Friday, November 26, 2010

A Poem Today

The Explosion
by Philip Larkin

On the day of the explosion

Shadows pointed towards the pithead
In the sun the slagheap slept

Down the lane came men in pitboots
Coughing oath-edged talk and pipe-smoke;
Shouldering off the freshened silence.

One chased after rabbits; lost them;
Came back with a nest of lark's eggs;
Showed them; lodged them in the grasses.

So they passed in beards and moleskins,
Fathers, brothers, nicknames, laughter,
Through the tall gates standing open.

At noon, there came a tremor; cows
Stopped chewing for a second; sun
Scarfed as in a heat-haze, dimmed.

The dead go on before us, they
Are sitting in God's house in comfort,
We shall see them face to face -

Plain as lettering in the chapels
It was said, and for a second
Wives saw men of the explosion

larger than in life they managed -
Gold as on a coin, or walking
Somehow from the sun towards them,

One showing the eggs unbroken.

RIP Pike River Miners

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Grandmother....

My always knitting, often reading, Coro watching, Doric speaking, cake baking, thimble collecting, wool spinning, berry picking, lemon growing, cat owning, goat owning, Morris Traveller driving, hat and glove wearing, church going, picnic organising, beach combing 90 year old Grandma died yesterday afternoon. 

She was my rock, my love, and always my inspiration.  Her journey took her from Aberdeen in Scotland, to the North of England, and finally and permanently to Nelson, New Zealand.  She had the coolest swimming togs ever, a university education (majoring in mathematics, she wanted to teach high school maths but the authorities of the time decreed a young woman could only teach infants), had 5 children (4 of them girls, my mother was the eldest), supported her GP husband and worked herself, and was always, always knitting (and sometimes spinning and dyeing as well).

I remember a busy, never quite tidy house full of young adults and children, family and friends, books and wool and records and cake tins and cold cuts and salad and hardboiled eggs, and the magnets on the fridge holding up our drawings. In the garden cats and dogs and goats and guinea pigs and lemon trees, tricycles and tennis rackets, Grandad watering his roses and Uncle Rod having a smoke.  And in the middle of it, knitting with a cat on her lap, I see my lovely Grandma and I just want to snuggle in her warmth and feel that uncontrollable smile that would creep over my face as a child when I knew I was about to see my Grandma.

So, tonight I shall knit.  A cat may or may not condescend to sit with me, but I think I'll be happy all the same.

Knit Tech

My knitting and vintage loving buddies will understand:

I got into a minor bidding war over this, ended up paying about twice what I meant to, but I'm so pleased to have it I'm not complaining (and I still got a bargain, I'm just cheap).  It's an M.P. Handy Guide for Knitting and Crochet.

Look, it's even on Wikipedia (why is that not spelt Wikipaedia?):

(scroll down to "Complex Row Counters").

Yes, the sliders do stick a bit, but only a bit, I'm finding it insanely useful.  Although I probably shouldn't be using it being a museum piece and all ;-)

Keen eyed obsessive knitters might also spot my new knitting technology.  Oh yes, Addi Clicks!  Handy!  Although they the joins do catch a bit when knitting with the smaller size needles.  Good thing I also have my Knit Picks.  Can't have too many needles, specially when you're a little knitting ADD and have to start a new project every other day...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Passion and Buttons

Despite it being more sub-Antarctic than sub-tropical today, my passion fruit vine is flowering for the first time.  Very strange looking flowers.  One of the feijoas I planted about 7 years ago is about to flower for the first time as well.  It hasn't been a warm spring, but it has been very wet, and we didn't have any frosts over the winter, so maybe that's fooled my brave subtropicals.  The challenge will be to keep them well watered over the summer, and sheltered from the endless wind.

Buttons!  Who is "the vintage button lady" who has a stall at Fabric-a-Brac?  I need another fossick through her enormous collection - this pic is just a small corner of her table!  I was hoping to find some nice big buttons for the test knit I'm working on, but I'm just not far enough through the knit to know what I really want for it.  hopefully she'll turn up at a craft fair soon so I can have another hunt.

Zoe unfailing managed to pick out the most expensive buttons which I refused to buy ($20 each!), but she did score herself a pretty blue rose print silk scarf for $2 (clutched in her arm there).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Authorised Economy Standards

I've been reading lots of old magazines this week, mostly knitting but some general "women's interest" as well.  There will have to be a post of "no, you really shouldn't have!" pictures, but for today my inner historian is sneaking out.

Starting with the 1940s - going by this booklet, wartime Wellington lasses were a stylish if slender lot, all those American G.I.s to impress:

I adore this, Knitted in Powder and Navy Blue:

All these designs are in one size, and that size is slender - catering to 32"-35" busts only.  And should you be "over-slim"?  "..a clinging jumper does accentuate your slimness.  "Rucking" on the other hand gives that essential touch of fullness".

I also love this, "A delightful frock for the girl of 16 or 17".  Those sleeves are perfect, but so much knitting at 6sts/inch.  (Could be worse, most of these patterns are at 7-8sts/inch).

This next little publication was produced in "complete conformity with the Authorised Economy Standards", placing it firmly in the 1940s.  I suspect late 1940s rather than wartime - several reasons, colour, glossy paper, and the overall look and styling of the clothes and photographs, and also the term "Authorised Economy Standards" rather than "War Economy Standard".  I haven't been able to find out too much about wartime paper rationing and book publishing restrictions, but apparently paper continued to be rationed in Britain until 1949.

I find it slightly unnerving that the world I was born into was much more like the world c1950 than the world of today.  In the 1970s we wore those brown leather shoes, Mary Janes or lace ups (Charlie Browns!), boys wore school shorts (even to no uniform schools) and we all had home knitted jerseys which our mothers handwashed in Lux flakes (and then tied up in an old pair of pantihose for a quick spin in the washing machine).

Lux in 1950, and Woolworths in the days when every department store sold knitting yarns, still stressing the "economy":

How exciting was 1950?

You've waited for it, you've asked for it -and here it is!  The Lux Knitting Book is back after 8 years of wartime restriction and paper shortage, to keep faith with its friends all over Australia and New Zealand.

But imagine knitting this in "crochet wool"?  Life can't have been that exciting...  Here's a graphic version of the same frock, looking very 1950s.

Things were certainly looking up in 1950, from Stitch magazine June 1950 (a new find for me, Stitch was published in New Zealand from at least the 1940s to the 1970s, an absolute treasure trove of social and fashion history in NZ, more on Stitch later...):

"There are definitely better supplies of "Viyella" and "Clydella" available, but unfortunately the stage has not yet been reached when all demands can be satisfied."

Of course, we all knew about wartime rationing, but this I hadn't thought about:

Now, you can't read that, but it says:

All knitting enthusiasts will have read about the tremendous price increases there have been in raw wool prices in the last 18 months.  Prices at the Australian wool auctions have rocketed.
  The effect in Britain has been that some knitting wools have become difficult to obtain and many new synthetic yarns have been introduced but these synthetics do not knit up the same as wool.
  All this has been a bit confusing for the knitter, so Stitchcraft, which always features designs in Patons yarns, is glad to be able to put the picture straight as far as these yarns are concerned.

The message goes on to explain that "the original Patons wools have been imperceptibly blended with a proportion of man-made fibres" and that the new blends are machine-washable, "which is quite an advantage".

Blend in synthetics, keep the price down.  Clever Patons!  Anyway, food for thought as surely the end of cheap reliable wool sources had an impact on the decline of knitting and the rise of synthetics in the 1970s.  A bit of quick Google "research" points to the establishment of the Australian Wool Board, which could buy up wool that didn't meet reserve, and later the introduction of an guaranteed minimum reserve, both measures intended to shore up wool prices that had slumped to an all time low by 1970 - much to the joy of British knitters, not so great for the Australian sheep farmers.  I also suspect it has something to do with Britain joining the EEC in 1973, but I can't quite put my finger on it (I must have missed that lecture and I don't seem to have an inner economist, sorry!). 

Finally, you reward for sticking with me this far, a warts and all depiction of nursing according to Woman and Home 1957:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Go here tomorrow....

If it's at all convenient and you like fabric, buttons, patterns etc etc....

I thought I'd take my girly while the boys are off doing this:

It's pretty cute.  I'm searching the vintage pattern hoard for a cricket vest to knit the lad.  Maybe I'll find one at Fabric-a-Brac!

Monday, November 8, 2010

GIB, Captain Underpants and Mary Plain

A pic for Mary: the evidence is mounting up.

Yup, we have a 6 year old boy in the house. Captain Underpants is giving Zac Power a good run for his money 'though. Tonight Ryan told me they (the Captain Underpants characters) know they're in a book, and wondered if we might be in a book, or maybe the whole universe....
There he goes, Captain Underpants with the Toilet Paper of Doom.

For a bit of a break from scatological gadgets we're also reading the positively ancient Mary Plain (in the slightly less ancient 1970s editions from my childhood). My kids really like them - I think it's because Mary is so naughty, and they like her picture writing.  It's particularly good when her picture writing is naughty!  I used to Love Mary Plain, I remember convincing myself that the "bear pits" at Newtown Park Zoo were in fact the Bear Pits at Berne.  I was pretty convinced.  

We only have these four much loved Mary books (3 of mine, one from a school fair - which sparked the reading) and they are sadly out of print.  I can feel a new 2nd hand shop obsession coming on... 

Quick and Random

That title perhaps promises more excitement than this post can deliver...

I accidentally took a photo of my foot walking down Cuba Street.  Which lead me to ponder the proportion of asphalt to chewing gum.

A pic for Pippa - this is what you need to keep those pesky cats off your garden!

A fine day lead to a fine night (if you can call 6pm night) and Fish and Chips on the beach.  We have some good F&C shops here in Island Bay, we prefer "the yellow one".  Always fresh, never (too) greasy.  And there's a Batman in the toy-grabber machine (which I never let my kids have money for because I'm so mean).

Munch, munch, munch...

...and wipe your hands on your shirt.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I am more than a little bit over the crappy weather we've been having pretty much all year, but today is lovely so here's hoping it's the start of better things.  I wonder what it's like to live somewhere with predictable weather?  Imagine living somewhere where it doesn't blow a gale for three months of every year and doesn't rain for weeks on end, and actually gets properly warm for more than 3 weeks in summer! 

But then when would I get to wear my hats and cardies?  I think I could cope, I'd get to wear my dresses and swimming togs instead and I think I could handle that.

The man's considering mo-vembering.  Hmm, all for a good cause I know, but no kisses for him if he does.

I got a haircut and new dress (more on that another day).

I could not resist this waffle maker at half price.

The tomatoes I grew from last year's seeds have moved from the window sill to a pot on the deck and are flourishing.

The last of our trees to blossom, the others are all green leaves now.

We've been playing a lot of swingball when the weather is kind to us.

Summery looking plants are taking over from the spring ones.

The big old bush rose smells even better than it looks.

I'm knitting two different things with two different golden wools.

The kids are totally engrossed in Medieval Playmobil world.  Somebody keeps buying 2nd hand Playmobil off Trademe...  The castle isn't Playmobil, it's something a bit cheaper.  Zoe save up for months to buy it.

The sad little lemon is putting on lots of new growth after sitting quietly all winter (as to be expected).

Raspberries and California Poppies always do well, I do love pretty and/or tasty weeds :-)

The cabbage trees are flowering, attracting gazillions of bees.  These smell amazing too, sort of like vanilla, but sweeter.

And that's how I'd like to think November looks in Wellington.  The 4th coolest city to visit next year.  If that's not damning with faint praise...