October 1st, 2007

The recent change in weather has got me thinking about my autumn/winter wardrobe, which is woefully inadequate. When you work from home, sweats and socks tend to make up the backbone of your wardrobe. It always makes me laugh when I read pieces in fashion magazines suggesting comfortable but chic lounge wear for around the house. Yes, I’m going to wear a belted linen tunic over skinny jeans, or a cashmere wrap jacket over silk palazzo pants, instead of washed-a-hundred-times-until-they’re-super-soft pj’s, and I’ll wear full makeup too, because I have my standards to keep up…… Yes, ok…….

However, for the days when I do make it out the house, a little clothes shopping has become necessary. But I hate, detest, loathe, shopping. How some people find it therapeutic is beyond my comprehension. Even back in the days when fashion was my business, I didn’t really enjoy shopping, it was just a necessary evil. But thanks to the Internet, I can get my shopping over with from the comfort of my sofa. WWW = What WouldIDo WithoutIt?

There was a time when I prided myself on being one jump ahead of the trends, but I’ve grown rather tired of fashion in the last few years. It’s so…. clonish. I still love vintage fashion though, especially the 1930’s-1950’s. That whole shabby chic, Cold Comfort Farm meets I Capture the Castle, slightly eccentric faded grandeur look. Battered tweeds, ditzy silk prints, threadbare velvet, washed until it’s sheer cotton. A baggy Aran sweater worn over a tea dress. Flannel trousers, a crisp cotton shirt, and a Fair Isle tank top. A flippy velvet skirt with wellington boots. None of which I would wear, but I’m creating an atmosphere here.

And there are several shops out there who are on the same wavelength. Boden, Toast, Celtic Sheepskin, Noa Noa, Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley, The White Company. Just looking through their catalogues is a delight (especially Boden – the witty comments make the copy as much of a treat as the photos).

Because these shops have an old-fashioned, hand-crafted style to them, they combine beautifully with hand knits. Imagine these trousers with a crisp cotton shirt, rolled up at the sleeve, and a Fair Isle tank top in mellow autumn shades. Or jeans tucked into these boots, with a tweedy cable knit sweater over the top. Or this fabulous dress, with a silk lace shawl flung over the shoulders. Or even (slightly closer to reality here) these pyjamas, with decadently soft cashmere socks…..

Of course, I haven’t the time to make all these knits (although I’m getting faster – sleeve two of Tony’s sweater is now complete!), the money to buy all those items, or the social standing or lifestyle to wear such opulent outfits. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

September 28th, 2007

Here are some more picks of this week’s yarn, this time edging towards the cooler end of the spectrum:

(This last one doesn’t really go with the whole purple theme I’ve got going on here, but I just like it so much, I had to squeeze it in.)

You can see the rest of this week’s yarn later today, when the preview will be ready. Happy browsing! And whatever your plans, have a gorgeous weekend.

September 27th, 2007

Our house is set on the main road, although this is not as unpleasant as it sounds, since a) there is a long garden between the house and the road, and b) the road only leads to the beach, and is incredibly quiet now that the summer is over. But our village is a prime spot for walkers, and for most of the year they come toiling past our cottage. And inevitably, as they pass our gate, their heads swivel sideways, and they stare at the house. I really don’t know why, because although the cottage itself is lovely, there is nothing very picturesque about the outside, no climbing roses, no thatched roof. And the garden is plain to the point of embarrassment. But still people stare, and regularly stop at the gate and stand there pointing and looking. Which makes me cross, and I know that’s stingy and unreasonable of me, but I have a very over developed sense of privacy.

Now if you can imagine people stopping at the gate just to stare at a simple white cottage at the end of a raggedy lawn, imagine how much more attention we attract when we have yarn out to dry. Tony built a huge drying rack when we first came here (it doubles as a 15 foot table base for outdoor parties), and it sits on the lawn with the skeins slung over it. Its very practical. But its a gawker magnet. So I wasn’t very surprised to see a pair of walkers standing outside the gate looking at the yarn last week. We were just hanging it out to dry, and I did my usual antisocial trick of pretending not to see or hear them (you’d be surprised how well that works if you are really determined). 

But Tony is the complete opposite to me, sociable, friendly, and kindness personified. To my absolute horror, he turned to them and asked if they would like to come into the garden to look closer. I muttered things not fit to be printed, shot him a look that should have shrivelled him on the spot, and hoped that they would do the decent English thing and move on with an embarrassed refusal. They did not. They came into the garden. I was mortified. I was furious. I was stupid.

Because serendipity followed that act of friendliness by Tony.  It turned out that this couple had both spent their working lives in the dyeing industry. They knew everything there was to know about dyeing yarn and fabric, and they were delighted to share some of their knowledge with us. Which was very helpful, because when I once tried to discuss some dyeing issues we were having, with our dye supplier, he was so horrified by the methods we used, and so incredulous that they could possibly work, that I never tried talking technicalities with him again. These two were much more open-minded. “If it works for you,” they kept saying, “then good! But you might want to give this a go as well……”.

Tony was over the moon. He’s always up for trying new things, and the business is a work in progress as far as he’s concerned. I’m much more hidebound and cautious, more “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” But he’s in charge of dyeing, so he got to try some of the suggestions out without my interference. And the results were spectacular.

I hope you’ll agree that one of the characteristics of Posh Yarn is the depth and brilliance of our colours. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, baby. With the new dye methods, the colours are even more intense, and much more importantly, even more colourfast. Just look at all these rich autumnal shades, warm, glowing, glorious reds and golds and browns. I want to knit a giant sized sweater out of it, and wrap it around the outside of the house so that it looks like a scene from a New England tourist advert.

Now that really would make people stop and look……..     

September 26th, 2007

Reasons why this is my favourite time of year:

  • That unmistakeable autumn scent, part wet leaves, part woodsmoke, that wafts in through my open window.
  • Darker evenings, making it necessary to lights lamp and draw curtains. And darker mornings, encouraging you to pull the covers back over your head and snooze for another half hour.
  • Falling temperatures, which justify using the wood stove from morning to night.
  • The change in diet that we naturally make around this time of year, drifting from salads and simple light meals, to hearty soups, homemade bread, and bedtime hot chocolate.
  • The comfier cool weather wardrobe, consisting of woolly socks, sweaters, jeans, and boots. I’m so much happier in these than I am in flip-flops and linen!
  • The way the cats stay closer to home, preferring to curl up on the bed with us, or in front of the woodstove instead of prowling and hunting half the day and all the night.
  • The quiet stillness of a country village, particularly in contrast to the bustle of summer when it’s full of tourists in coaches and cars. And the glory of having a windswept beach all to yourself.
  • The mellow softness of an autumn landscape, all warm colours and gentle drifting lines. The brightness of berries, and the beauty of a frosty morning.

I get much more the feeling of starting a new year in autumn than I do in January. How about you?

September 25th, 2007

So, with all these sketches, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’ve given up knitting in favour of drawing. Not at all. It’s just that you have more to show for 10 minutes of drawing than you do for 10 minutes of knitting. Especially at the rate at which I knit. But I have been steadily plugging away at the Fair Isle sweater, and I’ve finished one sleeve and am halfway up the other. (I always start sweaters with the sleeves, it gives you a chance to get familiar with the design on something small and managable.)

Of course, this is a sweater for Tony, and so the curse is already kicking in.  Longtime readers will remember the other casualties of this curse – the cable knit jacket that came out my size instead of his, the 4ply fair isle tank top that ended up as a cushion cover. And as determined as I was that this time the curse would be broken, I’m beginning to think that it’s just too strong. I should have been warned by the weird gauge swatch problems.

I’m been knitting very carefully, checking the measurements as I go along, both against the pattern and against the man. So far, so good, I thought as I got ready to do the armhole shaping. Despite having replaced the yarn in the pattern with a completely different weight, and despite the swatch issues, the sleeve was just the right measurements. The width was perfect (since I’d been very careful not to pull it tight with the stranding). The length was just what the pattern said it should be. I felt very smug. Then I started the armhole shaping. And it went on, and on, and on. I did a full pattern repeat from the armhole to the shoulder, which considering I’d only done two in the rest of the sleeve, tells you what a deep armhole it was. I cast off, with that familiar feeling of doom, and measured it. Two inches longer than the pattern. I held it up against Tony. The sleeve comes down to his fingertips. And he’s not six, he won’t grow into it.

Now, really commited knitters, really loving wives, would pull back to a few inches before the armhole, and start again. Not me. I’ve heartlessly informed Tony that he will have to turn the cuffs back and like it. And although I’m aware of the problem now, I can’t modify the second sleeve, can I? Otherwise he’ll look all lopsided. So, two gorilla sleeves it is. I’ll have to be more careful with the body of the sweater, or it will be more like a dress.

I really should stick to socks.