Sunday, 30 September 2007

Flying Solo - The Trip - Part One

In my personal view, there's a certain art to air travel. Particularly with the current necessary (extra stringent) Security checks and also now that certain airlines charge extra for every bag you wish to check into the hold. The walk-on, minimum fuss, well practiced Light Traveller reigns supreme.

What’s not to love? They keep their changes of clothes and shoes to a minimum, they race onto the plane, then leap out of their seats the instant that the plane judders to a halt outside the terminal building and practically elbow each other out of the way to get off and be first into the destination taxi queue. So incredibly efficient!

Even BA has adopted the electronic check-in (for those who did not have the forethought to check in and print off their own boarding cards at home) and separate bag drop approach at Gatwick.

Frankly, I admire the Light Traveller. I envy them their little, smart, wheeled carry-on bags (packed to bursting point) that trot smartly to heel behind them as they navigate the airport. So well and fashionably equipped!

I admire that they pack their travel sized toiletries into transparent bags for inspection at Security before they arrive at the airport. So very organised!

In fact, I aspire to be a well practiced, Light Traveller when I grow up. I want to be a part of that world of air travel where people glide smoothly through the departure process, have time to browse the wares in World Shopping, perhaps enjoy a beverage or two before ambling gently towards their gate, then depart to arrive unruffled and smiling at their destination …

…however, it may be some time before this Ugly Travel Duckling grows into a beautiful Travel Swan: a-very-long-time indeed.

You see, airports are just no place for your average, hapless Sports Traveller (or any other kind of traveller) in transit with a certain weight / quantity of baggage that happens to be heavy, fragile and awkward to handle.

In addition, it needs to be said that airports are very definitely no place for the above travelling solo with an upset stomach courtesy of the take away chicken tikka, plain boiled rice and mint sauce diet contraband consumed as a treat the previous evening. This caused yours truly to spend some time at 5:00am with my head laid on the cool laminate flooring of my bathroom, feeling like I had done ten rounds with Mike Tyson and wondering which end would explode next. So very unattractive!

At that point, I still hadn’t packed. No, I had spent the previous evening taking the house apart to find bits of missing kit. In the end, I had put an emergency call to a friend to borrow theirs. So incredibly disorganised!

Actually, if I could insert a Ronald Searle style cartoon of my eventual arrival at Gatwick groaning under the weight of my luggage - I would.

I must have been a painful sight, with a complexion as pale as cottage cheese, as I dragged approximately 40-50 kilos of 'out of gauge' sports, clothes and knitting luggage ungainly off the Long Stay Car Park bus and into the airport terminal.

I doubt that this sight improved any as I stood at Check In Zone D, contemplating my options and trying to work out if I could navigate the departure process without my stomach upset making its presence felt, while the Light Travellers whistled efficiently around me, taking no notice or prisioners as their little (yet surprisingly heavy) wheeled bags trotted neatly over my toes.

I decided to move towards help and my envy for the Light Travellers deepened as my carry-on bag strap threatened to saw its way through my neck, the weight of my sports equipment case turned my fingertips white, then numb, and my suitcase bumped (and bruised) my calves at every step. How very ill equipped!

Eventually, it took just shy of two hours to walk through the airline and security check-in processes, including careful receipt of my out of gauge, heavy but fragile sports equipment and emerge relatively unscathed in the World Shopping area...

without my knitting or Denise needles.

Nope, not confiscated - I was completely chicken. I caved in at the first check-in hurdle. I spotted the fatal words, amongst the list of prohibited carry on items at the check-in desk:

· Blah
· Explosives
· Guns
· Sharps
· Liquids
· Knitting Needles.

There it was in black and white. As I stood there, considering my position...

  • make a stand for knitting kind?
  • risk confiscation and loss of needles I had only just bought?
  • risk arrest and miss a competition because I had attempted to take 8mm, pointy plastic objects onto a plane?

...the loudspeaker intoned yet another repeat of the travel rules.

I sighed and quietly offered the needles up for inspection.

"Oh no," said the lady, "I don’t think those should go into your carry-on bag."

I sighed and into my hold luggage they went.

Along with my gorgeous Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky yarn and my Erika Knight Ribbed Shrug pattern.

Some time later, I found myself sitting by my departure gate sipping a black coffee, alternating between rubbing my very sore tummy and staring at my hands, without any knitting or books to read - I felt very sorry for myself indeed.

The only thing that cheered me up was the fact that I knew I had a free afternoon ahead of me and I fairly certain that I was going to fill it with Milk of Magnesia, my hotel bed, some sleep and my knitting!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

I have been knitting

Generally I knit on my own, on the train and plugged into my iPod. Uncommunicative and knitting furiously to achieve as much as possible before I reach my stop.

In many ways, this suits me. I love having something productive to do enroute to /from work and knitting is sometimes a bit like having the crossword or sudoku to do - it gets your brain going. I rarely get my knitting out at home as I get overtaken by the other things that I need to do and I cannot combine knitting with tv, reading books or surfing the net. I guess that I am an audio book candidate!

However, over the course of the past year I have discovered that it is very enjoyable to sit and knit with friendly people, in a nice place. Now this might sound blooming obvious to all of you but it was a bit of a revelation to me. It is especially enjoyable if I know that I should be somewhere else, doing Other Things or after an excruiating day in the office - it is a great way to wind down before going home.

I have found that knitting with others has a different sort of rhythm to it. I do get less done but the networking factor, seeing what others around me are working on and being able to sound someone out on something that I am puzzling over, more than compensates for this.

Plus I am getting to go to some places I have not been to before, where I am meeting new people with big personalities who happen to knit - see? It's a good thing!

Last week, for instance, I met a really lovely Canadian lady (hello Granny Purple!) who was over in London to visit family. We chatted, she made a suggestion (I was at the point where I could no longer see the wood for the trees) and this week, I was able to catch up with her again to see how her holiday was going and let her know that her suggestion worked - a completely random meeting of knitters, a suggestion and a result!

It certainly beat my usual routine of coming straight home from the office, usually after working late, to the reality of daily life, home admin, organising matches and packing (none of which are done - the bead close ups will have to wait until next week, apologies).

Instead, all pieces of my shaped lace tee are knitted, I have networked internationally, I have caught up with the London SnB group, visited IKnit and, as a result of this, I am now the proud owner of a set of pink Denise Interchangeable Needles and Glamour Knits.

Did I manage to slip that sentence in without anyone noticing?! Okay - while knitting with circulars / plastic needles is not my first choice, I am hoping that I will be allowed to take them through security so that I can knit in Departures and during my flight: fingers crossed. I will let you know whether my knitting is confiscated!

Clearly travel calls for a simple knit that will not cause disaster if the security people look askance at me. So the wrap stays at home. Instead, I cast on the Ribbed Shrug from Glamour Knits this morning with some of my summer sale yarn from John Lewis (Debbie Bliss Cashermerino Superchunky), the straights will go into my hold luggage for use at destination (as I'm not the best with circulars) and the Denises will go into my cabin bag - if the worst comes to the worst, they can confiscate the points and leave me with my plastic cord to use as a stitch holder (maybe, if they are kind). I'll try to take an SAE envelope with me, just in case. Hmm, 8mm plastic tips - surely they would not be considered dangerous?

I think that I am hoping that they will be so absorbed by my sports kit that they won't notice my knitting.

As you will be able to tell from the above - a photo heavy post and purchases review will be with you in due course. However, I can tell you already - those Denises, ain't ever replacing my affinity for Lantern Moons. Oh no!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Ho Hum - Sunday

I have that classic Sunday evening homework feeling!

I am wondering what I should have prepared for work tomorrow morning, my work laundry is churning its (noisy) way through the all-purpose 40 degree wash cycle as I type and a Sunday Night London R'n'B music programme is blasting out of the radio behind me.

I am in the second half of my 30s and I feel like I should be stapled to my chair, doing maths homework or something. Ngg - does anyone else suffer from this Sunday evening feeling?!

I am resisting an urge to check my work email before tomorrow morning as I am determined to finish the 2nd sleeve on my shaped lace tee this evening - I have knitting to do.

All but the final sleeve (half done) of the shaped lace tee is being blocked on the bed in my spare room this evening - I am so close to finishing the first ever garment I have knitted for myself, I can smell it!

However, I have my fingers crossed optimistically as I have modified the sleeve, then followed the errata instructions for its top shaping from the errata posted at the Knitting Lingerie Style Along...and it looks a bit too big to be set into the body. Hmm.

I have taken close up photos of the beads for the Castle Couture wrap - I am not going to post these onto my Puss in Boots project until tomorrow/Tuesday evening as I have knitting to do!

The majority of opinion so far is that I should opt for the crystal, twinkly beads - most effective (not shown here). I tend to agree.

I am just fighting my natural inclination to go for the beads that I personally find most sympathetic. Even though I acknowledge that they won't be nearly as effective as the twinkly ones. Damn, opps, I think that I just disappeared up my own backside?!

Finally, I met my father, brother and nephew (who is the princely age of 4) for a coffee in Kew Gardens this morning and I am afraid that I experienced a 'Philistine Moment'.

Initially, I was delighted that there was a Henry Moore exhibition going on - I was optimistic that I would experience both a coffee and a cultural experience. I know Henry Moore's work and I understand his ideas (in the main, I think). I appreciate the strong spacial quality of his work - I do. However, I took a few photos and I was abruptly reminded why I have not ever liked his work. I cannot help it - I just don't.

My father, assessed my nephew's humour and suggested that I might need to walk around the rest of the exhibition on my own. I suggested that accompanying my nephew to the newsagents in order to get a Thomas the Tank Engine comic was a far higher priority!

I am sure that you will be scandalised. I am sorry, I tried but I cannot help it - this stuff just leaves me cold. Utterly and totally cold - I tried. Honest.

My father and I stopped by the pod thing (see picture with lake backdrop). I commented quietly that I used to make and bring that type of thing home with me from college. (I used to site my artistic endeavours around my parent's garden in an amateur display of 'Undergraduate Garden Art'.)

My father chuckled, "How funny you should mention that. Your stepmother set about this big, overgrown bush in the garden this summer and once she'd fought off over 10 years growth, we all stood round it and said, What's that?! Then, following much debate, Oh's Gabrielle's shell."

Hmm. Now, I didn't spot it out in the garden when I was at my parent's house earlier today. It is my guess that this artist's early work was quietly deposited in the bin after its summer rediscovery?

I might be doing my parents a disservice but who could blame them for feeling that 20+ years is sufficient to demonstrate familial loyality to a piece of garden art they were probably relieved disappeared into the undergrowth as the years wore on, obliterating itself from collective family memory? Particularly as I have not continued to make my way in the world as any type of serious, full time artist.

Damn - bet that never happened to Henry Moore though - bah humbug!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

A Visual Ode to Beige Food...

...oh how I miss thee (in glorious abundance):

Have a great weekend everyone. Next weekend is a competition weekend for me, so over this one I plan to chill, knit, catch up with friends, avoid carbs and quietly check over my sporting kit.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a Friday MeMe (consider yourself tagged if you have read this, then leave a comment so that I can come find you)! It is one that I think I sort of picked up over at TeeWeeWonders.

1) Go to Google (I use the English version, you may use another) and click on Google Images.
Type in your name and search. Select the picture of the weirdest, coolest, nicest, thing/person that shares your name. You may find several... post the pictures on your blog - and invite others to join in the fun.

2) My posted images of name sakes:

3) If this leaves you feeling completely terrified (like me), please nip back to Google Images and enter your "First Name Surname". Press search. Then (again, if you are anything like me)...

...breathe a huge big sigh of relief - far more down to earth!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

See this? Now just how is this for a Hero?!

I just ordered this rose (bare root) from David Austin roses, having missed out on it for about three years in a row: sold out.

It's called Hero. If it obliges and blooms (even half as prettily) in my garden, over my Very Ugly Garden Shed it will definitely live up to its name - as it will save the view from my kitchen window, in the way that the white passionflower has not!

The question is - how long does it take for bare root stock to establish and flower?

Will I get little pink heroes next season....?!

So while I was outside, surveying my land (cough) and imagining the impact of my little pink Hero, I spotted this little Walkers Crisps lorry (truck), parked in the Pub Car Park behind my house and...

...I was gripped by a massive desire for crisps - I almost climbed my garden fence to lick the potato pictures! So, next question: why is it that I crave not-very-good-for-me-beige-food when I am dieting? Why do I start seeing temptation for it everywhere?! E.g. in my back garden when I am scoping out where to put my new rose plant (when it arrives).

Otherwise, some Gymknit Innocent Hats are in progress and so far I have knitted and ripped out two Shaped Lace Tee sleeves. One step forwards...two steps back!

See? If you look closely.... more closely, amongst the happy chaos of our knitting table...

...there are hats!

I claim the bright pink and the centre grey effort!

Team Hat Score: Mel 4 + Bev 2 + Suki 2 + Gabrielle 2 = 10 hats so far!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

The Socktopus Launch Party

The Socktopus Launch Party (& Ravelry London UK Knitters Group Meet & Greet)!
Reason: Socktopus and Shop Blog
Date: Friday 14th September 2007
Place: Pacifica Day Spa, Notting Hill, London

The Launch Party
When I arrived, the spa was buzzing with knitters, all sipping drinks, chatting ten to the dozen and nibbling on lovely things served elegantly on trays by Estelle & Vincent.

The spa treatments had been put away, some lovely yarns had been stacked in their place, a treatment therapist was ready to deliver hand - arm massage prizes, Alice looked happy and two small pug dogs raced about underfoot as they attempted to steal crudities from coffee tables.

I do not know whether it was just coincidence that not many people were paying the yarn much attention when I arrived (perhaps, they were pretending not to be interested out of social decorum while everyone settled in with a drink) but suddenly, as though some invisible signal had been given, knitters were three-four people deep, trying to see, feel or otherwise get their hands on the yarn that they wanted - it was quite astonishing!

Alice beamed happily by the till, while her friends organised people, helped with prices, announced prize winners and served drinks.

I had a brilliant time and happily fell off my food wagon for the evening. I couldn't get close to inspect any glass dpns or books, so I contented myself by petting yarn, introducing myself to or catching up with some knitters I have not seen for a while.

Ravelry London UK Knitters Group Meet & Greet
It really and truly was! As I was browsing yarn and chatting, I found myself looking at people thinking,

'Hmm, now why do I feel that I recognise you? Oh! You must be X...oh help, that's your username. Oh no, is it a social faux pas, not to know your first name?! Oh sod it, I am just going to introduce myself.'

So I did: Princess Deia, Indie Knits, Erqsome, Wanderlust Knits, Mulene. Hello!

See? Pretty fab, all round. How often do you get to go somewhere, meet up with some lovely people, buy yarn and get well looked after, all at once?! Some (increasingly inebriated) snaps of the evening can be found here!

Okay, I now want to add Tempting to my project queue as I met a great advert for this top last night - (Hello!) if you look at my photos, you will see what I mean!

Morning After - O.R.K. Hangover Cure

- Sunshine
- Good coffee
- Peace and quiet
- Small piece of chocolate
- Yarn to unwrap in daylight
- Memories of a good evening.

Okay, with this, who needs Ibuprofen?!

Enjoy your weekend - after last night, I am under orders from Mel and Bev to bring my ball winder and swift to Gymknit tomorrow evening so that they can deal with their purchases. Hmm. Now I thought that we were supposed to be supporting Innocent The Big Knit tomorrow eve?! Perhaps I should impose a skein tax: one hat in return for every ball wound? FLaRD Mel, FLaRD!

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Coffee, templates, mistakes and gourmet platters!

Sunday was all about:

- good coffee;

- Puss in Boots wrap templates;

- catching up with friends; and

- ripping and reknitting a section of the lace shaped tee (ready to take with me on my Monday commute).

Oh yes. Knit, rip, knit. At eleven pm, Sunday evening, I looked at my lace shaped tee, sighed, admitted defeat and set it aside for ripping back again. Can you spot why? Left hand photo.

I reworked it again today on the train and I think that it is looking a bit more correct now - actually who knows?

I am that point with it, I swear, where I no longer care so much. Hmm, not a good sign!

So yesterday was all about Puss in Boots wrap beads, as I am close with the template. The final bit of swatching? I live in hope!

Sadly, on my way into work, I ruled out the beads that I bought back in July. They simply disappeared into the knitted fabric. Oufff!

So after 7 hours of 7, back to back (life force sucking) meetings, I bid my boss a fond farewell and pegged it to a local bead shop, 30 minutes before closing. I felt like I was doing the frantic bead equivilent of a supermarket sweep for anything in the right sort of size and colour.

I carried my gourmet beads home, like precious cargo. There, I found an unmissable invitation from Katherine to share a glass of wine and a platter designed for the discerning knitter.

Go see! You can also access it via the Puss in Boots - O.R.K. Knitting Projects link, top right.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Red, red goes to my head!

It is Saturday evening and I am sitting here sipping, what I feel is, a well deserved glass of red wine - apt as, if you pop over to look at my Puss in Boots project, you will see that red has been the theme of my afternoon. Oddly - even my hands and nails are stained slightly red from this exercise.

No, not dying - ball winding!

Actually, red is likely to continue to my theme long into the evening (or until this red wine knocks me out) as Megan and I plan to do battle with the Castle Couture Wrap pattern template this evening. Or, at least, make a start.

I will take photos but how much of it I can show you now, I am not sure - it might spoil the surprise of the finished item? I feel that it would be sort of nice to reveal it in its totality, once Robynn has the written up pattern to publish? In the meantime, I will show you snippets as I work on it (if only to be mindful that I need to keep up progress on it).

Just be aware that I am a slow knitter and I am using 2ply cashmere, so....?!

In other knitting news (apologies, for the uber cheesy, auto-timer flash photo), it's been an up and down week for the Lace Shaped Tee.

Quite literally. I knitted up to the armholes and neck, then discovered that I had overknitted. The front did not match the back in length - so I spent my last knitting commute this week, unworking it to match the front, bah humbug!

I have also discovered a pretty obvious error in my work but y'know? I ain't working back that far to undo it - gawddamnit - it can stay as a feature.

I am determined to finish this. It will be the first ever knit that I will have completed for myself (the phyllo yoked languishes forlornly on my needles). You see, all my other knits have been presents for other people.

Actually, if this had been a present for someone else, I would rip it back to correct the mistake as I couldn't bear to give someone a flawed gift.

"Per-fect-ion-ist!" I hear you shout...

...I did post a techniques question on a ravelry forum this week regarding the shaped lace tee -I got the concept but was thrown by the instruction to lose a single stitch (yes, 1 lonely stitch) evenly across 32 stitches. Particularly when the section in question is right across the chest area (around the neck) and it is the transition from the striped lace pattern back into a vines pattern (as seen at the bottom). Logically, I would knit the 16th and 17th stitch together but surely that would show as it would be right in the centre of the top and would narrow the central lace stripe from 6 stitches to 5?

Yet quietly, knitting two stitches together at the edge of the lace section doesn't feel right either. Ho hum. Perhaps I just fuss over these things too much. Perhaps. Yet, while I am learning, it feels important to do things the right way, so that I know when and how to take liberties with patterns later.

Ahhh, well, I am off to poke Katherine with my Lantern Moons, so that there are photos of this afternoon's efforts tortuous ball winding efforts posted for you to see if you follow the links!

Have a wonderful Saturday evening, wherever you happen to be and whatever you happen to be doing. I'm now 0.5 of my way down that bottle of red wine. Megan is scowling at me. She may have to wait until tomorrow, so I can do the template tomorrow morning, clear headed(ish) with a fresh caffettiere of Whitards Coffee. Mmm, looking forwards to that already.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Central London

I live in the 'burbs.

Sometimes, central London is just the place I commute to for the purposes of work. It can be a dreary, expensive, grey, concrete, windy, rainy oppressive place, stuffed full of people intent on getting under my feet. Yet at other times, it can be a strikingly beautiful and fascinating place.

I am aware that familiarity can breed contempt. I know that sometimes I don't see the city at all (eyes fixed on the pavement in front of me, or fixed on the people that I am stepping around to and from the office). I realise I do not exploit its full potential on a daily basis.

In fact, I once texted a friend to say that I needed cheering up as I had the mid-afternoon, energy low glooms and all I could see was concrete and steel grey weather outside my office window. They immediately texted back to say:

"Cheering up? You live in one of the finest cities in the world at the start of the C21! What more could you ask for?!"

Well, that stopped me in my tracks. Considered fortunate? To live and work in a place I'd swap for a dental appointment at the drop of a hat?

I considered their perspective (a rural 'idyll'), I felt perplexed. Then, I understood their point - I have everything I could ever need (to survive, inform or enjoy myself), within a stone's throw in any direction. Whereas they once complained about needing to drive an hour to get to the nearest Tescos.

That is what makes things like the other evening so special. To see the city from an angle that you do not usually see. Look! London can be a very beautiful and interesting place.

I will add more photos, as and when I receive them.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Finished Object: Packaged, Sent & Received!

A couple of things to share this evening. Firstly, old wood, type setting (?) letters. I picked these up back in March to use as part of my ORK care labels and this is the first time that I have used them - really pleased!

I packaged the Baby's Ballerina top together with the main posts that have referred to it and made up an ORK Care Label:

- vital statistics about the project

- ball band care label!

Now, having dutifully shared the above with you, I am utterly and totally delighted to share the following two pictures with you. My finished object arrived safe and sound today. So without further ado, please meet my incredibly gorgeous gift recipient, aged 4 months, sporting her very own ORK:

Now that's what I call job satisfaction!

(Feeling clucky...who me? A-hem, perhaps!)

Thank you A & I, I hope that your ORK serves you well!

Monday, 3 September 2007

I was at the top...

...of a famous London Landmark today!

It is a building that has been a very familiar (albeit ugly) part of London's skyline my whole life - it is a building that I have grown up hearing stories about, that used to have a revolving restaurant at the top of the building with amazing views over the whole of central London.

The building is not open to the public any more and its restaurant is closed. However, the company that owns the building, occasionally use it for corporate events. So today, I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy some corporate hospitality with superb views across London - truly stunning.

They even switched on the revolving mechanism - I was practically jumping up and down on the spot with excitement (much to the amusement of my more reserved colleagues)!

Okay, naturally enough, I left my camera at home but a colleague let me take some photos using his. Left are some cameraphone efforts but as soon as I get some real McCoys, I will post them on Flickr for you (if they come out okay): views across my city that are very rarely enjoyed by Londoners themselves!

You know, I never thought I would ever get the opportunity to do this - so I am just home from work and I am a very happy person.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Small Amounts of Merriment (with Yarn Shots)

Well... you know how it is:

  • you browse the internet, you read knitting blogs, you see all of that yarn pr0n i.e. beautiful skeins of hand dyed yarn (mostly displayed on windowsills in semi-artistic shots) and you feel left out;

  • you check out your your friend's blog, you note the results of their koolaid dying and you head over for a coffee to check their efforts in person;

  • so while they steam milk in their cappucino maker, you admire their work;

  • and for some completely unknown reason, you are suddenly gripped by an unholy urge to capture the beauty of their project in the best light available...yup, it has to be on their windowsill... here, for your delectation and delight, I solemnly and most artistically present my friend's hand dyed koolaid skeins, in the most classic of all windowsill yarn pr0n shots:

I know - I am headed straight to Purgatory in a Yarn Cart!

PS, I think that it's important for you to know that:

- my friend's gardener is not a member of her family;

- is confirmed as being safely in his twenties!