Saturday 31 January 2009

Dyeing experiment.

So Tish and I wanted to make some variegated yarn but the dye that I bought (it had to be suitable for cellulose yarn as it is banana fibre) only seemed to be suitable to put the whole lot in and dye it one colour. So I decided we could try painting it on and then putting it in the fixative solution afterwards ... and see what happens.
So here is the equipment: dye, salt, washing soda, bucket, jars for mixing, rubber gloves

first we mixed the dye then we dribbled the dyes onto the yarn laid out on some plastic:

then we added it to the hot solution with salt and washing soda:

The yarn soaked for about an hour and the I rinsed until clear and washed out briefly, then spun in the machine to get most of the moisture out. Unfortunately what happened is that the dye leeched out and the yarn basically turned a slightly variegated pinky purple, not quite what we intended but pretty nice nontheless:

It is all currently hanging in the hot cupboard to dry and then we will have the task of trying to roll it into a ball. Note for the future: make sure you tie the hank up in at least six places so it doesn't get too tangled.
Dunk checked on the wonderful interweb and found the advice to leave it to cure for 24 hours, then rinse and then fix the dye. So we may try that tomorrow.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

From A to X

My second book of the year was 'From A to X - a story in letters' by John Berger. Sometimes I request books from the library on the spur of the moment, when I read something on the internet or in the paper, and it just catches my interest. This title intrigued me. It is a book of questions, and no answers. There is no story, no plot, just ideas and experiences. The book is made up of letters from A'ida. There are no replies, but in places Xavier has written thoughts at the end of the letters. Each letter is different; some talk about her life, some are reminiscences, some imagine the future. There cannot be a future because Xavier is in prison, but she hopes, for them and for their country. The setting is deliberately vague. I imagined eastern Europe for some reason, but it could be anywhere, so many parts of the world have experienced political unrest and repression. I grew very attached to A'ida, she is strong and resilient, kind and fiercely loyal. You don't see Xavier so clearly. She describes something of their relationship and life together, but because you never get his thoughts you have only a superficial impression. The fact that they are separated is the theme that runs through the book, sometimes it is raw emotion that you feel really intensely, sometimes it just sits in the background of her tales of everyday life. What I liked about the writing is the complete lack of pretension. He creates a whole world that feels so real, with people you care about. In spite of the need I usually have to get closure from a book this one leaves you hanging. You accept that you cannot know if their story has an end. But it leaves you hoping, because they do.
I will definitely be searching out other things by John Berger.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Delivering blind in Winchcombe

Well, I came home rather ill yesterday but thought I would post today about my first ever totally blind delivery. That's what they call it when you have had absolutely no training on a duty whatsoever and are just expected to find your own way round. To be fair I did have a lovely little map which one of the blokes drew for me, and a couple of people took bits of the round. I don't know Winchcombe at all so was a little daunted, but I like to think that after six years I can put up with anything that the job throws at me. So after walking round North Street I set forth with a very heavy trolley.

It was pretty straight forward and things were going ok until about half way round the lid of one side of the trolley slammed shut and refused to open again. There was only two small bundles left in there so I didn't worry too much thinking I could get it open back at the office and pop back in the car with what was left. I did fail to consult the map at one point (this is me being cocky and thinking I know what I am doing) and missed the end of one road out so had to go all the way back down and back up a very steep hill (not fun, there are no hills in Moreton so I'm just not used to it). I was struck with the feeling that they are a pretty superstitious lot on Winchcombe as I don't think I encountered a single number 13 all day. By the time I was at the start of the final stretch I could feel a migraine coming on. I spent an irritating five minutes searching for a bundle that started with number 64 only to guess that someone else must have taken that bit so set off in the other direction. As I made my way zig-zagging down the road I found number 89 was confusingly right next door to number 65, and 43 was well hidden, round behind a garage and up some steps. Luckily when I was standing opposite what I hoped was number 15 (it was next door to number 17 but you can't take these things for granted) one of the blokes turned up in a van to see how I was getting on. Back at the office a while later I was holding the trolley steady while the post office man tried to smash the lock open with a hammer and chisel, without success. So I left a note and hope that someone would manage to find a way in to it the next morning. And it was rather a relief to find that my car, which had been in a one hour waiting zone all morning, didn't have a parking ticket.
I would have been feeling pretty pleased with my achievement if I hadn't spent the rest of the day in bed with a disgusting sick headache.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Felting experiment

I have been thinking for some time of doing some felting so have started by doing a basic bag. It was knitted as a long rectangle with side panels and handles added and sewn into shape. I put it through the washing machine at 60 degrees, twice. The first time still left it a little soft and shapeless. I am sorry that I didn't think to take a 'before' picture as it would give a good impression of the effect of the felting process. It has shrunk I guess by about 30%. The striped pattern was created randomly out of left over scraps.
So I have spent the day browsing for other patterns and yarn to do some further experiments.

Friday 23 January 2009

Save handmade

I was browsing this morning and found a site where people are up in arms about a new law about to come into force in the US. It is called the Consumer Products Safety Improvements Act, which is apparently putting stringent new regulations on the production of any products for children, specifically clothes and toys. All of this is going  to impact very negatively on small scale producers of hand made items. So a campaign has been going on to protest against these new regulations. I guess another sign of the fact that the world is full of crazy people and most of them seem to be busy drafting legislation.

Oh, yes and the dogs are back next door (we think they belong to friends or relatives) and they *really* hate being alone and they set eachother off barking, and if I was not such a nice person I would go round and make a sarcastic comment.

Thursday 22 January 2009

Only prostitutes .....

...... drink two glasses of wine with lunch. 
This was my best laugh of the day today. You had to be there I suppose. We watch a lot of an american drama called Gilmore Girls, and this comment came from the grandfather, responding in disgust to his wife who was threatening to take herself off to Europe without him and have two glasses of wine with lunch (every day!) It is kind of a follow on from my previous post on the subject of changing attitudes. The programme's funniest moments come from the differences in attitudes and expectations between the grandparents (who are incredibly wealthy) and the daughter and granddaughter (who are kind of more normal, except of course that everyone on american telly is affluent). 

Other than watching Gilmore Girls (while waiting for M at Youth Drama Group) I have had a pretty productive day. I iced the Christmas cake. Compared to last year this was pretty well done. Last year the Christmas cake became my parents wedding anniversary cake in May. I like to think that the mere fact I make a home made Christmas cake means more than the fact it doesn't get to be eaten at Christmas. Anyway everyone knows a good fruit cake needs to mature for a couple of months.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

52 books

I have joined a group on Ravelry to read 52 books in 52 weeks. It is quite a tall order and I guess it may lose momentum but it is good to start the new year with intentions to use my time more constructively. 
The first book I finished the other day was The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury. I read it for a book group that I go to in Stow. Part of going to the book group for me was to get ideas from other people and read books that I might not have chosen to read otherwise. This is definitely one of those. It is a real period piece, having been written in the early 70's. It was made into a TV series that I watched as a teenager so I found much of the story was familiar as I was reading. It is a very conversation driven book. It takes place in a very brief period of time and the whole plot takes place through the conversations, which are very densely written and sometimes confusing to follow. The atmosphere is very well created through these conversations, and the intricately described party preparations. I might have found the level of detail annoying in another book but it was an essential element of how you understand the characters and their motivations. I guess it is primarily about Howard; I liked him in spite of myself really, because he is quite a misogynist but you can forgive him because it is the 1970's. He appears to be provocative just for the sake of it, to sit back and watch the effect that his words and actions have on people, as if he is doing some kind of social experiment, but in some ways this seems like rather immature, attention seeking behaviour. You can't help but read books like this from the perspective of today's attitudes and it is quite interesting to see how much they have changed. Bradbury's main focus is the change that had been happening (and continues I suppose) in society's attitude to sex and relationships, as seen through the relationship between Howard and Barbara. I don't think he was trying to make a case for 'open' relationships, but to try and show how one might work and how it might effect people. I was left with the feeling that that particular relationship was not a very healthy one and not based on real communication or openness. But the book is a social commentary more than anything else, a sociological study taking place in a sociology department, through the eyes of a sociologist. And then Mrs Thatcher came along and said "There is no such thing as society", so you don't find novels that do this very often nowadays.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Obama inauguration

I am sitting sewing again today but with the television on beside me, watching the build up towards the inauguration of Barack Obama. It has been reminding me of the day spent waiting for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. We spent several hours just watching people gathering, anticipating. It also has something of Princess Diana's funeral about it, lots of people driving around in black cars and people talking about how important it is for them to be there.
I think you can't help but get caught up in the sense of occasion. I hope, really hope, that he lives up to all this expectation. 
My dad sent me this image, done by a friend of a friend, I will try and find out who. I think it can speak for itself.

Monday 19 January 2009

Duvet cover

The finished article. I hope she likes it. Edging is velvet, next layer is shot gold/pink satin then centre is gold embroidered satin.

Who, what, where, when and why?

who: Martine
what: I had to sign up to Google to 'follow' a friend's blog so though I might as well load up a blog page.
where: somewhere in the beautiful Cotswolds
when: it's Monday and I have a lovely holiday this week
why: I called this silencing the bell to stop anyone pinching my website title, but it is an excuse to ramble where the website is for serious thoughts.  

I am making a new duvet cover for my daughter today. She put her toe through a small hole in hers and it turned into a big hole. The old one was plain purple, nothing very adventurous. The new one will be black and gold, in velvet and satin. I may post a photo when it is done.