'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Four things I've done in the last fortnight

Four things I've done in the past fortnight:
 1. Watched far too much bike racing on TV.

 2. Taken the little guys to make some 'Neolithic pots' at their local museum. No photos, I'm afraid, because I forgot my camera, but I'm sure you can imagine some coiled pots made by a seven year old and a three year old. I wasn't sure they'd enjoy it, but they did: Babybel, who 'doesn't like trails', also loved doing the Stone Age worksheet provided by the museum, and looked far harder at their selection of Neolithic tools than she would have done otherwise. The VHC made a much better job of constructing his pots than I expected, and spent the next half hour asking what all sorts of things are made of. ('What's water made of?') We all enjoyed trying out an antler pick (those things are heavy!) and stroking the deer skins. Next week is a Roman mosaic coaster, and I think we'll be going back.

3. Worked on my latest unwearable, apparently unending glove. These things are not instant gratification, and this one is extra slow because it is colour work. Lumpy colour work.


4. Sewn the 70+ buttons on the first unwearable glove. I think I mentioned that I had discovered that the buttons I thought would do wouldn't, because they wouldn't  go through the button holes, so I went back to my first idea of using mother of pearl ones. I ordered some very cheap ones from eBay - or maybe Amazon - and then realised that they were going to take weeks to get here because they were coming from China. They arrived this week, and are a little smaller than I'd hoped, but they look OK, so I've sewn them on. It was boring, and I could only face it while listening to the aforementioned bike racing. Until it got exciting, of course, when I had to stop sewing and watch. (Sorry about the image quality, my phone really really didn't like this!)

Four things I haven't done in the last fortnight: 

 1. Blogging. As you may have noticed.

2. Decluttering. We've done some, but the pace has definitely slowed. This may have something to do with number 1 above.

 3. Uni work. Again, this may be related to the amount of daytime TV we've been watching.

 4. This month's Advent decorations. (I did do June's, although I don't think I posted about them.) However, this morning I cut out some felt stars which I have been working on while listening to/watching  this afternoon's excitements.

Now the racing is over, but the school holidays have started, so our time will be spent entertaining the little guys. The VHC has asked for a trip to the 'little trains' and the 'science place'. Babybel has not yet expressed an opinion, but I have no doubt we will be told before long. Granny rather fancies the Charlie and Lola trail at Mottisfont, but as mentioned, Babybel 'doesn't like trails', and regards herself as too grown up for Charlie and Lola, so granny's persuasive powers may be called into action... Perhaps a promise of fish feeding, icecream and a visit to the chicken wire horse will help?    

Sorry that the layout of this is a mess, Blogger is being a bugger. Again.    

Friday, 10 July 2015


from six days grandparenting on the trot has taken four 'normal' days (which included another1.5 grandparenting days). If you are the parent of young children you will be saying ’Only 6 days? I do it all the time!' - and I would have said the same 30 years ago - but that was 30 years ago, and somehow it seems much harder now! 

Still, we all survived: ducks were fed, school sports days were attended, the Race for Life was completed (and £250 raised for Cancer Research) by 2 of the fitter members of the family, and prizes were won by the carnival float, to which the little guys and their parents contributed time and effort, and granny contributed two mermaid tails and a red bandana. 

Decluttering also continued on days when we had the energy, and there is a little more room in half the kitchen cupboards. And of course, the Tour de France has also been watched. We didn't manage much of the live TV, but we have managed the highlights, and the right people have won - on a few occasions. (Go Cav!)

In between all that, there has been time for some knitting (but not blogging, and not much housework, as may be evident from this photo. One can be done sitting down, the other can't.)

The oft-started, top-down glove has been finished (and washed, which was a bit of a mistake, as it shrank a bit, and not evenly), and a new one, also top-down, started. I should perhaps point out that the mistakes in these are, if not intentional, intentionally uncorrected. A theme of imperfection/deterioration/ageing seems to be developing here - and knitting till the yarn runs out as a metaphor for life and death. Perhaps a rather morbid theme, but it's been one of those years! 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Learning from Experience

Other people's, in this case. Both sons have moved house recently, and seeing them battling with the sheer quantity of stuff each of them had accumulated over just a few years in relatively small houses, made us think about the amount of junk we have after 25 years in a (too) big house. I've already de-stashed a lot of my books, but that was just a drop in the ocean. I happened to read a post on a blog about tackling decluttering 15 minutes at a time, one room at a time, and we decided that was a good approach. Two of us working together = 30 minutes, and we'd be better motivated - and tougher about getting rid of stuff - working together. So last week we started with the bathrooms, on the grounds that there wasn't much in there, so it was an easy start. And there wasn't much - apart from an embarrassingly large collection of out-of-date over-the-counter medications, which had to be disposed of, together with some tired towels, grubby loofahs, etc.  This week was the turn of our bedroom, which was a somewhat larger task: indeed, had we stuck to 15 minutes a day, we'd still be on the second chest of drawers. But, like emptying the dishwasher, once we'd started we had to finish, so we tackled it one item of furniture per day. After a week, we have dozen bin bags heading for the charity shop, another dozen destined for the dump, empty  space in our wardrobes, and drawers we can actually close. It feels good!  Next week is very full of grandparenting, including a sleepover and a Race for Life, so we will tackle the hall and porch.  Despite this frenetic (?) activity, some needlework has been done. The endless gold glove has ended: I haven't measured it yet, but I think it's getting on for 4 metres to the end of its longest tail - or tentacle, it does tend to grab things. I was going to photograph it outside today, as it's outgrown the stairs, but as it's raining I decided not to bother.
  The tapestry weaving for beginners sample has also been finished. I need to work on my selvedges, but despite appearances the beginning is the same width as the end, which must be a first for my weaving.
And the long heralded, much restarted upside down glove has reached the cuff. Working out how to get the pattern to work in reverse involved a lot of standing on my head. (I lie, I turned the book upside down, but it was almost as confusing.)
I think this will be another long one, but I need to think about how I want to finish it off, which will involve experiments with samples of the fabric, bleach and matches. But not all at the same time.     

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Third Glove

Although I haven't yet finished the long, tatty glove, I decided it was too unwieldy for working on outside the privacy of my own home. I found some Aran cotton I've had for a long time (no idea why I bought it, but that's the story of my life.) I was going to use my usual (adapted from an old pattern book, 39 stitch, 5mm needles, wrist to finger) pattern. It comes out a bit big for me, but slightly over life size seems right. I use a waste yarn cast on, knit the hand bit, then pick up from the waste yarn and knit the cuff in the opposite direction. This allows me to go on knitting till the yarn runs out, which is a metaphor for life. Maybe. But. (There is always a but.) The original design has a twisted stitch pattern on it. I thought it was a cable pattern, and I didn't fancy working a cable pattern on what could turn into a 2-3 metre long glove - but when I looked properly it isn't a cable, and twisted stitches would be OK. Maybe. (There is always a maybe.) So, on Wednesday, while we were waiting in at the Cheese Minor's new house (again) for the Openreach man to turn up (he actually did this time!),  I cast on my 39 stitches, worked a few rows - and realised that the twisted stitch design would look different above and below the join. I would have to knit it from the finger tips down. I've done that many times before, but I find making separate finger and thumb tubes and then joining them together irritating, so I don't usually do it. Time for Plan B - but not that day. On Thursday, back at Cheese Minor Mansion, in the time between shopping and going to pick up the VHC from Nursery, I cast on for the thumb, and knitted 2.5 inches of stocking stitch. Well, approximately 2.5 inches, I didn't have a tape measure, but it fits my thumb. Then I cast on for the little finger. The fingers have the twisted stitch pattern on them, but I started it merrily, and it was easy to pick up. I was nearly at the end of the little finger (no measuring here, just a set number of pattern repeats) when I realised that I had made a mistake, about 5 rows from the beginning. Easier to pull the whole lot back and start again. But not that day. No photo, just imagine an unpatterned, slightly large, cream Aran thumb... We will be back at Cheese Minor Mansion on Monday, waiting in for an IKEA delivery this time, so I will have another go then. (Unlike Openreach, IKEA have told Mr Cheese Minor when they will be arriving, but somehow '10.16' has a precision which does not encourage confidence.) I had hoped to show you a photograph of the long tatty glove, finished, but it isn't, so I can't. Here it is unfinished.  
You can see how little yarn there is left though, so if I can just stop procrastinating (drinking tea, writing blog posts, doing a bit of weaving, playing Patience...) I could finish it easily. Part of the problem is that it is on 15mm needles which I find hard to hold, plus the yarn and the needles are slippery, so they keep parting company. Which is good, because I want it to look tatty, but irritating.  However, the major problem is that I am bored with it. Three or four metres of purse stitch can do that to you. You may have noticed the mention of weaving. As I couldn't get to Jilly Edwards' class on tapestry weaving at Walford last month, I joined a couple of friends in a teach ourselves day on Tuesday. (Made a  nice change from waiting in for people.) Fortunately C. had attended a class and knew about complicated stuff like twining and half hitches, so we sat in her very covetable workroom and played. This is mine, although I've added a bit more since then. I made the mistake of taking a fairly restricted range of threads, and wish I'd taken something a bit more interesting than wool, but it was a good learning experience, in good company, on a lovely day. 
  (I've just noticed how that diagonal stripe bottom right goes with the carpet!)   I shall resist the temptation to pick it up again, and stick to my knitting. (That's the weaving, not the carpet...)

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Still here ...

and still knitting.  
Another very long glove, gradually and intentionally disintegrating. 
I know how it feels. It's been a long week.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

You need hands...

Wensleydale and I keep saying to each other 'Next week, when things get back to normal...' I think we've been saying it all year, and so far, they haven't. Last week, you may remember, the Cheese Minors went on holiday. And so did we. The calm before the storm, as it turned out. This week they moved house. And so did we. Well, we helped with their house move. Granddad helped with plumbing, taking down cupboards, dismantling stuff etc. and I kept Babybel, the VHC and the dog out from under everyone else's feet. As it was a lovely day, this meant going out in the sunshine and watching them play. I think I drew the long straw.  Everything went as well as could be expected, given the trauma that moving house always is, and that Babybel was a bit off colour. Their new house is lovely, and a great improvement on their old one, in my opinion, although, of course, when we left yesterday, it was at that 'it gets worse before it gets better' stage that follows the removal men's departure, and precedes you having had the time to unpack. The new house being within walking distance of a chip shop was a definite plus. Next week will still not be 'normal' whatever that is, as we have changed our grandparenting days so we can be 'in', but at their house, for deliveries and BT engineers. Around all this chaos, I did manage to fit in some knitting. The wine-soaked glove dried out and has grown a bit - it is joining in the competition for the world's longest.  
  I also tried some sewing. I decided that I ought to have a go at making a sewn glove, so I Googled it. I read all the instructions for making your own pattern. Then I bought one. Then I procrastinated.  Next, as the pattern was very insistent on using stretchy fabric, I went through the stash for some stretchy fabric. This was not a bad thing, as I ended up throwing out a bin bag full of stuff I will never use. I also found:
  1. some white stretch velvet, bought because there was a fashion for doing things with stretch velvet. I can't remember what the fashion was (it may have involved transfer dyes) but I still have the stretch velvet. 
  2. some flesh tone cotton jersey, bought when I made dolls, and
  3. 2 metres of white cotton jersey, bought for who knows what. 
I thought about using the flesh, but went with the white , because there was more of it if I made mistakes. Then I procrastinated. Finally, on Thursday, I ordered myself to get started.  I made mistakes. The major one was having the idea in the first place.  I am sure all my readers are skilful glove makers. Look on my works, ye mighty, and laugh.  
It is easier to list what went right than what went wrong.
What went right? Nothing. Knitting gloves may take longer than sewing them, (though the endless resewing of the finger seams, which had become shredded when they disappeared down the hole in the needle plate, took half a lifetime) but it is a damn sight easier.
But then - I decided, despite being tempted towards long term procrastination, to do what I had decided to do with this glove, after  seeing Shelly Goldsmith's 'Dark Time' at the Contemporary Craft Centre at Farnham last weekend.
I wanted to add an image. So I scanned my hand, again, flipped the image, printed it on to transfer paper, cut it round the rather blurry edges and ironed it onto the glove.
And I rather like it. The transfer wasn't perfect,, and the image tore when I straightened out the glove, but I like the effect of that. 
So? More experiments. These gloves are not going to be worn - that was the theme I started with about 2 months and 27 new ideas ago - so they don't have to be made properly. Which means I can play with different materials, different construction techniques, perhaps even transfer photos/scans onto knitted gloves. 
time to start procrastinating about all these new ideas...

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Taking advantage...

of Cheese Minor and family jetting off to sunnier climes, Wensleydale and I decided to do something similar. Well, a bit similar. They went to Tuscany, we went to Dorset. They had rain, we didn't, but it wasn't  warm enough here to sit by the pool, assuming our hotel had had a pool, which it didn't, and assuming I looked as good in a bikini as Mrs Cheese Minor, which I don't. Which is one reason I don't own a bikini.

Both holidays involved some ancient buildings however. Theirs were in Pisa, Florence and Sienna: ours weren't. (I may sound a little jealous, and indeed I am, but we had a good time, I hate flying, and their flight took about as long as our drive, which was door to door.)

We revisited Sherborne Abbey, which is a stunning building, with fan vaulting to rival King's College Chapel. It also had hands, with and without gloves.

We also revisited this gentleman, who was a bit more visible than last year - perhaps he'd had a wash and brush up. 

Last time we went west, we went to Montacute, but, to be honest I wasn't overwhelmed by it, and it was very busy, and we thought it would be worse this year because of the Wolf Hall connection. So we went to Barrington Court instead.

Two pieces of advice if you wish to follow in our footsteps:
1. Do not make the mistake of following the National Trust signed route off the A303, unless you enjoy driving along single track roads with high hedges, and maniacs and tractors driving the other way; and

2. Do not make the mistake of thinking Barrington Court does not have a Wolf Hall connection. It does. It appeared in many guises, including Thomas Cromwell's Privy Chamber and his stables. 

Unfortunately Mark Rylance was not in his Privy Chamber so Wensleydale stood sat in for him.

I also photographed a lot of other windows. Perhaps because there is very little furniture in the house, perhaps because the sun was shining, but mostly because they are lovely windows with lovely wonky glass. 

I also took a lot of flower photos, as the gardens are beautiful, but I will spare you those, as this post will be photo heavy enough anyway.

A new day, a new National Trust property, Lytes Cary Manor - got to get our money's worth from our memberships. This was my favourite of all the places we went. It's small, and cosy, with even more beautiful gardens than Barrington Manor. There was, unfortunately, what Worzel Gummidge described as 'fresh country air with a touch of pig', but I'm sure it's not permanent, and you couldn't smell it in the house. More garden photos, and more windows.

Finally, on the way home, we called in at Kingston Lacy for a cup of tea and a leg stretch. No windows this time, because we stayed outside. 

It was only when we got back to the car that I realised that the reason the car park was full and the gardens empty, was because on wet days, normal human beings go to N.T. properties to go round the house in the dry, not round the gardens in the rain. Well, it wasn't raining much, that came later... Along with traffic jams on the M3, but we managed to bypass those.

So, a good time, but as always, I'm glad to be home. I did manage to start some knitting, but I've just soaked it in white wine, so it's not photographable at the moment. (Not deliberately, obviously, it was a waste of good wine...)