Thursday, August 24, 2006

How Do You Solve A Problem Like No Needles?

Had to do an early telephone interview this morning with an Irish girl who is in the running for the role of Maria in a huge new production of The Sound of Music in London. Andrew Lloyd Webber is behind it, and he, together with the BBC, has organised a marathon television programme around the casting, called - wait for it - How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? Aoife has survived the early rounds (they are on BBC1 every Saturday and the viewers get to vote) and is now in the final 8. She's finding it just about the most demanding audition she's ever had and I'm not surprised. Several months of Big Brother-type television, with cameras recording you day and night (all the hopefuls are living together in the aptly-named Maria House) would have me opting out pretty quick. Still, I hope she makes it.

She's a pretty girl and would look perfect as Maria. I'll keep you posted. For anyone who can get BBC1, the final is on September 16, I understand.

And it is nearly September. Where did August go? I really must get started on the new designer yarns
for autumn. This weblogging and emailing new friends thereby made is so absorbing, and the knitting projects are so all-consuming, that the design side has been almost forgotten lately. Celtic legends I think this time - The Children of Lir is in my mind - and of course Samhain, since that's coming up in October. It's the first festival of the Celtic New Year, and we still have more than you might think of those ancient traditions in our blood. Even the most commercialised Hallow-E'en customs have their roots in something far deeper and
older. Will try to get going on the preliminary stages next week (that involves hauling everything out and up to the sunny drawing room, locking all doors, and hurling yarns around the place searching for the perfect blend, combination, twist, merge). Then I let myself out, lock the door after me, and let it all stew for a day or so. It has usually sorted itself out by the time I go back in (unless one of the dogs has been in there first). Peg drew my attention to a posting on Knitter's Review Forum where a cat had got at a skein of Seasilk (calm down now, calm down) and the writer had found it strangely calming to work for several nights carefully untangling the resultant chaos. I actually know what she means: I've had to do the same when Muffy had been in action (or taking therapy, whichever you prefer) and did find it strangely relaxing - I was almost (but not quite) sad when it was done. Is untangling good for the soul? Is it a metaphor for what we wish we could do with life?

Enough philosophy. I unearthed a wonderful book today when I was vacuuming the library (from the number of dead flies, I calculate it hasn't been done for a year or so, but libraries aren't exactly heavy usage areas, or so I tell myself). It's Jan Messent's Wool n'Magic and it is absolutely incredible. I remember buying it years ago, not quite sure why I had but knowing I had to, and now I know why. I've grown to the stage where I can really take it all in and leap even further. Do you ever find you acquire things before you know that you're going to need them? I was collecting strange fibres and odd enhancing yarns like very thin glitters and shiny threads, long before I realised that I wanted to create my own skein compositions. Anyway, the pictures in this book are enough to set your heart going pit-a-pat. Look at this handspun shawl:

What I love about Messent's designs is that she has no problems mixing crochet and knitting, embroidery and canvaswork, whatever she thinks will look best on her design. In this shawl she's used knitted diagonal squares, crochet squares, bands of garter stitch, bands of trebles, everything and anything, in different shades of fine handspun yarn. And some of the other designs are even more dramatic (there's a simply gorgeous mermaid that I know you'd love,Angie ). This one is called Stalactite Cave and uses wire mesh, dowels, cardboard, all sorts as base for her knitting and crochet freeform.

I must look up Messent's other books - she's done several, I gather. I love people who seem to be able to leap outside the usual and have no limits to their imagination.

Charity thank you so much for the link to that adorable amulet pouch. The bargain I'd struck with myself was that if progress was good on Elann and Interlacement socks, a little time out could be taken today to make my own version of said little amulet pouch. Accordingly, once work was out of the way this morning, there was a hunt for fine dpns. Ah! The rosewoods are still in use on the socks. Can't possibly disturb them - these are show material, after all. Down to the basement (disturbing Sophie who was reading Irish Trees on the stairs).

Found a very long, extremely thin pair of straights (old UK 12s, metric 2.75, US 2, ok?) Into the vice with them. Off with their 'eads (getting good at this. I now have a row of little heads on the shelf above the vice, for all the world like Traitors' Gate at the Tower of London.)

You can see the two little red heads resting on the vice in front of the needles.

Grab the fretsaw.


Ah. Not plastic then. So where's the hacksaw?

Metal needles do not cut neatly or smoothly. A file was needed. Several files of varying roughness were needed.

It took a bit of work (and took up quite a bit of my precious out-time from show projects) but eventually some reasonable points were fashioned on the cut ends.

Now I do not recommend that you try this at home. Metal needles hacked in half and roughly filed do not in any way resemble polished little rosewoods or even common-or-garden plastics. We're talking rough trade here. But they did the job. I used a fairly smooth sock yarn for the amulet pouch, so that there wouldn't be too much catching of fine fibres on the unsmoothed bits. When it was past that exasperatingly fiddly beginning bit, I took it out to the garden to have its picture taken.

It didn't take long to make at all. By mid-afternoon (life, as it tends to, intervened once or twice and delayed the process), the baby amulet pouch was finished, and ready to meet the world.

Isn't it lovely? I'm going to tuck some of my favourite scented herbs into it tonight (lemon verbena, southernwood) and then tomorrow put all my stitch markers safely inside. Charity, you are a pet for introducing me to this. Wouldn't they make perfect little gifts for friends, with sugared almonds or herbs or anything inside?

In the meantime - BACK to the slaughterhouse - I mean the Elann lace crop cardi!


Anonymous said...

If you're going to keep making your own DPNs, you need a Dremel tool. They're fun.

Love the amulet bag idea.

Anonymous said...

Aha! I was wondering if it was possible to hack metal needles into dpns, and now I know. I have quite a collection of metal single points that could be surgically altered. I may never buy another double point again. Rachel's suggestion is a good one - I have a Dremel! Single points beware!

Anonymous said...

Jan Messent's Wool n'Magic book looks very enticing and inventive. I'm sure you'll get great inspiration from it.

You have a library? Each room here(well, nearly each) has bookshelves. Thousands of books that I can't give up. But a library of one's own would be special. Hmm, I'm picturing it now.

Don't forget to leave some of your needles for regular knitting. You seem to have really dived into this dpn idea. Very sensible though.

rho said...

Oh dear, Sophie was all comfy and asleep when you put that book there wasn't she - I know that look -- my lab used to have that same look - just bigger and browner.

Guess what the mail brought me today -- the most beautiful Turkish Spindle from Wanda and Ed Jenkins (since I don't know how to make a link I will put the names in so maybe someone can google it if they want) It is Kingwood --- which is fitting that I loved that one since my maiden name is King. :D

dyslexia at it's finest - this is the third try at doing word verification....

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo - your DH must be either ill with worry at what you are doing in the workshop, or just relaxing and figuring that this too shall pass as he pours a Guinness and watches the Telly hoping Maria will soon be coming into his very living room! Little do the men in our lives know to what ends we will go to get tools for our craft!!
I will have to try to get the little amulet pattern. Looks like a great little bag for anything you can imagine!
I have almost completed my first clog for felting - looks like it might fit a Sasquatch just now, but after the second is knit and the washer does its magic, I hope we have a possible gift for our son!

Lynn said...

Oh wow, I spent part of the day rewinding the remainder of my Cherry Tree Hill that had imploded. Sock the First and Sock the Second are done, the wool is neatly and gently wound into a ball (and waiting for a spin on the ballwinder). I think I will have just enough yarn left to make matching socks for BittyBit.

Fiberjoy said...

When I was very young (around 4-5) I loved to visit the small local jewerly store while my mom went grocery shopping. Why? To look at gems and precious metals?

No. To untangle necklaces. The owner saved all the hopelessly entangled tiny chains for my small hands and keen eyes.

I'd forgotten all about those long ago visits until you wrote of the satisfaction of untangling a mess!

Thanks for uprooting a soft memory, Jo.

Anonymous said...

Oh joy an amulet purse..why didn't I think of that when M.I.L was still in the country.I am sure you know she thought I was a witch ( seriously ) because I made herbal things and soap ( very evil ). She found my clothes weird and so I started to wear a Guatemalan beaded purse necklace with cotton-wool inside soaked in Frankincense ( fav. fragrance).She'd eye it up , Holly was dying to say she keeps the tools of her trade in it and leave it at that. She was very mean to Holly ,one of those people who greets you with "oh you've put on weight" ..just what a teenager wants to hear .
I have to agree that the young woman looks perfect for Maria ( I havn't wtached the show but the advert for it is hilarious). She is natural looking .I said to Holly they'll have trouble finding finding anyone who doesn't look like a total trollope .So many girls here primed by Mumsie for show business look like cheap show-girls.
Well..back to knitting.angie.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo, It is me again, but I saw this shawl knit from 1- yes just 1 - skein of Sea Silk and I thought you might like to have a look. The blog is
The pattern is Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark and it is in the latest Interweave Knits. I had been going to knit it in a beautiful merino, but I can see it as a shawl in my soon-to-be-purchased Sea Silk!

Anonymous said...

There's a Jan Messant book I'd love to get which looks like an ariel view of the countryside .It goes for quite a lot on E:Bay but I'd love to make it.Yesterday in John Lewis I tried to have a go at converting a lady to Jane Thornley.It's hard to explain but there is a particular type of shopper in our John Lewis ( it is Berkshire) who quite frankly are often snobs. Anyhow I heard her talking to Diane ( who knows me well) about how she hates knitting to a pattern now and hates sleeves in particular. I sprang into action and asked "why not try a shawl?". Instead of the usual cold glare and a "no thank-you" she listened as I went on about free-form ,texture instead of shaping etc,lots of colour.I wrote down some sites as yet another woman horrified me by saying she's has the net but doesn't use it.Holly hates J/L as she swears she gets pushed about a lot and for ages thought it was because she was black .I then told her it was much worse a couple of decades ago as most of the ladies had what Germaine Greer called "Mem-shahib complex" ..still used to shouting at the servants.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the old festivals, the changing seasons are very much within some of us, I love that it is within me. I've always enjoyed untangling things...what does that say about us? besides patient?
Love the wee bitty amulet bag.

Charity said...

Your amulet bag is lovely! I plan to do one for everyone's Christmas stocking this year, and it's perfect for any little bits you need contained :0) Glad you enjoyed the pattern!

Anonymous said...

Glad to see there are other unknotters out there. Thought I was (a freak) the only one who loved untangling things. The trick is to simply keep loosening and loosening, almost without looking. It's rather Zen.
Laughed that someone else also takes 3 (or 4) tries to get those darn word verifications typed in. And these are easier than one of the sites that draws curly lines all through the letters.