Thursday, 27 October 2011

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Thanks to Planet Penny I'm looking for Reasons To Be Cheerful, but as yesterday was just one of those days, it's been harder than usual to think of any.

However I'm a relatively glass-half-full person so here we go :-).

1) There is still some colour in the garden! There was some sunshine and blue sky yesterday morning so I grabbed the opportunity to take a few pictures:

2) The other day I hauled out all wool I'd dyed myself to have a look - actually I was looking for the blackberry-dyed stuff to compare it to the elderberry-dyed but once I got everything out I just had to take a few photographs!

And it really gives me a boost to see how much I've done with so many different bits of vegetation, and how much I've learned in the process. When the kids came home from school we spent some happy (non-bickering!) time looking through and they decided which were their favourites. Miss Mouse, predictably went for the pinks:

(balls at top - blackberry; middle skein - red cabbage, I think; bottom skein: elderberry)

..while the Boy decided his favourite is the soft orange at the bottom of this picture:

I like the brown in the middle best I think.

So, a bag full of naturally-dyed happiness. I'm easily pleased :-D.

3) Looking at something I'd cast on the other day I decided that the cast-on wasn't really stretchy enough so this morning I had a look at YouTube for stretchier cast-ons (my usual cast-on is the long-tail thumb cast-on). And I found one excellent one involving a crochet hook (which I notice a nippy purist has cast aspersions on in the comments - come on, most knitters have a crochet hook lying around for picking up dropped stitches, and can learn how to do one chain in two minutes with YouTube, it's hardly taking you over to the Dark Side) and another one which took me a minute or two to get my head round but could be useful. So my third Reason To Be Cheerful is for the learning of new skills, however small!

You know if type 'cast-on' often enough it looks really weird. Also, do any other Scots habitually think of 'YouTube as 'ya choob'?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Just before we went up north I did another quick elderberry dye, and this time let it stay pink. Pretty, isn't it? It's a bit paler in real life but nice nevertheless. I tried an acid (vinegar) modifier but to be honest I don't think it made much difference to the colour. It was still damp and smelling faintly of vinegar when we set off up the A9 so I took it with me and dried it at my parents' house. I just had a sniff to see if it still smells vinegary but it just smells of their house! Isn't it odd how houses have a distinct smell? I dread to think knows what ours smells of...

Here's the elderberry pink with the elderberry green from a few weeks ago:

Ah serene!

I was out for a walk yesterday, getting more blackberries for the crumble, and saw lots of serene muted shades, like this:

and this:

and then:

Woah! Colour!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Making Monday and GSoY loot

On Saturday I went to the Glasgow School of Yarn, an event organised by the Yarn Cake to celebrate their first birthday. There were classes and a marketplace, coffee and cakes. And lots of lovely knitters - many of whom seemed to have been there for both days (it started on the Friday). I had been looking forward to it for ages and even ensured that we'd be back from our little jaunt up north in time for it. Unfortunately by the time I got there I felt lousy - really drained and dizzy and just not right. It's probably as well that I'd been too disorganised to sign up for any classes. I kept having to sit down, and couldn't focus (mentally) which possibly was a good thing in a way as the Marketplace was very tempting and had I been well I'd probably have spent far too much. As it is I came away with two (signed!) books and a skein of Colorimetry yarn.

It was lovely to sit and chat. Knitters are such nice people aren't they? Angela had been to a steeking class and was full of enthusiasm for getting the scissors out. And she mothered me most excellently when I was being peely-wally! And despite the wooziness I did have a great time. I caught up with Purplejen of Colorimetry who I've not seen for Far Far Too Long, and Added Sparkle who works with my Beloved and has been turned to the Motorbike Side..

The venue, the Mackintosh church, was interesting. It amost feels like heresy to say it, living so close to Glasgow, but I *whispers* don't like the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh that much. As Angela pointed out there was a period when you couldn't move for Mackintosh-inspired stuff in Glasgow and I suspect that may coincide with when we moved down here - it was ubiquitous to the point of silliness and I think it put me off.

It's a nice building though.

It wasn't until today that I noticed the colours in the Colorimetry I bought were very like those in the Peerie Flooers I'm knitting at the moment - that's probably what drew me to that particular skein when usually I'm drawn to greens!

Which brings me to today's Making which has been limited due to dishwashing, cat-litter-changing, hoovering, post-school-obnoxious-child-wrangling and similar exciting projects. Today I have been mostly knitting Peerie Flooers and making another apple and blackberry crumble. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A little break

Hello! We've been away for a little break - it was the schools' October break so we headed up north to see my mum and dad. Last time we were there it was July and blazing sunshine (or as blazing as it gets in the Highlands) so poor Miss Mouse, with her as yet limited sense of the passage of time, was hoping for paddling-pool weather. Alas no..

We did get out a bit - that picture was taken at the Highland Folk Museum, one of our favourite places, looking back along Newtonmore to Creag Dhubh.

It was a cold blowy day but the nice thing about the museum is that although it's an outdoor kind of place you can go in the buildings and warm up. Like the hens did:

You can even sit round the fire in some of the houses. I like the teasels on the windowsill - I must grow teasels again.

Down at the croft we looked at the butter-making stuff..

I love the way that pictures I take at the museum always turn out nicer than I expect. I think it's something to do with the muted colours and natural light.

The next day we went to the Highland Wildlife Park - it was even colder and was snowing lightly once or twice, but we all had a good time. I think it was the first time we'd been there that it hasn't been cut short due to excessive whinging. The trick is to keep the little horrors apart - at one point the Boy, my mum and I went off to see what Walker the polar bear was up to and to have a look at the new wolf enclosure (fairly new anyway, we hadn't been to the Wildlife Park for over a year). Walker has a thing about hard hats but wasn't playing with one when we saw him.

We all went to see the camels at feeding time.

They don't really get fed much at that time of day - just a few green things. I think it's more of a chance for the keepers to check on the animals and talk to visitors about them. The staff are really enthusiastic which is lovely to see. Having worked in a visitor attraction myself I know the enthusiasm can wane sometimes so I'm always very aware of staff when I visit places.

I wasn't well for most of our trip - I thought I had an allergic reaction to something but it may actually have been a cold. It can be hard to tell sometimes. So I'm glad to look back at my pictures and see that we did do stuff, and that it wasn't just me sneezing or sleeping.

I love this last picture - it sums up our trip, a combination of wintery cold and autumn colour.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

scarf of many colours

Zingy, innit? Like so many others, I used the Brooklyn Tweed 'Noro' striped scarf instructions (as opposed to pattern), and although I hate doing 1x1 rib it knitted up fairly quickly and easily while I watched telly.

No time to blog more, I'm going out tonight - woohoo!

PS Cake turned out nice. And I tasted the chocolate raspberry brownies (quality control, naturally), mmm - they will be consumed at my brother's party tonight.

Friday, 14 October 2011

I type this while wearing a pinnie.

In fact an apron with an annoying label that keeps sticking up. Just at the front. Very distracting when I'm Baking A Birthday Cake! Sneak preview:

I think she'll like the sprinkles!

The recipient is at school so she hasn't seen it yet. It's also the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings you know - or at least the Battle of Hastings was fought on the 14th of October, I think there have been calendar changes in the meantime so I'm not sure it's an actual anniversary.

I finished her scarf, just. With a few rows to go I managed to drop a stitch ( I do this all the time when I'm tired - hopeless) and not notice until it had run down several rows, so last night was late-night salvaging, casting-off and wrapping. Phew! But she likes it and was off to school proudly wearing her new coat (present from her step-granny for want of a better description) and new scarf. I took a couple of pictures this morning but they're a bit blurry and the colours are awful being under electric light, it being a pretty murky morning here. So I shall Ta-da tomorrow!

The topic of knitting gadgets has been on my mind (see the giveaway on the a ¼ to blog) and I've come to the conclusion that my most used knitting gadget is this:

It's called a Knit Kit I think - something like that. My knitting buddy Cristina brought it back fro
m America for me last year and it's perfect for a person like me who can never keep everything in one place. My most used bits of it are the little crochet hook which attaches to the side for picking up dropped stitches, bane of my life, and the teeny tiny fold out scissors. Who can resist the cuteness of teeny-tiny folding scissors? Well, not me anyway.

Also on the subject of
a ¼ to - she opened an etsy shop very recently with some beautiful bags in it and the other day I ordered one of the really pretty little bags, meant to be a project bag really but actually also ideal for a Small Person's nightdress case:

Big thumbs up from me! It arrived very quickly, in time for Miss M's birthday - I really didn't expect that! Gorgeous isn't it?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Making Monday - ssh, it's a secret

What I'm making on this Making Monday is a birthday present for my daughter - it's alright, she can't read yet, so I can hide it in the middle of this post and she won't spot it if this tab happens to be open (I am the tab queen - my husband laughs at how many tabs I have open at a time) .

This week I had foraging-and-dyeing success and foraging-and-baking success.

Foraging-and-dyeing was with elderberries. Now I'm ashamed to admit this but I'm rubbish at recognising trees, shrubs and wildflowers, so I take photos of plants I'm curious about, email them to my dad and get him to do the identification. It's not urban ignorance, I do have reason for this - most of those plants don't grow in Shetland or not in my bit anyway so I just didn't grow up knowing them. I did introduce my mother-in-law to the joys of popping seaweed à la bubble-wrap though so I have my own incredibly useful plant skills!

Anyway, using the 'ask Dad' methodology I've learned to identify elderberries (yay! go me!) so went and gathered a small pot of the for dyeing purposes. I squished them up a bit (with a tattie masher) before simmering for an hour, cooled a bit, strained the mush out, added the alum-mordanted wool, simmered for another hour, then left to soak overnight. And this is what I had next morning:

But I was still after green, so pretty though the pink was, it was time for an alkaline modifier. This time, this time, I would be careful.

That's it a few minutes after it went into the soda-crystal solution. Initially it was quite a nice grey, then gradually turned greener. I warmed it (not even reaching simmering point really) for a few minutes, let it cool, then rinsed in a fresh soda-crystal solution. And here's the result:

Yay! Green! It doesn't photograph all that well but it's a soft sage green and I'm very happy with it. And as the majority of elderberries I've seen round here are still at the green stage I have plenty of time to try a pink dye too.

I was flicking through a dye-book while eating my dinner last night (pitta-bread pizza, my new default quick and easy dinner) and it said that alkaline modifiers shouldn't be heated when using animal fibres so I'll have to try without heat another time, maybe when I try the red cabbage again. It would certainly take the stress out of it.

And now, I'll just sneak my daughter's birthday present in here:

Yes, a 'Noro' stripe scarf using Mochi Plus in 'bright rainbow' or some such name. I'm knitting it only when she's not around so it's a proper surprise, but I've only got a few days to get it done. Over the weekend I've obviously been knitting only in the evenings once she was in bed, so today was the first time I've seen it in daylight - very zingy!

And now after that colourful interlude, back to my foraging adventures, this time foraging-and-baking. Miss Mouse and I went out brambling yesterday and yesterday evening I made apple and blackberry crumble. Crumble is another of those things I've never made before but Mum emailed me her recipe so I had a go and oh my! - it was lovely. I mean droolingly delicious, perfect comfort food for a cold wet evening.

I think I'll be making it again.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A Tale of Woe

Remember the start of my red cabbage dyeing session last week? Well, it all started promisingly. The wool got a nice pink from the cabbage, but I was after green so I did the soda crystals afterdip thing - wool to be simmered gently in a soda crystal solution for 5 minutes. This is the yarn going in and as you can see the change from pink to green is instant!

A beautiful green, but I know colour doesn't always stay that strong and sometimes a lot of the colour comes out the moment the wool comes out of the solution. Nevertheless, looking promising. But then... [dramatic pause]

I got distracted by the kids (rule no 2 - no point doing dyeing when the kids are in the house) and forgot about it so rather than a gentle-simmer-for-5-minutes it got a boil-furiously-for-10-minutes and there's the end result. Sludge. I don't know if I'd have got a greenish shade if I'd paid attention (though I did get a soft green last time) but I'm so annoyed with myself for not paying attention at the important point! *sigh*

So there it is dry - my stupidest mistake. There are hints of both pink and green in it when held up to the light, but there's no getting over it, it's beige.

I shall try again. And again, and again, and again....

But now I must find my daughter's swimming stuff, something for the Boy to read while Miss M's in her swimming lesson, and my knitting, and head out into the wind and rain to get the kids from school. It'll be invogorating, oh yes!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Making Monday - a bit of serenity

Today I've spent some blissful time knitting while watching a DVD (nothing at all highbrow - it was The Bounty Hunter in fact, which was suitably silly for the kind of mood I'm in and the short attention span I have when knitting). It is a grey day and the wind is really getting up now, so some peaceful warm knitting time makes me feel cosy and wintery. As do these colours! Mostly when I knit from a pattern I choose my own colour scheme but for Peerie Flooers I'm doing just as the pattern dictates (in terms of colour at least - I've made the rib section a bit deeper than the pattern says, partly by accident) and I love the colours. They're bright but muted at the same time. I don't think I'm very good with words, especially enthusiastic ones, but the way each change of colour changes, oh I dunno, the mood of the knitting is a real pleasure. I can't wait to get on to the flower pattern. So anyway, yes, lovely wool, lovely colours. Thumbs up!

[An edit: harmony, that's the word I was looking for! The colours harmonize. Love them.]

The cats are glaring out the window at the weather, and I should really be doing some housework, not sitting knitting, but one more round can't hurt, eh?