Saturday, 13 February 2016

The consumption continues

Taking some time out from socks, I sourced in my stash a cone of interesting if very fine flecked yarn of unknown content.  After much juggling of tension and several false starts I'm knitting this jumper from Blacker Designs. 
It is a basic raglan v neck with some interesting detail at the hem that gradually deceases the stitches giving an A line shape.  I'm still undecided about having slightly flared sleeve cuffs that might fall into my soup but then how often do I eat soup.   
I shall decide once the front is body is complete, the front is already finished.  I ended up using size 13 needles, 2.25 in new money, I  don't mind fine work at all and with mostly plain stocking stitch it isn't taking long.
A lovely colour especially with Valentines Day tomorrow, probably the nearest we shall get to the look of love in the penthouse though I have bought Mr FF a plastic egg box as a gift.  On a recent walk he spotted a farm on the hill opposite us that sells the most delicious free range eggs. I had to explain to him it wouldn't be sustainable to keep driving up for half a dozen as required, the farm is at the end of a track and en route to no where.  Mr FF moaned that if he walked the four mile round trip he might crack the eggs in his rucksack, problem solved by this box and romantic gesture made.  

Happy Valentines Day

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tour colours

I mentioned I'd been devouring books this year, I am on my 9th since 01 January.   Several of these have indulged my cycling obsession, a couple of biographies and one a more general non fiction.  When not boring Mr FF with my newly increased insider knowledge, I've been getting fired up about this years tours so I checked out the routes for my favourite races. Disappointment doesn't describe my feelings, firstly the Tour de Yorkshire, now upgraded to a three day event, is not coming to Ilkley at all, in any way.  Plenty of places where we can see the race but the delight last year of a ten minute walk to be on the route was immense. Secondly the Giro d'Italia isn't coming anywhere near our village in Lazio, the nearest point of contact is a two hour drive away with no guarantee that we'd get more than a whizz of lycra as the boys sped past.  I know that these races have to be shared round, we've twice had the Giro in our village in recent years but I can't help feeling a little bereft. Particularly as I've just finished these pink socks I could have worn to support the Giro, Go with the Flow by Evelyn A Clark from Favourite Socks by Interweave.  
As the Tour de France is based on the yellow jersey of the leader, often with appropriate accessories like yellow tape on the handle bars, yellow sunglasses for the leader and sometimes his team, so for the Giro the leader wears pink. And at the risk of driving you away, this tradition is based on the coloured pages of the sporting sections of different newspapers that originally sponsored the two tours.   I turned up for my last Giro sighting in pink t shirt but matching socks would have been perfect this year.  
The Tour de Yorkshire colours are blue with a little yellow, blue the colour of the Yorkshire flag and yellow a salute to the Tour de France that visited us in 2014 and inspired our own event.
Photograph Alamy
I couldn't resist downloading this photograph as our apartment building can be seen under the left hand bottom edge of the county flag.  

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Year of the Monkey

We are approaching a Chinese new year and this one will be the year of the monkey.  In Edinburgh I worked for several years in an office beside a collection Chinese greengrocer shops, quite famous for their wonderful selection of exotic fruit and veg at rock bottom prices.  At Chinese new year there was always some celebration involving a dragon dance which is supposed to scare away evil spirits, and a beating drum.  We used we leave our work and go out into the street to watch the festivities.  
Apparently 2016 is the year of the fire monkey and heralds a decisive and confident year, one of adventure, resolve and innovation, a year to expand and nurture relationships.  So an adventurous path and clear goals are this year's mantra.
Call it serendipity, it certainly wasn't planned.  I have just finished these socks that I can wear on 8 February the first day of the Chinese new year, they are Monkey by Cookie A.  I downloaded the pattern in 2007 and have finally got round to tackling it.  I enjoyed the knit, an interesting but not too complicated design that I'd certainly use again.  Perhaps I should be making plans to come out of semi hibernation and grasp the new year opportunities, but not just yet I'm far too lazy and comfortable in the penthouse unless mass producing socks qualifies as a clear goal.  

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Colours of spring

For now I have solved the problem of not being able to see my knitting by resorting to lighter coloured yarn, impossible not to see these. 
These are Tidal Wave which I have knitted before but for this pair I continued the pattern down the top of the foot.  It didn't work out quite symmetrical as the pattern begins with k1 yarn over and obviously that wouldn't work at both ends but I'm happy with the result.
There has been a lot of sunshine colour in the penthouse lately.  Having worried about boiling up oranges for hours in an apartment building, I decided that a citrusy scent wouldn't be that bad and produced my usual batch of marmalade. 
In fact the smell didn't drift outside our place which smelt delicious. 
Bunches of daffs are so cheap at the moment and so uplifting,  worth every penny.  Also a little pot of tiny daffs on the office window cill, I am hoping that when they are finished I can take the bulbs to Italy otherwise they will go into our communal garden.  I noticed the other day that the snowdrops I brought last year from my brother's farm and planted out here are flowering nicely.  I must go down and no a bit of weeding soon.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Conservation from two sides

Mr FF is currently doing battle with our conservation officer for permission to replace four bedroom windows in our apartment with double glazed units that would be more serviceable than the current wooden sash and case frames.  We are at the 4th floor, unable to open the windows wide enough to clean the outside and totally unable to maintain the frames and cills, which is recommended every year for wooden windows.  
Window washing, which is part of our service charge, has to be done by specialist cleaners abseiling from the roof.  At present the rope anchors are not fit for purpose and we haven't had the windows cleaned for over a year.   The conservation officer insists we won't be able to retain the finer details of wood with windows in aluminium or upvc, that will be the finer details that are so visible 4 floors up.  We continue the battle and are adamant that we won't use wood again,  the current single glazed windows are only about 12 years old and already splitting, rotting and sticking, one is totally distorted and unopenable. Last year we obtained listed building and planning approval for aluminium doors and windows in the lounge, it doesn't really make sense that we can't do the same with the other windows on the same elevation. We would replicate the current style and appearance with double glazed windows and cills that require no regular maintenance and could be opened inwards for cleaning.  We sleep with a bedroom window open year round but every morning when I wipe up the pools of condensation, see the state of the outside cills and the black mould growing on the inside frames I get so cross that we are so restricted.
However, despite our disagreement with the guardians of our heritage, I was very pleased to read that we have this beautiful piece of sculpture in our town that has recently been recognised as worth preserving.  
The sculpture, the Story of Wool, on a building that used to be the International Wool Secretariat in Valley Drive, Ilkley, is among 41 public sculptures across England being given listed status by Historic England (formerly knows as English Heritage).  There is more information about the wonderful sculpture, the artist and the building here.
You can read about other recently listed sculptures here, who knows there may be some treasure near you, they are all free to view so just look around.
I always knew I was living in the right place, this celebration of all things sheepy just confirms it.  

Monday, 18 January 2016

In the dark

Most of my knitting is done in the evening, settled on the sofa in front on the telly hopefully watching a good drama and lately I've noticed that I can't actually see what I'm doing.  
I position myself under one of these mother and child floor lamps that has an uplighter and an adjustable spot but generally only the uplighter is on to create a nicer ambiance in the room. I only switch on the spot for more technical operations, if the pattern goes wrong, a dropped stitch or to pick up stitches at the heel.

But knitting these London Man socks, a free download from Filcolana, which aren't really that tricky just 4 cables of 2 stitches each with a pleasing line of cable continuing down the heel flap, I have made so many mistakes.  I had to take back about 20 rows when I'd completely missed out some of the cables, I do look at my work regularly to make sure it's right but I didn't spot that error until it was daylight. 
Then I got totally confused picking up and adjusting the stitches for the heel on the second sock. Generally I don't follow a pattern that closely, I understand the geometry of a sock now and while this pattern uses 5 needles and explains how to arrange the stitches on them, I like to use just 4 with all the foot front on one needle and the sides of the heel on 2 others (plus a needle to work with makes 4) .  I also decided to continue the rib down the front rather than just abandon it which worked fine for the first sock.
For some reason I got the pattern placement of the rib on top of the foot for the second sock different to the first and had to juggle my work to make it acceptable.
I don't know what the answer is, a brighter light in the lounge would be far too clinical, I don't want to get stronger glasses, in winter knitting with only light coloured yarn might help or knitting just plain socks that I can practically do with my eyes shut.  I could get a head torch but that would be distracting for Mr FF I'm sure. Does anyone else have this problem I wonder, any advice will be considered but not necessarily taken.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Beauty empties

I'm a fine one to tell anybody about beauty.  I do have a regime where I cleanse and moisturise twice a day and I take great pleasure in rubbing various body butters and creams into my arms and legs, particularly when I'm in Italy, but I have no brand loyalty whatsoever. Stick on a reduced or clearance label or attach a free gift product to the outside of a magazine and my purse is out.  
There are some wonderful blogs featuring monthly beauty empties that often amaze me by the quantity of products used.   I enjoy these very much but am rarely influenced by them except to get through more lotions and potions.   Today I give you my one and only beauty empty post.
Mr FF found this massive 250ml jar of face cream last Christmas (2014) in a charity shop for £1.99 and knowing that I will rub anything into my skin if the price is right he bought it.  I was a bit dubious but the jar was sealed and a quick google confirmed that it was genuine.  
It was absolutely fine, I haven't noticed any difference from any other product being of the persuasion that to see a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles you only need poor lighting or to take your glasses off. However, the jar has just gone on and on, admittedly I was away for half the year while it languished on the bathroom shelf but it seemed to be never ending and I was totally sick of it. Not that surprising as it is the equivalent of 5 normal sized pots.

Finally I can see the bottom, the jar was large and cumbersome, quite utilitarian and I just wanted it to end though my Yorkshire heritage prevented me from not using every last smear  Its funny that a stash of yarn is delightful, you can smugly handle and admire the fibres, but a stash of toiletries has quite the opposite effect with me, just an irritation and since my local Boots is 10 minutes walk away I have no need at all to stockpile. I am often bored half way though products I don't particularly like, though I will be cutting the SBC gel bottle in half to get the final dregs out.  Something to be said for the No 7 cleanser that not only shows me clearly how much is left but is tamper proof, and yes I would buy these two products again in case you are wondering.