Sunday, July 28, 2013

FO: The Summer Funeral Cardigan

I am not going to pretend that this weekend was a good one.
FL was in the depths of despond and I was on the point of ringing the out-of-hours doctor because I didn't know what was wrong, but he was just not himself.
So I had no sleep on Friday or Saturday nights and was on the point of cancelling my holiday with The Girl.
And then, at about 5 o'clock this morning, he seemed to wake up properly and come out of the dark place where he had been hiding for about three days and nights, and announced that we were definitely going to the funeral together on Monday and I would definitely head on south to meet The Girl and he would be FINE!

So despite the fact that I didn't really believe him... because nobody can flip from sick to well quite that fast... I thought I had better pull myself together and make a black cardigan to wear to the funeral.
So I did.
Yes, I've already had the Scottish Widow joke from FL, thanks! (Google it if you don't get the reference.)

This is a bit of a mish-mash of patterns.
I used the hooded jacket pattern from Female Spring 2012 (Japanese pattern magazine) for the upper half, in size medium.
But I wanted a bit more pizzazz, so I franken-patterned it together with the bottom scoop of the Summer Concert Tee for a bit of hi-lo business.
Then I decided the sleeves were too long and chopped them off below the elbow.
 Why yes, I did get my hair cut on Friday, as couple of people noticed.
The grey streaks cost a fortune (not!)
 Where was I?
Oh yes - so I ended up with a raglan-sleeved, hi-lo hemmed, hooded 3/4-sleeve cardi.
It was looking a bit too plain, so I ran a piece of stretch lace round the front edges and up round the hood.
This also helped form a buttonhole / loop for closure.
 I am struggling for a decent side view showing the sweep of the swooping hem - it is about 6 inches longer at the back than the front.  It is also wider at back, so catches the breeze and wafts.
Pattern: A mash-up of the Summer Concert Tee with a Japanese hooded jacket pattern from the Female Spring 2012 magazine.
Fabric:  Very fine viscose jersey from Truro Fabrics, about 1.6m, (£7.99 per metre) also used to make The Girl's Drafting Cardi.
Other:  Maybe 2 metres of black stretch lace from an ebay bundle.  A vintage boot button, also used for my 1940's tea dress.

Do you know how long I have whinged about not having a black cardigan?
I have one now.
If the wind stays in the right direction, I will wear it to a funeral tomorrow, probably over my Innocent Crush blouse and a black skirt.
Job done.

P.S.  If the blog goes quiet this week, I have successfully gone on holiday with The Girl, and FL is fine.
Fingers crossed.
Back soon!

Friday, July 26, 2013

FO: Ronaes Shawl by Karina Westermann

Pattern:  Ronaes by Karina Westermann, part of her Doggerland Collection.
Yarn:  2-ply handspun shetland laceweight, bought from MC Calcott's garden shed in Shieldaig, Strathcarron.
Needles:  5mm Spectra acrylic circulars.

Ronaes is the first design from Karie's Doggerland collection.
It is inspired by archaeology, the landscape, psychogeography.
Immersing yourself in one of Karie's patterns is an invitation to connect with the land.

 At once warm and light, this shawl catches the breeze.  It blocked out to over 2 metres long and perhaps 30cm deep at its widest point.  But it feels weightless, ethereal.

At the same time, the wool has a sculptural strength.  It holds its shape.  It holds its own.

While knitting, I was constantly assaulted by the reek of sheep.
It came wafting up at me in damp, lanolin-rich waves.
Sometimes comforting and homely; sometimes overwhelming, too much to bear.
Rather like coming back to the farm after a long absence.

 "You hated the land and the coarse speak of the folk and learning was brave and fine one day;
 and the next you'd waken with the peewits crying across the hills, deep and deep, crying in the heart of you"

Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Sunset Song


Thursday, July 25, 2013

FO: FL's Recycled Slippers

You remember a couple of days ago, I mentioned assassinating FL's slippers in the boil-wash?
Well, I was determined to save them.  Simple Shoes went out of business some time ago and I haven't come across another company which makes its slippers entirely out of recycled materials.
Apart from ripped felt on their upper surfaces, and detached crepe soles, they were, to borrow FL's favourite phrase: "Perfectly good!"
I thought about embroidering them with thick crewel wool, but the padded upper surface was not exactly needle-friendly.  And FL has such a difficulty with the iconography of logos / emblems / motifs that I was at a loss to know what sort of pattern to use.
Then I remembered:  we have had a spate of sock-felting recently.  I am always careful to wash our handknit socks separately, but there have been a couple of hidden-up-the-trouser-leg catastrophes.  These socks, the Nexus Sock pattern were quite hard to knit, and I was loathe to throw them out, even though they were too far gone to wear as socks.
So I decided to make use of their felted quality and cut them up to make new uppers for the unfortunate slippers!
My method was simply to pull the sock over the slipper, cutting off the cuff and heel, and slicing up the middle of the sole to ease out the fabric to fit.  I then stitched round the upper edges with tough sewing thread and a darning needle, turning under about an inch to the inside of the foot-hole (where the tongue would be on a lace-up shoe). One shoe had a hole at the heel, so I used one of the purple sock-heel sections to cover that.  I like the mis-matched look! ;)
Finally, I got a tube of "Serious Glue" and stuck the soles back on, enclosing the edge of the sock, and finished off by covering the raw edges of knitting with a scrap of heavy-duty cotton ric-rac.
I will need to keep an eye on the soles, as I am not sure if I applied enough glue.  I wouldn't want to be the cause of a trip hazard.  But apart from that, I am ridiculously pleased with my efforts!
FL chortled.
Under the circumstances, I view that as a success!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This is not a health blog, but...

Thank you everyone for your wise words on hydration.
I particularly liked the home-brew recipe from Mary in TN for a rehydrating drink containing salt, honey and vinegar.  Clever!  I actually purchased some Oral Rehydration Salts (tablets you dissolve in water) and made him drink a single glass.  I was afraid to give him more than that because the label said they were not suitable for people with kidney trouble.  But lots of his medicines say that and he still has to take them, so I thought a single dose was worth the risk.
He is very much better, but extremely tired and low.  He was coughing all night, which worries me. 
This is not helped by the prospect of yet another close-family funeral next week.
There are only two men of that generation left now and he says it is his turn next.  BIG HUGE SIGH.
He doesn't feel well enough to drive to the funeral and it is being held on the day I am due to travel south by train to meet my daughter for our mini-break.  So I have rearranged my travel so we can both go to the funeral and on to the "reception" and then I will travel onwards to meet The Girl, leaving him with assorted relatives for the afternoon. I have found him a hotel near the reception for the night and written out details of how to get from the hotel to the station for his return journey on his own.  But it involves a 6 minute walk to the bus stop and I have my doubts about him managing that.  A taxi?  Well, wouldn't you think so! (Did I say stubborn?)
I can only hope he will give in and allow a cousin to either drive him all the way home (which is reasonable since at least three half-empty 4x4 cars will be heading to the funeral  from this area) or at least to the station in the morning.  I am actually writing this in the hope that one of them is stalking my blog.  You never know, now that they have traced my email address. (Wry smile.)
His unwillingness to drive comes as quite a shock.  FL always tells me he loves driving and needs the independence of having his own car in such situations, so he can get away when he has had enough.  So for him to travel by train...?  Unheard of.  I just hope he manages to negotiate the change at Dundee.  Maybe I should ask my son to meet him off train one and put him on train two?  Or am I  being too much of a mother?!  Maybe the challenge will be good for him!
So I will write it all out, with maps and times and bus numbers.  I will make two copies and put one in his pocket and one in his bag.  Because he is likely to lose his jacket or his bag, but hopefully won't lose both.  I can't say this will be the most relaxing start to my holiday!  I am looking forward to a text message that says: "Home safe"!
There.  Got that off my chest.
Thank you for listening!
Knitting next time - I have a very sheepy shawl to block tonight!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Instructions for a Heatwave

Not a beach - we have sandy soil!
So... on Friday FL went out on the golf course in the blazing sun.
He wasn't feeling very well when he set out, so he decided "it was best" not to eat or drink anything all day.
He figured that as he was sitting in a motorised buggy (hired by his pal with the dodgy knees), he wouldn't be exerting himself much if he climbed out at each hole, hit the ball, and climbed back in again after his shot.
I think we all can guess what happened next.
Barley, thistles, willowherb, hedge parsley
After 8 holes, he gave up and stayed in the buggy... in the sun... without any water or hat or suncream.
Don't forget he has not played golf for the best part of a year.  He can barely walk from the car to the house without stumbling these days.  It was his last chance to play with his pal before he headed back south, after a week of being sensible and waiting in the clubhouse for the guys to finish their game.  And not even drinking beer.  How sensible can you get?!
By the time he got home that night, he was dazed and confused.  I don't know how he drove the car, I really don't.
And yes, he had arranged for his pals to come for a bbq that very evening.
So at least there was a big strong male there to catch him when he almost fell headfirst into the fire.
I administered a pint of water and a peach.  Because I didn't know what else to do.
How much willowherb do you want, exactly?
It was not exactly a wild party, as you can imagine. As soon as his pals had gone, FL went to bed.   He slept all day Saturday and most of Sunday.  I made him drink a glass of water every time he woke up, but he wasn't hungry until Sunday night, when he asked me to make a curry.  Yeah.  Not clever.
Sunday night was a riot of D&V.
Monday morning ditto.
Me?  Call me Matron.  But I am a terrible nurse.  I kept having to run outside to breathe the fresh air...
So I didn't make it to the office today.
I was too busy scrubbing floors and boil-washing FL's clothes.

Which is how I managed to destroy his slippers.  I have a plan, though ;)
By late afternoon, he was able to manage a piece of dry toast in the shade.
And I had pulled myself together sufficiently to pick up my knitting and collect my library book:  "Instructions for a Heatwave".  Ha!

Let this be a warning to you all:
Water is your friend.
Sunshine is your enemy.
Stay in the shade.
Stay hydrated.
Listen to your wife!

A Public Service Announcement, brought to you by FL and Roo.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Sneak Peek

 Today I made a start on a semi-secret project...

 Using the most beautiful Delicate Block Print.

This is only half the story!
Coming soon...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Knitters in the Wild

Today I met up with my knitterly friend Christine.
We planned an excursion slightly to the south, before Christine migrates to Glasgow at the end of the month.
Our first stop was a curious little shop in a one-horse town:  The Swatchmaker in Laurencekirk.
The shop would not be out of place on the Byres Road:  a small hand-picked collection of curios, crafts and vintage clothing.  Is Laurencekirk "up and coming"?  Who knew?  Christine and I both found something to buy, but it was a long way to go for a vintage sewing pattern (me) and a tatting booklet (Christine)!
Luckily, we had also planned a visit to a "destination tearoom" at Balmakewan.  When we arrived, they were still serving amazing-looking breakfasts, but we were on a strict coffee-and-cake diet today.  We found a bright spot and pulled out our knitting, attracting a stage whisper of: "Exciting!" from a woman at the next table - hee!
I hadn't seen Christine's cardigan for quite some time, and it had grown a lot -  wow!
I was able to deliver her Willowherb socks, which she kindly agreed to model in the wild.
Hooray - they fit!
Willowherb high-kicking in the willowherb
All too soon it was time to head home again, each clutching a punnet of locally grown strawberries. On the way, we topped up on local culture at the Grassic Gibbon Centre.  I found it strangely poignant to find the writer's short life reduced to a dvd playing on a loop, some posters and a few personal artefacts, like his Library Card and a boot hook.  OK, that's not a fair summary. Maybe if we had stayed for coffee I would have come away with a different impression. But... it was an odd little place.
Back in Aberdeen, I had 20 minutes in town before my train, and popped into Zara to scoff at the sale.  Oh how the cynical are fallen!  Look what I bought for £5!
Ha ha ha!  Don't worry - I don't intend to wear this garment in its current shape.  This is 100% linen jersey and there is more than enough fabric here to harvest to make a summer cardigan.  It was Made in Portugal and should have cost £20.  I imagine it is supposed to worn as a beach cover-up.
But I much prefer the 60's style of  the pattern I bought at The Swatchmaker!
Simplicity 4482
I had such a lovely day out!  Thank you, Christine!
The next time we meet, it will probably be in Glasgow:  lots of day-trip potential there! ;)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Midweek Questions

1. The inside of my car smells like hot fieldmouse.
This is not good.  Did I leave the window open?  Do I have a new pet in residence?

2.  Why did I not obey my first instincts? That mistake on row 7 of sock one is worrying me.  Out it comes.  The mistake on row 32 of sock 2 gets to stay - I will make sock one match it!

3.  My latest library reservation awaits collection:  "Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell.  Ha!

4.  Did you know you could aggravate your RSI by trying to pull up thistles wearing over-sized gardening gloves?  I can no longer support a mug of tea in my right hand.  What a shame  - I will have to stop weeding for a while.

5.  Will the electrician who promised to come back to rewire my kitchen do so this millennium, or is it back to the yellow pages?  How much longer can we operate using extension leads trailed from one side of the house to the other?  It has been a month.

6.  Why has Outlook dumped all my incoming mail into my Sent box?

7.  Why did someone else buy that stunning 50s shirt pattern from Etsy while I was still prevaricating?

8. Would I wear a pair of super-swishy 70s trousers made out of Anna Maria Horner Field Study Rayon or am I deluding myself again?

9.  Whose idea was it to invite FL's golf pals to come to our garden for a bbq tonight?  This means I need to tidy the house and the garden after a hot day at the office.  And do we even have enough plates?

10.  Is it the weekend yet?

10-and-a-half.  Oops! Yes, it is almost the weekend and I failed to post this, have no pictures to attach and haven't even added links.  But at least this proves I am still here :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

FO: Innocent Crush Top, Simplicity 6238 from 1965

Yesterday was grey and overcast.  Hooray - an excuse to stay indoors and sew!

This is Simplicity 6238 from 1965, in size 12 (32 bust).
I used this pattern a year ago to make my Raindrops on Roses shell top, which I wore to work for the first time earlier this week.  I have always intended to revisit this pattern because it is such a good fit straight from the packet and I love 3/4-length sleeves.

The fabric is Anna Maria Horner "Innocent Crush" voile in the Slow Dance design.  Jessica sent me a 2-panel-sized piece (1.3m) of this beautiful material perhaps a year ago, and I have had it in and out of the stash weekend after weekend since it arrived, trying to decide how best to use it.  I kept coming back to the idea of a top with a tie-neck, and pondered various patterns, mostly sleeveless because I didn't think I had enough for anything more substantial. I was determined to make it work, somehow.
And finally it did!  Hooray!  
Those medallions and wiggley stripes have a lot of potential for unfortunate bull's-eye placement! After a lot of fiddling about, I hit upon the plan of cutting the front and back at right angles to the straight grain, the sleeves on the grain, and the scarf on the bias.  This broke up the print rather well and actually allowed me to do some matching at the side seams - amazing!
Instead of a back zip, I sliced the centre front, facing it with a single piece of bias binding cut mid-way through its length and turned to the wrong side.  Instead of neck facings, I used more bias binding for a neater finish.
However, I forgot to notch the neck edge before I stitched it down, and it was quite tricky to get it to lie flat.  Tsk!
Otherwise, it all went smoothly.  I took care to turn under all the raw edges of the inside seams for a better quality of finish.  See?  I can slow down and do things properly when I try!

Summer came back again today, and I felt surprisingly cool and elegant in my new vintage blouse, clattering around the dog kennel in my hard-soled shoes, looking for sufficient shade to take these pictures.
The matching tie / scarf inspired me to try out a Busby Berkeley dancer style - oh how I wish I could wear this outfit to work!
42nd Street, 1933
Aberdeenshire, 2013
But for everyday office wear, I will probably team it with simple trousers or a skirt.
Pity, really!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Summer Wardrobe

As I remarked the other day, summer has arrived in northern Scotland.  The schools are on holiday here, but not yet in England, a disjointed fact which never ceases to irritate me, just like the mismatched Bank Holidays.  Chit-chat around the office kettle is inevitably centred on summer plans.  Lots of complicated “We are driving down to X to fly to Y” scenarios.  Me?  3 nights in Hebden Bridge and a week near Gairloch, thanks!
I am struck by the number of women who buy a whole suitcase full of new clothes for their holidays. OK, so they may shop at Primark or Asda, but it sounds like my colleagues are using up their 25 a year in a single supermarket sweep!
I have never been one for “a fortnight in the sun” so it feels pretty alien to me to require a holiday wardrobe.  As a rule, I pack a spare pair of jeans, a couple of ts and an extra jumper.  I am precisely the target market for companies like White Stuff, who helpfully group the clothes in their catalogue into matching sets, and provide  "packing lists" on their website.  These days I am more likely to be enticed by Howies, who offer "Bundles" of simple low-impact coordinates, like organic cotton jeans and a t shirt, for a reduced price. But they are still made in China...
So, back to real life. I am charmed by 1950’s capsule wardrobe sewing patterns, intended for early jet-setters, or more likely Caravan Club members, heading off to Morecambe or Scarborough or Southend.  I look at these patterns and I can smell the candy-floss and salty breezes!  The pattern at the top of this post is just gorgeous (and available on Etsy if you are prepared to invest- it's a collector's item.  I don't own it, or indeed any of the other patterns picured - tsk!)

But if the weather continues like this and we get a “proper summer”, who knows what might happen?  I am tempted to stitch a 50’s-style mini collection to wear to work.  No shorts or halter tops, obviously, but how about some cropped cotton trousers and a couple of airy shirts?  A sleeveless dress and jacket perhaps?  
And it would be fun.  FUN in the SUN!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Just for a moment there, it was “too hot” in Aberdeen.
But fear not, we were back to 12 degrees today and I regretted my toes-out shoes, brought out for the first time in two years.  But all weekend, and on the local holiday Monday, it was warm enough to sit in the garden.  Imagine!  I have continued to plug away at the weeding, an hour a day.  Ironically, the best-looking bit of the patch is the lush and green shaded area which I haven’t reached yet.  The foxgloves are beginning to bloom, and self-seeded borage is popping up all over the place.  The sandy slopes are still rather bleak, but the lavender is surviving.  None of the seeds I threw in the gaps have made an appearance yet.
I started a new pair of socks for the Waiting Room.  I knew I wouldn’t enjoy the smell of steaming sheep if I took my Ronaes shawl along.  Good decision!  The 10.15 appointment time meant we were seen at 12.45.  And it was like a sauna in there.
These are the Wallace socks by Rachel Coopey.  Originally a Knitting Goddess sock club pattern, it is now available to buy through Ravelry.  I had been waiting for it to be released, because it struck me as being fun but manly.  As much as I love the socks in the CoopKnits book, none of them looks particularly man-friendly.  I started sock one at the weekend, without a printed copy of the pattern.  I tried to transcribe the chart into words so I could sit outside.  Ha!  My dyslexic tendencies led to me twisting the cable the wrong way on each repeat of the cuff chart.  I didn’t realise until I came to work sock two (I am knitting them two-at-a-time, section by section).
I showed FL.  He still can’t see what’s wrong with sock one (on the right), despite me pointing it out.  So guess whose socks these are going to be?!  I hinted that they were for him, but he doesn’t believe me.  The colour has thrown him off the scent.  They are very very red.  Had you noticed?  But his sock drawer needs brightening up ;)  Unbelievably, he ran out of hand-knit socks at the weekend.  There have been a couple of shrinking / felting incidents lately, as well as a swollen-ankle situation which limits the number of pairs which fit him.  Unless I keep up with the washing, he has to resort to ugly terry sports socks – noooo!
The wool is Yarn Yard Toddy, a 75 wool / 25 nylon mix.  Good, sturdy man-sock material!  If you look closely, there is some slight variation in the colour, but at heart it is a simple red.  I thought it was about time I knitted up some of my Yarn Yard stash.  Since joining the Small Skein Society, it grew beyond expectations.  This was not supposed to happen.  A single skein is perfect for fingerless gloves, but if you want socks, you need more yarn.  So I found myself buying additional contrasting skeins to make up sock-appropriate numbers – oops!  So I have withdrawn from the Society.  I haven’t used any of the club yarns and I was starting to feel overwhelmed.
I have a half-hatched plan to design some mitts to use at least three of the SSS skeins.  Believe that when you see it.
I received a skein of very bright green Toddy through the club.  I plan to use it for black and green colour-work socks:  Space Invaders or similar.  And my prize in the CoopKnits KAL was two skeins of Toddy in the most delicious purple / blue mix – ooh!  I must knit with that soon!
Oh - and I have been reading a lot too!  Code Name Verity was too visceral for me. I had to stop reading it.  Yes I am a wimp.  Now I am deeply immersed in Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  I loved Prep.  I liked American Wife.  Sisterland has mixed reviews but I am comfortable with her style of writing.  I could read books like this all the time.  Write more, please!