Henry Moore

IMG_20170415_145330I remember going to an exhibition in around 1985 or 1986 at Leeds art gallery featuring the work of sculptor Jacob Epstein.  You may be familiar with his work The Rock Drill that I first saw at the Tate.  He moves between post apocalyptic, realistic, religious  and voluptuous figures.  I was completely fascinated especially since the gallery was quite small and you could get so close to the sculptures.

IMG_20170415_144321Jacob Epstein preceded Henry Moore and influenced his work.  I didn’t ever really feel that much for Moore’s work, feeling a bit smug about discovering Epstein, which is probably why I have never been to Hoglands at Perry Green.  This was Moore’s farm and now home to his foundation with a fantastic new visitor centre.  It is just 45 minutes from where I live and now I could kick myself for not visiting sooner.

IMG_20170415_163800 (1)I went with my husband and 3D designer son on Saturday.  The weather was amazing with huge fluffy clouds punctuating the blue sky and apple blossom everywhere.  IT jus couldn’t have been a more perfect way to discover his work and marvel at the curves, his vision and drive.

IMG_20170415_161848 (2)A new exhibition called Becoming Henry Moore is brilliantly curated to include the artists and teachers who influenced him as well as his contemporaries to give his work context.  The exhibition included early South American carvings from the British Museum as well as Modigliani, Hepworth, Epstein, Brancusi and other names I can’t remember. I just couldn’t help smiling as I wondered round just captivated by the richness of inspiration all gathered together in two rooms.

IMG_20170415_163411If you do get a chance I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough.  It is immersive, interesting, historical, inspirational and plain joyful.

Allsorts

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I have to admit that being on a yarn diet is not as bad as I remember, especially when you get a gorgeous little package like this from Baa Ram Ewe.

Titus is a lovely yarn to knit with and although I find it a bit slippery for Fair Isle knitting it’s just perfect for lace and cabling.  The colours are wonderfully balanced and have evocative names like Eccup, Dalby and Aire.  Now they have created these dinky Pick ‘n’ Mix taster  packs so you can try out more of their colours for yourself.

The little tube has 6 balls weighing 12g – enough to knit the fingerless mitts pattern that comes with the yarn. I wasn’t really feeling stripes and wanted to try something a little more adventurous.  A quick trawl round Ravelry and I found a great pattern called Escalator Mittens by Tiina Huhtaniemi

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I only finished the first one yesterday but I was so excited I thought you might excuse that I haven’t quite gotten round to the thumb!

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And I still have all this lovely yarn left.

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If you haven’t tried Titus yet, this set of mini skeins could be perfect for you.

A Woman’s Best Friend

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I was always a cat person.  Growing up we had a number of moggies, some friendlier than others, but when my eldest boy was 2 we got a cocker spaniel called Billy.  He was so sweet with his ding-dong-bell ears.

Now we have Buster and Boo.  You may notice that all their names begin with the letter B, as in B for Bernard.  My kids have my husband’s surname so I thought it was only right that our pets should celebrate my bloodline – silly I know, but that’s just me.

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Anyhow Buster is a Standard Schnauzer.  Did you know that there are less than 300  Standard puppies born each year?  The Minis seem to be more popular but I like the robustness of the Standard.  He is a lovely old fellow, nearly 12 now, and is placid, good with children and a big soppy thing when it comes to cuddles.  It wasn’t always like this.  Standards are notoriously hard to train.  You ask them to do something and they look at you as if to say ‘Surely you don’t mean me’. It took blood, sweat and tears from all of us.

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Boo is a little scrap of feisty Cairn Terrier, all mouth and no trousers. She is ready to take on anyone and anything, until you get the brush out and then she runs upstairs, yelping like a big girl’s blouse. If you ask her to show you her belly she rolls over and lies there until you tickle her.

My DH and I take it in turns to walk the dogs in our local woods which are just coming to life and oh so beautiful.  And that’s where the fun starts.  Boo has to stay on the lead.  When we walk over the fields at the weekend she runs free but the woods are a different matter. I blame the squirrels.  She has a pathological hatred of them and will  happily chase them in to the next county with me flailing after her.  Don’t even get me started on the deer.  She just doesn’t understand how small she is.  Another reason she is on the lead is because she will just fly at any dog that comes towards her, shrieking expletives but wagging her tail.  Talk about mixed messages. We have tried all kinds of training including me growling at her, which seems to be working.

Buster on the other hand is leadless on walks and happily ambles along until he spots anything related to a Labrador.  It might only be the minutest microgram of Lab DNA and he turns in to a shag monster.  From the front, side or back, he really doesn’t mind.  He has been neutered but the rutting gets worse as he gets older.

Now you have an idea of the perils of my daily walk. This morning everything was just lovely and calm, the woodpeckers were pecking and the birds were tweeting.  Then, round the corner came 2 Black Labs (did I mention the Black Labs are Buster’s particular favoutite?) and some smaller dogs from the other direction.

Instantly my two transformed. It’s like being out with Hinge and Bracket after they have been at the sherry, with  Buster showing a burst of speed you would only expect from a younger dog, Boo barking like a Celtic warrior falling on a Roman battalion and a 6ft mad woman running behind brandishing a lead and growling.

Back home for a lie down I think.

Sugru – Juliet’s Little Helper

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A few years ago (it must be more than 6) I came across an amazing inventor who had created something called Sugru, a mouldable silicone ‘putty’ which looked a bit like BlueTac but which self cures into a strong ‘rubber’.

It is so hard to describe, which might be why it isn’t as widely known as it should be.  The lovely people at Sugru have just sent me their latest pack – a tin with 4 little sachets of this magic substance to have a play with. They have also produced a great little booklet with lots of ideas for crafters.  What I didn’t know is that Sugru is strong enough to stick things to walls like small shelves and coat hooks.

IMG_20170321_092739I have used it to protect charger cables, mend the handle of a pair of scissors and fix a knife blade back in to a handle.  With the latest pack I thought I would try something for a knitter with lots of DPNs.  Keeping my DPNs organised is always a bit of a problem.  Sometime I put them in a tin or use rubber bands but I wanted something that looked a bit more tailor made.

Each sachet holds enough of this miracle product for a small project. Here is the Sugru rolled out in to a little sausage.  I recommend doing this on a flat surface to get it nice and even.

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I then secured the DPNs with a cable tie and rubber band to hold it in place while I wrapped the Sugru round them.

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Then because I had some left over I popped a couple of the balls on each end to protect the tips.

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Now I need to leave it for 24 hours to self cure and we’ll see how it fares. I’m sure it will make great needle tip protectors for my circular needles as well.  Ooh and I could bury a magnet in it so I can keep track of all my pins. And my scissors are always getting caught up….  Looks like I’m going to have fun this afternoon.

Work(s) In Progress

I am a serial caster on-er,  regularly seduced by a lovely, shiny new pattern.  But it seems to be getting worse since I have started my yarn diet, because I can see so much potential in my beloved stash.

I knew things were getting bad the other day when I couldn’t find any 4mm interchangeable tips.  I hadn’t lost them, they were simply all being used.  When I dragged all the bags and boxes of projects out I realised I have to focus on finishing some of them before I can allow myself to start anything new.

Here are a few of my favourites.

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Kidalton is by Kate Davies from her Inspired by Islay collection which I am knitting in a Merino yarn by Lang Yarns.  I have been cabling without a cable needle on this pattern which the wonderful Jen Arnall-Culliford taught me when she joined The Knitter.

XanaduXanadu is a beautiful shawl by Kitman Figueroa.  If you haven’t ever tried one of her designs, what are you waiting for?  They are as elegantly written as the shawls themselves. This is a pre-blocking image so you can’t see how yummy it will look. The yarn is Yarn Stories Fine Merino 4ply.

RedshiftRedshift is a Jared Flood design. I think he is one of the nicest people I have ever met in our wonderful world of knitting so I always have a soft spot for his designs. This is a steeked shawl and I am using Gomitolis Lambswool and Wool/Cashmere. As you can see mine is more of a yellowy-green shift.

marled magicStephen West’s Marled Magic Mystery Knit Along was gifted to me by my dear friend Michelle.  She is joining me on the yarn diet trail and though this would be a good pattern to eat up a few of the odd balls that we both have.  I am trying not to be too regular in the colours I am putting together and I am really pleased with the result so far. Miracle of miracles, I am actually keeping up with the clues.

There are at least another 6 projects that I am willing to admit to on the needles but I am going to try to finish one off every week or so. Gulp!

Yarn Diet – part 2

The big stash down has started and it’s actually quite good fun.  Last time I went on a yarn diet I learned a lot so I thought I would pass on some tips to you.

IMG_20170215_131234Take a long hard look

I have finally been brave enough to pull my stash out from all my favourite hiding places and take a long hard look. When you see the enormity of all the yarn you have collected it can be quite sobering.  Now is the time to steel yourself and harden your heart. Most of my stash lives in six apple crates and it was sorted in to weight of yarn and then arranged by colour groups, but when I unstacked the crates I realised what a mess it was.

Cut, slash and  bin

The first thing to do is get rid. Cue the internal dialogue.’Will you actually ever knit up that hank that’s been under the bed for a few years?  Yes, I know you like the colour but it doesn’t suit you’; ‘Eugh, what were you thinking?’; ‘Who did you inherit that  from?’ and so on.

Find a home

After a couple of hours I had several piles.  I find it helps to think about who might want each discarded hank or ball so I have a straight-to-charity pile, a maybe-someone-in-my-knitting-group-can-use-it pile, a birthday-present-for-a-friend pile and a sell-it-on-ebay pile.  I also had a pile of tiny balls and half knitted swatches that went straight in the bin because they really weren’t worth the brain power needed to find a home for them.

IMG_20170215_131225Reorganise

Hey Presto! My stash had already gone down by a good ten percent and there was enough room in my crates to arrange the knitworthy yarn that was left into some semblance of order, as well as imprinting what I actually have on my memory for potential projects.

Well, that’s the hard work done, now I can get on with the knitting! Who knew I had so much Noro?

Frazzled

Saturday night found me in the Baldock Town Hall and Heritage Centre – not the most obvious place to spend an evening maybe but I was there to see one of my heroes, Ruby Wax.  Alongside Thubten, a Buddhist monk, and Dr Ash Ranpura, a neuro scientist, Ruby talked about mental health and mindfulness, as part of her latest tour.

Her most recent book is called A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, which I had heard her talk about on Woman’s Hour.  She is also launching Frazzled cafes where people with mental health issues can just go and ‘be’, without judgement or prejudice, and maybe even get help.

But back to the evening, which began with actually meeting Ruby.  She is an amazingly beautiful woman, more petite than you expect, and charming.  What a thrill!  You might think an evening discussing mindfulness might be a bit dull but it wasn’t.  There was laughter and pathos, honesty and humility.  What I found really interesting was how the neuro scientist could explain what happens in your brain when you meditate (I’m not keen on the term mindfulness) and the monk could tell us how to do it.  Then Ruby shared some insight in to how it had helped with her depression. None of it was preachy or cultish, just plain facts and acres of humour.

As someone who has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for a number of years I found the whole evening uplifting.  Meditation and CBT have helped me and what was discussed left me with a profound feeling of hope.

If you are lucky enough to see her on tour I’m sure you will have a great time.  If not, here is her TED Talk.