Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for August, 2012

Christmas Knitting Workshop

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I am not going to apologise for using the ‘C’ word.  It’s going to get here, whether we think it’s still summer or not.  It’s not, by the way.  Summer was on Monday.

And anyway, when it gets to November and I have been nagging you about Christmas knitting, you’ll be thanking me.

Anyway.  I am teaching a Kidsilk Haze Christmas at Hulu Crafts, Modbury, Devon, on 22 November.  You can read all about it and book your place here.

This is a new venue for me, so I’d really love to see you there.  Be aware that I am a huge Christmas fan so you will need to brace yourself for a fully festive onslaught.  Grinches need not apply.

Life in the old dog yet

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Roo, jealous by nature, feels that recently his little brother Arthur has been hogging all the lime-light.

So, 18 months since his last major surgery, he agreed to pose for an impromptu photo-opp.  Here he is, gazing lovingly (at a piece of cheese being held by the photo-taker) as we filmed him in his ‘lovely Somerset home’.

Note the silver muzzle, he is old beyond his years, possibly due to all the surgery or maybe just as an homage to George Clooney, upon whom Rupert models himself, of course.

I do think Roo looks very handsome here and I am not in any way, biased.


Next time:  some knitting.


Crochet, 22 September, my place, OK? Oh and some magic

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Come on over to Court Cottage, for I have one space left on the amazing Dr Donna’s Crochet Magic workshop.  You know you want to learn this dark-art, don’t be scared, I promise it’ll be fun… Be amazed at her mastery of the wand (hook) and her acolytes (me)…OK it’s not actual magic, Miss Picky-Pants there at the back – but she is a ‘wizard’ with a crochet hook…! Boom boom!

On the subject of magic, which is one of my favourite subjects by the way, did you read in the papers that EBay has banned the sale of spells, potions, hexes and curses?  Well from the end of August, so there is still time.  Apparently, they took this step as a result of a significant number of customer complaints that their love-potions and so on had no effect whatsoever.  Now, are we in the:  ‘blimey, and some of these people are no doubt holding down responsible jobs and driving cars, how scary is that?’ school of thought? Or are we in the ‘bless them and shame on charlatans selling fake stuff to vulnerable people’ school of thought?  Or are we (hint:  this is my school of thought) in the:  well, real magic cannot be bought and sold, especially on EBay!’ school of thought?  I thought so.  Good.

But the imagery that this story conjured up – oooh, another magical joke there! – is fabulous.  I’m trying to imagine it.  Say you wanted a spell, even a curse or a hex (it said that in The Telegraph so I know it’s true), just let’s say you did, I know you don’t, but roll with it, OK?  Would your first port of call really be EBay?

In the interests of research I have been on EBay to check out the magic.  There is a shed-load of it.  You can buy a love spell, a wealth spell, sex spells and black magic spells too such as cursing your enemies.  It’s about £4.99, on average.  There is the Vampyric Transformation spell option, pricey at almost a tenner.  I am not joking, you can buy such a spell.  I call that a bleedin’ liberty.  Sorry, I’ll stop now.

Other options are a ‘thick hair’ spell, a career advancement spell and a spell to improve your psychic powers. Wait…no, it’s OK, as you were.

So then I thought I’d check out the feedback from some of the spell-sellers.  One of them had sold a lot of items, but a quick EBay stalk revealed that mostly they sold accessories for indoor fish-tanks.  A disappointing tally of spells.  Still, on the plus side, at least that seller won’t be too badly hit by the imminent EBay ban on magic peddling…Another sold the odd Werewolf Transformation spell but majored in vintage Red Dwarf DVDs and coils for cars, whatever they are.

So, I’ve bought my spell (I haven’t, don’t panic) and then I – wait. The usual options appear to be that Madam X performs the spell for you and then sends you a message (via EBay messages, which I rather feel might take some of the fairy dust off the whole business.  I mean, I’d rather have it borne to my door on the wings of a dozen butterflies, or pierced onto the slender tip of a unicorn’s horn as she tap-tap-taps lightly on my window on a moonlit night.  Or even just a letter, but you know…an EBay message – meh), and then she – for they seem mainly to be female – will tell me what I need to do to finish the spell off.  This, I am assured, will be easy because she has done all the hard work.  Phew.

Alternatively, you can send for a DIY kit. Hmm.  This struck me as a risky option.  I mean, you’re on your own with the multi-coloured candles and parchment scroll, right?  It just might not work so well.

If I was to ask for a spell, I’d like one that made me epic at caving.  What is your desire, oh blessed reader?  Please tell me and maybe one day, if we cross our Signature Art Needles at mid-night, you might get it.  That’ll be £4.99 please.

In the meantime, come to crochet here please, it’s an amazing day with Dr Donna, she who knows your deepest crochet fears and hopes – and loves you anyway.  One last place remains, it’s yours, here.  I promise you cake, fun and some fairy dust.  Or I’ll pop it on EBay and call it magic.







Sunday, August 19th, 2012

I’m on Ravelry.

Yeah, it’s only taken me eleventy years and a whole lot of prodding from faithful friends, one of whom has just gone ahead and got me all dressed up and ready for the dance!  Ravelers, I am One Of You.

You can find me here.  I am AliCrowtherSmith.  Please pop in.

Brave little soldier

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Arthur is poorly.  He came in from the garden at the weekend – minus a whole claw – the entire thing, ripped off, just a bleeding stump of claw-bed left.  We have no idea how this can have happened, though they do dig, so maybe he tore it then.

He was very distressed.  We bathed it in warm salty water and comforted him with sausage slices and apple slices and cold tea.  These are almost his favourite things, his first favourite being ice-cream, but diary isn’t that good for dogs and anyway, we had none.

The vet says he’s OK and it will (probably) grow back, he’s got pain relief and antibiotics, but it’s vital that it’s kept really clean as infections easily set in here, as it’s very close to the bone in his paw and if that happens, sometimes dogs have to have part of their paws (toes) amputated.  They are most likely to get this if they lick at it all the time because their mouths are not super-clean.  The vet suggested a collar-cone, but Arthur was already freaking out, so a sock is the next best idea.

Happily, I have the two socks that Millington and I knitted ages ago when she showed me the toe-up sock thing!  One of these plus a hair band et voila!

He is a bit sorry for himself and he’s not mad keen on the sock – but it’s working!

Some new designs

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Caving inspired designs, soon to be kits, all knitted up, with the versions you see here knitted and checked by the amazing Fiona, patt checked and raring to go.

First, The Singing River Shrug:


It comes in 2 versions, this one being the version that features a ribbon, corset-style back. The cuffs are flared, lightly beaded and simple lace.


There is another version, with a grafted back thus allowing it to double as a scarf:

Next, The Charterhouse Mittens, with an opposing ‘rift’ of beaded lace running across the backs of the hands.  Here we are working in Fine Lace and Kidsilk Haze, except for the final frill, Kidsilk Haze only. Really, it hardly merits the word ‘lace’ as it is simply eyelets that mirror the gently twisting line of beads:

And now the understated and modest Rhumba Alley Cuffs.  A froth of twirls, beads and twisting lace:

I am emerging from my twisted, twirly design phase and am now deeply into the shrug/bolero phase.  Currently on the needles are 2 shrugs, 1 with deep puffed sleeves and a lace rib back, and another with simple rib-cuff short sleeves and beads. Pics soon.





Food love re-kindled

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

So in an attempt to get the food love re-ignited, I went right back to basics and cooked 2 quiches, my all-time favourite food that I kind of went off due to making them too often for workshops.  I made a classic quiche Lorraine and my new best-friend, Stilton, bacon and broccoli quiche:

I loved making them ‘cos I was on my own, no pressure, no people in the kitchen;  and I am almost unable to contain myself and wait for supper time to eat a slice of each.  Good thing I am planning a long, come-rain-or-shine run tomorrow – pastry-power!



Just for one moment

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Last week, I went to M&S in Bristol.  The one in Cribbs Causeway where I used to work – not that I worked in M&S, I worked in John Lewis for Rowan Yarns.  I was with Mark, Florence and Lily.  We went to the cafe and sat near the entrance, having unusually bagged the prize of 2 double sofas.  Near us and kind of opposite me were 3 or 4 chairs.  No table, just chairs in a line where I guess you’d sit and wait for someone to come back from the loo or something.  On one of these, sat an old man.

He was slight and thin and wiry.  His hair was cut quite short but it was also a bit untidy, as if he’d taken off a cap and not smoothed his hair back down, or maybe he’d run his hand through his hair.  His old-man uniform was all present and correct:  light beige short light-weight anorak/jacket, mid-brown slacks, neat, clean thick soled-shoes, also brown.  He sat upright and straight but rested both hands on the handle of a brown, slender walking stick.

His hands were thin but strong, quite big.  You could see the bones and veins, his skin being pale and translucent.  His face was also angular and quite thin.  But his expression was just lovely.  He looked calm and slightly tired, but very peaceful and patient.  He also looked as if he had somehow become accustomed to not being noticed.

I know I was staring.  I stopped listening to the conversation because I wanted to just look at him and wonder who he was waiting for.  Or if he was alright.  He looked alright, apart from the paleness.  He didn’t look much like my father had looked apart from surface simialrities, the clothes mainly, the slightness and the patient expression.  My father never used a stick.  Oh but how I longed for him to be mine, just for a moment.  I’d have loved to be the middle-aged daughter coming out of the changing rooms to claim her dad.

Cooking, shopping and the self-service check-out

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

I have lots of patience for some things, such as:

Knitting:  I am usually calm in the face of my errors, the need to pull the knitting back, or ideas that just don’t work out.  I will *happily* try again and again to get it right, I think I know when to give up and I see this as all part of the process.  I would describe my approach to problems as accepting, trying to go round problems and not being upset or frustrated.

Gardening:  I garden for the long-term.  I thank gardeners of past generations who planted trees and set out gardens or spaces that I enjoy today.  I will move plants to get them to thrive – and as with the knitting, I know when to quit with a plant that isn’t co-operating.  Again, I accept.  I accept that I can’t garden for 6 or 7 hours anymore – or if I do there will be unpleasant consequences.  I accept that even if I only do an hour, I did something.

Sports that I do such as cycling and running:  I am happy to invest quite a lot of time and effort into making small – sometimes incremental – gains in my enjoyment, fitness or performance.  I accept that I am never going to be a fast runner or cycle 100 miles a day, but I set small challenges and I love this gradual process.

With all of these, because I enjoy the process as much as the results, the need to be patient doesn’t really arise.

As I grow older, however, I find I am less patient with other aspects of my life.  Such as, and mainly, shopping for and then cooking food.  This used to be a real passion for me and don’t get me wrong, I do still love food.  Not as much as I did.  Why is this?  I have many cookery books and enjoyed reading them as I would a pattern book or even a novel.  I’d make lists of the new things I wanted to try and loved sourcing the ingredients and then creating the dishes.  Nothing gave me more enjoyment than cooking for friends.  I wondered if I was just maybe a bit bored of the same things as very slowly the lure of this activity began to wane, and so I re-read my books and got a few new ones.  Nothing.  Also, I really, really hate shopping for food these days (or shopping for anything to be honest except stationary, yarn, needles, books, sports-related things and garden stuff).  I simply don’t seem to get as hungry or enjoy the eating as I once did.  And I wonder if this is basically because I am out of patience with it, or at least if I am honest, because it’s become boring.

My father lived to eat.  He was a small, strong, wiry man, never fat.  But he was greedy, in a lovely, lovable, funny way.  I think this was because he had been starved by the Japanese when he was a prisoner in WW2.  My mother ate to live.  She was a good cook, a plain cook but she also clearly didn’t enjoy the cooking much and even less, the eating, so she resorted as she grew old, to eating the same very limited meals or foods, day in, day out, not minding this as she’d never enjoyed the variety much anyway.  I think it was a relief to buy the same list of things each week and eat the same lunch, the same dinner and so on.  Food bored her.  It was a minor trial for my father but he’d cook his ‘exotics’ as mum called them from time to time to keep his interest alive.

Maybe it’s the shopping.  Supermarkets are terrible places, I think, and I can’t be bothered to drive or cycle to many far-flung places to buy from nicer places.  I have tried.  I don’t have the time and where I live isn’t trendy enough to make this easy.  By nicer I mean any shops that are not super-cold mega-stores with pretend food smells, and rip-off ‘offers’ and – surely the worst curse of the modern shopping age:  the self-service check out.  Self-service check out rage is actually an acknowledged condition.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t make that up.  Oy, my life, have you ever tried to operate one?  It’s purgatory.  And as you wrestle with the system – don’t move the bag! Don’t move the bag with your stuff in it or it will  speak to you in a sort of semi-human code;  but if you don’t move the bag, you can’t pack more stuff in another bag…then the scanner doesn’t recognise your pack of blueberries and in the end, the supermarket operative in charge of this torture area has had to intervene so often, deploying a magic swipe-card that appears to fix all known evils, that you ask him/her if they could just leave the magic card with you for a while and also, does the magic card cure the head-cold or make tea?  And you know that s/he will go home and tell his/her significant other what a weirdo s/he met today, at work…

I don’t get self-service check out rage because I no longer use them but Mark does and so I then just stand about 4 feet away from him, looking at my ‘phone.  Because I don’t like shopping, I am going to start Internet shopping.  This is something I have tried, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than real shopping, and I spend less.  Will I then develop a dislike of unpacking the shopping that is dropped off, just as now I sometimes get fed up with emptying the washing machine whereas years ago, I used a twin-tub that had a spinner and demanded human intervention for an hour or two once or twice a week.  Isn’t it funny how your levels of – well, laziness, I suppose, move up as the labour-saving devices multiply?