Wednesday, 6 November 2013
(So far, and in no particular order)
Watching Buddha's Birthday parade in Georgetown, Penang
While having drinks in a bar in Georgetown, on my first ever backpacking
trip, suddenly a huge parade complete with models, incense, and music
went by. I went into the crowd to ask about what the occasion was, and
discovered that it was Buddha's birthday.
Celebrating Dipawali with new Nepalese friends at their home in Kathmandu
After arriving in Kathmandu during Dipawali (Diwali), we made friends with one of the
hotel staff. In fact, we still keep in touch now. Dipawali lasts for several days, and our
new friend Deepak invited us to his home for the Brothers and Sisters day of Dipawali.
Going to a music and culture festival in Bakoteh village, The Gambia
This was an event organised by a Gambian man from the village who had moved to
Sweden, where he was in the music business. He had returned to his village to put on
this festival for the people there, and to also make a film about it in order to promote
knowledge and understanding of Gambian culture. The festival was an interesting blend
of modern and traditional music, and traditional dancing and other cultural practices.
Getting traditional Tajik clothes made at the market in Dushanbe
While living in Dushanbe for part of my last job role, I really admired the traditional ladies'
clothing. After asking around, we realised that the ladies buy the fabric from the markets,
and then have the garments made up at local tailors. We decided go on a trip with one of our
in-country counterparts to buy fabric from the market and then get measured up for
traditional clothes at the tailors. We were so happy with the results that we even
went back for more later on!
Being taught how to knot carpets in Tunisia
While exploring a souk in Tunisia, we came across a really interesting carpet shop with a
lady demonstrating techniques outside. There weren't many tourists about, so I was able
to sit with her for a while as she showed me how to tie the knots for making the carpet.
Driving a tuk-tuk in Kandy, Sri Lanka
While walking through Kandy we met a tuk-tuk driver. We didn't need a ride at that time,
but we arranged to meet him the next day for a trip out of town to see the nearby area.
He was a fantastic host, and took us to several places that we had not known about at
no extra cost. We bought him lunch, and he gave us driving lessons in his tuk-tuk!
Monday, 4 November 2013
Looking through my photos, I was reminded of an unexpected invitation to go to north Devon back in July, with my old TA unit who were having an Adventure Training weekend. This weekend was the week before I injured myself in a fall, which I wrote about here. Of course I jumped at this chance, and once I'd figured out how to fit a mountain bike plus all the rest of my kit into the back of a tiny Toyota Aygo (no mean feat!) I was off!
We each got to do 2 activities, and I did mountain biking - good preparation for the upcoming South Downs Way trip - followed by coasteering - which I hadn't done in a long time.
The mountain biking started well, following pretty difficult paths with lots of rocks and drops to negotiate. There were also some really steep uphills to test the use of gears, not to mention endurance! The road ride to return to the start point ready to switch activities also seemed to include some of the longest hills in Devon - for one stretch we had 3km of uphill with no respite from the incline at all. A real leg killer, we were so relieved to reach the top after what seemed like hours of pedalling. The next 7km were all either downhill or on the flat, and whizzed by in about 10 or 15 minutes, making a real mockery of the uphill struggle. (Sadly there were no photos from the mountain biking, as the only points where we stopped I was too busy either taking on fluids or energy sweets - or just trying to breathe...)
Coasteering (with guides from Active Escape) was fantastic. The weather was glorious and sunny, which really took the edge off the cold sea, and after hours of hard work on the bikes it was nice to let the sea take the weight off for a while. The swimming also balanced out the leg aches by adding a good arm work-out into the mix. I'm pretty nervous about jumping from a height, but love the feeling of overcoming the nerves and getting braver with each jump. And luckily the guides had a waterproof camera with them to capture a few action shots, to jog my failing memory!
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Recently, I went to the Bakewell Wool Gathering (19th - 20th October). This was the first actual Bakewell Wool Gathering, although it was apparently born out of another event that did not proceed. Held in the picturesque Peak District, surrounded by farmland, this seemed an ideal location for such an event.
The Wool Gathering was very much for people who do crafting things, with lots of raw and prepared fleece for spinning, beautiful skeins of hand spun and hand dyed yarn, drop spindles and spinning wheels, felting and dying supplies, in fact all kinds of woolly goodness that I’m really not experienced enough know about!
While most of the supplies on sale were for people to use to create, there were also many finished artisan goodies. Things that had had been spun, dyed, felted, knitted, crocheted – all kinds of combinations to wear, display, hang on the wall, and love.
I was very busy at the show working with my mother in law on her stand, Simply Sheepish (she doesn’t have a website yet, although I am trying to persuade her…) There was a lot of work involved in setting up the stand and tweaking the layout to make most use of the space and to keep it eye catching. While my mother in law is a very skilled and talented lady at many things woolly – spinning, weaving, dying, knitting, felting etc etc, her stand for shows is mostly focussed at supplies for other people wanting to have a go. Therefore she does end up with a lot of variety, and consequently a large quantity, of stock to get organised. And to learn about if you are the brand new assistant who has never done this kind of thing before!!
Being so busy helping and learning and assisting customers, and a bit of demonstrating my crocheting, I didn’t take a huge amount of time to look around. Don’t get me wrong, I did look around, but I would have needed a lot more time to ask about all of the new and interesting things that caught my eye. There were some truly spectacular things on display, and many yarns and felted objects called out to me. I really found myself drawn to watching spinners at their wheels too. Something so captivating and hypnotic about the wheel going round, and the rhythm of the spinner feeding in the wool. I definitely felt inspired to learn a lot more about felting, spinning, and then maybe dying as well…
Foolishly, while I did take my camera to the show I didn’t actually remember to use it. I did however do a quick bit of shopping before the end of the last day, so let me introduce you to my new purchases (how exciting!!)
First up, is this wooden scarf pin. Now I’m ashamed to say that I can’t remember the name of this stall. They were next to us at the show, so being to the side I couldn’t see their banner, and I didn’t get a card from them when I bought the pin as my mother-in-law actually knows them. So slap on the wrist for me…
About the scarf pin though, it is hand turned out of cocobolo wood, which I was told smells like chocolate when you’re working it! The wife of the man who made it had taken up spinning, and her husband started to make her drop spindles, which lead to him learning the art of woodturning. I thought that was a rather sweet story!
The other great thing about getting this scarf pin is that I can finally wear last year’s birthday present from my mother-in-law – this beautiful knitted capelet/scarf in Noro yarn, this is the ‘Wingspan’ pattern available from Ravelry. I think they are perfect partners!
Next up was a very unusual piece of work, in the shape of a multi-strand hand spun and hand dyed necklace. This was made by the lovely Monika at Wool Stories (she also has a facebook page)
Monika is a young lady from Poland, who is a self-taught textile artist creating fabulous and unique accessories, yarns etc. All the chatter from the more experienced people at the show indicated that they had never seen anything like her work either, so I felt very lucky to get a piece for myself. To top it off, Monika was also very lovely to chat to – and unbelievably she doesn’t even have a workshop, but manages to create her wonderful work in a small space in her shared house!
I have only worn it once so far, but I do have a trip to the theatre coming up and am looking forward to giving it another outing for that special occasion :)
My final purchase (although I wish I could have made more!) was from the gorgeous stand of needlefelt artist Jenny Barnett (Website, blog, or facebook). Jenny is very talented, and while she had a range of things on sale (just look through her photos!) the pieces that really leapt out at me were her needlefelt British animals. Seals, hares and foxes in various attitudes really vied for my attention, and it was so difficult to choose between them – if I had the money I think I would have come away with one of each!!
After an extremely difficult decision that took a whole day to make, I eventually opted for the fox. By the time I had made my decision, unfortunately there were no foxes left who had black ‘socks’, which I really preferred – but they were very wonderful people and when I looked disappointed at this news they immediately offered to speak to Jenny (when she came back from her own wanderings) about putting some black socks on to my chosen fox! How fantastic! When she got the news Jenny sought me out and we had a brief chat about what I wanted, and she finished him off the following morning. Apparently I wasn’t the only fan of the black socks, as he was drawing quite a crowd of admirers as he sat on display (disappointed admirers I’m afraid, as he had his ‘sold’ tag on) so I let Jenny keep him for the day to display, and I collected him when the show finished. I also collected a kit for making your own seal as a gift for my mum.
Jenny also runs specific workshops for making her designs, so I will be keeping my eyes peeled for one I fancy, either the hare or the seal perhaps, as I already have the fox. I would also like to find a seal workshop that I can take my mum to, so she can get some practice for her own seal kit…
So there we are, an exciting and inspiring event for me, and a few goodies to keep! I love that they are all unique items, hand-made by individual people who have lovingly learned a skill and really care about the quality and design of their art. Makes me feel all fuzzy inside :)
Monday, 28 October 2013
I’ve been so busy lately!!
Last week I went and stayed with my Aunt and her husband in Somerset. We had a lovely time together, and I brought loads of yarn to their house for her to choose the colours she wants for the blanket I’m going to make for her. She’s allergic to wool, so this will be another Stylecraft Special acrylic blanket – but grown-up sized this time! (More about that in another post though)
From there, I went up to stay with my in-laws for a few days to help my mother-in-law on her stand at the Bakewell Wool Gathering. I arrived the day before to help load the van and set up the stand, then we had really busy days over the weekend. It was a steep learning curve, getting to grips with the features of all of the stock items and learning how to best advise the customers about different things. (In fact, as I think about it, maybe the Wool Gathering needs its own post too!!) It’s always lovely to visit with my in-laws, so I ended up staying there much longer than I meant to, and helping a bit with the animals – which I really love doing.
Then I got home in time for my best friend to come and stay for a few days with her family. We’ve known each other since we were about 11, and been close friends since we were about 13. Even though I’ve lived a long way from home for the past 11 years we’ve remained good friends, and make an effort to visit each other whenever we can. It was great to see them all, but exhausting having boys aged 15 and 9 to keep happy! Such different interests at those ages, so hard work finding something that can work for them both…
I was sad to watch them all leave this morning, but it did also feel kind of nice to just have some time to myself after so long around other people – I really have got used to being on my own, and I find it a bit tiring to be sociable for too long! Haha Being alone also gave me the chance to finish off my Neat Circles in Squares Baby Blanket that I started here.
Once all of the circle-in-square patches were finished I used (UK) single crochet on the right side of the blanket to join the squares together along their remaining sides, having joined the rows of the blanket together as each was completed. I really like the effect of this method, with the raised join forming a nice decorative feature, and the crocheting together giving a nice, straight, firm join. It obviously adds an extra element of work to a blanket compared to joining as you go, and therefore uses more yarn, but I still think it will be a technique I’ll use again on future blankets. And of course there are still more techniques for me to learn!!
For the border I decided to keep it plain – partly because I had made the blanket a bit small to start with, and really I should have taken it back and made more patches… It took a little bit of trial and error to get the first row stitches to lie flat with the rest of the blanket, but sadly as I increased the rows I somehow wasn’t able to maintain the flat-ness and the poor blankie has ended up with a slightly ruffled edge. I hope it will be ok! I’m hoping that with washing and use it will all settle down nicely.
I used the background colour in UK trebles, and put in rows of UK doubles in each colour to pretty it up. I finished off on a coloured row of DCs, and as they rounded the corners I put a little picot in to give a little shape to them. I like the effect of this, I might use this again in the future too where I’m doing an otherwise plain border.
So here it is finished. I’m pleased with some bits – the layout of the colours, the joining of the squares – and feel that I have room to improve for other bits – the border being ruffly – but I have enjoyed making this little baby blanket, and I’m very excited to give it to my friends, ready for their new arrival!
Saturday, 26 October 2013
Thursday, 27th March
We arrived in Swanage after travelling across an angry sea, with high winds whipping foam off the waves. As in Fowey we were at anchor rather than moored in a dock, but this time shore leave was impossible as it was far too rough for the small tender to go ashore. Instead, everyone stayed aboard and worked on their acts for the Sods Opera to be held that evening.
After lunch all hands assembled aft for the next part of the inter-watch competition: the quiz. The Mate asked the questions while the Doctor ensured fair play. Each member of a Watch was pitted against their opposite numbers from the other Watches, and were asked questions that involved locating something technical on the ship, or tying a particular knot correctly. Our number 8 Charlotte scored first for us, but the point was disallowed. I was next to score, and this time the point stayed. Throughout the quiz we made an amazing recovery in the rankings. We had been about 8 points down against the other Watches at the start, but by the end we were second to the leaders Main Watch by only one point.
At 2000hrs all were watches were abandoned again, and all hands were called to the afterdeck for the evening’s entertainment. I had been in the galley again, this time on mess duty, so was very glad to be called out. The Watch Officers distributed bottles of Becks to their Watches, and charismatic trainee, Ben, was called upon to be Master of Ceremonies.
The running order for the night was:
Mizzen Watch: ‘Sailing on Churchill’ (I wrote our song to the tune of ‘Waltzing Matilda’. The writing of it compensation for the fact I am so dreadful a singer!)
Ben: reciting a poem he had written
Main Watch: ‘Main Watch People’ (Their song to the tune of Pulp’s ‘Common People’)
Fore Watch: ‘Sailing Over the Sea’ (Their song to the tune of ‘The Animals Went in Two by Two’)
The permanent crew members then sang a selection of shanties and comical songs. Requests were taken, and a good time was had by all, laughing, joking, drinking and singing in true sailor fashion.
Friday, 28th March
We upped anchor and left Swanage Bay for our final day of sailing back to Poole. There was an air of sadness as we entered harbour, knowing that the voyage was over and this was to be our final night together aboard the ship. We were to wake up and bang our heads on the ceiling or bunk above us for the last time.
We had our usual tidy up once the springs and mooring lines had been secured. We also had to put up a small marquee on the aft deck as there was to be a cocktail party for the Sail Training Association trustees that night while we all went out in the town.
Once all aboard was ship shape everyone sat down in the marquee for the wash-up, the Captain’s debrief of the voyage. He covered all of the gruesome details, even shaming those seasick individuals who had puked into the wind and “got their own back”! The Doctor had organised a sweepstake for how many nautical miles we would cover during the voyage, and the winner who guessed nearest to the actual total of 623 nautical miles claimed a huge £5 prize. The inter-watch competition results were also revealed: first was Main Watch, followed by Fore Watch, and last but by no means least was my Mizzen Watch. A crate of Becks was awarded to the winners, and silly leaving gifts were also given to the Watch Leaders. More Becks was distributed to the rest of the crew, and everyone hung around taking group photographs and swapping postal addresses.
Once everything was finished we all went out, trying to find a pub that would let us all in as we were quite a large group (the Cook’s Assistant was supposed to have booked somewhere, but hadn’t). We were finally allowed in the Poole Arms, so while I settled down to a coke as I couldn’t get served again, although one of the older trainees did smuggle a drink over for me, giving me my first ever taste of a G&T, and two of our Watch went off to buy our Watch Leader’s leaving present of a bottle of rum.
Things got going full-swing, and the night was certainly cheered up when trainees Ben and Gordon arrived in skirts and make up! Soon everyone was drinking and singing, and the 0000hrs end of shore leave quickly came around. Our Watch had clubbed together for a sneaky bottle of rum and some coke though, and our Watch Leader managed to sneak us off ship for a few more hours during the changing of the watch. The revelry continued, and the last of us managed to stagger back aboard at about 0300hrs.
Saturday, 29th March
We woke up at 0500hrs and just about managed to roll out of bed. We packed all of our things eventually, no mean feat as my bag seemed to have mysteriously shrunk during the voyage, though looking around I wasn’t alone as several others were also jumping on their bags to get them closed.
We had an extra long, extra thorough happy hour, took down the marquee and loaded on fresh stores before signing off and collecting our valuables back from the Purser. Everyone had ordered lithographs of the ship, and we all signed each other’s as a memento of the great time together.
|Skippy, who came aboard in St Malo having cycled from Greece to France|
Before our Watch signed off we presented Amanda with her token bottle of rum. We then had to hand back our smocks, harnesses and pillowcases to Rupert, the Boatswain’s Assistant, which seemed to prove it really was all over. There were big hugs all round on the quayside as people began to leave to return to their lives on land. My family arrived too to bring me home again, a slightly more worldly teenager than the one dropped at that same quayside just two weeks before.
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
So my second baby blanket…
This one is a pattern new to me that I found here at Sarita Creative. I loved the fresh, modern look that it had, and I was also in the mood to work a new pattern.
I had been playing around with some colours from my Stylecraft stash, which I had ordered online from Deramores after reading so many good reviews about it. I had also just added to this with some extra colours as my Aunt had made a request for a blanket in purple and pink shades, so I decided to stock up while I was at it!!
I had loved the way that the Aspen (aqua colour), Saffron (yellow colour) and Fondant (pink colour) looked together, and I thought that they might look pretty good as circles in a white background. Then when my new Stylecraft order arrived in the post I found that while the Shrimp (melon/coral colour) didn't work with the purples and pinks I had ordered it with, I liked it with the Aspen and Saffron even better than the Fondant!
|Aspen, Shrimp, Cream & Saffron Stylecraft Special DK|
I wanted to work the colours so that they looked scattered across a white background, and to add to this effect I decided to make some of the squares totally white. This gave me four colour patches to work with, so I planned the colours in square blocks of four. I used numbers to work out a pattern that didn’t look too regular, but that also didn’t have any clumps of the same colour near to each other – so the colours were evenly distributed. This approach actually made me think that using Sudoku puzzles could be a great way to plan colour distribution in any future blankets that use 9 colour combos! After doing the number grid, I then drew myself another grid to use as a ‘map’ for my squares, colouring in little circles so I could see how it looked and follow it easily.
|My colour map - ticking off the rows|
Then I began hooking up these delightful little circles – they really are very straightforward to do, but give a lovely result, and at only 3 rounds each they are really quick too!! The pattern was so simple that I only needed to read it through once and then I was off. It was so enjoyable to make these little stacks of bright circles :)
As I was finishing off the final, square round, it became apparent to me to that trying to join these squares as I went along was not going to show them off to their best. This got me frantically searching for advice on crocheting or sewing together squares. In the end, I went for crocheting as then you’re not dragging a whole length of yarn through over and over again. When I started I followed Attic24’s advice to crochet on the back, but I didn’t like the way this left the front looking so after a few rows I unpicked everything and started again, crocheting the front!! Lots of extra work, but well worth it I felt – I was very happy with the result.
So far, I’m finishing up all the patches for one row at a time, then crocheting the whole row onto the previous one. To do this I put together the first row to begin with, without sewing in the ends from the joinings (I normally sew in ends as I go along – I’m terrified that I’ll never get around to finishing off if I leave them all until the end!), so I had one complete strip. Then the squares for the next complete row would be finished, and stitched along the sewn-up strip as the next row, and so on and so on. At the end I will unpick the short threads that held the first strip together, and then I can crochet up the lengths all in one go. This way I won’t have joins to keep tidy, and there will be fewer ends to sew in once it’s done.
The squares are a little smaller than I had visualised before starting the pattern, and while I could of course just make more squares, I’m thinking that I might do a really wide border to add size instead. In my head it looks good, I hope it translates to reality…
Here is my latest little blanket as a work in progress: I’m so happy with it so far, I wonder if any more of my friends will get pregnant and require baby blankets…
|Progress so far - 2 more rows to go, then I can crochet the lengths together and add a border|
Sunday, 13 October 2013
The last few months have involved me getting into mountain biking, something I haven’t really done in years and years, and as the weather has turned worse and the nights have gotten longer (and I finally realised how much I needed to rest a bursitis/tendonitis I have) I have gone back to my crochet.
I sort of lost interest in crochet over the summer. I think I was just restless to do other things, and while I couldn’t do everything I wanted to thanks to the bursitis/tendonitis, it didn’t stop me wanting to!! I also think that I need to have a project with a purpose – I do see a lot of beautiful things that I like, but if they don’t have a genuine purpose then I can’t bring myself to spend the money and the effort… And this is where other people’s happy news comes in very handy!!
A guy I’ve been working closely with over the last few months is to become a father again! He already has a little daughter, and the other week he and his wife found out that their next baby will be another little girl.
I had a stash of Stylecraft Special DK that I had bought from Deramores after reading about so many others who have loved it, and I picked out all of the ‘girly’ colours that I had – pinks, white and a yellow, 6 in all. I opted for a classic Granny Square blanket, as I think they are a bit of a timeless classic. I just added a slight twist to the pattern by doing each colour for 2 rows. I had seen some variations on this while browsing Pinterest, and I thought it would just make it a bit more modern looking (not being sure that the recipients would be into Granny chic!) I also did these joining them on the go, as I haven’t yet attempted sewing or crocheting squares together.
I kind of agonised over the colour pattern – I don’t seem to be all that good at planning colours, and this was going to be only the second time I had planned the colours in advance rather than going randomly. When you join as you go you do need to make sure you get things in the right place! In the end I put the balls in a row, alternating as best I could between darker and lighter shades. Then I just made the colours graduate from the 1st colour, to 2nd, to 3rd, all along the rows. With 6 colours, 6 squares, and 3 colours per square, this technique gave quite a pleasing effect in the end – although I wasn’t totally happy with the colour combinations.
|(Before ironing - I didn't get an after picture due to rushing)|
To finish off I chose 3 colours I did like together, and went round in 2 rows of UK trebles and a final row of UK double crochet. Very simple, but a nice finish I thought.
It was great to give this gift to someone who has been a fantastic colleague through some tough times, although we were both so shy that we ended up sitting in a bit of an awkward silence for a time afterwards trying to think of what to say to each other!! He didn’t know what to say in gratitude, and I didn’t know what to say back! In the end the tension was broken when he said that he really wished he could do something back for me to say thank you, and I suggested he make the teas :)
Something that rewarding should be repeated I think, and luckily another of my work friends is also pregnant! She doesn’t yet know whether they will have a girl or a boy, so I gathered together some colours that I thought would work either way, as they are more about the mum’s taste than being too gender-specific.
I also picked a new pattern for this one, but more about that later…
Saturday, 12 October 2013
Monday, 24th March
I was woken at 0600hrs for duty as Boatswain’s Day Worker, during which we were under the command of Rupert, the Boatswain’s Mate. Our Watch hadn’t contributed to Boatswain’s Day Worker up until now as we had been too low on numbers, but with Steve’s arrival we joined the rota. The Boatswain had a scary reputation, so I was relieved that I had missed most of the shift as it had begun prior to our joining the rota. I only had to join in with scrubbing the coach house roof before finishing at 1000hrs, and once this was over I rejoined my Watch on duty.
We were on second dog watch again, but on this occasion cloud spoiled the views of the sunset and the comet. We spent another night out of harbour at sea, heading toward the southern English coast.
Tuesday, 25th March
We arrived in Fowey, Cornwall, around midday, and were given shore leave. We were not in a dock this time but anchored in the middle of the small channel, so the lifeboat and rubber dubby were run as tender, providing a taxi service between ship and shore.
Whilst ashore I wrote more postcards and bought some souvenirs and ice cream before catching the 1600hrs tender back to ship at the end of shore leave.
We were allowed off again in the evening to once again ‘splice the mainbrace’, and we even had a ship’s party organised. A group of us somehow managed to find the most boring pub in all Cornwall in which to wait for the party to begin at the Galleon Yacht Club, so a few of us moved on to somewhere more lively. We had a few drinks before getting to the party, where I unfortunately had time for only a couple of dances and a quick drink before catching the tender back again for my 2200-0000hrs three-man anchor watch. Once everybody was back again after the party we all sat up a while talking before bed.
Wednesday, 26th March
More shore leave was allowed in the morning, so we decided to head off for a Watch Cornish cream tea, finding the Victoria Tea Rooms which fit the bill perfectly. Great minds think alike, and within minutes it seemed that half of the ship’s trainees had all found the same place – much to the consternation of the ladies working there, as 20-something of us settled down to delicious tea and scones.
Our Watch then went for a walk around the small lanes and pathways weaving their way between the houses of Fowey, before returning to the ship.
We had to queue on the beach for a while waiting for space on the tender, and once everyone was back on board we raised the anchors. It was the job of the Boatswain’s Day Workers to work down in the chain lockers as the anchors were raised, and they came up so covered in mud from the anchor chains that they literally had to be hosed down on the deck.
Before heading back out to sea we first travelled further up the channel to take on more water. The ship carries 35 tonnes of water, but this is soon used up when you have a ‘Happy Hour’ each day (“a clean ship is a happy ship!”) and 55 people need to use the showers and the heads.
Unfortunately we couldn’t leave Fowey in quite the same style as we had arrived as it was too rough to man the yards, but once out of shelter four of us went aloft to set the square sail and the course. I even managed to get a photo of the view from the crow’s nest, the wonkiness of the picture testimony to the roll of the ship in the choppy water.
We spent yet another bumpy night at sea, this time headed along the coast for Swanage Bay.