Thursday, July 26, 2007

Busy days

The last few weeks seem to have blown through this household in a blur of broken arms, end of term school concerts, trips etc., lots of car trouble, including the one where the horn sounds every time you bear left!! School finally broke up on Friday (Thursday for us as we finished a day early due to making a mistake with our ferry booking). We spent the weekend in Ireland, visiting family up in Belfast and attending my Uncle's 70th birthday family reunion party down in County Tyrone. The party was attended by over 100 of my closest relatives! An incredible occasion and I am so glad that my children got to be part of something like this and to get a sense of their place in the world. With ages ranging from 93 down to a few months it was fascinating to meet relatives I had only ever heard stories of and never met. It was lovely to see so many of my first cousins together and to see our children playing with each other. The party took place in a rambling house in a beautiful part of Northern Ireland close to wear my mother and her family were brought up.

We managed to spend a day mooching around Dublin on our way back home. I spent "manys the weekend" in Dublin during my teens, it was near enough to visit on a whim but the act of crossing the border and using different currency made if feel fabulously foreign to us Belfast girls.
We saw bands, attended rugby matches, browsed the posh shops, suppped some Guiness and fell in and out of love many times. Both Dublin and Belfast have changed a great deal since my days out on the town but I daresay the appeal of the "foreign" remains the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Magical knitting

I received my copy of Charmed Knits by Alison Hansel a good few weeks ago. In fact, I had been eagerly awaiting this book as I have been promising a Harry Potter sweater for some years. My copy arrived while the sun was shining and after a quick glance through I put it aside for the time being and looked forward to browsing it more seriously when the weather turned cooler and my thoughts turned to autumn/winter knitting. However, here we are in mid-July and knitting with bamboo tape just is not doing the trick, the rain has been really unbelievable and here in North Wales it is actually pretty darn chilly, I need something a little more comforting than bamboo tape to work on in the evening and so I retrieved Charmed Knits from its resting place for a more in-depth perusal.

I have already cast on and indeed completed the back of the Weasley Sweater. I am using the Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed as dictated by the pattern. This yarn is lovely to work with, soft and comforting and my goodness it knits up quickly. I did have trouble getting hold of it though and had to resort to overseas in the end but I am sure it could have been easily substituted it for something more readily available.

The sweater in the book is modelled by a child and I am knitting for a child but should you wish to size this up then do not fear because in fact the pattern is sized from toddler right up to adult XXL, which I think is a rather brilliant idea. Indeed many of the other patterns offer a similar spread of sizing and also tell you which size is shown on the model. How I wish other pattern books would offer that information, the bamboo tape I mentioned earlier? Been ripped out twice already due to sizing issues, pretty sure the model in that book is either of extreme giant proportions and has been mysteriously shrunk to normal size for purpose of photograph or there are an awful lot of pins behind her!

The multi-sizing and wide variety of patterns make this a great family knit book whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not. Included are patterns for a soft toy (owl of course), a cape, which would make a lovely dressing gown, several bags, simple shawl pattern, a great ribbed (Quidditch) sweater, long socks, short socks, various hats, scarves and mittens. There are also patterns for Christmas ornaments and this lovely "school sweater" which reminds me so sharply of the school sweaters knitted for me by my grandmother. Indeed the Weasley Sweater also makes me feel rather nostalgic as I recall a much loved initialled handknit in 1970's brown and pink. Somehow I can still remember how that sweater felt and it is a good feeling, I was so pleased to have that sweater, to know that someone had made it just for me and put my initial on the front to make it completely unique.

As this Weasley Sweater grows I hope that my son will get that same feeling from wearing it and I guess it is memories like these that make us knit for others. People seem to have so much "stuff" nowadays but perhaps that makes the handmade all the more precious, I was thrilled to see how happy Dylan was with his new socks. Although we are careful not to overdo gifts to the children at Christmas and birthdays, family are very generous and we find it very hard to keep this in check. This Christmas in particular I felt very conscious of all the "stuff" so it is lovely to know that a hand knit can still mean something to a child in a time when we can buy five pairs of socks for £2.50 in Asda.

To sum up, a well thought out and useful pattern book, not just for Harry Potter fans. Now, I am off to stand in from the tumble drier for a while just for the warmth. I refuse to put the heating on in July and I am already wearing a most unseasonable but terribly useful sweater.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A very amusing book and more socks

The Hot Pink sock yarn arrived just in time, Dylan's red socks are complete and he is very pleased with them, I have already cast on the Hot Pink for Tilly and am beginning to find it difficult to concentrate on anything else in my knitting basket! This is inspite of the fact that I have some baby knitting which is normally all absorbing, hmmm, this sock thing could be a worry.

Thank you for all the wonderful book suggestions, I am still weighing them up but will probably choose quite soon as I think I am ready to make the move from plain to patterned socks.

To accompany my current sock knitting I have just begun this rather wonderful book, The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield. I listened to a serialisation of this book on Radio 4 some time ago and really enjoyed it so I snapped this copy up when I came across it recently in a Charity shop. Our provincial heroine and her witty observations make for splendid reading. The characters are brought brilliantly to life, from grumpy cook and her complaints about the stove to the frustrating Robert asleep behind his Times - "Robert startles me at breakfast by asking if my cold - which he has hitherto ignored - is better. I reply that it has gone. Then why, he asks, do I look like that?" Then there is the awful Lady B with all her well meaning condescensions. One such conversation with Lady B gives our heroine cause to consider a suitable subject for debate at the next WI meeting, "That Imagination is incompatible with Inherited Wealth." Our long suffering heroine must deal with the day to day management of her household, difficult servants include the Madmoiselle who is "very French". The Provincial Lady manages her budget with difficulty and has a close relationship with the rather facetious Plymouth pawnbroker.

However, I am waffling, suffice to say, it is a really super read, very, very funny and I am enjoying it immensely. Inspite of the very different times in which we live I am sure many of us can identify with aspects of the Provinical Lady's life, one moment which rings particularly true with me is her trip to the hairdressers from which she emerges with a mahogany coloured head which will wear off in time, "very angry but all to no purpose". Ok, morning coffee time, might manage another couple of rounds of this sock if I can keep Tilly amused at the same time. Oh the addiction of it....