Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for June, 2011

Passion and Ecstasy: Birmingham Royal Ballet

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Tonight, in Birmingham, I am going to see this:

Two ballets, Allegri Diversi and then Carmina Burana.  The image above is from Carmina Burana.  Given how iconic the music is, and how dramatic it feels when you go and see it as an orchestral and choral work, imagine how amazing it will be as a ballet.  The music is playing in my head already.

Again, a scene from Carmina Burana.  I think it’s going to be spell-binding.  Ballet is of course, my one weakness.  I just think it’s the most amazing way to totally lose yourself and just be swept up in the beauty, drama and music.

And here, a scene from Allegri Diversi:

Bonus: I get to knit all the way up in the car!

Show Time!

Friday, June 24th, 2011

 

This is Glow, knitted by a star of the needles, Sue.  The darker shade is Kidsilk Aura, with soft Kidsilk Haze forming the lacy circles in between.  Sue has chosen lovely colours, as you see again on this image of her version of Sunday Night Mitts:

I just think these look gorgeous.  And also, I can’t believe I designed them, because knitted in completely different colourways, they are transformed.  Sue also did this with a lovely piece she has recently completed, Shimmer Stole, in which she chose the lovely teal shade Trance in KSH and teamed it with Silver Shimmer.  It’s so beautiful.

I do not think Sue would have imagined herself knitting such fine yarns – and enjoying it – a few months ago.   But, as is almost always the case, Kidsilk Haze works its magic.  You think:  hmmm, OK, I’ll give it a go, if only to shut the tutor up (that’s me).  Then, you think:   oh no!  far too fine for me, needles feel like tree-trunks, pesky beads – I’ll humour her (that’s me) and keep on with the sample but after that, I’m back to the aran…

Time passes.  Cake is eaten.

The Kidsilk Haze behaves itself, mainly.  The beads gleam.  Frills emerge…

Kidsilk Haze – the cocaine of the yarn world – is an utter tart.  It knows it’s gorgeous, it knows how to make you love it.  It’s naughty, it’s a bit of a challenge (but really, not that much) and it’s addictive.  I like to see my role as converting the world to its many, varied and often surprising charms, one knitter at a time. The more I use it, the further I find I can push its boundaries.  Because it has this amazing capacity to form teams with other yarns and other things, such as beads, ribbons, sequins (yes, Sue the day will come.  Ali adopts evil dictator style laugh).

If ever you, or anyone else, Heaven help them if they say this to me, infers that maybe you have enough Kidsilk Haze, that it’s an expensive habit…remind them that you get 210m for about 8 quid.  That’s 210m of knitting joy.  For 20 fags, you have to part with (I’m unsure so guessing) at least 6 quid – and your health.  At least with Kidsilk Haze you only have to part with your soul… (Reprise evil dictator style laugh).

I said never again – looks like I was wrong

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

What does this scenario suggest to you?

Friday mid-afternoon flight, from Bristol to Amsterdam, returning Monday;  carrier:  Easy Jet.

Yep, me too.  Eleventy-three incredibly ‘local’ Bristol hen parties, completely gazeeboed on Vodka and Coke, travelling with a full suite of giant, inflatable willies, all off to Amsterdam for a weekend of hilarious jollity.  I have in fact never been on a hen-night or weekend, nor did I have one.  I simply know we wouldn’t mix well.  I do know I don’t want to travel with any hens and their friends, or even be in the same departure lounge, let alone aircraft.

My kind of hen party:

Go to fullsize image

The other kind of hen party:

Leg Avenue Fancy Dress

So what I said I’d never do again wasn’t attending hen-parties.  It was flying Easy Jet.  Oy.  A simply terrible way to  fly, not that I do it much since for me, an adventure involves leaving the County, let alone the country.  But the last two times we’ve flown, both times to Europe, has been via Easy Jet.  I still bear the mental scars.  For example, it seems to be de rigueur to drink lager on an Easy Jet flight, however improbably early the hour.  It seems the only way to travel is in packs – tribal packs – of relatives and friends who then spend most the flight kneeling on the seats around you, thus displaying their underwear, in order to shriek more directly into your ear as they commune.

I can, and do, retreat into a calm, pacific place in my mind when placed under such duress.  A place where I have a secret button which, if pressed, ejects the person/people most annoying at that moment, out of the aircraft and into the Bristol Channel…oh, but I’m day-dreaming again!  I retreat into a happy space, insert head-phones and crochet, crochet being allowed it seems in-flight.  The act of crocheting seems to calm the pack.  They stare, they crane round the seats, children are held up to have a look at the mad woman and her magic hook – if I suddenly stare back and wave the crochet hook at the child, it cries, ha!  Do try it, if ever you are compelled to travel herd-class, it really does help.

But, I’m soon to be doing it again, as, for my birthday, Mark has booked us a long weekend in Amsterdam, flying out Friday lunchtime (thus giving the hens plenty of time to have a pleasant light lunch with maybe a white-wine spritzer, since its le weekend…) from Bristol.  In July.  You never know, I may bond with some of them and party my weekend away…

Book splurge

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

It’s my birthday and so far, it’s been lovely.

Usually, Mark takes the day off and we go out, to a garden, for lunch, to the Dorset or Devon coast;  or to Bath for the theatre, perhaps.  But today he can’t and of course Florence and Lily are out, so it’s just me and the boys.  I’m happy because Rupert is much better and as a matter of fact, all I wanted was for him to be better.  So the rest of my birthday loveliness is just a bonus, really.

So far, I have been sent a beautiful cake stand – from The White Company!  This stand will be perfect for showing off cakes at workshops!  Actually seeing the delivery man stagger up with the huge White Stuff box was exciting enough on its own.  I did have a brief thought:  gosh, I hope it isn’t 3 dozen flannels!  I should explain.  I have a bit of habit of ‘collecting’ flannels and have about 100, maybe…No, it’s not odd, try it, it’s fun.  And now and again, friends will buy me ‘posh’ flannels to supplement my collection.  Two of  my favourite flannels are from The White Stuff, and I rarely use these as they are special flannels.  Anyway, it wasn’t flannels.

Then, I got a Jo Malone candle, in white fig scent, which is still my favourite I think.  This was an early birthday present from Mark.  I get the rest later, he says, before we go out for dinner.

I also got:  a fairy pen – so pink, fluffy and me;  a pen in the shape of a dachshund;  a silk knitting badge;  some lovely stitch-markers that have no annoying ‘seams’ to catch your work;  and a sign to hang on the door explaining that the dachshunds are in charge.

But, best of all – and I am not going to feel remotely guilty about this – I have bought myself nine (9!) new Persephone books.  I say bought, but in fact my lovely MiL often gives me Persephone vouchers and I have hoarded them in order to have a massive splurge.  These are the books I ordered:

Making Conversation, by Christine Longford

To Bed With Grand Music, by Marghanita Laski:

Dimanche and Other Stories,by Irene Nemirovski:

The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow, by Mrs Oliphant:

Miss Buncle Married, by D E Stevenson:

Mid-Summer Night in the Workshouse, by Diana Athill:

A Very Great Profession, by Nicola Beauman:

 

 

 

 

 Daddy’s Gone a-Hunting, by Penelope Mortimer:

and finally, The Casino,by Margaret Bonham:

The lady at Persephone was, sweetly, quite excited too and we agreed that I had made an excellent choice.  The images, by the way, are the end papers that Persephone use in their books.  At least, say, 20% of the joy of Persephone Books is the look of the books, the dove-grey covers, the attention to detail such as the end papers they choose.

I’m happy with the choices because I have a fairly wide range – as you know, I have ‘comfort zones’ with my reading and I haven’t strayed far at all.  But there are short stories which I love reading, some non-fiction in the Nicola Beauman book (and I did so enjoy her biography of Elizabeth Taylor – the author, not the actor, so I am really looking forward to that one).  I’ve got ‘light-touch’ fiction, such as Miss Buncle, who we left on the verge of marriage to her lovely publisher and whose married life we now get to snoop about in.  And some social commentary via novellas, too.  All I need now is a month on a secluded island, just me, the dogs and my books…

Lace-weight yarn has arrived; and a tale of Dachshund woe

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Some lace-weight yarns to play with, some stiletto-tip lace knitting needles – how idyllic does that sound?

I ordered some Signature Art needles from America recently and on Friday they arrived.  They really are beautiful.  First of all, there is the colour – each set is coloured by its gauge plus tip plus end:

Needle tops

Then there are the ends to choose from, as you see above.  Finally, there are the tip choices:

the teardrop-top 7 inch needle

These are stiletto, ideal for lace or ‘splitty’ yarns.  They also offer midi and blunt.  I went for stilettos as I use a lot of fine yarns plus Shimmer – very ‘splitty’.  These needles (I’m not on commission, by the way!) are, to me, perfect.  They are really practical and also very beautiful.  Surely an ideal combination, I am sure Will Morris would agree anyway. They are not super light-weight, I find them very comfortable with a pleasant weight to the decorative ends.  The only problem is, I now want them in longer sizes…

The yarn that arrived today is a new lace-weight that I was lusting after last week and am now playing with.  The colours (I have been sent four shades, half the palette) are lovely, soft, gentle, muted tones. I plan to experiment with this on its own, plus using it with other yarns, both held together and alternating.  But I must finish some projects first!  The temptation to just cast on with it NOW is so strong and as you know, I usually don’t bother with resisting temptation but this time I really must as I have so many things to finish right now. 

~~~

 

In Other News, Rupert has just had an amazingly lucky escape.  Yesterday, unknown to me, he sneaked into Lily’s bedroom (he has learned to head-but the door, which like all the doors in this old cottage, is ancient and on a latch, which jumps if repeatedly nudged by a very persistent and cunning Dachshund).  In her room, on a book-case, was an Easter Egg, complete in its box and wrapping.  A whole Thornton’s egg.  This does of course prompt an entirely new train of thought which the veterinary nurse instantly seized upon, some hours later in the emergency vet room. That question is:  why the hell does a 15 year old still have an Easter egg in tact, in June? Is she abnormal?  asked the nurse.  Hmmm.  I only bought her two, oy.  Anwyay…

Rupert then (we assume) ropes himself to his climbing gear and begins his assent of her bean-bag in order to reach the egg on the book shelf a couple of feet above his head.  Having established base-camp on the rug, he brings the chocolate back and sets about unwrapping the box, carefully leaving the plastic and cardboard, but consuming the entire chocolate egg.  Cocoa is highly toxic to dogs.  Many dogs die every year from eating chocolate.  Or even the cocoa-shell mulch that garden centres sell.  Usually they die from a fit, a heart attack or kidney failure.  At this point, I found him in her room, but not the tell-tale wrapping.  I took him downstairs and had words with him about busting into her room yet again…The box was only found about two hours later, when Lily came home, by which time, Rupert was starting to look decidedly unwell, though I had no idea why. 

Once we realised, we arranged to meet our vet at their offices and drove Rupert down there.  By now, he was really ill, heart racing, bloated and distressed.  I am not going to burden you with the events of the next hour, suffice it to say that there were four of us – me, Mark, Jim-the-vet and a nurse – plus the patient, in a small, warm emergency room when his treatment started and I honestly thought I was going to faint and also be as sick as Rupert was!  I have the weakest stomach in the entire world.  My usual response to illness in another is to mimic it – not helpful, I am aware of that, but to give me credit, I did at least know enough to realise that this trait would not be an asset if I had decided to say, become a nurse. 

We left him being hooked up to the drip and in a complete state – dazed, sick, very sad.  Bad night followed for us all.

He’s back now, and whilst I’d say he’s not ‘right’ he’s amazingly perky and happily taking his meds.  Jim thinks he will have no serious long-term health issues, a very lucky escape because had we not taken him when we did, and had they not treated him at once, I think he would have ingested all the cocoa and maybe we’d have a less happy outcome. 

I rarely eat chocolate, chips being my one weakness.  I was aware how dangerous it is for dogs.  And I have always been ultra-strict regarding the dogs and I thought, careful.  Not, it turns out, careful enough.  There are two morals to this tale:  first, a teenager who can store chocolate in her room for 8 weeks and not be even tempted to nibble a crumb of it, is clearly destined for a life of monastic self-denial.  I conclude that she is not my own daughter and a G&S style baby-swapping incident must have taken place in the maternity ward.  Second, the mind, will and base-cunning of a Dachshund is indeed an awesome thing;  if we could only harness it for good rather than black-hearted self-serving greed, the world would be a far better place.  Anyway, I love him with all my heart, the little devil and he’s back home.

 

The Story Boards are back!

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Yesterday, I met my publisher.  As one of my friends said:  oooh, that sounds very Carrie Bradshaw:

SATC Title.jpg

It wasn’t.  Though it was very nice.  My publisher (also editor, project co-ordinator, chief stylist etc) lives in London.  Since I no longer go anywhere other than Frome and Bovey Tracey, we meet in or near Somerset, usually in Portishead.  But yesterday, we met in Burnham-on-Sea.  In Fortes Ice-Cream Cafe, just off the sea-front.  It made me actually laugh to see Susan, eagerly awaiting me, sitting at a wipe-clean Formica table, with fixed bolted-to-the-(lino)-floor seating, peering through the steamed up windows, into the murky, horizontal rain.  It was just so incongruous.  And for all I know, a first for Fortes:  a story-board revise meeting.

In Fortes, by the way, you can get cups or glasses of tea or coffee, a glass being the super-size option.  I hope they never do away with the glasses of tea.  And in-spite of the appearance being that of a Caff, the food is home-made and if you’re really hungry, to be honest the home-made pie, chips and veg takes a fair bit of beating.  I used to take the girls there for ‘tea’ sometimes after school:  a sandwich and a cake, maybe an ice-cream, another Fortes speciality.  That feels like it was a life-time ago.

We just had tea, Susan and I. Yesterday.

Susan also brought some new yarn to show me – but not to keep, sadly.  Rowan’s new lace-weight yarn.  I had a lovely fondle. It is simply beautiful.  Super fine, of course, very soft and fabulous length on a 50g ball – 400 m I think.  So you see, meter by weight, it’s almost an exact match for Kidsilk Haze, which I think will be very useful indeed.  A muted, slightly sun-faded colour palette that I thought was also perfect.  Just gorgeous.

I am going to be using quite a lot of this yarn, plus KSH, Shimmer, Sienna, Glace, Kid Classic, Felted Tweed DK, Heritage Tweed (also new, more of that anon), HK DK Cotton, and few others in the new book.  We are going forward with one of the story boards at the moment and the chosen book is going to be a fabulous project to work on.  Assuming all is well – now I need to re-cast the colour palette and re-do the story boards – I hope to be working on this over the winter.  My inspiration and sources for this book are very much spring and summer-related so it will also be comforting in the dark months, to be focusing on light, sunny, summer-misty knitting. 

We lived in Burnham for about 15 years until we moved here, which is about 6 miles away.  So it’s very familiar to me.  I loved it when we lived there and I still do.  However, as a sea-side resort, it’s not up-market.  It’s old-fashioned, slightly vulgar (the amusements, the faux-pier, which is actually a bingo hall and fast-food joint that projects out over the sea-wall by about 10m – hardly a pier, but there you are), the civic planting in sandy, dessicated borders along the sea-front.  But I really am very fond of it. 

Susan leaned towards me and said:  Burnham – it’s an odd place, isn’t it?  I think possibly I was getting it mixed up with Weston-super-Mare…oh Susan, that’s a whole new level of odd…

Shameless Dachshund cute-ness post

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Does my nose look big in this? wonders Arthur

Sunday morning blues-banishing formula

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

A wise woman – it was The Blessed Delia  – said:  if I feel low, I do three things:  put on a load of washing;  put a big fat chicken in the stove to roast;  and while all that activity is underway, I clean out one just thing – a drawer, a shelf, a cupboard. 

I’m paraphrasing but you get the drift.

At the time, I reckon I was about a life-time and maybe 1 – 2 decades away from where I am right now and I may have mentally scoffed.  Later though, I tried it.  It’s so trite, so simple, yet it works.  I think it will work even if you change the elements of the equation.  Dish-washer can be substituted for washing machine;  simple cake or casserole can sub for chicken, and so on.  The magic lies in the fact that three things are happening at once (productivity and desirable outcomes) whilst really only engaging you at the start and end of two of the processes, and liberating you to do something small (small:  this is vital, do not attempt to re-grout the bathroom or terrace the garden, just line a few drawers), and in the midst of all this, gradually the kitchen fills with yummy food smells and the washing machine does its thing…

I am going to have to employ this tactic and others today.  It’s a blue-Sunday.  Ever have those?  Actually I do love weekends, even though they have lost all real meaning since I no longer have a conventional job and Mark works every weekend anyway and always has.  Do you remember hating Sundays as a child, or was that just me?  I didn’t like roast dinner – now I adore but anyway.  I didn’t like the dullness, the quiet, the stifling being in the house-ness.  Even as a child I adopted blue-Sunday coping strategies, such as doing homework on Friday evenings, because if homework was left, Sunday became even more dreadful.  I scoured the Radio Times for a good old film to watch, or sat in the dining room with my dad while he studied or wrote out Masonic name cards (don’t ask; another time, maybe).

But today, it’s raining very hard and the Met Office insists it will do so all day.  Worse, because I don’t mind rain per se, it’s really cold.  in June.  In my Birthday Season.  How dare it?  So my plans:  run, garden, shower, knit, eat dinner, read – have to be changed, re-jigged and supplemented. 

So (mentally shakes herself to represent fresh resolve), what shall I do?  First, I have a new camera.  For the website.  Oy.  It’s so lovely, so BIG, so complicated.  My head, never a linear place at the best of times, threatens to explode if New Technology arises.  A friend once tried to tutor me through an Excel lesson.  She still vividly recalls me having – having, not wanting – to stop because it was making me cry.  I wish my head was not like this, but it is, we are stuck with each other.  Anyway.  The camera;  I have two (2) DVDs that came with it, and a stack of booklets.  So, I am allocating an hour, an hour being all I think I can stand, to investigating the camera.  That will feel like Homework.  I will do an hour a day until I have taken a picture.  And then, I will devote a further few weeks to up-loading it here and sharing.

Second, I have to get out of the house, even if only for an hour so I am going to walk.  I can’t be staying indoors all day, it makes me feel all funny.  Yes, in the rain, I’ve got the clothing and boots.  I won’t take the active dog as Dachshunds dislike rain/cold/wind even more than do cats.  I’ll be a mad solitary walking-in-the-rain woman.  I will listen to an audio-book.

Third, I will light the fire, have a hot bath, and read.  One of my workshop participants, Nicola of the lovely cuffs, recommended a book:

The Best of Everything

and oh my, how well Nicola knows me!  I adore it and am about half way.  Reading has taken a bit of a back seat recently, as I’ve been out a lot and also when working, listening to audio books, but reading has still been happening.  Of course there has been some grisly book-club reading to get through but that’s in a lull for now as the next book, annoyingly, is one I already have and read about 3 years ago.  The Island, by Victoria Hislop.  A friend passed it to me.  It’s OK, not great but an interesting (and true) basis for the yarn itself.  I mean it’s not great literature but I didn’t hate it, so a big step up from N Hornby.  Anyway, I LOVE The Best of Everything.  I also recently really loved Brooklyn,

Brooklyn

again recommended to me via this blog.  Both these books are really really well written.  And ravel you up into their worlds without any annoying language problems.  How great is that?  My blogsters (I think you are out there!) know me better than my book club mates!  Respect.

Fourth, knitting.  I’m knitting Glow still, but planning a little capelet/shoulder shawl, in Pure Wool 4 Ply and Shimmer….as a break from Glow (New Glow) I will swatch this again later.

Fifth, my youngest daughter, Lily, may need some revision help – yay!

Sixth (try and keep up), I am not in charge of cooking today but Florence has promised us roast pork tonight, so the household smell thing will still happen.

Do you know I feel better already!  OK, camera, do you feel lucky today…?

The attraction of opposites

Friday, June 10th, 2011

I am sometimes attracted to things – and people – who are, if not the opposite of me, at least not at all similar.  For example, I love a particular class at my gym, called Body Combat.  And yet I look like a middle-class knitting lady.  I think.  And, for example, I am currently addicted to the music of both Lady Gaga and a new recording of Faure’s Requiem that I recently acquired. 

Same with food.  I love foods that ‘clash’ and have recently enjoyed eating Nigella’s Guinness and chocolate cake:

(ours didn’t look quite like this as we had ours warm and squidgy with the topping on the side)

…in itself stout and chocolate in a cake is an odd yet inspired combination, but it’s even better when you add the salty-sweet cream-cheese and icing-sugar whipped topping.  My friend, with whom I baked (as in I assisted, she baked) and ate this, doctored the topping and added Mascarpone cheese to the original.  I used to make this cake some years ago but stopped due to it being a banned substance, so addictive is the rich, damp, close ‘claggy’ cakiness of the Guinness and chocolate cake base, when combined with the salt-sweet-cream frosting.  By the way, I am planning to serve this at the Christmas-themed Court Cottage workshops….

We also agree, my friend and I, that we like lightly salt-crusted pretzels dipped in dark chocolate – try it, it’s very, very good.  You know it ought not to be, yet like salt and lime at the top of a Tequila, it just works.  Even my old favourite, tangy cheddar and sweet cubes of tinned pineapple serve the same fondness (though these have to be on cocktail sticks poked into a baking potato that is covered in tin-foil, that’s the law).  And this weekend, I am cooking spicy chicken with chili and chocolate sauce.  I’ll report back.

I also love going to Glastonbury.  The town, not the festival.  If you live near Glasto, as we do, near to the main road to the town, you get a bit sick and tired of being trapped in your own village at festival time, by a ceaseless procession of swanky motor-homes en-route to have a rah! time pretending to be hippies dressed in Joules wellies and with Cath Kidston play tents for Giles and Olivia to play hippies in.  Oh yes, the camper vans are giving way to festival-geek USA style mobile homes.  Anyway, me and Glastonbury-town:  it’s like Doris Day does Woodstock – we are opposites, yet I like it there.  It’s got a great atmosphere, if a little rarefied on the cuckoo side of the spectrum.  Right in the middle of what passes for normal there, an odd moment spikes through, such as last Christmas hols, when I was walking across a car park with the girls plus a friend, and a guy was walking briskly past us, talking on his mobile phone.  He was a hippy but hippy-lite, his hair was neat-ish, his clothes while of many hues, were also neat and clean.  I’d say he was about 50 years old.  As we passed, we heard him say:  oh, yeah, no, yeah, that’s fine, I’ve got my wizarding clothes in the car with me.’  Great, that’s OK then.

Recently I have been more and more obsessed with the combination of Kidsilk Haze with Shimmer.  I used these two yarns together in a design from Lacy Knits and it’s been a real winner.  Then earlier this year I designed some fingerless gloves for a kit, combining the yarns again, the Frost Flower Mittens.  I think you’ll like them – when you see them!  These yarns oppose each other – one so smooth, shiny, floppy, inert, the other so fluffy and exuberant – and yet they do go so well together.  I’ve been re-working Glow, and with stunning originality, it’s called New Glow (working title), and I am very happy with the results:

Unfinished and un-blocked, it is still delighting me with it’s combination of modern lace and ‘opposites-attract’ personalities.  I’m teaching Glow at Spin-a-Yarn next week so participants can choose KSH and Aura (the original) or New Glow, with Shimmer.  I’ve also changed the ends of the scarf, so we do some needle rotating ‘smoke and mirrors’ magic and get a softly fluted edge with no actual knitting skills other than stocking stitch.  In New Glow, the Shimmer actually forms a ‘frame’ around the tops of each lace ‘window’, because, unlike uber-excitable Aura, Shimmer is just like a Scandinavian beauty:  cool, calm and polished.  I aspire to Shimmer-like levels of calm and polish.  I’ll advise you if I ever reach that happy place.

~~~

In other news, this is the scene currently in the workshop/work/dining room at Court Cottage, below.  Seriously.  I have been lighting the fire a lot since the hot spell in March (AKA summer 2011) passed – but I don’t think I have ever lit it in June before.  I know I feel the cold more than many, and I may be related to a gecko, but really, it is actually cold!  Today I also ordered a double trailer of logs (the log man clearly thought I was un-hinged;  he said:  oh good plan, get the logs in now for winter.  And I said:  well, yes but I’m still lighting the fire most days.  Brief silence before he requested the address….) and I booked the chimney sweep.  It feels like autumn!  Yay, knitting season time! Aided by the fact that the moment the Government announces that we have water levels at below those in the Sahara, Biblical rain storms immediately follow, might build an arky-arky – oh! now who remembers that children’s hymn?

More 2012 Workshop Dates

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

 The rest of the 2012 workshop dates are now finalised.  They are:

‘Eden’:  Floral Knits Workshop, 30/6/2012

A day inspired by flowers and the garden, we will knit a project that evokes a floral feel and embellish it with many knitted blossoms.

Knit a Gift for Christmas, 22/9/2012

Knit a Gift for Christmas, 20/10/2012

These days may offer different gift ideas, I’ll see!  But anyway, this workshop is about choosing a gift option, starting it on the day and because it will be small enough to complete in a couple of weeks of ‘normal’ knitting activity, ie, you also get a life, you can knit several for lucky friends before utter Christmas madness descends.

A Knitted Christmas:  festive favours, 17/11/2012

Carved Angel Wings

Oooh, I feel all Christmassy!  I do hope I haven’t peaked too soon!  A day devoted to knitting little decorations, favours and festive frivolity.

These dates are not available to book yet but they will be soon.  In the meantime if you fancy any, make a note of the date(s) and drop me an email if you want a provisional place holding.  And a reminder that the one remaining 2011 event with places still available is here And the first three 2012 workshops are also available here.

Red Shoes, dinner-conversation and flirting…

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Red shoes are a weakness – my one weakness, in fact.  I own two pairs and also some that veer off into the cerise pink sphere.  In addition I have occasional access to an amazing pair owned by my older daughter, featuring red velvet platform wedges!  Given my propensity to fall off anything, I am unlikely to wear these, but I like trying them on.   At Deadly is the Female they always have lovely red shoes, too.

It is true that what you wear influences how you feel – it is for me at any rate.  If I wear a fitted dress, with a modest split and heels, I feel more:

(Ava Gardener, such a star, have you seen The Barefoot Contessa?)

But other days, I’m afraid my default setting is:

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Yes, Debbie Reynolds.  Or, of course, Doris, there’s always Doris.  I always was the girl next door.  I just can’t do ‘vamp’.  Not even in red shoes and in fact, if I wear them, it’s not in order to ‘vamp’, it’s because I love dressing up.

A friend once told me I needed to learn to flirt, so she tried to teach me.   I’m not sure it helped that we were, at that time, manning a marketing stand at a conference and exhibition attended by about 1,000 NHS accountants.   I blame the poor material, however it may have been my absolute inability to do it.

This is what you do.  You approach (or allow yourself to be approached by) A Man.  Now, if like me, your instinct is a) never approach men and b) if one approaches you, walk briskly off, this is tricky.  However, once approach has been achieved, you move on to contact – verbal.  You have to now adopt a fascinating expression, suggesting an open nature and hinting at the cleverness of The Man.  This is very difficult as most simply aren’t, at least it’s not immediately plain.  And also, if told to scintillate, I just laugh and then try to preserve expression of allure and not laugh, giving the impression that some sort of seizure might be happening.  Or an unsuccessful attempt to suppress hiccoughs.

Flirtatious discussion then follows.  Flirtatious is not sexy, my friend told me (phew!) but it is the sexy gate-keeper (oh-oh).  My line of:  so, how are the delegates reacting to your marketing material on IT system support for shared financial services? does not, apparently, qualify as either flirty or sexy. 

Since my ‘career’ as I laughingly call my series of improbable and unrelated jobs has now lapsed entirely into knitting, I find that men are even more fascinated by my small-talk than they were back in my public sector finance grey-days.  I can see the interest light in their eyes when they ask what I do (a rare trait in the men I meet, usually my husband’s group at the golf club where he works, and frankly, they just don’t give a damn about anything that doesn’t relate to the tricky bunker trap on the 17th and the shocking state of the greens…) and I say, brightly:  Oh! I knit!  for a living, I knit and design and write books and teach.  Usually utter silence follows, casting a pall over the already depressed table, on which plates of roast beef, paper-thin yet at the same time, tough as leather, settling under a slick of greasy gravy are slowly reaching salmonella temp.

Someone always says:  Ah.  My aunt/mother/sister used to knit.  Once the man making the speech mentioned my knitting job in his speech, which was sweet but in fact had the effect of singling me out as a freak. 

To combat this double problem – inability to make ‘normal’ small talk and what is considered an eccentric job – I often decide before I go anywhere who I am going to be.  Tonight, I am going to a lovely dinner party with my girl friends and I am going as Ava Gardener only more mature.  And blond.  In fact, I don’t need to adopt a persona tonight because it will be such a lovely evening with a group of women who are as diverse as we are strong, as a collective, but it’s a handy trick in situations that might be a bit trying.  Give it a whirl!  But you have to have the right dress or at least shoes and accessory…

And finally on Red Shoes, have you ever seen the 1948 film ‘The Red Shoes’ starring Moira Shearer?

It’s based – loosely – on the fairy tale in which the princess is bewitched by the red dancing shoes and dances to her death.  The 1948 film is rich, dark and very overwrought.  Perfect Saturday matinee material, so in July two friends and I are going to have a matinee viewing here (I have it saved on Sky +), have a nice lunch and then settle down with the curtains drawn to watch this vintage masterpiece.  I can’t help thinking how marvellous it would be if Matthew Bourne produced a version of it – the lead dancer need not be Vicky (danced by Moira Shearer), it could be a man…

2012 Court Cottage Workshop dates released

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

The first three Court Cottage workshops for 2012 are now on the courses page and available for booking.  First up, on 28 January and to banish the post-Christmas-and-oh-it’s-ages-until-Easter blues, we have a day learning to knit luxury, lace, beaded bed-socks – from the toe-up. 

I am a recent and very evangelical convert to this magical and easy technique.  In fact on the day, you’ll knit a mini sock to learn and practice all the techniques and then cast on your real socks – in 2 shades of yummy Kidsilk Haze.

Next, a day about creating your own design, when we will use resources such as inspiration sources, stitch directories etc to create your own personal scarf design.  The focus will be on stitch technique and playing with concepts to suit your ideas.  You’ll emerge, a little breathless and possibly flushed, but with a design of your own sketched out, and the yarns and beads to knit it with!  That is on 10 March.

Finally, for now, Star-Crossed, on 28 April:

which I will offer in its original Pure Wool DK and KSH version plus an alternative using Shimmer and Kidsilk Haze….mmm, I know.  You’ll spend the morning learning the stitches and experimenting with different yarn combinations, then you’ll choose your yarns and cast on.

I’m learning about running events here all the time.  It’s been lovely having you come here to knit for the day with me, and I think that I will therefore continue with it into 2012.  I suppose, in January this year when I first launched the site and offered the first courses, I really had no idea if they’d be popular or successful – in terms of your enjoyment and learning.  And mine.  Happily, they seem to work well, and even with absolutely zero advertising or ‘marketing’ as I am supposed to call it, they do get filled up pretty well now.  (Note to self:  do some marketing.  Reply from Self:  OK!)

So, here are the next three for 2012, three others for the remainder of the year will follow shortly.  And remember:  the Knit a Gift for Christmas event in 2011 (full on 8 Oct) has now got a repeat date on 22 Oct, and there are 5 places.  There is 1 place on the Knitted Chrismas Workshop in November too…sparkly decorations will abound.

Luxury Workshop Gift Vouchers now available

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

If you want to give someone a special gift I am now offering vouchers for a workshop place at Court Cottage.  You gift them the day, I send them the details, they choose a date and topic and I take it all from there.  They are on the Courses page, above.

Easy, thoughtful present-shopping at its simplest and best.

Show and tell

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

This is Twist, knitted and then felted by Vi, a participant in my course on this topic at Marmalade Yarns recently.  I have had to re-design this due to the old yarns being discontinued (*desk, face-plant, rep from * to end of time regarding discontinuation of yarns, oy).

Anyway, re-worked in Felted Tweed DK, it’s been beautifully knitted by Vi.  It is beaded too.

I’m creating a new category for this blog:  show and tell.  You email me your finished images and I’ll show-case them!  Thank you, please.  Contact me via the contact page to send images.

And in that spirit, I share with you my crocheted flowers, crochet being way out of my comfort zone, but I am pleased with these:

Yes, very simple, but I’m loving the way the 2 strands of KSH melt the colours and once I have enough I will lightly crochet them together to form a flower-shawl.

So please, send me your FO images after workshops etc, I’d love to see them.