Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sunflowers, unicorns, ladders and toad.

Just some later summer sunflowers, before they go.

Warm woollen mittens: the latest gift knitting, in an attempt at a cute, tasteful, trendy-knitting-book-style, still life. Not well done really, that edge of the the mat adjacent to the mittens is compositionally very irritating.

However, I was quite pleased with the mittens themselves, and thought perhaps they merited some coordinated props, blue china fragments, marbles, a late hydrangea head, and some old books, the ones one's mother read from in an old-fashioned, spoiled and sheltered childhood spent immersed in a mythos of horses and the countryside, some of the time at least: Kilvert's Diary, Borrow's Wild Wales, Lamb's Essays of Elia, and of course Jerry, the Story of an Exmoor Pony (or maybe the top one is Samuel Butler's Erewhon, which in fact I've never read and which doesn't really conform to the nostalgic, bucolic, middle class English idyll of the others, but it was still a bookshelf familiar from my personal Olden Days, and anyway, it's blue). 

The knitting is for a grand-daughter's eighteenth birthday in a couple of days, I'm fairly certain this won't spoil any surprises and that she doesn't read here, as I understand she is something called a Youtube vlogger and so probably ignorant of the very existence of old-fashioned blogs in general and this one in particular.  She's a dear girl anyway and fond of unicorns, I believe, or she was five minutes ago but not any longer and I'm probably hopelessly out of touch. She was very appreciative of her very long Hufflepuff scarf for her sixteenth anyway ("one of the best things I own") and still wearing it sometimes, even in the aforesaid vlogs, so I'm hoping she'll humour me. The original design, a very basic chart, was for horses but I converted it to unicorns, and made the rest of the details up.

They are even lined, an exercise I rather enjoy when the fancy takes me, as it involves knitting a smaller mirror image, second mitten attached to the first, which is then turned inside out inside it, as it were.

The fibre of the linings is made from the hair of humanely reared, free-range, gently combed unicorns.

Tom's constructive endeavours have been rather more practically useful; re-roofing part of our corrugated iron hangar barn in clear pvc.

I did in fact spend a fair amount of time up a parallel ladder myself holding ends up, standing at the bottom of his passing things, lying on the corrugated iron holding things down, and generally being an unskilled roofer's mate, a job which took me back a bit. (I know the photos look a bit pale, I lightened them up lot as they were too dark and shadowy, being contre-jour).

Last oddment, toad in the hole:

Quite a small one, with pretty little coppery eyes. I thought it might be one of the midwife toads which we hear chirping and chiming all spring and summer long but rarely see, but the eyes give it away: midwives are unusual among batracians  in having a vertical dark pupil/eye slit. It took up residence one day below a rose bush, but was gone by the next morning.

Off in a day or two to the Low Countries with high hopes, for a little while. Staying on-line but still somewhat scarce. Be seeing you.


Steve said...

Love the photos of the sun flowers.

marja-leena said...

Lovely flowers and gorgeous mittens, and with a lining even@ You are so professional, Lucy!

Have a wonderful getaway, you two!

marja-leena said...

Oops, that typo should be an exclamation mark. Onwards....

Anonymous said...

Ooh those mittens are fabulous! Have a lovely time away :) x

Sabine said...

Those hand reared unicorns made my day.

Catalyst said...

OMG, those photos of Tom on the ladder took my breath away. SWMBO will not allow me to mount ladders in such a way any more. It's bad enough for her when I climb up two steps on a stepladder to take the hummingbird feeder up and down. Please urge him to be careful.

Your sunflower photos, on the other hand, are exquisite. Even the last one, with The Man Without a Net, Thomas.

Catalyst said...

Oh, I forgot to say, I love that picture of the toad.

Roderick Robinson said...

Tom manages to combine the wisdom of the ages with a sense of puckishness in that head and shoulders. A month ago I'd never have come up with that latter noun, these days I can hardly stir without using it. Under such circumstances it's always as well to check the meaning just in case it's a dozen yards to the left of what one thinks it is. Hmmm: impish, mischievous, whimsical, all from weirdo dictionaries; the OED much better "playful, especially in a mischievous way". I'll settle for that though I suppose it's up to Tom. Or perhaps you.

Thermal update re. knitting. We still haven't turned on our central heating and this is reflected in our fuel bills. Mind you, we're into our third year with the 5/2 diet and on the days when it's operative both of us are especially vulnerable to cold: inner cold, that is, the worst kind, which seems to blossom out from the spine and spread debilitatingly. On those days VR goes assymetrical and she too assumes the wisdom of the ages; it would - to pursue the metaphor - warm the cockles of your heart.

It broke my heart to refuse an offer of a knitted pullover from VR but to accept would have been nought but a gesture. The villain is the fleece, quite thin but hugely efficient. I think you've mentioned this in box elder so it won't be news to you. I do my best by at least mentioning tricotage in my fourth novel, Second Hand. Viz:

Her (Francine's) reflection in the Starbucks’ window was backed by sunlight. Nothing wrong with the triangle of pale hair, cut two days ago, offset over her left eye. But the knobbly pullover was all wrong with her chin lost in the roll collar as if she were drowning.

And (they're in Harvey Nick's):

Francine laughed. “How about a scarf then?”

Anwar Patel raised his hands at a grey-striped, ribbed-wool number. “A mere £220. That’s probably ten pee per knitted stitch... Never mind, I'll take it."

And finally:

The baby mouse’s head, vulnerable to the sharp wind, was smothered in a long scarf and words emerged muffled. “Problems, problems. But what are you looking for, hoping for? Do you want him? I think you do.”

The willow-pattern mittens look swish. Were they ironed to achieve such perfection?

Lucy said...

Thanks Steve, and welcome, seen you at Cat's!

ML - thanks, they incorporate a Latvian braid, like your socks.

Chloe - thanks dear! Mittens are a lovely canvas for all kinds of designs, being just a nice size, flat and visible. I've often thought some of your work would translate rather well as motifs for them, embroidered or appliqué or knitted in or all three.

Sabine - I am glad, it's trivia, I know, but it's my trivia.

Cat - I have to refrain from too much urging to be careful, as it's an irritant and a distraction as as such counter-productive. He makes the point, rightly, that one has to go on doing things, maintaining a level of suppleness and balance. We neither of us do the things we used to. I am absolutely adamant and extract promises under duress if necessary about not allowing him to go on the roof proper any more, we get a man in if that's called for, and never going up on ladders when he's on his own, and generally I hang around and watch what's going on, try to see how I can usefully help and monitor levels of tiredness, hunger etc since that's when carelessness creeps in. I'm proud of him and the stuff we've done here and still do. (I made a little video of the toad too, so you can just see her little throat going in and out!)

Robbie - thanks as ever. 'Puckish' is fine I think, though I suppose I've always thought it contains an element of 'acerbic', which Tom doesn't really do.

Glad the asymmetrical is useful, I'm sure VR looks even more wise than ever under it. I have one in rather lurid rainbow shades - last year I had a craving for rainbows to cheer me up - and find I use it quite a lot at this time of year, also since I seem to be at a point here regulating my body temperature is difficult and something not too heavy to wrap up in and cast off at will is handy.

I can't kick the fleece habit, not sure I need to, despite a conversation with the above grandchild's 15 year old brother about clothing and textiles and what is and isn't acceptable to the teenage aesthetic (no bits of contrasting material or stitching such as on that weirdo Indian hippy stuff his mother will embarrass him by wearing, for example); he could barely bring himself to acknowledge the existence of fleece it was so far beneath contempt (corduroy he flatly refused to believe in at all). But though I do harbour an old antipathy to synthetic fibres, there's still nothing to rival its warmth combined with lightness, smooth absence of itchiness and quick drying qualities in damp winters. I still sometimes wonder if I can't knit something which could compete with it, perhaps a sweater knitted from sock yarn (fine and smooth with a small element of synthetic to keep it in shape) might do it, but it would be long in the knitting and I would always be distracted by some other small beguiling project and probably never finish. Accessories are a safer bet in many ways, but might I suggest something without sleeves for VR to make you? From the wearer's point of view, the garment offers a satisfying and useful extra layer of warmth which can be easily doffed and donned, without the offending bulk of a handknit sweater, and from the knitter's perspective it is less onerous - boredom often sets in by the time one comes to the sleeves. Tom has a horror of a cardigan as oldmenswear, but is very fond of the waistcoat I made him - as long as I don't refer to it as a weskit, which evokes some other residual childhood horror, I gather.

The mitts were washed to get them into shape and smooth out the stitches - it's called blocking - prior to lining. Unfortunately I forgot that there seems to be no dark blue dye that doesn't run in a warm wash, and the creamy white unicorns became rather dirty bluey grey ones. Ironing probably would have been better.

I enjoyed the extracts very much.

Avus said...

Loved the "toad in the hole" Lucy - did you put it there for effect or was it already esconced? Also that second image of a sunflower is terrific.

I have been to "Erewhon" (no where). On the South Island of New Zealand - a small locality in the Southern Alps.

Tom should audition for Gandalf. Just tell him to stop shaving!

Anonymous said...

Ooh thank you, I like the sound of that :) Perhaps I'll have to commission you to make some blue tit or bullfinch mittens for me one day! x

Jeff said...

How lovely. I've just moved out of the city and into the country, and I'm told there's a five-acre sunflower field on a nearby wildlife reserve. This post provides a rather nice preview of next spring...

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Wonderful pics, as always. Bon voyage and love to you both.