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First Things First – Uskglass October 17, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Patterns.
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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

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This new adventure July 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Edinburgh, Look what I did, University.
6 comments

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.
8 comments

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.

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.

Breaking things March 16, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Durham, Look what I did, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
3 comments

Notably, internal barriers, my sleep cycle, my ability to function as an adult human being and look after myself and everything and – most excitingly – my record for greatest number of hours spent in the library over a 24 hour period outside of exam term.  Record currently stands at thirteen.  It can’t get any higher than that because that included opening time (9am) in the law library, two hours’ break for food and a tutorial, and closing time (midnight) in the main library.

It’s been that sort of week.

In a way, I’ve kind of enjoyed it.  It’s been good to just be single-minded about work, and just concentrate on one thing for hours at a stretch.  In a way, I kind of feel broken.  It doesn’t show any signs of stopping, yet, though: the end of term is on Friday.  Between now and then I have 300 pages of reading for two tutorials and a 1500 word mini-essay to write.  And then on Monday morning I’ll find out how inevitably dreadful my dissertation draft was, and start on another 6000 word essay due the beginning of next term, and try and get my head round starting to revise.

And do some washing.  I haven’t done any washing in the last two weeks, and I’m running out of things.

And tidy my room.  This is turning into a list now, which is not at all what I meant to say.

I meant to talk about finished things, and how I think I might have started to figure out what I want to do next year, which is great.  And a start.  I also meant to talk about Captain Shakespeare’s new play, which I saw on Saturday and which was a bloody good evening out though I say so myself.

Also, this is a placeholder.  I’m still here!  I’m still going!  I’ve not fallen off the face of the earth!

And look! It’s my dissertation:

Wordle: Public Law Dissertation 2011

(Clicky clicky to make it bigger, although you can probably tell it’s about Parliamentary Sovereignty, its interaction with the courts, and the Human Rights Act.  Soooo unbelievably interesting, and I could wax lyrical about it for ages but I fear I’d bore you.)

I feel quite proud that I’m here and things are still happening.  After my essay’s in on Friday, I promise to show you knitwear.  I know I’ve been promising for the last two weeks.

Morstan again February 14, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Craftiness, Knitting, Look what I did, Lovely people, Patterns.
2 comments

First of all, happy V-day everyone, and I hope you are all good-naturedly but mutinously muttering under your breath in the same way as I am about how it’s all commercialised and you don’t believe in it anyway.  His nibs has come up to stay with me til Friday, so if it’s all a bit quiet on the Western Front over here, that’d be why.

Anyway, it’s also February, and that means that new Knitcircus is out.  I highly recommend going and having a look at it.  It also means, though, that I’ve been able to release my Morstan mittens pattern through Ravelry and this blog.

We went out and took lots of photos outside the cathedral today, even though it was absolutely freezing out – thanks to his nibs for taking all the photos, and to my lovely model Alice for being so obliging.  Also thanks to Sarah, Hayleigh, and Fearn for their general loitering and encouragement – it’s always far more fun to be doing silly things in a public place when there are more of you.

Lacy mittens still make me happy, and I think that shall be so for quite some time.

You can get the pattern now for £2.50 and frankly, if the weather where you are is anything like the weather where I am right now, I think that’s a rather good idea.

Meanwhile, the lace advances…

The Right Thing December 22, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Craftiness, Look what I did, Lovely people, Small things.
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Individuals are important to me.  People are important.  Small things are important.  If there is one thing that has been constant while my outlook on the world has changed, it is that everyone is important, and they are important individually.  Look after them.  Care about them.  Joke if you like, if you must, about oppression and injustice in all their myriad forms, but don’t actually support them.  Don’t, if you can at all help it, give them the benefit of your support, your consent, or your money.

Economies of scale are almost universally recognised to be a good thing, but something in me is always uncomfortable with too much scale.  My sister asked me earlier if I disagreed with someone because I Have Principles And They Represented Corporate America, and I think she’s missed the point.

I’m not trying to change the world, and I don’t think I’d like it that much if the world changed too dramatically.  What I’m saying is that I eat bruised apples and handmade things are important to me.  I like it when individual care and attention goes into something, and that’s why I wear handknitted socks and someone made my week the other day when they bought me a copy of the pattern for Grove, entirely out of the blue, because they knew I’d like it.  Yay for the independent designer, and yay for thinking about individuals, and double yay for that person because they’re fantastic.  Homogeneity is terrifying, and I’m not saying Dare To Be Different, I’m saying that different is out there and we should hang on to it with both hands and share it with everyone we know.

I’m knitting most of my Christmas presents this year, and getting the rest from places I trust.  If you get a handmade gift from me, please take it very personally, and as a sign that I want to spend the time on you, and that I care about you especially.  You’re very special to me.

(That’s also why I got a little upset that I made my dad a pair of socks last year and he never wears them and only vaguely even knows where they are.  My dad Fights The Mainstream by watching Horizon and complaining it doesn’t go into enough depth.)

I don’t have any more time than you do, but I still knit things in front of the television – and I still wrote a novel last month.  I don’t have a lot of money but I buy clothes from charity shops, and eat less meat, put my pennies in a charity box and my handbag is handmade and was a special treat.

I am not doing this to be smug.  I am doing this because actually, I think ten extra minutes every so often are worth spending, and so are a few extra pounds but less often, and I would like to prove that by actually spending them.

Please spend them also.  Let’s swap nice things.

I pledge to buy handmade for myself and my loved ones, and request that others do the same for me.