Wednesday 31 October 2007

Powerpoint Tango

It's very tedious when the lead is pretty much unaware of my response unless something goes badly wrong. If I dance perfectly, we'll both get some aerobic excercise, and I'll otherwise go unnoticed. It sometimes goes with incessant talking.

I don't know why some people bother. They might as well be dancing with a Playstation, pressing buttons with a requisite sequence and speed. And talking at the same time.

The difference between this, and just walking to the music with someone who's aware of my response, is the difference between Death by Powerpoint and chatting with a friend.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Baby Picture

I think this is my favourite of the photographs I took when I went to visit K and the Moominbaby.

Knitting up the sleeve

Productive labour is wonderful when you've woken up a bit overwrought, dissatisfied with yourself, and worrying about things you can't influence at all. At least, things you can't influence today, and might not want to influence in a saner state of mind.

I've been sitting and knitting in my north-facing window seat, hidden behind the curtains, lit by a low pale silver sky. Outside are purple copper-beech and flame-orange lime trees and the sounds of the street, and children, and crows. This butter-soft angora and the yellow bamboo needles flow around my fingers and fill my attention without demanding anything.

It's a privilege to be able to make a physical thing. My troubles unwind very gently with the ball of wool.

I do like to knit in company with friends. I think my favourite thing to listen to while I knit alone is radio cricket commentary. Sometimes I listen to a podcast, or some music.

Today I just had silence, street noises, and crows.


I think I've become a noticeably better dancer over the last two days. I went dancing on Friday, and I had a couple of rather long sessions dancing with the same men. I usually prefer not to do that, which is why I like DJs who play neat sets of three with interludes between. It increases my chances of dancing with everyone I want to.

But this particular night was a good night to do it. It eliminated other variables and allowed me to remember a few things I'd learned about technique and had in my mind for a while. One after the other I remembered them and worked them in until, for the first time, I felt they were all there and my nervous system understood them. You can think about these things and go to classes all you like, but miles on the clock are so important.

Then on Saturday I went again, kept it together, and found I could do things naturally that I couldn't do before.

I've got a lot out of Paul and Michiko's Canyengue classes. I've never had the opportunity to dance Canyengue socially, but it's done wonders for my tango technique. I'm not quite sure exactly why. I think it's partly to do with not over-twisting, and partly to do with the way you have to learn to lean in and then sometimes pop up again. I think some muscles around my hips have learned to dissociate more, and some muscles in my back have got stronger and better coordinated.

I feel I've got off a plateau and I might be going up again. I don't think I'm going to be able to go dancing at all next weekend, which is a bit of a shame, but I won't forget. There's more energy in my steps now, as well as more control.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Candyfloss Sleeves

This is a pair of sleeves I'm knitting for my sister N. Most people call this a shrug, but I think of it as a pair of sleeves without a parent garment.

Jo at my Wednesday knitting club gave me five balls of this beautiful light-tan Angora. She said it was lovely to knit with but she couldn't stop sneezing, so she decided to give it away to a good home and go back to socks for a while.

I'm hoping it doesn't make N sneeze. I showed her a picture of an Angora rabbit and she said it was 'candyfloss with a bunny face,' but as far as she knows she's not allergic. I seem to be fine so far. The pattern is something I just made up based on the shape of this one at I think there'll probably be enough. N works too hard and has to be kept warm in winter.

Sunday 21 October 2007

The Moomin

The MoominNow here's something I'm proud of. This is the present I knitted for my friend Kaisu's new baby. She has more than enough clothes and blankets - it's impossible to stop people giving you things when you're pregnant - so it seemed to me that a companion would be much better. The proper time to give it to the baby is when it and the baby are more or less the same size. And the proper kind for a Finnish baby was obviously a Moomin.

As far as I know, the Moomin publishing company (whoever they are) haven't got a knitting pattern for a Moomin and I probably wouldn't have wanted to follow it even if they had. But it is well-known what they look like, and once you know how to increase, decrease, do short rows, and graft, you can knit any shape you like. I don't suppose the publisher will mind that I've made just one Moomin but I think it would be rude to publish full instructions. They do sell Moomins made out of fur fabric, but I don't really like them. they don't seem alive. And the whole point was to knit something.

It was made on 4.5mm needles with Cygnet Superwash double knitting wool. The general algorithm was like this:

  • I started at the top of the head by casting on a circle of stitches on four needles. But provisionally, using a crochet chain.
  • I increased symmetrically at each side for a while until I was where the hinge of the jaw should be.
  • I divided the stitches, two thirds for the body and one third for the face, and knitted the face first. I put the body stitches on a holder. Using a provisional cast on, I cast on enough stitches to go across under the chin, and knitted a tube without increasing to where the chin should start to curve; then I did two sets of short rows on the underside, separated by a couple of centimetres, like two darts that go right across the bottom half of the jaw, to make the fat chin. Then I decreased as though I was making the toe of a sock, grafted the end of the nose together, and fastened off.
  • Now I went back to the stitches on the holder and picked them up, and the under-the-chin stitches, to make a second tube. I knitted the body, increasing symmetrically at two points on either side of the belly for about the first third. Then I knitted the second third straight, and for the last third decreased symmetrically at six points until I ran out of stitches, and fastened off. Like making a hat.
  • I stuffed it quite firmly from the top (remember the top of the head is still an open circle), pulled out the crochet chain and grafted the top of the head together.
  • Next I knitted the arms and legs seperately, stuffed them, and sewed them on using their long ends and taking the opportunity to reinforce the sides of the head, where the stitches are under a bit of strain. The arms are just tubes with sock toes. The legs have little heels as well, but not proper sock heels, just a few short rows to make the feet curl around. I placed them so that the Moomin could sit down comfortably with its little feet just sticking out.
  • The tail is a long I-cord with some tassells knotted into the end (very carefully - I don't want the baby to pull them out and choke on them). I sewed it on invisibly using fake grafting.
  • Now I knitted two little triangles and sewed them on to the top of the head for ears, using fake grafting again so that they seem to grow out of the head. The purl side is at the front. The seam for each is slightly crescent-shaped, with the hollow side at the front, so that the ears sit up nicely.
  • I embroidered the washing instructions under the tail in black. I just took them off the ball band - machine wash at 40C. The stuffing is washable too.
  • Last of all, I embroidered the eyes. This has to be last because it makes it live. Then I put him in a box and posted him home.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

An apology

I'd like to apologise to the young man I danced with at Negracha on Friday. I snapped at you when you tried to explain what you wanted me to do, and I was ashamed of myself at once because you were perfectly nice to dance with. I was the woman in the red dress who you think is a horrible bitch now. I dance OK but I'm not that hot and I sometimes forget what a battle-axe my tongue is. And when you didn't understand me, I said it again! I'm very sorry and I understand if you never want to dance with me again.