24 December 2009

FO - Leaf Yoke Top

Just in time for the holidays!

Merry Christmas, everyone! et Joyeux Noël!


14 December 2009

A new colour

After a decent period of not knitting very much, now I have started up again, with one project well on the way (the Leaf Yoke Top - rav link), and another waiting in the wings.

Our kitchen is still not done.

09 December 2009

New knitting!

Well, okay, I haven't started yet, but I got some of this yarn:

I know. I keep buying the same colour wool. I can't wait to start knitting, though!

I'm doing a project at a school that's right next door to a farm and there's a farm cafe. The farm is beautiful and the cafe is very sweet. Here's a photo from around the cafe:

Yesterday, I went to Paris to spend the day with my aunt. I was really lucky, it was a lovely day. I came back with some new books to keep my French up to date. I've already finished one, on the train on the way home.

24 November 2009

Settling in

We've been in the new flat for almost a month. It's finally starting to feel like home; hopefully the nightmare bit is over. Did I tell you that our estate agent deliberately misled us, and had a damp survey altered to hide the fact that the kitchen has a lot of damp? Yes, well, he did. Luckily, R caught him, and they're now paying for it, but they're not paying for all the upheaval and misery it caused us. And, he didn't even get fired, despite the manager's insistence that they are an honest company who care about their image.

Despite all that, we are starting to settle in. The garden is no longer just a square of mud. Last week, Rog started to shape it:

And this week, we put in a path (see the compost bin in the back, there?). Next week, we should get some flowers.

We ordered some little fruit trees to put in that big patch at the front (closest to the camera). It's all very exciting!

I haven't been knitting. I've barely even looked at Ravelry. I know. It's weird. One of the jobs I have, where I work freelance, is undergoing huge changes, which aren't really affecting me, but I am watching some of the other freelancers who are being affected overreact, and it's stressing me out. Of course, the majority are silent, and it's the vocal few. People seem to feel that because it's an arts organisation, it shouldn't treat them or this particular programme as a business. But it is a business. It does have to make sure that it is being run efficiently. If not, the money will run out, and there will be no programme, and then everyone's out of a job.

I guess I look at this from an art history background, where this whole notion of the artist not being a business person is fairly recent - 150 years or so? And a very Western idea as well. So here is this arts organisation asking artists to act like business people, and they can't because of firmly entrenched ideas of what an artist is. Well, that's my hypothesis.

Hopefully I'll be back soon with some knitting pictures!

12 November 2009

Out of Practice

Well, we've moved. It's not love at first sight; we'll have to get comfortable in this flat and this neighbourhood, and that takes time. It's taken up a lot of time and energy. Not quite so central as before, but we have more space (I can be in one room and have no idea in which other room R is), and we have a garden. We hung up a bird feeder, and we already have little birds coming by, which is lovely. So far, a robin and some blue tits. I also got a composter, which I'm very excited about.

In knitting news, I have mostly been knitting scarves and also some wrist warmers.

I knit some of these wrist warmers for my yoga teacher as well.

I'm now trying to decide on my next big project, and am thinking about this. But, it means buying wool as I don't have any chunky yarn, or not enough for a jumper anyway. And, what with the move, I am a bit on the skint side.

I'm feeling very out of practice blogging.

28 October 2009

Cabled Cocoon

My mother's birthday present. Happy birthday!

30 August 2009

All or Nothing

A glimpse of one of my new holiday-knitting projects. It's sublime extra fine merino wool in a very warm, chocolate-y charcoal grey.

When I'm worried about finding work, it's hard for me to do anything but worry. But, this past week my September work schedule started to really fill up and as the worry started to melt away, I actually felt like I could relax, and enjoy some hours of knitting. It also made me feel like tidying the flat.

24 August 2009

Hoxton Square

This past Sunday was a gorgeous day, and so I went to the square to sit and knit. I ran into some friends, which was really nice. I love that kind of fortuitous encounter. Admittedly, they live around the corner so it's not blind coincidence, but it was still nice. Well, until P got stung by a wasp on his tongue. He didn't make a fuss, though I kept trying to tell him that if he's not going to take advantage of this opportunity to make a fuss, when can he? "Tiff uppah lip," he tried to say, though of course, it was really just a swollen tongue.

It's the season when secret projects start to work their way into my consciousness. While I'm not knitting presents for everybody this year, as I did last year, I still want to get started on the few I'm doing. I'll finish the legwarmers I started for my yoga teacher last year - it's great to start on something that's already 50% done! And then a couple of other things. Rog's yearly birthday scarf, which he loses yearly, but then asks for again, so I can't really take the losing as a hint. Or not as a hint that he doesn't like them; more as a hint that I should somehow include velcro on it. And the rest of the projects? Really secret, so I won't discuss them here.

When we were sitting in the park, two of our local drunks were sitting on the bench behind us. When P went to get an antihistamine for his tongue, the drunks started talking to me. The young one (who has aged so much in the past year and a half) said, "excuse me! excuse me!" til I realised he was talking to me. "What are you knitting?" he asked. "A scarf," I said. "Oh," he said pausing. "Where did you learn?" As he's asking this, the other drunk, who is much older and much more f**ked up was saying things like, "hhmfffs jumpah fu mmeh?" "I'da smmmss scarf?" I told the young drunk, "my best friend." I told the old drunk, "no, I'm not knitting you anything." The young drunk said, "not so many people knit anymore, do they?" I told him there are lots of us. He said, "Oh. I remember spending lots of time with my nan while she was knitting." Then P came back, and the conversation stopped.

I feel bad for this young drunk. He obviously wants social interaction with other people besides the other drunks who are overwhelmingly male and probably twice his age. There's one woman that I've seen, but she's twice his age as well. They all seem to share this big brown dog, who always looks so resigned, with a "why me?" look on his face. The young drunk kept talking to other people in the square, trying to help a small child, for example, explaining something about trees and why you can't climb them. As you can imagine, a lot of people are pretty snobby to the drunks, though generally they keep to themselves, and their dog is gentle. I find the trustafarians desperately trying to be cool in their "I just pooed my pants" trousers (you know the ones I mean) to be the really offensive ones, leaving their rubbish all over the square. Or opening crap galleries on the square (that's you, Julian Schnabel's son with your crap taste in art). (Seriously, his last show included plastic turds left on a stack of catalogues - that's what he thinks of the people who come to see his shit.)(Sorry for the cursing.)

In other news, I was longing for corn tortillas once again, and just out of curiosity, I googled "corn tortillas," and it turns out that there's a Mexican grocery about a fifteen-minute walk from here. I came home with corn tortillas, mole, masa harina and ancho chiles, and we had a lovely Mexican / New Mexican fusion green chile stew with little corn flour dumplings.

And now we're off to see Gang of Four at the Macbeth!

18 August 2009


I haven't felt much urge to knit all summer, but, as you know, I did start working on the pegboard lace tunic. It almost knit itself! I just did ten rounds a day, and before I knew it, the body was done:

Now I just have to knit up the i-cords, so I can finish it up. It's a very clever idea. And knitting i-cords seems like an ideal knitnight activity.

On Sunday, we went to see an exhibition at the Barbican. I didn't know what was on, but I like the outdoor space there, and it's so close to where I live, that I thought it was worth just taking a walk.

So, quite accidentally, we stumbled upon an exhibition that uses anthropology as a jumping off point. The artist, Clemens von Wedemeyer, creates a dynamic between the idea of "first contact" and the theatrical idea of the fourth wall (an imaginary screen that separates actor from spectator, though sharing the same space) and explores the repercussions of the ideas on real life; in this case, he looks at the case of the Tasaday.

The implication of course is that "first contact" is the breakdown of one imaginary screen and the creation of another: in other words, unsurprisingly the story or narrative of "first contact" is one of many stories Westerners tell themselves (maybe other people tell this story too; I don't know - but it's a well-known Western trope). The narrative changes to fit the needs of the storyteller. The reason the story of the Tasaday is interesting is because the narrative changed so many times in such a short period of time. Sometimes the narrative was quite innocent and idealistic (the anthropologist Nance, who wanted to see the alleged stone-age tribe as what humankind could be: a group of kind humans, who care for and support each other and their environment), while other times it was self-serving and political (Manuel Elizalde, Jr., the playboy Filipino official, who "discovered" the Tasaday, and convinced them to play the part of stone-age people, so he could use them as the poster people for his foundation - he raised millions of dollars for the Tasaday and then - surprise, surprise - disappeared to costa rica with the dosh). But, the story always told more about the storyteller than it did about the main characters.

As long as the narrative makes sense, there's no need to question it. I think this is Wedemeyer's point: we're all busy creating stories to make sense of the world behind our screens, and as long as nothing juts out and trips us up or rips the fourth wall, we can presume that others are thinking the same thing. But as soon as we make contact with the people beyond that wall, we have to question everything. And we should be constantly ripping through these walls and telling new stories.

I liked how von Wedemeyer explored old narratives, both those presented as fact and those presented as fiction, and then layered these stories with stories of his own. After wandering through the first floor of the exhibit, there was a small staircase that led up to a little room with a movie, which was a nine-minute loop. Here again fact and fiction meld, as the anthropologist character in the loop is played by the man who had directed a movie (fictional) based very very loosely on the Tasaday (in his movie they're cannibals, unlike in any other version of "real" life). The film is shot in one of the flats that surrounds the Barbican. Von Wedemeyer plies layer upon layer of narrative into this thick experiential mat into which the spectator is invited to immerse her / himself. And then, ask yourself: what narrative will you add?

I know that, as an anthropologist, it's the kind of exhibit I'm bound to like as I maintain that storytelling in whatever form, however formal or informal, lasting or ephemeral, short or long, is what makes life meaningful. But, I felt like this was the first solid piece of art that I've seen in a long time. I've seen a lot of people desperately trying to be cool, or continuing to make the same stuff they've been making for years, or just being facile, obvious, and dull.

01 August 2009

Sicily, again

We stayed just a little bit too long; and a little bit too long is just the right amount of time.

We stayed long enough to enjoy ourselves, and long enough that we were ready to come back home.

A lot of southwestern Sicily looks like this in summertime:

Sometimes summer in Sicily is known as its winter due to the death of everything by heat; apparently spring and autumn are gorgeous. Also, since there is a lot of poverty there, many people emigrate, but can't bear to sell or maintain their properties, hoping that one day they'll be able to return for good. So the landscape is littered with ruins both ancient and modern.

In the year since I last went to Sicily, and with no intention at all to do so, my palette has mirrored its parched colours:

The amazing thing about Gabi's olive grove is how they have clawed this rich oasis out of a dessicated landscape.

We stayed again at the cottage.

Rog thinks that the fruit and veg they grow are so intense in flavour because of the lack of water. I was only sad that the plums hadn't ripened before we left. I ate one anyway, and it's true, the flavours were intense - sweet and sour and, well, plummy. Gabi's father was telling me that he eats two pink grapefruit a day from the orchard, which ripen from October to May. Both he and Gabi are excellent cooks. They have a somewhat new breed of pig living there, a result of allowing their wild boar to mate with their pigs. And her father makes delicious sausage from them: lean and clean, they are all flavour, undiluted by fat. The salad they grow, on the other hand, has an almost buttery texture, soft yet crisp.

These pigs are some of the new breed babies, and they're also the composting system - all the fruit, veg, bread, whatever that we couldn't eat, we fed them. On the one hand, it's sad to know that some of these cute babies will be one day turned into sausage; on the other, that was some delicious sausage, and everything on the estate is used for something. Gabi's father makes fantastic limoncello from the lemons that he plied us with on our last day, and also some lemon marmalade that I've brought home. I also brought home about three years' worth of salt. There are salt flats along the western coast from Marsala (derived from the arabic - you can see the remnants of the "Allah" that once formed the end of the town's name) to Trapanì. I love this salt, and only brought home one bag last year - I only just made it: I ran out at the end of June. Good to know - I live on one kilo of salt per year. So, yes, I brought home 3 kilos of salt in my bag. Heavy, but worth it. I won't lie, I also shipped myself a lot Olio Verde (Gabi's line of products) things. Two bottles of olive oil, one bottle of lemon olive oil, marmalades, olive pâté... It'll be like Christmas come early when it arrives next week! (I would put a linky, but I can't find one...)

Our daily life included going to Mokambo beach, where there is a cute, very basic cafe, that serves coffee, fruit juice, panini and salad. And beer for people who like beer (um, I know I live in Britain, but not me!).

Out of some sense of obligation to do more than swim, eat, socialise and generally relax, we visited Mazara del Vallo, which has some amazing relics of many bygone eras: a Norman church built by one of the two King Roger's, for instance.

We also drove through Sciacca one day, but it was too crowded and too touristy, so we drove right back out.

And, do you remember this from last year? It was exactly as I remembered it - time had neither improved nor chipped away at the memory.

It wasn't as wavy last year, but every bit as magical. The water gets deep almost immediately, but it is so clear that it takes barely any effort to spot the white-sand-coloured fish who swim near the bottom; they are only just barely camouflaged. Looking down as I swam I could see huge flat rocks below me, and worried about what might hide beneath them. Regardless, I swam out to a big rock (I think you can see it in the photo, above, all the way towards the right edge of the image), from which kids were diving. Just once, and then swam back as fast as I could. You never know!

Overall, I think we can agree that I was a very happy girl!

I know I've mentioned this before, but I'll just say it again: one of the things that I'm so pleased about, living here in the UK, is the chance I've had to stay connected with old friends, like Gabi. There's just something about spending time with someone where we really know each other, and each other's stories, that is so vital. Time passes by quickly and these solid friendships are one of the few things I know of that moor me in this life.

Now that I'm home, I've been doing some rather late spring cleaning, and I've got a pile of ripping out to do:

And I've got quite a bit of knitting to catch up on, and I have to get my kefir up and running again...

17 July 2009

It's been ages...

I have knit very, very little in the past three weeks! I've had a lot of work, which has been really good, and as a result, very little time for knitting and blogging. But now my schedule is lightening again.

The coquette tube top is languishing, I just don't love that cotton yarn. So what have I been knitting? Well, the pegboard lace tunic:

It's nice to be knitting again, though it was just a brief respite as I have to get back to work starting tomorrow: I have an article to write, which is due on Monday. And no, I haven't even written one word of it yet.

22 June 2009

Bee Socks for my sister

Here is the pattern. Now, what to do with the rest of my rennie wool??

19 June 2009

How could I say no when it was only £59?

Yes, I went to Paris. For the day. I know, I know! It sounds decadent and like I have oodles of cash. And while the former may be true, the latter isn't. It's only £59 return by eurostar!!! So I went down for my aunt's birthday, and I'm really glad I did.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day. As soon as we got off the train, we made our way to Montmartre, where climbed up to the sacre coeur because Rog's sort-of-father-like-person (and sort of not, it should be added!), Geoff, had never been (in fact, the last time he'd been to Paris was over fifty years ago, when he was 15).

Like my skirt? It's the one and only one I've ever made in my life. I was so happy with the way it turned out that I thought it best never to attempt it again.

Geoff and Rog were both desperate for a coffee at this point, but I wanted to do a bit more than the obvious touristy bit, so I took them through some back streets, to the cemetary and the vineyard with the promise of a treat a bit away from the madding crowd. I was convinced I'd find some cute little cafe for them along the way, but... we didn't. They were both very patient as we wandered up tiny streets that looked like this (i.e. not a cafe in sight!):

Back closer to the places des abbesses, we finally had a coffee, and then we met my aunt and went to the Marais, where we had a lovely lunch to celebrate her birthday. I had lamb that came with its kidney; normally, I won't eat offal, but I'm always willing to taste, and in this case, I ate every last bit. And then we walked a bit more around the Marais, ending up at the Place des Vosges.

Before leaving, we of course popped into the monoprix right next to the gare du nord and got some super cheap wine and some very smelly cheese.

In knitting news, here's a blurry clue as to what you, Birthday Girl, should be expecting in the post any day now. Happy birthday! And let me know when you get it (link for you folks on rav), so I can post a complete picture!

10 June 2009

Adventures in Sunny Edinburgh

We went to Edinburgh for a few days last week - it already seems like a dream and so long ago. It was so sunny and warm that I - unusually unprepared for this - got a nasty sunburn on my face. I sunburned my eyelids - a first for me! Ouch. They're just about healed now, almost a week later. Here's some proof of the hot and sunny:

Neither of us had a lot on in the way of work, and I was definitely beating myself up about it. And as there was little we could do, it seemed like a good idea to take a quick break in Edinburgh, just so as not to drive ourselves mad. I'm glad we did.

We arrived on Tuesday, and as we always do upon arrival, we walked down the water of Leith. There was lots of wildlife along the way, and it was very green and tranquil.

The next day, we went a few miles south of the Edinburgh border to the Pentland Hills.

At one point, it seemed like the walk would be too easy, so we went off-path, following the sheep paths. We figured we had plenty of water, food, and since it stays light until 10pm, we had plenty of time in case we did get lost. We didn't get lost, but we had to take a detour around almost every ewe we passed - and there were quite a few - as they were so pregnant that turning around didn't seem to be an option for them. There were also lots of cute yearlings.

It was really gorgeous, and the best antidote to all the stress I'd been feeling. This was our view from where we sat down to have lunch:

The next day, we drove north to Perth. Rog parked the car and we went out for a little wander and for some breakfast. When we got back, I suddenly realised we were parked not 100 metres from a yarn shop. So we had to wait until it opened. It turned out to be Di Gilpin's studio and shop. She had the most lovely Rennie yarn, and I have to admit that I didn't walk away empty-handed. I had an interesting conversation with Di, about how she ended up in Scotland, and about her studio.

Then it was off to Birnham and Dunkeld, for another day's walking.

In Birnham, we found a grove of very old oak trees - and apparently we were in Macbeth land now ("Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until /Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill /Shall come against him"). This is the Birnham Oak:

The 15th century Dunkeld Cathedral on the bank of the river Tay, and me enjoying it all:

We walked for hours, through fields of bluebells, and along little creeks, and then as we continued upwards, we walked on paths that bordered pine forest so dense it was as dark as night within.

And then, out of nowhere so it seemed, we came to an opening.

It was so stunningly idyllic that we decided to sit there and eat our lunch, just enjoying the peacefulness, broken only by fish breaking the surface every once in a while. We saw what I think were osprey, as were near the osprey reserve. We were going to go off-path here, but when we ended up ankle-deep in water, we turned back and followed the path.

It was really magical, and the only downside was how short the trip was.

I'll be back with knitting news soon.