Posts Tagged ‘builders’

sock2To quote a well-loved television show from my childhood, “here’s one two I made earlier.” Actually, to be honest, they dragged on a bit because I did a few other things while I was at them, and in the end I decided that if I didn’t crack on fairly smartish, I rather hoped I wouldn’t have a chance to put them on for months (being that they are a nice thick 80% lambswool, 10% angora, 10% cashmere blend). But today was still comfortable for them (and boots as well, I’m afraid).

I’m so glad I kept them both going at the same time. The first one was finished on Saturday evening, and the second sock syndrome only had a couple of days to get going – not quite long enough to take hold. So voilà!

There really are two— eye of partridge heel, and all.


The pattern is Posh Yarn’s slip up socks, which was a lot easier once I worked out that you basically always slip purlwise. Who knew? The entire world, probably, but not me.

Oh, and another thing: I did the builder an injustice. He has come back to do the bits and pieces. Or possibly to talk all day and charge us for it. I’ve spent half the day cowering upstairs. Wow, we always have such talkative workmen. The electrician we favor even talks nonsense. Literally. I kid you not. He is an evangelical Christian, and from halfway down my cellar steps one day, he offered to talk in tongues for me. So he did. At length. When eventually he finished he said, “did you understand any of that?” No, I had to admit, I didn’t (but it sounded very imressive, I have to say). “No,” he said, perfectly cheerfully. “Neither did I.” Apparently it was his soul, speaking directly to God, which I must say is a notion that appeals to me.

Read Full Post »

I had a whole other post planned, but Life intervened and it didn’t happen. Or not enough of it happened, so it’s languishing in Draft-land. Sorry post: at least you are not alone. Some of my best posts are there.

I have spent most of the last couple of days trying to recover from the builders. Everything is covered in a layer of dust so thick it looks like Pompeii, only less grand. Kelvin at least appears to be still breathing, which is a minor miracle, and he deigned to produce a plate last night, and I managed to swathe it in three times its weight in bubble wrap and escort it to the post office in time to make the last post. The way the last few days have been, I’m counting that a major triumph. Major. It reminds me that I need to expand my cherry blossom range: it’s the closest I come to popular. Also I have a cone of the world’s most obscene pink sparkly acrylic sitting (where else?) on the printer, waiting to be knitted into swatches for round two of the glass knitting experiment.

The builders have cleaned the floor. I have cleaned the floor. Several times. It still looks as though it has not been cleaned since 1993. Go figure. Well, at least  for the forseeable future, whenever the house gets a dose of dusting or hoovering, it will be a job worth doing. Not a maybe, not a 50-50, not what my dear mother always wearily called “a lick and a promise” (though that may in fact be all it actually gets). And there is virtue in that: I like to clean when I can see where I’ve been, although I realize that notion may strike a shudder into more house-proud hearts.

Two things to note: we are indeed into the long half-life period I mentioned earlier in the week. We paid the builder; he was supposed to come back today; we had a phone-call yesterday evening and… you’ll have guessed the rest. We wait, but with neither conviction, nor hope, (like a prisoner of corrupt regimes).

Second thing: I still hate the french doors and wish I’d spent the money on something else instead. Stash. Or a diving holiday in Bonaire. Or the dining table that would go perfectly with the Welsh dresser we bought recently. Or, indeed, nothing, which would have been the most sensible choice. But not those french doors. What was I thinking?

On the other hand, a while back I bought 46g of laceweight cashmere on eBay (OK, so it was cheap, with something else I was already buying, and included in the same postage). When it arrived I thought it was loathsome, partly because it was a foul shade of lilac, and partly because it was distractingly put up in a cake, like string, and it looked very tough and chewy and not at all like my mental image of cashmere. I was considering my options for getting rid of it (no Mary, knitting that into something for someone else was not an option: too fiddly, and too ugly at the same time) when a magical thought occurred to me: dye.

I have always been a fan of dye, amongst other transformatory tools. In general I am not one to give up on things easily, or throw things away readily, and have been known to make the long-sleeved short, and confound the plain with chunks of appliqué, and the like, but it must be said that dye is often the easiest, cheapest and most gratifyingly complete transformation that can be effected on a garment. Or, of course, on an unsuspecting skein of wool.

Previously, I’ve used Dylon (and I even colored my wedding dress with it, at home, in a bucket, and wore it to the Oscars, no less, but that is quite another story), but I fancied the kool-aid/food coloring techniques I’ve seen on Ravelry. I like the food-safe aspect: no looking for special utensils or worrying about dangerous chemical spills within reach of small children. Ravelry being what it is, a kind American offered to send me some supplies (thank you Jenn!), and I was – shamefully – unable to resist even a day after my selection of Wilton icing dye arrived. As I was cooking curry, so I was furtively winding that lilac horror back into a skein, giving it a mad-scientist-attack and throwing it in the steamer basket. Wow, wow, wow. It’s not perfect (there are a couple of purple speckles that should not be there), but I love it to bits. The funny thing is that it’s now also apparently much softer than before. I’m sure that is not the case, but the effect of the more cuddlable skein format compared to the rather boxy cake (kind of the formal business-suit of yarnwear, don’t you think?).

Just look at this, and weep. 400 yards. Any suggestions?

hand dyed cashmere 1hand dyed cashmere - with imperfections

Read Full Post »

I have observed this phenomenon before, but am unsure whether it is a universally recognized one (that it is universally experienced I doubt not at all). The builders come; they crack on splendidly; the job* is nearly done; then it is nearly, nearly done and then, it gradually but inexorably collapses into the sagging mush of “it’ll be finished tomorrow”. Sometime after this is the stage where they leave, with “snagging” to be returned for. Then, much later than anticipated, they – the good ones, at least – do actually return for snagging (possibly as a direct correlate of a certain amount of nagging: the words may in fact be more than coincidentally similar, but I’m not an etymologist), but there is invariably still some outstanding little thing – some tiny thing – that needs fixing, or redoing, and a special-headed screw, or a new fascia, or something needs ordering, and they go away again… And at some point in this process, you absolutely have to give them the last of their money, because, after all, how much can you hold back for a single hydra-headed screw?

Well, Welcome to Limbo. You have almost certainly just hit the point, actually, where you are stuck in a decay half-life that is longer than your own, or the builder’s actual physical life, although you may not know this immediately. All the work has got slower, and slower, and slower, with every step. You think, foolishly, to begin with that it is something to do with the fact that it is probably easier to knock down a wall than to build one. You think that it makes sense – “intuitively” – that detail takes longer than the broad sweep of laboring; that plastering is a fiddlier, more time-consuming job than bricklaying. You know that the builder is not dragging the job out for fun, however much tea and premium espresso you’ve been plying him with. You know for a fact (possibly because he has told you so a dozen times) that the builder has other jobs waiting, other customers lining up to thrust money into his hands, if only he could get away from your house, and you have probably reached the stage – certainly if you are British – when you apologize to the builder every time he turns up in the morning. So neither you nor he can understand that you have waited as long for a single double-glazed window unit to be delivered as it took to do the whole of the rest of the job (to date, mind – to date: any subsequent element will take twice as long, remember).

But then, neither you nor he are grasping what’s happening here. You are failing to understand the fundamental law that governs building work, which is that of radioactive decay. Now a half-life can be very short: many drugs in the body have a half-life of hours, but you should be aware that the half-life of building work is much closer to that of uranium-238 (which Wikipedia tells me is 4.46 billion years).


* I wrote “jobe” there briefly, and I think it may have been a phonetic Freudian slip: I can only have been thinking of the Biblical Job, and his epithetical patience. That Comic God of Typos was having his witty way with me (again).

Read Full Post »

That was the verdict (in the most scathing tone possible) of my builder on the kind of people who live in houses like mine. I’m don’t think he meant to be rude, and I’m not absolutely sure he’s noticed my own lurking sock, but he has me bang to rights. It’s a fair cop, guv.  After all, I care about the environment, the food I put in our mouths, the television I put into my children’s minds, the aesthetics of my home, the moral and ethical standpoint of the supermarket I go to, and so on and so forth to infinitum. It makes even me weary. The builder meanwhile, is a perfectly nice bloke, and no fool, but “don’t get me wrong” (to quote his favorite expression), I don’t think he worries about how many sweatshop-employed-pre-teens it took to make his t-shirt.

Not that it was all that hard to get my measure, mind you: I’m the all-organic imbecile who wanted to make the windows myself and have him fit them. I wish I had, He dissuaded me, and I caved in and accepted the evils of uPVC. Oh, was I ever wrong. I’m going on the record to state that I think we’ve made a HUGE mistake and are going to have a hideous eyesore (french doors, that will more PVC than glass) where we could have let well enough alone and left the perfectly acceptable window in place. So, yes, we will enjoy the better access to the garden – IF we have that fine summer they’re threatening us with- and the view will be improved, assuming (and this is the part I wasn’t bargaining on) we leave the doors open all the time. Otherwise we look to have introduced an entirely unnecessary PVC column into the back wall of the house. Smart thinking indeed. Ah well, we’ll see when it’s all done. Maybe it’ll be less dire that I anticipate. But, it will be what it will be, I suppose, and I have to remind myself that we were limited by the budget. Yyes, I’m sure we could have had exactly the perfect solution (maybe not even, maybe only closer to it); we just couldn’t afford it. Having an eye which rarely matches the budget can be a curse at times.

Now excuse me while I take a trip up and down the road looking for other like-minded “yoghurt knitters”: I haven’t noticed that many in the last three years, and I’m sure my neighbour (who grew up within half a dozen streets of the builder, incidentally) wouldn’t appreciate the title.

Read Full Post »

home dyed skein oneI’m shivering through today, shivered through last night, and through yesterday, laid low with another of my recurrent bouts of tonsilitis. I so hate this. I can probably write off most of the next week to misery. I had no energy today so I did little more than make the builder tea, look at a little y-a-r-n p-o-r-n and order some undyed merino to play with when my wonderful package turns up from America. A very kind Raveler offered to send on some precious American food dye, with lots of colors I can’t get here! Yummy colors, no less. I’m getting ready to put my postman through some severe stalking next week.

This, for those who are interested, is the etiology of the new madness. The Beloved plays cricket in the season. He claims “it’s only a short season”, but as it takes an almost day-long chunk out of our weekend from April to September (weather permitting), and one or two evenings a week once things really get going in May, I’m not so sure. However, it keeps him happy – coat in good conditon and his eyes shiny – so I am pleased for him, especially since he is unfailingly supportive of my own amusements, but I do wish it consumed less of our family time. Anyway, off he went on Saturday, and the builders – while not actually around over the weekend – had created an unholy mess in the back part of the house, so I couldn’t even reach Kelvin (he’s sulking: they’ve put a pink and purple dustsheet on him, and are treating him as a coffee table. I don’t know how I’ll make it up to him). There are a few Kelvin ideas percolating, but they’ll have to wait. The little ones were asleep, Child One was lurking with a book, there was nobody to stop distract me…

So, having finally got around to picking up some food coloring in Waitrose, with Child One’s birthday next week in mind, I decided it would be much more fun to let it loose on some interesting eBay yarn I had no idea what to do with. This was 150g of two-ply merino/silk in a natural color of unknown wiehgt/yardage. I thought – correctly – that the wool and silk would take up the dye slightly differently, and anyway, apart from the stash of angora which I want to stay cream, I didn’t have anything else to play with.

I happened to have some citric acid around (from bath bomb making for Child One’s birthday party two years ago), which was handy, as I didn’t have “white vinegar” (don’t really know my different vinegars apart, other than wine versus spirit). So I soaked the yarn for “a while” (aka, not very long really, but it’s all an experiment anyway, so who’s to say it’s not enough?) then laid it out on cling film and poured food coloring, turmeric solution (OK, OK, turmeric in suspension: don’t be pedantic), tea solution and coffee all over it. Wrapped the cling film firmly and steamed the package for “a while” (see above for more specific timing). I’m impatient. I put the finished yarn in a bag and spun it as fast as my washing machine would let me and hung it over the door to finish drying. Then I carried it around in my arms for a while (about twenty-four hours, actually). Child One suggested I could wear it, as is, without knitting, as a scarf, and by George, I think she’s right. In fact, if I hadn’t felt compelled to wind it into a ball to get a better sense of the colors, I would be doing exactly that right now. After all, I am wearing my heaviest cardigan (aran wight, 75%wool, 25% mohair – and warm) and the black wrap/scarf which was almost the first thing I made and all the other clothes I put on this morning when my temperature was more conventional. I’m toying with either a) putting on my fingerless gloves or b) crawling into the oven alongside the chicken I’ve just put in there.

Anyway, this is the result. I think it might be a little lurid, but maybe it will be acceptable. I suppose it depends how it knits. It ca always be redyed to damp the colors down if required. For the record, I also think it’s sport weight and around 240 m. We shall see. A shawl is my best guess, but more specific suggestions – or entirely different ones – are most welcome.

first dyed skein1first dyed skein2fisrt dyed ball

ball winder of notePlus, two good things happened in this winding process: Child One offered her arms, perfectly spontaneously (I think she was fascinated by the whole mad scientist event), and I discovered a ball-winding tool with great potential – Child Two’s plastic toy comb. She was adamant that it wasn’t mine, but hers, and I shouldn’t use it, but I overruled her, invoking the sharing principle. She remains unimpressed, so I’ve hidden it on my desk (this is way too easy to do, and can be passed off as accidental if I’m challenged).

Now I’m going to get myself as close as possible to a source of heat, and take a medicinal scotch, for my throat’s poor sake. Next up: the great hot glass event…

Read Full Post »

I’m back from my friend’s, and the sun is shining for the fourth day in a row, and the builders are lurking in the garden with noisemaking equipment and the radio (I so wish I could impose my taste in music, or shared theirs) . All seems well with the world, so there’s a glaring “what is about to go wrong?” feeling in the back of my mind. I don’t mean small stuff, like finding out that my adored jasmine has been decapitated, of something (don’t worry: it hasn’t been, yet). More the kind of “we’ve hit a snag that means we need to scaffold immediately and rebuild the rear wall of your house and your new toilet is now going to cost £15,000” kind of a go-wrong. But maybe not. We live in hope, which is fine. It’s the holding my breath part that’s getting to me.

My friend was as much of delight as she has been for the last twenty-odd years. Her children were new, but quite as delightful as their dear mother. I’ve also decided that maybe her husband doesn’t hate me after all. Why did I think he did? Other than generic neurosis? No idea. Either way, they announced the Lions touring party to South Africa and we chewed that over for a while. Wales has supplied 13 of the 37 players, and England only 8, so I was happier than him, but I don’t think he cares quite as much. Rugby tends to mean so much more to Welsh than English supporters, largely because it’s a significant part of how we can externalize our separate national identity. We are, in this one aspect, not entirely subsumed and we can hold our own against them, a nation with a population getting on for twenty times the size (can that be right?).

And to answer a burning question: no, she is not a knitter, but yes, she is as close to perfect as a non-knitter can be. It transpired that her mother is a big knitter, and she understands. I wasn’t planning on knitting at all, but she had to deal with some telephone calls, and I was sitting in the garden (and yay, I even took my tights off!) keeping an eye on the various children. I thought I could sneak in a bit of sock time without being rude, so I did. She eventually returned and picked up the conversation without even appearing to notice the sock. After a few moments I remembered it myself, apologized, and made to put it down. “No, not at all,” said that paragon of amicable virtue, “I know it doesn’t interfere [with the conversation]. It’s like, …smoking or something.” Well, only in this one respect is it ‘like’ smoking, but the analogy amused as much as it disconcerted me, and so I pass it on. And in the event, the sock stayed out. Hooray for the Paragon.

In addition to everything else, I got to give them their wedding present, a mere matter of five or six years late. We were moving around when the wedding took place and I ddn’t want to give her some random thing, so I said I’d wait. I didn’t forget my promise, but she seemed so surprised that I think they may have. I decided ages ao i’d give them some glass, but I swore to myself that I wouldn’t do so except in person (it would have been really ridiculous to wait all this time and then send something). I chose a dish in grays and plum, and a pair of coordinating coasters. It’s hard to tell with people as pathologically polite as my friend, but I think she liked them and I suppose they are guaranteed to be better than nothing. Which reminds me of a very funny thing I came across once: a rant on the pseudoscientific graph on a cereal packet which concluded: Cheerios – better for you than starvation. We use this around the house as a visiting pet slogan.


Coasters: better for you than no wedding present?

Read Full Post »

“Most glassblowers aren’t born artists,” says Caleb Siemon. “They’re born pyromaniacs.”

On Saturday I found out a little more… but I haven’t any time to write about the most thrilling day I’ve had in a long time because I’m taking the little ones and running away from the builders. We’re off to see my oldest friend, who I always think of as living right on the other side of the country, and it turns out to be only about three hours away. So it is revealed as truly disgraceful that we haven’t actually seen each other in four years. All the more so since I suspect that on more than one occasion we’ve spent more time on the phone (at least, we could easily have done so in our heyday) than it wold take to drive over to visit. Disgraceful. Dreadful. Shocking. We have accumulated three unseen children between us since our last meeting. This should be fun. And I get to escape the worst of the knocking down and destroying which is going on in the garden as I write. Bash, bash, bash crash. Just burn it down, I say…

I’m going to miss the Beloved, and Child One (who only came home yesterday from a week away), but I’m more worried than I think I should be about

  • missing the first week’s glass class at the adult education center
  • not being able to check my email (and my blog, and all the rest)
  • not cracking on with the socks. I don’t think my friend’s a knitter. I don’t think it looks very polite to knit while we catch up on the last four years. I know I can divide my attention between her and the sock with no detriment to her, but I suspect she may not believe this. Even though she has children, and should therefore understand the whole divided attention thing, I think she might feel there’s a difference between the call of the young and the call of the yarn. What can I say: she’s great, but not perfect.

Read Full Post »