Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A Treat to Myself

I've had my eye on the "Bonnie" scarf and bag from the RYC "Classic Weekend" book since I took up knitting again two years ago. When I spotted the yarn in a half price sale, there was no decision to make! However, it's all been in my stash boxes for about a year.

So, here's the yarn - lovely and squidgey:

The scarf is made up of 32 squares and these are knitted in two colours...

Though you knit on two needles, you knit a spiral, forming the square's corners by knitting three stitches together. They're a very simple knit.

...The finished square...

And, the finished product will look a little like this...

I'm planning to be really good and do some blocking before I sew all the squares together; because although they're roughly the same size, I want to make sure that the edges meet.

Only another 16 to go. :-)

Saturday, 19 April 2008

New Togs

Sometimes, I'm alarmed by the price of yarn. In these cases, I usually substitute - especially when I want something hard wearing for nephews, nieces and the BF. As I mentioned on a forum, I'm well aware of his approach to clothes - scrunch them up at the sleeves and dump them on the floor when he's done. (I don't pick them up). Yes, this could be annoying, but this is how he is, how he's always been and life's too short to attempt to change this.

So, I accept this and he gets yarn substitutions, unless I can get a seriously good price on a nicer yarn.

However, when considering the price of yarn I take into account that its purchase produces two benefits. One, I'm buying for my hobby (and there are certainly more expensive hobbies) and; two, I get new clothes out of it.

So, here's my latest top (above): "Tulip" (Rowan 41), knitted in "Rowan - Damask". I'm not terribly imaginative with clothes. I find a style that suits me and, in this case, that's wrap-over cardigans and tops. I'm pretty self conscious about my chest and these don't make me feel too top heavy.

I knitted "Tulip" last year in a dark blue shade, and liked the pattern so much, I decided to make another - so I'm not too imaginative there, either!

Here's the "Admiral R Druck" yarn knitted up. I was calling this blend 'Smarties' but, while I like the finished pattern, I'm disappointed that the final articles aren't as funky as the balled yarn was. :-)

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Books - the Fourth in an Occasional Series

So far, this year, I've read lots of sci-fi and fantasy, with a couple of books set in the Cold War and the Second World War. Sounds like cheery reading, doesn't it?

The Day Watch and The Twilight Watch are the sequels to The Night Watch, (Sergei Lukyanenko) and are just as good if not better. (Super Monkey - go and get them now, if you haven't already!). Set in Moscow, they focus on a Cold War-esque stand off between Light and Dark, each side scheming to get the other upper hand. They're brilliantly written, making it easy to visualise the Russian scenery, with lots of cynical post-Soviet humour.

A Hat Full of Sky (Terry Pratchett) features Tiffany Aching's further adventures in becoming a witch in the Discworld. It's a children's book, with plenty of jokes that I imagine would go right over their heads. I'm still reading the descriptions of the Nac Mac Feegles (blue piskies who like nothing better than a fight) with Billy Connolly's voice in my head.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Geoffrey MacGuire) tells the story of the events that lead up to Dorothy Gale's trip to Oz from the perspective of Elphaba, the witch. Was she evil? Was she a revolutionary fighting for the rights of the oppressed? I can't stand The Wizard of Oz but this was a fantastic read.

Next up was The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (John Le Carre) which I've been meaning to read for years - English spy gets a final mission... Edge of seat stuff. This was followed by Dead Lines (Greg Bear) in which some muppet invents a brilliant new mobile phone (I told you these things were bad news)... and the dead become visible to the living.

While I was in Paris, I read We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lionel Shriver)... and if I previously had wanted kids, I certainly wouldn't now. It's chilling and vividly written. I recently heard the author on a radio show and she was appalled that certain University sociology and psychology courses were using her novel as a text to explore why some women don't want to have kids. This is imagination, rather than experience or research.

On a more cheery note, I followed this up with The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak) - a tale narrated by Death. It's fabulous and I enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for my Mam's birthday. Set in Nazi Germany, it features a small girl who steals books and whose adoptive parents hide a young Jew in their basement. Death has a horrible habit of telling you the ending, but I rather enjoyed reading on to find out how this ending takes place. It's a very sentimental read.

Then it was back to some more sci-fi with Greg Bear's Eon - the prequel to Eternity which I picked up years ago in Egypt, a second hand copy that some scumbag had ripped the last page out of. Greg Bear writes very realistic and strong female characters and Eon features an asteroid with a chamber that goes on forever, so Patricia Vasquez is asked to work out why and how. (I love sci-fi and I especially love novels where the women don't just run around screaming and having to be rescued).

And finally, my idea of Hell... Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) - a near future where all books are burned and TVs are never switched off and advertising is all-pervasive. (We're almost there). It's a superb novel - the FIL recommended it.


I've just come back from a conference in Madrid - on new ways of helping people learn. For a change, it was a really interesting event and I learnt lots and came away with lots of brilliant ideas - all stolen from other people. (This makes a change from last week's conference in Liverpool where the highlight was a fire in the control room on the first day. (No-one was hurt).

I was in Madrid to talk about a piece of work I've been doing in my spare time which is to set up a public health diploma course, to be delivered over t'interweb, using free resources, for public health practitioners working in the Developing World.

Anyway, I had two free evenings in Madrid which is somewhere I've never been. It's a beautiful city and I was surprised by how green it is, much more so than Barcelona or Murcia. There are lots of lovely parks and gardens - most of which I saw from an open-top bus ride around the city (in the rain - I swear it was wetter than Manchester).

The food was great too. I found a little cantina where I had beef skewers with chips (proper English style, taties, chopped and fried in oil - none of this French Fries rubbish). The waitress recommended a side-salad of tomatoes. Side-salad. What arrived was a huge plate of fresh tomatoes, chopped into quarters doused in beautiful honey dressing. They were beautiful - really fresh and tasty.

On my second evening, I took myself off to the Museo del Prado which is a fantastic gallery of Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch paintings. I know nothing about Spanish art, so it was a good education for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed swanning around Madrid by myself.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Knitting Books

At last week's knitting group, Claire brought up a selection of knitting books and I got my grubby mitts on this one:

I had to have it.

"Knitwear" by Sasha Kagan is a beautiful book. It's full of gorgeous Fairisle and Intarsia colourwork. There are cardigans, coats, jumpers and scarves. For the most part, they're all incredibly wearable - there are more patterns in there that I would like to make and wear, than not.

(Sadly I can't find any online pictures).

The colourwork ranges from simple Fairisle to patterns that incorporate colour and texture, using cables and other stitches to compliment the designs. She also uses a range of yarns which is fun too. Having ogled the book many, many, many times, I'm really impressed with the charts and pattern instructions - they all seem pretty straightforward to follow.

One criticism - some of the photos don't do justice to the work. For example, one of the cardigans which is knitted from very dark yarns is photographed in dark wood. Not terribly helpful for looking at the design. There's another outfit - a long coat - where we are only shown the back... I wonder what dark secret is hidden around the front?

However, I'm very happy with this buy...

...which is more than can be said for "Rowan 43".

Well, I like this - but isn't it very similar to "Tulip" ("Rowan 41")? A version of which I'm currently knitting now. This "Rowan 43" version is also knitted in "Damask". In fact, most of the patterns that I did like in this edition are very similar to patterns in "Rowan 41".

I like the jumper she's wearing... but again - awfully similar to a pattern in another edition.

OK, so it's not as bad as "Rowan 42" which was just too '80s Heidi for my taste, but I felt thoroughly uninspired.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Laughing Elephant

Isn't this lovely? :-)