Monday, 4 September 2017

Works in progress (AKA knitting bag of doom)

Something about the new start/new year/season change feeling of September made me have a dig around in my knitting bag(s). I thought it might be wise to look at my unfinished projects and get some sort of plan together for reducing their number. I never intend to leave a project unfinished, it seems to happen for a variety of reasons such as: put aside to start a commission knit, put aside to knit a gift, put aside as babies keep being born, put aside as I need an easier project for knitting group, put aside as the sewing up needs doing, put aside as the lure of casting on something new was too strong, put aside as I need a new holiday project, put aside as I'm at a tricky bit and need to think it through, put aside as we have fallen out and it is in the naughty corner, put aside as the season changed and it isn't needed straight away, etc. Added to that my neck/shoulder problems sometimes mean I can't do as much knitting as I would like to and I have to ease off for a bit. Those reasons/excuses aside, this is where I am at.

Let's start with the most shameful.

It looks finished doesn't it? Like I should have been wearing it for ages on regular rotation in my wardrobe? Well yes and yet, no. It is so nearly finished that it is just ridiculous. It just needs a couple of rows of crochet to finish off the neckline. Tiny crochet true enough but just crochet. I can crochet. I can crochet that neckline. Why have I not? Why is my lovely 1940's jumper carefully folded in a bag? Will I hurry up and do it? Lets hope so.

It got put aside to begin with as I needed a think about whether I wanted the original neck fastening that you can see in the pattern photo. I don't normally like to deviate from the original pattern as I like my vintage knits to be as authentic as possible. In the end I decided that whilst I liked that fastening I wouldn't like it on me and so to get maximum wear out of the jumper I would just finish the neckline off in crochet. And that was TWO years ago!

I have been intrigued by these 1950's Alice band hats for a while. I like the look very much but wondered how comfy and easy to wear they would be. I had a couple of different patterns so I thought that I would experiment with both and see what I thought. They were very enjoyable to knit, interesting stitch patterns and construction. They have even been washed and blocked. I even have the hairbands, elastic and ribbon. But do they look like hats? Indeed they do not. Why is that? I think a year after they have been knitted it must be time for their completion.

It is a sad state of affairs for Pepi at the moment. So near and yet so very far. All his pieces are knitted and some are even stuffed and yet he is still not a poodle. I do know why this is at least. I knitted him for a craft competition earlier this year and then realised that with the best will in the world I would not get him finished in time as I had left it all too late. So then the impetus to finish him had gone, plus I was cross with myself for not getting my timing right so I blamed poor Pepi, obviously, plus, toys are a right fiddle to stuff and sew up and why do that when you could be knitting? But, he is cute and it isn't really his fault so I will finish him.

This 1950's bolero from a Vogue Knitting magazine always was an in between things project so I feel slightly less guilty about this than some of the others. I started it in August last year and then it got put away when the seasons changed and I hoped to finish it for this summer but now it is September and here we are. It doesn't look like much there but when I have draped it on me like the model it is going to look right when it is finished. Realistically though it is going back to the back of the queue as I won't need it for another whole year. Let's hope I am wearing it in August 2018!

Excuse the blurry photo, no idea what I did there.

I started this jumper last year and posted about it here. I know that this one got put aside commission knitting which I am completely fine with, that is just how it is. This is the completed back that you can see and I am probably about one colour repeat into the front so progress is being made. I would like to get this one ready to wear during autumn or winter so I think it will be what I start on with soon.

The colours aren't so good here as they are a really vibrant yellow gold and grey in real life. This is a 1940's tank top that I started in March this year. I know that as it was my train knitting and holiday project on the way to Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I have finished the front and back and have sewn them up but now have stalled slightly on the neck and armbands. They are just not that interesting to knit. That is the reason they haven't been knitted. Other knitting is more exciting! But I want to wear this lots so dull fiddly knitting will recommence soon.

I'm hoping that now all this is in the forefront of my mind rather than out of sight in a knitting bag and now that I have publicly shamed myself, the knitting bag of doom will soon yield up some completed items! Please tell me I'm not the only one!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

What I read in June

I am trying to catch up with my reading series so, here, a little late, is what I read in June. 

Alexander Wilson started writing in the 1920's. He worked for MI6 from 1939 to 1942 and some of his characters are based on his own time in the secret service. He wrote a series of 9 crime and mystery books about his character Sir Leonard Wallace and this one is the 7th. I normally prefer to read a series in order but these also work as stand alone books. I bought this one for a friend who then lent it to me after she had read it as she thought that I would like it too.

In this book Wallace is on the trail of a group of anarchists who are congregating in London and hatching a plot to remove all the royal families in the world. One of his colleagues joins the anarchist group to work undercover. The action goes from London to Vienna with plenty of intrigue, drama and excitement. I don't want to give too much away but you can read more about the book and some of the real events that may have inspired it here.

I did enjoy this book and I would like to read more in the series. It does suffer from some 'Attitudes of their Time', in particular a very unsympathetic stereotypical portrayal of a gay character.

I forgot to take a photo of the next book before I gave it back to the friend that I borrowed it from. That is a shame as it is a very pretty cover! It was Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn which is the first (hooray to read them in order) of her Daisy Dalrymple mysteries. I didn't realise that there are 22 in the series with the 23rd scheduled to be released in 2018. So plenty of reading to go!

The books are set in the 1920's and have a good period feel. Daisy is from a privileged background but is trying to make a career as a photographer and journalist. She goes to a country house party to write an article for Town and Country magazine and becomes involved in a murder mystery when another house guest dies on the ice skating pond. Daisy knows some of the family and becomes a go between for them with the detective from Scotland Yard. There are various secrets and bits of family intrigue that get pieced together and several twists and turns before we find out who the murderer was.

I really enjoyed this, it is an easy read and I found it rather gripping. I liked the period detail and the main character so I will definitely be reading more in the series.

I decided to have a switch to non fiction for my next read and picked this social history book which had been waiting patiently on my to be read bookcase. I hadn't read a book on the experiences of evacuees since I was a teenager, and that one was about evacuation within the UK, so I thought I would find this ever so interesting and I did. The author, Jessica Mann was an evacuee herself, sent to Canada in 1940 at the age of two and then to America. She returned to the UK when she was five. The book sets her experiences within the social and political happenings of the time and tells her story as well as the story of many other children.

The book is split into three parts. The first looks at evacuation within Britain, those who were sent overseas by private means and then the government scheme to evacuate overseas, and the voyages out. The second part deals with arrival abroad, escorts, finding new families, homesickness etc. The third part looks at the return home, settling back in and the after effects of evacuation.

It is a very interesting and very moving book and it covers many people's experiences. It is quite amazing to think that these children were sent away at such a young age, some as babies in the care of an older sibling, to go on a dangerous voyage across the world to stay with complete strangers. The author doesn't shy away from discussing the good and bad experiences that the evacuees had and also talks quite a bit about the lack of help they were given in dealing with such a traumatic event in their lives. I thought it was very well written and it left me with a much better understanding of evacuation.

The final book I read in June was this one which I got from my book group. I probably would not have chosen it as it is a fantasy book which is not my go to genre. However, I loved it! It came recommended from book group so I thought that I would give it a go. I am so pleased that I did as I was just gripped and wanted to just sit and read and read it. I have just seen that a sequel should be coming out next year so that is exciting!

The book is set in 1899 in New York and there is a lot of period detail and I really felt like I could see what the city would have been like then. The two main characters are Ahmad, the djinni and Chava a golem. A golem is a Jewish mythological creature who is made of earth/clay and is bought to life by magic. They belong to their master and must obey them in all things and they are very powerful. Chava's master dies on the voyage to New York leaving her adrift in the city until an elderly rabbi takes her underlies wing.

The djinni is a Middle Eastern mythological being made of flame who can become visible to humans when they wish to. He is released by a tinsmith from a metal flask that he has been imprisoned in for 1000 years and has to learn how to live in the city without drawing attention to himself.

The book follows these two as they learn to navigate the world around them make sense of the place that they have ended up in. There are several important human characters who assist them with this. Eventually they meet and the book follows their adventures and difficulties. I thought it was such a clever idea and it is an interesting and readable story.

What I read in July is coming soon!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Victoria's costumes and my outfit snaps.

I took you on a tour of Harewood House in my previous post. Harewood was used as a set for the ITV series Victoria, which is well worth catching up on if you haven't seen it. It focussed on Victoria as a princess and how her life changed as she first became queen and then married Albert. Some of the costumes from the programme are on display in the house until the 29th October and are worth seeing if you need to find another reason to go for a visit!

Formal day dress of Lady Portman, a lady in waiting
and the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Harewood.
A day dress and a state evening dress for the
Duchess of Sutherland.
Evening dress for the Duchess of Sutherland.
She was Victoria's friend and Mistress of the Robes.
Evening dress for Queen Victoria. Worn in the title
sequence for each episode.
A pre coronation dress for Victoria, used in simple
evening scenes to look young and innocent.

Queen Victoria's coronation gown, based on the design
of the original coronation gown. It is made of gold silk
damask, digitally printed and embroidered with symbols
representing the United Kingdom.
A dress for Queen Victoria, worn when she meets Albert
for the first time.
Queen Victoria's betrothal dress, worn when she
proposed to Albert.
Queen Victoria's evening dress, worn in later episodes
when she was married to Albert.
Some pretty fancy frocks there!

And now for something completely different and far less fancy......what I wore on my day out!

You might be able to tell that I was terrified here. I only managed to stand on the first stepping stone and that was a step too far for me!

Not quite on Victoria's level but cool and comfortable for a hot sunny day of exploring. Look at my sleeves! I intended to wear the top tucked in with a belt but frankly it was too hot. I was determined to wear my newly purchased short shorts before my 40th birthday. I will still be wearing them afterwards of course.

Outfit details.
Gingham top - Marks and Spencer
Denim shorts - Vivien of Holloway
Shoes - Hotter
Bag - vintage from an antiques centre.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Happy day at Harewood House

My birthday fell on a Sunday this year and I knew that I wanted to have a proper day out with my husband on the Saturday, with a family do on my birthday. We decided to pay a visit to Harewood House, situated between Leeds and Harrogate and about an hour's drive from us. Harewood was built in 1759 by Edwin Lascelles and he was determined to surround himself with glorious things. He employed craftspeople such as Thomas Chippendale (furniture), Robert Adam (interior design) and Capability Brown (gardens) to make this happen.

The Terrace, built in the 1840's.
See more here.
In the Himalayan garden.
It is a fabulous spot. You can visit the house, gardens, walled kitchen garden, parkland, lake, small farm and bird garden which has an active conservation programme. There are plenty of places to sit and relax and take in the scenery. If you are lucky you will see red kites flying over the estate as they have had success with the birds there. We watched them wheeling and playing for quite some time. I spent much of my time on the visit considering what it would have been like to live there in the 1800's and reflecting on the huge chasm that there was between the lives of the rich and the lives of the poor.

The lakeside garden.
We were lucky that Yorkshire supplied us with one of it's rare but wonderful sunny days so we made the most of it exploring the whole estate.

We decided to have a look around the house first and tried not to be put off when a hoard of Brownies made it inside just in front of us. Luckily they were less bothered about soaking up the atmosphere and details then we were so they got ahead pretty quickly.

Ready for a tour?
The Old Library which had a display of etchings
done by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

A magnificent bathroom belonging to Princess Mary's dressing room.
Princess Mary was Queen Victoria's great granddaughter.
Bathroom ceiling and light
A section of amazing hand painted wallpaper in the East Bedroom.
You can see more of it here.
The State Bedroom, the bed was made by Chippendale.
Princess Victoria slept here on a visit in 1835.
The Spanish Library. The bookcases hide secret doors for the servants to go through.
The Yellow Drawing Room
The ceiling of the Gallery 
The State Dining Room
The Music Room with the stunning Axminster carpet designed
by Robert Adam.
Such sumptuous interiors! Even the carpets, wallpapers and ceilings are amazing. You can see that money was no object.

After touring the upstairs rooms you can have a look around below stairs. There is a massive kitchen such as you see in Downton Abbey and a room especially for cleaning and sorting the produce that comes in from the gardens.

I always like looking at the bell indicator boards in big old houses. I like seeing what all the rooms were called.

More bell boards.

There are also several exhibitions on within the house. I particularly enjoyed the Plaster Bust Re-imagined by Kathy Dalwood.

Miss Egypt
Miss London Town
The artist casts found objects in plaster and moulds them together to make these reinterpretations of Victorian busts. I found them fascinating, looking at all the individual elements and such a clever idea.

The other exhibition is the subject of my next post. It involves costumes...