It was with enormous pleasure that we spent yesterday evening with friends who were hosting a Burns Night party. As we left, Max mentionned that snow was forecast followed by a thaw so we happily drove 55 kilometres along mostly country roads.
The party was lovely, our hosts are an English/French couple and apart from ourselves and one other couple the guests were all French. All French being introduced to Burns for the time and horrified at the thought of Scottish dancing.
We gathered around a very festive table for dinner, the Grace was recited and Cock-a-Leekie explained to the French. In front of each guest was a two line extract of Burns poetry and we all took turns to read our extract. I was very pleased (perhaps not surprised!) to be reading an extract from Bonnie Jean
There was a lass, and she was fair,
At kirk and market to be seen,
When a' the fairest maids were met,
The fairest maid was Bonnie Jean.
Needless to say, whilst most of the French had enough English to understand, well, English, there understanding of Scottish poetry was not so good. After each reading a translation was required and we soon discovered that explaining the full meaning of "fair" and "bonnie" - to mention just two fairly straightforward words - was not easy. I'm not sure if it was made simpler with each passing of the whisky but anyway!
The haggis was piped in with great ceremony and the Ode to the Haggis read to a bemused crowd who naturally demanded an explanation. More poetry and song followed and then the piper bought out his collection of Jew's Harps. He played accompanied by our host on the...table spoons. I have never seen spoons moving so fast to elbow, thigh, knee, elbow, a bit of this and a bit of that. Fantastic.
And on to the dancing. Nigel, who has long experience (at least three Burns evenings anyway) was put to the test. I never before thought that Scottish Dancing was on a par with rocket science but clearly I was misinformed. Stripping the Willow is really fairly straightforward and something you are able to pick up quite quickly. Normally. If you are from the right side of the channel. Sober perhaps. Yes, perhaps it was the whisky that confused people and spinning certainly didn't help. On the whole the lassies were fine but I suspect their consumption of whisky was more moderate!
All the same, we stripped the willow à la francaise and then attempted the Gay Gordon and the Military 2 Step. I use "attempted" advisedly!
The evening was enormous fun and it was only at 2am that we finally left only to discover four inches of snow had fallen and was rapidly turning to slush. As a result the drive home took 90 minutes and we finally fell into bed at about 3.30am. Wow, a party to remember!
I'm back in France having spent a wonderful week with my mother. She used to be a very good (amateur) photographer and has albums going back to her childhood - and beyond if you count the albums of her mother and grandmother. So this week we spent a lot of time looking at some of these, starting with 1940 when she was 10 and had been sent to live with her grandfather in New York. I have mentioned before that her mother's sister was Diana Vreeland, and in the summers Mum would go to their house in upstate New York to spend the summer with Diana's sons and all of their Vreeland cousins. Although I know the sons, Frecky and Timmy, I had never given any thought to other cousins. It was great fun seeing this generation when they were young men and as we turned each page Mum would say "That was Herb, I had a crush on him" or "That was Eggy, he was gorgeous, I was in love with him" and so it would go on. I'm not surprised since all the Vreeland men were (and still are) able to turn a young girl's heart. (Even my mother-in-law, who is blind, went weak at the knees when she met Frecky a few years ago!)
Staying with Mum also gives me plenty of knitting time while we sit and talk. She enjoys seeing my projects grow and was very keen that she should see my blue jacket finished. I don't think I have ever knitted so fast, a real marathon to finish it - and buy the buttons - before I left. But finish it I did and on Monday afternoon she was able to see it on me.
I am not entirely satisfied with the cuff on the sleeves which are a little too bulky for my liking. I am considering options for changing them although I suspect I won't ever get around to it. Otherwise I am pleased with this. I did add some waist shaping since I prefer wearing a jacket with a little shape rather than a sack. Otherwise the only change I made was in the actual construction. After making the back, I joined the front as I knit and then made the sleeves from the top down, using the seamless method. As it turned out, this meant I was able to finish it on time as the only "finishing" to be done was the buttons.
The wool is Donegal Tweed from Connemara and the buttons come from Peter Jones. Note to self...if you choose to make a jacket with 18 buttons remember that they might cost more than the wool. The original buttons I chose were 2.50GBP each; not surprisingly I went for a cheaper option!!
Now I'm home I hope to finish the shawl this week but the workroom is calling and I have five chairs awaiting me together with a table cloth for a new client.
I am currently in London staying with my mother. At 82 she is not as sprightly as she once was and it was with enormous pleasure that last night we managed to take her to the Coliseum to see Tchaikowsky's "Sleeping Beauty".
Although I have been to Covent Garden before I never went to the Coliseum so this was a double treat for me.
In addition, despite knowing Swan Lake and The Nutcracker very well, I had not seen Sleeping Beauty before. The music is lovely and full of familiar tunes (The Rose Adagio is even more beautiful when you are watching the ballet) and the costumes were stunning.
My mother was very quiet during the performance, totally mesmerised I think. Certainly I was. The wedding act was thoroughly enjoyable. Various characters (Puss in Boots, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, the Bluebird) presented a series of very amusing and beautiful gems - I have never seen such catlike cats, if you see what I mean.
However, for me, my favourite scene was Princess Aurore trying to make up her mind with which of the four princes to fall in love. It was SO expressive, so moving and one couldn't help but feel sorry for the princes as each one thought she had made her choice only to be passed over.
I am making good use of my spare time. I have chosen the slightly military looking cabled cardigan by Yoko Hatta (or Kazekobo). I chose to use the same denim colour you see below but the Debbie Bliss luxury tweed was too expensive so I chose a regular Donegal Tweed from Connemara Yarns in Ireland. I found some of the Debbie Bliss in Peter Jones yesterday and it was no softer despite the angora content so I think I made the right decision. I will take the opportunity to choose the buttons while I'm in London.
I will give you photos as soon as I return home. Sadly, although I haven't changed the cardigan the face you will see is about 35 years older than the one above!
Knitting for Christmas comes with its own pressures and being able to make something on the machine really helps to ease this. It is not all plain sailing and I do resent it when people say "Ooooh, you have a machine, no wonder you knit so much." First off, most of my knitting is done by hand and secondly the machine is a tool, not an automaton. A sort of comparison is sewing clothes by hand or using the machine to run up the seams. You do all the work but the machine makes the actual stitches. Knitting machines (or at least mine!) are the same.
This jumper was made/unmade several times as the pattern refused to line up or the gauge was off and also because I kept playing around with the patterns. The ribbing and neck was made by hand and the buttons were found locally.
So, Guy's Christmas jumper, loosely based on the Cowichan idea but made with Cascade Eco wool and using patterns already in my machine stock. It could do with an extra inch on the bottom but otherwise it fits him and he wore it non-stop over Christmas which was lovely for me.
You can find my Ravelry notes here.
It is universally acknowledged that a wife in possession of a husband who simply cannot make up his mind what he wants for Christmas, must be in want of urgent inspiration. This was indeed the case at the beginning of December and finally, in desperation, I ordered some yarn from Kalidou and set to work with the Brother 270.
Since time was short I sought assistance from friends on Ravelry about machine knitting the hems and collars, something I'd not done before. The jumper was knitted up in two days, the collar looked amazing and I stitched up the seams in plenty of time for it to be under the tree before Christmas Eve.
My Winter Roses has slowed down a little. I reinforced the steeks and cut them successfully but the borders are endless and relentless! Since they won't be finished before I leave for London I have stopped worrying about it and will finish it when I return.
I started this on 15 December as part of a Fair Isle Knitalong with TricotNordique. Over Christmas I worked hard on it and as a result the body of the shawl is now finished. Mind you, I had to redraw the pattern because it was so small and I could find no way to enlarge it. The designer was very kind and sent me a larger print pattern which helped but I was still making too many errors. In the end I redrew it on Google Drive and was able to mark in the stitch numbers on the longer runs. It's much easier to see a number 12 than to count the empty boxes!
All I have to do now is cut the steek and knit the borders. Easy? Hmmm, I suspect there will be over one thousand stitches on the border so, yes easy, but it will take a while still before it's finished.
The wool is Kauni Effektgarn and the pattern is Summer Shawl by Ruth Sorensen. I will post a finished photo in a week or two...I hope!
Looking at this blog it would appear that I forgot to post two items I worked on towards the end of 2012 so here is a quick update.
This is a lovely Victorian button back chair with an iron frame. The frame was in good overall condition although I did have to rub off the rust and then I gave it a coat of anti-rust paint just to be sure. After that I wrapped the frame with calico - rather like bandaging in fact - and then finally began the painstaking job of applying the various levels of fabric which all have to be stitched around the frame. With these chairs I always work on the back/sides first because it's easier to deal with the buttoning. When I eventually start on the seat it all seems very simple in comparison.
The fabric chosen by the client is Fuchsia from Colefax & Fowler. This fabric used to be curtains and I carefully dismantled them in order to recycle them for the chair. The curtains had been well looked after and cleaned but inevitably it was slightly more fragile than usual so I had to be careful not to strain it too much with the buttoning.
This chair was a pleasure to work on. It is a simple drop in seat but the frame was broken and the carpenter decided it would be better to make a new frame rather than repair the old. This meant that I wasn't having to compensate for broken bits of wood or old nails.
I think that has bought us up to date with 2012. There were a couple of small pieces that I forgot to take pictures of but that's life.
The next post will be an update of knitted Christmas gifts but in the meantime I wish you all a very happy and successful 2013.