Sunday, 28 February 2010

Making content

It seems like the pinny got the vote in my last post, so I just wanted to tell you that you can have one just like that, too.

There is a wonderful tutorial by Jona G, called 'Apron in an Hour', which you can find here. This shows you how to make an apron just like this one, using a fat quarter for the front, and half a yard of fabric for the ties, and the instructions are so clear - step by step with photographs of every stage, so that you just can't go wrong. Even a complete beginner could make one of these pinnies as it is all straight stitching, no curves or gathers, and no pattern pieces to fiddle about with.

The latest one above was made for a special friend whose kitchen is a dream, all red and spotty (in the nicest possible way, of course). She cuts Princess Bunchy's hair for me, as the Princess will not let her mother near her hair with a pair of scissors, ever since the fateful day when said mother decided to give her Princess ringlets and in the process got the styling brush irretrievably stuck in the Princess's hair, just below her left ear. In most households it is small children who give themselves lopsided haircuts when their mothers aren't looking - unfortunately it seems that in Pomona's cottage the parent was the guilty party, and the daughter was the one who had the grace to accept an impromptu haircut, or perhaps surgical operation would be a more appropriate term, in order to remove a hairbrush. She accepted the situation with a brave and stoic mien, but ever since has exhibited a certain wariness on glimpsing a pair of scissors in my hands.

I normally cut my own hair (I can tell, I hear you say, sniggering) but on professional inspection yesterday it seems that I had actually managed to get the front snipping quite symmetrical. I will pass over the fact that the Head Chef's attempts with the scissors on the back were perhaps not quite so level, which accounts for the fact that I am always left with one section shorter than the rest when I plait it. But it could be the fact that we use wrapping paper scissors for hair - dressmaking ones being far too precious. But now you will be pleased to know any little amateurish inconsistencies have been evened out by a more expert pair of hands.

But enough of such vanities, and on to the important things like fabric and yarn, and crafting for twenty minutes a day. I have much to thank Marmalade Rose for - I have only missed out on my crafting on two rather wobbly days, and it is the making and creating that has kept me on the smiley side of sanity this winter.

Meet Me at Mike's has had a granny square initiative, and I did spend a whole evening trying to teach myself to crochet - I did think I had mastered the hook at eleven at night, but by the next morning I seemed to have forgotten it all again. So I think I will have to revisit the art of crochet at a later, lighter, and calmer date.

But back to the nitty gritty of fabric - for the red spotty apron I used some Tanya Whelan fabric - Rosie Dot and Ticking in red, from Gone to Earth. The first pinny I made (the one at the top) was in Heather Bailey's Pop Garden Rose Bouquet in yellow from Saints and Pinners, together with her Bijoux Tiled Primrose in turquoise, also from Gone to Earth.

But you don't have to buy fabric specially - I made one of these aprons for the Seaside Landlady (I think all seaside landladies must be in possession of a pinny, and possibly a headscarf and curlers to match), with a fat quarter from my stash - Kaffe Fassett, I think - and I used an old pillowcase from a charity shop for the ties and trim. Just open out all the seams and you will have plenty of fabric for nice long ties, but remember to avoid any worn parts in your quest for serviceability.

But it hasn't all been aprons round here - I have also finished what my dear mamma termed 'odd socks', although she did afterwards tell me that she was referring to the randomness of colour, rather than any inherent peculiarity of the knitting. These were knitted using one skein of Colinette Jitterbug in Popsicle, and in order to demonstrate to you the stress I was under whilst completing the second of the pair, here is all the yarn I had left.

It was touch and go, I can tell you, much anxious weighing of the ball and much pessimism on my part as to whether I would get to the toe without having recourse to a makeweight in another shade and brand of yarn entirely. The Head Chef was most amused.

But all's well that ends well, and they really aren't odd socks, and I do have enough left for darning. I used 2.5mm DPNS and the 8 stitches per inch pattern from Ann Budd's sock book in the adult small size which comfortably fits my size 5/38 feet. So if you want to knit anything bigger, I suggest buying more than one skein of Jitterbug - it will be much gentler on your blood pressure. This yarn does make lovely soft and cosy socks, so I would really recommend it.

However, do be warned, once you start wearing hand-knitted socks, it completely ruins you for anything else;  it is a sort of cashmere cardigan effect - once experienced, nothing else quite lives up to it.

Now just one last word to say thank you for all of those kind comments after my last sad little post, I do appreciate them. It was a bit of a wobbly time, but we are steadying ourselves day by day.

And although I do miss my little Black Dog, I have also had quite a few blessings to count this week. My computer is back from the hospital, and absence has indeed made my heart grow fonder, and did you know that you can get portable hard drives in CK red?

Mr Dyson was able to repair the vacuum cleaner, in spite of the fact that it seemed to me that more bits were broken than working. It is obviously all a matter of perception.

And it is raining so hard here that the Head Chef has been impelled to tidy the shed, not to mention his current love affair with Danish oil means that our worktops are positively beaming.

Also, even better, dearest Nina of Tabiboo has sent me the loveliest little dog from Scotland - it is the present that I would have chosen for myself, and has brightened up my week so much. Perhaps it might assuage my desire for a square-faced puppy. 

In the face of such a wonderful present, I also feel quite fortified in advance of my birthday, well able to cope with whatever the Head Chef and Princess Bunchy have decided that I need in my life, and the fact that the Ploughboy will probably still forget, in spite of electronic reminders from his fearsomely-organized brother. I found two hot water bottles in my Amazon basket last week - and I am not sure if they are a red herring, or the consequence of constantly complaining about the cold.

I have also been reading Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, on the recommendation of Karen at Sew and Sow Life, a book which is also most wonderfully fortifying, and should be part of the National Curriculum. But thereby hangs a world more tales, and I think that better be it for today - I am being beckoned by some pyjamas which need darning and the biggest ball of candy-pink yarn that I have ever seen. The rain it raineth, but I am for the fireside. Have a good day!

Friday, 12 February 2010

A winter's tale

The whirligig of time has marched on so fast and furious that I suddenly realized it is three weeks since I last wrote a blog post. It has been a time of change for us all, of arrivals and departures, comings and goings, and one of the partings has been more sorrowful than sweet.

It seems to have been a long, cold winter and certainly not over and gone yet: unlike Nina at Tabiboo with her wonderful pictures of a snowy wonderland, I did not welcome the icy flurries of the past few days.

But moving swiftly on to the positive things in life, I have been the recipient of some jolly little awards and tags from the wonderful community of bloggers. I have received the Sunshine Blog Award from Simply H which is very kind, but as I look out of my window seems curiously inapt! But thank you for the compliment, anyway, and I will try to cast off an Eeyorish turn of mind and live up to the accolade.

And the Duchess of Tea has dubbed me and a quantity of others 'The Most Regal Blog'. I always fancied a tiara, but I fear that the moment has passed, and feel that a headscarf knotted under the chin is as regal as I will get. In fact, on considering this point, and in view of the layers of knitwear and shawls I sport in such chilly weather, the effect would be more babushka than aristocratic if I adopted such headwear, so perhaps not.

Suzie at Itch2Stitch has asked me to list ten things that I enjoy which are free, as has Tia at Whoatemycrayons. Well, once upon a time, long ago and far away, I purported to be studying economics, and as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

I found much of economic theory sadly mystifying at the time, and in spite of studying at a most august institution I resorted to a little mustard yellow book called Teach Yourself Economics. It was part of the most enormous series which promised to teach you absolutely anything, and in my early teens I rather ambitiously embarked on Spanish. Unsurprisingly I did not get very far into the book, or even to Spain to practise, but economics was a greater success, and I even passed my exams with the help of that little book. I think the title 'Teach Yourself' was a sign of a more positive and aspirant age - a relic from nineteenth-century ideals of self-help and self improvement - you can teach yourself anything, if only you try hard enough and get to the end of the book.

Whereas now, sadly now the books are for dummies, so why bother, really, the message seems to be that you are the sort who are pretty useless, anyway - a message which is rather dispiriting even before you start.  I looked at Crochet for Dummies recently, and came away feeling that crochet was definitely all too much for a dummy like me. But back to economics ... unfortunately human beings have a tendency to regard all things as free that do not involve the handover of cash at the point of consumption, which habit has led us to regard the earth's resources as 'free' goods, and consume and destroy them without thought for the future.

So in my pernickety little way I struggled to think of things that are free (and if that is not a warning not to study economics, I don't know what is) because if I sit joyfully making things from my yarn and fabric stash, there is a historic cost. They cost me money once, which I should still have if I hadn't fallen for the siren calls of the haberdashery fairy. And if I sit and stitch there is an opportunity cost - I could perhaps be using my time to earn money instead, or make an alternative use of my materials to do the same. If I keep hens, there might be a social cost if the neighbours object to the dawn chorus, or feel that I am lowering the tone of the neighbourhood. And then there are the externalities ... I feel quite ruined at the thought.

So I shall just tell you about some of the nice things that I have been doing, and skate over the less nice, and abandon the economic analysis. For a start, if you need cheering up, have some ploughboys to stay, as we did last weekend.

Four merry men all in green, taking such pleasure in nature red in tooth and claw, so at home in mud, and who minds that driving your mother's car off road leads to punctures when there is a brave new world of tractor specs to explore?

Spend some time with pigs - they love nothing better than rootling up the green and growing, and their squeals of delight at a trough full of brown nuggets of nutrition surpass the ecstasy of the most sophisticated gourmet. A pig is always pleased to see you if you bring a bucket.

Chickens like people with buckets, too, and a bit of fresh grass, and will reward you most handsomely for the smallest of efforts on their behalf. They don't complain that they don't like the supper you offer so humbly, and will eat the same things every day of the week with relish. How unlike our own dear home life!

And when the fever and fret of existence threaten to overcome you, sit down with your needle and make a stitch or two. Preserve something of yourself in the material world when mutability seems set to overwhelm, and create something that will last longer than the day. One of my little pleasures which doesn't seem too costly (she coughed quietly and asked forgiveness from above) is my daily stitching for twenty minutes or so. And revel in the opportunities for congratulation and exclamations of wonderment from your nearest and dearest.

So thank you one and all for your kind messages querying my absence - it is so nice to be missed. And I am not sure how soon before the Muse will grab me by the throat again - I suspect today that it is not so much the impelling presence of the Muse, more the impending deadline and the prospect of rewriting  something which is sadly far less interesting than blog posts. No pictures, either.

And having hoovered the house with a vacuum cleaner which has mysteriously lost its inhalant power, inadvertently knocked over the compost bin enabling it to regurgitate its sopping and miscellaneous contents over the kitchen floor (well, in the nineteenth century they spread old tea leaves all over the floor as part of the cleaning process), and accidentally hurled my quite new backup drive onto the floor as well (no, they do not survive being launched onto the floor, unfortunately, neither do the documents contained therein), there was nothing for it but to terminate my increasingly tortured relationship with said floor, and sit on a chair in front of the computer.

I will now leave you to enjoy your fast approaching weekend, and endeavour to find my own joy in the vicissitudes of the mundane. I thought that the Year of the Tiger would be a good one for me, but I am not so sure - we seem to have got off to a bit of sticky start (literally and metaphorically) in terms of my interactions with inanimate objects. Like greasy Joan, I am now off to keel the pots - safer than getting down on my knees to scrub the floor, and the list of displacement activities is rapidly diminishing in proportion to the time left before my deadline. Have fun!


Related Posts with Thumbnails