Thursday, August 30, 2007

30 August: Misplaced shopping

Something just reminded me that I once went into a store to buy a pair of socks, and came out having bought a sofa.

Have you ever made a diverted purchase?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

28 August: Technology and BFL

Over the weekend I had only limited access to the computer, as DH was playing with his new family history programme. He followed the instructions to transfer information to his iPod, and failed. I had a go, following the instructions very carefully, and failed. There had to be a way to do it, and after a lot of mucking about, he found it; but it was nothing like the directions in the manual - actually much easier!

Anyway, back to the wool. Last week I dyed some Blue Faced Leicester yarn that I had spun earlier. The aim was to get purple skeins, with a variety of shades within the purple. So I used purple and lavender dyes, plus several blues and reds, using slightly different proportions in each mixture, and using different mixtures on each skein. Some skeins were steamed, and some were done in the microwave. Here they are cooling off.

They took ages to dry, and then they were twisted into tidy hanks. They looked good laid out on the kitchen table.

They looked good out on the garden bench.

And they looked good wound into balls.

I saw an interesting jersey pattern on another blog, so I got a copy. Swatching revealed that I had one 80 cm circular needle in the size required, so a swift dash to the shops for another , and I was ready to start knitting.

It's a top-down pattern, something I've never tried before, but it's really easy to follow, and the wool is knitting up beautifully. There was a moment of panic when I thought that I might not have enough balls of wool, as the first two were going down very rapidly, so I hastily hunted out some more BFL, some of it white and some of it oatmeal coloured, and dyed 5 more skeins, which came out slightly different again. As I am using two threads together, I can switch from one ball to another and blend the different shades together.

It is very exciting seeing the colours blend together, and I spent much of yesterday working on it. It may be possible to finish it this week, which would be handy, as I can then concentrate on preparing for a workshop I am supposed to be leading at the end of next week. I've never done anything like that before, so I hope expectations will not be high. After all, I'm not an expert knitter, only an explorer knitter.

Friday, August 24, 2007

24 August: Raby Castle (and socks)

Yesterday was a lovely day, so I had a little trip out. Raby Castle is not far away, and I have never been to the castle or the gardens. Sadly, the kiosk attendant didn't challenge my request for an OAP ticket.

In fact, the gardens were pleasant, but a little bit dull. This was the fanciest part, with a view across the little valley to the castle.

The deer in the park were obligingly posing for photographs. The wall in the background of this picture is the outside of the gardens, and there are wonderful fruit trees trained on it, all loaded with pears and apples.

Huge old trees stand in the park - this chestnut has very textured bark.

Part of the moat has water, fed by a small stream. Plenty of ducks live on it, and the deer and cattle trample parts of the bank when they go to drink. I didn't photograph the cattle, as they were not only enormous, but also horned, and were lying quietly in the sunshine - no need to upset them.

There was an extra charge to go into the castle, and a look at the guide book in the gift shop convinced me that I didn't want to go in. Visitors were strolling about on the south-facing terrace which overlooks the lake , and round the west facing entrance to the inner courtyard - I waited till they had moved on before I took this picture from across the moat -

It would perhaps have been more enjoyable in company, although most of the couples I saw there were sitting dourly reading the paper (some of them just in the car park!). I took my own picnic, as had most other people, although the stables tea-room seemed to be doing a good trade. The shop had the usual selection of fancy key-fobs, expensive mugs, and strange music CDs. For a change, the toilets were unvisited, but I did have a look round the adventure playground, partly to see if the grandchildren might enjoy it on a future visit, and partly to see if there were any swings I could play on. No swings, and the death slide was in use.

The latest pair of socks - yes, I'm bored of socks, but there was this ball of Socka wool I bought at the Woolfest, which needed to be knitted up. Lovely subtle colours, sufficiently subdued for DH. Wonder how he got that scrape on his shin?

Monday, August 20, 2007

20 August: Weekend playtime

Read 4 weather forecasts and get 4 different stories. Look out of the window and you do just as well as the Met. Office. Long ago and far away I worked at the Met. Office for a few months, but that's another story.

Anyway, on Saturday we went for a walk that had been postponed from earlier because of a small optical disaster - DH's only pair of specs disintegrated and he had no spare pair. Now equipped with 2 new pairs of specs, he was ready for an expedition. As the rain was coming from the west, we went east, and managed to have our walk mainly in the dry.

We chose to re-visit one of the old railway lines which is now a footpath and cycle way. Last time we were there we met nobody. This time it was quite busy, with cyclists, walkers and several joggers.

After passing through pleasant woodland, far too gloomy to photograph on a cloudy day, we came to the new(ish) bridge over the A689.

A car park has been made near this bridge, and there is access to different routes.

A bit further along we sat on a couple of handy rocks and ate our sandwiches. As the rain seemed to be approaching, we started back, but by the time we'd got our hats and hoods in place, it stopped again. Didn't even need to resort to the magic overtrousers!

And so we returned to the old station, now a visitor centre and tea-room. From being an old railway line walk, this is now a major cycle route, so the car park has been transformed into a "Country Park", an old railway carriage has been converted into a classroom, and there is even a planetarium - we didn't investigate that, as it seemed to be closed.

Then on Sunday it rained all day.

So I got out the dyes and set to work on the 14 skeins of Blue Faced Leicester wool that I have spun recently. Instead of dyeing each skein a completely different colour, this time the aim was to have a range of purple colours. After steaming one batch on the cooker and putting a second batch over the pan, I decided to do the remainder in the microwave. Then I let everything cool down thoroughly before rinsing, then washing and rinsing again.

Previous dyeing efforts have turned out not to be colour-fast, with lots of dye washing out. In an attempt to improve this with the latest lot, all skeins were soaked in vinegar water before dyeing. And although the rinse water was clear at the end of the exercise, the newspaper on the floor where they are hanging up to dry in the conservatory has several coloured marks on it. Ah well, now I have to wait until the skeins dry. A photo may follow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

17 August: The cloak of invisibility - and a string bag

They say that old women become invisible; it obviously extends to their cars.

While going to this morning's selected supermarket, a drive of perhaps 10 minutes at 50 to 60 m.p.h., great big silver 4x4s rolled gently and slowly out in front of me, then failed to get a move on, TWICE.

Fortunately, not only are my brakes good, I am a much better driver than either of these two cretins, and I didn't crash into them, flash my lights, or even swear (at least aloud).

Moving on, I'm afraid back to the string bags, here is the Mark 3 version -

This one is knitted from dishcloth cotton, in garter stitch, every 3rd row with the yarn wrapped twice around the needle, the extra turn being dropped on the next row. Here's a close up -

It would have been better knitted in the round, to avoid a seam affecting the stretchiness of the fabric. A row of bigger holes round the top for the drawstrings would be an improvement too.

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 own string bags.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

15 August: Treasure trove

Some time ago, I was unable to resist this book in the local Oxfam bookshop.

There is no date of publication in it, though it must be 1920s, judging from the shape of the lass who gets measured -

But really I bought it because you never know when you might need a pattern for combination undergarments or directoire knickers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

13 August: Another one finished

The little character I've been knitting is finished. And here it is, relaxing in the garden -

And here with one I made earlier, whose name is Jo Jaffa.

You will observe that the feet are properly knitted socks, the mouth is made from a sock heel shaping, the top of the head is shaped as a sock toe would be, the eyes are buttons, and the hands are properly constructed glove/mittens. Boredom set in after the first one, and as the eyes aren't identical either, why should the hands match?

But the poor creature doesn't yet have a name to call its own. (There is already a doll in the house called "Who Shall Remain Nameless".)

It needs to be something gender neutral - ideas please.....

Saturday, August 11, 2007

11 August: Photos as promised

You probably don't really need to see knitted dishcloths, but here are the knitted boxes that have been felted in the washing machine -

The two dark ones, top right, are a nesting pair. So far I haven't made the smallest size, as the middle size, about 4.5 inches square, seems to be the most useful. (Very Buddhist.) They are posing for their photo-call on the garden bench, as the two at the front were still damp from the wash.

And here is part of the knitted creature - a section of the body in the stripe pattern described yesterday. Well, actually, not quite in the pattern described, as it went a bit haywire with the balls of variegated wool being close in some colours. So let's just call it a random stripe pattern now, eh?

This stripe with slip stitch looks as if it might be promising for socks, should any more be required. The sock drawer is fairly full at present, and the low boredom threshold has been passed as far as socks are concerned for the time being.

Perhaps a Mark 3 string bag?

Friday, August 10, 2007

10 August: New books

This week I have been mostly knitting dishcloths.

On account of having recently bought "Mason Dixon Knitting"; also been galloping through some rather thick stuff I spun ages ago, knitting boxes to felt in the washing machine.

Then when I was in Durham last Saturday I bought "Stupid Sock Creatures" - how to make odd looking creatures out of old socks. Why wait for old socks? Why not start from scratch and knit the shape you want to start with?

So today there has been much fiddling about with scraps of wool, small-scale knitting in the round, and rather a lot of cursing and unravelling.

Perhaps I shouldn't have even tried merging two tubes of knitting together into one when one tube had the start of a complicated intarsia design in it - a first attempt at intarsia, too. I still don't quite understand how I made a Mobius loop out of it .....

Anyway, having abandoned the intarsia for the time being, in its place, just beyond the now smooth join of the two tubes, is a four-colour, one row stripe pattern that goes A B C A D B A C D A B C etc, at the same time slipping every 7th stitch in an on-going fashion up the tube.

Of course you can all picture that precisely from my description.

I'll try and photograph it tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

7 August: Home life, continued

We could do with some rain.

No, really, the ground here is baked hard and solid. So of course did I decided to weed on Sunday for the first time for months. (My secret is to fill the borders with so many plants that there isn't any room for the weeds - and I have kept on top of weeds in previous years, and it does reduce the seeding.)

Since I removed an under-performing rose, lacerating my hands in the fashion usual whenever I go near a rose, the other plants in that bit of border have done much better, particularly these - dark-leaved hebe and ligularia -

Love that colour combination!

There was no space to plant out sweet peas with sticks, so they got tucked into odd spots where I hoped they would climb up nearby plants. Now there are a few of them peeping out here and there.

And here's another in my occasional *underfoot* series - a couple of self-sown nasturtiums growing in the leaf litter, with added rose petals.

And just in case you thought I'd been neglecting the knitting, here's the latest in the sock saga -

The hunt continues for the perfect fibre for hand-spun sock yarn. This is Blue Faced Leicester blended with tencel; both fibres dyed before carding together for spinning. I have them on at the moment (it's a bit what they call fresher today), and will see how they wash and wear. The previous BFL and soy mix seems to be wearing better than the shetland and bamboo, but this blend might be good.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

5 August: Cricket tea

Here are some scones for tea - Bowl Movement Cricket Club may be interested.

And a tray of flapjack -

This very easy recipe is a regular for us, and although it contains butter, sugar, and syrup, must be nutritious, with all those oats in it.

Perhaps I'd better do something strenuous today, to offset the tea-time goodies.

Friday, August 03, 2007

3 August: Old, but still useful

Steaming something - remembered that a pinch of cream of tartar in the boiling water stops the pan turning black (Mrs Beeton?).

Knew there was a little container of it in the top cupboard, with the flour and baking powder, as it used to go into an excellent recipe for scones, which has not been made for a while, because of the amount of butter needed on a fresh scone. And when you make a dozen, they all have to be eaten while they're fresh, don't they?

Found the little drum, put in the pinch of powder, went to return it to the shelf, noticed the "Best Before" date.

When we moved, five years ago, didn't we check all the stuff coming out of the old kitchen and going into the new one? Really is it so long since I used to do home-made scones? Have I gone back to hoarding stale ingredients?

It was dated Feb 98.

The new container I bought this morning is dated Aug 08. You never need more than a teaspoonful in a recipe, but I don't suppose it will get used up any quicker than the last one. Unless I start baking scones again ......

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

1 August: Fruit

The shop had pomegranates. DH is fond of pomegranates, so I bought one for him. But what fruit to buy as a treat for myself? Ah, a mango - I don't think I have ever eaten a fresh mango.

I have now eaten a fresh mango. I don't need to do that again.