Monday, November 30, 2009
And also, the biggest bit of knitting for this Christmas (I think, have still to decide what to do for one present!)
The Patent Dryness Test was reached. More photos to come...
Thanks for sticking with the posts this month; I'm going to try and keep up with more frequent posting, but posting every day in December may be a no-no!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
It was vile outside, and a perfect day for just sitting around knitting and making copious quantities of tea, but I had promises to keep...
After a quick look round the shops (and a reassuring discovery that M&S's sizes for this winter are less punishing than last year) and very nice noodle lunch, Sue and I went to the Val McDermid/Mark Billingham talk at Winter Wordfest (.pdf link). I was delighted to find out the moderator was Nicholas Wroe of the Guardian review, but actually they hardly needed him.
While I haven't seen McDermid speak in person (I had to back out of a previous event), I've heard her on the radio a lot and was prepared to be entertained, which I was; Billingham was an unknown quantity, and because his books are on occasion very dark, I was unprepared for his being quite wonderfully funny (apparently he was a stand-up comedian before he turned to writing). It was a fantastic two-hander with a very light touch from Wroe; and the opening chapters of both books, Blood line (Billingham) and Fever of the bone (McDermid) were gripping enough to send me off to the library catalogue as soon as I got home to place reservations...
And in the interests of continuity; with just over 4 weeks to go the Christmas Threat Level is at Substantial...
Christmas knitting 2009
Items on list: 17 (+2 - one I'd forgotten , and one I'd already done but forgotten to count)
Items started: 12 (+3)
Items finished: 6 (+2, one of them the biggest bit of knitting for this Christmas, yay)
Net progress this week - 0 (hmmnn...)
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Maintained my reputation as a Weather Goddess - was awake for a couple of hours during the night listening to the rain battering against the front windows - but we had a good wander around and shop and I only got completely soaked on my way back up to the station...
Friday, November 27, 2009
Maybe it'd have sounded more harmless if I'd included the haunted castles...
Thursday, November 26, 2009
A 2-year-birthday sweater for my nephew. I haven't phoned them (haven't been back early enough to call at a civilised hour), but gather from my Dad that the parcel did actually arrive. In which case it will have contained this. Pattern is Ziggy Zag from Stolen Stitches. I did have one problem, which meant counting three times round the neck divide, which turned out later to be a problem with the pattern rather than me. The PDF's been corrected now, though...
I hope it fits, and suits...
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As ever in this country, radical change comes slowly, quietly and robed in tradition. You had to be quite interested in that sort of thing to notice the UK Supreme Court opening on October 5, despite it being the first formal division between the judiciary and the legislature since the late 14th century. But if you've walked around Parliament Square in the last couple of years, you'll have seen the most beautiful building (which Pevsner described as art nouveau Gothic - two for the price of one, then) being unearthed from a coating of air pollution and neglect.
I had heard all sorts of good things about the building - the Peter Blake carpet; the curtains by Timorous Beasties... So I took my courage in both hands and e-mailed the court from work to find out whether it was possible to visit. Within a day or so, I had an e-mail from the Librarian, inviting us over, and mailed my colleagues to see who was interested; in the end there were three parties of us, and I put myself in the second one. We had a fantastic visit last Friday - the Court rooms are beautiful and it was fascinating finding out how on earth an important legal library is built quickly using chunks of existing libraries and a minimum number of staff.
While we were there, though, we discovered that most of the building (apart from the library) is accessible to the general public, day in, day out. The Court doesn't sit on Fridays so the court rooms are wanderable-about as a tourist then, but anyone can visit the building (subject to airline-type security checks as with anywhere on Whitehall), sit at the back of the court and see proceedings, look at the architecture, visit the exhibition about the court (and watch proceedings on plasma screens) and generally see business being done.
Makes me (quietly, and in an entirely British way, you understand) extremely proud of what's been done. Not as flamboyant, or as scandalous, as many other things which have been happening recently, but possibly, potentially, more important in the long run. While the current members of the Court are Law Lords, the intention is that future appointments won't be; and six centuries of tradition will gently be severed...
(Part 2 of this post will be sorted out if it ever stops raining, and I can take some photos of the outside of the building, which is glorious. Check the links above for pictures of the inside.)
Monday, November 23, 2009
However, I made an excursion to Muji at lunchtime (ostensibly for pens for Wibbo, who's exiled out of Mujiland) and the sun was shining, and after a reasonably productive day at work, I met a friend for dinner (the Papaya Tree on Kensington High Street; I'd recommend it for food and service; apparently, so would Michael Winner; but you can't have it all...) and the train home worked, albeit with only half the number of carriages.
Checking blogs when I got back, funniest LOLcats for a long while, if you've ever had one of those cats who's permanently on the wrong side of a closed door...
Lolcats and funny pictures
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I did produce my course blurb, syllabus and requirements list for next year's Cottenham Summer School (the link is to this year's programme but gives you an idea of what's usually on offer). Feedback last year said people had enjoyed it and would like an extra day, which is very flattering but will be pretty tiring - 4 days' teaching with the same class is a lot less tiring than multiple classes doing the same thing though...
I also had a good clearout of the spice rack in the kitchen. I got rid of some jars I don't really use, and made a list of what I need to refill (there are South Asian, South East Asian and Korean shops just on the main road around the corner from the Cambridge Blue so I can sort this out before knitting on Tuesday...) It's a big rack (about 90cm/3' by 60cm/2'), with 1-lb jam-jars, and one of the most satisfying things about getting a kitchen built a decade or so ago - you can draw something on the back of an envelope and a cabinet-maker will get together proper plans and produce something like this...
Anyway; got rid of the most out-of-date things including three separate quantities of yeast (haven't even bought bread for 2 years let alone made it) and some generic curry powders I never really liked... And although I really like star anise, I also seem to really like buying star anise more... Most of the jars came from the rather wonderful Daily Bread, but it's not the easiest place to get to without a car; I'll have to try and get there on a Saturday sometime after Christmas.
My hat from the Woolly Wormhead Mystery KAL on Ravelry is done and blocking - but I'll wait for the full reveal to put up a picture; and I started another Christmas present today...
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Christmas knitting 2009
Items on list: 15
Items started: 9
Items finished: 6
Hmmnnn... A couple of things on the list are smallish, but a couple are quite large... better get knitting!
Probably best that after many years of making my own Christmas cards I realised I was devoid both of inspiration and of time this year; found some nice charity ones online which arrived today... and realised the last overseas posting date for Christmas is actually only about a fortnight away!
Slightly funny moment in the library this morning - went to shelve some Young Adult books and there was this huge gap on the shelves in the middle, in a library which is chronically short of shelving. It took me a minute to realise that that was where the Twilight books would sit - if we ever actually had them in the library for more than 30 seconds or so at a time... Presumably they did come back at some point last week before flitting off into the darkness again...
Friday, November 20, 2009
The page was slightly marred by the quote from the Royal Mail’s Head of Speical Stamps, presumably produced by the Royal Mail's Head of Special Spelling without the intervention of the Royal Mail's Head of Special (or, indeed, any) Proofreading.
And then the not-pretty. I went to pull a scarf out of the cupboard today to wear, and found this:
It's not moth; fear not. I think it must have got caught on a door-handle in the cupboard under the stairs... But it's not exactly at the end of the scarf either...
There's a good 18" to re-knit; and it's the infamous "can't count to eight" scarf, and of course it's the end with 5 tassels rather than 4...
I may need to wait until after Christmas to sort it out.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
This is the first end - I'm ploughing down the long stretch of very simple, easy-to-memorise lace in the middle, to the accompaniment of a lot of podcasts (finally starting to catch up after a stretch of audio-book-listening!) Either another 6 or another 14 repeats to go, depending on how much yarn is left... I think it might be the longer version, though. And then another end. There's a little bit of beading on the ends.
The yarn is a quite wonderful Knitwitches blend - 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere - which isn't on their website - and the colour is slightly greener than it is here - heading slightly towards the teal end of turquoise.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
ETA - reviews from the Guardian, the Independent and the Telegraph are somewhat raving and deservedly so; the Times is slightly less convinced...
Monday, November 16, 2009
I've put up a couple of files for the chart and a bit of a guide to it. To make the stocking you also need a copy of Folk Socks because the braid, heel and toe pattern are lifted from there. Both are PDF files.
The chart file is here; and the guide is here. Let me know if there are problems - I had horrendous trouble uploading them and am still not confident they're viewable by anyone else.
And as a result of this experience I'm looking for someone else to handle my mail and possibly my domain names - anyone got good ISP recommendations please?
Sunday, November 15, 2009
This is one of those days when I'm so glad I have this blog, otherwise I'd be wandering around the village accosting strangers (or, worse, non-knitting acquaintances) with my knitting, waving it in their faces and saying "Look what I've done!! no, no, look!!!"
I have had so much fun with the binge-knitting this weekend...
It's been a very quiet weekend, which was fine; I was meant to have a dinner guest last night, who had to cancel earlier in the week, but the Knitting Obsession had possessed me by then, and there'd probably have been nothing started and I'd have been sitting in a big pile of yarn and books come 7pm and it would all have been a bit embarrassing...
So this was the view on Friday afternoon/evening when I got back from meeting Rosie... Books include Alice Starmore's Fair Isle Knitting, Nancy Bush's Folk Socks, and Jan Eaton's Cross Stitch Motif Bible. I started off using a pencil and a printed-out Excel spreadsheet, but in the end took it over to the PC and blocked things in there - much easier apart from the lettering...
Then I started with a Latvian Braid. I actually managed the two-colour long-tail cast on this requires; but after I'd finished the braid, I realised that wasn't what I wanted and ripped it back. Repeatedly. In the end, I worked out what I actually wanted to do, and went to bed to sleep on it, and by the time I left for Tesco the next morning, I had a provisional crochet cast-on and braid.
By about lunchtime, I had three braids, one pattern and the lettering...
And then I knitted some more, pausing to blog briefly and change CDs occasionally (Jeffery Deaver's The Empty Chair - I'm working through the Lincoln Rhyme audiobooks in order) until about 8pm when I ran out of chart. Stopped to cook a bit of dinner, add some more rows to the spreadsheet/chart and then settled down to knit some more... and it was just-another-row or just-another-CD until .... erm ... 2:20am. How did that happen? (Actually, that happens to me quite often with colourwork, particularly colourwork which is growing quickly...)
Needless to say, it was a slow start this morning, but while listening to The Archers Omnibus and the rather wonderful Desert Island Discs this morning (it was Julia Donaldson, who wrote The Gruffalo among other things; I haven't read it, or any of her others, but she was funny, and warm, and moving, and picked some lovely stuff), I danced along the foot and finished the toe; and to the accompaniment of the first CD of Dorothy L Sayers's Strong Poison, in the Ian Carmichael reading (of course), I picked up the cast-on, did an attached I-Cord edging and sewed in the ends.
And it is done!!
- It's festive and garish and still looks traditional
- It's the size intended (hanging up like that, it measures 65 cm (26") from the top of the hanging loop to the toe)
- The heel is exactly right for a stocking that's designed to hang up (the heel and toe both come from the Mamluke pattern from "Folk Socks"); I was hoping this was the case, but it actually is...
- My swatch came out at 18sts/10cm, which meant casting on 72 sts - which meant I had a huge choice of Fair Isle patterns at my disposal - and then when I reached the heel I discovered that the Mamluke pattern is worked over 72 sts as well so it was a no-brainer...
- It's a proper sock - most of the ones I've seen weren't really in proportion
- After the Latvian braids, I had no ripping back, at all - very unusual for something I've worked out myself
- It was the most satisfying bit of knitting I've done for a long time. I worked on a bit of a scarf a couple of weeks ago which had the same enjoying-the-moment appeal; but this was wonderful - there was nothing at all I'd rather be doing on earth than using this lovely yarn (Cascade 220) and making this great big sock. It's been a busy week after a busy weekend, and having a three-day weekend was just what was required.
- I left long floats rather than knitting them in (other than for the lettering) and that worked very well - it's unblocked in the photos but I think a quick hover with the steam iron will probably sort it out without the need for blocking.
And now, the obligatory reverse-of-the-work shot...
I've written up some brief instructions and the chart - I need to sanity-check it (possibly by knitting another one for myself without the lettering but with a different chart on it) and will then try and work out how to upload the PDFs somewhere!
And now I need to start all those other little things you do over the weekend... To be fair, I took stretching breaks (generally when I put a new CD in) to do bits of washing, ironing, washing-up etc. so it's not actually unhygienic; and I do have food in; but I could do with giving everything a bit, no make that a lot, of a tidy-up. Time for some more Peter Wimsey, I think!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Getting quite excited about this Christmas stocking - it's looking really good. More on that tomorrow...
Friday, November 13, 2009
I thought I had photos of Rosie's main birthday present (rather belated); but actually I only have a pic of it in somewhat embryonic form in a café in Vienna - but that's appropriate as it's the Farbenfroh sock in the Hundertwasser Silver Spiral yarn...
And now on to the disappointment. I went into the newly re-opened Central Library in Cambridge this afternoon for the second time, but to actually use their services for the first time. I didn't have a huge amount of time to spare; I suspect most people don't...
Step 1: Queue for staff attention for a couple of minutes - one of the sets of CDs I borrowed (via Waterbeach LAP) has a production problem - it's in two sets of 5 disks and although disk 6 (the first of the second set) is labelled correctly, it has the same content as disk 1 (the first of the first set). The staff member is interested in this and says he'll note the error and see what they can do. Ask if I can return my other stuff there as I've queued - but am asked to use the self-return machines instead. OK; this a new thing and I've watched the online videos saying how efficient they are.
Step 2: Attempt to use self-return machines. The first item just sits on the conveyor belt, as does the next one I try. I decide this machine is not working, and move round the corner to use another one. This is also not working; but the woman next to me is returning things, so I decide to wait for her machine to become free. She leaves, and I put my items on the conveyor belt one by one as requested. Neither moves. I keep trying, digging down to the bottom of the bag for actual books rather than the CDs and cassettes I'm trying to return. The hardbacks work fine, as do the cassettes (and it's very cool, actually - you get the title up on the screen and so on), but the CDs and paperback fail repeatedly.
Step 3: Queue again for staff attention. Someone comes to find me after a couple of minutes, and is (somewhat patronisingly) surprised I seem to be incomprehensibly unable to use self-return. She takes me over to the self-return station and (unsurprisingly to me) it doesn't work for her either. So she takes me to another terminal and finds that the items I can't return don't have the appropriate electronic tag. Apparently the problem is that they come from another library - one of the things I've always loved about Cambridgeshire libraries is that this has never ever mattered. While I have a member of staff, I ask where the audiobooks are; except I ask for "talking books" and am briskly corrected; but am pointed in the right direction.
Step 4: Pick my audiobooks. Nice selection, although I'd rather have an A-Z by author for the whole sequence than the division into CDs and Cassettes. I know a lot of people don't have cassette players any more, but most of the people I know who use audiobooks actually do - so having to look in two places is slightly annoying. But they've got a lot of new ones since I last looked and I very quickly find 3 I want.
Step 5: Head cheerily for the self-checkout stations. I've used these for books in the past but I heard in the paper that I can now also pay for other media checkout (I will owe £6.60 for the three audiobooks). When I get to the terminals, I find there's some sort of collection slot, church-style, next to them; I follow the terminals round the pillar to see if there's one which takes cards, and find there's a change machine. There's no sign saying "out of order" so I try inserting a note into the machine. Nope.
Step 6: Queue for attention again. Apparently the pay-at-checkout facility isn't working yet (some sort of indication of this would have been useful). I ask how I can pay for my loans. I'm told that I should go back to self-checkout and then queue for attention again. I decline to, and there's a lot of exasperated sighing; apparently my books can be checked out there and I can pay for them, but they'll then have to hand-write when the books are due, which seems to be a problem.
Step 7: Pay, and leave, gratefully.
As a qualified librarian, I found this whole experience incredibly disappointing. I was attempting to return 7 items and borrow 3, and it took me 27 minutes, only 6 of which were spent actually looking at the stock.
And yes, of course I'm composing an e-mail to the head of user services, or whatever title is currently fashionable.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Heat up an oven to 150C, gas 3 (you'll have to convert if you use fahrenheit); line an 8" square tin with baking parchment.
4 0z butter
2 teaspoons golden syrup
8 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 0z sugar
2 heaped tsps ginger (powdered)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
4 oz (you can get away with a 100g tub) mixed peel - you can substitute glace cherries in an emergency, and it's OK, but not as good...
Method (we talked about cookery lessons this evening and old habits die hard)...
Heat the butter and syrup together gently until they're nicely melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour, sugar, ginger, salt and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
Take the butter/syrup mix off the heat. After a minute or two, put the egg yolks in with them, stirring all the time. Once amalgamated, tip into the flour mix and stir.
Put half of the mix into the tin, distribute and press down slightly. Spread the mixed peel/dried fruit over; then spread the other half of the mix over and level it.
Pour the egg whites over the mixture, tip the tin to level it and pour off any excess. Sprinkle sugar over to give a crusty coating.
Bake for 15 minutes; then give the tin a quarter turn and bake it for another 15 minutes.
Enjoy. It generally doesn't last that long...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The plaque says
And there was this, on the wall of the V&A next to the staff entrance:
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Dolores was there in spirit and in narration, but not in person; Franklin did say something about her having headed for Earl's Court on arrival, so I suspect she might have been listening to The Archers and hoped to hook up with an Australian barman...
Yvonne/Stash had brought some wonderful antique knitting books with her;
Snailhannah had brought her Lambies and a row was duly knitted...
Monday, November 09, 2009
The tagline on the cover of this says Harry Bosch is back. And this time it's personal. At which point the seasoned Connelly reader will think 'well, when isn't it?' - Bosch is not known for his laid-back equanimity - but the publicity people have a point. Very well-paced and stylish, with some interesting stuff on triads; but there's a sort of emotional hole in the middle. I'm trusting this is something which will come back and bite Harry in a future sequel, but it's not very satisfactory for the current book...
Also currently listening to one of Tony Britton's wonderful readings of Dick Francis novels - Bolt, in this case.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
This was the view while I was walking through the village early this morning...
... and this was the replacement bus. The fact the company was called SABLE was rather reassuring...I thought my photos were actually better than they are... But here's a slightly strange one - three of us with cameras on a staircase.
No, Tom's head didn't really ignite; here he is later, examining some slightly dubious lions... There were quite a few very odd animals in the collections today - a dog crushing a snake on top of a cushion was definitely one which made us all giggle...
It was a lovely day; they're excellent company and we had fun. More photos of things in the collection soon.
Meanwhile just a reminder of Franklin's talk at I Knit London on Tuesday night (November 10), 6pm onwards...
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Festively coloured Cascade 220 (two skeins courtesy Pavi Yarns this morning; I had the white from another project).
It's going to be a Christmas stocking for my nephew... I sort of like this one, but it's knitted in chunky/bulky so I'd have to change the stitch count, and therefore some of the patterns, and I'd like three colours rather than two; and I have the Alice Starmore Fair Isle book which is still untouched; and I love the heels and toes on the Mamluke socks (I really need to knit another pair of those...) I know I want Latvian braids in there somewhere, and the nephew's name knitted in near the top...
So I need to swatch - probably a good thing to do at the KTog this afternoon - and then chart...
Needless to say, this is not what I'm meant to be thinking about this morning; I'm in Full Procrastination Mode over something I have to write and am feeling very ambiguous about... can't tell you what, yet... What I'm meant to be doing is writing on that pad at the back of the photo... but then I had to go and collect the yarn, didn't I, or the post office would have closed and it would have been another week... (I'm ignoring the fact that if I'd collected it a couple of hours later it would have made no difference....)
But the Stocking Project will be a nice ongoing thing I can show you while I stealth-knit in the background...
Friday, November 06, 2009
First thing: normally, I hate music in shops. The music here though is French indie/pop and therefore adorable. Second thing: the prices are completely weird and slightly disconnected to what you're actually buying - anything with a handmade element costs what it really should and some of the homewares are more like IKEA pricing. Third thing: they had French breakfast bowls, in colours which go with the kitchen.
I had one of these, once, before it broke; and every French household has some for drinking tea/coffee/chocolate, or beating eggs, or whatever...
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The yarn is King Cole Mirage in colour Helsinki, bought at the stall in Durham covered market - it's lovely stuff to knit with (if you don't mind a 50% acrylic content)... and I got a lovely thankyou card from the family at the weekend...
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
3 packs of Treviso sock yarn in a neutral colour (75% wool/25% nylon, 200g per pack, 840m per pack, £2.99 per pack; totally dyeable, rumours of felting on Ravelry).
This colleague is one of my union reps; I can't work out whether she's assisting my general well-being, or endangering it further; but I'm in her debt (although not financially just at the moment...).
Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett. London: Transworld/Doubleday, 2009.
Brilliant. Pratchett takes on the Beautiful Game and wins. We get everything from Real Football, or whatever it was called in the days of bearbaiting, cockfighting and other lethal sports, to the start of the modern game; in conjunction with Ridcully, Rincewind, the Bursar, Ponder Stibbons and a host of new and wonderfully drawn characters. There's academic and sporting rivalry, dwarfmail modelling and serious pie-making.
There's the usual combination of extreme funniness and heartbreaking serious truth; there's a lovely non-typical romance and some Beautiful People; there's that sense you get in the best of the Pratchett books that This Is the Way the World Turns, and occasionally the Way It Should Turn; and there's a bit on the Offside Rule and the Nature of Celebrity.
Wonderful and another Pratchett tour de force.
Monday, November 02, 2009
A nice quick knit once I'd figured out the pattern. It's one which is quietly more difficult than it looks; which is relatively rare in knitting... But once you get the hang of it you can't stop... There may be more of these made for Christmas...
Not a great picture - but we're into the several months where I don't see daylight... part of doing NaBloPoMo is to convince myself I'm still alive...
Sunday, November 01, 2009
However, this is one of the funnier things I've seen in a while...
Those cats are so even-tempered. I know I'd be cut to ribbons if I tried this with the Bug, but I know a lot of US indoor cats are de-clawed so maybe that's it... the big one in the tutu looks so much like Tilda. She used to just sit down if she felt foolish, too...