Wednesday, December 31, 2008

31 December - ABC Wednesday - X

Not much to choose from for X, but as I am a life-long "incomer", it's Xenophobia that strikes a chord.

Here is a poem about it -

We and They

Father, Mother, and Me,
Sister and Auntie say
All the people like us are We,
And everyone else is They.
And They live over the sea,
While we live over the way,
But - would you believe it? - They look upon We
As only a sort of They!

We eat pork and beef
With cow-horn handled knives.
They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
Are horrified out of Their lives;
While They who live up a tree,
And feast on grubs and clay,
(Isn't it scandalous?) look upon We
As a simply disgusting They!

We shoot birds with a gun
They stick lions with spears.
Their full-dress is un-,
We dress up to Our ears.
They like Their friends for tea.
We like Our friends to stay;
And, after all that, They look upon We
As an utterly ignorant They!

We eat kitcheny food.
We have doors that latch.
They drink milk or blood,
Under an open thatch.
We have Doctors to fee.
They have Wizards to pay.
And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We
As a quite impossible They!

All good people agree,
And all good people say,
All nice people, like Us, are We
And everyone else is They:
But if you cross over the sea,
Instead of over the way,
You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
As only a sort of They!

Rudyard Kipling.

Looking forward to another year of war, conflict and hate? Or peace and happiness? We all have choices and the ability to learn.

And on that serious note, I'm off to do a bit of freeform crochet.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

28 December - Not Just a Salmon

This pattern was published in the latest knitty, and it appealed to me, so I made it, using some sock yarn that was never going to become socks.

Yes, it's a hat, and it is supposed to look like a dead fish. The yarn used is pretty much the right sort of colour for a bear's leftovers, in my imagination (not being terribly familiar with long-dead fish).

Must wear it next time I go to town on the bus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

24 December: ABC - W for Wednesday Walk 7

W was going to be Wool, and my spinning Wheel, but we had a really glorious walk in Hamsterley Forest today, so it's another Walk.

There were very few vehicles in the car park when we arrived, about 10.30; by the time we left there were more, but it was still a minority choice for a visit today.

The sun shone over the moorland, and there were still some Christmas trees left.

Not all the trees are Forestry Commission planted conifers. This one was there long before the Forestry Commission -

And so was this one, which was pollarded many, many years ago -

There was a lot of water in the ditches and on the tracks, though the river didn't seem particularly full. In a few places, temporary streams were making their own way down to the valley bottom -

When we got home, the postman had brought the Christmas present that DH had been hoping for!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

17 December: ABC Wednesday - V

V is for Ventriloquist, who appeared in Variety shows.

This is Maude Edwards, Lady Ventriloquist, with her doll, the little stable boy.

Maude was born in 1886 in Corporation Street, Birmingham, the sixth of eight children of a Horse Keeper (and reputed former jockey). You don't see many horses round there nowadays.

She made her stage debut in 1905, trained and managed by her older brother Tom Edwards, also a ventriloquist, and later a successful theatrical manager. In October 1906 she sailed to the US, where she toured American Music Halls until May 1907. At some point after her return, she decided that brother Tom was taking too large a slice of her earnings, and sued him in the High Court. She won her case, with costs, causing another of the family's well-known "all-fired" rows, and of course a huge rift between the siblings.

She worked in Music Halls in many places, and often toured the North-East of England. She met James Cameron, a singer in a group called The Cameron Quartette (3 Cameron brothers, sometimes with a 4th brother, and sometimes with a friend). They were married in St. Nicholas' Cathedral, Newcastle, early in 1910, and later that year their only child was born in Whitley Bay - they were still on tour.

World War 1 interrupted James' career; he was on the way home from a successful tour of Australia when war broke out. He served in the Royal Flying Corps.

Radio killed off the Music Halls, of course, and Maude retired from the stage. Until about 1940 they lived in Brixton, which was a popular place with theatrical folk in the first half of the 20th century.

Much later, after James died (on Christmas Day, 1955), Maude went to live in a retirement home for former stage folk, a home which was run by the Order of Water Rats (a charity organised by people involved in variety), and funded partly by the Royal Variety Performance. She died in 1976.

Maude and James were my grandparents.

Monday, December 15, 2008

15 December: Wednesday (moved to Sunday) Walk 6

The unceasing rain on Saturday fell as snow further up Weardale, as we found when we set out for a walk.

At this point we were at 2 degrees, West and Centigrade, according to those of us who had high-tech stuff with them.

There was sunshine on the other side of the dale, behind Stanhope.

And of course, a few sheep got into the photos.

It didn't feel very cold, as the air was still. So was the water in the old quarry.

Home in time for tea by the fire, with home-made cake and home-made shortbread.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

13 December: Eek - steeks!

This is an entirely knitting-orientated posting, so if you're not interested, look away now.

The next jersey is in the planning stage, and this one is going to be my first one with steeks. Yes, knitting in the round to the shoulders, then cutting the knitting to make armholes, and probably a front placket too.

So, instead of knitting a whole jersey, then experimenting with that, I picked up an idea online, and made a sample.

The sample is worked in the round (trying out a few stitch patterns at the same time) and I closed the top with a 3 needle bind off to replicate a jersey shoulder. Most of the instructions on steeking tell you to machine stitch on each side of the proposed cut, but I really didn't want to do that, as the machine stitching would be a completely different tension and feel from the knitting. I reckoned that if I cut each pair of threads, and then knotted them together, that would prevent any unravelling - logical, but would it be practical?

Yes, it worked fine. There are an awful lot of ends to tidy up, but it's a possible solution. Actually, I have a striped cardigan with an awful lot of ends (2 row stripes in many different colours), and I just cut them and left them as fringes down the insides of the seams , and that's fine, so I could just leave the ends to felt slowly together.

But then I stumbled on a paragraph in "The Best of Interweave Knits, Our Favorite Designs from the First Ten Years", in a jersey design by Ron Schweitzer. It suggests casting on 10 extra stitches to make the steek, then cutting down between the 5th and 6th stitches, picking up the stitches for the sleeve/neckband from the first and last extra stitches, then finishing the steek by folding back the cut edges, trimming if you want, and sewing them down on the inside with cross stitches. This is very easy, very tidy, and very secure. And as it's all done with the knitting yarn, there is no tension or materials conflict.

I picked up and knitted a few rows of stocking stitch.

And this is the inside - the right hand side was cross-stitched in black, so then I did the left side with white, so that in future I can see how I did it. You will observe that the stitching is not as neat as it might be, but hey! it's only a working sample!

Now I feel confident I can do the steeks. I shall go and cast on.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 December: ABC Wednesday - U

Underfoot - one of my favourite photo categories. Subjects are close at hand, and often stationary. And the most amazing, beautiful, and interesting things can often be found right under your nose.

This is stitchwort (whose name I borrowed for blog purposes), a wayside and woodland flower which blooms at the same time as bluebells and red campion, sometimes offering the chance of red, white, and blue flowers in one photo -

Walks along the sea-shore provide unexpected shapes and endless patterns in the sand -

And in the forest, rocks beside the path can prove fascinating, decorated with lichens -

While back in the garden, some of the trees simply throw photo opportunities at you -

Hurrah for small treasures!

Monday, December 08, 2008

7 December: Colour!

Snow, ice, freezing wind, pavements like skating rinks, shops crowded with festive shoppers - how much pleasanter to stay at home and dye some yarn.

Using the sample packs of Landscape dyes I bought recently from Wingham Wool Work, I dyed some Shetland plus 3 skeins of BFL, with excellent results.

Most of the skeins are done as "semi-solid", i.e. one colour shading across the skein; the 3 BFL skeins are done with 2 different dyes - they are the creamy beige, the blue-grey, and the 2-tone sweet-pea pink.

And to brighten the day still further, here are pictures of a modular bag (both sides), which I finished a couple of days ago - just the right size for a knitting project in progress.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

3 December: ABC Wednesday - T

Today's topic is Trees.

As Joyce Kilmer wrote in 1914,
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

They are essential to me - in the garden, on walks, and as part of a view. They are part of so many of my photos that it's hard to choose just a few. My albums are full of leaves, buds, bark, oaks, maples, hawthorns, beech and birch.

The bluebell woods in May -

And a most inviting path in September -

August farmland -

These sunlit leaves were my desktop picture for a long time -

And this totally out-of-focus shot is my current desktop picture (it's even more blurry in big) -

Monday, December 01, 2008

1 December: Dancers

The other day, I accidentally saw a bit of the TV show "Strictly Come Dancing" - now I understand the popularity of the current song by the Killers - "Are we human or are we dancers?".

Friday, November 28, 2008

28 November: Well laid plans

Oops - that jersey is going to have to wait.

I've been asked for some knitting for Christmas presents - last posting will be about a week before the 25th - and I need to write the pattern!

So why am I sitting here instead of knitting? Well, one has to eat sometime.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

26 November: ABC Wednesday - S

So, it seems suitable to join ABC Wednesday on the letter S. Specially since there's been snow and, as I'm scared of slipping, there's been singularly little walking.

There are several subjects for S - some socks are currently on the needles -

And I've just finished a Danish-style shawl -

In this cold weather, I've been doing quite a lot of spinning - Here are some of the many recent skeins -

The tweedy grey (right front) is a wool/silk mix, the blue-purple is a merino/silk mix, and the grey and black at the back are Shetland. I have 500 gms each of the purple and the grey Shetland, and 810 gms of the tweedy stuff; so far, I've only spun about 300 gms of the kilo of black Shetland.

Some of the Shetland, along with some skeins soon to be dyed in subtle or sensational colours, is destined for a stranded sweater presently in the design stage (i.e. scribbled notes in my sketch-book). It will be steeked and Scandinavian-influenced; it may also be snazzy, splendid, stunning, or even sensational. We shall have to wait and see.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

19 November: Wednesday Walk 5

Earlier in the year I demonstrated spinning at an event at Durham Wildlife Trust's Rainton Meadows. Busy all day, I didn't have a chance then to explore the place; so a return visit was well overdue.

This sculpture has some connection with the Great North Forest, and seems to have been designed by William Pym. It is in danger of being totally engulfed by the surrounding willow growth, which is flourishing in the marshy ground.

Beyond the sculpture, at the end of that path is a lake, complete with swan.

Much of the area is still getting established, with newish tree planting. There are several ponds or lakes, but there seems to be no public access to most of them. One bird-watching hide is unfinished, another appears to have been vandalised already - the seats are missing. Signs mark some of the surfaced paths as part of the Coalfield Way.

A large number of geese were circling overhead, honking loudly; one group detached itself and flew off northwards. There was a group of a dozen or so lapwings on one pond - the most I've seen together in one place for a while.

The area round Joe's Pond seems much more established, with older trees and scrub surrounding it and providing shelter. It seems popular with ducks and swans, who leave their feathers all over the place -

And they must be fed by some of the visitors, as a number of them rushed across and started squabbling.

No crumbs today, perhaps next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

12 November: Wednesday Walk 4

An appointment with the dental hygienist took me into Durham. I used the Park and Ride, but walked back to the car. On the way, I explored some of the vennels, paths, and covered ways in the city. One vennel and one path I had never been along before.

The river was swirling around the piers of Elvet Bridge.

These steps invited exploration; further up I had to clamber over drifts of pizza and lager rubbish.

At Palace Green, the cathedral was dramatic.

A bike had been left in just the right place to enliven this view.

This vennel may be covered and have doors, but the wind still whips through it.

Finally this recently discovered path offered an alternative route up the hill.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

9 November: Latest handspun yarn

Here's the skein of yarn spun on Friday. It's so big it took till this morning to dry properly. It's about 16 w.p.i., and weighs 124 gms.

Perhaps the colour's too subtle for my photographic "skills".

Friday, November 07, 2008

7 November: The knitting (and spinning) goes on

The cold snap sent me looking for my hot water bottle. It came with a very thick fleece cover, which actually prevented any of the heat escaping from the hottie and warming my toes.

So I knitted a new one -

A good project - I learned to knit backwards in order to make the short-row bumps.

And at last I succeeded in making a felted hat. Two earlier attempts resulted in items that would fit a grapefruit rather than a human head.

Before felting, it was large and floppy -

And after a 60 degree cotton programme wash in the machine it was thick, fuzzy and warm -

Sadly, after all that, it doesn't suit me.

Today I began to spin some fibre I bought at the Woolfest back in the summer (sorry, "summer"). It was labelled 'Carded Batt, wool/silk, 800 gms', and was such an interesting colour that I seized it at once. Mostly grey, there were flashes of blue, green and red in it.

This morning I took the batt out of its bag and spread it out. There seemed to be a mountain of fibre. The colour streaks went lengthways, and if I divided it lengthways, the different colours might be separated into different skeins, and I thought it better to divide it so that they would be more evenly distributed among the eventual skeins of yarn.

I started to spin the first bundle. Full of nepps, the silk rather unevenly distibuted, and not at all like the usual smooth roving or tops that I usually spin. But it was easy enough to feed into a twist, and the little lumps and bumps and colour changes make it look very tweedy. This evening I have 2 bobbins full, ready to ply. In fact, I need to see how it turns out, so I'll go and ply it.

Perhaps a picture tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

5 November: Wednesday Walk 3

There are many tracks and paths in Hamsterley Forest, some more frequently walked than others. It's always fascinating to venture down one that's been seen before, but not followed.

This one led to a lovely spot by a stream junction, with a bench -

which gives this view of the stream, with photogenic overhanging beech -

Beech trees are spectacular just now (as indeed they always are); this wonderful one was near the main track at the top of a bank -

Further on, the view opened out to the moorland beyond the forest, and there was even a touch of blue in the sky -

It was quiet, even on the major tracks. A handful of runners and rather more mountain bikers, but very few other walkers. Just as well, or they'd have heard an animated discussion on whether there was anything after Number One - The Larch.