Category Archives: Why? Just why?

Oh, not again!

Why do things happen in clumps? I mean, when one thing happens – say someone reversing into your car – why is it then followed by other things? And why do these things happen when you’re already busy?

(Warning: there is no, or very little, actual knitting content in this post. There aren’t even any sheep. Because when other things were going pear-shaped, at least the knitting held up. And nobody actually reveresed into my car. I reversed it into a fence post getting out of the way of a caravan – it’s December, people, FFS – but it was slow and nothing was damaged.)

All in all, I needed a bit of refreshment. So, dealing with Disaster 3, I decided to take the back way to the big city – that would be Bangor – and get a bit of a reminder that there were good things too.

Gwynant

This is Nant Gwynant, and it is so beautiful…

So, Thing 1. Just before work, I went into the bathroom. The sink was full of glass, broken glass. First thought? I’d broken a tooth glass. Second thought? I do not have a tooth glass.

Looked up. Inner layer of Velux window had failed.

Spend ages putting cardboard up so more glass does not descend, place hoover across door so don’t forget about glass, go to work. Come back, replace cardboard which has fallen down, hoover glass. Repeat three hours later. Repeat next morning, before ringing home insurance. Apparently there was a product recall for these windows manufactured at a certain time. Ring Velux. My window is one. Will be replaced. Fast forward a few days, man from Velux appears. Replaces bathroom window. Checks massive double Velux in kitchen roof – and they need doing too. It’s about 4 metres up, but he’s prepared though a little surprised. (I am trying to work, meanwhile, and there is some, er, disruption.)

Time for pretty pic.

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OK, Thing 2. Have heating engineer here trying to work out why one rad has stopped working. This is going smoothly, even though it involves a hosepipe through the front door and black gunk in the garden, when my MacBook Pro decides to have a kernel panic.

This is my first. Run around room shouting ‘someone’s taken over my computer!!!’ until I stop and see the giveaway screen box on top of the chaos. Restart MBP. All seems well, but am not fooling self – really need extra memory. Unfortunately I am the Queen of Static so this will need doing by someone who does not rule the electric realm. Think a female version of Thor, but without the cloak and the muscles. And the facial hair. Hammer, mind, I could do with a (}#%$!! hammer. Now.

Another calming shot.

Llanberis Pass

Thing 3: Sodding washing machine decides to have its annual near-Christmas collapse. I know how it feels, but I do not stop in mid cycle with a load of ringing wet bedding inside, with all my lights flashing, making a terrible noise, and then refuse to give up my prize of a partly washed duvet, sheet, and pillowcases to their rightful owner. However at least it did not do it on Boxing Day this year, and I did find a hammer and released my washing through the exercise of physical violence.

And this is why I found myself driving around the base of Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon, avoiding a strolling family of wild goats, even though I suspected I would actually get my new machine from my lovely local retailer. As I have. It arrives tomorrow.

Snowdon

And the craft fair went fine, thanks. But my takings are going on a new washing machine. Oh yes, and on top of all that I developed a lung infection that I thought was just my usual winter athsma until it was a bit late, so I’ve been on heavy-duty antibiotics. I have now finished the course so I can hit the GIN, and boy do I need the €$^#{\!!! gin.

Oh Rowan, Rowan, wherefore art thou Rowan?

I help in a wool shop on Saturday afternoons, and when I turned up a couple of weeks ago I found my friend, the owner, in a state of shock. She’d just had an email from her Rowan rep with some devastating news: about 70% of the range was going. Either entire yarn ranges were being discontinued, or great swathes of colours were disappearing in many of those that were staying.

Rowan mill offices

This is not, perhaps, unexpected when you know that they’ve recently been taken over and perhaps it’s also not unexpected because there’s a certain feeling that they’ve taken their foot off the pedal a bit in recent years (perhaps rather like Colinette). But I’ve got one thing in Rowan yarn on the needles at the mo, and it made me think.

I’ve a bit of a love-hate relationship with Rowan. I’ve been to workshops Rowan have organised both at retailers and at the mill (above), and they’ve varied between extremely good and somewhat disappointing. Mind you, they were always interesting, if not always for the tutor, then for the other participants among whom I recognised some people who could only be described as Rowan groupies (I once heretically mentioned Noro, hsssssss…).

The same applies to the yarns, in my opinion. When they’re good, they’re very very good,

Cotton glace

like Cotton Glace (staying, but with colours reduced as far as I can recall), but when they are a bit gimmicky they can be horrid (and I’m not naming names, because this is just my opinion and just because X sheds or Y knits up like shite for me doesn’t mean they’ll misbehave for everyone). And they’re not cheap, either, though – generally – you do get good yardage for your money. But some are just exquisite: Lima, for instance, that delicious blend of baby alpaca and merino with a bit of nylon for strength. That’s going. So I bought three balls and am currently knitting it up into a shawl.

I think I know what’s happening. Of course I may be completely wrong or partly right, but with my business-management-before-being-a-full-time-freelance-hack head on – and I still write in the business area now – I think it’s a case of newbroomitis. New owner, complete overhaul.

Rowan mags

(The Rowan mag is changing, too. From this summer’s issue – the one already out – it’s going down to two stories, not three. Just as well I’ve got a stash of old ones, and am quite happy substituting yarns.)

As I said, Rowan had, I feel, lost its way a bit, with loads of novelty or seasonal yarns, however lovely – Panama, Cotton Lustre, both going. I had a slight feeling that they’d taken their corporate eyes off the ball somewhat. Oh, sorry about the creeping metaphors. I did say I’ve been working on business books, didn’t I?

Ahem. Back to Rowan, though I could run a few ideas up the pole and see who salutes them. Or, to borrow from the winner of Fast Company‘s most objectionable use of jargon in 2015 competition, ‘open the kimono’. Stop it. Now.

Anyway, I suspect that this meant heavy stockholding, and that where economic – i.e. wherever the stock was high but not so high that it absolutely must be kept on and pushed – there just had to be some culling. And I also think that some yarns, while worth keeping, had probably reached such a low stockholding that the expensive option of spinning more meant that, economically, they weren’t worth keeping on the list (possibly British Sheep Breeds – which seems counter-intuitive, given the rise in yarns with distinct provenance). And I also suspect that a lot of this has more to do with the American market than anything else.

But I’ll mourn some which will be no more (the Felted range, Pure Linen), and be relieved that others (Felted Tweed, Kid Classic – below) are staying. Above all, though, I’ll mourn the colour changes. It looks – and I’ve been through the catalogues, looking at the colours which are vanishing – as though the choices are becoming somewhat predictable. Not what Rowan is known for, at all.

Kid classic

And my friend with the wool shop? Well, she’s already expanding her range of British yarns. She’s seeing this as a splendid opportunity to get some lovely new things in (hello, West Yorkshire Spinners, Baa Ram Ewe, Jamiesons)…

 

Earworms and felted bags

I need to apologise for this, but just in case you thought I was getting a bit sensible… and I accept no responsibility for the consequences, by the way.

I clicked onto Facebook yesterday, and a friend of mine who lives inland was lamenting the presence of an earworm – she’d popped out to feed her hens, seen that the Moelwyns were looking spectacularly blue in the early light, and started channelling Laurel and Hardy with a slight adaptation – ‘In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Ffestiniog / in the shade of the lonesome pine…’. All. Day.

I felt (ouch – wait for it) for her, because I’d also been suffering. Only I’d been channelling Gilbert and Sullivan, and I don’t even like Gilbert and Sullivan. And I’d been singing to some cute felted bags I’ve been making for a commission. At least she’d been singing to something animated: her hens.

Think Mikado, OK?

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Three little bags from Wales are we,
Fat as a felted bag can be,
We’re really sweet, not ‘ach a fi’,
Three little bags from Wales…

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Three little bags which slightly vary,
Due to the kemp we are still quite hairy,
Even so, we are soft not scary,
Three little bags from Wales,
Three little bags from Wales…

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There is more, but personally I would like to get through the day without conjuring up visions of dancing bags in Japanese wigs (though it is worth clicking on the YouTube rendition of ‘Three Little Maids’ which involves Lily Savage, who is surprisingly restrained but a good antidote to the cod geishas which populate amateur versions – and some professional ones – of The Mikado).

Oh, and ‘ach a fi’ (‘fi’ is a ‘vee’, not ‘fee’ sound), in case you didn’t know, is a Welsh expression of disgust. Quite.

So. Small bags knitted in a 100% pure wool – Hebridean, in this case, with a stripe in some left-over New Lanark Falklands wool – and felted. Stuffed with newspaper,

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which you can just see here, to give them a nice rounded shape, then dried on a radiator during a brief period (soon to be back) when the heating clicked on. Buttons added, labelled, packaged and delivered, all to the accompaniment of fecking Gilbert and fecking fecking Sullivan. And if WordPress changes ‘fecking’ to ‘decking’ once more I will hunt them down and sing to them.

(I haven’t been this irritated by an earworm since the time slugs drove me to rewrite the national anthem. They did, honest.)

Silence is golden… and my broadband is irritating

Apologies for the lack of activity, but the fact is that since before Easter our broadband has been abominable. Partly this is down to the massive population explosion – all with phones and tablets and laptops and even smart TVs in their caravans – that Snowdonia experiences in any holiday season, and partly this is down to ancient cabling.

I’ve been largely reliant on free broadband in cafés – and pleasant though this may be, it’s not really an environment conducive to peaceful, thoughtful, incisive blogging about sheep. You get comments, apart from anything else. But on Monday the road is being excavated on behalf of BT Broadband for new ducting and ‘improvements’. This is essentially happening because there are some new houses being built, but I’m hoping there’ll be an upside for the rest of us. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, this is me and Rumplestiltskin waiting for a site to load:

Rumpelstiltskin / BTI suppose I could do some housework.

Normal service will be resumed shortly… gobeithio (extremely useful Welsh word, meaning ‘hopefully’). Hopefully.

(And as an indication, it has just taken me nearly an hour to post this, and that’s without searching for the image; I had it in my files. AGH!)

We are allowed to make mistakes…

Oh yes we are. We all are.

I’ve been knitting for AHEM years, and I’ve just managed to produce a cardigan with one front longer than the other, not something I noticed until it had been made up (how is this even possible?). There are the same number of rows, but it’s longer – has to be down to needle size. A combination of me and (principally) my mate Angharad have come up with a classically bodged solution but it’s going to be tricky. Given that I’ve woven in all the ends, done the button bands and even sewn on the buttons.

Oh, and it’s in Noro.

Noro disaster

It’s lovely – when viewed as individual parts. (This is me picking up exactly the same number of stitches on the left side as I had on the right, and yet somehow failing to notice that I really needed to pick up another, oh, 20 or so to make the band match the extra-long piece. This is the stage at which disaster could have been averted, at which I could have reknitted the offending front. But I did not.) And it’s in Noro. You know, Noro. Second mortgage time. A whole garment. In NORO.

That’s the difference between the mistakes I made as a baby knitter and the mistakes I make now. Then, I made mistakes in cheap acrylic and laughed as I threw away the sweater which gave me a third boob, the tank top (?!) which made me look dead, the purple ‘mohair’ sweater which made me look as though I weighed 24 stone when I was borderline anorexic, and the Unlined Skirt We Do Not Mention But Which We Could See Straight Through. Now, I buy 10 balls of Noro Silk Garden Lite and screw them up instead.

It was at roughly this point that I found the ‘for the love of Ravelry‘ forum on Ravelry, and the ‘Your ugliest FO?’ thread (FO: finished object). If, like me, you don’t know about this, do check it out, and specifically select posts with images – but, unlike me, make sure you are not drinking a cup of tea at the time (an iPad is surprisingly resistant to being sprayed with acai and goji berry tea, is all I can say – and do join if you’re not on Rav; it’s free and fab).

There are some things which only the knitter considers hideous, but there are many others which are – um, challenging. There are distorted and psychotic toys, immense sweaters, far too many things in eyelash yarn, shawls which look as though they’ve been knitted in vomit, socks with heels halfway down the foot or halfway up the leg, trapezoidal blankets, a pink glove which one member commented on quite accurately: ‘oh my god, you knitted an udder‘…

You are only allowed to post your own disasters, and I am waiting to see what can be done about the Noro No-No before putting it on. But my Nipple Hat of Innuendo had to be there:

hat disaster

It’s handspun. What possessed me to add a perky little, er, bobble to the top of a red hat, I do not know, but at least I realised and turned it inside pretty quickly. That doesn’t alter the fact that the hat is so big that it’s reached the tip of my nose in this pic, and that’s after being felted twice.

I’m so glad I found that forum thread. It’s so reassuring. And now I must go and add one of my Colinette Catastrophes: the sweater in Tagilatelle which has grown and grown and grown and grown and which would now make a passable tent. Hey ho….

Intermission…. dee deee doo doooo

I’m still distracted. At the moment I have been mostly doing housework. No, I’ve not lost my mind, but my hands are almost behaving so I can do the hoovering, plus the dust is so thick that I can make little dustcastles out of it and I don’t particularly want to turn into Quentin Crisp (‘There is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.’).

This means that I have another splendid opportunity for distraction, and I’ve found some late 1980s French pattern mags again. Hid behind sofa for a while in the realisation that I knitted some things from them. And wore them in public. The saving grace is that I was always really rubbish at intarsia, so I didn’t go down that route…

But it’s really sunny, and I’m feeling the need to cast on, nevertheless:

no

Question: do you think the shoulder pads were knitted as well?

 

Distractions, distractions

I am easily distracted from the path of righteousness, one of making inroads on the stash or doing what I’m supposed to be doing. There’s so much else to do.

Distraction No. 1: the lure of research.

great heap of booksI realised recently how little I knew about the colours of fleece, and decided to look into it. I know I said I’d devote the next few posts to coloured fleece, but I’m still looking into it… That’s because I’ve been diverted down QI-like side alleys, full of eccentricity and wonder and odd bits of information.

Did you, for instance, realise that Alpine sheep bells came in different tones, deep ram bells (redoun) and higher-pitched ones for ewes (sounnaioun) and each flock had a different mix of tones, thus identifying it at a distance? Or that Merino sheep were introduced to Mexico as early as 1540? I just thought of the Conquistadors as bloodthirsty looters and spreaders of smallpox at that time… and, incidentally, they took sheep to Peru for food rather than for wool; that was provided by alpacas and llamas. Then there are some fabulous breed names, like the Barbados Blackbelly. See? Easily distracted. I’ll get back on topic soon, but the memory of the Barbados Blackbelly may take some time to fade (they’re rather odd-looking sheep, with a sort of dangling chest wig). Ahem.

Distraction No. 2: work. Let’s zoom over that one, at speed.

Distraction No. 3: the garden.

Oh boydog-free zone. It’s gone bonkers; it always does at this time of year but it takes me by surprise nonetheless. Everything is burgeoning. Especially weeds, and P’s dog/overgrown puppy who spends a lot of her time here digging parts of it up while looking for the chafer grubs she can hear moving under the grass, and for dahlia tubers she can’t hear do any damn thing, but which she digs up anyway. Grrr. See? Distracting.

Distraction No. 4: food and cooking.

broad beansThis is sort of part of No. 2, in that I often write about food and cooking, and not just on my work-related blog; I’m working on cold soups at the mo, for instance. I get paid for it (eventually), and have just been allowed into the Guild of Food Writers. But I also enjoy cooking enormously, and it’s related to No. 3 right now – in that I have to eat what remains of last year’s produce and empty the freezers before this year’s insanely over-optimistic, somewhat hysterical, let’s admit it, plain-and-simple overproduction kicks in. I like beans but I’ve still got about two kilos left from last year. I’m growing enough spuds for a family of six. I can’t even fit the courgettes in, so they’re going to have to wait in large pots for the garlic to be harvested. Why do I do this?

Distraction No. 5: I am literally ‘woolwinding’ at the moment.

woolwinding

I bought three vast skeins of Hebridean yarn at Wonderwool and am turning them into something a little more manageable. They need washing, after which they will fluff up and – hopefully – stop smelling quite so attractively of machine oil and lanolin, but in order to be washed properly they need to be in something smaller than a minimum-500g skein. I have several potential pieces of kit which should have helped but, entirely due to the bulky vastness of the MegaSkeins, they all proved useless. After several botched experiments and a nasty tangling incident or three, I resorted to the old expedient of two chairs back to back. Happily I have a great Ashford skein winder, thus removing the need to nail anyone to the floor for several days – I can’t do too much at once or my hands give way. At least this distraction is woolly, unlike…

Distraction No. 6: other crafts…

threadsShh. Whisper it low. I’m attracted to saori weaving, but I haven’t done anything about it yet (a rare instance of being sensible?). Instead I started going through all my threads – while sorting out the spare room, aka sewing room – and then my patterns, dumping most of them as being dated and/or crap or both. Then, tipped off by a friend who should know better, I discovered indie pattern designers. Yippee! I’ve just bought Tilly’s Coco dress/top. When am I going to sew this? Hm?

Distractions No. 7–10: walking…

Walking in the woods, in the hills, on the beach and in the woods again, doing a Plantlife wildflower survey. I’m lucky enough to live in Snowdonia, so this is an ever-present temptation. I spent a lot of years in London because of work, and I loved it at the time, but London can’t beat this:

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I mean, dur

It’s not my fault, this easily distracted thing. I’m blaming my parents.

They were avid crossword solvers. My father used to start at 1 across, worry away at it until he’d got it, then move on to the next clue across. My mother would pick off all the words she could get, anywhere on the grid, and only then work out the more problematic clues armed with letters from the words she’d already completed. Dad would then accuse her – she inevitably finished well before he did, despite the fact that they were both very quick – of having a ‘butterfly mind’. I have clearly inherited this tendency. See? Not my fault.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I have the willpower of a maggot.