Saturday, 31 March 2007

Please try this at home.

It started off as a mistake but it's an exercise I might be tempted to try again. Spent ages this morning reading through the paper, checking the headlines to see which news item was the April Fool. I'd even narrowed it down to a shortlist of stories that were too ridiculous to be true.

Then I realised that it was only March 31st.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Mermaids and sea potatoes

This has been a very Aberdeen-y sort of a week. Monday I was in the city in my role as proud/evil ( delete as appropriate ) stepmother to watch Stephen's film in a student showcase at the Belmont Cinema. He was top of the bill with a piece about Orania, a Boer community in South Africa where the residents have all the insight of King Canute, trying hold back the changes in their country. Fascinating film and all the more impressive when you know that Stephen went out there by himself with only a camera for company. It's lovely to have stepchildren to be proud of - and I'm super proud of all three.

A few days of rest and sniffling later and it was time for a Girls Escape Day. Karen, Sylvia and myself try to run away every now and then for a day of coffee, cake and sheer female solidarity. Lots of cackling and innapropriate sniggers ensued. It reminded me of why people can be scared of Hen Nights. Later on that night we caught up with Haworth a friend who was having a book launch in Books n' Beans, in Aberdeen. The bookshop was full to bursting with people which is pretty damn good for a poetry reading. Haworth writes some incredible stuff with an emphasis on vegetables and other domestic odditities. I'll ask him for permission to put some poems on the blog. He also plays all manner of funny musical instruments in between poems. Quirky doesn't begin to do him justice - under the quirk lurks a very clever man.

After the reading, I rushed back along the road to the Belmont Cinema to catch up with the Aberdeen Stitch and Bitch group. Carol from the group is one of Magnus' greatest admirers on Flickr and we have been exchanging comments and emails for a while. It was lovely to finally meet her and find out that she is just as friendly in person as she is online. We are planning a joint Aberdeen/Village knitting session sometime soon. I just hope that the amazing knitted mask I saw last night comes along to that meeting too.....

Sea Potatoes? This is a photo of what happens when seed potatoes are stored in the cupboard under the stairs and then forgotten about. I think the new growth looks like some magical deep sea creature. We're still going to plant them and see what happens.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Knitting Backwards.

Today I will be mostly lying on the sofa making snuffly moaning noises. While I was away in London, the unwanted gift of germs as well as the welcome gift of friendship was shared among us. Main suspects are Gill and Esme. Bearing in mind that Esme is only just a year old, I don't think it fair to lay any guilt on her - I'll blame her mother instead :)

Luckily I have some backwards knitting to keep me company on the sofa. Grahame, my second hand knitting book scout presented me with a plastic bag yesterday at the inaugural meeting of the Wine Club. Actually, when I think about it, six bottles of very good Spanish wine between eight of us last night might also explain today's delicate state. Anyway, in the bag was Grahame's green cardigan, knittted by his mum about thirty five years ago. It has been worn until it can be worn no more ( see elbows ) and he has given it to me for ripping down.
There is nothing I like better than changing a knitted thing back into its constituent parts. No real concentration is needed but you can see how a garment has been constructed and learn a little more along the way. A great way of indulging my inner Blitz Housewife who loves to make thrifty things and hates to see anything go to waste. When I knit something, especially from a vintage pattern, I feel a sense of connection with all the other knitters that have gone before me and I think the same thing happens if I undo another's work. Maybe I'm being a bit fanciful but it feels like by re-using the yarn I can sort of pay homage to the person and the skills used to create the original piece.

Now all I have to do is think about what to make with the yarn. It is green, probably acrylic and is needing a transformation. Suggestions will be very welcome.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

I love my friends - There, I've said it!

Warning - this post contains gratuitous sentimentality!

I just spent a long weekend with these people. To be accurate, I spent a long weekend with who these people turned out to be. The glamorous girls in the first photo were snapped on New Year's Eve 1990 when they were the ripe old age of 21 (could be 22, I'm never very good with figures. ) These days we are a lot closer to 40 than we like to think about. We met up to say goodbye to Stef, in the middle, who was returning to Boston after time spent travelling and being back in Scotland. The other two, Sam on the left and Gill on the right both live in London so meeting up takes a bit of co-ordination. We have known each other for nigh on twenty years and although we've all taken different paths we still remain firm friends. We had a whale of a time visiting the park, the Tate Modern where Stef and I slid down one of Carsten Holler's slides, we ate our body weight in Mini Eggs. There was enough talking to make ourselves hoarse as we spilled all of the beans that we had been saving for this trip. Lots and lots of wine and laughter and extreme patience from Prof. Tim who allowed his house and his peace to be invaded.
Best of all we got to hang out with the newest members of the gang, Gill's two beautiful girls, Nell and Esme. How could I not love Nell when she thinks that Archie is more beautiful than all the beautiful things in the world.

The older I get the more I value the friendship I have with these women, although in my mind we are still the same ridiculous wee girls that shared a flat in 1996 thinking that we were really mature because we were at University. I'm glad that we didn't know some of what lay in store for us as we crept into our twenties, then thirties and soon to be forties. On the other hand, we wouldn't have grown into the women we are without the bad as well as the good in our lives. And there has been a lot of good. It has been great sharing it all with them. The younger me would have been too cool to tell these three that I love them. I wouldn't make that mistake now.

When looking through my old photos I also came across a corker of me and Miss Frugality/Julia who I have known for many, many years. We are wearing outfits specially chosen for going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Use your imagination and above all, be nice to your friends. You never know what dirt they might have on you.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Zimmerman serendipity

There is a much more peaceful atmosphere in the Mog household today. Good things are happening. I had an email from Leslie at ( must learn how to do shortcuts to blogs. ) with a fingerless glove pattern. I'm going to London this weekend and it will be in my knitting bag along with some of my mother's woolly gems. There was another treat from the USA today, a package from with two shiny new knitting books. The package arrived enclosed in a lovely sealed white sack which has already been passed as a potential cat cave by Magnus. The cardboard box in the sack made me smile, with what looks like the Zimmerman seal of approval for my purchases. Inside the box was a copy of EZ's Knitting Workshop along with Debbie New's Unexpected Knitting. Both books are out of print in the UK and super-expensive to buy second hand. Within moments I was on the sofa with a cup of tea and a wealth of knitting experience to soak up.

Later on there was a flurry of organisation when Archie looked through his box of receipts - the theory is that he keeps them till the amount on the card has appeared on our bank statement but in practice, they just sit in a box for nearly two years until I remind him they are there. Typical, he looked through them, checking for potential discrepancies and tutting over the amount of receipts with the full credit card number on them, ripe for the bad guys to steal. With me on the other end of the sofa, looking at a growing pile of paper thinking. Hmmm, whites and blues, just what I need for Project Spectrum. At the end of the financial marathon, I asked Archie what his favourite receipts in the pile were -

1. The receipt for registering our marriage with the local council. (Yellow paper on front left hand side.)
2. Dinner at the Inn at Lochaillort on our honeymoon.
3. A pair of shoes and a linen suit worn at our wedding.

Sometimes he knows just the right thing to say. In case you were wondering why he didn't choose the receipt for my wedding dress, that's because I paid cash. Twelve whole pounds.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Clouds a gatherin'

There is a very bad mood in this house and I have an awful feeling that it belongs to me. I have no real excuse other than hormones and that's bad enough. The man of my dreams is wandering around the house with such a look of trepidation that he puts me in mind of one of Scotland's oddest named crimes - that of putting the leiges in a state of fear and alarm. Believe me, Archie is one alarmed liege. The poor blighter has done nothing wrong but sometimes when the hormones are flying I'm only safe to be in the company of women who know what I'm on about. Which is odd because I'm usually the first one to say that people shouldn't be defined or constrained by their gender.

Maybe it's all down to phases of the moon or something, but it was in this encouraging state of mind that I stomped upstairs to do some sorting out and promptly found a book that I had written some poetry in. Other people's poetry luckily, not my own. I'd only written a couple of poems in it and it was such a shame to leave a notebook unfilled when I was in need of a garden journal for noting seed sowing times and the like ( March 13 first sowing of tomato-Ailsa Craig ). I've ripped the poems out of the book but here are a couple that fit today's frame of mind.

Man in Space

All you have to do is listen to the way a man
sometimes talks to his wife at a table of people
and notice how intent he is on making his point
even though her lower lip is begining to quiver,

and you will know why the women in science
fiction movies who inhabit a planet of their own
are not pictured making a salad or reading a magazine
when the men from earth arrive in their rocket,

why they are always standing in a semicircle
with their arms folded, their bare legs set apart,
their breasts protected by hard metal disks.

Billy Collins.

He Tells Her ( For Ruth B )

He tells her that the earth is flat -
He knows the facts and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

Wendy Cope.

The man of my dreams has just asked me if I want a cup of tea. Now I really feel bad!!

Monday, 12 March 2007

It's alive!

The Vogue 1960's jumper which has proved troublesome so far is underway in the second attempt. I might be a scrappy knitter but it is a real pain when the edges don't look good. I know that they will be the last thing to be noticed when it's all sewn up and I have tried all sorts of different things - slipping stitches, not slipping stitches, talking nicely to them and downright foul language and threats, and as nothing seems to have made any difference I'm just going to hang in and keep knitting the damn thing. I have a funny feeling that as long as it covers him up on chilly camping holidays, Archie won't care if the edges are the best thing ever or an insult to knitterdom.

The charity shops have come up trumps again - this time my mum is the sniffer out of bargains. She works as a volunteer for the Red Cross shop in Kirriemuir and they had a donation of many many cones of what looks to be real wool, in four ply. She bought about half the batch and will be sent back for the rest! I have great plans for these fellows.

Beautiful weather today, sunny and with just enough of a wind to send the cat careering around the garden after little pieces of leaf and straw. I got started with tidying up the place and soon I can begin sewing the tomato seeds. We have been given the loan of a greenhouse this summer from friends who are going to Australia and I can't wait to fill it with chillies, tomatoes and other treats. It really feels like spring is underway. The first ladybird has been spotted, one more month and we'll have swallows.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Military Frogging.

Not some kind of anti-war sentiment, although the Bin the Bomb poster displayed in my front room window is confusing the local kids. I believe the general opinion is : "That's rubbish" although that might also be because they didn't know what Bomb I was trying to bin ( Trident, if you must know ). Don't know if they get taught such things at the village Primary School.

This type of military is realated to uniforms and I was reminded of it as a result of my complete ineptitude when trying to start Archie's groovy 1960 jumper. It's in fisherman's rib and I just can't get the edges to look neat so I've ripped it out and I'm just going to have to do it all again. In the midst of this, I happened to have a look at the rib from above and it looks just like a type of braiding known as Frogging. There is a lovely irony in there somewhere. Must say it cheered me up to find a bit of history in my mistakes. The steely blue in the pictures is the unfortunate frogged fellow. Also, I've noticed in the background, is my copy of Mary Jane's Crazy Chocolate Cake recipe that I cribbed from her website. I was thinking about it for the Bee this week but as I'd never made it before I thought I'd wait and try it out on my unsuspecting family first. It looks like such an odd way of doing things that I'm intrigued.

Frogging seems to have been used in the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. It was used as fastening and decoration on military uniforms but I know in the 1800's at least in the UK, it was popular as decoration for ladies garments too, probably as some kind of patriotic display. I can't show you any pictures as I need to learn more about blogging before I am capable of such technical wizardry. However, look at


to find out more. Incidentally, the Kaisersbunker site is dedicated to a Daschund. Amazing what you can find !

Stop press: Just had a visit from my lovely friend Grahame. He was out scouring the charity shops of Dundee yesterday and found a copy of Murray and Koster's Illustrated Knitting from 1948. For 50p. For me. What a wonderful man.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Cats and Bees

It was the monthly Knitting Bee last night and I was the hostess. I managed to make chocolate brownies that were so squidgy that they couldn't be cut into squares and only managed to redeem themselves by being spooned into bowls and eaten with ice cream. The talk of the night had to be one bee attendee whose 13 year old son managed to get himself banned from the school computer lab by sending an email to a local member of the Scottish Parliament warning him that he was in danger of being assassinated by Alex Salmond the Scottish National Party leader. As the email arrived at the MSP's office in the Scottish Parliament it had to be taken seriously and the CID/police visited the young man in question and he now has to write letters of apology to the politians involved. I'd love to see those letters!

Magnus was also a complete disgrace. He started by hogging the best chair and then leaping on the leg of the bee attender who had the temerity to remove him. Not content with that he then waited until coffee and squidge brownies were served and when attention turned back to knitting ( or in one case tapestry, we don't discriminate in the Bee ), he sneaked up to the table and stuck his whole head in the milk jug. Luckily that much misbehaviour tired him out and he spent the rest of the night sitting on patterns and my log cabin mini blanket.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Fixin' Stuff.

This is a new and scary obsession causing me to spend too much time and money on Ebay hunting down slightly soiled vintage knitting patterns and trying to make them better. Vogue Knitting books from the 40's and 50's are especially dangerous. I was inspired by the wonderful Iva Rose website. where out of copyright patterns and books are restored and sold to adoring fans. Well worth a browse but get someone you trust to hold onto your credit card please.

Here is a before and after of a Marriners mitten pattern. Its a bit crude as I don't know how to sample colour and then use it with the paintbrush thingy so I just had to go with the limited Photoshop colour for the background. Also I have a feeling that you can over fix pictures and that spoils them. Just like any other creative process, knowing when to stop is as important as knowing what to start in the first place. I'm not designed to be finicky. If anyone can let me know the copyright issues of sharing old patterns, let me know and I'll happily pass this on for free. I'm having too much fun to want to do this for a living.

I'm hosting the village knitting bee tomorrow night and there is much cake making to be done not to mention Archie's jumper that is still languishing in the form of yarn rather than a knitted object. Soon, Archie, soon!

Monday, 5 March 2007

A trip to the sea side

We took a few days away to have a holiday in Pennan, a village with only one main street which overlooks the sea. We had the best possible weather, stormy and wet which meant that we were forced to stay indoors with only a real fire, some knitting (me ), books
( Archie ) and a years supply of cocoa. Blissful. I finished my wee prototype log cabin blanket and started on the one I want to make properly. Actually, I have a feeling that I will be making lots of log cabin squares rather than one big blanket as this will allow me to use up even more obscure bits of yarn. We left the cottage only to restock our cocoa supplies and to walk along the shore taking pictures and dodging waves. I think I prefer the seaside at this time of year as it gives a real impression of the power of the waves and the weather.

Came home to a rapturous welcome from Magnus who had been annoying the neighbours in our absence and to a parcel from Miss Frugality/Julia with the promised dye from her own house clearing escapades. Must admit to being a tad perplexed at her colour choices, although it might explain why she has never used them and is palming them off on me. Lavender I understand as a good idea, likewise terracotta, but packets of beige dye? I can't imagine ever looking at a piece of virgin fabric/yarn/paper and thinking must dye this a lovely shade of beige! Maybe it was to mix with another shade? Don't keep me in suspense Mrs Frugal - what were you thinking?!
However, I've already mentally chosen some yarn to experiment with and will keep you posted.
I managed to get another cotton jumper to unravel on my holiday, this time a lovely dark blue and I hope this will give me enough to knit something to fit me along with the turmeric and the green.

Meanwhile I have a Vogue Knitting jumper pattern from 1960 to attempt for Archie and the next instalment of the log cabins. Not to mention a million snaps to upload onto Flikr - all from a four day trip. God help us if we are ever away for a fortnight!