Saturday, 1 November 2008

The throes of Christmas.........

- or the "throw of Christmas" to be more precise! We are doing a knitted blanket square swap on the Creative Living forum at the moment; we each choose what we would like, the other participants knit them and send them. I asked for 2 x 5" squares in white or cream, with a specific project in mind. I wanted to edge them in holly colours of red and green, and I started on the borders this morning whilst I drank my coffee after breakfast. The squares that ahve been contributed so far are really lovely, and I've done two myself, so I've a few to be getting on with, then await the last arrivals and put them all together. I'm pleased with the colours, and it looks quite Christmassy; will only be brought out at Christmas, to keep it seasonally special :)

These dropped off the needles this week too:

They are the "fetching" mitt pattern from knitty; I wore my last pair out! The colours don't seem to show up here too well - it's a lovely clear turquoise, edged with some of the handspun pink I did last week. They're warm in as far as they go, literally, so this week will see me making a pair of full mittens, as teh cold snap is forecast to continue for a while yet.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Becoming winter

We've had a bit of a cold snap here the past few days, signs of the imminence of winter too. I lit the open fire in the sitting room last night, which was lovley, I love an open fire. Not for much longer, as OH has bought a woodburner to install as soon as we can. I know it's a more efficient way of burning wood, but I do like my open fire. I sat in front of it in the rocking chair with a glass of sloe gin......... Yesterday I put up the winter curtains too - big, heavy linen ones with thermal linings - they'll make a big difference to heat retention in here. I also swapped the cotton rug for the winter woollen one, so it'a very cosy and tucked in feeling in here now, ready for winter. The garden is full of birds feeding off the food I put out for them; the feeders need checking and filling every day to keep them topped up. A lot of the leaves are down, ground is sodden and muddy, occasional bits of frost lurk until mid-day, the sky is heavy, white and leaden. I'm looking out the pudding and Christmas cake recipes this week too, to make sure I have enough fruit etc to get them made at the weekend. Getting on with gift making too, so it's all rolling along nicely at the moment.
It must be cold - I'm wearing socks! LOL

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

And another thing...........

Well, two actually! Just a couple of photos I took to share.

This is a pair of gloves done for one of Bean's fellow students - he wanted something sinister, and this was as sinister as I could muster in wool!LOL Skull and crossbones on the back of the right glove, and an evil eye on the palm of the left. For some reason, known only to him, the index finger on each hand had to be missed. Apparently he was over the moon with them, so that was good!

This is a pic of the hail that arrived quite abruptly yesterday, in the middle of the afternoon. Hard, cold and noisy, it hung around for quite a while. A herald to the rest of the week's weather, I believe, when we are getting a cold snap - there was a goodly layer of frost on the car this morning. Hopefully it'll be cold enough to actually wear some of the woollies I have knitted over the past year or so! LOL

Knitted hexagons

I found this here, at Knitty, Vintage and Rosy:

This blogger has very generously shared the pattern for the knitted hexagons. My first one is above, and I love them, Quick and simnple to knit up, they'll make an interesting change from squares or crocheted granny squares. I'm looking forward to trying one in self-striping sock yarn next.

So, big thankyou to K,V & R :)

Monmouth cap

This is one of the caps I knitted last week, a pattern found in a back issue of Spin Off magazine. I think it comes pretty close to the original, which can be seen here, along with some info on it:

I anjoy most knitting, but this was one of the most enjoyable things I've knitted for many a year. I like a pattern with added extras - in this case, the historical aspect, and I was able to do some reading and research on the web which led me off in all sorts of directions, as most of you will know :) I felt a tangible connection to the past whilst knitting it, helped along by watching the film Merlin on TV! The pattern was simple, knitted in the round, and I use two strands of a rather nice English Jacob yarn I picked up for about 20p at the Guil on the sales stable. There is something inherently satisfying about knitting in the round, maybe the repetition, the rhythm of a circle, the continuous loop thing, not sure, but a favourite style of knitting for me. I popped a nice little button on the top so it can be attached to MrL's helment, should he ever feel the need for this facility, and a dinky little loop to hang it up by when he comes indoors; this is one of his Christmas presents. I thought it was so great, I knitted one for myself too.........:) LOL

Monday, 27 October 2008

Little Heathens

Little heathens - hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish.
This little paperback arrived from the wonderful Amazon on Saturday, there waiting for me when I got in. I finished it last night, read right the way through it! I can't do better than describe it as portaying "a world of hard work tempered by simple rewards". A fascinating glimpse of a very hard life in an extended family during the depression, working on farms, growing, being as self sufficient as possible, but with time for adventures, fund and mishaps.
I found it simply written, no over-egging the pudding in a literary sense, good clear prose, with lots of information too - skinning a rabbit, animal husbandry, recipes, vegetables, food storage, etc. New York Times Book Review classed it as one of the 10 best books of the year. Not sure I'd go that far, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. Two minor irritations for me, though; she says that her gret-great grandparents could have taught Emerson a few things about self-reliance; well, in my view, Emerson's experiment in self-reliance was as much a philosophical/spiritual undertaking. I'm not saying there was no spiritual side or philosophy to this book, just that I couldn't see how the comparison could be made. What irked me more was that on more than one occasion she had a dig at modern day folks, proclaiming they wouldn't know how to do this or that, know what this or that was, know about hard work, etc. Well excuse me :) LOL, but there are millions all over the world who work just as hard at these sorts of things. Fair enough, we don't have the extreme hardships and worries of the Great Depression haunting us permanently (although we may well be headed there, ironically........), but there are a huge number of us who are living self reliantly, skinning rabbits, growing, preserving, making, going without, enjoying the simple pleasures and living in wonder at nature, the seasons and all that they have to offer.
I forgave her those things, though, for including recipes in her book - I love books where real recipes are intermingled with true stories.:)
Some bits I liked:

H.L. Mencken's definition of Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" (p5) - this made me smile.......:)

"Susannah and Jacob helped establish two churches; broke sod three times in their lives, plowing virgin soil to prepare it for raising crops; and were almost totally self-sufficient. Like other pioneers, they did their own doctoring from home remedies. They raised, butchered, canned and cured their own cows, hogs and chickens. They hunted squirrels, rabbits, pheasants and quail right there in Yankee Grove. They atnned their own leather in a hollowed-out hickory log. For the most part, they mended the harnesses for their horses and repaired their own shoes.
They made their own bread and sometimes ground their own flour of oats and wheat; they ground the corn to feed to their chickens and to make cornmeal mush for themselves. They made their own shirts, knitted their own sweaters, scarves and socks, and sewed their own aprons, dreses and night-wear. They patched together and tied their own wool quilts. Their industry and independence were nothing short of astonishing. Ralph Waldo Emerson could have learned a thing or two about self-reliance from my great-great grandparents"(p4)

It is easier to keep up than catch up (p51)

I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet (p51)

"Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied,
That "maybe it couldn't" but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
He buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing and he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done
And he did it" (p66)

Well worth a read, and a keeper. :)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Baa baa blacksheep.......

- have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.......

- plus another three, plus the nine I have already.....LOL I got these six at the Guild yesterday. They are all the same, Jacob cross, but quite nice, lots of crimp and a nice mixed colouring, which should spin up to a nice overall shade. They were on offer for a donation of 50p per fleece; I gave a pound each, then the woman who broguht them said she had another three in the car, and if no=one wanted them, they were going to the dump. How tragic is that? Couldn't let that happen, so broguht them all home. It is a national disgrace that wool is such a berated and underrated resource in this country, a lot of whose wealth was built on the wool industry. There was an Act of Parliament passed to revive the then flagging woollen idustry, dictating that everyone had to be buried in a woollen shroud. The money a farmer gets for a fleece from the wool board (not sure of their current correct title), but it's pence, not even enough to cover the cost of shearing. Coloured wool is not even wanted. Sheep owners are despearte to get outlets for good wool fleeces - I can now have access to enough for the rest of my life without having to pay a penny for them. This is so wrong. Yes, they can be turned into insulation, or sued as a mulch, compost, etc, but my God, what a waste. I wish I knew more spinners who I coudl share with, but I feel it really is a dying art. Teh other bone of contention is trying to get folks to part with a realistic price for handspun wool and garments/articles made from it. There are very few spinners younger than me in the Guild, Bean being one of them. Breaks my heart. Any spinners reading this? Any views on how to resolve the issues?

Easy going Sunday

A nice easy going day here, although a fair proportion of it was spent in the kitchen. We had half a lamb delivered yesterday, so that had to be dealt with. It came ready butchered, so just had to be sorted. There was a lot of meat on it, and the leg is roasting in the oven now, the rest in the freezer, the trimmings sorted to feed the dog for the next few days. I also made a coffee sponge, two trays of flpajacks and a pan of HFW's murgh makhani (butter chicken), which is our favourite curry, had it the last three Sundays in a row now! Wet and miserable here all day; I cleaned out the goat yard in the pouring rain this morning, but at least it's better for them, and they have it dry underfoot for getting at the hayrack. Ducks don't mind it, but chickens seriously unimpressed :) Also fitted in some reading, the new Resurgence magazine and a bit of knitting. Nice easy evening, just the washing up and sandwiches to do, then a big hot bath I think, ready to face another week. MrL says forecast is for cold weather, which I don't mind, so will be out with the woolly socks. Tomorrow is the start of preparations for the winter here now the clocks have gone back, so will post about that as and when it happens.