Thursday, December 31, 2009

31 December: Irresolute

A White Christmas - snow fell on 17 December and is still here; there have been a few starts at a thaw, but never enough to clear the packed and frozen snow before more has fallen again. The only consolation of a fresh fall of another inch of snow this evening is that it reduces the chances of being woken in the middle of the night by post-pub fireworks.

Now that neither of us has to go to work (we stay at home and they just pop the money into the bank for us), we have a whole fresh New Year ahead, full of all sorts of possibilities. My Dear Husband has found a new interest, and who knows where that will lead; I have just turned 21 again, and have a list of things to try out at least as long as my arm.

But no New Year resolutions. That's just courting disappointment. Hope for the best, expect the worst, and life is full of delightful little surprises.

Friday, December 25, 2009

25 December: A breath of fresh air

We finally braved the snow and ice, and got out for a walk. After yesterday morning's fall of about 3 inches of snow, there had been a slight thaw, then a freeze overnight. But the sun shone on the path through the wood -

And the pond was sheltered from the wind -

Apart from three or four cars and two dogs taking themselves for an unaccompanied walk, we saw nobody; it was lovely and quiet.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

17 December: A rug - and yet another hat

Winter time is just right for making a rug - thick and heavy spread over your lap as you work. Even after my attempts to use up all my stash of rug wool, there was an awful lot left; perhaps something to do with my carrying home an enormous bag full of old Durham Carpets yarn from the Guild one day. They acquired a lot of carpet yarn when the factory closed, and I liked some of the colours.

It's made by hooking lengths of wool into knots on rug canvas, using a latchet hook. Each knot is worked individually. There are 23 rows of 6 sections, and each section is 20 stitches wide and 5 rows deep. Each knot has 2 strands of wool, which have to be cut from the ball or cone. It took nearly 3 weeks to make (not a lot worth watching on TV lately).

The design is simple, based on a couple of carpets seen recently. One was sampler in John Lewis, showing all the available colours in one carpet range, and the other was seen in a shop window in York when we were having coffee in the cafe opposite. My version is 3 feet each way.

There's another hat, too. This one is the Joined Up Thinking hat - it needed a lot of thought (and many pages of squared paper) to work out how the design would carry into the top shaping.

It's come out rather small, though.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

13 December: Holly, ivy, and sloes

Part of this afternoon's walk was along a sunlit hedge, festively decorated with holly -

- ivy, and lichen -

- and sloes! This is the first time we've seen fruit on these sloe trees, though they have plenty of blossom every year.

Perhaps the birds find them too sour to eat until everything else has gone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

10 December: More knitted hats

The knitted hat seems to be the current favourite project - a good way to try out a new stranded pattern, but quick to knit and using modest amounts of yarn. Here are two more recent ones -

They are called Choc button hats, because the pattern reminds me of chocolate buttons, and the purple/brownish coloured yarn reminds me of Cadbury's chocolate wrappers.

The black one has a slightly higher crown, as I absent-mindedly decreased in a different way from the intended one. So now it would suit a wearer with bigger hair.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

6 December: Welcome sunshine

The sun shone on our walk round Gibside today. Look at the clear blue sky -

and here is a photo of the sun shining over the pond -

This one shows rather better what the afternoon was like -

Monday, November 30, 2009

30 November: Christmas time is here by golly

It's almost time to look for the Tom Lehrer album again, to refresh my memory for the words of his "Christmas Carol".

Over the past weekend, several nearby residents braved the cold and the torrential rain to put up their outdoor Christmas decorations. The most popular item in this street is the string of flashing lights hung across the gutter above the garage and front door, so that on all sides there are flashing strands of blue or white lights, and even one that changes colour every few moments.

This morning our first Christmas card arrived.

I suppose normal life will be resumed about the 7th of January next year; in the meantime I may hibernate.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

28 November: Wildlife friendly

We like to think we run a wildlife friendly garden. There are snags. Slugs and aphids. The odd mouse and rat. And when you feed the birds, it's not just the little pretty ones - it's also the ones that eat the little pretty ones.

This morning the sparrowhawk breakfasted on our lawn. All that was left was a small scatter of tiny grey feathers. When she'd finished eating, she sat on the fence and cleaned her feet and her beak. Then she dozed a while and digested. She was very beautiful.

But I hope she eats elsewhere for a while.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

25 November: Showers

The weather forecast was for strong winds, showers, and bright spells. So we thought we'd have a walk in Hamsterley Forest.

The shower started as we left the car, and continued with only a short break (when it dripped from the trees) until we got back, an hour and three-quarters later. The sun did come out briefly, while it was still raining; so at least there was a rainbow.

There was plenty of water already in the stream -

- looking rather like Guinness. There were a surprising number of people about, mostly on mountain bikes.

I wonder why raincoat hoods always fall down over your face, keeping your glasses dry but allowing you to see only about 6 feet in front of you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

24 November: The birds

It was so dark this morning that the birds had only just got up when I was in the kitchen, so I was able to see the flock descend. It's funny how they all seem to move from one garden to another all together.

A robin and a couple of blackbirds were first, followed by lots of tits, great, blue and coal. Two starlings spilled enough seed from the hanging feeder for the blackbirds and the dunnock, and then a few collared doves arrived to clear up. Our friendly neighbourhood mouse will polish off anything left.

A charming wren checked out the potted trees on the paving, giving me an unusually clear view. Then some finches swooped into the birch tree, and a greenfinch came to the feeder; of the two goldfinches perched on the fence, only one visited the feeder. They do seem to like the mixture of seed that has extra mealworms and suet pellets.

Yesterday the local sparrowhawk was perched on a neighbour's roof - it was very quiet while she was there.

And then later on, from a traffic queue on Milburngate Bridge in Durham, we spotted a grey heron roosting on the roof of the Passport Office. Perhaps it was the one seen standing by the weir when the fish were going upstream recently.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

14 November: Down but not out

We have both been laid low with the lurgy, a virus we brought home with the shopping a couple of weeks ago.

But coughing does not involve the fingers (well, not all the time), so I've been able to do a little light knitting. Another Baktus scarf in sock yarn -

and another sort of stranded hat, starting with one colour and gradually changing to a second. The first A to B Hat turned out a bit subtle -

so the second one was done with more contrast in the yarns.

A slight dent in the mountain of stashed yarn.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

3 November: Topical TV

This evening we saw a TV programme about Ray Mears in Canada, travelling with voyageurs in canoes along the rivers, as they did in the 1800s.

Then he spoke about the voyageurs' sashes, and went to talk to Carol James, who makes sashes for historical groups.

It was her website, Sashweaver, that showed me how to do finger-weaving. Very low-tech. And actually, I always spin worsted, not woollen.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

1 November: Family

Trawling the 1911 census, picking up the threads of the family history.

The first record I looked at gave me the information that my widowed great-grandmother had re-married and been widowed again between 1904 and 1911. No wonder she had a face that could have curdled milk when she was photographed with her daughter, son-in-law and their 4 children later on in 1911. (My Dad was dressed in a nice little sailor suit for the photo.)

And Great-Uncle Hervey turned up in Sunderland. He was an "actor", while his 3 brothers (in Wakefield) were "music hall artists". A great-aunt I couldn't find in the 1901 census was in the expected area of London in 1911, with husband, the 6 survivors of their 7 children, and her brother.

The great-great-uncle who was supposed to have run away to France to become a jockey was settled in Chester, his home town, with his wife and 5 of the 6 survivors of their 11 children; and the branch who were always a bit vague about their names and ages continue to be rather muddled.

And then there's my Dear Husband's lot - oh, hours of harmless fun!

Monday, October 26, 2009

26 October: No bears

It was pleasant and sunny, and we decided to walk back to the Park and Ride, partly along the riverbank.

There were small groups of people standing looking at the weir. One or two had cameras.
Plenty of water was pouring over, in spite of the quantity of branches and debris caught on the stonework.

Then we saw the fish jumping, lots of them, and some perhaps as much as 18 inches long. Few were succeeding, though. And why weren't they using the 2-tier section, specially made for fish to get up-river? Could it be something to do with the large grey heron standing bold as brass in clear view on the top of a log just behind that 2-tier section?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

24 October: Garden

The rain eased, the sun came out. There were a couple of windfalls visible under the apple trees. As I picked them up, I spotted these on the lawn near the birch tree -
Having fetched my camera, it seemed a good idea to see what else was interesting. This nasturtium is a slightly unusual colour, mahogany rather than orange or yellow -

The rain has knocked all the leaves off the little acer. They have been glowing red in the gloom of the past few days, but no more -

And closer, all the colours -

Friday, October 23, 2009

23 October: Hospital

We had to be up and doing today rather earlier than usual, as my Dear Husband had a hospital appointment at the sort of time better suited for breakfast.

We arrived nice and early, and were settled in the waiting room before some of the staff arrived. It was astonishing to see how many of the women arriving for work were hugely overweight.

Personally, I would have more confidence in the health system if so many of the staff were not grossly obese. It's difficult to believe that people can be looking after the health of the nation properly when they clearly can't even look after their own health.

After some tests (which sounded very gruesome - I was glad to have been knitting in the waiting room), my Dear Husband was told he is fine, and I was able to bring him home again. The drops put in his eyes make him look like Puss in Boots (from Shrek), and he needs a nice nap.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

20 October: Playtime

It's that time of year when answering the doorbell after dark is likely to lead to an awful fright, with a knot of masked ghouls, witches and devils (some of them adult-size) demanding a trick or treat.

There was a time before Hallowe'en was invented, when children used to construct a figure and ask for a "penny for the guy", but poor old Guy Fawkes seems to be out of fashion.

Not that I was ever able to gather such pennies when I was a child, having no access to any materials for an effigy, nor the transport to get it to a suitable begging-spot. Either old clothes or a sack was needed, plus straw or similar for stuffing, and these things were not available. Nor were the wheels - indeed the possession of a go-cart of any sort was way beyond my wildest dreams as a child.

Anyway, my mother wouldn't have let me.

In fact, I find it quite hard to remember what toys I had when I was small. There was a set of wooden farm buildings, made by my father (my brother had a much more desirable cowboy fort); and there must have been some farm animals, but I remember more clearly the plastic cowboys and indians from the cornflake packets. Spacemen too, about 2 inches tall.

There were paints and painting books, and when I was older I had a Bayko building set; pocket money went on extra pieces for this, and I was able to construct a variety of 1950s houses, mostly with bay windows and crazy paving. Actually, I still have the Bayko, as well as my Dan Dare jigsaw puzzle.

When I was at grammar school I had a tennis racket, and spent hours in the summer hitting a ball against the wall of the brick out-house. I also had a bike (Dad got it from a local auction sale), which I painted myself - red, gold and 3 shades of blue, I seem to remember.

I don't remember any dolls, though I loved my stuffed rabbit, Bunny - it was a real rabbit skin, too, and eventually I stroked it clean away.

At primary school, there were crazes; skipping, jacks, hula-hoops, conkers.

But I don't remember any toy that needed batteries, or was connected to a TV programme or a film. How on earth was I occupied all the time, never being bored?

Monday, October 12, 2009

12 October: Sock extensions

Winter draws on, and legs get chilly sometimes. So long socks appeal.

There are loads of ordinary length socks in the drawer, so all that's needed is the long leg part -

Ta-da! If these work OK in wear, I'll make some more.

(Do excuse the knees - they've suffered a lot.)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

8 October: A Handbag?

There were 2 bags of handspun yarn that I didn't want to knit into a garment, so nearly all of it has become a large felted bag.

It was knitted in mitred squares, in strips, then sewn together and the handles knitted separately and sewn on. One section is dark grey, one is white, and 2 are light grey. The mitred nature of the squares doesn't show much after felting (in the washing machine), but it probably helps with strength.

It used up 628 gms of the disliked yarn, and is substantial and roomy. (Modelled by the sitting room door handle)

Edit: Plenty of room for the manuscript of a 3-volume novel, but an infant might need to be folded!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

29 September: Gibside

The approach road to Gibside was closed, the tea-room kitchen being re-fitted, but were we discouraged?

No - the shop provided soup, bread, coffee and shortbread, and we sat under the trees to eat.

We set out on our usual route, along by the river -

and there were flowers by the path -

Our return route took us through the walled garden, where there were other flowers in the same colour; this one was in a vegetable patch, attracting both a bee and a hoverfly -

and this one was under a fruit tree -

Other colours of flowers were available, but I liked these.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

24 September: Moo?

Having done my shopping, and having a spare half hour, I walked along the riverbank. Sadly, the ox has been graffiti-ed, but only on the front -

It was too bright to see the camera screen, so I wasn't quite sure how this picture would come out -

A couple passing by seemed amused. We aim to entertain.

Monday, September 21, 2009

21 September: Lowest tech

My Dear Husband showed me a passage in a book by Ray Mears about voyageurs in Canada - with sashes woven with fingers.

Intrigued, I consulted my friend Google, and found a couple of pictures and instructions in an article in the Northwest Journal. There were a bunch of threads still tied together from my first experiment with tablet weaving, so I clamped a dozen of them between 2 dowels, using Royal Mail discarded rubber bands to hold them tight, and quickly wove -

Not a very good photo, and there's a glaring mistake in the weaving, but it's a fascinating technique. It might not work so well with slippery threads, but thickish handspun is just the ticket - the pink is some of the first yarn I ever spun.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

20 September: Flowers and frolics

Summer is over - the house martins have gone, and my Dear Husband has washed the droppings off the porch roof.

There are still a few flowers in the garden -

-and even some bees still about -

While he was hosing down the roof, I was busy with the spare threads from my miscalculation on the previous tablet weaving. The perfect opportunity to try out another pattern -

This time the errors are being called design features -

Saturday, September 19, 2009

19 September: Further adventures with wool

There has been some knitting finished recently; a hat finished before we went away -

and a pair of socks knitted while we were away (all but the last few rounds) -

and in progress at present is a tablet/card woven band -

Discovering that the yarn spun for knitting was not so good for weaving, I spun some BFL specifically for weaving this band. When plied it measured 25 wraps per inch; one skein was then dyed brown to make a pleasant contrast to the creamy white.

My calculating was very wobbly when sorting out the warp yarns - first off, I cut twice as many lengths as I thought I needed, then found that (8 x 2) + 2 is not actually 20, and had to remove 2 cards -but hey, if you never get anything wrong, you never learn from your mistakes!

During the weaving I learnt that lumpy joins in yarn that are OK for knitting don't do so well in weaving, and had to work out how to replace a warp thread, then how to turn the cards carefully enough to avoid abrading another lumpy join.

The band is 1.25 inches wide, and when it's done, it's going to be a backstrap for further bands.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

12 September: Yorkshire

We had a lovely week in East Yorkshire, a part of the country neither of us knew at all. The weather was kind, and we stayed in an excellent cottage - actually a converted chapel.

We visited large houses -

- with tea rooms. There were gardens -

We explored towns inland and on the coast -

That's the beach at Bridlington, looking towards Flamborough Head.
And we walked -

A distant view of Hornsea Mere, which is apparently the biggest lake in Yorkshire.
We watched the wildlife from the garden of the cottage -

A Suffolk cross ewe and a Texel ram. The ram's harness carries a container of dye or paint so that the farmer can tell when the ram's work is done.

And there were a few amusing spelling errors; a display about farming had oxen spelled as "oxon" (well-educated animals?), and this was in a ladies' loo -

Thursday, September 03, 2009

3 September: A Wednesday walk

When you've been feeling poorly, with a pain in the chest that wakes you in the night, there is nothing as curative as a walk through the woods.

See what I mean? It was round about this point that the pain faded away, and I began to feel normal again.

Further on, we passed this wonderful old hollow oak, which actually had a small toadstool growing on the patch of moss inside the live outer shell.

In the end we had the longest walk we've done for a couple of weeks; excellent preparation for a short trip away. Which reminds me, I must sort out a bag of knitting to take.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

30 August: Bank Holiday (now with photos)

Avoiding both the poor weather and the traffic jams, we stayed at home today.

At breakfast I was leafing through a book of Fair Isle patterns. There was the start of a hat in my knitting bag - the top was done, but 2 attempts at working the sides in a drop stitch pattern had been disappointing. One of the all-over patterns had just the right number of stitches in a repeat to fit this hat top, so that was chosen.

It was super to knit; although it took a bit of sorting out to draw the chart, it was much more logical in knitting, and the stitches flew along. By tea time the sides were finished, and just the bottom band left to do. I've never tried I-cord as an edging before, so that seemed a good idea. It turned out fine, and (a bit) less fiddly than 2 colour ribbing.

The hat is too small for me, but would probably fit a child - I don't have one handy at the moment to try it on.

Carried away with the success of this, I actually finished the big thick rib jersey for my Dear Husband that has been on the needles since May!! It was started, top down, and grew quickly, with ball after ball of handspun vanishing into it. It looked as if there was not going to be enough yarn, so it was put aside until I could get a fresh supply of fibre at Woolfest in June.

Having stalled, it was hard to get started again, especially as it was getting heavier and heavier to hold and work on. Cast off at last, it went on the scales - 958 grams; that extra kilo wasn't necessary after all.

Photos will possibly follow - both hat and jersey need blocking first.

Edit, 31 August - here are the above-mentioned items, washed and spread out to dry:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

26 August: Indoor pursuits

The weather has not encouraged us to go out much lately, but I've been amusing myself indoors.

I've been playing with tablet weaving; with a warp set up and attached to a door handle at one end and my belt at the other, I realised the vital instructions were out of reach. Never mind, said my Dear Husband, you'll be ignoring them and doing your own thing in a few minutes anyway.

It was great fun, and very instructive. A first attempt should probably not be made with hexagonal cards and thick woolly handspun yarn, but I feel interested enough to be looking out some other yarns, and getting hold of some square cards. And no, there will not be a photo of today's experiment.

There is a photo, though, of yesterday's dyeing. 3 skeins in the stash keep getting passed over because the colours no longer appeal, so they got over-dyed. And a skein of undyed sock yarn has become suitable for dark husband-socks -