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Holiday July 13, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Uncategorized.
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I’m off to Larmer Tree festival tomorrow morning.  I’ll be back on Monday.  It’ll be exciting, see you soon – and rain dance on my behalf, yes?

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Oh, these old things July 10, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Small things.
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Just got home today to discover a new post from the Purl Bee on friendship bracelets.  This was probably my first craft – certainly the first craft I got into obsessively.  I still have a collection of fifty or sixty colours of cotton embroidery thread, and I remember being very young and spending my pocket money on one or two extra colours, or sitting in the front garden spending entire afternoons winding thread onto little cardboard bobbins.

My favourite bracelets were very narrow two-colour striped ones, and I’d wear four or five of them all the time.  I could make one eight inches long in half an hour, and I’d make dozens of the things – it was a bit like it is with knitting for me today, once I could go like the clappers, I couldn’t stop.  I could make stripes, chevrons, diamonds, and all kinds of twists and knot patterns that I either got from the Girl Guides or, more likely, looked up in library books.  Which, probably, was how I got interested in any kind of knotwork, and, probably, is why I love knitting cables so much these days.  My goodness, I’d forgotten the friendship bracelets.  Wow.  It’s amazing how one thing leads to another, isn’t it?

I’m quite tempted to get my threads and my safety pins out and have another go.  Did you ever make friendship bracelets, as a child?  And, I’m interested, did you do any other of that sort of craft?  French knitting on bobbins?  Multi-strand braids on pieces of card with slits cut into them and a hole down the middle?  And does anyone remember scoubidous?  It’s amazing what we used to get up to, back before anything like that was the domain of Cath Kidston and People With More Patience Than Me.

This new adventure July 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Edinburgh, Look what I did, University.
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After months of agonising, worrying and trying not to think about things, I’ve finally heard today from Edinburgh University – they’re offering me a place, starting in September, to study a one-year Masters course in International Law.  I am unbelievably excited.  I’ve been not daring to hope for this for most of this year: the course, and the city, look like the best thing I could possibly have wished for and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into both of them.

The course is amazing.  It looks like I’ll have ample opportunity to get stuck into my twin loves of humanitarian law and the European Convention of Human Rights (you know I can’t get enough of it!) and I’m really hoping the seminar format is going to help me get over my main problem of the last few years’ study – that I really don’t like giving presentations or speaking in front of people.  Looks like it’s unavoidable here, though, so fingers crossed I’ll get used to it.  That aside, there’s opportunity for a lot of discussion, and a lot of independent research, and they’re two of my favourite things.

As for the city, well, it’s beautiful.  I’m going to be spending all of August there (if you’re going to the Fringe festival, come and see us!  They’re giving me a lighting desk to play with and everything!) and I gather it’s a good place for everything I love – coffee shops, a vibrant crafting community, a lot of local history and folklore, beautiful walks, it’s going to be such an adventure and I can’t wait.

I almost wonder if a year is going to be long enough.

Academia July 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
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It seems fitting that, now that I’ve left Durham altogether – and that they’ve moved the law library to a totally different site to where it used to be – that I should finally be publishing a pattern inspired by weeks and weeks sat in that very library.

I actually had the idea for this cardigan in a café in Lancaster last summer.  I was sat there for a few hours with not a lot to do but read, knit and let my coffee get cold – the best kind of afternoon.  A girl opposite me was wearing a cardigan with a similar sort of back detail and I wondered how one might go about knitting something like that.

It came to me not all that long afterwards, and I knitted up a prototype which is notable only in the fact that it is made of blue Wollmeise, which was lovely, but other than that was totally hideous.  It didn’t fit.  I couldn’t fit my arms into the sleeves.  Everything about it was too tight, or bulged, or drooped, and it had buttons which were far too heavy for it.  Anyway, I thought I could do without buttons.  I’m not surprised it ended up like this – I had knitted a grand total of most of one cardigan in my entire life by that point, and had really no idea what I was doing.  It was a bit of a learning curve.

This year, I have become a far better knitter.  I’ve met the concepts of ease, and drape, and what might actually look any good, and I’m so proud of what this has turned into.  I named it Academia, after something else that it has taken a lot of effort and trial and error to get the hang of, that I’ve spent a lot of time at, and that quite frankly I love to bits.  This sample was knitted mostly over the second term of this year: cast on in the green room of the Gala theatre before the matinee of The Producers, knitted on during my high points and my low points and as a bit of a distraction from work – and, yes, in the law library.  It was finished within about two days of my dissertation, and I love it and wear it often.

The thing I’m most proud of about it is that my test knitters also loved knitting it, and that it looks fantastic on all of them.  If you’re on Ravelry, you can see their cardigans here, and I’m so pleased that it seems to fit different body shapes and sizes so well.  Several of them are already knitting a second one in different yarn, or intend to do so.  And, of course, the banter was the best of any test-knitting group I’ve come across so far.  I fell on my feet with that one.

Oh, and one more thing – remember August of last year, when I said that the thing I aspired to most in the field of knitting was to design my own cardigan?  So do I.  Just goes to show, doesn’t it, that it’s really not all that complicated when you put your mind to it, and that it’s just a case of having your idea and going at it like you think it’s important.

If you can knit in the round, and do left- and right- slanting decreases (which if you knit I bet you can), then you can knit this with no difficulty at all.  The pattern on the back makes it go faster, too – and it really is ridiculously simple to do.  Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s short rows, they’re laughably simple and you’ll have them down to a fine art in an inch or two.

There’s a fair bit of I-cord, but I swear that’s it.  And besides, I don’t know about you, but I think I-cord looks rather good.

You can get the pattern for Academia here, for the princely sum of £3.25.

Not so strange July 3, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Literature, Look what I did, NaNoWriMo.
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There are a few types of projects I keep coming back to.

My default no-brainer project is the plain pair of stocking stitch toe-up socks: I’ve made a few for me, one for each parent, His Nibs has a variation on them (one round plain, one round double rib, repeat ad infinitem), and although I haven’t always got one on the go, I always have the yarn for one about ready, just in case.  I can knit the whole thing with no pattern and very little thought, so they’re perfect for times when I want to concentrate on something else, or even on nothing in particular.  I currently have two pairs of these in the works, a throwback to the fact that I’ve just come out of exams and sometimes, you know, you just don’t want to have to think too hard.  These ones are going to be for some very special people who have yet to receive my knitwear but have had to sit through my telling them about it for quite long enough.

The other thing I come back to a lot is the cabled hat.  I’ve talked before about why I love cables – they’re the first knitting ‘trick’ I learned to do, and I love improvising them and seeing where they go.  At the beginning of June, I was given a challenge to knit something based on the last book I’d read, and as luck would have it, I’d just put down my copy of this:

It’s about eighteenth century gentleman magicians in England, it features cameos from Lord Wellington and Byron, and I highly recommend you pick it up.  It takes a while, it’s a long book and it’s not something you can read in a few days but my goodness, it’s worth it for the denouement alone.  The fact that the rest of it is marvellous can only add to things.  Every so often I pick it up again, intending to just revisit the best bits, and find myself reading the whole thing from cover to cover again.

This is comfort reading at its best for me, so I headed straight in the direction of comfort knitting to try and represent it.  This is ‘Strange’:

I wasn’t entirely sure about it to begin with, I have to admit, but it’s grown on me hugely.  I’ve knitted on this for a month – it was the project I took to Edinburgh when Linguistic Housemate and I decided to take an impromptu trip for my 21st birthday (oh yeah, I’m 21 now, sorry – forgot to tell you that.  Oops).

The new short hair is making hats so much easier to wear, I have to say!  I’d never have dared wear something this cloche-y before I had it all cut off.  It’s most exciting – expect it to be very much taken advantage of!

Beyond that… it’s great.  Since I’ve got home, I’ve found time to read again.  It seems so strange not to have anything more deadline-based to do, I have to admit I’m not adapting to it very well.  So I’ve embarked upon Camp NaNoWriMo which debuts this month.  Do you remember the novel I wrote 50,000 words of in November?  At the beginning of July, it stood at almost exactly 60,000 words, and had ground somewhat to a halt.  I’m hoping, in the next few weeks, that having the time and the cheers of other writers will give me the impetus to finish the first draft.  I love the story so much, it’s just getting it out and on paper that’s the problem.

There’s no rest for the wicked, after all!  But would I have it any other way?

Graduation July 1, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Durham, Law, Look what I did, Lovely people, Really good day, Theatre, University.
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Graduation means movement.  Colour graduates.  Two days ago, so did I.

My university experience involved a lot of sitting in libraries and accompanying backache.  It involved a lot of coffee, and fruit tea, and late nights, and massive books.  To begin with, I thought I’d read the massive books cover to cover and that’d be fine.  I never did that once.  I pulled more all-nighters than I care to mention.  I blagged a lot.  I slept in, and panicked, quite a few times.  I came home at the end of every term and slept for several days straight, and I cried at eleven o’clock at night because I didn’t think I could keep going but I still had several hours’ work to do.

I didn’t get a first in anything.  Not once.

I learned how to paint floors, and walls, quickly, and how to put up lights and hem tablecloths and take in clothes.  I learned to knit jumpers.  I made gallons of tea and cooked for fifteen with half an hour’s notice.  I gave up my sofa, my living room, my entire house to other people, and I didn’t leave my bedroom for three days at a time.

I got drunk with people I didn’t know and regretted it every time, but kept doing it anyway.  Eventually I knew the people and I still regretted it.  I walked on cobbles and down steep hills in 5″ stillettos, and had to be walked home at two in the morning in the snow.  I ate rice for five days in a row, and spaghetti bolognese four times in the same week.  I stayed up til the small hours, drinking blackcurrant squash and playing Lego Indiana Jones with seven or eight people crammed onto two sofas.

When I graduated, I didn’t go to the law department.  The law department is not representative of my university experience, even though I did a fair bit of law and I enjoyed what I did.  My university experience would not be summed up anywhere near my department.

It’d be here, after working on a show with the other techies, all gathered round a table at the pub, dressed in black and grimy because we haven’t had time to shower for three or four days and so tired we’re all getting distracted by the lights on the slot machines.

Or it’d be here, eating cake backstage and trying to avoid being one of the people who has to move the piano and surruptitiously keeping an eye on my props table.

Or else it’d be at a college do, scrubbed up well and surrounded by friends, and smiles, and good conversation.

I’ll miss Durham, and I’ll miss my degree, and I’ll miss spending hours browsing Westlaw and reading things just that bit off topic.  But if something sums up the last few years, it won’t be the law department.  If I had to pick a building, it’d have to be this one.

Back home now.  You’ll probably hear from me more often.  Not that that’s in any way difficult.