Sunday, 28 June 2009

Nuclear mushrooms

I discovered this today at my local farmers market.

It's White Cloud Mushroom. It looks too beautiful to eat however it has a delcioius fresh and delicate flavour. I'm planning to eat some of it raw in salads and some of it fried in tempura batter.

The mushroom man had lots of info about these unusual fungi especially the nutritional properties, however searching on the internet for "White Cloud Mushroom" just brings up lots of references to nuclear war.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Just Beet It - part III

Who knew that my beetroot dyeing title would become so topical, what with the demise of the "King of Pop".

In response to much interest in my beetroot yarn and debate on it's colour fastness I'm outlining how I dyed the yarn in case anyone else wants to have a go.

Most dyeing websites will tell you beetroot produces a grungy yellow colour and is not colour fast. This is probably referring to using fresh beetroot. I'm new to dyeing but will postulate that pickled beetroot juice works differently to fresh due to the pickling process.

Anyway, theories aside, this is what I did.


  • I skein Zirton Treking undyed superwash sock yarn.
  • The juice/vinegar from two 710g jars of Waitrose Pickled Sliced Beetroot. The ingredients on the label are beetroot, sugar, barley malt vinegar, acetic acid, salt. I had about 2/3 of a 710g jar of beetroot vinegar.


1) Presoak the yarn in tepid water with a dash of washing up liquid until the yarn is moist. Drain off any excess water.

2) Put the end of the skein in the jar of beetroot juice, squidging the yarn with a gloved hand (saying Ow shamone in a Michael Jackson stylee if desired)so the juice penetrates the yarn. Leave to sit for about 30min.

Note: I was making a dip dyed yarn. For a solid yarn soak the whole skein in the juice. For dip dyed yarn I used dilutions of the juice for a graduated effect. The palest section of yarn looked a beautiful baby pink colour before steaming however this turned a mucky yellow after steaming.

3)Wrap the yarn in cling film or place in a thin plastic bag. Gently steam for 1 hour. Allow yarn to cool then rinse in tepid water with a splash of shampoo. Rinse again with water.

Repeat from step 2 until the yarn is the shade of orange you desire. I added a few drops of natural red food colouring to lift the orange in one section of my variegated yarn.

As I said before, I am new to dyeing so the method above is more of a guideline. Just play around and see what you come up with and above all have fun.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Mexican Knits

My gammy leg is recuperating well from surgery so after months of tedious immobility I'm desperate to get back out into London and all she has to offer.

I had a physio session this morning, rather than head home afterwards I went to the marvellous Prince Charles Cinema which is a brilliant place if you're at a loose end during the day. They show films a few months after main release and charge a lot less than most London cinemas. With membership you can see an afternoon film for £1.50. Bargain.

I met up with my lovely knitting friend Claire to watch MILK. I thoroughly enjoyed it although I'm not sure enjoy is the right word. I was outraged at the lack of basic human rights and horrendous bigotry the US gay community had to fight against not all that long ago. I knew some of the details but seeing it on the big screen, interspersed with film footage brought it to life. Given the rise of the anti-gay Prop 8 lobby during the US elections last year the film was even more poignant. I highly recommend seeing MILK, Sean Penn is superb as are the other actors.

After the film finished Claire and I emerged into the bright sunshine scrunching up our tear stained eyes and went in search of food. We both like to eat in independent cafes and restaurants so we bypassed the Starbucks, Pret, and other chains and went to Wahaca on Chandos Place in Covent Garden. I'd tried to get in here before but the queue had been huge so coming in mid-week mid-afternoon was ideal.

Despite being in the basement Wahaca has a light and airy feel and tries to emulate Mexican street dining in an upbeat, contemporary manner. There are several things I like about this place. Firstly the canny name. Oaxaca in southern Mexico is pronounced Wahaca, can you imagine Brits and tourists where Oh-axe-a-ca is? Secondly, the food is as ethically, locally and sustainably sourced as possible. While the food is Mexican in flavour most of the ingredients, including their hot sauce are from Britain. Thirdly, the food is delicious. I've been to Mexico a couple of times, the food in Wahaca is on par with the best food I've eaten in Mexico and some of it is better.

There is a good choice of dishes, both in size and flavour. We decided to choose several tapas size dishes for variety. My favourite out of quesadillas, tacos, tostadas nopalitos with cactus, were plain old black beans which were cooked to creamy perfection. I'm going to try recreating them at home. If you visit Wahaca it's also worth ordering a coffee as it comes with a small square of perfect chilli chocolate.

Claire is a professional knitwear designer. Check out her website, Monty. It's full of quirky knits and wearable every day clothes. She's so talented. She's got a new book coming out and I was privileged to a sneak preview, hot off the press. Most kids books seem to finish at age 3-4 so Claire has got her book spot on with patterns from 3-10years in Easy Kids Knits. She's having a book launch at Loop in the near future so come along and see her designs.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Happy Father's Day

When I was a teenager I used to draw all the time, I even did Art and Design GCSE. I've lost the habit however I motivated myself to draw my Dad's Fathers Day card as most commercial cards for Dad's are not aimed at my Dad. He doesn't play golf, drink much beer or watch racing. He does play the flugelhorn in a brass band so I drew him this.

OK, I know it's not a Picasso or a Turner but it's a start and my Dad was very chuffed with it.

What shall I draw next?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Little things.

I expect galleries and museums to make their membership cards interesting pieces of mini art. Most of them do. This year Tate exceeded my expectations with a David Shrigley card. I was tempted to keep it in my Tracey Emin travel card wallet which I scored as an Arts Council Freebie a few years ago but I thought that might be a tad pretentious. It will just make me smile in my wallet instead.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Just beet it - part II

Here it is. The beetroot dye experiment results.

I had read that beetroot turns a disappointing orange colour when the dye is set. The most saturated end turned a beautiful burnished orange however the far end of the skein, which had been a delicate shade of pale pink before cooking was a mucky yellow. The cream/mucky yellow colour dominated the skein and wasn't as graduated as I'd hoped for.

I decided to redye the cream section, leaving a small section of the Naples Yellow (mucky yellow) for contrast (I actually like the colour in small amounts and looked up a nicer name in my Artists Colour Manual). I added a few drops of pink food colouring to the beetroot vinegar just to see what happened and over dyed the mid portion of orange with more beetroot vinegar with a few drops of red food colouring. This is how it looked while drying...

...ta dah! Here it is reskeined. Well half the skein anyway. I was in a rush as I wanted to enter it in a dip dyeing competition on Ravelry which closed today and I was getting in a tangle. I'm very pleased with it. I'll try and take some photos in natural light tomorrow.

In case you're wondering, it doesn't smell of vinegar or beetroot, which in my opinion is a shame.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Happy WWKIP Day 2009

For World Wide Knit In Public Day 2008 we took part in the I Knit London Treasure Hunt. It was so much fun we decided to do it again this year.

This year there were questions based around sheepy locations as well as knitting challenges such as knitting on a routemaster, with a pigeon/policeman/celebrity/naked person and finding landmarks beginning with the letters F.L.E.E.C.E - do you see what they did there?

It was more of a struggle this year as I'm still using one crutch over longer distances but we completed the course, including having time for lunch and knitting 72inches of scarf for the longest scarf comp. I came second, again! Ha! It was fun hearing tourists walking past muttering about tricote or Stricken (French and German for kntting) and I used my needles to make a sign of the cross to ward of the preachy fundamentalist Christians who were boring everyone in Trafalgar Square.

Bless 'em. They were trying so hard but were very Church of England about the whole thing. They should have had a gospel choir to liven things up.

Here I am knitting in a phone box (I didn't turn into Clarke Kent) and on an old routemaster. I miss those buses. I agree the new ones are better for people with disabilities or buggies but the conductor was so friendly. Another team of knitters (waves at Jan and Coral) were on the bus too. The conductor was reminiscing over his mum knitting for him and was asking us how hard it is to knit gloves, what with all the digits.

I was knackered by the end of the day but managed to get to a friends birthday BBQ in West London and regale them with tales of knitting. I made her some birthday socks but failed to get a photo of them. Grr. I digress. I'm a big fan of WWKIP day. The thought of knitters all over the planet meeting up in public warms my cockles. One thing we missed was the naked bike ride through London which coincides with WWKIP. Maybe next year we'll be knitting naked on bikes!

Just beet it. - Part I

One of my favourite vegetables is beetroot. I eat it in all sorts of ways but the most constant one is pickled so I have lots of beautiful burgundy pickle juice in my fridge. It seems a shame to waste it so I thought I'd see what happens when it's mixed with wool.

I soaked the yarn with a dash of washing up liquid, then dip dyed with weaker and weaker solutions of the beetroot juice. I've steamed it to set the dye. It should be dry by tomorrow...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Culture vulture

This week has been so much better. I've made it out of the house to actual fun things instead of hospital appointments.

On Thursday I managed to get a ticket to the dress rehearsal of Phedre at the National Theatre, thanks to the lovely Craig at Iknit.

While the play itself wasn't my cup of tea it was a superb production, from the deceptively simple set design to the shear tour de force that is Mirren on the stage. The rest of the cast were equally good. I don't know much about acting but Phedre seems a tough play to perform with long tragic monologues and little natural conversation. The prose, adapted by Ted Hughes, is beautiful with some evocative lines (all of which escape me now) and is skilfully brought to life by the cast.

I'm not a fan of tragedies. They make me want to march onto the stage and talk a bit of common sense into the foolish characters. Maybe that's the point but I dislike coming out of productions feeling irritated, don't get me started on Romeo and Juliet. Having said that this was two hours well spent and it has inspired me to read more Greek legends. If you like Greek Tragedy this is the play for you.

One of my post op goals was to make it to the Kuniyoshi exhibition at the Royal Academy before it closed. I'm a big fan of Japanese arts and crafts. Ikebana, Habu knitting yarns, Hiroshige, Origami, stone and moss gardens, Hello Kitty, Zen Buddhist aesthetics, the films of Miyazaki, the list goes on and on. There's something in Japanese arts that appeals to me. Maybe it's the unfathomable wabi sabi.

Kuniyoshi was a prolific wood block artist at the same time as Hiroshige and Hokusai. He specialised in images of warriors and many of his pieces have a very Manga-esque feel to them. I found myself making fighting noises in my head while viewing some of the Samurai pictures. As well as finished prints the exhibition displayed some wood carving tools, finished blocks and some sketches. This image of a Samurai fighting a tiger was one of my favourites. The photo below isn't great as it's from the exhibition catalogue but I hope you can make out the delicate line work. Imagine carving that in cherry wood, then printing it. Exquisite.

Several of the works contained demons which will look familiar if you have seen Miyazaki's Spirited Away. As well as warriors and fantastical tales Kuniyoshi drew Kabuki (Japanese theatre) actors, landscapes and women. This series of beautiful ladies were mesmerising. I spent a while taking in the kimono prints, sakura (cherry blossom) and detailed images in the background of these prints.

When I visited Kyoto in 2007 there were several places offering to dress you as a Geisha. My friend and I thought about it but didn't think the Japanese aesthetic would work on our gaijin faces and we'd look more like drag queen clowns. I'll stick with coveting Japanese art.

Given the Kuniyoshi Manga connections I wasn't surprised to see a real life Simpsons Comic Book Guy - balding long ponytail, tracksuit, beer belly, Simpsons t-shirt, lack of social skills - blundering round the exhibition. It was life imitating art. Brilliant.

Monday, 1 June 2009

K1, P1, H1N1

Mr Ginger's mum is off to Washington DC to visit his brother. She's a tad paranoid about Swine Flu even though we have it in Europe.

She does have a sense of humour. Hopefully this will help her see the funny side. Either that or it will tip her over the edge.

It's my first finished object for ages. Yippee. It only took a couple of hours to make. I used this pattern more for inspiration as I couldn’t imagine using DK acrylic on 2.75mm needles. I made it on the fly but my numbers worked out roughly half those on the pattern.