Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for July, 2015

Conversations with Lily: the steak tartare – one from the archive

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

I am re-living this blog, because it is almost exactly the same time of year as Mark, Florence, Lily  and I went to Paris.  And I really wish I was there again.  Florence was ill and stayed in the flat for 2 nights, while we heartlessly went out in Paris and had – for one evening at least – a great time.  Then this.  I am going to remind Lily of it when she gets in.

Now she is 19, then she was 15.  But our conversations are still quite similar.  Lily and the steak tartare.  Enjoy. I didn’t.

Technical Skills: 4 ways to knit in the round – places and a new date

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Cast-On Close-Up

This is one of my technical half-days, and I have a new date.  The original date is going ahead on Thursday 1 Oct, and there is 1 space; the new date (a repeat event) is Wednesday 7 October and there are 3 spaces.

These technical days allow us to focus, with small numbers, on one or more very specific skills.  In this case, we are looking at knitting in the round and will be covering the four most widely used techniques.  They are all useful, they all have different applications, all have a place in your repertoire, and it’s good to be able to swap techniques when the need arises.

The half days begin at 1.30 and end with tea and home-made cake at 4.30.  You can book here.

New Fairisle Workshop Date

Friday, July 24th, 2015

I have added a new date to the website.  The Fairisle event will be repeated on Sunday 27 September.  Here is the information.  There are still 4 places left.

This is the same event as the workshops here in May and on 19th September.  So, don’t book this one if you’ve been to, or are coming to, those!  I mean, you’re more than welcome, but just so you know.

Here are tasters of what you will be making:


Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Here are some partly formed plans for 2016 at Court Cottage.  It does seem very early to be planning these, I agree.  And yet, in a few weeks it will be September, that magical time of the year when days soften and simultaneously sharpen, whilst at the same time, accelerating alarmingly towards the year’s end.  At no other time of the year does the running-machine feeling of time moving along, slip so swiftly past me.  No matter how hard I try to make late summer and autumn stay a bit longer, they just pelt away.

So in 2016, I am planning a short series of workshops based on the theme of throws that are then partially sewn up, so they can be worn, not just draped about you in the often vain hope that they will remain in situ.  I cannot claim this idea as original, but I am claiming the name I have given them:  Throncho.  A hybrid of a poncho (which can be *quite* ugly garments) and a throw.  One of these – at that time, un-named – garments arrived at a workshop here in April, adorning a participant.  The Throncho – as it later became – had been purchased, ready made and machine knitted, from a shop.  In Devon.  So, rather to the alarm of said lovely workshop participant, the entire class, whipped into a frenzy of curiosity and envy by me, fell upon the Throncho, examined its simple yet ingenious structure, its dimensions, drape, stitch pattern and so on.

I have now knitted one of my own, in gorgeous DK alpaca yarn.  I wear it All The Time.  Yes, despite it being July, for it has, you must own, been a chilly summer so far, at least in the South West of England.  Now I am knitting a new one, more delicate and beaded, in a 4 ply cashmere blended yarn. This will be shorter and less wide.  And a third, just for the shoulders, in Cocoon.  This latter will be a button-fasten version.

Here are some images of the latest Throncho still on the needles:

They are heavenly to wear, really flattering and so comforting.  They embrace all the good things about ponchos – warm, stable in wear, dashing – whilst at the same time avoiding all the poncho’s less desirable attributes – such as being huge, with a whiff of Clint Eastwood,  and just too pointy. 

I will offer you the option to come to two events in 2016, as the finished collection will have six designs in all.  And there will be the option to come here and design your own!

I will also be offering a new felting workshop programme.  Smaller than the original Bump Bag, but with really original textural features, the new design will still be big enough to be a work or project bag.

A new Fairisle event will be added to the workshop mix, along with a new Moebius event.  Finally, for now, I am thinking about blankets.  I’d like to offer a design-your-own OR knit my design short series of days, for either blankets knitted in one piece, so these would be smaller; or for a pieced design.  My inclinations at the moment are towards Rowan Denim, as this yarn is so good for texture and beading, it is hard wearing and very easy to care for.

Another feature of 2016 will be a Knit and Tea-Time Club.  I will hold four afternoon tea events, one for each season, with a small charge, no actual teaching, but we all just bring our knitting (or crochet) and if you have any problems or queries with a project (one of mine, or any for that matter) we can try and resolve them.  But really it will be a knit club with a proper, full, English afternoon tea:  dainty sandwiches, sweet and savoury cream teas, cakes and lashings of tea.  All home made, of course. You really mustn’t eat any lunch before these teas and plan no supper either.  I will take eight or ten for each tea-time event, and if you book for three, the fourth will be free!

Well these ideas are, as ever at this stage, quite fluid, but this is how they seem to me at the moment.  If there is something you’d like me to add, let me know.  Likewise, if you want to be added to my email alert list, please ask.

Cave Hut Life & Cave Hut Knitting

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

You probably don’t know this about me, but when I *like* something, I can get a *bit* obsessive about it.  Say…caving.  I also like the life that goes with it.  Staying in cave huts for example, though to be fair I have only stayed in two.

Recently, I had a nine day holiday in South Wales, staying at the South Wales Caving Club.  There were three days set aside for caving, five for walking in the Brecon Beacons, and one for going to the Harvester in Merthyr.  At lunch time.

I have stayed at SWCC lots of times and it’s a lovely place, but nine days is too long.  I am totally cured of my cave hut dwelling habit and never want to stay in a bunk-house, hostel or similar, ever again.  Which is awkward as I have a three night trip to a hostel in Cornwall booked and paid for so I suppose I will have to go.

Here are my observations about Cave Hut Life:

1)  when All Of The Cavers are about (weekends) it’s noisy, it can be great fun, it’s always messy.

2) when they have all gone, it’s really creepy.  But you can light the fire and it’s all better again! Until bed time…

3) when the sun shines, as it did for several days, you have a feeling of euphoria and think, smugly:  why do people go abroad?  This is better than abroad!

Better than abroad shot:

4) when the rain falls and the wind blows, as it did for several days, you have a feeling of dampening and gathering gloom.  Hence the trip to Merthyr.  An attempt to raise the spirits, partially successful as I ate a meal not cooked by me in the hut kitchen.

5) by Day 3, I was forced to undertake some serious cleaning of the hut in order to continue dwelling there.  All visitors are supposed to clear and clean up after themselves and maybe clean some part of the accommodation, but it was very clear that no such activities had taken place for a long time.  First, I used the new club washing machine to hot-wash all the stinking, wet towels that were heaped up under the sink and starting to hum in the unusual (brief) heat-wave.  As the week progressed, I swept and washed floors, cleaned out the fire, gradually washed up and put away all the dishes that the departed guests had left on the Sunday…but you know, it gave me something to do of an evening.

6) you cannot better the views from SWCC.  When I was fed up, and assuming the mist had lifted, I had only to look out and feel better.  View from the front door in the early morning:

7) never, ever, look under the bunks in a cave hut.  If you drop something and it rolls, just write it off.  And never put your hand down there.

8) be not afraid of the wind in a cave hut.  Whilst the wind howls round the eaves outside, so it gurgles and churns inside too, when All Of The People come back on Friday and start belching/farting with no apparent awareness that they are not at home but in a shared space.  You can ignore it or join in.

9) the long solitary evenings make for good knitting time, this is The Throncho, all cast off but not finished off:

and I also did some extensive re-working on these:

10) you get awfully sick of bunk-room sleeps: