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Archive Entries for October 2012

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Wednesday October 31, 2012

Books in October

  • The God of the Hive by Laurie R King [read by Jenny Sterlin] BOM-GodOfTheHive.jpg
    So... part two of the narrative.
    I have not been on the edge of my seat waiting to read the rest of the story, (or I would have devoured it sooner), as there was some kind of hiatus at the end of the last book, and I was happy to maintain the anticipation of this one.
    Further, I quite approve of the author splitting the tale in this way. It would have been too much for one book, and there is sufficient interest in exploring the plot and characters not to push it all into a shorter volume.
    The all-action plot continues back to London and it's exciting conclusion. I do like the way this author has the characters think through their reasoning and conclusions - particularly important in a Holmes story. It emphasises the implied high intelligence of the characters as well as placing all their actions as a result of deductions rather than, say, Poirot's rabbits out of a hat, (which I also enjoy but in a different way!).

  • The Light Fantastic Terry Pratchett [read by Nigel Planar] BOM-TheLightFantastic.jpg
    Somehow I missed out on Pratchett's early books, and due to the availability (or lack of) in our lending library's eBook scheme, I am beginning with the second in the sequence. It is lots of fun - of course - and one day I will get round to the Colour of Magic.
    My pleasure was enhanced by my "new" (reallocated) company car which allows the attachment of external mp3 players to the stero system - or even more simply: a memory stick with a playlist. I did struggle for a while until I discovered the playlist thing; played it all perfectly but in random order - not good for a talking book.....

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 11:08 PM. Category: Books of the Month.

Los Gatos and Halloween


What can I say?
Yes - we did go out like this.


Earlier in the day I went out and about in downtown Los Gatos admiring the Halloween decorations in the shops on my way to visit Yarn Dogs. On the way back I dropped in at Icing on the Cake. [Alison had taken me there on Sunday to get Nigel's birthday cake]. I picked up a few highly imaginative "vampire bites" cup cakes, which, when it came to it, we were much too full of candy to eat in the evening!

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 10:25 AM. Category: Holiday USA.

Saturday October 27, 2012

Silk and Colour (or possibly color)


This was our final day at SOAR and I am going to start with our final class all about silk production run by Michael Cook.

I am thoroughly glad I did the class as it's not something you would casually take on at home, but I think I can say that Alison was a little less taken with it than I - boiling and stirring silk cocoons is not to everyone's taste - even when the bugs have been previously euthanised and are not suffering further. Ever since we arrived at the snowy resort, I seem to have lost my sense of smell - whether due to the cold or the altitude I do not know, but it certainly seems it was very helpful in this class, since the unpleasant smell of the boiling cocoons was quite overwhelming (apparently).

The first part of the class was producing silk thread from cocoons and the whole process was very interesting (you can see me above being very interested, winding my silk filament onto a drying frame). The thread is drawn out from multiple cocoons, boiling in a bath, dried, twisted (as opposed to spun), and finally washed to remove the gum.

The second part of the class was making a silk hanky from the cocoons, where the cocoons were also boiled, but then taken individually and flattened, after the bugs had been removed (eeuw!). Interestingly, Michael demoed this part but you can see below he really does not like it.


Michael is a weaver producing fabulous miniature woven silks, and he breeds some silk worms himself as well as importing the many cocoons it takes him to support his habit. You can see a little weaving round his neck, which is a QR code sampler; we though this a great novelty and Alison swiftly read it into her iPhone.

Our morning was spent in a much less messy and more fluffy environment with Deb Menz. I liked this class very much - I had read all the colour wheel stuff but I realise now - not properly. The exercises in blending colours were designed to illustrate the difference between hue, value, and intensity, and to show the effects of blending with families of colour as opposed to using complementary colours (which I tell you right now, is grey). I was pleased to find there is an index card to help you decide on the value of a colour if you don't have much of an eye for it - something I could well use in fair isle knitting as well as quilting.


The little nests that Alison and I produced with our newly acquired hackle were very pleasing - see below. While we were working, Deb talked to us about her early experimentation with colour from which she had many sample skeins to illustrate her points. This was actually a very valuable mini-lecture, given almost in passing and I thought in hindsight it warranted more of my attention than I was able to give it while working.



After this full day of heavy concentration, Alison bravely drove us home.

Posted on October 27, 2012 at 10:22 AM. Category: Holiday USA.

Friday October 26, 2012

Wild Downs and the Market


This is Mr Lendrum - (I know!! so exciting!) - letting us have a go on his wheels in the marketplace. We met him over dinner, and I think he was a bit bemused at our delight in meeting a real person behind the family name, (Mr Ashford was there too). Truthfully though, I have always been keen on Lendrum wheels - ever since I first tried Janet's at Epsom Spinners - and it is noticeable how many of the tutors have them, (admittedly I suspect they are not their sole wheels though, but good for travelling).

Our first class today covered drawing techniques with Jacey Boggs. It was a great class, but for some reason (intense concentration) I failed to take any photos. So as she is such an appealing teacher, here is a You Tube item where she is publicising her book about fancy plying.

She did a 3 day workshop on this before we arrived, and although our interest in either creating or using these novelty yarns is limited, we did buy her book on the subject. Alison firmly wished she had signed up for plying rather than silk - which was reenforced once we finally did the silk class... more on that later.

Meanwhile - back in our class - Jacey skillfully led us from short forward draw seamlessly through to achieving long draw with apparently no problems at all - though I will reitterate that the ability to do long draw depends a good deal on having well-prepared fibre/rollags.
This turned out to be just as well, since the afternoon class was with Judith McKenzie ** ["Three Wild Downs"], and the very first fibre she gave out came with the words "now we're going to spin this woollen spun" - where before the morning class, we would have been unable to comply. Even if we'd not spun anything in Judith's class, though, it is simply wonderful just to sit and listen to her talk - mesmorising. However, spinning the fibres was a real treat, and we hurried to the marketplace immediately afterwards to secure ourselves some cashmere, yak, and bison. [This is a recurring theme - every time we did a class we rushed to purchase the fibre or books concerned...!].

** Since returning to the UK we heard the terrible news that, while at SOAR, Judith's entire studio burnt down destroying all her work and equipment. Read more about her friends efforts to help her rebuild here.

Posted on October 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Thursday October 25, 2012

Ski Hut


Here we are setting off for our classes. Today it is "spinning the yarn you want" with Amy Tyler. All year we have been certain that after this we will not need any other classes, as this is all we need to do: Spin the Yarn We Want.
All I can say is - there's a lot to this spinning lark.

The class was lots of fun and surprisingly exhausting. In fact, I can say in retrospect that for some reason I never foresaw quite how tiring SOAR would be to be, getting up for 9 am starts and being so highly focussed throughout the entire day.

The event logistics, and the arrangements for the meals were excellent throughout - though no-one was quite ready for the snow, and Alison spent the first 10 minutes of the day ferrying fellow-attendees (slithering about clutching their spinning wheels) to their various classes in her car, before we finally drove to our own class.

Yesterday evening we arrived in the dark with the extremely slippery conditions and parked up at reception as we were only just in time for dinner. We swiftly established that there is no bar.... (no bar!!) - hard to imagine a ski resort with no bar - wonderful log fire but no egg nogs etc to drink around it.... Everyone helpfully happy to tell us that you can buy wine with dinner or that we could get liquor by driving to the local town - not quite comprehending the concept of social drinking somehow...
So we then drove round to Ski Hut (easily walkable in better weather) and settled into our well-appointed room, which has 2 huge beds, a simply vast bathroom, and a comfortable sitting room (where we could make a start on our solitary drinking without the embarassing possibility of being seen to imbibe).

Posted on October 25, 2012 at 10:20 AM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Wednesday October 24, 2012

To Tahoe


So our journey North (or possibly East... not entirely sure where we are!) begins (and ended as it turned out) in the snow.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....


... and it's only October...


Posted on October 24, 2012 at 12:17 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Tuesday October 23, 2012

Dyeing at the cabin

Hurrah! Here I am at long last after a year of anticipation visiting Alison - currently at her "cabin in the woods" prior to travelling to SOAR in Granlibakken. We came here to do some dyeing well away from children and her new kitchen work-surfaces.


A great start on the week of fun - though surprisingly tiring - and boy is it cold here. To everyone's amazement, (as I arrived in San Francisco last Friday and it was hot and sunny), they were predicting snow at Tahoe this week. Sure enough, when we woke at the cabin this morning, everything was covered in a layer of snow. The route we had planned to take to Tahoe across the mountains is closed so we are taking the main roads on the long way round tomorrow.


We made quite a day of it, mixing up all the dyes (far too much!) and colouring 3 sock blanks and several types of fleece, including some silk and merino. (Note the Nordic Cushions just visible in the background).
We finished the day spinning and watching sentimental children's movies in the shape of Pollyanna (not the Disney version with Hayley Mills 1960 but the TV movie from 2003) and Ballet Shoes (also a TV movie from 2007). Both of these are British productions, where Polyanna, in an interesting departure from the norm, relocates the American story to an English location (the Lake District - so the backdrop scenery is particularly beautiful as well). I always thought they did a very good job of this movie, though a real flavour of the American manners and society still seeps through somehow, seeming not quite right for even rural Victorian England; this isn't a detractor though - thoroughly charming.

Posted on October 23, 2012 at 8:16 PM. Category: Spinning, Dying, Weaving.

Monday October 15, 2012

Night at the Museum


Just before dashing off to America, I joined Robert for an invited evening of performance art at the British Museum, which had opened "out of hours".


Being able to wander seemingly alone in the softly-lit museum was quite an eerie and wonderful experience in itself. We were able to check out the newly opened "members area", which is great - worth membership in its own right - I'm now thinking of just "hanging out" at the museum with my book... It seems to offer refreshments as well as a comfortable seating area and I am wondering how crowded it will get in the longer term; I have no idea how many members they have or are aiming at but clearly they are marketing membership quite heavily and feel this is the way forward with a good potential revenue stream.

As to the performance pieces, commissioned specially by the British Museum and the RSC to respond to the collection: I am out of superlatives so I can only say they were "really good". You could walk around and admire the exhibits of Shakespeare "Staging the World" while at the same time, watching each of the performances.

Upon entry we met Nigel Mound a new and enthusiastic safety officer "here to keep you safe and sound!" - brought to life by Blind Summit, (Mark Down and Nick Barnes).
Once inside there were 3 more scenes played out (multiple times) in various rooms, so you could catch each one as it started while you walked through:
"Out of Character - Othello No More" by Lemn Sissay - where an actor in his dressing room after the show reflects on how he lives with today's racism comparing with his role as Othello.
"Thin Air", by David Leddy, performed by Angela Darcy and Neil McCormick - where two con artists head to a museum in an attempt to sell a forgery, and are now on the run from the "shy locksmith" who backed the scam. The piece is full of clever puns and references to Shakespeare and thoroughly engaging.
However the piece that really surprised me was This Same England presented by Pentabus Theatre and performed by Lorraine Stanley. It seems a simple concept:a young woman soldier gets ready, interacting with the audience as she puts on her kit, and packs her bag with her survival rations. She performs in front of the exhibit with a rolling projection of Henry V's St. Crispin's Day speech, and times the performance to work with the film. All I can say is the simplicity was deceptive and I found myself thinking of her long after the event was over. When she leaves the performance area with "right - see you when I get back", I could have burst into tears on the spot.

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 11:04 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Friday October 12, 2012

Alexandra Palace 2012

The main entrance exhibit at the Knitting and Stitching Show this year was dedicated to the "unfinishable" projects. Everyone has them but the underlying concept here was an interesting one: some are just in hibernation - but there are some projects that will be kept in their unfinished form with the full knowledge or even plan that they will never be finished.

The tent exterior was alive with colourful collage panels of unfinished samples.

Whilst the interior had panels in shades of white as if the colour had all bled away, creating a contemplative dream-like quality.

There was a tiny round seat in the centre - where you could sit and resolve to finish all such projects.
[Note to self: Foolish Virgins].

Once in the the show itself, there was many other wonderful and inspriting projects as usual. The knitted village was delightful - I have snapped only part of it, but I love this depiction of the shop as it was just as in the village where I was born, where the greengrocer grew many of the vegetables himself in a very orderly garden out the back.

The artistic display Jabberwocky by Ann Small and Sue Walton was absolutely lovely.

And the display in the concourse was simply beautiful. The North East Embroiderers’ Guild created more than 80 pieces of work on the theme Mining a Golden Seam to show the mining heritage of the region and its geology and resources. I was particularly taken with one major canvas and yet am ashamed to say I had to have it explained to me by a fellow visitor alongside me; ashamed because I am such an ignorant Southerner when it comes to mining, where to someone from the region this is simply commonplace.

Posted on October 12, 2012 at 7:02 PM. Category: Days Out.

Thursday October 4, 2012



A fantastic musical - as promised. I would strongly recommend it at any level for both joy in a fun musical, and amazingly tight staging. The players, while remaining convincing and natural, were able to portray the wonderful Quentin Blake illustrations for the book with costuming and body language; they made almost mobile tableaus (I know - a contradiction - yet in a way quite true to the original drawings which are static on the page and at the same time so full of movement).

Do get tickets if you can.

Posted on October 4, 2012 at 11:24 PM. Category: Art and Culture.