Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bring Me Sunshine

Big Red Doily eats chair
I granted myself a two-day holiday to celebrate my birthday, albeit a week after the event.
I had maintenance issues to sort out:  winter tyres for the car and a haircut for me.
But mostly I felt like I really really needed some quality knitting time.
The Big Red Doily is tantalisingly close to being finished, at row 178 of 189.
Once blocked, it will be at least 6 feet in diameter, which is plenty big enough.
Reading ahead, there seems to be a row missing from the pattern, or else I have used the wrong chart. Eek!
I have a good idea of how I might manage the transition from the main chart to the edging chart, but have sent a PM to the designer on Ravelry, just in case I have missed something.  If she doesn't get back to me in time, I will do my own thing.  It will be fine.
I am really excited by the prospect of finishing such a large piece of work.
It reminds me that I have an unfinished Kex Blanket to get on with!
While tizzying about in chart limbo, I decided to start a new project.
This is the Skiff Hat by Jared Flood.  I am using the Miski baby llama from my ill-fated Brickless scarf.
It starts with a tubular cast-on, which was a new-to-me technique.  Ripping out the waste yarn was quite nerve-racking, as I could not visualise the tubular effect.
Surprise!  It didn't unravel!  I can see the attraction of this edging:  firmer and more finished-looking that an ordinary cast on.  But quite a palaver.

I also picked away at my crochet market bag.  I started this with such enthusiasm, as a gift for my mother.  But the more I think about it, the more I doubt that she will relinquish the waterproof joys of a plastic carrier bag.  Even before the 5p bag fine, sorry charge, my mother reused her supermarket bags.  She amuses the neighbours by periodically rinsing them out and hanging them on the washing line to dry, in all their rustling glory.
Ah well, if nothing else maybe she can use this as a bag for plastic bag storage...?!

You may be wondering how I am getting on with my spinning wheel?

I spent a long time watching youtube videos and looking at diagrams of how spinning wheels work.
I managed to attach a leader to the bobbin, run it past the flyer hooks and through the orifice.  But I could not get the bobbin to move independently from the flyer, and the foot pedal would not stay off the floor.
I finally worked out that there are two possible positions for the metal bolt (not a technical term) that attaches the pedal to the wheel, and the wood around the upper position is so badly worn that the bolt just drops to the lower position as soon as the wheel starts to move.
FL reckons I should find a spinning-wheel-maker who could repair it for me.
I strongly suspect I would be better off selling this wheel as a decorative piece.
I love that he wanted to buy me a wheel, but I don't want to spend my precious spare time battling with faulty equipment.
It would be better not to throw more cash at this thing.
But that's a difficult conversation to have so soon after he gifted it to me.

So, in the same way that I waited my time to buy brand new snow tyres instead of the second-hand ones FL recommended (despite himself suffering a flat within an hour of purchasing his "bargain" tyres!), I will wait for a suitable opportunity to re-home this wheel.
Meantime, I want to get back to my Turkish spindle.
Once the blanket is finished.

Everything is so grey and damp right now.
No hope of getting the washing dry unless I stick it next to the woodburner.
No sunshine.
Mud everywhere, including the kitchen floor.
But plenty of wool!
Regia 3311, from Germany via Amazon
This unassuming-looking ball of sock yarn is going to knit up into gorgeous self-patterning stripes that remind me of the foxgloves, lavender and borage in my herb garden.  As seen on Susan B Anderson's podcast.
I am dedicated follower of sock fashion!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Narrative Thread

It has been a long time since I wrote about what I am reading.
This is largely due to me taking an unbelievably long time (for me) to finish The Country of Ice Cream Star.
Because I did not want it to end.
If I finished the book, I would no longer have those characters in my life and I knew I would miss them.
What finally precipitated me towards The End was the fact that, having recommended the novel to a colleague at work, she suddenly overtook me.  She was reading one step ahead of me, and I was not happy!  She knew things I did not know about "my friends"!
So I sat myself down one weekend and powered through the final third of the novel until it was done.
As expected, I was immediately bereft.  And rather grumpy that things did not turn out as I had hoped.  I foresee a sequel.  Oh dear.
What was so great about this book? 
The language.  Funnily enough that was the thing my colleague liked least about the novel.  It is written in a sort of street-talk, post-apocalyptic amalgam of languages and dialects.
It reminded me of sitting on the top deck of the 56 bus from Leyton to Islington with the schoolkids chattering away all around me.  After a few trips, I was aurally fluent, but would not have dared attempt to join in the conversation.  Every so often, I would be startled by a new turn of phrase, in one case from a girl who was learning Japanese at an after-school club.
In Ice Cream Star, the linguistic flashes are Russian, French, Spanish:  not enough to bewilder, but sufficient to infuse the narrative with extra energy and sparkle.
I ought to say that this is not "my sort of book" - I am easily spooked by sci-fi and dystopias.  I have a recurrent nightmare of trying to escape some unknown threat through an end-of-civilisation environment.
But I loved reading this book.
What next?
This is perhaps an even more unlikely choice. 
It seems that every knitting podcaster is watching a US TV series called "Outlander".  This is not yet available on the UK networks.  It is a tale of time-travel from 1945 Inverness to the mid-Eighteenth century Scottish Highlands.  It is a romantic blockbuster of a family-tree saga with haggis and bagpipes and a fair number of ripped bodices.  Even the Loch Ness monster pops in to say hello.
This is absolutely not my sort of thing.
But I have it on audio book (28 CDs for the first volume of the saga alone!) and I am hooked.
You can listen to an excerpt here.
The heroine is a nurse in World War 2, so when she is catapulted backwards through time after an unfortunate encounter with a ring of standing stones (um, yes...) she is put to use as an apothecary and healer, with free run of the castle herb garden.
So far, so Roo-friendly!
However, before I started on this listening marathon, I had been warned that the book and TV series were not suitable for children.  Until I reached Disc 10 I was quite scornful of this assessment.  Ha!  Disc 10 cranked up the sex and violence quota to an eye-watering degree.  If it wasn't for the accompanying wit and intrigue I would probably not have persevered. 
As I have the audio-book version, it is not as easy to skip ahead as I might have done in a print copy of the book.
And actually, the narrator (Davina Porter) puts on a splendid performance - her nuanced range of Scottish accents is formidable!  I would love to have sight of her annotated copy of the script to know how she reminds herself who is from the West Highlands and who is from East Lothian!
So do I recommend it?
Yes, with certain reservations.
If you are listening in the car, please remember to turn down the volume while waiting at traffic lights, unless you want to shock a cyclist off his bike...!
And if you had any plans to gift it to your prim and proper elderly Scottish mother for Christmas...?  Don't.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

15 before 51 in 2015

Thank you SO MUCH for your lovely birthday wishes!

I may be 50, but that's only the beginning of another decade.  So many things to do, places to go and people to meet.
I'll settle for things to do.
Things that are inspiring me right now:

Oh Bara's approach to sewing like back then.  And her wonderful calendar for 2015.

Lucky Lucille's recent spate of simple dresses.
A Little Red Riding Hood tunic, layered up with cosy knits and leggings?  Yes, please, to the extent of ordering the same fabric from the US!

And as for the leggings... ooh these please!  Yes, I do mean the stripey long johns.  With my hand-knitted socks and Doc Marten's?  Yup.
I really really want to crochet the Tove cardigan from Inside Crochet Issue 58.
I don't have suitable yarn, so have struck a deal with myself that once I use a sweater's quantity of wool from the stash, I can buy what I need for Tove.
Tove cardigan - image copyright Tailor Made Publishing
Yesterday I decided to rustle up a crochet market bag for a Christmas gift (top photo).  It is taking longer than expected and using up more leftover cotton aran weight (from my crochet blankie) than I anticipated, so maybe I will just be making one of these, and not two or three.  That's OK.

Today I need to sit down with my spinning wheel and see what I can do...!
I am sorely tempted by this Wool and Tattoos Club.
Everything I have seen from Gourmet Stash has been inspirational.  No danger of anemic pastel colours from there!

November 2014 sock club in SparkLynne base
I am trying to avoid being sucked into another sock yarn club.  I still haven't touched most of my 2014 Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey packages even though I love the yarns and patterns.  I can see that one of my 2015 goals should be to knit my way through my Ravelry queue, or at least the items for which I already have yarn and pattern.

I am not quite ready to write up a fresh hit list of personal goals, but a new journal has been ordered and I have lots of ideas and a sudden burst of energy.
Maybe the fog is lifting :)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

So This is Fifty

Shameless knitter in the workplace
So... here I am, half a century young.
I woke to find that FL had lain my birthday card on the pillow beside me.  It opened to reveal pop-up butterflies... or moths, we joked, now that I am old and moth-eaten!
And on reaching the breakfast table, still somewhat bleary-eyed, I found... a spinning wheel!
I don't know whether it is functional, or purely ornamental.
FL reckons "it works" but I don't yet know where he found it, (no doubt a story for another day) so it will require some basic checks to ensure it has all the necessary moving parts.
Wow!  A tad overwhelming, but wow!
Um yes, I always pose for selfies at lunchtime, sir!
Also awaiting me this morning was a wonderful handknitted gift from my BFF Christine.
It is Lush by Tin Can Knits - and it fits perfectly.
I love the buttons she and her daughter chose :)
I wore it to work today.
The best thing about a handknitted gift is that the Other Knitter is more likely than me to weave in all her loose ends - there are no mini skeins left dangling in either sleeve, unlike all of my me-made sweaters / cardis!  LOL
Is that a spinning wheel I see before me?
So... how did I get on with "49 Before 50"?
In the end, I drummed up 41 goals.
I fully achieved 16 of them.
I fully failed on 5 of them.
The rest were "partially implemented".
Not too bad!
The 5 failures were an odd mix.
Would you believe that I failed to Walk on the Beach?
No - just a time machine
Considering I can see the sea from the car on my drive to work, this is inexcusable!  I could probably walk there in my lunch break!  So that is what I must do, sooner rather than later.
That would also contribute to my fitness goals.
Yeah... those were failures too.
But there are lots of positives to report. 
Best of all, I was True to Myself.
 And... I Learned To Spin.
Which is just as well under the circumstances!
Performance art?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Clearing the Decks for Holly (with a FO)

Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holl-y fa la la la la, la la la la!
Oh no you didn't, Roo!
Apologies.  Here we are in mid-November, and already I am torturing you with seasonal songs.
But here is how it is:  the Big Red Doily is  now on row 148 of 184, which has started to feel do-able, and I am in full Christmas-knit-planning mode.

I finished my latest stripey socks:  Optio by Anneh Fletcher, "Shanghai Lily".  She designed these in honour of Professor Mick Aston, the stripey-sweater wearing archaeologist of Channel 4's "Time Team".  FL loves "Time Team".  So what better pattern to use for his stripey socks?

Pattern:  Optio by Anneh Fletcher, currently 25% off on Ravelry with the coupon code giftalong2014.
Yarn:  On Line Supersocke 100 Paradise Color 1437 (with aloe vera and jojobo oil)

Process: Completely straightforward.  I aimed for matching stripes and I got them - woo hoo!

The USP of this top down sock pattern is the absence of a heel flap.

Instead, you work a triangular insert at either the back of the heel or the instep (your choice).  This makes all the space you need for the heel turn.  No picking up of stitches required.

Verdict?: These are wonderfully stretchy with all the spring-back you need for a well-fitting sock.
I am holding them in reserve as a second pair for FL's Christmas, because at the moment the only other thing I can think of getting him is a map of Roman Britain.

Yesterday, I thought I would knit up my handspun, using the Windschief pattern by Stephen West.
I originally tried to ply the yarn but it was far too thick, so I decided to knit the singles.  I did not prewash them, so there was a lot of over-spinning to contend with.
I ran out of yarn at the crown shaping.
I will have to buy some more undyed Jacob fibre and stripe it up with the last few yards of the over-dyed stuff.
It has created an incredibly warm and windproof (bulletproof?!) fabric.
I had half-planned to give this to FL but I know that he would complain it was too hot and scratchy and does not cover his ears.
Some people, eh?
I am not about to gift my precious handspun to a sceptic, so this hat will be mine, for use in blizzard conditions.  So hopefully there is no rush to finish it...?
It's a great pattern, and a quick knit - highly recommended!

I have one more Christmas knit to deal with.  I had better not write about it here ;)
Suffice to say, I haven't actually cast on yet.

To make up for all this gratuitous use of the C-word, have a gift from me:  yesterday's sunset.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Book Review: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

The following is a review of Gertie Sews Vintage Casual by Gretchen Hirsch.  I was not sponsored or otherwise enticed to buy this book.  In fact, I struggled to find many reviews of it before I pressed "Buy it Now".

I bought this book in the hope that it would kick-start my flagging sew-jo.
Has it?
I am afraid not. (No, I did not sew a skirt this weekend.)
There are lots of things I really like about it.
It is full of good sewing and pattern-drafting advice to help you make well-finished clothes that fit.
The concept chimes perfectly with my idea of how I want to dress in the workplace:
"everyday retro"..."luxurious comfortable wardrobe basics", based on "The American Look" of the 1940's and 1950's.
The line drawings are lovely.  Reminiscent of the drawings on vintage pattern envelopes, they make me want that dress.  I want to be that girl.
But the photographs of finished garments?  Eeugh.  No.
It took me a long time to figure out what was putting me off.
Gertie and her pals are good-looking gals with plenty of pizzazz and attitude.  I love their hair, their make up, their tattoos, their style.  But in those garments?  Frumpy.
And if a 20-something girl with pink hair and tattoos looks old-fashioned and dowdy in that skirt / top combo, what hope is there for a greying middle-aged woman?

I think part of the problem may be that they are photographed square-on, against a single-coloured background.  There is no context.  It is too flat, two-dimensional, stark.  If I don't like the fabric Gertie has chosen, it is hard to see beyond it.
I am such a sucker for aspirational bookcase backgrounds - stick her in a library and I might like this sweater.
I tried to ignore the photographs and focus on the drawings.
Ooh!  A cobbler's apron!  That's exactly what I need!
But it is not in the book.

OK, try again... 40's style wide legged pants!    Um... not exactly.  You take the basic cigarette pant pattern and add 2 inches either side of the original seam lines, straight down to the hem.  Um, no.
That would be fine as a quick-fix fancy-dress costume design, but as anyone who has made vintage-pattern trousers can tell you, the crotch rise is entirely different in a wide-legged style (low slung) from a cigarette pant (high slung).  And the accompanying photograph confirms my fear - ugly, granny trousers, clinging in all the wrong places.

I wanted to love this book, I really did, but right now it is making me feel sad.
It sets out to provide the home-sewer with the basic patterns to create an entire vintage-casual wardrobe, in "modern sizes", with instructions to alter the fit to suit your own body shape.  But the "modern sizes" are definitely not my size.  I would have to redraft every single pattern, because the proportions are so far away from my own.
This probably means there are a lot of very happy curvy stitchers out there, praising Gertie for her "updating" of previously unattainable vintage styles.  But I would have to cut a size 2 bust, 6 waist, and 3 hip (if 3 even existed) instead of just picking up an original pattern from 1948 that fits me exactly.  Why would I bother?
So for several weeks now I have been lamenting my over-sized waist.  No, I was not thinking my bust and hips were too small, I was thinking my waist was too big.  And that is depressing and dysmorphic and just plain wrong!
Fat and frumpy.  That's how this book made me feel.
And that's not a good selling point.

By far the best-looking patterns are the ones for knit fabrics.  There is a sweetheart-neck tee just like the one they sell at Collectif.  And there is a waist-length "sweater" made out of knit fabric which I would wear, if I could source suitable fabric (problem).  But there is nothing in here I am sufficiently excited about to get out my pattern-drafting tools.

Would I recommend this book to others?
I do think that if you are a curvy gal who likes a retro-looking garment and are keen to engage in drafting your own patterns, this could a good buy.
But if you want "the real thing" and have vintage proportions like me (1948 and 1968 are my golden years!) you might be better off buying original patterns from Etsy and keeping this on your coffee table.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Copacetic Kebabs

  1. in excellent order.
    "he said to tell you everything is copacetic"

How else to store your Turkish spindle-loads of singles than as kebabs on a 10mm knitting needle?
I can really see the improvement from lower to upper yarn-balls.
I am about to start my third spin of this Mixed Jacob braid from Fondant Fibre.  Will it be even thinner?  I hope so!
In sock news, I have just worked the heel shaping on my second Optio sock.
I still can't quite get my head around how this sock fits, but it does.
These are for FL, because he doesn't have any self-striping socks.  How is that even possible?!

I am cracking on with the Big Red Doily (blanket) and am now onto the third skein of Cascade Eco Plus, at row 138 of the pattern.  I have decided to aim for the small size blanket, which is supposed to fit a twin-size bed.  This will still take me into a fifth skein of yarn, if my calculations are correct.  Gulp.

I am not happy with my Brickless scarf.  The proportions are not as expected, and I fear it is going to have too much long skinny dangle going on.  RRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIP!

I thought it was about time I showed you my new uniform.
This is the dark denim Peggy skirt I made in February this year.
My diary tells me that I wear this at least twice a week, sometimes ahem four times a week!
For a garment that was almost sent to landfill, that's pretty impressive!
However, after that many outings, it is starting to develop a saggy bottom and I really need to get on the case to make a back-up garment.
Why do I love it so much?  I think it is the sturdiness of that organic cotton denim, in such a solid shade of cobalt blue.  (The fabric came from here.)  It goes with everything.  The shape I eventually pared it down to is a gentle A-line:  not too wide and definitely not a pencil.  So it is that elusive blend of smart and casual.
You see it here with a new shop-bought shirt (Howies, organic cotton, bought in a half-price flash sale) and my second-hand Jack Wills shetland-feeling-wool yoked cardigan (made in China) which has started falling apart and is darned in several places.
At the risk of making promises I will fail to keep, it is my plan to take this outfit as the basis for my next few projects.
I have had the Pauline Alice Carme blouse pattern for ages.

I still have my tracing of the Bluegingerdoll Peggy skirt pattern, which I can hack to match the final version of my skirt.
And I have pre-ordered Kate Davies's forthcoming book Yokes - ooh yeah!

It is noon on Sunday.  If I just shut down this laptop now, get off my lazy bottom and head upstairs, I could have a skirt half-made before it is time to make dinner.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Rainbows, Unicorns and the Big Red Doily

I navigate the internet with confusion and caution these days.
The web is littered with nostalgia for the way blogs used to be.
I found myself questioning "the point" as if I needed to justify the existence of this place I call Roobeedoo.
But I don't.
So I won't.
Here be rainbows.
And sheep.

And socks
With unusual triangular heel flaps...

And a Big Red Doily.
 I am getting better at spinning.

And FL's Freelite score has gone down to 130 this month.  Keep taking the Pomalidomide.
Woo hoo!
At this rate, you might see some sewing on this blog one day soon!

PS  Still looking for unicorns?  Me too.