Monday, 24 December 2007

Advent - Day 24

Just slipping in under the wire before Christmas proper (it's 23.45 now!) we have this wonderfully kitsch Saturday Evening Post cover from 1933, which features an amorous swain going in for a Christmas Eve kiss - frankly I'm impressed he managed to get around all the fair maiden's headwear!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Advent - Day 23

Trying to get this advent door up quickly before I miss the 23rd entirely! As you can see, Santa is skating towards us all with his gifts - hopefully he'll make it in time for tomorrow night.

The image is from some wonderful retro 50s fabric - has a vast selection of cushions in 50s prints, of which this is one - I am sorely tempted to get the Christmas ones and hide them away till next year.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Advent - Day 22

I love Christmas wreaths. Unfortunately I haven't seen a single one in our area - I suspect they would get vandalised and/or nicked. Oh well. There is however top wreath action in Kensington and Holland Park - my mother, also a wreath fan, has been scoping out the choice specimens for a Boxing Day walk. The more ostentatious the better - can't wait!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Advent - Day 21

This lovely Christmas card is just one of an amazing collection of mid-century Disney Christmas cards digitised by the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. A really fascinating website - take a look!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Advent - Day 20

Behind today's advent door is a whole museum! The Geffrye Museum is one of my favourite in London - it is dedicated to the history of British domestic interior design and each period is reflected through a staged room. At Christmas, every room set is dressed in seasonal decorations appropriate to the period:

Miles and I last went in Christmas '05 and it was lovely. If you visit their website they have a virtual advent calendar which showcases seasonal items from their collection. I heartily recommend a real visit to the museum too, and the exhibitions are wonderful at any time of the year!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Advent - Day 19

This lovely illustration, containing more of the popular rabbits/Christmas theme, is from Bunny Rabbit's Diary, by Mary Frances Blaisdell, illustrated by George F. Kerr, available via Project Gutenberg.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Ho Ho Ho!

Ho Ho Ho everybody! We're Cara and Miles' Christmas cards. We started off as an army of origami Santas, forged in the primeval fire (well, folded in front of the primeval repro Victorian fireplace anyway).

We then marched onto the cards to be joined by some jolly stamps from Blade Rubber, outside and in.

We have now trooped into our envelopes to spread the Christmas message of minimalist Santastic joy (and yes, Santastic is a word).

Advent - Day 18

"Dey eyy-teen" in the Chat Lunatique house* and Miles is home from work sick, poor thing. In a not very lady-of-the-lamp moment I went out in the morning to Foyles where we had our knitting group secret Santa. I got some wonderful little owls made by Caroline for my Christmas tree. Hopefully I'll be able to take some pictures in the light soon - which I can then add to the serious backlog of pictures I have to post!

*To quote the dulcet Newcastle tones of the 'Big Brother' voice-over

Monday, 17 December 2007

Advent - Day 17

Given that Miles was the original recipient of the advent calendar I couldn't possibly do 25 jolly pictures without including rabbits. This Christmas rabbit is actually from a needlepoint canvas designed by Peter Ashe. I think the rabbit is lovely but I'm not sure I'd have the patience to embroider him. However, needles and thread will feature in my day today as I am doing Christmas present crafting. Maybe there'll be pictures once I am reunited with my camera!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Advent - Day 16

Ok, so we're counting down for Christmas now and it's time to focus on finishing up the present making and/or shopping. I'm planning a whole day of sewing tomorrow and hopefully some serious knitting time on Tuesday and Wednesday. My knitting has hit a rather major obstacle in that the gloves I was making for Miles are being scrapped due to horrible pattern problems (ie the pattern is horrible!). I was going to take some pictures for a fuller explaination but I have succeeded in leaving my camera at a friend's house again (yes, I am an idiot). Anyway, hopefully it will be back in my possession tomorrow evening so I can post some of my own pictures rather than generic ones off the internet!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Advent - Day 15

After the funky, folded Santas, we have Christmas good wishes from his funkiness himself, Laydeez and Gentlemen, the hardest workin' man in showbizness, Mr James Brown! Today is also Miles' nephew's birthday (known fondly by us as 'Bramble') and he is a three year old boy who loves Barry White, Barry Gibb and Barry Manilow (the 'Barry triumvirate') plus Hawaiian shirts (or 'party shirts' as he calls them) and jumping on the bed. So, all in all, I feel dedicating James Brown's Funky Christmas to him is rather fitting! Happy Birthday, Bramble!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Advent - Day 14

Rather late in the day and a little on the small side we have a cute dog with some holly. The picture comes from an album cover - the record is 70s, I think, and is called 'Christmas at the Patti'. I know nothing about it but I do like that little dog! Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Advent - Day 13

Picture by Eric Newcomer.
I love Christmas trees. Our one in rather less grand than this picture, but one thing about Christmas trees that I like is their organic quality. I don't mean in terms of growing in the ground: my family tree has been plastic every year of my life - the same ancient tree from BhS goes up and down every year - and ours is plastic this year since it seems such a shame to get a real tree which we don't then have the garden space to plant it out come January. I was thinking more in terms of the decorations - by adding a few new ones each year the tree gets a little more special every time it goes up. Needless to say, since this is the first year of our tree the decorations are a little sparse but there are still a few with a personal edge like the two we bought in Stockholm last year, just after we got engaged.
One thing which I know our tree won't do and which is frankly a crying shame, is grow like the one in the Nutcracker:

[The HK Ballet production]

I have many happy childhood memories of watching both the Royal Ballet and ENB productions. Maybe when I finally live in a palace I'll be able to stage the growing tree bit just for me!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Advent - Day 12 (when Santa gets folded & funky!)

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Miles and I have been on an origami kick recently, well when I saw the array of folded Santa Clauses on this site I just had to include one in the advent calendar. The problem is there are so many funky Santas to choose from! This is another favourite:

Santa clearly has some groovy moves in his sack along with all those presents! Get on down.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Advent - Day 11

Now we're getting on to the good food stuff - mince pies! I am a relatively recent convert to these having spent many years worrying (as all good vegetarians should) about something containing 'mince meat'. Then, of course, even once I knew that it was just a strange way of describing dried fruit, there was the problem of beef suet. Well, all these clouds have been blown away and, thanks to the glory of vegetable suet, I can munch my way through mince pies with the best of them. Miles is the chief mince pie maker in his family and I helped him make them last year. This year we have gone a step further and made our own pear and ginger mince meat (so I can definitely confirm, no animals were harmed in the making of our pies).

However, the mince meat is still in its jars so no pictures from our kitchen yet, although hopefully there will be later. The picture at the top is from the BBC Good Food website and shows Apricot and Hazelnut Mince Pies. The recipe looks interesting and doesn't require the mince meat to be stored to let the flavours develop, making for a much quicker process. Maybe one for next year if the pear and ginger doesn't work out!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Advent - Day 10

A snowflake (as if you couldn't work it out for yourself!). Because it's pretty and is the closest we in London will get to a white Christmas.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Advent - Day 9

[Picture by Cathie (couldn't find surname) at]
I like this snowman and his knitwear.
We're off to a christening this morning for the little girl who I made a jumper for in the summer. Now, we weren't invited to her big brother's christening so I reckon it's the hand knit that swung it this time! Yay!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Advent - Day 8

"Merry Old Santa Claus," by Thomas Nast from Harper's Weekly, January 1, 1881

A very jolly Santa Claus indeed - I particularly like the jaunty holly in his hat. I'm sure Coca Cola would never let him smoke now! Have a lovely Saturday everyone.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Advent - Day 7

Christmas pudding - one of Miles' favourites but not mine. I'm hoping his Mum will make one when we visit after Christmas so I don't feel too mean for leaving it out of our Christmas sweets!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Advent - Day 6

A companion piece to the cat-Santa hat humiliation of the 4th.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Advent - 5th December

Mistletoe - because we all deserve a kiss, especially on a wet Wednesday in December!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Advent in Blogland

Thinking about how much work I did (and how much fun I had) putting Miles' advent calendar together, I thought it might be a nice idea to use the pictures to do a virtual advent calendar here on the blog. I should explain straight off that none of these pictures were taken by me - they are all things I turned up using Google Image search. Obviously I've got a few days backed up, so here, for one day only, laydeez and gentlemen, are three, yes three, advent doors for your delight and delectation! Drum roll, please...

December 2nd:

December 3rd:

I want it!! This does, however, remind me of a notable childhood fancy dress party: my Dad made me an excellent firework costume out of a cardboard box - I was small enough that my whole body fitted inside - unfortunately, I experienced a problem know to many of our insect relatives... if I was pushed onto my back I couldn't get up. The other children found great enjoyment in tipping me over onto my friend Alice's bed. Meaneys.
And for today, December 4th:

Ho Ho Ho. Cats and Christmas - what's not to love?!

Monday, 3 December 2007

'Bottom Flap' Hot Water Bottle Cover

This is the first piece of my Christmas knitting. It's made from the handspun, hand dyed yarn from the Handweaver's Studio, given to me by Noel (pictured here). It's based on the BAWK Hot Water Bottle Cozy pattern which I've made twice before. The problem I found with the pattern, though, is that, although the bottle does pull out through the ribbed neck, in doing so it stretches the fabric totally out of shape. I decided to add a 'bottom flap' to get round this problem.

I knitted a flap with ribbing and three button holes at the base back and forth on two needles and then cast on the back of the cover and joined to knit in the round.

I put some ribbing on the back section but apart from that I pretty much followed the original pattern from there up.

I think this has worked out pretty well - on with the rest of the Christmas knitting pile now!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Pinch Punch... (& only 24 days to Christmas!)

Miles and I have made a start on a bit of Christmas crafting. I made an advent calendar yesterday from the template provided by Sarah of The Small Object. I love her downloads - they are always so fun and stylish. I made the calendar for Miles really - mostly because I knew he'd enjoy it but partly to say sorry for breaking the attic hatch that he so lovingly made a few months ago. Ooops. For all the images I chose things that I thought would either make him laugh or smile. For 1st December, we have a blues musician doing Christmas songs (Miles' love of blues means that miserable Christmas songs with quotes from Jingle Bells in a minor key are a seasonal staple which make their annual appearance on the 1st!).

I had a go at some origami stars for the tree which were reasonably successful but refuse to sit flat. I guess if they're hanging that shouldn't be too much of a problem!

We've also be experimenting with Christmas card designs, but more of that later...

Friday, 23 November 2007

Sweet Paprika in Cold Canada

A bit of back-blogging here... This time two weeks ago I was in Montreal for an academic conference. It was actually my second but the first where I've given a paper. I'm glad to say that my presentation went down really well, thanks in no small part I'm sure to Mr Boogie Woogie Piggy Wiggy, the handsome little fellow you can see examining my notes in the photo. He has been a work mascot since around 2002 so he definitely had to come to witness such an important professional occasion. Since I'm 26 not 6, he did stay in the hotel room rather than coming in my pocket to the conference floor, but he was with me in spirit!
After a couple of days in Montreal I travelled down to Ottawa with my friend Elizabeth. We meet a few years ago at the Foyles knitting group, and Elizabeth, ever the demon knitter is now taking her crafting to a new level. Not only is she pattern editing professionally but she and her sisters have also launched Sweet Paprika Designs.

They have a range of patterns and kits but my favourite bit is the lovely hand dyed yarn. I passed a happy 10 minutes on the Sunday morning photographing some of their stock. This is the 100% merino range called Messa di Voce.

This is the silk and merino blend, Dolce. I think the rich colours are just gorgeous.

And finally hand dyed, self-striping sock yarn!

Unfortunately the light wasn't great and the colours look a bit dull (you can see truer colours on their website). I've tended to avoid buying self-patterning sock yarn because I'm not keen on the jacquard look that most of them have, but this yarn is properly self-striping. This is a close up of the sample sock Elizabeth was working on.

And, as if seeing my friends and being fed lovely home cooked meals wasn't enough, Elizabeth kindy gave me two skeins as a birthday present! I chose the purple colorway of the sock yarn and here they are back at home with me.

Thanks again to Elizabeth, Paul and her sisters and cousin for such a lovely stay! I can't wait to go back when it's cold enough to ice skate!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Miles' Noro Hat

I made this hat as an anniversary gift for Miles last month. I hadn't been able to photograph it until this weekend due to the aforementioned camera problem. These pictures were taken on the camera phone so they're not great but they'll do! The hat is made from a lovely, lovely Noro yarn which I bought from Angela at a yarn swap/sale hosted by Adrienne. It's called Cash Laine and is 60% wool, 20% cashmere and 20% lamb's wool (sadly, having done a quick online search, it looks like it might not be made any more). The grey colourway (#22) is rather un-Noro but works great for a man knit. The pattern is adapted from the Marsan Watchcap by Staceyjoy Elkin, and was worked on 5mm needles over 104 stitches.

Miles is really pleased with the hat (an improvement on the last one I made him two years ago which was an excessively tight skull-cap type beanie with mixed weight yarns and poor gauge - I feel my knitting has improved since then!). The reason I chose this pattern for him is he likes a cuff which he can adjust, depending on the cold, and this has an extra deep turn up. One feature of this pattern I really liked was that the twisted rib is maintained throughout: thanks to a bit of jiggery-pokery on the circulars, the whole hat is turned inside-out after the cuff so that when turned up the cuff and hat body match. I also think the decreases look really smart, and because the twisted rib has lots of stitch definition, you can see them in action!

Angela told me today that she got some more of the Cash Laine to do another jumper so I hope if she has any left-overs she passes them my way! Finally, a camera update - having researched duty free and found it to be stupidly expensive, I gave in and bought a new Samsung from Comet (one of the few times living right next to a retail park pays off!) so at least normal photo quality can be restored with the next post.
Oh, and one last thing - does anyone have any good yarn shop recommendations for Montreal or Ottawa as I'm off to Canada on Thursday?

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Mobile blogging

This is a picture of some lovely handspun Noel gave me and which may become something christmassy. I took the photo with my new phone and sent it and the blog post direct from my mobile! I'm feeling pretty 21st century today!

Radio Silence...

Apologies for the complete lack of activity over here - I have been mourning the sad loss of my camera. I took it to Brighton where I photographed my friend Becca looking lovely in the head scarf I made her, as well as a couple of her beating her monkey pinata. Then, in my eagerness to stuff my early birthday pressie into my bag, I promptly left my camera behind. I know for a fact that the camera made it as far as another friend's bag when she prepared to return to London the following day but unfortunately all that could be found once she got home was the post-it note with my name on that had been stuck on the camera case. Boo! It wasn't a particularly smart camera but it was quite new and cost £80. I've been umming and ahhing about how and when to replace it and have currently hit on the idea of buying one in duty free when I got to Canada for work next week (it seems that the prices in Canada are comparable to here unfortunately so no bargains to be had - why can't I be going to a conference in the US with the 2-1 exchange rate?!)

There has been good, if unphotographed, crafty activity going on - I knitted a new hat for Miles for our anniversary last week which I'm happy to say he is really pleased with. I will take a piccie as soon as I can. I'm also in the process of deciding what to make for Xmas pressies but I can't really discuss that here in case the recipients happen to stop by!

And the final irony of the camera saga - with the good weather we've had over the last couple of days the light has been so much better so I could have been taking lovely photos. I think the short term solution is to play with my new CyberShot mobile phone today and see what 3.2 mega pixels can accomplish!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Short Rows: the Sequel

I actually finished the Calorimetry ages ago, but as is the way with so many nearly completed projects, it had to hang around folornly waiting for buttons until I finally took pity on it at the beginning of this week. I'm taking it as a birthday present for a friend tomorrow and I hope she likes it - maybe I'll manage to get her to do some modelling. With the autumn light changing, our kitchen now gets very long shadows which you can see in all these photos. As a result, when looking back at the pictures of the Calorimetry I realised that I had somehow knitted a small, fierce monster!

My love affair with the Wendy Fusion continues: having picked up some balls at Ally Pally I decided to try a test patch for the Lizard Ridge throw and I'm so pleased with how it came out.
This is the Aniseed colourway, a great mix of pinky purple, green and bright blue. There are 16 different colours in all which I reckon should be perfect for the throw. The Fusion is about half the price of the Kureyon and so much softer. Unfortunately it took me a while to realise that I was doing the short row wraps all wrong. You can see in this picture that I was twisting them far too much on the purl side.
By the final couple of repeats I had consulted a back issue of the trusty Interweave Knits and all was well.

Given the fact that I'm still only about half way through the crochet blanket I suspect the finished throw may be a way off, but the pattern is very enjoyable, especially as the colour changes spur you on to see how the next ones will fit in. I'm no nearer getting the lovely blue rocking chair or mountain scenery suggested by the pattern picture, however!