A day in Helsinki

My lovely daughter is treating her aging mum to a birthday trip to Helsinki, Finland. It’s a beautiful city. We visited the Design Museum yesterday and my eye was caught by this chunky knitted skirt.

Helsinki is a lovely city, small enough to walk around comfortably, frequent trams, and surprisingly few cars. There is a good variety of shops, from the small boutiques to larger malls and department stores.

A nice walk took us down to the sea front which looks out across to the many islands off the shore. These were also in evidence when we took a spin on the SkyWheel later in the day. Below the Skywheel some brave souls were open-air swimming. The air temperature was below freezing all day and by that time the wind was getting up and we were feeling glad of our extra layers, yet these people were walking around in swimming costumes.

I haven’t seen any knitting yarn yet, but we did find the a couple of good stationery shops. In the first I bought a lovely postcard which had been printed by them, so a great souvenir for my holiday journal. The other was the Lamy Concept Store, quite a small shop, but devoted to just Lamy pens. I resisted the urge to buy anything, but I did try out all of the nib widths (Lamy do a really good selection) and found myself very taken with the 1.5 and 1.9mm stub nibs – something I have never considered before. I am tempted, very tempted. It’s not something I’d use on a daily basis, but would add something to cards and special letters.

My daughter informs me that the Finns drink more coffee than anyone else, so we are trying to keep up with frequent coffee breaks. On the food front, I surprised myself by enjoying a bowl of Finnish Porridge at breakfast – I usually detest porridge. This version was made with barley instead of oats and I had a good spoon of local Ligonberry jam to sweeten it. Yummy.

I hope you are enjoying yourselves wherever you are.

Planner ahoy!

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The glorious William Hannah A5 Notebook

Well, I have teased you for long enough and now it’s time to reveal my 60th birthday gift-to-myself – the A5 William Hannah Notebook in Bordeaux and Petrol. When I fully processed the fact that I was unlikely to treat myself to a pen to celebrate my 60th birthday, I wondered what else would fall into that ‘special gift’ category and this was the natural conclusion. It’s expensive enough to make sense only for a special occasion, high quality so it’s going to be a lasting gift, and I already knew that this size and type of notebook would keep me happy.

I have been using this for just under two weeks and in all honesty the camera is being hyper-critical because in real life the scuffs are nowhere near as noticeable as they seem in the photos. Being a vegetable-tanned leather, the outside is naturally going to show the marks of everday life and I’m more than happy with that. I love the rich burgundy colour of the leather on the outside contrasting with the super petrol-blue suede inside. It’s like the flamboyant silk lining in a sensible coat or on the back of a waistcoat. I thought long and hard about the colour combination to opt for, toying with the idea of ordering a custom colourway, but finally opting for this one, even though the bright red options do make my heart sing.

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Petrol suede lining, custom dividers

The notebook has a disc system to hold the pages in place which is similar to the wire binding of the Filofax notebook, but slightly different. The engineering of the metal discs and the rod which runs through them holding them secure against the spine of the cover are the crux of the flexibility this system provides. Like the Filofax notebook, pages can easily be added, removed, moved around. As with the Filofax notebook, I like to keep this fairly slim with just three months of week on 2 pages diary, a to-do and notes section, and some sheets for creative writing. I have two dividers – the Scarlet at the front then a Tabriz Blue one between the diary and notes section. I also have two bookmarks – a Scarlet one marking the current week in my diary, and a Tabriz Blue one between the notes and creative writing areas.

Thus my set-up is incredibly simple, minimal, functional. This planner/notebook is a refinement of the system that has worked for me for the past couple of years, elevated by a high quality cover and some seriously gorgeous paper. Honestly, William Hannah provides exceptionally good paper. My pens are in ecstasy. One of the little touches that take the products to a different level is the fact you can choose not only the type of ruling you have (plain, dot grid, grid or lined) but the colour the ruling is printed in, and with the initial set that comes with your binder you can mix and match which papers are provided. It’s pure genius.

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Suble branding on the back

In future posts I will give you a glimpse of what’s inside, but for now it’s all about the leather, the suede and the lovely textured cardboard dividers.

Revelation

Wroxham Broad
Wroxham Broad

The list of things I haven’t done the past week is enormous. I haven’t exercised anywhere near enough. I haven’t been faithful to my diet. I haven’t finished reading Midnight At The Well Of Souls (by Jack L Chalker, thrilling 1970s sci-fi). Indeed, for the past three days I haven’t even written or knitted. Instead I have done more important things, more urgent things, and more fun things. Unfortunately, none of them are the stuff that stories are made of. So, instead of writing about progress, I’m going to present you with a small revelation.

One of my favourite poems is Maud by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. For many years I have loved the part which became the popular Edwardian song, Come Into The Garden, Maud. I am also very keen on the section that John Fowles quoted in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. So it is unfathomable to me that I have never actually read the entire poem.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise because it is a long poem and the readibility is patchy; the bits I know are probably the highlights. However, I have decided that I owe it to myself to read it through just once, and so last week I started from the beginning, which is sombre in mood as the narrator relates how he dislikes a particular part of the wood where his father had fallen once to his death. It is very evocative and draws the reader in as all good beginnings should.

The poet is considering whether it would be best to leave his childhood home when news reaches him:

“Workmen up at the Hall! – they are coming back from abroad;
The dark old place will be gilt by the touch of a millionaire:
I have heard, I know not whence, of the singular beauty of Maud;
I play’d with the girl when a child; she promised then to be fair.”

Things creep up on us in just that way, and we cannot know whether the future will be delight or pain, all we can do is walk forwards and live it.

I am looking forward to this poem being my future companion for a while.

I don’t have plans and schemes

I don’t have plans and schemes
And I don’t have hopes and dreams
I don’t have anything
Since I don’t have you

Well, actually, I do!

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My next garment

Over the past couple of days I have been examining my modest yarn stash to work out which yarns I want to keep and which I am never going to use so therefore need to donate to charity. I’ve also been getting some exercise winding small remnants of Shetland wool from the cones into balls as I think they will be easier to store. I am saving all of these to make a Fairisle patterned sweater one of these old days.

Since I finished Gaudi earlier this year and ended up with plenty of left-overs of the Rowan Felted Tweed DK, I have had the above cardigan on my radar. It is Basilica by Martin Storey – a lovely, cosy-looking bundle of colour which will my third project from the excellent Rowan pattern book New Vintage DK, which I bought in autumn 2018.

After careful consideration, I have come up with the following colour scheme:

Main colour for ribs and collar – a double strand of JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool in Marine (the ball nearest to the model’s head in my photo)

Secondary colour, for the larger colour blocks on body and sleeves – a double strand of JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool, one strand Blueprint and one strand an unknown shade of grey

Stripes – Rowan Felted Tweed DK in Mineral and Clay, double strands of JC Rennie Supersoft Lambswool in Medium Grey and an unknown shade of orange

I am planning one very small change to the way the pattern is written so that the stripes are at the bottom of the garment and the solid colour block starts at the armhole and stretches to the neck. This will get around the fact that I have a limited amount of my secondary colour.

Considering that this garment is knit in stocking stitch with a very simple stripe sequence, I am surprised that Rowan felt they needed to produce it as a charted design. I understand (although I don’t entirely agree with) the use of charts to convey complicated instructions that would take up too much space if written out in full, but in this instance I can’t imagine the written instructions would take up as much room as the chart.

That’s the limit of my knitting plans and schemes so far. The pale pink “sloppy joe” jumper is still on my list, but first I want to concentrate on getting this bunch of wools out of my stash. I don’t really have any other sweater quantities stored away, which is a lovely position to be in. Ideally, I’d like to run my stash down completely. Lovely though yarns are in their skeins and balls, I like them so much better when I’ve turned them into garments and put them in my wardrobe!

Well, I think I will knit another couple of rows on my cowl before tea – I am just starting colour number eight.


For your education and/or enjoyment, why not take a listen to Don McLean’s version of Since I Don’t Have You?


 

Dreary days, December desks

November desks
Well, really it’s a November desk, but I’ll do anything for alliteration

After a fine run of warm, sunny autumn days, it seems we have turned a corner and yesterday was dark and dank without respite. A day for hunkering down with steaming mugs of tea, for switching on the lamp to provide a pool of light on the desk, for typing and typing (trying to improve my speed) and for relishing the quiet.

Relishing the quiet and the pool of light most of all. Since I abandoned my job this summer, I am missing a regular income intensely, but not missing the bustle and brightness and, lets face it, austerity of modern offices. It seems that the more firmly we wed ourselves to technology, the less appealing, perhaps less human, our offices become. We can’t live without the technology, but I know I am not alone in thinking we need to forge a better connection between the computers and phones and our heritage products, the pens and papers, the files and filing cabinets, the people. One case in point is the ability to track exactly who is involved in a project, and what they are doing, simply by looking at a list on the front of a folder – we’ve lost that and I miss it.

On the other hand, I do not miss the early years in my last job when finding information in a folder would often start with unlocking the next-door warehouse, which was only used for storage and therefore freezing on all but the hottest summer day, climbing the stairs, then climbing the stepladder, then braving the clouds of dust to locate the file in its cardboard box. No, that I do not miss.

All of this is simply to preface a brief update on my home desk. After I reorganised my books at the beginning of last week, I was struck with the need to move my desk yet again. There are really only two places in my flat where the desk can possibly go, yet it yo-yos between these two positions with alarming frequency. I think, possibly, it will end up being a summer position/winter position thing. Now it is in the ‘winter position’ – a dark corner, but rather cosy. In summer it makes sense to have it over by the window to take advantage of breezes and natural light. (Isn’t it funny how quickly the lovely summer breeze becomes the annoying winter draught?) Both positions have equal value and neither position is quite perfect, and so I despair of ever finding any resolution as to the ‘winner’.

The staple items on top of my desk, regardless of the position, are:-

Lamp – Due to the way I had the desk laid out in the summer I didn’t have the lamp and I missed it.

Laptop – My trusty MacBook is little and lightweight and I love it. I don’t for a moment regret moving to this from my desktop iMac. There is a lot to love about a desktop computer, but in a small flat it can be overwhelming.

iPad Pro – Music centre, and handy extra screen when I want to reference something without taking too much focus off what I’m doing on the MacBook. I have the Apple Pencil and use it occasionally, but nowhere near as much as I expected I would when I bought the iPad Pro.

Diary, Notebook, Pen – In the summer these were pretty much permanently perched on the back of my settee and only taken to my desk as and when needed. Now the desk is back near the settee they have gravitated towards living on the desk.

Bamboo magazine tidy x 2 – One holds various notebooks and stickers together with my journal; the other houses printed copies of my CV, some other random paperwork, and an A5 Filofax which I have set up to prepare for next February’s International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo).

Mouth and Foot Painting Artists‘ Calendar 2018 – This is a charity which my mum supported and I have carried on. A couple of times a year, they send out a bundle of cards featuring artworks by people who are unable to use their hands, yet are supported and encouraged to find other ways to express their creativity. As someone who can’t ‘draw’, ‘paint’, or otherwise express creativity in a visual format, I am in awe of them. The pack with Christmas cards always includes this A5 format calendar and for several years it has been the calendar I have displayed near my desk.

Blakes 7 etched coaster – Because it’s my desk and of course there is going to be something on the Blakes 7 theme.

Having done what passed for some work at my desk, the afternoon drew to a close, what little light there had been in the day departed, and my knitting began singing its siren song to me. As I age, I am becoming reconciled to the bright summer nights, but in my heart I have always loved best the long, dark evenings of autumn and winter.


Long, dark evenings, or the summery stretches of balmy half-light in the garden – what’s your preference?


 

Kojak is not knitting a sock

Kojak Sock knitting
He may look like he’s knitting a sock

I was fascinated by the appearance of hand-knitted socks in one of last week’s re-runs of Kojak (Series 4, Episode 3 – Law Dance). One of the numerous things I love about Kojak is how he is portrayed as being fascinated by everything. Most episodes see him fiddling with something – blowing bubbles in a country store, leafing through a huge book about insects, trying on the cologne left by a suspect in a hotel room – or throwing off-hand remarks that are very esoteric. I don’t know if that came totally from the writing or if some of it is input from Telly Savalas’ interpretation, but I love it.

In this particular episode it was knitted socks – the lady handed them to him to carry whilst she cleaned her glasses and throughout their conversation as they walked along a corridor he was intently studying the needles and stitches. Later in the episode there was a close-up of the socks being worked on during a courtroom scene and again Kojak was looking down at the knitting, not up at the courtroom. The knitter in me was impressed. (The socks, of course, were brown and beige – it was the 1970s after all.)

So, sadly, Kojak is not knitting socks, but rest assured if he had been, they would have been the sexiest socks in the universe.

In other knitting news, I am having a bit of a crisis over the lovely gold cardigan I am knitting. Having completed the back and one side of the front, I am suddenly wishing that I was using the wool doubled to knit a thicker jumper, inspired by this one currently on sale at Marks and Spencer:

Yellow polo neck
M&S Pullover Winter 2018

I hope it’s just a passing whim and I will be back on track with the cardigan when my super-secret Christmas knitting is finished – or started, the knitting wool delivery is so super-secret even I don’t know when it will come.

Finally, a lament – I have finished my favourite perfume. The bottle is, as my mum would have put it, a “dead man” (something that is completely used up). The perfume is Bal a Versailles by Jean Desprez and I have worn this, on and off (more off than on because it can be difficult to get hold of), since the late 1970s. I read a story recently that Elizabeth Taylor wore it during the filming of Cleopatra, and apparently after that she gifted it to Michael Jackson who wore it for the rest of his life. Eek!

Bal a Versailles
It’s a dead man….

Do you have any favourite knitting scenes from TV or film – such as Dumbledore’s famous comment about knitting patterns in the Harry Potter films? Do you ever get part of the way through knitting something and wonder if it should be something else, and do you change, or do you persevere? Do you have a favourite perfume or just chop and change as the mood hits you?


Work in progress – Maroon sweater

Weekend gains
Knitting, Kojak, more knitting, more Kojak – that’s my kind of weekend

A lot of my weekend was spent alternating between knitting and watching Kojak; perfect partners for the grim, grey, rainy days we had in Norfolk. Oh, I did chores too, plenty of chores. I washed and cleaned and shopped for groceries, because I am far from advocating a life where all one does is knit and watch Kojak (that’s because he’s mine… all mine, I tell you!).

I thought I would feature the knitting today since it is a relatively new cast-on for me. I’m using one of the basic sweater patterns from “One Thousand Sweaters” by Amanda Griffiths. I haven’t decided if I will go on and knit sleeves, or just do a sleeveless pullover. The decision may depend slightly on how the wool goes, because I admit I am struggling with this yarn. It is Willow & Lark’s Ramble DK – 100% superwash wool. Willow & Lark is a house brand for Lovecrafts who run the Love Knitting and Love Crochet web shops. I have been knitting with this wool, on and off, through the late spring and summer, but not getting far on any project I’ve started.

It’s not a bad yarn, by any means. For example, it gives a nice even stitch definition which isn’t guaranteed with worstead-spun yarns; many show a definite bias whereby one side of each stitch sits vertically whilst the other side slopes, giving a very noticeable effect in the finished fabric. The slightly silky finish you get with a superwash treated wool is fine by me. Less acceptable is the tendency for the yarn to look a bit ‘old’ as I’m knitting it, giving me cause for concern about the longevity of the project. Worse, though, are the number of noticeable joins within a ball of the yarn, not to mention actual knots. These are frequent enough that I have started to rewind each ball before I start it in order to avoid surprises. I think this is probably par for the course at this price-point, but I am disappointed nevertheless. The colour is lovely and autumnal, though, and I would really like a garment in this shade. Actually, what I want is a pair of boots in exactly this shade; and thinking about it I used to have a pair that I loved until they fell apart.

On top of my concern about the wool, I am knitting the medium size on this occasion and I am also undecided about the fit. I’m currently trying to lose weight and the large size in this book is a trifle big even at my plumpest. Then again, with the ribbing features at the sides and front, it is cinching in quite noticeably, giving me pause for thought. However, I shall carry on and see what transpires. Luckily, the world does not end every time we knit something we don’t end up liking. Also, many things I thought I didn’t like when I finished them end up being the things I wear the most.

Now, though, it is time to close, before I start to exhibit Kojak withdrawal symptoms! Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend and are starting the working week rested.


 

 

Quote of the Week

From Theo Kojak
Everyone’s favourite well-dressed, bald, Greek, lollipop-sucking, 1970s New York cop.

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“Greeks don’t make threats…

… they utter prophesies.”


(This classic show from my teenage years is being shown on ITV4 every lunchtime and is currently the highlight of my days. And don’t you just love the cops in the background trimming the station Christmas tree?)

Waking up

It is time to wake up and get this blog moving.

Nothing dramatic has been happening; I have been toddling along with life and not writing about it.  There has been a significant amount of sleeping.  Knitting projects have come and gone; some have stuck around and been finished whilst others have fallen by the wayside.  I think I have purchased more wool than I have used which is not the correct way to make progress in this life.

So, let’s all take a deep breath and jump in.

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(Lovely wool isn’t it…)

Week 8 – There has been progress

Last weekend ambled by with me largely sitting on the settee nursing a cold.  This week the cold has continued and I haven’t knitted much and I expected to have little to report come this weekend.  Yet progress has been made which makes me wonder if the elves have been dropping in and knitting up Laccaria for me in the night.

Knitting

Yes, Laccaria is coming along nicely.  All pieces are knitted.  I enjoyed adding the twirly “flags” to the right front more than any other part of the construction, and oooh, about three million times better than the bobbles on the left front!  So, where are we now?

Laccaria Front Band

Shoulders are joined and the neckband and left front band are done.  This afternoon should see the right front band done, complete with buttonholes.  Then, at last, I will know what size buttons I need to buy and can order them.  I know this will put back the whole completion of the project, but you know me – I do like the buttons to be just right.  It’s hard to show the twirly bits to their best at present, so the right-hand side looks rather messy in this photo.

Next up

I have been pretty much monogamous with Laccaria the past couple of weeks as I want it finished.  However, I am preparing myself to move on and this week received a nice bundle of wool from KnitRennie.  First up, a full cone (900g) of silver grey:

Silver Wool

I am mulling this one over.  I currently have one grey cardigan which is soft and slouchy, with drop shoulders.  I want this one to be different in shape.  I am torn between something along the lines of the “Perry” cardigan by Michelle Wang which is in Brooklyn Tweed’s “Wool People Book 1”.  This is a long-line cardigan with a lace pattern at the hem and I am pretty sure the wool knitted double (as it is being for Laccaria) will suit this project.  I just have some slight misgivings over the shape, as it has a low v-neck and buttons below the waist and on some finished versions on Ravelry the buttoning seems to happen at the hip.  My hips aren’t my slimmest point.  Then again, I think it is a pattern which benefits from being sized rather looser than being form-fitting.

Another front runner for this wool is the “Leaving” cardigan by Anne Hanson from The Twist Collective Issue Winter 2010.  This is a more standard cardigan style with some nice details which looks like it would be enjoyable to knit.  This one would be a summer cardi as it has quite a scooped neckline.

I have by no means narrowed it down to just these two, though.

Looking further forward

Colour Wheel of Wool

This was my other purchase from KnitRennie.  10 “baby cones” in a variety of colours.  They range in weight from under 100g up to 200g, not enough of any to make a whole garment, but certainly enough to be the contrast in some colourwork.  I’m brooding on these for later in the year.  I’m thinking stripes, Fairisle, even a bit of intarsia such as Martin Storey’s “Elm” jumper from the 50th edition of the Rowan Magazine.

Well, it’s all about the wool this weekend.  Whilst knitting I have been catching up with previous series of The Mentalist and devouring Radio 4 Extra treats via iPlayer on my iPad.

Hope you are all well and getting along with whatever projects (knitting or otherwise) you are currently working on.

I’m off to grab some lunch.