Monday, June 25, 2007

Humble Apologies to Erskine Childers

I apologise profusely to the late Erskine Childers for stating that his one and only novel The Riddle of the Sands is set in Egypt.

This charming and classic novel, published in 1903 is set, not in the sands of the desert but among the sandbanks off the coast of Holland, Germany and Denmark. It's a book about boats - what on earth made me think it was about camels! In my defense let me state that the copy I have has the classic orange and white vintage Penguin cover - not the one I've linked to which has a picture of a boat on the front. (Bit of a clue that)

I started it on Sunday and am progressing well. It's a wonderfully seductive read and I could barely put it down yesterday. I shall go back to it later - I'm not allowing myself to pick it up until I've done all the things I need to get done today otherwise nothing will get done and I'll just sit and read all day. Not that there is anything wrong with sitting reading, but I do have some stuff that needs to get done today. See I do have willpower!

I have finished the new John Connolly novel, called The Unquiet. I think the title is very apt. It's a most disquieting and unsettling book. Very good, but very bleak. Karen, I'll do you a review of it this week, once I've mulled it over a little.

The Luna Moth Shawl progresses slowly, not helped by a few technical problems. It's not a very good idea to knit lace when your mind is still somewhere on a boat on a sandbank off Holland. I told you that book was compelling, didn't I?

Just a quick post today as I still have to paint a corner of the living room before I can go back to the seductive charms of the Dulcibella.

Just a few things I've been meaning to say. Thanks to Maxine for the book. I'm looking forward to it - looks very interesting. Jill in Pennsylvania - glad we got you knitting again - can't wait to hear how your sweater turns out. Did you get your ribbing problem sorted?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I have FOs to show you

I know I've been very remiss about blogging this week. Pete has been working an evening shift and it's got me all out of my normal routine.

But I've been knitting. Look I have finished objects -

There's the Sonnet cardigan - knitted but not yet sewn together and with no buttons as yet -

And I've finished the first of Pete's dogwalking socks. These are just miles and miles of 2x2 rib and are absolutely soul destroying so I only knit them in little bits then I go and knit something interesting for a bit and come back to them - so it could be a while before I finish the other one -

That's a terrible picture - they are navy blue with a couple of green stripes around the top of the leg and matching green heel and toe. Knitted in some un-named generic sock yarn from the stash.

And I've been spinning. I have about 250 yards of this -

which is the purple roving I dyed last week (or was it the week before). Anyway I love it now that it's spun. Not quite sure what I'll do with it yet. I've been looking for the right yarn for a couple of projects but I don't think there's quite enough of this for either one. It will have to sit in the stash for a bit until it finds its destiny.

And I started to spin this -

Which is more hand-dyed roving and I've tried to add some coloured nepps but I'm not sure I'm doing to right as they haven't spun in very well. Might need a bit of practice on that one. I thought the colour was a bit washed out looking when I was spinning it but it looks much darker on the bobbin so it is growing on me. Also strangely although the roving was dyed with equalish parts of green, blue and purple, it's the green that is really dominating the yarn when it's spun. That's typical because I didn't dye any nepps green - I only did blue and purple ones!

When I was at Stitch n Bitch on Saturday I was toying with the Origami cardigan and the teal/petrol blue wool/cotton from the stash. It seems the yarn just wasn't right for the pattern so now it has a new destiny - it's going to be a Luna Moth shawl. I've started it and it's going remarkably well for a first attempt at lace (all be it quite a simple lace pattern). There has been very little swearing if you don't count the bit where I couldn't get the provisional cast-on to "un-zip" like it said in the pattern. Took me three attempts and there may have been a bit of cursing. Anyway things are going Ok now (she says, tempting the wrath of the knitting gods). I took a picture but it just looks like a blue blobby thing so I'll try again at the weekend when the light might be better.

I finished the Elizabeth Peters audio book and I did enjoy it. I'm not sure I will be rushing out to read any more but as a one-off it was interesting, even if the plot did get a bit implausable towards the end. I would say that I've had my fill of Edwardians in Egypt but the next one for reading group is The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers so it's back to the oasis I go.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bursting With Maternal Pride

On Thursday I accompanied the Evilpixie to her College presentation ceremony where they presented her with this -

The tutors for each course at the college select the Student of the Year for that course - and they chose the Evilpixie for perfect attendance, excellence in her work and always being willing to help everyone. I was all overcome with maternal pride. When I think how much she hated school, how we had to bribe, cajole and drag her to get there every day, how badly she performed in all her school exams.... I wish we could have got her started at college when she was younger. I guess some kids are just not cut out for school yet thrive in the college environment.

On Wednesday Maggi and I went on a little stash enhancement expedition to Knit2together near Newcastle-under-Lyme. We were very good and didn't run amok. I hadn't been there since they moved into their second shop, just up the street from the original shop. Now, they have all their standard yarns - the Jaeger, Wendy, Sirdar etc in that shop, and in the new shop thay have all the Colinette, Noro, Hanne Falkenberg etc. It's like designer yarn heaven! I bought just the one ball of Colinette Prism in Popsicle which I will knit some mittens out of. It's lovely stuff -

I also bought some Wendy 5-ply Guernsey, some of which is to make the Mamluke socks in the Folk Socks book by Nancy Bush. And some of which is for my long planned Guernsey socks which I said last year I was going to design. I have a swatch done, in standard sock wool, of the stitch pattern I'm going to use, but I was having trouble tracking down the Guernsey wool. And I was lucky as when we went to Knit2together they said it had only just come in that morning. How's that for timing? Maggi may have bought some stuff too. I couldn't possibly comment.

I am still ploughing on with the three books I am currently reading / listening to. I've discovered that I can spin while listening to audio though, so I shall definitely get more of these.

This is my 100th post on this blog. I'm astounded. I wasn't sure when I started how I would manage to come up with enough things to say to keep the blog going. I thought I'd just try it for a while and see. But it's been great fun and I'm looking forward to the next 100 posts. Thank you for all your comments and emails. It's nice to know there's someone out there reading my inane drivel. I'll do my best to keep you entertained.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Knitted by Nanas

Have you seen the new TV ad for Shreddies? It seems they are knitted by Nanas. I love it.

Not much knitting news as I've been busy working in the shop, but I did do a little crochet. Yes, you did read that right! I have been crocheting. This is a skill that always eluded me when younger - my grandma tried to teach me but failed. I just couldn't get my head round it. Last year though I knitted a cardigan from one of the Rowan magazines that had a crocheted edging so I faced that demon and just got on and did it. I guess some of Grandma's teaching must have sunk in somewhere as it wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

Anyway there was a shawl in another of the Rowan (what is it with them and crochet) books, (one of the cashsoft / cashcotton pattern books) that I just love but I can't afford it in the suggested yarn. But I have some wool/cotton stuff in the stash in a beautiful petrol blue that I thought would be good. However now that I have done a couple of segments (it's one of those modular thingys) I'm not sure that the pattern suits the colour and the fabric seems a bit dense. I'm not sure it will drape well.

Plus, while I am actually enjoying the little circles, the pattern calls for 36 of the suckers and I'm not sure I'm that fond of crochet. I'm thinking that I might abandon this pattern and knit the yarn into a Luna Moth Shawl instead.

I might go and cast on and see what I think. I shall want something to knit while I'm listening to the Elizabeth Peters audiobook I've chosen for reading group this month. Theme for the month is Edwardian crime as it's the library's centenary year. I thought I wouldn't like the Elizabeth Peters as I'm not big on historical stuff, and I especially hate historical involving the upper classes. However I am absolutely enthralled. It's a little window into a long lost world. The book is Guardian of the Horizon. (This link is to the paperback version and as always it's to, but you should support your local bookstore if/while you still have one.) I love Amelia Peabody, and the narrator (who's name escapes me temporarily) is a hoot.

I'm being a bit of book hog at the moment actually as I'm also reading John Connolly - The Unquiet (upstairs book), and Pat McIntosh - The Harper's Quine (small paperback for carrying about). I do try and stick to one book at a time usually, honest. That's two historical books on the go at once. I'd better go and lie down.

Oooh, and I almost forgot. Look what I got in the post this morning -

Two of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books. These are quite difficult to get hold of in the UK, so I had ordered them from and I wasn't expecting them for at least another week. I've already dipped into them and they are just as wonderful as everyone keeps saying. Don't you just love the wonder of the internet.

I'm off to listen to more Elizabeth Peters now. Tomorrow Maggi and I are off on a stash enhancement expedition. Hmmmmm. Wooooool.

There might be the odd cup of coffee involved too, and maybe some knitting in public, as I missed International Knit in Public Day. It was Saturday and I was at work. For some reason they don't let me knit behind the counter.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Austin's First Law of Felting

Why is it that if you accidentally sling a woollen (or even a part-woollen) jumper (preferably your favourite, or worse - someone else's favourite) into the washing machine at 40 degrees it will felt itself into the smallest, tightest lump of felt imaginable; and yet, when you lovingly knit a pure wool pink fluffy trimmed bag for your daughter's birthday, and go to felt it - it will not felt under any circumstances. I washed that sucker to within an inch of its life, boiled it on a 90 degree wash (yes, alright, I know that's a contradiction), mashed it for ages in boiling hot water and would the damn thing felt. Would it heck.

Lesson learned - before you lovingly knit a pink fluffy bag in pure wool, do a swatch first and see if it will felt before carrying on to knit the whole bag. Oh yes, and try to do the felting bit before the eve of said daughter's birthday, so that if the felting gods are cross, then you have time to knit something else.

Does anyone think I'm be remembering these things next time I want to knit something for felting? No, me neither. What can I say I'm a knitter who likes to live on the edge.

Happy birthday (for yesterday) to the Evilpixie, born on that date seventeen years ago. Something is obviously wrong with the space/time continuum as last time I looked she was just 10. And I swear I am not old enough to have a seventeen year old daughter.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Just Another Random Monday

Just some random thoughts today as it's a busy day here at Austin Towers.

Firstly, Maxine is accusing me of cheating with the pink Michael Connolly book (who, me? cheat?) - well it is definitely a pale metallic pinkyish colour on the spine (if nowhere else). It did seem unlikely at the time but hey, I was under pressure. And yes, I have read it and thought it was great. Gotta love that Harry Bosch.

I do also like the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Tears of the Giraffe (which was also in the pic) was the last one I finished. I read one of these when I've had enough of serial killers and gratuitous not very often then. I am working my way slowly through the series, which for those who haven't read one yet can best be described as charming. There is no violence, no real crime to speak of, just a lovely gentle, humourous read. This makes them most unlikely candidates for my favourite books... but it works and I love them, just not too often or people will think I'm going soft!

I have just given up on Killing Time by Caleb Carr which is for reading group on Wednesday. I ought really to have ploughed on and tried to finish it but it was soooo tedious. And I have the new John Connolly sitting next to me on the shelf and it keeps whispering to me. Damn it, I hate attention-seeking books. I'm trying to ignore it but it's very persistent.

I have been knitting. Here are the photos (finally) of the completed Space Invader Socks

I think they're great although for some reason one leg is a bit wider than the other and the other sock has a wider foot. I swear I knitted them both exactly the same way. Anyway it's nothing too major, so I shall just live with it - not too noticable. I'm not sure I did the short row heels exactly right either as I was kind of expecting the stripes to match up and as you can see they don't...

Something to practice there I think.

Anyway as you know I can't be without knitting so I immediately cast on a pair of Cowgirl Socks from Interweave Knits Winter 2006 . The yarn is my own handspun in a colourway I called Pippin because it reminds me of apples. I love the socks which have knitted very quickly and are tolerant of the unevenness handspun qualities of the yarn.

As you can see I have nearly finished them and I only started them on Tuesday, but then they are only short ankle socks.

I'm starting to think about the colours for this segment of Project Spectrum which are black, red and metallic. I should have waited to do the Space Invader socks this month as they are the only project I have in mind at the moment with those colours. Oooooh. I shall have to go visit a yarn shop and see what inspiration strikes me. What a great excuse. In the meantime I'm going to rummage in my stash and see what I've got that I can knit / spin / ply into something original and creative. Watch this space.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Out and About on the Trail of Tolkien

Despite living near Birmingham for nearly 7 years, I've never actually been touristy and done the Tolkien Trail.

Anyway, on Saturday, the lovely Stuart Williams arranged a great walk for my Writers Circle, round the Tolkien haunts at Sarehole (where he lived for a while when he was a boy). We visited the mill, which features quite heavily in LOTR -

Stuart has an exhibition of his photographs in the new tearoom here. Then we walked down the River Cole and past the house where Tolkien lived, and into Moseley Bog, which is a wonderfully atmospheric bit of swamp with lots of trees - just the sort of place a young boy with a vivid imagination would really love!

Stuart gave relevant readings at various points along the walk - he really knows his stuff. Here he is waxing lyrical about the Lady Galadriel in a suitably wooded spot.

Then we walked up to Joy's Wood which is more open and higher than the bog, where we found some very entish trees.

It was a lovely day (I got a little bit of sunburn!) and very interesting. Stuart knows all the local connections and theories concerning Tolkien and his influences in the area. I'd recommend the tour to anyone interested in LOTR, and if you're not then it's still an interesting walk, though it helps if you have an authority along with you to point things out.

Knitting and book stuff tomorrow - it's too sunny to spend much time in front of the computer today.