Friday, April 29, 2011

We All Create Monsters

12 days ago I went with Mr Goth and a friend to see the National Theatre performance of Frankenstein, by video link in a reaonably nearby cinema. It was fantastic, the set was brilliantly conceived, the adaptation sensitive and true to the feel of Shelley's novel and the performance extremely good and very moving; both Mr Goth and I had tears in our eyes by the end.

Since then though I've had NMA's Lovesongs well and truly stuck in my head and it's leaving me with questions I'm not sure I want to address. "We all create monsters, Come back for their masters, At prices the devil reclaims, Well it's funny, I never thought I'd be the one who would change."

Have I created monsters, like a Victor Frankenstein of the psyche? Or am I an Elizabeth, destroyed or damaged by the monsters of another's creation? Perhaps I'm even a monster myself, come back to haunt another as evidence of their mistakes. 

In truth I think the human condition tends to incorporate all three.  Few go through life completely unhurt by those they love, the Elizabeth element. Our loved ones become haunted by guilt or remorse on account of those hurts, the monster element. In turn we may hurt those we love, the Frankenstein element.

Uncomfortable truths. Perhaps not the message Shelley originally intended to convey, but food for thought nonetheless.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Raggle-Taggle Gypsy-o

So, I found a simple shawl pattern, a really simple shawl pattern; so simple in fact that in any other yarn I would have found it unsatisfying to knit.  This wasn't any other yarn though, this was my old friend Gypsy.  We started well, Gypsy and I were getting on just fine, I had visions of us dancing to the tambourine, wildly whirling round a bonfire but those visions are currently lying in dust.

Never count your chickens before they're hatched and never plan where you're going to wear a garment until it's completed.  About a third of the way into the shawl disaster struck.  Disaster in the shape of a sleek red tabby cat who torpedoed onto my lap like a bat out of hell, pulling several stitches from my needles in the process.  The cat promptly made himself comfortable and started to wash while I looked in dismay at the wreckage of my shawl.  I tried hard to work out how many stitches I'd dropped and to pick them back up but, well, fluff, lots of fluff, and I was tired.  In another yarn pehaps recovery might have been achieved but in Gypsy, the wrong side of midnight, I just couldn't do it.  Sadly I unravelled the remains of my shawl and wound Gypsy back into a ball, putting her back to bed in the safety of a paper bag.

What can I say?  The cat is forgiven, it would be impossible for the cat not to be forgiven, and I can start again with my shawl.  I'm trying not to view it as a knitting disaster. Rather, it's a serenity success; I admit I did swear once as it all went wrong but after that I calmly and quietly ravelled back and rewound my yarn without losing patience or getting upset... that counts as a success doesn't it?

Friday, April 8, 2011

A New Visitor

When I'm not knitting or battling with the housework I inexpertly garden.  There's a lot of garden to keep tidy and it does tend toward the slightly wild.  To be honest, I find a touch of wilderness far more soothing than I ever would a pristinely neat garden with immaculately laid out beds and perfectly trimmed hedges and shrubs.  I've realised that my imperfections as a a gardener aren't such a bad thing though; I enjoy watching a host of wild visitors, some regulars and others more seasonal, and I'm sure if things were to perfectly maintained we'd see far fewer.

The bulk of our visitors are feathered, though Yona visits every night, actually the bulk of visitors would be insects but the birds are more obvious most of the time.  We had a new visitor this morning;  bold as brass, strutting about on the patio, seemingly taunting the feline audience on the indoor side of the glass, a normally shy and retiring bird... a Hawfinch.  I was amazed!  I thought I'd lived here long enough to be familiar with all our visitors, so it's always exciting to see a new one, but to see a Hawfinch less than a foot away from me with only a pane of glass between us was totally beyond expectation.  I've seen Hawfinches before but never so close up; I'm hoping he becomes a more regular visitor.

p.s. if you've not read Watership Down, Yona is a hedgehog.

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Knitting Time: 2KCBWDAY7

Wow! The end of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week already, where did that time go?

My knitting time is whenever and wherever I get chance to pick up a project.

Most typically I'll be in my tired old rocking chair, with the avid attention of at least one feline. There'll be a mug of coffee a safe distance from my yarn but within easy reach.  If I'm the only human in the house the background noise will be a medley of cat purrs, and quite possibly snores, and a gentle chorus of birdsong from the garden.  In my perfect world there would be the smell of bread baking but who am I trying to kid? I'm not usually caught up enough with the housework to allow for that luxury.  If Mr Goth is home then I'll be knitting to the click of the computer keyboard, the sounds of his favourite computer game, or whatever songs are playing on Radio Caroline.  I keep saying I should invest in some audiobooks, probably Pratchett, to listen to while I knit but that hasn't happened yet.

In the summer I often move outdoors with my yarn.  We take up residence in the shade of the fruit trees with either coffee or something chilled.  The medley I knit to will be the buzz of bees, the distant bleating of sheep, the nearer gossiping of chickens (not mine, I'm not allowed), possibly the sounds of children at play (song stuck in my head now) and the inevitable lawn mower.

Most of the time I'm a solitary knitter.  I do meet friends for a pub knitting session fairly regularly, it's a pleasantly mellow way to spend an evening.   A couple of town centre coffee shops are used to me knitting too, though they can be a little on the busy side.  I'm about to try my hand at knitting in the car today, I'll be sitting in the back for a couple of hour journey so it seems too good an opportunity to miss.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Something To Aspire To: 2KCBWDAY6

I've reached day 6 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, though I'm still running a day behind.

I'm still such a beginner, well maybe novice is more accurate, knitter that choosing just one thing I aspire to is hard.  There are so many things still to learn; I'd like to learn to cable, I love the look of entrelac (and I'd never even heard of it this time last year), I still have to venture into the worlds of fairisle and intarsia... so, so much to learn.  However, I've already started knitting lace and right now I'm hooked, I really, really want to do more.  So, the project I aspire to knit is Gwendolyn, who can be found here.

I've always adored peacock tail feathers. I actually have a small collection of peacock feathers, which includes white ones, all of which have been found or are truly ancient and have been handed on to me.  Did you know that peacocks were a Celtic eternity symbol?  I didn't until I acquired a book of Celtic inspired embroidery patterns.  I've even considered a peacock feather tattoo, in fact I know what size and where I'd have it done, but I've since met someone with one (though not where mine would be) and am reluctant to appear to be copying.

Anyway, I'd love to wear peacock feathers in some way but wouldn't dream of wearing any of my collection as they're far too fragile.  A peacock feather shawl though, that would be just perfect.  There are several such shawl patterns to be found, more than one of which I'd like to knit, but Gwendolyn is somehow the most striking.  It may be the sheer size of her, she's described as having a 170cm wingspan.  It may be the fact that the entire shawl is in lace while my second favourite is only lace edged.  Whatever the reason I'd love to go out wrapped in Gwendolyn's embrace or sit on the sofa with her watching a good film.  Gwendolyn is for me.

She's an ambitious project though and I'm not quite ready for her.  First off I need to invest in new needles, I think it's time for a set of interchangeable circulars.  I also need to knit a selection of smaller lace projects too, to build up my skill and confidence before taking her on.  Lastly, and of great importance, I need to find the right yarn; she's too beautiful to make compromises, the yarn I choose has to be perfect, I haven't found it yet.

p.s. if any readers have yarn suggestions I'll certainly consider them, it may well be that I have to travel further afield than my local yarn store to find the perfect yarn for Gwendolyn.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different: 2KCBWDAY5

Almost at the end of knitting and crochet blog week now, I'm still a day behind, and the topic encourages to explore our yarn craft in a different way.  So, here is my musing...

Of all the yarns that I could be,
Which of them is most like me?
Marshmallow? Tagliatelli?
Ocean? Stardust? Or Gypsy?
There are many that I've knit,
But which is the closest fit?

Stardust has the sombre shade,
Of which my mood is often made.
She's bedecked with silver bright,
As I am most days and nights.
Sadly though, she likes to itch,
And I'm not quite such a bitch!

There's lots of Ocean in my stash,
Mostly black with colour splashed. 
She's akin to all I wear,
And so we look a likely pair.
But her tension's quite relaxed,
Whereas mine is often taxed.

I think I'm most kin to Gypsy,
Quite pretty and snuggly.
We're both hard work at times,
And oftentimes my mood declines,
Rather like a stitch that's dropped,
Which in Gypsy's hard to pick up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Where Are They Now? 2KCBWDAY4


I first knit Alma, from the Rebel Knitter's Guide (Guardian newspaper supplement), in 2009. She was knit in Stylecraft Alpine in blue as a birthday present for my sister-in-law.  This first incarnation of Alma has travelled the furthest of any item I've knit, to the opposite side of the globe, New Zealand.

I enjoyed knitting Alma so much and loved the texture of Alpine, and the fact that it left my hands unbelievably soft, so I just had to knit her again.  For Alma 2 I picked a beautiful, autumnal colour mix of rusts and golds. This time she didn't travel so far, just scooting a little further south to my aunt in Cornwall.

I thought Alma and I were probably through now, though it was at the back of my mind that we might have to have another brief fling if I found a suitable purpley yarn for myself.  I was wrong.  My family had all seen either Alma 1 or 2 and she'd made quite an impression.  Alma 3 was soon under way, I can't remember the name of the yarn but she was a mixed texture of peach and pastel green with lilac and pastel pink ribbon; she moved slightly north to my sister who was studying in Birmingham and is now in Hertfordshire.

Was that the end of Alma? No!  I had some yellow yarn I didn't know what to do with, then I realised my big niece likes yellow.  I aquired a rasberry pink to go with it and, knitting with the two yarns together, Alma 4 in battenburg was born.  She didn't move far at all, just to one of our neighbouring towns.

I found out last Autumn that Alpine was being discontinued, so realised if I wanted to knit for myself with her I would need to do so soon.  The closest to purple I could get was a mix of pink, purple and charcoal, I liked it for accessories, though it would be too pink for a jumper for me. Alma 5 was under way.  Completed midway through last winter I think Alma 5 is probably the last in the line of Almas; she's lovely and snug.

So, Alma is a much travelled project:
Alma 1 - New Zealand
Alma 2 - Cornwall
Alma 3 - Birmingham, now Hertfordshire
Alma 4 - just down the road
Alma 5 - sitting on the kitchen chair.

Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches: 2KCBWDAY3

Anyone who knows me will attest the fact that tidiness is not my greatest strength.  I'm fairly certain tidy is the last word that could be applied to me mind!  However, there are areas of my life where tidines is almost obsessive and as my knitting paraphenalia increases tidiness is becoming more and more important in storing my odds and ends.

In theory I have two cupboards in the spare room for my craft stuff, they're fairly full, but in practice I can seldom get to them.  I guess they could be described as hibernation space; yarn and kits slumber peacefully in them until I know what I'm going to do with them, although in the case of the rug kit it's more slumbering until the weather is cold enough to work with it on my lap.

My straight knitting needles and yarns with projects in mind have had to find homes in the sitting room.  In the case of the needles this was easy; my Dad keeps a tankard of pennywhistles on the windowsill, I have a jamjar of knitting needles.  The yarn required a slightly safer storage solution though, with 5 cats who would love to play with it it needs to be secure.  My boot collection came to my aid!  No, I don't stuff the yarn into boots, though I rather like the mental image of a row of boots with beautiful colours and textures peeping temptingly over the top... how much yarn would a pair of thigh boots hold?!  The boot boxes are actually the answer.  New Rock boxes in particular, they close securely (no lid a cat can knock off) and hold a goodly quantity of yarn.  Hmm, if I buy enough yarn then I've got an excuse to buy more boots!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Skill + 1 UP: 2KCBWDAY2

Day 2 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week and I'm looking back over the last year and what I've learnt in that time.  I don't know where to start!

A year ago I was the same beginner knitter I'd been for a couple of years.  Knit stitches came with ease, purling entailed a little more effort, and I could knit into the front and back of the stitch to increase and knit two together or slip slip knit to decrease.   The greatest part of my skill lay in an even tension.

Last year, suddenly, the yarn addiction really took hold and with it the confidence and desire to learn new techniques.  I decided to knit a few chokers and used them to learn beading and simple lace based on yarn over increases.  Next up was to try some simple pattern writing of my own; I wanted some wristwarmers to match a hat so adapted the pattern accordingly, then I knit another hat making it up as I went along and was pleased with the result.  Fortunately my family all appreciate homemade gifts, as this glut of experimentation created the bulk of my Christmas presents.

If I had to single out one thing that is the best thing I've learnt in the last year then it's this... the longtail cast on.  I love it.  I find it easier and more even than a basic cast on and it's much quicker to do.  Also it gave me the building blocks to grasp my first provisional cast on technique,  and I think if I'd tackled that only knowing the basic cast on I would have been a little perplexed.  Longtail cast on you are my hero skill of 2010.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns: 2KCBWDAY1

Stylecraft Gypsy and Tivoli Ocean 
The first yarn I bought to knit a shawl and the first yarn I knit a shawl with.

Gypsy  was the first yarn I bought to knit a shawl.  She sat, preening in purple, at the back of the craft shop, her tactile texture tempting my fingers. I was a new knitter and couldn't resist her, espescially when I found a capelet pattern to accompany her home with me.  Alas, I was overstretching my newly acquired skill.  I'd previously knit one project, a poncho in ribbon yarn on 12mm plastic needles; it hadn't prepared me for Gypsy's quirks, or for the fact that she would be adored even more by another member of the household than she was by me. Slippery metal needles and feline inquistiveness led to me regularly dropping stitches, and how was I to see to pick them up through all that wonderous fluff? Little Meezer couldn't resist her, if I took my eye off the ball for more than a moment it would be carried off to a cat bed and snuggled down with.  Reluctantly I admitted defeat and gently put Gypsy into hibernation at the back of the cupboard. So disillusioned with my knitting ability was I, I didn't pick up needles and yarn again for over a year. 

Eventually I regained confidence and knit several projects in easier yarns to improve my skill.  Gypsy began calling to me, and I knew I could not ignore her forever.  I added a ball in black to my stash and knit a choker succesfully. Unfortunately I'd lost the capelet pattern but I knew that, when I find it again, I'm ready for the challenge that gypsy presents.

Ocean  is the first yarn I knit a shawl in. I first encountered her in a red/purple/green mix in 2010.  Being of a slightly more colourful character than I usually wear I kept her for small pieces and knit myself a pixieish hat with some pointy wristwarmers to match; these served me well all winter and I knew I'd made a good yarn choice.  Last month I came across a simple shawl pattern and, Mr Goth in tow, headed into town to find the right yarn for it.  I picked up Ocean in a black/magenta/sea-blue mix and knew she was the right choice when Mr Goth said approvingly "that's different".  On 10mm she was a joy to knit and I took great pleasure in watching the way the colours blended one to another.  She did have one surprise for me though, which momentarily made me doubt my choice... a bright, grass green.  Fortunately the green was fairly minimal in the blend and as I completed the shawl I realised that I could live quite happily with it.  The shawl is a delight to wear and when I'm not wearing it I find quiet pleasure in seeing it draped attractively over the back of my rocker.  I've since knit a tight fitting strappy number, yet to be blocked and seamed, to wear under it; fortuitously I started in the right place in the ball of yarn for the top to be mostly balck with just a hint of purple and some very dark green, like that of a magpie's wing.  Ocean and I have become firm friends and I'm now considering knitting for my sister in the blue colour blend of it.