Saturday, June 30, 2007

30 June: Woolfest

As DH and I sat in the marquee extension to the Woolfest cafe, eating our sandwiches and listening to the rain hammering on the canvas above us, we began to think it was a really good idea to have brought our raincoats, but not such a good idea to have left them in the car.

There was more to see than last year, perhaps fewer animals, but this year there were llamas and alpacas as well as sheep and at least one rabbit. It was also much more crowded with visitors, hence the lack of photos.

I did lots of browsing, a bit of chatting, and some buying.

At the back is a peg loom - a simple but effective tool. Five minutes to get the hang of, and then it's down to materials and colour choices. It could be the solution to the lifetime supply of rug wool in my workroom.

Then at the front, on the left is some of The Yarn Yard's hand-dyed organic merino roving; when spun it will make exciting knitting yarn. I shall probably start spinning it tomorrow. And probably start knitting it on Monday.

Next is a hank of undyed sock wool, wool and nylon mixed - for me to dye myself.

Then 2 balls of Socka sock wool (thinking ahead to the winter here, folks), the peg loom instruction booklet, and at the front a small bag of expensive, but very attractive buttons (really good buttons can be quite hard to find, and can make a lot of difference to a cardigan or waistcoat), and lastly another row counter, for those times when I have 2 projects in progress at the same time.

There were lots of spinning wheels about, of course, but the one that I really fancied was the Majacraft Suzie - but at rather over £400, no way I can justify buying one of those. Especially as I already have 2 wheels. But what if I disposed of one, and then upgraded.......

Thursday, June 28, 2007

28 June: While it's not raining...

After yesterday evening's hail, which sent the cat scooting to hide in his favourite cardboard box, this morning the sun was shining. It was an ideal opportunity to do some gardening.

The hydrangea that was becoming stunted in a tub by the front door is now starting to stretch its roots out next to a buddleia in the back garden. One of the roses, which had grown very tall and had extremely disappointing flowers has been hacked down. The roots appear to be as extensive as the top growth was, and after struggling with the stump for an hour, I came over all feak and weeble (or indeed weak and feeble) and decided it was a job for two people, and that I needed a restorative cup of coffee.

All the time the powerful scent of the philadelphus was filling the garden. A dismissive comment in a gardening article recently remarked that this shrub very often takes up a lot of space in small gardens, where it is very dull for most of the year. But that dullness for 11 months is quite forgotten when it flowers!

At the other end of that border is a nice pink - named not for the colour but for the ragged (pinked) edge to the petals. This one might be a Cheddar pink, but there are lots of little pinks tucked into the border edges. The dark leaf behind it belongs to another plant with disappointing flowers (ligularia), but the leaves make up for it - when the snails don't eat them all.

And this clematis is really doing well on the pergola. Called Etoile Violette, I think.

Purple again!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

27 June: Nearly ...... finished

The bathroom is now painted, but still lacks a blind; and perhaps the towels should all kinda match. After the purchase of a number of small tester pots of paint and much deliberation, we decided on purple.

It probably needs a picture on the wall too, but we'll have to see something we like.

Here is the latest knitted hat posing on the shelf -

And the same colour theme recurs in the latest pair of socks -

Most of the people who knit socks seem to delight in fancy lace or complicated cables, often knitted in merino; I suspect that they don't actually wear these socks regularly, as fancy stitches are not always as kind to the feet as plain knitting. And merino is famous for the ease with which it felts, so is not the best choice for an item that gets worn and washed time and time again.

We won't be able to go shopping for bathroom stuff on Saturday, as we are going to the Woolfest at Cockermouth. Lots of fibre, wool, sheep, and similar stuff. Last year I bought a spinning wheel and several kilos of fibre. Will I find lots to buy there this year?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

23 June: Not only bathrooms, but also water

The main bathroom is now refitted, but not yet painted and finished. I haven't yet been able to take a good photo, as the mirrors have this person with a camera in them. It's also difficult to photograph a small room with fittings all round.

The past couple of days have been spent cleaning the film of dust from everywhere; the bathroom fitting is not entirely to blame for that, but it's been a good opportunity to have a good clean up. There is no longer a skip on the drive, and our cars are no longer parked in awkward places in the street.

Today I went to a meeting in Durham. Two or three lime trees grow below one end of Milburngate Bridge, and their flowers are wonderfully sweet, and full of bees.

The river was boiling over the weirs, murky and full of branches.

After the meeting, I walked down Saddler Street in a monsoon . It was quite spectacular - water was spurting from downpipes unable to accommodate the downpour and bubbling up from the drains. Not wishing to get my camera wet, I took only one snap, of the stream at the bottom of Saddler Street, gushing down the steps to the left. Then I dashed on to meet DH, who was picking me up at a pre-arranged place and time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

21 June: The End is in Sight

Tomorrow the bathroom is due to be finished. The skip is to be collected at lunch-time, and by tea-time we shall have the house, with 2 sparkling new bathrooms, to ourselves again.

Mind, the whole place is totally filthy - a fine film of plaster dust (or similar) all over everything. A spring cleaning event beckons. And there's a certain amount of decorating to do, along with tracking down towels and bathmats in the right shade, and deciding where to store the various toiletries and medicines.

No more cheerful chats with the bathroom fitter - but then I can also be radio-free if I choose. And I needn't be up, washed and dressed by 8.30 if I don't want to.

Afternoon naps lie in wait, spur-of-the-moment outings, Blondie records at top volume, wearing shorts round the house. Total giddiness. After 4 weeks, I'll be able to please myself again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

17 June: Time passes

A Happy Birthday to Number One Grandchild!

The bathroom progresses; the skip fills.

The shower room is getting finished. Walls are painted, blind is up, new bits and pieces have been found and added. We spotted this hare, a copy of one by Rodin, in Bainbridges yesterday - actually it might have been Fenwicks, as I am permanently confused about which shop I am in. Anyway, the hare goes rather well with this jug that's been lurking in the back of a cupboard for the best part of 40 years; I knew it would come in handy one day, and it's fun to have a culinary theme rather than a sea one.

And here is an almost-finished sock, knitted from the bamboo and Shetland mixture that I carded, spun, and dyed in the past 3 weeks. As there is limited yarn, the other sock may have to be green with lilac "points".

Friday, June 15, 2007

15 June: Suspended

The bathroom re-fitting goes on. And on.

The house is in such chaos that I feel quite stopped - can't get on with anything, can't concentrate, can't even think straight.

Just hanging onto the thought that it will only be another (working) week, perhaps a day or two longer, then I will have the place to myself again, and I'll be able to walk about without having to climb over a pile of stuff moved from somewhere else, I'll be able to get on with a task without having to stop and make a decision about the exact position of something, and I'll be able to have quiet. Not that it's Radio 1, it's actually much the sort of thing I choose when I choose to have the radio on - which is not usually more than 2 part-afternoons a week.


I've been spending a lot of time trawling blogs, following links, then other links, and finding some wonderful new stuff.

But there's another thing. Interesting blogs that promptly stop as soon as you discover them. So many seem to be running along quite well, with fairly frequent postings, then, just as you're getting into the swing of it, and liking the stuff that's there, it stops. No explanation or anything, just no more postings. Particularly frustrating on a knitting blog when you've just asked a technical question, and would actually like to know the answer.

Has the blogger been struck down by some dreadful disease or accident? Lying paralysed in hospital? Wandering in another town with no memory of who they are or where they belong? Or simply got fed up and stopped? Or, even worse, started a blog in a different format, under a different name?

How many bloggers have a split blogging personality, with no advertised connection between different blogs? Are 2 of your favourite blogs in fact written by the same person? Makes you wonder.

Monday, June 11, 2007

11 June: Sounds of Summer

The blackbirds must have chosen a nest site that is easily spotted by the local cats. And now they are exhausting themselves jumping up and down on the fence or in a tree, shouting "There's a cat! There's a cat!" in blackbird-speak. They spend so long doing that, I begin to wonder if they have enough time and energy left to gather food for the nestlings (their second batch this year).

And the black cat from across the street strolls casually along the path, glancing up at the birds just out of reach in the little trees, and then stops to drink from the ground level bird bath, before sauntering off to check out another garden.

Meanwhile, the bathroom fitter is hammering, bashing and crashing as he removes the fittings, tiles, carpet, the lot, from the bathroom. From time to time he calls me to make a decision about the exact place one of the new items is going to go.

Then another call - can I find a couple of old towels - quick!

While he is cutting a hole in the floor for new pipework, the cutting machine has caught a (plastic) pipe to the existing radiator, and water is spurting out under the floor, onto the ceiling of the kitchen below.

Frantic scrabbling to shove a thick towel underneath, then I take over pressing my thumbs onto the ends of the pipes, while he swiftly grabs some valves and seals the cut pipe ends. And what looked like gallons of water gushing out turns out to be just a couple of damp towels.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

10 June: More boring stuff

The shower room is now fitted out, apart from a mirror. Here is a picture of it before I started to paint the walls this morning -

When the walls are done, we shall need a new blind, then a different colour bathmat might be good, and a smart new lavvy brush and waste bin. Sounds like a trip to John Lewis next weekend.

Meanwhile, the bamboo fibre blended with Shetland wool has been dyed, and is waiting to be knitted into socks -

Thursday, June 07, 2007

7 June: Some thoughts on knitting

A comment on the last entry has started a chain of thought.

The method of constructing a sock which I used is almost certainly not new, though I only came across it recently (on the Internet, of course). Knitting is one of the more ancient arts or crafts - and I don't intend to argue about the difference between those two. So it follows that anything we are able to do with knitting nowadays has almost certainly been done in the past (our ancestors did, after all, invent the wheel). It's only sticks and some yarn.

A few books provide basic techniques of starting and finishing, and ways of combining stitches to make patterns, and other books show how garments were made in other places and at other times. Current magazines and the Internet provide information on what is currently being made - not worn, though; some of the weird and wonderful garments are destined for the What Not to Knit website.

So the garment is chosen, and the shape and size worked out. Most things can be started at either end, some in the middle. Knitting can be done from bottom to top, top to bottom, side to side, or diagonally. It depends what suits - drape, or the lack of it, thickness of fabric, stitch pattern, all need to be considered. If you can draw it, you can knit it, and even if you can't draw a 3D shape, if you can see it in your mind's eye, you can knit it.

The yarn has to be selected - wool, cotton, linen, hemp, polyester, soy, bamboo, alpaca, dog hair, bison, mohair, lurex, or strips cut from plastic bags. The world's your lobster.

Then colour - plain or fancy, subtle or bold, how many colours, and how to combine them; whether to use colours already held, or to make some different ones.

There are enough combinations there to provide hours of fun. Then the actual knitting process is enjoyable. And when it's finished, something to wear or give, and to feel proud of. Or perhaps to frog and start again!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

5 June: Behold the yellow socks

The yellow socks knitted from the mixture of soy and Blue Faced Leicester are finished, and here they are -

They are a good fit and feel very comfortable. It remains to be seen how they wash and wear. They were made from the toe end first, using a provisional cast on and short row shaping. I got the basic design from a knitlist posting from 1999 by Mary Sherman Lycan, who called it the Sherman Sock.

I am presently spinning a mixture of bamboo fibre and Shetland wool; when I have a few skeins I will dye them in different colours and make socks from them, probably to this design. The way of knitting the toe and the heel (which is identical to the toe) is ideal for doing contrast colours there, so I might try that next time.

When we came back from our weekend visit to DD and the GrandKids, the rose on the pergola was in full bloom. There is a lovely blue clematis on one side, which you can just see towards the bottom left hand corner. This picture may not be too clear, as I took it through the glass of the window.

The bathroom refurbishment is into its second week. We may have the shower room in operation for the weekend. Or again, perhaps not...

Friday, June 01, 2007

1 June: Bathroom refitting

We have a skip.

The shower room is the first part of the exercise. All the materials are stowed in the garage -

At the end of 3 days ' work it looked like this where the new shower will be (new radiator/towel rail already in place) -

And the new cistern is boxed in, ready for the WC pan. Today we will have mostly tiling.

But I've been busy. The yellow socks are progressing well, I've carded some bamboo and some Shetland wool together, to try knitting it as socks. When I've spun a few skeins of it, I'll dye them and start a sock or three.

Meanwhile, the football scarf is now blocked and finished.