Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Names. Called also alecost, or balsam herb.
This is so frequently known to be an inhabitant in almost every garden, that I suppose it needless to write a description thereof.
Time. It flowereth in June and July.
Government and virtues. It is under the dominion of Jupiter. The ordinary costmary, as well as maudlin, provoketh urine abundantly, and moisteneth the hardness of the mother; it gently purgeth choler and phlegm, extenuating that which is gross, and cutting that which is tough and glutinous, cleanseth that which is foul, and hindereth putrefaction and corruption; it dissolveth without attraction, openeth obstructions, and healeth their evil effects, and is a wonderful help to all sorts of dry agues. It is astringent to the stomach, and strengtheneth the liver, and all the other inward parts, and if taken in whey worketh the more effectually. Taken fasting in the morning, it is very profitable for pains of the head that are continual; and to stay, dry up, and consume, all thin rheums, or distillations from the head into the stomach, and helpeth much to digest raw humours that are gathered therein. It is very profitable for those that are fallen into a continual evil disposition of the body called cachexia, being taken, especially in the beginning of the disease. It is a good friend and helps to evil, weak, and cold livers. The seed is familiarly given to children for the worms, and so is the infusion of the flowers in white wine, given them to the quantity of two ounces at a time: it maketh an excellent salve to cleanse and heal old ulcers, being boiled with olive oil, and adder's tongue with it; and after it is strained, to put in a little wax, rosin, and turpentine, to bring it to a convenient consistence.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I love the atmosphere of this Alice-in-the-Herb-Garden picture my daughter caught of me in the evening sunlight! (Bum looks big though!)
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
After wet- blocking my lime green swatch for the Central Park Hoodie, I was all set to go… when I unpinned the dry swatch and it pinged itself into a perfect diamond-shape. Every stitch seemed to have a big side and a little one and the whole thing was severely warped. Noooo! I consulted RooKnits and she reckons it is to do with the spinning of the single ply. I knew that this yarn was going to felt when I bought it, but I hadn’t thought about the unravelling back-spin! The best solution seems to be to pre-wash the yarn. As it is in balls rather than skeins, there will have to be some winding. Oh boo hoo! Another project stalls. However, it is rather exciting to work with such a “raw” product and this yarn was such a bargain, I am determined to make it work.
What happened to Moonstone? Nothing yet! And I am worried that the bag of yarn is on the windowsill, open to moth invasion. I must crack on with that once Aestlight is finished. I seem to like having one project on circular needles, and one on dpns at any one time – any more and I start to panic!
Talking of moths, my herb garden is in full bloom, with a full crop of lavender to harvest sometime soon. Woo hoo!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
I started in July by lodging a wishlist at my local library, and I have been reading my way through them as they become available. Unfortunately, several have been “short loans” of only 2 weeks, due to other readers requesting them. While 2 weeks is not an unreasonable amount of time to read a novel, it has been a problem when several have become available at once!
So what have I been reading?
First up: The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. I wanted to read this from the moment it was published. Set in Victorian / Edwardian England, it focuses on the interactions of several arty disfunctional families, each representing a different group of that period. I read Victorian Lit. at University so have a background knowledge of the Morris / Ruskin etceteras and was looking forward to being on familiar territory. But this was my problem – I was deluged by so much historical context, and each family was presented so much as a “type”, that I lost all sense of the characters as people. 249 pages in and I was ready to give up the fight. I just didn’t care any more, with 366 pages to go. (I counted – a bad sign!) I recommend it if you require instant deep immersion in the era – and I foresee its appearance in the “background reading” list for Very Serious literature students. It is a very clever novel, but I require some humanity in my fiction, sorry.
Next: The Blue Hour, a portrait of Jean Rhys by Lillian Pizzichini. Another nostalgic read, as I studied Jean Rhys in the final year of my degree. My stumbling block with this one was the author’s florid style. After encountering the phrase “the caprice of fecundity”, referring to the difficulty of growing vegetables in the Caribbean, I could not take much more. I did try! But the author’s confused stance on Jean Rhys’s mental instability and “loose” sex life finished me off. Was she “a prostitute"? I don’t know – I wasn’t there. But neither was the author, with her at times fawning but often patronising tone and ridiculous turns of phrase. It could not be termed “a biography” – there were no references, footnotes or sources, and in the end I felt I was reading a salacious tabloid expose. No thanks. I would much rather read one of Jean Rhys’s poignant novels.
The third volume I collected did not even survive the initial flick-through. “Blonde Roots” by Bernardine Evaristo. Slavery turned on its head with the white folks as underdogs. Some reviews suggest it is “funny”, but I just found it sickening. Maybe I didn’t give it a chance, but exploitation does not entertain me, no matter who is on top.
So what a relief to come across a winner after weeks of half-hearted reading! I enjoyed “The Night Watch” and “Affinity” by Sarah Waters and if anything, I loved “The Little Stranger” even more! It’s on the Booker list, so all the keen readers of Aberdeenshire have queued it and I had to drop everything (no knitting!) to finish it before Saturday. It is a novel which benefits from intensive reading , as you are drawn into the atmosphere of post-war England and the increasingly sinister goings-on at Hundreds Hall. It is intelligent but easy to read. I will recommend it to my teenaged daughter and my mother alike. And to you!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
FL is looking really tired. He says he has a pain in his chest and he can’t tell if it is his lungs or his heart or just a muscular thing due to all the coughing he has been doing. His knee gave way below him while crossing the road the other day, so he is all strapped up with an elastic bandage. Apart from that… he’s fine!
Despite the sunshine, my thoughts are turning to winter knits. It was the latest edition of Knitscene that did it! I am besotted by the short-sleeved hoodie, to the extent of wanting several in all sorts of colours. I need to get past this stage or I will never get round to ordering the yarn for one! The same magazine has a lovely man-friendly sock pattern called Freshman, which I want to knit for FL, some lovely fingerless mittens for my daughter, and a “dagger lace” scarf pattern which I really like but probably won’t get round to.
On the needles, I have the Aestlight shawl, which I pick up in odd moments while waiting for the kettle to boil or the washing machine to finish. There will be nothing exciting to show until I reach the first lacey border and change colour. I have yet to cast on for the second Mad Budgie, and I haven’t wound the wool for my Moonstone cardigan, which I really must do as I am short of a cardigan-type layer to wear to work.
On the sewing front, I have the material for two summer dresses. I can’t help thinking it is hardly worth it now that autumn is nearly here, but that’s the attitude that leaves me a season behind every year! The pattern is Amy Butler’s new Mini Dress and Tunic design, which I first saw over at Mingled Yarn. Elizabeth’s trick of stitching down the central box pleat to add waist shaping turned a baggy frock into a sharply tailored a-line dress which I can see me wearing to work with platform heels or over jeans at the weekend. It looks like a good layering piece too, so I should be able to wear it over a long sleeved t-shirt on cooler days.
The other thing I really need to do soon is sort out my sewing supplies. I am spending too much time looking for things! I need to separate my zips from my bias bindings from my buttons from my threads and label the boxes. I am rather looking forward to this!
Monday, August 10, 2009
The pattern book (“Sewing Lesson”) had fewer diagrams than the previous Japanese designs I have sewn. Only the unusual parts of the design warranted illustration. This caused me some confusion at the neckline, because I was unclear about how long the bias strip neck-binding should be. The pattern piece seemed too short, and studying the cutting layout, they seemed to have extended it. As the bodice and sleeves are gathered to fit the neckband, it is crucial that this is the right length, so there were a lot of contortions in front of the mirror in a pin-encrusted bodice!
Of course, I made it too long. I only needed the length of the pattern piece after all. The “extensions” in the cutting layout were actually the cuff bands. Duh! But by the time I realised this, I had extended it by 8 inches and sewn it all together. “Off the shoulder” would be a polite description. However, having owned a “gypsy” top many moons ago, I realised that if I ran elastic through the neckband, I could pull it up to fit, without losing the ability to get in and out. Hooray!
After that, it was plain sailing: gather the bottom of the bodice to fit the top of the skirt, sew side seams, hem and insert zip. I was very pleased with the side-seam zip, which is almost invisible. I decided to line the skirt section rather than wear a separate slip.
Result? Big success! The elastic stabilises the neckband and ensures I don’t expose any straps. The gathered bodice gives the illusion of a larger chest, while the body-skimming skirt section hides any lumps and bumps – a good style for a “pear”! If I was to make it again I would probably cut the skirt slightly longer, as I took up only a tiny hem to hit the right part of my knee.
Stats: dress M from “Sewing Lesson”, available from Pomadour at Ebay or Etsy. 2.5 metres of Anna Maria Horner’s Chocolate Lollipop fabric (from Eternal Maker) and 80cm of ordinary lining material. I made size 11, which is the middle of three sizes on the pattern sheet. The whole thing could have been done in a day, but I was interrupted by dog-walking, shopping, cleaning and cooking duties, so it took me a relaxed weekend.
I sewed and sang along to Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s 5-track promo CD on repeat. WHO?! They are a Danish indie band, of whom I heard a snippet on Radio 2 a few weeks ago. I am no music critic, but if you like Nouvelle Vague, Bjork, and the B52’s you might just love this band. I can’t wait for their album to be released in the UK!
Saturday, August 08, 2009
This is dress M / N from “Sewing Lesson”, a recent Japanese book purchase. Mine is version N, by virtue of cutting the skirt on the bias. The fabric is an Anna Maria Horner print from the “Chocolate Lollipop” collection, bought from the Eternal Maker in their Moving Day sale.
I am using a full 2.5 metres, because I realised the pattern has quite a strong repeat and I needed to line up the larger circles to some extent. Plus I didn’t want to place “targets” on my bust area!
It is all cut out and ready to sew. I am thinking I might need to line it or – gasp! – wear a slip, so I am investigating those possibilities before I do something irrevocable that limits my options. I am thinking a fuschia silky chiffony under - layer would be rather sweet hanging below my hemline …
This led me to surfing the web for vintage slippy goodness. I didn't find what I wanted, but I found two fantastic UK-based vintage clothing shops. If this is your style, do have a look - not cheap, but definitely inspirational!
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Instead, I took myself by surprise and cast on for an Aestlight Shawl, using my last skein of Malabrigo Sock, in the Eggplant colourway. I hadn’t been particularly struck by this shawl pattern until I saw a few versions using two colours of yarn instead of one – suddenly the design came to life and stopped looking so… authentically Shetland. Instead of having a reverential “homage to the past” feel, the two-colour version looks decidedly modern. Much better!
The central garter stitch triangle is a relaxing knit, with the subtle variations of the Malabrigo keeping it from being too plain. I plan to knit the lacey border in leftover Fyberspates Echo sock in the Flower Garden colourway – I hope I have enough! My Spring Forward socks have faded badly in the wash, so I am hoping that a shawl will suffer less wear and tear and I will be able to enjoy the colours a lot longer.
Monday, August 03, 2009
It is probably a good time to confess to making it up as I go along, in respect of the overall construction. I managed to decipher enough of the German original (Ravelry link) to deduce that you were supposed to start with a provisional crochet cast-on and knit the foot section first, bottom up, and only add the toe at the end. This would allow you to adjust the foot length as if you were knitting a normal top-down sock.
I haven’t yet decided whether or not to knit a picot cuff. Watch this space!
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Lacking a photographer, I stole her studio (bedroom!)and self-timed these pictures, Contrary to what you see, they do not have one leg longer than the other! Apologies for bare midriff exposure in the second pic!Patrick Lichfield will not be threatened by my photographic prowess.
The fabric is beautifully drapey and fine - definitely a spring/summer-type wool rather than a winter one.
Having used this pattern twice now, I am ready to say it is my "go to" wide-legged trouser pattern. The instructions are very clear, particularly around the creation of a hidden side-seam zip. The only thing that went wrong was that I sewed the yoke facing the wrong way round - again! To prevent it happening again, I have made a little sketch on the instruction sheet so that I can tell instantly which side is the right-hand seam - I am hopeless at visualising what happens when you turn a garment right-way- out, and left becomes right unless it is a lining... aargh!
Verdict: big success! I wore them out to dinner last night, half an hour after finishing the hem! You might not approve of a machine-stitched hem, but I rather like the way it gives the impression of a turn-up on such a wide leg. I am too short for the bulk of turn-ups, so a deep top-stitched hem is my compromise.