Friday, November 30, 2007

End of November.

I finished my NaKniSweMo sweater....

Yes, deeply rubbish picture, but what do you expect at 11.30 pm? Art? (I'll get a better photo tomorrow.)

Pattern is 3timesChic, in Rowan Plaid, recycled from a UFO that has been taunting me for over a year now. It's a chunky sweater and the alpaca/wool blend is going to make it waaarrrmmm, but it's a great fit (I made a medium), the very slightly ribbed effect gives it shape and it's a total doddle to knit. I will make it again, I think. But possibly an inch or two longer...I already added an inch to the pattern, but it could do with more.

Oh, and with this post I have also completed NatBloPOMo. Hopefully it hasn't been too boring a read for you all? I've quite enjoyed the discipline/encouragement provided by having signed up for this, and hopefully not too many of my posts have been filler ones. I've written about cats, knitting, spinning, my family, cooking, my endless struggle with the house improvements AND had a competition, so I think there's been something for everyone!

I'll do the November progress roundup next week. But for December I'm not going to have challenges, targets or any other sorts of pressure. Christmas is bad enough, urgh....

Oh, and Lad is home. He had a grand time, as predicted, and did a lot of things. But the principle topics of his conversation this evening was how they gave them three (Yes, three!!!, sez he) courses every dinner, cooked breakfasts every day and an all-you-want-to-make packed lunch system, lol. And he found a new girlfriend....though, by the sound of it, she found him. Well, the school did say that the week wasn't just about outward bound activity, but also about personal growth and development!

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Hey, I finished something!

This is the Lace Edged Woman's Hat from the Head Huggers site, which actually specialises in chemo cap patterns. I just found the hat and thought it would be nice for Princess. It's knitted in a wonderful yarn called Sirdar Balmoral, a lovely blend of 72% wool, 25% alpaca and 3% silk. I have fallen for this yarn big style, which is a mistake as it's discontinued.

This hat is a good fast knit...I made it in an afternoon, and I'm not a quick knitter, and it took just under 100yards of yarn. I made the small size as recommended as I'm a loose knitter, and while it's a good fit for my bigheaded six year old it's also stretchy enough to fit me, nearly, and I have a big skull. Excellent pattern, ideal for a st minute present I would think.

I bought the yarn on Tuesday, in one of the charity shops in Haddington. They had a huge basket of vintage yarns, mostly acrylic but I did find a 1oz ball of Patons "Nylox" sock yarn (80% wool 20% nylon) in a rust colour that will coordinate perfectly with the left overs from my Anastasia Socks. Four 1oz balls of dark ruby 4ply Patons "School Knitting" in the same wool/nylon blend, also for socks. Two 1oz balls of Lee Target "Motoravia" 100% pure wool 4ply in dark pink, for socks or a scarf for Princess Top prize find though was the one and a bit balls of the Balmoral. Gorgeous yarn! Total cost for 8 balls of very useful and good quality yarn? £1.60, or $3.20 USA. I LOVE charity shops!

I've also been plugging on with the Dead Parrot and I've finished all the sections for my 3timesChic sweater. I doubt I'll be finished it for the end of November though, given the current swamp of chores i have waiting. Oh well...not to stress out about a sweater. I want to finish it though so I can get onto knitting something else. My very favourite old zip-up hooded cardigan has finally worn out under the arms after three years of almost constant wear. It's not mendable, so I need to replace it with something. I quite like this, the Zip Cardigan by Lorna miser, but there are lots of contenders out there.

Oh, and I finished painting Lad's room and am just waiting for the paint to dry before I shove all the furniture back. It looks a little more blue than I hoped (it's two coats of cream over a very strong sy blue) but there's no time now to put on a third coat of paint. Anyway, I'm going to have floor to ceiling shelves round three and a half sides of this room before I'm finished. No-one is even going to notice the paint colour has changed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Old and creaky.

Well, I got the first coat of paint on Lad's bedroom walls today. Only two and a bit walls because I have to paint them first then move the ceiling high shelves (and contents ) across to free up the other walls for painting. And it only took me about one and a half hours. But...

...I'm getting old, alas. My back and the back of my legs hurt, big style. I have stiffened into a question mark shape. My fault, of course, because instead of going for an immediate hot shower after I finished I sat down for an hour and just sort of set.Yeah, I'm a wimp. How can that little bit of painting be so tiring? Well, if I tell you that the ceilings here are neary fifteen feet high, would that explain things? Our walls are BIG, and there is a lot of uppity-downy and stretching involved with painting them. Hey, and after I finish this room, I have three more bedrooms, two publics, kitchen, bathroom, 35' long hallway and a stairwell with a thirty foot drop to paint. (Actually this last is DEFINATELY getting subcontracted.) Good thing I quite like painting, no? It's just the stress on the body I hate.

Oh, as to colour? Well, after trying about 100 matchpots of every known blend of white, cream, magnolia and pale beigeish , I decided on an inoffensive creamy yellow-white called Jasmine White. The reason it had to be inoffensive is because I'm going to paint the entire house with it, end to end, with the single exception of Princess`s room which will be Rose white. I am going for the Neutral Look. Bugger Style Statements. I'm not intending to do this again in a hurry.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Theo in Waiting.

Theo is officially Lad's cat, though in practice Theo seems to think he belongs to whoever is holding his food bowl.

But there's no denying he's missing his boy. He has barely moved his furry butt off Lad's backpack since Lad left.

(Except to visit his food bowl, of course. He's not that upset!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

DIY week.

Well, given that Lad has pushed off for the week, I've decide to paint his bedroom. This is Stage 1 of a long and complicated plan which is designed to not only swap the study into his room and vice versa, but also to swap our bedroom with that of Princess. A couple of weekends work? Ahem. I think not. Six months, more like it.

It's the stuff, you see. We have a big house with large rooms, high walls, lots of shelving and four pack rats living here. We do floor to ceiling accumulation of stuff. We have stuff here that moved in with us nine years ago that we haven't seen since the day we unpacked it. We have tottering piles of toys. Shelf upon shelf of boks. Camera gear. Computer gear. My massive Playmobil collection. My stash. My other stash. My wheels. (Back up to five again.) Etc. Just moving the stuff away from a couple of walls takes hours. Fitting it all back again is generally impossible.

Yup, I know. Chuck it out. I am I've been in Lad's bedroom for two hours already, have moved the furniture clear of the work zone and have three binbags of rubbish to go out. I'm sitting down for a cuppa here though. I'm not getting any younger and moving furniture around isn't half as easy as it used to be. I am pacing myself. I have cleared the two and a half walls I am going to paint and now need to brush them down and do a bit of plastering on one wall, where last year's repairs knocked the skirting out. Then I will get the painting things ready and walk away till tomorrow.

This is what Hubby doesn't understand when I say painting one room will take a week. Yeah, sure, slapping two coats of paint on just over half a room will probably take me about three hours total with the roller actually in hand. It's all the rest that takes time. And if I knacker myself in the first day by doing too much then I'll not be able to do anything tomorrow. I have all the rest of the domestic stuff to do...laundry, shopping, cooking, school run etc. Plus I don't want to miss my classes, and I'm doing a spinning demo at a craft show two days this weekend. (Note to self here: Do not knacker hands. Rough hands can't spin!)

I'm sure I heard someone at the back ask why Hubby doesn't help? Well, he's going out to work at 6am at present and getting back at 7pm. Nuff said? If I had waited two weeks till the teaching for the semester had ended I might have been able to get a couple of hours furniture moving out of him. But Lad would have been here and that would have made things considerably more difficult. Nope, this week was my only chance.

Dustsheets. Plaster. Laundry. Rubbish bins. Boxes into storage in attic. Make beds. Before lunchtime, if possible...and it's 11.30am already, eek. Better get away from here!

But I will leave you with one last image. It has to be a mental one though as a black cat on a black background is a bit...well, black. Lad has left his school backpack on a shelf in the hall and Theo is asleep on it. He's been there for most of the last 24 hours, actually. He's never slept there before. Is it possible he knows in some strange feline way that Lad is away? Is he there because he's in some way missing Lad, or waiting for his return?

Oh well, onwards and upwards....!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


On a brighter note than yesterday, this is my second son Duncan, aka Lad.

He's eleven now and a big lad, almost as tall as me.

He likes his food...

His sister loves him...

He loves his kittens...

He even loves her. (Most of the time. She is a pest.)

He's helpful....

And funny....

And tomorrow he heads off on his week long school trip to an outward bound centre in the Scottish Highlands. Hiking, canoeing, white water rafting, absailing etc. He's never been away from home for such a long time before, not without one of us around somewhere. Yes, he goes to sleepovers etc and sometimes I barely see him from one days end to the next, he's so busy during the summer. But this is for four nights and five days.

Naturally though he's really looking forwards to it. He likes good dirty sporty outdoors stuff, has a good bunch of friends going too and likes and trusts his teachers. He's not pernickity about food, as long as there's lots plus ketchup, and he's used to camping and living out a holdall for weeks on end. (They are not camping, they are sleeping in bunkhouses.) He's not some fragile shy flower totally dependant on someone else cossetting him along. He will have a ball.

It's just ME that's suddenly gone into full mother hen mode, overloading him with socks, reminding him not to go out in wet shoes and to remember to wash. (This last is a bit of a vain hope, I admit.) My little curley-haired baby is growing up. He was always the little, cute, cuddly one that put his hand in yours when he was worried about something, unlike his big confident brother and totally unfazable little sister. Now, he's nearly a young man.

Have a great time, son.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 24th.

Today is that day again.

I'm not saying life really gets better about this sort of thing, but you do get used to it. I was watching a terribly trite program on bereavement a few months ago when someone came out with a very true statement "You never get over these things, but you do work out ways of getting through them". Yup, that's true. The thing is it all takes such an amazingly long time to get to this stage but conversely on days like today it seems like it all happened only a few days ago.

This morning though I looked at my tall, fair, lively and beautiful daughter as she scampered around the house in her PJs looking for breakfast. She's six years and five weeks old today. Next year she will be seven, and the same age as her big brother when he died. Also, the same number of years will have passed since he died as he lived with us. It all seems impossible in a way, even yet. I wonder if seven years will be the magic number for me when I finally come to terms with all this? Because it's certainly not happened yet. What does "come to terms with" mean anyway?

However as they also say, life goes on. Today we are off to the Haddington Scouts Christmas Fair, which is the official start of the Christmas season for us. It's a fun, lively, very home-made and well run event and the kids enjoy it hugely. A good time to turn another corner and into another year, I think.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dead Parrot?

I've lost the will to live over this scarf.....

It looks like a dead parrot that's been dropped in a blender. The yarn skitters and slides around on the plastic needles like it was greased, but when I tried rosewood needles it required physical violence to move the stitches along. And I have mysteriously picked up another stitch from somewhere, but of course it's impossible to see where.

And newbies use this stuff? No wonder many of them never knit a second anything. If it wasn't for the fact that Mum will love it, I would have thrown it in the bin by now. However I've made progress since this picture...only the second ball to go.

And in the meantime I've kept this on my desk to remind me there are still yarns out there worth living for...

The colourway is "Porage Oats", from The Yarn Yard, plus the raspberry mini-skein is the one Natalie has been adding to all Porage Oat skeins sold in order to make the Have you Checked your Breasts socks designed by Jane, here. These socks are on my list...probably not before next Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but just I had to have the yarns and pattern ready and waiting.

Back to the Dead Parrot.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Rosie? Where are you, Rosie???

Because I need your address before I can send you your competition prize. I've tried emailing and leaving you a comment. No joy. I do hope you're well? any of our mutual SkipNorth friends have her address? Would you mind passing it on? (Given that you've met me so are reassured to a point I'm not a mad axe murderer etc.) I'm quite determined she's going to get this yarn, whether she wants it or not!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Best laid plans.

I thought I was really well organised with my knitting schedule. Finish my Knit a Sweater in a Month sweater, the second Regia sock, Mum's ghastly scarf and get started on a pair of mitts for Princess for Christmas. Maybe even another hat for me....

Then this arrived in the post....(picture swiped from The Yarn Yard shop, because it was too dull for photographs today.)

This is Festive, one of Natalie's hand-dyed sock yarns. I bought a skein of Porage Oats initially and added the Festive as an afterthought, but when my parcel arrived today the Festive was the one I instantly wanted to cast on. It's boingy and cushy yarn and the colourway is cheerful and bright and...well, very festive! Just the thing for a gloomy winter's day of sock knitting.

No, I've not cast it on. Got to finish the second sleeve of that sweater...only 85 rows from cuff to shoulder, so shouldn't take long. I think I'll keep the Festive for December.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Typical Tuesday.

Get up at 7am, feed cats, make cup of tea (note order of this!) wake kids, sort out breakfast, pack schoolbags, sit at computer to drink tea, yell at kids to get washed/dressed/ready for school, answer phone to mother, get myself washed, dressed and ready to go out, take kids to school for 9am.(Because Tuesday is Trombone Day.)

Come home, check email, sort dirty laundry, start first load of washing, make beds, do very fast clear up round house for more laundry, dirty cups etc, grab spinning wheel and spinning bag and get to spinning group by 10am.

Leave spinning at noon, go to supermarket/recycling/other errands (today was a pile of toys taken to charity shop) Go home, put groceries away, do more laundry, clean out car, bring in rubbish bins, sort out recycling boxes. Have lunch. Feed cats. Go to collect child B from school (with friend), hang around local swingpark till child A comes out of school too (with trombone.) Go home, make snacks, tidy up, do more laundry. Sit in front of computer for a while and ignore noise.

Make tea for kids, start dinner for adults. Small friend of child B goes home. Feed kids, do more laundry, feed cats, write emails, get changed, wait for arrival of Hubby, go out to Fat Class at 7pm.

Come home 9pm, do laundry, pick up mess kids have left, feed Hubby, feed myself, do last load of laundry, remove mouse from jaws of cats and flush down loo, get out school uniform for tomorrow. Sit on sofa, watch telly, knit. Or sit here, read forums, knit. Go to bed at midnight.

Gosh. Don't I live an interesting life? And Tuesday was one of the good days, during which I go out not once but twice to an activity just for me. Thursday, for example, has no activities for me but involves a lot of hoovering. Bah. And there's always laundry.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Progress so far.

I was intending to write a "What I did this week" post on Friday but the competition got in the way, so here it is now.

I finished my Anastasia socks. Yup, the colour banding matches. I find the easiest way to do this is to put the 100g ball onto the digital kitchen scales and wind off 48g or so, stop, pull out the start of the yarn from the inside of the ball while it's still on the winder and then keep winding until I find a place that the colour sequence matches, break the yarn there, pull off the first ball then wind the second. As long as I wind both halves and knit from the inside, the bands will match well enough. I'm not anal about ultra precise matching though, given my inability to count past six rows.

And promptly cast on for the second one of these. Regia Cotton Color, plain vanilla sock pattern from the Violet Green Sock Calculator. I've decided I dislike Second Sock Syndrome even more than I now dislike knitting socks on dpns so I'm going to get this one out the way. I need a mindless car project anyway. And matching this is impossible, of course, which is fine by me.

I made another Pineapple Upside Down cake in the form of an owl, because my kids decided that they liked cherries more than pineapple whereas the adults prefer the opposite. Works quite well, no?

Another couple of shots of my Colour Challenge skein, because I'm so pleased with it. The second shot shows the silk thread covered with real silver that came with the fibre. I'm supposed to work it in to the final object design, so I'm thinking of a tassel detail of some sort, or embroidery. The beads are there because I think they go well with the fibre colours. As yet though the final design has not spoken to me, so watch this space.

My beaded scarf is growing and is about ten inches long. No decent pictures though, sorry. Too driech here.

I have nearly finished the first sleeve of 3timesChic. It's a fast and easy knit but bulkier to carry round than socks so is not benefiting from the "three rows here two rows there" that accounts for sock progress. Annoyingly enough I don't think it's going to be long enough despite the fact that I'm only 5'4" and I added an extra inch already. However I've got plenty of yarn and the bottom edge will be easy enough to unravel and pick up the stitches, so I'll add on a bit more once I've got it sewn up and seen how much more I need. I do wish I'd knitted this in the round, though. Plaid is going to be a b****r to sew up. I've already ripped the shoulder cast offs and done a three needle bindoff instead.

Christmas knitting. I wasn't going to do any but my mother has asked me for a scarf. She's a very difficult person to buy presents for as they usually just end up in a drawer to be kept for "good", but the ghastly fun fur scarf I knitted her in two hours for her 2005 Christmas present has been worn and worn. (Possibly not "good" enough, lol.) So I must find something quick and fun, but not so fancy that she won't wear it, argh.
Also I have already made socks for Lad so I'd better knock something up for Little Princess otherwise there will be cries of favoratism. A hat, probably. So plan is to finish my own sock and sweater then get on with the above two objects. Only five weeks to go till Christmas!

(Bet you all just love me for mentioning that, no?)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

And the winners are.....

Okay, the judging panel (that's Little Miss Princess and myself) have deliberated at length and we have contest WINNERS!

Fibre Prize..."K", from Harmless Drudge. At first Little Miss Princess thought that the aurora borealis had something to do with Princess Arora of Disneyland fame, but once she saw the pictures she was rightfully entranced by the thought of these dancing northern lights being spun on this wheel. As was I. Lovely thought! So you win the two Ice Castle, and I hope you enjoy spinning them.

Yarn Prize...Well, here we ran into a split in the judging panel. LMP liked Rosie's suggestion of "happiness out of sunbeams" best and I was deeply taken with Corbie's suggestion of spinning "silence like that of an icy winter's night." So I think the fairest thing to do is to award two yarn prizes, okay? I fortunately have two sets of the Angels & Elephants hand dyed Shetland sock yarn, so that's one for each of you.

(So if K, Rosie and Corbie could send me their snail mail addresses to spinningfishwife AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk , I'll send out the prizes asap.)

I'd also like to give an Honorable Mention to Bezzie, for being the only person brave enough (or with a suitably eccentric sense of humour) to make the fibre-glass joke. My Hubby thought that this was the only answer possible, but as I remember the horrific fibreglass curtains my mother had back in the late sixties I can only say that it would be vile stuff to spin, sorry, and certainly not on a wheel so beautiful. So a round of applause for Bezzie as well.

And many thanks to the rest of you for participating, and the amazing answers. We enjoyed reading them. I don't think I've ever got 45 comments on a single post before! Also, I've been round as many of your blogs that I can link to (not all of you have your public blog profile button enabled) and it's been fun reading them too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ice Castle.

As promised, here's the contest prize. Incidentally given the very high standard and number of entries I've decided to give one spinning and one non-spinning prize. Spinners will win the batts, non spinners win a skein of Angels & Elephants hand-dyed 100% Shetland sock yarn, to knit socks or a scarf to keep you warm in all that snow and ice.

Spinning Fishwife's recipe for Ice Castle. (Makes 50g approx.)

1) Take a field of perfect untrodden fallen snow. (Finest white merino tops.)

2) Add a sprinkling of snowflakes (white angora from a rabbit called Snowball) and two pinches of midnight starlight. (Sapphire Angelina fibre)

3) Blend smoothly with the frost flowers of deepest winter (white mulberry silk tops) and icicles gathered from frozen mountain waterfalls. (Indigo dyed silk tops.)

4) Draft and spin to taste.

It should spin very evenly into a nice drapey soft yarn with all that silk, with a few neps for texture from the angora and a very subtle bit of sparkle from the Angelina fibre. Very easy to spin though. And the batts are as soft as kitten fur, belive me.

There's still time to put an entry into the contest. The contest closes at midnight (GMT) tonight, and Princess Mairi and I will choose the winners tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog theft...

I stole this from Chronic Knitting Syndrome's blog sidebar. (Thanks, Helen!) A MUST for knitters everywhere though be warned, it's a real time black hole once you get onto the 120 piece and above cuts.

Just a reminder that you've got till midnight on Saturday (GMT) to enter the contest. Picture of prize later today. I have to go to Ikea now to buy some new plates for Christmas dinner.

Eek, just mentioned the C-word! Shoot me! Actually I've resisted doing any Christmas preparations before December for years but it's dawned on me over the last couple that this is why I get so stressed out in December. So this year, I'm trying to get a bit more organised. At least when it comes to new plates.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie.

There's a mouse on my desk....

No, not a house mouse but a little field mouse. Theo brought it in last night for a suppertime snack but rather grumpily dropped it when I told him to. I don't like them eating their rodents in the house very much (stains the carpet), especially when I'm still up to hear the screams. I usually either flush the corpses down the loo or, if the mouse or whatever still has all its limbs and looks lively I take it over the road to the park and let it go. Ocassionally I have to kill a half-dead rodent to prevent further suffering. They don't do well minus a leg.

This one however looked intact, but very, very wet and was shivering like crazy, presumably from fear and cold. It was cold out last night however and I thought if I put such a drookit little creature outside it would die very quickly. So Mr/Ms Squeak became the first mouse to get offered emergency residential old storage jar with a muslin cloth stretched over the top. And a teaspoonful of muesli for dinner.

Poor little sod just sat for the first twenty minutes amd shivered, until it dawned on thicko here s/he needed a bit more than a cold glass jar to warm up. So mousie got presented with a luxurious bed of drum carder cleanings (silk/merino, no less!) and the jar went through into the cupboard where I keep the freezer, where it gets warm enough to proove the bread.

This morning? Bright as a button. I have the jar on my desk now and Squeak is looking nice and fluffy after a lengthy preening session. S/he is sitting eating a raisin.

"Time to go home, Squeak? Back to the park? Keep away from the big bad cat from now time, you might not be so lucky."

(Yea, I'm a softie. Especially when it comes to wee furry things.)

PS. Thanks for all the Competition entries! I think this must be my record for comments so far. Still time to enter though, up until midnight GMT on Saturday. Winners will be judged by my six year old princess and myself. There'a been some wonderful stories and some equally great short but beautiful suggestions, so keep them coming. And I've blended up a beautiful batt of spinning fibre for the winner, with an alternative prize for these of you that don't spin. (Yet.) Pix tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spinning with glass.

This is beauty....

It's from here, by a designer called Andy Paiko. You can click through several pictures of the wheel, and he has other amazing glass objects.

But the wheel is the best. (I would say that, no?) He says you can spin on it, but I'd be terrified to try! Nope, this wheel should be used by a beautiful princess with silver gilt hair down to her knees, wearing a white dress embroidered with silver threads and crystal. In the top chamber of a tower made of ice, of course. On the other hand, I'd give it a go if he would let me. What would you spin on a wheel like this?

Yeah, go on, we'll make it a competition, okay?

What would you spin if you were allowed to try this wheel? Spinners and non-spinners alike may enter and suggestions can be as fantastic as you like. Unicorn fibre blended with moonbeams or whatever!

I'll try to find a suitable prize for whoever wins, but it will be a choice of either fibre (a specially created batt of something fabulous) or something knitting-related. Winner to be judged by my own six year old Princess and myself. Answers in the comments before midnight (GMT) of Saturday 17th.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Spinning Tuesday.

Tuesday is my day for going to the Haddington Spinners. Today was a bit different though, as I took thereyougothen to for a little convalescent therapy. I'm not 100% sure that she went with the intention of learning to spin, but when she was handed the spare Ashford Traditional she got stuck in with good grace and produced a very jazzy mini-skein of designer yarn very quickly. I don't think she thought it was particularly impressive as yarn goes but belive me, I've seen considerably worse from spinners that have been spinning for months, not just one hour.

No pix, unfortunately. Forgot the camera.

I manage to spin about ten yards of the Aspen merino-tencel but the rest of the time I was either gossiping or doing a little remedial surgery on a pair of socks another member had fallen afoul of. I'm pleased to report, btw, that I've made three sock-knitting converts this term alone and as thereyougothen was also sitting knitting her maiden sock for a while, I'm going to claim her as well since I gave her the Opal pattern to get her started, lol. New spinner AND new sock knitter, yeah!

Rest of the day was spent rushing around for shopping and a meeting at the school. I'm typing this in the brief moments between getting the kids home and getting them to do homework, make their tea and get myself out to diet class. Oho yes, I'm still going to diet class. I may have spent the last three months or so circling around the same couple of pounds, but at least regular attendence at class means I'm not putting the flab back on. I need a bit of motivation to get back onto the True Path, though.

(After Christmas.)

Monday, November 12, 2007


Yvette asked me why I had the sewing machine out.

It was for this sorry object, which normally lives in the lounge with a tartan blanket over it so that I can put my feet up when I knit.

It's a well made old thing though and I've owned it for aeons, so have been intending to take it to upholstery classes one day. However Hubby loathes it. A quick fix was required.

I found this in the Scrap Store last week. They had a newly arrived consignment of mill ends and I bought this piece of really fabulously high quality all wool tartan for 50p. It's actually quite a bit darker than the pictures show, btw. Usual problem of not enough natural daylight and having to use flash.

Bit of glueing required, to cure the shoogles. Rowan Cotton Glace to hold the legs in place while the glue dries.

A rare sighting of this shy item. I don't iron (seriously, I DON'T IRON) but I firmly belive in "Sew the seam, press the seam". Good pressing and pins save hours of tacking time, IMHO, and the finish is 100% better. This is me pressing the fold and sewing lines into the fabric. It turned out during this process that not only was the tartan piece a tad off grain there was also a weaving error in one of the checks. Well, what do you expect for 50p? And it was a mill sample, after all.

Secret weapon.

Hiding a multitude of sins. Nope, I didn't take the old cover and padding off. I'll do that at upholstery class one day. This is a quick fix, remember?

Yeah, it fits first time! Amazing! (Or could it be because I measured the thing????)


And nearly Finished Object.

Bit of an improvement, no?

Actually, it's not finished because I still have to put an underlining piece in place. I stopped here though because I was a bit unhappy with the staples. The staple gun above is a cheap and nasty one from B&Q, but I have a heavier one at the allotment, and will change the stapling I think. In the meantime I've sewn the corners of the flaps in place. It's pretty sturdy. What's the likelyhood I never do go to the upholstery class now?

PS. With optional accessory.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Umm...what is this, and what is it doing on my blog?????

Yeah, it's the sewing machine, and it's just been brought out, dusted down and plonked on a side table, ready to use. And you know what? I don't like it much.

I bought this about four years ago when my old Jones bit the dust. I loved my old Jones. My mum bought it for me after I got good results for my Higher exams, back in 1975, and it did me proud for 28 years and two new motors. Before that I had an old Singer treadle which my parents had bought me when I was eleven and showing signs of becoming a competent seamstress, but the Jones was my best machine. I remember my mum and I making a special trip to Patrick Thompsons in Edinburgh for it, in the days when fabrics and haberdashery occupied the prime selling space on the ground floor. The sales assistant couldn't at first belive we wanted a nearly top of the range machine for a 16 year old, but eventually we chose one...then my mum decided we'd just better pay the extra and buy the next one up, top of the range. It cost £135 back in 1975 plus £30 for the sewing cabinet, a bloomin' fortune then. Worth every penny.

Now I have this imposter. I just wanted something I could do the odd bit of sewing on because I had no time and nowhere to leave it set up permenantly anywhere, and we all know what a drag that is. It's a good enough machine and can do just about everything I need's not my Jones. It feels lightweight and tacky compared to the great lumps of metal that machines were in the 70's. It threads up a different way. It's got a free arm, which Jones never had, but then again Jones used to fit into a proper sewing cabinet so I had this huge flat bed for sewing. I miss that. Now I have to sew with this perched up on a table. It's too high. It's just wrong.......

Better thoughts...this is the final result for the Guild Fibre Challenge. We swapped fibre with another spinner in the guild, and were supposed to feel challenged by spinning something out of our usual range fibres. This didn't quite work in my case as I recieved the sort of fibres that I do like spinning with, but never mind. This is from a drum carded batt of mixed silk roving, merino and a tiny bit of hand-dyed Shetland, for texture.


And plyed. 280 yards from 50g of fibre, so light fingering weight I suppose.

Nice and bouncy, but with good drape from all that silk. Another beaded scarf?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Object of desire....

To see this is to want it.....

What is it? Click here and all will be revealed. Unfortunately, it's already sold.

There was another one and a plain one on US Ebay recently too.

I never knew sewing machines with cabinets like these existed before today. Gorgeous, no? I want one like this, so I do, preciousesss. I used to have a beloved old Singer treadle in an ordinary cabinet, but nothing like the top beauty. The plainer one is nice, but why not go for the full-on bling? And look the skirt guards, so you don't get your posh petticoats stuck in the nasty grubby drive wheel!

PS. Just found another one, and though plain it's at least in the same country. Anyone likely to be up in Fraserburgh from Edinburgh next week? With a big car?????

Friday, November 09, 2007


Okay, I bet you didn't even notice the space-time continuum warp just there, did you? Thanks, Ceallach!

Well, on with Friday then. What have I been doing? Spinning like a dervish, that's what. The local spinning Guild meets the third Saturday of every month, yup? Yup.....apart from November and December, when it all goes a bit funny. So as I discovered on Monday, the Guild meeting is tomorrow, and I hadn't finished spinning my Colour Challenge fibre, oops....

Here's the fibre....

Which is from a drum carded batt I made from these fibres.

Firts comment here is just observe how the availible light changes the colours in a photograph, as if we didn't know. The first was taken on my desk a few weeks back, in front of a very big window on a sunny day, with a fluorescent lamp on to balance the shadows, the fluorescent light option on my camera switched on and a white balance taken. Just compare to the second picture, which was taken eight weeks ago on the garden bench, natural daylight, overcast day and auto-everything on the camera. Just shows how much the reds shift in the first pix, no? That roving is sitting on a supposedly white sheet of paper.

It carded up into a very nice batt, very soft due to the merino and other fine dyed wools and with a lot of texture due to the silk roving and also some coarser pale green Shetland (?) which is providing some lovely little nubbs. I am on my last ten grams or so of the second bobbin of singles and I'd better get my butt in gear over spinning the rest and plying it because as I said I need to show this skein at Guild tomorrow. And I'll need to get it washed and dried as well, oops. Think I'll manage?

I'm also part way through spinning the Spunky Eclectic Fiber Club October fibre which is an interesting Romney wool dyed in a colourway called Goblin Eyes. I'm trying to spin this as a possibly aran weight thick and thin slubbed two-ply, but I'm struggling. Like most spinners I started off doing this type of spinning really well, then I got gradually thinner and thinner till now I have real problems making anything other than fine fingering yarns. However as I'm spinning the September fibre (Merino Tencel, colourway "Aspen") as a sockweight yarn, I thought I would try something different with the Goblin Eyes. To be frank I'm not enjoying this feels like spinning hair, though the singles are soft enough.

I've not finished the September Club fibre either, but no rush there.

I do like the Spunky Fiber Club. If you look back through the blog, there's some really fabulous fibres and colourways and it's very exciting to get the parcels in the post. (I keep looking at her Sock Club too, but...well, budget constraints!)

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Well, yesterday it took me a bit more than half an hour to get Mairi's room even semi-presentable. More like two hours, in fact. I came out with two huge black bags of rubbish, an Ikea blue bag filled to the brim with outgrown toys for the charity shop, a box of toys to be put up in the attic in case she misses them (if not, they go to the charity shop in three months) and a box of toys which have been downgraded to garden toys ie I don't care if they get manky out there, they can get binned.

In fact I took out a lot of excess. So why is it her room looks no emptier???

It does look a bit more organised, I suppose. And one of the best things about sorting toys out again is when you reunite sets of things, they can look fresh and interesting again. Last night both kids (Duncan is eleven, you understand) spent two hours playing tea parties in her room, just because I'd found all the plastic sandwich ingerdients that velcro together to make play picnics. It was cute.

Similarly, I also made a determined effort to locate all the bags of yarn and fibre stash which has been squirreled away in the attic for some time, as protection against the builders. It was interesting to find some things that I'd forgotten about, like the two packs of Debbie Bliss Merino DK which I had obviously found on sale somewhere, since it was priced at 50p per ball. And four packs of Rowan Linen Print which had come out the 1p per gram Yarn Mountain at the Knitting and Crochet Guild, one SkipNorth. Ohh, the guilt free joys of stash shopping, lol! Lots of fibre too, especially plain rovings in a rainbow of colours from Wingham Wool Work. And little fancy bits of this and that. Enough to keep me happy on the drum carder for some months...up till next SkipNorth, in fact...

(Memo to self: Must get some of the above photographed, and on Ravelry.)

There were also several bags of old raw fleece. Now when I first started to spin I was pretty indiscriminate about fleeces and used to buy vast quantities of this and that for not a lot from Ebay. Of course then I didn't really have time to wash it all, let alone spin it, so I shoved it up into the attic where it hung around like the proverbial skeleton. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not an oatmeal fibre girl, I like colour and a bit of glitz in my handspun! And also, there's quite a lot of variability in temperature in my attic, ranging from sub-zero in the winter to sweltering hot in August. This has done the fleeces no good at fact the words "rancid", "sweaty" and "felted" come into my thoughts here. Fortunately I didn't pay very much for any of this, so I've decided to cut my losses, compost the lot and free up both space and gulit factor.

(And no, it's not worth asking for it. If it was good stuff I just wanted to get rid of then of course I'd be delighted to offer it out, but trust me, no-one wants this old crap.)

Anyway, now that I can actually see the toy shelves in Mairi's bedroom I'm off to do another round in there this morning. Target today is to remove at least 10% of her outgrown toys, if not 20%. Cruel? No, I don't think so. It can get to a point that there's so much clutter in a child's bedroom that they can't see most of what they own, or it's too difficult to get to or there's simply no room to get things out to play. Also there's no free storage space in there at the moment and she got a big hit of new stuff on her birthday last month with no-where to put them, let alone the Christmas gifts she'll get.

Update on the Storecupboard Challenge. It's going well. This is Day 7 and I've actually had quite a lot of fun with this. I've made some very nice meals that have been appreciated, I've spent about half my usual housekeeping budget this week and the cupboards are actually starting to look a bit emptier. Plenty more for next week though.

Today's menu is...

Split Pea and Ham soup with Sunflower Seed and Honey Bread. This is a main course soup, trust me. I'm very good at soups like this.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake. (From the Be-Ro book of course!)

I was a bit surprised to find not one but five tins of pineapple in the pantry, considering it's not something we eat very much. Bit like the four tins of sardines in tomato sauce, I expect. Even the cats don't much like these latter tins, unless I rinse off every trace of tomato.

Edit: Came back to post a picture of the Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Got to keep up the Yarnstorm side, no!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

To date.

Mixed day today...combination of housework (urgh), fibre (maybe) and dejunking.

I did think I might go to the allotment today, but when I got up and looked round the shambles I decided I'd better shift some of it first. The layer of mess had managed to penetrate to every room, so I had a choice here...either retreat to the study with a cup of tea and feel overwhelmed, or use the FlyLady method of setting a timer and doing it ten minutes at a time. I'm not a total FlyLady fan, but this is one method that works for me. It's actually quite amazing how much you can do in ten minutes, if you really go for it.

So the kitchen has had its ten minutes...cooker cleaned, surfaces wiped down and the remains of the washing up (Hubby never quite manages 100% of the washing up) stacked ready to do after I've made lunch. Living room has had the clean laundry folded and put away, shopping from last night put away too, cat tray emptied, videos sorted and put into correct boxes and while I was doing this I sorted out a large bagful of old videos to go to the charity shop. That took 2 x 10 minutes sessions, but I count the second as dejunking, not housework.

Next stop Mairi's bedroom, which is always depressing, ick. She's a real horder of small things and they can develop into a landslide very easily. Plus she's only six, so not that great at tidying. Think I might need 3x 10 minutes there, including dejunking. Actually, sometimes I feel I need a bulldozer in there.

And after that (and laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning the bathroom and taking the rubbish out) I'll have the remains of the day free to laze around, ho ho. Until 2.40pm and school pick up, that is. I might get a few yards of spinning done? I just realised that spinning Guild is this coming Saturday, not next, which is unfortunate because I haven't completed my Fibre Challenge (will tell you about this when I've finished) or finished preparing my short tutorial on "Your Favourite Hand Made Xmas Ornament, and How To Make It". I might of course slot this in somewhere between kids coming home, homework, teatime and Parents Night at school, which is tonight, haha. Maybe....

And my Hubby comes out with comments like "You've got all day to yourself...why are you always moaning you don't have time?" Bah. Would like to see him do all this in a day.

Where's my timer gone....?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I had a request for my crumble topping recipe from Woolywoman. And a query "What is crumble?" from an anonymous poster. Am I to take it from this crumble is either unknown or (more likely) called something else over the Atlantic?

Anyhow, Fruit Crumble recipe, adapted from the venerable Be-Ro Flour Home Recipes, 40th Edition.

500g g (16 oz) fruit (cooking apples, rhubarb, gooseberries, brambles or similar.)
Sugar to taste, for sweetening above. I like quite a tart fruit layer, to contrast with the sweet topping.
50 g (2 oz) margarine
100 g (4 oz) wholemeal flour
50 g (2 oz) sugar
75g (3oz)pinhead oatmeal.

(Sorry, I never got my head round US measurements.)

1 Heat oven to 190ºC, 375ºF, Gas Mark 5.
2 Place prepared sweetened chopped fruit shallow ovenproof dish.
3 Rub fat into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
4 Add sugar and pinhead oatmeal, mix thoroughly and spread evenly over the fruit.
5 Bake for about 30 minutes until fruit is cooked and top is golden.

Hope you like it. It's best served with custard. Very traditional pudding!

Talking of traditional, I'm amazed and pleased to discover the Be-Ro recipe book online. This too is one of these old-fashioned things that a great many of us here will remember from way back. The little Be-ro recipe books were sold in the grocers shops alongside their flours for sixpence or a shilling back in my childhood (I'm 49) or you sent away for them enclosing a stamp and three coupons from the back of the packet. I learned to bake out of one of these back in the 60's when I lived in India and Turkey. It was an interesting contrast to be turning out Drop Scones and Bakewell Pudding in scorching heat! Plus I think every home made birthday cake any of my family has ever had came from one or the other Be-ro book.

I lost mine a few years ago but wrested one of my mother's two copies from her. The 25th edition, if I recall...she's keeping the older one till she dies, she says. This is her older one, the one I remember from my childhood. (Image courtesy of the Be-Ro website.)

And here are all the others.We're still on the 40th edition, it seems, which is the one I currently have. I found it on sale in a supermarket in Wales six or seven years back. I was thrilled! Of course, all you still need to do is buy two bags of their flour and send the coupon off, but this simple method hadn't occurred to me. So mum got her 25th Aniversary Edition back, lol.

It's funny to see it on-line, belive me, because it's such a strong childhood memory for me. Of course Be-Ro flour is still a market leader and this is the 21st century, so why not? Thanks for reminding me of all this though, Woolywoman. :-)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Today is Monday.

Monday is usually Housework Day, after the ravages of the family all being home over the weekend. However as Dad & Lad were out on Saturday I got a few chores done then, and as such had time this morning to catch up with a few other outstanding things.

Such as Ebay. I'm not a regular Ebay seller, but I do like a clear out for money every so often. I have a few books and yarns I want to list today and they'll be up tonight( under seller name dmc.hodge, if anyone is that interested) but there's also a huge heap of toys and such sorted out in the attic, just waiting for me to take pictures of them and list them. It doesn't make sense for me to carry everything down from the attic, take pictures then return it all up there, so I have rigged a studio area upstairs too. Plenty of space and the light is good. Plus it ensures that the kids don't decide that they want the toys they outgrew a couple of years ago returned to them!

Studio area....

It's not exactly hi-tech, and I may refine things a bit by (a) ironing (!!!!!) that piece of curtain lining and (b) stapling it to the window frame a bit higher, but it's good enough to give me a picture as sharp as this one without using flash or having to fiddle the light balance via Photoshop. For November in Scotland that's really very good.

So for the last hour I've been taking pictures of toys. Mostly Playmobil. Did I ever mention that I collect vintage Playmobil? Over the course of several years I've amassed one heck of a lot of really rare collectable items, as well of course the vast Playmo swamp that the kids own. Now is time to get rid of some of the duplicates.

(Hmm, might write more about my sad toy collecting habits another day. I'm sure you'll all really enjpoy that!)

On the domestic front I'm pleased to report that the Storecupboard Challenge is going well, and in fact last night's casserole was one of the best I've made in ages. We adults will finish it off tonight, and the kids will have their all-time favourite of Egg and Bacon Rice with Peas, made with a very frosty looking pack of lardons I discovered in the freezer and some of the rice mountain.

Of course, another big bonus of using up all your surplus food is that your grocery bill plummets. I'm hoping that between a month of this and a good solid bit of Ebaying I'll not only be able to cover my SkipNorth costs, I'll put a big dent into the cost of Woolfest next year too, and some left over for family treats. I just paid for four Christmas panto tickets to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh, and also tickets for Mairi and me to see Sleeping Beauty at the Scottish Ballet in the New Year. (This last she will LOVE...can't wait to see her face!) But tickets for this sort of thing are seriously expensive, alas. I need some spare cash!

Back to the attic.......

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Today I'm going to talk about my storecupboard. "Zzzzzzzz" I can hear you all go, but it IS National Blog Posting Month, folk, and I just don't knit that fast! Plus, Of course, I'm on the Store Cupboard Challenge, which will be one of my themes (NatBloPOMo suggests you have themes, so you don't run out of ideas to talk about.)

Now my actual dry goods storecupboard isn't one of these pathetic fitted chipboard thingies that make up fitted kitchens. My storecupboard is a humungous old piece of furniture, officially known as a Housekeepers Pantry.

Nice old piece of antique pine, seven feet across and at least eight feet high. No, it's not built in, it just matches the tongue and grooving very well. The upper cupboard shelves are deep enough to lay wine bottles on their sides pointing out, and the drawers can accomodate things like baking bowls and attachments for my old Kenwood. It was such a tight fit getting it through the doorway that we had to take the carpet kickbar off the doorway, to give us that last inch needed. Yes, it comes apart into two sections but it's bigger than most average modern house kitchens, at least when it comes to storage space.

It's a family piece too. My late father in law bought it at least forty years ago, second hand of course, and my first memory of it is in the kitchen of his family house. My FIL had a storecupboard overflow habit too, btw, and I remember at least one shelf being completely filled with tins of tomatoes and tuna fish. It went to my sister in laws house after he died, because we didn't have a wall big enough for it in our house at the time. When she became ill and started sorting out her affairs, as they say, she asked me if there was anything I particularly wanted from her estate. I think she expected me to ask for a piece of jewelry or one of her very pukka pieces of artwork, but I wanted the old pantry. Family piece, after all, and it's got history. After it arrived here, Hubby showed me the place he had scratched his name into it when he was little, much to the wrath of his mother!

Okay, contents. I keep china and crystal in the left hand cupboard, table linen and baking utensils etc in four of the drawers, the kids' craft stuff in one drawer and the final one is filled with random kitchenalia, like rolls of plastic bags, string, jam pot labels etc. Stuff. Which leaves "just" the right hand cupboard as the actual pantry/storecupbard.

Ahem. I'm obviously carrying on the great family hoarding tradition here, no? Siege-R-Us.

So you can tell now why I need a little clear-out, yes? Half of this stash of food is made up of regularly used and replaced items, but the other half is ...well, impulse/luxury/gawdknowswhybuys. This is what I'm aiming to use up over the next two or three weeks. And you haven't even seen the freezers. Yes, two freezers. Both stuffed to the gunnels.

Anyhow, yesterday I made....(dinners only, lunch was on the hoof).

Kids dinner menu. "Fresh" tortellini and tomato sauce (found in depths of freezer) and jelly. I have a lot of jelly. Jelly here, btw for the USA peeps, is a dessert like Jell-O.

Adults: Bubble n' Squeak made from the remnants of last nights mashed potatoes and cabbage, plus some bacon bits out the freezer. Apple crumble with oaty topping (there's a small landslide of pinhead oatmeal in the pantry) plus custard.

Today's dinner menu....

Casserole made from pack of venison and pack of stewing beef from freezer, with mushrooms, carrots, green pepper, garlic and onions, tin of tomatoes and a jar of exotic mixed mushrooms in oil out the pantry. (I have four of these left...they must have been on special offer somewhere. Any ideas for the rest?) I put some waxy potatoes and paprika in here as well, as I was working to a vaguely Spanish idea of a casserole. Remains of crumble, or ice cream.

I have to add here that the freezer level has not dropped one inch, alas. I'm keeping to the rules of not buying anything but the listed essentials, but when I was in Asda yesterday I came across one of these offers that I can't resist. Four-packs of Nestle "Fruit Cruch" ice cream bars, yummy raspberry ripple ice-cream with a yoghurt and oat coating.....not only were they greatly reduced, the multi-buy of 4-for-£* kicked in in such a way that every time you bought four packs, Asda gave you £2 to carry them out the store, rather than the other way round. Which is why I ended up buying 16 packs, and now have 64 (!)ice-cream bars cluttering up my freezer. £8($16) off my shopping and 64 free ice cream bars? Bargain!

(But not for long. Did I mention they are delicious? )