Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Yarn Shop!!!!!!

I'm all behind with my blogging, having been laid low by a nasty cold which left me gasping for breath and woolly headed.

However, before the hideous cold virus struck I had a great day on Thursday of last week. Firstly I went to visit my good friend Maggi (ravelry link) and we did some knitting and she kept us supplied with lemon cupcakes. What could be better than knitting AND cupcakes with a friend?

And after that I carried on a bit further to Stone (Staffordshire) where there is a lovely new yarn shop just opened.

It's just opened and I went and met the lovely owner, Jeanette, and looked at all the goodies she has. There were some fantastic sample shawls knitted up, very tempting. I was quite restrained and just bought a little ball of some hand-dyed 4ply in autumnal shades and a ball of Opal sock yarn. (Because you can never have too much sock yarn, right, and she had some great shades). Some of the stock was totally gorgeous, including some Artist's Palette laceweight. I've used their fibre but never seen the yarn - it's seriously lovely. I can see that this will be a regular yarn shop outing especially as I know Jeanette has great plans for adding to the stock she already has.

It's so nice to see a new yarn store opening, and if it's not exactly local (Stone's about 20 miles from here) then it's certainly worth a trip on a day out. It could easily be combined with a trip to Stoke to Abakhan Fabrics for example. Anyway I wish Jeanette at Yarn Gathering all the best and hope the shop does well. I shall certainly be visiting it again and I can recommend it. Her website's not up and running fully yet as she's been so busy getting the shop ready but I've given the link anyway so you can bookmark it.

I'll be back in a couple of days with a belated alphabet post featuring a day out to Banbury.

Keep knitting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What's next on the TBR pile

So that's where I'm going next on my reading journey, starting in Michigan at the top, then Medieval Glasgow, Victorian London, Spain during and just before the Second World War, 16th Century St Andrews, Hong Kong and finally Montana.

That should keep me busy for a while.

I had a little moment last week when I was neither reading a book nor knitting anything other than the perennial socks which was a tad disconcerting. I felt a little bit lost for a while. But I soon got over that, cast on several new projects and started a new book.

Currently I am reading South of Hell by PJ Parrish, which is the pseudonym of two women, Kristy Montee and Kelly Nicholls. I first read one of these last year, A Thousand Bones and I did enjoy it, then I read a second one, Dark of the Moon, which was just as good and which delved into the backstory of one of the characters. However I realise that I am reading them all out of sequence and that there are apparently 10 in the seies, not all of which seem to have been published in the UK. Anyway I spotted Dead of Winter in a charity shop last week. It is the second in the series so I'm jumping back and forth a bit here.

I just finished the other 2 books I was reading - Rome by Manda Scott or M C Scott as they seem to be calling her now, and Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.

Rome was an excellent read - just what you would expect from Manda - lots of great characters, historical detail aplenty, a cracking storyline and a touch of mysticism. Her books are really such an enjoyable read. I just get caught up in them and swept along. Reading this made me want to go back and re-read the Boudica series, and I'm glad to see that she's planning more in this Roman series.

Sweetsmoke was enjoyable too but in a different way. It's set on a tobacco plantation in Virginia during the American Civil War and is about a carpenter (a slave) trying to find out who killed a local free woman. So it's a crime novel of sorts but really it's just a very involving story about this man, Cassius, and his struggle to come to terms with who he is, and who he is allowed to be. Wonderfully written and beautifully told from Cassius' point of view. Interesting too to read about the war from the perspective of a slave. I love the cover - the hands are so expressive.

Then there is the pile to be worked through - which one first? Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's on the Needles

This is what I have on the needles at the moment..

These are handspun merino socks. I started to spin these at the advent gathering and I finished spinning over Christmas. As you can see there is one finished sock already. They are a quick knit because the wool is roughly DK weight. The yarn is really soft and cosy. I should have had these finished before that cold spell - I really could have used them then.

These are Opal socks with the sock yarn that I bought at Twist Fibre Craft Studio when I was in Scotland. I'm not at all sure about the colours and the way they are knitting up, which is why there is only the cuff and calf of one sock knitted. I keep picking them up and knitting a few rows and putting them back down again

Anyway I got a little sidetracked with this, which is Citron from knitty.com. It's a beautiful semi-circular shawlette. It's handily designed to use just one skein of Malabrigo Baby Merino Lace, which is quite reasonable. The shawlette in the pattern is done in a beautiful lime green which I loved but I couldn't find that colourway so I'm knitting mine in Red Mahogany. The colour is not quite what I envisaged having seen the colour on the internet. In real life the yarn is more brown and less red, more a semi-solid and less a hand-dyed effect than I had expected. I still like it though and I do wear a lot of brown so it will come in handy. The yarn is soooo soft that I may not want to take it off ever.

Next time...what's in the TBR pile and what I'm reading now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

B is for.....

......all manner of things.

Firstly this lovely Bloomsbury Classics edition of The Wide Sargasso Sea.

B is also for Boots and I'm very glad that in the Autumn I invested in a pair of Berghaus Walking Boots. They have been much appreciated through all this snowy weather. Lovely and warm and waterproof and with great grip. It's snowing again today and think I've had enough now. At least today I haven't had to try and get to work. I did try and get to the mile and a half to the dentist this morning and gave up after ten minutes sitting in traffic going nowhere.

Bubba, despite the evidence of this photo, (actually taken last year, not during this latest snowfall), is not enjoying the snow. It keeps balling up in his paws so he has to keep stopping to chew the ice out from between his toes. Poor thing. Plus this prolonged cold spell has brought on a slight limp which is probably arthritis inflammation. He'd much prefer to be fast asleep on the sofa and I have to agree with him. I'm getting rather bored with not being able to get anywhere and all my groups, reading spinning etc have been cancelled.

B is also for Black Country Knitters. I have found a lovely location for my Knit Night in Walsall. Every second Tuesday evening from the 26th January we'll be meeting in the Black Country Arms pub in Walsall High Street (that's at the top end of the market, next to Sofia's Restaurant). It's a great friendly pub with a huge selection of real ales and lots of little corners and nooks to sit and knit in, depending on how many people turn up. Come and join us.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A is for....

...is for Awards.

Yes it's that time of year again when I dish out the annual Mysterious Yarns Books of the Year Awards.

I'd have to say that the quality of the books I've read this year has been very high. There have been one or two duffers of course but in general I've been pleased. I've even liked some of the Booker shortlist.

Fiat Punto Award for the Book Hurled into the Back Seat with most Vehemence goes to - Library of the Dead by Glen Cooper. Not a crime novel at all really, though there is murder aplenty, not a convincing thriller, not even really about a library and very badly written to boot. Unsurprisingly there is a sequel, called Book of Souls. Guess what - I shan't be reading that.

The I Can't Believe I Paid Good Money For That Award (nominations in this category must be books I actually paid something ressembling the cover price for (342 or staff discount notwithstanding) goes to Sweet Smell of Decay by Paul Lawrence. Quite the most unpleasant protagonist in a novel this year - ignorant and self important, not someone you'd want to spent any time with. Billed as the First Chronicle of Harry Lytle, one can only hope that it is also the last. Also the title was so unmemorable that every time I've had to write about it anywhere I've actually had to go and look it up to see that it was called.

Enough of the whinging, on to the good stuff.

Favourite Crime Novel of the Year - Salt River by James Sallis, final part in the outstandingly brilliant Turner trilogy. What can I say. It made me cry. I loved it and didn't want it to finish. I'd say you should rush out and read these but sadly the first part of the trilogy, Cypress Grove, seems to be out of print in the UK at the moment. Someone at No Exit Press needs a nudge I think.

Favourite Non-Crime Book of the Year - The Children's Book by AS Byatt. This was a big surprise to me. I'm famed for my dislike of Booker nominated stuff, but I'd just read The Little Stranger and I was on a bit of a roll. This was another book that I just couldn't put down. It was a sumptuous book filled with beauty and style and wonderful prose. It wasn't perfect, rather losing it's way towards the end, but on the whole still a wonderful book. It may not be to everyone's taste, but as it's out in paperback this week I'd recommend that you give it a try.

And finally there are the Honourable Mentions - some books that made my year and deserve a bit of praise.

White Nights and Red Bones by Ann Cleeves - loving this series, can't wait for the fourth book at the beginning of February.

Rain Gods by James Lee Burke. A beautiful, heart-rending epic tale that people were likening to Cormac McCarthy. Let me tell you that Cormac McCarthy could only write an ending like that in his dreams. Not that I'm biased.

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by that Swedish bloke everyone keeps talking about. Enthralling and fast-paced, hard edged and Scandinavian. Bizarre that I like this but I do.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths. I liked this when I read the proof which was handy because they quoted my review in the paperback edition, prompting me to leap about in Waterstones in Nottingham waving the book at Pete yelling "Look, look, I wrote that!" Quite one of my moments of the year.

So it's been a good year for reading. I managed to dodge almost all books set in Edinburgh, though I did enjoy The Complaints from Ian Rankin. On my TBR pile I have books set in St Andrews, Glastonbury, Canada and Hong Kong so I'm planning to be quite the gadabout this January.

I'm going to range far and wide this year and will be doing some time travelling as well.
Currently I'm in Alexandria, though I expect to be in Rome before I turn too many more pages. Simultaneously I am in Civil War period Virginia. It's looking like it might be another good year.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Summing Up

I'm all behind schedule, but I've got a day off at last so here's my review of 2009.

I had a look back at what I posted at this time last year, to see if I had accomplished any of the things I had wanted to this year, and I wasn't too far off the mark. I said I was hoping to read some great books this year and I really have. I've found some great stuff, not all of it crime, as I also said I wanted to expand my reading horizons and I think I've managed that. There have been some really good fiction titles published this year and I've tried to read some that I wouldn't neccesarily have tried if I wasn't pushing myself. Next post will be the Annual Mysterious Yarns Blog Awards so more on books then.

I wanted to knit more Norah Gaughan designs and I finished the Astrid shawl and also knitted the Loppem cardigan. I finished the Civil War Quilt and started another more modern one (not finished yet, though the top is done, just needs backing and quilting. Just!)

I planned to do more weaving this year and I have done a little, mostly on the Ashford Knitters loom, but I also bought a 4-shaft floor loom this year and I've been waiting for the time / chance to get it warped up and will hopefully teach myself to weave on it this year.

We managed a trip to Scotland and a weekend in Wales at Wonderwool and in Hay-on-Wye. Seattle was postponed for another year as the exchange rate is still pants (and we still have no money).

So, looking forward I want to do more weaving, knit some good and complicated and clever stuff - something stretching and technical, plus lots of quick plain socks and stuff. I want to carry on quilting, get some more blocks done for the Teach Yourself quilt and make some bags and little projects.

We want to get to Woolfest this year so that's one weekend, and we'd like to go back to the NE of Scotland, rent a little cottage so we can take Bubba and explore a bit more of the area. Barcelona would be nice if we can get cheap flights but I'm also quite tempted by Brussels and I expect that the presence of the TinTin museum could persuade Pete that he'd like it too.

Finally I want to get a Knitting Group up and running in Walsall. I think I've found a venue for this, just need to check with the people in charge. Knitting and real ale, anyone?