Saturday, June 28, 2008

28 June: Woolfest and FOs

As DH had a surprise day off, we decided to go to the Woolfest in Cockermouth yesterday, rather than today, as planned.

We set off towards the A66, and found ourselves heading the wrong way, having taken the wrong exit off a new roundabout. Turning the error into advantage, we drove through some villages we hadn't seen before, and found some pleasant views and countryside previously unknown. Some of our better excursions into the English countryside result from detours from our planned route. There's a lesson there.

Anyway, we arrived at the Woolfest site rather later than originally expected, and parked in a field behind the big shed where it all happens.

My shopping list got off to a good start with fibre - some rainbow merino/silk, a large carded batt of wool/silk in a lovely subtle colour, a good supply of black Wensleydale, and some non-animal fibres - milk protein fibre, ingeo (corn fibre), and some shredded plastic bottle fibre. Natalie at The Yarn Yard had some wonderful sock yarn, and some suitably sober(ish) colours were chosen for DH-socks.

Not many stands had spinning wheels, and I managed to find only one of the bobbins I wanted for my Majacraft wheel - while buying that I had a good look at another Majacraft wheel, which I like a lot. But I have a very good wheel, and don't need another.

There were interesting displays - I especially enjoyed watching a member of the Long Draw Spinners Guild using a Great Wheel, which I'd never seen in action before. Unfortunately, a TV or film crew were lining up their presenter to spin on this wheel - and then they were apparently planning to mention Sleeping Beauty, and she would then pretend to fall asleep. Suppressing the urge to boke, we moved on.

Owen Jones was making oak swill baskets - I would love to have one, but they are very big, and I can't really justify buying one.

The crowds and the colour got a bit overwhelming in the end, and we probably didn't see lots of what was there; we took our cameras, but didn't actually take any pictures!

But I have a couple of FOs to show off - first a pair of striped socks, modelled by DH -

And the jersey I have been working on since April, modelled by me in the back garden -

This started off as the Oatmeal jersey, and became the Choc Ripple jersey. It is seamless; spun, designed and knitted by me, and it's lovely and soft, warm and comfortable. Result!

Monday, June 23, 2008

23 June: Time for a re-design?

We've been living here for 6 years now, and the garden has developed and changed over that time.

This was brought home to me this morning when I went out to remedy the damage done by the high winds over the weekend. Along the fence are 3 climbing roses, and there are wires along the fence that they are tied into. This year the roses were well-fed before the new leaves opened, and they put on a lot of growth. The extra weight and the gales had the effect that one wire broke, and another pulled out its (obviously inadequate) anchoring staple. The roses were flopped down in a wet (and thorny!) heap over the border and path.

After a heroic struggle with thorns, heavy wet plants, and wire - and why is the tool you need always just out of reach? - the roses are upright again and re-attached to their supports. I have wiped the blood away and dried off.

For a tiny garden, it's surprisingly jungly. The original design included a path round two sides of the garden, against the fences and behind the borders; this provides easy access to the fences for maintenance, and allows for wider borders, as they can be tended from both sides. These borders contain trees, birch, rowan, and magnolia, plus 2 buddleias, a viburnum tinus and a spotted laurel, which can all grow pretty big. And they have. It's a bit of an adventure hacking your way round the back path now. There is a range of shade-loving underplants, and the trees make much of the "lawn" shaded and damp, and full of moss. (Well, it isn't at the moment, it's full of bare patches where there used to be moss, and new seed has been sown.)

The pergola was planted with 2 roses and 2 clematis, and they have all amazed us with their ability to shoot up, out, tangle, and sag. They provide cover for the birds, of course, but also for the neighbour's cat, who likes the birds too.

The raspberry canes have died off in one part of their bed, but have colonised an area beyond that, where they are looking good, and so that part of the garden has altered itself. There's a bit in one border where nothing flourishes, and that may be a good spot for a little sit-ooterie.

We have thought about digging up the lawn, and having more planting with wide paths in between. But I am reluctant to make it more complicated and increase the maintenance - I actually prefer sitting in the garden now to working in it. How can it be simplified, but still have lots of summer colour and winter interest? And if we want to move from here at some point, we want the garden to be an attraction, not a handicap.

So sooner or later changes will be made. It'll probably be a case of waiting for conditions to ripen, and then it will become clear what's needed - in the meantime we can gather ideas from other gardens and think about what might be best.

Monday, June 16, 2008

16 June: Socks and patterns

The latest socks to be finished -

Trekking sock yarn, home-dyed with food dyes. They are toe-up, short row toe and heel socks, with vanilla feet, and the stitch pattern on the legs is Lacy Diagonals, from the Harmony Guide Vol 3. And no, I didn't want the spirals going in opposite directions.

A bit surprising to be still needing wool socks in June, but there you are.

On my shelves are a lot of not-very-recent knitting patterns and booklets. These Woolcraft booklets were issued for many years; the one top left is the 25th edition. The oldest one, bottom right, is not dated, but is priced at 9d (yes, old money!), while the top right edition is 2/6 (old money), and the bottom left is 30p (6/- in old money). Many of the items appeared in most of them - the spencer and the knee-warmers. I must be getting old, as both of these patterns are starting to look interesting!

Here are two illustrations from the oldest copy. There are jerseys and men's underwear in this picture.

And in this one, socks, gloves, and the knee-warmers.

My mother had a selection of pattern booklets with items for bazaars (many of them bizarre items). Here's a page with patterns for novelty tea-cosies -

And another page of cosies and a crochet cushion -

There are also some old leaflets very nearly held together with extremely old Sellotape.

The pullover and socks were to be knitted for the troops, and the hat and scarf pattern is probably pre-war.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

14 June: Not doing

This week has been a week of not doing.

Not doing housework, not going out on my bike, not spinning, not watching TV, and definitely not going to the Regatta in Durham today. Not even a great deal of knitting - well, there's been knitting, but on a jersey that will take a while yet to finish; thin yarn, lots of stitches, and working out the design as it proceeds.

What there has been a lot of is sitting in the conservatory, reading. The supermarket provided me with a couple of books, and another one came from Waterstone's. I only went in there with DH, who bought nothing; I was well into the first chapter, so I had to buy it to find out how it finished. That was The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, about the Kent murder in 1860. Then I read the other 2 - The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. Both were "can't put down" books, read almost in one go.

Which is a bit of a surprise, because I'm not normally a keen reader of fiction.


The house-martins have fledged one chick at least, and now there's a second nest underneath the first one - an extension for a second family?

Enormous quantities of bird seed are being consumed from the feeders. And today I went out to investigate a grey shape on the back lawn (was it a debris from a tree?) and found it was a small chick, very recently hatched, eyes not yet open, no feathers, dead as a doornail. Perhaps dropped by a magpie or the woodpecker. It's been buried near the juvenile blackbird (found dead under the feeder) at the bottom of the garden.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

8 June: Busy and quiet

Yesterday I put on my Guild of SWD hat and demonstrated spinning at a local event. After a damp start, the day turned out fine and warm, and hundreds of people attended the event. As there was a maximum of 4 of us, and only 3 for most of the time, there wasn't an opportunity to go and see what else was going on. Not even the Morris dancing, by the side that DH used to belong to.

There is nothing quite like demonstrating a minority activity in public for making you feel you are an expert, even though you are far from it. It was slightly surprising to be asked what we were doing by one puzzled person, but mostly parents were pointing us out to small children - Sleeping Beauty got a lot of mentions!

Curiously, most of the public is totally ignorant about spinning wool, but knows about spinning dog hair!

One of my colleagues made a point of weaving with red and white, to the amusement of some of the Dads, and several people reminisced about spinning and knitting in their childhoods. One man spoke about holding skeins of wool for his mother to wind.

And there were some delightful surprises when teenage boys at that difficult spotty age got fascinated by the mechanics of the spinning wheels, and were able to have interesting conversations. Then there was the poor lad who wistfully said "lovely colours".

During the day I managed to spin 2 bobbins of singles, which I plied together and finished when I got home; here is the skein, with the one I prepared earlier wound into a ball -

Then this morning, early, we went and walked in Hamsterley Forest before the Sunday morning rush. We hadn't noticed this gnarled old tree by the river before -

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

3 June: Birdwatch

The garden seems to be full of birds, feeding, bathing, squabbling, and singing.

As well as the house-martins swooping all round, there is a marauding flock of starlings which descends on the lawn looking for leather-jackets; they also feed messily from the hanging seed feeders, strewing a lot of seed on the path underneath. That benefits the dunnocks and blackbirds, all trying to feed numerous offspring. The baby dunnocks are really appealing little balls of spotted fluff with bright eyes and tiny beaks - though they grow out of this stage in about 2 days.

The seed on the path also attracts collared doves, and pigeons, which have not visited us before. (It also probably feeds mice and perhaps an odd rat, but, like slugs and snails, this is the wildlife that may not be mentioned.)

Peanuts have been put in a separate part of one of the feeders, but they have not proved popular - tits prefer the seed, or insects on the roses and the birch tree - but this week they have been a hit with a great spotted woodpecker, another new visitor. It's not clear if this bird is feeding itself or breaking up nuts and taking a beakful away for nestlings, but it certainly has been pecking busily at the peanuts.

This morning it was a very wet woodpecker.