Archive for August, 2008

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A Purplestocking Rants….

August 24, 2008

No photos today, but I will do a photo update in the next day or two.

In a couple of online communities I’m in, this article from Friday’s Guardian has been causing a bit of an uproar – Do Good Feminists Bake Cupcakes?

Apparently, according to this article, the recent resurge in interest in afternoon tea, knitting and baking is viewed by many who take part as subversive and ironic…well, actually, I enjoy all of those and more…

Lets see, I bake, cook, sew, knit, embroider and enjoy the various pleasures of feminity (well,as much as I can) but I am still a feminist (or should that be equalitist?) and theres nothing in my actions that is ironic and subversive. I’d crochet as well if I could ever actually get the hang of it, but Ifear that, is probably a lost cause! I like Cath Kidston stuff because its nice and its got a nice vintage edge to it, in a world that all melamine and pine cupboards.

Why should my believing in equality negate my being able to enjoy these things?

I happen to adore afternoon tea, especially with friends. I am planning a small one this week when a friend comes over for the afternoon and I’ve spend the last couple of days deciding what biscuits to make and which of the mismatched china to use.My prize charity shop find in the last week or so is a a two tier cake stand – I’ve needed one for a while.

Its a chance to sit and relax for a while, get away from the rush of everyday life and its demands and just be yourself and you know what, to just feel a little bit special.

One of the reasons I love to do all of these things is that it gives me more control into what is going into what I am making, and it also gives me an immense sense of satisifaction and pride to know that I made it, that it was my effort that produced it.

Yes, all these tasks are seen as domestic and to be honest, it doesn’t bother me. In the last few days I have knitted my first ever pair of socks, attended my fortnightly knitting group, nattered about sewing clothes, researched fabric sources, pored over recipe books,  made my first batch of home made tomato and basil soup, and started planning what to take with me when I go to stay with a friend in cornwall for a week of sewing, crafting, baking and afternoon tea.

For years I took the view of all this things in some way negating my need for equality, as if by performing these frankly enjoyable tasks I was some how less of a feminist but you know what? No one (and especially journalists dangnabbit!) is going to tell me what I can and can’t do. I’ve seen enough of that in my life and its sure as hell going to stop here.

Part of the ruckus this seems to be installing is that people are worried that people will start seeing these things as soley feminine tasks again, and I can see the point of the arguement, but all this things are part of the pleasurable side of domesticity. No one is forcing us to do them and no one is expecting them of us. We do them because we enjoy them.

( I was greatly amused to watch one of the threads I was reading re this idea become a discussion of peoples favourite baking recipes 🙂 )

Now, I’m off to the kitchen, because I have biscuits/cookies to bake and butternut squash and spinach soup to make for the freezer, then I plan to have a nice afternoon knitting while watching F1 with a nice cup of tea. After that, I may play computer games for a while but I’ll probably write a letter to a lovely friend who enjoys these things too!

This is who I am and I happen to be proud of it.

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The knitting madness!

August 18, 2008

No philosophical musing today, I’m afraid. My fella has been on holiday for the last week so no time for blogging, unfortunately.  I’ve tried to write this post, probably, around 5 or 6 times so now, its actually getting done!

Well, on my adventures with the madness known as my current knitting addiction this last week or so I’ve done things like…..

– realise that my beloved Twilleys Freedom Spirit isn’t really suitable for learning to knit lace on so, after my beloved splashing out on the Twilley’s pattern book for me its going to become a vest instead.

– Cast on the shawl again in some lovely pale grey Sirdar Country Style DK, which if it wasn’t being a shawl would have probably been a vest! Am also stalling on this project while I take a tip I found on one of the ravelry boards to write each line of the pattern on an index card and then fix them together and flip them as you go so you can keep track of your place better.

– Cast on and finished my first ever sock! Its a very basic pattern and a little large but its still a damn fine sock, if I say so myself. Not entirely in love with the sock pattern, but I’m still learning! Its using Trekking XXL for anyone who’s interested.

– Cast on and finished my first ever hat – well, technically its a Tam. I’m also working on a matching scarf. The yarn was bought the first time I tried to learn to knit, last year and am glad I can use it, and glad I had enough as I don’t seem to be able to find anywhere that stocks it now!

– I ordered some fabric samples of coutil and lawn from Whaleys of Bradford for my Victoriana Project and they have arrived. Just need to do sums of how much I’ll need and how much I can afford etc before placing an order.

– I’ve also started trying to work out what I need to pack for going away for just over a week for a much needed visit to a wonderful and lovely friend. Of course, I can’t take ALL of my current projects with me (I’m currently planning on socks and a doll project) and I can always acquire more yarn while I’m there…I’m reliably informed there is a LYS within driving distance of the friend I am staying with 😉 Its also which project to keep out of my suitcase for knitting on the train!

– We went up on the North York Moors on Friday – our one day of sunshine this week! The heather is in flower and my goodness, it was beautiful.

I love that mix of purple, brown and green it gives. Now, if only yarn came in those colours! *daydreams*

You know, I’ve noticed, that now I’m off my everything being in black track I’m falling in love with colour again, and am having a real thing for purple and grey, and most surprisingly deep pink!

This week, I have a Ravelry meet to go to, a friend to see, and baking and cooking to do (am making soup to freeze). Be back soon!

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The urge to be old-fashioned.

August 9, 2008

It may not be incredibly evident on this blog so far, but I have an immense love of Victoriana and Victorian Clothing.

Some months ago, while visiting my friend Sue who shares this passion for the pretty clothes, at her lovely house in Cornwall, we were rifling through her books and I came across a Trousseau list in Fashions of The Gilded Age – Volume 2 and sat diligently scribbling it down into my notebook:

“Of dresses there are required morning dresses, walking suits, carriage dresses, evening dresses, one traveling dress, one waterproof suit, one very handsome suit to return calls. These dresses may be multiplied in number according to needs and means.

There are certain requisite articles that must be supplied in a certain number, and of a certain similarity in general character and make. They may be set down as follows:

  • Four pairs of corsets, on pair white embroidered, two plain white, and one coloured, the latter to be used in traveling.
  • Twelve chemises, six elaborately trimmed and six plainly made.
  • Six corset covers, three finely finished.
  • Six trimmed skirts and six plain ones.
  • Six flannel skirts, three of them handsomely embroidered.
  • Two Balmoral skirts, one handsome and the other plain.
  • Six fine and six plain nightdresses
  • Four white dressing sacques, two of them flannel.
  • Two looser wrappers of chintz or cashmere.
  • Six sets of linen collars and cuffs for morning wear.
  • Six sets of lace or embroidered collars and cuffs.
  • One dozen plain handkerchiefs, one dozen fine handkerchiefs, and six embroidered or lace trimmed handkerchiefs.
  • One dozen pair of fine thread hose, one dozen of heavy cotton, and on dozen of fine merino.
  • Walking boots, gaiters and slippers of various styles.
  • Two pairs of white kind gloves, two of light and two of dark tints, with others of thread and cloth.”

(Taken from Ladies and Gentlemens Etiquette, 1877)”

The concept of a Trousseau has always intrigued me as has the idea of hope chests and dowry boxes. The thought of making your Trousseau and storing them in a special box appeals to me for some reason. (

Now, before people start getting the wrong idea  I am neither engaged or planning a wedding, but I have been thinking about making some of the items off the list. Not all of them, odviously, as unfortunatly I can’t dress in Victorian clothing everyday – its not particularly practical for doing the hoovering in, for example but perfect for sitting and knitting or sewing in for example, and generally feeling pretty! And who doesn’t want to feel pretty and feminine?

I’m working on a pared down version of the list and will keep you updated as this sewing project progresses.

I’m off to count the pennies in the piggy bank for fabric!

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A touch of lace, to brighten the day

August 7, 2008

Lets see, I’ve had a busy few days!

I had a nice weekend, which involved a visit to the library on Friday, a visit to a local nature reserve full of dragonflies on Saturday (common blue damselflies,azure hawkers, and ruddy darters were the ones I could identify – I love dragonflies!), and a spinning workshop on Sunday run by the lovely Carol and Pete, who are wonderful teachers and just generally interesting people, who I hope to see again at some point soon.

It was lovely to try out my new spindle, which is made of Bubinga Wood by my fella’s dad, who is a very talents wood turner, and I’m slowly getting the hang of drafting, spinning and plying.

These are my first two attempts, actually done at the workshop, I’m still getting the hang of it as you can see.

This is my first attempt at home. I’ve only got as far as spinning it so far, but its more even than my first and second attempts so am pleased. The green was the colour I didn’t mind wasting out of my merino stash!

I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday with L, knitting, talking about all sorts, drinking tea, eating flapjack and watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice, with much snarky comments and cheering.

While there I started my forest canopy shawl. (Link to my Ravelry project page here )

I’m using this gorgeous Twilleys Freedom Spirit in Aura, a lovely mix of deep violet, lilac, and grey. I fell in love with a ball in my LYS (I was standing there stroking it for at least 10 mins) and found a bag of several skeins online. Its 100% Merino and has the most delightful soft sheen to it.

So far I’ve set up the pattern and done the first repeat of the lace pattern (its a little hard to see but they are slanted leaves) and am already a fan of using life lines – the bits of dark purple acrylic you can see trailing out of the sides)

It was my talented friend and knitting guru Tinks who suggested I try this shawl to start me on lace knitting and to give you an idea of what it looks like when completed here are some photos of her forest canopy shawl. Hers is in a lovely red and black cashmere.

Knitting lace is so pretty and rather fufilling, seeing the pattern emerge as you go. Its that thing when you are making something, that moment when it becomes something recogniseable.

Right, I have things to do before I can indulge in more knitting and spinning, so off I go!