Sunday, September 30, 2007

End of the Month

Last day of the month so it's a quick catch up post before I go to work.

Finished Object Alert!!!!!

Hand-dyed, hand-spun, handknitted socks. I love these, just what you need to keep your feet warm and your heart bright on a cold wintery day.

And the final installment of books from my shelf - orange books -

From the bottom they are -

Every Dead Thing by John Connolly (my treasured signed first edition of his first book)

Ode to a Banker by Lindsey Davis (possibly not my favourite of the Falco books but still good)

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich (silly but great if you're in the mood for something light)

Money to Burn by Katy Munger (another funny one but darker than Evanovich if I recall correctly)

Everybody Dies by Lawrence Block (my favourite of all the Matt Scudder books)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (just wonderful)

And my much battered, much faded Jane Austen's in the Penguin English Library edition. I've had these since I first had to read Miss Austen at school for English Lit and I've re-read them many times since. Persuasion is my favourite though and for some reason it wasn't on the shelf with the others.

Next post - writing a novel in thirty days!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Brown Books

We are almost at the end of September which I am finding it hard to believe. How can it be autumn when we haven't had summer yet? But the weather has taken a distinct chilly turn here and thoughts are beginning to drift towards warm knitted jumpers and shawls.

But meantime we have unfinished Project Spectrum business to attend to...

The brown books (not very many I'm afraid are -

Pulp Culture by Woody Haut (a fascinating book about the roots of hard-boiled fiction)

How to Write for Children by Louise Jordan (in case I decide to write the next Harry Potter)

Body Trauma - a Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries (in case I decide NOT to write the next Harry Potter)

Knitting Workshop by Elizabeth Zimmermann (what can I say - She was a God)

A Ticket to the Boneyard by Lawrence Block (one of the wonderful Matt Scudder books)

White Doves at Morning by James Lee Burke (I won't bore you by banging on and on about JLB again. This one's historical - set in the American Civil War, not a Dave Robicheaux novel)

Sometime in the next 2 days I will bring you the orange books to round off Project Spectrum for this year. I've not done as much knitting as I wanted to in the prescribed colours but I've enjoyed trawling my bookshelves and I hope you have too.

November sees the start of National Novel Writing Month (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo). The idea is to write a novel (approx 60,000 words) in a month. This may be pushing it a bit for me. I don't think I've written much more than 600 words in the last 6 months but the idea is to get you writing and not worry about the quality so I'm going to take the opportunity to try and bang out a first draft. Two of the women I work with are also taking part so we can encourage each other. I'll let you know how I get on!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Catching Up

I did manage to get some knitting done this week despite the number of days I was working. So there is progress on the Snowflake socks -

One finished and the second one started.

Also I did spin the hand-painted roving from the last post and it looks like this -

It's lovely but there's not a lot of it. I shall have to ply it with something else to produce enough to knit anything with. I'm thinking of plying it with a plain pink or purple and making some handwarmers. I've been dyeing again this afternoon (and I have the blue fingers to prove it) and this time I've gone all dark and moody. Photos later in the week once I've washed and dried it.

I am no longer reading The Interpretation of Murder. I'm sorry but I didn't finish it. I got so exasperated that I hurled it into the back seat of the car in disgust. (It's OK I wasn't driving at the time!) It had been irritating me for a little while but I came to a particular plot construct that just took the biscuit and I refused to read any further. People who have read it may feel free to speculate what it was that annoyed me. I understand that some people (who's opinions I normally trust with regard to books) thought this was a great book so I'm not going to spoil anyone's enjoyment of it by telling you what happened. But I bet if you read it you'd feel the same as me at the same point. I believe my exact words were "Oh, for God's sake, no, no, no!" The people in the car next to me in the car park at the time may have thought I was a little mad.

As an antidote to this I read A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne, which I believe won the Orange prize a few years ago. It was an interesting but ultimately disturbing book. Very well written. Not really a crime novel as such, though there is the aforementioned crime in the neighbourhood. It's really about the effect that this crime and some others events have on a quiet street in America in the 1970s.

Now I am reading Emperor: The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden. It's the last in the Caesar quartet which I have enjoyed immensely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Good Day to Dye

(with apologies to Simon Kernick, whose title I have pinched)

I've been busy with the dyepot and the microwave this afternoon. I wanted to produce a range of different colours to combine with what I already have so I can experiment with carding and spinning and plying them in different ways.

I split some merino up into 4 x 25g bits and then split them in half. Then I chucked them all in a bucket with some vinegary water to soak whereupon they all merged together into one big pile of roving. Not quite what I had planned.

Anyway these are the colours I ended up with -

I was meant to be concentrating on greens and yellows as that's what I have least of in the stash, so please tell me how the pink, purple and coral snuck in there. Like I don't have enough purple already.

When I'd done as many colours as I had prepared (there are 8 bits of roving in the photo) I still had a bit of roving left in the bucket (told you it all got mixed up) so I had a bit of fun with the dye I had left over and made this -

That's it just painted/squirted before it went in the microwave.

Here it is cooling on a chair in the garden and looking like a multicoloured chrysalis -

And here it is all rinsed and drying with its siblings -

Later in the week, or possibly next week as I won't have another day off until then, I will spin it and show you what happens.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Purple Books

I just realised that it's nearly the end of September - meaning that Project Spectrum is drawing to a close and I haven't done any of the requisite coloured books for this section.

So here is a randomly selected sample of the purple books in my possession -

For those of you who (like me) have less than perfect vision here's the list -

Tunnel Vision by Sara Paretsky - Paretsky was the first female detective I ever read so the subsequent ones had a lot to live up to. She's the main reason behind my crime obsession, though her later novels haven't quite done it for me.

Hen's Teeth by Manda Scott - Manda's first book, and she's got better since but it's still good (and set in Glasgow, which I almost always like).

Driftnet by Lin Anderson - another first novel set in Glasgow and very good indeed if a tad on the dark side if I recall correctly.

Tart Noir - short stories from a whole host of women crime writers including Val McDermid, Liza Cody, Denise Mina, Laura Lippman, Lauren Henderson, Karin Slaughter and many others

Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke - I know I've probably said this before but I just love his prose - it makes you want to roll naked in it. (I think you can be arrested for that though.)

Emperor: The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden - the final part of his fictional life of Julius Caesar, and excellent reading.

Folk Socks by Nancy Bush - wonderful ethnic sock patterns from the queen of sock knitting

One Thousand Sweaters by Amanda Griffiths - great mix and match pattern book covering just about every type of sweater and variation you could think of.

Honorable mentions for the two books I wanted to put in this photo but couldn't find - The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid (very purple cover) and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (just because it's a wonderful book and I've read it many times).

Sometime in the next two weeks I'll cover the last two colours - orange and brown.

I am currently luxuriating in the prospect of two days off in a row (heaven) and trying to decide whether I should go and try to spin something impressive (unlikely) to take to the first of my classes on Wednesday, or to go and play with felt. Or there's also the (remote) possibility that I could find a half-decent film on Sky and just chill out for the afternoon. We'll see......

Friday, September 14, 2007

Two Blokes and a Bookshop

Two enterprising ex-Waterstones employees are planning to open an independent bookshop in Wood Green in North London. Tim West and Simon Key were made redundant when Waterstones closed their Wood Green shop with only 9 days notice recently, leaving Wood Green without a bookshop. The intrepid lads hope to step into the breach and are blogging about their progress at Open a Bookshop, What Could Possibly Go Wrong? I wish them well and hope they succeed.

I've been to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC today despite the best efforts of Central Trains to keep me away. It seems that there was some vandalism to a line somewhere and it meant they had to cancel virtually every train between Walsall and the NEC. Thanks guys! Anyway I got there in the end, though I was a little disappointed with the number of knitting / wool sellers there. However in general it was an interesting event - the exhibitions are always wonderful, and I got talking to various people from various craft guilds about spinning, felting etc. I didn't spend a lot, just bought a ball of brightly coloured sock wool, and a couple of knitting-related charms which I will turn into earrings.

The journey back was twice as bad as trying to get there as, despite boarding a train which said it was a straight-through train to Walsall, it actually terminated at Birmingham. No-one saw fit to inform the passengers of this, until someone asked if this was the train for the NEC and half the carriage said "Yes" and the rest of us said "No". Chaos ensued. Eventually a porter chap appeared and said that the Walsall train was cancelled. Where could we get another train to Walsall? He had no idea! Finally we found out that there was a train to Stafford, passing through Walsall, on a different platform, leaving in about 30 seconds. It was a sight to be seen - all these women clutching bags of wool and craft stuff sprinting up the stairs, along the corridor, back down the stairs and onto the new train. Which sat where it was for another 20 minutes. Aaargh - the wonders of New Street Station!

Finally a note to Walsall Council. We locals all know that the Ring Road is terrible, we know that it needs to be widened / resurfaced / rerouted but is it really necessary to dig up every single road in Walsall all at the same time in order to do this. I had two simple errands to run in the car when I got back to the station, each errand took no more than 5 minutes. Driving the 4 or so miles I had to cover to complete my mission and get home took an hour and a half. It just wasn't my day today, was it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Busy Busy

I can't believe it's Monday again already and I don't seem to have done much and I never did get around to my promised post from the end of last week.

Here anyway are the before and after pictures of the wet-finished yarn I was playing with. I'm not sure there's all that much difference in the samples - but I've lost the "before" sample so I'm just going by the photos I took earlier.

Before much swishing and mashing in hot soapy water -

And after -

Actually now that I can see them together the second sample has tightened and is fluffier than the first so I guess it worked. What I did was I plunged the yarn into a bowl of extremely hot water with a little Ecover washing soap in it. Then I mashed it about for a bit with a wooden spoon and a potato masher, then I plunged it into cold water, rinsed it, wrung it out in a towel and hung to dry. Definitely something I would try again, perhaps with a slubbier yarn.

Also this week I succumbed to temptation and stared the Snowflake socks from the lastest issue of Interweave Knits. I love them -

I'm knitting them in Wendy 5-ply Guernsey wool from the stash and they are knitting up very quickly. I did the three pattern repeats on the leg in one afternoon/evening.

They are stalled a little now as I am elbow deep in the new Rebus novel. It's turning into one of those books that I really don't want to finish (because it may just be the last one), but I can't stop reading. Anyway, more about it later when I've finished it.

Just one more thing to show you today - a great vintage knitting pattern I found at the weekend (on yet another car boot sale) - this one is for Gloves, Mittens, Helmets and Flying Gloves for the RAF. It's not dated but says it's designed and approved by the RAF Comforts Committee. It cost 3d when it was published.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Random Monday Again

Yet another Random Monday post today I'm afraid. My hectic schedule of work days continues and looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future. While this is good for the bank balance, it does mean that I have less time to post, and less time to do things about which to post. So you'll have to bear with me. I have no idea how I'm going to manage to get the work done for the course I've signed up for, which starts in 2 weeks, but I'll worry about that nearer the time.

I have been knitting, though nothing very exciting. I have finished the Hot Lava Cardigan however and I actually like it. I promise I will get Pete to take a picture of it for you - I tried to get a photo of myself wearing it and let's just say that I don't have a glittering future in self-portrait taking.

I am experimenting this afternoon (a day off!!!!!!!) with wet finishing some hand-spun yarn. I am taking photos as I go so once the results are in I shall let you know how it went.

I can't remember what I was reading last time I posted. Ok, I've been and checked and it was Moon Tunnel by Jim Kelly. I have finished that and I did enjoy it. Philip Dryden is a great character and the books are well-plotted.

Now, I'm reading Buried by Mark Billingham. I'm not enjoying this so much. I think it's because it is very much the police procedural, which is not my favourite crime genre (or should that be sub-genre?). Anyway, I 've read each of Billingham's books as they've come out in paperback and the last one Lifeless was my favourite, but I think that's because it took Tom Thorne out of the police station and onto the streets of London. I like Thorne as a character, but this one seems to lack pace and tension. Still I'm only half-way through so it may pick up. I think part of the problem is that I'm struggling to empathise with the missing boy - he seems very one dimensional. Perhaps there's a reason for that which I haven't got to yet. Anyway the jury is still out.

The jury is definitely not still out on the other book I've been reading this week. Actually I've been listening to it as it's an audio book, but I have say that it has little to recommend it. Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen is a dreadful book. I did listen to it all the way to the end but it was very difficult. Perhaps it would read more easily but the narrator calmly describing how the serial killer tortured and killed his victims did not make for pleasant listening. It seemed gratuitously violent and voyeuristic and I shall not read / listen to one of his books again. I don't know if it was because he is a man but the woman who is the central character in this book just did not seem believable to me and some of the things she did and thought made me very uncomfortable. The other thing I did not like about this book is something that bugs me in general aboout fiction. I hate books where all the characters are damn near perfect. Oh, the main character, who went by the unlikely (and irritating) name of Smoky, was scarred both physically and mentally, but all the others were beautiful, handsome, loving, generous, flaky but in a good way, brilliant, etc etc. Why can't somebody in one of these books screw up now and again, or be ugly, or even just ordinary - just once. And the most annoying thing was the way the climax was set up.

Spoiler Alert - if you think you might want to read this book ( and I recommend that you don't) then don't carry on reading this because I'm going to give away the end...........................

The serial killer sends some associates to scare / kill the wife of one of the FBI agents hunting them, along with a little girl she is looking after. To do this they kill the two agents who are supposed to be watching the house. But our heroic team arrive in time and save the woman and the girl. Then they fly off to another part of California, find out who the killer is and come back. Surprise , surprise, they've forgotten to replace the two dead agents outside the house and the serial killer now has the woman and the little girl hostage. Doh!

Is that sloppy plotting or are the FBI really that thick? I'm hoping that it's the plotting thing, you know, in case I should ever need the services of the FBI.