Monday, June 23

Things of beauty!

I'm not going to say much, just show you some of the fascinating items that were in a sewing box my neighbour gave me. She was given it by her mum, but no longer has the dexterity for sewing.

Aren't these needles beautiful with their gold tops? So dainty and graceful!

The matches came out of the Winfield 'panty-hose repair kit' which includes very fine thread and needles, for darning your stockings in the days when they were hard to come by! The matches have glue on the top, you are supposed to wet them and then use the glue to stop the ladders, put a dab at the top and the bottom, a bit like we used to use nail varnish when I was a teenager. These days it seems there's no real shame in having a ladder in your tights!

The different coloured threads take me back to childhood, delving into my mum's sewing box, fascinated by all the reels and buttons.

Thursday, June 19

Tour de Fleece

Out of curiosity more than anything else, I have joined the Tour de Fleece group on Ravelry. I like the fact that they have guidelines (NOT rules!) and that if you forget/slip up/lose interest you don't get scolded for it! Since I'm a cyclist as well as a spinner, it seemed quite appropriate. Don't get the wrong idea though, me and sporty definitely do not mix.

The idea is that your wheel spins along with the spinning of the wheels of the cyclists in the race - ie you try and spin every day of the tour. That's from 5 July to 27 July, with rest days on 15 July and 21 July. On 23 July, which is the hardest stage of the tour, you should try and spin something challenging. You can wear yellow if you feel like you've had a successful day, and there are prizes too.

It's all about personal goals and doing your best. I'm not sure if we are allowed performance-enhancing drugs (I'm thinking Nurofen natch) but since there are no drug tests I guess we can get away with it.

Wednesday, June 18

Knitting from stash

Yarn diet is kicking in - but it's no great sacrifice! I have dug out the sock leftovers that Laura sent me last year in the Sockapalooza exchange, and am whipping up some cute little sockettes, possibly a prez for little sis if I get them done in time for her birthday!

I love the colours of the variegated yarn, and the two fit extremely well together. Enjoying a bit of no-effort sock creation at the moment - which is just as well since our house is currently dominated by Euro 2008 of an evening. That's soccer, for those of you who are reading this stateside! I would put a link in but it keeps crashing my Mac - suggest you Google for it yourself if you are at all interested (*snore*).

Monday, June 16

Vauxhall City Farm Spinners

While everyone else was Knitting in Public, we took it a few steps further and sheared, spun, knitted and dyed in public at Vauxhall City Farm! The Sheep & Wool day was a great success - three sheep sheared, many cakes eaten and cups of tea drunk, quite a bit of spinning, and a surprising amount of sales of handmade goods. I don't know what the final tally was, but I sold more than £100 of bags, cushions, bootees and stoles. I was in charge of pricing the handmade goods, but came up against some resistance in my attempt to set the prices at something realistic for the amount of time and effort that had gone into them.

The division was quite clearly on age grounds; most of the older members of the group wanted to charge only a few pounds for items that had been handspun, naturally-dyed and handknitted. It's that old problem of women undervaluing their time and effort - whereas younger women tend to regard hand-knitted items as 'craft', it's more common among the older generation to see it as their 'duty'. There was also an argument that people in the area were poor - and yet one of the first sales I made was a £35 linen scarf to a lady whose daughter was there for her weekly riding lesson. Later in the day I amused the local kids by giving them lengths of my chunky handspun yarn to make bracelets out of, and made a mental note to knock a few up for the next event so we could have items priced below £1 for pocket money resources.

The day was delightful; the sun shone and we were busy but not overrun, which made it possible to chat to people properly and get some interesting feedback about the event and our publicity efforts. Three sheep got shorn, we did some spinning and knitting demonstrations, toured the dye garden, and Lisa got the indigo dip going, which my handspun eventually found its way into!

This was my first close-up and personal viewing of a sheep being shorn.
First find your sheep. Here our valiant shearer Tommy manhandles one of his own Oxford Down sheep, brought over specially from Mudchute City Farm in Docklands.

"Oooh, mind me todger!" It's tricky shearing round the castrated ram's leftover bits! The shearer works over the belly, then up the neck and sideburns, then turns the sheep over and does its back.

Pam gets the fleece 'hot' off the sheep's back and gives us a demonstration of how it is spun.

It's hot work, and both sheep and shearer are glad it's over! This sheep gets to keep his topknot as a mark of his breed.

If you like what you see, do come along on Saturdays in term time, we are there from 11.30 till 2 for drop-spindling, knitting, wheel spinning or dyeing - come along and try something new! Contact details are here.

Wednesday, June 11

All about me!

Thanks to Jane, who tagged me for this meme.

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?
I would have to dig out my 1998 diary to give you more details, but one thing I do know for sure is that I had just started in my present job - editing an international engineering magazine. One thing that particularly sticks in my mind about it was the first conference I attended with my new boss and a couple of colleagues. It was a very small company so I already knew the managing director quite well after a couple of interviews and numerous telephone calls. We had already made a connection in the kind of matey way I'd been used to establishing working relationships during my time as an engineer on site - in those days it wasn't really accepted for women to swear and tell dirty jokes as much as I did, I guess I was a 'ladette' ahead of my time (tsk was I always so precocious?!). Anyway, the conference was in Amsterdam and we had trouble finding accommodation, ending up staying at the Botel (omigod it's still there! I just Googled it!) which was fine, if a little basic.
My boss had obviously stayed there before, and as we parted to go to our rooms after checking in, he nudged me and winked and said "Channel 24!" rather mysteriously. As soon as I switched on the TV I soon found out what he was talking about - channel 24 turned out to be 24-hour porn, complete with cheesy storylines and moustachioed Dutchmen!
This introduction to the company did give me pause for thought about my career change - but I'm still here, so it didn't turn out so bad!

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
Not counting the several work deadlines I have to meet, I have to make some biscuits and cake for this Saturday's Vauxhall City Farm's Sheep & Wool day; cast on for the next pair of socks; go to my Pilates class; water the seedlings on the balcony (although this might be cancelled looking at the grey sky outside right now) and phone my big sister, whom I haven't spoken to for ages.

3. Snacks I enjoy
Top of the list at the moment - Jacob's Cream Crackers with butter, new-season's cherries, salted crisps (cheese & onion only in desperation), salted peanuts (ditto dry roast), and CHEESE. All of which explains my figure ;-)

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire
Live by the sea somewhere in north Wales or on the west coast of Scotland and keep a few sheep. I would be a reclusive billionaire (dahling, reclusive millionaires are soooo last week!).

5. Places I have lived
Penmaenmawr in North Wales in 1991. This was probably the closest I got to reclusive. There were fantastic walks from my door up to the hills where there were wild ponies and standing stones.
Morley in West Yorkshire, not far from Leeds. I moved there from Penmaenmawr, it was quite a contrast but had the gritty charm of an ex-mill town. And a naff nightclub called 'After Dark'. All naff night clubs seem to be called either 'After Dark' or 'Deja Vu' or a name like 'Charlie's' (I wonder what goes on there then?!).
The rest of my life I either lived in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, or London (various parts from Fulham to Hither Green, but now settled in Deptford, which is slightly grimey but colourful and fun).

6. Jobs I have had.
Aside from my professional career (site engineer to magazine editor) I have had Saturday jobs in Woolies, Littlewoods and Sainsbury's (in West Kensington, full of famous people!), I have made pre-packed sandwiches in a factory, pulled pints in the Wheatsheaf pub in the West End, and worked as an assistant librarian at IBM in Richmond. These were all a loooong time ago....!

Tuesday, June 10

Sunday, June 8

Full st*sh report

So here I am, almost fully recovered from the jetlag, still with a black eye which is now also quite yellow (mmm, nice!) and here's the full stash enhancement report I promised you!

Firstly, my evening out with Laura and Shmoo was a real delight! I was in Baltimore for several days, and we arranged to meet up one evening to put a face to the blogs and the socks and the ongoing correspondence.

Laura first drove us out to A Good Yarn (possibly the world's smallest yarn store, but perfectly formed and very friendly!) for some quick stash enhancement, where I picked up some lovely Luna 100% cotton from Cascade Yarns. I have no idea what I'm going to make with this, but I thought the colours were wonderful and I will probably use them all together for a bag of some sort, or a cushion cover or something. Or I might just fondle them, they do have a lovely tactile quality!

To add to this, I received a wonderful bag of goodies from Laura. She is a fantastic spinner, as evidenced by these two skeins of yarny ruby-red goodness.

I will use this as something to aim for with my next spinning project, which will be this edible hank of promise that also came from Laura via Sakina Needles; it makes me think of butternut squash, autumn leaves, and green moss. Mmmmm!

Not only is Laura an accomplished spinner, she is a dyer too! Look at this perky sock yarn colourway that she slipped in too! It's a wonderfully soft yarn - merino I think - and is going to make some fantastic socks. Along with this were two bars of homemade soap, natch!

Quite apart from spoiling me with all this yarn, and soap too, we had a very enjoyable night out in a pleasant bar/restaurant type place near the yarn shop, where much gossip and guffawing took place.

As if this wasn't sufficient in terms of stash enhancement, I couldn't resist a trip to Knit One when I was in Pittsburgh the following week. In my defence, let me say that I did write a short list of what I was allowed to buy there before I went. It included sock yarn, Lantern Moon Sox Stix (or similar) and yarn for scarves or hats.

And I more or less stuck to it - even 'saving' myself money because they didn't have the Sox Stix that I wanted!

May I present (from left to right): Blue Sky Alpaca sportweight 100% baby alpaca (I plan to make a grey hat with a Scandinavian pattern around it in the green contrast colour); Noro Kureyon sock yarn (expensive yes, but I just had to have some, and am intrigued to see how it will stripe); Misti Alpaca (oh! the colours, the feel of this yarn make me drift off into some kind of pervy yarn revelry!).

So that's it, I am now officially BANNED from buying yarn for the foreseeable. And must knit my fingers off to work that stash down to a reasonable level ready for the I Knit yarn show in September. Gotta dash, got work to do....!

Friday, June 6

The perils of jetlag

This is what happens when it's 9.30pm and you had no more than 15 minutes' sleep the night before, and that was sitting in BA economy leaning your head on a tiny pillow on the back of the seat in front of you.

This is the outcome, when you let your attention lapse momentarily, dropping a ball of yarn as you go down the stairs in the dark, and then bend to pick it up without properly judging the distance between your head and the post at the bottom of the bannister.

This is what it looks like next day, even though you sat for half an hour with a bag of frozen broad beans on your eyebrow to take the swelling down!

Looking on the bright side, I had fun coming up with explanations for my colleagues! Even better, the suitcase is on its way.....

Thursday, June 5


Er, yes it was a business trip, honest! And this was only the initial batch!

I will be posting full details shortly. Just as soon as I get my effing suitcase back! I had time to sit drinking a beer and chatting with a colleague at Philadelphia airport, between flight connections; the baggage handlers were obviously doing the same!