Thursday, December 20, 2007
But it reminded me that it is the time of year to pause for a moment and reflect on some fine writers we have lost this year -
Norman Mailer (Executioner's Song and many others)
Ira Levin (remember Rosemary's Baby?)
Kurt Vonnegut Jr (Slaughterhouse 5 and so much more)
Michael Dibdin (creator of the marvellous Aurelio Zen)
Robert Anton Wilson (prolific SF writer)
Sidney Sheldon (master of the airport blockbuster)
Johnny Hart (cartoonist, creator of The Wizard of Id and B.C.)
Robert Jordan (sadly dying before he finished his great and lengthy Wheel of Time series)
Peter Haining (author of many historical true crime books, authority on Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, afficionado of horror stories and a great many other subjects.)
The world will be a duller place without these writers. I'm sure too that there are probably others who I've missed.
But not Alan Bennett who, as far as I know, is still alive and kicking.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Today is my last day off until Christmas Eve so I've been making sure everything is ready -
Festive Gingerbread Cookies?
Slightly Rustic Looking (but totally delicious) Mince Pies?
Check, but if you don't get one from me it's because
(no, there isn't a picture of this in the interests of secrecy)Check, all finished and blocked and despatched (and it's not Christmas Eve yet, aren't you proud of me?)
Freedom Spirit Tank Top?
Finished, just blocking quietly on the bed.
So that's me ready then. Just the small detail of 5 days retail hell working in the shop to get through. I can so do that. I'm all prepared. I've got festive biscuits to get me through.....
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I'm hoping to distract you from my dreadful posting record lately with lots of pictures of fibery goodies.
That's the Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton Hand Knitting Collection Book Two for Noro and Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle. I haven't photographed the fibre as it's just some natural wool and some black so it doesn't photograph very well. I'm already planning a part hand-spun, part commercial yarn cardigan from the Noro book.
And then there's the latest issue of Interweave Crochet which I bought to see if it was going to be of interest to me. I'm not a great crocheter but people at work all swear by it so I'm having a look. Not sure if I shall go out of my way to buy anymore issues of this but it was interesting none the less.
Then I got some lovely fibre from someone was de-stashing
I especially love the blue/black/turquoise one. It's Merino as is the orange/brown/mustard one. The cream one is merino/silk blend and it feels really soft. I think I might try dyeing it and see how the different fibres take the dye.
I've been reading too. I'm currently on The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke. Amazingly, as I am typing this Simon Mayo is just telling me that JLB will be on his show this afternoon so I think Bubba will have to wait for his walk for a little bit longer. I am loving this book. It's set in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and it's a very angry book. Beautifully written though. I'm not finished it yet but there are only about 50-60 pages left and it's turning into one of those books that I really don't want to end. My most favourite thing about this book however is the endpapers. It's a not very well-kept secret about me that I am an endpaper pervert. I just love a book with beautiful endpapers and this one has them.
The smart people at Orion have used the image from the endpapers as the jacket on the paperback edition. See what I mean.
When I finally finish this one (and I'm making it last as long as I can) then I will be finishing Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. I had been under the impression that I'd read all of Mrs Gaskell's work but when I saw the trailers for the TV series I realised I hadn't read this one (or these ones if you're being pedantic). I do like the book, though the TV series is turning out to be rather sweet in a sickly sort of way and is lacking the gently biting wit of the book. It's a bit like Midsomer Murders but without the bodies.
Next up will be an ARC of The Crystal Skull by Manda Scott. I've been looking forward to this for ages. As you know, I love Manda's Boudica novels so I'm hoping this one lives up to their high standards. The publishers seem to be promoting it in a rather Da Vinci Code sort of way which I'm hoping will not prove to be the case.
Got to go now and listen to JLB on the radio. You can listen to it here (it's under Thursday about 2 hours 10 mins in).
Penultimately, I have to apologise for my abject failure to write a novel in November. Somehow the month (and the words) just got away from me. Perhaps I'll try again sometime but at the moment we are in the throes of Festive Madness at work and I'm coming home exhausted most evenings. I can just about manage the simple mindless knitting of the tank top (which is just row after row of stocking stitch), and I have some Christmas knitting still to finish but I'm not planning anything very complicated. Posting may be sporadic for the next few weeks (nothing new there then!) while I resort to wine and chocolate to get me through the rest of the month.
And finally, please remember when you are tired and stressed and at the end of your tether, that if the book you promised your Great Uncle Herbert for Christmas has been out of print for fifty years it's not the fault of the poor harrassed bookseller. Be nice to retail staff this Christmas!!!!!!!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Fraserburgh Armwarmers to a pattern of my own devising, named after the fishing port in the NE of Scotland where in their gansey knitting they have traditionally used the tree of life pattern featured in the back panel of each mitt. I have happy memories of Fraserburgh as when I was about 10 we had a great family holiday there and I won third prize in the sandcastle building competition. The yarn is my own hand-dyed, handspun merino of approx double knitting weight.
I can't remember what I was reading last time I blogged, but I seem to recall a rant about the standards of crime fiction. So, anyway, I finished The Dead Pool by Sue Walker and am now reading Dark Angels by Grace Monroe. Contrary to my expectations I was somewhat underwhelmed by The Dead Pool, but am becoming increasing enthralled by Dark Angels. Both are set in Edinburgh (as have been rather too many of the crime novels I've read this year), although both feature a different side to Auld Reekie, and a different one again to that presented by Ian Rankin. But I'm becoming rather bored with Edinburgh for all its many guises and am longing for a Scottish novel set in Dundee or Inverness or the Isle of Skye. How about a rural murder in Blairgowrie? A lurid laying-waste of life at The Lecht ski centre? Watery doom in a salmon farm near Oban? Please anything but Edinburgh............
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Truth is I just haven't had much to write about. Life is a bit dull at the moment and I am sadly lacking in blog fodder.
Last week I had a few days when I almost decided to give up reading crime fiction. (It's Ok the feeling passed off after a few days). I had read several rather disappointing crime novels in a row - they ranged from the "just not very inspired, quite run of the mill" through to "downright awful, how did this get published?" I was beginning to despair. I want crime novels with a decent plot. I want crime with credible characters. I want a protagonist that I like (at least some of the time) and can identify with. While I'm at it, can I have a novel where one of the detective/police/whatever team doesn't get targeted by the serial killer. Please. It's the crime novel equivalent of that old horror movie scene where the girl is going to open the door and we're all shouting "No, don't open it." One well-known, and previously well-respected (by me anyway) writer telegraphed her intentions about this so clumsily in her latest book that I thought it must be a McGuffin. I was horrified to discover that it was actually a major plot point.
However, I had some proofs come through for review for Eurocrime so I did read another crime novel. And I have several more still to review so I guess I'm back on the horse. I swear though that the first time the detective/protagonist puts their hand on that doorknob, I'm giving up crime fiction for good and taking up chick lit!!!!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I've started at least 3 books and put them down again.
I've started a couple of new knitting projects and put them down again.
I've done a bit of spinning, and a bit of dyeing. Mostly because I want to knit this -
Its the December Lights Tam from Interweave Holiday Knits 2007. However it requires 8 different colours of yarn which could get expensive, especially as you don't seem to need very much of some of them. But I have some lovely bright red merino in the fibre stash, which I've almost finished spinning and I've dyed some bright green this afternoon which I can blend with some other greens from the stash to make up the 4 different greens required. I've got some rose that I dyed earlier in the year and can mix up some magenta. Then I just need a little blue and I'm sorted.
The weather has taken a distinct cold turn here and I am consumed by the need to knit warm mitts and hats. If only I could settle on which ones to knit!
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Last night it sounded like we were in a war zone. Why do fireworks have to make noises like nuclear bombs? I can see the point of the pretty sparkly ones but why must they be so ear-shattering.
When I got home from work yesterday, Bubba was very agitated as the fireworks had already started (it was 17.45pm). He wouldn't go out in the garden and he spent the entire evening on the sofa, as close to me as he could get. I couldn't go to bed until most of the noise had stopped, which meant a very late night indeed. (I draw the line at a dog in the bed which was my other option!) Poor dog.
I'm a firm believer that the sale of fireworks to the general public should be banned. I think they are too dangerous for use in gardens. I have no problem with properly organised and licenced displays but the kind of fireworks that were going off all around our house last night were not the kind that I would have liked my children anywhere near, and which I would never dream of touching. These were not the little catherine wheels and small rockets my dad used to set off on Guy Fawkes Night when I was a child. These things are huge. I think it's a job for the experts. Children get maimed and killed at home firework parties every year, not to mention the thousands of traumatised pets and wildlife.
If only properly licenced displays were allowed then people would be safer. I would be able to plan to be with my dog while the display was on, instead of having to stay in and reassure him almost every night for two weeks.
I'm guessing there will be more of the same tonight and Monday and probably through to next weekend too. Then we'll just have the fireworks for Eid, Dhiwali, Christmas and New Year to contend with. Wonderful.
Can you tell I'm feeling grumpy and miserable this morning?
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
I have no excuses other than that I've been busy at work. And have had lots to read. And lots to knit.
So here's a quick round up. I put The Book Thief aside temporarily, while I read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Not my normal type of book, but Stu at work persuaded several of us to read it in a communal reading experiment. I can't say that I liked it particularly. All the characters were too perfect, almost without exception they were beautiful, or brilliant, or talented and usually all three at once. All the villains too villainous, with no redeeming qualities. I wanted to know more about the actual building of the cathedral but there wasn't enough of that. And it was just way too long - over 1000 pages. Some of the political intrigue in the church was interesting but there was just too much of it. All in all not a great book and I don't think I shall be attempting the sequel, World Without End, which is just published.
After that I read The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. This is a lovely book. The pick of the Richard and Judy titles this year, I think. It's a beautiful story, well written, with a great narrative voice.
Don't worry, I haven't abandoned crime. On Monday, three proofs for review landed on my doorstep so later today I shall be starting The Dead Pool by Sue Walker. I liked her previous book The Reckoning which I reviewed earlier in the year so I'm hoping this one will be just as good.
Tonight I'm off to Nottingham to see Arcade Fire. Pete and I had been looking forward to this for ages but he is away this week so I am going with the Evilpixie. I can't remember the last time I went to see a band live. Anyway it should be good.
Most of the knitting I've been doing this week has been secret squirrel Christmas knitting, but midway through the week I had a need for some quick fix knitting and produced this -
The ultimate in instant scarfs - three skeins of Colinette Point 5 in stocking stitch on 15mm needles - just knit until the wool runs out. It was inspired by the lovely (and many talented) Jane of Yarnstorm fame, although mine is slightly different to hers. Her book, by the way - The Gentle Art of Domesticity - is absolutely beautiful.
Anyway, I've got all sorts of things I need to catch up on today like grocery shopping and laundry and hoovering so I've got to go. Don't forget that NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow when I hope to have the first installment of "The Riddle of the Stars" online. (Apologies to the late Erskine Childers for ripping-off and mangling his title).
Saturday, October 20, 2007
I thought about using this NaNoWriMo to finish the half-written teenage novel that is languishing on my computer, or to bash out a first draft of the novel set during WW1 that I am researching at the moment, but neither of these options felt right. I'm not in the right frame of mind for the teenage novel at the moment and the new novel needs more research. I'm terrible for starting something before I'm quite ready and losing momentum when I get to a bit I'm not sure about. Also both these works are intended for publication (eventually, should I be so lucky) so I don't want to splash them all over the web at this stage. This means I'm going with a third option....
What I'm going to do is start with an idea I had several years ago for an opening passage. I have no idea of plot or character - just an opening scenario. I'm intending to take this beginning and to run with it wherever it takes me. It may not be pretty - chances are some (or more) of it will be utter garbage - but I hope it will be fun. I'm going to see if I can find a way to post what I write on the web so you can follow my progress if you want to (what kind of masochists are you?). Comments will be welcome (what kind of masochist am I?) There's a target of 2000 words per day in order to produce a 60K word novel within the month. I'm not sure I can sustain that but I'll give it a go.
It all starts on 1st November....here's a clue...it's science fiction, but I'm sure there will a crime element in there too....can't have a book without bodies!!!!!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Hardback or Paperback? - I'd say a bit of both. I love the feel of a good substantial hardback (with beautiful endpapers) but I always have a paperback in my bag to read if I get a spare moment.
If you owned a bookshop what would you call it? No-one in their right mind would ever own a bookshop, so if I had one it would have to be The Asylum.
Favourite Quote: Tricky one - I'll get back to you about this one...
Author you would most like to have lunch with? I'm sure that most authors have better things to do, and frankly some of them are just not that interesting so how about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (but only if he makes the lunch) and then a few after dinner pints in the Oxford Bar with Ian Rankin
Desert Island Book - well, it would have to be something I hadn't already read, and something long and that I could read over and over again and still enjoy so I guess it must be time for War and Peace.
Most Longed For Book Related Gadget - something to hold the book where I can read it while knitting and which would turn the pages when told (If I were obscenely rich and decadent I could get an exquisite houseboy just for this purpose!!!!)
The smell of an old book reminds me of.... cold auction rooms with boxes of dusty tomes, finding the odd gem amongst the dross, crap coffee and the smell of bacon butties. I miss that life!
Which lead character would you be? Difficult. I'd quite like to be VI Warshawski (the feisty female PI from Sara Paretsky's crime novels), but she has a tendency to get shot. I think I'd be Boudica from the Manda Scott series of the same name - she's fiery, intelligent, mystical and inspiring. (It may be heresy for a Scot to want to be such a very English heroine).
Most overestimated book - anything that has ever won the Booker Prize (which is announced today and looks to be Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach this year. This proves my point.) Well, that shows what I know as they just announced it's gone to The Gathering by Anne Enright.
I hate it when a book....... confirms all my worst preconceptions (or has a pink cover).
I'm going to tag a few people with this but please feel free to ignore the tag if you don't feel like it.......Freestylefibre Jo, Celtic Memory Jo, Ms Knitingale.....have fun with it, or not, the choice is yours.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Here they are in all their glory -
And so you can see the lovely stripy soles -
For the record these are the Snowflake socks from the Autumn (or is that Fall) 2007 issue of Interweave Knits. Knitted with Wendy Guernsey 5ply wool on 2.5mm dpns.
It's incredibly difficult to take photographs of your own feet. I've been looking for one of those old sock display models that you used to get in old fashioned drapers shops, but all I can find are modern plastic ones - I want a beautiful old wooden one. In the meantime you'll have to put up with my feet.
Not much knitting (or reading) has been accomplished this week as I am still feeling cr*p. That elephant is still in residence on my chest and now I have a hacking cough, a rasping throat and a head full of cotton wool to go with it. I have spent an inordinate amount of time lying on the sofa watching re-runs of STNG and Voyager on Sky. It's about as much as my brain can take this week. Also I am between knitting projects which is always a dangerous time for me. The spectre of the Christmas knitting is looming large and makes me want to go and knit myself some armwarmers. (I've always been a great believer in denial - Christmas can't be round the corner - we haven't had summer yet!)
The first issue of a new knitting magazine landed on my doorstep this morning. It's called Let's Knit and it seems to be aiming for the already crowded market currently occupied by Simply Knits, Knit Today etc etc. I'm not sure that the market can take another magazine for this sector. It's very much a beginner's magazine and therefore not to my taste and I can't say I was inspired by any of the patterns. I quite liked the sock pattern but they had knitted them in cashmere at £22.95 for a 55g skein (though they do call them a "total luxury project"). Making the socks (if you were to knit them in the suggested yarn) would cost nearly £50!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Other than that there were some interesting bits about knitting groups and knitting on the web but nothing I didn't already know about. I've signed up for the 3 issues for £1 deal they were offering before launch but I can't see that I would carry on and actually subscribe to this. It costs £4.99 per issue and I can get IK from the US for less than that with the exchange rate as it is - far better value, far better patterns.
I'm hoping the next issue of Yarn Forward will arrive soon - I've read good things about it from people who've picked up their copies at AllyPally. Mine will be coming by post so it could be a while. Poor Kerrie - she gets all the production issues sorted and the mag all ready and the Royal Mail go and sabotage it for her.
Monday, October 08, 2007
The bad news is that I have been afflicted with a nasty cold all over the weekend - one of those virusy things that feels like there is an elephant sitting on your chest. Lovely. Anyway I have managed to pass it on to the Evilpixie. I am so generous with my infections.
Because I've been feeling crap and have been sitting about on the sofa a lot I have managed to finish the Snowflake socks. They are currently blocking nicely over the bath so piccys will follow tomorrow when they are dry.
I've also been reading quite a bit. The time was right, I thought, for the new Val McDermid - Beneath the Bleeding. I had been saving it so I could sit down and read with no distractions as her books are normally the sort that really grip you. I'm sorry to report that this one was a disappointment. Now every writer has books that are better than others, or just books that I prefer because I like the setting or a particular character or situation more than others in the same series. And I was all geared up to like this one as it was set against a football background, with a Premiership player being murdered and then a bomb going off at his team's ground on a match day. (I'm not giving away anything that's not in the blurb by telling you this). But I just felt let down by the plot which didn't seem to use some great ideas that were lurking in the background and, I thought, could have been used to better effect. Also I could see the end coming a long way off. I kept reading as I thought - that's so obvious, surely there's going to be a twist somewhere - and there wasn't. I have to say that it came over more like a plot for the much watered-down TV series than the kind of novel I would expect from a writer of her calibre. Now I'm generally a big fan of Val's books, and particularly the Jordan & Hill series but this one just wasn't up to her usual high standard. I'm hoping it's a blip and that the next one will be better as she's written some really great stuff - The Mermaids Singing is a wonderful book (even if it has bits you want to read with your eyes shut).
So I'm having a short break from crime to read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I'm only a few pages in so it's too early to tell yet. What I can say is that it's different.
The eagle-eyed among you will notice that this post is not about "Writing a Novel in a Month" as billed in my previous post. That would be because the even more eagle-eyed will have spotted that this month is October and National Novel Writing Month (or whatever it calls itself) is not until November. I apologise to Julius Caesar for apparently thinking that his calendar would be improved by the omission of October. I blame this virus.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Finished Object Alert!!!!!
Hand-dyed, hand-spun, handknitted socks. I love these, just what you need to keep your feet warm and your heart bright on a cold wintery day.
And the final installment of books from my shelf - orange books -
From the bottom they are -
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly (my treasured signed first edition of his first book)
Ode to a Banker by Lindsey Davis (possibly not my favourite of the Falco books but still good)
Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich (silly but great if you're in the mood for something light)
Money to Burn by Katy Munger (another funny one but darker than Evanovich if I recall correctly)
Everybody Dies by Lawrence Block (my favourite of all the Matt Scudder books)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (just wonderful)
And my much battered, much faded Jane Austen's in the Penguin English Library edition. I've had these since I first had to read Miss Austen at school for English Lit and I've re-read them many times since. Persuasion is my favourite though and for some reason it wasn't on the shelf with the others.
Next post - writing a novel in thirty days!
Friday, September 28, 2007
How to Write for Children by Louise Jordan (in case I decide to write the next Harry Potter)
Body Trauma - a Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries (in case I decide NOT to write the next Harry Potter)
Knitting Workshop by Elizabeth Zimmermann (what can I say - She was a God)
A Ticket to the Boneyard by Lawrence Block (one of the wonderful Matt Scudder books)
White Doves at Morning by James Lee Burke (I won't bore you by banging on and on about JLB again. This one's historical - set in the American Civil War, not a Dave Robicheaux novel)
Sometime in the next 2 days I will bring you the orange books to round off Project Spectrum for this year. I've not done as much knitting as I wanted to in the prescribed colours but I've enjoyed trawling my bookshelves and I hope you have too.
November sees the start of National Novel Writing Month (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo). The idea is to write a novel (approx 60,000 words) in a month. This may be pushing it a bit for me. I don't think I've written much more than 600 words in the last 6 months but the idea is to get you writing and not worry about the quality so I'm going to take the opportunity to try and bang out a first draft. Two of the women I work with are also taking part so we can encourage each other. I'll let you know how I get on!
Monday, September 24, 2007
One finished and the second one started.
Also I did spin the hand-painted roving from the last post and it looks like this -
It's lovely but there's not a lot of it. I shall have to ply it with something else to produce enough to knit anything with. I'm thinking of plying it with a plain pink or purple and making some handwarmers. I've been dyeing again this afternoon (and I have the blue fingers to prove it) and this time I've gone all dark and moody. Photos later in the week once I've washed and dried it.
I am no longer reading The Interpretation of Murder. I'm sorry but I didn't finish it. I got so exasperated that I hurled it into the back seat of the car in disgust. (It's OK I wasn't driving at the time!) It had been irritating me for a little while but I came to a particular plot construct that just took the biscuit and I refused to read any further. People who have read it may feel free to speculate what it was that annoyed me. I understand that some people (who's opinions I normally trust with regard to books) thought this was a great book so I'm not going to spoil anyone's enjoyment of it by telling you what happened. But I bet if you read it you'd feel the same as me at the same point. I believe my exact words were "Oh, for God's sake, no, no, no!" The people in the car next to me in the car park at the time may have thought I was a little mad.
As an antidote to this I read A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne, which I believe won the Orange prize a few years ago. It was an interesting but ultimately disturbing book. Very well written. Not really a crime novel as such, though there is the aforementioned crime in the neighbourhood. It's really about the effect that this crime and some others events have on a quiet street in America in the 1970s.
Now I am reading Emperor: The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden. It's the last in the Caesar quartet which I have enjoyed immensely.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
(with apologies to Simon Kernick, whose title I have pinched)
I've been busy with the dyepot and the microwave this afternoon. I wanted to produce a range of different colours to combine with what I already have so I can experiment with carding and spinning and plying them in different ways.
I split some merino up into 4 x 25g bits and then split them in half. Then I chucked them all in a bucket with some vinegary water to soak whereupon they all merged together into one big pile of roving. Not quite what I had planned.
Anyway these are the colours I ended up with -
I was meant to be concentrating on greens and yellows as that's what I have least of in the stash, so please tell me how the pink, purple and coral snuck in there. Like I don't have enough purple already.
When I'd done as many colours as I had prepared (there are 8 bits of roving in the photo) I still had a bit of roving left in the bucket (told you it all got mixed up) so I had a bit of fun with the dye I had left over and made this -
Here it is cooling on a chair in the garden and looking like a multicoloured chrysalis -
Later in the week, or possibly next week as I won't have another day off until then, I will spin it and show you what happens.
Monday, September 17, 2007
For those of you who (like me) have less than perfect vision here's the list -
Tunnel Vision by Sara Paretsky - Paretsky was the first female detective I ever read so the subsequent ones had a lot to live up to. She's the main reason behind my crime obsession, though her later novels haven't quite done it for me.
Hen's Teeth by Manda Scott - Manda's first book, and she's got better since but it's still good (and set in Glasgow, which I almost always like).
Driftnet by Lin Anderson - another first novel set in Glasgow and very good indeed if a tad on the dark side if I recall correctly.
Tart Noir - short stories from a whole host of women crime writers including Val McDermid, Liza Cody, Denise Mina, Laura Lippman, Lauren Henderson, Karin Slaughter and many others
Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke - I know I've probably said this before but I just love his prose - it makes you want to roll naked in it. (I think you can be arrested for that though.)
Emperor: The Gods of War by Conn Iggulden - the final part of his fictional life of Julius Caesar, and excellent reading.
Folk Socks by Nancy Bush - wonderful ethnic sock patterns from the queen of sock knitting
One Thousand Sweaters by Amanda Griffiths - great mix and match pattern book covering just about every type of sweater and variation you could think of.
Honorable mentions for the two books I wanted to put in this photo but couldn't find - The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid (very purple cover) and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (just because it's a wonderful book and I've read it many times).
Sometime in the next two weeks I'll cover the last two colours - orange and brown.
I am currently luxuriating in the prospect of two days off in a row (heaven) and trying to decide whether I should go and try to spin something impressive (unlikely) to take to the first of my classes on Wednesday, or to go and play with felt. Or there's also the (remote) possibility that I could find a half-decent film on Sky and just chill out for the afternoon. We'll see......
Friday, September 14, 2007
I've been to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the NEC today despite the best efforts of Central Trains to keep me away. It seems that there was some vandalism to a line somewhere and it meant they had to cancel virtually every train between Walsall and the NEC. Thanks guys! Anyway I got there in the end, though I was a little disappointed with the number of knitting / wool sellers there. However in general it was an interesting event - the exhibitions are always wonderful, and I got talking to various people from various craft guilds about spinning, felting etc. I didn't spend a lot, just bought a ball of brightly coloured sock wool, and a couple of knitting-related charms which I will turn into earrings.
The journey back was twice as bad as trying to get there as, despite boarding a train which said it was a straight-through train to Walsall, it actually terminated at Birmingham. No-one saw fit to inform the passengers of this, until someone asked if this was the train for the NEC and half the carriage said "Yes" and the rest of us said "No". Chaos ensued. Eventually a porter chap appeared and said that the Walsall train was cancelled. Where could we get another train to Walsall? He had no idea! Finally we found out that there was a train to Stafford, passing through Walsall, on a different platform, leaving in about 30 seconds. It was a sight to be seen - all these women clutching bags of wool and craft stuff sprinting up the stairs, along the corridor, back down the stairs and onto the new train. Which sat where it was for another 20 minutes. Aaargh - the wonders of New Street Station!
Finally a note to Walsall Council. We locals all know that the Ring Road is terrible, we know that it needs to be widened / resurfaced / rerouted but is it really necessary to dig up every single road in Walsall all at the same time in order to do this. I had two simple errands to run in the car when I got back to the station, each errand took no more than 5 minutes. Driving the 4 or so miles I had to cover to complete my mission and get home took an hour and a half. It just wasn't my day today, was it.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I can't believe it's Monday again already and I don't seem to have done much and I never did get around to my promised post from the end of last week.
Here anyway are the before and after pictures of the wet-finished yarn I was playing with. I'm not sure there's all that much difference in the samples - but I've lost the "before" sample so I'm just going by the photos I took earlier.
Before much swishing and mashing in hot soapy water -And after -
Actually now that I can see them together the second sample has tightened and is fluffier than the first so I guess it worked. What I did was I plunged the yarn into a bowl of extremely hot water with a little Ecover washing soap in it. Then I mashed it about for a bit with a wooden spoon and a potato masher, then I plunged it into cold water, rinsed it, wrung it out in a towel and hung to dry. Definitely something I would try again, perhaps with a slubbier yarn.
Also this week I succumbed to temptation and stared the Snowflake socks from the lastest issue of Interweave Knits. I love them -
I'm knitting them in Wendy 5-ply Guernsey wool from the stash and they are knitting up very quickly. I did the three pattern repeats on the leg in one afternoon/evening.
Just one more thing to show you today - a great vintage knitting pattern I found at the weekend (on yet another car boot sale) - this one is for Gloves, Mittens, Helmets and Flying Gloves for the RAF. It's not dated but says it's designed and approved by the RAF Comforts Committee. It cost 3d when it was published.
Monday, September 03, 2007
I have been knitting, though nothing very exciting. I have finished the Hot Lava Cardigan however and I actually like it. I promise I will get Pete to take a picture of it for you - I tried to get a photo of myself wearing it and let's just say that I don't have a glittering future in self-portrait taking.
I am experimenting this afternoon (a day off!!!!!!!) with wet finishing some hand-spun yarn. I am taking photos as I go so once the results are in I shall let you know how it went.
I can't remember what I was reading last time I posted. Ok, I've been and checked and it was Moon Tunnel by Jim Kelly. I have finished that and I did enjoy it. Philip Dryden is a great character and the books are well-plotted.
Now, I'm reading Buried by Mark Billingham. I'm not enjoying this so much. I think it's because it is very much the police procedural, which is not my favourite crime genre (or should that be sub-genre?). Anyway, I 've read each of Billingham's books as they've come out in paperback and the last one Lifeless was my favourite, but I think that's because it took Tom Thorne out of the police station and onto the streets of London. I like Thorne as a character, but this one seems to lack pace and tension. Still I'm only half-way through so it may pick up. I think part of the problem is that I'm struggling to empathise with the missing boy - he seems very one dimensional. Perhaps there's a reason for that which I haven't got to yet. Anyway the jury is still out.
The jury is definitely not still out on the other book I've been reading this week. Actually I've been listening to it as it's an audio book, but I have say that it has little to recommend it. Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen is a dreadful book. I did listen to it all the way to the end but it was very difficult. Perhaps it would read more easily but the narrator calmly describing how the serial killer tortured and killed his victims did not make for pleasant listening. It seemed gratuitously violent and voyeuristic and I shall not read / listen to one of his books again. I don't know if it was because he is a man but the woman who is the central character in this book just did not seem believable to me and some of the things she did and thought made me very uncomfortable. The other thing I did not like about this book is something that bugs me in general aboout fiction. I hate books where all the characters are damn near perfect. Oh, the main character, who went by the unlikely (and irritating) name of Smoky, was scarred both physically and mentally, but all the others were beautiful, handsome, loving, generous, flaky but in a good way, brilliant, etc etc. Why can't somebody in one of these books screw up now and again, or be ugly, or even just ordinary - just once. And the most annoying thing was the way the climax was set up.
Spoiler Alert - if you think you might want to read this book ( and I recommend that you don't) then don't carry on reading this because I'm going to give away the end...........................
The serial killer sends some associates to scare / kill the wife of one of the FBI agents hunting them, along with a little girl she is looking after. To do this they kill the two agents who are supposed to be watching the house. But our heroic team arrive in time and save the woman and the girl. Then they fly off to another part of California, find out who the killer is and come back. Surprise , surprise, they've forgotten to replace the two dead agents outside the house and the serial killer now has the woman and the little girl hostage. Doh!
Is that sloppy plotting or are the FBI really that thick? I'm hoping that it's the plotting thing, you know, in case I should ever need the services of the FBI.
Monday, August 27, 2007
It's been a lovely weekend here for once. The weather has been much improved, and as it was the Bank Holiday Weekend it meant that even though I was working on Saturday, I still got 2 days off - Sunday and Monday.
And what lovely days they were too. Those of you know know me in real life probably know that I'm a great fan of car boot sales (that's flea markets for those of you across the pond). August Bank Holiday weekend is traditionally (at least by us) spent at a succession of car boot sales acrosss the Midlands where much fun is usually had, some money spent and a few bargains procured. This weekend has been exceptional.
I got a whole host of vintage knitting patterns, a Vogue Knitting magazine from 1956 and a lovely little booklet called Lace-Making with Crochet Hook and Knitting Needles. It's undated but probably late 1940s. I also got Knitting in Vogue Books 1 & 2 and a great crochet book - New Directions in Crochet by Anne Rabun Ough. It's crammed with crochet stitches and designs.
My favourite books from Sunday however were Mary Thomas's Knitting Book (from 1938) , Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns (from 1945) and The Knitter's Craft (from 1951). This latter has great endpapers with a picture of Wensleydale Knitters from 1814..
And as if Sunday wasn't good enough, today at a local car boot that I nearly didn't go to because it isn't usually much good for the sort of stuff that I like to buy - I got this -
It's not very easy to see in the pictures but there's a whole pile of little sample bags and some larger amounts of fibres from Wingham and Texere. There's camel and soya bean and mohair and cashmere and various sparkly trilobal nylons and other synthetic stuff in bright colours. There's Shetland and Jacob and lots of little samples of lots of different types of silk in lots of different colours and then there was this -
A whole pile of silk hankies - there's actually about 340g of them in a whole variety of colours. How cool is that? I'm not going to tell you how little I paid for them as you might cry.
It turns out that the girl who was selling them all had just finished a course in machine embroidery and she was selling off all her excess bits and pieces. I was chuffed to bits. So now I have lots and lots of stuff to play with and to experiment with and to blend with the kilo of Merino I just ordered from Fibrecrafts.
I bought the merino so I would have enough fibre to
which I ordered last week and which arrived on Tuesday. It's a totally wonderful book, and I can't wait to get dying and blending and experimenting with all the colours and all my new fibres.
Friday, August 24, 2007
In my previous existence as a secondhand bookseller I attended a lot of auctions. One of these, and by far my favourite auction is J S Auctions near Banbury. They've been fighting a long battle against the local council who feel that an out of town site is not the right place for an auction house to operate. This week they have lost their appeal, meaning that they have to close down their business, putting people out of work and affecting the livelihood of many more. The decision by the council is absolutely absurd and shows a complete lack of understanding of the business. JS Auctions is currently based on a farm where they hold the actual auctions in 2 large sheds, with a huge carpark adjacent. This means you can park right outside the auction and you can drive right up to the sheds to collect heavy or bulky items like furniture or books. They have worked hard over the years to improve the facilities at the site with better parking, new office accomodation etc. It's a lovely set-up and one which they could be proud of. They can easily accomodate the 300 or more people who attend their auctions every other Saturday, with no disruption to locals. It's a great, friendly auction house, run by people who care, and who've worked really hard to build their business. It's one of the best run auction houses I've ever attended and trust me I've been to quite a few!
Cherwell District Council think this kind of huge operation would be much better if it were in the town centre. Now, you're probably not familiar with Banbury, but it's a small market town, with limited parking at the best of times. On a Saturday it is really busy and virtually impossible to find parking. This is not the kind of place where you want to add to the traffic by trying to hold an auction (where the attendees often have large vans to park, and need access to the doors of the auction room to collect things). As an example, there is already an auction house in the centre of Banbury, which holds auctions on a Tuesday. I try and avoid this auction house because you have to park miles away and there is nowhere to stop to collect any heavy purchases. The last time I bought anything there I nearly got a parking ticket when I stopped briefly to load the car with the several boxes of books I had bought. I had no choice. I couldn't carry the boxes to the car so I had to stop temporarily on a double yellow line (that means No Parking, for those of you not from the UK). There was a prowling traffic warden hanging around waiting for just that situation. And that's on a Tuesday! On a Saturday with extra shoppers and extra people you can imagine the chaos another several hundred cars and vans would cause.
Cherwell Council should hang their heads in shame over this decision. They have potentially ruined a great business, cost some lovely people their jobs, deprived hundreds of people of the pleasure of a well-run auction in a great location, and threatened the livelihoods of many dealers.
JS Auctions are hoping to find alternative accomodation to enable them to continue with the business that is their livelihood. I really hope they succeed. The auction world would be a poorer place without them.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
This is more pleasing to the eye and has the added advantage that it cannot possibly be too long in any dimension. Currently however it could only be thrown over a postage stamp. You will note that nothing more complicated than garter stitch or stocking stitch has been attempted this week. (Wow, two things learned in one week - excuse me while I go and lie down for a bit.)
Very little reading has been done this week. I finished Letters from a Lost Generation (it did indeed make me cry) and started The Moon Tunnel by Jim Kelly. I am liking The Moon Tunnel greatly. Philip Dryden and his taxi-driving sidekick are wonderful. I have totally failed to read the books I am supposed to be reading for Book Group this month but, hey, I've still got a week.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I've been working almost full-time hours for only the last two weeks and I am exhausted. So, how did I manage when I had a baby / young child to look after too? Tuesday night when I got home I was so tired that I couldn't even summon the energy to knit (bad, huh?). I was so tired that I almost fell asleep during CSI Miami. (Yes, I know, it's a load of tosh, but you gotta love Horatio and the Sunglasses of Righteousness).
Today, although tired, I am not working. In fact I am off now until Sunday so you can expect regular service to be resumed at least for the time being. I'm not promising that I'll have anything terribly interesting to blog about but at least there should be a post or two. I have even found the time to install our new printer which has been waiting two weeks to be connected after the previous one died horribly mid-document. Of course installing the new printer was not as simple as it should have been. It was only when I unpacked it all that I realised that I didn't have the right kind of USB cable (now who would assume that one would come with the printer - I checked that it had the ink cartridges. How was I suppoed to know I'd need another cable.) Of course this is a very cheap and cheerful printer. The USB cable I had to rush out and buy cost half as much again as the whole printer. AAAAgh. Then on the way home from the computer shop there was a nasty accident at the junction near our house (about half a mile away) which meant a 5 mile detour and an extra HOUR on the journey (I kid you not).
Nevermind, we got home eventually.
There is some knitting news. I have cast on the Hot Lava Cardigan, though I have changed the cuff as I didn't like the double moss stitch cuff on the pattern. I am knitting plain stocking stitch with a slight flare at the cuff - quite my favourite style of sleeve. I just love the way the sleeve rolls back on itself.
I have also cast on for a log cabin blanket / throw. This is to be decorative and go across the back of my sofa where it can be pulled round my shoulders if it gets chilly. Pictures of these and possibly other stuff tomorrow, honest!
Reading has been going slowly, mostly due to the fact that I fall asleep as soon as I sit down with a book. Or I go to bed intending to read for a little bit and manage about a line and a half before the book hits the floor. However I have finished the Andrea Camilleri and did quite enjoy it, once I got used to the very odd Inspector Montalbano. I'm not sure I would rush to read another one but it was interesting. I'm still ploughing through Letters from a Lost Generation, which, as I suspected, has made me cry. I'm thinking I need something light and funny after this to cheer me up. Or possibly the new Val McDermid which so far I have resisted though it is calling my name every day in the shop.........
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I had the weekend off and so I've been catching up with all the stuff that needed doing - like sleeping, and knitting, and reading.Oh and I've been surfing the net too and I bought this -
Isn't it gorgeous. 5 skeins of Manos del Uruguay wool in colourway 6460 (oranges and browns and pinks and greens and reds). Won on eBay on Friday evening and delivered on Saturday, which was pretty impressive. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it when I bought it, but it was a real bargain and I couldn't resist it. Then I looked on Ravelry (sorry, if you're still waiting for your invite!) and found the ideal pattern - it will be a Hot Lava Cardigan. I'll probably do a version with just one button, but we'll see. Not sure if I have the right size of DPNs to do the cuffs and sleeves with which might be a problem. Large sized DPNs are not easy to find round here. I don't think I have the right size in circulars either come to think of it. I could probably buy them online .... but I want them NOW!
I have finished sewing the Ribwarmer -
Monday, August 06, 2007
There's the EZ Ribwarmer, now knitted (finally got into Brum for the last ball of yarn) and awaiting sewing up....
It looks as though the stripes don't match in the photo but they do in real life - I spent a lot of time making them match!
Also there are the Shock Wave socks.
I had started these in the Trekking XXL for the Evilpixie, but the pattern I was using wasn't right for the yarn. The Shock Wave pattern is just right.
I am reading Cut Her Dead by Iain McDowall. I've had his first book on my TBR pile for long time, but I got hold of a proof of this one and it's really good so far. It's not out in PB until December though. I am also reading Letters from a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain which is a fascinating book, but I have the hardback edition which is way too heavy to lug around for portable reading (hence the McDowall). This is research for a writing project I will tell you more about once I'm up to speed with the research and happy that I know what I'm talking about. (Funny, that doesn't usually bother me, does it?)
In spinning, I have started the rainbow roving I dyed last week and it is spinning beautifully. I have almost finished the first half (just the violet bit to go) then I will spin the matching 2nd half and Navaho ply them so that I keep the colour changes. They will be toe-up rainbow socks. Pictures of all that on Thursday which will be my next day off.
Got to go and make some dinner now and think about all the things I need to do this evening before I can sit down with a book and a glass of wine......
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
So it's the last day of July which means that this is the last day of this segment of Project Spectrum. So I have for your delight and titification - metallic books.
I struggled with these. I knew there weren't many on my shelf with metallic covers but I thought there might be a better selection with metals in the title. Apparently not. I give thanks therefore to Lindsey Davis who saved my bacon with her Falco novels. Some of the others are a little tenuous. The bottom one, in case you can't see, is Dan Dare - Marooned on Mercury. It's a reprint of the old Dan Dare story from the Eagle comic. Fabulous artwork by Frank Hampson.
I have totally failed to complete any projects in the Project Spectrum colours for this period, but I am playing with that black recycled sari silk -
I started knitting a modified Clapotis with it. It will be heavily modified as I don't have enough of the silk to knit the pattern as it is written. I hope to do better in the next slot for which the colours are brown, orange and purple. I have the Sonnet cardigan (brown) ready to be sewn up and button added, plus I have some orange Rowan Tape that I have been saving for just this time (it's going to be a vest top - especially as it looks like we might finally get a little bit of suitable weather for it), and I have been spinning some lovely purple shaded roving which I hope to knit up in the next few weeks.
Yesterday I managed to get a little bit of dying done. There is some fantastic rainbow roving which I will be knitting socks with. I'm hoping to start spinning it later today. I just can't wait - it looks so scrummy. Here it is drying in the sunshine. (Yes, I know, sunshine!!!!!)
And some other pink and purple splodgy stuff - I'm calling this colourway "A Spot of Bother".
We nearly had a purple dog while I was doing this as Bubba decided he was going to help me. I was dyeing in the garden, on the patio so I could lay out the roving for the rainbow stuff. Trust Bubba to come and stick his nose in! In the end disaster was averted, but I did end up with a purple / orange finger as one of my gloves sprang a leak.
I got my invitation to Ravelry last week and have been browsing the site. I'm not sure I will use it to track my stash. This would only be helpful if it actually came round and found the stuff I was looking for. I know I have a skein of pink hand-dyed sockwool, bought at the Knitting Show at the NEC last year, but can I find it? Anyway, I think for me the best bit of the site will be seeing what everyone has done with various patterns and yarns. Lots of inspiration I hope.
I have also failed to finish the Karin Fossum I was supposed to read for Reading Group tomorrow night. Instead I read The Riverman by Alex Grey. It was interesting, but there were a lot of characters introduced in a very short space of time and it took a while for me to sort them out. Also I'm not sure I got a very good feel for the detective, he seemed a little one dimensional. Maybe I missed something by starting several books into the series. (This is the 4th one I believe). By far the most interesting character in the book was the Riverman of the title - the man whose job it is to fish bodies out of the River Clyde. I have to admit I was far more interested in him and the work he did than in the police in the book. There just wasn't enough of the man with the boat.
Now I'm reading Boudica by Vanessa Collingridge. I don't know much about our most famous warrior queen, other than from the fictional Boudica series by Manda Scott. I loved her portrayal of the Boudica and the Iceni people. Collingridge's Boudica is a very different kettle of fish, at least so far - much more Romanised than Scott's very Celtic woman. As we know very little about Boudica, apart from the Roman views of Tacitus and other later descriptions, I guess you can pick which portrayal you like best. We're probably never going to know what her life was really like.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The one on the top is Emperor: The Field of Swords by Conn Iggulden. I picked it off the shelf to photograph a couple of days ago and started to read it as I'd just finished the previous one. I am therefore no further along with Karin Fossum. Atlantic Canada is from a brief period when we flirted with going to live there, before we concluded that we'd rather live somewhere warmer (though I'd still like to spend a bit of time there). Ray Bradbury - because I love his short stories. Sue Grafton - because she missed out on being in the black books last week. This one is D for Deadbeat. Michael Connelly - needs no explanation! The Picador Book of Crime Writing. The Best American Mystery Stories Vol 2 (from 2003) - I like these because I can get a taste of some new authors. And finally 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die - I haven't read nearly enough of the books listed here, though there are some that I have no wish to read, and there is nowhere near enough crime fiction!
In answer to your question Karen, the Fossum we should be reading is He Who Fears the Wolf. I've read about 60 pages and am struggling to make myself read any more. The theme for the month is "On the Couch - Crime and the Mind". I have no idea what the other selections were though I think there was a Frank Tallis. It must have been a selection that didn't appeal to me much if I ended up with the Karen Fossum!
I have run out of yarn for the Ribwarmer - I kind of thought I was going to, after I weighed the first half and the yarn I had left, but I was hoping for miracles. It will have to wait until after the weekend now as I'm working Friday and Saturday and to get more wool I need to get into Birmingham to Rackhams.
I started a triangular shawl with some black recycled sari silk I bought from Hipknits a couple of weeks ago - well, it was in the sale! However the shawl is not looking right so it might turn into something different - it's difficult to get any stitch definition with the hairyness of the sari silk. Needs a bit of a rethink.
And I have been spinning - some of the unidentified British Wool that I dyed last month in very subtle shades of purple and blue. I'm going to ply it with some vintage art silk/cotton that I found in the stash. Photos after the weekend if the deluge has abated and the light is a little better.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Another random Monday stuff post, because I'm still a bit brain-dead after working in the shop the whole weekend.
Of course it was Harry Potter weekend and we were very, very busy, and a lot of work had gone into making the shop look great, and making sure everything went smoothly. Saturday was very manic and just the slightest bit weird. Hats off to booksellers everywhere though for getting into the spirit of it all and making sure the customers had a great time. I have to admit that yes, I have read the ending so I do know what happens, but no, there is no way I would reveal it and spoil the book for anyone.
There has been knitting in between the bouts of Harry madness. I started Elizabeth Zimmermann's Ribwarmer and I am more than half way done now. Here's the first half -
It's in James Brett Marble DK in the pink/green colourway which I had almost 2 balls of in the stash. I love the way the colours are merging into one another. It looks completely different from the Cloud Bolero which was what I had previously knitted in this yarn. I'm having a little bit of fun trying to make the two halves match up colourwise, and I'm not entirely sure that I have enough yarn. But I should be able to get another ball easily enough, and it wasn't expensive. It is 100% acrylic and so it's not something I would normally choose (as I do prefer pure wool) but I remember liking it last time I knitted with it and it's proving just as nice this time. I think I might have to get some more of this in other colours sometime.
I've been reading too, though not the Karin Fossum I should be reading for crime fiction group. I've run up against that old problem I have with translated crime and particularly it seems with Scandinavian translated crime. I just find it very difficult to read. Something about the language sounds slightly off to my ears, seeming stilted somehow. It just doesn't seem to flow like it should. Now I don't know if this is a problem with the translation or if it's the Scandinavian intonation and thought process that doesn't come over well. Anyhow, I just wasn't enjoying it. Instead I read the second book in the Emperor series by Conn Iggulden. This is called The Death of Kings. I am liking this series a lot. I've been on a bit of a Roman kick recently - watching the BBC/HBO series Rome, which finished last night. The Iggulden series revolves around some of the same characters and it's fascinating to link them all together. My knowledge of Roman history is a bit limited - coming only from fiction - Lindsay Davies and Steven Saylor - and from watching I, Claudius when I was young.
While I'm on the subject of TV series, I must remind you that Heroes (which I have been banging on about for months) finally starts on BBC2 on Wednesday night. Trust me, it's great stuff. Save the Cheerleader, Save the World!