Monday, April 28, 2008


On Saturday I went to Wonderwool where I had a great time, bought some lovely stuff, met some great people and was generally inspired by the fantastic work of the artists and craftspeople who were exhibiting.

I was quite restrained with my purchases, considering all the stuff that I could have bought. I tried to restrict myself to things that I wouldn't be able to get locally or that I hadn't seen before (though there was lots of new stuff).

What I did end up with was this -

Now, this looks in the photo like a pile of the stuff that comes out of your hoover bag, but actually it's 50g of Sari Silk Fibre and is full of beautiful jewel-bright colours that the camera hasn't picked up. I reckon it will look amazing spun through some merino or a merino silk mix. This came from TwistFibreCraft, all the way from Newburgh in Scotland. As I may have mentioned before I spent several years in Newburgh when I was growing up, my parents lived there for a long time and it's a place that's close to my heart. When I lived there it was a bit rundown, not much happening, but the nice people at TwistFibreCraft say it's becoming quite an arty little community and I'm really pleased to hear it.

I also bought some cream 4ply Merino wool (on the right) which I will dye in lots of lovely colours, and some pencil roving (to the left) which was incredibly cheap as it was slightly water-marked. Again this will be dyed so the watermarking doesn't matter.

Next on my list was some Schoppel Wolle Fingerwolle -

it's a twist of brightly coloured merino pencil roving with instructions for turning it into a great felted scarf like this one

I bought mine from ForestFibres at the show but you can also get them online from KnitnCaboodle. I'll show you how it turns out when I get the chance to make it.

My problem now is that I have so many ideas and projects in my head that I can't decide what to do next. Do I make the felted scarf? Or do I make the other scarf with the wonderful Wensleydale curls as a fringe? Or do I make a wrap using chiffon and merino like the great samples on the Moral Fibre stand.

I was totally re-enthused about weaving too, having seen all the beautiful work other people had done. It made me want to really get to grips with it. To assist me I bought a book from The Threshing Barn stand. I'd been trying to get this book for ages but it doesn't seem to be available through bookshops here - trust me, I've tried. I was really chuffed to be able to get it at the show. There were tons and tons of great books there but I did just buy the one.

Of course I had to get a little fix of fibre for spinning too and it was hard to resist all the colours and mixes but I just bought a little of this -

I'm not even entirely sure what it is (fibrewise I mean), and it looks like something and nothing on the screen but it's a steely grey shot through with subtle greens and blues and lots and lots of little neps of white stuff. Just lovely.

And that's about all for the woolly side of things, though I did get some wooden beads and a spare shuttle for my loom.

Because there was a whole other side to the day - along with Wonderwool the good people of Builth Wells had put on a Local Food Festival, with cookery demonstrations (Anthony Worrall-Thompson was there!) and tastings and lovely food to buy. I'd gone down for the day with Pete and he took the opportunity, while I was browsing the woolly wonders next door, to sample a bit of everything and we came home with some great local cider, some Welsh-brewed beers, olives (not sure how Welsh they were but they tasted great) and smoked nuts. There were sausages and cheeses and preserves and liqueurs and all manner of lovely tasty things which we tried but didn't buy as we couldn't buy everything.

All in all a great day was had by us both. I hope everyone else had just as much fun as we did, and that the traders did well and will want to come back next year. Thanks everyone for a fantastic day out!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Long and the Short of it

I just wanted to reassure anyone who is worried that I have been frittering away my precious days off, sitting around knitting or reading or watching the TV......

that is exactly what I have been doing. I have finished Pete's socks, and knitted a pair for the Evilpixie -

Just a little difference in the sizes! These were helped by a daily dose of the old BBC drama Elizabeth R starring Glenda Jackson, which has been showing on UKTV History. Anyway I have now fulfilled my familial sock obligations for a while and can feel free to squander my knitting time on more selfish projects.

Icarus continues slowly. Although I'm in the not very interesting bit in the middle where the rows just get longer and longer, and the pattern is not at all complicated, I find that I can only knit this when there is no TV or radio, or conversation happening anywhere in the room. This is a definitely one of those for knitting when the house is empty. I'm finding the increasing rows and the steady monotonous rhythm quite relaxing, in a Zen kind of way, as long as no-one talks to me, then I find I have dropped a stitch or miscounted (and it only requires that I count up to seven!).

As I also need some knitting for when there are people in the house, or if I want to talk at the same time, I have cast on this -

Yes, I'm afraid it really is that orange. It's Rowan Cotton Tape bought a long time ago on sale somewhere and destined to look something like this when it's finished,
(only oranger!)

It may be a tad too bright, but it is for wearing in Florida where we shall be having a little holiday later in the year. All that glorious sunshine warrants a few bright colours.

Have I been reading? Oh yes. I finished We That Were Young by Irene Rathbone. It was interesting but not such a good book as Testament of Youth, probably as it was fictionalised and so I felt slightly removed from the emotions and events, which in Testament were laid bare in all their horror with no apparent filter. Not that I didn't enjoy the Rathbone book, I did, and for research purposes it was great, very informative.

I'm now reading Dark Fire by C J Sansom. I've only just started it but so far it is very good, as expected.

I had planned to get out into the garden and get some planting done in our new vegetable plot this week, but I'm waiting for the men to come and restore the garden after they drove a JCB over it a couple of weeks ago while digging a trench down the side. Half the garden bears a passing resemblance to The Somme and all the topsoil has washed down the nearest drain. Hence I am becoming more and more surrounded by broad bean and tomato plants that really want to be getting planted out and are currently occupying almost every windowsill. I wish they'd hurry up, some of these beans are beginning to look mean!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Few Days Off

I've had a few days off work, using up some of the holiday time that's accrued over the past year. Here's a little clue as to what I've been up to -

That's the Icarus shawl, now on it's fourth or fifth incarnation after a few false starts with the wrong yarn, wrong gauge and an unfortunate incident with the vacuum cleaner. (This is one of the reasons I feel I shouldn't have to do any housework - it endangers knitting!). However, all is currently going well with Icarus (she says, tempting the knitting gods shamelessly) and I have finished the first set of repeats - now there are just another 115 ever-increasing rows of the same pattern until I hit the complicated stuff at the border.

I had a day out on Tuesday to Leamington where I scored a couple of lovely books in the charity shops (very good quality charity stuff in Leamington). There's Bliss and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield which I had been meaning to get to for a while, and then there's We That Were Young by Irene Rathbone. It's a semi-autobiographical novel which is an account of the work of women during the First World War. It's absolutely great for period detail and the everyday lives of these woman - just the sort of thing I have been looking for. Sadly, it seems to be out of print, at least in the UK.

I have just the one work day this week (Saturday) and then I'm off for another week. I'm hoping to get out into the garden next week and get some seedlings planted out. It's our first attempt at growing our own veg this year and we will be planting a herb border as well. Should be fun!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sara Paretsky at the Town Hall

Last week, Sara Paretsky was in town (briefly) and she gave a talk at West Brom Town Hall (organised by the lovely Paul of Sandwell Libraries) and a good time was had by all.

I was very impressed with the turnout - over a hundred people turned up to hear Sara talk about growing up in Kansas and how she came to write her latest book, Bleeding Kansas, set unsurprisingly in the state where she grew up. She then read two passages from the book, both of which were very good. Obviously other people thought so too as there were lots of people buying her books (I was there in my official capacity as bookseller to the masses) . A very interesting evening. Here's Sara answering the many questions from the floor after her talk.

She was a real sport, arriving slightly late (as she had been on the radio in London until 4pm), having had no dinner, she still talked for over an hour and a half, then signed books for a huge queue of people.

Regular readers will know that Sara is a longtime favourite of mine, the one who got me reading crime to start with, so meeting her was a bit of a thrill for me.

The venue, West Bromwich Town Hall, was lovely. I'd never been there before. It's a beautiful high Victorian building with a fantastic pipe organ. I meant to get a photo of it but I forgot. This one is from the West Brom walking tour website, and while it's good it doesn't really do justice to the colours and you can't really see the organ which is beautifully painted in green and gold. Next time I'm there I promise I'll do photos.