Friday, 8 January 2010

Big freeze

The UK is shivering under a very unusual cold spell, we have even had snow down in the London area which is very rare. Although only a couple of inches fell here, it was enough to shut over a hundred schools and public institutions such as libraries. So DS had an extra day's holiday yesterday as his school closed, but they have reopened today. DH has also gone back to work, after two days working from home rather than risking his car on the roads. Incredible as it may seem to those living in colder climes, many Brits have no winter tires, and my British DH not only has never had snow chains, he even thought they might be illegal for road use in the UK (they aren't - I checked on the internet). So a lot of people have no idea how to drive in snow, which leads to massive problems -for example, over 200 cars were abandoned on one of the motorways in the south of England, and 100 of them were still there two days later apparently.
To be fair, this is because the infrastructure when it comes to ploughing and gritting the roads is not comprehensive - in my county, the council is only gritting major roads and hospital approaches.

It's still pretty cold today (hovering around zero degrees Celsius) but no further snow has fallen. The house seems very quiet as I experience my first day home alone. But the good thing about being snowbound part of the week is lots of time to do crafty things.

I finished my Argyle Slippers, from a pattern in Simply Knitting magazine's free calendar supplement. They are in Artesano Aran yarn, which is 50% alpaca/50% wool. Despite knitting the smallest size (the original pattern is for men) I still ran out of the blue yarn, much to my annoyance. I was reduced to scrounging short scraps of blue yarn to sew the blue sole to the slipper sides, and had to knit the cuff in pink instead. The finished slippers were too loose on my feet, mainly because they were too high - if I were to knit them again, I would reduce the repeat on the sides from four down to three repeats. I decided to try felting them as I handwashed them, to see if that helped. It did, but trying them on damp, I found they were still too loose. So I thought 'what the hey' and chucked them in the washing machine for a 30 degree Celsius easy-care wash cycle. They came out beautifully felted, and now fit pretty well. They are cosy and warm, and the sole feels quite cushiony under foot. I made the cord using a Bond Magicord cord maker, it struggled a bit with the Aran weight yarn but produced a firm cord. (I know my feet look like boats in this photo, but in fact are UK size 7).

On Tuesday night I travelled up to London to join the I-Knit New Year Knit-in at the Royal Festival Hall, where I managed to sit near the boxes of free chocolates (completely by accident of course) and enjoyed a glass of wine as I started a new project: a nice warm hat knit in Rico Creative Poem, a self patterning 100% wool yarn. It has a turned up cuff so is doubled over the ears to keep me warm. That's almost finished now, I am just decreasing for the top of the hat.

But I've spent most of this week working on a project which doesn't make for a very interesting photograph: re-cataloguing my collection of vintage textiles and crochet. This is one of those jobs that you put off for years until you have the time - and now I have the time due to my lack of unemployment. The collection lives under my bed in three big zip-up bags (I thought it was only two zip-up bags, and I spent more than a day wondering why so many of my items seemed to have disappeared, until I looked under the bed and discovered the third bag...). It started out very methodically about 15 years ago: when I acquired a new item, I would tag it with a catalogue number and write up the description. After about 100 items and five years, this system broke down and items still got catalogued, but not tagged. After about 200 items and ten years, the system disintegrated altogether, and new items just got stuffed under the bed without any cataloguing at all.
So this week I have spent hours going through everything, weeding out the junk, matching untagged items to the catalogue so that I can tag them, and writing up new descriptions for the items that don't seem to be in the catalogue. Most of the collection is filet crochet, and I particularly like pictorial scenes. But several items of tatting, knitting and other needlework have crept in as well. Most of it has been picked up from bric-a-brac stores, flea markets etc., but there are some nice pieces purchased from antique dealers. Unfortunately I can't really use most of them, we have few horizontal surfaces unimpeded with clutter in our house, and putting any cloths on our kitchen table would be an invitation to disaster. But I just love them. I love the idea that some woman, similar to me, made them by hand years ago, and that they have lasted all this time. Plus most of them go for ridiculous prices: I picked up an antimacassar mat that must have taken someone weeks to make, in very fine thread, for .50p last weekend at an antiques fair in Farnham. For the most part, this type of needlework is just not valued any more. I guess because it doesn't fit the modern lifestyle: who wants to be washing and starching and blocking out lace these days? (besides me that is, and even I don't want to do it regularly).


swooze said...

Where are the pics??

Quilter Kathy said...

adorable slippers!
Good for you for sitting near the wine and chocolates...what a great day!

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