Saturday, March 31, 2007

31 March: Current productions

Knitting alert!
Leave blog now if you don't want to read about more knitting.

A couple of finished items this week - firstly a large stocking cap (suitable for a pirate or fisherman in touch with his feminine side?) -

And another, medium sized, cap, this time in patterned stripes. Both these caps mix Manx Loghtan with some unknown wools, spun from a big bag of fibre that was given to me last year.

The colours of those mixed wools are not what I would choose to dye myself, but they make some nice colour combinations.

And here is a picture of the sock currently in progress. This is being knitted in the wool I dyed on Tuesday, and wound while sitting in the garden on Thursday.

This wool is supposed to be machine washable - we'll see.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

29 March: Nature and stuff

Yesterday, after a misty and chilly start, it became sunny and warm enough to sit out in the garden to wind some wool that was dyed on Tuesday.

The recently emerged bumble bees are still making good use of the hellebores to feed - and the hellebores have been good this year, with plenty of flowers and colour. The big one, H. Argutifolius (I think), near the house, provides an attractive evergreen to look at from the kitchen window, with the earliest flowers of the year. Down at the end of the garden, under the birch tree, are a group of varied hellebores, dark purple, reddish, and pale with purplish patches. They have all flourished, but so far have not provided the expected masses of seedlings.

Over in the side border, in the "herby" section, is a clump of what was labelled as comfrey when I bought it. But it's not the anticipated tall plant with curls of purple flowers that adorns some roadsides and hedges (the one I really wanted). It has similar flowers and leaves, but much smaller and the flowers are pinker, and the whole plant is only about 9 - 12 inches high. The initial disappointment with it has been more than offset, however, by the fact that it is irresistible to the local wren.

Yesterday, while checking the plants for progress, I noticed a number of ladybirds on this comfrey. And as I looked, there was a lot more movement, which turned out to be loads and loads of spiders, all scooting about on the leaves and on the soil round about. So I wonder if the spiders are what the wren comes for?

While I sat on the bench winding wool from skein to ball, a sparrow flew down to drink from the birdbath. I warned him that DH's cat was in the garden, but he took no notice, and flew up to the hanging seed feeder on the far side of the pergola. After taking lots of seeds from that, he moved to the big feeder on the near side of the pergola, only about 6 feet from where I was sitting. My presence, and the fact that I was moving about, and occasionally speaking to him, didn't seem to bother him at all, and he was there for several minutes, until the cat approached and finally spotted him, whereupon he flew up to the top of the birch tree and annoyed the cat by being totally out of reach but still plainly visible.

Actually, it's fairly unusual to see only one sparrow - they normally live in flocks, but it's been a funny spring for avian visitors.

And today is Peanut Yorkie's birthday - hope you enjoy it, don't overdo the sangria (or sweet sherry?) and have Many Happy Returns!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

25 March: Gardens, mine and theirs

The Met office promised us a fine weekend - well at least it didn't rain, but it's been overcast and chilly yesterday and today, with brief spells of sun just to rub it in.

Yesterday DH and I at last got our new rain water butts connected up to the downpipes. First we did the small one, placed to gather the rain from the conservatory. The placing of the cut into the downpipe was critical, the instructions told us. Careful work with a spirit level was totally negated by my inability to saw straight, but the botch job turned out to be very effective in practice.

On to the big butt (if you'll pardon the expression) to take the water from the back roof. As the downpipe is in an awkward place by the kitchen door, where there is only a narrow path to the back garden, we wanted to site the butt just round the corner. The connecting hose wasn't long enough, but a search of B&Q produced a washing machine hose that was just the right diameter and length. Only one extra trip to the shops to get a jubilee clip the right size, and we were ready to go.

Again the proof that I can't cut straight, and the fiddly job to insert the diverter into the gap in the downpipe. This was unexpectedly easy, then I saw why - the pipe had become detached from the gutter. Right up there at the house eaves. About 17 feet off the ground.

Faced with the alternative of getting *a little man* to fix it, I went up the ladder and fixed it myself. And those who know my feelings about heights will be marvelling. (And yes, I was wearing brown trousers.)

No photos of all that, but we both took lots of photos when we went to the RHS garden at Harlow Carr today. DH is still getting the hang of downloading and printing from his New Camera, but I have whizzed these through just for you.

Most of the gardens are still dormant, but here and there things are coming along nicely. This gets my vote as the best ever use of dogwood -

As a support for peonies. And this is a view of the trees and containers near the alpine house -

Elsewhere, there were several willow sculptures - it looks as though these two will support some plants later in the year -

Most of the colour was in the conservatory and alpine house. This is a double daffodil, I think, with what looks like a lettuce behind it (but it isn't) -

Then these hyacinths were bonny -

And I love the colour of this primula -

The sun did come out as we walked round the arboretum. And just look at this sofa we found among the trees!

Friday, March 23, 2007

23 March: Some I made earlier

These are knits I made between 1997 and about 2000, using 2-ply Shetland wool spun and dyed by Jamieson and Smith of Lerwick. They are all my own designs.

The first one is a slipover (OK, a tank top) stranded with 2 colours in a row. The edgings are knitted.

The next one is a waistcoat; this one is knitted with 2 strands together, using the purple heather yarn all the times, and changing the second colour from stripe to stripe.

It was knitted in strips, which were then crocheted together on the outside. The bottom edge is a self-hem and the other edgings are crocheted.

And the third one, a tunic sort of thing, is knitted with brown yarn constantly and another (changing every stripe) colour knitted alternately - there's a name for this stitch pattern, but it escapes me at the moment.
This was knitted in one piece to the armholes, sideways and grafted into a tube. The upper part was also knitted sideways in one piece, and crocheted to the lower body on the inside. Then, having made the body with only one seam, I went and put 2 seams in each sleeve, knitting one straight piece and one shaped piece for each. these were crocheted to the body, and the edgings crocheted.

The balls of leftover wool are coyly hiding my *designer* labels. Poser or what? Actually, when I used to make loads of hand-stitched quilts and give them away, I bought some labels from a firm in Berwickshire, enough for a life-time for about £12 - and it seems a shame not to use them. They are hidden because they have my non-blogging name on. (I nearly put "my real name" there, but then began to wonder what my real name is.....)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

21 March: And here it is!

At last the brown waistcoat!

It's made of Manx Loghtan wool (hand spun, designed and hand knitted by me, of course) - the colour is not quite as grey as it looks in the photo. All finished, washed and carefully dried, and now on my back. After struggling with various bits of it, I am now very pleased with it, and it will probably get worn lots and lots, as brown goes with most of my clothes.

In designing it, I referred to Beth Brown-Reinsel's "Knitting Ganseys", and Montse Stanley's "Knitter's Handbook".

And as a special extra treat for you, since you waited so patiently for the final denouement of the waistcoat, here's some yarn I spun yesterday morning.

At the Guild workshop last week I used the drum carder to blend together some alpaca and some merino fibre. Although I thought I'd divided it neatly into 2, to make two bobbins of singles to ply together, it ended up with far more on one bobbin than the other. (Got the arithmetic right on all the fiddly bits of the waistcoat, then can't split something tidily in half!) So what was left over got plyed with an all-merino single - that's the brown and white skein.

I wonder if this is read by anyone who is in the slightest bit interested in wool, spinning , dyeing, and knitting. Do tell me if you are. And don't bother if you're not - I shall still go on wittering on about it.

P.S. I've removed the word verification from the comments. It will go back if spam arrives.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

20 March: Back at court

The shoulder is now OK, and we have a stockpile of surplus painkillers - probably more than all the hospitals in Iraq....

Anyway, kaz has a photo of some aspiring politician on her blog, and in the photo is also a youth waving one hand about, and with the other down his track suit bottoms. It takes me back to working at the courts.

Tracksuit bottoms are the garb of choice for most young offenders. Not only easy to pleasure yourself while waiting interminably for your turn at court, or easy access for the girlfriend, but also swift access to a good hiding place for your drugs if the police arrive.

I remember listening to a Crown prosecutor reading out in court the statement of a police officer who witnessed exactly this method of hiding drugs when he and a colleague interrupted a deal in a local car park. Slightly surreal to hear a frightfully-nicely-brought-up middle aged lady describing this, and the subsequent rubber-gloved retrieval of said drugs at the police station. The defendant was quite unperturbed, but I had a sudden fit of the giggles when I caught the eye of one of the magistrates - I was able to leave court, but the magistrate had to stay.

It's also bizarre to hear solicitors and barristers with Oxbridge accents reading out interviews, when the interviewee has a limited vocabulary, and "know wh' Ah mean" and "fucking" are pretty well all he can manage.

But my favourite was always the statements of police officers who had witnessed some bloke urinating in public. There seems to be a poetic standard to attain, and some of them wax quite lyrical.

Mind you, working in HMCS isn't all fun; such entertaining moments have to be balanced against interminable hearings about council tax, parking fines, and fishing without a licence.

Friday, March 16, 2007

16 March: A course of treatment

It's not a strained muscle, it's tendinosis calcarea, according to my GP. (Little calcified bits getting in the workings of my shoulder joint.)

A night of little sleep, but plenty of pain in the *I'm going to be sick* range, drove me to the surgery. An examination (in the same pain range), and a brief explanation. I was amused by the GP's protective gloves, even though there was a stout layer of cloth between my skin and his gloved hand. And why do all GPs seem to have a sports bag full of rubbish flung casually in the middle of the consulting room floor? But I digress.

Prescriptions led to a carrier bag full of tablets, plus a sling.

I now have enough painkillers for at least 6 suicides - no wonder the NHS's budget is enormous. Let's hope the anti-inflammatory tablets do the trick; GP said it should clear up in about a week, come back on Monday.

As it's difficult to knit, I'm hoping for lots of entertaining posts to read on all my favourite blogs. Failing that, I'll have to select one of the hundreds of books in the house...

On the bright side, feeling sick with pain means I haven't eaten all day, which can only be good for the waist-line, or at any rate where the waist-line ought to be.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

14 March: Pride goes before

Well, that serves me right!

After boasting yesterday about being able to deal with heavy bags of sand, I've gone and strained a muscle in my arm. It wasn't the sand, though - it was dragging out a raspberry root that had gone under the fence into the next door garden.

And the current knitting has been 2 steps forward and one back. Since I am making it up as I go along, it isn't really surprising that it doesn't always go well, and it's no great hardship to pull out a few rows out and re-do it. They do say that the best way to learn how to do something right is to get it wrong first. Or did I just make that up, too?

It'll soon be at the stage of auditioning buttons, preparatory to knitting the front band. Then tidying the loose ends, and blocking. Bet you can't wait for the photo.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

13 March: Old?

I suppose it started when the checkout person at B&Q asked if I needed a man to help me with the bags of sharp sand I'd just bought.

As the men in the store seem to be either under 18 and built like a yard and a half of pump water, or over 75 and built like pumpkins, I declined. I may be in receipt of the Old Age Pension, but I can still deal with a couple of half-hundredweight plastic sackfuls of sand.

But it's been nagging at me. Do I look frail? My hair's not grey or permed, I wasn't wearing a beige car coat, and at 5 foot 10, I seldom get people offering help. The slight frown caused by concentration and short sight frightens most strangers.

I've also recently been reading a few blogs by older people - by coincidence, not because I've been looking for them. And last night's knitting was accompanied by some talking heads on the TV twittering on about *baby boomers*. I was concentrating on the pattern, as I had to work out some shaping, and I'd already had to unpick one area where I'd found a mistake 9 rows earlier, so I wasn't really listening properly, but they seemed to be complaining on the one hand that old folk were spending all their pensions and capital on themselves instead of leaving it to their children, and on the other hand that old folk were a drain on the economy and the NHS.

Now, come on - if us oldies are spending all our money on kite-surfing and facials, that is providing a rich living for the providers of those services. We are still paying for our cars, fuel, food and clothes, and helping to keep those businesses going. When we go on outings we support the visitor attractions or cafes we go to. We are still paying our Council Tax and Income Tax.

And we all know that the NHS can damage your health if you get near it. Lots of us work quite hard at keeping ourselves fit and well without bothering with doctors. Without the old, there wouldn't be much call for consultants in geriatrics, or hip replacement surgeons.

It's all relative anyway - when my Dad was 80, he used to go down to the local club to help out with the old folks - the Over 60s.

Why do we all have to be labelled and pigeon-holed? My age is not the most important thing about me, nor is it about anyone else - unless they choose to be a *rebellious teenager*, *just a housewife*, a *little old lady*, or whatever. (Men can play this game too, if they want.)

People's passions and open minds are far more interesting.

That reminds me - labels. I've been trying to label the old posts on the blog, so that if you really want to you can look at all the knitting related bits. The labelling is probably as patchy and rambling as this post.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

11 March: The Botanic Garden

There was an e-mail from the Botanic Garden. So we went to have a look. In the hot-house there were flowers on the Strongylodon Macrobotrys.

Someone has sensibly called it the Jade Vine. That is in the wet part of the hot-house. In the dry part are lots of cactuses. This one was a particularly interesting pattern -

Sorry, I forgot to read the label.

Strolling round the Garden, we saw tubs full of crocuses and irises; daffodils are beginning to open; the first cherry blossom is out; the Hebridean sheep have been joined by some Manx sheep (though we saw them only on a notice); primroses are flowering on a bank behind the still-dormant gunnera, and the flowers on one of the rhododendrons were actually fading.

Returning to the cafe - excellent coffee and food, plus an exhibition of water-colour paintings - we spotted a few purple crocuses under a tree -

And the colour and texture both came out in the photo. DH took a photo too -

Thursday, March 08, 2007

8 March: A local walk

Dear thoughts are in my mind,
And my soul it soars enchanted,
As I hear the sweet lark sing
In the clear air of the day *

The larks were singing in the fields on both sides as I walked down the lane. No coat needed today, and even the jumper (hand-knitted, of course) had to be removed later.

Away to the west over the hills a weather front promised a change later -

Further along, with trees in both hedges, there were many small birds. This tree looks like an ideal nesting place -

There were sheep in the field next to the farm, with plenty of hay. They must be needing extra rations in the weeks before lambing.

Celandines on the bank were lifting their shiny faces to the sun. I crossed the stream and went up the lane to the path along the old railway line. A jay flew into the wood where we once saw a deer.

Water was still lying on the surface of the worst-drained fields, and by the path the ditch was full - it was truly February Filldyke this year.

* From The lark in the clear air, a traditional English song.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

7 March: Gaviscon again

Do you get bored with the adverts on TV?

It gets quite exciting when there's a new one - is it a car (special effects), perfume (monochrome orgasms), washing powder (improbable story), or another poor soul with inexplicable rust in the W.C. pan?

Why do they advertise something to soften stools at tea-time? And those bloody women with their digestive discomfort - they need a good slap and being told to eat less, and more slowly.

And what do "pre-biotic" and "pro-biotic" mean, anyway?
*rustling of dictionary pages*
"Pre" means before; ignoring the meaning of "pro" as professional or a prostitute, the other meanings are in favour of, acting as a substitute for, forwards, or in front of. Then "biotic" means relating to life or living things, or of biological origin.

So put together, we get pre-biotic = before relating to life. And pro-biotic = acting as a substitute for relating to living things.

Not something I would want to eat.

Especially as pro-biotic is almost certainly the opposite of anti-biotic.

Monday, March 05, 2007

5 March: Time to go shopping

Thanks to all those who commented on the socks in the last posting.

It's been a hectic weekend, with no time to fetch the groceries.

There was a dyeing workshop, in which I discovered the smell of an indigo dye bath makes me feel ill. I did, however, manage to dye 2 pieces of cloth which were stitched in different ways to (perhaps) produce interesting patterns. When these are fully dry, I'll take out the stitches and see what sort of pattern remains. And eventually the blue will fade from my fingers....

At Throssel Hole Abbey there was the festival of Achalanatha. This is the Boddhisattva representing steadfastness; as usual, Rev. Master Daishin gave an excellent dharma talk, and, again as usual, the lunch afterwards was excellent.

And I managed to fit in a walk with my sister in law. We set off from Hamsterley village, went across very muddy fields up to Black Banks woods, and returned along tracks and lanes. Here S-I-L models the footbridge over the Bedburn Beck -

And here is a flock of sheep which thought we were bringing their lunch, and followed us up the track at Shipley Moss -

Among all the black faced ewes were 2 Blue Faced Leicesters - they are the ones with pale faces and no horns. And beautiful fleeces.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

1 March: For a change, socks

Just in case you thought I'd been neglecting the knitting lately, here's the latest pair of socks.

At the last Guild workshop, a friend was knitting some self-striping socks, and wondering what to do with the leftovers. Well, this is what I've done with my leftovers. Makes a change from mittens.