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Posts Tagged ‘cherry blossom’

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

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If you go down to the woods today

If you go down to the woods today… even if, say, you’re not feeling quite well, and have a sore throat, and a temperature, and aren’t quite sure it’s worth getting out of bed at all, and if you choose to go to the Wenallt, just on the northern edge of Cardiff, about a two-minute drive from the quiet suburban homes of Rhiwbina, you will be rewarded for your effort with the sight of a most stunningly beautiful patch of native woodland, enjoying its finest hour.

As you get out of your car (and I will assume you are in a car, as it is the more likely, and the effect I am about to describe is more sudden, and correspondingly description-worthy), the first thing that will strike you is the fragrance…

Wenallt bluebells

of a million bluebells. As you glance across the small clearing where your car is parked, and into the woods themselves, you will begin to see them. Or rather, you will see a purple haze at ground level where they cover the entire wood. I have to say, I have seen quite significant patches of bluebells in woods before now and been very thrilled by them, I have imagined myself to be in that object of romantic contemplation, “a bluebell wood”. Well now I know that I was laboring under a benign delusion: I never saw a bluebell wood till yesterday.

wild bluebellSo, now, for as long as I’m in Cardiff, I will make sure to come here every year, and view them, rather as the Japanese do hanami – cherry blossom viewing – engaging in which activity has long been a personal fantasy of mine (cherry blossom is an ongoing fascination). Cherry blossom itself will wait for now, though perhaps not that long either, since I have an old friend in London who informs me that there is plenty of cherry blossom to be seen in Bermondsey (and I am reminded that I knew this had at least been true in the past, from Pepys’s diary, where he strolls along the Thames at Bermondsey, through cherry blossom orchards, and I further noted the fact that my Bermondsey friend does indeed live beside the river, in “Cherry Orchard Road”).

But it’s a wonderful thing to be able to seize the beauty that is here, and close at hand, rather than gazing at the blossom forecasts for Tokyo, and Nara, and all the rest. So here’s to one of the finer things in Cardiff: a tranquil, fragrant bluebell wood, no more than a couple of miles from the heart of Wales’s capital, yet still quiet and gently-used even on a pleasant bank holiday weekend. Perfect, right in the Here and Now.

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Really  exciting: I had a frit painting work commissioned the other day, from a woman who had bought something off me through Etsy and had seen one of my bowl there. I have done a couple of plates and a small bowl in a Japanese-inspired cherry blossom design, and now I need to make a larger bowl. This design relies on a quite nice pinky-purply medium frit that is float compatible and came with the kiln. The woman I bought Kelvin off only used float glass – no wonder she got bored and moved onto lampworked beads. It turns out that while the base glass is cheap as chips and readily available, all the “float-compatible” stuff costs a fortune and is pretty hard to source, and mostly, it’s not that interesting.

At the risk of sounding like an advertising feature for them, I do think Bullseye glass is spectacularly nice to work with. The range of colors is fantastic, and the glass has depth, texture and character to it: it is prone to tiny bubbles that give it individuality. I love it. I love it. I love it. I just wish it were less expensive (relative to – say – Spectrum glass, which is boring and looks dead).

So, anyway, I mostly used the float stuff for a while, largely because I was never quite able to bring myself to invest in costly glass, mostly because I felt so much at the bottom of a very steep learning curve that it didn’t seem reasonable to do so. But eventually I did buy glass, as I’ve said recently. One of the first things I bought was black powdered frit, for painting. I was originally planning to use it to outline Babar the Elephant for a bowl for my daughter, but I haven’t got around to that yet.

Meanwhile, I thought if I used a very tiny amount, it should be compatible enough with float not to cause a problem. I think I got this idea from a lampworker talking about the 5% rule (up to 5% non-compatible glass being OK). I’d have to say that the cherry blossom design uses way less than 5% and looks alright, but I did push it a little further recently with some white Bullseye frit on a float and float-compatible stringer plate and it was not at all fine. The plate cracked after about an hour, and I really didn’t use that much. I should have photographed it to have some kind of record, but of course that’s the kind of thing you only think of a week after the glass has gone to the recycling…

The other thing worth noting was that the three-layer arrangement I’ve been using in the kiln doesn’t work half so well with float glass. I’ve been sticking something to slump on the bottom, something to slump or fuse in the middle, and something to fuse on the top. When it’s all Bullseye, that’s been fine, even with a top temp as low as 1325°, but when it’s all float… At 1400° for 15 minutes, the frit decor on the disc on the top shelf is well fused, but the middle shelf is barely tack fused, and the bottom – while slumped – is quite hard-edged. Still I think it’s come out quite nicely in the end. Since it was a commission I am doing a spare, or back-up dish a day behind the first one (so fused on the top shelf last night and set to slump tonight) to be on the safe side and I will send the client whichever comes out better.

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