Monday, April 27, 2009

Missing in action

I'm taking the unusual step of re-publishing my entry from my Still Life blog, because it's something that has really made me stop and think:

Today I met someone I've known of for a long time, but had never been introduced to, and I had a rather odd experience. Before I was ill, we moved in somewhat similar circles, and so we know a lot of the same people. It was lovely to hear about all the old names - but I was shocked by how many had died. And several times my new friend made a comment like, 'Of course, she's nearly 80 now...', which shocked me almost as much as the news of the deaths.

My mother told me once that, when the Second World War ended, she somehow expected her friends who had been killed to come back - to get up off the floor at the end of the game - and it was a new grief to her to realise that they really had gone. I think this is what, unknowingly, I've been doing with my illness - thinking that, when I get well again, everything will go back to the way it was. But it won't. Already it has stolen nearly twelve years of my life. People have got old and died, people I really liked and never spent enough time with. They won't be coming back, even if one morning I wake up to a miraculous cure.

This is an extremely unsettling thought, and one with which I need to sit for a while.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's a good job we love him....

We say that a lot at the moment. The 'him', of course, is Merlin the Mad Kitten - now 6 months old, still with huge paws he has to grow into, but already almost the size that Tigger was, full grown.

He is a one-cat Demolition Derby.

In the seven weeks we've had him (feels like a lifetime!), he has abducted, adopted or wrecked (and in some cases, all three) the following items:

1 inhaler
1 inhaler sock
1 glasses case
1 MP3 player cosy
2 duvet covers
1 large china owl
1 crystal water lily
2 knitting needles
1 ball of Artesano Alpaca
1 ribbon
1 angel made from a palm leaf
1 needle-felted crocodile
Half an aspidistra
1 tradescantia
1 lampshade
1 plush cat

And that was after I thought I'd kitten-proofed the place...

(The Artesano Alpaca, by the way, was not a full ball. After I gave up attempting to unpick the collision of knitting and physics, Richard was rather struck by the ornamental value of one of the small balls I produced, and has had it sitting on his bookshelves. He always has had impeccable taste.)

Two friends yesterday decided he was a dog, after seeing him catch, retrieve, growl, and chew the arms of people trying to cuddle him. Personally, from the size of him, I think he is the offspring of the Beast of Bodmin.

Still - he's very cute. But it's a good job we love him....

Merlin says,"But... but... look at me! I'm so well-behaved. Why are you telling people all those awful lies?"

Bigger Merlin (18 weeks)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yarn to dye for

A few months ago, the only yarn I owned which was not factory-spun and machine-dyed was a skein of Hipknits hand-dyed cashmere/silk blend, which I got for resubscribing to Yarn Forward - I wrote a post about it called 'The Adventures of the Blue-Green Skein'.

Then I joined the UK RAK group on Ravelry. Not only is it full of very kind and generous people, but many of them are very talented spinners and dyers, too - like Kristina (AKA Wyndwitch), who created the Heather yarn for me. Now I am in the enviable position of having a whole bagful of hand-dyed (and frequently handspun) yarn.

First I received (from Caroline, AKA craftyfox) a raspberry-coloured skein of the Hipknits, which is sill being wound up and untangled. The stuff is like Velcro to wind, but that also means it clings together when knitted or crocheted, to make a wonderfully smooth fabric.

Then, out of the blue, I received this wonderful package from Zoe, AKA woolbird:

RAK from woolbird

Among the goodies is a large skein of the softest yarn I have ever felt, hand-dyed by Zoe in a wonderful range of shades of violet.

RAK from Muoriska

This lovely parcel was from Jaana, AKA Muoriska, in Lapland, and was part of a challenge - we had to post a yellow parcel (put your sunglasses on before you click that link!). Among the other lovely things I received was a skein hand-dyed by Jaana, in gorgeous flame colours of orange and yellow.

Next was another total surprise, from Lucy, AKA LucyJ, and included a skein of Blue-Faced Leicester wool from her own flock, commercially spun, but hand-dyed in a fabulous variegated purple called 'Fizzy Grape':

RAK from LucyJ

By this time I had also purchased a green/magenta/copper skein of English DK, hand-dyed by my extremely talented friend Otiva, AKA Patricia, of Yummy Yarns UK on Etsy. I can't show you that just now, because it''s being made into an item for this month's RAK Challenge - but a photo will be forthcoming soon! Anyway, she very kindly asked me if I would make something up in one of her handspun, hand-dyed yarns, so that she could show visitors to her shop what the yarn looks like once knitted. I jumped at the chance, and she sent me a skein of 4-ply Shetland wool. I immediately christened it 'Raspberry Ruffles' - it has the pink of the raspberry centre, the brown of the chocolate, and the dark pink (and, originally, green) of the wrappers!

Raspberry Ruffles - closeup

By the way - if you click that link, I am not responsible for any damage that may be done to your credit card. I've used them a lot, and they're a great firm!

I am about two-thirds of the way through the Eliina shawl with it. She also sent me a cake of brown Ecology Shetland, which will be used for the deep lace border:

Raspberry Ruffles

I don't know what it is about Shetland - it seems to have a liveliness to it that almost knits itself. I think it's magic....

At the same time, Kristina (Wyndwitch), of Flutterby Creations, asked me to road-test a hand-dyed sock yarn for her. It was a hard decision, as she has some amazing Terry Pratchett-inspired colourways, but eventually I settled on 'Paint It Black':

Paint It Black - closeup

The red actually looks a little orangey here. It's more of a cherry red. The other photo is a little closer:

Paint It Black

I really love the way the stripes are forming in this, with the wider 'flashes' of black punctuating the thinner stripes.

I am very lucky in all my talented and generous friends, and I am very happy to have discovered the joys of handspun and hand-dyed yarns!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The next big thing!

A quick plug for my friend's book, and the excellent website it's on. is a website set up by Hodder to 'flush out new talent'. It's a site for wannabe writers to upload their work, and read and critique the work of others. Most importantly, once a month the editors at Hodder will read and consider the 5 most popular books.

There are hundreds of books there, if you don't mind reading online, and you could even spot the new big thing! Speaking of which, I really want to plug my dear friend Amery's book on this site, The Living and the Dead: The Awakening, which is an urban fantasy.

You can register, read and comment without having to upload your own writing.

Monday, April 06, 2009

It was all yellow....

On the UK RAK group on Ravelry, we have started a monthly game where, every month, we agree to send a RAK parcel to a partner on a specific theme. The theme for March was 'Yellow', and I decided to make three of the things in my parcel.

It was only when I put them together that I realised how different the colours were, and how each colour affected the others.

First came the neon yellow doily, crocheted from thread sent in the RAK parcel which came to me, all the way from Lapland (we're not all in the UK!):

Yellow doily

This really is yellow - just photographing it on a blue surface is making it look greenish, but I can assure you it isn't!

Next were these vibrant yellow crocheted mitts:

Yellow mitts

And lastly, the yellow crocheted flower brooch:

Yellow ruffled flower

(Why, yes, I am having a bit of a crochet binge at the moment. Funny you should ask....)

And then I put them all together to put into the envelope...

Yellow RAK items from me which point my yellow items became a cream flower, orange mitts and a green doily.

I love colour, but it drives me mental!