Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Spinning Wanties (no this is not a euphemism)

Last weekend I went west with a bunch of lovely knitters who despite being VERY serious about their knitting were also a lot of fun.  Our destination? WonderWool Wales!

Alli (Champagne and Qiviut, Rachel (Porpoise Fur) And Danni (Lioness Arts and who had the idea for Unwind Brighton and then made it happen).  We wandered we ooh'd and aah'd and stroked the yarn and then I saw it...

the Schacht Matchless.

 If you read this blog regularly you will know I knit and sew seriously but also dabble in other woolly activities.  I want to spin properly, I really do, I have grand ideas for big arty projects with my own hand spun, and a growing stash of spinning fibre.  I even show off with a drop spindle if given the opportunity.

But when I begin treading a real wheel, the reality is a little different.

My (practically antique) Lendrum is kind of special.  It was my mother's, she must have bought it 30 years ago.  But it is temperamental, like an old car that needs every action to be carried out just so or it will flood, stall and just sit with its brakes stuck on.  My Lendrum in expert hands (and foot?) is fine.  A lady in my knitting group even demonstrated the most amazing long draw with it, while I remain at the very short, thick and lumpy stage.

this is Rachel spinning, not me!

So when we saw the Matchless at WonderWool and Rachel (of Porpoise Fur) put it through its paces, I just thought it was down to her expertise, untill she and Alli made me have a go.  So I sat down, all the time protesting that i had given my wheel a good ignoring for more than six months.

And then I saw the light,  the Matchless and it's smoothly running double treadle turned me into a spinner

I'm in love and have begun to save my pennies.

Of course I didn't ignore  the other sweetie shops all around me, here is a sample

From fibre to finished object in the colours of the rainbow

and some of the generous creatures who grow the fibre for us

I did not neglect to augment my fibre stash

from the top and right, teesdale, BFL, alpaca and silk

Or  yarn

Whistlebear, Eden Cottage, Kettle and BaaRamEwe

Lots of treats but I'm very proud to say each skein of yarn is destined for an actual project, all the deets next week...



PS - lots of progress in the studio, it's my reason for being a little tardy in the blogging department at the moment.  The building work is done and it's over to me now to do the painting and (the fun bit) moving my entire stash out there!

coming along nicely (remember the before blog?) 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

WW1 knitting

My blogging life is fast becoming like my knitting life - fuller and fuller of WIPS.  I blog about something or other and then, at the end, just mention I happen to be embarking on another exciting project.  But the next blog post? ... nothing, nada, nix.  I forget to follow up and having whetted appetites say no more.

The Somme 1917 watercolour painted by J Brunt a private soldier

Today was no different.  I had an idea as I was running some early morning errands (which, after I chatted in shops, forgot something, went back and then met two neighbours it was nearly lunch time and well into the afternoon as I sat down to blog).  I thought I would blog about going to knitting festivals (L'aiguille en Fete and Unravel to date, WonderWool and Unwind to come).  And then I remembered at the end of last week's post I posted a picture of a manly waistcoat in a conservative colour (not my usual style) and a promise of more next week.  So I will keep my promise and put off yarn related travels till another day and tell you about Tell Them Of Us

I heard about this exciting project on Annie's Blog.  A community project making a film about the lives of real people who lived through, and suffered the effects of, WW1. Because the people depicted in the film actually existed there are photographs of them and as near as possible the actors will wear costumes like those worn by the men women and children of 1914 - 1918.  That is where knitting comes in, so many hand knitted garments and so a plea went out to knitters to volunteer to knit for the wardrobe.  They now have more than 200 volunteer knitters and over 90 of us have finished our first garments.  Some of the patterns are contemporary with the war and some have been created by the clever co-ordinators of the project just from the photographs.

The yarn for my allotted project arrived in the post just before I left for my holiday

Lovely BFL dyed a lovely soft brown

The pattern was e mailed and I rushed to print it off and swatch before I left.  Patterns of the period can be a lot less detailed than the modern ones we are all used to, there is also less use of standardised terms.  When you are knitting up vintage patterns it is advisable to read right through before putting yarn around your needles.  

In this case there was no mention on how the borders were to be worked.  The usual way of finishing armholes and button bands were not mentioned at all (except for the left front that simply said 'work 6 button holes').  You need to use common sense and scrutinise the photograph or sketch very closely as well as the written word.  The stitch used for the back is plain stocking stitch and for the front a sort of rib with one row knit and one p4k1.  Without some sort of edging stitch this waistcoat was going to curl!  So I incorporated a two stitch garter stitch border along both fronts and around the armholes.  This kept the work flat after blocking.  However, it did not work for the back neck that due to some short rows actually had an unusual upward curve  and, with my two rows of garter stitch mod, just gaped in an ugly fashion.  So I unpicked this bit and finished in stocking stitch concluding that the back neck was meant to curve outwards forming a little draught proof roll collar.  Apart from being a little bulky (the yarn is aran weight) it was the perfect simple project to take on holiday

Sitting on our balcony sewing up the waistcoat

The only other modification that I incorporated was on the pockets.  The pattern instructs to knit the garter stitch top and then cast off for the opening and cast on again on the next row before carrying on up the front, later picking up from the cast on edge and knitting the pocket lining downwards.  Instead I knitted the linings separately first, incorporating the live stitches in the next row after the cast off instead of casting on.  This meant there was slightly less bulk at the pocket edge.

You have already seen the shot of the waistcoat blocked and ready to post, but here it is again

Ready for William Crowder

And the watercolour at the top of the picture?  My Grandfather William Acaster was a volunteer and served throughout WW1, mostly on the Somme.  One of the few working men of the time who could drive a motorised car he was immediately employed as a driver in the army.  Perhaps this saved his life, as far as I know he never actually 'went over the top'.  When my grandmother died in the 1990s an old sketchbook was found in the back of a cupboard.  Inside the front cover was written

Drawings by
G Percival & L Hardy

Book property of R W Acaster and all above mentioned
Full privates
with pay, don't forget it

Some Soldiers on the Somme
La Guerre 1916 - 1917

The book contains cartoons, mostly in pencil ridiculing German soldiers and British Officers, two water colours of Northern France and one or two satirical cartoons from the 1920s.  It is still a bit of a mystery, not all the drawings are by Percival or Hardy, the watercolours by someone called Brunt and several are not signed, perhaps they are by my grandfather.



The Military Moustache 27/2/17

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Hidden Place (Apokryfo)

I am so relaxed after staying at Apokryfo (in Greek, Hidden) in the mountains in Cyprus.  Such a magical place that although I have reviewed it on the website where we found this perfect hideaway, here in my own space I just had to say more.

the doorway to one of the tiny apartments at Apokryfo
 You know how things can be sometimes, you just need to get away and you book something on line that looks it will fit the bill but you never know till you get there...  Well Apokryfo lived up to our every expectation, right from the moment Yannis the manager gave us a wonderful friendly welcome.  He runs the hotel with his wife Demetra (and then there is their gorgeous little girl, Joanna who usually appears mid afternoon with her grandmother).

our balcony
This is the best photograph I could get of our balcony.  Although it was just above the terrace where we ate our breakfast in the sunshine and beside the pool it felt so private.

and this is what we saw as we looked down

I think at this point I should mention the food...  So much to eat and so good.  There was home made marmalade for our breakfast toast as well as fruit yoghurt,  ham, cheese and, if we could be persuaded, omelettes.  Then more home made soup, meat and vegetable dishes for supper (lunch too if you could possibly eat any more).

the way down from our room to the terrace

Yannis and Demetra were wonderful hosts, working from before breakfast till the last guest left after dinner.  The restaurant was open all day, serving lunch and dinner, with the clever cook Eleftheria coping with anything from 5 to 50 for lunch or supper,  and serving any drinks and snacks we might want in-between.  JTH judged the moussaka we ate on our last night (soup, dips and village salad too) the best he had ever tasted

herbs for the cook right outside the kitchen door

I forgot to photograph our room, which was cleaned and tidied every day with fresh sheets every 3 or 4 days,  and  only snapped the bathroom!

The hotel, midway between Limasol and the highest mountain on the island, was in a tiny village called Lofu


There were days when we just sat around reading and relaxing.  How I love to have the time to read a whole book in a day (I finished This Boy and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I didn't finish The Historian and I don't think I ever will!)   and of course I had some knitting with me (more of that later).  The day we decided to walk to the top of the mountain we found snow!

There was snow at my feet but not in the distance

In the village of Omodos we encountered a poignant exhibition to the fallen in the war of independence from the British in the 1950s.  A single room displaying the clothes worn on the day they died, a photograph, name and names of their family members

the green scarf was hand knitted in garter stitch

Wonderful lace too both in Omodos

and the village of Lefkara where women sat outside their shops working on beautiful table cloths

Lefkara lace
We did a fair bit of exploring while (mostly) avoiding the larger towns.

Aphrodite's rock 

Although Cyprus is well known for its budget holidays and beaches lined with hotels we found plenty of quiet places.

the theatre at Curium

We listened to powerful extracts from ancient Greek tragedy here, in the theatre at the ancient Greco/Roman site, Curium.

And wandered around the remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo (where those who dared to touch the sacred altar in the sanctuary were thrown off the cliff into the sea)

the remains of the Sanctuary of Apollo

Long before Cyprus became and independent state it was part of the Turkish Ottoman empire.  A few buildings remain to tell the tale like this beautiful house that is a restaurant in Lefkara

lunchtime after watching lace makers at work
After a day exploring it was lovely to wend our way back up the spiral stone steps to our room

Sometimes eating our evening meal under the watchful eye of the goat in the dining room

Oh and this is what I was knitting, part of a very exciting project where more than 200 knitters are helping make costumes for a film about World War One.  A waistcoat for William, I'll explain more about this exciting film next week!

blocked and ready to post

When we left we promised to go back, and we will.  Thank you Yanis, Demetra and all the staff at Apokryfo  we had a perfect holiday



the way to the hidden place