“Take your hobbies to work” day

Now let me stop you there before you get too excited. I did not take the horse to the office. Nope.

In an imaginary world in which I had my own trailer/lorry, the correct licensing to tow/drive it, and somewhere sensible to put him when we arrived, I still would not subject my horse to a) rush-hour traffic through the centre of the city or b) being harassed by well-meaning but, for the most part, hopelessly horse-ignorant people all day. He is not a toy, people, and he likes being patted in the face by strangers about as much as you’d like it if random strangers on the train or bus started touching your face. Boundaries!

So for everyone’s wellbeing but especially his, I did not take him to work. Having told you what I did not do, now perhaps I can start at the beginning and then tell you what I did do.

This all happened well over a month ago, and this post has been in draft for a very long time, but I’ve finally got it out to you!

We have an annual “Wellbeing” day at work, at which we are all reminded to have a life outside the office. Those of us already engaging in activities perceived to be interesting or worthwhile are encouraged to display or demonstrate our hobbies. When this was first instigated, our employer put a substantial amount of money and effort into their part of Wellbeing day. Sadly, it has got less and less impressive every year. Despite this I still I think it is a good thing, and so I thought I ought to put the effort in and volunteer to show that I do indeed have an interesting life outside the office. As crochet is suited to displaying I volunteered that, and as owning a horse is something out of the ordinary I thought I should do something about that too.

I took all our nice show photos, including the one in fancy dress, and I typed out some “fun facts” about Drifter, some of which you’ll already have heard, but I’ll share with you later anyway. To pad my stall out, I got some photos printed which don’t show us dressed up to the nines – photos from the yard, one of him in full fly-gear, one of him lying down, etc. I spread them out all over the table. If I’d known ahead of time how much display space I was getting I could have glued everything together into a nicer display, but I didn’t know how big the table was going to be so I just took lots of stuff and spread I out. Messy but (I hope) interesting. I had more photos than I had room for but a fellow exhibitor lent me some masking tape and I was able to stick some up on the pillar behind me as well.

I also dressed up in my show clothes, minus the helmet and hairnet. This was a hit, with one person saying they’d never seen anyone dressed like that except on the television. I suppose until a few years ago I hadn’t either, but their tone of voice implied that they couldn’t believe “real” people dressed like that. I have to say I do always feel like I’m ready to act in a period drama when I’m wearing breeches, long boots and a stock. Of course in any historic period where the clothes would fit in, as a woman in man’s attire I’d be cross-dressing, which might stand out rather.

On the crochet front I stuffed a lot of things I’d made into a box and included the yarns and hook I need for my blanket squares, thinking that if no one turned up at my stall I could at least be busy! When I got there I tried to arrange them on the table in a pleasing manner but I’m not sure how far I managed that.

So there I was, sat between my two adjacent tables in (almost) full dressage diva attire. It became apparent that people didn’t realise they were both my hobbies so I had to start crocheting to make the visual link for people! I realised I’d crocheted wearing my long boots before, while breaking them in around the house, but the experience of crocheting in white breeches and a jacket was a new one for me.

The two hours flew by. I was intrigued to find that most people wanted to talk to me about one hobby or the other – very few people wanted to ask questions about both. I wonder whether if I’d just taken one hobby I’d have had many fewer people coming to talk to me. The vast majority of the people who were interested in the horse stall were already horsey – I talked to many people who’d ridden as a child. There were very few people who knew absolutely nothing about it yet were still interested – in a way they were the most interesting for me because they asked quite different questions. On the crochet front the opposite was true – the most interesting questions came from other yarn-crafters, because they asked detailed questions about stitches, hooks, patterns and techniques.

Several people asked if I could teach them to crochet. I politely declined and pointed them to you YouTube and/or their local yarn stores. Teaching is not my bag at the best of times. Teaching something that my brain has automated and my hands do of their own accord is really, really hard. I’m not interested in learning to teach crochet – I have more than enough on my plate, thanks! I did give in and teach a particular stitch to a colleague who already crochets but even that was really hard! Even though she already has lots of crochet experience, trying to communicate how to make this stitch was so hard. As soon as the hook and yarn were in her hands, what I could see was all different from the view when it’s in my hands and I got confused. Eventually we did get there and she got the hang of it.

I really felt like I contributed a lot to the day, and I was glad my stalls were popular. I would have hated to sit there and be ignored by everyone. The downside of being so popular was that I didn’t really get a chance to look at the other exhibits. I spent a few minutes looking at some others at the end, but the organisers needed us to clear up and get out of the room, so there wasn’t much time. That’s also my excuse for not having better photos…

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Getting stronger. Part 1.

I am getting stronger. It’s really strange to me that now I can jog up the stairs to get that thing I forgot, but stranger still is that I go to bed every night with a very slight post-exercise feeling of muscle tiredness. And when I wake, I feel a tiny bit stronger all over. I’m not really doing that much exercise, but everything is exercise for the body that got used to doing nothing.

In so many ways I find that I’d forgotten how my body used to run itself, and now that the old ways are returning it’s rather strange but rather wonderful.

Of course now I’m watching my muscles filling out again I realise things like how much more my right arm gets to do in normal life compared to my left arm, which is still skinny and flabby. When I groom Drifter I’m trying to use my left arm some of the time, but that’s too big of a challenge to do for more than a very brief time. What it can do is crochet: I am now an ambidextrous crocheter … although I have to admit my right hand knows a lot of stitches and my right hand currently only knows one. You might be surprised to know there’s actually a crochet technique that utilises alternate right and left hand rows. Here is an item I created using the technique.

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/esparrowgrass/spirit-beaver-square-chart

Yes, I posted a picture of my beaver on the internet. (Why do I feel that anyone searching for those terms might be disappointed?)

Anyway, this is my first attempt at tapestry crochet worked with alternate hands and I have to say I think it’s not bad at all. I’m going to do another panel by the same designer in the same technique and then add borders and join them to make a cover for our large coffee table. These pattern charts are available for free which I think is amazingly generous because they are such beautiful designs. Also they work for quite a few different techniques so you don’t have to work with alternate hands unless you want to!

Geek crochet

Apparently there is a substantial overlap between yarn-o-philes and geekery. Arrayed on the internet you will find crochet Deathstars, knitted scarfs intricately patterned with the script from the LOTR one ring, and a multitude of baby Groots, pokemon and Tardises. (Oh how I wish the plural were Tardi.) I could only resist this phenomenon for so long, and actually paid real money for two crochet patterns. The first of the two was my totally inauthentic Viking helm.

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And then I had to make another for a friend… and yet another friend has also requested one!

Apparently real Vikings did not have horns on their hats. But guess what? Real Vikings did not ever wear helmets made of soft acrylic. Like ever. So that does not worry me. Most days.

Pattern: Lael Viking hat by Mamachee available for purchase from Etsy or Ravelry (and probably some other places too). The copyright on the pattern does allow you to make them for sale, if credit is given to the designer, so before you wear yours out of the house decide whether you’re going to charge anyone who asks for one!

The second (oh obscure treasure of niche interest geekery!) is a Tonberry.wpid-20150207_164158.jpg

A Tonberry is a creature found in the Final Fantasy video game series*. Looks small, cute and innocuous, huh? Oh look, you underestimated it. GAME OVER. Would you like to reload? Apart from its cute looks and unexpected fighting prowess the Tonberry epitomises cool for the following reasons:
  • It’s rare and usually solitary
  • It’s in no hurry to attack you, starting a distance away and taking a turn to move each step. You have plenty of time to flee and it’s your own fault if you don’t
  • It breaks the in-game damage limit of 999, doing 9999 damage with its little knife
  • Karma. The Tonberry’s karma attack will deal back to your player all the damage you have done in the whole game. But if Karma is cast on a healer character they will get healed because they’ll have done more healing than damaging in the game. Seriously, Karma! In a video game!

I have to say this crochet version is yet another Tonberry that I underestimated. He took much more work to do than I expected, but he is also by far the largest and most accessorised amigurumi I’ve attempted so far. Also the only one I’ve done while working full-time, which makes everything take longer!

Tonberry pattern by Natalie Bates, available to buy on Ravelry.

After my two these-patterns-cost-money projects I had a need to make a free pattern, which also has a strong geek connection. wpid-20150209_134530.jpgThis iPod nano cover appears to the uninitiated to be simply a (wrapped around) green tree on a pale green background. But to those who have played Magic: The Gathering, this is a forest, which will produce green mana so you can play your green monster cards. The pattern is just for a flat square – I worked it in the round and then crocheted across the bottom. This was my first attempt at colour-work and I’m rather pleased with it. This isn’t a great picture of it – it looks neater than that in person. Also it didn’t take long at all to make, which was a bonus.I have to say I’m now fascinated by the possibilities of colour-work and need to take care to avoid rushing into a big new project I’ll never finish.

Pattern (chart) found here: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/magic-the-gathering-green-mana-forest-potholder

Which finished item is my favourite? The Tonberry. He’s the only one without a practical use and he cost me most in time but I love him the most.

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*Although I mostly know it from Final Fantasy X (10) so this description is biased to how it appears in that game. In other games in the series it behaves slightly differently and Karma is called Grudge.

Crochet Christmas and birthday gifts

I made these over the last few months but couldn’t show them to you because some of the recipients were also some of my readers.

Slippers for Mr S

Slippers for Mr S

Fan and feathers lace-weight scarf for my mother

Fan and feathers lace-weight scarf for my mother

Woolly scarf for my mother-in-law

Woolly scarf for my mother-in-law

Fiendishly difficult flowers

Fiendishly difficult flowers

A reindeer...

A reindeer for my friend …

... and a second reindeer for Mr S who wanted one for us to keep

… and a second reindeer for Mr S who wanted one for us to keep

And a penguin in a pear tree. Actually he thought he'd be comfier on the sofa because those feet are not designed for perching in trees.

And a penguin in a pear tree. (Actually he thought he’d be comfier on the sofa because those feet are not designed for perching in trees.)

All patterns are freely available except for the green scarf which I didn’t use a pattern for. It’s just a pattern of 1 fan, 1 sc; with 1/2 fans at the end of every other row so the sc goes into the middle of the previous row’s fan. Easier to do than describe!

Patterns:

Slippers: Sorry, can’t remember. But I wasn’t that enamoured of it anyway. In the picture they look like wildly different sizes – that’s just poor photography! While they’re not perfect they are pretty much the same size as each other!

Fan and feathers: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lacy-feather-and-fan-pattern

Flowers: (Iris, Columbine, Anemone) http://melibondre.com/blog/ Mine would have come out better if a) I’d had better skills to start off with and b) I’d used embroidery silks as the patterns suggest. I used the finest embroidery wools because that’s what I had but it made the job a lot harder and silks would have given a nicer finish I suspect. Don’t judge her patterns by my results! Leaves of my own invention.

Reindeer: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/murray-the-reindeer I love this pattern. It was my first amigurumi attempt and it was clear and helpful and I was delighted with the result. Also, it does not require any sewing together at the end. I simplified it a tiny bit (making body coloured hooves and paring down the features) because of my personal tastes and what yarn I had available but I don’t think I’d have found it complicated to do as written.

Penguin: http://theageingyoungrebel.com/amigurumi-penguin-pattern/ I thought this was the cutest free penguin pattern on the internet. I found it harder than the reindeer, although in part that’s because working with black makes it hard to see your stitches and working with white makes me paranoid about getting it dirty 😉 Sewing up nearly drove me mad but I fear that’s probably the norm for amigurumi.

So am I all crocheted out? Nope. I got some new hooks for Christmas 😀

Stuff I managed to do

I’m still sick, and I don’t have the energy for proper posts. So here are eleven pictures. Or “ill.” because I am both ill and illustrating.

Ill. 1 & 2. (Actually not something I managed to do – something I managed to pay someone to do 😉 )D got clipped. Although he’s not in regular structured exercise at the moment he was getting too sweaty to dry on the occasions I had someone ride him, and on the last warm days he was sweating even stood in his stable. So I had him clipped. I turned up during the process to say hello, and snapped these, but was too tired to stay and take a picture of the finished article. He actually managed to jump the clipping queue massively because a) he’s amazingly well behaved during clipping and b) I don’t mind less experienced members of staff having a go at clipping him. Everyone has to practice to get good and it’s not like we’re going out anywhere anytime soon, so if it’s not a perfect job that’s not a problem.

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Ill. 3-7: Things discovered on walks.

Ordinarily if I go for a walk I intend to be out for a little while and take a camera, perhaps finding some birds to photograph. At present if I go for a walk it lasts only a few minutes and I get exhausted super so I had to look harder to find things worth photographing only a minute or so outside the house.

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Ill. 8-11: Stuff I crocheted. The teal shawl  (pictured stretched out and also folded) was started well before I got ill. Ironically I made it for the autumn mornings in the office … which I have totally missed this year. Doh! The wrist-warmers similarly were intended for morning use in the office but are more versatile. The keyring was for Mr S, although it came out bigger than I’d hoped and not as cute. Other crochet projects have been on the go also. Some have been abandoned as a bad job, others are in progress and yet others are destined for Christmas presents, so I can’t post them here in case their recipients see them ahead of time. If I had the energy I’d post the patterns they were based on … but as it is, if you’re curious about a pattern please ask in a comment and I’ll find it for you. (But do bear in mind I never actually follow a pattern without amending something about it. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not!)

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Sparrowgrass on location

I’m at the conference in Oxford. Here’s the view from my hotel window:

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That’s also the same building that the conference is being held in: the examination rooms. Convenient!

This morning we had a gap in our schedules and wandered to the Bodleian Library where we saw an exhibition of 1st World War documents and then visited the shop and l bought a few postcards.

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Last week I realised that I wanted to bring my tablet to the conference to make notes on, but then I wondered what bag to carry it in. Could I crochet one in time? What would I make it from? -It couldn’t be anything too stretchy or it wouldn’t be safe for my tablet. I settled on using string as being robust, cheap and non-stretchy. Being quite thick it would work up fast. But could I do it in time? Err… no.

But I didn’t let that stop me! I managed to do enough to have a basic bag and shoulder strap before l left home. I was travelling by train and stood on the platform with the strap around my neck, the ball of string in the bag, adding rows to the bag even as I wore it! By the time we arrived in Oxford the bag was finished enough to use at the conference the next day. I still wanted to add thickness (extra rows) to the strap, and worked an extra row on Monday night and was happier with it today (Tuesday). I may yet add more to the strap – l haven’t decided. Here it is in its current form.
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The string gives the fabric enough weight that the flap hangs shut without needing a fastening. I would have liked a slightly longer flap but that ball of string ran out and I didn’t want a join where it might be visible. I’m really pleased with the way it’s come out. If time had not been a factor I’d have worked the strap differently but I’m still proud of the finished object.

Of course while I am away in Oxford I am missing my little black horse, so is it any wonder when l saw this postcard I had to buy it?
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Despite the busy schedule here I’m starting to feel much better than I did a few days ago. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before I’m well enough to ride.