97) Re-entry – and happy solstice!

England is frozen solid again, for the longest night of the year.

Our kitchen is all fitted and finished, with a minimum of fuss, but the fridges are still living in the dining room whilst we wait for the paint on the skirting boards to dry.

I have finished the simple socks, and have started weaving a scarf for one of my brothers (for Christmas, ahem).

But I haven’t taken any photos of them.  Nor have I photographed the finished Peacock Feathers shawl.

I have been unable to resist taking photos of snow-and-frost pictures, though.  I can’t get enough of the muted colours, or the incredible detail shown up by the crystalline outlines.

(Probably not much good for catching dinner any more, but damn pretty).

Stay warm, celebrate the turning of the year, and have a wonderful Christmas.  Regular posts will, I hope, resume shortly.

96) Welcome to my kitchen!

We are currently having our kitchen refitted.  J and I spent last Sunday packing all the pots, pans, tins and dry goods into boxes, which are now living in the garage.  (The boxes normally hold yarn.  My yarn is currently living in black bin bags, in my studio.)  Oh, and moving the two fridges, the washer/dryer and the dishwasher out of the kitchen and into temporary homes.

Tear-out started Monday; I didn’t take any ‘before’ pictures, though I think J did, but on Monday evening, it all looked like this:

The ceiling is down because we need a new, non-saggy one installed; we won’t be living with exposed beams in this house!  That yellow colour is the paint we’ve had on our kitchen walls since we moved in; the strange, plaster-brown colour between the yellow areas and the white shadows of the original units is the original wallpaper.  It’s very odd stuff; marbled beige:

Especially when you consider that this was the original colour of the floor:

Baby-poop brown, anyone?  What an appealing kitchen!  Oh – those two buckets?  In this shot, they are supporting/protecting that copper pipe which is running past them.  That is a gas pipe.  Nearly three metres of it, and completely unsupported.  (Hint: not safe).

As of today, Saturday, the new ceiling is in (complete with lights), the re-wiring has been done, the gas pipe is re-routed and safe, and the new floor is in:

Diagonals!!  I’m hoping that this gives the kitchen, which is otherwise small, and quite plain, a bit of zip and zing.  There’s a risk it’s going to be overwhelming, but, like a feature carpet in a small hallway, I’m hoping it’ll work.

Ahh, yes.  The re-wiring.  Building regulations change so often round here that it seems quite normal for the original electrics to be ‘illegal’ when you come to redecorate.  Sometimes, you’re allowed to leave them as they are, sometimes not.   There is now a law that says that electrical sockets can’t be within a certain distance of a sink – fair enough, but this is quite a long distance, and this is not a large kitchen.  So a fair few sockets have had to move, and we are waiting for the plaster to dry so we can paint.  It’s the thick bits of plaster we’re still waiting for; the bits, in fact, that fill in the old sockets.

It seems obvious to me that paint should go on before the new units go in (and, ideally, before the new floor goes down, but hey ho).  Kitchen fitters in general seem to think that this is a bit crazy, and I’m starting to realise that this is because they would have to down tools and wait for the plaster to dry, then the paint, before continuing.  Which, if you’re trying to fit a maximum number of jobs into a minimum amount of time, is clearly not user friendly.  On the other hand: I’m still right.  Paint first is *clearly* better.

J and I are hoping to do most of the painting this weekend.  Wish us luck.

95) A minor diversion/obsession

I currently can’t stop playing with this spindle and the Abby batt that is in progress upon it:

It’s the Summer 2010 Abby/Bosworth combo special.  The batt is 50% merino, 25% tussah silk and 25% baby camel down (and 110% marvellous).  The colourway is ‘mauve it on over’.  The spindle is a Bosworth mini in sumac, on a 9″ walnut shaft (perfect for thigh rolling), and since they were supplied together, I’ve always meant to spin them together.  Since I acquired them, in a little personal splurge moment during the summer, things haven’t really progressed between a little test spin, and an occasional fondling.

On Saturday, though, I fell for a skein of a friend’s hand-dyed, organic merino laceweight:

(Isn’t it lovely?!  She is planning to start selling on Etsy – I’ll let you know when she’s all set up.)

Anyway, are you seeing my problem yet?  That handpainted yarn is looking a lot like warp.  And the handspun is looking a lot like weft.  The colours are close enough to complement, different enough to contrast.  In my mind’s eye I’m seeing stripes of 1/2 and 2/1 twill, which, with handspun singles weft, might just give me some collapse.  The quantities *should* be about perfect for a scarf.

It’ll take me no time at all to finish spinning up the singles and get it woven off, right?!

94) Hoarfrost

As I was driving home from work last night, a fog descended.  It was already bitterly cold.  Perfect ingredients for hoar frost!

And the world was still iced to perfection by the time I was driving in to the office today, just after noon.  I adore hoarfrost, and I’ve never seen so much of it in this part of the UK before.  It creates an effect that is even more picture-perfect-Christmas-card than snowfall.  Each branch, twig, leaf, cobweb is traced in clusters of needle-fine ice crystals, so that hedges sparkle and trees look like giant candyfloss clouds, reaching towards the sky.

I often wish my windscreen was a giant CCD, so I could capture the view as I drive, and never more so than today.  I drove to work in a state of awe and amazement, my mouth hanging open, wishing I could linger on the A14 (which was uncharacteristically free-flowing) to dwell on the incredible, transient beauty of the winter landscape.

All I managed to snap, though, were these few images – taken of the shrubbery in the work car park.

93) Pattern launch: Cold snap!

Finally!  How long does it take to write the world’s simplest hat pattern, anyway?  You can download the pattern for Cold Snap for free, here.

Alex, a very dear friend, and I had a lot of fun taking the photos for this hat last Wednesday.  In fact, it can be a hat – or a hood.  It all depends on how many seams you sew.

One seam, hood:

Two seams, hat:

I had hoped – really hoped – to be able to list some yarn at the same time as I posted this pattern.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated badly.  Our kitchen is being refitted next week, so I have no way to set any dye, no space to dry yarn in, and – significantly – no time.  I do have two skeins available – I’ll try to get them listed very soon.

92) Of socks and carrots

…in which we prove that something is always better than nothing.  First, I think, the carrots.  Some of these carrots are Very Small:

I planted these carrots as part of a second crop, much earlier this year.  For the two or three days immediately after I sowed the seed (evenly, in a well prepared bed, I might add), it rained, solidly.  When the carrots germinated, they were all on one side of the bed, where the seeds had been washed.  I ignored them totally until it was time to clear the beds back.

And when I cleared the beds, I found carrots.  As you might expect, they were very variable in size and shape.  Some of them (top right, for example), are almost normal.  Others… aren’t.  But they are carrots.  Between them, I managed to salvage enough actual vegetable for seven portions of squash and smoked paprika soup (recipe possibly to follow – it’s good), and around ten portions of bolognese.  Sure, I’d have gotten more carrot if I’d dug up the cramped ones and sown more, but since I never got around to it, I still got some carrot.

And so to socks.  I rarely knit socks.  I think they take forever, and I’m tough on my footwear, so it seems I wear them out faster than I knit them.  But when I do knit socks, it’s almost always as a secondary project; I hardly ever actually work on them.  These, however, have been my main project for the last ten days:

For me, that probably means 10-20 minutes in an evening, plus whatever time I can snatch at my desk during the day.  Time is short round here.  And see?!  Progress!  It’s amazing.

Take home message: Doing pretty much anything towards what you want is better than doing nothing.

91) Too cold for sourdough: December lists, November recap

November started unseasonably warm; what a difference a month makes!

The sourdough loaf I left to rise overnight basically didn’t.  I should have taken the hint when it took twice as long as usual to get bubbly after the second feeding, but I needed bread for lunch today, dammit, so I baked it off anyway. (Besides, it still tastes good).

The squat, dense little loaf I ended up with is a timely reminder that sourdough culture contains living organisms.  My kitchen is much, much colder than usual overnight, and they are going a lot slower.  I think that if I’d let it rise all day, it would have ended up relatively normal.  And let me tell you, it’s not the only living organism around here that’s been moving more slowly than normal over the last few days.

Nevertheless, November has been a strange, hectic blur of a month, but I seem to have achieved quite a lot of things off my list:

  1. Yarnscape: At least two shop updates – No.  None, again.
  2. Yarnscape: Get back to those dye pots! – Yes, but only briefly.  I need to re-organise the studio before I can make any real habits here.
  3. Yarnscape: write some basic accessories patterns – partial.  Cold snap should be published tomorrow, and I’m working on a simple sock pattern.
  4. Yarnscape: Pick hosting, and start work on the new site theatre. – YES!!  (you’re here, aren’t you?!)
  5. Finish the peacock shawlYes! But I really, really need to block it tonight (deadline: Saturday)
  6. Winterise the garden – partially.  I’ve cleared back a lot of the beds, and planted some onions, but I wanted to do a lot more – and now the ground is frozen.
  7. Spin up four more batts – easily surpassed!  I’ve lost count of how many I’ve spun, but I’ve filled three bobbins with singles, and have plied off two skeins.

Three and three halves out of seven – good!  But I notice a pattern.  I want –really want– to be dyeing and selling yarn; dyeing, blending and selling fibre.  But it’s not happening.  Why??

Am I scared I’ll fail?  Am I falling back into my old ‘delayed gratification’ patterns, where I put off all the things I really want to do in favour of other, more mundane occupations?  Or is it as simple as the fact that I’m not making the space – physically or mentally – to do this work in?

So this month, I’m going to be trying something a bit different.  I’m taking shop updates off the list.  Instead, I’m going to address the things that I feel are getting in the way of doing the shop updates and of doing the dyeing.  If a shop update happens to happen – that’s a definite result!  If not, then at least I should be making it easier in the future.  So!

This month:

  1. Yarnscape: Set up the studio so it supports dyeing on a regular basis.
  2. Yarnscape: Get a functional and friendly photography station set up.
  3. Yarnscape: Finish the sock pattern, and start another.
  4. Yarnscape: Get the independent shop designed and (ideally) live.
  5. Weave a scarf for brother  #2, and finish the one for brother #1.
  6. Yarnscape: Continue adding functionality to this here blog (sidebars, search function, locally hosted images).
  7. Finish plying the current singles, and spin up three more batts.

Lots and lots of Yarnscape.  Yes!

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