How clever an idea is this? In The Button Box: Lifting the Lid on Women’s Lives Lynn Knight, beginning with her Grandma’s button box, describes the clothes worn by members of her own family and all the sewing, altering and mending that went on. From this family story she develops a history of women’s clothes, fashions (not at all the same thing), domestic lives and working conditions. For instance, a linen button, taken from the box, leads to an account of what they were used for, how they were made and what life was like for the women who made them. This is social history anyone can enjoy; it’s as easy to read as a novel. I very much like the way quotations from novels are used to illustrate a point.

For people of a certain age (me), there’s a lot of nostalgia in the sections dealing with the fifties onwards. Cuticura! I can’t even remember what it was (something for nails, I imagine), yet the name leapt off the page at me. Paper nylon petticoats! Coty L’Aimant! I even wore that myself in the sixties. Lynn Knight is very good at describing women’s longing for clothes they can’t have/afford, especially in wartime. She is in no doubt that clothes *matter*.
more )

I decided I ought to rename these socks because so much of the knitting was done watching the preposterous Outlander. I’ve now seen the first eleven hours and probably won’t watch the rest when they become available. I got rather tired of seeing the bag-of-bones heroine getting her clothes ripped off in every episode and even more tired of the programme’s anti-Englishness. Query: why is full frontal female nudity considered acceptable for mainstream television, but not male? Is there actually a rule about it?

Back to the socks. I like them, they fit well, you can wear the cuff turned up or down. Unfortunately every attempt to photograph them actually on my feet was a failure. Yesterday evening I started another pair, which will be more interesting to make.

The sock yarns which I ordered from Black Sheep Wools on Friday arrived the next day and I cast on. These are plain socks with a cable cuff. They don’t look like anything yet but at least I’m knitting again and quite keen to get on with this project.
Black Sheep Wools have 15% off all sock yarns. I’ve always found their service very good and have placed my order. Perhaps it will bring back my knitting mojo.


This photo shows most of yesterday’s non-food purchases at the market. First up, a master class in buying at boot sales.
Me: ‘How much is this?’ (the Monica Dickens book).
Seller: ‘£1.50.’
Me: ‘Too much,’ (puts book back in box).
Seller: ‘50p.’
Me: ‘OK’ (hands over money).

One of my favourite sellers there had what were for him unusual items: three boxes of 45s, all apparently from the sixties. Two blokes (it’s always men) were already looking very carefully through them but I didn’t have the patience. Since the price was ‘three for a pound’ I thought I would just get a few. Amusingly, the giant of a man standing next to me kept handing me records he’d already looked at. ‘Del Shannon?’ ‘Do you like the Everlys?’ When I asked how he could judge my tastes so accurately, he replied, ‘I’m guessing you’re about the same age as I am’! Flattering? Probably not.

The last buy was one I really shouldn’t have made: more knitting patterns. I do not need any more knitting patterns and I have no room for them.
Dark and wet this morning but there were still plenty of sellers. I bought rather a lot. For example

ha ha! )

Rather grandiose, to use Hopkins for a post about knitting but I love the poem. At the market yesterday, I bought a Cath Kidston thread tin, which contained some old Sylko threads. The threads are now in my thread box (an old shoe box), though why I keep them when I do so little sewing, I don’t know. I spent part of the evening sorting out all my knitting accessories to store them together in the tin. Who knew I had so much? Tape measures, sewing needles, cable needles, a crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches, stitch holders, stitch markers, four different row counters, those little rubber things that stop your stitches falling off the ends of the needle, needle gauges …and more. Where did it all come from? The tin is full and now quite heavy. And why do I have more than one of almost everything I need? Before reorganising, I had to rummage in my two knitting bags for what I needed so I hope this is an improvement. Are you a tidy knitter?


I also bought a large bag of yarn. It really is time I started another project.
See also What’s in your sewing box?.
I haven't done one of these posts for a while. The market was heaving this morning. I drove down in murky weather with my lights on and back again in bright sunshine. It would be a beautiful, warm spring day here if the wind were less sharp. Even so I have the greenhouse open, the fleece off, the washing line cleaned for use (it was green) and plan to garden this afternoon.

I bought books today, the first time in ages. One of them was a very good buy for 50p.


An enormous pile of old knitting patterns and booklets. Not that I need any more but I love looking at them and even charity shops charge up to a pound each for them nowadays.


Sanctuary and other nice toiletries. The boxes are a little worn but that doesn't matter.


Plus the usual fruit and veg and I enjoyed some pleasant banter and haggling, so a good trip.
In spite of the foul weather, there were plenty of buyers and sellers at the market. Last week, I had to make an informed guess that the filthy, grey objects viewed in semi-darkness were actually lovely blue Whitefriars vases. No need for guesswork today as this one came with a label and was mine for £5.00. I think it needs a second clean-up.


Cheap sparklies, £2.00. I love the bracelet.


Five knitting magazines, £1.00.


Three DVDs for those long, dark evenings when there’s nothing on television and I want to knit.


Stamp album that would only interest me. I saved £10.00 off the sellers’ prices by haggling. You don’t ask, you don’t get.

While on the subject of shopping, let me recommend a product I’ve just bought: Uniqlo cord leggings. They look like trousers but they’re pull-ons (with belt loops), you don’t know you’re wearing them and they’re nice and skinny. And cheap!
One of those ‘I’ll have to take this bag back to the car before I carry on’ days. They happen every now and then. Here’s some of my bargains. First up, I bought some stamps, which I’m *very* pleased with and can’t wait to go through. Next, these two vases, £1.00 each.


They were absolutely filthy but to the experienced eye they said, ‘might be Whitefriars.’ Now that I’ve scrubbed them up, I’m sure that they are.


A stack of knitting patterns, £1.50. From the same seller, some cheap and useful stationery and this Doulton ‘Watteau’ plate for my blue and white shelf, £1.00.


More china: Royal Albert ‘Flower of the Month’ for Christmas. £1.50


And how about this? ‘Free books. Please help yourself.’ So I did.


Plus some other quite ordinary things which were still good buys. Phew!

In other news, our mild spell continues. I have the stable door open and it’s warm enough for gardening. The trouble is, everything is dripping wet, which would make the gardening rather uncomfortable. That’s my excuse, anyway.
Steve McQueen and The Beatles made an unlikely connection between two BBC4 programmes I’ve watched this week: Knitting’s Golden Age and Neil Brand’s series Sound of Cinema.

I was disappointed by the knitting programme. The films were good, especially the old black and white shots of women knitting Fair Isle patterns at astonishing speed while herding sheep at the same time. It was the voice over which was the problem; I felt it had a slightly mocking tone throughout which was at odds with the seriousness of the knitters. As for the old patterns, I seem to have most of them! The Beatles appeared because they popularized black polo neck (roll neck, according to the prog.) sweaters which everyone then wanted.


Polo necks were cool, as shown by the fact that cool people wore them, like Steve McQueen in Bullit.


I confess I still think black polo necks are pretty cool, also Cuban heels. Blue, not so much. I couldn’t agree with the programme makers that knitwear went out completely in the 1980s and 90s.


This oversized sweater by Nicole Farhi is from that era, as is this BikBok cardigan.


The Beatles turned up again in Sound of Cinema, illustrating the innovative use of pop music in films; in their case, using their own songs in A Hard Day’s Night (still one of my favourite films) instead of employing a composer. We also had a brief glimpse of Adam Faith in Beat Girl, Yay! I’ve yet to see that film. Then there was Steve McQueen, in his blue polo neck, epitomizing cool to the soundtrack of Bullit. I’m enjoying this film series very much but there should have been a health warning before yesterday’s episode. Viewers of New Tricks this week were warned that it contained ‘upsetting’ scenes. What? It was nothing at all, you see worse things on the news every day of the week. No warning, though, that Sound of Cinema would include scenes from films by Quentin Tarentino. I had to look away; I could never watch anything of his.
Bad news: no books. Plenty of other bargains to be had, though.
A cute little cyclamen for £1.00


A huge bag of baby knitting yarn (there’s more than this),


plus thrown in a couple of stamps for my new card making project. I am definitely not going to get hooked on it!


All the money for those to Help for Heroes.
Circular knitting needles, 50p each. You know what they cost!


Why did I buy an old chocolate box?


Because it has stamp mounts inside. Like the needles, they are usually very expensive to buy.
Even the fruit and veg was extra bargainous. Five avocados for a pound and my friendly greengrocer threw in an aubergine that happened to be lying around. Good job I like them. Came home quite pleased with my booty.

Yesterday was the Horticultural Society’s ‘Spring’ Show. It’s been the worst growing season I can remember and yesterday the worst day for a show: relentless rain and the kind of wind that blows your umbrella inside out. Nevertheless, the people who grow to show managed to produce a wonderful display. I chickened out; just couldn’t face crawling around in the cold and wet to find the perfect primroses for the bench. Instead, for the first time ever, I entered some knitting.
and )

Oh, it is lovely to be able to drive again and have my freedom back. Last weekend I kept going out in the car, just because I could. I didn’t buy anything much at the market then but did get my car thoroughly cleaned there. ‘Now you’ve got a nice silver blue car instead of a green one!’ Too true. My poor car lives outdoors, under a cherry tree which is currently in full bloom.

It was absolute brass monkeys at the market this morning but I’m glad I went. I bought: a huge pile of old knitting patterns, the complete Darling Buds of May series on DVD* and an old book, all for a fiver. Also a stamp album for rather more but which I’m pleased to have. As I walked away from the pattern sellers I heard one say, ‘She got a bargain!’ The joy of haggling. Well, people can always say No.

*Blimey, just looked this up on Amazon and it costs £49.99! Let's hope all the discs are in good condition.
Black Sheep Wools have Regia sock yarn for £2.49 a ball. I couldn’t resist.
Nearly didn’t make the market at all yesterday, because of thick fog. When I eventually got there, this was all I bought: ten balls of yarn at a pound each.

Pretty zingy colours, eh? No excuse now not to get on with some crosher.
I’ve just been reading Joy and Josephine by Monica Dickens. In the book, she emphasises just how irritating one character is by having her refer to her crochet work as ‘crosher’. I don’t share this snobbery about people who call crochet, crosher and here’s why.

I learned to knit when I was about six and never forgot how to do it. In the seventies when crochet was suddenly fashionable, I decided to teach myself, with this very book which cost 20p.

Oh dear, I didn’t get on very well and so, on top of all the million other things I did at the time, I enrolled in an evening class. Our teacher was lovely. She did exquisite work herself but was endlessly patient with our clumsy efforts. And she always said, ‘crosher’.

As a result, I embarked on a crochet storm of shawls, multi-coloured cushion covers and a tea cosy. The shawls were either presents or were later given away (fool!), the cushions ended up lining cat baskets until they were just fur pads and fit for nothing. All I’ve got left is the ancient (vintage!) tea cosy.

Now I look at it and ask, How you did that? There’s a new crochet part work out. As the first issue is only 99p and includes pattern book, DVD, yarn and hook I thought I’d give it a go. So yesterday evening, a warlike evening of The Wartime Farm followed by The Bletchley Circle, I tried making a square. First it was a semi-circle. The next attempt was wedge shaped. Then the yarn got knotted. I gave up. I can do all the stitches, I just can’t make them into anything! I think it will be back to the old Patons book, which gives much clearer instructions than this new magazine. Also, the yarns and hook supplied are cheap and nasty, which you’d expect, really. Luckily, I already have every size of crochet needle there is and a fair amount of yarn. All I need is to recover my long lost skillz.

I won't make this, though. Ha ha!

All these books from the same seller for £1.40. One of them is a very good buy.

A pile of knitting patterns so heavy I could hardly carry them, £1.00 the lot. Hours of fun ahead looking through them.

So why I am feeling like kicking myself? I missed a great stamp bargain. Looked through an album, asked the seller how much he wanted for it and got the response, ‘Haven’t looked at it yet, love.’ This annoyed me, I thought he was rude and replied sniffily that he wouldn’t sell it then would he? Later on, some old chap I don’t know told me he’d bought the album I’d been looking at it. Curses, it would have been a fantastic bargain at £40.00. Also, the same man who two weeks ago sold me Long Barrow for 50p. wanted £5.00 for a bag of mixed knitting yarn. I thought then it was too much and when I got home, that it would have been a bargain for odd pieces of crochet. Idiotically, I will be beating myself up about this all weekend.

In other news, what about our weather? Yesterday: thunder, lightning, hailstones rattling down. This morning: mega-frost and cold legs at the market. Currently: warm sunshine but a chilly breeze. Thanks to the storm, there’s thatch everywhere but it’s too wet to sweep it up. You have to love our climate, it’s never dull.
I've just posted this on Ravelry. The pattern for the hot water bottle cover is from Jane Brocket's book The Gentle Art of Knitting and it's easy peasy. Jane has knitted Literary Hotties to match grey Persephone books and orange Penguins. Here's something more lowbrow. It looks orange but is actually bright red; the light is terrible today. The buttons are vintage ones from my stash.

It was a miserable morning yesterday but the market was heaving. I’ve never seen so many sellers there; everyone trying to make a bob or two for Christmas, I expect. My first purchase was these SG GB albums with pre-printed pages.

Hideous, aren’t they? I still haven’t decided whether to keep them or pass them on. This sort of album has a very limited use IMO. Next I looked through a lot of stamp albums but wouldn’t pay what the seller was asking for them. Book finds followed: four 1940s children’s books for 50p each (bargain!) and some less bargainous books for a present for someone. Phew, with all that trekking round and rummaging I was pretty tired and almost didn’t make it into the last hall. Just as well I did because there I snaffled
my favourite find. )



January 2017



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