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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.

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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.

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.

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.)

Breaking things March 16, 2011

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

Coming up for air March 7, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Breaking the fourth wall, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Law, Sheer bloody-mindedness, University.
7 comments

Well, phew, frankly.

The first draft of my dissertation was handed in about 11 o’clock at night on Friday, which was the deadline.  In the last week, I’ve seen closing time in two different libraries, and opening time in one of them.  I haven’t really had much of a week, frankly – it all seemed to disappear in front of a computer screen.  I’ve slept twelve hours the last two nights, so that should tell you something.  The paper is mammoth, though – twenty-five pages plus bibliography.  Aside from NaNoWriMo, I’ve never written anything that big in my life.  It’s kind of a big deal.  I keep rolling the words undergraduate dissertation around in my head, and they don’t sound any less grand than they did this time two years ago.  Grief.

Anyway, it’s onwards and upwards – I have another essay due in ten days, and there’s no rest for the wicked, so that’s where this week is going.  But you don’t want to hear about that, do you?  You want to see this lovely finished thing:

(Please excuse both the state of my room and the crappiness of the picture – I’m hoping to press-gang the relevant parties into helping me take proper photos tomorrow. You will also note that my house was furnished by the Sprawling Mass of Bureaucracy that is one of the University departments, and hence my bedroom mirror is in three parts. Also, I have a pretty awesome poster on my wall.  You may blame aforementioned Sprawling Mass of Bureaucracy that it appears to be split in two.)

This is SOMETHING I FINISHED!!  I actually have two knitted tops that I’ve finished in about the last six weeks – not because I’ve been knitting so fast my hands are on fire, but because I am a lazy sod who hates sewing things up, so when I do sew things up, it tends to be all in one go.

I started (Get Off My) Cloud (Rav link) by Kate Davies over the summer, if you recall, and it’s involved so much Icord, and so much sewing up, that I finished the main body of it in maybe November, and the hood in December, and I’ve just failed to do anything with it since.  It’s all done now, though, and I wore it to London to meet knitters last weekend and was met with a lot of pointing and “I know what that is!” and compliments, so it definitely feels done.  There’ll be pictures, as soon as I can get someone to take them

The cardigan in the picture is Harvest Moon (Rav link) by Heidi Kirrmaier.  I started it on Christmas Day to make up for all that knitting for everyone else, and it waited for about a month for me to sew the pockets on, and another month for me to block it.  And I adore it.  And it’s alpaca so it’s the warmest thing in the world.  And it sheds cream coloured alpaca all over my black brushed wool coat.  If it didn’t do that, I’d never take it off.

What I’m knitting at the moment, then, is quite mysterious.  I’ve had this on the go for a few weeks:

Why yes, it is a Great Green Thing, and getting greater by the day.  Not so much lately, that’s a lot of stocking stitch, and I tend to need to alternate between it and something a bit more exciting.  The exciting things have been socks, essentially: I’m one down on a pair for Dad, whose birthday is at the end of the month, and I’ve just cast on another pair with this:

I love this yarn very, very much.  It came on Friday, the day I handed my draft in, and my reward for finishing said draft was to cast on the Sock Knitters Anonymous group on Ravelry’s March Mystery Sock.  The theme for this month is lace, and the mystery sock is gorgeous.  I finished the first clue today, and it reminded me how much I love just blindly following patterns occasionally.  You don’t have to worry about how it’s going to turn out, you don’t have to keep in mind what amendments you might want to make, you can just take the instructions and run with them.  It makes me happy.

The yarn is Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, and it’s a superwash BFL, and I love it. I haven’t knit with Blue Faced Leicester in far too long – I’d forgotten how much it practically glows.  This stuff is so much fun to work with.

So that’s what’s happening knitting-wise at the moment, for the most part.

As for the rest of this blog, I’m afraid you’re rather going to have to bear with me at the moment.  You’ve probably noticed it’s been a bit thin on the ground, of late.  This year is not an easy year, it’s my final year as an undergraduate, and at the moment I feel a bit like I’m treading water.  Of course I’ll do my best to keep going – I love this blog, and when I’m able to do things with it, I love it and I love hearing your feedback and comments.  But if they’re sparse for the next four or five months, please do hang on.  Normal service will be resumed when I’m not up to my ears in the All England Law Reports and for now, well, I like you lot.  So I hope you’ll hang around.

Inspiration February 8, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, University.
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Sometimes it hits you without warning.  Last Thursday, I wound a ball of Malabrigo Lace, thinking it’d be really nice to just play with it for a bit.  I was picturing a long, kind of skinny scarf, with a repeating lace pattern down it.  Something that says yes, it’s still a bit chilly, but it’s spring dammit and I’m going to act like it.  I browsed a bit, and swatched a few things and found nothing I like.

On Friday, I had my eureka! moment.  Here is my eureka! moment, posing ultra-picturesquely with my notes for an essay on European citizenship and the free movement of workers in the European Union:

Mmm, Regulation 1612/68.  So much better for the application of Malabrigo.  It’s glorious, by the way, although it’s also basically felting as I knit it.  Sometimes inspiration hits you square between the eyes, and I have to say I’m really loving this project right now.  I’ve provisionally christened it ‘Winwhistle’, after a place I was thinking about a lot at the time.

The next few weeks are going to be full of people, and places, and events.  After a sluggish few weeks, I’m really looking forward to them.  I’ve been pretty consistently down in the dumps since the beginning of term, and I’m hoping the application of friends and getting out a bit more will help things turn up a bit.  You may or may not be aware (well, you are now) that Linguistic Housemate was in Egypt for the last few months – fear not, she’s now on our living room floor as we speak and it’s been the greatest relief, and the greatest breath of fresh air, to see her again.  Also his nibs is going to be coming to see me next week so there shall be a selection of my favourite people congregating at Techie Towers.

Oh, and I ran two miles this afternoon.  It definitely feels like the spring is coming.  This is my favourite time of year.

Barfest February 6, 2011

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Lovely people, Really good day, University.
1 comment so far

This one’s a bit diary-ish.

College Barfest.  A phrase that inevitably sounds like a knell of doom for anyone who isn’t a student.  You can probably guess what it involves as well: for a start, a lot of quite of exciting ales, lagers, ciders, cocktails that you wouldn’t usually find at a college bar.  Also, live music and a good time.

On the other hand, we’re also students, so the music was eye-wateringly loud, a fair few people drank quite a lot, and certain bits of college got very messy indeed.

For me, it was another chance to have a college breakfast – something I’ve missed a lot since I lived in, in my first year – mess about with sound equipment and good friends over a bottle of cider, and just generally enjoy the college atmosphere.  There’s always a great sense of community that tends to be worth soaking up, and who am I to turn down a chance to have a go at sound opping?

Exhibit A: band to the left, techies to the right, and practically never, in my experience, the twain shall meet.  I think – and don’t quote me on this – that this was a particularly good jazz band setting themselves up.  Music at college events is a lot less genre-narrow than it used to be – I went to a ceilidh a few weeks ago, the percentage of songs without the word ‘baby’ in the lyrics is looking up.

I had to leave mid-afternoon for a French lesson.  (Mais oui, mon Francais est tres broken still but improving un peu these days.  Je tricote, tu tricotes, il/elle tricote etc – also I now have three tenses and a working knowledge of Belgian cartoons.)  By the time I got back, everyone else had had a bit of a head-start on the cider, so the evening consisted of sticking it to the man techie-style:

(Utterly subtle techie in-joke there for you.  If you don’t get it, I can’t really elaborate except to say that if someone wearing blacks sends you for a long stand, tell them where they can shove it.)

There was tea and frank conversation in one of the kitchens, and a speedy and satisfactory clear-up.

Setting up and taking down tech equipment is something I used to hate, but now I really enjoy.  When you actually know what’s happening, and where things to, and what generally to do with them, it’s really good fun – especially because the majority of the college tech team now consists of my pretty close friends.  I’ve waxed lyrical about how much I love working with people I’m good friends with before.

A few things about tech that I really wish more people knew:

Firstly, piecing together how things work is essentially a combination of observation, practice, common sense and a bit of bodging.  A lot of people who don’t do tech don’t seem to realise this: someone came up to a few of us yesterday and said, ‘Are you techies?  Could you see if you can do something about the reception of the TV in the bar?’  Seriously?  It’s like saying, ‘You’re a computer programmer, why isn’t my printer working?’  On the other hand, if I’m actually doing something, chances are I know how to do it.  Some well-meaning chap yesterday actually explained to me what a mute button was for.  I’m still a bit gobsmacked.

Secondly, many things make sense when you differentiate ‘techies’ from ‘people’.  I have been led to conclude that the general perception of techies seems to be as wizards who love nothing better than clearing up after everyone else.  I’m not entirely sure why this is such generally accepted logic, but, well, it is.  If you’re running an event, I implore you: remember your techies exist when they’re not in the same room as you, give them time to eat, and don’t ask the impossible.  If you don’t know if it’s impossible, ask.  Just because they’re talking in acronyms and getting on with things quietly in a corner doesn’t mean they’re actually a different species.

Oh, it was good fun.  I like being back up at college, I really do.

Thank goodness for that December 9, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Durham, Law, University.
9 comments

Disney got it wrong.  It’s not cute, it’s not special, and all girls don’t secretly want it.

Embedding’s disabled, but I do recommend you watch this and, if you’re anything like me, tape your own reaction.

I haven’t written much recently because not all that much has happened: it’s just chugging along as usual.  Last week, I reaffirmed my monumetal crush on the collected works of Tom Stoppard, by calling a production of Travesties at the theatre.  To quote Lawyerly housemate, “The thing about Stoppard is he’s trying really hard to show you how clever he is, and at the end of his plays three people come out of the audience feeling very smug because they understood it.  And you’re one of them.”

I’m taking this as a badge of honour, myself.

I had a lecture recently on the conflict in Kosovo – isn’t it amazing how when you’re a certain age everything slides past you?  I’ve known for years that when I was fourteen or fifteen I had no idea what was going on in the world, but the fact that the Kosovan declaration of independence was signed in February 2008?  Where on earth was I?  During the second term of my second year of A levels, I read the newspapers religiously.  How did I not have any idea that one of the biggest international political events since the Second World War was going on under my nose?  This scares me a little, and I wonder how much is passing me by right this minute.

As for the lecture, though, it was the most interesting and stimulating subject I have come across possibly in my entire three years of studying Law – and I don’t use that lightly, there are a fair few things I’ve found interesting practically to the point of obsession.  I had a tutorial on how to define a state the other day.  International public law has rather grabbed me round the throat this term.  I wonder, again, if I’m trying to do the wrong thing with my life.

Oh, and I’m learning French.  That’s exciting.  That’s happening.  And I ought to be working and I’m not, and my current knitting project is Christmas-related, just like the other two, and suddenly I’m desperate to knit something for myself and I can’t until I’ve finished these.  Which is not to say that they’re not fun, and probably that they’re a metaphor for my failure to cross anything off the right end of my to do list at the moment.

It’s official November 19, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Craftiness, Durham, Knitting, Sheer bloody-mindedness.
1 comment so far

I went into a shop on Wednesday and they were playing standard Christmas music.  I can’t pretend it’s not happening any more, and that can only mean one thing: Christmas knitting.  Oh yes.  There’s a lot of it: I have mittens planned, and a hat, and more socks than you can shake a stick at.  And possibly a scarf but it’s looking more and more like that one might be finished by Easter.  Either way, I will almost certainly still be knitting at 11pm on Christmas Eve.  (Like last year, in fact.)  There will definitely be some Morstan mittens, because they’re new and shiny and snuggly and I loff them and they’re so darned quick to knit.

It’s got to the stage of term where I really want to go home, now.  It’s been a bit of a week of it, all things considered: I’ve been up til half past two twice, both times unrelated to actual work, I’ve had my ritual mid-term meltdown where everything gets so overwhelming and I spend about thirty-six hours basically hiding.  Now I just miss my mum.  There’s a possibility of going home for a few hours next week on the way back from a brief trip to France (!) and I’m really looking forward to the idea.

In the meantime, though, it feels like it’s all uphill a bit at the moment.

Just a quick note, in the end, to let you know I’m still alive.  There will be more, and FO pictures (for yes, I have them!) as soon as I can coerce someone else into giving me a hand with a camera.

If you’re interested about how NaNoWriMo is going for me – I hit 30,000 words yesterday, so right on target.  Some of it’s a bit like pulling teeth, though.  I’ve never written 30,000 words before, it’s quite exciting.  Doesn’t feel that long, for sure.