An elegant sufficiency

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lighter days

Now we're into British Summertime (!) I think I can be forgiven for falling for a couple of bits to lighten up the warm clothes that I'm getting a bit tired of. Though there's plenty of linen in pale pastel colours in the shops, the weather really isn't up to wearing such things yet. I fell for this scarf in Cirencester yesterday.

It's made in Sctoland, by Shirley Pinder, and is a cotton/merino mix. The green woven stripes are elastic, so it has a really pleasing soft, stretchy feel to it.

Back in February, when I had my meeting at Clarence House, I walked back through Bond Street and spotted this yummy necklace in Fenwicks. I thought it a bit costly, but hey, I was having a good day and I thought I'd wear it lots. After all, you can't grow out of a necklace, can you?!

It was available in this colour, a pale green, a pale pink and beige.

When I got home, I realised just why it was the price it was. Examining closely, the work which is involved in attaching so many small disc-beads to the whole thing is considerable. And assuming the person wasn't paid megabucks for doing it, I think it was a reasonable price.

I wore it to my "big meeting" last week and had many many comments. Being nicely balanced - light enough to move a bit but with enough weight to hang nicely, it must have twinkled slightly as I moved, and several people in the audience wanted to come and have a closer look afterwards.

I'd quite like another, pink one, maybe.

Greedy, aren't I??

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Curled up with a book

A rainy Saturday afternoon seemed like a good opportunity to get right on with Knit One Kill Two, and so I settled in after lunch and had it finished by tea time! Yes, it's an easy read and for me, a definite "down in one" book.

The characters are a bit cardboard cut-out, but the clues weren't too obvious (apart from page 76!) and the descriptions of the textures and colours in the yarn store were well done, I felt. The knitting pattern and recipe in the back of the book seemed a bit superfluous - I mean, who needs a pattern for a fluffy scarf? I did feel a bit daft by being surprised by the second murder though and clearly hadn't given the title much thought!

Whereas I wouldn't dash out to buy the next in the series, and still don't consider myself a crime reader, I enjoyed the book and if I were stuck for another easy read, I'd happily get another. I think it will amuse my bookgroup, who will no doubt be bringing some serious crime fiction along to counteract this little bit of fluff!

Finding the Amazon link this morning, I came across several of these "theme" books which have amused me greatly:

Hanging by a Thread and Cutwork by Monica Ferris are needlework themed, and there are a lot more where they came from!
On What Grounds and Through the Grinder by Cleo Goyle are amongst the Coffee Shop mysteries.
Dearly Depotted and Slay it with Flowers by Kate Collins are in the Flowershop mystery series.
And I won't tell you where The Jasmine Moon Murder and Camomile Mourning are based. It's the same place as The English Breakfast Murder of course.

So, what do you think comes first, the title or the plot?! I can say that if you can think of a pun, I bet it's out there already!

Book Group dilemma - resolved

My book group have been selecting a genre of books for discussion rather than a single title recently. Having just pulled a few romances apart last week*, we chose "crime fiction" for next month.

Here was my dilemma. I can't bear crime fiction. Colleagues expressed surprise and swiftly took up the challenge to convince me that I was missing out on some great reading and that I should investigate Donna Leon, Nikki French and other names I've heard of but never read.

I got myself a copy of Death at La Fenice in Waterstones yesterday and came home, prepared to give it a go. But before I started it, I shuffled a few papers and found this, which seems the perfect answer. Good friend Mary had come across it and given it to me to read some time ago, but it had been buried under a pile of paper. Interesting that it should reappear at such an opportune moment.

Report to follow!

* books discussed included: Sue Gee's Letters from Prague, Small Island by Andrea Levy, Waiting by Ha Jin, Pride and Prejudice, The Cairo House by Samia Serageldin, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Travellers Wife , My Lover's Lover by Maggie O'Farrell and Alan Titchmarsh's Rosie !

Friday, March 24, 2006

By way of relaxation

Having completed the first Jaywalker, I felt I deserved some mindless knitting before starting the second one, so looked out this pattern, found here. It was very quick to knit, not much more than an hour or two, and had enough to keep me interested since I didn't have a picture on my printout.

Hmm. We've been chatting recently about the England - Scotland - Wales aspects of the UK, and I thought this cloth raised all kinds of questions, which I don't need to point out here but which I'm sure you will have fun identifying.

You might also have fun identifying my deliberate mistake in the top right corner. Well, it was late. I'd just finished a pesky sock. The light wasn't good.

And heck, this is only a dishcloth!
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In the meantime

I've finished the first Jaywalker. Phew. It bit back until the very end, and I reached the conclusion that I was simply fed up with it and had a pessimistic approach throughout. I'm pleased I wasn't knitting these socks for me, or else I'd never have worn them!

I shall knit the second one, exactly as the pattern says, on five needles. I know I prefer two short circs but sometimes the designer just knows better!

Yarn is Schoeller + Stahl, Fortissima Colori Socka Color, bought in the Co-op on Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich! I think it has a Missoni feel to it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The news is announced

It's been an exhausting but exhilarating day in many ways. Chairing a meeting with 800 in the audience isn't a piece of cake, but when one has news up one's sleeve, the day whizzes by in a blink. Quite how we kept it quiet until "the moment" is amazing, especially since we had TV cameras from BBC, ITV, radio and news reporters there most of the day, who I felt sure would spill the beans by allowing themselves to be overheard.

But we did it. We are thrilled, as were the audience, who broke into spontaneous applause. Having kept this secret since last June, I was pleased, at last, to share it!

Monday, March 20, 2006


Some time ago, before I discovered the fun of knitting, a friend made me this little brooch. I pulled out a big warm sweater to wear today and found it pinned to the collar.

I'd forgotten how much I love the clown, and more to the point, quite how much she put into making it.

I am very appreciative. I think he needs a new hat, though, doesn't he?

Tulips 2 - continued

Though I really like using Picasa and find it much easier to blog photographs from there to here, I can't upload more than one photograph per post. I've looked in the help file and found that " You can publish up to one image at a time in a single blog post". Up to one, eh?

So, further to my last post, I thought the whole vase of tulips deserved a showing. They are quite beautiful and are drooping nicely, too.

Tulips 2

Stunning, isn't it?

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Once home, the sun was out and after sitting in the car for a few hours, it seemed like a good idea to have a walk in the garden for a breath of fresh air. Couldn't believe how much difference a bit of sunshine makes!

Not everything looked so pretty though

The green woodpecker might be a pretty sight in the garden, but the holes he leaves aren't quite so pretty. Looks like we've had an L&P plane crash, a disaster on the "frostproof" planter front, and a fallen star lay on the path, most probably left behind from Christmas.

But look what was in the pond

End of another term

Off to bring Edward home again this weekend, but taking in a CBSO concert on the way. For the first time in ages, it was still light when we arrived, so we had a brisk (bitterly cold) walk before going into Symphony Hall for the pre-concert talk. Mark will report the concert itself in our family blog, I will simply record the battery of percussion needed for Thea Musgave's Concerto for Orchestra. I think you can guess the character of the piece from this alone?

Stayed over at the City Inn, Brindley Place which was really good considering it was so cheap, and had supper in Bank after the concert. They kept us waiting so long for our table we were almost ready for breakfast, but a glass of champagne (on the house) went some way to placating us.

The journey to Cambridge was swift and uneventful. Hard to think that this will soon be home for another student and that Edward's three years are almost done.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wearing warm Alpaca

It's bitterly cold here today and the east wind is finding every little crack to whistle through. I'm really pleased I finished my smoke ring because it's the cosiest thing to have a little light alpaca around my neck, and like the wristlets, is far more effective at keeping me warm than it might suggest.

I think I'll knit this pattern again. You know what that means, don't you? I need more yarn!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Moving on!

I've been out all day at a meeting over at our college, and returned to find a little heap of email. I don't normally highlight my blog to those near and dear, in case they read and recognise themselves (!) but went off in a rush this morning and didn't amend my signature on emails I sent. I will now have to watch what I write, won't I Jacquie? Diana?

In addition to emails from friends, there were a couple of encouraging ones to offset the gloom of yesterday's moaning minnie. And best of all, was one containing very special news special that my lips are sealed, my fingers firmly tied. Watch this space next Wednesday...and possibly the papers!

And as I type, Mark is making a CD from an old favourite for a friend. Billy J Kramer is playing in the background, on a scratchy Long Playing record!

What a difference a day makes - isn't life good?

Picture was taken in a NYC bead and trimming shop last summer and has no relevance except that I thought it was quite fun. Would make a good jigsaw!

Less cheesed!

Had a super email from the tutor concerned with the previous post reminding me why we do it and why I shouldn't allow such negative thoughts to get to me.

What is it about our nature that amplifies criticism to such an extent that one negative comment can override all the positive ones?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Feeling cheesed off

There are times when, in spite of putting in a huge effort to pull something off, people refuse to be drawn in and resist every step of the way. You would think I'd know to give up then, to call it a day and quit whilst I was behind? Oh no...that would be far too obvious a path to take.

Instead, I carry on regardless, convinced that sooner or later they will see the light and be just the tiniest bit enthusiastic in return for all the efforts put into it.

You knew, didn't you, that they wouldn't. But did you ever imagine that they'd write and complain that it hadn't turned out quite as they'd thought and no, they wouldn't be continuing to see it through, thank you.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Simple Jewellery workshop

Had a good, if tiring, day yesterday teaching the jewellery workshop. It involved an hour's drive to get there, and a five-hour session had been planned. I think, with hindsight, it would have been better to do a four-hour day, with an hour for lunch, though it was good (unusual, for me) to have time to spend thinking and doing things carefully, rather than the usual bull-at-a-gate approach, trying to get through too much in a short time.
The ladies were friendly and fun, and all up for having a go. The things they produced were to be admired and the day passed in a good-humoured frenzy of activity. They only stopped for a delicious communal lunch - to which I was invited - and by the last hour of the day, the mood was noticeably quiet and weary.
We cleared up and exhibited our work and congratulated ourselves on the dot of 4pm and I drove home, surprised that by the time I arrived I felt creaky and drained. Each student had gone off with a basket of great jewellery to be proud of - at least four pieces each, though some did seven or eight. Mission accomplished!
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Friday, March 10, 2006


I can't say I'm a comfortable performer. I can teach people OK, which I suppose is a kind of performance, but I've never been into drama and stage performances. This morning, however, I was involved in a workshop led by a "performance poet" and reading group facilitator, and boy, was she impressive! She gently led us through several warm up exercises - one involved our passing round her car keys, with which we were asked to "do something" before passing them to the next person. I tossed them in the air and caught them again, others twiddled in a particular way, or peered closely at a certain key, for example. Next we were asked to do exactly the same thing, but minus the keys...and it was truly incredible how vivid those mimes were. We were sure we could still hear the keys jangling.

The morning progressed, finishing up with each of us being asked to "perform" a given poem - which is when I knew I'd reached my limit.

Teaching the simple jewellery workshop tomorrow - much more my kind of thing!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This week's knitting

My "smoke ring" (where does that name come from?) is coming along well and is a joy to knit. It's the first time I've knitted lace and I felt really anxious about working from a chart rather than a written out "K2tog" type pattern. I need have no fear though, for as Sue told me, it's actually rather straightforward to follow and somehow makes it easier to see what's what in terms of where the stitches of this row sit in relation to those of the last row (thanks for the encouragement, Sue) Anyway, I'm now at the stage where I'm "continuing in this manner" until it is a particular length, or in my case, I fear, until I run out of yarn.

Speaking of yarn, this is the
Artesano Inca Cloud Alpaca which is a Fair Trade product as well as being lovely to knit. Good things all round! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 05, 2006

We met Edward for lunch in London yesterday and walked along the Thames from Tower Bridge to Tate Modern. Made an impromptu stop at City Hall, the new glass structure housing the Greater London Authority - that's Ken Livingstone and his support network. As we walked along the river in beautiful spring sunshine, we spotted people at the top of the building, so ventured inside and really enjoyed the views, both inside and out. Above is a collage of my own photographs, but you can enjoy the official views here. I feel a piece of textile work coming on!

Tate Modern was our goal, particularly the Rachel Whiteread exhibition in the Turbine Hall. We'd heard her on Desert Island Discs last Friday which made it all the more interesting. Anyway, we all loved her work and found the "Embankment" exhibit as enriching as the Tate hoped it would be.

Our favourite part of the exhibit revealed our differing personalities:

Above, you can see Mark's favourite stack. Below, you can see mine!

Friday, March 03, 2006

I am in awe...

...of the tutor who cut the circle below freehand, using a swivel bladed Xacto knife for the first time. To be fair, I think he was impressed by the result, too, but was modest enough to simply claim a few years practice drawing circles with a pencil had stood him in good stead.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Prep for work tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm to deliver a short session as part of a workshop for tutors about RARPA (sorry for the boring link, but I really did try to find the most interesting one!) My bit is for the craft tutors, and needed a simple activity to illustrate the principles.
"Cut No Corners" will have a simple objective: cut a circle from a piece of paper. I have looked out all my circle cutting tools and realise that none is quite perfect and all have a slight drawback. The tutors will have to write their own SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Recordable, Timely) objectives as part of the session and it could be that they will make it more complicated to bring in a bit of differentiation (what an odd website on which to find that link!!) Maybe the challenge will be to cut a circle of a specific size, to cut the hole rather than the circle, or to evaluate the different methods of cutting and produce a tipsheet.
It's certainly made me think about which I'd use and under what circumstances.

What's your favourite means of cutting a circle? Did you realise the hoops tutors have to jump through these days to earn their crust?
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Next project please!

Feel quite chuffed with the finished lace wrap and how snug it is around my shoulders on a chilly night. Did as someone suggested elsewhere and stitched it closed rather than sew on hooks, because the weight of the knitted roses on the front caused it to droop a bit.

Not easy to take my own photograph whilst wearing it, but I hope you get the idea.
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Simple Jewellery workshop

I'm having fun today, getting together a few ideas for a one-off dayschool "Making Simple Jewellery". Have been to the scrapstore and gathered a few bits and pieces and together with a pot of UTEE (ultra thick embossing enamel) and a bit of memory wire, have done a few respectable samples. Now I just need to work out the best game plan for keeping everybody busy and productive. I also need to find a means of having things to hand without putting the contents of my workroom in the boot.

(This is all paper and card jewellery by the way) Posted by Picasa