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Archive for February, 2010

The other day, I had a conversation with a friend, which went more or less as follows:

Friend: Oh, just by the bye, never ever knit from hand-dyed wool without alternating skeins. Ever. Even if they come from the same dyelot. You will end up looking foolish and you will regret it. Not ‘might’, ‘will’. Just thought I’d mention that while I think of it.

Me: Ah, thank you. I sure hope you’re wrong because I’m doing guess what? just now! And I’m not alternating skeins because they come from the same dyelot and they looked OK to me when I put them together and I think I’m getting away with it. They still look fine, and now I’m nearly finished the project. Lucky me.

Friend: Sorry to have bothered you. I’ll keep my advice to myself in future.

Me: Well, it might be useful advice for next time. How exactly would one alternate skeins, if one were inclined to do that?

So, firstly I’d like to point out two things. One, I have a transcript of this conversation, because it happened by email, but I’m paraphrasing to spare the blushes of the party who happened to be oh-so-terribly wrong. (You don’t know who that is yet, because I’m doing such a great job of keeping you in suspense). Two, I was very happy to have the advice, and interested in the technique for future reference. Not being arrogant, merely hubristic.

Cut to the chase.

I can live with it. Of course I can. My options are pretty limited at this stage, frankly, such that, if those skeins were any more different I would be calling the effect stripes and living with it. I admit defeat. In my defence, and for the purposes of Not Making the Same Mistake Twice, I must hasten to disclose that the rather staggering and heartbreaking dissimilarity is only discernable in good natural light. Which, it being February in a dark and gloomy part of the Northern hemisphere, is a commodity in such remarkably short supply that I knit for two weeks without any inkling something was amiss. In other words, I didn’t have a clue until yesterday, when I actually took the project into the living room and sat by the window for a few minutes as I multitasked puzzle supervision and owl knitting.

The moral of the story is simple: I urge you – for the love of God, don’t try to match yarn by artificial light. And above all, never ever knit from hand-dyed wool without alternating skeins. Ever. Even if they come from the same dyelot.

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My jewelry-making skills are still pretty limited, frankly. A couple of simple rings and the prehistoric bracelet accounted for most of the first term, and this year has brought one pendant and a lot of faffing. The pendant was a cute enough sterling silver ball of yarn with knitting needles.

I had decided to make a knitting-themed item especially to auction off as part of a Haiti-relief fundraiser on Ravelry, and I was pretty thrilled when some generous soul snagged it for the bargain price of $150. I also offered a mitten kit with yarn to make a pair of Swedish Fish mittens, and was blown away when that went for another $130. I could never afford to donate that much cash to Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans frontières, but I was willing and able to donate my labor and material costs. For the record, that round of auctions raised something in the range of $25,000 and it’s been so successful that ‘by popular demand’ a second round of auctions has started.

Other than that, most of what I produce in silver class could be classed as a dog’s breakfast, frankly. I’ve been circling round, but not knuckling down to a commission I rashly accepted at the beginning of the year, to make a mezuzah case with a dachshund on it. ‘Sure’ I said, ‘no problem’ and I took some money and then promptly panicked a bit. And then decided that the obvious strategy in the circumstances was just to ignore the whole problem. Until 10 a.m. every Wednesday morning, when I’d come into class, draw a few very terrible sketches, and put the project aside for another week (vowing to have the drawing part done by then). So every dog has his day, and yesterday, I got my saw out and finally, finally cut that hund out. Copper is tough, and the saw was flimsy, and my technique is probably not the finest, so it was all a bit of a struggle, but I did it. The neck was rather too long, so that the resulting animal looked either like a dinosaur, or at a pinch, like a rather unfortunate dachshund/greyhound cross. So I cut the head off, and soldered it back on lower down, under a snazzy silver collar. (Yes, since you ask, I was going to put a collar on the dog anyway. Probably). Then I got worried about the time whooshing by, and daunted by the prospect of doing any more sawing, so I rather stealthily found a pair of just-about-working scissors and hacked out an ear and a tail (not, I fear, a terribly approved technique), and soldered the whole lot together. A more sensible, less impatient person would probably have done this in several discrete operations, with careful pickling in between them. I’m afraid after the weeks of dithering I had no time for such niceties, and instead whacked on a load of solder in lots of places where the sun won’t shine, and blasted away for all I was worth with the largest blowtorch I could find.  In the end I had to resort to an uncouth combination of prayer, swearing and the Really, Comically Big Flamethrower Thing. But it worked. And although I should by rights have pickled the whole thing to clean it up afterwards, I was truly thrilled and astounded by how much I loved the patina created by the heat work, and determined to leave it. Serendipity is truly the collaborator of the artisan. As the icing on the cake, fate had even given the dog a perfectly placed eye. Look.

Today I made the glass case, declared myself thrilled, and above all thrilled to be DONE. I emailed the client a photograph with a view to getting her final approval and collecting the balance. She’s thrilled too. I’m thrilled she’s thrilled. There’s only one slight wrinkle to all the thrilled-ness: she’s so very thrilled, she’d like another two, please. Flattering indeed, and I’d love to oblige. The only thing is, will Serendipity agree to collaborate so nicely again?

Better yet – in a fatedness-overdrive moment of spontaneous synchronicity, down in the crèche, Yarnzilla was busy too. I went to pick him up, and was presented with his morning’s work:

Every dog truly has his day, and today was a very dog day indeed.

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I went to the supermarket this morning, laying in with all the good things I can’t get at the local farmers’ market. Such as fruit. And, er, crisps, and cotton face wipes, and washing powder. And random, irresistible bargains from the fresh food aisles, which is a modern, urban version of hunter-gathering or seasonal eating. If in doubt about what tonight’s dinner should consist of, pick up whatever happens to be lying around accessorized in a nice red ‘reduced’ label. Tip: this is a policy best employed in an upmarket supermarket such as the one I frequent (and yes, sadly I do not use the term ‘frequent’ loosely, despite my predilection for the farmers’ market), where the produce is always of the finest and freshest, and the discounts of the very deepest.

Occasionally it gets absurd. I have seen spokes of perfectly ripe brie sold off for 10p (around 15¢) and a couple of weeks ago snagged some delicious mince pies for 29p, and a huge pot of brandy cream (which is, by the way, still fresh at the time of writing, a fact that terrifies me somewhat) for 10p. I’ve had an entire salmon for £5, and fillet steak for about that much per kilo. It is merely a matter of keeping a sharp eye out, and being flexible about the shopping list. The down-side is that on the rare times when I’ve had to do an entire full-price shop, I feel rather more aggrieved than is entirely justified.

So today, I think I hit the ultimate in absurd discounts. Due to the rather strange practice in the UK of selling most fruit and veg pre-packaged (my inner French housewife is not impressed by this babying), it seems to acquire a legal requirement for a ‘best before’ label. Or do I mean a ‘sell by’ label? Or even a ‘use by’ label? All these have different meanings in law, which remains largely opaque to the consumer, and instead of providing the useful health-and-safety guidance that the legislators doubtless intended, mostly just leads to mountains of food being discarded by the supermarkets. I am going to restrain myself from going on a very tempting major rant about this (for fear of striking terror into the heart of all three and a bit readers of this poor blog, and showing at least a minimum of respect for their boredom thresholds). At least my supermarket discounts so sharply because they really, clearly do prefer to sell it than throw it out. But either way, once it hits its appointed day of doom, it must go.

So I present you with Exhibit A:

Yes, folks. You are looking at still green ‘home-ripening’ bananas. That are officially past it.( And therefore half price.)

To which I say, frankly, that’s bonkers.

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