30 March 2009


Yesterday I met a few Hoxton Knitnight people at the V&A, where we drank tea in the beautiful cafe. Here's a picture of the ceiling. I know. Kind of random, but there you have it; it gives you an idea of the museum's ambience.

Larissa had brought her copy of A Stitch in Time with her for us to ooooh and ahhhh over. And ooooooh and ahhhhh we did. I had already favourited some patterns on ravelry, but the book is really nice. Definitely a concept that I'm okay with. I'm over bulky for right now, so I'm interested in all the finer stitchwork that these patterns seem to call for.

There's an amazing amount of stuff to look at in this museum. From the tunnel that links the V&A to the tube, I emerged into a hall full of greek-inspired statues. Off to the right was an exhibition on women's fashions through the age, which tried to show the evolution of style. So, for example, from teeny-tiny cloth shoe to the go-go boot of the 1960s. There was some beautiful clothing, and some that was ... well, not to my subjective taste. This category included the hot pink track suit and the bulky salmon sweater matched with a voluminous wool tartan floor-length skirt (only the slightest of clues gave away whether the mannequin was facing the viewer or had her back to us). But, it wasn't an exhibition about beauty, it was about the evolution of style, so, still interesting to see in that context. I also saw, from the corner of my eye, what looked like some Indian art, and there was an exhibition about hats. And this was just the first floor! I'll definitely have to go back.

I have to admit that we spent a great deal of time in the gift shop and the book shop. And, it also has to be acknowledged that these were the best exhibits, really. I think I will go there for every upcoming gift that I need!

Truth be told, though, I didn't buy much - just a gift for a friend's new baby. But I was really coveting A Stitch in Time. Given the current economic situation, the insecurity of my vocation, and my predilection for not working that often, I've been curbing my spending habits. Not that they're huge; but I do worry that I'm wasteful. I'm comfortable with the fact that I'll probably never be rich, but I do worry a lot that I won't be able to sustain myself and R when we're old, so I've decided to try to be more conscious of the cash I do have. That's right: I've started a budget. I'm starting out over-generous as well. £125 / week. If I have a lot left over by next Monday, I'll bring it down.

So... what I did was that I bought the book, and subtracted it from my weekly budget. Do you see how this budget thing could go very, very wrong?

In Paloma news, right now it looks about the right size for a 7 year old. But I re-checked gauge, and it should be right. However, I've made some glaring mistakes that I don't know if I can live with. The question is, how much more will I knit before I accept that I can't live with them and have to rip it back? It's quite lacy, so I'm hoping that will hide the errors. Though I know it won't. It's like watching Titanic or that movie Control about Joy Division: you know exactly what's going to happen and yet you sit back and watch it unfold anyway. You don't have to, but you do (full disclosure: I never saw Titanic - it seemed like it would be too... predictable...).

Cute side (actually, there are mistakes here too):

Messed up side:

Some gratuitous London in Springtime shots:

Chiswick mile

Hoxton Square

25 March 2009

French Girl Knits - preliminary report

In my last post, I mentioned that I received French Girl Knits for my birthday, and Andrea asked for a review. Here it is!

I had seen several patterns I really liked from the book, which is why I wanted it. That said, I have to say I'm not crazy about the conceit behind the book. I know that Griffin-Grimes' editor was probably saying "there's got to be a theme uniting everything!" but I don't need to be sold a concept; I had the same issues with the dominknitrix book - I like a lot of the patterns, but I don't need them embedded in some cutesy framework. In this book, it's "frenchify it!"; in the dominknitrix book, it's "dominate your knitting." It's not like a cookbook, where you probably do want to know a dish's nationality. But food - ingredients - tend to show either a strong local and / or historical provenance: you understand why chocolate would show up in mole, and you know how ingredients from the americas like chocolate, tea and potatoes got to be in european recipes. I'm not saying clothing doesn't exhibit these tendencies, it's just that as soon as the historical element means adding and borrowing styles, the local flavour might become diluted, less obvious. At any rate, less obvious to me.

I guess I am a bit hung up on the authenticity of it. If I want to understand French style, or make a garment that's distinctly "French" (besides the obvious stereotypes, what would that even be?), I would just buy the new spring issue of Phildar's Tendances. Which is exactly what I've done. I don't know if my link will go to the right page, but if not, the pullover I really like is on page 6, though not in those colours. The clothing in Tendances does actually look "french." I'm still not sure what this means, but they, being french themselves, have done a better job of catching the national flavour. Yes, in my opinion.

Anyway, back to French Girl. I am in the midst of knitting Paloma, a cap sleeved little blouse, and once again, I'm enjoying the complicated process. Complicated not because the stitches are hard, but because the pattern changes literally every row (so far). I like this. It keeps my mind from dwelling on less pleasant aspects of life. Like the crappy girl at the office who made sure that I won't be getting a full-time job there.

But I digress. Again, back to French Girl.

I'll report back when I've finished Paloma, but my gut instinct says that the patterns are worthwhile and I think there are quite a few patterns I'll like making, as long as I don't read the painful little intros to each piece, which feel so forced that I'm embarrassed to read them. Let me give you an example: "In the heart of every French Girl is a wild child, an enfant sauvage who longs to sunbathe au naturel or dine on chêvre and vin rouge curled up on a picnic blanket under the stars." I mean, really? Really? Is that what wild children do? What do non-French wild children do? And, most importantly, is that really wild, for crying out loud? 'Cause eating goat cheese and drinking wine, in my book, sounds more on the civilised side. And nude sunbathing, from what I understand, is pretty normal on this side of the Atlantic, though maybe not up here in the cold north. Do you know what I mean? I'm also embarrassed that I can never remember how to spell "embarrassed." Thank goodness for spellcheck, eh?

Some other patterns I'm interested in: the tunic tank, the leather-laced cardigan (nowhere near as racy as it sounds), the lace-up tank, the bell sleeve pullover, and the flare sleeve cowl sweater.

So, to sum up: the patterns look pretty good, but the concept's pretty naff.

22 March 2009

Kew Gardens

I've been feeling singularly unemployed this past week. Mind you, I'm not actually less employed, it's just the nature of being freelance - sometimes I have busy weeks, sometimes I don't. This week of unemployment lined up rather nicely with a beautiful week weather-wise. I've been running three times this past week, and out for a long walk somewhere lovely every single day.

We went to Kew Gardens on Wednesday, and it was quite empty and quiet and absolutely beautiful.

We sat by the Thames for a while, and I think we almost got sunburned.

I was going to show you a movie of yeast proofing, but this movie is much better...

My sister-in-law gave me this book for my birthday, and so I'm starting this little top. No photos yet, but soon.

17 March 2009

Odds & ends

As predicted, this chunky lace scarf was a quick knit; and, thankfully, I really love it! I've worn it every chance I've had, since I finished it.

I met up with Larissa at the photographer's gallery over the weekend, and she helped me with a little photo shoot:

I was really glad to finally have some pictures of my knitting that were not taken in my kitchen!

Spring is in full swing here, and the flowers in our courtyard were so overgrown that we cut a lot of them and put them in our flat.

I'd started these leg warmers as a possible gift for my yoga teacher, but then as it quickly - or rather, slowly - became apparent that I simply could knit them up in the prescribed 6 hours, I gave up on that. I've finally finished one, and am considering taking the plunge on the second. This way, they should be ready in time for next Christmas. I do quite like this one, though, and am wondering if it will actually end up as a gift to someone else, or will just be for me...

I started getting an organic local veg box every week, which I'm really pleased about. One thing I really like about is instead of my planning meals and then going to shop for ingredients, I get the veg, and then decide what to make based on what I've received. Also, they bring the box, and then the next week I return the actual box, so, just as with the bread-making, it's helping to reduce the amount of packaging I use. Also, I can't deny that seeing what's in the box every week is like having a birthday - I love the surprise element.

Last week, we went to the Tate Britain, and saw a lot of Whistlers, Turners and Constables. I had seen a lot of these works before - the lucky thing about living in NYC is that these things all make their way there for a visit once in a while. But, it was really interesting to see them now, after living in the UK. Now that I've been to many of the places that these men painted, I saw them in a different way. Before, I was able to view them and appreciate them on an external level - the style of painting, the choice of imagery. But now, my understanding comes on an internal level as well; the affective presence of the works has an added layer now. It emphasizes that though a work of art can potentially affect anybody, the greater the knowledge that the viewer has, the deeper the understanding and the greater the impact of the work.

07 March 2009

Recession spirit

Finally, here's the gothlet, finished and blocked. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. See that little bit around the belly that's kind of sticking out? I don't like that. I also don't like how heavy the cotton fabric is. It's a bit like wearing chainlink armour (I imagine). But I'll give it some wearings and see how it goes.

I did really enjoy the process of making it, and how complicated it was, and how it turned out to fit me perfectly (except for the belly bit). What do you think about this piece? Be honest. I should point out that it looks much better in the photo than it does in real life. Le sigh.

After making the gothlet, I'm taking a break from complicated and making some simpler projects, that'll probably finish up quicker. I am using the rowan chunky scottish tweed that I got back in december from the John Lewis sale to make the lace scarf from the winter vogue knitting.

Yes, I know the flowers are out, and that it's averaging 10∘c these days, but I've wanted a chunky white scarf for a while now. It's got a floral pattern on it, does that make it a spring knit?

In the name of the recession spirt, I've started baking bread again. I think the last time I baked bread was over five years ago. I used to bake bread a lot when I lived in Albuquerque, and something about the altitude, or being in a place where mountains meet desert, or the great ingredients available from La Montanita, made that bread almost magical. I'd never before, and never since, made such lovely bread.

But, now, I'm just making simple bread. As you know, I really like baking, but I don't like measuring my ingredients, and this often results in disaster. Bread is the answer: I get to bake and I get to not be exact in my measurements; it just doesn't matter with bread-making. It does mean that each loaf is slightly different, but I don't mind that. So, it's just hot water, brown sugar, yeast, a bit of salt, and then half plain flour and half wholemeal flour, and a handful of rolled porridge oats. That's it!

The important thing is to knead it for long enough; as I don't have any type of machine to help me, it means about 25 minutes of kneading by hand, until I can pull on the dough and it makes almost a fabric, through which light can be seen:

The great thing about hand kneading is that, since I have weak arms, the kneading has to be powered by my core muscles. I think making bread is making my stomach flatter!

A few hours later, it's become this:

My aunt and my mother were here to visit me yesterday, and it was a lovely, if exhausting day. My mother, of course, had terrible jetlag, and my aunt had been up since 4 in the morning to catch the eurostar from paris, and I'd been up since 7, which may not be early for you, but is certainly early for me!

We started out at The Grocery, one of my favourite places ever. As you can imagine, French ladies can be picky about the quality of coffee and food. Especially in Britain, a place they had not visited in over 30 years, and thus had understandable ideas about the potential shortcomings of food here. They hadn't been to London in so long, in fact, that they were shocked to find out that the coins in their hands were not "sheeeleengs." So, when they approved of the grocery, I was pleased.

I had been in quite a quandary about figuring out where to go to lunch (again, we're all picky ladies). I wanted to pick a place that had a decent chance of satisfying my family. I had read about The Anchor & Hope on Lien's webpage, and she highly recommended it as a good place to have not just good food, but good British food.

But - here's the quandary - my mother is little and older and I knew she'd be jetlagged, so I didn't want to have to do too much traveling around. Then, Rog suggested a place called 32 Great Queen Street, and when I googled it, it turns out it's owned by the same people who The Anchor & Hope! They also own a place called The Eagle, where I'd been last December for a friend's birthday, which I'd really liked as well. So quel relief! It seemed like the perfect solution - three good reviews has to mean something!

We spent the early afternoon walking around Covent Garden and Soho, and finally ended up at the restaurant, which was amazing. We split some dishes, which were all really good. One of the dishes we tried was a mushroom pie that had a delicious flavor I couldn't identify - something that doesn't often happen to me. Also the waiter was really nice, so much so in fact, that my aunt hasarded a few words in English, to tell him that before eating here, she'd had no time for British food; but now, she was all for it! As for me, I'm thinking of asking Rog to take me there for my birthday.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in a cafe chatting, and then I dropped them off at St. Pancras for their return to Paris.

All in all, I'd say it was a lovely day.

01 March 2009

It's Spring again!

Our neighbourhood is springing into bloom. Crocuses! Daffodils! Cherries (or maybe pears, I'm not sure)!

I know it's not that surprising, but I am full of appreciation for the fact that I don't need to slog through another month of winter, as I would in the states...

I haven't been blogging much, but don't let that fool you. I've been industriously working away on the gothlet. It's full of shortrows, which I love. You can see them a bit here:

I've been really enjoying the process of making this little top; whether it'll turn out well or not remains to be seen. Lately, this really has to be my approach to knitting, because I haven't been too pleased with how my things have been turning out - so it has to be about the process. So, I learned how to do a picot trim for the neckline for this piece:

Last night, R & I went to see the shills (he produced a few of their songs). They were really good - it's the kind of music that I would have spent hours on as a teenager, trying to decipher what the lyrics were, and then hours more trying to figure out what those lyrics really meant. The songs are jangly, romantic, funny and Smiths'-tinged in all the right ways. I realised that I'm really still not ready to grow up. I like going out too much.