Monday, May 01, 2006

That was the weekend, that was

Alas. And I should have been working today, but instead spent the morning knitting in the queue for folk festival tickets. More than once I had the pleasure of showing someone how to knit a moebius strip... yes, I've started another one, this time in Handmaiden Silk Spun (silk bouclé) in an elegant blend of brown, grey and black (Mineral). The cap sleeve top is on hold again as I try to decide whether something basically tube-shaped will fit me (definitely not straight tube-shaped, and not accustomed to tight-fitting clothes). The kit includes 750m of yarn so I should be able to make something a little more flowing!

Baking is as much an art or craft as knitting or weaving, and it's just as satisfying even if the results are short-lived except in memory. Weekday breakfast is eaten deep in the rut worn by the ratrace; weekend breakfasts are not just eaten, they're enjoyed. Slowly, luxuriating in the pleasure of not having to race out of the house. Weekday breakfast is muesliandfruit; weekend breakfast is often home-baked bread or sweet rolls (made by hand, not in a machine). Carol Field's The Italian Baker is one of my favourite bread books; the only problem in the Raisin Bread (Pane Tramvai) recipe is working in all the raisins: it calls for equal weights of raisins and flour -- and then you *soak* the raisins! This is how risen dough and raisins compare in volume, and the first stage of adding them to the dough.

Roll up the raisin-covered dough and allow to rest before flattening it again and spreading with more raisins. Repeat as necessary. Bake according to the instructions, but keep an eye on the oven: the enriched dough means the loaves may brown more quickly than you expect.

The end result is two loaves like this, utterly glorious lightly toasted and spread with butter.

It's raining fish! Some knitting, but not mine:
A beautiful long scarf knitted from fibres of the Giant Nettle Girardinia diversifolia that grows in Himalayan forests. Charities such as Transrural and The Mountain Institute are working with local people to build sustainable industries based on this crop. Melanie Venes (who teaches the loom weaving courses at Handweavers) has worked with people harvesting and weaving the fibres; as I recall, traditionally each village has 3 days to harvest what they can. The stems are left to dry and then threshed to separate the fibres from the rest; the fibres are then handspun into the yarn known as allo or alloo sold by some specialist yarn suppliers including Handweavers. Some items are knitted locally as well; this scarf was purchased from the Hemp Store stall in Cambridge market square on the promise that it's a fairtrade item knitted on the slopes of the Himalayas. The yarn is usually unevenly spun and feels coarse and unpromising, so suppliers recommended uses include shopping bags and such. But
I've had the pleasure of handling a well-worn and washed lace shawl knit from nettle fibre; it was as soft as you could wish. Like linen it's not only hard-wearing, but softens with use. I look forward to cherishing this scarf (I called the pattern 'Raining Fish' when I saw it hanging in the stall) until it's as soft as merino, and while I do so I'll think of the people who made it so many thousands of miles away. Here's a detail to show more of the thread thickness:

Sorry for the delay in posting all this; Blogger was objecting to the photos yesterday!

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