Monday, 30 July 2007

I thought I was a Hufflepuff.

The sorting hat says that I belong in Ravenclaw!


Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose intelligence is surest."

Ravenclaw students tend to be clever, witty, intelligent, and knowledgeable.
Notable residents include Cho Chang and Padma Patil (objects of Harry and Ron's affections), and Luna Lovegood (daughter of The Quibbler magazine's editor).

Take the most scientific Harry Potter
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

But not tonight

So sorry that I've inactive.

The past couple of days have been lovely, so the hubster and myself did a seven mile hike (and I'm still sore!), and I've been making use of the sunshine in terms of walking into town, skipping in the sunshine and just trying to lose the winter weight. It also seems that I might have to distance myself from fat people (I'm lucky, in that my only obsese friend lives 5000 miles away - and she's doing something about her size) because obseity is contagious.

Huh. It seems my mum was right, about your friends being a reflection of yourself. Size 8 (UK) peoples, where art thou?

I'm not fanatical about my weight, no but I live in Europe, and anything over a size 14 (US 10) relegates you to the big girls' section in the store. As Ms. Westwood says, it's convient to be a (UK) size 12. I'm trying to stick to that, although to be a size 10 (US 6) would be ideal, because I'm short. Also, my family (on my father's side) has a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, so it behooves me to be on this side of size 14.

Knitting wise, I've been okay. No lie, I'm not enjoying the topdown at all - I know that it's because of the yarn. It's splitty, snags on needles (even dull bamboo) and I think any yarn over 4.5mm (aran weight) for me feels unweildy, and unforgiving. I do miss working with 3.75mm (US 5) needles and comparative sized yarn. I think I knit faster then.

Also, I've got a new phone (Nokia N95) and wow. For the past two years I've been using the Sony Ericsson k 750i and it's a nice phone.

The infterface of the SE K750i is easy to move around, and the T-9 capabilities (predictive texting) is so much easier than the Nokia's. Who knew?

My main reason for getting the Nokia is due to the hubster's influence, I'm afraid. He likes the GPS system that the phone boasts (with an internal tracker) while I was (and am) attracted to the camera. 5 megapixels - and something that I'd carry around everyday, instead of having to think about getting out my Sony camera.

I'll miss my Sony Ericsson k750i though. *sighs* It is a great phone.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Tonight, I'll be at my local Waterstones.

The forecast is of rain in my part of the world.

At best, it will be a drizzle tap-dancing on our umbrellas, dampening the hems of our robes, the damp cockling the brims of our makeshift magical hats.

Tonight, I'll be wearing the first Harry Potter scarf that I ever knitted. It will be wrapped around my neck, a hug against the cold. For the last time, I'll share the wonder of magic with the children in the city.

I might knit too, while I’m in line – since it was the thought of a Harry Potter scarf that spurred me on to learn the craft- a sort of homage in my own way.

I’ll be knitting a hat for an imaginary house elf.

Our faces will be sticky from sweets that the store has given us, our excitement almost palpable as we jostle for space and to be one of the first in line, and we'll be counting down to magic at midnight.

I’ve heard tell that there’ll be magicians at the event and bets to see who’ll make it through the war, and who won’t. My partner has asked me if I want to go alone, because he knows the tears I’ll shed. Over the past two days, I have been felled by sentiment, emotions hitting me at odd angles.

I’ve run the gamut of Snape worthy sneers and invectives to an almost Luna like dismissal, and I’m happy about it, because I’m not indifferent.

I cannot be indifferent.

I’ve asked him to come with me, to soothe the tremor when I hand over the reserve slip and get the long awaited tome in return -because magic is stronger when it’s shared.

When I've finished the book, it will be dawn (I'm a fast reader).

As the sun rises, daylight will touch on magic, and turn the gilt of gold on my adult copy of Harry Potter to paper, and I'll smile sadly, knowing that this part of my life is over, and remember that I believed in enchantment, just for a little.

I'll genuflect on Harry, the spunky orphan that charmed my heart because of his innate decency and his two friends, no less great because they were his sidekicks.

I'll remember the generation before him: Remus Lupin, Severus Snape, James Potter Sr., Peter Pettigrew – because it is right that his name should be here - and Sirius Black, who probably thought that they'd live forever, that after Hogwarts life would be perennial summer, before The Dark Time of Voldemort, and the dawn of twilight that marks adulthood in some ways.

The twilight that says that life at thirty is not what one imagined, nor would one imagine even as a worst case scenario. Why, with prisons of the mind and body, treachery in the heart and fear of the known dwelling in the attic, it is easy for people to fade away, to live as they can, not as they should, and how each action is a choice, and each choice a consequence.

I’ll remember how much I appreciated Rowling’s nod to all that, to the hazardous terrain of adulthood, and how it’s easy to class people as good wizards and Death Eaters, not realizing that for most of us, we live in the nuance of the in between.


I'll miss Harry Potter, thank you JK Rowling.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

our love is a ball of yarn

You know how it is, that first meeting with an attractive ball of yarn.

You go into your LYS, and find stacks of yarn, divided by brand, source material, expense.

There is a grid of colour on the walls, each ball pitching an idea, hoping to be on your needles.

There's the insecurity of the novelty yarn, fussing with its sparkles and light, hoping to catch your eye. Yarns with print so bold, they brand themselves on your conscious, inspiring you to pick it up, fondle and move on.

Your eyes dance from ball to ball, each yarn an excited suitor wanting a space on your dance card. You have no cares in the world; like a bee in a meadow, or like a butterfly moving from flower to flower.

It doesn't matter, because you have time to look, to squeeze, to think - whatever shall I make with this? Is this the right colour for me? Nah. Moving on - because at times, all you need is yarn, and the air that you breathe. Life is good.

Then, it happens. Your eye is snagged by a particular yarn in the corner. It doesn't fuss, doesn't preen, does not need to. You buy just one ball, to see how you'll get on with it, mind. No harm ever came from a pretty ball of yarn.

But like in all relationships, probably your infatuation didn't work out. You try to explain to your friends. Yourself.

The yarn.

"It's not that you aren't pretty," you begin, trying to come up with some excuse why you only bought one ball of yarn that you won't use, and can't see yourself buying more, not wanting to appear shallow, or worse, feckless.

"It's just that... well..." you gesticulate, finding out that a shrug of shoulders isn't as elegant and eloquent as novelists make it out to be, and that sometimes, you just have to grab for that old chestnut. "It's not you, it's me."

The yarn is Louisa Harding's Impressions - the same ribbon, string, mohair yarn I spoke about in the last post - but in a different colourway. I bought this yarn the first time the line came out in the UK.

I love this colourway - it's as if you stumbled onto a lake in autumn, on a day so crisp, so fine you laugh with simple joy.

There's the leaves in the colours of fall, ranging from amber, to blood orange, slumbering in a lake so still that you can see the shock of the blue sky threading through, with the black edges holding you back on the sturdy earth, keeping you from doing an Ophelia, your dress floating with the fall of leaves from the trees above.

All this, before you wake up from that ever so vivid dream, blinking the mist and mohair from your eyes and going, "Oh."

Man, I love this yarn, but it has mohair in it, and mohair makes me itch, although I admire the effect it gives.

These gloves are for a friend of mine. She's here at Sectus the Harry Potter convention in London. It is the last book in the series, and we've argued, made up and now will commisserate at the events of the last book.

The gloves are my commencement present.

I'm going to London on Sunday to see her, and to give these gloves to her, and hope that she gets even a fraction of the joy I had knitting them, flirting with the yarn, trying to find a relationship with it, only to say, "It's not you, it's me."

The ties are done in Rowan wool/silk in an olive green colour.

Can't say I like that particular yarn, bought a ball for a panta, but the girl left before I could cast on. The ball I got was replete with knots, and the yarn pills easily, I think it's the silk.
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Sunday, 15 July 2007

Is simplicity best, or simply the easiest? part 2

My favourite flavour of ice cream is vanilla. Or, if I wish to go wild, grapenut.

It is a choice that makes my husband wonder, especially when we peruse the chilled section at the supermarket. He'll want the rocky road swathed in caramel and studdied with nuts- that mashup of flavours on the tongue- while I'll stick to vanilla.

"Why vanilla?" he asks, passing the shopping cart to me while reaching for a carton of icecream.

"It's simple," I say, "and simplicity is hard to get right."

The more I knit and collect patterns, the more this statement resonates with me.It's easy enough to overwhelm with design features and the rest of it, and I have knitted garments that I do not wear as much as I should do, because I find them too busy. I love knitting the complicated, just to see what I can do.

See the hill, take the hill, right?

But there is a quality to simplicity that I am liking more and more. The use of clean lines to showcase the yarn, or to use colours in such a novel way, it makes knitting new. Hence me being drawn to the phildar patterns as of late, and now picking up Sarah Dallas' Knitting.

I'm of two minds in recommending this book: one is that it's not all knit garments and I bought it for half price. There are the odd pillows, cushions and toiletry bags - stuff that I wouldn't really knit - not with an expensive yarn like Rowan, anyways. The blankets and such would be good to use up your stash of brightly coloured acrylic (and we all have those). The colours are presented quite nicely, and it is nice to get design ideas.

On the other hand, the garments here (cardigans, children's jackets) are really quite sweet, and I'm giving slow, hungry looks at the wrap cardigan on the cover. I do love the fact that the grey breaks up the black and gives the cardigan a sort of form. Yes, it's acres of stocking stitch, but it's something that I could see myself wrapped up in, it's stylish while transcending trends.

Overall, the book is divided into colour themes, and there is a variety of saturated colours to sharpen the simple lines of patterns into something special. The concept is centred around beach holidays in the UK, so there are nods to blankets, hotwater bottles (English summers are rubbish, don't you know?), cushions and clothing (cardigans and a cute moss stitch top).

The patterns are simple, and if anything, you'll be better off waiting to see if the book will be on offer (be it Amazon or any store) before buying it, but it's worth a look, if not a space in your library.

Is simplicity best, or sometimes the easiest? part 1

Normally, I'm what you call a monagamous knitter. I tend to cast on for one project, then stay on said project to completion. It's not to be holier than thou, or whatever, it's just me.

But I'm glad that I did those Harding gloves, just because I've my topdown raglan back on the needles and am raring to go. Hooyaah!

See the hill, take the hill!

Finally, I got enough increases to separte the sleeves from the body (as seen in pictures one and two). It took much more increases (as dictated in cosmic pluto's pattern) to get the sleeves to meet under my armpits, and I think they are a bit big (my arm circumference is 21cm, but the sleeves are 24cm) it's all good though, I can wear stuff underneath the cardigan and not having to worry about bunching and jumping. Did I say life was good? Yes, I did.

Now that the sleeves are off, I'm just doing the body, and hopefully, I should be finished with this sharpish. Instead of decreasing/increasing this time around, I'll be doing ribbing (1x1) for basic shaping, like the blue sky alpacas cardi.

To be honest, I don't know about this whole topdown process.

I can see its uses: you use less yarn, and can literally see your way through your design in that you cannot help but be involved. It's also a good way of feeling a three dimensional design, sort of modular knitting. I can see it being useful for the one skien wonder shrug that Glampyre has going on, and knitters like Brooklyn tweed have made an art out of doing Zimmermanesque topdown stuff, but I don't know my feelings towards this method as yet.

I don't know if it's because I've done piece knitting and the results have been okay and that I actually enjoy piece knitting.

If I failed, it wasn't because of the pattern, it was to do with the yarn (felted tweed is itchy), me not really noting my measurements, or just the whole new knitter syndrome. I have nothing against piece knitting, and my yarn is soft enough to make sure the seams don't scratch the bejesus out of me.

I don't even mind sewing up - the trick is not to rush, and read and plan as much as you can before breaking out the needle and thread.

So far, cosmicpluto's pattern is spot on, the instructions are straightforward (I'm doing the topdown 2.0 version), and I'm just enjoying the notion of doing something new and different.

I shall not disparage the topdown process though, it's a bit of all right, and I'm sure that it will make me a better knitter.

It's a process that's simple and although it might not be the best (I probably say this because there's little in the way of topdown patterns with inset sleeves - what's up with that, dawg?) it's sure as hell the easiest.

Speaking of simplicity being the best, easiest and the rest of it, I have a book recommendation to make. I'll do it in the next post, however, because blogger doesn't seem to be working with me and images.

Friday, 13 July 2007

There's something between us

Full disclosure : on wet, damp, sad days, when the rain streams against my window panes like tears, I like to read a good love story. Be it comic book, fantasy, or conventional novel - works for me.

Like a good stocking stitch pattern, there is something soothing about a good romance: interesting characters (I don't have to like 'em, but I demand that they be interesting), a decent plot, the dance between the characters as they fall in like and then stumble into love. Then, because the concept is predictable as knit one side, turn and purl the other side, there's a conflict, realization, admission and then happily ever after.

For now.

I have no problems with for now.

The thing of it is that most romance novelists, perhaps embarrassed by how easy plot contrivances are, tend to try and wordsmith throughout the entire novel. Each sentence is bejeweled with meaning, bordering on hyperbolic: the characters can't hurt; they must ache for what is not there. Then there are the adverbs and adjectives. Oy.

If people smile, it is seductive, if they speak because they are overcome, their voices are husky. Their touches are 'sensual caresses' and when they have sex, it's an 'all consuming passion'.

We will not even get into the extended metaphor - for example the book that I'm reading - the guy identifies himself as a hawk (a hawk!) and sees relationships as conquests, and he is pitted against this woman called Angel (gagging over here) who, when she casts around for calm, she envisions a rose in the winter (Janis Joplin, anyone?).

I have heard of purple prose, but this novel I'm reading is damned near aubergine. My eyes are stuck in mid roll so I'm staring north-north west right now, and typing this entry askance.

The thing is, you can get the required emotion across with simple words. For instance, daft punk and a song in their animae Interstella 5555. The song is called something between us. The words are simple, curiously affecting, and it makes my eyes mist, just like the weather outside.

In a way, knitting designers can be like writers: some like to fuss, to show off their designing skills at the expense of the pattern or reader. Others tend to be like Daft Punk, they know that some things can be simple, using the colour and luster of the yarn to show off the pattern.

I wonder where Louisa Harding comes in. On one hand, the woman loves her colour and fussiness. Her yarns are colourful, beribboned, fuzzy, and space dyed. Yet, her designs are simple, bordering on well... a sort of laziness at times.

This glove is from her Accessories book. They will be a gift for my friend’s Mum. The pattern is relatively straight forward. You cast on twice the amount of stitches that the glove needs, decrease (hence creating a flounce) to needed stitches, rib, increase for thumb and then do enough stitches to cover the backs of hands, then cast off. The pattern itself is simple, but the fussiness of the yarn gives it an edge.

Specifics: The Yarn is called ‘Impressions’ and it’s a ribbon/string/mohair sort of blend. The mohair gives it the dreamy halo and warmth, the ribbon its colour and the string (of a darker hue) gives the whole effect‘grounding’. It is as if the yarn were dreams at the edge of waking, almost real, but with a shimmering quality to them.

The pattern is dead easy; I did the pair of gloves in one day on 3,5mm and 4,00mm needles. One ball did both gloves with half of the yarn left over. Impressive.

I’m still ambivalent towards Ms. Harding’s designs. On one hand, I admire her cleverness, the way how she will pair a hazy yarn with a crisp one, and the garment seems to be half real/ half vision. The colours of the yarn are candy bright and busy enough so that the designs are dead simple. On the other hand, she does the same thing: A-line jackets with cables along the edges, or shrugs that drape over the shoulders.

I’m still knitting in the round, have yet to slip my sleeves. *headdesk*. I've my thoughts on doing stuff in the round, but I'll keep my counsel until the knit is done.

Ugh. Blogger is being a butt. They've deleted the picture of the book. Huh.

You can have a butchers of her stuff here :

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Do it again


I'm still knitting this cardigan top-down and in the round. No-one ever tells you the bad things about a new technique, you notice? Like, if you make a mistake and have to rip it back, it's both two fronts and a back. *sigh* Also, no one ever tells you how mindless the knitting in the round with stocking stitch is, but I can probably see myself reaching for this cardigan (if it comes out rather decent) frequently, because it's not fairisle, or my Loll, or anything that is rather striking.

But because I love you all, I'm going to tell you a few of my favourite things right now. As in, the things that are calling me away from my knitting, like a siren song.

1. Do It Again - Chemical Brothers. As usual, these boyos do not disappoint: this tune has a hearty, bouncy beat, fun lyrics, and a catchy hook (Do it again). So if you want to dance this Saturday night in the comfort of your room with your underwear on and your laptop being your own boombox have a listen here

2. Eoin Colfer: Half Moon Investigatons and The Artemis Fowl Series.

Before I start my review, I must admit, I tend to stay away from books with smart assed teenagers. I taught them in school, I don't need them in my fictional life, YKWIM? The only exception to this rule was Harry Potter, because he started off life as a sweet, surprisingly well adjusted boy then he turned into the species of teenage boy-man.

Then, just to be difficult, I don't like Terry Pratchett *cue shocked silence* because I find his sense of humour so twee and his annoying footnotes don't help either.

So all this to say, that Eoin (pronounced 'Owen') Colfer's characters should not even get a look in.

I resisted his writings for a long time due to these two factors, but before I went on holiday, I bought both the Artemis Fowl books and Half Moon Investigations. Colfer has a sense of humour rather like Pratchett (but without the twee) and a sort of twist in the phrasing that really works. Even with the first hand narrative -which I normally can't stand- the narrator's voice in Half Moon Investigations is funny, wry and highly observant.

Artemis Fowl is a series you'd either like or loathe. Fowl is an early teenage genius, and unfortunately for everyone else, he knows this. You will either find yourself rolling your eyes or just enjoying the mechanics of this boyo's mind. Mr Colfer obviously enjoys his young protagonists, which is a treat to see. The supporting characters in both Artemis Fowl are relatively enjoyable, could be a bit more three dimensional (you find the adult characters in the Harry Potter series to be just that), but that's a small wrinkle in an otherwise smooth read.

If you're in the mood for snappy comebacks, a sharp turn of phrase, and interesting characters, I recommend Mr. Colfer.

3. Nokia N95 : Forget the i-phone - it's expensive, and newer techie stuff by Apple (apart from their computers) never works in its first incarnation anyway (see: ipod, ipod shuffle, etc.). To add insult to injury, it's going to cost you about $2000 US a year just to get your technology on. Enter the nokia N95:

To quote

"The smartphone has a 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens, which they say can take dvd-like video clips. It also has a 2.6-inch QVGA screen, and runs on the well supported Symbian 60 OS. It also has HSDPA and EDGE cellular data. Oh, it has nice Flickr integration with the photos you take.

And it's got this "2-way slider" thingamabob that kicks out both a numeric keypad and media control keys."

All I gotta say is, sweet. When I got my Sony Ericsson k750i, I thought it was the business. Now, it's still a nice phone, but pales in comparision to the pretty.

So, what are a few of your (new) favourite things?

Thursday, 5 July 2007

In essence, downloading my life

In every woman, a beast slumbers. Usually, it’s sedated by gentility, and hampered by good upbringing. We all know the beast, the one that strains at its leash, wanting to snap and rend and tear if and when its provoked. The beast can be roused due to varied stimulants: a man, a love rival or being wronged by a tutor giving you a really, really bad grade.

My inner beast comes out whilst travelling, it seems. I’ve just spent the past five days in Italy: two of those precious days in Rome, and found myself swearing and spitting like a mofo. I sounded like a cross between Jules of Pulp Fiction and Katt Williams, a potty mouthed comedian.

Various scenarios and the reactions of yours truly were as follows:

*stepping on the zebra/pedestrian crossing only for the car not stopping, and having to jump backwards onto the curb*

“The road guide mother%!”*&^%! Do you read it?”

“You’re stepping out on the road, jigga! On the road! Where there are no traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and me going at 70 km an hour! What are you *(&^%$! Get off the road!”

And so on and so forth.

Most aggravating, really.

Apart from those two days in Rome, it was fine. The trip was a goodbye of sorts. My friend has met a Spanish girl, and it is True Love.

Because True Love demands sacrifice, noble gestures and vivid flourishes, he’s upping sticks and relocating with her to Northern Spain. She is settled there- in every way- and does not see herself anywhere else. He does not see himself anywhere without her, so he goes.

But not before giving her Italy, however (it seems those were the magic words. “Come with me,” he said to her, “and I will give you Rome”).

I wish them the best.

So, what are my views of Italy, you ask? All roads led to Rome at one point, and you can see why. The Romans were Colossuses (Colossusi?), leaving imprints of themselves in this world, and even after millennia, they are still there. The bold sculptures and structures are their own kind of magic.

Really, it was too hot to knit in Italy. But I actually found a yarn shop being manned by this old lady. I could not resist the addition to my stash, and bought six balls of dk yarn in a purple. It’s 50/50 wool and acrylic. Very plush and very soft. If it were up to me, I’d have stayed in the shop for an hour longer, but I was with company, and my friend wanted to offer his love the sights of Rome, and I was loath to disrupt the mood, and keen to see the centre of Rome. So we went.