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Archive for June, 2009

Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Apparently it is possible after all. A while back I made a few swatches of different yarns, sandwiched them in glass and baked them in the kiln. None of them were a rip-roaring success, but one showed possibilities. The problem was that is was knit from a deeply unpleasant pink acrylic with a metallic thread (which is the bit that survived the firing process) and I haven’t been able to bear to knit with it further. Can you blame me?

So, I have since managed to acquire, by processes over whih I shall draw a veil, a small reel of fine silver wire. Wire fine enough to knit with, if you try. I’m struggling to work out the right sized needles to use, and can’t manage to get neat stitches, but perhaps I will acheive that some time. And it’d be – well – neat if I could, because then I could produce “swatch” art glass using different stitch patterns.

In the meantime though, here are three prototypes: the first swatch was simply soldered (with lead-free solder) onto a stained glass copper-foiled pendant, the second was just laid on top of a single piece of random glass that was then fired, and the third was sandwiched between two layers of Bullseye and fired.

redknitgreenknitblueknit

The first one I quite like, but I’m concerned it’s very fragile, and might tarnish; the second one is an abject failure, but shows glimmers of hope for some interesting manipulations further down the line (I quite like the way the silver has partly melted in and partly stayed on the surface) and the third one I am very pleased with indeed.

Yes. With a bit of luck -because with inclusions you never know (and the person I bought the silver off had had no luck including it in glass) – look out for swatch pendants coming to an Etsy shop near you soon.

I’m off to celebrate six months of knitting with a little more wire swatching.

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mirror after flwIt’s finally back from the exhibition, and ON THE WALL.

Cracked slightly in two places due to inexplicable mishap, but not too obviously. I used to have some spare glass of the right color to repair it, but then I foolishly gave it away to someone who was drooling over it  for some random fairies or angels or some such, and now I don’t think I have enough left. So I’m praying I don’t need to bother (in addition to hoping to avoid the absolute pain that is renovation work).

mirror small

I’m also praying that it doesn’t fall off our rather terrible wall. Things have been known to. On the other hand, there was once, in that very spot, a large, plain and extraordinarily heavy mirror, so we might be OK.

Frank Lloyd Wright it ain’t, but it was the best I could do. I do think it’s actually quite pretty. The dark color is a deep winey purple, complemented by a wispy white semi-opalescent and you see those really small bits between the purple and the white? They are clear with a crinkled texture that reflect the light. I love it. Sorry Frank.

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It is, or was, traditional in British culture to dress – oneself, and one’s children – in good plain underwear from Marks and Spencer on the basis of being “decent” if one was run over by a bus and taken to the hospital/the morgue. One would have been mortified to be caught dead wearing dirty, trashy or otherwise embarrassing undies.

Now I think that tradition is more or less a thing of the past, at least to judge by M&S’s dismal sales records of recent years, and by the amount of implausible to-die-in stuff that one sees on the average British High Street these days. (I stress that I mean see in the windows of shops that would have been too risqué to exist on the aforementioned British High Street a few years ago). Red thongs. Any thongs. Utterly inappropriate.

Anyway, my worry is completely different.

If I fall under a bus, someone is going to have to sort out my crap.

deskhorror

Luckily this image isn’t high-res enough to be quite as scary as it should be, but I don’t think my executors will enjoy it. There is a lot of glass crap (stuff to photograph for Etsy, but I get frustrated at how hard that is), a lot of knitting crap, some broken-by-kid crap, rescued-from-kid crap, and hidden-from-kid crap, as well as a hell of a lot of standard desk crap. Mary, I salute you. I was only ever jealous.

Also, unsurprisingly (and actually perfectly appropriately), on my desk is my computer (which I love). Inside my computer is – yes – a lot of byte-crap and pixel-crap. Somewhere in its insides are a million emails (you know how the FBI stores email? Well, they are not alone. I am apparently constitutionally incapable of deliberately getting rid of an email. Every few years computer-death/-flu/-tsunami etc wipes me out, but I get wilier at storing them and – heaven preserve me – I have been known to restore them all.)

I can’t believe I just admitted that.

There are now also a frightening number of photos of yarn. I do not, like some people, photograph my stash (which is another thing I don’t really want the executors finding having to go through, now I think of it) and list it on Ravelry. I am too busy wasting time in other ways to contemplate doing a thing like that, but in addition to the occasional eye candy fo this blog, I now have to photograph my own yarn for the Midnight Sheep Etsy shop. It turns out that while it’s easier – by far – than glass, it still takes a fair few tries to get the required glamor shot. And no, although I intend to, I don’t then go back to my image files and weed out all the ones I no longer need.

To my executors: my best advice is the oldest of them all – burn the papers, or in modern terms, take a hatchet to the hard drive. A magnet might also do the trick. And, I apologize. But I will try to be wearing clean underwear, if that still counts.

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This is my personal mantra: I rather want people to remember me as ‘One Who Used to Say Such Things’.*

I’m suffering under a perfect example at the moment. Since I enjoy dyeing yarn, and can’t knit all that fast (frankly, no-one can), I decided to open an Etsy shop to sell it, and keep the process ongoing, in the same way as for the glass. Well, the glass is significantly hampered by the demographics of Etsy: most of the customer base is in the US, and glass is a) heavy to post, raising my costs relative to American producers, and b) initially imported from the US, raising my production costs relative to competitors’ as well. Yarn, not so much. The postage costs are relatively less of an issue, and I’m on more level ground.

Also, yarn photographs a lot better than glass. The upshot is that I am selling stuff faster than I can make it. I’m thrilled. My first item sold within hours of my listing it, and now I’m running at a total of five listings and four sales. What a delight. And I do think it’s nice – go look for yourself (but you’ll have to look in the ‘sold’ section if you want to see anything, ha, ha!)

Geez – the hardest part was choosing a name. That took longer than either dyeing the yarn or making a sale. Though to be honest, I do think I’ve been lucky.

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*Apologies to Thomas Hardy

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Good question.

We’ll come to it later on.

Yesterday, we went to an Open Farm day at one of the farms which supplies our local farmers’ market. I’ve always liked them, and their meat, and the idea of buying local organic produce, etc. All those things that mean we turn out week after week to support the farmers’ market, even on a day like last Saturday, which poured with the kind of rain rarely seen outside of the tropics or an old-fashioned Hollywood sound lot. The road became a river, the farmers were half-drowned, and incey-wincey batsman had his game of cricket rained out, so he hasn’t been an entirely happy chappy this weekend. That said, he did get to play one evening last week when we also had tickets for the opera, and so he’d better not make too much of it. That’s all I’ll say, but if dear, if you read this: take note.

It was certainly interesting to see the actual animals you are likely to be eating over the next year or so, and I found it oddly reassuring. The animals looked like they have a decent environment, and good husbandry, and no nasty antibiotic crap to eat, and are slaughtered a mere eight miles away (and it turns out they have to be scheduled first because they are organic animals), so they have the lowest stress levels your meat could plausibly have. I know my food was an animal, and I’m not prepared to be vegetarian, but I do care – and worry – considerably about the ethics of livestock production. Just, if I am ever faced with having to kill the creature myself, I might become vegetarian then. That’s my bottom line of hypocrisy actually: I won’t seek out the er, ‘opportunity’ to kill my dinner personally, but if I find I am confronted with it (like when I had to batter a fish supper to death on a rock, or pluck a still-warm chicken), and shirk, then I can’t allow myself to eat that kind of dinner again.

But where was I? Yes – the Open Farm day. Fair play to them, they did a good job. The whole family were out in t-shirts that read, “ask me, I’m a farmer”, directing the significant traffic, running the various animal talks (including the disconcerting visit to the ‘finishing barn’ where next week’s burgers were looking soulful), filling the hay trailer with visitors for the tractor rides (we somehow missed this: it must have been when I was distracted by the sheep for a few hours), and running the piglet derby (they screamed like stuck toddlers when the racing ribbons were tied round their tummies). Additionally, there was a rather random reptile exhibit (“Have you ever felt a snake?”) and an equally random ‘dancing dog’ display. This involved a hideous decorative-type dog with pinched little features and a pink sparkly ruff (tutu?) around its neck jumping though hoops and so on. I couldn’t bear to watch, but the little ones were entranced. I was more entranced when the display ended and I discovered this: a woman spinning dog fur.

spinning dog furShe would spin your own dog’s fur if you wanted her to (a woman with several bags of fur stored away in the cupboard under her stairs came up while I was there and was delighted to find her: and my family think I’m strange). Or she would spin the hideous dog’s fur. I forget the name of the breed. She also knit up some of the resulting yarn into very well-made garments she sold at a price that cannot have justified the labor. One item was a child’s swing coat, very beautifully knit, cabled all the way around, and with perfect buttons (I want some of those buttons). The really odd thing was that, since the dog fur fluffs up enormously as it’s worn, I can’t imagine you’d see any of the lovely stitches after about a week. It was a staggering amount of effort that she’d put into this coat. If you could mine someone else’s time like a fossil fuel and release the energy from it the way you can burn coal, I would have bought that jacket like a shot. And if you want an idea of how much dog fluffs up, take a look at her jersey. It’d make a fine dancing bear outfit. (And check out her matching hair: I did warn you there was something slightly scary about the whole experience). My main take-home from the meeting? That spinning wheel you see there: it has a much smaller footprint than I expected. And I know where to borrow one from.

So in the end, they hauled me away from the crazy spinning lady, because only if I left could I see the sheep. In theory I was supposed to be helping carry the lunch, but by the time I disengaged, the lunch had already been carried off on a tea-tray srounged by miracle. I say, between me and a miracle, they were better off relying on the the miracle and they clearly knew it. But the thought of the sheep got me back on message, if only because at that point I had  cunningly realigned the message with my own nefarious purposes. Of course my favorites were the sheep. There were some orphaned, hand-reared lambs that the kids were allowed to pet while I pretended to listen to the farmer’s talk about which kind was crossed with which to produce what. Really I was thinking about jumping in the petting pen, and about the notion that fresh wool with the lanolin in it might become waterproof mittens, if a person were able to spin it, combined with the very obvious fact that those sheep had just been sheared (and a couple of dozen enormous sacks of fleece were sitting conspicuously in the adjacent barn). Eventually they dragged me away under threat of a cream tea.

As the Beloved was stuffing children back into the car, I doubled back to beg some wool off the farmer. I was thinking about a handful, to try out the drop spindle I haven’t made yet (from old CDs, or anything else, either). He was more than happy to oblige, since it seems there is indeed practically no retail value to the wool. He sells it – for not much – to the Wool Marketing Board – and  apparently what I’d heard elsewhere is true: the fleece is worth less than the cost of the shearing. I made it back to the car with an armload of fleece and stuffed two big bags with it (two, not three bags full) and shoved them in the boot (trunk). One bag of black, one of white. I’m excited, anyway.

Shortly afterwards, we stooed for the cream tea and I wanted my coat. I opened the boot – just enough to get my coat, just for a second, but the Littlest One was right behind me, and he gasped and pointed: “Why are there sheeps in there?” And of course everyone fell about laughing, and thy’ve been mocking me ever since. Now my two bags of sheeps are standing outside the front door, and I have had to be persuaded that no-one is likely to come and steal them. “People will steal anything,” I say, and they look at me pityingly.

Meanwhile – my stripes progress, thus:

striped sock

Not bad, eh?

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stripesI’m feeling pretty clever. Having been very engaged of late with the most hands-on of crafting activities, I am proud to announce the first interim results. The sock yarn I dyed lately, hoping for stripes? Here it is. And those nice needles (bamboo, 2.5 mm)? They come in sets of 100 for 70p from the kitchen supplies shop. (Actually some of them are 2.75 mm: you have to check. Personally I think several sizes of needle for 70p – or about $1 – is even better value.) Borrow Child One’s pencil sharpener, give them a light sand, and they turn out to be fine. Any misgivings I expressed earlier in the week, on anyone else’s blog are entirely mistaken and must have been written by paracetamol-deprived gremlins who know my passwords/logins.

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Gnat!

We’ve had a week of unprecedented good weather. I wish I hadn’t spent most of it feeling under the weather, but still, there have been advantages. For a start, we swore that we were going to take the Powers That Be up on their promise of “a barbecue summer”, and barbecue every single possible day.  I suspect that this is probably cacinogenic and bad for the planet. But I don’t intend to be dissuaded. Especially since it means that the Beloved comes downstairs and does the whole smoke and heat thing, while I just whip up marinades for this and that. Said Beloved being South African, “braaiing” (I could not resist writing that down) is officially in his blood, so he gets to be in charge of it. The Keeper of the Flame, if you like, (with some modest assistance from our dear friends at the firelighter manufacturers).

That’s been particularly good as the vagaries of my ongoing throat infection have meant generally poor temperature regulation, and feeling especially cold and shivery (and generally up to no good at all), at what should by rights be dinner-cooking hour. Therefore, it’s been very handy that he has done a lot of the cooking AND there’s been a nice open fire for me to go and warm myself by.

Moreover, it’s asparagus season, which I consider one of the true splendors of the universe (I recognise that this is hardly a unique opinion). So, amongst other things, we’ve had quite a lot of grilled asparagus (or asparageese as we refer to them, shamelessly misleading the infants). A couple of days ago we had three grilled trout, and they fitted with almost comical perfection into the little fish shapes decorating the fold-over claspy-hold-stuff-together-while-you-turn-it-over thingummy-jig. Very satisfying. And tasty.

On the not-so-good side, the good weather has meant return of the fruit flies, who looked to be flagging slightly towards the end of last week, and unfortunately there must be biting things abroad as well. There don’t need to be many, and they don’t need to be big: they’ve got a thing for me, and I was a bit slow-moving – due to feeling crappy – and they’ve decided I’m the local supper club. Last night was the first night in a week I could sleep without being woken up to swallow, and guess what? I couldn’t sleep for being itched to death by the insect bites. I’ve decided that “gnat” is an irregular past participle of “gnaw” as in “they flew in, they gnat, and having gnat lumbered away heavily.” The ravages of three or so small harmless flying things in a Welsh garden have reminded me why i’m not planning on visiting any malaria zone, ever. There is no insect repellant good enough.

It’s been a week now, and the rain is due back in time for the weekend. Shame. I think having everyone’s supper sorted out was preferable, even allowing for having been part of the menu.

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