Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Book review: Aran Knitting

Today I'm reviewing my second knitting book - if you read the first one, Knitting Know-How, you will know that I was given the books in return for writing reviews. It's not edited though, these are my real opinions.

Enough of the small print!

Today's book is Aran Knitting, by Alice Starmore. It's an updated version of the book she wrote 15 years earlier and is far more than "just" a book of Aran patterns.

I'm getting ahead of myself - do you know what Aran knitting is? I thought I did! My mum knitted an aran sweater for me about 40 years ago. It was cream, thick, and on the front there was a central pattern of diamond motifs with cables down each side. I was told it was a traditional design of fishermen's sweaters that dated back to ancient times.

Having read this book I now know I was misinformed! The first 50 pages are devoted to historical background, including photos of genuine early Aran sweaters, museum pieces, and show that the patterns are considerably less ancient than had been supposed.

For me, this was the most interesting part of the book. I could picture the early knitters Alice imagines sitting in church staring at the sweater of the lady in the pew in front, learning the pattern by heart so that it could be reknitted later. This is close to my own way of working, I like to stare at animals or pictures and gradually the pattern takes shape in my head. I wish it could be automatically transferred to paper!

If you're more interested in knitting Aran designs Alice explains how to knit from charts and shares many pattern elements. She shows that Aran designs are not rigid, but suggests taking the elements you like and making them into your own. There are 15 complete patterns for you to knit for your own use - like most commercial patterns these are not licensed for resale.

Some of the patterns are in what I remember as the classical Aran style:

Some of the designs are quite delicate, not at all the chunky sweater I remember from my teens. I'd love to wear them - but knitting big projects is not for me, not at the moment anyway. Alice's website sells her own recommended yarns with free international shipping on orders over £25 so if anyone fancies making "Eala Bhan" (shown below) for me (and paying for the yarn!) I'd be more than happy to wear it!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Do you remember Biba?

We were in Brighton this week and visited the Biba exhibition, it's there till April so well worth a look especially if, like me, you remember Biba "back in the day". I only had one genuine garment, and that was second-hand from another girl at my boarding school. I remember it well though - it was a muted dusky aubergine skinny rib top with elbow length sleeves and a square neckline.

I confess I don't always read captions at exhibitions, but these interested me. The crop-top trouser suit in the middle of the photo above was worn by a bride at her wedding! I remember those reallllly wide legged trousers.

The caption here reminded me of something I'd totally forgotten. You can't tell from the photo, but at that time we all had chunky 3" heels and big platforms on our shoes - so trouser hems had to be much longer at the front than the back, so that the front would just touch your shoe while the back dragged on the ground.
Why? Who knows!
I was never very tall so usually ended up cutting off most of the wide part of the trouser legs.

The only Biba attribute I achieved in my teens was the flat chest LOL and I wasn't too pleased about that!

I remember going to the Biba store in London, must have been around 1973. 
I bought a nail varnish I think,  that was the only thing my pocket-money would stretch to.

I wish I could have watched this instructional video on the "Biba eyes" back then. 
I could manage to make up one eye but could never get the other to look the same. 
We all loved the Biba packaging.

I hadn't realised it all started with a newspaper competition - this is 1955, the year before I was born.

I absolutely love the coat in the middle of the photo below, I'd wear that right now if I could. 
I did have a brown coat in the 70s with "frog fastenings" like this one, but nowhere near as stylish.

Biba and Twiggy are linked in my memory. 
She was (and still is) so very beautiful. It's fake fur of course.

I said to the exhibition curator how I wished I'd kept some of my 70s clothes - she said most of the visitors in my age group had said the same. So hang on to those fashions, people! One day they'll be worth a mint!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

5 Captains

Barry has been at the Star Trek 5 Captains convention, and has just sent me fabulous new photos!

This is Scott Bakula, aka Captain Jonathan Archer with his Meerkatted self and of course Porthos the beagle. Barry is wearing "convention crew meerkat" round his neck!

Avery Brooks, aka Captain Benjamin Sisko, the Emissary of the Prophets. 
His meerkat is holding the orb of Prophecy.

Kate Mulgrew, aka Captain Katherine Janeway.

Meekats available in Etsy and Folksy

Want to see the other convention photos? They're all here

If the crew member you desire is not currently in stock, just ask - I'll boldly knit.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Christmas crafts tutorials from Homecrafts

Homecrafts (remember my pirate meerkat was a prizewinner there?) sent me these tutorials to share with you = enjoy! Click the pic to browse their site to find the ingredients!
Have a homemade Christmas - homecrafts.co.uk

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Honey Badger

A new critter - and it's all Supersock's fault. Honey Badger don't care!

Supersock started it with a honeybadger ring and reminded me of Randall's fabulous video - be warned, the soundtrack is not suitable for small children or the workplace.

Ewwww! What's that in its mouth?

Oh that's nasty! A snake - with blood and gore dripping! Look at those teeth! It just takes what it wants.

He can climb trees - are you kidding me?

The honey badger. How precious! Look at those claws!

Want to see Supersock's honeybadger ring? NEED a knitted honeybadger? He's here

Friday, 19 October 2012

Book Review: Knitting Know-How

You’re never too old to learn, so they say – but then they also say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! I was very pleased to be offered a chance to review some knitting books, and wondered which cliche would be most appropriate for this first book:

I would like to point out that I was given the book in return for writing a review, but my opinions are genuine.

I knew I was going to enjoy it when I read the introduction “No disrespect intended, but Judith likes to say that each bit of Dot’s information is stored on a sticky note in her brain; you never know which sticky note may fall out at any given time, and there’s no way to easily access the one you want […] Judith caught Dot’s sticky notes as they dropped.”

The book is subtitled “Techniques, Lessons and Projects for every knitter’s library” and I must confess that my first thought was to wonder what new tricks they’d be able to teach this old dog!

I was taught to knit as a small child, getting on for 50 years ago, and have been selling my knits for around  5 years now. I don’t use commercial patterns, and haven’t yet written my own patterns down. Partly this is because I didn’t know how to describe many of the techniques I’d developed – but thanks to this book, I now know that in knitting, as in life, there is nothing new under the sun!

The writers clearly describe a range of stitches and (more importantly perhaps) tell us WHY each technique is valuable. As an example, I needed a tighter stitch in places so starting knitting through the back of the loop. I now know this is a “twisted knit stitch” (and not my invention!)

I was taught to cast on by my grandmother in the “knitted cast on” fashion. Over time I adapted that to what I now know is the “cable cast on”, because it gives a tighter edge. The writers describe around a dozen different ways to cast on, and explain which are most useful for different projects. Clear “work in progress” photos illustrate each method.

Already I’ve found lots to learn! The book isn’t just for the experienced knitter, however. When I taught my own children to knit there were frequent cries of “it’s gone wrong” so it’s good to see a section on fixing mistakes, again clearly illustrated with photos.

The book reminds me of the Tardis, there is far more inside than I’d have thought possible. Cables, fairisle, mosaic, knitting with beads, following patterns and charts, altering patterns (eek!) and finishes with a selection of gorgeous patterns to use your new skills.

I flicked to the “knitting with beads” section, thinking to myself that I know how to do that, I knitted a beaded bookmark from a chart in a magazine last year. Pride comes before a fall…! It turns out I learned just one of several ways of beading. What I like is that the writers don’t just show the methods, they show which is most appropriate for any given project. I’m particularly taken by a method of adding different numbers of beads between stitches giving an undulating design that I think would look great on Christmas tree baubles.

I could go on and on…but I won’t. Neither will I be giving this book away! For me, the only thing that is lacking is something that I’m not sure is even possible, what I’d call a “reverse index”. I mentioned the “twisted knit stitch” above, that I developed to tighten my work. Until now I didn’t know other knitters did that, and I certainly didn’t know what it was called. I did, however, know I needed a stitch to do that task – and that’s why I developed it. So maybe there could be another way of indexing, a way to find solutions by searching under what’s needed? A google-for-books, as it were!

All in all a great resource which will be a real help to me when I finally write out my own patterns, and I’m sure I will be referring to it again and again. If you're tempted, check it out in the link below:

Thursday, 18 October 2012

New MeerTrekkie fan photos!

Barry has been at another convention and as always, has sent me photos of the meerkats meeting their humans! See them all here: FanPhotos

Here are the new pics:

Jonathan Frakes - Picard's number one, Will Riker. 
Mr Frakes is holding PicardKat, whilst Barry holds RikerKat.

Ethan Phillips, who played Neelix. Must have taken an age in makeup! 
He's holding KesKat, Barry is holding NeelixKat.

Thanks Barry!!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Hastings Fireworks

We moved to this area in the spring, so hadn't been to Hastings Bonfire night before. It's earlier than the usual 5th November because the various local Bonfire Societies attend each other's festivities, so of course they all need to be on different dates. Hastings coincides with the anniversary of the one historical date we all know in England - 1066, the Battle of Hastings.

The procession was fun, lots of people dressed up with flaming torches. Most of them moved too quickly for me to snap!

I was pleased with this shot of the bonfire with spectators silhouetted against the flames.

MrNifty took the firewoorks shots, I was too busy ooohing and aaaahing! 
The display was fantastic, best I've ever been to.

This last pic is my favourite firework, never seen this one before. The orangey bits descended like vines with sparkly flowers on them, I felt as if I could stretch up my arm and catch one - truly beautiful. The photo doesn't do it justice but it reminds me of the magic!

Big thanks to Hastings Bonfire Society , find them on facebook here.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Oyez Oyez Oyez!

Today is the 60th National Championship for ... who'd have guessed? ... Town Criers! As it's in Hastings we went along.

We learned a little about the history. In the Middle Ages, town criers were the main means of news communication, and were protected by law. Obvivously sometimes the news they proclaimed wasn't welcome - more taxes perhaps - so assaulting a town crier was considered treason!

The bell and the starting cry of "Oyez oyez oyez" was of course to attract attention, and Oyez means "listen".

We're off to see who won later - but you can hear a sample from a previous year thanks to youtube:

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Birdwatching with a difference!

We went for a birdwatching walk yesterday, saw lots of birds but they didn't stand still for photos!

The deer did though.

and so did the toadstools. Interesting how they're paired up. They look almost like...

well, they do, don't they?

Monday, 8 October 2012

New Meerkat greeting cards

I really enjoy posing my meerkats for greeting cards, it's a great chance to explore the inner child!
I've only had a few each of these new designs printed, so if you're thinking one might be for you - grab 'em while they're hot. I particularly enjoyed giving the trekkies their party beverages!

They're on Etsy and on Folksy and of course I have other cards too, including a bargain bumper bundle, choose any 4 from the 7 designs shown below:

Monday, 1 October 2012

Virtual friends

What does "friend" mean to you? 
Someone to hang out with and fight bad guys like Batman and Robin ? 

Friends that are good enough to understand when you're angry, 

Maybe your friends are all sizes and colours, 
like this Gingerbread family ?

Not sure MrNifty will be flattered or not...
but after a gazillion years we are a bit like these paired-for-life skunks!

All these items and many more are from the shop of my virtual friend Supersock, and it was chatting about our virtual friendship that prompted this blog post. I realised I knew none of the "normal" stuff about Supersock that you might expect to know of a "real life" friend, yet we chat every day. I don't know Sock's gender, age, ethnicity, profession, marital status - none of those "normal" things - but does it matter? Not one bit! We're never likely to meet in real life, we're on opposite sides of the pond and I don't even have a passport...but we're friends, and it looks like we're going to be sharing an ice cream!

Check out the mad world of Supersock - and I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on friendship.