matted Wensleydale that I have in the attic (a gift...). I may even invest in my own combs...

As I am publishing all this very much in arrears I can add an addendum. The fibre I have spun so far is slightly rough and hairy. Alison also tried out one of my nests. However in its defence I have not yet prepared the best parts of the fleece as I wanted to practise my combing first.


This fibre went on to be part of the Winter Wonder Hat plied with some silk and merino - the main hat was in Spelsau and this made a good colour match.

Posted on October 22, 2010 at 5:05 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Tuesday October 19, 2010

The end of the quest


Today I completed my Stitchcraft collection with the illusive (for me anyway) edition June 1933 - acquired from Todmorden Books. An unremarkable Stitchcraft example but very pleasing to me. The early editions featured recipes and film reviews as well as fashion and knitting:
"Everything for the Woman and her Home".

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 8:46 PM. Category: Red Letter Days.

Saturday October 16, 2010

Creative Fibres Open Day 2010

It was our Guild group open day. Lots of fun and very busy, with even more visitors than last year.

knittingdisplay_small.jpg pegloom_small.jpg theknitters_small.jpg spindlescrochetandtabletweaving_small.jpg
tapestryweaving_small.jpg weavingspinningandfelting_small.jpg thespinners_small.jpg felting_small.jpg

Posted on October 16, 2010 at 5:51 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Saturday October 9, 2010

Knitting and Stitchery Show 2010

The fun day has come round again - this year was a first as we had to go on a Saturday. I think our conclusion was that it was more crowded and there may have been more drivers to the event as the local tube line is closed for repairs - I met one of our Guild members who had not known in advance and she had taken 3 hours to get there... Anyway no such issues for us.
This year the great theme was "renew and recycle". There was a huge display of Mors Bags in the main corridor:


I discovered Mors Bags some time ago and spent a pleasant May Bank Holiday making some out of old curtains - but what I had failed to fully realise was that the fabric was utterly degraded, and my beautiful bags shredded when washed. However, I have not given up on the idea so watch this space... Luckily many other people seem to have found more robust fabrics to recycle.

Unfortunately my camera misbehaved on the day so my photos have flaws - but these are a few of the interesting exhibits we saw. I loved this retro chair, (but I don't want to own it... in case you are thinking of themed Christmas gifts....!).


I was also very impressed with this exhibit by artist Claire Platt - my own photo of this is so bad I have used hers from her site - take a look there for other interesting work.


I had my own flying duck set once - not plaster I'm afraid - having been so ubiquitous (and reviled by teenagers) in my youth, they are now quite rare as plaster is so fragile. My set was the traditional 1930's green but, strangely, made of metal...
However Aran knitted versions!
Now we're talking....

This year we did not buy so very much - Sheila has taken up knitting again and purchased some bright blue yarn from Black Sheep's bargain section - I agonized over some Rowan Damask as I love knitting with it but decided to pass as I have no specific project in mind. For myself I bought some more Knitpicks (Knitpro) interchangeable needle tips - the multicoloured wood type - from Coleshill Accessories; my steel ones only go down to 3½mm and I found they are available in 3 and 3¼mm. I also found that you can get shorter ends (they are 100mm as opposed to the standard 128mm and called "special" tips in case you want to buy any). They are designed to go with shorter length wires (40cm) but I am finding them useful all round. Even with shorter old circulars I often have trouble turning in the tips as they are too long; in fact my general comment on these needles is that the length should change as the needle size increases - I have the "chunky" set in steel and 128mm is too short to handle properly in those sizes. I did think the short wires might be good for socks - but they are still too long - suitable for hats apparently; one thing they will be excellent for is the sleeves and neck on a guernsey (yes, I am still planning to knit another one day!).

I also found this lovely coat pattern (V2884), a reissue of a 1954 design.


I decided to restrain myself and not to buy some lovely red woollen fabric from The Shuttle - but now wish I had! I did buy some fine brown linen (for a doll's dress) and crushed purple velvet (for a a bag inspired by one I saw on sale at Wisley).

My final purchase was a giant ball of Rayon string from Empress Mills. This has mystified everyone ... but I like it...

Finally - an enchanting display of tiny hats:


Posted on October 9, 2010 at 10:53 PM. Category: Days Out.