Sunday, 27 December 2009

Parrworld

Mr Gingerknits and I are both fans of photographer Martin Parr so we took the opportunity to break the Christmas eating too much and watching too much telly tradition to visit the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead to see his latest exhibition.

I was a little underwhelmed by his new Luxury series though there were a few photos which brought a smile to my face, especially the women dressed up for race day in Newcastle, holding cans of Fosters instead of the traditional champers.

However the exhibition on the 3rd floor was a winner. As well as displaying Parr's collection of photography which is an excellent exhibtion in it's own right there is his collection of "ephemera", Parr's term for his eclectic mix of everyday objects capturing world changing events. The blurb on the Baltic website sums it up better than I can so I'll just show you a few things which caught my eye.

Miners Strike plates

There was a lot of miners strike ephemera. These plates struck a chord. They were produced as fundraisers for communities. To me each plate represents a community ruined by Thatcherism.

Nazi Christmas Tree Decorations

Even more chilling were these Nazi Christmas tree decorations. Imagine hanging little books of Hitler on your 3rd Reich tree.

Baltic Gallery, Gateshead

One a more cheery note the soviet space exploration ephemera was a joy to behold. When I was a kid I was a space geek and would learn facts such as Laika was the first mammal in space as seen on the commemorative plate below and how Yuri Gagarin, a cosmonaut was the first human in space.

IMG_5320

I'm a hoarder, a clutterer, a collector. In an age where minimalism, blandness and uniformity are celebrated Parr makes me feel so much better about my love of kitsch, items for amusement and decorations in general. While I'm all for sustainability and using less there's something to be said for items that brighten your day. I was very restrained in the museum shop but did invest in some Parr ephemera. The badge will live on my Beijing Olympics bag and the chocolate bar will form my collection of art exhibition chocolate bars. That is, my collection, ahem, ephemera of one.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day

After the sedentary nature of yesterday my mum, Mr Gingerknits and I went for a walk down to Easby Abbey, one of my favourite walks in Richmond. It follows the edge of the river Swale, past fields to the 12th century Easby Abbey and the older St Agatha's church. If you're ever in the area try and visit the church as it has some medival fresco paintings which are well worth a look.

On the way we spotted Aberdeen Angus cows...

Christmas 2009.

hissing geese...

Christmas 2009.

and Easby Abby covered in snow.

Christmas 2009.

The walk gave me an opportunity to take a better photo of the Roses Red Beret I made for my mum last year.

Christmas 2009.

On the way home we spotted this Knitivity scene in someone's window...

Christmas 2009.

...and some house bling.

Christmas 2009.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Highlights

The field next to my parent's house looking a little different to yesterday...

Christmas 2009.

...listening to a Christmas service on the radio while in the shower and singing along with the carols...

...a delicious Christmas dinner with an international guest as well as friends and family...

Christmas 2009.

...walking our friend home in the snow

Christmas 2009.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope your day was as lovely as ours.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

In the bleak mid-winter....

We're staying at my parent's home in Richmond, North Yorkshire for the festive period. I've seen snow here before but never over Christmas. We're sleeping in the summer house in the garden as my MIL is in our usual room. I've been using my flip flop & hand-knit tabi sock combo to pad from the summer house to the bungalow but woke up to fresh snowfall this morning which was too deep for bare foot/sock bravery. Luckily my Dad appeared in the garden, shovel in hand, to clear the way and my mum brought us coffee. I'm easily pleased.

Christmas 2009.

Later in the day we went for a tramp round the field next to my parents estate (housing estate, not country manor). It was so pretty in a bleak mid-winter way.

Christmas 2009.

Yesterday I wore normal, shop bought cotton socks for the first time in ages. It was also the first time I had cold feet since I've been wearing hand-knit socks all the time. I'm back in the hand-knits now and intend to stay that way til March.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Festiveness

Yesterday was a gift wrapping day. I finished the socks I'd been making for our friends daughter on the way home from Thailand so just had to weave the ends in. They're knit with the beetroot yarn I made in the summer using my favourite toe up sock formula from the Evil Sock Genius.

B's socks

The girl I've made them for knows about them as I made the first sock with her foot in it, so to speak, so I wrapped them to look like socks.

Can you guess what it is?

I also put the finishing touches to the chutney I made last month. My usual deocrative technique is to write on the jar in a gold or silver pen however the label glue was impossible to shift so I came up with a folksy festive alternative.

Chutney

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Pickled pears

My mum mentioned the Georgian Theatre in Richmond, Yorkshire, where my parents volunteer, was going to be on the Hairy Bikers Christmas Special. I was still jetlagged when the programme was on so I was dozing on the sofa when the theatre was shown, however hearing the word pickle roused me from my slumber and these pickled pears made my mouth water.



They are very easy and quick to make. I didn't have any allspice berries so I added some ginger instead and also threw in a handful of fresh cranberries and walnuts to the mix for a festive flavour. I didn't have any lemons either so used a mix of orange and lime peel.

Pickled pears

The poaching liquor smelled so good I had to stop myself dipping a spoon in and it's a good job I made these before going to my parents for Christmas as I wouldn't be able to leave the pears for the minimum pickling period of a week. I can't wait to sample them with a good English cheese when I get back from Yorkshire.

Monday, 21 December 2009

4 lost phones, 1 happy friend

Our friend Emma has lost her i-phone four times. She asked me to knit her a bag which she could wear on drunken nights out which she could keep her keys, credit cards and most importantly her i-phone in.



I knit this on the diagonal, in the round alternating banana fibre (similar to sari silk but smells of rainforests) and cascade 220, then felted it to make a firmer fabric.



The cascade 220 bled like mad when I felted it. I wasn't impressed by a commercial yarn leeching so much colour. Luckily I have an old towel I use for felting but if I'd made a garment from it and then happened to get caught in the rain I would not be a happy bunny.

Despite that Emma loved her bag. There's something very satisfying about giving handknits in person. Emma didn't stop grinning and wore the bag for the rest of the evening. She's now convinced she won't lose another i-phone but I have told her if she loses the bag I'll knit her another one.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sweet and sour

It's festive and it's brass monkeys outside so I was in a baking mood today. I love fresh cranberries at Christmas time so made these biscuits from this recipe. It worked well with fresh cranberries instead of dried producing a tangy yet sweet treat. They didn't last long.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Power cut


We've had a power cut for the last 30 hours. No heating, no electric lights, no internet, no TV, no cooking, no kettle just as temperatures outside dropped below zero and my mother in law arrived for Christmas. One of the advantages of living where we do is there are coffee shops and restaurants just minutes away though I took advantage of the power cut and hibernated on Friday night which seemed to get rid of my jet lag. Another advantage was we had candles everywhere, this one in the bathroom casting a pretty shadow.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Fish and pineapples

Our wee Christmas tree looks much the same as it did last year though we've decorated our houseplant with some tinsel we found in Thailand.

What represents the mid winter festival better than some splashing fish....

Thai tinsel

and pineapples.

Thai tinsel

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Another critter from twitter

I've just renewed my Natural History Museum membership as it's one of my favourite places in London. A few weeks ago we went to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. I dabble in wildlife photography and fantasise about having one of my pictures in exhibition. That fantasy is soon brought back to reality when I look at the superb entries in the show. It's worth a visit if you are in London. If not follow the NHM on twitter. Throughout December they are tweeting a link to a fantastic image every day. I love this one of a springtail on a snowflake.


Photo by Urmas Tartes Springtail on a snowflake via Natural History Museum

I must dig out my SLR and macro lens then maybe one day I'll join the hallowed ranks of photographers with the perfect decisive moment.

Mew or Rarrr from Laurie Pink

A few weeks ago I entered one of those random competitions which pop up on twitter. All I had to do was tweet "Rarrr" or "Mew" to win a dinosaur or kitten badge. Tweet I did, then forgot about it. Turns out I was one of the lucky winners so this arrived through the post from the lovely @lauriepink. The cute kitten badge was the main prize but the undercover chicken makes me chuckle. So thank you Laurie and keep up the good work.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Knitamorphosis

Remember the blood bath? Well that turned into this...



and this...



which then then knitted up...



into these for my best friend's birthday present.



The pattern is a p/hop pattern, the popular Cranford Mitts by Jane Lithgow. They are a pleasure to knit, the lace pattern is easy to memorise and the increases for the thumb merge seamlessly into the design. I made a few small modifications, I knit the mitts all in one colour, used a 2mm needle for the garter stitch around the fingers and knit a couple of extra rounds for the thumbs.

I'm currently working on a pair for myself, more on that later, but these were given the thumbs up by Louise who refused to take them off in the pub. Cheers. Happy birthday Lou and Happy Birthday p/hop.



PS The yarn is 4ply Bluefaced Leicester, I used about 36grams for the mittens.

100 days

I've just signed up for the 100 days project.

I thought of many positive things I could take up for 100 days, from the obvious exercise more and drink more water to things I've been longing to take up again but somehow haven't managed yet, things like drawing or learning to play the guitar. I know I wouldn't manage to keep one thing up for 100 days, I just don't work that way, but it did make me think about why I don't always achieve the things I dream about.

I'm a terrible procrastinator, so much so that I only signed up for the 100 days projects with 5min to go of the first day. My goal is to procrastinate less and therefore achieve more. This covers all sorts of things I want to do.

I like the idea of positive change, I'm looking on this as a secular equivalent to lent. I find the idea of giving things up depressing so the 100 days project is so much better than the miserable "I'm not eating x,y or z for 40 days". I prefer to replace bad things with good and try the unexplored.

So what will I try?

I will try to:

Draw more, even if it's just a quick doodle. I used to draw all the time when I was a kid, right the way through university. I stopped when I started work, I'm not really sure why but I've found it hard to get going again. I've bought several art books and I visit galleries all the time but by the time I get home I fail to get my sketch pad and pencil out. Actually they are out but my man pinches my pencils for his sudoku (he likes a 4B) and I use the paper for other things. This will change (though my man can still use my pencils).

Get boring paperwork out of the way rather than leaving it for weeks and months irritating me. Nuff said.

Strum my guitar and maybe learn a few more chords.

Learn a few phrases in a foreign language each week. I can speak French, Spanish and German badly. I'd like to improve in all three.

One of my ultimate goals is to finish writing a knitting pattern. My brain is full of ideas, my needles are overflowing with various projects but I get halfway through writing them down and my mind wanders and I get bored. I need to just knuckle down and finish one. There's also a fear of putting my work out there in public. While knitters are usually kind and friendly some aren't afraid to say exactly what they think in non-constructive ways. I know designers find this hard to deal with so I shouldn't be surprised that this puts me off. I'm going to have to lump it.

I am exercising more, I just need to stick at it and be patient with my healing leg.

I eat well already but I think I eat just a bit too much. I'm gong to watch my intake a bit more and see if that will help shift the extra weight I've gained this year.

I would add be tidier but I've been trying that for years, it's not going to happen.

Seeing how badly my blog every day project went I'm not expecting huge changes, just a few small ones, which is enough for me.

PS, I forgot to add, blog more. Durrr.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Blood bath

I did some dyeing today. I'm naturally drawn to reds, although I was aiming for a more burgundy shade the final rinse in the bath looked like a scene from Sweeny Todd.



This is the first time I've dyed non-superwash wool, it certainly doesn't take dye up as well. I need to do some reading up on this as the paler shades are OK but I prefer bright colours. I'll see how it looks in the morning. Let's hope I don't have nightmares.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Remedies

I've had a horrible cold this week which has turned into a chest infection. While I'm taking all my usual asthma medication I'm also trying to listen to my body and work out what else I need.

I haven't got much of an appetite which isn't like me but I do have a craving for hot drinks and soup. I decided to make a massive batch of vegetable broth and used Grow Your Own drugs by James Wong as inspiration. He had a TV series on BBC2 earlier this year combining horticulture, pharmacology and ethnobotany which I found interesting from both a gardening and science point of view. There's a recipe for Chinese chicken soup in the book which I adapted for my vegetarian needs.

Here's my recipe:

Fry two loosely chopped onions in rapeseed oil for a couple of minutes in a big saucepan. Add 8 cloves (yes, EIGHT!!!) of crushed garlic, 2 inches of grated ginger and 1 chopped medium heat chili. Fry on a low heat til the onions start to soften but not brown. Add loads of chopped veg (carrots, spuds, squash, celery, whatever you have in) stirring regularly . After about 10 min add water til the pan is almost full. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 1 hour.



I've used the broth as the basis for my meals this week, reheating small amounts and adding different flavours and veg protein to vary the flavours. Eg I added veggie hot dogs and mustard for a Germanic soup, fried tofu & mange tout, lemongrass, lime, coconut and soy sauce for a far eastern flavour, and curried chickpeas for, yes you've guessed it, curry. It's really cut down on cooking time but helped with eating well. Despite still feeling a bit groggy I feel quite healthy too, if that makes any sense.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Monster Monster

A few weekends ago I went to visit my best friend from school and her seven year old daughter, B. They've been having a rotten time this year so I made B an early Christmas present of a big box of crafty goodies. The box had this book which is very cute and full of clear instructions on how to knit, embroider, sew, make pom poms and lots of other fun little projects which dress the doll on the front. I put in kids size knitting needles, pieces of felt, buttons, ribbons, small balls of wool and lots of little bits and pieces from my stash.



The box was a success and B immediately started drawing a monster on a piece of felt. With a bit of direction from me she cut him out, we then made a backing from another piece of felt, chose buttons for the eyes and colours for the mouth and hair. I did the sewing (basic running stitch) and B helped with the stuffing.

Voila, one monster, done and dusted in under two hours.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

How many days til Christmas?

I was clearing out my freezer (exciting I know) when I found some cranberries I'd frozen last year. We've got a glut of apples at the moment so after a quick search on the internet I found this recipe for Apple and Cranberry Chutney. It's very easy to make and isn't overly sweet as the tartness of the cranberries takes the edge of the apples.



That's one set of Christmas presents done. Now, back to the knitting...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Pennies per Hours Of Pleasure = p/hop

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging here much is because I've been blogging here.

Last month I started volunteering for Médecins Sans Frontière (Doctors without Borders), coordinating their knitting fund-raising wing, p/hop. It's a simple but effective idea. Knitting designers donate patterns to MSF, knitters download them and give a donation to MSF based on how many hours pleasure they think they will get from knitting their p/hop pattern.

Medecins Sans Frontieres


You can read all about it on the p/hop website. At the end of the month p/hop are having a blog-a-long to celebrate p/hops first birthday. Keep an eye on the p/hop website for how you can join in. Be good to see you there.

Oh, if you visit the blog you can see my first ever video on the interweb. Woo hoo.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

NaNoWhoWaHa?

I've just been reading my friend Natalie's blog over at The Yarn Yard. Apparently November is NaBloPoMo - National Blog Post Month. Seeing as I've become rather slack at blogging over the last few weeks I think I'll take up the challenge and try to write a post every day. I'm the sort of person who is motivated by last minute deadlines rather than steady consistency so I imagine I'll be bashing out blog posts at ten to midnight every evening.

Part of the reason my blog has been neglected is I've been busier than usual. I've got loads to write about so watch this space for some retrospective blogging in a RetroNaBloPoMo.

As for the other NaNoBlahBlah things going on this month, there's NaKniSweMo. National Knit a Sweater Month. Well I knitted a sweater in ten days in October and I'm not doing that again, unless I'm knitting for myself. As Natalie pointed out, November is the month for preparing for Christmas. I can't see my family being to pleased on Christmas day when I open up a parcel for me, made by me while everyone else has nothing.

It's also NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, in which people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Seeing as I struggle to write on here frequently I think I'll give that one a miss.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

In My Craft or Sullen Art

The Poetry Society's knitted poem has been unveiled as part of National Poetry day.

Photo via the Poetry Society.

I've only seen photos of it but it's very impressive. There are more pictures on the Poetry Society website where you can read the poem by Dylan Thomas in full as well as many other great pieces. When I read Dylan Thomas it's always with Richard Burton's voice in my head, I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Lovely jubbly arty farty

Today was one of those lovely feel good days. A fellow Raveler, TheKnittingNurse, contacted me a few weeks ago as she was running out of a certain yarn for her sock project and through the magic of Ravely asked me if she could buy the leftover yarn I had in my stash. After some dithering I decided I wouldn't use the yarn up and giving it away would help reduce the size of my ridiculous stash. I'd met her briefly at a knitting event last year and we decided to meet for lunch. We went to an excellent Thai restaurant in Pimlico (I think it's called the Thai Cafe and is on the corner of Tachbrook Street and Charlwood Street, the food was excellent and good value for money) and got on very well.

We share quite a few interests, as well as knitting and it's always good to find new friends. I didn't want any money for the yarn as it really wasn't worth much so she's going to make a donation to p/hop, the knitting-fund-raising arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres UK. There will be more news on why this made me happy next week....?

After lunch I went to Tate Britain to catch up on the latest exhibitions. Turner is one of my favourite artists so I was looking forward to the Turner and the Masters exhibition. It was excellent although crowded with SAGA groups and sixth form college art classes so I whizzed round, having seen most of the Turners in the Tate or National Gallery several times.

I did take some time to breath in the majesty of his light work, his skies just blow me away. I hadn't realised how competitive he'd been and the exhibition showed how he tried to out do, successfully on most occasions, other prominent artists of his day. If Harry Hill saw the exhibition he would say "but who is better? Tuner or the Masters? There's only one way to find out......FIIIIIIIIIGHT!" This is how the exhibition works, Turners are hung next to the masterpiece he was trying to outdo so you, the viewer, can decide which piece you prefer.It's well worth a visit and gives a good insight into how his style developed. I'll definitely visit again, hopefully at a quieter time.

The ever controversial Turner Prize is also on at the moment and is much better than last years. All four contenders had something going for them. Enrico David's pieces have a surreal quality which is reminiscent of The Mighty Boosh.



Roger Hiorns work was interesting, reducing things to a final form, such as a jet engine reduced to dust which was spread out on the floor resembling a lunar landscape. Some of his sculptures included brain matter, which is very Turner prize. Think of that what you will.

Richard Wright produced what is in effect, beautiful wallpaper. I was drawn in by this piece, it's Blake like intricacy sucking you in so different forms appear on the wall.

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images in Times Online

I think Lucy Skaer was my favourite artist although it was a close call between her and Richard Wright. I admired the deceptive simplicty of her work and the way she draws on natural sources. What will the judges think? Who knows, go and decide for yourself if you are in London or look the entries online. Let me know what you think, I'm not a professional art critic, nor do I play one on TV, I just like art.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Knitted poem on the radio

The knitted poem I wrote about a few days ago was talked about on BBC Radio Four's Poetry Please. If you're in the UK you can listen here, the item is 21 minutes in. You can hear fingersandtoes but she sounds like she's in disguise.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Knit a Poem

As part of The Poetry Society's centenary celebration a knitted poem is being made with knitters from all over the world contributing squares. My friend fingersandtoes is co-ordinating the sewing up, which is a mammoth task so I went along to the Poetry Society Studio and Cafe in Covent Garden to help out with the seaming.

If you're visiting Covent Garden it's worth popping in to the society's convivial cafe on Betterton Street as the food is excellent. I enjoyed a delicious bean burger wrap with teriyaki sauce.

I'd seen part of the poem at the IKnit Weekender however seeing the almost finished lines of the poem was exciting. Even more lovely was reading the names and comments from the global knitting community on the back of the squares, especially when they had mentioned their favourite poems.



The identity of the chosen poem is a secret so watch out for news on it's unveiling as it will look impressive.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Brunch with a side serving of Korean Art

On Sunday one of our good friends was visiting from Edinburgh so we met up with our mutual friends at the Saatchi Gallery for brunch. How very West London dahling.

While the food at Gallery Mess was very good the portions were tiny and overpriced for what it was. Mind you I think we were paying for the location in the old Duke of York barracks which is a lovely space and gives the Gallery cafe it's canny name.

After a good chinwag we strolled around the gallery space. I must admit not much took my fancy and we had more fun in the gallery shop, finding gifts for my friend to take back for her kids. However, my other half had been more adventurous and discovered art more to our taste on the top floor.



These paintings by Bart Exposito caught my eye, especially after seeing Debbie New's knitted masterpieces. I liked the smooth lines which were reminiscent of American bowling lanes and 1970's designs. The middle one is my fave as it looks like an owl, on it's side. I could see how these sort of shapes could be knitted, although I'm not sure what I'd do with them one I'd made them. We'll see.

There was a smaller exhibition dedicated to Korean artists which was a joy. Well, I say joy, some of the pieces were disturbing, such as this samurai sword which on closer inspection revealed the hilt was made from contorted naked bodies.





The folded t-shirts thought provoking once I realised which countries they represented (USA and North Korea) and this traditional painting made of toy bricks had an acrid quality from the colours of the bricks used.





It wasn't all dark art. The squashed and stretched figures were fun, especially watching other people's reaction to them, the big head which I'm calling sperm head, put a smile on my face

as did this cheery red screen.




My favourite piece was an animated traditional screen which was illustrated with images of nature which would be still then briefly flit around before settling somewhere else on the screen, just like real wildlife does. I spent a while watching it and would have bought it if it didn't cost £70'000. I'll just look out of my window instead.