The nit-picking MOT test, that every British vehicle has to pass annually, once it hits the ripe old age of three. Don’t get me wrong: I always knew a roadworthiness test was a sensible thing, but quite what people will drive if they are allowed to get away with it is a frightening revelation. I mean, I don’t like being behind something belching toxic black smoke, but that’s nothing compared to wondering if the vehicle in front of (or behind) you has, say, working brakes. This is a hilly city, and a lot of the traffic lights don’t work, so one way or another, you really do find yourself thinking about that. Especially when you look in your rear-view mirror and see…
It’s been coming for a while – about a year, in fact – but now it is reality. Voilà - I find myself transported to the Southern Hemisphere. 6,000 miles from my wet and wooly Wales, in the African sunshine of suburban Johannesburg, in fact.
In short, the Beloved got a great career opportunity, the kind you don’t turn down, unless you are very foolhardy, and probably also the recipient of a trust fund or lottery win large enough to shield you from the consequences of even your most ludicrously irresponsible life choices. As we are not in such an enviable position, when he he got offered his current job, we hesitated for about twenty seconds, and then he took it, packed a suitcase, and left, while the rest of us limped along in Cardiff for another ten damp and miserable months before finally stumbling out, at the very end of July (like so many little white grubs), blinking in the shockingly bright sunshine of O. R. Tambo International Airport.
So here we sit, on the verge of a new adventure. I can’t say I’m not ambivalent, but, in truth, I think these will be interesting times (as the Chinese curse has it). Even the plants in the garden are interesting. See:
Posted in Beyond glass (if such a thing is possible) |
So, yes, a whole new year. And no posts for months. Mostly, because if every post is novella-length, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and write one (and also hard to justify taking that time). But maybe I should just check in a bit more often, with not quite so many words, and perhaps a few more pictures? All the more so, given that what I’ve been doing is fairly photogenic. I have changed my spinning wheel (and acquired a second one) and done a lot of spinning in the months since I left this poor blog for dead. (There may be a correlation here, of course, because spinning is both distracting, and often feels somewhat more productive than throwing lots – and lots, and lots – of words into the gigantic Black Hole of the Internet).
But oh my, handspun yarn is attractive stuff. Even not-very-good handspun.
How he came to be called Thompson is both very simple, and something of a mystery. Hs predecessor never had a name, but it was clear from the outset that this wheel – this beautiful thoroughbred – was going to be needing one. We batted names around for a few days, and each suggestion was too arch, or too abstruse, or just too plain wrong. And then, the Middle Child suddenly said, “Why, that’s Thompson!” and it was so random, and so perfect, and so clearly correct that I went with it. I also, very resolutely didn’t ask where the name had come to her from (the answer could only be a disappointment). Anyway, he and I have been getting along famously ever since, and I’ve been gradually purchasing all the bells and whistles (and extra bobbins) a wheel could possibly want (OK, not quite. The ideal number of bobbins is probably infinite. But we have a lot. And they’re big.)
And here – briefly – is the other wheel, a pretty little Haldane Shetland. This was spotted in a charity shop by a friend of mine, who kindly alerted me to it and I immediately rushed over and bought it. A very small amount of TLC was needed (and provided, handily, and generously by the dazzlingly competent husband of a friend who volunteered him for the job), but now that too is up and running sweetly. I wanted a wheel I could transport and demo with, and let other people have a go on, and not be precious about, and this is perfect. Unlike Thompson, it’s lightweight, and easy to transport, all the more so with the (in)famous Haldane “design feature” of falling-off legs.
Next time, maybe, a round-up of some of the pretty handspun handknits. But not today, because my New Year’s Blog resolution is little and often rather than sparse and overwhelming.
It’s back, and this time, by golly, I think it even works (or mostly – let me know if it doesn’t for you). I don’t know if it’s useful, but, in any event – I give you (drumroll, please) – the revised Calculator Thingie, for helping you out of those horrible situations where you just can’t get gauge, or you really want to use a completely different weight of yarn than your pattern was written for. There is now also second tab where you can compare yarns side by side to get a clearer idea of how any cunning substitutions you’re contemplating might actually work out. Enjoy!
Click on the image to download the calculator.
I like to think of myself as a person not unduly swayed by advertising. I’ve always been pretty good at tuning out jingles and conscientiously forgetting slogans, and timeslipped television is a blessing to me because yes, I am the kind of person who records a live show to watch with just enough lag to fast-forward through the ads. If I have to watch something live, I am quick to hit the mute button and studiously look away from the screen. I don’t want to give that stuff space in my brain if I can help it – it’s crowded enough in there already,
But sometimes, when I go shopping, I will admit to breaking down and buying something entirely for the label. Almost invariably, it’s something I want to share with the Beloved, and yes, I can tell a garbled story of “it was so silly! It said …” but proof is better, and the actual item – undeserving of purchase as it may have been – is funnier. The ludicrousness of Extract of Cashmere toilet paper had to be seen (experienced?) to be believed. So, for a small cost, I trundle home with the occasional oddity, idiocy, or curiosity. I think of it as equivalent to a cat delicately depositing a mouse at the feet of an honored giftee°.
In recent weeks I’ve brought home a couple of ‘mice’. The first is a classic mouse – idiocy of eye-watering greatness:
In fairness, it’s quite good shampoo. For hair. I might even buy it again. But it’s not that amazing, and I’m still thinking of suing them, in view of my confidence being stubbornly unimproved.
The next mouse is more in the oddity category. It’s this coffee tin, which I’ve been perplexed by for a while now:
What are they trying to say with this? My theory is that along with the sustainability and small producer buzzwords, it seems to be trying to attract the middle-aged, middle-class ex-pinko-liberal market share by drawing more than one might reasonably expect on the iconography of protest and revolution. What else is that Spanish ¡ doing, if not cueing up a bit of ¡No pasaran! glamor? And the hands? I had to look a few times before I noticed the coffee grains flowing through the fists of the noble worker… Could they possibly be trying to stir up some associations in the pre-frontal cortex of the aforementioned ageing lefties, or am I to believe that they designed this button-pushing canister entirely by accident? So, ¡Viva la revolucion! and meanwhile, wake up and smell the coffee.
Note: the coffee is also good, and – for once – appropriately ground for our stovetop machine. I might even buy this again too.
The third mouse was brought home merely because I found it beautiful. Sometimes that happens. (Also, I was curious, but that was pure bonus.)
This is something called black vinegar. I got it in the Korean/Japanese shop I occasionally go into for sushi supplies (and, almost invariably, come out of with a dose of unidentifiable randomness, just like this). It is pungent, aromatic, and, luckily, delicious when used sparingly in salad dressings.
So, that’s three out of three for serendipity. Maybe I should buy things for the label more often?
° When presented with an actual mouse, by an actual cat, I find it hard to know what the correct response should be. Mine, which involves a dustpan and brush and the swiftest possible removal, seems somehow churlish: I know I do not like it when the Beloved fails to show sufficient appreciation of the ‘mice’ I bring him.
So much happening, and so little show-and-tell. I think maybe I’m abashed at how many different directions my mind has been going off in lately. So, for today, I’ll fall in with the old cliché, and ‘stick to my knitting’. Because, sometimes, simple is best.
Look at this, will you?
I picked up a couple of braids of this Bluefaced Leicester/silk blend from All Spun Up in a swap on Ravelry, months ago; fell in love; bought some natural oatmeal BFL/silk to go with it, and eek it out, and began spinning.
I got this:
At this point, it occurred to me that I needed MORE. A lot more. Enough to make a sweater with. But it was a club braid, and therefore not obviously available. So I scoured destashes until I found someone with some to sell/trade, and proceeded to trade for dyeing services (since I also like dyeing, that is practically the definition of win-win).
Every now and then, over a couple of months, I would spin a bit more of the beautiful, intriguing, but resolutely brown yarn, and dream of the garment I would make. And then, I did other things for a few months. Many other things, of which I will speak again. And then, it came finally time to knit the beautiful (but resolutely brown) yarn into um… something.
It was supposed to be a large hooded cardigan/coat-like thing, but that was just going to be too large, and too brown, and besides, I decided that the gauge was going to be off for the pattern I had in mind. So I did a little swatch, and it told me it wanted to be an awesomely simple sweater. Not, as I’d imagined, a cardigan (with a steek), not a big, hooded thing, but a plain sweater. With, um… some kind of simple edging, but probably not ribbing, and er… sleeves of some kind, and presumably, at some point, a neckline.
As you can tell, I’m winging it.
I started with a provisional cast-on, for superior procrastination, and just knit for a bit. The fabric is, frankly, amazing. Not because I’m any great shakes as a handspinner, because I’m surely not, but the combination of fibers is a delight to touch, and – for once – I’m knitting at a tight enough gauge for it to retain some body. There is something about the texture of handspun (imperfect stuff like mine, anyway – I know it’s not an intrinsic quality of handspun) that is appealing. It’s somehow very deeply, movingly alive. It occurs to me that I should have made a three-ply rather than a two-ply yarn, but I didn’t, and I don’t care. if it wears badly/pills horribly, then I shall care, but for now, I’m just too much in love. (And as you can see, I eventually decided on the edging – it’s seed stitch. Or do I mean moss stitch? Whatever. How much? Enough to not curl… I think.)
I’m using one of my favorite stitch-markers too, as it harmonises with the yarn, and is the right size. This was once a pendant, picked out for me by a very wise and spiritual Navajo friend as an appropriate totem-animal for me, and while I love it, I don’t wear it as a pendant any more. A few months ago, I converted it (along with most of the costume-jewelery I inherited from my mother and also don’t wear, but can’t bear to discard). Now I have a diverse range of eccentric stitch-markers I love and use, and that carry history, or meaning, or both.