Monday, 26 October 2009

Travellers Impressions: Wildlife

No trip to a Sheep and Wool Fair is complete without a good look around the livestock barns to take a look at the creatures whose fluff we covet. I will tell you now, I will never make a top class wildlife photographer as I was determined not to alarm the animals so set my camera to suppress the flash gun and refused to poke, prod, snap fingers etc to get the animal's attention. This would all be tres laudable if I had what they do, patience, and didn't have the attention span of a gnat in a room full of bright shiny and woolly distractions. Treat these photos kindly, they are guaranteed cruelty free and a true representation of the expressions of the animals at the time.

As usual I was way too scatty to ascertain their breed - do chip in if you know.

First up, look at this serene creature - don't you just want to bury your hands in that beautiful curly fleece?
Or this bashful teenager gazing through her fringe? I think she may possibly be a Rambouillet.

And this delicate little creature may be a Soay.

Not sure about this chap having the bad hair day.
But who could mistake this characterful Jacob for anything else?

Sheep were not the only wool bearing creatures showing their talents at Rhinebeck. Look at these beautiful Llamas preparing to compete....

in the high jump competition! Apologies for the quality of the photograph - it was the only one where a llama was actually in flight...

...most of them were asserting their independence of character in this manner...

But who can fail to forgive a creature that looks this regal?

And they do have their sensitive side too.

No report on my wildlife encounters would be complete without a photograph of Dennis, my knitting supervisor during my stay in New York. He hadn't been in the best of health but on hearing the mention of the words 'Portrait of Dennis' started to enthusiastically clean his fur. He is a quiet, dignified cat much beloved by Juanita, my very gracious host. I wish him a full recovery.

And finally, despite the fact that I wanted to bring all these wonderful creatures home with me, I had to content myself with this, a black sheep mug by Jenny the Potter.

It will be a good way to remember my travels every time I have a cup of tea.
Next time I might just talk about a few souvenirs of my travels - and there could also be knitting...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Travellers Impressions: Colour

Well hello everyone, it's been a while....

I'm back from my couple of weeks on the east coast of the USA with a head full of impressions and a bag full of yarn! Unusually circumstances pretty much prevented almost all internet contact which means that I have so much to talk about that I have been at a loss as to how to share the best of my experiences with you in a coherent manner. Having looked through the hundreds of photos that I have taken - yes, I did make sure my camera was a constant companion this time - I have decided to concentrate on themes rather than try to give a day by day travelogue.

Given that I was travelling in the middle of autumn, or fall, the first theme that my camera led me to is colour.

I have to say that everything that I have been told about the magnificence of the colours in this part of the country at this time of year is, in my brief experience true. Starting my travels in the south it was wonderful to see how as I travelled north through Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York State how the colours became more and more wildly intense.

The light at this time of year is also wonderfully golden adding an intensity to the colours whether you look up through the canopy...

....or focus in on a single plant.

Even on an overcast day the colours sing.

But against a clear blue sky they are simply magnificent.

Even in the built environment colour takes on a new intensity as this image of the Library at Columbia University in New York City shows.

Crafts people are not immune to the influence of the shades of autumn. Everywhere I looked, people were decorating their houses with bright orange pumpkins in advance of the holiday season. However,none were as beautiful as these works of art made by the pumpkin carver at the Sheep and Wool festival at Rhinebeck.

Autumnal themes were very much on the minds of the yarn stall holders as well - look at this amazing array of autumnal shades in this yarn display.

I also realised that I am by no means immune to these influences. We paid a visit to Loop, a beautiful yarn shop in Philadelphia where I found a book of beginners crochet patterns and with my friend Laura's help chose a pattern for washcloths and some lovely Blue Skies organic cotton to make them with. The shades I was drawn to are very much in keeping with the warm tones of the season. Thanks to Laura's patient assistance I am proud to say that I have now followed my first crochet pattern!

The colours are also beautifully picked up in the sock that I took with me as a travel project.

That's all for now - thanks to everyone for their good wishes for my trip - I really did have a wonderful time. Also, a quick hello to any readers of Let's Knit magazine who are visiting for the first time - things aren't usually as chaotic (well, not quite...)
I'll be back very soon and am thinking about telling you about the wild (and not so wild) life next time...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

In which knitting brings out the worst in me

Now I have always serenely imagined that when I indulge myself in the fibre arts I am allowing my very best and most creative self to express herself fully as a way of compensation for all the compromises, frustrations and less than admirable behaviours I have to display in my working and domestic life.

With knitting and spinning I am artistic, creative, meticulous and productive. If I was allowed to knit all day I would be a far better citizen and human being than the flawed character who stands before you. As I was preparing to go away for the weekend to the Isle of Wight to see my dad (a euphemism for two days uninterrupted knitting and chatting time with meals thrown in) I could have been sensible and taken a couple of my many unfinished items and made substantial progress on them.The problem is that I just didn't want to. I wanted to take shiny new projects away with me and forget about everything in my to do pile gazing at me balefully. Then it dawned on me. I can do exactly what I please in my knitting - if I want to have 100 things on the go then I can, it doesn't have to always show my best side, sometimes it's a very convenient place to indulge my habits of procrastinating, starting but not finishing, being seduced by the new and shiny... certainly less risky than letting them out at work!

So my lesson for today is - do what you love - there is no such thing as the perfect knitter - be wild, undisciplined and enjoy yourself - I do!

Thus liberated I had a good rummage through my sock yarn and chose a couple of skeins in colours that caught my eye.

On the left is some Yarn Yard Toddy in the club colours from last month and on the right is some Malabrigo sock.

While I was at my dad's I went out into the garden and took a few random photos of indicators of the change of season such as these leaves...

and these horse chestnuts, shiny straight from their husks.

It occurred to me that I had chosen warm colours, in keeping with the shades that things are now turning and in warm tones to lift the spirits as the nights draw in.
My initial thoughts were just to knot a couple of plain toe up socks as a way of imprinting the basic toe up sock recipe in my mind but then as I started the first tow I got to wondering what the pattern would look like a bit jumbled up so I got out the simple diamond pattern that I had used in my horse chestnut socks and started playing around with it.

In plain stocking stitch the short colour repeats make for a very pleasing overall texture

But a very simple stitch pattern givessome interest without being overwhelmed by the colour repeats as there are no real jarring contrasting colours so they harmonise well.

As I wound the Malabrigo into a ball it struck me that the overall effect of the shades was by no means overtly feminine and therefore suitable for a mansock. I decided to have a go at Wendy Johnson's Mock Cable Socks sized for a larger foot.

I have to say I am totally smitten with this yarn - the shades that they have blended make such a warm and sophisticated overall palette.

and the mock cable make then a little bit more interesting to knit.

It was also a wonderful feeling not to be encumbered by my bag of unfinished items and to start everything from scratch. Naughty but nice....
Thanks to everyone for their good wishes for my trip - I fly out at stupid o'clock tomorrow morning but should be in New York City for lunch - how about that?
Have I packed yet? Of course not!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Big wheel keeps on turning...

And little ones do too - Little Gem's to be precise.

You could be forgiven for thinking that I had abandoned my spinning in favour of instant gratification scarfage projects but I'm sure you will be reassured to know that I do find time for a bit of a spin every day - even if it is only ten minutes.

On the bobbin at the moment is some lovely grey merino over dyed in shades of green by The Thylacine. I love naturally coloured roving over dyed as it gives such a sophisticated depth to the colours. It is also lovely when, as in this case, some of the natural colour is allowed to show through. The name of this colourway is Temperate Rainforest, which perfectly describes and evokes the part of Australia in the Strezlecki Ranges that I spend as much of my time in as possible. It's spring there now which makes me miss it very much right now but, I have exciting travel news of a different kind which I will tell you about later.

I have 200g of this roving and am spinning it reasonably finely for me and am stripping it into finger sized pieces to give reasonably sized but not massive colour repeats. I will be making a two ply yarn so am hoping for a gently variegated heathered effect with some but not too obvious striping to make a lacy shoulder shawl to feed my current obsession.

Most recently off the bobbins is this yarn spun from Lime Green Jelly's Merino, Cashmere and Silk roving in the Queen of Hearts shade. As you can see, it has some of my usual spinning inconsistencies but it is the most beautifully soft yarn you can imagine. I'm planning to make myself a rather Gothic pair of extended Cranfords with it.
And finally, I have a finished object for you - yes, with great perseverance I have finished the Skinny Lace Rib scarf in Yarn Yard Caber in the Sea Glass shade. Despite the fact that at some points I believed that I was actually knitting from a loop and the ball of yarn really did not have an end I finally regained my faith in the laws of physics and finished the scarf last night. I have decided not to block it as I like the texture as it is and it wraps twice around my neck very comfortably. The stitch pattern I used is the enigmatically titled Number 41 from Susanna Lewis's Knitting Lace which is extremely simple and easy to memorise and read..

The back of the scarf is also quite decorative.

And I nearly forgot -my travel plans. I'm off to see my dad on the Isle of Wight at the weekend for a couple of days of lazy chatting and knitting but this time next week I will be in America, starting in New York, travelling down through Pennsylvania to Philadelphia, back up to Massachusetts, and into New York State to the Dutchess County Showgrounds for the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival!

How excited do you think I am?