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Underwater December 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Edinburgh, Knitting, Lovely people, NaNoWriMo, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Small things.
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…That’s a comment on how wet it is up here, by the way.  It’s been raining horizontally on and off for about a week.

I was walking down to the library about ten past eight this morning.  You know, when it’s got to the point where you’re just following your feet, and you’ve stopped noticing things around you?  I’ve been trying to fend it off of late, because Edinburgh is such a beautiful city and I don’t have very long to enjoy it – only this year – but it’s caught up with me recently.  And, as I was walking past Bristo Square, I spotted something on the railings.

It was World AIDS day yesterday, which I assume accounts for it.

Yarn bombing is one of my favourite things in the world, and I’ll tell you for why.  I always seem to see it when there’s a lot going on around me, when I’m up to my eyeballs in late nights and my head is spinning with all the things I should have done and I haven’t yet.  And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there are knitters.  If I didn’t knit, it would still say to me that someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to brighten things up.  That would just be fabulous all by itself.  But as a knitter myself, it feels like a reminder that even though it’s getting dark at 4 o’clock, even though I’ve barely seen the outside for quite a while and I haven’t had an evening in to myself where I haven’t had to work in weeks… some things are constant.  There are people out there who take a bit of time to knit red ribbons and tie them on railings.  There are people who still think that’s a worthwhile use of their time – which, of course, I have to wholeheartedly agree with.

It’s like someone’s taken a bit of time out of their day to just reach across and say hey, hang on a minute – how are you?

…All the way down the road.  I don’t know if you can see it.

I won NaNoWriMo the other day.  It’s been good to take a bit of time out – I’ve met some fantastic people and learned a lot about myself.  It was a lot easier to keep going than this time last year.  I discovered, though, that it’s a bad idea to force myself to research about wartime mental illness when the nights are drawing in.  That on top of work – my first essay went in this morning, one down, two to go.  I’ve had to be pretty careful – yet another reason that seeing knitting just made it all a bit better.

My camera’s playing up at the moment – sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t.  But I have FOs to show you, and I’m determined to find the time soon!  Maybe I should instate WIP Wednesday, or whatever it is that the other bloggers are doing these days.  Something to think about.

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First Things First – Uskglass October 17, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns.
1 comment so far

This is one of the big things I missed out on telling you about in the last few months – in August, I published Uskglass.

Do you remember the green sample hat I christened ‘Strange’? It got a makeover, and I love it very much. It amuses me that I ended up in Edinburgh, actually, because the first sample for Uskglass was knitted the first time I ever came here, and I remember adoring the place and being really worried that I wouldn’t be able to come back. And then, it was published from the Starbucks on the High Street while I was up for the Fringe, and now I’m living here properly. I feel like Uskglass was lucky for me.

It was originally designed around the book Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is one of my favourites, but quite sensibly my tech editor pointed out that calling a hat ‘Strange’ when it wasn’t in the least bit strange was bound to give the wrong impression, so it got renamed after John Uskglass, the Raven King from the book, the most powerful English magician possibly ever to have lived, and who had a strong connection with Britain and its history.  I like to think that that’s fitting – the cables from Uskglass were inspired a bit by traditional ganseys.  The honeycomb band, particularly.

I’m a bit in love with slightly slouchy hats with a deep brim at the moment.  There’s at least one more on the way.  Watch this space.

And can I talk about the yarn for a moment?  It’s grey.  For a change.  I really need to knit something that isn’t grey, it has turned into my default colour.  It’s also Rowan British Sheep Breeds DK, and it’s Bluefaced Leicester.  The more BFL I get to play with, the more I like it.  It’s so shiny.  It smells so sheepy.  It barely pills at all, and it appears to be the warmest thing in the world.  If I could afford a jumper’s worth of Rowan, I’d be knitting one right now – it’s so much fun to knit with.  As it is, I’ve worn this hat about four days a week for the last month (‘warm’ is relative, I think – I know we’re supposed to have had a heatwave!) and I think the combination of the yarn and the cables make it the warmest piece of headgear I own.

So yeah.  New knitwear.  Three sizes.  I love it.  Say it’s not just me?

Uskglass, £3.00

Oh, these old things July 10, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Small things.
4 comments

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.

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?

Distractions May 18, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Knitting, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
8 comments

Exams are well under way, and my ability to concentrate has gone the way of the sleepless nights once again.  My biggest worry right now is that I’m not doing myself justice, and no amount of Oh You’ll Be Fine is going to change that – I think it’s just the way of things.

I’m hampered slightly at the moment by the fact that there is a kids’ theatre troupe in the theatre this week (seeing as we aren’t using it) and they’re doing a production of Annie which opens tomorrow.  Imagine if you will, trying to get your head round the difference between entrepreneurship and providing services as explained haphazardly but at great length by the ECJ, to the glorious theme tune of It’s A Hard Nut Life. My room backs onto the auditorium.  I don’t like Annie at the best of times.

I’m taking an afternoon out to daydream a bit.  His Nibs and I got these when we were in Dorset over Easter:

I’m afraid I rather fell in love with them – and I know just what I want to do with them.  Now if only I could get these pesky exams out of the way…

The sock I said I’d started the other week has ground to a halt.  Unfortunately my tension the last week or two has got massively skewed, so I ended up having to go down two needle sizes so that the sock wouldn’t swim on me.  It turns out this is only a good idea for so long, and I’ve reknit the heel twice now and it’s still way too tight.  I want to shout it isn’t fair!  Why must my simple exam knitting go horribly wrong?  But I have decided instead, a little reluctantly, to put the damned thing in time out and work on something else in the few spare minutes I have.  There’s no reason to stress over it, not at the moment.  I’m having to reluctantly admit to myself that hey, they’re only socks.

It was my cousin’s wedding on Saturday, which was a welcome few days out.  I think I’ve made a new friend…

(Mum says I’m not allowed one yet and that I should ask His Nibs first.  On reflection, this is probably for the best.  Look at that arm, though!)

This has been your “I’m still alive, promise!” broadcast, May 2011.

Going round again May 5, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Craftiness, Knitting, University.
5 comments

It’s that time of year.

I seem to be alternating between being unable to sleep for more than three hours at a stretch, and being out like a light for twelve hours straight.  I’m also alternating between subsisting on cous cous and vegetables, and pigging out on bowlfuls of angel delight and bars of Dairy Milk.  My mood is swinging about the place too: one minute, I’m feeling like I have to be alone, and the next, I feel very lonely indeed.  That last is probably kind of related to the first two.  I keep telling myself: this too shall pass.

I don’t really want it to pass, either.

I cast on a sock this afternoon:

The yarn is Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, and the colour is called ‘Seaspray’.  This is pretty accurate, but you can’t see the hints of green particularly well.  It’s such a subtle colour, I had such fun just winding it.

Unlike my usual plain exam sock – I have a pair of toe-up stocking stitch socks for every exam period for about the last three years – this one’s going to be patterned.  I felt like it.  It’s going to be Wendy Johnson’s Catnip socks which are everything I like: toe-up, easily customisable, lacy, with a simple repeat so I don’t have to carry the pattern round with me all the time.  I’m looking forward to them.

I’ve finished a pair of socks, too, in the last day or so – I’ll try and get pictures of them soon, they’re rather lovely.  Again, simple lace.  It’s amazing how comforting it can be sometimes.

It’s all hot and cold hereabouts.  I hardly know what to do with myself.

Captain Shakespeare and I went to see Bellowhead play last week.  They were phenomenal.  Quite possibly the best live act I’ve ever seen – the collective energy was amazing, they can work a crowd like nobody’s business but you just got the impression that they were enjoying themselves and just messing about.  There was spontaneous bursting into jigs, dramatic lunging with a banjo, and trying to make one of the violinists laugh from across the stage while he was doing a solo – as well as at several points the stealing of Jon Boden’s tambourine, whistle, tiny-drum-slash-wind-noise-thing and misc other small percussion instruments.

I’m sure I’ve said before that some musicians have a song that just resonates with me, that I adore above and beyond anything else they’ve done.  Interestingly, that song of Bellowhead’s is one that is very traditional and arranged by a lot of different people.  It’s also the first thing I ever heard them play, and it’s fantastic.  Therefore I’m foisting it on you.  Imagine a theatre full of people bawling their heads off at the words and clapping and stomping along.  What an atmosphere.

It’s never all bad.

Three sweaters May 2, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Look what I did.
6 comments

One.

‘Harvest Moon’ by Heidi Kirrmaier. Wool/alpaca blend DK. Started on Christmas Day, knitted in Brighton and Lincolnshire and Dorset over the Christmas holidays. Grew disconcertingly when blocked so that the bottom of the yoke was around my elbows. Strengthened my resolve to get myself a dress form the moment I have somewhere to put it.

Two.

(Get off my) Cloud by Kate Davies.  Sock weight wool on 3.5mm needles.  (I can’t believe it either.)  Cast on at Larmer Tree Festival, Summer 2010 and knitted on constantly for the entire week.  Taken to my first Ravelry meet-up.  Hood finished over coffee and lunch with the girls in Durham.  I-cord edges knitted over two trips from home to university, alternated with a sock so I wouldn’t go out of my mind with the quantity of it.

Worn, finished, for the first time at my second ever Ravelry meet-up.

Three.

And this one’s mine.  (Wool/angora light fingering.  Conceived last summer.  Cast on last term.  Ripped back, cast on again, ripped back again, cast on again.  Finished a few weeks ago.  Currently being test knit.  More exciting than it looks, but the most interesting detail isn’t visible from this picture.  More to come.)

Happening around here April 14, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Look what I did, Small things.
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I’ve been home for two and a half weeks now, and it’s been terribly busy.  The dissertation second draft got finished today, so I’m absolutely demob-happy: it’s gone to the relevant volunteer for last proofreading and then I’ll bind it up and never look at the damned thing again.  (That’s a lie.  I’ll spend the next month reading articles and going “Ooh!  That’s interesting.  I could put that in my- oh no wait.”)  As for the moment, however, I keep looking at my bibliography in disbelief.

Otherwise, what has mainly been happening is what usually happens when I get home for a holiday and spend any length of time around my mum: I’ve got a bit craft-happy.  On the way home, we stopped at the York Quilt Museum and ever since then I’ve been with ideas.  I wanted to do something colourful, where I could see the results and that would make people happy.  So I decided to do everything.

First of all, and thank goodness for it, I finished a pair of man-sized socks, which has since been spirited away by my dad (hence lack of photos, they’re too busy being worn!).  I’m  sure I’ve said before how much respect I have for people who routinely knit man-sized socks.  There’s just so much foot to them, and they go so slowly… nevertheless, I feel like my daughterly duty has been done now, and he loves them, so I think all is well on that front.  And at least now they’re finished.

Then, I decided to adapt a Purl Soho scarf for Mother’s day, using a heavier linen and quite a lot more hand sewing.  (I must never forget to take my sewing machine home again.  There is only one possible result and it involves taking three hours to do something that could have taken twenty minutes.)

There was also these:

Peanut butter and Smartie cookies, adapted extensively from a Good Housekeeping recipe I stumbled upon by happy chance, in a How About Orange newspaper gift bag made from the culture pages of the Independent (oh yes, I live in that kind of household.  Housemates take note).

There is nothing in this world that makes me feel more of a domestic goddess than baking cookies and putting them in homemade wrapping paper to give as a birthday present.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the height of smugness.

(I’ve no idea why this picture is so bad, but it’s the only one I managed to get of the back of the bag.  Total, unadulterated smugness.)

My favourite thing, though, was that I managed to get my hands on the relevant multiple types of pliers, and hooks and beads and what have you to make stitch markers.

I love making things where I’ve got all the different parts from different places.  I got the beads in these ones (above) in Sheffield towards the end of term, when I escaped Durham for a bit to see some friends.  The friends in question have the measure of me exactly, because we somehow managed to find ourselves in the middle of a shop full of beads, and buttons, and miscellaneous small sparkly things.  Now I know how to make stitch markers, I’m determined to go back and seek out some more things to put on them – they’re a perfect little canvas for special trinkets, and these days I know quite enough knitters who won’t complain to receive half a dozen as a birthday present, or really just because.

The beads in these are wooden, and I got them from Duttons in York with my mum on the way back home, about half an hour before we discovered the Quilt Museum.  I adore them, they’re so bright.  They’re currently on the Great Green Thing I talked about a bit previously – which now has sleeves and has been ripped back a further two or three times in pursuit of same.  I’m hoping to have that finished by the beginning of next week.

As for what’s left on my list of things to try…

…Well, it was quilting that started this whole thing off, wasn’t it?

I am revising, I promise.

Copy-ouch March 8, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness.
4 comments

It’s that point in term where my saturation of law is such that I’m blogging about it!  This term, commercial contract law.  Let’s talk about the terminology of selling things.

This is something that’s come up in copyright discussions all over Ravelry for ever and ever, and it’s irritated me since almost that long.  I’m going to talk about it in relation to the law of the sale of goods in England and Wales.  I have no idea how similar or different it is in America, or anywhere else in the world, but I will say that the UK has a very well-respected, old legal system and that therefore the rules elsewhere in the world are probably similar-ish, and the terminology is almost certainly more or less the same.  I say this because I know it’s true of a lot of criminal law and tort law, and so I assume it’s also true of some of commercial and contract law.

When you sell something, for example a car, according to the law, you’re not selling a car.  You’re selling rights with regard to the car, or ‘interests’ in the car: that is, the right to take possession of the car, the right to use it however you like, the right to say who can use it and who can’t, the right to take all the profit if you decide to sell it on.  If you sell me the car, what you’re doing is selling me all the interests in the car, and all the interests put together are called ‘property’ in the world of commercial law.

Now, obviously, if what you’re selling to me is the pdf of a knitting pattern, you’re not giving me all the rights to the pattern.  I can’t take credit for the pattern, I can’t sell it on as if it were my own.  But, under UK commercial law, and the commercial laws of countless other nations, you don’t have to sell me all the interests to the pattern just by taking my £3.50 and sending me a pdf file.  What is usually being sold is not the pattern, but a license to use the pattern.

Use of the pattern, you’ll notice, is an interest in the pattern.  It is but one interest.  Right to reproduce the pattern, that’s another interest.  Right to sell the pattern on, that’s another interest too.  None of these interests are necessarily inherent in me getting my hands on a copy of your pattern.  Those rights belong to the designer automatically, as do all of the rights, because they’re part of the property of the designer.  So if I particularly want to reproduce my copy of your pattern, I can only do that if you’ve sold it to me.

The difficulty here arises when designers don’t state in advance, “If you buy this pattern from me, you are buying a license to do x, y, and z.  You are not buying a license to do a, b, and c, and you may not do these without my permission.”  So a lot of the problem with the law with regard to this comes from the question, what rights do we assume the ‘standard’ license to contain?  In other words, if it’s not made explicit in a contract, what can we imply are the license’s terms?  Everyone has different views on this, and I’m not going to offer mine because I’m scared the Copywrong Police will come and eat my brains.

The other thing that comes up and annoys me is the speed of people to say that they don’t need to honour license agreements, even informal or implied ones, because if it got to court it wouldn’t be upheld.

You’ll notice the enforcement of licenses of knitting patterns is not a hot topic in the legal world right about now, and that is because they basically never get as far as court.  You can say that this is because knitters and crocheters are all lovely and like keeping their goodwill and all that, but the fact is that out of all contracts, very, very few get as far as the courts.  That’s because contract law is not about who would win in front of a judge.  Contract law is about making people feel more confident about entering into agreements, so that more agreements are made, and things get done.  It’s also largely about creating avenues that the parties can go down to sort their disputes out without having to go up in front of an elderly man in a silly wig and talk about how someone stole their instructions for a scarf.  Just because something might not necessarily be enforceable in court – and I’ve no idea if these things would be, this is a flight of conjecture already – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  Equally it doesn’t mean that contract law isn’t working with regard to it, and it doesn’t mean nobody is bound by anything.  Being bound does not equal having a remedy.  The law still sets a fair bit of store by good faith: it’s still a principle of the courts in the UK at least that you’ll do better if you approach the court with clean hands.

I think that’s about right, anyway.

If you’re on Ravelry, you’ll see that I’ve taken lots of pictures of jumpers and things.  Prepare to be bombarded with them here in the next day or two.

Also, Lent starts tomorrow.  I’m giving up buying yarn and casting on new things, with the two parameters that the second in a pair of socks doesn’t count as a new thing, nor does it if I rip something back and completely start the same item again.  I’m looking forward to getting a few things finished.