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

Dorothy Rowe

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Silence returned to this blog -

because, firstly, the school holidays meant extra grandparenting. The VHC requested that he come to our house, play in our garden, and have a bath - which requests were granted. However even the beautiful weather didn't prevent him becoming bored with this choice of events, so a few other activities were organised. Manor Farm being out of favour, we enjoyed:
- an Easter egg hunt at Mottisfont (one of at least 4 they went to, although we didn't attend the others);
- a trip to Eastleigh Lakeside railway (a.k.a. 'the little trains');
- and Winchester Science Centre, where the VHC explored parachutes, the rowing machine and the crane, while his sister spent at least 45 minutes on the 'Stem Cell Volcano' (think a 2 metre diameter, horizontal 3D pinball machine). I don't think she learned much about stem cells, but she had a lot of fun, and I got an upper body workout providing the power which raised the marbles - er, stem cells - to the top of the volcano.

Secondly, it is nearly the end of the semester, which meant we part-timers had to prepare and mount, a small exhibition of our work this year, together with our portfolios and other evidence that we had actually done some work this year.

You may have detected a slight conflict of interests here. This was made worse because Uni was operating on West Sussex term dates, so were on holiday for a week before and a week after Easter. The children's school was not, so they are on holiday for two weeks after Easter. This meant that set up day (last Monday) was also a grandparenting day - the busiest grandparenting day because they weren't in school and Mondays incorporate a swimming lesson. For other reasons, things got very complicated, and we ended up having the little guys overnight, but granddad coped - and so did I, despite a bad night listening for voices and/or footsteps. The exhibition is up, the supporting portfolios etc. are in place, and I can relax till take-down day, which is next week. On a grandparenting day, naturally.

When I was doing the Foundation Degree, I usually ended up with something relatively simple to display. Wall hanging? Just need a pin in the wall. Cardboard 'treasure chest' (3D piece)? Just needs a plinth. Rolled paper tubes? (It was a textiles degree, despite all the evidence to the contrary.) Hang a few on the wall, pin up some photos, unroll the several metre long collection of rolled envelopes held together by string - done.

This time, things were a little more complicated. First we had to prepare the walls: the original plan had involved polyfilla and paint, but unfortunately (not) there was no paint, so after an emergency text to my long distance DIY expert, who fortunately had a lull in the grandparenting, I successfully polyfilled several small holes. Then some more after I'd hammered panel pins in the wrong places.

I had a 2 metre long column of gloves to suspend in a double-story space. A bracket, installed by the helpful technician, solved that, but I had to climb up the step ladder to tie the gloves on, and I don't do step ladders, or reaching up while holding 2 kilos of gloves.  And of course whenever I went up I got to the top and realised I had forgotten something, so had to go down again. 

Then there were prints and more gloves to fasten to the walls. This involved lots of bending down and climbing up (on a stepstool, fortunately) with long measuring tapes, metre rulers, spirit levels, and plumb lines (except that I had forgotten to take a plumb line and had to extemporise with my scissors and some yarn from the textiles room). It also involved a pin push and some pins, till I broke the pin push. Fortunately I had some panel pins and a hammer - and big pockets, in which I could stow most of the aforementioned.

But a stepstool, a poor head for heights and arthritic hips are not a good combination, and I was very glad to finish and come home.

If I have a long day on my feet, I often get cramp at night, and Monday night was no exception, so that was another wakeful night. Despite this, I had a lot of energy in the morning, so I decided to tidy my workroom - which involved a lot of of bending down and climbing up on a stepstool, plus moving heavy things from A to B - and - often - back again. I was fine till I sat down at lunchtime, but standing up again was something of a challenge. My joints told me very clearly that all this was not a good idea...

Attentive readers of this blog may remember that just after Christmas I announced my intention to make two ornaments a month, in order to decorate an Advent bough next December. I managed 3. Since then things have gone very quiet on the Advent decorations front. This was because I decided to focus on Uni work until the end of the semester and then catch up. The semester is not quite over yet, but I decided that this afternoon I would get started.

So, inspired by this, I made a book. No, it isn't one of the decorations. While I was looking through my extensive Pocket collection to find Christmas decoration instructions, I came across the picture on that link, and was sidetracked. I didn't have any interesting paper in a large size like the example in the picture, but I did have an A3 misprint of one of the images from the exhibition, so I made a quarter size version. 

Today I did get round to the Christmas decorations, using my own non-Christmassy colour scheme. Not quite according to the instructions  (now there's a surprise), which involved hot glue. Glue and I do not get on at the best of times, but hot glue? A recipe for disaster, I much prefer a needle and thread. Now I have to decide if these constitute 2 decorations, which means I have made 5, and only have half of March and all of April to do - or only 1, which means I am still 4 down. I think that question may only be answered when we get to December, and I see how many I have managed...

Monday 6 April 2015

Can you spot the (not so) deliberate mistake?

Not these. These were not mistakes. Weird, but not mistakes. Even the unfinished yarn ends which have felted together are deliberate. 

I may have shown you the left hand one before, but I've felted it a bit more since then. It was originally a tree with hands for branches. Now it's a glove with gloves for fingers, and has therefore, become the first of my unwearable gloves series. The glove on the right was intended to be unwearable right from the start. It was going to have a long tail (knit till the wool runs out) but I got bored and added a frill (increase in every stitch till the wool runs out). The result makes me think of a hand growing out of a brain. I am seriously beginning to wonder what is lurking in my subconscious and what will come out next. Especially because of what did happen next...

You may have noticed that all my samples so far have been made in neutral colours - because I was thinking of skin tones. However I've been pondering on using colour - after all, they are gloves, not hands. Or are they?

I wasn't sure what colour, but when I came across a big skein of  red yarn in a charity shop, I grabbed it. It felt like wool, and £4.50 for 800 grammes was a bargain. I like red, and I'd been very impressed by Louise Bourgeois' paintings of red hands at Southampton Art Gallery last month.

Of course, because it was a skein, I had to get out my swift and nostepinne. I know I shouldn't set up the swift in this ramshackle way, (that's not the deliberate mistake), but the stool is the only thing I can clamp it to. It actually reminds me of this. 

The image of the yarn on the swift is a more accurate colour than the others.

I thought I would only wind off about half of it to begin with, but I had a comfortable chair, I was enjoying the process, and I just kept going. It made me realise how important to me it is that I do these things by hand, in the old way. Wooden tools are nice too. But I don't think my foremothers had Radio 3 to keep them company.

I knitted a tiny sample and washed it - yup, it's wool - and started a glove. It wasn't going to be an unwearable glove, but one of a Louise Bourgeois inspired pair. But when I'd finished it and was sewing in the ends I realised this had happened.

I knew the stitch count was off when I got to the fingers, but just thought I'd miscalculated. Obviously my subconscious was telling me to stick with the unwearable gloves...

Wednesday 1 April 2015

One of those days.

No Uni today, as it is Easter break. Carefully timed not to be the same two weeks as the little guys' Easter break, but that's another story.

Today I had two essential  tasks, before getting down to Uni work: make some soup for lunch, and make some cakes.

I put all the soup ingredients into the electric pressure cooker - easy - started it, and started the cakes. Not a difficult recipe, but with several different steps, and needing to get the timing right.

In the middle of reducing the Guiness, melting the chocolate and butter,  and whisking the eggs and sugar, I realise that all is not well with the pressure cooker. Instead of automatically turning the heat down when it gets to the right pressure, cooking the soup for 20 minutes, then turning itself off, it is hissing like an angry cat, the lid isn't on properly, and the kitchen is full of steam.

The cake mixture is at a crucial stage, so I just turn off the pressure cooker and return to the cake making. 

In the middle of adding the hot butter and sugar, very carefully as advised by Ms Monroe, the buzzer on my washing machine goes off. This is only to tell me that it's finished, but it's annoying so I have to turn it off.

When I've got the brownies in the oven, and tidied the kitchen,  I return to the pressure cooker. I try to refit the lid but realise the the safety button has lifted and it's not going to work. Normally at this stage I'd have shoved the soup in a pan and finished it on the hob, but it is white bean soup, so needs long cooking, and I need it for lunch. So I get down the old manual pressure cooker which I haven't used since I bought the electric one. Unfortunately I haven't cleaned it in that time either, so it needs washing before I can use it.

The sink is full of the detritus from cake making, soaking to get all the chocolate off. 

Eventually I get the pressure cooker clean, decant the soup into it, put it on the hob - and realise that I can't remember how to use it. Nor can I find the manual. 

I did get it sorted eventually, and hopefully by the time I've written this we'll have some bean and tomato soup to enjoy - the brownies are for someone else.

But that is why I am now enjoying the left over Guiness, and may well open another can.