Factor 40 in North Yorkshire?

Apologies: I’ve been away from the blog for a week.  But as always, I have an excuse.  All four of us (me, J and the houndies) went to visit my folks in North Yorkshire for the Easter long weekend – and we had such a wonderful time!  And yes: the weather was so amazing, all weekend long, that we *needed* the factor 40.

Kita and J ran the Albert Park Parkrun on Saturday.  It was an Orange Day – wear orange and get goodies from Lucozade!  The cunning organisers were handing out orange ‘Tees Pride’ t-shirts, so there was a real sea of orange at the starting line:

As ever, Kita could *not* wait to get going:

It was a hot day, even at 9 in the morning, and she was definitely lagging a bit by the time they crossed the finish line.  A bit of a lie-down in the shady, cool bit of the garden was very welcome.

Afterwards, we headed off to Whitby, where Woody met seaweed for the first time, and decided that large expanses of sand were fun to run on.  (Both he and J fell asleep in the car on the way home):

And the next day…  The next day we went UP onto the moors!  I am not sure there are words for the beauty of the moorland scenery.  People tend to call it ‘stark’, or even ‘bleak’, but to me, it is incredibly rich, detailed and vibrant.

That’s J, up on the horizon to the left.  This ‘running’ malarky definitely has a real impact on general health and fitness.

Dad, in the blue, and Stu (one of my brothers), just beyond him.

The bright green area in the middle distance is bilberry (wild blueberry) vines.  On the horizon, way over to the left, you can see Roseberry Topping – which is officially a mountain (and the site of much childhood torture.  I hated ‘climbing Roseberry’ when I was a child!).

The route we took eventually climbs the end of the outcrop we are walking along here, and doubles back along the top of the ridge.  The views are breathtaking – a suitable reward for the climb!  Poor Woody is much more used to the flatlands, though, and had to be helped up some of the steeper bits.  In fact, both houndies adhere to a rigorous 18-hour-per-day nap schedule when they’re at home, so they were totally worn out by all this awake-time.  Can you spot Woody, in amongst my childhood soft toys?

How about now?

(In fact, the dogs slept throughout the four-hour journey home.  Once we arrived back, after the obligatory pee/sniff in the garden, Woody went straight upstairs and insisted we let him into the bedroom.  He slept there until dinnertime, and went straight back afterwards.  We had to wake him up for the before-bed trip into the garden).

WIPping myself into shape

Oh, now, this is bothersome.  I’ve recently joined the stash knit down Ravelry Group, where they run a ‘WIP Wednesday’ thread.  “What a good idea!” thinks I.  “I must do a WIP roundup blog post, and then I’ll know what I’m working on.”

“Hang on, Self,” says my other brain, “Didn’t you do something a bit like this not too long ago?”

“Why, yes, I think I did, Other Brain!  Maybe I should check my blog and find out what I wrote then!”

Well, gee.  That was January 6th, and I have finished no knitting projects sinceNot one.  Every single project listed on that page is still a WIP.

Come to that, I haven’t finished any weaving or sewing projects, either.  I did finish the spinning I had on the wheel back then (at least partly because I quit halfway through), and I also spun up the alpaca/BFL at the beginning of February.  And the humbug Shetland.

It would be brilliant to be able to come to the beginning of 2012 and look back at the things that were unfinished – and see what progress has been made – as well as to list the new projects that have been completed.

That’s what I said, way back there in January.  Well, at this rate, it’s going to be a damn short list.  (Full disclosure: I have cast on a new knitting project, and warped another loom.  What happened to my monogamous ways?).  I think WIP Wednesday might have to be a new feature on this blog, so let’s start with an official list:

Knitting

  • Basil.  It only needs the side seams sewing up!  But I couldn’t find the rest of the yarn when I pulled it out of storage at the weekend.  🙁
  • The Nightingale Stole.  Made a lot of progress when I was sick in February; haven’t touched it since.
  • The New Project.  This hasn’t even made it onto Ravelry yet!
  • The Ugly Socks.  I’ll be frogging these.
  • Dad’s Christmas Sweater.  Big.  Woolly.  Heavy.  Did I tell you we’re having an April heatwave?

Weaving

  • The card-woven band.
  • The cut pile sampler: continue, or cut it off!
  • The New Warp.

Spinning

  • Shipwreck.
  • The Titania batts (spindle)
  • The Abbybatt Weft (spindle)

Sewing

  • The Quilt
  • The Crochet Curtain
  • The Tudor Sleeves.

The studio is a *tip* again, which might account for my inability to find the rest of the yarn for Basil, and it doesn’t look like I’ll get around to tidying it for a week or two.  I think that the new project (yet to be revealed!) and Nightingale Wing will probably get more attention in the short term.  Let’s see if I can give you an update next week!

Mindfulness is *hard*!

I found this verbal doodle whilst culling forgotten drafts posts over the weekend.  I wrote it, and posted it as a comment, just over two years ago, in March 2009, in response to this post on Stacey’s blog.  I think I intended to expand the original comment into a blog entry, but I clearly never did.  I enjoyed reading it again when I found it – so maybe others will, too.

Incidentally, I’d forgotten all about my attempts to maintain mindfulness.  I think it’s something I should get back to.

___________________________________________________________

Recently, I’ve been attempting to practise mindfulness/attentiveness on a daily basis.  It’s hard!  And utterly revelatory, too.  Rather than stomping along, firmly plugged into the other world of my iPod, I’ve been trying to see what is next to my feet, hear what is going on in the ‘real space’ around me whilst on my lunchtime walks, or in the morning with the hounds.

To see with the intensity of a child’s vision; to hear with the clarity of one just awoken; noticing the detail in the utterly mundane as if you’ve never seen it before.  The concentration required to do this is immense!  I can hardly maintain it for more than a minute or so before my mind wanders off: the conversation that could have gone better this morning; the unfeasible deadline; plans for dinner.

But when I do maintain it, oh boy!

I’ve been noticing patterns in tarmac, in walls, in wooden fences.  Smells of the earth, sounds of birds.  Great bursts of joy on seeing a blackthorn starting to bloom.  And all this just on the fringes of a business park!

I’ve been experiencing the most intense flashbacks to childhood moments; possibly the last time in my life I allowed myself to just experience.  Not examine, or evaluate, or judge.  Subsuming the scientist, and remaining unselfconscious, has been a real exercise, along the lines of “don’t think of a pink rhinoceros”.

But not only have I enjoyed it, I think it is good for me on a more practical level.  No longer do I fight to remember whether I’ve shut the windows/locked the doors/filled the water bowl/sorted the house out/picked up my lunch, keys, phone, wallet when I leave the house in the morning; I’m already aware that I’ve done it.  Well, maybe I’m not quite there yet, but that list feels cleaner, less cluttered, and consequently shorter in my head.  And I’m sure this practice is the cause.

Marvellous Marling

Another round of sickness and exhaustion has seen my knitting progress go backwards rather than forwards over the last few days, but I *do* have spinning progress to report.  My original plan was to spin up all the singles, then get to plying, but I missed out the fairly obvious logistical observation that I don’t have any storage bobbins, so I sort of had to start the plying early.

I was concerned that the contrast between the two yarns might make for an unattractive barberpole effect; after all, the grey that I dyed was quite dark and the blue/yellow quite intense:

However, I’m delighted to report that the two colours are playing together *beautifully*.  The grey tones down the blue (which lightened considerably as I spun it, anyway), and I’m getting a wonderful palette of weathered, denim-y grey-blues.

What I have actually produced is a very attractive marled yarn, which I think will work well with the relatively simple lace of the Shipwreck shawl.

This morning, I wound off a 72g skein, measuring 228m.  Meaning I will have around 600m total yardage out of my 200g.  Or about half what I need for the shawl.  Options:

  • forge ahead with the original pattern, accepting that it will be smaller;
  • modify the original pattern to maintain the pattern/fishnet ratio (but of course it will still be smaller);
  • make a half-circle shawl based on the original pattern, which will be About Right in terms of yarn usage;
  • follow some inspiration I had, based on the original pattern, to produce a rectangular stole…

Oh – I was particularly worried that the yellow in the ‘bright’ fibre would clash with the overall feel of the yarn.  I hoped that it would hint at that yellow-grey overcast that presages some of the nastier thunderstorms, but wasn’t totally confident that it would.

I think it does.  Don’t you?

Quick update on the Leylandii

The wretched hedging plants seem to have struck a chord with a few people! UK residents might like to know that the ‘high hedge law‘ applies to any group of two or more evergreens which form a barrier to light or access and is over two metres high. If you own such a high hedge, affected neighbours have recourse under the law to get it sorted out.  (Or, if your neighbours own such a hedge and it is a nuisance to you, then you can start complaining, too).

Anyway, removal of our hedge has (predictably) left a lot of debris and mess in the garden, though most of the actual vegetable matter has been removed now.  It’s also allowing a lot more light into the garden, especially in the evenings, which is lovely!  It’s a lousy phone-snap, but just to give you an impression, we have before:

And after:

Not quite the same vantage point, but the bird feeders are in both shots.  And the new fence is the same height as the one you can see in the left hand side of the ‘before’ shot.

We’ve regained a lot of space, over four feet in depth, and the ‘feel’ of that end of the garden is much more open and light than it was.  We like it!

A warp, in pictures

I spent most of yesterday attempting to get a new warp on the Klik. I got most of the way there before being interrupted by the news that the company I work for is being ‘acquired’, and having to spend the rest of my day off on a conference call (and going for a beer, but I digress). I’ve got a fair bit to share about this warp, but for now, I think I’ll just share a few pictures:

Bugger.  (At this point, all the threads should be lifted.)

Bye-bye, Leylandii

One of the ‘features’ of our garden is a Leylandii ‘hedge’ along one of the borders.  For anyone who isn’t familiar with these monsters – firstly, congratulations.  Secondly, they’re a coniferous hedging plant, common in suburban gardens, presumably because they’re difficult to kill and form a tight, meshy growth that isn’t easily seen through.

Unfortunately, they are also very vigorous, and need regular attention if they’re not going to get away from you.  If they *do* overgrow, you end up with a huge, bushy, straggly and potentially very tall hedge which is only thick and green on the outside.  If you cut it back far, you will be faced with scrubby, brown, dry growth which will take forever (read: years) to green up and look nice again – if it ever does.

Our hedge was a little rambunctious when we moved in, but I managed to trim the sides back up to a height of around six to seven feet.  The plan was to take the tops off above that height and maintain them there.

As you can see, it hasn’t happened (dog included for scale):

The ‘controlled’ part is still about six feet tall; there is at least another six feet above that, now, which takes us well beyond the ‘tall hedge’ height (above which neighbours have the right, under law, to ask you to sort the damn thing out).

As you can probably imagine, we also lose a lot of depth (easily a metre, at a guess, probably more) to the thing.

There is, in fact, a path (juuust visible in the picture above) that runs alongside the hedge and which can hardly be walked thanks to the overgrowth.

Much as it pains me to cut down a tree, these are clearly beyond our control.  In addition, they don’t add much, if anything, to the ecology of our garden.  So today, we have some nice men coming in to cut them down and erect a fence in its place.  The reclaimed space will become a border, either for flowers or to house my collection of Fruit Trees In Tubs (more on those later) – or possibly for a cold frame or two, because the location and orientation is ideal.

We’re also going to have this ‘passageway’ down the side of the house cleared and the fence will continue down there:

That’s the wall of our house on the right.  The Leylandii start just outside the left hand side of this shot; that fence panel behind the elder bush is (mysteriously) the only one standing on the border.  The old shed door, on its side, stops the dogs getting down the passageway, which has a dead-end and has become a bit of a dumping ground for Things That Need To Go To The Tip.  I will be *so* glad to see it opened up!

In fact, I think the only person who will be sorry about any of this is Woody, who spends a lot of his garden-time investigating the myriad smells to be found under the hedge.  Quite often, all that can be seen of him is his tail, bottom and hind legs, sticking out from the undergrowth as he sniffs and snuffles eagerly.  Still, I’m sure he’ll cope: there’s still the back of the shed to enjoy.

Casting on

Check out this lovely yarn:

Isn’t that something special?  It was a birthday present (for me!) from a great friend.  Not only is it yarn – not only is it hand-dyed yarn – but it is hand spun, too.  That, my dears, is a gift and a half.

It’s a three ply structure, roughly Aran-weight, alpaca and bamboo, and dense in the way that only handspun can be.  The colours – greys, browns and a muted purple – wash across it delightfully.

I knew immediately – or so it seemed – what I was going to knit with it.  A shawl.  A chunky, snuggly shawl for tucking into the collar of a jacket, and warding off the last of Winter’s bite (or, of course, the first nibble of Autumn).  A shawl pattern, furthermore, that I’ve wanted to knit for aaages.  It seems a very long time since I’ve done some knitting ‘just for me’, and I am really relishing the excuse.

Can you guess what it is yet?  And even more tantalisingly, do you think I’ll have enough yarn?

Chipping away

There has been so much going on in my little corner of the world, I haven’t had time to write about it!  Since Textiles In Focus, I’ve been to two craft fairs, been booked for a teaching gig in Norwich, at least one more craft fair and a demonstration day at Anglesey Abbey to boot, been over to Bury St. Edmunds to sell some of my yarns to Wibbling Wools, hosted J’s Mum for a long weekend of socialising and sightseeing, applied for two major shows, booked a nice man in to take down the Evil Laylandii in the garden and replace them with a fence, met up with Geodyne, back from the antipodes (briefly), and had gastroenteritis (not recommended).  And there’s more!  That’s just the highlights.

(The dogs still know how to relax, though.)

Of course, planting season in the garden should be in full swing, but with a few exceptions, I’m barely getting started.  I *have* managed to water the ground with nematodes, though.  I’m hoping to keep the slug and snail population down to a reasonably low level this year, and thereby increase the yield of some of our crops.

I am spinning every day this week, as part of a challenge on one of the Ravelry groups I belong to.  I really want to restart my practice of spinning for 15 minutes in the morning, before work; it sets me up for the day far better than anything else I have tried, and yet I so often skip it, because I ‘don’t have time’.  I’m hoping to finish the singles for the Shipwreck shawl; I have one bobbin (about 60g worth) of the blue spun up, and I’m well under way with the grey.  These two fibres, despite both being Corriedale, feel so different to spin that it will be interesting to see how they ply together.

Also….  I hope to have a great, big, huge announcement to share in the next few days (not a baby, no).  I’m so excited, but I don’t want to jinx it, so… later!

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