Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year.

Tonight I'm going to stay on the settee with a good book and some bread and cheese. The cat is on the window ledge and the man is on his way home. I have some lovely festive memories and no expectations of what 2011 will bring. I'm just going to wait and be surprised when it happens.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas


I'm grabbing a few minutes before the festive chaos takes hold to share a few pictures with you. All is quiet for now with an almost full moon shining on the white fields around the village. The snow is beautiful but painful on the paws, as Magnus found out.


When the weather is cold  all I want to do is stay at home and keep warm and my newly found obsession with all things yeasty has been perfect for days such as these. I'm still learning though,  today I had to leap out of the bath when I realised that I'd mixed up a huge batch of dough and left it to rise but forgotten to add any yeast. Thankfully it turned out well in the end.

Whatever you do and however you celebrate at this time of the year,  I wish you every happiness.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Bread and circuses

Well, maybe not a proper circus, just some snazzy bunting. This was one of my stupider pre-Christmas ideas. Wouldn't it be a great wheeze I thought, to make bunting to give to three of my favourite small girls as presents. Many millions of triangles later I realised that as I had drawn round the template with dressmaking pen, I would also have to hand wash and dry many million of triangles rather than risk them in the fierce spin of the washing machine. I still have to line them up in some semblance of colour order and sew them together. I might even make the girls' names out of felt and sew them on too. Thankfully they all have very short names. By that time there may be no posting days left till Christmas.On the other hand I might just stick with plain pennants and have a fighting chance of them arriving on time.

The goo in the jar is my new best friend the sourdough starter, by day it lives in the fridge but mix with water and flour and leave overnight it will turn into the most incredible mass of life and bubble. The bread is tangy and chewy and I'm filling the freezer with what is left over. At least if the weather turns again ( as the forecast threatens for this week ) we'll have enough to eat.

I've been thinking a lot about photographs and their context this week. It is wonderful how good something can look when you don't see that is going on in the background. As an example, I give you the arty shot of my sourdough and then the reality of me in the kitchen balanced on a chair wearing stripy pajama trousers. And yes, I did knit those socks.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

A dripping story.

After looking after the birds with such loving care over the summer and experiencing the ultimate in feline stir-craziness, it seemed a little unfair to lose them to a cold snap. According to the RSPB the birds rely on having enough fat resources to see them through our freezing winter nights. What is doom to our arteries is a life saver to the robin and the sparrow and the blue tit.


Which goes a  long way to explaining the purchase of two large packs of beef dripping yesterday. This morning it was the star ingredient in my bird cake, along with some sesame seeds, bread and some coconut that I found in the cupboard marked use by 2009.  Melt, mix and leave to set.

The birds seem to like it. Unfortunately so does Magnus.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Confusion abounds.

The house is proving to be a source of confusion for Magnus and the local birds. Magnus can't belive that the living room window sill should be used for purposes other than his own ( the radiator underneath is pleasingly warm) and he was most put out this week when I needed it for :

A - Hat blocking. This is the Cabled Beret by Ashley Hasse. A lovely fast knit and the first time I've used a plate for blocking, not that Magnus cares.

B - Sourdough. Inspired by the yeasts of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I've been wandering around the house gathering my own for a sourdough starter. It needed a warm place to get going and once again the Mog was not best pleased.

The poor old birds are also very confused, they think that the kitchen window is fresh air and have been bashing into it at regular intervals. This time I found a dazed goldfinch lying on its side looking like the end was nigh. A few minutes held in the warmth of my hand and then a quiet cat-free spot for recovering was all that was needed but in order to prevent another dull thud, I made a bird sillhouette and stuck it onto the window. You can see by the picture why I never pursued a career in fine art. The birds seem to be fooled though and that is the main thing.

We were all surprised by the view from the kitchen window the next morning. The first snowfall of 2010.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Pink in the middle.

The clocks went back last Saturday which means the official end of British Summertime.  The light begins to dim around three in the afternoon and the curtains are closed against the chill by tea time. Which may go some way to explaining the peculiar outbreak in the Mog household. There is a lack of colour in the day that needs to be addressed.

Now I'm not really a pink sort of a gal - I wanted football boots for Christmas when I was little and was more inclined to arrange my dolls into various tableau than to dress them up in snazzy frocks.  I remember creating wonderful fairy lands on the spare bed and in the bottom of the wardobe.  I remember greens and blues and the brown of my rug with the horses on it. It has taken until this gloomy autumn for the pink to appear.

I've had plans to make a quilt for ages and have collected many different old shirts from Angus' finest charity shops.  The quilt remains unmade but I have sacrificed some of the fabric and cut them into strips for a scarf. The backing is an old man's flannelly dressing gown that I bought second hand and subsequently boil washed against lingering germs. The end result is vibrant and shiny and bold and far too much for me. The next step is to slowly hand stitch across the lurid side in a simple Kantha style. I have a long train journey in front of me next week and this looks like the perfect project to take with me.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Curious Questions.

I'm subscribed to YouGov, a pollling site where you fill in surveys on a variety of subjects. Eventually after what feels like years, YouGov send a cheque for £50 as a thank you. Every week or so a new survey appears in my inbox and most of them are about things I care nothing about, like mobile phone companies, or banking.

This morning a much more relevant survey appeared. I'll leave you with a few of the questions. Silly answers much appreciated! You may need to click the pictures to read some of the options as they came out a wee bit small.

In other news, I have been tidying up the plates of tomatoes that I saved from the outside plants when the frosts threatened. These poor fellows have been languishing by the kitchen window in the hopes of finding a few rays of sunshine to aid their ripening. There are some smaller than my thumbnail and all are beginning to show their age. I decided to hasten their shrivelling and have sliced them in half, sprinkled on some sugar, salt and pepper and I'm hoping the house will smell like a small Italian town in summertime. The kind of place where the tomato harvest is laid out on the rooftops to dry in the heat of the sun and the locals dip their focaccia into extra virgin olive oil while tearing basil leaves just for the joy of it. Instead of a damp Scottish village where two platefuls of old toms are stuck in a fan assisted oven.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

First frost

The daylight is changing to Autumn colour. Glowing to match the golden leaves falling from our big Birch tree. A time to savour. A time for reflection. A time for guilt when you remember something that should have finished  long before the chilly nights set in.


I'd promised to knit Archie a jumper and after painstaking pattern observation he chose the plainest, simplest one and asked for it to be knitted in black. The pattern is so old it doesn't even merit a mention on Ravelry. The helpfully named Patons Sweater C 3615 was started many moons ago and knitted inbetween more interesting projects. It has no shaping on the body, minimal shaping on the sleeves and posed no challenge whatsoever. The sewing together of black pieces of jumper with black yarn in a room with poor lighting caused an outbreak of swearing not usually heard in this household. It is all over now. Archie loves the jumper so much I just know he will ask for another one.

Here he is with Long Suffering Bear, renamed Tomten Ted in honour of the jacket he is wearing which was beautifully knitted by Mary Jane. It all got a bit much for Ted.  I think he must have overheard the swearing.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Knit Camp Tutor Fund.

As you might know, many tutors who taught at the UK Knit Camp this year have not been paid. Not only that, but many have not been reimbursed their travel costs either which is quite a loss if you consider that a good few came to Stirling from the USA.  A fund has been set up to support the tutors and here is some information about it.

I had a great time at Knit Camp in spite of the goings on that went on and it hurts me to think that the tutors who made such an effort to teach in difficult circumstances have been let down. Jane who has set up ( but won't benefit at all ) from the fund talks about it here and also links to some blog posts from tutors who had first hand experience. Thank you very much Jane for all of your hard work in getting the fund going.

Many people have expressed a wish to help with the situation regarding non-payment of teaching fees and travelling expenses to most of the Knit Camp Tutors (Instructors), so a fund account has now been set up. Respect & privacy for tutors and security & confidence for donors are paramount. Therefore the fund is being managed by Accountants, the cost of which has been donated, so every penny/cent donated will go straight into the Tutor Fund.
The Knit Camp Tutors have got together as a group and all money donated and raised will be paid by the accountant directly to each individual within the group. The group as a whole will decide distribution and this information will remain private.

The account is being managed by Clifford Towers Chartered Accountants, and audited accounts will be made available – note that details of individual donors and recipients will remain private. Clifford Towers is registered with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
The fund will be open for donations and proceeds of fund raising until the end of October 2010. There is a need for funds to be donated and distributed asap. Anyone with fund raising that may go on longer, please contact JaneKal.
If you wish to donate to the fund using PayPal click HERE
If you have any queries you’d like to remain confidential, you can contact Ros Tatum at or telephone 01788 577613  (hours 9.30am to 12 noon, UK time, Monday to Friday)
If you prefer to pay by cheque (UK only), please make it payable to Clifford Towers Chartered Accountants, and mark it Tutor Group Fund, or Stirling Tutor Fund on the back and the envelope , then post to:
Ros Tatum
Clifford Towers Chartered Accountants
1st Floor Suites Units 8-9,
Webb Ellis Business Park
Woodside Park
Rugby CV21 2NP

Casey & Sarah have kindly given permission for this fund to be discussed on Raverly. Please respect this by asking moderators before posting in a group. Please don’t spam, but do feel free to otherwise contact Rav friends and spread the word to individuals and groups that have an interest in the affected tutors. The aim is to inform everyone who may be interested that there is a means for them to respond in a safe, meaningful and practical way if they wish.
(The total amount of money owed to the Tutors is huge, but so that everyone is clear from the beginning, if we raise and donate an amount greater than that before the end of October, then there are obvious groups of people in unpaid KC employees and volunteers who didn’t receive expenses to consider but this will be fully and openly discussed in this thread.)

In happier news, I made a hat, finally finished the plainest jumper ever ( a specific request from my lad ) and today, ate the world's largest custard cream. Seen here with a banana and a cat's head for comparison. And we all know that's no ordinarily sized cat! 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

I may have unvented* Boucle.

Every now and then someone will ask if they can buy my knitting or spinning. It happened last week in a cafe in St Andrews while I sheltered from this year's worst rainstorm. The waitress loved my home made hat and asked to buy one. My reply is always the same,  I don't know how to put a monetary value on what I make  How on earth could I factor in the cost of my time, my knowledge, the years of practice and then subtract the fun that I have in the process in order to reach a sensible price?

That's what makes trading with another craft person so enjoyable,  you can be assured that each person knows the true value of the other's skills and appreciates the time it takes to make something by hand. My knife making chum Chris recently set me up on the trading equivalent of a blind date with one of his friends.  Jon makes the most beautiful hand carved wooden bowls and spoons and I fell in love with them the moment I laid eyes on them.  But would he have any use for a pile of handspun yarn?  Thankfully for me, Jon's partner Sarah is a knitter and she was really excited about the possibility of a swap. We chatted about what she would like and then I got down to the spinning.

The plan was to make some lightly felted single plied yarn and to dye it with walnut hulls. Unfortunately I erred on the side of heavy when felting. The yarn turned out kinkier than I'd hoped but a lovely colour, as if some boucle yarn had been dipped in a cup of milky cocoa. I trusted to serendipity and sent it off to Sarah with the promise of more ( and smoother ) yarn to follow.

In return for the milky boucle and an IOU for better things,  Jon made me the most beautiful spoons. One for measuring out my coffee a la TS Elliot and the other one slightly longer. All visitors to my house have to stop and admire them. I love the idea of the spoon spending time in the jar, every day absorbing more and more of the coffee smells.

The observant among you will notice that there are in fact no pictures of the wonderful coffee spoon. In fact, neither the spoon or the kuksa in the pics are mine. They belong to Chris.  I haven't used my coffee spoon yet. I'm holding off until I find the perfect jar to store it in. As most of my shopping is done in charity shops, this might take some time. Storage suggestions will be gratefully received. I don't want to show it off in public until I've found its perfect mate, although I am of course willing to trade handspun for coffee jars.


* Unvented? See Zimmerman,  Elizabeth.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Marvellous Mary Jane.

The third and final smart woman on my round-up of Knit Camp adventures is the wonderful Mary Jane Mucklestone. We are old internet buddies and it was such a joy to meet her in the real world and  to show her a little bit of life chez Mog

MJ was a stylist with Interweave Knits and thus perfectly qualified to teach a class on Styling Your Knits. As her class assistant/stooge* I was equally qualified to act as the paper fetcher and stand-in model. The students brought shawls and all manner of beautiful knits to photograph and we were able to use the University gardens as a backdrop. Amongst many other things, I learned how to pose using the time honoured Picking Peanuts technique. The classes were great fun and informative and far far too short. I think we could have spent a couple of days covering the same information in  more depth. Maybe one day...

At the Saturday morning class  I spotted  Debbie Stoller  nearby and she very kindly agreed to pose for some pictures for us. Smart woman number four. She wrote the book which taught me to knit. And did I say thank you? I was too shy. Stupid woman number one!

There has been a lot of talk about Knit Camp and I'll not add to the debate except to say that my most positive memories are of the students who tried and I think succeeded, to make the best out of a tricky situation. And as for the tutors, every one I met was so determined to teach, to share their knowledge and to make the students' experience a positive one. Not forgetting the volunteers who had an incredibly difficult job and the Stirling Uni staff who helped patiently every single time I got lost.  In amongst all of the disorganisation and frustration there was a lot of kindness, friendliness and grace. I'm very grateful to all who contributed to that.

*Except for the Tuesday class.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A rare breed indeed.

Following on from the theme of last week's post, may I present another smart woman,  Deb Robson.  Deb was the Editor in Chief of Spin Off magazine and is currently the editor/publisher of Nomad Press.  As an enthusiast and supporter of rare breeds and the yarn they produce, there was no better person to teach a class on UK Rare Breed Sheep.

I'm a spinner who knows very little about the wonderful stuff that I've been given to work with so this class really opened my eyes to the beauty and variety that different breeds produce. And what a variety, we had bags of the stuff to handle and prepare and spin. Big thanks must go to Sue Blacker and the Natural Fibre Company for donating it to the class.  Deb's knowledge and love for the subject shone out like the Stirling sun which for once, was so hot that we needed to stop for ice cream.

 I now have a much greater respect for my ovine companions and a terrible feeling that there will be bigger bags of fleece appearing in the future.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Norah Gaughan fixed my slug.

One of the things I really enjoyed about Knit Camp was being able to spend time with smart people.  Not just smart knitters, although they were there in abundance, but all round smart people.

Norah Gaughan  scores highly on both counts and I was lucky enough to have a whole day of teaching from her. There was a morning lecture about Knitting Nature and an afternoon practical, making hexagons and octagons. Most people that is, made octagons and hexagons. I managed to make a complete fool of myself by misreading the simplest of directions and making something resembling the sea slugs that live in the darkest depths of the ocean.  Norah very kindly took the odd looking shape and fixed it to look a little less slug like. Regardless of her knitting genius,  I fear it will never lie flat like the other hexagons.

One of the interesting things that I  found out about Knitting Nature is that the samples were sized to fit people of non- model sizes. The proof?  Me wearing the Basalt Tank from the book, a piece I would never have considered knitting until I saw how it fit a person of my shape. Of course I will have to brush up on my hexagon knitting skills too. This was taken in the bathroom next to the class. Possibly the nicest graffitt I've ever seen.

I went away from the class  inspired, enthused and the owner of a beautiful alpaca cat toy.  Oh, and desperately wanting an I Pad.

Monday, 23 August 2010

So many stories to tell.

Almost a month since I posted, I can hardly believe it. So many good things have happened that I will take a couple of posts to cover them all rather than bombard the internet with a mammoth tale all at once.

First to appear was Mary Jane Mucklestone, all the way from Maine and en route to Knit Camp via Shetland.  We are old friends from the internet but this was our first meeting in real life.  Thankfully we really did like each other and spent too short a time knitting, talking, eating the local delicacies and hanging out with Magnus.

Then it was off to Bridge of Allan to stay with a friend who has the most lovely house. Helene had kindly offered to put me up while Knit Camp was on in nearby Stirling.  Helene is very interested in ironmongers and has a website devoted to them. If you have a story to tell about your local ironmonger, wherever in the world,  please get on to the website to share your tale.

By the way, the two lovely portraits of Mary Jane and Helene were taken by  Lena Karlsson from Stockholm. More about her in another post!