Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Woo hoo!

Don't ask me how this happened or why it works because I JUST DON'T KNOW! The video is a little clunky (the original is much smoother) and this may well be as good as it gets but look! it works!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Just a quick update

Things at work have been scary busy for the last week- hence no blog update or comments on anyone else's. I just haven't had the time! Though it is not all down to work being busy I must admit. I have joined and volunteered to moderate a new Traveling Scarf Group and setting that up has sucked away some of my time. I also signed up to do a Baby Blanket swap- well, bits of blanket really as we are knitting strips and then exchanging them amongst the group and as we are each using a different colour it will eventually end up being a rainbow coloured blanket once all the exchanging is done. Only problem is that what with work, TSG and this, PLUS all the other stuff I am committed to doing I have no time for things like my blog, reading books or any of those other little things that I would gently have filled my time with. I think I'm just a bit over committed on things at the moment.
Ah well, it's only a month or so of hard work and then it should all be out the way and I will have a ton of stuff to share with you all. I'm going to try and keep on top of things as I go- I already have a post backlog here so it would be a good idea to not just let everything slip but no promises. I have much knitting to do after all!
One thing that you will be hearing about though is my weekend away. The DH is taking me to Cumbria for the weekend today. It's a long way to go I know but what with attractions like 'Cars of the Stars' (seriously, they have cool things such as Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, The A Team Van, Herbie, Bat Mobiles and a ton of James Bond cars amongst other things. Yes it's geeky I know but I'm really excited about going), the second biggest stone circle in the country and WOOLFEST! I hadn't even realised that is was this weekend until a few days ago. I'm going to Woolfest! How cool is that? Not quite sure how it happened or why the DH is taking me as he hasn't ever really shown any interest in fibre related fun before but who am I to question his decision? I have a few short hours in which to clean the house, get all my stuff packed and then run into town to meet the wonderful person that is looking after the kitties this weekend so that I can give them the keys to my house.
So really I shouldn't be sat here at all but getting ready instead. Unfortunately there is one other reason for my prolonged absence recently and that is the deluge of headaches that have been plaguing me for the last 2 weeks. I've had some kind of headache pretty much every day ranging from 'migraine' to just 'dull ache'. This morning I've had 'might be a migraine but if not it's going to be pretty bad anyway' headache. Argh. I really really need to get going. I tried sleeping for a bit- didn't work. Tried getting up and doing some gentle housework etc- didn't work. Am now trying 'taking lots of pain killers and coffee' route. Thankfully this does seem to be working. Not ideal but I have to be places and doing things today so no choice really.

I guess the over riding message is bear with me and it will be worth it. I have lots of fun things to share with you all and I do so hate getting out of touch with people. My posts may be short but I will try to make them often enough that you don't end up thinking I have dropped off of the edge of the world :D

ETA: Oh, and apparently Micheal Jackson is dead. Which has completely weirded me out. I always find surprise news like this in the media tends to bump my brain off of track- similarly when Heath Ledger passed away. Which is odd really, as I don't know any of these people, I just know of them if that makes sense but I still find the news of their deaths shocks me. It's like part of my brain just can't believe that it could have happened and I spend all my time listening to it going 'nah, it's not true' 'it'll turn out to be misreported' 'it'll be some sort of sick publicity stunt' etc until about 3 days later when it really does have to accept that yes, that person really is dead. This one in particular I think will be quite a strange experience as there really will be a global mourning- and overloading of the media with all aspects of his life, trials, times etc. It's going to be an odd weekend in that reaspect. I think I might try and an avoid the tv for a bit...

Friday, 12 June 2009

UK Ravelry Day 2009

So UK Ravelry Day was last Saturday. It was held in Coventry in Central Hall- and out of Central Hall as most of the stall holders where in a open air market place outside the church. This was a bit unfortunate as it rained and rained and rained.... Not that this put off any of the shoppers but it did mean that everyone got quite soggy. Because of all the rain though I didn't take any photos of the event itself. Even the pockets of my coat where filling up with water by the end of the day and I just wasn't willing to risk getting my lovely brand-spanking new camera all soggy.
Inside the church hall there where several stalls and displays that I completely failed to see. I did whizz by the Alpaca Select one right at the very end of the day just when people where starting to pack up and pick up some more of the purple alpaca that I have been using for my mini crochet squares project:

I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't find the time to visit that area- or the one upstairs where the spinning displays where taking place. Having said that though it's is a good thing that I didn't find the Alpaca Select stall earlier- I love their stuff. It's the best alpaca that I have used and fills the 'soft and squishy' bracket 100%. The balls bands may be lacking in helpful details like tension/gauge etc but the weights of yarn they do are pretty straight forward (e.g. DK, 4-ply) and consistently fit to what you would expect of that weight stitch wise. It's the choice of colours though that really gets me. I asked the best friend to run and grab me some of the purple DK weight and she came back completely confused. I didn't understand until I saw the stall and realised that there were about 7 different purples to choose from alone.

The majority of my time was spent going around all the stalls in the marketplace. I turned up wanting lace weight yarn but quickly got sidetracked into other things. One stall had some great prices for undyed yarns. I picked up a skein of undyed sock yarn for £2.50 which seemed like a good bargain to me. I hadn't planned to get any undyed stuff but I figured that getting some kool aid sachets wouldn't be too hard and I could have some fun playing around with this one afternoon. They also had other undyed yarns and I pitched in with the best friend to get some aran weight yarn so that we can have a KAL on the Jayne Cobb hat. We both got a bit over excited to find that the other wanted to make this pattern the evening before- we had come to Firefly independently and at different times. It led to much squeeing. The original plan had been to buy dyed yarn in the right colours but we only found one stall with the right colours and it was over £5 a ball.We worked out that we would need a whole ball of each colour each and that the hat would thus end up costing us over £15 (each) to make. Eeek. So we bought undyed yarn instead as the best friend is on a bit of a dye kicking at the moment and wanted the fun of turning it all pretty colours.
One of the biggest draws of the day though was The Knitting Goddess stall. Both the best friend and I got sucked into this one and could have happily have stayed there for hours and hours. It was also the stall that broke us. We had originally planned to be sensible people and go round all the stalls first before making a purchase but this one just blew all that out of the water. They had sock yarn to die for! ~nom nom nom nom nom~ We were practically drooling. How I managed to restrain myself and only buy one skein of yarn I will never know:

This is one shop that I will definitely be revisiting! I have a funny feeling that they will be getting much of my sock yarn money for the next little while. I couldn't resist the yellow above. I was just so pleased to find awesome variegated yellow sock yarn.
Another shop/stall that was completely new to me was KraftyKoala. The best friend was drawn to it because they had plaits of roving in pretty colours and whilst she was browsing I spotted their selection of lace weight yarn. This was probably the best priced lace weight yarn that I found. I think I paid about £10 for the skein and it is approx 13oo yards which is great. The only down side is that it contains some silk so I had to remain deliberately ignorant on that point until after I had bought it- I just loved the colour so much I couldn't resist. It's called Mayfly lace and can be found here on Ravelry:

I was treated by a friend of mine to a skein of undyed alpaca lace from the John Arbon Textiles stall as a thank you for giving her a lift to and from the event. It is beautifully soft and fantastic at £5 for 1300 yards. I am going to be going to another show called Fibrefest in August that is being held at Coldharbour Mill in Devon (happily the parents live not all that far away so I can double up on things and see them as well as getting free room and board) and I know that John Arbon Textiles will be there as well so I will have a chance to buy some more of this :D

My final bit of lace weight yarn that I got is really the gem of the piece. There was absolutely no question as to whether or not I would be buying this- the second I saw it I knew it was destined to be mine:
The one other stall that I had really, really been looking forward to getting a chance to stop at was the Fyberspates one. I have been eyeing up their yarn over the Internet for ages and ages but had refrained from buying any as I wanted to have that experience in person and my-o-my was it worth waiting for.

Monday, 8 June 2009

The post before the storm

Whoo-whee do I have a big post coming up for you chaps. Just before I type that one up though I thought I would share some more insect relatedness cuteness with y'all. Think of this as the starter in this weeks meal of blog posts.
First up for your delectation is a washcloth of dragonfly:

I was given this by a friend who had one of those 'saw this and thought of you' moments when she came across the pattern. I think she must have been paying special attention to all my recent wittering as well as not only did she knit me a insect but she did it in green which is my latest colour passion. I would have squeed but I was too touched to make noises so I have just been carrying it around with me instead as though it were some kind of mini comfort blanket. This is ever since Saturday, concerning which I think you should know that UK Ravelry Day was held in Coventry on Saturday hence the main meal of yarn and wonder coming up next. I did lots of yarn shopping with my best friend who travelled over from Cambridge to be with me for the day. It was soooooo much fun. I can't even begin to put it into words. I bought an impressively small amount of yarn considering what was on offer there; photographs of purchases coming up in the next post. Apart from these purchases:

I had to share these with you now as I am exceedingly pleased with them and thought they went well with the bug theme. I was so happy to find insect buttons. I had to fight to get to the stall (the button stall being extremely popular and thus crowded on the day) which is something that would normally put me off as I'm not very fond on being packed into a dense crowd but I just had to have them. Thanks go to my best friend for pointing them out to me. She is much better at dealing with the whole 'too many people' problem and eagle-eyed all the stalls for me so that I didn't have to fight every time. My only regret is that I could only afford to get four of each kind. Undoubtedly when it comes round to the time when I actually use them I'm going to need more of them- that's just the way fate works. But four of each was significantly better than none of each so I can't complain too much.
And talking of bugs- look who tried to 'help' me take pictures of things yesterday:

There's my bag of yarn in the background all ready for the photography session. There's my table out in the garden so I can use natural light for my photos and there's a big fluffy, black and white bug called Hoshi who leapt up onto the table and proceeded to paw her way up my front in an effort to reach my hands, which at this point, were clutching my camera for dear life. Hoshi then did her owl ears and the 'I am not amused' glare before flumping onto the table in the 'look at how cute I am' manoeuvre in order to get some strokes and attention. It worked too :D

Friday, 5 June 2009

I have the tools

Look! Pretty paper! I finally found a shop that sells authentic Japanese rice paper origami squares for my crane project.

I have been hunting for the last two weeks for some of this and just as I was about to give up and order it over the Internet I happened across packs of it in Hobbycraft of all places. Why they should be importing genuine Japanese origami paper I don't know- it's really not one of those shops you would have thought would have something like that. (I guess the American equivalent might be something like Hobby Lobby. It's essentially a chain brand that has big warehouse shops full to the brim with all things craft related from sewing and knitting through to air fix models and doll house furniture).
Anyway, not only did they stock what I wanted but they had a choice of papers and packs. Some of them just made me drool they were so pretty and I had a real hard time picking out which ones to get. In the end it was the cost that limited me. The paper was just expensive enough to make me think twice about whether I would buy it or not. In the end I settled for getting one pack that was good value from the number of sheets of paper point of view and another just because of the range of colours and designs on the the paper.
So here's the first one:
And here's the second one:

See- yummy colours! though I have to admit that the pictures are not quite right as I'm still learning how to use my new camera.
I have yet to start using any of this paper. I got distracted by other shiny things when at the store and besides, I just wanted to look at it for a bit before I start folding it up. There is something very pleasing about a perfect uncreased piece of paper in my mind. That and I am still gloating about the fact that it is proper origami paper. I'm a total Japan junky at the moment and have been harbouring a desire to take a trip to see things for myself first hand. For the moment I will just have to make do with indulging myself in the few bits of Japanese culture that make it to Britain.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Technical whine and an off topic post

I realise I have been quiet recently- it's not my fault, it's the blasted world of blasted high tech gadgetry. I had a post all written up and looking wonderful but try as I may I just can not get the video that I want to add in to load up. It's one that I made myself on my spanking new shiny camera but for some unknown reason Panasonic uses Quicktime files which means that I can not edit or alter the video on my PC because like most other people in this world I have Windows Movie Maker and a bank balance that doesn't let me spring for anything I may happen to want, whenever I want it. My only other option as far as I can see is to load it into YouTube but I'm a bit reluctant to go down that route. I tried Flickr but they only take 90 second videos and mine is waaaaaaay too long- and I can't cut it down because I don't have the right program. Grrrr, frustration.

This all kinda spoils the post that I was going to put up :(
But I'm going to go ahead anyway as I do at least have some stills that I can show you. It's not nearly as impressive this way and the cuteness factor for most people will plummet way, way down but I can't not share it. I still think it's fun.
So what is all the hype about? Well, I managed to get a video of some praying mantis nymphs emerging from an ootheca that I'm looking after (raspberries to all you who live in the tropics, we don't have mantids here so this is still exciting to me). The pictures (and video) are a little blurry as I had to film through the lid of the tub that they are being kept in- don't want tiny mantids every where after all. I was delighted to find that the nymphs are a delicate pink as they emerge- the black one that you can sorta see in the background of one shot is a bit older. The nymphs darken after a couple of hours. They pretty much hit the ground running though and are ready to take on small prey items such a fruit flies (which they have been scoffing ever since).

The photo above shows how the nymphs all emerge from the central spine of the ootheca. Normally it would be fixed to a trunk or tree branch and the nymphs would drop from the the oothca. In this case they had to fight a bit of kitchen roll as well. I wasn't prepared for them to start emerging when they did and by the time I got to them it was too late.

The most interesting bit for me was seeing how the legs are held straight alongside the body right until the very last second and then they just pop out and the mantid scuttles away. They look like tiny little pink worms or shrimp as they wriggle back and forth- all of the 'pull' to get the body out of the ootheca seems to come from muscle and fluid movement rather than them gripping something and literally pulling themselves out.
This is something that I did know from reading text books and so on but to see it for myself happening in real time (and for the first time) was really something special. It's amazing how much better my understanding of the process is now that I have some first hand experience. I also have to say that 'baby' mantids are really quite despicably cute. These guys are about 4 days old now and no more than a centimetre long but they act just like adults, being both tenacious and professional in their pursuit of prey whilst still being nothing more than a little wisp of a bug.