Saturday, 23 May 2009

A good yarn

A good yarn- in both respects :D These are two of the gifts that I was given for my birthday by my best friend. There where others, and indeed, other gifts from other people but these two are (looks around furtively) ~whispers~ my favourites. Just don't tell the DH that as he bought me the camera that I have been wanting for ages which also rocks mightily but there is something about the ones above that make them extra special.
Firstly, the yarn; multiple greens, deliciously squishy, hand spun by my best friend!!! She has obviously been practicing hard and mastered the art of spindling. I'm not kidding when I say that this yarn rocks. I got hugely excited about it once it was free of the pretty paper and then once I found out that she had spun it for me I nearly started hyperventilating. I am going to have to think of something very special to make from it- something all for me and me alone.
Secondly, the book; ~snort, chuckle, chuckle~ was pretty much my response. Yes people- it is exactly as it appears, somebody has taken Pride and Prejudice and added in Zombies. I just finished reading it last night and I have to say that it is magnificent. It takes all the best and most loved bits out of P&P and mixes them in with a zombie plot line. It's both sympathetically and cleverly done and the outcome is really quite funny. It's a smooth and griping read and I really, really enjoyed it. This is quite impressive given that I am mortally afraid of nearly all things Zombie related- don't ask me why, I'm quite happy with other members of the horror genre but there is something about Zombies that really gives me the creeps. I can't stand most Zombie movies, the only exception here being 'Shawn of the Dead' and I think it's because the Zombies are not as green/rotting/falling to pieces as they are in other things, nor do they run fast or have much in the way of intelligence so are thus easily avoided and/or defeated in battle. I feel I could survive a major zombie incursion if they are that kind so therefore I am fine with it. The zombies in P&P are much the same and are used mostly for a bit of comedy. There are one or two significant changes to the story lines of a few of the characters but nothing that alters the main course of the book or in one or two instances, add to it. My only complaint if it can be called such a thing is that the zombie plot line doesn't in itself develop all that far. I was kinda left with a feeling of wanting more though I wasn't disappointed in anyway. This may just be part of that feeling of regret that I get whenever I finish a good book. I always find the sudden parting with characters and injection of reality upsetting and from this book I even miss the Zombies.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Origami cranes

I have to admit to being a little tiny weeny bit of an origami fan. It's not ever something that I have done that regularly but whenever I do find the time or happen across a piece of origami paper I love to sit down and have a little fold. I won't profess to having any major talent or getting much beyond the basics though I have managed to make a few origami insects that I'm quite proud of.
My latest passion however has been for cranes. I'm not sure how this came about but I think it's an amalgamation of ideas that have been swirling around in my head for a few weeks now. The first part came from wanting to make something other than by knitting which I realise is a shocking and scandalous thing to say. I used to do a lot of different arts and crafts though and whilst I'm not particularly inclined to pick any of them up again at the moment due to time commitments or cost I still thought it might be nice to just have another little string to my harp (that phrase should be 'string to my bow' but it never made sense to me as it meant you could only ever use one string at a time and people are much more complex than that).
The second part I think came from reading about a friends personal spiritual and emotional journey using Buddhist teachings. I was quite touched by what she had to say and it gave me a reason to sit and read around on a subject that I haven't ever really taken the time to explore. From this came a desire to spend more time on me, doing some meditation and generally having a purposeful relax. I realised that whilst I spend a lot of my time at home sat on the sofa knitting away I wasn't actually necessarily relaxing whilst doing it. This is especially true of recent times when I have been working on a lot of projects that have deadlines.
The third part is a little silly but it was a good reminder. I was watching Season 1 of Heroes the other day with my DH in which there is a scene where one of the characters, Hiro, folds a thousand origami cranes and hangs them in the blink of an eye to prove he can stop time.

(Photo linked from the Origamisources website)

It served as a good reminder that I do have one interest/hobby that doesn't take up much time, room or cost a lot of money. It has the extra added appeal of something that requires precision and just enough concentration that I am forced to stop thinking about problems and just think about folding and breathing.
I knew about the Japanese legend that promises that anyone who 'folds a thousand cranes will be granted a wish by Crane such as good health, long life or a cure from illness'. I didn't however know the full story behind this legend or about other stories/practices that have arisen around it.
At this point Wikipedia came to my rescue. To read the whole article go here but the essence of it is that the crane is one of Japans Mythical Beasts (along with e.g. dragons) and strings of cranes have thus become popular gifts in Japan and China. A thousand cranes are often given as a wedding gift, for the birth of a child and when hung in the home are thought to work as a kind of lucky charm.

Strings of paper cranes (very pretty)

A thousand paper cranes have also become a symbol of world peace, mostly bought about by the story of Sadako Sasaki who developed leukemia after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Sadako started to fold paper cranes with one wish in mind- to live. There are conflicting accounts of whether Sadako managed to complete her thousand cranes before her death at the age of 12, but her story has spread through the release of a book entitled 'Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes'. There is a statue of her holding a paper crane at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial as well as in Seattle Peace Park and she has become a symbol for world peace.

A quick search of the Internet will produce many other uses for paper cranes ranging from peace initiatives to art installations- well worth a look in my opinion.

With all of this this in mind, I have decided that I will make an attempt at making a thousand paper cranes myself. I figure that it will give me a few minutes in the day where I have to relax and I can take those minutes whenever and as often as I like. As I make them I'm going to try and keep my mind clear, focus on my breathing and if I can't do that then I'll think of someone to send some love to as I fold my little crane up. It will also give me a nice little goal that I work towards in my own time and at my own pace. On top of this it is great practice at origami and I hope that by the end of it my creases will be razor sharp.
I've already made a start at stockpiling cranes- I have 10 done already. I think I will be stringing them up with beads in between (so not piled up like they are in the photo above) and hanging a few around my house. The rest I plan to give away. I might even make some mobiles from them just for something a little different. One of the other things I'm really going to enjoy about this is the chance to geek over the paper. I plan on making my cranes in a multitude of colours and patterns. I know that it is possible to get origami paper with Japanese prints on the sheets (which I love) so expect to see pictures of pretty colours here soon. Just to start off with here's a photo of some of my 'early works'.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Wedding plans

Not my wedding, I hasten to add- been there, done that. This is for some of our friends who have recently announced their engagement and have scheduled a date for August 2010. This gives me enough time to sort out a knitted gift for them (as I mentioned previously in another post) and seeing how I have gone to all the effort of doing all this thinking I figured I'd share it with y'all. Apologies in advance for this being heavy with Ravelry links . I have tried to put in ones from others sites as well. I should also point out that any books I have linked are merely for the purposes of illustration and not ones that I have actually read/used. They are just things I came across in my travels as I was thinking all this through.

First up my thinking led me down paths of 'things I could knit for the bride'
*Knitted wire jewellery- this was an obvious first step. I remember my tiara type thing that I wore being exceedingly expensive and although I've not done wire knitting before this seemed like the sort of gift that would be appreciated not only because it would save money on the wedding day but because it can be personalised very easily and kept as a keepsake afterwards.
*Knitted garter- one of the ladies at my knitting group just finished making a lace silk garter with blue ribbons through it for a friend of hers that is getting married this summer. A perfect project if you want something small that you can splurge on fantastic yarn for.
*Knitted shrug/bolero- there are some fantastic lace shrug patterns around again this wouldn't need much yarn.
*Knitted gloves- probably not much use for someone who is getting married at the height of summer but a good gift for a winter or spring scheduled wedding.
*Knitted bag/clutch- you could even flex your felting muscles with this.
*Knitted shawl/wrap- I was thinking lace here, possibly with beads.
*Knitted veil- yup it could be done. If you can knit lace then knitting a veil would be a piece of cake, especially if you went for something plain with the odd bead on it.

After that I started thinking about things I could make for the couple. I discounted making anything for the groom as he's just not that kind of guy but I did come up with a couple of ideas:
*Knitted socks- you could even knit in a motif with the couples names and/or wedding date if you wanted.
*Matching waistcoat for groom and best man

Things for the couple are, let's face it, going to be home goods. Almost any of these options could have a motif of some sort incorporated into it. You could even get really carried away with adding in details- put in specific things to bride/groom relating the their interests, use photos and pictures from their homes for colour ideas, get other family members or friends to add a piece in as well etc.
*Heavy weight rugs (think extreme knitting here)
*Table cloth/place mats/napkins etc
*Sofa throw/Blanket/Afghan

If none of this is setting the spark off then there are still a few other options. There are whole books on the subject of knitting for weddings just to get you started. You could also try thinking of something a bit more unusual- maybe the bride would like her bouquet made of felted flowers so that it can be a keepsake as well (with matching buttonhole for the groom)? Perhaps you could knit up some bunting to decorate the reception hall? Or, if you know the couple well, maybe you could go for something a little bit naughty?

Friday, 8 May 2009

Scritches for Fenway

Everybody must send scritches- and mice, lots of mice. My little black cat has had to go into to hospital with a poorly tummy. His symptoms are, rather disturbingly, very similar to the ones that landed me in hospital a few weeks back. They don't know what is wrong with him either at the moment though he is having a endoscopy done this lunchtime which might give us some clues. That and the rest of his blood tests that are due back as well. The vet has ruled out poisoning and 'foreign bodies' which is the little bit of good news. The current working theory is that he has some form of gastroenteritis. I'm going to visit him at the vets later to see how he is getting on. There is a good chance that he may be in for a few days so I'm going to take him one of the little cat blankets that I knitted for the cats when they were little tiny kittens so he has something that smells like home.
Hoshi of course is completely loving the fact that her pesky little brother isn't around to steal all the attention and pinch the best snoozing spots on the sofa. I keep telling her that she shouldn't be looking so smug as Fenway is very ill but it's not making any difference. I insisted that we take her up to bed with us last night (kitties normally sleep in the kitchen) and she spent all night moving around our king size bed and purring in our ears. I think she will start to miss him after a day or two though as they have always been together. The longest that they have been apart for before now is a day. Anyway, it's extra fish and cream in our house for a bit.
Looking after sick kitties has rather taken the fun out of my week though. I had a lovely weekend in Devon last week. The sunshine was glorious (I burnt the back of my neck though which was exceptionally irritating. I much prefer to remain out of the sun and be pale, as does my skin), the bees where buzzing in the hedgerows and we got lots done- including lots of fantastic shopping. My mum took me to Spin A Yarn in Bovey Tracey where I tried not to get carried away and buy up all the shop. We also went to a fabulous little sewing shop that I hadn't ever been in before despite having had ample opportunity. They had a whole shelf full of beautiful Japanese print material that I would merrily have given my right arm for. We also visited the wonder/abomination that is Trago Mills. I can't even begin to describe what it is like but imagine a factory outlet rolled into a theme park, sprinkle it liberally with every cheap advertising trick and cunning retail ploy you can think of and top it off with a little junk shop wonder and you're getting close. Trago is one of those places that proves that you can love and hate something in equal measure and at the same time. It is my very favourite place to go for people watching as sooner or later, everyone walks through the doors.
We also visited Burnham Nurseries which is a specialist orchid center. I love going there- it smells wonderful and the flowers are just so beautiful- it's out of this world. The best bit was that they had a lot of orchids out ready to go to the Chelsea Flower show which I looked into going to this year but couldn't afford the ticket. Seeing all the flowers in store was like a mini flower show just for me which went some way to making up for not being able to go to the big show. The orchids were what I wanted to see most anyway. I bought myself a spider orchid (can't remember the species) as a special treat. All but one of my other orchids are in flower at the moment so I was feeling a bit chuffed and confident in my skills so I stretched and got a slightly more expensive plant for once. It's a new kind to me though so I hope that it is easy enough to look after. Also something else to hope for is that the plants are still in bloom when I get my camera for my birthday. Not long to go now... :D