Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Unravel at Farnham, Surrey

Arriving for Unravel at Farnham, Surrey
It was that weekend in February when the wonderful Unravel show takes place at the Maltings in Farnham, Surrey, a pretty little town with a lot of history.  I knew Farnham throughout my childhood, we lived in a nearby village and it has many happy memories for me.  As I arrived for Unravel on Sunday the bells of St. Andrew's Church were ringing and the sky was a springtime blue.  I wandered the little cobble streets for a while listening to the bells and studying the little cottages clustered around the church.

In the car park and approaching the bridge to the Maltings, the clever Unravel people build up your anticipation by decorating the Victorian lamp posts with some rather fetching knits. 

Decorating the street furniture
Outside the Maltings the lovely people at Well Manor Farm had penned a Gotland ewe and her lambs to greet the visitors to the show.  The ewe was so tame and friendly that her lambs were completely unstressed by the whole experience.  They appeared to be rather enjoying all the attention.

Bright eyed and soooo pretty
All of this made me happy before I even got into the show.  More posts planned about what I saw inside.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Finished the first stash item of 2012

First stash item 2012 - the camera doesn't show the true 'redness' of this
I've long wanted to knit this aran waistcoat from the Third Sublime Aran book.  I have some very precious yarn in mind for it, but just wanted to check it out in something a bit less precious, so used a bright red, not wonderful acrylic that I had 'in the heap.'

Glad I did this and didn't go into my precious yarn straight away.  The things  I learned from this are :

1).   If you are doing a knit 3 purl 2 rib, it will always be twelve rows later when you find the place where you knitted when you should have purled.
2).  I can recover the above situation by laddering back to the error, correcting the stitch with a crochet hook and then using the crochet hook to complete all the stitches above.  It works fine as long as you don't twist any of the stitches.
3).  There is no armhole band.  The knitting just stops.  That's fine if your knitting stitches look neat at the ends of rows.  Not all mine do and so I'm going to have to experiment with my first and last row stitches to get a neat edge.  There is no advice on this in the pattern and this is one of the things I had my doubts about when I started, which is why I used cheap yarn first.  I edged the armholes with a little blanket stitch to tidy up.
4).  Rib stretches out when you cast off and so the seam at the top of the arm sticks out a bit.  I need to find a way to counteract that. 
5).  Although I have used a rather cheap, not great quailty yarn I have achieved a wearable, durable, knit that I'm rather pleased with.
6).  I can wear it with the shawl pin placed there for a whole day without stabbing myself in the stomach.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Second completed WIP of 2012

I finished my second completed WIP of 2012 (aiming for six).  This was a large tunic for my mother in Sirdar Indie (Navajo colourway) on size 12mm needles.  I did not love this object, I hate knitting on large needles and it's impossible to photograph.

Mum started it and couldn't finish.  She suffered a severe stroke in 2000, fell and broke her hip a couple of years ago which further impaired her mobility and she now has symptoms of Parkinsons disease.  The great love of her life is knitting and only in the last few months has she stopped.  Right until then she battled on, taking hours to complete a row.  Her patience is phenomenal. 

Mum (on the left) and her sister Lily in the 1980's
both wearing black handknit sweaters made by mum
Mum still takes pleasure from knitting.  Her monthly knitting magazines are read over and over, I have made a catalogue of her stash in a hard cover notebook so she can match patterns to yarn and daydream.  She still buys mountains of yarn at every chance.  She taught me to knit and has an eye for colour second to none.  I feel so grateful that we have this shared delight and can talk this language together.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

This blog has been going for a year

This blog has been going for exactly a year.  I had all kinds of ambitions when I started out.  I occasionally think about stopping because I haven't hundreds of readers and I'm not sure where I'm going.  Then I find, I don't want to stop.  I have created something of value to me and It doesn't matter that I haven't achieved a huge following.

In this blog I have found a space to record some of the things I see and things I love.  It's my space away from other pressures.  If I go on a walk, I don't come back until I have at least one photo that might be blogworthy.  That means I really look at the world as I walk and I've loved it.  It also means some days I walk further to find 'that' photo and that's no bad thing either.  I've become fascinated by wildlife again as I was at ten years old. 

I've discovered that my garden (in spite of some eccentricities) is rather photogenic and I have found that although I have knitted since I was a small girl, I need to improve a lot.  It's when you try and photograph it and write about it, that the little imperfections really show, especially when you look at the wonderful work done by others.  My photography needs to improve as well.

I've met some lovely people in blogland, it's been a good year, I have lots more to aim for.  I'll keep going.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

I'm feeling very noble

I'm feeling very noble.  Day off yesterday and was in the mood to clear up all the tedious jobs.  I managed to :

  • mend my umbrella
  • mend mum's skirt
  • shorten dad's trousers
  • finish knitting and sewing up a large shapeless tunic in Sirdar Indie for mum (lovely colourway, but a yarn and pattern I would never chosen to knit. She started and couldn't finish)
  • finish proofreading my uncle's memoirs so the grandchildren have it as a memento - he progressed from Dorset farm boy, to property developer, to repairing snooker tables in Ghana
  • get somewhere near the bottom of the laundry basket
  • do a litter pick up the lane
I'm glad some of that's over.

Not much to photograph recently and it's a rainy old day today, so I dug up a photo from my files.  This blackberry leaf caught my eye back in the autumn.  I'm wondering about swatching some of the colours including the deep green of the ivy in the background.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Feeling in need of a bit of summer

Can you hear the bees?
This picture was taken some years ago and it was one of those rare occasions when the planting came out as I wanted it.  There is a door to the road in the old chalk garden wall and growing beside it are hollyhocks, honeysuckle, tansy, marigolds, nasturtiums, stocks and sedum.

After several years I have now managed to get the honeysuckle to grow up over the wall and down the other side.  In the spring the wall is due for major repair by conservation specialists and the honeysuckle will have to come down.  Hey-ho.

I'm going to have to move all the compost bins as well.  But the rhubarb.  Well, they'll just have to work round it. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Mid-late forties? 
When it turns cold, my mind runs to bed socks.  My feet are never warm.  This little pattern which is A5 size comes from the austerity period during or just after World War II.  The size of the pattern and the black and white photo are down to shortages of paper and ink. 

There are embroidered socks knitted in 3ply with a kind of Tyrol look going on - quite popular in the late forties.  Also ribbed socks knitted in 4 ply (the pattern suggests blue and white stripes) and garter stitch socks, also blue and white.

The garter stitch socks are discribed as follows :
"Knitted on two needles these cosy garter stitch bed socks are given a snug fit with double ribbing at the tops of the legs."

I think these might be just the thing to use up all these odd balls of 4ply I seem to have amassed.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

We've had some weather

1943 AEC Matador in our wintry garden
We've had a bit of weather and the up side is that the snow always makes our small collection of rather rusty vintage vehicles look rather elegant.  This baby will be 70 next year and a re-fit is planned to celebrate.
Father bought 'the Mat' in the late sixties from a Ministry of Defence sale.  She was a gun tractor.  He converted her for timber work and I pretty much grew up with her.  In the early eighties she was in a bit of a sorry state and Dad sold her to a young man he knew who was keen to restore her.  In 1993 this young man took me out on our first date.  We went out as exhibitors at a vintage vehicle show.  She was fifty years old. 
People told him he would never get a girl to go out with him in the Mat.  I'd been going about with my father in the 'Mat' since the age of ten. 

Next year, in 2013 this same young man and I will have been together for twenty years and our 'Mat' will have pretty much been in the same family for forty five years.  We've had other old lorries and cars and sold them on.  The 'Mat' is family.  She stays.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Pride and Prejudice

There's a lot of walking in Pride and Prejudice, (published 1813)
Left -  a couple in morning walking dress 1818 and on the right, 1817

I promised myself at the beginning of the year that I would read all Jane Austen's six completed novels in 2012.  I have just finished Pride and Prejudice which I first read about forty years ago.  I had always believed my favourite Jane Austen novel to be Persuasion, but I am now completely taken with Pride and Prejudice.  I recently watched the adaptation with Colin Firth.  ( I usually avoid any film or TV adaptation before reading a book), and I'm impressed at the interpretation.  It didn't spoil the book for me at all, rather added to the excitment.

I can only think that many years ago in my early teens I couldn't appreciate some of the subtleties of the novel and I think that you do have to focus and on occasion re-read paragraphs, particularly the passages of narration to understand what is being conveyed in language that is beautiful, but more elaborate than we are now used to. 

There is real humour and frankness.  It tells a lot about the English and a lot about the class system and the place of women at the time.  Class and the role of women form the setting for the proud behaviour and
prejudicial beliefs which are gradually unravelled as feeling and good sense take over.

I rather love Mrs. Bennett, silly woman, and am rather cross with Mr. Bennett who brought it all on himself, then gave up, retired to his study and let his younger daughters run wild.

I've heard people complain that Jane Austen didn't write about the great national events taking place at the time and I know that Charlotte Bronte wrote disparagingly of the confinement of Jane Austen's characters in their elegant homes.  Fine, but not everyone lives on the moors and experiences wild, raging and deadly passions.  There are truths in Pride and Prejudice about the way us normal folk live and think.  And I defy anyone to read of the proud Mr Darcy and his slow realisation of love without knowing that however formal his expressions right to the end, something very dramatic has taken hold of him to make him defy his original prejudice.

Take a look at this link to see what the man about town (and country) would have been wearing.
Regency costume for gentlemen

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Watch the Birdie

Section of embroidered cushion from Needlecraft and Needlewoman Magazine no.66 
April 1956

I wanted to take part in the RSPB Great Garden Bird Watch at the end of January, but unfortunately did not manage to find an hour where I could sit still and watch and count.  However, I console myself with the fact that my garden is rich in bird life (largely because it's a bit untidy and attracts all sorts of bugs and creepy crawlies).  We have lived here for exactly fifteen years and in that time I have spotted 43 different species of bird in the garden, or flying over.  They are:

Coal Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Moorhen (which got in the kitchen and hid behind the units).
Little Owl
Song Thrush
House sparrow
Black Cap
House Martin
Willow Warbler
Gold Crest
Green Woodpecker
Red Kite
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Tree Creeper
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Mute Swan
Pied Wagtail
Pied Flycatcher

Totalling 43.  I had set myself the target of 45.  Nearly there.

Monday, 6 February 2012

First completed WIP of 2012

Doesn't show the true colour, but shows the 4x4 rib
I've completed my first WIP of 2012 and have been wearing it all week.  A beret, 4ft scarf and arm warmers.  It's in Sirdar Persia in a deep dark blue green.  It's a boucle and not necessarily a really enjoyable knit, but I'm pleased with the result.  I've used it to brighten up long coat I've had for some time.  The scarf drapes rather elegantly at back and front.  When I arrived at work on Monday I was told I looked glamorous.  That's bouyed me up all week.

Coat, scarf and arm warmers on tailor's dummy

Beret modelled on planter in the garden
I tried making a head for my tailor's dummy out of knitting needles and bubble wrap so I could photograph the whole ensemble.  It looked like something Captain Kirk might have discovered during the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise.  So I gave up and found a planter from the garden.

This is the first of my six WIPs to complete in 2012.

Friday, 3 February 2012

More reading

First flowers of the year

The Coffee Trader by David Liss
Gripping yarn based in Amsterdam in 1659 where a merchant gambles everything on the early futures market.  Many twists to the plot.  David Liss also wrote A Conspiracy of Paper - another good yarn. 

The Reluctant Hero by Michael Dobbs
Sort of OK thriller

This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson
A big, wonderful book about the voyages of The Beagle and in particular Captain Fitzroy who turned a dumpy little surveying brig to one of the most efficient and famous ships in the Royal Navy.  It was Captain Fitzroy who invited Darwin to accompany him on his trip to the South Atlantic.  This book tells their story and tells of the physical, psychological, moral and spiritual challengest they faced.  It charts their extraordinary discoveries, the early stages of the destruction of native peoples in the lands they visited and the gradual destruction of the principles and beliefs of people like Captain Fitzroy, the true hero of the novel.  There is humour and sadness in this book which was long listed for the Man Booker Prize.  Even more remarkable and sad that it is the debut novel of a man who died too young to write more.  I got it in a charity shop and it was the best 50p I ever spent.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Golden Orb Spider Silk Cape

This image is from the V&A library
Detail of the embroidery on the cape

A friend at work, knowing my interest in textiles and embroidery showed me a news item about the golden orb spider silk cape now on show at the V&A.

Here is a link to a short piece in the V&A film library showing how the cape was made.

V&A - The Golden Orb Spider Silk Cape

The colour is the natural colour of the spider silk.  The embroidery is stunning and took 6,000 hours.  I have to make a trip to the V&A to see this.

The emblem for my blog is a spider, and I use a spider's web for my moniker on ravelry, even one of my earliest blogs was about weaving with spider silk.
Spider silk

I have no particular fascination with spiders, but I do love the classic spider's web. For me it represents the way that one thought, idea or design can radiate outwards to many others and all the way there are links and crossovers.  There exists a beautiful pattern of ideas, human creativity and links to the natural world.