Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Wishing you all happy, cosy and sparkly festivities dear blog readers. May your stockings be filled with handmade treats.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Chunky Mitts

Here, at last, are the Arm Warmers, made with Sirdar Click Chunky yarn, on straight needles, and following a very simple pattern from Hand Knitted Things. I actually finished them very quickly, for me, but I was put off photographing my hands wearing them because they have been in a right dried-up old state. I had to slather on some heavy duty hand cream before taking this pic, just so that you wouldn't recoil in disgust.

The yarn is a mix of acrylic and wool. I usually buy pure wool, even when it isn't necessarily practical. I just prefer the feel of it. But the wool shop which is to be my local for as long as we decide to stay in our current location (somewhere in the county of Worcestershire) has a large selection of yarns, but most of them are blends. If I'm going to be a purist I'll have to travel further afield.

The cable stitch was a cinch. How pleasing to be able to create a complicated effect by simple means. And I like the finished result so much I went straight out to buy more (blended) wool and I am knitting a shorter pair. I liked the idea of a long-armed mitten, but I think I will rarely have exposed forearms in the next few months.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Still Cosy After All These Years

This tea cosy inspired me to knit. Just look at it. Isn't it perfect? Clearly made from brightly-coloured scraps jumbled together, it is the word 'jolly' manifest in wool. It used to belong to Pete's grandmother and it brought a bit of crazy colour to our neutral-hued home for a few years before being put into storage at the beginning of our Airstream travels. We weren't going to have a teapot, taking up space and payload (weight allowance). Well that soon changed. Tea and coffee are important to me and they have to be made properly - brewed and infused rather than scalded and wrung out!

We recently had a bit of a sort through of our stored possessions and this little cosy came to light again. It has been brought aboard, even though I had just made a new one. A bit restrained in colour perhaps, but in keeping with the Airstream's interior.

My own grandmother showed me how to make cosies, carrying the yarn across the back and keeping the tension. She was a speed knitter. She used to make some dodgy things though, like ladies in crinoline dress toilet roll holders, and lacy tissue box covers. All of these unnecessary disguises would be in whatever garish wool she had stashed. Every time my parents redecorated the bathroom a new crinny lady would be produced, whereupon ( yes that is a real word, heathens) it would be hidden out of sight until she visited and it was ceremoniously placed on the toilet cistern, as if that was where it always lived. More grateful recipients were, hopefully, the charities to whom she donated her wares to raise money.

Anyway, I shall be making good use of one or other of these cosies today. Pete has gone to Wembley to see the NFL game and I will be indulging in a new knitting project, lots of tea and biccies and repeats of Sherlock Holmes and Poirot. More about the project later. I'll just say that it's a pair of hand warmers with a cable stitch. Hand warmers? Like gloves, but without fingers. I was assured by the enthusiastically helpful woman in the wool shop that there's nothing to a cable stitch, much less complicated than it looks. We shall see. Now, time for a brew.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hydrangeas and Pearls

While Pete and his Mum went searching for ancestors in the graveyards of Lancashire, I was happily distracted by this unexpectedly theatrical tribute. 

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Today's colour is grey. It is raining, the distant Cumbrian fells are completely obscured by clouds, so our view is dominated by electricity pylons and traffic on a busy 'A' road. To cheer myself up I am wearing this button. I bought it yesterday in a wonderful shop in Ambleside, filled with colourful quirkiness and called Detail.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A Glimpse of Ludlow

We finally forced ourselves to leave our idyllic spot in Shropshire. Where there was once a field dotted with shiny Airstreams is now a field of grazing cattle. The next time we are near to Ludlow we must explore the area much more. For now, here are some images from an afternoon in the lovely town.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Crafty Airstreamers

Last weekend at the fourth UKAirstreamers Gathering near Ludlow we had the first 'Unhitch and Stitch on the Sunday' afternoon. There was some knitting going on, and some exchanging of techniques. I learnt how to cast on with my thumb and other crafties who had forgotten how to knit, had their memories jogged.

I got engrossed in teaching four young Airstreamers how to make sock creatures. Alice and Will had to go home before finishing so I hope I'll be getting photos of their creatures sometime. Jordan and Rory weren't in a hurry, as this is their farm, and they each managed to make a creature in one afternoon. Check them out! Aren't they brilliant?

There is much more about the completely fabulous time we had at our UKAirstreamers Gathering on our other blog, Pete And Tracey On The Road.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Airstreams Are Coming

The fourth UK Airstreamers Gathering is happening this weekend and the new bunting is ready. Thirty-plus new and vintage Airstreams will be wending their way to a beautiful spot in Shropshire. Airstreamers, Carl, Gaynor, Connor, Jordan and Rory are welcoming us all to their farm, and it promises to be a stunning and unprecedented gathering of Airstream travel trailers and motorhomes in the UK.

On a crafty note, on Sunday there will be 'Unhitch And Stitch' under our awning, where Airstreamers can bring a project of any kind, and partake of tea and cake. The cake part is a twisted form of enticement because I'm not an experienced baker, but I sometimes have beginner's luck on my side. Let's hope that will be the case this weekend!

Anyway, onwards, there's lots to do today. I might get another go on the sit-on grass cutter if I'm lucky, having already fulfilled a long-held wish yesterday. I can't help it. I'm a city girl. I've only ever had a balcony and some window boxes. I digress. A couple of early arrivals will be turning up later today, then everyone else tomorrow.

If you're in the Ludlow area around lunchtime, look out for a lot of shiny aluminium beasts on the roads. I'm off to drape bunting. You can't have too much bunting!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Vintage at Goodwood

We went to the Vintage at Goodwood festival last friday. Unfortunately it rained, a lot, so there was lots of sheltering and drying out with intermittent browsing and bopping. Luckily for us we knew the guys at the Silver Rocketeer Cocktail Lounge, newly refurbished and looking classy and chilled. The rain and poor light meant that I didn't get many usable pics, and I'm gutted that I can't show you the Rocketeer's shiny Spartan Mansion.

The festival had a very relaxed party atmosphere, loads of vintage vehicles on show (including a few Airstreams), an auction on the Sunday, vintage clothing and furniture stores, performance tents and stages. Friday had a reggae flavour on the Soul Stage. I enjoyed a bop to The Beat and later to The Wailers, great bands and a really happy crowd.

Hopefully this was the first of a new annual festival, but with better weather. Who would have thought The Buzzcocks would ever be considered vintage? I guess nostalgia can take hold of any of us!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Eyes Open

During a day of chores and errands the supermarket car park presented this jewel. Some days it's a relief to realise my eyes are open and to catch a little bit of natural sparkle on a rainy day.

I never find the right bag. I assume there is one bag for every day, but I'm wrong. Sometimes I just need a little bag that will simply hold my point-and-shoot camera and the car keys, for those times when we hop out of the car to check out a bit of neolithic resilience, or the sun on the hay bales, or a rainy leaf! So I'm making one. I'm trying to make it quite tight and supportive, so I'm using cotton and double crochet (in English terms that is). The work feels a bit stiff, it doesn't glide like wool so I'm not really getting into a satisfying rhythm. And I'm making it up as I go along. How tricky can it be?

Getting up early has its rewards. Our Airstream is parked in a lovely wooded site this week. So we get dripped on long after the rain has stopped, sunlight is dappled, and there are acorns. Doesn't it already feel like summer is winding down? Or is it just here in the woods?

Monday, 2 August 2010

It's A Knitted Slug!

I had a go at knitted Amigurumi for the first time. There's a lot of it out there on the crafting websites and I didn't really get it until now. Wiki says it is the "art" of crocheted or knitted stuffed toys, typically animals and "inanimate objects endowed with anthropomorphic features". Now that's what's been missing from my knitting projects. And naturally it originates in Japan.

I've seen lots of funny little crocheted animals, some more recognisable than others, and then there's the craze for knitted cup cakes. All very clever but I couldn't really see the point. It was all a bit too pretty and cute for me.

And then I found a pattern for a knitted slug! Now that's more like it. Find this and other bugs and pesky creatures at cheezombie on Etsy.

I had to concentrate. It's not a project for doing on autopilot whilst watching an episode of Wallander in Swedish. It was so much fun. I learned new shaping techniques. This one was one of cheezombie's flat-knit patterns, most are on circular needles.

What next? I like the idea of a family of slugs, and their gnat pattern is ugly-cute. Or what about Eddie Lizzard? Or the Lobstah?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Shopping For The Crafty Nomad

As we move around I am getting used to finding my craft supplies in a variety of places, from gorgeous little independent shops and old fashioned and fusty little places, to haberdashery departments in well-known stores and monster-sized craft warehouses.

Ideally I love to go to the little, characterful shops first. Everyone knows that our high streets are at risk of becoming identically dull, lined with the same old chains. I can confirm this, having scoured many of the nation's high streets in two and a half years of the nomadic lifestyle. Many of them are functional at best, a boring waste of time and shoe leather at worst. So we need to frequent and support the independent and the individual when we find it.

On the other hand, I can get excited by the seemingly endless choice in a large store. I'm the same with bookshops. Sometimes I know exactly what I want and I know a small bookstore will do everything in their power to get it for me. On other occasions I have stumbled across something delightful and unexpected whilst moseying around a large temple to all things bookish.

But variety is key. We used to live in a town in the Lake District. There were about twenty shops selling walking gear and waterproofs but there was no haberdashers, and we had to drive forty miles to buy new underwear. And when we got there, we were in Carlisle, or The Pit Of Despair, as I tend to call it. One of our first stops on our Airstreaming odyssey was Bath. What a contrast. I thought I'd transcended this mortal plane and been reborn in a more heavenly realm.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Luscious Temptation

We found a lovely fabric shop in Cambridge, Cally Co. It reminded me of a cake shop, filled with luscious temptation.

Occasionally, but not often enough on our travels, we come across a french-style patisserie which will have confections of the lightest, aerated meringue and macaroon. Have you seen those pink and pistachio macaroons? I always have to have one, not only because they are divinely light but chewy and a bit gooey in the middle. I have to have one because that type of frivolously colourful and pointless confectionery is such a rarity that it might just be my last chance to indulge in that way for a very long time. Scones and fruit cake have their place, but so do mille feuille and macaroons.

So, back to the scrummy Cally Co, I found it just as delicious as a posh cake shop. You know when you want to touch everything? We bought some polka dot, dove grey PVC to use as an outdoor table cloth. We have been looking out for just the right one. Some are too dull, some are too madly patterned. Dove grey seems just right with our silver table and grey chairs.

We also had a jolly chat with the two lovely women in the shop. When we described our nomadic living arrangements I knew I wouldn't need to explain what an Airstream is, and I was right. I'm going to try to go back to that yummy shop before we leave the area. There must be something else I need.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Mad As A Box Of Critters

The sock critter commission has arrived at its destination and everyone is happy, especially me. The walk to the local village post office with a box of critters under my arm was most enjoyable. And here's a sneak peek at the crazy little monsters.

They will be for small kiddies so the eyes are firmly sewn-on felt instead of buttons. And you might have noticed a glimpse of the Airstream in the background. I've been enjoying a bit more of the al fresco life and sewing outside, under the awning. Sucks to be me!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Things Take On A Life Of Their Own

I'm still in sock creature mode. Some lovely friends have asked me to make some for them. If I wanted to big myself up a bit I could call it a commission. Either way, I am completely chuffed to have been asked.

Since they are going to be given away as presents I had better not reveal too much here. You never know who's looking, and I wouldn't want to spoil any surprises.

When I visited my best friend in London last weekend she was displaying flowers in a tall vase I had made for her. I used to go to a pottery class when we lived in Cumbria. Actually it wasn't so much a class as a space in which to experiment with clay, with a very experienced potter on hand for guidance. I loved it with a passion and I hope I can take it up again sometime. It was such a messy, tactile experience. The clay felt heavy, pliable and yet resistant. Although the potter, with his thirty-odd years of sculpting and throwing could make the clay obey him. It literally surrendered to the movements of his hands.

The processes seemed like a kind of alchemy to me. From this grey, earthy lump to a pinkish and lighter, biscuit-fired form. Then coated in liquefied, dull minerals which magically transformed into glossy, glassy, translucent colours after firing in unimaginable heat. The whole craft was an incredible marriage of primitive and intuitive with technical and scientific. Mind blowing.

Seeing this vase again, to my eyes it had a charm to it but it was also clumsy and lacking the grace I had envisioned when I was designing it. How often is that the way? So gratifying though, to see something I had made having been integrated into my friend's day to day life. Like the tea cosy I knitted for her a couple of Christmases ago, sitting askew on her teapot.

Making stuff is engrossing and satisfying. Giving stuff away and seeing it take on a life of its own is beyond gratifying.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Purple Sock Bunny

We had a visit from one of Pete's oldest friends, Andrew and his two young sons, James and David. David, the youngest, is four and he seemed to like our sock creatures so we decided we would start to make one there and then. We chose a sock in David's current favourite colour, purple, and I set to work with the scissors.

It was fun to work quickly, freed from the tyranny of neatness, the emphasis more on showing how it's done and getting David involved in the decisions. He suggested it could be a purple rabbit, and he chose one pink and one purple button for the eyes. I got him to put in some of the polyester stuffing, and when I suggested that he might want to add more because it was going to be a bit squishy, he thought it would be nice like that. So we went with soft and squishy.

I finished it after he went home, taking a bit of license with the facial features and adding a fluffy tail, which wasn't in the original brief but a cute and tactile detail and well worth the fiddlyness involved.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Al Fresco Knitting

We have been without internet for almost a week. We had used up our monthly bandwidth in the run-up to the Airstream gathering and ended up counting the days til the 2nd of June when we could start communicating with the world at large again. I may have already made a big dent in this month's quota by catching up on blogs.

The gathering was lovely. More about it on our joint blog. I even fitted in a few rows of knitting under the shade of our awning. It's going to be a tea cosy. The craft world has embraced the internet and there is an overwhelming universe of knitting and crochet websites and blogs out there. I've noticed that some knitters get hooked on making socks. Just check out Yarn Harlot. She makes all kinds of stuff but always seems to come back to socks. For me it's tea cosies. It's like a default setting or a return to normality after trying something new.

We are on the road again. We actually ended up in one spot for six months. We hadn't planned it that way, it just happened, and we were in a lovely place on the Somerset Levels. Moving on to the gathering was a brilliant way to start our summer travels and now that we are on our way, I'm really looking forward to some new scenery and fresh outlooks. We will be moving every two or three weeks from now on. I will also be looking out for any signs of the upcoming World Wide Knit In Public Day, which is apparently on or around the 12th June.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Genius of Wally Byam

Last night I was already enjoying The Genius of Design on BBC2 but got very excited towards the end when the subject became Wally Byam, the designer of the very first Airstream trailers and the founder of the Airstream company.

The programme was about 20s and 30s design innovators and the birth of modernism. It showed the explosion of creative invention going hand in hand with the development of industrial materials, a move towards minimal and functional style as a reaction against the overly-decorated. One of the principles was that good design can be more affordable and democratic if it isn't laden with unnecessary adornment. The story went from Bauhaus to Habitat via Le Corbusier, Henry Dreyfuss and Wally Byam. Those kinds of leaps in creativity make my heart flutter. And the paring down and simplification are like a whiff of eucalyptus to me.

The narrator described the Airstream style of the thirties as "folk modernism", "Le Corbusier meets Henry Dreyfuss from a designer who probably never heard of either of them." I guess that puts Wally in a school of his own then. I know that the best thing you can ever see in your rear-view mirror is an Airstream. That's just one of the many reasons why we live and travel in ours full-time. Like the Airstreamers on The Genius of Design said, it's self-contained, has all the comforts of home and if you don't like the view you can just move on.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Still Hooked

The shawl is progressing, slowly. Although each row is one loop shorter than the previous one, I'm not feeling it yet. I am happy with the trellis stitch though.

The pattern is from Sirdar but I have substituted the shiny, synthetic yarn they recommend with a merino from Debbie Bliss. It has a little bit of stretchiness in it so I'm hoping I'm not going to end up with a massive, distorted, shapeless thing.

This might be a bit naff, but here goes anyway. While I was deciding what my next crochet project should be I saw Jennifer Aniston in some film or other and she was nonchalantly and stylishly sporting what looked like a crocheted shawl. It was open and light enough to be draped a couple of times around her slender neck. Consulting my copy of the Compendium of Crochet Techniques I guessed the stitch was trellis or similar. We can't always choose where we find inspiration, can we?

And why do I need a pattern for such a simple garment? Well I'm a novice and I needed the guidance for the shaping involved. It's all a learning process.

Henri Matisse

The BBC's Modern Masters series focused on Henri Matisse this week. Alastair Sooke highlighted how Matisse's bold use of colour and simple shapes has influenced art, design and fashion. It was interesting to see the extent to which his work, particularly from later in his life, has become part of our visual language, whether we are aware of it or not.

This postcard is one of my favourite things, on permanent display in the Airstream.

And here's some seaweed from Lligwy beach on Angelsey.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A Village Fair

On Monday we went to the Kingsbury May Festival in Kingsbury Episcopi in Somerset. It was a proper village fair, but bigger. There were people demonstrating their crafts and skills, like spinning, stone masonry, bee keeping, archery. There were stalls with all kinds of handmade products from knitted children's clothes to pottery, from felt bags to turned and carved wooden bowls. There were places to have cream tea, there was live folk music in the street and a brass band outside the church (playing an Abba medley at one point!?!). David and Ali, our Airstreaming friends who have been our neighbours here in Somerset, explained that the festival has grown over the years. It now spreads through the village and into two fields.

In the children's area there was the funniest and most inspired thing of the day, a medieval fruit machine. In a box, painted to look like a mini castle sat three jesters. When you rang the bell they would each hold up a piece of fruit. Beautifully bonkers.

I noticed that, at a festival there is no such thing as too much bunting. It looked so pretty and celebratory flapping around in the breeze.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Getting Hooked

I have been experimenting with some crochet stitches, including this funky purple ruffle. I'm new to crochet and I just wanted to learn the stitches and to see how the textures and three dimensional shapes turn out. So I made some swatches of squares, circles, trellis and the ruffle as well as various flowers.

Now I am starting a shawl for myself in a trellis stitch. I'm looking forward to sitting outside the Airstream late into the approaching summer evenings and I think the trellis stitch looks like it will be open and drapey and wrap aroundy.

It is going to be a big, holey triangle. So far I have made a very long chain and a foundation row of one hundred loops. Each row will now get shorter by one loop, like a very slow countdown. Then there will be a fringe. Pretty glamorous really.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Shiny New Pins

I don't know if this features on the list of the signs of madness (first sign: Talking to yourself. Check), but I find myself rather enamoured with my new pins. I had no inkling that my old pins were lacking in any way but I have moved into a new league here.

They are just lovely to use. They have brilliant coloured glass heads so that you don't forget them and leave them in your work, and I think they must be made of superior steel to my old pins. These are sharper and shinier. Now, I know that it is a pin's job to be sharp, but these little gems positively glide into the fabric. The macro setting on my point and shoot camera loves them too.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Fun Bunting

I am making bunting for the Airstream.

My mini sewing machine is coming into its own. I bought it a little while ago, thinking it would be handy for stitching up the sock creatures. And, of course, any new arrival into the Airstream has to be carefully considered. We can't just keep filling it up with stuff. Every time we buy something we ask ourselves, where will we keep it? So getting this little thing was not a rushed decision. So far though I have found sewing the socks with it a bit fiddly and I missed the hand-sewing. But now it is the perfect tool for the job.

We have been having such a beautiful, sunny spring and thoughts of summer are in the air. There are two rallies, or gatherings of UK Airstreamers planned for the summer (details on the website) and the trailer will be adorned with jolly little flags as well as the usual strings of lights. Sometimes when we all gather in a field we new Airstreams can all look terribly smart and all the same. Not this time!

I have got some smart-looking blue and white fabric and some red and white which I will make up later. For now I'm thinking sunshine, barbecues and fun.