Friday, April 11, 2008

I am from...

Reading Shirley's blog (about a month ago - yes, I am slow!) I was moved by her (and those she linked to) posting on where she came from. Childhood memories. Generations past. Where am I from? Let me tell you...

I am from working class roots with smatterings of middle class generations ago. I am from English immigrants (who were originally from Europe via Ireland) coming to New Zealand for a better life for their family. I am from a love story begun on an immigrant ship on the stormy seas. I am from the music played by the talented fingers of a great-grandfather I never knew.

I am from Papa who came home safely from war. I am from gardeners who toiled morning and night to feed their growing families.

I am from men not afraid of sweat so their families could eat. I am from women who plied needles and thread to clothe their children. I am from Grandma who taught me the skills of embroidery - and who tried, in vain, to get me to drink tea.

I am from peppermints - hidden by Papa when he was baby sitting. I am from the peas I helped Grandma shell for dinner. I am from gladioli and carnations, allysum and wallflowers, violets and dusty millers grown by Papa for their beauty, not for their usefulness.

I am from high hedges and tin fences, concrete yard and grassy lawns. I am from wooden floors and bedside mats and Dad never finishing the decorating "improvements" he started. I am from the fire crackling in the grate with the sofa pulled up close to keep us cosy on cold winter's nights. I am from bread speared on a long "no 8 wire" fork and toasted over the fire.

I am from "Listen with Mother" on the big radio which stood on the floor and stories on Sunday mornings on the transistor radio listened to while still tucked up in bed, eating the few little lollies left by Mum by my bedside.

I am from my sister's hand-me-down clothes made from Mum's dresses. I am from my first new frock, the one Uncle Phil gave me for Christmas when I was four and the cuddly teddy he gave me when I was born - from a black and white toy police car with a red light on top and a little toy organ which ran on batteries.

I am from climbing the neighbour's huge apple tree with the neighbour's youngest son. I am from crying while watching "Lassie" on another neighbour's tv. I am from the old Plymouth car where I stood behind the front seat so I could see out, or slept on the back seat with my sister on the long drive home from Christchurch.

I am from dogs - our Chloe and Uncle Selby's Jill who let me ride on her back (NOT Aunty Betty's - Binks always growled at me!). I am from Uncle Selby's trial dogs, dogs I was not allowed to touch but only to watch from my perch on the old tin fence. From his horses with their soft lips nuzzling my hand for the sweet grass I gave them.

I am from red cardigans and black gymfrock, red and black striped tie and white shirt. I am from school milk, drunk through yellow paper straws. I am from padder tennis bats and monkey bars with sharp gravel beneath. I am from assemblies, and marching, school choirs and latin roots. I am from ANZAC parades - marching in lines to the memorial, the laying of wreaths and the tears of Taps.

I am from long summers in borrowed caravans, camping at the lake too icy-cold to swim in. I am from fishing and shooting at targets in the dusty hall and following Dad around the golf course pulling his trundler. I am from riding on my bike to the baths with friends on Saturdays and eating cinnamon sticks or aniseed wheels or TT2s on the way home.

I am from books and knitting needles - and curling up in a chair with both at the same time. I am from Dollar Scholar, man on the moon and watching Princess Anne's wedding on our new colour tv with all the neighbours crowded in the room.

I am from bad times and good times. I am ME!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Finished Objects, New Project and Samples!

It's high time I posted again so here goes:

I have been busy "doing" stuff since I last wrote so here is a little insight into what has been going on in my life recently - the knitting part, at least!

Yes, the Tomten Jacket is finished at last! It was sitting around for several weeks until I finally picked it up again and wove in the threads and sewed on the buttons. No photos of it on little T but there is a closeup of the buttons I put on. Suitably cute for a little one, no?

A few weeks ago I needed a small project to work on in the car so I looked around in my stash and came up with a couple of balls of Sock It To Me yarn I bought from Elann a couple of years ago. Kiwi knitters will realise that there is a real shortage of nicely coloured sock yarn in our LYS's, although the selection is a little better now than it was. This was why I bought some sock yarn from Elann - good price and pretty colours! It is maybe not quite as soft as Opal yarn but maybe it washes up softer. I'm not sure, yet, as the only socks I have made from the skeins I bought were gifted. This is the first pair I have made for me from them.

I am knitting these socks using the Wildflower Socks pattern from Fawn Pea. I quite like it in the colour I'm using but I think if I knit this pattern again I would knit the socks toe up instead of cuff down - I like the little "flower" pattern better that way! Still cute, though. A closer look at the pattern is below although I still don't think you can see the pattern clearly. Sorry!

I have also made another pair of Maine Morning Mitts from Clara Parkes' book A Knitters Book of Yarn. A nice, easy pattern when you need a gift quickly. Which is what I knitted these for. A gift for a friend. She likes them!

So she should, too! These were made in Cleckheaton Vintage Twist which is a very softly spun, and plied, 100% woollen yarn. One ply is spun in a series of colours and the other in one co-ordinating colour - very easy to emulate for spinners. It knitted up very softly but I did have to be careful. I normally use a long tail cast on with my thumb, a very easy and versatile cast on. However, this cast on slightly untwists yarns which have been plied Z as this yarn has been. (I have just had a closer look at the yarn and it seems that it has been both spun and plied Z! No wonder it is tender!) Because of the very soft spin, the yarn began to untwist and drift apart, not what you want for a cast on edge. When I discovered this, I got out a crochet hook and cast on over the needle with that (like a provisional cast on), very carefully. It worked and, as I had done it loosely, it was a nice stretchy edge. I also used two circs to make these but only one at a time as I only had one ball and didn't want to tie myself into knots using both ends at once. I was very happy with the resulting mitts.

Spinning has also been carried out recently as our group is taking part in the Creative Fibre fleece challenge this year. The fleece being showcased in 2008 is Corriedale. Our group was given a 2.5kg fleece to use for the challenge. A bit more than we had anticipated (we were thinking of making a couple of items of babies clothing) but it seems we are the only group in our region to participate so we got the whole fleece!

I have washed about half the fleece so far. Some members may prefer to work with the wool in its greasy state so I won't do the whole lot. I'm not sure if that is a good idea, though, as it may be too much like merino for that. As it is, I think it really needs another washing as it still feels a little, well, not squeaky clean! I always wash the yarn when it has been spun up, so it isn't a problem for me so I'm not going to worry too much about it.

I have prepared and spun up a couple of samples so far and would like to get one more done before the next meeting on Thursday. The first sample I prepared using my Majacraft minicombs and spun the wool in a 2 ply worsted style. The last bit on the bobbin I navajo-piled. This sample (photos next time, maybe) is soft and controlled-looking. Looks how I expected it too.

The second sample I prepared on my hand carders and spun up using a long-draw woolen style (well, as close as I could get. I'm not too comfortable with this style, yet.). It has come out beautifully soft and puffy but, perhaps, could have had a little more twist both in the singles and in the plying.

I would also like to try carding a little on the drum carder and see if there is any difference between this preparation and the hand cards. There's nothing like playing around like this to put off the decisions of what I will actually make! But it is fun, and a great learning experience.