Sunday 30 August 2009

Hobby versus Activity

What defines whether an activity is a hobby or just "something you do"? I was musing on that this morning, when I was writing up my latest sock on Ravelry. Knitting is my hobby, but so is crochet, needlepoint, cross-stitch, gardening, cooking, singing, and most recently candle-making and jam-making. Or are they? What makes a hobby a hobby? Where is the dividing line?

Is it when you cross the line from focussing on the outcome to enjoying the process? I love to cook. I enjoy the process as well as (usually) the product that results. Sometimes, though, cooking is just a chore, particularly after work: I'm hungry, I'm tired, and I want to eat something now. At other times, I potter in the kitchen, chopping and stirring, experimenting with flavours. Then I'm enjoying the process as well as the product. It amuses me, the men who list "cooking" as a hobby - after a hard day at work, their wives are probably standing in a dirty kitchen contemplating the washing up AND trying to figure out what for dinner in as rapid a fashion as possible. Do they view cooking as hobby? In those circumstances, probably not.

I think, earlier this year, gardening crossed the line from something I had to do (to tame the wilderness around here), through something I wanted to do (I've always wanted a vegetable garden), to something where I enjoy the process for the process's stake. Surely that is what makes it a hobby?

There are some hobbies that I haven't done in years. I haven't deliberately ignored them, more "bad light stopped play" and circumstances intervened. If the tidiness gremlins could tell me where I can find the needlepoint of Simpson's Gap, I'd appreciate it. I have the correct green for the gum tree now.

My most recent additions to the hobby repertoire are jam making and candle making. (My jam adventures will get their own post shortly.) I started making candles after trying fruitlessly to find citronella candles to burn in the kitchen to deter flies coming in while I cooked. I've made 3 citronella candles so far. I'd make more and different colours, etc, but I've had to rely on microwave soy wax - I've been searching charity shops for the last year for a double-boiler without success. Double-boilers virtually do not exist in this country, whether brand new or second hand. Yes, I started candle-making out of necessity but I enjoy the process as well as the product. I think that's another score for Hobby!

- Pam

Wednesday 19 August 2009

It always makes me cry

Virtually every week, the people of Wootton Bassett stop what they are doing and line their main street, in order to pay their respects to the latest British soldiers to die in Afghanistan and be repatriated home. They are the closest town to the air force base where the bodies are flown.

(If the video link doesn't work, it is here on the BBC website.)

It started with one man, an ex-soldier who noticed a military funeral cortege passing through the village, walked to the curb and stood to attention. It has grown to encompass the whole village and any visitors. The BBC cover it faithfully. And it always makes me cry.

Lest we forget.

- Pam

Friday 14 August 2009

A Not So Frugal Confession for Frugal Friday

"Hello. My name is Pam and I am addicted to Yarn."

No, I'm not out of control yet. My love of all things wool-related doesn't mean that we can't afford food (but don't count on it if I go near the Quiviut…..). And we can still pay the bills. It's just that I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I have stash issues. Over the last few months, I've been photographing and logging my stash in Ravelry. It's brought home just how much yarn I really have. The problem is not so much that I'm a hoarder, I think it's that my knitting ambitions far outstrip my abilities!

I thought I had it all pretty much under control: a handful of skeins of sock yarn; some alpaca I'd purchased at a show; the Heathland Hebridean kit DH gave me for Christmas; the white Corrodale I bought to make him a sweater; some leftovers from other projects; a couple of projects-worth for summer tops I'd planned to make this year.

Then, a couple of months ago, I decided to get serious and use Ravelry for the purpose for which it was designed: as a tool to log my stash, my patterns and my projects. The results are a revelation. And a shock!


I have 55 different yarns in my stash. FIFTY FIVE YARNS! And there are one or two yarns that haven't made it onto Ravelry yet. OK, 25 are sock yarns and, usually, 1 skein each, but still.... That is one hell of a lot of yarn.

It started with shows. I've spent most of my knitting time in isolation, without a yarn shop for miles, so for a while I'd keep a list of the projects I wanted to knit and their yarn requirements and buy when I got to a shop or went to a show. (All reasonable behaviour.) Then a couple of years ago, the list ran out, so I started buying projects-worth of yarn when I saw something I fancied that I could afford at a show (the 700g of DK alpaca that in total cost less than £35 falls into this category). At each show, I'd buy something: a bargain; a rare wool; something I wouldn't see in a regular yarn shop. Even so, I thought I could handle it.

I was given gift vouchers to an on-line yarn shop. Problem: you could only use one voucher per purchase and I had been given 5 x £10. Generally, I prefer to buy yarn that I've fondled in real life. The exception is sock yarn, because it isn't a total disaster if one skein turns out to be not what I was expecting. Result: I spent them all on skeins of sock yarn.

Things snowballed a bit, so last year at the I-Knit-London Day, I came home with a haul of yarn: the 20 balls of Corrodale, the sweater kit that DH bought (and immediately hid from me until Christmas), 100g/1000 yards of heavy lace-weight cashmere (a lace cardigan's worth, hopefully), two skeins of Wagtail Mohair. That's 4 sweater's worth of yarn in my book.

Then in March, I got a bit carried away when Black Sheep Wools had a sale of Sublime's Angora DK. I ended up buying 3 sweater's worth in 3 different colourways (blue, pink and white). A bit extreme, but it was less than £2 a ball and sooo soft! I tell myself that if the first colour (giggle pink) I'd bought had been exactly what I wanted, I may have stopped with one, but I couldn't decide....

That was followed in June, when I got an email from Australia: Morris & Sons were having a sale. The lovely Cleckheaton Country 12-ply I'd bought to finish off the Must Have Cardigan was going for £14 a bag! Two bags of black were in my shopping cart and purchased before you could sing "Advance Australia Fair". It's currently on a ship, somewhere between here and Sydney, hopefully with the packet of Arnott's Mint Slices I requested.

No wonder I can't shut the stash!

I've already decided that this has to stop. I can't continue buying yarn and not using it up. So I hereby vow the following:-

With the exception of the Rowan Cocoon for which I have a project planned, I, Pipney-Jane, will not buy any more yarn until August 2010. I will only buy the Cocoon if I can find it for less than £6 a ball AND I have finished DH's sweater (not yet cast on).

This will be hard. I have two yarn shows on the horizon this autumn: the I-Knit London Day and the Knit & Stitch Show at Alexandra Palace. Wish me luck.

- Pam

PS: Yes, sock yarn counts.

PPS: It's not all in Ravelry - I'm about 98% done, but so far, the grand totals are:-

24 Different Sock Yarns, inc:
5 leftovers from socks
2 "fillers" for socks (used for feet)
21 sweaters' worth, inc
2 WIPs
6 destined for tanks/t-shirts/tops
1 sweater for DH

And quite a few odd balls, potential scarves, leftovers, etc.

Monday 3 August 2009

An Opera was Attended

Yesterday evening, DH and I went to the opera at Glyndebourne, as guests of some old friends who are members of the Festival Society, which guarantees them access to the much sort after tickets. It was a magical evening.

is the original country house opera - a privately funded opera house built in the grounds of a country mansion. The audience picnic in the gardens before the production and/or during interval (interval length depends on the number of acts in the opera. Last night, our interval lasted over an hour). Everyone is in black tie - the men wear tuxedos and the women cocktail dresses.

Paul and Shelagh provided the food and we provided the drinks (Pimms, chardonnay, Schloer for the drivers). No other drink typifies an English summer more than Pimms!

Here is a shot of our hosts:

And one of me and DH:

Yes, it was cold after the sun went down.

Last night's production was Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. The story line is pretty basic: boy loves girl above his social station; girl doesn't care for him but teases him unmercifully; boy decides to give girl cold shoulder; girl get engaged to someone else to teach boy a lesson; eventually girl declares her love for boy and all live happily ever after. The plot doesn't really matter, though - the music is beautiful. Glyndebourne updated the staging to the 1940's, with the hero acting as an electrician.

I haven't been to the opera for at least 4 years (since the last time Paul and Shelagh invited us to Glyndebourne). This time, we enjoyed it so much that I've put my name down on the waiting list for associate membership. I wish I'd done it earlier - only 15 years to wait. :o)

- Pam