Tuesday, July 31, 2007

31 July: Craster again

As DH had the day off, yesterday we went for a walk up the Northumberland coast, from Craster to Low Newton by the Sea. We did the same walk last September, and I decided not to take the same photos again, so see here for pictures.

As we arrived at the old quarry in Craster to park, there was already a scattering of wiry grey-heads with rucksacks and boots ferretting in car boots for maps and walking sticks. Many of them were wearing heavy boots and big rain jackets. Some even had woolly hats.

Now I know it hasn't been a brilliant summer (understatement of the year?), but it was bright sunshine, with a bit of a breeze. Well, a stiff breeze. From the north. But I was very comfortable in a T-shirt with a cotton shirt open over it jacket-wise.

Setting off northwards towards Dunstanburgh Castle, we were soon overtaking strollers. Once beyond the castle, there were fewer people (and hardly anybody on the golf course) till we came to the part of the beach near the cabins. Plenty of people sitting on the sand, most with stout windbreaks. Lots of dogs (with their people) enjoying the beach; a few games of beach cricket going on, and even some brave (or foolhardy) surfers, plus a sea kayaker, who presumably knew what he was doing.

As you walk up the beach, there are several little streams running down into the sea, just trickling across the sand. One of these is rather bigger, and the small jumps over the earlier ones were not going to get us over this. It was much too much effort to detour to the bridge behind the dunes, so we took a run at it...

At least I didn't do a victory roll on the sand when I reached the other side. DH had sand in his pullover, as well as a wet foot and leg that didn't quite get across. But discretion being the better part of getting wet and sandy, I had a very wet foot, and severe splashing on both trouser legs from having put my foot down in the middle of the stream.

It dried off by the time we got to the Ship Inn for lunch.

The wind was combining with an incoming tide to produce some pretty big waves. After our lunch and a little while sitting and watching the folk round the little bay at Low Newton, we walked back along the path behind the dunes. This gave us a bit of shelter - strangely the wind that had been in our faces was now not quite at our backs - and took us to the bridge over the stream we had not-quite-jumped going north. From the top of the dunes, the view of the succession of white waves sweeping into the bay was exhilarating.

We stood and watched the tide reaching a sand bank, which it quickly turned into an island. A father and son were still playing beach cricket on the sandbank, until the water reached the stumps, and then father had to carry son and stumps through the incoming tide to reach the dunes. Meanwhile, the waves were washing round the sandbank from both ends, and where they met there was a fascinating interaction of water flows. Some of the undercurrents produced must have been strong, as the sandbank was being re-shaped as we watched.

Rejoining the crowds between the castle and Craster, we got back to the car park to find so many vehicles parked there that it was difficult to manoeuvre out. As usual, I slept on the way home, then DH had a nap on the sofa. Good day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

27 July: String Bag Mk 2, plus a hat

First, here is the completed hat made from the Yarn Yard's organic merino roving, looking a little paler here than in reality -

It's an almost-tam, but the pattern I used for a starting point was a beanie hat in Sandi Rosner's book "Not just more socks". (You may read Harry Potter.....)

And I just had to try an improved string bag. This is crocheted, and I have great difficulty with following or writing crochet instructions, though it is easy to do. Here it is, hanging on the back of the door, and full of balls of wool -

And here it is empty and lying down -

It is all made very simply of chains of crochet, touching down to the row below, with a row of double crochet to reinforce the top, and the drawstrings are made from a long chain with single crochet into each chain, and joined into a circle, threaded through the top loops. The drawstrings had to be in a different colour, as I'd used up all the grey.

(For other string bags, click on the "string bag" label at the bottom of the post, or in the sidebar. Let me know about your string bags.)

I'm sure I wouldn't have been knitting all summer if the weather had been better. Everything in the garden has benefited from the rain, though, and several shrubs have grown hugely this year. There is scarcely room to walk round the path behind the borders, as the birch, rowan, and 2 buddleias all overhang.

And now I have a large heap of Blue Faced Leicester fibre blended with Tencel, all dyed orange, just crying out to be spun into sock yarn.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

25 July: Monster Mash

Happy birthdays to Grandchild 3 and Grandchild 4, yesterday and today respectively!

Remember we planted potatoes back on Good Friday? (7 April's posting mentioned them.) Well today we dug some of them up.

They are completely organic, having had no sprays or anything other than garden compost and grass cuttings on them. So naturally, they have attracted some of our garden wildlife. 2 of the 6 or 7 plants we dug up had been attacked by slugs, and I found a millipede and a woodlouse in the water when I washed a heap for our meal tonight. Yes, of course I rescued them and released them into the wild - threw them out of the kitchen window.

The ones with slug damage or that we'd speared with the fork got cooked tonight, and the rest, cleaned up and checked over, have been stowed away in bags in a dark cupboard. We ate great mounds of mash with a quiche, but there's a big bowl full of cold mash in the fridge. Looks like fried potato, mushrooms, courgettes, and eggs tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Le Tour now has the drug scandal that lots of journos have been looking for. If only other sports and games were tested like cycling, there would be a lots of "drug cheats" uncovered in other arenas. The bike racing is still fascinating - would have been better still with Marco Pantani in it.

And back with the knitting, or rather crochet - the New, Improved, Mark 2 String Bag is under construction!!

You will just have to contain your excitement for a little longer, though, till it's properly finished and photographed.

Monday, July 23, 2007

23 July: Would you believe - a string bag!

This blog was named for my parents' string bag - not a bag made from string, but a bag containing string.

In those austerity days after WW2, recycling was not a catch-phrase, but "waste not, want not" most certainly was. So there was a bag, made of black-out material (as was the rag bag - remember rag bags?), hanging on the back of the wash-house door. Any pieces of string were carefully unravelled and un-knotted, and popped into the string bag - bits and pieces carefully and tidily hoarded. See?

Anyway, most of the people who visit from G**gle, if they're not looking for Fred Knit*le, are looking for a pattern for making a string bag. So I thought it only my civic duty to make a string bag for them. Here it is -

It is based on a bag called Elisa's Nest Tote, seen at purlsoho.com or the purl bee (go there for the original). Naturally, I used different yarn, a slightly different stitch pattern, and then made up the edges and handles as I went along.

If you want to make one yourself (and this will only apply to the enthusiastic knitting section of my 3 readers), I'll tell you what I did.

Using some cotton thread I bought years ago from Texere, and which I dyed last week with procion dyes (and the colour probably isn't fast), and which is 15 w.p.i., I cast on 31 stitches, using a 6 mm. needle; I prefer to use one circular for knitting to and fro, but you can use a pair of straights if you wish, and if you'll pardon the expression.

Rows 1 and 3 are purl; row 2 is K1, *yo, k2 tog*, repeat from * to end; row 4 is *k2 tog tbl, yo*, repeat to last stitch, k1. N.B. you may do ssk instead of k2 tog tbl if you like - I don't.

Repeat these 4 rows until the piece is about 24 inches long, or your yarn runs out, or you are about to die of boredom. I warn you that I was knitting this while watching the Tour de France, and kept doing the wrong lace row, then having to unpick it - you need to concentrate.

When your knitted fabric is long enough, cast off loosely. Using the same thread (or indeed a different one if you've run out), join the sides with a crochet hook, a single crochet into one side, 2 chains, single crochet into the other side, etc to the bottom, and fasten off. Do the other side the same. A row of double crochet round the top, then without fastening off, chain 40 for the first handle, touch down with 3 double crochets into the opposite side of the bag top, chain another 40 for the second handle, and touch down near where you started the first handle, 3 double crochets, then a round of double crochets into the chains to make the handles (do more if you want thicker handles), then fasten off. I am aware that in the USA single and double crochet describe something other than my English version - sort out your own translation.

If I ever make another one, I shall do some shaping to make the bottom more curved - the corners are a bit pointy, and probably rather different handles. But I offer it as your starting point. If anyone actually uses this pattern, even as a jumping off point, I'd be interested to know.

(For other string bags, click on the "string bag" label at the bottom of the post, or in the sidebar. Let me know about your string bags.)

And back in the world of the non-knitter, if you haven't already glazed over and dropped away, at the weekend I bought myself a pair of Red Crocs. Not so much Ruby as Tomato, and probably not the colour I'd have chosen if there had been a choice, but there you are. They are Extremely Comfortable - I commend them to the House.

Friday, July 20, 2007

20 July: Outdoors and in

Change and impermanence - the garden is a constant reminder. The plants have been doing their best in difficult weather conditions. We have potatoes this year, but next year should it be maize, or rice?

The paler buddleia is fully out, though the darker one is only just starting. No butterflies when I took this photo, but lots of bees (too shy to be photographed).

Elsewhere I have seen rowan trees with ripe berries. Ours is not so precocious. There are several day lilies in the borders. This one has brown shades in the bud, then opens yellow -

The sweet williams sown last year, which looked so straggly and pathetic last autumn, have come good. They are the major splash of colour in several corners.

And the sole survivor of the packet of cornflower seeds now has several flowers. The other seeds fed pigeons or mice, this one, among the low branches of the little apple tree, is feeding a stripy insect -

And, in response to popular request (well, Granny J), here are a couple of poor pics of the new bathroom curtain. By the way, it's an English bathroom, and therefore actually has a bathtub in it, as well as a washbasin and WC. This one is with flash and washes the colour out -

The paler colour at the side is the chiffon, which makes a layer behind the fancy silk. The following picture is without flash, but with the halogen lights on, and has a yellow cast , but it shows the beads and embroidery quite well. The real colour is somewhere in between.

This has been a knitting-free posting. I thank you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

18 July: Not idle

I've got quite tired the last couple of days. Not with doing tons of housework, of course, but dyeing some fibre and I've got back into the family history again. And I'm still getting some exercise done.

An e-mail arrived from another "cousin" (her grandmother was my grandfather's older sister), who had been to visit our other cousin. She gave me lots of information I didn't have before, and set me off looking for further bits and pieces. Then the files had to be updated, print-outs replaced, and now I'm in the middle of sorting out computer files to copy and send her. Then there's photos to try to make good copies of.

The fibre dyeing has not been a raging success. I dyed some BFL fibre very successfully last week, but the Tencel that was dyed in acid dyes lost most of the dye in rinsing. As it's cellulose based (please bear in mind that I abandoned Physics and Chemistry at school in order to do Ancient Greek), it seemed that Procion dyes might be more suitable.

So yesterday I got out the Procion dyes that have been in the workroom cupboard since I stopped dyeing cotton fabric and threads for quilting. The notes had to be found, as I couldn't remember quite how to do it. While I was at it, I might as well try some thick cotton threads and a bit of cotton chenille from the cupboard (bought from Texere at a quilt show - I knew they'd be useful one day!).

But the results are not terribly exciting; the single colours (grey and orange) are not bad, but the mixtures (purple and brown) are frankly disappointing. And why does blue dye not stick to fibre, but stick awfully well to skin?

And it's about time to show you how the Yarn Yard fibre is knitting up. It's quite slow, as it's on a 2.75 mm needle, and, as you'll realise, I haven't been doing this exclusively. I pick it up when Le Tour highlights are on, then of course get too involved in the cycling to knit assiduously.

The colours are coming out beautifully, and the transitions between colours have those subtle and unexpected shades you never think of till you see them.

Recent new books - Knitting Colur by Brandon Mably, and Mason Dixon Knitting. Interesting ideas from both of them, but the long-term value remains to be seen.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

15 July: YSP

That's the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. We'd been there once before, years ago, and enjoyed it, and thought it was about time to go and have another look.

There is an exhibition of Andy Goldsworthy stuff on at present, till the end of the year.

You are probably aware of the window daubed with cow dung; no photography inside, but this is it from the outside-

This gallery is on the opposite side of the valley from the main part of the Park. A pleasant walk across a bridge and up through fields takes you to the Longside Gallery. (There is access from a road on that side as well.) Then a path takes you back to the main Park along the top of Oxley Bank, which gives wonderful views over the surrounding countryside.

There are more Goldsworthy structures in the woods along Oxley Bank. This is one of three which go deep into the ground, called Hanging Trees -

From our long-ago visit, I remembered a water buffalo by Elisabeth Frink. None of her animals now, but several men on a terrace near the Underground Gallery; I liked the position of this one, under the cedar tree -

The Underground gallery has more Goldsworthys - a room plastered with mud, which is cracking as it dries out; a room with a hanging curtain of horse chestnut stalks pinned together with some sort of thorns; a room with several low stone igloo-type mounds, with holes in the top; a huge shape made from odd bits of oak branches (rather like a 12 foot tall pine cone); and a room which initially seemed totally black till you entered and found yourself in a structure of branches like an igloo, curving in till they make a complete shape - very satisfying.

Out in the Park, down near the lake was this granite piece, "Warts and All" -

Again, a very satisfying shape and texture.

One area has several pieces by Barbara Hepworth, which are all interesting shapes and textures, but most were undergoing repairs to the surrounding turf and had red and white plastic tape round them - keeps you off the new turf, but rather spoils the photos!

In one of the little copses is a bridge over a ditch. The ditch isn't quite a ha-ha, but that's the name of the bridge.

There is one of those Skyspace structures in the Park, called the Deer Shelter. Set in the hillside, you enter at the lowest level and the inner room, which is actually underground, is open to the sky in the middle. Supposed to be a place for quiet contemplation, when we went in, 2 toddlers were screaming round and round the built in stone seating. After they had gone out with their father, we remained with their mother, who was feeding a small baby, and enjoyed the clouds.

And in the open parkland, surrounded by sheep, are a number of Henry Moore sculptures. This one, a woman in a rumpled dress, has a wonderful view out over the valley.

A great day out, thoroughly recommended. There's lots more to see than I've mentioned, and of course there's a shop and a cafe, though we took a picnic (picnic areas are also available).

On the way back, there was a jam on the motorway because it was closed up ahead by an accident. But we have a map and we're not afraid to use it, so when we could leave the motorway, we travelled along some of the smaller side roads of that part of Yorkshire, seeing villages and countryside we would never otherwise go through.

It took a bit longer to get home, but we weren't in a hurry, and the little unplanned detour added to the pleasure of the day out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

13 July: Customer Service?

Phone bill from BT - it's actually very small, as most of our communication is done by computer or mobile phones.

Now they are charging us £4.50 a quarter to pay by cheque.

I always pay the bill promptly, usually by return of post, and they never have to send us a reminder. But we don't pay by Direct Debit, which they prefer, as they can take what they want when they want. It's our money - we prefer to control it ourselves. And if we pay bills individually, it makes sure we know exactly what we are paying. Old-fashioned, but then being clear of debt is. And do they get the Direct Debit payments anyway when people have no funds in the account?

But now they see a way to penalise us, good quiet customers that we are. So they whack on a charge that is over 10% of our actual bill.

And the argument that chasing bad payers is expensive for them won't wash either - that cost is already built into the charges.

Other utilities we deal with - gas and electricity - give us a small discount for prompt payment. Much better customer service than charging you extra for totally unjustifiable reasons .

If we didn't need the land line for the computer, we would stop dealing with BT straight away.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

10 July: Restful retirement

Still haven't started to knit the Yarn Yard merino - but I have dyed 100 gms of Blue Faced Leicester, spun and finished 50 gms of it, and the second 50 gms is spun and waiting to be plyed.

Then I've also knitted a mitten for a project later in the year; the second one is up to nearly the end of the ribbing and the start of the pattern.

Oh, and I've hand sewn a curtain for the bathroom. From hideously expensive embroidered and beaded silk. Lined with polyester chiffon. All of which was extremely tricky to handle and sew. And when I put it up, thinking it was finished, I spotted a mistake, which meant taking it down and altering one side; that took most of this afternoon.

As well as cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking, gardening, dabbing a bit of paint and a bit of Pol*filla where walls had got a bit knocked, and of course watching Le Tour.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a quiet half hour on the exercise machine.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

7 July: Le Tour starts

So we're off again with Le Tour de France; after last year's debacle, we wondered if we would be interested this year. But we turned on the TV, and immediately got caught up in it again - all the predictions from the experts (mostly wrong!), the efforts, the disappointments, the crashes, the wonderful helicopter views.

That's every evening booked for the next 3 weeks, then - might get some more knitting done, too, while I watch. Not Le Tour challenge knitting, though.

It hardly rained at all today - only one sharp shower, I think. We have had some sunshine this week, and I've been out picking raspberries most days. One afternoon I sat in the sun, while Jazz explored the borders -

Just at the left hand edge of that photo is the hole where I dug out a rose bush. That did something nasty to my back, which was stiff and painful for 2 days. All the memories of my back problems returned, and I dredged out of the corners of my memory the exercises that I used to do to stretch my lower back. It seems to have done the trick, and there's a great improvement, so I am hoping to be fully back to normal in another day or two.

Meanwhile, in the conservatory -

These dull little cacti have these amazing flowers for just a couple of days, and they both came out together. This close-up shows the strange arrangement in the centre of the flower -

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

4 July: Since Woolfest

The peg loom has produced 2 samples - lots learnt there. More experimentation is required.

Also the 2 skeins of merino pencil roving from The Yarn Yard have been spun, plyed, finished, and one has been wound into a ball and a small knitted sample made. There was some difficulty with drafting the pencil roving, as I haven't worked with this before; the second skein was divided rather better, and was very much easier - the usual learning curve.
Here are the bobbins of singles from the first skein -

Plyed and finished, and twisted into a skein; see how the colours combine into yummy intermediate shades -

Then wound into a ball on the nostepin; it's about 18 wraps per inch -

And knitted up; the colour patches would, obviously, be different if knitted in a longer row. This sample is 30 stitches on a 2.5 mm. needle -

And, from last week, just a quick pair of Miser Mitts I devised in Shetland wool, after seeing the Endpaper Mitts on See Eunny Knit! - love this way of increasing for the thumb gusset (isn't "gusset" a lovely word) -