Monday, 21 December 2009

Vote Magnusmog!!


Someone, my mum actually, has nominated me for a blog award with a breakfast cereal company.
Scroll down the page to the Blog competition and add your vote if you fancy.
I'm in there somewhere under the Lifestyle blogs. If I win I'll let you share my mueseli!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dizzy, Grumpy and Puggled.




Is a description of the state of me, rather than the names of Santa's new reindeer. Too much excitement has taken its toll and my energy reserves have run out. I've been confined to barracks for most of the week, bumbling around the house like a bee with a defective flight plan.

When not lying on the sofa playing a furry game of Russian Roulette with Magnus ( he sleeps on my chest, I try not twitch in my sleep and cause him to strike with all claws ) I have been knitting simple things to keep me sane. Two scarves of the Baktus persuasion have been finished off and the sainted Mary Jane came to my rescue with her Cabled Chullo pattern which is super easy but looks really impressive. It is finished and blocking on a balloon in my window, much to the confusion of the neighbours who mistook it for me when they walked past. I say the hat is finished but in reality I have still to rustle up the energy to make two pom poms. Any day now.

I have been entertaining myself by taking pictures of the cat 'helping' with my craft endeavours. Here are some of my favourites. The project on the ironing board is in fact my very first ever patchwork quilt made from rectangles of denim. It has been sent upstairs to Knitting Headquarters for Christmas and I confidently anticipate that it will be finished in January just as soon as I have taught myself how to make a border.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Winter sunlight on my toes.




Time for a fibre update. The cold weather has made the knitting of bedsocks imperative and I used my beautiful Fyberspates green to make these chaps. I had thought of teaming the green up with some hand dyed purple yarn but the more I knitted the less the sock looked like a chic take on the urban goth look and more like the work of a knitter who was colourblind. Or completely lacking in taste. Thankfully I had an emergency supply of sensible white yarn which did the trick.

Our little weeping willow tree gets pruned every six months or so otherwise the branches get so thick that they deny light to the surrounding plant life. Last pruning I rescued the trimmings and soaked them in a bucket of water till they grew mouldy and fragrant. The resulting dye is a subtle warm peach, spun into a thick-ish single ply. Imagine my smugness, fibre spun on a Friday, yarn washed and dried over the weekend and a shawl knitted by Thursday night. Only the yarn was too thick for the pattern and there really wasn't enough of it. The teeny shawl that was the result of all that effort made me look like Jemima Puddleduck
This afternoon I will be listening to the football on Radio Scotland and turning a too small shawl into a just right scarf using only some 5mm needles and a strong sense of hubris.

Monday, 7 December 2009

New Views of London






View number one: Distinguished artist Grayson Perry, view obscured by fawning fan who had made him some hand-spun wrist warmers and was in the process of handing them over. Mr Perry kindly noted that he looked forward to having warm wrists.

View number two: Empty plate, Carluccio's restuarant, Richmond. Very fine food and good company.


View number three: The view from our first hotel, the Euston Travelodge. It is fair to say that the Travelodge chain is not renowned for its love of the picturesque.


View number four: Knitter near Euston Square finds that pointy sticks are no match for urban flying monsters. Subject is relieved to look slightly less like the back of a ( London ) bus than in view number one.

Thank you to Archie for taking views one and four.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Rain warming.





Its raining today. It rained yesterday. There's fair chance that it will rain tomorrow. The builders working on the roof across the road are wearing oilskins and every photo I take is edged with grey. A person has to try hard to find colour in this dripping world.

But I am trying. A chum brought me some of her Japanese Quinces, enough to fill one and a half tiny jars with jelly. As a time and motion exercise it fails at every turn but the smell of the kitchen and the pale orange glow of the jelly, shining like a weak winter sun made every minute count.

It was raining on Monday morning when I walked to the Doctors to get my (not swine) flu injection and as I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my coat I found two ear plugs and a crumpled gathering of paper streamers. The reason? A Sunday night adventure with The Flaming Lips. Joyous, openhearted and absolutely colourful. Have a look at the little Youtube clip for details. The sound quality is rough but the images are perfect.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Imagine.






In between Soctoberfest and Mousecapades, I went on a trip.

First of all was a visit to London and the delights of Bethnal Green
( thank you very much Sammy Leigh.) I visited Grayson Perry's tapestry which was an overwhelming delight. Next to be seen were Anish Kapoor's grey worm casts and red wax cannons. It was half term and the gallery was filled with children trying to get their hands on the red goo.

The BFI film festival was on at the Southbank and I spent hours in darkened rooms watching films. The absolute highlight was nearly three hours long, black and white and silent. It was also set in Norway and filmed in 1929. If you ever get the chance to see Laila, grab it, especially if there is a real silent film pianist to help you along.

I was thrilled to find Prick Your Finger, a yarn and spinning emporium which sells all sorts of glorious things. When I visited the fibre being prepared in the shop was given the title Paris Hilton and it was as pink and sparkling as it's namesake.

Off I went to Kent for the weekend and the company of two small girls and their lovely mum. I learned all about High School Musical and the potential perils of chicken flying into beds. It was fabulous to spend time with small people whose every sentence begins with; " Imagine if....."

* embiggen the pictures of Grayon Perry's tapestry to enjoy the detailed beauty and Anish Kapoor's shiny sculpture to see the wee face peering out of the bottom layer.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Sometimes it is better if the cat loses.




Rescued.

Refuelled.

Rested.

Released.

I wish I could have kept him.

Monday, 26 October 2009

With one lousy pair of socks.




I'm just about to head out of the door for a week of friends and culture in London, followed by a weekend of children and more friendliness in Kent. Probably followed by a further week of sleeping while I recover from the excitement.

I've been lying low, gathering my energies and getting a new haircut, ( a fringe! a fringe! ) Not much to report then except some very tasty eating and my puny contribution to Soctoberfest. I do have another pair on the go and have packed some sock possibilities to knit along with the culture. I'm planning to sit in the BFI cafe knitting and people watching. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The peanut that tasted like Halloween.






I ate a peanut this week and was immediately reminded of the taste of the nuts that we would eat from their shells on Halloween evening as we wandered around the neighbourhood. Scottish kids of my generation didn't know anything about the dangerous sounding Trick or Treat activities of children across the pond. We went guising instead and tried the patience of those we visited with half remembered rhymes and bad Knock Knock jokes.

I have a terrible memory for dates, names, places but give me a taste or a smell and I'm transported to another time. And if that wasn't Proustian enough, on Saturday I made madeleines.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Long shadows.




It's getting dark at around 6.30pm and that's before the clocks go back. Time to settle in with the instructions for my new sewing machine - it's a Janome something or other. Sewing seems a lot more complicated than knitting even before I get down to thinking about patterns and fabrics. Even the Beginners guide I took out of the library today jumps stright into seams and interfacing and all manner of fiddly things. I think I may have to sit down with the machine and just practice going in a straight line for a while. That's a lot harder than you might think.

One good thing about the new machine is that it gives me a great excuse to go to the charity shops hunting for cotton and prints. I bought the most amazing dress yesterday that can only be described as a muumuu. I have plans to turn it into a skirt and use the rest for patchwork. I would take a photo but, as I said, it is already growing dark.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Sewing is dangerous.





I've been trying to coax my grandmother's old sewing machine out of retirement but after days of fiddling around I have decided that it is beyond me. Some essential parts are broken and if I knew more about sewing machines I might be able to work around them but as a novice, I fear it may be time to give up and buy a new one.

Not that I haven't had fun trying. I made a bag out of a lovely old apron that I bought from a charity shop and it is now the holding bay for socks awaiting handwashing. And this lovely pin cushion rectangle that should have been a square had I followed the directions properly. I've been trying to improve on my hand sewing too with the result that I now have about four squares of crazy patchwork that I don't know what to do with. Maybe when my new sewing machine arrives I'll have learned enough to make them into some semblance of a quilt.

Its dangerous stuff this sewing. I've kitted myself out with a special quilters' ruler, a cutting mat and a rotary cutter. I was warned to be very careful of the rotary cutter on account of the deadly accuracy of the blade. No-one warned me to be careful of the packaging and I still managed to cut myself - on the box.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

This is what I sound like!




My mother, the unflagging competition enterer has won me a tiny little video/dvd camera. I had no trouble finding a subject to focus on.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A last hurrah.





Summer is fading wrote Phillip Larkin in September 1959. Its fading here too fifty years on. The swallows have made their arrangements and left after a week of checking their plumage on the telephone line outside my window. At the front door this morning the air smells colder than yesterday.

The garden is hanging on to the colours of summer, the french beans and mange tout are refusing to give up hope, still producing enough to turn into soup. Me? I've started wearing cardigans and spinning thicker yarns.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Grantchester Walnuts.




One of my fellow Pilgrims has a tree in her garden. It's a walnut tree and it sheds many nuts. Now walnut hulls - the fleshy green outside part which decomposes gently into black mush if you leave it alone long enough, makes the most beautiful natural dye. You can imagine my glee when I came home one night last week after a long and tiring day, to find a box at the top of my stairs. I shook the box, the box rattled with a satifying walnut-like rattle. Sheer bliss.

I have commenced my dye experiments with this bounty and so far have discovered that walnuts dye skin a light brown, (bad idea) latex gloves go bright bright yellow, ( much safer ) and alum mordanted white fleece turns a glorious multi-layered dark brown, like a glamorous brunette.

Thank you Elspeth - I'll post photos of the yarn when the sun cooperates.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

My day looked like this.





Today was a day for noticing a change in the seasons.
A walk in the woods with my young man, basket filled with chanterelle mushrooms and plans for dinner. The fields around the village are turning gold and yellow, the hum of the Combine Harvesters working all night long. Blackberries are ripening and I can imagine pots of jam and apple crumble. Cosy thoughts.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Look!


The Pilgrimage Film festival that I attended is raising money (probably to pay for the extra transport after Bus Number One broke down on the first day. ) So they have added this page to their website. And look - my hat is one of the stars! It's a Felicity hat made with Blue Faced Leicester handspun and dyed with silver birch bark from my back garden. If that isn't wonder enough, the picture of the snazzy young man on the bottom right hand side was taken by me. So much excitement for a Friday morning.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Home again and all's well.




It's very different from the Pilgrimage but I found a lot to welcome me home. Magnus had reclaimed the tartan blanket before I had a chance to unpack and the garden had saved up some of it's bounty to share. Back to the more peaceful rythms of life and some homemade bluberry and coconut muffins.

I returned full of good memories and inspiration. You can't ask for more than that!