Neptune cardigan

I finished my first garment! Granted, it is a 2 year old size, so quite small, but I did finish it! There are a number of things I am not too happy with, in particular the seams but the overall result looks ok when it is flattened. It is now wrapped and packed, ready to be sent to a friend tomorrow. I hope that it will get some wear, if not by my friend’s son, then by someone she loves!

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I bought the pattern for this cardigan at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London in March I believe this year. You can find it here. It was knit in Purl Alpaca Designs yarn, 100% alpaca, shade Grey / name Storm. I used about 2 2/3 balls of 50g/116m each.

I had to go up 0.5mm in the needles sizes as I tend to knit quite tightly.

The pattern is for beginners, but I felt some understanding of knitting was needed as the pattern called for basketweave pattern with the explanation of this pattern for multiples of 8 sts, although the actual number of stitches is not a multiple of 8, which means you had to inverse the purls and knits on the even rows. Also, there appears to be an errata on row 2 of the left front for 1 year and 2 years, where [k4, p4] should read [p4, k4].

As my next “knit to be gifted” project, I have a tea cosy that I was planning to give my sister… two and a half years ago I believe… I will update the WIP page with a current picture once I have dug it out of the box where it currently rests.

It is nice to finish something for once and definitely motivates me to finish other objects! I will pay attention however in the future to notes about the construction of the garment… I have a feeling I may prefer top down / on circular needles / anything that prevents sewing the different parts!  🙂

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Apologia – Trafalgar Studios – London

Apologia is currently running at the Trafalgar Studios in London from 29th July to 18th November 2017.

A play by Alexi Kaye Campbell, with Stockard Channing, Freema Agyeman, Desmond Barrit, Laura Carmichael  and Joseph Millson, directed by Jamie Lloyd.

From the Trafalgar Studios website:

Kristin Miller is a firebrand matriarch and eminent art historian. A birthday gathering should be a cause for celebration but the cracks in her family relationships are brought to the surface by the recent publication of her memoir. As the evening progresses questions are asked about the sacrifices she has made and about the price paid by those she loves.

Apologia is a witty, topical and passionate play about generations, secrets, and warring perspectives.

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I booked a ticket for this play early this week when I received a theatre email advertising it. I had seen Stockard Channing in The Good Wife and other roles and always wondered where I had seen her before and thankfully the email mentioned that she was Rizzo in Grease, which finally gave an answer to my long-lasting question!

I cannot praise this play or this cast enough. I absolutely LOVED it. The play itself is fantastic and the performances were incredible all around. I went from laughter to tension to laughter to feeling on the edge, to relief when the interval came up, back to laughter and a tear in the last minute. The second act was certainly less tense than the first one, but I don’t think I could have taken any more of it!

I cannot really say more about the story than the above synopsis without revealing too much. I thought it was very well written, entertaining and gripping.

I heard someone behind me say during the interval that the American accent by Laura Carmichael was not quite right, but I personally didn’t pay attention to that. She is supposed to be American, I didn’t question anything else. As English isn’t my native language, I am not overly annoyed by this as I am just happy to understand! 🙂  I may be exaggerating a bit as I am fluent and there are some accents that I can now recognise, but definitely not all of them! One of my favourite accents though is that of David Tennant on TV. He seems to tone it down when on stage, certainly in Don Juan de Soho that I saw a few months ago (twice!) where he was incredible in a role that took me by surprise.

Anyway, as mentioned above, I thought the cast was great. Stockard Channing has an amazing presence on stage, she was most definitely the strong character. Joseph Millson was fantastic as Peter/Simon, both with very different traits and attitudes. There is no better way to assess an actor’s abilities than when seeing him perform two roles in the same play! Freema Agyeman and Laura Carmichael were also very good as well as Desmond Barrit, with a role that was a bit in the background but whose interventions were like gold.

I would most definitely recommend it to anyone!

 

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New acquisitions

The last couple of weeks were very much up and down and I have made a few steps back with handling my depression, but despite the drama that went with it, I did face up to things and dealt with the issues at hand, so I guess it is progress in a way.

My crafting and reading suffered a bit from all this, but I still have some progress and some acquisitions to report.

I started reading The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan on 23rd July and have sadly only read 170 pages so far, but when I do read it, I am quite enjoying it. I “just” need to give reading more time…

Last weekend I worked on the Neptune cardigan and sewed the border. We could not venture very far as many roads were blocked in the area because of the Prudential 100k ride race so I went to Polesden Lacey, a National Trust estate. The weather was gorgeous and it was an absolute delight to “work” on the cardigan with this amazing view in the background:

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I still have to add the buttons, but I am worried my border seam may be a bit too wide. I wanted to “hide” the side stitches as I did not find them as “clean” as I would have liked them, but now I fear the seam has grown too big. I will try to flatten it a bit and see if it will be ok this way.

The other item I worked on is a sock. I had already knitted the first about 18 months ago, but never got the second one done. I am not sure that my tension is quite the same so I may have to frog the first one and redo it once I have finished this one. I had to frog and reknit the heel a few times as I was looking at the wrong instructions… Oh dear… 🙂  The pattern for these socks is the Knitmore Vanilla Sock by Jasmin Canty, and is free on Ravelry. As I have big feet, I cast on 80 stitches (ouch) and am using the rounder heel from the Socknitters. The yarn is Crazy Zauberball 2254_ Cloud No. 8 75% Virgin Wool, 25% Nylon.

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As mentioned, I did get some new items that I am really looking forward to putting to good use:

A knitting bag with a matching little case from Krisscraft on Etsy:

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From Purlescence, I bought The Scrumptious collection volume 2 as I fell in love with the Lyde beret. I also bought some ChiaoGoo RED Lace needles, which I had heard about on the Revelations of a Delusional Knitter podcast and thought I would give them a try. I started watching this video podcast a few weeks ago and absolutely love it! Angela is very engaging and talks about spinning, knitting, books and patterns found on Ravelry.

And I obviously bought some Scrumptious yarn to make the above beret. I cannot get the right colour on the picture, but the colourway is Olive and is the one that was used for the beret:

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I also got some more yarn, this time from Abstract Cat Crafts on Folksy. All three skeins are a 70% baby alpaca/30% silk mix and from left to right: 100g/800m lace in the Orange Sorbet colourway; 100g/400m 4-ply in the Lime Fizz colourway and 100g/800m lace in the Bell Heather colourway. Absolutely gorgeous and so soft!

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I also got myself this cross-stitch kit (because I don’t have enough to do already). I had a gift voucher on Amazon and as much as I dislike Amazon and the way it is taking over the world, a voucher has to be used!  🙂  I do love coffee, so this will be a perfect statement to have in my flat!

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And the last thing I received (at last!) is a couple of bread bakers from LittleWrenPottery on Etsy. They are gorgeous and will go very well with the canister and yarn bowl that I had already bought from her. Even if the yarn bowl is not normally in the kitchen  🙂  I cannot wait to use them! I think some bread will have to be baked this afternoon!

 

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Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

Five Rivers Met on a Wooden Plain by Barney Norris is a 288 pages paperback.

From the back cover:

‘There exists in all of us a song waiting to be sung which is as heart-stopping and vertiginous as the peak of the cathedral. That is the meaning of this quiet city, where the spire soars into the blue, where rivers and stories weave into one another, where lives intertwine.’

One quiet evening in Salisbury, the peace is shattered by a serious car crash. At that moment, five lives collide – a flower-seller, a schoolboy, an army wife, a security guard, a widower – all facing their own personal disasters. As one of those lives hangs in the balance, Norris draws the extraordinary voices of these seemingly ordinary people together into a web of love, grief, disenchantment and hope that is startlingly perceptive about the human heart.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

When I read the first five pages of this book, I wondered why I had picked it and felt boredom invade me. So it was with amazement and great delight that I started the next chapter and as it turned out, I loved this book!

Five characters, five stories that are linked one way or another, five completely different styles as each chapter is written in that of each character. I loved how distinct these five voices are, each with their current struggles and hurdles, reminiscing their lives, and fighting to find a way to move on. We learn indirectly that things might not go quite as expected, as life tends to get in the way, but I loved that the “follow-up” was written as a non-important detail of someone else’s narration.

I loved the construction of the book (I do tend to enjoy stories that intertwine this way), the tone, the resolve and determination of the characters. It is a great reminder that you never know what is happening behind the masks of the strangers you meet every day. Would definitely recommend!

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Crafts

This week I have spent a bit more time on crafts, which I am quite happy about.

I finished and sent a couple of knitted blankets for premies:

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I have sewn the sleeves, back and front of a cardigan I am knitting in size 2 years for a friend’s baby. The pattern is Neptune cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs. I still have to add the border.

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I am also making my first attempt at lace knitting. The pattern is for a shawl designed by Anniken Allis from the Let’s Knit magazine, number 121 August 2017. The yarn was free with the magazine. It seemed like the best way to give it a try before attempting to knit other patterns with yarn that may be expensive!

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This week I also worked on a cross-stitch project for my Dad. We made a cruise on the Nile a few years ago and this looked like a perfect present to remember the sites we visited. I bought this kit by Classic Embroidery at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London earlier this year.

On a side note, a few weeks ago I decorated an envelope for a friend recovering after surgery and I was quite happy with the result as I am absolutely rubbish at drawing! I know it is very basic, but I can only do so much unless I start spending time practicing!

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I also received some items that I ordered from Etsy, in beautiful packages!

I had been keeping an eye on this gorgeous bag for a while and decided it was time for it to come to me. The order comprised the bag, the skein of gorgeous and soft yarn and a birdhouse stitch marker but Debbie also sent some goodies: tea, sweets and a heart stitch marker! The yarn is a fingering blend of 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere, colourway Mustard. I do not know yet what I will knit with it but I look forward to it! You can find Debbie’s Etsy shop here.

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I also had my eyes on these bags, I love the fabric and ended up thinking I had left it far too long already! The picture really doesn’t do them justice, they are so so so gorgeous! I will confess I still have my eye on one other bag, but I already received quite a few (and expect some more) so I will wait a bit longer and see if it is still available in a little while! Here is the link to homebirdmake’s Etsy shop.

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And the last package received included two bags ordered as well as a notion bag and an owl knitting stitch marker as goodies! People are just so generous! And everything is just gorgeous! The link to RachelGreencrafts’s Etsy shop is here.

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That’s it for my crafty updates!

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood / Black Sheep by Susan Hill

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a 324 pages paperback.

From Amazon:

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful vision of the future gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s irony, wit and astute perception.

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This book had been on my to-be-read list for a while and I decided to read it when Channel 4 announced it would air a new series of the same name. I started recording the episodes to watch them once I was done with the book, but when I finally finished reading it – about half-way through the series being aired on TV – I decided I would not bother watching them.

I enjoyed the story and the atmosphere of this despotic, new-order America (enjoyed in the sense of liking the strangeness and discovering what it was rather than wanting to live in such a regime!), but I felt it was all best left to my imagination rather than watching someone else’s interpretation of it.

As said, I liked reading this novel, however the last chapter ruined part of it for me. I usually love books that end in this way, but it did not work for me in this instance; I would have been happier with one less chapter. Personal taste!

I liked the characters, the description of the regime that gives just enough to feel the madness of it and leaves enough to the imagination as to how we got there, the flashbacks into Offred’s previous life and the craziness of her current status. I had to re-read some passages wondering if I was having a dirty mind moment, realising I was reading them as intended and feeling quite embarrassed as this was happening while being in a coffee shop. A little bit like when you get to a graphic paragraph while standing on a crowded platform waiting for a train and feeling everyone must be staring at you and judging you!  🙂

One sentence really stood out for me. This book was written in 1985 and although I was only 10 years old and was not very aware of political and world events at that point, I do not believe anything was leading to this back then. Reading this in 2017, I feel it takes a very different dimension than it would have in 1985: “They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time“. If I could ask Margaret Atwood one question, it would probably be: what led her to choose this, was there anything specific in the news or in the political environment that made her think that the world would go down this road? Don’t get me wrong, this is only one sentence and it has no impact whatsoever on the rest of the story. As I said, 30 years ago, you would probably have read it and not paid any attention to it. And I think that is what makes this quite weird to me, knowing it would have meant nothing when it was written and that it is so relevant today.

Overall I thought this was quite good, but I also feel that filming a series out of it makes it a bit overrated. But I do want to read some more of Atwood’s works.

Black Sheep by Susan Hill is a 144 pages paperback (with quite a large font and wide margins).

From Amazon:

Brother and sister, Ted and Rose Howker, grew up in Mount of Zeal, a mining village blackened by coal. They know nothing of the outside world, though both of them yearn for escape. For Rose this comes in the form of love, while Ted seizes the chance of a job away from the pit. But neither can truly break free and their decisions bring with them brutal consequences…

Black Sheep

This was a very quick read. I enjoyed the description of a contained village more or less isolated from the rest of the world, its habits and the necessity to stick to what is considered acceptable to not become a “black sheep”. A great insight into a claustrophobic world, both above and under ground.

It is such a short story that I feel that writing much about it will be longer than the book itself, but I did like it. I would have enjoyed to read more about some characters that disappear without leaving any trace but I think that somehow, Susan Hill writes and describes a lot of events in very few words! Probably not my favourite story of hers, but I still enjoyed it.

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Podcasts

I cannot remember when I started listening to podcasts, but if you have not tried yet, I would strongly suggest to stay away from them! Listening to podcasts is seriously addictive… and you learn about so many things that you feel almost intelligent! You start with one, then you add another one, and another one, and then without knowing how it happened, you have subscribed to 130+ podcasts and have a backlog of 14500+ episodes to listen to. Of course you could jump straight onto the latest episodes, but where’s the fun in that?

The subjects I follow on podcasts range from fiction to politics (although one could argue both are interchangeable) via knitting, history, myths and legends, self-help, organisation advice, and of course the TED talks… I have become quicker at unsubscribing if the subject or the way it is narrated does not work for me. I usually prefer audio podcasts as it allows me to do other things while listening, but I do download a few video ones too.

I use the Podcast Addict app by Xavier Guillemane on my Android tablet and I save the episodes I want to keep on iTunes on my laptop. The app is very simple to use and sees regular improvements and new features being added. I tried some other ones but I found them difficult to set up or impossible to play the episodes without having to play with the set-up.

I will probably mention more podcasts in future posts, but here are some that I enjoy a lot:

  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History by Dan Carlin: I have only listened to the free episodes so far, but I suspect I will download some of the other ones at some point. Dan Carlin brings a different viewpoint on some parts of history with an in-depth analysis and commentaries that make you think. I listened to his 5hr 49min The Destroyer of Worlds in one sitting. It is just incredibly interesting! I also listen to Common Sense with Dan Carlin, which is more of a political podcast where Dan Carlin expresses his thoughts on a subject that caught his attention. Whilst I do not always have the same views as him, the podcaster explains his with an in-depth knowledge and arguments that make me consider why others may think the way they do with more interest. Love it.
  • Everyday Emergency by Doctors Without Borders: testimonies of MSF doctors. I have shed more than one tear listening to the horrors that people encounter, but feel it is important to learn about them and about the generosity of doctors giving their time to help.
  • Invisibilia by NPR: the podcast explores a range of subjects that have all captured my interest, but one that absolutely blew my mind (and I have since then heard more about this) was How to Become Batman which looks at how people’s expectations of us influence what we actually do. If you listen to only one episode of this podcast, I would strongly recommend this one.
  • Irish & Celtic Music Podcast by Gail Rybak: self-explanatory! Love the selection of the podcaster.
  • Little Yellow Uke Crafts by Zena Perry: a video podcast about knitting mainly (in the episodes I have watched so far), but also about cross-stitch, crochet and fibers. I love the way Zena Perry presents the projects she has completed, what she is working on, the yarns she uses… I find watching her inspires me to work on my own projects and it feels like she could be a friend from next door. Absolutely love her podcasts. The only downside is that I can only watch her podcasts while doing something where I can give the video some of my attention  🙂
  • The Magnus Archives by Rusty Quill: a horror fiction podcast. I just finished listening to season one and think I will struggle to wait a week for the new episodes once I have caught up with all the ones already released!
  • The Moth Podcast: true stories told live by a variety of storytellers. Great!
  • Myths and Legends by Jason Weiser: I absolutely love this podcast, not only for its subject but also for the way it is narrated and the sarcastic comments about the “facts” of the stories that bring so much fun. Simply love it!
  • TEDTalks: there is a range of TEDTalks podcasts, some audio, some video, but here are some of the episodes I have saved to watch over and over again: What’s so funny about mental illness by Ruby Wax, A tale of two political systems by Eric X. Li and How to fight desertification and reverse climate change by Allan Savory
  • This American Life: a podcast about a variety of subjects, exploring different points of view, all incredibly interesting!
  • Witness by BBC World Service: short episodes (usually under 10 min) reviewing historical events narrated by people who experienced them. Again, very interesting!

 

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