Saturday, 31 May 2008

Lace, schmace

I seem to be rather lacking in FO's at the moment. There is a reason, of course. In fact there are a couple... The first, and most important, reason is that my Bestest Friend in the Whole Wide World (hmmm, he might puke if he actually saw that nomenclature) finally visited mon petit chateau for a long weekend. He's currently working with an opera company in Eastern France (he's a conductor, not a singer, so he's more akin to a 'normal' person... As a lump of coal is more akin to a piano than a teapot is, for example...) and took his free days off chez moi. I didn't touch a single skein. Lots of gin, yes, but no yarn. Much was drunk while admiring the thunder and lightning storms.

Very faint double rainbow
So it wasn't just the gin, after all...

So, that's 3 days covered. Then you have to add the week it took me to unearth the floor, clean behind silly things like toilets, yarn-stashes and fridges (he lives in IKEA-land - everything sparkling, matching, in its right place... I inhabit a more, shall we say, rustique suburb of said land...) and buy gin. I kept sampling it, you see, and having to run out and buy more. Well, stagger out and buy more, at any rate.

But the biggest time vacuum has been the lace. LACE. That pretty, pretty fabric that all knitters seem to be able to churn out at a rate of knots... Um, sorry about that... Lacy socks I have queued in abundance. Lace shawls are constantly under drool-alert. Lace-irific evening bags shimmy and dance in my dreams. So I thought "Why not?"

Why not? I'll tell you WHY NOT... I am so ungenerously gifted in the art of knitting lace it's not even funny. Well, actually it is moderately amusing! I didn't aim high - I began with, well, I won't tell you what I began with, as it's supposed to be an easy pattern. A beginner's pattern. A 'Knit With Mother' pattern. Let's just call it 'That F****** Lacy Sh*t Piece of Bag' pattern.

Yo. Yes, I can do those. Not a probl... oh, yon. And yfrn. Okay - that's just a yo between a purl and a knit, and the other is between a knit and a purl. Yeah, not a problem. Oh cack. Yrn and yfn? Hang on, I may need paper and a pencil here... SSP. Hmm, like a SSK, but with a purl. Obvious. I think? Yes, I can k2tog and p2tog. Check. TBL? Oh, through the back loop. Yes, can do... Slip purlwise and knitwise, yup, them's already on board. (I may be elaborating things a... *cough* tad here...) Okay. So. Get needles, get yarn, get pattern and KNIT...

3 days later... And frog. Again. Accompanied by air a vivid shade of blue and some fine and pretty cotton, not so fine or pretty any more.

I shan't go into details. I love you all that much! It is suffice to say that the very long list of all things lacy that I wish to produce in the future shall stay looooong. I think I may have inadvertently summoned the Lacy Demons Who Abhor Cable Lovers. Maybe they don't like chocolate?!!

Now CABLES are another thing entirely. Cables are my reason for spending my rent money on yarn... (Gads, I hope my landlady doesn't see this...) Cables are my friend, my life, my everything. I'll see your CF4 and raise you a T4B... I laugh in the face of T6R and have T5BR's for breakfast.

Or I would do if I wasn't now trying very hard to make a non-lacy bag for my neighbour's too-soon-to-be 4 year-old daughter!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

K is for...

K: Little Sister Extraordinaire

Mum and K (around 8 months old)

6 things about K...

1: Sixteen months (and three days!) separate my wee sister and I. Even with such a small age gap, she's always been an independent wee soul. Some of my earliest memories surround shopping trips where I'd wait patiently with the shopping trolley while Mum went on a K-finding mission. Sis did have a propensity, when she was really young, to disappear when you weren't looking and charge off somewhere new and exciting; down the cereal isle or behind the fruit displays! Another memory in the same vein is her first day at our village primary school. I was instructed by Mum to look after her (primaries 1, 2 and 3 were in the same classroom) and I do remember feeling very protective of her. But in she went without any qualms, had no fear of meeting new people and adapted to her new environment with no problems at all. Quite startling for me, I remember, as I was quite the opposite - painfully shy!

Me (5), K (4) and L (11), our big brother

2: She is an amazing organiser and a very hard worker, a loyal friend and a generous soul. The university library, where she is the library secretary and P/A to the Chairman, is run by
her (pretty much) and she's VERY good at her job. It helps that she loves it too!

3: She always said she had no artistic talent, and that I received her share, but that it was fairly balanced because she had my share of organisational skills and common sense. (She wanted to be a secretary when she grew up and I wanted to be a silversmith!) She is correct in her last assumption and is certainly right about the common sense, but I think this pendant she made me for my birthday belies the first...

My birthday pendant - 99.8% pure silver
made with PMC (precious metal clay)

4: She is the proud mummy of Mickey, a long-haired tortoiseshell cat. Sis rescued him and his brother, Murphy, when they were 6 weeks old. Sadly, due to the previous owner’s mis-treatment and a dose of cat ‘flu when sis only had them a week (the rescue centre had missed the symptoms) Murphy didn’t make it. Mickey is a little brain-damaged thanks to the cat 'flu etc so has a wobbly walk and isn’t allowed outside, but apart from that he’s full of beans and adores K. And fish. But K a bit more, I think!

K and Mickey

5: K is a sterling wee sis, and I look forward every year to her summer visit and I miss her dreadfully when she leaves... We spend a rather high percentage of the time giggling together. I think the hilarity genes were pretty evenly distributed...

6: She sends me British chocolate care packages, too. What more could a person want in a sister?!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Joy of Sox

I have to admit that my friend T the YarnDiva speaks the truth when she says sock-knitting is like crack addiction. I have four pairs on the go at the moment, and am trying very hard not start another two... but the yarn is whispering sweet evil in my ears. "Come try me, feel me, knit me..." Y down in Grenoble is also completely right - I guess it's what happens when you invest in multiple sets of needles! I am feeding my own addiction! A self-enabler, if you will!

Here are two finished socks. Both have their partners on the needles, so am potentially avoiding SSS AGAIN! Go me!

Giles Wavy Sock and Zombie Sock. Clash City!

I was especially chuffed with the Zombie Sock, as it introduced me to the Joy of Garter-Stitch-Edge Gusseting. Look - NO LADDERS!! Oh yeah!!

Next, may I present the beginnings of a cable sock that I'm attempting to improvise... Well, it's a simple sock design that came with the yarn and I'm adding a celtic cable on the front, 'cos I loves me my cables...

Trekking/cable sock

Then there is the slightly jinxed*, woe-begotten cuff that's been hanging around looking forlorn for a week or so... it was intended to be a Zombie Sock, but alas, alack, the yarn I chose was ever so slightly unsuitable... (That thing about choosing the right yarn/gauge/needles for the job... yep, seems to be *quite* important...!) But it looked so pretty that I didn't want to frog it completely, so, after choosing a few patterns that were *ahem* again frogged down to the cuff due to... um... a difference of design/skill opinion, I decided on a pretty leafy pattern and I'll see how it goes... I loves me my Harmony Guide stitch dictionaries, too! (*Ed. At time of press sock has been tinked twice more, but I'm refusing to give up...)

Dr Who Leaf Socks (On its 7th incarnation)

Talking about dictionaries, I've just invested in a couple of pattern books... Well, 'tis a similar genre...

Birthday Books. Bags. Bags. Bags. SOCKS. Crochet? *gasp*!

Oh, okay, I admit that 'couple' is not quite the adjective, but I thank my brother big-time for sending me Amazon vouchers for my birthday, as I also loves me my books... I did get a couple of non-yarnie books - the latest novel by Joanne Harris called 'The Lollipop Shoes' and another great book by David Crystal on the English Language - this one is 'The Fight For English' and as usual, is making good reading! Yep, I loves me my linguistic and etymology studies, as well.

Oh, and to finish upon our title subject, I must just announce that I FINALLY ordered some 'Vintage Socks' from The Tsarina of
Tsocks. I mentioned her magnificent 'Firebird' socks in an earlier post, and although I will have to drool over them from afar until they're available to the general public, I will be utterly content with the Vintage... I suggest looking at her site for general Tsock Tstupendousness...

But don't blame me when you *have* to order something, too!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

J is for...


Tokyo Radio Tower

Just to continue my theme of places for another ABC-along post, I'd like to show some piccies of Japan. I was there in December 2005 for some concerts of Handel and Bach with a couple of orchestras - in Osaka and Tokyo. It could have been totally amazing had I not arrived in Osaka with a nasty case of 'flu, incubated very nicely on the flight over. My neighbour on the flight was VERY generous with his germs... And his chocolate, too, so I couldn't *really* hate him!

I got through the first Bach Christmas Oratorio without dying a spluttery death, but the chorales suffered from coughing fits and I've certainly sung the echo aria better!! Not one my finest moments! I have one photo from Osaka - taken from my hotel room where I was placed in solitary confinement:

Could be anywhere!!

We were whisked from Osaka to Tokyo in a bullet train (how fast?!) and arrived late one afternoon, at which point I was sent to my room again, to care for my germs in peace and feed them finest room-service sushi. I opened the curtains the following morning to be presented with this pleasing aspect:

Mount Fuji

That was the first real inkling that I wasn't in Kansas anymore, Toto (or should I say Totoro...!) Not a bad view to wake up to! The hotel was in the Shinjuku district, next to the Tokyo Central Park, and very close to the main underground terminal. Now THAT was crazy. The underground system was awesome, in the original sense of the word. It took a lot of effort to keep my jaw from being permanently unhinged. So many people, all purposeful, decorous and mannerly, going from a to b without much ado, noise or contact with each other. Another world!

Statues in Central Park

I saw a lot of the metro system on the journey back from seeing the International doctor. I went by taxi, as it seemed the most considerate thing to do, seeing as my employers thought I had SARS!! Oh yes, that would have been LOTS of fun. But I didn't - I was lacking the high temperature, but had amassed a collection of everything else! I paid an arm and a leg for the consultation and the medicine, but it was so very worth it. If you're going to be really ill, do it in Japan - their drugs are AMAZING!

Drugs, drugs, drugs and more drugs

Cough medicine, antibiotics, cortisone in pill form (no way was I having an injection), anti-histamine, very strong throat sweets (the Polo lookalikes) and I can't remember what the other two lots were for. But, bygorrah, I was up and at 'em in 2 days of starting that little lot! The Messiah gig passed without any wheezing, coughing or dizziness and, although still working at 300% and taking twice as many breaths as normal, I hope I at least made up for the Bach the week before!

One of the organisers was very kind to me a day before that last concert, and took me on a wee trip around Tokyo to make up for all the missed visits the others had been on. (I missed seeing Kyoto - I was gutted about that!) Had I been a knitter at the time, I would have insisted on finding some Noro (nom nom nom), but I was sadly unaware of the existence of such sublimities, so we sauntered around the Electric City instead and then went up a very, VERY tall building near the harbour district to see some amazing views. The photo of the Radio Tower is one of them, and here's one looking across the Imperial Palace Park to the Shinjuku district:

Tokyo as seen by the birds

I arrived back in France, after a delayed flight from Tokyo and a missed flight from Amsterdam, at 2am and had a rehearsal for some Monteverdi at 10am the same morning. I remember nothing about that day whatsoever!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Shameless self-promotion and own-trumpet-blowing

included in this post

I was perusing some online cd shops this afternoon and stumbled across this! I'd almost forgotten about it, but it's out at the end of the month! Well, according to Naxos, it will be! Wahey!

It was recorded over 2 live performances (a cheaper way of getting cds recorded these days) but that's cool as I rather like hearing the odd bit of audience noise. Actually, I have to admit to my own singing not being completely perfect all the way through and unfortunately the recording guy chose a section where I decided to go off on a ridiculous flight of da capo fancy in one of the arias and my GOD, I'm a tad embarrassed! (It was at a point where I thought I'd make it up higher, but I... um... didn't!) *shudders* I suspect I may be ripped to shit by critics, but it was way too much fun to do to worry about that, and I know my Dad'll love it anyway!

Well, I'm officially 36 and 40 hours old now. (I had the indecency to be born at 2:15 in the morning - my poor mother!) It feels a bit weird. I didn't have a problem turning 30, or even 34, but 35, as my mother keeps reminding me, was the age by which she had had all her children. *sigh* And now I'm 36 and lacking in the commodities needed to supply such things as grandchildren for Mum. (But it's on the list - 'kids' - before 'get proper job' and after 'find nice man'.)

But enough of such maudlin thoughts. Knitting-wise I seem to have turned into a serial commencer. I keep starting things then starting more and - oo, look - something shiny...

3 socks: Giles Wavy Sock in purples (down to the heel turn); Trekking/cable socks in blues/purples (finished cuff); Zombie socks in green (totally wrong yarn for the job, but looks so pretty that I don't want to frog it), 2 scarves: Mcfluffy scarf in green, purple and black (nearly finished) and a black and silver (oo, sparkly) cowl scarf. Then there's a purple mix cushion cover that I'm slowly cabling through and finally the black 'Aoife' bolero jacket that has just reached the arm-hole shaping. And yet, I keep thinking about that Noro... I can't decide what to make with it. I've spent much of the time since I received it looking through pattern books and online at our favourite knitting site. I really can't decide at all... But maybe I should finish something... ANYTHING... first.

And I must stop ordering sock yarn. I'm my own worst enemy!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Silver linings...

...indeed a veritable suitcase full of that wondrous stuff!

What with all the projections of doom and gloom, moans and other sundry patheticisms on my last post, I had completely forgotten that I had ordered this little lot of sunshine and I arrived home from Holland this evening to find it gleaming through my postbox...

NORO! Kureyon colourway no.196
At last I can PLAY!!

Ebay - I doest heart thou! In fact, Japan, one heartest thou, also! Now, what to make, what to make...!

Well, as per usual, I was worrying way too much again. The journey up to Holland went fine - I didn't have a place in the carriage, and was indeed seated by the door, but I had the whole space to myself and it was cooler and quieter than the in the coach compartment anyway! (I was rather ill-equipped for the 28 degree temp in Holland, though!) I got paid (FINALLY) for the work in March, the concerts went really well and I managed to fit in 2 lessons with my rather fabulous new teacher. ("You're a lyric soprano, get used to it! None of that 'But I can't sing high' crap - you think too much! And try not to chew those consonants. And breathe normally, like you're about to talk, not like you're about to inhale a bus. And don't sing pitches at me." etcetera, etcetera. You have to imagine this all with a very strong Chicago accent!) It was Absolute Bliss!!

Actually, the lessons were hard work and I'm set upon a very steep learning curve, but I'm also rather excited. There's a whole different world of music to consider now. I have to admit that I knew that I had a slightly bigger voice than the normal baroquies, but between singing the Mahler this week and those singing lessons, I'm slightly more convinced! And slightly shell-shocked, too!

I have a long-running joke with a lovely baroque tenor friend of mine which goes along the lines of sending emails 'advertising' our next concerts. 'Michael would like to invite you to his next performance of '
Tannhäuser' by Wagner' or I'd send him a 'You are cordially invited to a performance of Verdi's 'La Traviata' starring RedScot as Violetta.' ("You mean 'Monteverdi', right?!!" would be in the follow-up email.) I haven't told him about the Mahler yet. I'm not sure his constitution could handle it!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

It's going to be one of those days...

You know - one of those days when the little niggles and tiny annoyances that normally don't upset you individually, decide to club together and have a weekend of fun and jollity at your expense... I think they had beer, too... *sigh*

Mild Vexation No.1 - I shall be attempting to make my way to Holland tomorrow for for a week of concerts. Normally this isn't a problem: Tours to Paris; metro from Montparnasse to Gare du Nord; train up to The Hague. Roughly 6 1/2 hours door-to-door. Tickets insanely easy to buy online. (It's cheaper than flying, for those that think I'm out of my mind! Remember, I'm Scottish and besides, it's an ideal opportunity to get my knitting freak on!)

But before I continue, I'll add a photo of something nice. Just to balance things up. This is what the postie brought me yesterday morning all the way from the Far East:

A shed-load of needles!

15 pairs of 120cm long circular needles and 15 sets of dpns, all bamboo. They're luverley! Okay, so they're not any famous brand and are, in fact, cheap Ebay items, but I am, as previously mentioned, Scottish! Now there is NO excuse to get started on those many pairs of socks that I have queued on a certain knitting site. Except, perhaps, purchasing the actual wool to make them. (See Mild Vexation No. 3)

Where was I? Oh yes, the voyage au Payes-Bas. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why I couldn't buy the tickets online like I normally do, so I ventured to the station to buy one there. All trains were allegedly already booked up for today AND tomorrow (wtf - that NEVER happens) but I finally managed to get tickets after cajoling, begging, using the 'I'm a stupid foreigner' card and, handily, just before I offered a bribe. (The lady at the desk gave in too soon - obviously new to the job.) It was on only passing a post office on the way back that I realised that this weekend is May Day bank holiday weekend. The trains from France will be filled to the gunwales with Dutch folk making their boisterous way back home after a long weekend tormenting the French. Aiee! So, I'll be on a train, filled with noisy Nederlanders and possibly sitting on the floor next to the door for the whole way. (Well, the lady said "Mais, oui, mademoiselle, vous avez le billet donc il y aura une place pour vous sur le train", so I can only hope that because I DO have the ticket for the journey, that there WILL be a place for me on the train...) Time will only tell if it is indeed standing room only.

Mild Vexation No2. - my printer died yesterday. The poor 5 year-old thing gave up the ghost just as I was away to print out the pattern for Sheryl Giles' 'Zombie Socks' which was to be my project for the train. I've been sitting at my compy knitting away, but I can't bring that with me, hulking tower system that it is... (and probably just as well, as I had to frog about 10 rows as I naïvely believed I could knit and read forum posts at the same time! *Insert exclamation of an Homer Simpson variety here*)

Back to the cuff - zombie-flesh green cotton...

Mild Vexation No.3 - I'm still waiting to be paid for the gigs I did in March. Not good. (Actually, this is more like 'Extreme Vexation No.1') The life of a wayfaring musician may seem quite glamorous, and indeed can be, but when you're waiting on, nay, depending on folk to pay you so you can pay other folk, things tend to suck. And there's that gorgeous yarn I've seen on Etsy that is crying out, crying out I tell you, to be knit into something by me, if only I could afford it!

But my moan is at an end. Thank you for your patience and/or indulgence. In reward I'll give you another picture of a WIP.

Giles' Wavy Socks attempt no.2
This Time It's Personal...

And one day I promise to learn about gauge, correct needle size and choosing the right yarn for the job!

P.S. I have to apologise about the fonts - sizing and type - for some reason Blogger is toying with my sense of aesthetics...

Mair Bloag Weejits

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Heh! I'm so funny!

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