An elegant sufficiency

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In an Oxfordshire village

I've been at a meeting in Oxfordshire today and went to the pub with colleagues afterwards for a chat before heading home. Taking this photograph as a potential "photo of the day" I thought how that brass plate of William Shakespeare adds a bit of class to the joint.

Or not.

As you can tell from the photo I chose, taken at the same time, it was a classy place. Good job the company was entertaining! (Thanks girls)


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Comfort foods

We've been to Hull and back since my last post - just a flying visit because we realise that it's something we've been putting off for too long. Sorting Mummy's house out is not a comfortable thought for either of us and though we've had time to do it, we have found excuses and have prevaricated too long. Anyway, it had to be done and to be truthful, it wasn't as bad as I feared. Upsetting at times, of course, but actually, it's so long since she lived there (9 months since her stroke) that there is little of "her" still in the house. Though the garden was looking a little bedgraggled from all the wind and rain, Daddy's clematis was blooming lovely!

There was one nasty shock in the form of a summons for us both on the doormat. Though we had paid the Council Tax bill to the end of the financial year in April, the East Riding bureaucrats had changed the name on the account and been informed of our address, they had changed one but not the other. So, there was the bill, a reminder and a summons all there waiting for us. Fortunately, Mark had the most efficient and charming lady clerk to deal with when he went in on the dot of 9 this morning to sort it out, and sorted out it was, in no time at all, apologies all round.

We needed comfort. He brought that home with him in the form of a Yorkshire Curd Cheesecake from the bakers in Cottingham. yum!! We have been known to devour a whole one of these in one sitting, most recently at a service station on the M1, but this time, we restrained ourselves to a delicate slice at lunchtime and brought the rest home with us.

Well, we had just had haddock and chips for lunch and in Hull, the fish are far from small! (Plates above are dinner plates, believe me - and that's just one portion of chips shared between the two of us!)


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


In answer to Sue's question about my photo of the day yesterday, the answer is "journal jewellery" for the big craft project I'm doing right now. I'm getting on ok with that and nearing the home straight - just need to run out in a min to replenish some supplies.

I chickened out of doing more to my bag last night. Instead, we sat in front of the TV and watched a couple of Gilmore Girls episodes on DVD. We're savouring these, in the knowledge that we're on Series 6 of a total of 7, but the cliffhangers are such that as one episode finishes we look at one another and ask "just one more?"

Anyway, hands are recovered, a long car journey this afternoon might offer a chance to work a little more on it. We're off to Hull to begin a bit of a sort out. Can't say I'm looking forward to that prospect.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

One - all

After a slow start, I took command and established my own order of play, defying all four strands of that tough cookie of a yarn with no give. Knit into the same stitch six times, though? (We've been here before - remember the Trellis Scarf?) Making a bobble with unforgiving yarn was hard going and having made four, the thought of another eight on this side and twelve on the other was daunting to say the least.

First decision. Only need bobbles on one side. After all, they'd catch and rub on my jacket/leg/side as I carried it, wouldn't they?

Second decision. Don't need bobbles at all. Did a purl where the bobble should be and will apply a small design alteration later.

There! Take that, you paper bag! I don't need your bobbles! I can un-knit!

But it had the last word, as I retired for the night with achey hands and sore thumbs from knitting such a hard and scratchy yarn. A pair of soft, alpaca socks are on the horizon, possibly a fine cashmere scarf.

But I won't be beaten!

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Poor start

No more than ten minutes after I posted that last entry and picked up three neat balls of yarn to go and cast on, I read the pattern.

"Four strands of yarn are used throughout"

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Beaten into submission

I'm at that unusual point when, having finished the Tofutsies socks last night, I need another mindless knitting project. Not quite ready for another pair of socks (though they will begin sooner rather than later, I'm sure), I thought I'd make a start on this Paper Bag . I got the materials in Habu, New York, last year and fought with the stuff whilst sitting in Jordi's apartment, making use of her swift, for I didn't have one of my own then. I seem to recall using a few choice words on that afternoon, too.

So, getting the yarn out to begin casting on, it came as no surprise to find that this was going to be a bit of an animal. It slithered and slipped all over the place, taking every opportunity to wind around itself, tie itself into knots and generally misbehave. Time for affirmative action. I rewound the yarn on the ball winder, taking care to make sure I had the inside end there, because I think that's the only way to go.

All the time whilst I was fighting it, I could envisage the kind of look on various faces, perhaps similar to those in the meeting on Friday, whose reaction to my knitting a paper bag - or a bag made of knitted paper - would be all-too-predictable. The Yarn Harlot says it so well and what she says could easily apply to quilting, when we cut fabric up and sew it back together again, to papermaking* and so many other things I do.

But one thing is sure. In the competition between me and a paper bag, you know who is going to win, don't you!

*Why are you ripping up all that paper and soaking it overnight? Why, to make paper of course!

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

In the city

Today, I had a meeting in London, so after it had finished I took the opportunity to take a walk up the Kings Road and browse a shop or two. No sooner had I crossed over to take a closer look at a pretty dress or two, than the heavens opened and everyone took refuge inside the appropriately named Monsoon.

I caught the 11 bus to Westminster, hopping off along Victoria Street to walk the last part of the way - I had arranged to meet Edward for a drink after work before heading home. As I walked I spotted Artillery Mansions, a glimpse of "another world" in the hustle and bustle of the city. I really love coming across these places!

Walking along Victoria Street, I passed the BERR office. Would you have known what it was without following the link? I hadn't a clue! It's just one of many new names for reorganised government departments, and last week, none of my colleagues (myself included) could identify the ministry who oversee Adult Education in England and Wales - click here and see if you were correct!

Sadly, I didn't have time to attend Evensong in Westminster Abbey, so I walked around Parliament Square, past Methodist Central Hall, and a little way up Whitehall, to stop by one of my favourite memorials in the city. I like the design of this monument very much indeed and think it says a great deal about those who are commemorated there.

Having met Edward at a deserted Palace of Westminster, we took advantage of the Parliamentary recess and stopped by the House of Commons, which was still open for visitors before gathering things from his office and heading off for a drink.

I had a seat booked on the 7.48pm train, so it was a short and sweet catch up over a bottle of wine and a bit of charcuterie and soon time to head for Paddington. (As I read in the magazine on the train, it's sweet to name a station after a bear, isn't it?) I didn't mind waiting a bit longer for the slightly delayed train though, for there was entertainment in the form of the Railway Band.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and a small Sony camera, you can be entertained too!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cute and Creepy

I just crocheted Nosferatu from my new book. What do you reckon?!
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on the doorstep

You know how easy it is to make a special journey to see something and then of course, when something equally interesting is happening on the doorstep it somehow gets overlooked? Well, today was a fine example of that.

I was working in Gloucester, somewhere I go regularly and where I park in the WI office, down the road from the City Museum and Library. I knew there was a textile exhibit on there sometime soon, because I had been asked if I planned a visit. But of course, I had forgotten. Not only that, but I must have walked past that museum entrance several times in the last couple of weeks without even noticing it was on.

Until today.

My meeting had finished earlier than anticipated. I was walking back to my car when I spotted the poster for Quilt Art 22, so I headed inside and through the dusty. dreary museum and upstairs to the "temporary exhibitions" gallery.

Oh my, this is not exactly an inviting venue, but nevertheless, how pleased I was to have the exhibition to myself, not a soul in sight. not only that, but I had the time to stand and look as long as I wanted.

I thought the exhibits themselves interesting in that there was colour! Lots of it. Plenty of stitch too. Some exhibits were, in my opinion, rather overdone or a little heavyhanded in places, but others really thrilled me with the attention to detail and fine stitching. I love Sandra Meech's work, not only for the painterly design but for the small, inventive areas - the little red outlines on black and white, the coloured areas which contrast so well with the monochrome background. Amazing.

I was also delighted to see Linda Colsh on the list of contributors as I went up the stairs to the gallery. I "knew" Linda from those good ol' Compuserve days and have swapped samples and done challenges with her from time to time. We shared a class at the European Meeting Point for Quilters at Rolduc a few years back, when it was clear she was in another league from many of us working in that same room. So, when I glanced around the room, spotted a piece of work which immediately grabbed my attention and went over to look more closely at it, I jumped up and down when I spotted it was Linda's!

I gladly bought a copy of the small but fascinating book which accompanies the exhibition and devoured a fair bit of it whilst a few Eastern European chaps cleaned and polished my car on the way home! (the book had far more visual appeal, believe me!) I especially enjoyed reading of how these pieces of work had come about, learning more of each artists design process and method of working and of course, having a good record of who had done what.

Finally, the piece which hung quietly and beautifully by the entrance to the exhibition was by the late Rita Humphry, whose classes for Stroud Embroiderers were always full (Rita's Whirlies) and whose exquisite work is testament to a generous and talented lady. I used her quilt as my picture of the day, today.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Out and about

Well, I know that some were dying to know about last night - so here is an unusual photograph of the Nippy. I say unusual because of course, one of the benefits of taking photographs is that one is seldom seen...

But, thanks to Marion, who took this one, you can glimpse yours truly in all her glory. As for the nails - well, that manicure was too expensive to dismiss for one evening, so this was one Nippy who got her wrists slapped!

It was a fun party and in true 1930s style, following the example set at one of their earlier parties, each guest was given a piece of cake and a potato to take home. The potato came in a paper bag, complete with black plastic sack and instructions of what to do next. Great idea...and since I've never, ever grown a potato before, something fun to do.

Today, we were in Bath for a while. We enjoyed browsing shops but most of all, being in one of our favourite cities, probably for the last time before the tourists all go home again. It's not a place to go in Summer due to the large groups of youngsters there on language courses and the like. Today they were very much in evidence but not overwhelming, thank goodness.

We ate our delicious picnic lunch sitting on the lawn with a fine view, even if we were on the wrong side of the haha.

But it wasn't really quite so deserted, for just behind us, on parle Francais.

This afternoon we made our way to Tyntesfield. Our first visit - though we've been meaning to go for ages.

As I saw this little place in the grounds, I thought it would feature well in one of those TV property programmes - anyone fancy it?

Oh, and on the way to Tyntesfield, we stopped at Get Knitted for me to buy some cotton yarn. I found a book in Bath and though I can't really crochet, I have intentions of making several projects from it.

Well, you know what I'm like from my profile!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Can I take your order now?
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Getting ruffled

I've been invited to a party tomorrow, to celebrate a 75th birthday. The invitation suggests that guests wear clothes of the 1930's era. For reasons best known to myself, I've decided that I will be a Nippy for the evening, so this afternoon I grabbed an old cotton sheet and began to sew.

The apron was easy. Half an hour and it was done. A quick spray of starch and it looks quite good. But then I had the cap to tackle. All of those ruffles! I muttered to Mark that I felt sure I had a ruffler foot for my trusty Bernina 1630 somewhere, if only I could remember how to use it.

Thanks to Sue, of Sue's Sewing Palace, Helena, MT, I have a set of Bernina "Footsteps" worksheets, each detailing exactly how to fit and use the fancy feet. Oh boy, did I need that sheet, because fitting the thing wasn't exactly straightforward.

But just five minutes later, there I was, happily ruffling away with not a care in the world! Wow - once again, Bernina wins through. How I love my machine!

And, since I'm working on the use of a little digital camera to record short videos to upload to a website right now, I strapped my little gorillapod to dangle off the top of my sewing machine and here we are, complete with (loud) sound effects.

As for the complete Nippy outfit, it may be unveiled tomorrow. Watch this space.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Oriental afternoon

I've spent the afternoon at one of the last talks in the programme of this years Stroud Textile Festival in the company of Deirdre McSharry. The title "Sailing to Byzantium" tempted me with its eastern promise and hint of glorious colour and exoticism. Whilst I wouldn't really say that it was quite the concentration of rich pattern and opulence I had in mind, it was nevertheless interesting and it's led me off on a trail of discovery I wouldn't necessarily have followed.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wasn't someone I'd heard of, though what I have read of her since I arrived home tempts me to find out more. In particular, I'll get hold of a copy of her "Turkish Embassy Letters" which seem fascinating, if not quite a holiday paperback!

Another woman who I had certainly heard of but knew little about is Lady Ottoline Morrell. We heard of how D McS is researching the life of Lady Ottoline through her wardrobe, which has been left to the Bath Fashion Museum

I'd like to read more of this lady and her life. Surrounded by members of the Bloomsbury group, days in her London salon and at Garsington Manor can have been anything but dull. We were told of her influence by the Ballet Russes and a spray of Amber and Musk conveyed the audience into that world - how powerful the sense of smell is! Sadly, the visual images were restricted to this picture of costumes for Firebird, but our imagination was prompted by the idea that Lady Ottoline had a box of rather special clothes for visitors. Anyone turning up in normal, everyday attire could transform themselves into a rather more exotic creature for the duration of their stay. Now that sounds like fun!

Next up was Denise Poiret, wife of the fashion designer Paul Poiret whose liberation from wearing a corset allowed her to wear all kinds of wonderful shapes, including the "lampshade tunic". Isn't this a great photograph of her?

Looks like I missed a great exhibition at the New York Metropolitan Museum last year, but thanks to the internet, there are a whole raft of resources there to explore.

By now, D McS was winding up her talk - even though there was half an hour to go! We were introduced to Lesley Blanch and her "Anti-beige" crusade; another fascinating woman who wrote "The Wilder Shores of Love" about four nineteenth-century women who gravitated eastwards in a time when such travel was a particularly daring thing to do. (Another one for my Amazon wishlist)

And then, to finish, Marina Warner was mentioned, someone who I didn't really associate with the eastern influence at all, but reading her biography, I see that she has connections with Cairo and is working on a novel set in Egypt.

And that was that. No-one asked a question, sadly. It's wrong to say I felt a little shortchanged, for as you can tell, there was enough "meat" in the talk to last me quite a while. But I would have loved more colour, the tales of these people to be more richly embroidered with detail, perhaps more illustration. The pictures I've included here are more or less the same ones used in the talk - mostly from wikipedia - and though there were a couple of others shown, (a particularly lovely painting called "Lady drinking coffee" by an unknown artist, showing her wearing an amazing turban. I also loved the wonderful painting of Denise Poiret wearing her lampshade tunic, which I haven't found online either) there was not a great deal of visual interest during the talk.

D McS had however, brought along a fine Ikat coat with a strikingly lovely lining which she told us about when her talk had ended. Whilst there was a scrum to take a closer look at it, she mentioned an article in this month's "World of Interiors" magazine with some details of these coats in an extract from a new book and CD "Russian Textiles: Printed Cloth from the Bazaars of Central Asia" (the Amazon list gets longer). And, yes, I stopped in Waitrose on the way home to get a copy of the magazine - not one I normally even pick up and browse through - and found it a rich source of all kinds of interesting stuff. I must keep an eye on that one in future.

So, it seems as though the ticket for the talk was money well spent...even if it does look like it's going to cost me a little bit more yet.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cup final day

It's Saturday and the day of the FA Cup Final (is it still called that? Maybe not...) As neither of us is really interested in football (though with Hull City in the play-off for promotion into the Premiership, all that might change...) I am planning to use the time to relax and do something more interesting.

Like read a book perhaps. I have just one or two on the current pile including next months bookgroup choice "The Other Side of the Bridge", "Notes from an Exhibition" which I seem to have been reading for ever and "Singled Out" which is absolutely fascinating and needs concentration to grasp all the detail inside. There's the guidebooks enthusing me about our next-but-one-trip in August, the amazingly comprehensive Textiles book I bought as a result of the Red exhibition in Basel and the Gocco Guide which came last week. Finally, the new Gordon Ramsay cookbook, for although I don't care for the man himself and watching his F word show last week made me twitchy, his recipes are pretty good and the monkfish from the programme is on the menu chez nous this evening.

Or I might just browse through one or two magazines. The new Selvedge arrived yesterday and the Marie Claire Idees this morning. I intended to concentrate and read some articles from the two German mags I picked up on the Swiss flight a couple of weeks ago, and then there are the favourites bought on a rare Borders visit last Saturday in Birmingham which still haven't been opened.

Or perhaps I'll do some knitting. These socks, progressing nicely after a hiccup last week - Embossed leaves pattern from Favourite Socks

Or perhaps I'll fiddle some more with a bit of domino knitting in the multicolour cotton.

There's the paper to read

sudoku to finish

and I have a fairly major craft project on the go which I'm sorry, I can't show you just yet.

Of course, I'm doing none of that. I'm sitting here at my computer writing a blog post. And whilst I'm here, I spot the two CDs which arrived yesterday from Gwen Hedley, which looked fascinating on a quick glimpse earlier and which I'd like to look at more closely, when I've done with reading, knitting, working in the studio and getting a meal together.

Don't you think that could be the reason why so many people find it far more fun to just plonk themselves down in front of the TV and watch the Cup final?


Friday, May 16, 2008

English Summer

One of the things we love about living in England is the weather. How boring it would be to have the same old sunshine every day with no surprises. How much more interesting it is when all four seasons can be experienced within 24 hours!

We had torrential rain throughout the night and woke up this morning to find a very wet garden. Everything is looking so fresh after a good downpour, though, and the grass must have grown an inch overnight!

Only thing is, there's no washing going out on the line today. Shame about that.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Glorious sunshine (cough splutter)

We have what the weather forecasters are telling us is the last of this series of warm, sunny days and we've really enjoyed being outside in the fresh air, sorting out the garden and looking forward to a fine summer.

But look what happened then. OK, so our neighbour did telephone to ask if we minded if she lit a garden fire (at about 1pm this lunchtime), but what could we say?

I think we know what we'll say next time. And for Bob and his son, our trusty window cleaners, I'm afraid it was so horrendous, they beat a hasty retreat. Who can blame them?