Saturday, October 31, 2009

Byzantine again

Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on the last entry; it was really useful, and did help me decide what to do.

Despite knowing that Westminster Cathedral a) was just down the road from work and b) was a neo-Byzantine Victorian edifice and c) I'm a Catholic, I still hadn't made it in there until the I Knit Weekender, when I was staying at a Westminster University hall of residence just down the road (highly recommended, by the way, if you're a single in London over the summer and want cheap, clean, self-catering digs right in the middle of it all, and thanks to Yvonne for recommending it!)

I digress. Westminster Cathedral was wonderful, and I'll post more soon. But one of the things I loved was these little leaves/trees which were made of perfect tiny elements, and next to each other, and went so well together... And Susan's pattern did exactly that (and thanks so much for making a suggestion here; I do hope I managed to say in the original post that I realise it's not your pattern, which is gorgeous, but my modification of it which is the problem!)...

I did like the suggestion of a fabric lining, which several people suggested; and I pondered that one long and hard. I went to both Liberty (who carry the Kaffe Fassett range) and the Silk Society, and each had something which might well have done, and I thought I'd go back next week and make a choice. But then I came home last night and went through my scarves and shawls, and looked at the Ones I Wore and the Ones I Didn't. And it turns out the Ones I Really Don't are those with a fabric lining; and I suspect the recipient might have similar tastes. So, last night I put those into the charity box for the next carrier bags that come round, and this morning on my volunteer library shift (before the very lovely and extremely boisterous four-brother group arrived to take over the computers and ask masses of questions about... well, everything in the world), I went with the first two suggestions from Suzi and my evil twin and reduced the scarf so far to

I think the clincher was remembering that the intended recipient was wearing her Nice New Winter Coat last time I saw her, and the colours in this scarf really wouldn't have worked out with it anyway; so I felt better about keeping the yarn and making an adapted version of this pattern as a cushion early next year when the Christmas knitting is done... Which I will keep for myself, and fawn over like Smaug.

Post warning; I've joined NaBloPoMo again; I did manage it last November, and I have a few nice things coming up this November (and also some Christmas knitting for people who don't read this); I also have a load of things from Vienna I never blogged...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Suggestions, anyone?

Less than one day into GMT (welcome, dark dank evenings) and the Knitting Strikes Back.

I have a current bit of knitting which can best be expressed thus:

I have a couple of really nice FOs to show you, probably in a later post, but this particular project has come to a bit of a standstill and I could really do with some suggestions.

I'm knitting Byzantine, by Susan Pandorf. Except I'm really not - I'm just following the chart. Anything following reflects no discredit to the designer, who produces the most beautiful patterns. This is just to show that sometimes you can just go a modification too far.
I'm making it in 4-ply, as a scarf, instead of the intended Silk Garden Lite as a stole. I'm making it in wool (basically, there's 10% nylon in one component) rather than in a drapier blend. And in the usual wonderful sense of complete self-delusion, I've got nearly halfway through before I decided to steam-block it and work out that actually, no, it's never going to stop curling at the edges and it's always going to turn into a little tiny cylinder rather than the very beautiful scarf it ought to be.

Normally, I'd rip out without a thought. But it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I mean, look at it.

I'm using Mini Mochi in colour 114 and JoJoLand Harmony in colour 18, and they're made for each other. Everything about the colours is wonderful...
So - the poser is:

I have a strip of extremely beautiful fabric 30cm x 60cm (12" x 24"). I also have another ball of each colour and probably about 5" of knitted length on the existing balls. It's mosaic knitting, so not as catastrophically bad to rip out as Fair Isle or stranded.

Things I have considered and rejected:

1) I could pick up the edge stitches and do some corrugated rib along the long edges - I don't have enough yarn to do this without making the scarf less than 50" long, and the recipient likes longer scarves, and even then I'm not convinced it won't just curl.

2) I could turn the piece of fabric into a bag - I have enough bags, and then I'd just have half the yarn left to make another small thing...

3) I could pick up edge stitches and make something modular - I'm receptive to ideas on this...

4) I could just rip it out and make a big cushion or something using the same chart, and forget the 20 or so hours spent so far... this is what I'm leaning towards so far

5) ? any suggestions?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thanks, and prize!

Thanks to the 12 people who commented (including Daisyx2 which was presumably finger trouble!) I'm glad you haven't been too turned off by all the garden stuff. I have a free weekend - I need to do blurb for next year's knitting classes and a bit of work-work, but otherwise I'm hoping to do a lot of cleaning and tidying, and some blogging, this weekend...

OK: the prize is a small collection of notion-type things. The main attraction is an accessories bag from the new, wonderful and local woolly mamas - so new their online shop isn't open yet but you can e-mail in enquiries. Their bigger knitting bags are also absolutely gorgeous and designed for both beauty and practicality... And I'm plugging them because I really like them, their stuff and their ethics; I paid the going rate for the prize bag.

There's also a set of little sweatery needle-keepers-together and a handmade-by-me scissor fob.

And the winner is.... Mel/Yogicknitter, comment no. 10. I'll PM you on Ravelry, and see if you're likely to be at I Knit sometime soon or whether I should give it up as an offering to the Postal Gods... Congrats! and thanks again to everyone for entering.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

'Versary - and prizegiving

I realised last night that today is the 4th anniversary of starting this blog; and dug out a photo from this month which seems to express the essence of it...

Knitting, chaos and cat. That works.

And over the last year: the garden. Photo taken at 3:15ish today....

Thanks for bearing with me; particularly over the last couple of months where IE8 and Blogger have been At War -this seems to have improved, it seems that manipulation of photos doesn't mean three versions of a browser just to switch two photos round... Now that's sorted, am hoping to do a post a day in November as last year...

Thanks for the lovely encouraging comments on the garden over the last few months, even if you didn't want to see a garden on a knitting blog; and thanks for the chivvying along when I've not been making enough progress for you. Honestly, the comments on the garden have sometimes made the difference between going out the following weekend, or not...

Four years ago I was working in a job I hated, and I was at Ally Pally as part of a stitched textiles group I felt somewhat out of my depth with, although all the people I worked with there were wonderful. These days I really like my job, although I work slightly mad hours, and am a Knitter...

As is customary, a prize will be given for a blogiversary. But no contest, or anything... Just please, leave a comment before Sandi O'Clock (which means 6:30pm British Summer Time, when The News Quiz comes on on Radio 4, on Friday 23rd October); a prize will be awarded on random comment numbers...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

2009 books, #55-#62

Roadside crosses, by Jeffery Deaver. London: Hodder, 2009.

Deaver just seems to get better. This one's a Kathryn Dance novel; and he neatly avoids all the patterns he's adopted in the past. There's a character you feel certain is earmarked to be the twist in the tail but isn't; and one you feel is probably benign, and also isn't... just as you think you've worked out how he's going to trick you, he turns through 90 degrees and does something completely different...

Our fathers' lies, by Andrew Taylor. London: Hodder, 2007.

William Dougal isn't my favourite of Andrew Taylor's recurring characters, but this one is very good, and a nice quick read; a suspected suicide turns into something much more complicated involving old family history and the intelligence network; gripping from start to finish.

Serpent's tooth, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1998.

Another of the Peter Dekker books - lots of twists and turns; occasionally the plot gets almost too convoluted for its own good, but some of the characters are very interesting and it does start with the most dramatic scene... and it's interesting to see the sons turning into young men rather than still being children.

The devil in amber, by Mark Gatiss. London: Simon and Schuster, 2006.

This turned up in the 'to catalogue' pile at the library; so I catalogued it and brought it home. I have a soft spot for strange, slightly fascistic, 1930s action/spy novels of the type written by Dornford Yates, and this is a wonderful (and affectionate) parody of these written by League of Gentlemen writer/performer Mark Gatiss who was also responsible for the wonderful Nebulous on the radio. Wonderfully written, with the eye for the violently grotesque you'd expect from Gatiss, and some fantastically punny names. I need to get hold of the first book in the series, The Vesuvius Club, and see if there have been any others since...

The blue religion: new stories about cops, criminals and the chase, edited by Michael Connolly for Mystery Writers of America. London: Quercus, 2008.

This is an extremely good anthology of short stories. The main trail on the cover is for an original Harry Bosch story, but there are better ones in here; John Harvey's bleak story stands out against the more glamorous American offerings; John O. Born is a name I need to follow up; Laurie R. King shines as usual; Paul Guyot's story is extremely moving and Peter Robinson's is beautifully crafted. One small whinge though - all the stories are in US English spelling regardless of provenance; reading "gray" and "center" in Harvey's and Robinson's Northern English dialogue is annoying and clumsy - and increasingly frequent, recently...

The storm: the world economic crisis and what it means, by Vince Cable. London: Atlantic, 2009.

Absolutely does what it says on the tin. A sane, clear explanation of what's been going on over the last couple of years, which explains economic concepts in ordinary language. Obviously there's a political bias here, but it's relatively slight and, where it becomes party-political, it's signalled; Cable assumes you're an intelligent person with an interest in, but no great expertise in, economic theory and history - it's never patronising or over-theoretical. At 150 pages, it's a very good guide to what happened (it was published in January or so), and gives predictions (many of them since fulfilled) for the future. I'm not surprised the queue for this at the library was extremely long.

Even money, by Dick Francis and Felix Francis. London: Michael Joseph, 2009.

Superb; Dick Francis at his best. I don't care who was behind this one; its's the standard blend of information (in this case, how on-course betting works), family (wow) and plot (pretty good...)

Definitely well up to the old standards of the early novels on the plot stakes, and well above it on the emotional ones...

206 bones, by Kathy Reichs. London: Heinemann, 2009.

I enjoyed this one - I always read the Kathy Reichs books when they come out, but the earlier ones set in Montréal are definitely my favourite, and the more Andrew Ryan content, the better. This one is almost entirely Montréal-based, and having visited the city last year I had slightly more idea of where things were and how the geography fits together (I'll have to go back and re-read the first couple...). I always fear that Tempe will go the way of Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta into self-absorption but there's no evidence of it in this particular book ... My only real criticism of it is that the framing device (and if you've seen the posters, you'll have read some of it) with attendant flashbacks isn't done strongly enough - you get a couple of pages of "present day" followed by 100 pages of "recent past" and it's not enough to be intruiguing, merely enough to be a bit irritating. As a study of how things can go very wrong in a workplace alarmingly quickly, it's excellent.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

2009 books, #44-54

Long time, no blog. Hoping to catch up a bit this evening, so here's a book review post which has been hanging around forever...

A lot of Michael Connolly in this bunch: I think I've read more or less everything he's written now though...

Thank you for the days : a boy's own adventures in radio and beyond, by Mark Radcliffe. London: Simon and Schuster, 2009.

I loved this book. I'm a fan of Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie on their Radio 2 show, but I don't think you'd need to be to enjoy this (or any of Maconie's wonderful books). You'd just need to have been at all interested in popular culture, and particularly popular music, over the last 30-40 years or so - and I suspect being British is probably an essential, too... It's a cross between an autobiography and a series of short stories, all called "The Day I..." and ranging from the rather beautiful ("The Day I Heard That John Peel Had Died") to the slightly surreal ("The Day I Went to Kate Bush's House for Cheese Flan") to the ridiculously funny ("The Day I Took Bros into a Goods Yard"). And "The Day I Saved Neil Hannon's Bacon" probably has the best (4-page) description of the atmosphere at the Cambridge Folk Festival I've ever read. As the review from David Bowie on the front page says, "Steal this book!" Although obviously I didn't as I got it from the library and that would be Very Wrong. I did go out and buy a copy for a friend's birthday as soon as I finished it though...

The brass verdict, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2008.

Another good one from Michael Connelly; this time a legal thriller with Lincoln lawyer character Micky Haller. But we get cameos from Harry Bosch and Jack McEvoy, too - I do like it when an suggesting Connelly is Balzac or anything, but it's fun. Greg Iles does something similar. This one author creates a whole universe and we get to see people from different angles. Not that I'm keeps you going all the way to the end, with a couple of very late twists and turns. If Connelly ever decided to concentrate on courtroom drama, he'd beat Grisham into submission in no time...

Fearless fourteen, by Janet Evanovich. London: Headline Review, 2009. Plum lucky, by Janet Evanovich. London: Penguin, 2009.

I love these books; they're funny, the plot races through, the cast of (mostly) insane characters are wonderful (Grandma Mazur is a particular favourite); they're sexy, rude, surreal, and a fabulous quick read. If anything can go wrong when Stephanie's involved, it will go wrong; this one involves home-made potato rocket-launchers (operated by Homegrown Security), a kid who spraypaints anything available, including dogs and a 61-year-old country-rock star called Brenda (who should never, ever, ever be brought into contact with Franklin's Dolores - actually, you could say the same for Grandma; and Lula, come to think of it; there's enough destruction and mayhem already). You couldn't make these novels into films with actual actors; but they'd make absolutely wonderful stylised animations...

The scarecrow, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2009.

Another classic from Michael Connelly; another one with Jack McEvoy. Tightly plotted, very scary, and even though it's one where you know who the killer is from fairly early on but the detectives and journalists don't, it's still gripping. Again, we get characters from other strands of Connelly's writing, in this case Rachel Walling and Keisha Russell... Weirdly, I went over to Connelly's website to check Keisha's surname, and there's a short quiz on the book; given the speed I read it at (someone else is waiting for it so I couldn't renew it), I was gratified to get 10 out of 12...

Justice, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1995. Prayers for the dead, by Faye Kellerman. London: Headline, 1996.

More Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus books - I've raved about these elsewhere. The plot in Justice is pretty shaky, to be honest, and doesn't really fit with what we know about Decker's integrity, but because you're involved with the characters it's still very readable... Prayers for the dead works much better and is very moving in the end.

Far cry, by John Harvey. London: Heinemann, 2009.

I still haven't forgiven John Harvey for what he did in the recent Resnick book Cold in hand; but this one is really very good - read it more or less in one session. Lots of twists and turns and some genuinely interesting characters...

The overlook, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2007.

A curiously short Harry Bosch book but none the worse for that - a highly entertaining couple of hours' reading and well up to Connelly's usual high standards. Bosch doing what he's best at - solving crime while remaining completely irritated by The Powers That Be...

Crime beat : true stories of cops and killers, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2006.

Something slightly different; a compilation of Connelly's journalism from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s (for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the LA Times). Rather than being a ragbag of different pieces, or just a chronological compilation, Connelly has divided it into different sections - The Cops, The Killers and The Cases. It's easy to see why Connelly won awards for some of these pieces, and fascinating to read them.

Iron council, by China Miéville. London: Pan, 2005.

This has taken much longer than anything else I've read this year, because it's both rich and strange - rich in terms of the amazing language and descriptions, and strange in its ideas - Remade people made up of pieces of other creature, or mechanical items; a train which is also a city, steaming into forbidden territory with its citizens pulling up the rails after it in order to lay them down before it; unlikely love stories; a maker of golems. After reading The city and the city in July, I wanted to try again with some of Miéville's trademark weird fiction (and a friend suggested this one was accessible) - it was a fantastic read and fully deserved its Arthur C. Clarke award. I'll have a bit of a pause while I try and read some of the many other books which have built up in the meantime, and then try again with Perdido Street Station, the first book set in this universe.