Friday, August 29, 2008

Lacey inspirations

There is a bit of a panic on chez Roobeedoo, because my knitting has ground to a halt and I don't want Aunty C. to come back from holiday and preview her gloves on the blog - I need to get them finished and in the post! It didn't help that I realised I had picked up the stitches for the arms inside out. On both gloves. Duh!

I came up with the clever ruse of turning the cuffs over instead of sewing them up with fake bead buttons - very Regency I think! FL and my daughter couldn't see the difference between inside and outside ... but they aren't fashionistas like Aunty C! I may just leave it up to her to "style" them as she sees fit.

So that's my weekend plan: lots and lots of knitting!
I have also been thinking about autumn, and lace is definitely embedded in my brain. I think the Shetland Lace Triangle's (Ravelry link) time may have come!

And I am feeling inspired by the idea of embroidering lace, which I spotted in a couple of Japanese books at Simply Pretty's ebay store. No definite plan for this yet, but I think it looks lovely.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First long long lacy

Aunty C. is safely on the other side of the world in Japan on holiday (oooh!), so I can show you the first completed long long lacy glove.

It will be an added incentive to finish the pair before she returns!

It’s a really easy pattern once you get past the cuff, which I found quite challenging at first. That felt like “proper” lace knitting. Who knows, I might be ready for the Shetland Lace Triangle next!

I love the colour, although she wanted “dark purple or black”. Um, yes. This was called “midnight” on the website so I expected something darker. Although the pictures are coming out the right shade, it seems lighter in real life. It is a cashmere / merino mix and is so very soft. I think she will still like them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

She got what she sought

This is the haul from my kitchen garden last Sunday: golden beetroot, ordinary beetroot (tiny!), round courgettes, broad beans and gooseberries. The golden beetroot were a revelation: baked in foil in the oven, the skin rubbed off easily to leave a vibrant delicious root - mmm!

I have almost finished the first long long lacy glove. Pictures soon, because Aunty C is away in Japan and won't be checking my blog!

I have also been deep in the archives, researching very local history. Yesterday I found a fantastic account of a 1704 divorce case to rival the more recent Heather Mills / Paul McCartney debacle. I didn't think they "did" divorce in 1704, but believe me, nothing much has changed in 300 years!

The female was described by the writer as "bred to wigmaking", bringing no "position" to the marriage. She "showed her gratitude" by applying for a divorce "on the most frivolous grounds" of her husband's "Inactivity and Carelessness". When the aliment granted was not high enough, she pleaded that she had 3 daughters to support: "at the same time clamouring and crying out that [her husband] was the most profligate and wicked wretch upon earth, and none of these alleged being contradicted, she got what she sought." Wow! I do feel quite sorry for the man, who appears to have been a gentle dreamy soul who collected fiddle music manuscripts and wrote poetry. She, on the other hand, was a fierce business-woman who managed to run up huge debts in his name and continued collecting rent from tenants after selling the land to someone else! The said tenants almost certainly included the people who lived on my farm, who were in "Double Distress" as a result, with debts recorded against TWO landlords. What a mess! I am looking forward to reading the husband's essay on "The state of marriage today", written in the year of his divorce!

The purpose of me reading this document was to discover the source of my Australian lady's ancestor's legacy. I haven't found it yet, but there are lots of clues. If nothing else, it has uncovered the web of debts against property which were sold off to others in return for relief against other debts. (The equivalent of using credit cards to pay off credit cards!) Every time a supposed land-owner died, it took YEARS to sort out their financial affairs and establish who actually owned the land and pay off their outstanding debts. Only then could their successors receive their inheritances.

Back to the archive at lunchtime today to find out what happened next!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Adrian Sudbury

Adrian Sudbury, aka "Baldy" has died.

It will be difficult to break the news to FL, who asks me for a daily update on all our bloggy comrades in the fight against cancers of the blood / bone marrow. One down.

You can read more here about the amazing campaign that Adrian began in the final weeks of his life. He won't be forgotten.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to school

So that’s it – the summer is officially over as the kids went back to school today. New shoes. Name tags. Lost timetable. Unfinished homework. What a lovely evening it was!

That’s both of them at secondary school now! Gulp.

While they were away in London visiting their dad, I made over my daughter’s room ready for being at “the Academy”. Gone are the “high bed” and the pale yellow walls, and the collection of “Groovy Girl” rag dolls (I love those dolls! They have been packed away for a future generation.). We agreed on a sunny-sky “greek blue” pigment, because really we are not quite ready for goth purple walls at age 12. Really. And we had a carpet laid last week – which is goth purple! And I splashed out on a gorgeous Monsoon duvet cover which is deep red, purple and turquoise. And dyed her old curtains from yellow with red tulips to turquoise with purple tulips. And brought a table upstairs to use as a desk. The room is transformed!

And of course we needed a new pencil case, because what is a new term without a new pencil case?

And a little pouch for carrying essential girls’ bits and pieces. Not that she needs them yet, but we believe in being prepared! I wish I had had one of these at school. The ignominy of trying to hide things up your sleeve and asking to be excused….you know what I mean?

The pencil case and pouch are both from WatanWatan at Etsy. Thanks Kyoko!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Flower garden sock

Here is my first Fyberspates self-striping sock club sock.

The colour is "Flower Garden" and I used the "Spring Forward" pattern from Knitty.

I love the colours! As you can see it became a more definite stripe towards the toe. At the top it is a much more gradual and subtle blend of colours. It will be SO interesting to see how the second one turns out.

But I got distracted by another project at the weekend.

The kids' Aunty C. sent me a big bag of yarn. Not just any old yarn. It's all from Hip Knits, because Aunty C. did some work for Kerrie a while back. Woo hoo! Lots of new things to play with: camel, cashmere, silk, sari silk - yum yum yum! Expect to see some dinky scarves and fingerless mittens and the odd hat, on a screen near you - coming soon!

But that's not for today. I offered to knit Aunty C. a thank you gift, and she opted for long long lacy fingerless gloves - oooh! I knew just the pattern to use! I'll give the Ravelry link in case she is visiting the blog: here they are! Nice, huh?!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The pauper and the stocking knitter

You might remember I was helping an Australian lady with her family tree? Her ancestors lived on our farm.

Yesterday I struck gold, with the discovery that the 1841 and 1851 censuses had been fully transcribed for Aberdeenshire, and were available to search, free of charge, online.

I confirmed that her ancestors were here in 1841, and had moved away (but not far) by 1851.
And then I started exploring, looking at the neighbouring households. Oh my! The realities of life in those times came crashing home. Back then, there were two farmhouses, each containing large families, their labourers and even household servants. There was a 12 year-old boy working here as a farm servant, while the farmer’s children went to school.
But… there were two other separate households here. An unmarried mother of 47 lived here with her 6 year-old son. Where? Not in the main house (already full to the brim with seven children and a servant!) and not in the Bothy (where the labourers lived). Our conclusion is that she lived above the stables. If you saw the stables now, you might think she was fortunate. Actually, I would love to live there – it is “an exclusive steading development” now! But then? It would have been a cold, draughty stone loft space, with animals living below. Her son is described as a “scholar” so someone gave them a rough roof over their heads and paid for the boy to attend school.
I went back to search the 1841 census, to find out where she came from. And there she was: Sarah M. occupation: “stocking knitter”, living with another young woman in the village, next door to a family with the same surname. Stocking knitter! I felt quite emotional when I read this!
But that’s not all. The next “household” in 1841 is described as “Hill of C.”. Hill of? We got out the old map, looking for a house on the hill. And realised that it must have been the small structure at the edge of the Wood, which we had assumed was a woodcutter’s shed. There are just a few stones there now, hard to believe it was ever much of a place to live. The inhabitant was a 60 year-old woman, described as “pauper”. Who was she? What sort of a life did she lead on a remote windswept hill? I suppose she had firewood, and presumably caught rabbits to eat, but other than that? I can only assume that the farmer and his wife were good people, taking in local waifs and strays. By 1851, the pauper has disappeared from the record. Dead? But I need to find out more.
Sad, sad stories, pieced together from a few scraps of evidence.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jam and a Rural Art Installation

As well as the veg crops in my garden, I am lucky enough to have several large patches of wild raspberries at the edge of the Top Field.

FL tells me that our neighbours to the south used to be raspberry-growers by trade and that these bushes are self-seeded descendants, blown over the wall. I didn't know raspberries did this, but who am I to argue?

Nowadays, the neighbour's field is full of wistful-looking cows, watching as my daughter and I pick box after box of juicy fruits.

We made a big batch of jam at the weekend - we had to stop when I ran out of jars. Raspberry crumble anyone?

Other local news: there has been a mysterious Happening (as in "1960's live art experience") at the end of our road. Remember, we live in the middle of nowhere...? Well a week or so ago I drove down the farm road, onto the "main" single-track road (it's not even a "B" road!) and there, in the deepest pothole puddle, was a tiny flourescent yellow rubber duckie - aw bless! It was there for a few days and then it disappeared. A few days later it returned. And then it was gone again.
Then last night,as I drove home, I came across THIS! (Click to enlarge photo and read the sign). I didn't do it! My children didn't do it. Cars do not randomly drive along this road! So we are putting it down to Hit and Run Street Art. You city dwellers have painted potatoes on top of bus shelters? Well, we have Rubber Duckie! Sadly, Mother Duck was gone this morning...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crosswalkers and new dye job

I finished the Crosswalker socks for FL - hooray!

A late birthday present, these were due in June!

OnLine Supersocke 100 Sport Color (again!) on size 2.25mm needles. I broke another two Brittany birches in the process. This seems to be my favourite needle size, so I am going to have to invest in some stronger dpns. The bias stitch pattern makes them quite err... snug to pull on, but they fit really well once they are on and FL hasn’t stopped chuckling since. They are definitely fun socks for a man! The chevron is quite subtle on the leg – more obvious on the foot. I love the colours in this yarn – midnight blue, bitter chocolate and a dash of metrosexual brights for sartorial flair!

My Fyberspates self-striping sock club yarn arrived that same day. There was no question of burying it in the stash. I started winding the ball straightaway. The colour is called “Flower Garden” and varies from deep foxglove pinky purple through to a zinging lime leaf green, on a BFL base. My second-ever socks were knit in Fyberspates’ “Foxglove” and comparing that to this yarn I can really see the evolution of Jen’s dye-ing. I love my Foxglove Jaywalkers, but this colourway is so much more subtle, rich and glowing – mmmm!

And what have I been reading?! So many blog acquaintances have been talking about this book, that I had to give it a go. It is part one of a series of 4. I spent the first 300 or so pages being simultaneously irritated and intrigued. I honestly thought the main female must be about 14, but as she drives a truck I suppose she must be a bit older. 300 suffocating pages describe her obsessive love for the icily beautiful male. Then we have a Quidditch scene (no, not really) and an episode of "Buffy" (yes, really) and we are set up for the sequel. Which I will probably reserve from the library. Sigh. Sucked in.

I much preferred the audio-book of Northanger Abbey! Now that was a real eye-opener! I loved Ms Austen's pastiche of the Gothic Novel (the laundry inventory - fabulous!) and there was an astonishingly modern-sounding quote about how everyone lives their lives in the public eye "nowadays", the newspapers know everything, and that dark secrets are impossible to keep. I can see the A-level literature paper now: "Discuss"!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Blouse success

Thanks to the advice of my friendly blog-readers, my blouse is a success!

Careful basting, using small stitches, held the sleeve cap gathers in place for pain-free machine-stitching. Listen to your sewing teachers, girls!

I decided to use elastic in the lower bobbin for two rows of shirring at the upper arm, rather than making a casing for wider elastic to thread through. This was due to unfortunate memories of a certain pink satin party dress which bit into my chubby childhood upper arms (aged 8), leaving nasty red weals - not a good look! This alternative is altogether more delicate and is certainly a lot more comfortable!

The buttonholes went smoothly - as I took extra care to read the instructions for my sewing machine and realised that there was no need to turn the fabric at all -the machine does all the work! That's what went wrong with the duvet cover buttonholes - duh!

My only remaining caveat to to other sewers of this pattern: make sure you check your size carefully. It is a very close-fitting blouse. Much neater than anything else I have ever sewn or worn. If I were to make it again, I think I would go a size up, to allow for dessert. It is also quite short. Fabulous with 1940's-style high-waisted wide-legged trousers, but absolutely NOT suitable for low-slung jeans, unless you are a braver lass than me!

In summary: go for it!

Friday, August 08, 2008

UK Swap parcel

I have been holding off posting this until I sent off my package.

Lookee lookee! I received the most splendidly extravagant parcel in the UK Swap! It came from Ceri over at Carpe Dyem. Someone was having a laugh matching us up with a pseudonym like that, eh Roo?!

As FL remarked, it was like Christmas morning when I opened the box. Every item was beautifully wrapped in black tissue paper and every packet was more exciting than the one before! I don’t know how Ceri managed to stick to the budget – I suspect she didn’t.

Inside there was:

A ball of Noro sock yarn!
A ball of Peaches and Cream!
A HUGE skein of hand-dyed purple soft and squishy fingering-weight wool!
Audiobooks of Jane Austen novels (for the theme)!
A shawl pin!
Lots of chocolate!
Lady Grey tea!
Point protectors!
A Peter Rabbit card!

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this was the perfect package. It ticked all the boxes on my wish list. I keep picking up the purple yarn and hugging it. I am thinking it needs to be something bigger than socks. I am thinking Maude from the Inside Loop. Because Maude has that “Miss Austen” edge, somehow.

I have been too busy to sit down and enjoy the full Carpe Dyem ritual experience. This weekend! A cup of tea, some chocolate and cast on for Maude while listening to an audio book – ooooh!

Ceri – thank you SO MUCH! Words fail me.

And to my downstream swap partner- it’s on its way!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Arte y Pico

Ambermoggie has named me as a winner of the Arte Y Pico award - crikey! Thanks Amber!


1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y pico" blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.
Passing on the award, I nominate:
A Mingled Yarn for her inspiring approach to stitchery and literature - especially during her pregnancy. Lots of great ideas for baby-gifts!
Needled for her sheer intelligence, wit and needlework skills, plus Scottish interest!
Roo Knits for her sunny approach to knitting and crochet, and her enthusiasm for trying new things. Reading her blog usually makes me smile a lot!
Bryony because she and I seem to go "Snap!" so often that I think we are sock twins separated in the wash - and she knits darned good socks too!
And Good Knits Road for the strength of her vision. I look at her blog, and think "That is just so YOU!" It is very much a knitting blog, and she says very little about other aspects of her life (as far as I can tell - she writes in Finnish!) but I feel I would recognise in a crowded room by her projects. A real individual style!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In the garden

There have been lots of references to my herb garden this summer.

I started work on this garden three years ago. I weeded and I weeded and I planted a little and was still left with a patch of scrubland covered in weeds. The neighbours complained that they could see weeds out of their bedroom window. I told them that I was doing my best. They informed me that I lacked respect for them. Scuse me? Whose farm is this exactly?!

Anyway, in year two I grew plants from seed, planted out little specimen plugs from a specialist nursery and weeded and weeded. And the rabbits feasted themselves silly and only the strongest survived. So last year, FL put up a ramshackle fence for me, and I weeded and planted and threw nasturtium seeds in the gaps. Then FL got sick. The weeds grew to waist height and we decided to pay a gardener to do the big summer weed harvest.

THIS year, I have been weeding since May. My little plug plants are now sturdy bushes. A couple of trips to local garden centres yielded a surprising variety of lavenders and a few interesting herbaceous perennials at minimal cost I love the verbena bonariensis! The neighbours like the delphiniums. And I am excessively proud of my red valerian, anise hyssop and azorican thyme. And of course my woad! It’s still a work in progress, but I am ready to call it a proper garden.

And at last I have finished the Big Weed: from now on it should just take a brief hoe-ing once a week to keep it under control.

And in the kitchen garden, we have edible vegetables! While FL's pal was visiting for a week of golf and whisky, we ate courgettes and broad beans from my vegetable garden. And there's plenty more still to come. The golden beetroot are doing well, and so are the purple ones.

So where are the chickens, eh?!

Blouse confession

I have had a couple of very helpful comments about my blouse project.

It is probably the right time to confess that I was a bit too cocky in my approach. I kind of thought “I can sew Japanese patterns with no instructions, so this will be easy!” And forgot all the golden rules like Pin Tack Stitch ( = Mirror Signal Manoeuvre). The pattern is very clearly written and the word “baste” comes up a lot. I had got into the bad habit of lining up my pins at 90 degrees to the stitching line and hammering on. Mea culpa! The high level of detail in the written instructions is not quite matched by the diagrams, so you need to concentrate. My recent immersion in Japanese patterns, where I rely entirely on drawings, was probably my downfall. I looked at the pictures and only resorted to words when I got stuck. But when I did, it worked (the darts). So thank you Segwyne and Helen, I will try adjusting my stitch length and I will definitely be basting the sleeve caps. I plan to finish the blouse on Saturday. There – I’ve said it now, so it’s a plan!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Not sew easy

I had hoped to show you my new blouse today. The “only takes one metre easy blouse”.

Not quite so easy!

The first thing that went wrong was entirely my own fault. I was a bit too relaxed and traced the size 18 darts instead of the size 8 ones on the front sections. And I didn’t realise until I had cut them. So my bust darts are somewhere under my arms. Perfect for saggy boobage I suppose. I won’t know whether or not my salvaging tweaks have worked until I sew the side seams and try it on.

But the main difficulty was the collar. Beware the two-piece collar, girls! You have to fit the collar onto the collar band - TWICE because obviously it has two layers. And then sew the layers together, and then attach it to the neck of the blouse, and THEN attach a piece of home-made bias binding to cover the raw edges on the inside neck, stitching it in such a way that you are left with only one visible line of stitching. Yeah, right! Even with top quality Liberty cotton I was getting puckers of fabric round every curved seam – and there are lots of curved seams! I unpicked every seam at least twice. I sewed them re-a-ll-y slowly. And still they puckered. And there was no way that bias binding was going to be topstitched exactly “in the ditch” of the collar attachment!

So I have stopped for a little rest. The next steps are the side seams (will it fit?) inserting the sleeves (puckered gathered sleeve tops anyone?) and the buttonholes (ah yes!).