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It’s November (nearly)! October 31, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Knitting, Literature, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo.
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I know I’ve been terrible recently about writing – and I’m hoping that’ll change soon, but every time so far I sit down to write a blog post I find I have nothing to say.  NaNoWriMo approaches, though – at midnight tonight, I’ll start writing and hopefully that’ll mean I have things to say again elsewhere as well.  That’s the plan, anyway.

So in lieu of conversation, have a bit of a reminder of this:

The November beret (remember that, right?) being worn by the very lovely Laura.  She took pictures of the green version at the original photoshoot, but unfortunately I didn’t get much of an opportunity to post some of the ones of her – a terrible shame indeed, because she’s disgustingly photogenic, don’t you think?

Anyway, it’s November here in a few hours’ time, I’m attempting to write a novel in November and I happen to have a pattern called ‘November’… can you see where I’m going with this?

At the end of November, I’ll make a donation of 50p per November beret pattern sold during the month to the Office of Letters and Light, because they’re fantastic and if there’s one thing I support it’s stories.  And also, one bit of creativity deserves another.

On the subject of which, I went to Newcastle yesterday to meet some fellow NaNo-ers.  I wholeheartedly approve of any venture which involves coffee, stickers, and meeting new people who make jokes about literature.  Considering that a significant number of my friendships over the years have been based on befriending people who recognise an Oscar Wilde quotation when they hear one, this is fantastic.

If you’re novelling this month, or writing creatively in any way, shape or form: good luck.  I have it on good authority that there a hundred-and-some thousand of us out there rooting for you.

If you’d like to buy a copy of the pattern for the November beret, you can buy it now from Ravelry (you don’t have to be a member, either!).  Or, you could give OLL a few pennies yourself anyway.  I’m fairly sure that qualifies you as A Good Person.

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Oh, wow. October 28, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Crochet, Knitting.
2 comments

So his nibs came up to visit, and then I got the flu, and then my dissertation imploded and had to be basically restarted from scratch and then I agreed to light op a play and SUDDENLY IT’S TWO WEEKS LATER. Where has it all gone? I really meant to post earlier than this, I honestly did. I’ve finished two non-matching socks, a Man-Hat, the world’s fastest Noro scarf (which I adore) and something of which I actually have pictures.

Which is this.

(ably modelled by Roomie – to whom goes much thanks for her patience!)

A pair of fingerless mitts for NaNoWriMo that I am dubbing ‘Christopher’s mitts’ for my main character, who’d definitely own a pair. Short mitts make me happy – they don’t restrict hand movement and they’re really lovely and warm. Also, they’re as close to instant gratification as you can get with knitting – I think the pair took me three hours per mitt to actually knit. I’ve had Freshers’ flu like nobody’s business recently, twice, so these were knitted over a weekend watching series catch-up of New Tricks. The pattern, in four sizes, is currently being tested over at Free Pattern Testers (Ravelry link) so hop on over if you’re interested.

It’s been a quiet few weeks, all things considered. A lot of work. A fair bit of knitting – although not as much as I’d have liked.

Oh! and I’ve learned to crochet. The ever-wonderful and so patient Fefe sat me down over a cup of tea and showed me how to do it properly. Reflections on crochet, coming from a knitter:

  1. It’s really no harder to manipulate one hook than two needles. You just have to hold it right – which was where I was going wrong before. Having someone to show you is absolutely fantastic.
  2. It goes so fast. Even though I’m only a beginner. Like, really fast! And there’s a certain grace about manipulating the hook which I adore. I definitely want to do some more of this.
  3. Also, when you’re not working on it, you can take the hook out, and leave it out, and it won’t drop anything. This blows my mind.
  4. This whole business about the terms being different in America is unbelievably confusing. For example, in the UK, you call it a double crochet, in America it’s a single crochet. An American double crochet is a British treble crochet. And then there’s half-doubles, half-trebles and innumerable others, and compared to my usual knit-purl-yarnover-okay-go it’s not only confusing, but it appears to lack logic. And that’s a bit of a block for me.
  5. Having said which, I think when you actually start crocheting, it’s as least as logical as knitting. Even if the charts are terrifying. And so is the notation.
  6. I am a dab hand at granny squares now.

The first thing I thought when I learned properly was, “Great!  Now I can crochet lace!”  This is a really exciting prospect – there’s so much crocheted lace I admire, but I’m also looking forward to having a go at pullovers, and cardigans, and the dreaded crochet socks. I have been indoctrinated by certain Ravelry fora that crochet is good for afghans and lace, and that’s it, and crocheted socks are horrible and bumpy and ugly and nice yarn is too good for them. I’ve found no evidence that this is true, and now I really want to try them! I’d also like to have a go at designing in crochet, because there’s so much potential there – it’s no coincidence that you find so much more freeform in crochet than in knitting. So exciting! More on this almost certainly to follow.

You’ll almost certainly hear from me in the next few days. Things are Afoot. Expect pretty stuff.

Pancake October 13, 2010

Posted by Fiona in University.
6 comments

I bought this yesterday.  It has the sort of pages I like: really narrow lined on one side, blank on the other.  The cover makes me smile every time I see it.

I also messed around with tweedy yarn, and embroidered onto felt, and discovered the myriad things you can do to an octopus and still call it edible.  Apparently.

At the moment, I’m in the middle of everything, and finishing nothing.  Part of me is convinced that the best response to this is to hide away from everything for a bit, and work it out in my head, and then I realise that’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last three weeks.

I need a show to work on or something.  Something where gratification is a bit more instant.

On the plus side, they’ve fixed the washing machine, finally.  As far as I’m aware, apart from the vacuum cleaner being at the other end of the theatre and Mathematical Housemate still not having a chest of drawers in his room, everything in the flat is now present and working.  In the loosest sense of the word.

Freshers’ Week October 6, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Knitting, Lovely people, University.
5 comments

Well, term Is Go, essentially: the freshers turned up on Saturday and Sunday and Durham has promptly got a lot busier, and a lot noisier.  Everyone’s been rushing around like mad things – I’ve just seen Mathematical Housemate about five minutes ago for the first time since Saturday morning, and he’s disappearing off as soon as he’s had a shower to go back to college, fetch a badger costume and hot-foot it back down the hill.  I kid you not.

First things first, I finished Propello!  It took longer than I’d hoped because it turns out I can’t read instructions even when they’re bolded and italicised in front of me, so I had to rip back about four inches and redo them.  And now I have no access to a camera so here, have a really rubbish webcam picture of me modelling the world’s cutest hat:

Dreadful photo aside, the little I cord bit on the top just kills me.  The whole thing is just so cute.  And, did I mention it’s made of Malabrigo Worsted?  I think I’m in love.

Back to Freshers’ week, I can hear from my open window that matriculation is going on in the cathedral: where new students are entered into the university as students.  I remember my matriculation service – I was surprised to discover that it was really short, that there were no hymns and not so much as an optional prayer.  Durham has an illustrious history of being as divorced from religion as it is possible to be with a theology department and a cathedral smack bang in the middle, and it’s a matter of pride that they were accepting students who weren’t of the UK’s current major religion (I forget which it was at the time) long before Oxford and Cambridge.

Just a little factlet for you there.

I think Durham has something absolutely right about the freshers’ first week, though, which is very nicely illustrated by the shouting and air-horns and bagpipes and loudspeakers blasting the Harry Potter theme tune that have just subsided as they’ve all gone in, and it is this: you turn up, on the Saturday or Sunday, and are presented with teabags, sweets and the phone number of a freshers’ rep.  They then feed you, give you somewhere to sleep, stand around you being disgustingly enthusiastic, show you around the city on a treasure hunt and take you on a bar crawl.  Then, they give you a good list of seven or eight places you can get welfare support: college parents, corrridor reps, college exec, personal and senior tutor, Nightline, probably half a dozen more I’ve forgotten.  The whole time, you’re being indoctrinated with your college song, your college drink, your college banter, and a steady stream of how amazing your college is and how happy everyone is that you’re a part of it too.  And then, a few days later, you head off to matriculation and sing said college song, while clapping wildly, very loudly in the faces of people from other colleges, who are doing likewise.

Essentially, for your first week there, there is no way of escaping the huge community of it all, your college and doing things for your college and people who love your college are the first things you see and for the first week they are synonymous with how you live in Durham.  You start off being really proud of your college, and feeling like it’s where you fit in, and like the people there are going to support you.  They essentially give you four or five days of intensive welcome-to-the-family treatment.  And it works, definitely – it might not stop you getting homesick, or lonely, or sad, but you certainly don’t feel like you don’t fit in.  I hold those first few days directly responsible for the low dropout rate, and while the whole thing reeks a bit of indoctrination and brainwashing (case in point: Mathematical housemate is currently outside the cathedral, dressed as a badger and dancing.  If this is not the result of some glorious powers of persuasion, I don’t know what is) I think it’s exactly what new freshers need.  And I think they’ve got it down to a fine art.

Of course, some people then go away and find other things they love doing, and, for instance, get sucked into the student theatre and never leave (cough), but even if you never go there any more, college is still a little bit special.  Out in the wide world, two Durham students always have a conversation opener before, “What did you study?” and it’s, “What college were you at?”  It always comes first.  And there’s something rather nice about that.

Just something I saw October 2, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Lovely people, Small things.
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On Postsecret this last week:

My mum is the craftswoman I aspire to be.  When I was little, she had her own business making and selling children’s clothes, which she would often make up from scratch, for me and my sister.  The muslins more often than not became our dressing up wardrobe.  She made pinafores, and dungarees, and I remember at primary school she made us dark green wool duffle coats, with cotton linings, and corduroy lining the sleeves and hoods.  They were beautiful things, and every so often I ask her again if she’ll make me another one to fit me now.  She doesn’t have time, these days, because my mum is also the self-employed and disgustingly hardworking businesswoman I aspire to be, but she does say, when she has a bit of time, she will.

For my birthday in June, she sent up a box of gifts: chocolate, a knitting book, some cards from family, and a bag that she’d sewn herself.  I know she doesn’t have time to sew much, and also that it is one of the things she loves most in the world, so that bag meant more to me than I can you can imagine.  I’m knitting her two pairs of socks and some fingerless gloves at this very moment, because one mastered craft shared deserves another, I think.

I found out later that the bag was also designed from scratch, and the material repurposed from a table runner she’d seen in Ikea and really liked the look of.  This also means more to me than I can really say.  I love the ability of crafting, and of making things, to tell us so much about the crafter and the recipient.

So I saw this secret on Postsecret and between you and me I suddenly felt really homesick.

It’s been a bit of a week, frankly, so today I felt the need for a bit of quick-fix knitting.  And, given that it’s the beginning of the month, and I’ve had a skein of bright green Malabrigo Worsted sat here looking at me coquettishly for quite a long time, the only logical thing to do seemed to do as I’ve been meaning to do for some time and join the October knitalong over at Woolly Wormhead’s Ravelry group, which this month is of her gorgeous new Hat, Propello.  It’s my first Woolly Wormhead Hat pattern, and I’m pleased to say that the rave reviews she invariably gets are entirely justified.  The woman has a grasp on engineering I can only dream of.  She knits hats sideways.  I met her at Knit Nation in July and she was lovely.   I’ve probably knitted just over half of Propello today (carefully ignoring all the other knitting I really should be working on) so fingers crossed I will be able to show you a finished Hat tomorrow.  It’s adorably cute.  I shall wear it often.

Also, Malabrigo Worsted is the absolute business.  It’s a single ply yarn, and even though I know single ply yarns felt really easily, and split if you use really pointy needles with them, and all sorts of irritating things like that… I love them.  I love Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend more than most things in the world.  And now, Mal Worsted is right up there too.

I wouldn’t knit a jumper in it, though.  It’d pill like mad.  And cost a fortune.  Even if it would be so much fun to knit.  I’m rambling.

Til tomorrow, then, when I’ll actually have things to show you.