Sunday, September 29, 2019

Swatch 2: This Time with Crochet

I spent this afternoon with my frame loom and some odd bits of yarn.
I like it, in spite of the flaws, and I learned a couple of things, so I'm happy. The edges are wonky, partly because of the differences in the yarns, partly because of the crochet, but mostly because I need to do a better job when I take things off of the frame. You can see at the bottom right where I pulled the warp thread too tightly, but I think I can even that out.

 I should have used a dark warp since I was using dark yarn, but I just used the string that came in the kit--there's plenty left. If I was to start this again, I'd use black cotton or something like that.

I didn't know I was going to use the chunky black chenille until this afternoon, after I'd started. I had been thinking of doing things slightly differently, but then I didn't like the other yarn I'd pulled next to the blue/purple/black variegated (4 strands held together) I'd already started with, so I went upstairs and found the chenille I'd picked up at a charity shop a few months ago. That worked really well, although I had to sweep up after I was done because it shed so much.

I decided to try crochet for this for a few reasons. I wanted to see what it would look like. I wondered whether it would work instead of the footer and header (it does). Before starting, I was thinking about making shapes on the warp using crochet chain stitches, then filling in each space with a different colour. I could just make the shapes as I was weaving and then do some kind of embroidered outline after it was off the frame, but I was interested in starting with the line and going from there. I opted for a simple squiggle for this experiment instead of doing anything more elaborate. Now I know it works and I can play more with the idea in future. I was going to do one colour on one side of the line and a different colour on the other, but didn't think of the chenille until I'd already started.

Here's what I had when I started weaving:
The chain did pull on the warp strings a bit here and there, but it didn't seem to make a difference, possibly because things got pulled a bit in each direction as I was weaving with the thick chenille and 4 strands of the sport weight yarn.

Anyway, it was a pleasant afternoon. I got more practice and learned a couple of things. I'm not sure what the next swatch will look like, but the other day Bill was off to recycle bottles and tins and called in at the charity shop. They'd had a bag stuffed full of skeins of eyelash yarn for over a month. I always left the bag there. After I got the weaving kit, I mentioned to him that I should have bought it because it would probably be fun in to weave with, so he stopped in to see if it was still there. It was and she only charged him a euro for the bag. I thought there were 6 skeins or so, but there are 11. Maybe my next practice piece will involve some of that.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Quick and Easy Crochet Applique/Garland

The other night I had a rummage in my acrylic scraps and pulled out a few autumn colours to play with. In the course of beginning a yarn doodle, I got sidetracked and ended up with a wee pumpkin.

Today, I found a tiny ball of bright orange yarn (rug yarn, I think) and ended up getting 5 more wee pumpkins from that.
It's extremely simple (just one round) and quick to make:
Beginning with a magic loop, chain 2 and then make 11 double crochet (US terms) stitches in the magic loop. Pull the centre loop closed. Change to green to finish off the last double crochet, then slip stitch into the side of the last double crochet made, single crochet into the centre, chain 4, slip stitch in second chain from hook and in remaining 2 chains, slip stitch into the side of the beginning chain 2. Fasten off and weave in ends.

After I made the rust-coloured pumpkin, I proceeded to make the yarn doodle I originally had in mind, which used up just about all of the yellow I had:
This flower is also really simple and quick. It has three rounds.

Beginning with magic loop, chain 2 and make 11 double crochet stitches in ring, pull centre closed and join with a slip stitch in top of beginning chin 2. Change to new colour if desired.

Chain 2, front post double crochet around the chain 2. Double crochet in the next stitch, front post double crochet around the same stitch, then repeat this with the rest of the stitches. Slip stitch to top of beginning chain 2.

Chain 2, double crochet in next stitch and front post double crochet around same stitch. *Double crochet in the next stitch, then double crochet and front post double crochet in the next stitch. * Repeat between * until all stitches in the round are worked. Slip stitch to top of beginning chain 2 and fasten off.

Take a length of yarn in a contrasting colour, thread it through a tapestry needles, and working under the posts of the front post double crochets, lay the yarn down in a spiral. Weave in all ends.

I took my little yarn doodles and made a short garland with them:
I always have fun playing with scraps. 😃

I had another rummage in the box this morning and I'm about to go warp my frame loom so I can experiment with more scraps. This time, it'll be mostly purple.

I hope it's a good day in your world today!

Friday, September 27, 2019

A New Way to Play

Last week, when looking at the Aldi ad, I saw that they were going to have weaving kits in the store beginning Thursday. I knew we were going to Donegal Town on Tuesday and I figured they'd probably have at least one left by then--at least I hoped so! At first, I thought I was out of luck, but then I saw a couple buried under piles of crochet kits, so one came home with me. I wasn't interested in making the white/black/grey/neon pink wall hanging the kit was put together for, but I did want the wooden frame loom, which was my reason for buying the kit. It was a good price (7 euro), so worth it for the loom alone, but I stuck the skeins of yarn in with the rest of the stash and I'll use it for something else. The ball of warp thread is big enough for a few projects. It also came with a dowel, which I'll use for something at some point and a tapestry needle, which is meant for the weaving, but I used one of my wooden tatting needles instead. Finally, it came with a wooden shuttle thing that looked like it was for wrapping the warp threads around and using to weave the first several (footer) rows. I didn't use that either.

I've been interested in certain types of weaving for a couple of decades, but not the 'regular' kind done on a floor loom. First of all, they take up too much space. But they also require a good deal of prep work before the weaving can begin. I know I would hate this. It's the same reason I never could get into traditional quilting. There is too much planning and fussy preparation that I don't do well with. I love the results of those art/craft forms and am frequently in awe at the gorgeous work people can create, but I know myself well enough to know that warping a loom in a particular way or cutting a gazillion bits of fabric to precise measurements, then working to a predetermined plan would only leave me with unfinished projects. I need to be able to improv and shift gears partway through a project if the mood strikes. I like to be able to combine techniques if I get an idea (I am thinking about ways to incorporate crochet and kumihimo braids at the moment). Tapestry weaving fits my criteria.

I didn't get to try this new-to-me technique until today. I warped the frame, but only warped it about 2/3 of the way across. I wanted a more narrow piece and my plan is to make a few smaller practice pieces in order to learn about how things behave, how to change colours, and how to keep an even tension. So once I had the warp in place, I took some weird novelty yarn that I got a few months ago at a charity shop--it's a cord with fluffy slubs at regular intervals. I opted to do the fringe that the kit instructions call for and I used that yarn to make the rya knots that form the fringe. I did a few rows of plain weave with the slub yarn, then just used some scraps that I already had out and kept on doing plain weave up the warp, changing colours at various places through the piece. I used the yarn doubled. Then I did a few more rows with the slub yarn and then some header rows with the warp string.
The slub yarn worked well for the fringe and weaving, although if I pulled the end wrong, the slubs unravelled, so I tied a knot at the end of each piece of fringe. I decided to keep the fringe uneven, because I like the shape. I'm pretty pleased with this as a first effort. I can see some tension issues, but more practice will take care of that. There were a few places where I should have taken more care about how the two strands of yarn were laying, but that's an attention issue. I pan to add some embellishments to this and have it as an autumn decoration and it'll be fine for that--the embellishments will cover up the worst of the issues. Who knows--maybe next year when I unpack it I'll be able to see how I've improved since this first experiment. I have a ton of ideas, so I'll be getting a lot of practice. I think I should be able to warp the loom and do a bunch of smaller pieces using the one warp, too, if I use spacers. I'll try it at some point and see. I'm not sure yet what I am going to do next. I know that there are a lot of possibilities beyond the plain weave, but I am going to stick with that for a little while before I start branching out. For now, playing with different kinds of yarn, colour, and maybe shape seems like a good way to learn and practice. I had such fun with this and I'm looking forward to trying out some of my ideas!

I hope there is some new (or old) fun stuff in your day today, too!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Hello, Autumn!

I woke up this morning a wee bit earlier than is ideal, but quickly remembered that the autumnal equinox was arriving a few minutes later (8:50am here). This brought a very big smile to my face. I got up and, when the moment came, took some time to focus on my gratitude that autumn is here. Even the fact that the sun was glaring through the window was not enough to dampen my mood. I have been rewarded since then by my friends, the clouds, who have moved in to provide a welcome barrier between me and the sun and will offer up some raindrops in a while. Thank you, clouds.

I had breakfast and coffee and then got out my stitched autumn bits. It makes me happy to see these things hanging around.
side 1

side 2--i made this double-sided so it could hang in a window
Sometimes, as with the piece above, I see how I would do things differently now than I did when I first made it. The needle felted base would be sturdier if I had made it more dense and added some 'quilting' stitches. It doesn't matter for this, because it is only out for a few weeks each year and it holds up well for that. If I ever need to, I can take off the embellishments, reinforce the background, and reattach them.
This one is embellished on just one side:

needle felted leaf coaster

cross stitched with variegated threads following a chart i made

cross stitched from a chart in a book i found at a charity shop
this pattern is online somewhere--when i came across it a couple of years ago, I grabbed some scraps and tried it out
I went through a phase where I was using a bunch of smallish scraps to crochet Romanian cords--just worked until the yarn ran out, so I had cords of different lengths. One night I was playing around with some and sewed them together, adding a couple of beads from a deconstructed bracelet found at a charity shop and some thin metal pieces that came from an embellished shirt from the same shop. It was missing some of the embellishments, so no one else wanted to buy it. There were lots of embellishments of various kinds all around the neck and a couple inches deep, so even though I've used many of them, there are still plenty left.

Of course, I had to have some crocheted lace, too.
thread from charity shop and chart adapted slightly from a crocheted lace book to make it work with a limited amount of thread
i think this is the first autumnal piece I made--i used ecru crochet thread held together with a strand of brown sewing thread
I've started making more autumnal stuff these last few years, so have my own quirky collection, which includes placemats, dishcloths, reusable table napkins, and kitchen towels in addition to the decorations above

I see that I have crochet, cross stitch, and needle felting well represented, but no knitting or tatting. Hmm. Ah well, there's a season for everything. Happy autumn to all in the northern hemisphere!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Pancakes and Blooms

We made a quick jaunt to Donegal Town yesterday to drop off stuff at the library. As we usually do when we take the midday bus, we went to Aldi for a few things first, since the library is just about to close for lunch when we arrive in town. I've been amused at the way pancakes are sold here as a mass-produced, overly packaged item. There are different forms of pancake, but this is a new one on me:
photo by bill burke
I wonder how people eat these. Larger pancakes are often spread with Nutella or sprinkled with lemon juice and sugar. I suppose people could do the same with the tiny ones. We rarely eat pancakes and when we do, I make them myself, so haven't tried any of the pre-made ones.

When the library re-opens at 1:30, we try to be in and out, because the bus we prefer to take home leaves at 1:45 and it takes a few minutes to walk back to the stop. A couple of weeks ago, we were waiting, along with several others, and Colin (the librarian), wasn't appearing. On that day, I only had one book to drop off and several to pick up, so I wasn't concerned about leaving. Before we left, a woman asked if I wanted to leave my book with her and she'd drop in off for me. I did and she did. When we went back the following week, Colin apologised for being late. I told him it was no big deal and since I'd had more books come in since, it was just as easy to pick them all up together. Yesterday, he came rushing in and said, 'I had a feeling you might be here!' He handed Bill the items he had in and I dumped all the returns on his desk. He explained that he'd only just gotten off on his lunch break because it was so busy in the morning. He was dashing off again to get something to eat, but he knew we were in a hurry to catch the bus, so he came back so we could return and pick up stuff. I thought that was nice of him and I was happy not to have to lug home the bag full of books. It seems like a book drop would be a good thing. There was one in the Ballinrobe library, but I haven't seen one since. I don't recall seeing one even at the Central Library in Letterkenny.

Errands done, we caught the bus for home. I love the hydrangeas growing by the bus stop here.
I hope it's a pleasant day in your neck of the woods!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Randomly on a Sunday

I've not posted in a while, simply because there hasn't seemed like anything much to post about. I'm quietly and contentedly going about my days, enjoying the anticipation of autumn, stitching, reading, and listening to podcasts.  Today I'm drinking tea and reading a fun cosy mystery that takes place on a Christmas tree farm in a fictional Maine town. It's full of rescue animals and I keep bursting out laughing at the descriptions of the cat. Brings back memories.

Our third bout of summer is due to arrive this week and although there was the threat of this possibly lasting for weeks, now the forecast is for more autumnal weather to return after the week is up. This can easily change, of course, but for now I hold out hope. This is what I've come to expect. Every year we've been in Ireland, it gets hot and sunny in April and we have the first summer of the year. Then, if we're lucky, it goes away for a while as it did this year, when it didn't return until June for summer number two. Then we get a hint of autumn until summer three arrives in September, sometimes lasting into October. At some point after that, we get to close the windows and enjoy the true autumn. It's also the case that it tends to be slightly cooler here, because of our position on the island--I greatly appreciate those few degrees!

In any case, there are more hours of darkness now, so it cools off nicely at night, especially if the sky is clear.
Most of the hydrangeas have faded, but some are still in beautiful bloom. I saw these yesterday as we were on our way to call on veg man. I do love them so. The wide range of colours here is breathtaking, from white to pale pinks, blues, and purples, to vibrant pinks and purples, to deep red.
In spite of the warm weather to come, it was clear that the container veggie garden was ready to be put to bed, so I picked and pulled the last of the cukes, rainbow beetroot, and chard and pulled up all of the plants and vines.
I put the chard in the freezer and cooked the beetroot, so that concludes the veggie-growing season here. I still have garlic chives, scallions, and herbs growing inside on the windowsill.

I hope things are going well in your part of the world and that you're enjoying a peaceful and pleasant day!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

If, Then, Joy, Misty Mirror, and a Poet

Not all of my reading in August consisted of mysteries. Here's the rest of the books I read (and one I listened to):

Joy and 52 Other Very Short Stories by Erin McGraw
This was recently added to the short story category at the e-book section of the library website, so I borrowed it. I wasn’t sure about it at first and considered returning it without finishing it, but I decided to read on for a while longer and I’m glad I did. The stories got stronger as I passed the early part of the book. Some were linked stories, in which we read about an episode or relationship from various points of view.

If, Then by Kate Hope Day
I came across this book in the e-book section of the library website and it sounded intriguing. The title comes from a philosophical formula—if x, then y. One of the characters is a philosophy grad student. The setting is a small community at the base of a dormant volcano in Oregon. All of these people begin to question their choices as the story unfolds. The foundation of the book is the idea of the multiverse and the story moves back and forth between characters and different versions of each character’s life. In the multiverse, the same people are making different choices which lead to different outcomes. This was a great book. I’m glad I found it.

Object Lessons: The Work of the Woman and the Poet by Eavan Boland
A friend gave me this book and I am thrilled to have it. As I recall, I was looking for this book and some of Boland’s poetry collections 6 or 7 years ago when we lived in Maine, but the library didn’t have any of her work. I was glad to start reading it when we got to Ireland, but I’d not read this book until now. It was published in 1996, so Ireland has changed a lot since she wrote this. The book is a memoir, but also places the author in the context of larger poetic and place-specific historic traditions. She write about her struggles to come to terms with herself as an Irish poet and as a woman in Ireland. The two were mutually exclusive when she was coming of age. The Irish poets of earlier times were mostly men, many of whom wrote about nationhood in the context of fighting for independence. Ireland was portrayed as a woman in these poems, so as the object. Boland could not find herself in that tradition, especially when she married, moved to the suburbs, and had children. Her everyday suburban life did not seem to be the kind of subject for ‘serious’ poetry. She was able to overcome this and it may be that this is one reason why I like her poetry It is precisely because she deals with everyday life as a woman that I can relate to it and find meaning in it.

She recounts an experience she had when she was at university in Dublin and had borrowed a friend’s cabin on Achill, in County Mayo. She wanted a quiet place to study and think. There was a local woman who came and did things for her, including bringing water, since there was no running water in the cabin. One day, the woman started telling the poet about the experiences of local people during the famine. She talked for some time and it got dark. When the woman left, Boland went back to her studies, realising that she was working to memorise forms and structures that described the very system that created the situation of suffering those people had experienced. It made her very uncomfortable and she began to consider traditional forms and what counts as valid poetry and subject matter.

Boland’s attempts to situate herself as an Irish poet and an Irish woman were complicated by the fact that she had left Ireland when she was quite young. Her father was a diplomat and the family moved to London, a place she didn’t like all that much. When she was a teenager, the family spent time in New York City. At some point, she went back to Dublin, attended boarding school, and then at 17 began studying at Trinity College. Even though she was born in Ireland, she’d spent most of her early life elsewhere, so she did not have the same reference points that other people had.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I was interested in all of it—her thoughts on poetry, her life experiences, her discussions of the culture and how it impacted her, and her overcoming the obstacles, both systemic and in her own mind, that led her to a space in which she could express herself and create her art.

 The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill (audiobook read by Matt Addis)
James Monmouth returns to London after a life abroad. He’d spent his childhood with a guardian in Kenya, not knowing anything about where he came from. During his childhood, he developed a fascination with a traveller/adventurer named Conrad Vane. Upon the death of his guardian, he set off to follow in Vane’s footsteps. After a couple of decades of this, he decided to go back to London, both to learn more about the country of his birth and about Conrad Vane. He had an idea of writing a book about Vane and was surprised when people began to warn him against going any further, but without being specific. He dismissed these warnings and proceeded. But who is the distraught boy who seems to follow him and why is he the only one who sees him?

It rained a lot yesterday and when I popped out to snip some scallions, I noticed the rain droplets hanging from the montbretia--so lovely (more so in person than in the picture).
Today is a mix of showers, cloud, and sun and there's a fresh gusty wind. I hope it's as pleasant where you are. My heart goes out to people in the Bahamas. What a terrifying experience for people to have such wind and rain going on and on and on. Now their suffering continues as they grieve for lost loved ones and try to come to terms with losing homes. Heartbreaking.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Mystery Month 2

Here's the rest of the mystery month selection (I posted the first bunch yesterday):
The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective: A Remarkable True Story by Susannah Stapleton
I wrote about this book here.

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (audiobook read by Jane McDowell)
This is the first book in a series featuring archaeologist Ruth Galloway, who lives in the edge of marshland in the area that used to be Doggerland. It was these two things that led me to give the book a try. Dr Galloway, a professor at a university, is called in when someone finds a body in the marsh. It is thought that it could be the remains of a child who has been missing for a decade, but it is actually bog body from thousands of years ago. The detective who consulted her asks for her help in solving the case.

The reader was good and the story pulled me in, even so some of it seemed a little it predictable and I could see it coming. Still, it was good enough for me to reserve the next book in the series. I particularly love the setting and the descriptions of the landscape. One thing I love about the e-audiobooks from the library is that I can try them out without going to pick anything up or buying anything and if I don’t care for the reader or the book, I simply return the title and delete from my mp3 player. Edit: I found the second book in a charity shop the day before I was due to get the audiobook, so bought it and cancelled the reserve.

 Bodies from the Library by various authors, selected and introduced by Tony Medawar
I came cross volume 2 when scrolling through the e-book section of the library website. I’d not heard of this, so I went in search of more info. Then I went back to the library website and searched for volume 1, found it, and placed my request. This is a collection of short stories written by Golden Age authors, all of which have only ever been published in obscure magazines or not at all, until this volume. What a treat!

 Bodies from the Library Volume 2 by various authors, selected and introduced by Tony Medawar
This follows on from the book above. I liked it, but the first couple of stories seemed a bit outside what I’m used to with writing from that era. I found the first story particularly disturbing and I almost stopped reading. I googled to find some reviews and after reading those, decided to continue. I’m glad I did!

 The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
This is the first in the Amelia Peabody series of mysteries, which was recommended to me. I’m glad to have been told about it! In the 1800s, Amelia Peabody is a 30-something ‘spinster’ who has cared for her father and been underestimated. When the father dies and she inherits, there isn’t much distress on the part of other family members until they find out that there is more to inherit than they thought! Unsurprisingly, suitors come out of the woodwork. Fortunately Ms Peabody has a good head on her shoulders, rebuffs them all, and proceeds to travel. In Rome, she comes across a woman who has passed out in the street from hunger. She becomes Amelia’s companion and off they go to Egypt where they meet the archaeologist Emerson brothers in the course of their travels. At the dig site, shenanigans ensue. Some of the things that happen in the story are quite implausible and some are predictable, but that was fine with me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love Amelia Peabody and I did not expect her to be so funny. I laughed a lot at her turns of phrase.

After I finished the book, I looked at some of what was written about it and discovered that the author had originally intended it to be a one-off, which explains why everything was tied up neatly by the end of the book. Often in series, the main storyline is cleared up, but the characters are left in situations that you know will be taken up in the next book. Since this wasn’t intended to be a series, that’s not the case here. People apparently wanted more Amelia, though, so a series it became. That’s good, because I also look forward to more Amelia Peabody and I’ll be proceeding to read the rest of the books. Thanks, Mollie, for the recommendation!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Mystery Month

Here we are in the month which brings us autumn! Yay! August turned out to be a month full of mystery books, with a couple of others mixed in. Here are the first few:

St Peter’s Finger by Gladys Mitchell
Last year, I either read in an article or heard in a podcast, a mention of Gladys Mitchell. I’d known about the Mrs Bradley mysteries, but while I’d heard a couple of radios dramatisations, and watched one episode of the TV version, which I didn’t like, I’d never tried the books. I decided to give them a try. There were a couple of e-books in that collection at the library website, so I started with the one that was available. I liked it, so then looked up the entire list of titles, of which there are more than 60, and beginning with the first few, placed my requests at the library. I’ve been moving through the list sporadically ever since, getting a few, reading them, waiting a while and getting a few more. This book is part of the current batch I have checked out. In it, Mrs Bradley is asked by her son, the amusingly named Ferdinand Lestrange, to investigate the death of a schoolgirl at a convent. She agrees. As with all the books, there are quirky characters and larger issues addressed. In this case, it’s religion, class, gender roles, and, as always, psychology—adolescent psychology in this case. Mrs Bradley is a psychologist which, given that the first book was written in the 1920s, would have made her unusual. It seems that Mrs Bradley’s ideas about her profession evolve as the books proceed, which is one thing that is interesting about them. Another thing that I enjoy about the books is that they are all so different. To be sure, there are characteristics about Mrs Bradley that remain the same, although she does not yet seem to age (just as well, since she is aged from the start). But the settings and the themes addressed in the books are quite varied from one to the next. I mentioned above what some themes of this book are. In previous books, Mitchell focused on folklore, anthropology, and myth. In others, art and drama are involved. I have to say that the first book was not what I expected a mystery of that time period to be and it took me a bit of time to get into it. But I am so glad that I started reading these—I enjoy them a lot.

 Printer’s Error by Gladys Mitchell

This book was published in 1939, so in the early days of WWII. At the behest of her nephew, Carey, and a friend he makes on holiday, Mrs Bradley gets involved in a case involving Nazi spies, refugees, and anti-Semitism.

 Brazen Tongue by Gladys Mitchell
Gladys Mitchell called this book ‘horrid’ in an interview. I wouldn’t far, but it did seem different than the other Mrs Bradley books I’ve read, although I can’t put my finger on exactly in what ways this is so. It takes place during WWII, so petrol rationing, domestic war work, and other such issues are featured in the story. That alone makes it different, I suppose. It did seem to get a bit convoluted at times, but so did some of the early books. In this story, three bodies are found in one town. The local police inspector thinks they’re linked, but are they? Because Mrs Bradley arrives to investigate, since her niece was at the scene where one of the victims met their end.

 Shroud for a Nightingale by PD James
I found this omnibus edition containing three Adam Dalgliesh novels, none of which I’d previously read, in the local charity shop, so I picked it up.

The Black Tower by PD James

Death of an Expert Witness by PD James

Happy September!