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In which Scotland was big enough for the both of us August 29, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Really good day, Uncategorized.
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Dad and I went to Scotland.  It was stunning.  I will now proceed to bombard you with pictures of mountains.

Following streams is not always a clever idea, as we found, especially if you’re following them downwards.  Wet trouser legs all round!

The north of the island is just in every way glorious.  We walked along the top of this, and never saw a single person:

Can you imagine that?  I can’t think of anywhere else I’ve ever been that I could say that about.  Which means either I haven’t travelled much, which is entirely likely, or that’s rare.  On the way back, the Peak District seemed to contain a stifling number of people.  I couldn’t believe it.

This is probably my favourite view of the year.

Hope Island.  We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit, but seeing that from a trig point, very high up and from not all that great a distance, and I assure you it hasn’t been misnamed in the slightest.

There was also knitting!  And outrageous posing with same!  And there were definitely tights.

This might just be the best photo taken of me all year.  I don’t generally take photos particularly well.

There was also knitting, of course, and that’s probably going to be blocked tomorrow, so hopefully there will be pictures soonish.

In other knitting news, the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan is, I can confirm, a terrifying piece of machinery.  Having knitted one cardigan and half a jumper of upperwear in my life (the former of which is what’s being blocked tomorrow), I decided to jump in at the deep end and make something from scratch myself.  I’m blaming Knit and Crochet Blog Week from a few months ago – having admitted I wanted to design my own cardigan, I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head.   As far as I’ve got, which is just starting on the waist shaping, the logistics are fiendish and they’re making my head hurt.  However, with the judicious use of time, a lot of chocolate and numerous spreadsheets, I think I’m getting the hang of it.  Probably.  If I finish this thing, it is getting worn til it falls apart.

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It’s That Hat Again August 25, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Lovely people.
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I’m absolutely delighted that my November Beret has been featured as the Wednesday’s pattern on Peacefully Knitting.  I’ve been following Tina’s blog for a few weeks now and it’s brought all kinds of patterns and yarns and what have you to my attention that I probably wouldn’t have spotted otherwise.  If crafting and slightly obscure pretty things are your bag, I heartily recommend nipping over and taking a look.  Say hi from me!

Results August 24, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, Sheer bloody-mindedness.
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I’m back!  Arran was fantastic, and I love it to bits.  I also have swag, by which I mean a fair bit of yarn from Arran itself and from The Wool Baa in Sheffield, into which Dad and I nipped on the way home.  He’s a bit scared of knitters, is my dad.  He’s barely met any, and he wasn’t looking forward to going into a yarn shop and potentially having to converse with people who are interested in very different things to him.  Half an hour later, therefore, we emerged from the Wool Baa with me clutching a skein of teal Araucania Ranco Solid (try as I might, I’ve never been able to resist Ranco) and some very pretty Cascade Heathers, probably for Verity, and him grinning from ear to ear looking for all the world like he’d made a new best friend.  This is what knitters do to you, ladies and gents.  It’s such a sociable sport.

We walked miles.  It was fantastic.  We went up hills, and over moors, and ambled around standing stones and discovered trig points and ate a lot of chocolate raisins.  We got a fair few scratches and bruises from heather, and enjoyed ourselves so much.  After having been cooped up indoors at work for so long recently, it was the best thing I could possibly have done.  I adore places where the land meets the sea and the sky, and where different heights and colours and sounds are just so close to each other.  Let us say, there is no chance of my ever being agoraphobic.  Dad has photos, and he’s as good at procrastinating as I am so I haven’t even seen them yet.

Other than that, I knitted loads, finished a pair of socks (remember the bright green ones I was knitting on Grey Day? finally finished!) as well as my First!Completed!Cardigan!Ever! which is yet to be blocked, and is a test knit so I think deserves a post to itself.  I also read The Hound of the Baskervilles and ate my body weight in smoked salmon, prawns, oatcakes and cheese.  Dad took the opportunity to introduce me to the concept of ale I might actually like, and at the age of twenty I drank my first pint – of Arran Blonde.  I’m still not entirely won over, but it feels like a milestone to me.

It was everything a holiday should be, is what I’m saying.

In unrelated news, if you’re in the UK you probably haven’t been able to escape the fact that A Level results day was last Thursday, and it’s all getting easier and we’re all getting thicker and should just stop doing degrees because there aren’t enough places and 95% of courses are overrated anyway.  Just thinking about my A Levels, two years on, puts me in meltdown – especially the subtle implication of the British media that I don’t really deserve my three As, or that anyone could have got them, because it’s all easier than it was thirty years ago anyway.  All of which is by the by now anyway, because I’m done with A Levels and part way through a Batchelor’s degree, so of course now is their opportunity to spend the next five years devaluing those as well.

What this was intended to be, however, before it was a rant about how nobody cares if I work hard or start taking coffee intravenously and memorising the relevant sections of the Dewey Decimal System, is that it’s GCSE results day today, and my fantastic and brainy and front-page-on-results-day-worthy little sister got hers this morning!  I am slightly teary, who knew she was that grown up?  And she’s done brilliantly, as we all knew she would because she’s a clever sod, and better than I did, which was equally inevitable for the same reasons.  I am so very proud of her.

(That’s a very sexy hat you’re sporting there, Midge.  Is that a slight hint of grey cabley goodness with moss stitch panels?  I cannot think where you might have got it.)

(Note to everyone: I am related to her.  Yes!  I know!  I am hoping to goodness some of it is genetic.)

Adjourning for a week August 15, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.
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I’m leaving, at disgusting o’clock tomorrow morning, to go to Scotland for a week.  Arran, to be precise, and the Lake District briefly on the way up and the Peak District even more so on the way down.  There will be lots of walking, and a fair bit of knitting, and I imagine some very good food.  It’s just going to be my dad and me, and I’m really looking forward to it.  I shan’t, however, have any internet access for most of the week except to occasionally check my e-mails on my dad’s computer.  Until then, it’s radio silence, I’m afraid.  Don’t miss me too much.

Falling off the wagon August 13, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Really good day.
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I have been on a bit of a laceweight binge today.

What happened was this: Mum and I had a day off that coincided, so we decided the best thing to do with this was a Monumental Crafts Of London Day: coffee at the British Theatre, wandering round Liberty’s fabric section and stalking haughtily around the button collection at John Lewis on Oxford Street making mildly vitriolic comments about how if I wanted to spend £8 on three yards of slightly fancy elastic, I’d gold plate it, and how Cath Kidston is absolutely the first person I would choose to educate me in the ways of vintage things.

Oh yeah, and we went to Loop.  Of course we went to Loop.  They’ve just moved from a one-storey shop to a two-storey shop with armchairs, so there was no way we were going to miss it.

This Misti Alpaca is for Laminaria Estonian lace shawl which I keep meaning to make.  It’s pinkier than the photo suggests and is strong competition for the World’s Softest Thing, alongside very small babies and the fluff found on the tummies of hamsters.  Needless to say, a fair portion of the train journey home was spent with my face buried in it.  The gentleman in a suit sat opposite me gave me some fantastic confused looks.

This Malabrigo Lace is just because.  I don’t know what it’ll be, but it’s going to be fantastic.

I absolutely have not just bought a mile and a half of laceweight yarn.  No way.  This is not a problem.

I’m off to Bristol tomorrow, meeting people I met on the internet and probably buying more yarn.  There will almost certainly be more pictures.  Excellent.

Frantically knitting August 10, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Knitting, Sewing.
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I’ve spent the last few days knitting like it’s going out of fashion.  I’m afraid I can’t tell you what I’m knitting, it’s a secret at present, but I’ve set myself a deadline of Saturday to have it finished.  As things stand, then, I’ve spent a fair bit of time with a calculator having ideas and muttering to myself.  A deadline of just over a week is really, really daunting, even if the things I’m making are quite small, but I’m glad I’m doing it.  I feel like I’m pushing myself a bit here.

I also have a question for you – if you don’t mind helping me.  If you were to happen, for instance, to be browsing a hypothetical online market of handmade odds and sods, and you were to come across a rather lovely tote bag to the tune of this, only rather better ironed/photographed/with buttons sewn in the gaps:

or, indeed, a little more topically for today, this:

…would you be interested in having one for your very own?  And at what sort of price would you make a mental note to remember it for the birthdays of some of your more arty friends?

Just hypothetically, you understand.  I really haven’t decided if it’s too much effort while I’m a finalist.

There’s a high-ish chance I’m going to keep the one with the umbrella on it for myself because I love it so much.  Also, it’s a bit smudged.  But mainly because I love it.

Dad and I are going to Arran in Scotland next week – hurrah!  I am counting down the days.  There will be good food and better walks and it’s going to be fantastic.  I will try and wrestle his camera before then, because I know I keep meaning to post all sorts of pictures of things and failing utterly to do so.

Did somebody mention a hat? August 4, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns.
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I am proud, honoured and delighted to introduce the November beret.  It was published about fifteen minutes ago, and it looks like this:

(Ably modelled by the excellent Miss Lawrence.)

It’s been a few months in the making, and far more complicated to work on than the fingerless gloves were, mainly because of my insistence on having charts that look professional.  I cannot abide sloppy charts, and I absolutely shall not be responsible for them.

The result, however, is a hat that’s really, really good fun to knit.  I’ve made it twice, and will probably make it again, which should tell you something right from the off because I never do that.  My testers – who, by the way, have been to a man absolutely fantastic – also said they really enjoyed knitting it.

I could not be happier with it, essentially.  It’s squishy, and slouchy, and surprisingly easy and therapeutic once you’ve knitted a few rows.  Also, it goes really quickly, which to me is always the sign of a good pattern.

Even if it is August, and entirely the wrong time of year for hats.  I can’t wait for the nights to draw in so I can wear it properly.

Handbags and Questing August 3, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Really good day.
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I have a theory, and it’s to do with the colours that are in fashion at the moment, which, I have to say, I think are horrible.  I was in Gap this afternoon and it’s all washed out pinks and beiges and greys and insipid navy, and I thought, this stuff doesn’t look new.  It looks old, and worn, and a little bit shabby.  Knitwear is also back in, chunky, maroon and mustard and off-white baggy jumpers.  Big boots that look, in a sort of stylised way, like they’re for walking long distances through mud in.  Wellington boots.

My theory is this: what people want is handmade.  What people want is built to last, and maybe it isn’t new, but it keeps on being useful and practical for a long time.  And the glorious irony is that the big stores have realised this and are selling throwaway garments as they always do – only this time, they’re cunningly disguised as things that are might be heirlooms.  We’re trying to escape throwaway consumerism in some small way, and as these things always do it’s coming back to bite us in the bums.  It’s doing it yourself, without having to do it yourself.  It’s things that look homemade, without actually being so.  It’s the side of fashion that makes me want to scream, and bang my head against the wall, because it’s all the things I love and am interested in, with faux emblazoned in front of it in curly font.

Meanwhile, finding actual higher-than-ankle boots to traipse through mud in, in a UK size 5 1/2, remains impossible.  I am destined to wear through the soles of my walking boots, I think.  They already have barely any grip left on them.

In the spirit of handmade, therefore, I went out today and bought more crafting equipment than you can shake a metaphorical stick at.  I recently found this tutorial for freezer paper stencilling and thought it looked really interesting to have a go at.  Unfortunately, finding freezer paper in the UK is, as I’m sure many people before me have discovered, nigh on impossible.  However, I was not deterred, and I think I have found a substitute with the combination of the super powers of the ladies in Fabric Land in Southampton, and the as-yet-unchallenged notion that if you can’t do it with Vilene, it’s not worth doing.

Three quarters of an hour of traipsing later, and I had myself a craft knife and cutting board, and had located a gorgeous little art shop to supply me with fabric paint.  Don’t you just love art shops?  They may well be my favourite type of shop in the world – full of different textures of paper and pots of brightly coloured stuff and ubiquitous Things To Stick Things To Other Things.  It always speaks to me of such potential.

And so continues my quest to be more adept at making pretty things.  There will be photos, ditto of The Skirt, as soon as I am not a lazy beggar and can get my hands on a camera.

Oh, and one other thing that happened today: I discovered that the lady in the John Lewis haberdashery now recognises me on sight.  Also, apparently a new yarn shop has opened in Newcastle.  Add that to this absolute gem, and I’m starting to think I’m at the wrong end of the country.

I’m going to go and play with buttons.