Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yarn Margaritas and Buttoninis

BKFF and I were conversing about the nature of yarn purchases in times of high stress... partly because this morning, having checked my work email, I promptly made a certain purchase which you'll hear about soon enough. I claimed that such purchases were the equivalent of a couple of margaritas in stress relief. BKFF promptly dubbed such purchases 'yarn margaritas.'

I got home, having spent the day behaving as though I'd had a few too many espressos rather than perhaps margaritas, and found a little parcel... it's not yarn, so I've dubbed this a buttonini! Okay, the glass is totally wrong, but you get the idea!

The buttons are from Buttons By Robin and are some of the cutest buttons ever in my possession. I love the slightly irregular quality that just cries out 'handmade'! I'm mulling over what to knit for the buttons... because, you know, sometimes you just have to knit for the buttons...

In good news, even though I tried very hard to get home before dark and still didn't make it before the stars were twinkling above me, Lola and Fifi were snug as two little hens can be in their house and Lola appears to be over her traumatic night.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Save to say... the knitting is done!

I picked up a copy of Designer Knitting the other day. I really love Shiri Mor's cardigan with its amazing shapes. And Mari Muinonen's lace stockings are incredible - she's the one behind Sylvi in the Twist Collective. Too many projects, too little time.

Arrived home in the dark and rain to discover the little hens' coop door had swung shut in the wind. Fifi was safely inside, but poor Lola... it took me a little while, but I finally located her out in the rain. She was so sleepy, she couldn't even get her little chicken feet on the perch!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Still Busy

But have discovered that Mimi and Coco love Wizard Rock. They are seriously hanging around the back door every time I play Into the Pensieve or the Mudbloods, chicken heads bobbing.

And I really, really want my own TARDIS shed.

I'm Busy

I'm busy. Really I am. I have a paper on Wizard Rock on the go, I'm doing laundry, and the hens are out and about. The personalities of the hens really do change between the string of days when they're cooped up and the days when they're out and about doing their chicken thing. They're happier hens when they get to free-range without the limitations of wire. They're more playful and like to scoot around my ankles inquiring about food. They stand on the top step looking in through the screen door to see what's happening. At the end of the day, they go to bed early, all tuckered out.

I'm busy. Last night I was finishing up emails from work and I heard the screen door at the front. No knock. I thought someone must be leaving something. I gave it a couple of minutes as I sent off an email, then went to see. There was a guy there. Telling me about electricity bills and how he was doing a survey. That's a crock. They've been using that line for about six months to get people to switch electricity companies. So, not only was it creepy that he didn't knock and that he then waited, standing outside my door, for that long, but I tell him pointedly that I'm busy and not interested. "I'm busy too," he responds. I blinked. I now wish that I'd retorted that I don't care if he's busy - he's on my doorstep and uninvited. It's not like I'm taking time out of his busy schedule. I understand that he may be tired of people sending him on his way, but that's not my fault.

I'm busy. I'm half way through the final sleeve (okay, it does take me a while!) and already busily thinking that Vivian would look best in red. Don't you think?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Girlie Stig - 100 posts later!

Yesterday was a very long day, so I ended it with rock 'n' roll troll tales and Arwen while wrapped up in my Girlie Stig! I couldn't resist naming it that. Mum crocheted this utterly beautiful, generous wrap for me from a vintage pattern - it looks amazing! As I was photographing it to show it off to you all, it occurred to me that it didn't have a name. What to name it? I looked at the stripes and thought 'race track'. But it's pink...

And then the Girlie Stig was born! I'm not sure what Mum will make of this naming, but I will just reiterate... this is a beautiful wrap! (Yes, I'm also very spoilt at the moment, after BKFF's amazing shawl!) And after the day, it was so nice to curl into. I don't heat the house in winter. I'm not fond of heating. I love bundling under duvets and layers of coats.

This is also the 100th post. Who knew it would come this quickly? And has everyone else spotted Knitter's Addiction? They have banana yarn! And possum yarn! I'm very excited!

Anyway, my sausage hot pot soup is almost read.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

BSG knitting

The wonderful thing about having students? They tell you about all the cool stuff out there. Which is why I'm ever so slightly addicted to BSG now (okay, BKFF nagged me for ages to watch it too and now we're both deciding on sparkly yarn to knit Vipers in). Anyway, watching lots of BSG has been good for my knitting output. The sleeve on Arwen is now underway and I began the Scholar's Collar with a little riff... a row of owl cables. Subtle enough for a man, do you think? I didn't want to make it girly, but owls are quite academic and I figured the cable would just give it a touch of interest. The rest will all be in garter stitch, which will enable to me to knit during casual meetings and on buses etc in order to finish it in time.

And here's the stealth hens, Fifi and Lola. I managed to catch them late last night before they hopped off to bed. Spot the clipped wings? My neighbour had to ground them while I was in the UK. Fifi spent a day flying from tree top to fence top, giving my neighbour a migraine in the process. I think she was frightened by a cat. The main problem is that once she's up, up, up and away, she forgets how to bring herself back down to earth, so you end up with an exhausted, puffed out hen perched high in a tree that you have to somehow wrangle down.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Serious Balls of Yarn

BKFF is making Mrs Darcy's cardigan out of some big balls of yarn she ordered from the Bendigo Woollen Mills. They are seriously impressive balls. And just the other day, one of my senior colleagues, due to leave in a few weeks, remarked that in this weather, I should be knitting scarves. He flourished his own and I thought... hmmm... maybe the Scholar Collar? Quick knit, suitably academic. A nice farewell gift. So, feeling the urge to try out the... ahem... impressive balls of yarn from Bendigo Woollen Mills, I ordered the Green Tweed Rustic. It's just right! I also got some Luxury Iris Mist in 4ply and Luxury Ice in Aran - just to try. The Aran I have in mind for Vivian and so far so good. I'm planning to knit it up into something - any suggestions? - so I can get a feel for how it'll work. Vivian is pretty intensive, so I want to make sure the yarn will hold. The 4ply is lovely and soft and will either be a shawl or socks... I love lilacs! But, honestly... these are fantastic fun just wound up into balls!

BKFF and I had a great night of chatting and working on our respective cardigans. I'm very close now to the final sleeve of Arwen. I'm determined to finish it for winter.

And, just to finish this blog entry, I haven't given you updated shots of the girls for a while. Here are Coco and Mimi on the prowl. Fifi and Lola continue to be flighty and as soon as they spot the camera, take off. Although, they have been great fun of late. Coco's been trying to sleep in the little hens' house. At bedtime, I hear a great squawk from Fifi and as soon as I open the back door, Lola dashes over to me, noisily declaring that Coco is once again in her house and she can't, therefore, go to bed. So I have to try to wrestle poor, sleepy Coco out, who inevitably gives me a sad look: "but I like sleeping in the other house!" Once she's back in her house, Fifi and Lola give a satisfied sniff and hop up into theirs.

Monday, May 11, 2009

BKFFs and Princesses

My BKFF (Best Knitting Friend Forever - thank you to Cookie A. for the term!) popped in yesterday with this:

Isn't it gorgeous? Okay, it's a rather odd shot - I was trying to do an action shot, since the drape is just really, really great, but this was the best I managed, I'm afraid. Still, you can see how gorgeous this is!

And just recently, my Leia USB drive arrived and is just as cute as I hoped! She had a companion... a bear in a pink FBI shirt. Who knew you could get pink FBI shirts?

Friday, May 8, 2009

No Use-By Date On Jetlag

Actually, I wasn't just spending all my time trotting around stately homes looking for Mr Darcy or the Dread Pirate Roberts with my knitting. I was actually in the UK for a fairy tale conference. Yes, there is such a thing as a fairy tale conference. Isn't that the most amazing thing?

It was a brilliant conference! And who knew? The next generation of scholars are, to a large extent, into vintage. Yes, it was also one of the best dressed conferences I've been to.

During the conference, I stayed with Nim's and my friend. Actually, we'd only met briefly in London a couple of years earlier at the time of the infamous 'Doctor in the Cream' incident, pictured below. We'd bought the Doctor Who figure on a whim and were fooling around that night in The Stockpot when...

What made it worse was the waiter asking if he needed resuscitation. We still have not been back to the Stockpot.

So, while I was in Norwich, I couldn't resist visiting Elm Hill, where you can see the building that stood in for The Slaughtered Prince, the inn in Stardust. Thankfully, I didn't meet any strange witches wanting to rip out my heart.

The journey home was kind of long. It involved a bus first to Heathrow and for some reason, someone at Norwich bus station kind of got the Discworld and Doctor Who muddled...

So I'm still kind of jetlagged, which I claim is exasperated by the sheer amount of catching up I've had to do. All the same, it was a wonderful trip. Oh, and I almost forgot to include this last shot. Look close and you'll know what I mean... seriously, I swear Cookie A. was here!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Darcy and the Poultry

Nim and I hadn't quite given up on running into Mr Darcy, however. We headed off to Chatsworth, rumoured to be the house that inspired Pemberley. Chatsworth is one of the best organised in terms of attracting visitors, but I didn't find it overtly commercial. Just very clever about it, with well laid out shops and cafes and other facilities. The interior of Chatsworth was a bit grand for me - Haddon Hall and Lyme Hall seemed more liveable. Of course, we only got to see the grand parts of the house!

At a suitable distance from the House and with a good view, Nim and I set about the task of photographing Bingley at his friend's maybe-residence. Nim was struck with the idea of perching Bingley in the branches. Remember, Bingley is a ball of yarn. He didn't want to sit still in the branches. He kept rolling away down the hill through the daffodils while I jumped up and down: "Nim! There's tourists coming down the path!" Nonetheless, we did manage to take a few photos!

As we headed down the hill, we realised that obviously, Darcy had been there ahead of us, but in his dash to remove himself and thus avoid looking disreputable and sexy in a wet shirt, he'd left his rubber ducky behind!

(With thanks to a friend who came up with this lovely scenario!)

He'd also obviously tried then to have a comfortable, private shower under the Spitting Willow (at least, I think it was the Spitting Willow... I just kept thinking of Whomping Willows and how this one might be related!).

In fact, Chatsworth was having a duck hunt... a suitably non-violent duck hunt where identifying all the rubber ducks in the grounds was the aim. There was even one perched high on the maze. Alas, lots of rubber ducks, but no Darcy... :-(

Chatsworth is wonderfully poultry-friendly, though, and forgive this blog for now indulging in a little chicken-fest.

Nim rolled her eyes when I then walked out of the souvenir shop with my own chicken... one that happily cleared customs and quarantine.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

As You Wish...

What to do when you aren't looking for Darcy... what to do...

Well, you could always look for Westley! Good friend Nim and I trotted out of Bakewell towards Haddon Hall, one of the film locations for The Princess Bride.

The moment we saw it, we both let out a little 'yip'. It's a perfect little castle set in the rolling hills of Derbyshire.

And the adjacent cafe has the most amazing topiary ever... the boar stands for the Vernons and the Peacock (which, yes, we thought looked like a chicken!) for the Manners. Coincidentally, the families are linked to Belvoir Castle, where I had tripped earlier. The guide book told us about the romantic tale of Dorothy Vernon's elopement. The only catch was, every reference to said elopement took for granted that the reader knew all about it! I didn't and it was a while before I managed to look it up on line. However, yes, apparently Dorothy Vernon, against the wishes of her father, eloped with John Manners, second son of an earl. A set of stairs at the Hall are named for Dorothy, reputedly being the stairs she took as she ran away into the woods to elope.

Of more interest to Nim and I, however, was the archway... remember the introduction of Princess Buttercup? As we waited for other tourists to scoot - so that we could take a photo of the SIP, being, of course, the Monkey I was making from my Man in Black yarn - I kept whispering "boo! putrescence!" Unfortunately, I'd forgotten the whole speech, which goes like this: "True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo." That is a seriously great speech.

Isn't it gorgeous, though - the archway that is? And inside the Hall... oh my! It really is the perfect place for adventure. Large fireplaces, chandeliers you could swing off, long halls of faded wood panelling carved with shields and boars and peacocks, uneven stone floors, ancient glass in the windows, some etched with the names of the workmen, a manacle into which guests who drank too little or too much were placed, kitchens like old caverns, the smooth feel of old wood...

And outside, the prettiest little gardens. Here's the sock again! And the rolling hills in the distance. You could swear they were the ones Westley and Buttercup rolled down!

In the museum, we even found some knitting! It had been found in an account book for 1632. I suspect it might have been a knitted bandage?? Perhaps? One that Buttercup wound around Westley's wounds?

I think Haddon Hall of all places was my favourite. It simply is... well... romantic. That truly is the best word for it.

As you wish.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Socks and sopping shirts

The subtitle of this post... Looking for Mr Darcy.

Yes, I went to Pemberley. The Pemberley. The BBC Colin Firth-as-Mr-Darcy Pemberley!

I took a bus that wound through little villages and hopped off completely unaware of where I was in the universe. I then struck out down a road and eventually found the entrance to Lyme Park, which involved a further trek before... Pemberley!

And, oh, I totally get why Lizzie reflected thus:

"And of this place," thought she, "I might have been mistress! With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted! Instead of viewing them as a stranger, I might have rejoiced in them as my own, and welcomed to them as visitors my uncle and aunt."

Lyme Hall itself is gorgeous! The wooden panelling is superb and while it is quite grand, it's still a very comfortable residence. I particularly loved the Knight's Bedroom, with its crooked fireplace, the tale of the skeleton found under the floor boards and of ghosts that haunt it, and the outlandish four poster bed.

I had to take a sock to visit and, naturally, I had to pick the right sock. So, having woken up in Bakewell at 6am that morning, I finally cast on Netherfields in my P&P sock club colourway, Mr Bingley. Okay, Darcy in a pattern called Pemberley would have been better, but I didn't have that.

The Netherfields are my first attempt at toe-up and using circulars. After a few false starts, though, I was off! Okay, I still only have the toe done, but, seriously, I was on the move!

So below you see my attempt to capture my Netherfields overlooking Pemberley and the lake. Only, it was really really windy and the Bingley ball kept rolling and I didn't want... ah... Bingley to end up in the lake. Now that I think about it, that could have been really really funny! But, alas, all you can really see is the top of my knitting bag.

But later I hit the lake again and sat down and knitted away, waiting for Darcy to appear, all wet and soggy and in need of a nice towel and cup of tea. He didn't show up. I sheepishly asked one of the guides whether it was the lake. Her face crinkled in delight: "Yes, it definitely is, and don't feel embarrassed. I have lots of questions about whether Mr Darcy is in... unfortunately, he never has been."

As I wandered the park, I found the deer - including the white ones!

And then back to Bakewell. This was where Jane Austen was reputed to have stayed. I was in a B&B in a very old farm house and it was wonderful. The village itself is a perfect English village and the B&B has the softest, whitest beds! Jane, I totally agree. There is "no finer county in England than Derbyshire". Oh, okay, I also love Oxfordshire, but Derbyshire really is beautiful.

Plus, I found one of my favourite ever gravestones in the church yard at Bakewell. "In Commemoration of the awfully sudden death of George Bown, aged 35 years, who was killed by a stroke of lightning during a thunder storm."