Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Grannies Galore

Work progresses on the granny square building site.

I'm building up a nice collection of squares in my basket ... but what should I do with them?

I'll just admire them for a while, then.

My New Buttons

Suffering as I was from a sore throat (although 'suffering' doesn't adequately describe throes of agony I endured. Just thought I'd add that, in case you missed that I was sick. I was ill, by the way - have I mentioned it already?), an idea for a cowl pattern popped into my head. Before I even tried it out, I had already found the buttons I was going to put on it. Aren't they luvverly? They're made by a great craftster called William, who turned to button-making for his wife Donna's projects. He can be found as Oruaka on Etsy, where he sells a range of beautiful handmade wooden buttons.

Anyway, the buttons arrived while I was in hospital (have I mentioned that I was ill? I thought I should, just in case you were wondering), so it was a lovely surprise to return to. The tragic aspect of this whole story is that while I was a-bed (when I was sick. Just a few days ago. In hospital) I tried out the pattern in my head: with green yarn, I started a cowl with cables and bobbles, aran-sweater-style, which would've looked quite fetching adorned with a cool wooden button. But...
crochet cables are soooooooo boring. Snooze. The fact that I was doped up to my eyeballs on antibiotics (because I was sick) didn't help, but I kept nodding off, waking up with my head lolling backwards on the pillow, an unattractive dribble from the corner of my mouth and my crochet in a heap in my lap. And I really had to force myself to pick it up and attack another stupid cable.

The result is that I now have a selection of lovely buttons, but no concrete project in mind yet for them. Nothing concrete, mind you, but about fifty different possible projects that just might look nice with a new button. In the meantime, let's have another gratuitous picture of My New Buttons:

Mmm! Aren't they pretty?

Poor Gingie!

Boo hoo! Poor me!
One sign that I'm getting older is a compulsive desire to tell people about my ailments. Barrelling through my twenties, I pushed all my aches and pains aside (how many people can boast that they gave themselves a black eye by falling headfirst into a toilet bowl? Not many. But it's a story from my twenties that I brushed aside with bravura - nowadays a similar mishap would leave me in a crumpled heap, but back then I carried my war wounds with pride.) Anyway, one of the advantages of having a blog is that you can bore your readers (all two of you, not including my Gingerbread Daddy and Mammy) to death with blow-by-blow details of my Wehwehchen (as the Germans call these little woes).

In short (and it pains me to shorten my litany of afflictions), after a week in bed with a sore throat, I ended up in hospital over the weekend with a throat abscess. Hooked up to a drip (see picture to the right of my poor hand, battered from the infusion needle), I lay in bed and tried to crochet by not moving my left hand. It was challenging, but I managed it. And every nurse who came in had a look at my green Kitties in a Row blanket and admired my ... knitting.
Oh, well.

An Army of Gingerbread Ladies

Why not, eh? Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, had a terracotta army. Why not a gingerbread army?

For starters, the Chinese Emperor probably had hundreds of helpers, while I was making my little gingerbread women all by myself. It was fun, though, because I was transported back thirty years to my primary school adventures with Plasticine. I spent a happy half hour rolling out Filo clay and cutting out gingerbread women and gingerbread hearts. At one point I noticed that my tongue was sticking out in concentration as I carefully stuck on buttons and smiles. I even felt a bit guilty when I poked a hole in the gingerbread ladies' heads. It felt horribly violent, a bit mafia-esque: Take that, gingerbread woman!

The purpose of these gingerbread goodies is ... to become tags for my finished work. Frivolous and silly - but we love frivolous and silly, don't we?

Ryan's Kitties (aka: Maths - A Cautionary Tale)

A very nice reader pointed out an error in my Kitties in a Row blanket (which has since been corrected.) Thank you, Ryan! It was pointed out that my starting chain was too long, by 3 ch. The sad thing is that I originally had the correct number of chains, which I totted up on my fingers and wrote down with a stubby pencil on the back of a shopping receipt. However, that didn't seem trustworthy enough, so I re-checked using my calculator. Maths and I ... well, we're acquaintances, but not friends. And so I ended up with a miscalculation. Back to counting repeats on my grubby fingers.

In order to check the blanket pattern again, I just had to start another one. For some reason, I needed a burst of green - I've never been a fan of greens but in the last few months I have used forty shades of green in as many projects. This blanket is almost ripe for St. Patrick's Day, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Slurping Colour

I love colours, I really do. In fact, just for you, I've toned down the colours on my blog. If damaging people's eyesight were not an issue, I'd have a deep crimson pink background with splashes of apple green and deep orange. Maybe a bit of purple - just a smear - and lots of teal and turquoise. Alas, I have to live vicariously through my yarn basket.

I wouldn't say I have an especially good sense of colour - but I am very adventurous. Actually, one of the most attractive aspects of crochet is the fact that the juxtaposition of odd colours often looks very alarming while the project is in progress. It's only much later, with a bit of distance (and by half-squeezing your eyes shut) that you realise that the combination is actually quite ... okay. Maybe even ... nice. And if not nice, then so spectacularly ugly that it acquires a kind of nonchlant coolness - kind of a devil-may-care ugliness. And they're the most interesting projects.

Yesterday evening I started making 'granny's daughters' - the first round of a granny square. Some people love these but I find them quite odious to make, that's why I try to do a stack of them in the one go. Voilà:

Without bothering to contemplate which colours go together, I grabbed yarn and did second rounds, then tipped them out willy-nilly on the window sill to take a photo.

Now I know that some readers are looking at this and thinking, "Fwoaar! Beautiful!" while others are shuddering - but the thing is, I have no idea what it's going to be like (or even what it's going to be) till many, many more colours are added.

Frankly, I can't wait. On to round three!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Scary Stuff

What on earth?
I honestly don't know. It looks like a collection of Terminator heads - female Terminators. No, the Terminator's Wives. The Polygamist Terminator's Wives. I spent a couple of minutes looking at these ... things before I remembered that I had my trusty camera in my handbag. I whipped it out and, after a discreet look around, took a couple of snaps.

These, um, heads are to be found in the home décor section of a local store. My mind boggles. I don't know much about interior decoration but I'm at a loss as to see how these, eh, things could be incorporated into most people's surroundings. Elton John's living room at Hallowe'en, perhaps, but nothing else springs to mind. I was thinking of asking my Gingerbread Sister if she'd care for this as table decorations at her upcoming wedding - when was the last time you were at a wedding with a centrepiece of a metallic skull with sparkly mosaic eyes and a purple spider on its forehead? Talk about a conversation starter, eh? Complete strangers would be bonding in minutes!

Anyway, I restrained myself from buying 2 dozen for the upcoming nuptials and I left the store quickly (and yes, those eyes do follow you). Outside I was immediately confronted with another, ah, object:

It's hard to tell from the photo, but this is a four-metre high, head-wagging, painted porcellain ... well, I don't know quite what it is. The bystanders around me variously referred to it as a 'giant baby' or a 'painted Buddha', but either term insults babies or Buddha. I loitered for a couple of minutes, hoping to take a picture with someone in it, so you'd get a good idea of how darned big it is - but people were giving it a wide berth, as though the were afraid it'd hop up and come after them, wagging red tongue and all.

Thank you, by the way, to my dear friends and family, who've attempted to contribute to my blog by volunteering all manner of stories that they feel I should share with cyberspace. Alas, many of these stories somehow involve underwear, so you'll have to wait a while till I tidy them up for the general public. My mother gently hinted that while she has endured the crochet patterns, she'd much prefer reading something more generally entertaining. The hint has been taken, mother.

Basket Case

Yesterday I went to our local €1 shop (one of my favourites) and bought a bread basket. Let me interrupt myself briefly to say that baskets flock to me. I have a lot of them. I get given baskets on a relatively regular basis. Apparently, I look like a person who could do with a basket - and, frankly, I could always do with a basket. For example - this is our morning jam basket:

It was made by my brother-in-law (who, by the way, might like to make me another for a future Christmas present. Just saying.)

This is my practically-finished-projects basket, full of - um - practically finished projects. You can see the shawl I started with my Noro yarn (just one more row left to do) and two hat & scarves finished and ready for sale or gifting.

Here's my on-the-go basket with a baby blanket (nearly finished) and the makings of another inside.

So I like baskets (I have another two or three knocking around, but that's be going too far, eh?). I bought a bread basket at the €1 shop - it's basically a wire basket with a removable cover that you can wash.

Unfortunately, the cover was grubby from handling, so I removed it ... and decided to make my own.

There's no pattern for this - if you can make a hat, you can make a bread basket cover. You need
- a basket
- scraps of cotton
And you need to be able to increase (two DC in one space) and decrease (crochet 2 together). Simple as that. And because my tablecloth is so bright and cheerful, I decided to make it in the same colours ... just because.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Creature from the Deep

I know it looks like some bizarre sea creature, like one of those floppy octopussy-like creations that come whooshing out of the darkness in a Jacques Cousteau documentary. Sadly, it's nowhere near as exciting as that: it's my first attempt at crocheting a shawl.

Let's start at the beginning, shawl we? Sorry - couldn't resist - shall we?
When Eyjafjallajokull (also known as 'the volcano in Iceland that no one can pronounce') erupted and we missed our flights home to the Gingerbread Brother's wedding, I went on a yarn-buying splurge. I marched into three yarn stores, determined to buy myself something nice... but I couldn't find anything nice enough. Then, on eBay, I got a bargain - four skeins of Noro sock yarn in a perfect colourway for a nice shawl to go with the Brand New Posh Dress I never got to wear.

The Gingerbread Sister is getting married in July, see, so the Brand New Posh Dress will finally get an outing. And why not make a shawl? After trawling through a gazillion patterns, I finally found one that looked quite nice and set about it.

The thing is, being the reckless crafter that I am, I don't bother much with things like swatches and gauge. If you don't knit or crochet, these may be terms that are alien to you - don't worry, they're alien to me, too, but only because I make a point of ignoring them. Gauge means that you check you're using the right size hook or needles with the appropriate yarn thickness, a swatch is a little piece of knitting or crochet that you do following the pattern, which you then measure to see whether you're hitting the recommended size. Tedious, eh? Yawns a-plenty. So I don't bother. I set off, gung-ho, and - about twenty hours later - end up with a shawl which is swallowing yarn but not getting discernibly longer, just - outrage! - frillier. Instead of being drapy and elegant, it sits around my neck like an Elizabethan collar.

Queen Elizabeth I

So I started again, a simple wrap worked lengthwise. After three attempts, I've got this far and so far I'm pleased - not a frill in sight:

Close up -

'Tis Himself

When we moved in, the Gingerbread House was full of Stuff. All kinds of things. The previous owners dumped whatever they no longer needed, and left the stuff they thought we might have use for. Thus, we inherited a selection of heavy mahogony cupboards, some patio furniture and ... Himself.

The wife of the previous owner is from the Philippines and, it would seem, a devout Catholic. Obviously, she thought we were, too (devout Catholics, that is) and left us a curious wall mirror that sports the likeness of the late Pope John Paul II in relief. It's big - at least a metre tall - and doesn't much look like the Pope. At least, I don't think so.

Around the face there's a mirror, so we haven't quite figured out whether it was to be used as a normal household mirror - are we supposed to comb our hair while trying to avoid the Pope's gaze? - or whether it was purely decorative. If the latter is the case, it doesn't seem to have succeeded. Most people who see it tend to recoil in fright - if you come upon Himself in one of the darker corners of our house, he'll scare the bejabbers out of you, let me tell you.

We're now in a bit of a dilemma. First of all, he's got a moniker - we've started to refer to him as 'Himself' and he's a he, no longer an it (as in: we no longer say, "Put that thing away" but rather, "Turn Himself towards the wall so he doesn't frighten the electricians.") Secondly, we're not entirely sure what the etiquette of getting rid of religious imagery is. Thirdly, no one wants him. And believe me, we've tried to pawn him off on everyone who's come through the door - visitors, workmen, relatives. I thought I might be able to get it into my little brother's suitcase to have him bring it back to Ireland - surely, some good Irish Catholic would relish the opportunity to house Himself - but little brother refused point blank to transport our likeness of the Pope back to the Emerald Isle.

So now we're stuck with him. And like so many other things in the Gingerbread House, it has now accidentally become part of our rag-tag inventory. Some day, when I'm grown up, I'm going to have a real grown ups' house, instead of the curiosity cabinet we're living in now. Till then, I guess, we'll have to put up with Himself.