Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tiny Husband is getting the snip....

TH works for a company with a big history of charitable work.

In the past, for TH, this has included 30-mile sponsored walks for St Basils, a charity that works with homeless youth (not bad for a man who takes the bus to the corner shop!), volunteering as a teaching assistant in a Children's Hospital school, various dress-down fund-raisers, and a stint as Mr July in a, er, nuddy calendar. F'r example.

This time though, it's Personal....

He's having the cruellest cut of all - for charity.

Yes, in November, this sad old rocker is having his hair cut off. Those ears haven't seen sunlight for nearly twenty years! It's been over a year since his last cut, and it's almost waist-length: the ponytail is at least 16in.

His company is on board with sponsorship, and there is a raffle at work with the winner having the honour of wielding the scissors!

The charity is Little Princesses Trust, which provides wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer or alopecia. All hair donations are sent for wig-making, even bleached hair, as long as it's at least 10ins long and in good condition. Hair from all ethnic groups, hair that has been stored for up to 10 years, hair in layers (min 10ins), it's all good. And unlike some other hair-donation programmes, the hair is actually sent to wigmakers who return the wigs to the Trust for distribution - not sold to raise funds.

TH has set up a JustGiving webpage for additional cash donations to the Trust. Please consider donating, however small an amount - and, if you're a UK taxpayer, please add GiftAid to your donation: it costs you nothing, and gets the charity an extra 28%.



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Friday, August 21, 2009

I just made some gluten-free soda farls...

and thought I should do some jotting.

Mother put me up to this the other day, mentioning that she now exclusively eats her own home-made soda farls instead of buying loaves that she can't finish on her own. It dawned on me that I'd never made soda farls myself, ever. So I went on a quest for a gluten-free version, motivated in part by the imminent demise of my bread machine, which still bakes, but no longer heats during the proving stages. I found some good recipes, among them Living Wheat-lessly, but was hampered by the rundown of the store cupboards before we go off to Sweden on Sunday. Finally desperation drove me to knock something together yesterday lunchtime, when we ran out of bread of all varieties. Hence the following.

The first lot were white, the second "wholewheat" - not really wholewheat, obviously, otherwise I would be in a very bad way atm, but fake gluten-free whole-fibre-ish.

Anyhoo, the flour blend for the first batch was:

8oz Rice Flour
8oz Tapioca Flour
8oz Soy Flour

Sorry about the Imperial units, but this was left over from a blend in a US book, so it's either cups or ounces I'm afraid. And I have learned to my cost (my nummy, nummy cost) that a US cup has nothing whatsoever in common with my coffee mug.

Mix 10.5 oz from this flour blend with 3/4 tsp baking powder, pinch cream of Tartar, and 1/2 tsp salt.
Rub in 3 tbsp cold butter (I use Stork).
Add 1 tbsp sugar (but see next recipe), mix and put a well in the middle.

In another large bowl, beat 2 eggs, mix in 8 fl oz natural yogurt, and add 1/2 tsp baking soda, whisking like mad.

AT THIS POINT YOU NEED TO START MOVING LIKE BUGGERY. The yogurt and baking soda mixture will start fizzing, and you need to combine it with the flour as if the very hounds of Hell were baying at your heels for the lickings.

It will be more like a batter than a bread dough, so just pour it into a preheated griddle pan (I used a wok - a frying pan would do: as long as it's heavy-based and has a lid, it doesn't matter). No oil, no flouring. Keep an eye on it, it should be mostly cooked through in 20mins, but flip it over anyway to finish cooking through. Now, I don't know if this makes any difference, but it's what my tribe does: take it out and wrap it in a dishtowel until it's cool.

It was a bit rubbery - no doubt because I put 2 eggs in instead of one - and too sweet for my liking, although I would consider it as a basis for a fruit soda. There it is on the left - with my home-made blackberry jam in the background, made from berries picked by the Mighty Offspring himself, awww...

The second lot uses this flour blend:

8oz Rice Flour
8oz Tapioca Flour
8oz Quinoa Flour (because I was out of Soy, hah! and quinoa is also a high-protein flour)

The same method - 10.5 oz flour blend with 3/4 tsp baking powder, pinch cream of Tartar, and 1/2 tsp salt, rub in 3 tbsp butter. NO sugar, but instead add a goodly fistful of toasted soya bran, available from Holland & Barrett.

Prepare buttermilk by mixing 8 fl oz milk with 1 tbsp vinegar, then mix in 1 - not 2 - beaten egg, 1/2 tsp baking soda: this will also fizz, but a little slower. You still need to get a wriggle on.

This mix isn't as liquid, and could probably be formed. I didn't, though - straight into the preheated wok and away.

It was a little crumbly when I tried to cut it when still warm, but turned lofty and elastic when cold, just like it should be. The lack of sugar was perfect - it was just the right degree of tangy and savoury. The slight bitterness of the quinoa also works well for this faux wheaten: soy flour would be just a bit too soft and waxy. It's not overly wholewheaty, more like the soft, spongy Ormo wheaten loaves than the nutty bricks of my childhood, but I was going easy on the soya bran for this experiment. Next time, though...

You'll notice neither recipe uses xanthan gum, guar gum, or powdered milk, which would be quite usual in GF baking: they provide the rubbery, gluey sponginess of, well, gluten. It's not actually essential that soda bread has this sponginess, though; it doesn't have that character even when made with wheat. But I did wonder why the second farl wasn't as crumbly as I'd expect. The first obviously got its extreme sponginess from the accidental egg overdose, but that wasn't the case with the second. Then I remembered: milk + vinegar + heat = casein plastic!


Sunday, August 16, 2009

We interrupt the scheduled programme...

...of joyous creativity to announce a tragedy.

At 8.00 this morning, the Clarice bag departed this world.

This beautiful, vibrant - nay, fluorescent creature went into the washing machine last night for felting. Sadly, this morning, it was found in a semifelted condition, almost completely bereft of Kool-Aid colour.

The only colour to survive, however slightly, is the one I dyed with Turmeric (yes, the spice. It's pretty good, no need for acid, salt, nasty chemicals - just spice and boiling water. Works for cotton too).

And not one photograph did I take before I put it in the washing machine.

So, what did I do wrong? I did a fair bit of research before going into this, and all of it suggested that Kool-Aid dyed wool felted pretty well. Slight fading but not too serious, more of an advantage given how eye-wateringly bright Kool-Aid can be. A quick whizz though my sources reveals no mention the optimal wash temperature, though: my machine was set for a boil wash, which, in retrospect, was probably too hot. It was stupid o'clock in the morning, I'd stayed up to finish it ready for felting, and I was overcome with the desire to have my widdle baggie-waggie first thing in the morning: not my best chemistry thinking time.

Back to the drawing board, then. I still want to make this, but I'll do some test swatches and try a few different temps first. I'd also like to re-jig the chart: Coss seems to assume square rather than rectangular stitches, and comes out very wide and short when knit up. It produced a lovely oblong shape for the bag, but the flowers were a bit stretched.

So, I return you to your normal scheduled programme with this cautionary bit of advice: don't wash your Kool-Aid dyes at 90deg until further notice.

ETA: When life gives you lemons, stick 'em down your blouse to make your boobs look bigger! I'm going to use the bag to learn to steek! and maybe needle-felt! Not that I see myself making anything that ever requires either skill, but I'd imagine you could do a zombie some damage with a felting needle...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Monster Post III - Rav Rave!

This is me, wearing my February Lady cardi, ensconced in the First Class carriage, crocheting a mobile phone sock, on my way to UK Ravelry Day 2009! It's a bit fuzzy because the train was vibrating with speed, but it's the best of six or eight that I took, including a charmingly smeared one of my bum as a particularly sharp jolt knocked the camera out of my hand. Nonetheless, it is proof, if such were needed, of my attendance.

I abandoned Tiny Husband and the Mighty Offspring at silly o'clock for a Saturday morning, and tore off determined to arrive for the opening. Sadly, it was not to be. The bus to the centre arrived later and took longer to travel than I had allowed for, so all was in full swing when I arrived.

It was actually a little intimidating walking into the hall knowing it was full of fibre enthusiasts. I didn't dare take my rain coat off at first, for fear of people throwing tomatoes at me for my February Lady blasphemy. Or something equally irrational. I got a coffee and sighed over the lovely cakes I daren't even breathe around, and checked out the competition. But despite the tight confines of the entrance hall, everyone seemed quite jolly, pushing and shoving their way round very politely. I risked putting the raincoat in my shopping trolley (for, friends, I was on a mission), sucked in a fortifying breath, and tried a little eye contact. No tomatoes. Oh good. Then I saw Rooknits, who organises the knitting meet-up that I, er, occasionally attend, helping hand out programmes, and wearing - yes! - her own FLS. Completely different to mine, barely skimming her hips in a variegated purple Malabrigo, and just looking so much lighter. Mine is, you know, heavy. Cotton. A quick word, and I went to pick up some goodies, including a Rav badge.

I had not scheduled anything for the morning to give me a chance to wander round and soak up the atmosphere. On my way into the main hall, a couple of people stopped me to look at the FLS, and one took a photo. The Knitter magazine, which was sponsoring the event, had a photographer there taking pictures of individual knitters in their finery. I made sure to walk past slowly and ostentatiously, and they totally ignored my orange and black 60s-inspired take on the world's most popular sweater!! Which didn't improve my misgivings about it... And as if to add insult to injury, on my final  promenade, the photographer's assistant - or the fashion director, who knows - dived shrieking towards me - and grabbed the woman behind me. Who was wearing an ill-fitting, sangria-vomit-coloured... sack thing, that she protested she hadn't even had time to finish seaming or weaving in on (which was very obvious) before coming to the event. It was a shambles, but the PA/FD just would not release the poor woman, dragging her kicking and screaming up on the stage and propping her up with threats and menaces as she tried to hide her face in shame inside the lopsided half-sewn collar... Maybe it was some hellishly expensive yarn - they always seem to look like some variant on puke - or a pattern by some high-flown designer. I clearly don't have good enough taste or fashion sense to tell. Maybe - no, undoubtedly - it would have looked better properly finished and blocked. Who cares - I was miffed, insulted, ready to throw the bloody FLS in the trolley, certain it was every crappy thing I worried it was (tacky, ugly, unflattering, laughable, grannyish...). Sometimes I am a very small person.

The hall was bustling quietly. Someone was doing a demo of spinning in historical costume, on a very large, very homemade looking wheel. I couldn't place the era, and don't know enough about spinning to identify any more than that, and was still feeling too shy to stop her and ask questions. There was a selection of fabulous felted hats, some military, on her stall, but sadly none for sale. The most amazing thing was a set of carders (?) that I didn't even see until I was leaving the hall later. Instead of bristles, they had large burr seeds attached! That just amazed me. Of course, what would you use before manufacturing gave you the option of inserted-bristle brushes? It's so obvious and ingenious.

I wandered about for a bit, looked everything, then headed out into the bucketing rain to wander round the stalls. The first thing to see was this adorable pair of alpacas. There were a few people, as I passed back and forth, who bemoaned the terrible conditions the poor little things were suffering in the rain. I inadvertently sniggered the first time I heard one, earning a glare, but really? They come from the Andes (full of alloo-ARRRR!), which is Spanish for 'some of the most extreme environmental conditions found on this planet': Coventry must be a cake walk for them. They certainly seemed to be coping with the downpour and the crowds with typical camellid insouciance, though of course they may just have been stoned on the comparatively oxygen-rich atmosphere.

I bought some alpaca fibre at another stall, lovely deep black stuff that I will one day pluck up the nerve to spin. However, I was really after Jameson and Smith's stall. I wanted to get a colour card (done, and then some - I think I got every colour card there!) and possibly some yarn. So I picked up 10 skeins in a lovely honey green, which I hope to run up in a Japanese pattern from Hitomi Shida's 250 Couture Knit Stitch Patterns, to which I treated myself on YesAsia. I also somehow accidentally walked off with some 1-ply cobweb in a lace scarf kit. No idea how that happened, or how that huge sack of Shetland spinning fibre came to be in the bag with it - if you've been paying attention, you'll know that lace and I are not mutually compatible. And my first response to thread is to whip out a steel crochet hook visible only under electron microscope - not big fat knitting needles! And it's PINK!!! Gooey, sickly, sugar-pink at that. Nonetheless, I cast on Meg Swansen's talk and did a respectable amount before having to rip back due the inevitable stitch-count issues.

In the afternoon, I attended a natural dyeing workshop, run by Debbie... Barton? Sorry, the name is gone. There, I went a little mental, discovering previously unsuspected enthusiasm for the Madd Colorzz as long as I was in charge of the dye pots. The result is the red and green ball on the right - the ball on the left is some leftover mordanted Jamieson & Smith jumperweight that we were told to take away. I dyed it a lovely deep gold with onion skins - not terribly even but mouthwatering. I mean that btw, I'm dribbling on the keyboard just thinking about it. I call them Rhubarb and Crumble respectively. There might be enough for a faux Fair Isle tam, but I'd probably best knit it from the top/centre down just to be on the safe side.

I also picked up some smaller size KnitPicks (now Knit Pro in the UK) interchangeable tips and longer cables to go with my kit, and some of their multi-coloured Symphonie wooden cable needles - not that I need them, or will ever likely use them, as I think the scoring on them would tear up the yarn, but I can't say no to a cable needle... Tried to get some Soak, but the only bottles left were scented and didn't appeal. Was sorely tempted by Poems of Colour, but it was sold out too apart from the stall copy. I did finally settle on The Opinionated Knitter, and got it signed by Meg Swansen!

Meg's talk was great fun. She read briefly a few extracts from her mother's books - mostly The Opinionated Knitter, which at this point I hadn't bought. I've always liked Elizabeth Zimmerman's tongue-in-cheek humour, and it translated well in the talk. Most of the talk was taken up with answering questions from the floor on any and all topics related to Elizabeth, Meg herself, Schoolhouse Press, etc. I hadn't expected any laugh out loud moments, but there were plenty. At one point, someone asked about the February Lady Sweater, and whether Elizabeth would have approved of this adaptation of the Baby Sweater on Two Needles (Knitter's Almanac). In her reply, Meg asked for all the people in the hall wearing a FLS to stand up - and at least 20, probably more like 30, stood up! I may have lost my stitch count at this point. All different colours and fibres, on all different sizes and shapes. After the talk, when I queued up to get my new copy of The Opinionated Knitter signed, Meg was very complimentary about my fitted FLS, and asked a lot of questions about how I'd done it (yes, I know I have to put something together about that). So, sucks to the The Knitter! Validation from the foal's mouth!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monster Post II

Let's see, a good long while ago, the father of the Monstrous Offspring's playmate at the childminder's asked me if I could make a replacement blankie for her. He is also the Head of IT at work, so I ain't gunna be p!ssing HIM off, with the state my laptop's in! I had a look at the pitiful remnants of her blankie, and there was just enough left for me to make out that it was definitely crochet, three long stitches together and a chain between each group, into which the next row's three stitches went. The long stitches might have been trebles, the number of stitches in the chain might have been 3 or 4 - the poor thing was too matted to tell. But I had a go at it for her birthday, and she was delighted. I was worried she would feel it was trying to take over, but she wrapped it round herself, twirled with it, was a butterfly, etc. Honour was satisfied.

I should really try to crochet more. It's starting to be a little ouchy on my hand, and that's not good. I may even have a project in mind...

Tiny Husband has expressed an interest in tie pins and waistcoats - now that his workplace has made ties optional for all but front of shop staff. Contrary beast that he is. So I made him a 1940s knitted waistcoat! The yarn is from a massive cone of natural 100% wool - Herdwick possibly - that I bought for nothing when I was still leaving the universe of dolly-mixture acrylic - didn't even know Herdwick was a breed! There's probably more than enough left for Louhi, once I get the courage together for such a long project - and a decent pair of gardening gloves: that stuff is rough! Currently, I'm making a Noodle Shrug for the bridesmaid, using this wool doubled.

This is all by way of diverting attention from the fact that I went on a big me me me drive recently. I attempted to make this for myself using some no-name chunky wool blend from LIDL. It was a very fast knit - all done, plus other knits, on our two weeks in Ireland - but it was just too. Low-cut. And there's just no way I was going to add even more bulk by wearing something underneath it to hide Pinky & Perky from a curious world. It awaits frogging and a possible rebirth as Owls. My Ruffled Collar Pullover continued apace, but there's only so much time I felt like devoting to ribbed mohair. Making considerable progress is my Clarice bag. No photos, but it is almost finished, which I am quite pleased about. I've only been able to work on it for short periods, as the multitude of bright bobbins tends to attract cat, son and husband, to the detriment of the work.

Then I saw these, and had to have them for my own. They are Penispoopcakewaffle Socks. Brainchild of one Wendy Moreland, it is a free Rav download, not available elsewhere I'm afraid.

For a time, this was all I had completed for myself to wear to UK Rav Day, and durned if I could find a pair of shoes, among the millions I own, that I could wear them with - even just a pair I could wheek off easily for showing-off purposes (why does that sound dirty now it's in print...). I had slaved and slogged into the wee hours many a night trying to finish off my Joan Crawford (in a black variant of the mystery yarn mentioned in the previous post) for the day, only to be defeated at the last by the finishing. Sew a hem on a jumper, will ya, Biddy Ann? Aye right. I ask you.

And then, the blindingly obvious hit me. Funny how often that happens. Some time ago, I answered a plea from someone about the infamous February Lady Sweater - or as thee, me and the cat would call it, bed jacket. Cardigan if you're being charitable. This is viral knitting as its finest. The Susan Boyle Youtube video of knitting. Now That's What I Call Knitting #6306 (which is the number of times it's been made so far, according to Ravelry) - you get the idea. It's the adult version of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles. I first came across it a good while ago, being touted as suitable for a maternity cardi, and thought good luck to it. It's mostly lace, which is not something I'm dying about at the best of times. What with neither being pregnant nor having the prospect of pregnancy, not to mention having a very great hatred of the current fashion for looking pregnant (even though it worked in my favour when I was) I had no interest in the thing. But a plea went forth, and I answered it.

The whys escape me. I mean, it's not like no one out there had ever made one. Some people have made - well - quite a few. They're a bit like sock knitters: they've found what they were born to knit, and, well, they go to it with a will. Anyway, this is about me me me, so back to your normal service.

Her questions were quite complex, possibly made so by a difference of language, and in the end I had to cast on to check that my reading of the pattern was correct. For handiness, and because it was roughly the right weight, I started off with an apricot cotton - Paccia La Lana Cinzia - which I got in a fire (or possibly bomb) sale in Belfast about 18 years ago. I had tried doing things with it before, but nothing had quite worked. Undaunted, I plugged on with FLS to the point - at the end of the collar/start of the lace - where her questions ended, and was pleased to report that I was correct (as was she, just confused, but then this is about me me me. I don't know why I have to keep saying it). By then I had invested a substantial amount of time on the project; I thought I might as well use up this stuff after all that time in a box, moving countries with me.

Okay fine, I just couldn't stand the thought of ripping it out again.

So I continued. I soldiered on with the lace - it wasn't too hard, especially after I put 15 million stitchmarkers at every repeat. I could even do it without looking, managing half a row or so (there are about 85 giblillion stitches per row...) on the bus. Then I remembered I was doing a maternity tent - sorry, smock effort. Never a good look on one so sumptuously endowed as moi, and thanks to my recent success in vanquishing the Weed, I am packing a smidge more round the waist than I like. So not just huge jugs to make it sit out, but a muffin top to keep it from sneaking back in. By jaze sez I, I'll need to do something about this.

So I shaped it. Hah! Pheer my madd skillz. I narrowed it in to my waist, then widened it out again for my hips. Then along the way I thought, you know, for ages I've been longing for something a bit piratical, a bit Jacobean, something with booty and flounce and that certain Laurence Llewellyn Bowen sensibility - something with oomph and tra la and a fol de rol to set the cat among the curtains. So I SUPER-sized the hip increase for a bouncy little peplum, ha har! Then I added cuffs, collar and hems in a vintage Astrakhan I have about me, and some gold-and-black buttons I found in the market, and voila! The effect is not fitted, but semi-fitted: I can still wear a jumper underneath. Though part of me is tempted to unpick and re-do it, because I feel I didn't start the decreases early enough. But whatever.

I just about finished it in time to travel to Ireland, where I wore it almost constantly. The photos had to be taken that evening, before it was finished, or blocked or anything - you can see the ball of astrakhan balanced on my shoulder. I'm not sure now why it was so urgent, but it was. One day I'll get nice pics. Ones where I don't get exasperated by the photographer's fear of pressing a button on my very complicated camera phone while panicking over the location of the passports...

Next installment: UK Rav Day!


Monster post

It's gotta be. Nearly 5 months since my last post, and let me tell you I have not been idle.

The first report is of the Bob The Builder jumper, last seen almost two years ago. Hallelujah, it's done. Good job I was making a big size - he's still got room to grow into it! Forgive the look of misery on his face - I was committing the cardinal sin of interrupting his viewing of Ben 10...

So what else? Ah Christmas. Scarves and smoke ring kind of things, mittens that I stupidly didn't photograph before they were handed over. Ah well. We went to Ireland for two weeks over Easter, giving Tiny Husband's HR person heart failure at taking so much time off so early in the financial year. Several gauge-swatch bunnies, Ava's pink hoodie and Adam's Trellis cardi were finally given to their intended victims - or not in the latter case, as it was not originally intended for Adam... I'm just too much of a flibbertygibbet with crafts. But I suppose it makes up for being so staid and dull everywhere else.

The Mighty Offspring also benefitted from a Fat Controller hat. This is the top hat worn by Sir Topham Hatt, the eponymous director of trains on Sodor Island and Thomas the Tank Engine's boss. I made this by laying out cash money - yes! coin of the realm! - for Dark Twist's Miniature Top Hat pattern, then promptly ignoring most of it. I used Rowan Big Wool rather than a worsted, because, well, I didn't really want a miniature, just a little'un for a little'un. I think there was some mad nonsense about felting it by boiling it, then plunging it into freezing cold water too, but I am here to tell you - do not waste your time on this pish. Throwing it in the washing machine on a boil wash cycle with a pair of jeans that have got a bit saggy in the arse is yer only man. All I got for that boiling and freezing nonsense is frizzy hair and chilblains, and the Offspring hiding in a corner with his fingers in his ears until Daddy came home. In a way, I'm sorry I didn't just leave it the size it was, because he looks so cute in it, an Artful Dodger - which fits his personality a lot better these days. The remaining yarn was made into a pair of felted slippers, which spend too much time on the run to be snapped on camera!

Two more pairs of socks, one a green and beige on-the-fly Fair Isle (and I must get a pic of these on him), the other a Spidey pair. I'm really becoming quite inured to arachnids, as I also made him a pair of my Mitts-to-Mittens with the Spidey pattern - though Gordon knows where they are now. Probably in his special superhero chest, wherever and whatever that is this week. The Spidey socks were the last pair I made using the 52st pattern, as I've noticed they're a bit baggy even on MO's feet. The green and beige were made using a 48st version, which is quite snug. At that point I kind of stopped with the socks, partly because he really had enough for now, and partly due to a misunderstanding. I did buy some socks (they were cheap), big enough for his feet which of course meant they came up over his knees. Not too long after, we were having this little chat about socks and shoes, and he told me he didn't like the socks I made him. Now, I didn't at first factor in that 'buy' and 'make' probably mean much the same thing to a highly-verbal three-year-old who nonetheless only has a three-year-old's understanding of the magical ways in which goods and services appear in his world. He has about ten lyrically-described birthdays a week - doesn't mean he's getting cake every day. Turns out he doesn't like the long socks, only the Mommy socks... I have started again, as I see some of his socks are a bit small now. More of which anon.

I also made him a woolly sweater, Crab Apple, based on Blue Garter's Twisted Tree Pullover - with the usually mods for not having the right yarn in the right weight, etc., etc. - do I really have to say this? The pic does not do this justice - it is one of the things I am most proud of making - utterly gorgeous, beautiful stitch definition. I dread the day when he's too big for it. In fact, I'm plotting how I can lengthen the sleeves and such to get a bit more wear out of it...

But the interesting bit is the yarn. I bought it out of the bargain bin at this market stall I go to. I'd seen other yarn like it before - similar weird rolled-up looking balls - but they didn't appeal. Many of the colours were drab, and they looked like they were the work of a particularly ham-fisted beginning spinner: I've done a bit of spinning so I know whereof I speak here - all twisty and lumpy and bumpy, only singles and the fibre looked rank - nasty old ropy cottony looking stuff. However, this one day, there were 2 balls whose colour just demanded to come home with me, a beautiful vivid sap green. And at 69p for 2 balls in the sale, I wasn't going to fight over it. Sadly, I had to get the brown because there was no more green, and I needed 3 balls in total, though I must say, it came together well in the end.

It was brutal to work with. I imagine knitting Brillo pad fibre would be easier on the hands. I switched from index to middle to ring finger flicking as blisters rose and fell, and even to my shame did the odd row Continental. I went through many times that 69p's worth of Norwegian hand liniment. My hands turned green - the dye just seemed to brush off the yarn! and every dozen or so stitches I'd have to stop, grab the ball, and dangle the knitting from it to de-tangle it - it was horrifically overspun. Then I began to notice it was FELTING. Well, sort of getting that another-go-at-90deg look about it, at least. Then there was the quantities of hay I had to dig out of it... Finally, when I wet it to block it, it looked like the dye was just going to leave it completely - it absolutely gulched out of it for ages. The odd thing is, the colour wasn't really affected - there's a few white flecks that weren't there before, but otherwise, it's the same sap green that drew me in the first place.

Then I went to UK Ravelry Day in Coventry a few weeks ago - a grand day out which I will make mention of - but anyhoo, I was tootling around the rain-soaked stalls, mindful of my budget* but determined at least to beard Jamieson & Smith in their, er, stall, and cop a feel of a few fibres that shall remain nameless (dirty, dirty qivuit), when I just ceas'd all motion. I posed myself a few searching questions and ascertained that something had caught my surveillance attention out of my peripheral visual field. There was a little hurried conferring with longterm memory, with visual memory loudly denying all knowledge and blaming everyone else, and then finally reading comprehension and categoric memory kicked in with a few facts that hitherto had not been going to the same parties, all whilst, unbeknownst to the cerebrum, the legs had wafted me towards a stall I had just passed.

And there by the hokey were some balls with the same odd rolled-up shape to them. Same godawful ropy stuff, in glowing colours - multi-coloured in this case, but I was too stunned to hold that against them. Ye see, all that mental conferring and confabulating - putting of straw and blisters together with dye runs and felting, and marrying that to a chance flicker in the corner of my eye on a rainy Saturday in Coventry - had already told me what I would see written on the gracefully hand-painted sign beside them...

Noro Silk Garden


But it doesn't end there... I have poured over Yarndex and online Noro sites, asked questions on fan forums, gone to yarn shops and looked and asked, and I'm no further forward. Noro's not cornflakes - they don't make yarn for anyone else, and no one else makes yarn for them. It looks like it might be Maiko 105 colourwise - but Maiko is a new range, and I bought this yarn before Maiko became available! Anyway, Maiko's also supposed to be plied, not single. I've bought more in the interim (yes, even before UK Rav Day!) which has a different structure - 2 plies, evenly spun - but in colours that are closer to Cash Iroha, which is a single (not plied) yarn... So I don't know what to think - and neither does anyone I've asked. It looks like it should be, but it's not quite right... There's only a few 'solid' Noro ranges, and the colours I'm finding are oh so close - but the weight and the construction is wrong, even for discontinued colours. Quality control reject? Pre-production run that didn't get past the design stage? Did someone hit the saki too hard at the office party, and do the yarn factory equivalent of photocopying their bum? Or is it something completely different, that just happens to bear certain remarkable similarities? Employees trying to make a bit of extra cash on the side? Industrial espionage? Wool piracy?

Akk. I'm not used to putting in this much detective work and getting nowhere. Answers on a postcard?


* I was rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack in May! It wasn't - I have the heart of a GOD - but the health insurance policy gave me some free money for the two-day stay in hospital, which was my UK Rav budget...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

International Women's Day

Looking at the IWD history page, it's easy to think that we've come a long way, but in reality little has been achieved, and little has changed. Women like me who call ourselves feminists are reviled by other women. We're considered 'unfeminine' and 'unladylike' by women who sup pints, enter farting competitions, and would kick your head in for calling them a lady, and 'frigid bra-burning lesbians' by men. Part of this is our own fault. The movement I joined in the mid 80s was fractured and always had been - a loose agglomeration comprising at one extreme women who just wanted a fair wage and the right to get mortgages and credit in their own name without a male relative going guarantor, and radical types who wanted men locked up in concentration camps/castrated at puberty after providing a sperm sample/killed except for a few caged breeding specimens. We disagreed over matters large and small: was pornography/contraception/abortion rights/writing Ms instead of Miss or Mrs empowering, or just another monumental fuck-over? Was marriage/being a housewife/(not) liking sex a sellout of the sisterhood or a legitimate form of self-expression? We never defined our terms adequately. Even our leaders have flip-flopped about in their ideology. Saint Germaine, I'm looking at you.

I still have the NUS Women's Campaign poster from when I was Women's Officer in '87-'88. It is almost perfect, no dog-ears, only a few folding lines. I have cared for it and will never part with it.I want to be buried with it. Some of you may be familiar with it. It was written, I believe, in 1971 by Joyce Stevens, and I hereby cheerfully rip it off. I doubt Joyce will mind. Most of the links were found by googling a couple of keywords.

Because women’s work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and we’re the first to get the sack and what we look like is more important than what we do and if we get raped it’s our fault and if we get bashed we must have provoked it [1] and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos and if we don’t we’re frigid and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a ‘real’ man and if we ask our doctor too many questions we’re neurotic and/or pushy [2] and if we expect community care for our children we’re selfish and if we stand up for our rights we’re aggressive and ‘unfeminine’ and if we don’t we’re typical weak females and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man and if we don’t we’re unnatural [3] and because we still can’t get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon and if we can’t cope or don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion and …

Because we still need campaigns against violence towards women;

Because we still can’t be sure of keeping our jobs if we get pregnant;

For Sahjda Bibi, victim of a so-called ‘honour killing’, not in some primitive shanty town in the Middle East, but in Birmingham UK;

For Hannah Koroma from Sierra Leone, victim of female genital mutilation;

For Hitayezu of Rwanda, dying of HIV/AIDS, unable to afford the drugs given freely to the Hutu militiamen who raped her;

For the unknown 47 women drivers of Saudi Arabia who still live in fear (I believe one of them was shot in the head by her ‘dishonoured’ father);

For Dr. Lyla Gul of Afghanistan, almost blinded by the Taliban religious police for travelling to work in a taxi without a male relative;

For L from China, adopted by A and G after being abandoned like tens of thousands of other baby girls;

And despite the fact that we are often our own worst enemies and that in living my life by my own lights, that I too have been less than kind towards the perceived weaknesses of my sisters, I am still proud to be a feminist

[1] myth # 3. Like those for rape crisis, all domestic violence websites and leaflets still have to repeat that “it’s not your fault”

[2] flip down to “Respect Women”

[3] or have some other daft monicker inflicted on us