Thursday, December 20, 2012

See You on the Other Side

Just a quick post as I'm about to disappear into Christmas Retail Madness for the days running up to Christmas.

If you're stuck for a bookish gift you might like to try one of these -


The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt.  This is an enormous tome which contains virtually every technique a knitter could want. I have a copy, refer to it often and can see that it will be a mainstay of my knitting library for many years to come. It's not cheap but thinbk of it as an investment. Any serious knitter will get more than their money's worth out of this.

Animal Hats by Vanessa Mooncie. Yes, lots of hats that look like animals. Who wouldn't want one of these?  There are 15 hats in this book and they all look great.

Cast On Bind Off by Lesle Ann Bestor. This has 54 (yes - 54!) different ways to cast on or cast off. Who knew there could be so many?  It's spiral bound, smallish so it will fit in your knitting bag without breaking your shoulder (The Principles of Knitting might break your shoulder!) and something that every knitter will want.

Finally there's something for the non-knitters. I know not all of you come here for the knitting stuff.  Books to Die For, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke (no picture available for some reason) is a collection of essays about crime and mystery writing by about 120 authors and afficionadoes. Perfect for anyone who loves crime fiction. (apologies for the lack of links - blogger is playing up this morning)

These books should all be available from larger branches of Waterstones (it's possibly too late for internet orders now, sorry I meant to do this last week!) or from a good local independent if you have one.

Take care out there if you're shopping this weekend. It's going to be hell. Please remember that it's not the retail assistants fault if the item you want is out of stock, and if in doubt then buy a book token!

Have a great Christmas and I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs

The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs: The Techniques for Creating 70 Yarns by Sarah Anderson

What can I say?  This is a wonderful book that does exactly what it says on the tin. There are clear directions with great photographs which take you through washing and preparing fleece. It shows you how to card using hand and drum carders;  how to comb and how to use a diz. Every stage of fibre preparation is explained.

It covers pretty much every yarn you could possibly want to spin and includes lots of different variations you can make by altering tension/twist/plying method etc. There are sections on core spinning, making singles, boucle,  crepe and cable yarns. It covers how to include beads, make slubs and coils. With this book at your side you could spin almost any kind of yarn and understand the mechanics of how the various yarns are made.

There's a great section on twist and using different twist direction and angle to create both balanced and energised yarns. It even has a section on yarns for weaving and why they can be different to kntting yarns. 

The book is beautifully laid out with lots of clear colour photographs for every stage. It really is a beautiful book.

Now I have a lot of spinning books, from Mabel Ross' seminal Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners to Judith McKenzie's The Intentional Spinner and all of these books are useful, but this book, for me, is a book that every spinner will want to have in their library.  It's the kind of book that you will refer to over and over again, that you can dip into if you want to create a specific yarn, or that you could use as a guide and work through from beginning to end and expand your spinning repertoire.  It is full of technical information, presented in a way that is easy to understand. This is a book that will suit both the beginner and the experienced spinner. There is something for everyone in this book.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It's going straight on my Christmas List!  I also think that I'll get a copy for my spinning group - I can see it being very useful as a resource for the group.

I had a digital proof of this book via NetGalley from the kind people at Storey Publishing for which I am immensely grateful.

The Spinner's Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson was published by Storey Publishing on the 1st November 2012 and costs £17.99 in the UK.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Rebus is Back!

Standing in Another Man's Grave by Ian Rankin.

I can't have been alone in doing a little happy dance when I heard that Ian Rankin had turned to his most famous detective creation for his latest book.  Not that I didn't enjoy The Complaints or The Impossible Dead; Not that I didn't like Malcolm Fox, because I did.  But I love John Rebus.

And reading this book was like putting on a pair of comfortable old shoes - no irritating little blisters, no stiffness to be worn in (can you tell I spend a lot of my day on my feet!) - this was sheer pleasure all the way.

Since we last met Rebus on the day he retired, he's come back into the force in a civilian capacity, assisting the cold case squad.  He hasn't changed - still drinks too much, still very much alone, still a maverick with a healthy disregard for authority.

So the plot is about a young girl who goes missing on her way to Inverness from Edinburgh. Trouble is she's the step-daughter of a local crime lord and he's not a happy man.  Then a woman contacts the cold case squad to alert them a series of similar disappearances including the woman's daughter ten years before. It seems several girls have disappeared along the same A9 road through Scotland and in each case a photograph has been sent to someone from their mobile phones.  With a little assistance from Siobhan, Rebus manages to get himself attached to the investigation.  But is there room for an old-style copper like Rebus in today's slick police operation, headed by a new generation of bright young things?

Meanwhile, it seems that Lothian Police have raised the retirement age for their police officers, meaning Rebus is free to reapply to join the force.  Malcolm Fox is convinced that Rebus is a wrong un, and that he should never be allowed to return. Rebus' relationship with his old nemesis Big Ger Cafferty is just one of things that Fox finds distasteful.  So can our favourite detective convince Fox that he's on the level. Can he return to the job he loved, and does he really want to?  Basically the question is - where does an old dinosaur like Rebus fit with the new shiny face of modern policing where solving crime is done by computer. Is there room for a dangerous maverick like Rebus and his old school style of detection which involves talking to a lot of people, shaking a lot of trees and seeing what falls out?

I'm not going to spoil the plot by giving you the answer to that. But if you're a Rebus fan then you'll love this book.  If you're a crime fan you'll love this book.  Just go read it.

Oh and you know what else I loved about this book - the endpapers. (I do have a bit of thing about endpapers)  I had a proof copy and they'd used this image inside the dustwrapper so it wasn't until the book arrived in the shop that I was sure they had used them as the endpapers. It's a map of a relevant part of Scotland with added bloodstains - very effective. Here's a photo -

I was reading a proof of Standing in Another Man's Grace by Ian Rankin, for which I must thank the good people at Orion.  The book is published on Thurday 8th November.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


A meme I have pinched from the lovely Dee at Posh Yarn.  I hope she doesn't mind.

Reading -  Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. This is the book that Field of Dreams was based on and it is my favourite film though I'd never read the book until now.  I'm loving the book.

Watching - Sons of Anarchy (Season 5) This season is very dark, much darker than previous series but I still love it. 

Knitting - resisting the need to knit festive gifts for people - it's only the start of November and I don't have anything else to do right through till Christmas, do I?

Listening - Diversions Vol 3 - Songs from the Shipyards by The Unthanks. I saw them perform this live on Sunday night in Stratford and it was amazing.

Wanting - to move house and dreading the amount of work that needs done here before we can sell.

Thinking  - that I miss Bubba and keep expecting him to be there right behind me in the kitchen when I'm cooking, but mostly I miss walking with him in the mornings.

Monday, October 22, 2012

St Mungo's Robin by Pat McIntosh

This is the fourth in a series set in Medieval Glasgow and features a young lawyer called Gil Cunningham.  Gil is beginning to get a name for himself as an investigator of murders and he works with his soon to be father-in-law Pierre Mason. Normally his fiancee Alys helps too but on this occasion she is busy preparing for their forthcoming wedding.

The warden of an almshouse is found dead in the almshouse garden, having been stabbed. Gil is asked to solve the murder which is nowhere near as simple as it first appears.  Was the man killed by one of the elderly residents or was it something connected to his life outside the home?

What I like about these books, apart from the characters of Gil, Pierre and Alys who are great, is that it gives you a very authentic sounding picture of Medieval Scotland. The laws of property and inheritance in Scotland at that time were very different from those in England and this casts a whole different slant onto the books. I find the historical detail fascinating and extremely interesting. The position of women in this world is a precarious one as is evidenced by some of the plot twists. Choices for women were extremely limited in what was a very rigid society. McIntosh is not overtly judgmental about this state, but highlights the plight of women subtly as part of the story.

I've read all of the previous three books and I must say that as the series progresses and the characters change and grow I am liking it more and more. She's easily up there with more well known Medieval authors like Ariana Franklin, Michael Jecks or Susanna Gregory.  One criticism, and this is a small one. I'd like a map of Glasgow at the time.  I've read all these in paperback, maybe there's a map in the hardback editions, but not in the paperbacks. I'm familiar with bits of Glasgow, know some of the places mentioned but can't quite reconcile my modern Glasgow with the old city that exists in these pages.  Anyway I happen to be a big fan of maps and I'd like one here.  I know I could go and find one on the web, but I don't, and anyway I'm not always reading where I have access to the internet. 

The series as a whole is now up to nine books, so I really should try and catch up!

St Mungo's Robin by Pat McIntosh is published by Robinson and is available in paperback from all good bookstores and as an e-book. I read the paperback edition.

I bought this book with my own hard-earned cash.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Sad Farewell

This is an especially hard post for me to write as will soon become clear to you all.

Today we said farewell to our much loved dog, Bubba.

He had been going downhill for the last couple of months, but the rapid onset of blindness in both eyes led to a diagnosis of multiple myloma.  We were able to bring him home from the vet and spend a few days with him before he was put to sleep this afternoon. 

This was very hard for us.  He has been a faithful companion and vital part of our family for more than eleven years, showering us with unconditional love and many doghairs. He was without doubt the loveliest, best-tempered dog you could hope to meet, always wagging his tail, always looking for someone to rub his ears. Even the surgery he had on both of his knees did not faze him.  We have many happy memories of wet and muddy walks and wild and windy trips to the seaside. We're glad we had the privilege to share our lives with this brave and remarkable dog. In the end the only thing we could do was to ease his passing and ensure that he did not suffer any pain.

Rest in peace my old friend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A J Cross - Gone in Seconds

In which I discover that I like my serial killers to be not too close to home!

Gone in Seconds is the first in what will be a series of books featuring Dr Kate Hanson.  It's a debut novel by a forensic psychologist, and it's about...a forensic psychologist.  Well, that's fine. It lends an air of authority to the book. I mean she must know what she's talking about, right.

So this is a thriller set in the West MIdlands and it's about a Cold Case Unit formed of the police and this forensic psychologist who works with them.  I had no idea that was possible - she seems to be part of the police team, not just someone they consult from time to time. Anyway I guess the writer knows, for the reason stated above, plus I am prepared to accept this even if it's not likely for the sake of fiction.

So, the plot is about the discovery of the remains of a young woman who disappeared  five years before from a local shopping centre.  The cold case team have to reopen the old case, for which no-one was ever arrested. This brings a lot of hostility from the previous investigaing officer who is now their superior.  Dr Kate Hanson determines from the evidence that the killer might be  a "repeater" and that there might be other unsolved cases, other undiscovered bodies. 

I liked this book.  I liked the character of Kate and her relationships with the rest of the team and with her family. She was believeable and I can see that she will evolve with the series and become a more rounded character.  The plot was well structured and she quite cleverly leads the reader up the garden path with some well-placed red herrings.  She ties the various strands up nicely at the end while leaving the door open for the next book.  I think I learned something about forensic psychologists too, including how they've moved on but TV portrayals have got stuck in the past with profiles and signatures and all those things you hear about in Criminal Minds.  I bet she hates Criminal Minds

I felt the book was a good reflection of the West Midlands where it was set.  In fact that turned out to be the only problem I had with this book.  One of the victims disappeared from a nightclub in Wolverhampton and I thought to myself that my daughter goes to nightclubs there, so really I'd rather not read about a serial killer stalking young girls there. And one possible victim had disappeared from Walsall which is where I live and work.  And that was all a little too close to home for me.  Much as I like fictional serial killers and like to read about them in places that I recognise, and I loved watching Morse when I lived in Oxford so I could spot places I knew, it turns out that I prefer my serial killers not to operate in my neighbourhood. It seems I'm a serial killer NIMBY. Who knew?

Gone in Seconds is available now in hardback and trade paperback.

I was reading a proof copy, kindly supplied by Orion.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Caro Ramsay - The Blood of Crows

The Blood of CRows is the fourth in Caro Ramsay's excellent Glasgow-set series.  It's a police procedural following DI Colin Anderson and his team.

At the start of the book, DS Costello is on sick leave after something that happened in a previous book. Anderson is under pressure from his wife to leave the job and emigrate to Australia.  Their normal home, Partickhill Police Station is closed to have some asbestos removed, so the team are based at Partick Central in the meantime. They're divided and in unfamilar territory.

Anderson gets called out to a report of someone in the river, spotted by a passing boat, and when he and DC Lambie get there they find a naked girl chained to a ladder in the water, half-drowned by the rising tide.  She dies in Anderson's arms.  Then a young boy is thrown off a bridge after being tortured. Finally a local gangster is burned to death in an arson attack.  Could all these cases be linked, could they be connected to the Russian mafia, or are they linked to Glasgow's own gang-filled history?

I'm a big fan of Anderson and Costello. They are compelling characters who have grown and changed thoughout the series, and they continue to evolve.  The books are filled with interesting, multi-dimensional characters.  The plotting is intelligent and complex.  You need to pay attention, there's so much going on here.   Ramsay is not afraid to ask deep questions of her reader, about morality and the nature of vengeance and where those lines are that must not be crossed. She puts her characters in difficult situations and gives them big decisions to make.  She really knows how to build the tension too.  There is nothing predicable here, she really keeps you on your toes and makes you want to keep reading to the very end.

Ramsay is not as well-known as Ian Rankin or Stuart MacBride but she deserves to be. These books are easily as good as theirs. The Blood of Crows is that rare thing, an intelligent crime novel that you just can't put down, one that keeps you thinking even after you finish it.  I can't wait for the next.

The Blood of Crows is published by Penguin in the UK and is available now.
The other books in the series have just been republished with new jackets. They are Absolution, Singing to the Dead and Dark Water.

I bought my copy of The Blood of Crows with my own hard-earned cash.

Rejoining the Blogosphere

I've been away from the blog for a while, as I'm sure you've noticed. I've been busy with work and life and haven't had a lot of spare time. Blogging, for me anyway, involves a lot of thinking time, not just the time spent at the keyboard, and there hasn't been a whole lot of space in my life for that recently.

Anyway, some of my work/writing commitments have unexpected evaporated for a while so I thought I'd use the opportunity to get back to the blog.

I'm planning a new focus, with more about books - longer reviews of current and backlist titles, plus an occasional look at some of the vintage craft books I have in my library.

I hope you enjoy this new format and continue to read the blog.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Four More Years

The last time we were in Florida was in the September running up to the 2008 election.  I can't really believe it's been that long. I guess Barack Obama probably feels the same. These four years haven't really gone to plan for him, have they?

Last time we were here I did my totally unscientific lawn sign survey and guess what?  It was right, so I'm doing the same again this year.  Bear in mind here though that it's still only June, the parties haven't officially picked their candidates yet, so this is even more unscientific than usual.

So, how's it going for Mr Obama?  Not well, is the result of my lawn sign poll. Mind you the economy hasn't helped him at all, and he hasn't had a lot of inter-party co-operation so it's not all his fault.  And he did have the weight of a whole lot of unrealistic expectation round his neck.  But seriously, Florida, you need to step up, here and give the man some support. I have not seen one lawn flag, not one bumper sticker in support of the incumbent candidate.

And his probable opponent, Mr Mitt Romney?  Well, there seems to be a bit of support for him.  I'm sure he's pleased about that as the Republican Party National Convention will be in Tampa next month. And what do we know about Mitt?  He's a Mormon, and he's made a whole heap of money from an investment company called Bain Capital.  Now I don't really care about his religious beliefs, he can believe what he likes so long as he doesn't try and make me believe it too.  However Bain Capital have a history of buying businesses, making all kinds of promises about job security and pensions etc and then stripping the assets of those companies and leaving them to go bust.  Does that sound like the sort of man you want running America?

Any way, we should be OK because my totally unscientific,but never before wrong, lawn flag survey tells me that the next President of the United States will be ......

Ron Paul.

Really?  Ron Paul??

You better get out there and prove me wrong! 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Men Carrying Guns Shouldn't Carry Umbrellas

Yesterday we spent the day in Tampa before we went to the US World Cup qualifier between the US and Antigua and Barbuda. 

What can I say. It rained a lot.  We spent the entire day dashing to the car between downpours.  Quite a lot of time was spent in Barnes and Noble. What a lovely bookstore it is. I had a look at the Nook and thought it was a very impressive bit of kit.

Finally the time came to get to the stadium. And that's where the problem started.  The game was being played at the Raymond James stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American Football team.

  It's open air because American Football is a winter sport, but this is the rainy season. And boy did it rain. At one point, about half an hour before kick-off they had to clear the seats because a lightning storm was coming.  I think I can safely say that I've never been so wet in my life. I've had showers that were dryer than that match. Still it was an interesting experience.  The US supporters were enthusiastic, if not especially knowledgeable.  Before the game they all had tailgate parties in the parking lot, as they do with baseball and football. They all threw up gazebos, lit their barbeques and started in on the six-packs.  Can you imagine the reaction that would get at a premier league game?  Throughout the game they constantly wander about the stadium, getting popcorn or hot dogs or more beer. They even bring you the beer to your seat.  And yet it's completely a family atmosphere, with all the fans mixed in together and loads of little kids.  It could not be more different from an English game.

Last night's dinner, was of course a hot dog at the game...

.   And I'm not sure if was that, or the drenching, or something else I ate yesterday but I was up all night throwing up.  Lovely.  So I'm having a quiet day today. Good news is that the sunshine is finally back so I'm catching a few rays on our balcony.

The title of this post, in case you were wondering, was a passing comment from a security guard as he ran through the rain, gun on hip, umbrella in hand, looking most incongruous.

Back soon with more fun in the sunshine state!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Feels Like Rain

Hello from a cloudy and damp Florida!

We've escaped for a couple of weeks well earned rest and relaxation to lovely Treasure Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

We arrived last night into Tampa in the middle of a huge thunderstorm, making the landing just a tad bumpy. Still, we're here, safe and sound. Just been for breakfast round the corner at Foxy's where the food was lovely...

Tampa is under a flood alert until 11pm tonight so I guess we are in for more rain.  Today we're going to see the US Soccer Team play a World Cup qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda, so we're hoping the rain will hold off for that or we could be in for a soaking.

Oh, and just in case you were feeling sorry for's the view from our balcony.....

Not too shabby, even if the sun's not shining yet.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Well What Do You Know...A Book Update!

So what exactly have I been reading since I last regaled you with bookish delights?

Well, not a lot of crime actually. I did have a proof of the new Robert Crais book called Taken. Now I love Robert Crais' style of writing. He's very easy to read, has interesting characters and knows how to write a plot that moves along nicely. It will be no surprise to you then that I liked this book a lot. Elvis Cole gets kidnapped while looking for a missing girl and Joe Pike has to find him. It's set in the borderlands between California and Mexico and is about the people smugglers operating there. Not much else to say really except that it's as good as you would expect and I recommend it. If you've not read any Crais before then you really should. Think Lee Child but with more humour involved. These later books major more on Joe Pike as a character then the early ones where Elvis Cole was the main protagonist. but I like both of them so that's no problem.

The next book on my list is Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson. This was the first book selected by the new book group hosted by my shop so I did have to read it and I was quite intrigued as I did once meet someone who suffered from short-term memory loss after a car accident, and who wrote down everything he did in a notebook so he would have a record of what he'd been doing. The premise of the book is that Christine wakes up in a strange bed, next to a strange man and it transpires that she's had a head injury and that everytime she goes to sleep she forgets everything that has happened to her in her life, or the day before. Her husband leaves her little notes around the house to remind her of who she is, and explains to her every morning that she is his wife, what happened to her etc, then he goes out to work and leaves her on her own. I have to say that I hated this book. The premise was good but it was poorly executed, I thought. There were huge gaping holes in the plot and it all became rather unbelievable. Most of the book group liked it however so maybe it was just me being over critical, jaded cynical reviewer that I am. I don't want to give the plot away if you haven't read it (though I wouldn't recommend it anyway) but the major problems with the book were the style it was written in - Christine was writing whole chapters of her life in great detail like a novel, but supposedly in brief snatches when she was able to hide from her husband. Wouldn't she have written brief notes not great screeds of prose. Also she drove me nuts by just accepting everything that was told to her. She believed her husband, she believed her doctor, she didn't question anything, just passively accepted it all. I found it very unconvincing. That was the extent of the crime I have read recently.

The next two books for the shop reading group were Pure by Andrew Miller and Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. Both of these were on the Costa shortlist and Pure won it. I read Pure first because I thought it looked dull and worthy and I was fairly pleasantly surprised. I did manage to read it all the way to the end, even though not a lot actually happened in the book and there was a lot of untapped potential in there. It's about an engineer sent to Paris in the 17th Century to empty the graves and crypts of the a Paris cemetary which is so full to overflowing that it is polluting the whole area with it's stink of corruption. All this happens just a few years before the French Revolution, so of course this is all huge metaphor for the cleansing of France, sweeping out all that old aristocratic regime, and replacing it with a newer purer France. I did like this book, though I was frustrated by the numer of times he seemed to set up a scenario that he then didn't explore.  Pigeon English was better, about a small boy growing up on an East London housing estate. The author foreshadows the end pretty effectively, so you know what's going to happen but you keep hoping it won't.  Well written but not perfect is my assessment.

I powered through the Hunger Games trilogy in a very short space of time and thought they were really good. I don't read much teenage fiction but I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about and I thought these were fine. I can see why they've been so popular, they certainly kept me wanting to read all the way to end.

I read some other teenage fiction too - I started the first book in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.  This was because the lovely Rachel was doing a talk and signing at my shop so I thought I'd better read at least one of her books.  The book was a little too full of teenage high school angst for me - but then it's not aimed at me. I can see that teenagers love these books, and they're not badly written at all, just not my sort of thing.  Rachel, by the way was totally lovely - spoke for ages about writing, answered loads of questions from the audience (the shop was packed) and then signed hundreds of books.  She did mention a new series she's started about a woman who works in a mortuary who discovers her boss is bringing people back from the dead. I thought it sounded interesting (it's an adult book, not a teenage one) so I shall probably read that when I have time. The first is called Working Stiff.  Anyway Rachel was very generous with her time (she does seem to work very hard)  and she came to the pub with us after the event with her husband Cat Conrad who was also very nice and is also a writer. She's welcome to come back anytime she likes!

A lot of my reading time has been alternating between two different series of books.  I've been working my way through both of these series on my kindle - all the books are too fat to carry around! I never would have read any of these books if I hadn't had them on my kindle.  I am reading Game of Thrones (I've just finished book 2 - A Clash of Kings), and Harry Potter (also just finished book 2 - Chamber of Secrets.).  I resisted Harry Potter for a very long time, but the Evilpixie is a big fan and I'd seen all the films so in the end I crumbled and I have to say I'm really enjoying them.  They are a welcome piece of light relief (so far anyway - I gather the books get darker as the series progresses) from the bleak darkness of Game of Thrones.  I've been watching this on TV and I only started watching it because I knew the books were popular and I needed to expand my SF & Fantasy knowledge. I got instantly hooked on the TV series, tried the first book to see what it was like and got hooked to those too. Blimey - it even has dragons in it. You know I hate books with dragons, still they're only a minor part of it so far and there are no elves so I should be OK.

Currently on my bedside table is an Ann Cleeves book called The Sleeping and the Dead.  It's one of the Peter Porteous books and while it's not, in my opinion, as good as the Jimmy Perez or Vera Stanhope series it's still a good read. 

And on my Kindle I'm reading Alas Babylon by Pat Frank.  It's a post-apocalyptic novel set in Florida in the late 1950s.  It was written in 1959 under the threat of Russian nuclear missiles and it's a little dated but I'm still enjoying it. This is a little pre-holiday reading as I shall be in Florida for two weeks from Thursday.  I'm hoping it's still there.

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get this update done.  Looking back it seems I actually started tio write in in April which is shameful as it's now June.  Anyway, next report will be from Florida.  I think I'm ready for a bit of sunshine after this bank holiday weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What I Did This Weekend

I had a day off on Saturday so I got to go spend it with some great people at a great place.

I went to the British Alpaca Futurity 2012. What's that I hear you say? Well it looks a bit like this....

It was in a big hall at the NEC and in the middle of the hall there were alpacas as far as the eye could see - that's a lot of alpacas, trust me. It's kind of like Crufts but for alpacas and the alpacas were all being judged in the ring in the middle. And all around the edge were stalls and tables where people were offering services to alpaca breeders and selling alpaca stuff and teaching people what you can do with alpaca fibre. That's where I came in. I was with my spinning group - the lovely Walsall Handspinners and Weavers and we were there to demonstrate how you can spin alpaca fleece into yarn, and teach anyone who wanted to learn. We had a blast and met lots of lovely people.

There were some great vendors there too - Janet from the Threshing Barn was there with her huge stall of temptation, filled with fibrey goodies and beautiful colours and equipment. There was a stall selling weaving looms (Greg Meyer Looms) - and there were just brilliant. They had an 8 shaft table loom that folded up and went in a backpack. How cool is that. They had developed the looms themselves and I was very impressed. They were lovely people too. Classic Carders were there with their great range of drum carders. And Fleecewitch who had organised the craft demo area and was so helpful and friendly.

We had a fantastic day. And honestly who wouldn't when you were surrounded by this -

And then to top off the weekend I got the most amazing Mother's Day present from the Evilpixie. She's just back from a few days in New York and I may have suggested to her that there was a yarn shop just a few blocks from her hotel, and that 100g of sockyarn would make a wonderful present if she thought she might looking for a little Mother's Day gift. Well, she excelled herself.

Look what she bought me -

There's a skein of Malabrigo sock yarn in a beautiful colourway called Playa which looks like dirty denim - it's all blues and browns, a copy of Whimiscal Little Knits 2, some Lantern Moon sheepy stitch markers, and it all comes in a little Knitty City tote bag. I am very pleased indeed. Remember that she's not even a knitter and she got all this. She said the people at Knitty City were absolutely fantastic and really helpful. I am one happy mother.

The book update should follow soon but I'm off to Bath for the day on Saturday so I'll try and do a little bit of touristy reporting - it'll all be bookshops and secondhand shops though, no Jane Austen stuff.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Weaving FO

Yes, I have an actual finished object for you.

This is a scarf in mercerised cotton which I have been weaving for EVER. Well, maybe not quite that long, but at least 18 months. It has a sister, done on the same warp but with a different tie-up and a different colour weft. (For non-weavers that means it has a different pattern to it and the cross-threads are another colour from the burgundy I used for this one). This is my favourite though. It made me fall in love with weaving again, not that I'd fallen out of love with it, but I'd been busy with other stuff and there are only so many hours in the day, right? Someone should do something about that. More hours would be a big help to me.

Because I am all about the weaving at the moment I immediately wanted to start another woven project. I couldn't find the right yarn in the right colours for what I wanted so I bought undyed 6/2 from Weavers Bazaar and today I have dyed it. In the end I dyed it in purple and burgundy plus a spray-dyed skein with both colours on. I probably could have bought those colours but I've changed my mind several times since I bought the yarn and it was only today when I got the dyepots out and had to actually make a final decision that it became clear what I needed to do.

Here's all the yarn drying in some lovely welcome sunshine.

The burgundy warp has swung round to the back so you can't really see it. It's going to be an L-shaped shawl with the purple, burgundy and multi as the warp and them more of the purple as the weft. The pattern is from the Ashford Book of Weaving for the Four Shaft Loom. I have to say I'm looking forward to weaving with a nice thick yarn, instead of the very, very fine cotton I used for the scarf above.

If you're in the Midlands and are looking for something to do this weekend then come and visit me at the British Alpaca Futurity where I will be demonstrating handspinning with my spinning group. The event is at the NEC on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th March. I shall only be there on the Saturday but it looks like a great event - lots of alpacas and handcrafts and a real bargain at just £5 for a family ticket for 4 people.

Apologies for the lack of links in this post. For some reason blogger won't let me select any text to insert a link. Both the British Alpaca Futurity and Weaver's Bazaar can be found through Google.

Back soon with a book update.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Holy Crap, Batman! Someone's stolen January!

I seem to have blinked and missed the whole of January.

I'm not sure quite how that happened.

I don't even have an excuse.

I do have a plan though to get back on track.

I had a great long catch-up post written (but no photos to go in it because everytime I was home it was dark). I'm going to abandon that and just do a little series of quick updates.

So, what exactly have I been doing?

I've read a couple of books. Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch. This was shortlisted for the Booker but that notwithstanding I enjoyed it anyway. Also Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I've not met Harry Dresden before and I did enjoy this. Next up is a pile of proofs that started small and seems to be growing by the day so I ought to get started on them really before the pile gets any bigger.

I knitted some stuff. Some fingerless mitts for the Evilpixie because she's off to New York for a few days in a couple of weeks and I didn't want her to get cold hands. They have no thumbs yet, so technically they're not finished but I think thumbs are vastly overrated anyway. Also a cardigan for myself. It's an Ysolda Teague pattern in yarn I dyed myself. It's taken way too long to knit as I had to do the sleeves twice before they were right. I am now in that dangerous place between knits where anything could happen. There are so many projects in my Ravelry queue but none is quite right. I need something new.

Photos will follow for all these things but as usual it's still dark and it will be dark again when I get home so it might be next week before the photos get taken. Just warning you all.

Back soon with more quick updates.