Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Which I Learn a Few Things....

...mostly about the properties of yarn.

I spent yesterday playing with the drum carder I have on loan. Did I tell you I have a week off work? Anyway I borrowed my spinning groups drum carder to have a play with and produced some lovely batts of fibre to spin. Photos of all that tomorrow.

Today I thought I'd do a bit of weaving. I got out my Knitter's Loom and rummaged in the stash and found some lovely purple Rowan Dk and some matching mohair. There was only a little of the Rowan and my plan was to use it as the warp and some handspun and some mohair as the weft. But there wasn't enough of the Rowan so I added some warp strands of the mohair. I can't imagine what I was thinking. Warp yarns need to be strong and SMOOTH. (for non weavers the warp is the long threads that run the length of the weaving that you weave the shuttle over and under to create the fabric.) Well this mohair was strong but it was very, very fluffy. So fluffy that it stuck to itself with the slightest of provocation. My first problem was that when I tried to wind the warp thread onto the back beam the mohair fluff wound itself round the heddle bars and clung on for grim death. I poked and teased it and eventually got the warp all set up. When I started to weave a few rows with scrap yarn at the start though I hit the next problem - the mohair was so sticky I couldn't beat the threads into place! At this point I gave up and cut the mohair off the loom.

Lesson learned. Need to rethink this project.

BTW...still knitting.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shhhh.....don't tell anyone!

But I think I might have found my knitting mojo.......

Can't say any more - I don't want to jinx it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'll have an E please, Bob.

Here's my letter all knitted and ready to send to The Poetry Society for their knit a poem project.

So while we're on the subject of the letter E I thought I'd share a little...

Things I like that begin with E

1. Eggs - lovely and brown and still warm, fresh out of the hen!

2. Evergreens - nothing like a bit of green to cheer you up in the depths of winter

3. Evanovich, Janet - great, funny, light-hearted crime fiction for when you're in that sort of mood

4. Easter egg chocolate - somehow always tastes better than normal chocolate

5. Enthusiasm - just love people who're passionate about their hobbies or even life in general

I expect there will be lots of enthusiastic people at Fibrefest this weekend but sadly I won't be one of them. I shall be working and missing all the fibrey loveliness. If you're going can I ask that you stop by the p/hop stall, pick up one of their lovely patterns and donate a little to MSF. We all get so many hours of pleasure from knitting, and this is a nice way to give something back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Update Part 2

Pete pointed out that I'd missed a book in my crime write up in the last post so first, before we get to the non-crime stuff I did also read The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson. Some of you will know of my deep and abiding loathing of translated fiction but I'm doing OK with this series so far. The translation seems to be of a high standard, as does the original writing. I'm really looking forward to the last book which is due at the beginning of October.

So, moving on, I had a brief flirtation with teenage fiction and read Twilight. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So I've read it, I think I can see why teenage girls are flocking to the book in droves, and I did quite enjoy it in an odd spectatorish way. Parts of it are very badly written but the plot moves quickly and some of the characters are endearing in a teenager-ish way. What annoyed me about it was the really quite clumsy flag-waving for the abstinence brigade. Blood-sucking, that's fine but sex is totally out of the question!

Back in the land of grown-ups I had a Bookerish turn. Now, my loathing of Booker winning (or even nominated) books is pretty much on par with anything translated. But I've just read two of this years nominated books and liked both of them. Shock horror!

I started with The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. A beautifully written ghost story, set in a crumbling mansion in Warwickshire just after the war. It had me gripped from start to finish. Well, I thought, this really ought to win.

Then I read The Children's Book by A S Byatt. It's a whopping great book, over 600 pages, so that's a big chunk of reading time, but I just couldn't put it down. The book runs from about 1895 through to just after the Great War following the children of an extended family. Woven throughout is the development of the Arts and Crafts movement, the building of the V&A museum and the political upheaval of the period. It's a wonderfully textured book, filled with ceramics and textiles, puppets and theatre. The language of the book draws heavily on that of the creative arts. It's skilfully woven together and in the background looms the threat of a war which will destroy everything. It's a masterpiece.

So now I'm torn. I've never read a Booker winner that I liked, so I guess that ends any chance either of these books had of winning. Now I'm wondering if I should read another of the longlist. Anyone care to suggest which one I read? William Trevor? Colm Toibin? Any recommendations?

While on a roll with quality fiction I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I'd not read any of her before and I knew I should sort that out. I'm hoping to get around to Gilead before the end of the year. I thought Housekeeping was excellent with a fantastic narrative voice. It put me in mind of Alice Munro, who has long been a favourite of mine. Which reminds me that I haven't read any of her more recent work.

What am I reading now? I'm trying to catch up with Michael Connolly who has been producing 2 books a year lately. I hope he's not going all James Patterson. Anyway I'm reading The Brass Verdict, follow up to The Lincoln Lawyer. So far it's pretty good.

I'm off to The Festival of Quilts at the NEC on Thursday where I'm hoping to be inspired and possibly do a little fabric shopping. Full report later in the week.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Update Part One - Crime

I've actually read quite a few books in the time that I was MIA, more than usual I think because of the not knitting thing.

Anyway there are rather too many for just one post so I've decided to split them up into the crime fiction and the non-crime. Today's post will concern just the crime fiction.

I finished A Darker Domain by Val McDermid and liked it. Better than the previous one, though still not my favourite McDermid book. I liked the descriptions of the pit villages in Fife and found the new police characters interesting. I don't know if this is planned to be the start of a series, but I think I'd read more.

Then I read White Nights by Ann Cleeves, the second in her Shetland Quartet, which I'd been waiting to come out in paperback for seemingly ages. I liked it a lot, possibly even more than the first volume. She's definitely got an ear for language has Ann Cleeves. Not sure I can hang on for the paperback of the next volume as it's out now in hardback and not due in paperback until February. This one's serious contender for my crime novel of the year so far. A full review will appear on Eurocrime.

I took a little detour after that as I had a couple of books to read for crime reading group. The first was David Hewson's The Sacred Cut which I had on audio. I had a little trouble with this. Firstly it was too long. The audio book was over 13 hours and it seems to go off at tangents and lose all pace and tension, while the detectives drank a lot of coffee. The narrator was a tad irritating - there was one voice that he did with a thick New York accent that was really grating. The final straw was that the discs wouldn't play in the car, so I ran out of time and had to skim-listen to the last hour or so, most of which seemed to involve coffee drinking and reflection and not a lot of plot resolution. I think if faced with another Hewson I would read as opposed to listen so I could go at my own pace, which might improve things a bit.

The other book was Steven Saylor's House of the Vestals. This is a collection of short stories that fill in the gaps between some of Gordianus the Finder's investigations. Now I've read some of Saylor's novels and they're not an easy read - bit heavy on the politics and the history for my taste, but the short stories were much lighter, funnier - Steven Saylor-lite if you will. I quite enjoyed them in a detached, not-too-serious way. I didn't get them all finished, due to the overrunning of the Hewson audio, but In liked the ones I read. However if I hadn't read any Saylor before and then went to the novels on the strength of this book I may have been in for a shock.

I had a review to write about Blood on the Cowley Road by Peter Tickler. It's set in Oxford, in an area of Oxford that I know quite well so I was hoping for good things which it sadly did not deliver. Some of the characters felt underdeveloped and the plot was not very strong. Again there will be a full review on Eurocrime when Karen gets the time to put it up, but overall it was a disappointment.

Lastly I got my hands on a proof of the new Ian Rankin, The Complaints. This is due for publication on 3rd September. I was a bit wary as I didn't especially like Doors Open but this was the real deal - a well crafted, well-plotted intelligent crime novel. It's about Malcolm Fox who works in the Complaints and Conduct department - he's a man who does everything by the book and hence is about as far as Rankin could get from Rebus and still be on the right side of the law. It's not a book about serial killers or even about murder though there is at least one in the book. This is a book about ethics and about trust and it's a book that makes you think. I wavered while reading it between thinking maybe it wasn't so hot, and absolutely loving it. By the time I got to the end I was totally convinced. Rankin is a very clever writer. Again a full review will be wending its way to Eurocrime but I'll need to find the pad I wrote it on and type it up first.

Tomorrow, well maybe Sunday because I'm working tomorrow so will be brain dead by the time I get home, I'll catch up on the non-crime I've been reading - some of it very unexpected and with totally unpredicted results.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sorry I've been AWOL

I've been AWOL from the blog for a while, trying to get my head together and I think I'm finally getting there. My knitting mojo is beginning to return and I have been doing some other stuff in the meantime. Tomorrow I will do a big book update but today I'm being all crafty.

I had a Kirstie Allsop moment at a carboot sale a couple of weeks ago and bought a lovely old patchwork quilt.

I love the colours. It's all hand stitched. I have no idea how old it is, but it has been well used (well loved, as we bookdealers like to say) and is rather tatty in places. In my mind that somehow adds to its charm. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but it just called my name from its cardboard box in a muddy field and it only cost a fiver!

I've been doing a little quilting of my own

This is the Diamonds at Large quilt from Pam & Nicky Lintott's Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts. It's a great thrifty quilt that can be made from just one layer cake and the one I used was Moda's Arcadia. A mix of blue, mustard, brown and orange - very summery. It will be a throw for the back of one of the sofas when it's done. That's just the quilt top in the picture. I still have to add the border and do the quilting. Sewing machine time is difficult to snatch during the summer holidays as there are often teenagers watching the TV where I do my sewing. The Evilpixie has not been very well this week - a nasty virus with stomach pains and headaches. Poor thing.

Finally I have been doing a little knitting. I did finish the Simple Yet Effective shawl that has been on the needles for ages -it was my carrying around knitting and I wasn't getting very much done. Desperate to prod my missing mojo with an FO I sat down and completed it while watching DVDs of The Unit.

I added a frilly edge just to make it a little different from the other one I have. This meant that I ran out of yarn during the cast-off (about 2 feet from the end) and had to substitute some handspun to finish it off. Luckily I had some in a similar colour to one of the stripes and it's not too noticeable.

So, I now have new portable knitting - a sock

It's my standard sock recipe in Patons Croy, bought in Florida last year. The stripes are a little thicker than I wanted/expected. I might frog it and knit a sideways sock - seen a few patterns floating around the web that look pretty cool, and that would narrow the stripes a lot.

And at last I'm beginning to plan a new project, something I seem to have been unable to do lately. So, where to go when you need an inspiring knit, something to get those creative juices flowing again - you go to Norah Gaughan of course (well, I do anyway). Next up on the needles, providing I can find the right size of needle and can get the gauge right will be Loppem from Norah Gaughan book two.

Next post will be books......