Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Using what I have

Since I started to show my true colours, i.e. as a crafter, I've got a lot of yarny presents. Most are odd skeins found by the gifter when tidying up, some even come attached to a half-knitted sleeve or with needles or hook still attached. More often than not, they're fun fur or other novelty yarns:


So I've decided to use them up. Just destash and use them up for Christmas presents or charity donations. Take, for example, the lavender mohair yarn: this was passed from knitter to knitter before it ended up with me. The yarn is very nice, but incredibly fine - a nightmare to knit or crochet with.


Teamed up with a soft acrylic of the same shade, it produces a soft scarf that's slightly furry to the touch:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Are you dyeing to know ....?

Clara asked me about my adventures in dyeing.
The whole process is rather time-consuming: you have to unwind the yarn and re-wind it into hanks. It has to dry for a day or two afterwards, and then comes the most time-consuming part: re-winding it into balls or skeins. See, the strands of yarn have been through a lot together - the winding, the dyeing, the drying - so they form a very close bond and don't want to be separated and rewound into a boring ol' ball. The actual dyeing, the part that's most fun, takes only minutes.

But it is fun. Great fun! It's very exciting to see what colour the Kool Aid will turn out to be. And although I don't have a source of Kool Aid (Gracey, in answer to your question: Yes! And thank you! Will drop by and say hello on your blog), I do have access to nice creamy-white sock yarn (thank you, 99c store) and I'm inexplicably excited by pseudo-scientific experimentation (albeit, the kind done with jam jars and the saucepan I cook my spaghetti bolognese in. Watch out, Marie Curie.)

At any rate, I'm not quite this good yet:

This was my anniversary present from Mr Gingerbread. I think you will agree that he loves me. Very much.

Photos - Just because

Just before winter set in, I took a few photos in our Botanical Garden:

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm a Konvert

I tried dyeing again - this time with German food colouring. Because food colouring doesn't contain citric acid, like Kool Aid does, I had to replace it with vinegar. Lots of vinegar. Lots and lots and lots of vinegar. The whole house smelled like a pickling plant, and it smelled of pickles for days.

But the initial results were pleasing:

Unfortunately, having these hanks of wool about made our house smell like a Fish'n'Chip shop (and at this point I would like to note that the Kool Aid yarn now smells faintly fruity and entirely pleasing), so I had to wash them before I wound them into skeins. And then disaster struck: the colours - already muted - washed out. Now the yarn looks tired and faded, and I'll have to re-dye it. With Kool Aid.

See? I'm a convert. Or a Konvert, more like.

The Bee's Knees are PDFs

I just discovered a glaringly obvious mistake in a blanket I'm making - glaringly obvious when the ends have been woven in and the blanket edged. It's enough to make me weep - but thankfully my ill-temper has been mollified by the discovery of just the niftiest little tool ever.

Basically, it's a website that transforms other websites into PDFs. That's right - you know all of those patterns you've bookmarked to keep? Well, copy and paste the page link of the pattern into the little text box on this site - and Bob's your uncle. You can print all your patterns out and hold them in your little fingers. Isn't that just the bee's knees?

Edited to add:
I'd barely hit Publish on this post when I received this message from Gingerbread Brother Johnny via Facebook:
We're all weeping because you've only discovered PDFs now. Daughter of a designer/printer. Shame on you.
Shut up, Johnny. I know what PDFs are - this is just so superduper easy, that's why I love it.

(Honestly, back in Ye Olden Days you'd have to send a letter or a pigeon with a message if you wanted to insult a sibling living abroad. Now you can do it instantly via text message, Twitter, Facebook or blog comment. Never before have there been so many possibilities to insult the intelligence of a brother or sister instantaneously - distance is no longer an object. Technology has catapulted sibling squabbles into the 21st century.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I write letters. Not as many as I used to, but still more than the average person does nowadays. The thing is, with only a couple of exceptions, most of my correspondents are ... well, let's just say people of mature status. This was made clear to me today in a letter from a former teacher: she told me to come and visit the next time I was in Ireland, but to make it snappy because she mightn't be around for much longer - she'll be 90 at the end of the month.

So while other 30-somethings are out enjoying a Sex and the City-style life, shopping for Manolo Blahnik shoes and sipping racy cocktails in the afternoon at chic city bistros, I am sitting at home at the living room table, with my recycled notepaper and leaky fountain pen, writing to nonagenarians. I'm telling you, readers, if you want to walk on the wild side, stick with me.

A couple of years ago, my two main correspondents died. I know, I know - it was very sad, but one was in her late eighties and the other was in her mid-nineties, so I have to admit that I'd suspected it was coming at some point. At the funeral of one of these ladies, I realised how many people knew me through my letters to her: my letters were given to every visitor to read. They all knew about my scrapes and japes, they knew about the weather in Bavaria and the Gingerbread Husband's job and the fall off my bicycle and my run-in with my crazy neighbour. It was heart-warming and alarming at the same time. And it was at that funeral that I "inherited" two more correspondents: a young 'un in her late sixties and my friend's best friend, a sprightly gentleman in his late eighties. So I keep writing. Not as often as I should (sadly, guilt is an inherent part of the letter-writing process: I should write more often, I know) but I do go through a reasonable number of stamps a month.

And when I'm sitting at my table, my notepaper and envelopes neatly lined up, a selection of pens and my little cards of stamps, I feel ever-so-ladylike. I feel so ... civilised. Sitting down to write a letter in a world of text messages and blog posts and emails and tweets. In fact, I feel positively Jane-Austenesque, (that is, if Jane wrote her letters with a pot of strong black tea and a piece of chocolate cake.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Aunties (II)

Newton Square Unit of the Women's Land Army under command of National Defense, Pennsylvania, 1918. Philadelphia Public Ledger. (War Dept.) Exact Date Shot Unknown NARA FILE #: 165-WW-581A-1 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 564

My auntie from England is visiting her sisters in Ireland at the moment and, sadly, I'm not there to take part in the fun. As you know from this post, my mother had eight sisters but one of them has since gone off to the Great Big Bridge Club in the sky, leaving the remaining eight to band together to fight crime and right wrongs. They're a formidable bunch of biddies, and as they tend to travel in packs, it can be difficult for outsiders to figure out who's who. There's an awful lot of stylish outfits, tasteful jewellery and elegant coiffeurs: all very ladylike and genteel, till someone plays ABBA at a wedding reception, then they'll descend upon the dancefloor, bottoms twitching in unison to Take a Chance on Me.

My mother and her sisters are the Jedi masters of family warfare: they have The Eye, a kind of psychological lightsaber. Imagine, if you will, a family occasion where dozens of vaguely (or remarkably) similar-looking people have gathered to celebrate a birthday. Or a wedding. Perhaps a christening, or even a funeral. Picture an uncle telling (God forbid) an off-colour joke, or a cousin (perish the thought) engaged in a particularly flamboyant version of the chicken dance. In other words, family members Making A Holy Show Of Themselves. The offender could be mid-entendre or working up to a spectacular high-kick, when he might suddenly feel an icicle in the small of his neck. Whipping around, he'd immediately be pinned down by the gimlet stare of one or more Aunties who are Not Amused. Nothing would be said, the offender would be simply lasered into shame. Tssssssssssss! (that was The Eye burning a hole in your forehead.) That's justice, Aunties-style.

The problem is, of course, that The Eye is a highly dangerous and instable weapon. Negotiating a room full of Aunties giving you The Eye is a bit like trying to wriggle your way through the temple in the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark: one false move and you'll be cut to pieces by a pygmy's poison dart or you'll have your head chopped off by a swinging blade. Occasionally, an Auntie might even get caught in the crossfire herself : she might be the recipient of The Eye that was meant for an errant bystander. She might have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time, she might have bent down to tie the shoelace on her Ecco shoe or push a stray hair out of place and then -
from a sister who'd been working up to a Mega Stinky Eye for particularly naughty or disrespectful offspring (the offspring had, of course, flung themselves under the nearest table to escape being hit).
"Whaaaaat?" the stricken Auntie will think, indignant. "How dare she give me The Eye!"
An Auntie that gets The Eye from another Auntie immediately ups the ante (sorry, couldn't resist) and returns with the ultimate weapon: The Nose. She'll sniff - oh, it's not just a sniff, it's A Sniff - and retreat in frosty silence. Once The Nose is up, the warring Aunties will withdraw, feathers ruffled and hackles raised, and anyone who happens to stumble into the middle of it will be dragged over to one side or the other. Either that, or you make a run for it and try to escape being slashed by The Eye or frozen by The Nose.

This will continue for an undefined length of time, generally till the Aunties in question have forgotten whatever slight it was in the first place - or till the next Auntie has inadvertently received a lash of The Eye from one of the other sisters, and the original Aunties are distracted from their squabble by the next one. It's like a soap opera: there's drama and intrigue. There are spies and double-agents and plots and coups. It's terribly exciting. Mind you, I find it all the more exciting 2000 kms away in Germany: the chances of getting whiplash from avoiding The Eye are so much slimmer over here.
Having said that, if I don't post within the next week, it's because they've read this post and ganged up to laser me with The Eye via Skype. Mr Gingerbread will find my corpse slumped over the laptop, riddled with smoking holes, and a bunch of neatly-groomed women nodding righteously at me through the webcam.

Postscript: Please, please, Aunties: I love you all dearly. Go easy on me. xxx

PATTERN: Ribbon Afghan

This afghan was something I came up with because I wanted a very quick and very easy pattern that could be done by touch - it's repetitive and simple, the perfect afghan to work on in front of the TV. And it's an excellent scrapbuster! It starts with a smidgen of maths, I'm afraid. It also involves a bit of gauge. (I know, I know, but bear with me: it'll be over soon.)

This pattern is in American English terms [British English terms are in brackets]

Important! Don't skip this bit, no matter how tempting!

Take your chosen hook and chosen yarn, chain 12 stitches. Crochet 1 dc [tr] in the fourth chain from the hook (counts as first dc [tr]), then 1 dc [tr] in the next nine chain stitches. You now have 10 dc [tr]. Take a ruler or measuring tape and measure the length of these 10 stitches.

If I wanted to make a full-length blanket, say 2 metres long, my starting chain would be 290 chain + 2 chain to form my first "dc [tr]".
10 dc [tr] = 7 cm
290 dc [tr] = 203 cm
Chain 290 + 2 chain to form my first "dc [tr]"

I want to make a baby afghan and I'd like it to be approximately 80cm long, including a border.
10 dc [tr] = 7 cm
110 dc [tr] = 77 cm
So I need a starting chain of 110 chain (+ 2 chain to form my first "dc [tr]".)

So for my baby blanket, I chain 112

Crochet 1 dc [tr] in the fourth chain from the hook (counts as first dc [tr]), then 1 dc [tr] in the next nine chain stitches. *Chain 1. Then crochet 1 sc [dc] in the next ten chain stitches (don't skip a stitch). Chain 1. Crochet 1 dc [tr] in the next ten chain stitches. Repeat from * to end of chain (depending on how long your chain is, you may finish with either 10 dc [tr] or 10 sc [dc], it doesn't matter.)
Cut yarn for colour change, weave in your tail, turn your work and start with a new colour.

If you finish the row with dc [tr], you'll start the next with sc [dc]. If you finish with sc [dc], you'll start with dc [tr]. As you can see, I've finished the row with dc [tr] so when I turn my work, I'll start with sc [dc].

You do one row in Colour 1 to start your blanket. After that, you will do TWO rows of each colour. So join a new colour here!

*** Please note: you only crochet into the dc [tr] or sc [dc], you DON'T crochet into the chain between each group of ten stitches. The chain is only there to compensate for the difference between the height of the stitches. If it weren't there, your work would curl! ***

Crochet 2 chain to start the row (this functions as a 'fake' first sc [dc],) then 1 sc [dc] in the next 9 dc [tr] of the previous row. * Chain 1. Crochet 1 dc [tr] in each 10 sc [dc] of the previous row. Chain 1. Crochet 1 sc [dc] in each 10 dc [tr] of the previous row. Repeat from * to end of row.

You do 10 of the same stitches in the stitches of the previous row: in other words, 1 dc [tr] in each of the ten dc [tr] in the previous row - or 1 sc [dc] in each of the ten sc [dc] in the previous row. But don't forget to do your chain stitch between each group of ten stitches - this allows for the difference in height between the stitches. If you don't do it, your work will curl.

And so you continue: after a single row in the starting colour, two rows in each new colour. Here you can see I'm starting my fourth row in white, doing 1 dc [tr] in each of the 10 sc [dc] of the previous row.

And on it goes, up and down the blanket, till it has reached the desired width. You finish by doing just one row in your finishing colour, this gives it an even edge. You can then do a single row of dc [tr] or sc [dc] around the afghan to make it neat.

After a few rows, the pattern clearly emerges:

You may not reproduce this pattern in print or claim it as your work. You may not sell the pattern. Do not copy and paste pattern to another website, please use a link.

Update: see this post for some pictures of other people's Ribbon Afghans!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Versatile Blogger - that's me!

In August, Seelenfein presented me with an award. I put off delivering my acceptance speech because I wanted to rearrange my blogroll and pass the award on. Alas, I'm still gathering my wits together, so I'd better step up to the pult and accept it. Which I do, herewith.

Thank you, thank you. I'm honoured!

The idea is that you should tell the world seven things about yourself and then pass it on to 15 other bloggers. I can do the former, the latter requires some organisation on my part: I'm a one-woman awards committee. I have to schedule a meeting with myself.

So, seven things about me:
1 I am incredibly clumsy.
I once gave myself a black eye when I banged my face off the rim of a toilet bowl. I was not drunk at the time. Honestly.

2 I write letters.
Real letters. I have ink pens. I own note paper. I possess stamps. In a world of Twittering and Facebooking, I belong to the primitive tribe that knows what the gum on an envelope flap tastes like.

3 I make the one of the best lasagnes you will ever eat.
I make the lasagne dough myself. The bolognese sauce simmers over low heat for at least six hours. I grate the cheese with my delicate little fingers. My lasagne is a thing of beauty and a joy for about ten minutes.
P.S. I also rock the world of fairycakes.

4 My feet are extraordinarily ugly
My husband, who loves me enough to smile lovingly when I sing (whilst others weep) and thinks it's cute when I have a pimple, refers to them as 'the feet of a mutant bald hobbit'. They really are. Like fleshy bricks, with toes attached.

5 I love naps
I don't sleep well at night, but put me in a horizontal position between the hours of ten a.m. and ten p.m. and I will instantly conk out. It's like switching a light off. I often don't even have time to settle comfortably: I become unconscious even as my limbs are flailing about, like a badly-drawn stickwoman. I wake up in a puddle of drool, with a leg folded up under my chin. Or similar.

6 I'm mathematically-challenged
Well, that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis.

7 If I'm not fed every five hours, I get cranky
This is a condition shared by all the Gingerbreads. Meal times were - are - Very, Very Important in the Gingerbread Homestead. If food is not dished up promptly, the Gingerbread children mill around the kitchen door, whimpering about how staaaaaaarving we are, while Mammy Gingerbread mashes potatoes as fast as she can. Do not stand between me and my lunch.

Guerrilla Crafting - Part II

Like most Europeans, I grew up familiar with a whole host of American cultural references that I both knew intimately and, at the same time, knew nothing about. As a result, a kind of cultural wistfulness ensues - a yearning for the 4th of July picnic you never had (= and I really don't like picnics). A longing for Twinkies and Hershey's Peanutbutter Cups (= anything with a 20-year shelf-life scares me and I hate peanuts). You end up with a mishmash knowlege of unknown and unknowable events. For example:

A big dance that means A Lot to American teenagers. Usually full of mean, bitchy girls who try to become Homecoming Queen (???) but this role inevitably falls to the Ugly Duckling nerdy girl who looks like the long-lost female member of The Proclaimers (for those of you who don't know The Proclaimers: Shame On You. They're the Scottish duo that brought the world the infamous ear-worm '500 Miles'. Anyway.) Girl turns up at dance transformed into a vision of beauty by kindly fairy-godmother-like friends, glasses discarded, braces dumped (orthodontists US-wide shudder at the thought) and the dumpy saddlebags we thought she sported beneath her baggy jeans turn out to be slender, race-horse-like thighs. She ends up with the most popular chap in the school, who is a Jock (no idea what that is. I think it might be good. It sounds a bit rude, though.) This is what always happens at a prom.

So there you go.
Every now and again, though, something exciting happens in the form of something mundane: you get something that you've grown up hearing about and, although it's very boring and everyday in the other culture, it's desperately exciting in your grubby paws. Hence my excitement when I first encountered - tada! -
Kool Aid!

Let me backtrack a bit:
I saw pictures on the Interwebz of other people's hand-dyed yarns. And every other dyer used Kool-Aid. Sure, I'd heard of the stuff - it aids you become kool - but wasn't sure what it was, exactly. I did some research and discovered that it's kind of a powdery stuff that you add to water to create a flavoured drink. Reading up on other people's sites, I also discovered that it is to be treated like a dangerous substance: people recommended wearing latex gloves. Latex gloves! Covering countertops with plastic! Wearing an apron or old clothes! It seemed quite exciting: I mean, the little packets look innocuous enough - they're in vibrant, primary colours and feature a little cartoon jug, full to the brim with toxically bright liquid, smiling reassuringly ("Drink me! Drink me!") but they seem to have the potential to Wreak Havoc on your kitchen. Frankly, dear readers, I was intrigued. It is not often that one can hope for an element of danger whilst crocheting, so the opportunity to dabble in what was very obviously a foolhardy and reckless undertaking with a clearly dangerous substance was just too much to resist.

So I obtained Kool-Aid. I was sent some by Nicole (hi, Nicole!), my swap partner, and found a handful of packets in a Chinese-American shop. Let me get that clear: it's run by a Chinese family who stock Asian and American food, as opposed to a Chinese-American family.
"Is this stuff nice?" I asked the two hip and happening young Asian men at the counter.
"Eeeuugggh, God, no - " said one of them. "The only one you can drink is grape. The rest are - " and he finished the sentence with a series of graphic sound effects.
Cautiously, I sniffed a packet of mango-flavoured powder. Bleeurgh. I don't know in which universe mangoes smell like this, but hey - the things I do for my readers.

Home I went.
I set up two chairs in the living room and started winding my yarn. I wound it into skanks (as Mr G insists on calling them. His English is v. v. good but he has occasional vocabulary flights of fancy - he seems to be mixing up hanks and skeins with unfortunate results).

The yarn is from the 99c store: apparently no one except me wants undyed sock yarn. (And, mind you, I not only want it, I want it all. But I just bought 4 for starters.) We watched a couple of YouTube tutorials and marched into the kitchen.

Let me just tell you that we're not usually a let's-share-our-hobbies kind of couple, but Mr G is a chemist, so I thought he'd be handy to have on hand. I thought he'd enjoy spending time with his wife, pottering about, mixing stuff, but he declined:
"It stinks," he said, "It just stinks. I can't be in the same room as this stuff" - said the man who spends the day in a lab juggling beakers of nitric acid and ammonia. I wasn't as sensitive to the smell, it was very sweet and somewhat ... chemical. Not that they're trying to hide it: the packet is clearly marked with the words ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (but, please note, they are also caffeine free and a source of vitamin C!)

Intrepid is my middle name (actually, it's not, it's Brigid) so I proceeded to dye. And it was fabulous. Fabulous. It was messy and unpredictable (the browny skein was supposed to be more of a blue/purple combo but I threw in a packet of the stinky mango at the end and it all came out kind of ruddy-coloured) and let me add that I did not use latex gloves. I did not cover anything. No aprons were donned during the dyeing of this yarn - in fact, I actually dyed my yarn wearing one of the few white tops that I possess. I didn't have 'proper' equipment: I used Nutella jars, my spaghetti pot and an old chopstick as a pokey device. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing, so I just did what I felt was right. It was nerve-wracking from start to finish - but you know me, readers, I like to sail close to the wind. And this is the result:

Not great, eh? But I got better:

Today I am going back to the 99c shop to stock up on white yarn. I'm going to wrestle the last packets of Kool-Aid from the hip Asian boy's hands and I'm going to dye my little heart out.
Huzzah, readers! I have found a new passion!

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Shouldn't Happen to Me

Eye Examination

One of the primary functions of this blog is to keep my mother up-to-date on the goings-on in my life. With nine children (because Gracey asked how many Gingerbreads there were - stacks, my dear, there are stacks of us), she has a hard time trying to keep tabs on our comings and goings. Bloggerdom helps her track our misdemeanors more efficiently.

Anyway - Mammy: I went to the optician and my eyes are getting better.
That is the essence of this post. My eyesight was getting progressively worse with each passing year, but this visit to the optician turned up an astonishing result: now my eyesight is suddenly improving. I was squirming in joy in the optician's chair, happy to know that I wouldn't end up with bi-focals as thick as jam-jar bottoms, when Ms Optician effectively burst my bubble by telling me that it might be the first signs of presbyopia - age-related far-sightedness. I was outraged - outraged, I tell you. Well, I was on the inside; outside I just meekly said, "Oh, really?"

I'm 35 and three-quarters. And leaving the optician's - actually, as I reeled out the door in shock - it occured to me that I have now tipped the scales on my thirties and am sliding towards forty. FORTY! I thought forty happened to other people, certainly not to me. I went home to share the sad news with my husband ("My darling, I fear it is my duty to tell you that we are aging"), who gallantly allowed me to feel better by giving me permission to count his grey hairs (eleven, of which nine were allegedly my doing.) It does not help that Mr G and I celebrated our eight-year anniversary this week. Rather than do anything celebratory, we spent the day shaking our heads at one another and saying things like, "Where did the last eight years go?" We kind of feel like people who were mugged by Father Time. He shook us up and robbed our wallets. At gunpoint. At least, that's how it feels.

P.S. when I went back to the optician today, she asked me if I'd had thyroid issues around the time I got my last glasses. Yes, actually, I had. It turns out that that may have had more to do with the spike in my vision than the fact that I am currently hurtling towards senior citizenship at breakneck speed. I feel slightly mollified, but only very slightly. I won't order the zimmerframe just yet, then.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Once a teacher, always a teacher

wooden woman sitting with yarn of wool

I arrived in Stuttgart this evening, where I'm holding a seminar tomorrow. Yes, I am to be let loose on the educators of Stuttgart: I'm trying to get all the crazy out this evening, so I take to the podium tomorrow with a modicum of respectability and
soupçon of calm.

I arrived in the middle of full-scale demonstration at Stuttgart's main railway station (more about it here). Because I've been so busy, I haven't read a newspaper in days, so I did think it a wee bit odd that I was escorted out of the train station by armed police in riot gear. I mean, I like to think I have a few fans, but even that seemed rather extreme - especially since 50% of my regular readers (Mammy and Daddy Gingerbread) aren't even in the country. But I was bundled into a taxi and sent on my way with so much as a "how-d'you-do", so my delusions of grandeur and overblown importance were quickly shattered. Thank you, Stuttgart.

It seemed the perfect end to an otherwise bizarre journey anyway: when I got on the train in Nuremberg, I immediately unpacked my packet of Rolos, yarn, hook and iPod. I was about to plug in and hook up, when a young woman plonked herself down beside me.

"Oh! Can I sit here?" she said, already unwrapping her scarf and undoing her jacket.
See, here's the funny thing, gentle readers: I think I have quite a stern-looking face. I think I look rather strict - maybe even forbidding. But obviously I've totally misjudged my own features: if I am sitting in an empty train carriage, the one other person who gets on will want to sit next to me. Not near me. Not in front of me. Next to me. Rubbing elbows and making doe-eyes at my Rolos.

Within seconds, the young lady had launched into a long chat about who she was, where she'd been, where she was going. She gasped for breath and said,
"Do you mind if I eat something? It's a vegetarian burger."
"Work away," I said easily, treble, treble, double treble, treble, treble.
"I'm-a-vegetarian-I-don't-eat-meat-if you-ate-meat-right-now-I'd-throw-up - " gasp for breath "- but-you-can-eat-meat-if-you-want,-like-if-you-have-a-ham-sandwich-or-something - " gasp "I'm-not-that-extreme-but-my-friend-Markus-he-says - "
Chomp, chomp. Burger gone.
"Hey!" she said suddenly. "What're you doing?"
"I'm crocheting," I said. "I want to make a hat."
"Wow. Hey. Wow. Oh, wow. That's cool. Where did you learn that? I can't do anything like that. Wow. That's so cool. Hey. Wow. Why do you do it, anyway?"
"My great-aunt Christina taught me when I was seven or eight," I said. "And I do it because it's fun. And because I'm a bit hyperactive, I'm a bit of a fidget."
Deep breath. "I'm-hyperactive-too,-like,-really-hypeactive-I-mean-I-have-that-syndrome-thingy-and-I'm-totally-hyperactive-and-I'm-not-good-at-school-'cause-like-all-my-teachers-say-I-need-to-concentrate-more-and-I-try-but-I-have-this-condition-and-it's-attention-deficit,-you-know?"
I nodded and gave her a smile.
She grinned and then, serious, whispered earnestly, "And I talk too much."
"That's okay," I whispered back. "I don't mind at all."
"Can you show me how to do that?" she asked.

Luckily, I'm a Crocheting Boy Scout. Be prepared? I am. I whipped out my extra hook and yarn, started her off on a scarf, showed her how to do some double crochets and some slip stitches - and off she went.
"You're picking that up really quickly," I said, genuinely impressed.
"It's really weird," she said, the yarn wound over and under her fingers, "'Cause everyone says I don't learn things quickly at all."
"Well, you have a natural talent for this," I said. And she really did.

Half an hour later, the train drew into her station and she handed me back the yarn and the hook.
"Take it," I said. "Keep going, you're doing so well."
Beaming, she stuck the hook and yarn into her handbag, grabbed her scarf and jacket and scampered off down the aisle of the train.

I settled back in my seat and recounted my stitches. Suddenly I became aware that someone was staring at me. When I looked up, the young woman across the aisle was gazing at my crochet longingly. We made eye-contact and smiled, and she seemed about to ask me something when her boyfriend - who'd been watching my impromptu crochet lesson with deep suspicion, - pulled her into a slurpy kiss, distracting her from my luvverly yarn.

But I got my own back. When we got off the train in Stuttgart, I waited till he was busy with their luggage and hissed, "There are loads of tutorials on Youtube."
"Great," she whispered and gave me the thumbs up.
I'm a crafting guerrilla.