More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Saturday, 14 July 2012

More on the polecat...

Quick post just to say that I've identified the animal that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  At the time I was convinced it was a polecat and many of you seemed to think so too. But whilst in Wales this week I started mulling it over again and did some more research.  I'd never really been convinced that what we saw totally matched the pics of polecats, although it did seem like the most likely.

I'd look at many images online, but what I couldn't square was the white bits on the ears and head.  So yesterday when I came across a pic of a mink I was amazed to see that it was the spitting image of the creature we saw running around the outside of our home.
They're quite different but similar.  On reading further it transpires that all feral minks in the UK are descended from a few that were imported from the US in the late 1920s for breeding due to their valuable pelts.  The fur farmers didn't count on them being so clever at escaping, so now we, and apparently the rest of Europe, have an indigenous population, unfortunately seriously messing with the natural order of things. 

This poor creature has been blamed variously for all sorts of problems, associated with the decline of otters, water vole, seabirds and frogs. But in my opinion you can't blame the mink for any of this, rather it's man's insatiable greed that, as ever, is constantly destroying habitats all over the globe. If women would be satisfied to wear the skin that they were born with and afford minks the same privilege, none of this would have been a problem. There would have been no market for the pelts, the mink would have remained in its native home rather than 3000 miles away wreaking havoc, and the natural balance and bio-diversity would have been maintained. 

Being a vegetarian, of course I don't wear fur, but even if I wasn't a vegetarian I wouldn't choose to breed animals in captivity to rob them of their coats simply because it happens to be fashionable.  I take a different view of cultures where the climate is extreme and killing an animal for both food and its fur is a necessity and as such is part of the natural order. 
I've been involved in the fashion industry for many years and it has never sat easily with me. The throw away, consuming culture of wanton waste that fashion cultivates, dependent on exploitation and greed, goes against everything I hold dear. 

Sorry to rant, this just seemed to touch a nerve about all the concerns constantly being aired in the media - global warming, melting ice-caps, disappearing forests, freak weather. It's important sometimes to just stop and take a rain check - even if we're powerless to stop it, at least let's try to understand what's happening and have an open dialogue about the world we live in. We all need a grand plan for a sustainable future before it's too late. 

Meanwhile our feral mink is doing a pretty good job keeping the rabbits out of our garden.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The family calabash

In 1924 P's father decided to upsticks, jump on a ship and go to South America - Peru to be precise. He'd had the travel bug before, tried to board a ship bound for Australia, but his father had hauled him off the boat at Tillbury as he was still a minor. This time, however, turned twenty-one and now the master of his own destiny, he applied for a job with Lobitos, an oil company in Peru, and off he went.  We're a bit hazy about the journey, knowing only that the route took him through the Panama canal, but though he would have been travelling in relative style, we can assume it can't have been easy at sea for weeks on end. 
In 2004, Felix, his grandson, applied to several companies offering gap year placements in Peru.  Felix worked for six months in a bingo hall and staged a selling exhibition of his digital art to help fund his dream trip. When the time came for him to go, it turned out that his placement would be helping in an orphanage and living with a Peruvian host family. 

Les (P's father) had died ten years previously and no thoughts of parallel paths had occurred to us.  So we were stunned when we learnt that Felix was placed in Piura, a small town a few miles from the equator - the very same town where his grandfather had lived eighty years before. Incredible! Who says there's no grand order in the universe?

Les lived in Piura for six years, before returning to the UK, but what I'm getting round to is showing you something he brought back, which we all cherish and wonder about from time to time...
...a calabash gourd, wonderfully carved with people who look as though they're dressed in Peruvian Sunday best, playing bugles and harps, canoodling, dancing, there's a whole world in there. A tree of life with monkeys, birds, alpacas, llamas, flags, flora and fauna, as well as many fabulous decorative freizes and repeating patterns - a veritable feast of inspiration!
P remembers as a child being totally fascinated by it, especially as the lid held a secret, if you didn't know about the tiny dots and get them aligned, there was no way the lid would fit. Once it was on, you could barely see that you could take it off.
Close-up of zigzag pattern where lid joins rest of gourd
...and here's the bottom of the gourd with the underside of the lid.
The dancers
Close-up of the dancers
The bugle player
Top of the tree of life with birds
Couple at bottom of the tree of life with different bird
Monkeys on the tree of life
Men with monkey
Male dancers with the harpist beneath them
Various friezes around lid
It's intriguing to me how objects define families, providing the fibre that knits the family together and creating continuityThe objects we grow up with have many stories to tell about those who chose them and bestow a sense of security and belonging. Personally I have very little from either my mother or my father's families, so I always thought how wonderful it was for P to inherit  such beautiful bits and pieces from his parents. I'm not necessarily talking about things which cost a lot, but both his mother and father had an eye for good design, resulting in a rich heritage of lovely things to pass down the generations.

I'd love to hear your stories about objects in your family and if you know anything more about the provenance of our gorgeous calabash, please let us know.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tips, tricks and rain, rain, rain

Have been pretty silent on the knit front recently, mainly because I'm so involved with deadlines for one thing or another.  I can't say anything about these projects as publication is way in the future, so it's easier for me to avoid the subject altogether, rather than be forever banging on about things I can't show you.  But I know that many of you drop by because of your passion for knitting, so read on - later I'm including a couple of tips from my sadly deceased Ask Jean column.

This week will see the last batch of my babies winging their way off to far distant places, at least for a couple of months, so I'm beginning to draw breath and take stock. Would love to show you some of the projects I've been working on, but unfortunately that's not the way publishing works. It will be another twelve months before the book I'm working on is published, but the design and making will be finished by the end of next month. Such a different time scale if you're an indie publisher, but I can see the pros and cons of both.

I'm looking forward to sending off the current batch so I can get down to putting some sort of order back into my office. The office and the studio, by the way are one and the same thing, it just depends what I'm doing there. All the stuff that involves hours of sitting at a computer is done in the office, whilst drawing, choosing colours, playing with yarn, knitting swatches and photography is done in the studio. When things have been busy, the space can get crammed, so I'm looking forward to reclaiming the floor space so I can have a clear head for the next batch.
Come on, let me know your views
- grass green or deep burgundy -
I hate flesh coloured shoes and bras!
The other day I'd ordered a pair of wedges from the Office sale and they arrived at the same time as a box of yummy yarn - needless to say I didn't know which to open first. You've guessed it, I opened the yarn and was delighted, but the shoes were a different matter - they looked a totally different colour online. Hmmm,  dyeing them is another job to add to the list.  I'm thinking grass green or burgundy, any suggestions?
One good thing about the rain is that my beans
are romping away... despite the slugs!
Luckily the rain hasn't been that much of an imposition for me workwise, holed up in my garret studio with the deluge bouncing off the Velox windows. As I've got to be indoors anyway this makes me feel sorta snug and secure, much better than when it's 30 degrees outside and I'm being boiled up at the top of the house.

One of the few days recently when it's been
 possible to have coffee in the garden
Gotta go now so I can clock off early and catch some Wimbledon.  Hope you saw the lovely woman proudly knitting in the crowd during the Andy Murray v Marcos Baghdatis match. A great ambassador for the craft, and she was actually wearing one of her own creations too. 
© Telegraph Newspaper
Now as promised, here's a couple of handy tips for your portfolio.

Which method would you recommend for creating a turning ridge on a hem?
Kate Lumley, by email
A turning ridge is a row worked when the hem is the required length, at the lower or the upper edge.  It demarcates the edge making a clean line.  My favourite turning ridge is a purl row, but I do sometimes use a picot ridge or a slipstitch ridge, depending on the design. The body pattern always begins on the next RS or WS row, depending on pattern.
Knit the sts through the back of loops on wrong side, so forming a purl ridge on right side.

Worked over an even number of sts on right side row:
K1, *k2tog, yarn over; repeat from * end k1

Worked over an odd number of stitches on right side row:
*k1, with yarn at front, slip 1, k1; repeat from * to end

I have rescued a crocheted blanket which has been in the garage for a year or two.  I have washed it and it looks great, but it is has an unpleasant smell, probably due to being damp for some time.  It is not mildewed.  Is there something else I can wash it with?  Would borax do the trick?  I hesitate to try anything without someone else's experience to go on.  Various reference books like Mrs Beeton are not helpful.
Lindy Wiltshire, Alton, Hants
My grandmother always swore by vinegar, Lindy.  To remove smells from clothes and blankets add 1 cup of vinegar to very hot water in bathtub, and steam article above. If the odour is really bad you may need to do this two or three times, but it should do the trick eventually. Another tip is to add 2 cups of vinegar to the rinse cycle in your machine and this will leave your blanket soft and fluffy.