Sunday, 28 February 2010

'La notte porta conigli'

'La notte porta conigli' is something my dad used to say. It is a play on the Italian aphorism 'La notte porta consigli' - literally 'night brings advice', or more loosely to sleep on a problem. With the removal of the 's' it becomes instead 'night brings rabbits'.

I found the rabbit motif for free somewhere on the internet, and free-hand sketched out the rest. I am especially pleased with the stem stitch I used here: I do think it makes him look furrier. 

I plan to hang this over my bed. I don't know about you, but I would like to have rabbits rather than advice wherever practical.

You still have one more day left to enter the mixtape giveaway competition! 

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Aw the fun is to finishing

You may notice that no 'Finished in 2010' sidebar has sprung up next to the 'Finished in 2009' one. That is because I have not finished anything this year (apart from another Rose Red beret for my friend, which I failed to photograph before dispatching). I don't mind having a couple of meaty projects lingering on the needles for a while, but I have been craving the thrill of completion. It is was partly with this in mind that I started an embroidery project. As is obvious from the photo above, I still have much to learn about this craft (stars are hard!), but the results can be gratifyingly quick, and I am pleased to say I should soon be able to show you a finished object, finally.

Incidentally, the title of this post is a quotation from the Robert Burns song 'Brose and Butter', the Eddi Reader version of which is fine mixtape fodder. I have been thoroughly enjoying all your song suggestions: my itunes is joyfully swelling with them. You still have a couple of days to enter the competition - keep them coming!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Blogiversary Giveaway

It is one year ago today since I started this blog! To celebrate this fact, and to say thank you to all of you who have read and commented on my ramblings, I have got together some MIXTAPE-THEMED GOODIES to share with you! Most excitingly, I have one skein of Old Maiden Aunt superwash merino 4ply in the colourway 'Seen the Ocean' (do check out the link: her photography is much better than mine), part of her 'I made you this mixtape' collection that I enthused about here. This is a beautiful, saturated blue, which I found so irresistible that I simply had to get another skein for myself! It would be perfect for a special pair of socks, or a shawlette such as Ishbel or Milkweed, or the undulating lace of Anne Hanson's Rivolo scarf. In fact, I think this yarn would make just about any pattern look ravishing.

When I mentioned that I planned to include the yarn in a giveaway, Lilith very generously threw in lots of little extras - yarnie keyrings, badges, Love Hearts, and an adorable pocket notebook printed with cassette tapes. Thank you so much, Lilith!

The final item in this MIXTAPE-THEMED GIVEAWAY is, inevitably, a mixtape, or rather cd. This will be housed in a sewn cd cover of my own design (the photo above is of a prototype, which may undergo tweaking). 

For the chance to win all of this MIXTAPE-THEMED BOUNTY, simply leave a comment on this post telling me about a song you'd like to put on a mixtape, and why (to make the recipient think you are cool or cultured? Because it reminds you of a particular event? Because you just can't stop listening to it at the moment?). Please don't be shy about commenting, whether you've only just come across this blog or have been lurking for a while, whether you live in the U.K. or in Outer Mongolia, whether you are new to knitting or an experienced needle-wielder - all are eligible, all are welcome. 

You have until NOON (GMT) ON MONDAY 1 MARCH to enter.

Shall I start things off? I would include the song 'Let's Get Lost' by Chet Baker, because of its effortless cool, its jazzy romance, and the warm, mahogany timbre of Chet's voice. Your turn!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Introducing Jonathan

... Jonathan Swift, that is! He arrived in a very exciting, wood-scented package today from Sunflower Swifts, and I immediately took him for a spin. Jonathan Swift made short shrift of a generously-proportioned skein of Dream in Color Smooshy, certainly more so than the precarious acrobatics I had previously been engaging in, holding the skein with my knees. As well as being wondrously practical, he is also a beautifully crafted object. Every detail is carefully thought through, down to the inclusion of five pegs ('in case you lose one'!). I'm so pleased! Jonathan has made my heart beat a little swifter.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Lace or sock?

I am still dreaming and scheming of what to include in my upcoming blogiversary giveaway. I have some delectable yarn in mind, but am torn between lace-weight or fingering weight. Which would you rather win?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

It'll be a dead giveaway...

What with today being Valentine's Day, and my one year blogiversary coming up, it seemed like a good time to show you readers some love. I will soon be holding a giveaway in which you will have a chance to win some of this love. Above is a sneaky peek of one of the prize components, which I am disproportionately proud to say is the product of my sewing machine; I am busy amassing other sweet treats, so do keep checking back for your chance to win. In the meantime, I hope your day has been garnished with old-fashioned romance.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Maybe I should just work on expanding my hands

Look at this mitten in progress. Isn't it delightful? The pattern is the Squirrel Sampler Mittens, an endearing folksy design from Hello Yarn that extends to little acorns across the palm:

Aw! The braids, the picot hem, the yarn (that colourwork stalwart, Jamieson's Spindrift) - what's not to love?

Except that it's MASSIVE.

Yes, I was on my way to another Monster Mitten. I did check the gauge, but evidently not very carefully. I was knitting these on 2mm needles - that's 0 in US terms, not so much a number as a yelp of pain - and I think I was in denial that I might need something smaller. Fail, fail, fail. I'm going to work on my Alhambra scarf for a while and sulk. Hmph.

Monday, 8 February 2010

'Grant me thy dear smiles'

Sigh. I haven't been doing very well at this 'Play a Day' thing, have I? Actually being in plays has left me with less time to write about them than I had anticipated, or to do much else, for that matter. I have been rushing around half-finishing everything, letting every one down - including you, blog-readers. I was feeling rather blue about this when I happened to pass this miniature Aladdin's cave of a bookshop...

... and was tempted in by their promise of Victorian Valentines. I had never even heard of Victorian Valentines before, but have now become slightly obsessed with them. It seems that the introduction of the penny post in 1840 facilitated the sending of anonymous declarations of love. This shop has an impressive selection, and I was interested not find one with a personal greeting written in it. The sentiments they expressed were also intriguing - a number of them featured pictures of children, and one had a verse that referred to the recipient of the card as 'though on the eve of womanhood/ In heart a very child.' There were also several 'sweet comic valentines', including one with a lower flap which lifted to reveal the dangers of refusing suitors for too long: a wizened spinster shivering by a fire. 

I couldn't resist the chance to own a little bit of romantic history. I chose this one, bustling with paper lace and d├ęcoupage flowers and cupids, with its modest and slightly wonkily printed request pictured above.

I wonder if it has a story - if its original recipient did indeed grant her dear smiles (or anything else...). Anyway, it is a cheery presence on my desk on this grey, drizzly Monday.

Friday, 5 February 2010

A Play A Day #2: stoning mary by debbie tucker green

Oh dear, I seem to have fallen behind rather quickly in this task I have set myself. I shall endeavour to catch up with another play I know well...

stoning mary (both title and playwright are deliberately lowercase) takes three issues mainly associated with the developing world, and transposes them to a European context - the script specifies that all the characters are white - echoing Tony Blair's comment at the World Economic Forum in 2005 that, 'If what was happening in Africa today was happening in any other part of the world, there would be such a scandal and clamour that governments would be falling over themselves to act in response.' I acted in a production of this at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2008, and the subject matter made this a difficult one to sell. It was a rainy summer that year, and as I stood on the Royal Mile with a pile of soggy fliers trying to tempt people to see a play about AIDS, child soldiers, and death by stoning occasionally I wished I was in a comedy about funny animals. Though the issues are weighty, however, tucker green explores them with a lightness of touch. The husband and wife fighting over the one anti-retroviral prescription they can afford, the mother and father with their conflicting memories of their kidnapped son, the sisters bickering in prison: all of these are credible human relationships rather than dreary didactic stereotypes.

Ultimately, though, what stands out for me about this play is the same thing that drew me to it when I first encountered it in auditions - the sharp, distinctive brilliance of the language. tucker green wrote poetry before she wrote plays, and it seems to me that many excerpts from stoning mary could stand alone as poems. The Older Sister's description of her hypothetical last request ('... Somethin fizzy. Somethin fizzy n' strong. Somethin that'd (gasps) me. Bottles of it. Crates a it. No glass necessary suck it straight from source, bottle up head back - lash it down. Lovely.') is as effervescent and intoxicating as the drink she is imagining. Mary's speech demanding to know 'what happened to the womanist bitches? The feminist bitches?' who didn't support her cause is lyrical rather than preachy. The idiosyncrasies of the characters' speech did make some of the lines rather tricky to learn ('Cos - "you me" - mighta got sick and tired a takin reverse charged allocated anything from "me you" - that "you me " didn't want.'), but add to a sense of percussive urgency. If anything, the tidy structure of the play - the way three seemingly disparate stories intersect - seems at odds with the messy, exciting language. I found the introduction of the Boyfriend character towards the end, presumably to mirror the Husband and Wife at the beginning and suggest a perpetual cycle of desperation and dependency, superfluous and a little confusing. 

It is also intriguing reading back over all the notes I scribbled on my copy of the script, for example:

Wow. That's an acting master-class, right there.

I believed in this play enough to shave my head for the character; the past eighteen months have represented a journey from bald to bob:

It was definitely worth it: I still feel very lucky to have been in this play. 

Good female monologues? Yes: Both the Older and the Younger Sister have several, including Older Sister's hilarious obsessive questions about Mary's glasses, and Mary's 'bitches' speech.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A Play A Day #1: Pale Horse by Joe Penhall

The first play for my challenge is one which is rather familiar to me at the moment, as I shall be performing in it this week (do come along if you're local!). It is the darkly funny Pale Horse by Joe Penhall, currently perhaps more famous for his screenplay adaptations of The Road and Enduring Love than his writing for theatre.

The action centres around the character of Charles Strong, who runs a grotty pub in South London. Within the first scene he is confronted by the news that his wife - who he describes as 'the very oxygen I breathe' - has been run over by a bus. We follow him as he struggles with the disruption of grief, searching for and failing to find solace in booze, in 'modern medicine', in religion (he comes from a family of agnostics, which he defines as 'C of E for atheist'), and in new barmaid Lucy. Charles is a wonderful shambling bear of a character, at turns warmly charming and terrifyingly violent; I would have loved to have seen Ray Winstone in the role in the original production in 1995. His reminiscences about his late wife - 'Clumping about the garden with her little boots on, her hair all over the gaff, growing things. She was magic with courgettes.' - are made no less touching by the alternative perspective on their relationship offered by one of the drinkers in his pub.

I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Pale Horse. Its dialogue is whip-smart without being smugly clever, and the humour that infuses it adds savour to the sadness at its core. The final scene especialy, where Charles addresses his wife's grave ('Remember the time I tried to leave? We had a ruck in the middle of the night and I got up and got dressed but you'd hidden my shoes... to stop me leaving. But I went anyway... in my socks.') brings me close to tears each time I hear it. If anyone is curious about the particular production that I am involved in, feel free to check out this little trailer our director made with some rehearsal footage (you might have to be logged in to Facebook to see it).

Monday, 1 February 2010

A Play A Day for 28 Days

Over the past year or so, I have built up quite a little library of plays. I thought it might be an interesting project to read one of these for every day in this shortest of months, and blog about it. It remains to be seen what form this will take, or whether I will have anything valuable to say about them... I am especially interested in hunting down juicy female monologues, with a view to applying to drama school next year, so if you know of any, please leave a comment! In fact, if you have any favourite plays, even if they feature an all-male cast stuck on a submarine talking about chest hair, I'd still love to hear about them.

There should also be plenty of crafty posts coming up, as I have been doing a lot of knitting and even a small, tentative bit of sewing, so do keep reading even if you have no interest in the theatre at all. Towards the end of this month I will have my one year blog-iversary, so I shall get thinking about what I could do to celebrate that - again, all suggestions welcome!
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