Monday, 27 October 2014

Grayson Perry's The Vanity of Small Differences

I've been meaning to visit Grayson Perry's The Vanity of Small Differences ever since it opened at Temple Newsam, near Leeds back in August.  I have never seen any of his works in the flesh so I was more than happy to get the opportunity to pop to Leeds last week and see this exhibition.  
Grayson Perry image from exhibition book cover

While I was inside the house Mr D and Fizz explored the house's extensive grounds. Fizz chased squirrels and swam in the lake for extra fun!  The entrance fee of £4.50 allows you into the house and exhibition  (free for Art Fund members).  I took the opportunity to look around the house before making my way to the second floor where the exhibition was held. The house has some interesting elements (and super friendly and helpful staff) but I would not have gone had it not been for the exhibition.  My lasting impression of the house is of it being quite dark (the tapestries themselves were well lit) so seeing the first (of six) of the exhibition tapestries in all its bright multi colour glory made a vivid impact.  

The six tapestries follow the life of Tim Rakewell and his rise through the social classes. Each one explores an element of his life from birth to death. They are jam packed with visual and cultural references of modern life so there is lots to look at!  The exhibition wasn't very busy so I was able to sit in front of each one, take in the work and try and work out the story before reading the notes in the informative free leaflet.  The tapestries did not dominate the space they were hung in which made sitting and looking at them a really enjoyable experience.
grayson perry tapestry one photo from postcard
Unlike a lot of Modern Art, Perry's series of tapestries for The Vanity of Small Differences was really easy to engage with and understand.  There was a lot of text sewn into the tapestries which explained the story of each one.  Some of this text was obvious but there was also hidden words which took some seeing!  

I would highly recommend seeing this if you are interested in art of any genre.  I got a lot out seeing the tapestries and would happily go back again.  There is so much visual information that you would spot different things each time.  Mr D and I can also recommend the cafe in the Stable Courtyard, a short walk from the house itself.  We had lunch there (Mr D a burger and I the stew) both made  using the estates own rare breed meat.  Very nice indeed! The Vanity of Small Differences is at Temple Newsam until the 7th December 2014. 

Have you been anywhere recently? Let me know........ 

fizz laying outside of temple newsam

Friday, 24 October 2014

Holiday knitting

Its taken a while but I have finally decided on my knitting projects to take with me to the Isle of Lewis.  A few considerations had to be kept in mind including space in the car and the difficulty of the pattern.  Space wise, despite having an average sized family car, traveling with a large dog is a bit like travelling with children.  They need space (Fizz has the boot to herself) not to mention the paraphernalia that accompanies them.  Food, treats, toys, beds, dog towels and not forgetting lots of dog bags all have to go on the back seats of the car along with our suitcase, holiday baking, wellies / boots and food for the journey. This meant that my holiday knitting projects need to be as compact as possible   I also want to take a variety of projects so garment knitting was out.

West Yorkshire Spinners 4ply socks for Mr D
I didn't want anything too difficult. It is a holiday after all and I didn't want to be sitting there on an evening getting stressed by a particularly taxing project!  And so my following choices were made.  

Mr D has been interested in a pair of socks ever since I finished my first pair in March.  He choose the wool himself and as he only wants plain socks they are an ideal project to take.  The pattern includes and explains the maths to make different sizes so I had the joy of measuring his feet to work out how many stitches I needed to cast on.  Not something I am overly happy about and still recovering from the experience!  These were cast on this week as I want them to be my car knitting project (when I'm not driving I quickly add!).

I have chosen three other projects (there may be an additional one sneaked in at the last minute) based on the designers being super fab people and the patterns being straightforward but interesting!  The first is Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns Dufton hat 
pattern.  I will be using Victoria's new 
Eden Cottage Yarns Dufton hat pattern diamond pattern
Whitfell Chunky baby alpaca, which I wrote about last month.  The hat has a nice diamond cable pattern which all nicely meet at the crown of the hat.  Hopefully there will be some photos of me modelling my finished hat next month!  With the left over wool I am going to make Victoria's Langrigg fingerless mitts. This will be first attempt at thumb holes as my previous mitts have been straightforward tubes. 

Last but no means least is is Clare Devine's Vaila shawl.  Clare herself has knitted this shawl in the same Brigantia yarn as my Lush cardigan.  It just so happens that I have one skein left so it was obviously meant to be.  There are a couple of things I love about this pattern.  First, it can be knitted in any weight of wool and Claire has provided notes in the pattern regarding this.  Secondly it is perfect holiday knitting.  Due to its construction you have nice easy garter stitch with a little bit on concentration at the start or end of a row!  

vaila pattern by clare devine shawl lace border
So these are my holiday knitting projects.  I can't wait to be sitting in our holiday cottage looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. A glass of something by my chair and Fizz snoring away in front of the fire!


Monday, 20 October 2014

Woolly news: October 2014

Lacy scarf blockingSince Septembers Woolly News I am very happy to report that I have finished my lacy scarf  which I had entered as part of the WIP Crack Away KAL.  Originally I had planned to keep working on the scarf until I had used all the wool. I realised half way through that if I continued to the end the scarf would be long enough to wrap around not only me but Fizz and Mr D as well.  I cast off with 33g of wool left and the scarf nicely wraps around my neck several times.  With the remaining wooI I might see if I can make some wrist warmers or something similar.  

I was on a roll after finishing a WIP so I next planned to work on the cabled cushion cover.  This was cast on in August having purchased the kit at Woolfest.  Progress had stalled once I hit the cabled section as my stitch count was all over the place.  How annoying is that?  I'm certain user error was to blame but, in my defence, I was also finding the pattern hard to follow and was getting zero enjoyment out of it as a result.  I did love the New Lanark wool the kit came with but that's all.  After a moan on the WIP Crack Away thread on Ravelry I decided to frog the whole thing.  Not a decision I took lightly I hasten to add!

Ammolite cowl tin can knits after graduation meal
My Ammolite and OU Alumni badge

Now a confession.  I have also not been faithful to the WIP Crack Away KAL and casted on a couple of projects (sorry Louise and Nic).  I had a good excuse for one as it was to wear after my graduation.  This was the Tin Can Knits Ammolite Cowl.  The wool was purchased at Woolfest from The Little Grey Sheep who I  mentioned in my Yarndale post.  It was bought specifically to make the cowl for my graduation but I left it until the week before to cast on!  It was plain sailing though and I love the end result. The Gotland Aran in the OMG! colourway was brilliant to knit with.  A perfect combination to wear after a great day.  

Close up Ammolite cowl Tin Can Knits Gotland Aran

The second project I have no excuse for.  Its the dreaded Beekeeper's Quilt which I will probably finish when I am eighty!  I am not doing hexi puffs but flats as I can't see how the puffs would be practical.  Also absolutely no wool will be bought for this project as I using my 4ply / sock wool leftovers.  The hexi's are easy knitting which requires no thought.  I won't bore you with my progress every month, when I get to a hundred hexi flats I will let you know!  So far I have made seventeen so there is a long way to go.
tin can knits vivid blanket for new baby in west yorkshire spinners aire valley bright colours

More blanket news. I am still working the odd round on my crochet blanket.  It's my Social Knitwork project of choice as I can hook and talk at the same time!  Last week I cast on the Vivid blanket also by Tin Can Knits.  This is for a new family member due at the end of January.  I am using West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley DK, the colour choice was ably assisted by Mr D.  So far I have finished two squares and I like how the wool is knitting up and how well it blocks.  The squares are a bit fiddly to start with but I found them easier magic looping them rather than using double pointed needles.  There is a real danger I will not want to hand this blanket over once its finished! 

Well I think that me done.  What have you all been working on this month? 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Pre holiday rituals

Do you have any pre holiday tasks you do before you go away? I usually bake a couple of tubs of treats that we eat after walking Fizz each morning. 

At the end of the month we are heading off to the Isle of Lewis so I am starting to think about holiday baking. I pretty much make the same thing - Rice crispy cakes (always) and Nutty Nellies.

Childhood recipe toffee crispy cakesI first made the 'Toffee Crispies' (they are known to us as Rice Crispy cakes) when I was about nine years old.  I hand wrote the recipe which was given to me by a neighbour.  There are lots of similar versions available but I thought I would share mine with you (and as a back up in case I ever loose my bit of paper!).  I always make double the quantity as Mr D and I love them.

Toffee Crispy's
100g Margarine
100g Toffee
100g Marshmallows
100g Rice Crispys

In a large saucepan gently melt the margarine, toffee and marshmallows together.  
Once melted remove from the heat and gently stir in the rice crispys. 
Press the mixture into a shallow greased tin and leave to cool. 
Slice into chunks and enjoy with a cup of tea! 

The Nutty Nellies recipe is one my class made when I was in Year 6.  I don't know where the recipe came from but this is exactly how I was given it! 
school recipe handout nutty nellies

Nutty Nellies
1 Mug Self Raising Flour
1 Mug Oats
4 oz Sugar
4oz Margarine
1 Dessert spoon  Golden Syrup
1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda (dissolved in 1 tablespoon of boiling water)

Mix the flour, sugar and oats together
Gently melt the syrup and margarine together
Dissolve the bicarbonate in the boiling water and add it to the margarine and syrup
Mix all the ingredients together
Form into walnut sized pieces and arrange of a greased tray (make sure they have space as they do spread out)
Bake at Gas Mark 5 or 190C for approx 19 minutes. The biscuits should be golden brown.
Allow to cool slightly before lifting into a cooling rack.

My thoughts are also turning on what books and knitting projects to take with me. I will let you know what I decide. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Graduation Day with the Open University.

As some of you know I finished my last module for my Art History degree with the Open University this spring. I started way back in 2006 not really knowing what I wanted to study but certain I wanted to work towards a degree.  My first module, an introductory one, covered lots of different subjects including History, Literature, Classical Studies and Art History.  The module was really interesting and to my surprise I really enjoyed the Art History sections and I decided that was what I would focus my degree on.

Looking back an awful lot has happened during my time as an Open University student. We have moved house twice, Fizz became part of our family, there have been big changes for both myself and Mr D at work, my Grandma passed away after a long illness, I've gained new friends and learnt new skills.  Through it all my focus on gaining a degree with the Open University has been unwavering despite the stress and hard work involved.  I have studied such a wide range of topics from Renaissance art to 20th Century art and written dissertations on two completely different themes (cadaver tombs in England and 20th Century public sculpture!).  I was also lucky enough to attend Queen Mary's University, London for a weeks residential module - shattering but absolutely brilliant.

My final module finished in March this year with an exam in a very wet Nottingham.  After the exam I felt a mixture of relief that (results pending) this was my degree finished and fear in case I had messed up!  I need not have worried, I passed and was awarded a 2.1 BA (Hons) in Humanities with Art History at the end of April.  

Open University Graduation Manchester 2014

I graduated last Friday at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.  While I have had several months to come to terms with being awarded my degree it hadn't really sunk in that after all those years I have finished! I still expect the next module's books to land on my doorstep and to feel the excitement of starting a new module.  So arriving in Manchester with Mr D and donning my robes was all a bit odd!  I'm also the first in my family to get a degree so my parents, when they arrived at the hall, were a little bit shocked by the whole thing despite my efforts to prepare them! 

Video clip of the academic procession

open University manchester 2014 graduation ceremonySitting waiting for the ceremony to start with fellow graduates it finally started to sink in that this was it.... I had done what I had set out to achieve back in 2006!  As the ceremony started there were a lot of us in tears as it brought home what we had achieved.  Recognition was also given to the support provided by close family and friends which set us all off in tears again!  I'm pleased to report that, despite the emotions, I didn't fall up the steps when it was my turn to be presented on stage but there were more tears at the end when all of us stood and were applauded for our achievements. It was such a proud moment standing there seeing my Mum, Dad and Mr D clapping and waving away.  And then it was over as we all walked out behind the Open University mace, the pro-chancellor and academic staff. 

Open university graduation 2014 manchester me and FizzIt was then Fizz's moment of glory with her Mum!  She has had to put up with me huffing and puffing, talking to myself and the odd tear while I have been working through my modules, assignments and revision notes! As you can see she was completely overcome with emotion yawning away! That pretty much ends the day - I was physically and emotionally exhausted and just about managed to eat some pizza and have a glass of wine on the way home!! 

my mum with my graduation cakeOn Saturday I had a party with family and friends which was great. My Mum and Dad had arranged a surprise graduation cake including an egg free one! Sunday was spent recovering! It still feels odd having finished my degree as working towards it has been such a massive part of my life for the last 8 years.  Whether it was actively working on a module or enjoying a summer break before the next one started.  I will never me able to thank my different tutors in person so I just want to say here THANK YOU to everyone who has had a part large or small in my degree.  Its time to start planning the next chapter in my life! 

Monday, 6 October 2014

My patchwork quilt

Let me start at the very beginning of this project. First off I am not a sewer and have only the most basic hand sewing skills.  Secondly last summer (2013) my neighbour popped around to show me a fabulous patchwork quilt she had made in her twenties. It was made from odds of fabric including a dress from her mother and all hand sewn! I loved it and thought it was a great that she still had it after all these years. 

fabric for my hand sewn quilt
My fabric collection
A few days later she sent me a text saying to pop over.  As there is often a glass of wine included in these visits I said I would be round! To cut a long story short she had made up a little pack to get me started on my own quilt, including a template identical to the one used on her quilt, some assortments of fabric, pins and a needle and thread (I insisted that I had my own thread but she is a very organised person who thinks of everything!).  So off I started on my own quilt in her lounge with a nice glass of red. And it started there....... 

Over a year later I am embarrassed by how little progress I have made.  While my fabric collection has grown through donations, charity shops, Mr D's shirts and the odd off cut purchased, the quilt has not grown to the same extent! So far I have made a grand total of....... 13 segments. In July I sewed together the segments I had made so far.  I decided its a bit like sewing in ends and if you don't do them as you go along you end up with loads which makes it a chore. 

my 13 segments hand sewn quilt
My progress so far!

I get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment from completing a segment despite stabbing myself with the little pins and muttering under my breath.  So here we are; I'm hoping that by making my quilt public it might spur me into picking up some of the bits of fabric and adding to my small completed pile a bit more often than I currently do! 

hand sewn quilt segment
My most recent segment

What is you longest ongoing project?  Any motivational tips?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The year in Books: October

I did it!  I finished Atonement by Ian McEwan in a month as part of Circle of Pine Trees 'The Year in Books'! Here are my thoughts on the book.

The good
I really enjoyed how the book was structured (each chapter had clearly defined sections).  This helped me to set goals of where to read up to which helped with my concentration levels and the speed I read at.
The story itself was well written and I especially enjoyed the sections from Robbie's viewpoint while he was in France and Bryany's while working as a nurse in London. I did however, find her character annoying before this part! 
I had an interesting discussion with Mr D after I had finished the book.  He has seen the film but not read the book and I have not seen the film.  While agreeing that the the 'wrong' could never be put right regardless of the attempts made we disagreed with what happened to Cecilia and Robbie! I now need to watch the film to see if it's my misunderstanding of the book or if the film was made with some artistic license!

The not so good
Finding a live spider in the pages of my book as I was about to read in bed one night!

My next book
A year in books photo of my October choiceMy October choice for The Year in Books is from The Man Booker prize shortlist for 2014 'We are all  completely beside ourselves' by Karen Joy Fowler.  The Book People were doing a great offer, all the short listed books for £30 so I decided to buy them rather than waiting for my library to eventually get them in!   I will let you know how I get on next month! 

Would love to hear what you are all reading at the moment...........