Friday, January 29, 2010

a quick hat and memory lapse

I thought it was about time I posted a little knitting on here. In fact there has been plenty of knitting but a lack of light and model synchronicity mean that none of it is being blogged at the moment.

This was a very quick hat for me, a simple stockinette slouchy beanie and I would dearly love to share the pattern with you but I have misplaced my print-out. I have forgotten the true title of the pattern, the name of the lovely designer who generously made this pattern freely available entirely eludes me. I am trying hard to visualise the title on the page but I have nothing. Clearly my memory is not what it once was, unfortunately a great deal of important information seems to have gone but yet my brain chooses to retain the details of tedious celebrity lives as gleaned from the pages of the trashy magazines I overload on when at the hairdressers.

I have tried to find the pattern once more dear readers, but there are 317 pages of free hat patterns on Ravelry alone and my broadband connection is not so very fast. I got to page 12. I have tried many variations on the search and Google has provided some interesting results. I cannot find it anywhere.

So if you want to knit this exact hat I am afraid I cannot help. But I do promise there are other hat patterns out there..... 317 pages on Ravelry should get you started...

If anyone out there does indeed recognise this pattern I would be very grateful for the relevant information.

*edited to add: Well done to Mooncalf at Make do and Mend who cleverly identified the hat as Felicity by Knitology.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

a glimpse

Yesterday the sun shone briefly, shafts of light broke through the shadows in the house, they made angles on the walls and lifted my spirits immeasurably.

Today it's back to grey but my heart is still warmed from those moments of light yesterday and I feel impatient for January to make its way out the door. Outside I can see the green shoots of bulbs, daffodils I hope, forcing their way through the damp and muddy ground outside.

I feel filled with hope.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

when life doesn't bring you lemons...

Yesterday was one of those unforgiving January days (unforgivable is perhaps a better description). The light levels remained persistently low all day and the colour levels were set to damp grey. Add to that the fact that it was Monday and we had definitely all started our day with a firm case of Monday morning blues it was very clear that remedial baking was required.

I returned home after the school run to a house that was in need of warmth and comfort. I knew that filling my kitchen with the domestic scents of an oven filled with baking would sooth my soul and cheer my family. I instinctively decided on lemon because citrus, in particular lemons, are the very antidote to January, the contrast of sweet and sour upon the tongue, that wonderful oily zest. Baking with lemons brings the Mediterranean right into my kitchen in these darkest months.

So imagine my disappointment when I discovered a distinct lack of lemon in the fruit bowl. Instead of the three plump lemons that I required for the sweetest, stickiest of lemon cakes all I could produce was one rather dried specimen.

A reasonable amount of sighing later and new inspiration struck. Frozen raspberries (complimented by all the zest that one lemon could muster). I love frozen raspberries, we sprinkle them on porridge, stir them into yoghurt, scatter a few through the apple crumble. They are like a little bit of summer sitting in my freezer.

So a raspberry cake it was. I made this cake a great deal last summer. Weekly in fact. I always meant to blog about it but found it was invariably eaten before I managed to take any photographs. It was most definitely the cake of the summer. As you can see this winter version proved equally elusive when it came to photographing but take my word for it, it was good. A little mouthful of summer in the depths of January, perfect.

Friday, January 22, 2010

and it goes on

Still no curtains and not a bloomer to be seen but I made a scarf.

Based on the scarf in the excellent Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colourful Quilt and Patchwork Projects. I made various changes to the recipe and my lining fabric is patched too but that is the wonderful thing about this method of piecing. It is so adaptable, so easy, there really are no
rules. Just cut out your strips in a seemingly wreckless manner, using nothing more exacting than scissors and your eyes and then the fun part, arranging all those coloured strips. Casually sew to a foundation piece and you are on your way. This is the second one of these I have completed and I am a little sorry to say that this one is to give away.

My own scarf is well worn and loved but the colours are generally quite subtle with the tweeds ruling and the patches of print providing small glimpses of colour. This version is bright and brave. I am hoping that the recipient will like it, she can definitely wear these shots of colour. Selecting the fabrics for this scarf was such a pleasure on grey, wet January day, silk, tweed, textured cord and soft wool. I so enjoyed working with all these fabrics, so many colours and different textures. The doubt and indecision which normally seizes my quilting adventures was entirely absent, I was free to indulge senses. It was so much fun to place orange next to pink and see it sing.

However, I am afraid I must confess to finding it rather hard to part with the finished scarf, it contains so many of my favourite colours and prints and the lining is made up of two colours of soft babycord, soft and warm to wear. I love how it sits around my neck, the dense fabric making a scarf which stands tall and elegant but still comfortable to wear.

Perhaps I could delay my necessary activities a little longer and make one for myself....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Displacement crafting

Back before Christmas I set myself some deadlines. There were a number of things I needed to get done in the house including making some curtains and even more importantly a lot of shop sewing, smocks and bloomers galore. My deadline was not unrealistic, I had plenty of time to accomplish all these things and more.

Now enter displacement activity, also know as The Time Thief.

Over the last few weeks I have not done any of the things on my list, not one target met.

But I have done some other things so I have decided to concentrate on enjoying these unexpected achievements rather than beating myself up over the things I haven't done.

After all, January is not over yet, so there is still some time to work on that list of goals.

Still, I cannot help but wonder why the lessons I was taught almost thirty years ago regarding the importance of not leaving things to the last minute and the necessity of carefully staggering ones work in order to avoid being overwhelmed; why is it that those lessons still have not been learned? Because you see, essentially, I am still that girl who has to stay up to midnight finishing her essay, still that girl who is frantically conjugating verbs on the bus or scribbling equasions in her lunch breaks, it seems I am still that same girl who is attempting to assemble three months worth of university lectures into some semblance of something just three hours before it needs to be handed in, still that girl who is in the office until midnight preparing for the report that is needed for 9am the next morning. It seems some lessons are very hard to learn.

But I am not too downhearted because really, January still has more than a week to go and look! I made an art roll. Who doesn't need to make one of these? And curtains are so yesterday, don't you think?

There are heaps of really good tutorials on how to make these but I particularly liked the one at Mr Monkeysuit

Friday, January 15, 2010

The red dress laments

The red dress was born in a studio somewhere in Europe, a dramatic sketch on a page carefully realised in billowy red silk. A beautiful red silk dress. It is very likely that the designer's sketch did not accessorize the red dress with bright yellow rubber gloves, heavy, slightly grubby boots and a thickly knitted scarf. It is very likely that the designer of said dress never expected anyone to wear it whilst cleaning the fridge.

The red dress feels a little hard done by. The red dress is sure that it was never meant to be squashed into a cupboard shoulder to shoulder with lesser mortals. The red silk dress is uncomfortable living in a house where dogs are sometimes sick on the carpet and furthermore, in the event of dog sick on the carpet the red dress is brought to its knees, to its knees, in order clean off said sick.

The red dress remembers the moment when its wearer first set eyes upon, it felt happy to be picked out, pleased to be on sale. Doubt crept in when the prospective wearer returned with husband and two children, it felt a little nervous as those children fidgeted and touched. There were warning signs of the life it might lead when the wearer smiling refused the shop assistant's suggestion of a beautiful lacy wrap to accompany the dress but even so, there was no hint of the cheap t-shirt and bobbly knitted cardigan that might come.

But the red dress should not be so sad, for the red dress is voluminous and comfortable and therefore the red dress gets worn a lot. Those outings may well involve shopping trolleys at Waitrose rather than decorating stylish parties but at least she gets worn. Pity instead the black dress. The black dress with her tiny nipped in waist and tightly fitting bodice. The black dress could never clean the fridge for her tight lines prevent all bending. Indeed, current measurements of owner considered, the black dress may never be worn, even unbendingly, again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More on scent

I have loved reading the comments on this post. It is good to know that I was not the only teenage Lou Lou wearer, I am enjoy the excellent company of Ali and Nicole. There were some lovely stories too, Lizzie's husband has kept his promise of twenty-one years ago and keeps her in Chanel No.5 (he's definitely a keeper). Anna wore no perfume at all until her wedding day and Cathleen's family associate her and her love so firmly with her scent. Several of you mention associating particular scents with people and I can strongly identify with that.

I will always associate Rive Gauche with my teenage friend. When I smell it I am reminded of the time she dropped her bag on the train st
ation platform. She was on her way to meet her rather unsuitable but terribly handsome, much older boyfriend, the bottle smashed and she was overwhelmed by the smell of Rive Gauche for a long time. It was not a good day for her in more ways than one but I am pleased to say that she is now wears Coco and is happily married to a much more suitable man.

My mum wore L'air du Temps a lot but I associate it more strongly with another friend who suits it perfectly, it seems to me a softly spoken, tall and elegant sort of scent.

The Christmas after Paloma Picasso I received a bottle of Guerlain's Mitsouko, I felt so grown up, it was just the perfume to take me off to student life in London. The years that followed saw a succession of Guerlain scents, including Shalimar and Samsara. Then I began to move out of my student years and into working life, the girl I most wanted to be friends with in my office was a pretty blonde with a very sophisticated social life she always smelled so fresh and clean, hers was such welcome scent after a packed and stuffy Underground journey. So I began to wear Escape. And then, after a while, I noticed that everyone in that office wore Escape so I changed to L'eau d'Issey. I loved that scent, the simple glass bottle, the light, clear smell. I wore it for several years but then it happened again, I noticed that everyone I knew smelled just the same, the ladies room after work was full of girls spritzing from the same bottle that I was.

Change came hand in hand with a new job. I left the creative but chaotic world of a busy stock photography library, a world filled with constant publication deadlines, urgency and stress. Working late at work was followed by partying late in the noisy bars of Camden Town. My new job was a few miles away and so different, I worked in quiet dark wood panelled rooms in a beautiful building just off London's Harley Street. My days were gentler and graver. I was fascinated by the people who lived in the apartments of this graceful building and it was one of them who gave me my first bottle of Channel. She was an artist, in her early seventies and rather fabulous. Tall and willowy with elegantly flamboyant clothes, she presented me with a bottle of Chanel No. 19 for Christmas.

So began a Chanel love affair, that has lasted for some years now. No.19 was followed by Allure and these last few years I have been wholly faithful to No. 5.

But what did I buy this week? Not Chanel, my current bottle is still a quarter full. Inspired by the book I decided to throw my habit of fragrance monogamy and embrace a little variety. So I returned to Mitsouko, the perfume I first wore more than twenty years ago. It smells a little differently to me now, but wonderful. Warm, spicy, a little citrus, it smells of all these things and makes me think of where I have been and where I have yet to go. Just the thing for a new decade and what will be my fortieth year.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I'm blaming Cornflower

I read Karen's post on Friday with such delight, perfume has been on my mind a lot lately as I have been deciding on a change. Changing my perfume is not the sort of decision I take easily, I began tentatively trying on new scents early in December hoping to put in a Christmas request and eventually I thought I had made my decision but lost confidence at the last m
oment and could not commit. I so enjoyed Karen's post and in particular the comments it inspired that my obsession was re-awakened. I ordered the book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide which arrived by post the following day. I have read numerous good reviews of this book and heard interesting interviews with the authors but it was Karen's post which finally pushed me into ordering it and I am so glad I did.

This is not a mere reference book, this is a book to enjoy from cover to cover, the sort of book that you pick up for a quick flick through at lunchtime on Saturday.

And find you are still reading at dinner time.

The sort of book that sends you out of the house to the nearest department store full of new ideas, nose a-twitching.

I remember my very first encounter with perfume, I was about 7 years old and must have been investigating my mother's handbag, I remember the small bottle, it's black shiny lid and amber coloured liquid. I can remember the distinctive smell, the smell of being grown up, the smell of make-up, cigarettes, coffee, high heels and silk scarves. The smell of glamour. That bottle was Chanel No.5.

The first perfume I actually owned was a bottle of something citrusy. I wish to goodness I still had that bottle, I wish I knew what it was. I was about 9 years old, my father brought it back from Switzerland I think and I was thrilled that it wasn't another doll in National Clothing, I felt so grown up.It seems a strange present for my father to have bought me at that time, I can't imagine what he was thinking really but I loved it. It was proper, expensive perfume or cologne, not the sort of scents that I received in the early adolescence years which followed, this was a real grown up perfume. I haven't worn a citrusy scent since but each time I wander through a perfume floor that scent is firm in my memory, the bottle shape and name hazily beyond reach. I wonder if I will ever find it again and will it smell as I remembered, fresh and lemony, grown up and real. In fact, as I work my way through the book I have been noting down scents which sound like they could be that very one, I will keep the list in my bag and maybe, just maybe I will come across that scent again.

The next few years saw a sucession of bad smells, I can still bring to mind the peculiar smell of Tweed and remember the various cheap gift sets that thrilled me through my early teenage years, there was Charlie of course, I remember the bottle and advertisements so clearly, all that they promised and I remember a bottle which brought to mind violets, I loved it because it reminded me of those little purple sweets, Parma Violets, I cannot recall the name, it was the sort of scent adored only by old ladies and young girls. Around the age of sixteen I began to develope my own strong tastes and desires. That Christmas I asked for Lou Lou. My goodness Lou Lou! Have you smelled it? At sixteen it was fantastic, sweet and strong, I loved that perfume, loved the blue coloured angled bottle, I loved to look at it on my table and loved that my school blazer and scarf smelled of Lou Lou all day long. If you sprayed my scarf with Lou Lou these days I doubt very much that I could get through the day without an enormous headache and a large dose of nausea but my sixteen year old self was immune to such things. I think perhaps there is just a small window of your life when you can wear a perfume like Lulu and for me 16 was that window.

By the following year I was wearing Dr Martin boots, wearing a lot of black clothing and eyeliner all topped off with bright red lipstick. I listened to the sort of music you pogo too and my boyfriends back combed their hair into messy, matted spikes at the weekend. Smelling sweet and girlish was out of the question. That Christmas I asked for Paloma Picasso and fancied myself very dramatic.

I am off to buy my new perfume right now, I have finally decided to commit to a change of scent, I think.... I will tell you about it in my next post and I would really like to hear about the perrumes you love and indeed what sends a shiver down your spine in a bad way too.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Knitting you know

There is still plenty of knitting in my life. I haven't thrown aside my needles by a long chalk.

I am patiently working on Libby, almost finished in fact and then there is the seaming. In between there have been some smaller projects, a few hats and this little scarf for Tilly.

I bought the gorgeous fleecy pink fabric when she was much smaller but didn't get around to making whatever it was I intended to make and of course now she is bigger and there just is not enough fabric to cover her ever taller self.

So I didn't feel so bad about cutting into it at last and Oh, it is soft, I really wish I had done something with it sooner. The knitted part is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, I just backed it with the pink fleecy fabric and used this fabric button to fasten.

I rather like it and indeed having tried it on myself last night as I sewed the button I found it a little hard to part with.

But it looks much better on Tilly.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Pick up a penguin


In second-hand book shops, and charity shops I always scan for Penguin spines. When faced with a sea of disorganised books the familiar spines offer a good starting point. I know there is sure to be a title to interest me amongst those distinctive coloured spines. I grew up reading Penguins, they feel familiar and reassuring.

I first saw Postcards from Penguin: 100 Book Jackets in One Box on the pages of Cornflower some months ago. I was quite green with envy (Penguin green?) and immediately hurried off to order a set of my own but it seems everyone else did too and they promptly went out of stock. I waited and waited.

Finally, just before Christmas, they were delivered to my eagerly waiting hands and they do not disappoint.

A pleasing book shaped box filled to the brim with 100 cards each featuring a different book cover. Of course, I bought these thinking how handy, perfect for quick thank you cards and whatnot. But each time I go to choose one, just one, to send off as a quick note I find it hard. I find I cannot set pen to card, cannot choose which card to part with. Yes, I am struggling to part with just one of these handy little cards. I daresay it's a bit like cutting into favourite fabric or knitting up a special ball of stashed yarn. I imagine that once I have written and sent just one it will be easier to part with the rest. Maybe.

Or perhaps I could frame them instead, like the seed packets. Yes, maybe I could frame them. All of them.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

To start the day

3:365 start the day

I am really big on breakfast. I am one of those irritating people who is forever going on about it being the most important meal of the day and so forth. This grates upon The Technical Advisor no end. The Technical advisor is certainly not a breakfast person, in fact, if truth be told, not really a morning person either which must make me a double thorn in his side.

Weekdays are normally limited to porridge, muesli or something by Mr Kellogs, fresh orange juice and some toast or fruit; but weekends? Mmmm, I love weekend breakfasts. I love laying the table for something slow and relaxed. No need to rush, time to enjoy and I often sit on at the table after everyone else has left, sipping more coffee and reading a book or magazine. Perfect morning moments.

Today it was pancakes, fat, fluffy Amercian style pancakes. Sweet maple syrup, sharp raspberries and salty butter. And reading with coffee. A very good start to my day.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Documenting the days

Like many of us I want to embrace the "picture a day" project once more. For a great deal of 2009 I did take a picture but I didn't always do much with them, I would haphazardly take them off the memory card and leave them gathering virtual dust in virtual folders.

2:365 the warmth of a winter fire.

But how satisfying it is to look back on daily photographs and how much there is to be gained from looking at the ordinary parts of a life through a lens. Lifting a camera and looking for something to photograph is such a positive thing to do, such a good way to celebrate our lives.

I am starting out again this year and may post here, may post there, I will try to keep it up but won't cry about missing a day, just pick up my camera and start again.