Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Belt up

Last week I finally made it to a class at The Make Lounge, after basically everybody I know has been there multiple times without me. Can't think why I haven't before. It's even really close to where I live, and opposite the road where my most-local yarn shop Loop is.

The Make Lounge is a tiny little studio devoted to interesting crafty classes, owned by the very friendly Jennifer, and has been open for nearly a year now. It's really bright and still cosy, and you get free wine, tea and biscuits with your class.

The one I went to was on leather belt-making, so something I figured I could not do at home. The class was run by the very lovely Merle and there were about eight of us doing it. We were given a basic design to work with and allowed to choose dark or light brown leather (or a combo), plus metal hardware in the form of buckles or studs, in gold or silver, then away we went with all the fun stuff. It was quite hard work: cutting the leather (it was very thick), polishing down the edges, conditioning and buffing the surface to a shine, painting the edges with dye, deciding to bevel everything so more polishing, buffing and dyeing... Better than a gym workout for the upper arms. That was even before we moved onto the hole punching and riveting, with rubber mallets, tiny little anvils, and strange punching machinery.

After all that, here's my attempt, modelled by me the next morning in the garden before work:

I also tried to get some shots of round the back to show off the fact that the holes go all the way round for decorative purposes, but it's really hard to twist and take a photo without displaying hideous rolls of fat, so I gave up. This was the best I could do.

Towards the end of the class I decided to use my offcuts to make a matching wrist cuff. It worked perfectly but I probably annoyed the hell out of Jennifer by still being at it well after the supposed end time of the class when she wanted to close up and go home. If you're reading this, my apologies, and thank you for your forbearance.

Jennifer took some photos of the class in progress, and I particularly like this one for the colours of my turquoise nails and mustard dress against the leather.

Gail has done this class before and her belt, different to mine, is here.

All in all not something I'll try at home, what with all the equipment needed, but a brilliant class and good value considering I got the belt and the cuff (and wine, had I wanted any). I'll definitely be going back!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Proud to be...

At the very end of February I had a great weekend "representing", one way or the other.

On the Saturday I met with a group of UK-based members of the Lazy, Stupid & Godless (LSG or lsg if you want to live up to the lazy bit) group on Ravelry. The group was founded on 1 February 2008 - I am pleased to say I was there on day 1 - and so first birthday celebrations took place worldwide during February (taking the whole month Jack Daniels style). We lazily managed it on the last possible day.

For those not members, the group was founded after an argument on the main boards of Ravelry about swearing. Two camps quickly became apparent - those who think that four-letter words show the user to be a stupid moron sitting around scratching their pubes and drooling (but funny how using asterisks makes it all OK, isn't it, hmm?), versus those who consider the judicious use of solid and venerable Anglo-Saxon words to be an augmentation of the vocabulary. And why the fuck not? You know which side I was on, of course. We agreed to pander to the delicate sensibilities of the objectors, refrain from swearing on the "Big 6", and decamped to our own group to be as filthy as we liked. It remains one of the most fun, supportive and kind groups on the whole internet, let alone Ravelry. These really are my kind of people.

We decided to meet up at Prick Your Finger, a yarn shop in Bethnal Green, east London, which is sufficiently quirky for such purposes. Additionally, LSG-member Kirsty was performing an art installation there anyway, so it worked out very well. We arrived in dribs and drabs over the course of a couple of hours, and took over the whole floor for a knit-in, whilst owner Rachael Matthews made us many cups of tea.

We watched Kirsty's Pin Ritual. Her pin-based art is amazing - here's a close-up of one of her hanging pieces:

And the trail of pins she leaves wherever she goes (wear shoes):

Some fab stuff from around the shop:

We then decamped to the nearby pub for pies, alcohol, ice-cream, knitting and good conversation - it is called The Camel but was re-christened The Camel-Toe:

You're all awesome, twatweasels!

The next day I celebrated not my sweariness but my gingerness, at a photographic exhibition called Root Ginger, devoted to redheads. I'd seen something about this before but it was somewhere up north, Wolverhampton I think (yes, as far as I'm concerned that's north, way north), so I was thrilled to see it come to London.

It was fairly small, and consisted of large close-up portraits of redheads, all taken against a white background as if a scientific study. I think they're beautiful, but then I would!

There was also some video and printed interviews about the experiences of the participants with respect to having red hair - inevitably the bullying and teasing, the unthinking slights in folklore (the warning about tea-pouring and the threat of bearing ginger twins, the proverbially unwelcome "redheaded step-child", to name but two), but also the admiring comments from old ladies about children - that used to happen a lot to me too. What was particularly interesting was the number of gingers there. If I'd been manning the front desk, I'd have kept a tally of the redheaded visitors as a proportion of all visitors, and I bet it would have been far higher than the general population. Certainly there were plenty of us on the streets of Shoreditch, headed towards or away from the exhibition. I was able to direct a few people who looked lost, because their hair told me exactly what they were looking for.

Particularly nice to see were the number of ginger children there, and I say that as someone who would normally rather be anywhere but in a gallery full of kids. It is rather isolating - especially if you're the only one in the family like I was - and I thought it was great that they could see other people, celebrating their hair colour, particularly for the little boys who have a hard time of it. I like redheaded men but I know I'm in the minority there. I feel they're often forced to become extroverted to survive school, and to an extent that applies to us girls to in having to live up to our "fiesty" reputation. I'm not complaining, I love my hair as my screen-name suggests, and I wouldn't change it for the world. But it does get a little tiring when people casually say they'd hate to have a ginger child, or when my brother says on his Myspace page he'd do any member of Girls Aloud except for the ginger one because gingers are minging, or even family holidays spent hiding miserably under an umbrella wearing SPF 50 total sun block whilst my quick-tanning family basked on the sand. So of course I loved the exhibition.

Lots of people were having their photo taken with the big sign, so I got the boyfriend to do it for me. It's not a great photo as I have my eyes shut, but it turns out I'm inadvertently mimicing the pose of the child on the programme.

Gingers rule!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Baba Marta

Last week a colleague asked me, out of the blue, "How long does it take for your wool to arrive?" I blinked in slight confusion. To which particular wool of the many stash enhancement packages that arrive at my desk, er, several times a week, could she be referring? Then I realised that to "normal" people, there could quite conceivably only be one type of wool and only one supplier. I'm sure I'd be equally surprised by the variety of things available for any one of a million different past-times.

Anyway, some questioning revealed the rationale behind the question. This particular colleague is from Bulgaria, where there is a tradition of exchanging little red and white woolly things, called Martenitsa, on 1 March, which is a national holiday for the first day of spring. The ornaments placate Baba Marta, who is a crotchety old grandmother/witch - the archetypal crone. They are hung up or worn from 1 March until the owner first sees either a stork, a swallow, or a tree in bloom - if the latter, the ornaments should be tied to the tree (presumably this is not feasible with the stork or the swallow and therefore not required by tradition).

It is acceptable and common to purchase Martenitsa (although not for yourself, you have to exchange), but handmade is best. We therefore headed to John Lewis for wool, beads and other supplies, then spent an enjoyable lunch hour creating the ornaments.

Most of the Martenitsa are based on tassles, and the most traditional are little people, a man and a woman. For these, step 1 involves making a tassle:

And then binding it at various points to make a neck, waist and arms:

After some trimming, and the same process again in reverse colours, you have the couple:

Other kinds of tassles and pom-poms are also fine. I made these in the rest of our session:

Here are some examples of purchased ones, including friendship bracelets which are also popular:

Mine are now hung up on my desk, awaiting the sighting of a tree (storks and swallows not being common in central London):

My colleague also sent me a link to this news story from a Bulgarian website, which shows the street markets in Sofia at which these things are sold. They are all rather more complex than my attempts - I did find the knitter in the one I've linked to most amusing (the others are worth a look too for novel things to do with wool). I admit I tried to steal the photo but the site wouldn't let me, boo.

Happy March, and let's hope it is nearly spring!