Sunday, January 28, 2007

Getting back into the swing of things

With Christmas & New Year being closely followed by our trip to France, it is only now, the end of January that I finally feel as though life has got back into its normal.

There has been knitting. I even have an FO to show you! I was lucky enough to receive Victorian Lace Today from my parents for Christmas. Despite the fact that the book’s patterns consist entirely of Victorian lace patterns, the shawl and scarf patterns are very contemporary, and many are simply breathtakingly beautiful. All of the shawl patterns feature knitted on borders – something I have never tackled before. I decided to start with a simple lace scarf, unimaginatively titled “Scarf”. Even though the lace pattern is very straightforward, it involved a new technique for me. Basically you cast on and knit the first border (sideways), then bind off (all bar one stitch), turn the work and pick up stitches along one edge. Then you knit the main part of the scarf, then cast on stitches for the border at the other end, and knit the border whilst at the same time knitting off the stitches for the main part of the scarf. I’ve made that sound horribly more complicated than it actually is – really it’s pretty straightforward.

I’m determined to overcome my irrational fear of charts so am forcing myself to use the charts in the book (this is helped by the fact that the patterns are not given in any other format!).

Anyway, here is the finished “Scarf” pre-blocking

The yarn is the Handmaiden Sea Silk in shade Lily Pond which I frogged from the previous scarf I was knitting with it. The yarn stood up very well to being frogged. I used 5mm Addi Turbos and the whole thing took about 12 evenings to knit.

It actually looks very nice as it is, but I think blocking will really help the pattern to stand out.

Those photos suck. I'm really not sure how best to photograph lace. Outside shots of shawls artfully draped to display the lace pattern work well (though outside shots are not really an option here at the moment!), but scarves, being so much narrower, seem so much more difficult to photograph well.

I’ve already cast on for another scarf pattern from the book, so it looks as though the lace bug has bitten me!

The goats were all sheared a couple of weeks ago, which has given us the chance to have a good look at the does in kid and see how they are doing (impossible to tell when they are in full fleece!). Thankfully they all look very well, and all 14 have the tell tale rounded tummies.

They now spend a lot of their time doing this (they always make me think of galleons in full sail!)

And who can blame them when they’re lugging this extra weight around?

Kidding should start anytime from the middle of next month. Yesterday we got the pregnant ewes in so that we can start feeding them up ready for lambing in mid March. A busy few months ahead!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A (belated) Happy New Year

We got back from France on Friday evening. It was a very interesting trip. Over the course of 4 days we viewed 10 properties and drove many miles. The weather was fantastic – low 60s and sunny the whole time – though people were forever telling us this wasn’t normal for January!

Highlights of the trip:

The cattle farm we viewed. Very typical French farm run by two brothers who looked to be in their 60s, in the middle of nowhere. The brother who showed us round had got married just a few days earlier to a Russian lady who spoke no French, who he’d found via the wonders of the www, having been unable to find a French bride. Dad also lived on the farm, and was 93. He slept in a room opposite the kitchen, which was full of general assorted crap, in a bed next to the deep freeze. With great pride, one of the brothers flung open a door from the kitchen to reveal a huge cow’s arse. The kitchen led directly into the cowshed, for ease of access during bad weather / late night calvings.

The house in the hills near Isle en Dodon. The elderly owner was born in the house and his parents had lived there until they died. His mother had died 2 years ago, and although the house had not been lived in since then, it was still full of his parents’ furniture, and the walls were covered with old black and white photos of the family, going back to the 1940s. The house was pretty much uninhabitable, but with time and money spent on it could be so beautiful. It faced towards the Pyrenees and when I flung open the shutters in one of the bedrooms the view made me cry. It was that breathtaking.

The goat farm. Again we were showed round by the owner, an elderly lady who had run the farm with her husband until he died. Unfortunately they have a lazy bastard for a son who now lives in the house and does sod all, all day. The goats have been sold and the farm and house have gone to rack and ruin. I felt so sorry for the woman who was clearly very embarrassed about the state it was in. You could see that once upon a time it had been a well loved home.

None of the above was the home for us. We did see one lovely farm, which pretty much ticked all the boxes, and managed to squeeze in two viewings, but it is a little bit out of our price range. The agent believes it is over-valued (something every agent said about every property we viewed – it seems the French have an over-inflated idea of the value of property!), but whether the vendor would accept an offer within our budget we really don’t know. Eddie is going to phone the agent tomorrow and see what she thinks. If not, then we’ll be going back for another house hunting trip at the end of April.

Eddie is a bit disappointed that we didn’t find something within our budget on this visit, but realistically I always knew that this could be the case. I’m determined to try and not get too stressed out by the whole thing. I honestly believe that the right place is out there for us. We just have to find it.

What was heartening was that we still love the area and still really want to move over there – even more so if that’s possible!

Nothing much to report on the knitting front. I knit two thirds of a sweater over Christmas but it was too big so it’s gone into the Naughty Cupboard until I can face frogging it. Last night I frogged the Handmaiden Seasilk scarf. The pattern was just doing my head in with the tedium of it, and at the end of the day I knit for pleasure not duty. I was very lucky to receive Victorian Lace Today for Christmas. It’s a beautiful book, with many, many patterns I want to knit, so I will cast on again with the Seasilk later today.

I was tagged by Iris to do the meme doing the rounds to tell 6 weird things about me, so here goes:

1. I talk to myself. A LOT. So much so that I’m sometimes not even aware that I’m doing it. I don’t do it out in public (yet), but Eddie will often come into a room and ask me who I’m talking to and I’ll have been prattling away to myself without realising.
2. I can’t ever finish a hot drink. I think this stems back to my childhood when my mum bought tea leaves rather than bags, and never bothered with a tea strainer, so you had to leave some tea in the cup or you got a mouthful of leaves. Unfortunately the habit applies not just to tea, but to any hot drink.
3. As a child, I desperately wanted 2 things: a dog and a pony. I especially wanted a dog that would sleep on my feet at the bottom of my bed. Every night, my parents had to shoehorn me into a bed FULL of various cuddly toys, and then carefully place a pile of books on and around my feet, so that I could imagine they were a dog.
4. I have a tendency to make snap decisions about whether I like someone before I get to know them, and often before I’ve even met them. However, I’m not often wrong in my judgment.
5. I have strange reactions to some religious buildings. I get weak kneed, short of breath, feel faint. I don’t get this reaction every time I enter a church / cathedral etc so never know when it will strike. It can make sightseeing a tad difficult.
6. I have never felt lonely. I have spent, and do spend, a fair amount of time on my own but I am perfectly happy in my own company. If anything ever happened to Eddie I think I would live the rest of my life alone, and that thought doesn’t fill me with any kind of dread. (I think this characteristic may be linked to #1 :0 )

I’m not going to tag anyone to do this meme but feel free to share your weirdness with the world if you wish!

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