Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Updates on the scarf

I've been so tired lately. I've got hayfever like no one's business at night (not during the day?) so I'm constantly waking up with sneezes and sniffles. Not fun. I have tried pharmaceuticals which don't work for me. The only thing that has ever worked has been eating two teaspoons of local honey per day. The theory is that it desensitises your body from local pollens. Alternatively you can do a much more expensive version with the doctor, but they call it "immuno-therapy" or some drug company crap like that. Scam.

Anyway, I thought I'd post some pictures of the scarf that I've been too tired to finish:

The start of the leaf pattern, using the AG-20 Intarsia carriage. Very fiddley.

Getting the hang of it

More fiddley

Super fiddley, and a bit worried it's not going to look like a leaf on the other side.

Feeling like I just reached the summit of Mt. Everest with this leaf...

...Only to find the hole from hell. I hate going back and fixing things. I find it so unsatisfying!

Fixed the hole with the handy latch tool.

I'm not quite sure what this is. Well, I'm sure it's frustrating, but I can't figure out why it keeps happening. I wanted to cry at this point. The right-side arm was pushed to the back, which is what I thought the problem was. But when I put it back to the front, all went well for about 100 rows until it happened again so I'm really not sure about this one. If anyone knows, I'd be forever grateful if you could shed some light on it!

Fixed after a long, laborious procedure. Bleck.

Finally enough length to turn it over and have a look... and it looks like a leaf! TRES excited!

Getting some length now, thinking it's plain sailing - little did I know I'd have about 3 more of those blunders to sort out!!

Hope you enjoyed the little photo diary. I'll post one more picture of the finished scarf when it's done. I really enjoy the knitting machine when I'm not so frustrated that steam blows from my ears and veins pop out of my eye balls. Really, I am!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Where art thy?

Yes, I've been away! Actually I have been home but been going through a lot of changes recently. So I suppose I'll take you through what these changes are!

I quit my job about a month and a half ago. Technically I was made redundant, but because the company didn't want "redundancies" included on its end-of-the-year pie chart, it put me elsewhere in the company doing something I hated instead - selling insurance. *cough*. I know a lot more about breakdown cover and accidental damage, but I don't think that's going to help me in the long run ... unless I want to submit a fraudulent insurance claim. So I quit, relaxed for three weeks (looking at jobs here and there), bought myself a knitting machine (yes please!) and even played my other half's XBox. I recommend the game Fable II. I beat it and it was pretty cool in my opinion.

After three weeks, I walked into a temp agency and asked for some sort of Admin job. I can't commit long-term to anything because my other half and I are applying for him to gain Permanent Residence in Canada. We don't know when we'll be approved but we haven't even sent off the 98-page-plus-your-supporting-evidence application yet. I got a call back the same day to start at the Ministry of Justice. I'm pretty happy with where I am now. It's a month-long contract and then we'll see where I go next!

Anyway, about the knitting machine: my landlady left me a note one day saying that the local charity shop had a knitting machine for 20 quid. "It's probably old and broken," I thought, but I decided to have a look. I'm glad I did because it looked in good condition. The workers told me that if no one decided to buy it by Sunday (it was Saturday), they were going to throw it out from lack of interest. Surprising, I thought, because while I was checking it out, several older ladies came in saying things like, "That brings back memories," and others showed great interest while I was fiddling about with it. Maybe they just needed to see someone show a little enthusiasm around it, I don't know. The accessories it came with alone were worth over 50 quid. It's a Knitmaster 321 and it came with loads of 60's manuals and charts. My personal favourite picture is the mature yet super hip momma whose demonstrating the ease of machine knitting while a young, naive, and frustrated young girl faces the other way while she hand-knits in shame. Good marketing technique.

I brought it home and tried for ages and couldn't even start my first row. The needles were popping out all over the place and I thought, "Great, now I've got a 20 quid broken knitting machine." I decided to do a little research and found a very helpful Youtuber who has the same machine (and more). She told me I should check the Sponge Retaining Bar (for which she conveniently had a video). Gods and Goddesses bless this woman for this was the problem after all. I quickly ordered one from eBay and off I went!

My first swatch was just a gray piece of knitted acrylic. Then I quickly moved on to my first scarf. I was looking forward to the World Cup (my first in the UK) so I knitted a traditional red-and-white striped scarf. It hung on the window yesterday as my other half showed his support during the England v. USA game last night.

The Knitmaster 321 is a Punch Card knitting machine. What is that, exactly? I wasn't sure. It came with a sleeve filled with cards. The cards had holes punched out in the shape of patterns, and the machine had a slot to put them through. Eventually, I figured out that the punch card automatically dropped row after row as the user slides the carriage back and forth. It somehow makes the needles do a little dance until they match the pattern on the card - brilliant! My first punch card swatch was a Tuck Stitch pattern which turned out pretty well. I did find it quite difficult to do though so I decided after this I'd try something else.

After starting my new job, my knitting has gone on hiatus as I get used to the new schedule and get back into a routine. Eddy (that's my other half) finished this year at University and that means I'm not the sole income-earner any more which takes a bit of the pressure off. We haven't done anything "fun" in a while; no holidays, significant outings, etc. Then I thought, "Hey wait, Canada Day is coming up. I think the embassy does something for it in London." After looking it up on the Canada Day London website and reading all about the free festival, we booked our train tickets. You have no idea how excited it makes me when I think about a big ol' Bison burger and Steak Sandwich BBQ with live Canadian music, Sleeman's Honey Brown lager (how I miss thee!), and Tim Horton's DOUBLE DOUBLES and Iced Cappuccinos. Ahhh, heaven. The angels are smiling upon me now... But what to wear?!

Hopefully it'll be a sunny day in London, but as the event goes well into the night, we'll need something warm and of course festive. That's where the knitting machine comes in. Eddy and I roughly drew up a sketch of something a little more chic than the average maple leaf scarf.

As you can see, I'm hopeless at drawing the Maple Leaf. I don't know a single Canadian who can (try it if you don't believe me!). So instead I found the Canadian Flag on Google Images and printed out the image. After cutting out the Maple Leaf, I traced it onto some custom graph paper using Knit on the Net's fabulous Design Chart generator. I then pencilled a little "X" on all the squares at the edges of the design until I had something leaf-like.

With that, I made a start. It's not finished yet, but I'm taking photos as I go and will keep you posted. For now, I'm going to enjoy a cuppa and get on this Immigration application.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Hat a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

Well I haven't been posting recently but I've been super busy knitting away!

I've added three new hats to Folksy in just three days.

Next up is a pair of black gloves for my other half's mum-in-law. She's unfortunately suffered a stroke and having trouble holding her fingers together, so they've asked for a thick pair of mittens.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up quickly (17 March!) so I've added a very chic Shamrock hat.

But for now, here is a showcase of the newest additions to the Wool & Wire shop on Folksy:

I'm going to keep this short but feel free to use the Comment bit to post what you've made for St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day to anyone who celebrates. I personally don't, because I feel like I'm being used as a marketing tool. Any holiday that makes you feel like you must participate or risk looking insensitive has really good marketing techniques. I'm happily with my partner but I don't feel the need to declare my love on any certain day. Every day is Valentines Day as far as I'm concerned! Besides, wasn't Valentines Day originally to tell the person you fancied that you liked them ... anonymously?

Onto the rest of the day! I'm starting a new wire collection and almost finished the first bracelet. This is where I need your help! I'm not sure how to finish. I know I want it to be a dome bracelet (the kind that doesn't actually connect, but has a small gap to slip your wrist through). It's a 16-strand fine silver wire bracelet. I could finish by doing some fancy wire bending technique, soldering the ends, or trying my hand at using precious metal clay. Anyone have experience in these and what do you suggest?

This is the wire bracelet as it is now:

I'm eager to know how you'd like to see it finished so please comment below!

Other than that, I better make this post short. I'm getting into the Winter Olympics and getting more and more excited as the games go on. I was glued to the BBC's website this morning trying to catch up on everything that has happened. It's really a shame that my recording of the opening ceremony didn't go as planned. I e-mailed my cousin who said her recording failed too. Oh well, she had a blast and got to wear this super cool costume in all her Olympic glory!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony

So I was so excited to come into work today and watch my cousin perform in the 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremony in stunning HD when I see the message from Hell: "Recording Failed. Unknown Reason". Unknown reason? What the hell does that mean? Of course there's a known reason. You stupid piece of crap box! Tell me the reason! Backtrack on your stupid flailing errors and tell me where it all went to shit! TELL ME! Hmph.

Well I did a little online research and tried to see if it would be on BBC iPlayer. Nope. "Not Available". So what do I do? Search "Not Available" in the iPlayer FAQ. Apparently, although the BBC has the license to broadcast it live, it doesn't necessarily have the license to offer it "on demand". Okay, okay. Next stop - YouTube! I hunt madly through uploaded video collages and stupid cartoons. Every time I come across a real Olympic video another message from hell graces me with its presence: "This video contains content from International Olympic Committee, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."

I don't respect the IOC at the best of times (banning women from Ski Jumping and totally averting Canadian law because it's an 'international' organisation), and while I respect there is such thing as copyright infringement, the video I was trying to access was a home video that happened to film some of the Olympic rehearsals. BIG DEAL.


So if anyone has it recorded and wants to share with me, I would only be too grateful!

Anyway it's Saturday and my last day of work for the week until Monday! Woo hoo! I'm up for a few pints. Anyone wish to join?


Friday, 12 February 2010

TGIF... wait, I'm in again tomorrow

Ah, yes, the glory of working at a Call Centre: shift work. My Saturday will be spent not knitting or bending wire but answering calls. We've been pretty slow lately so I'm hoping tomorrow will be even slower. Then again, everyone might just be waiting for the weekend to phone in. I think I'll bring some knitting in just in case. And I plan on finishing this Owl beanie by the end of this blog post!

Today our bosses, who care so much about business, money, profits, and attendence, enforced a mandatory "Games" day with a Valentines theme. First we had an e-mail Quiz to fill out and e-mail back within 15 minutes, then we had to write a poem for some manager on another floor, then we had to do an actual "treasure hunt" around Brighton (we got clues and had to take a picture of ourselves in front of the landmarks), and some quizzes on songs and movies. I'm not complaining; I got paid time off the phones, but it does annoy me after this whole absence fiasco from the other day. Bah humbug!

So the Olympics start tonight! Woo hoo! My cousin will be in the opening ceremony. She has sent me an e-mail on how to find her in the crowd. I've set it to record at work so hopefully I'll be able to see her. I might just have to come in with my pink Hockey jersey that reads, "Hockey Night in Canada"... but maybe I'll wait for the first Hockey game. I hear there will be one with Canada v. USA. That I must see! I've read that the Canadian athletes are receiving government funded counselling because of the pressure that is on them to win. I can imagine. Canada, snow, Winter Olympics... I rest my case! We're not doing a very good job though. I even heard we had to get some snow imported because there wasn't enough on the mountain! What kind of Canadians are we? Damn Global Warming!

Anyway I'm exhausted so I'll end it here. But not before showing you this new Owl Beanie!

... 3.5 hours later...

Voila! It's a quick snapshot - will take better photos Sunday.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Does Photojournalism Display Truth or Truth as We See it?

I read an article today in the BBC about "picturing disaster". It is a blog talking about the value of photojournalism. It notes that there have been complaints about the photos shown of Haiti and of Haitians themselves. The author, Phil Coomes, argues that although the photos can be gruesome, they are the truth. It reminds me of another opinion article I read in the Independent. Both views are in complete contrast of the other. I tend to lean toward Andy Kershaw's view in the Independent.

If Britain suffered a major catastrophe, do you think they would show the same images they do of the Haitians? Do you think they'd show a young women being pulled from rubble, dress ripped showing her privates, her upper thigh, or a snotty-nose without her consent? Or do we only show these images because they are foreign, black, and savage-like ... or better yet, because they can't complain? We don't see images of British soldiers brutally killed in muddy trenches. We don't see soldiers with one leg blown off after being injured or killed by a road-side bomb. That would be offensive to the country and to their family who wants to remember them as they were in their prime. Is photojournalism really about seeing the truth? I have a feeling it's more about evoking emotion, when appropriate (and that's when no one has the power to protest it).

I personally detest this "Fox News" approach to journalism. It is more about evoking emotion than it is reporting. It, to me, shows a lack of class. It's not that I want to be censored, I just want the people in these images to be respected. If the photos are taken and later the consent is given by the individuals, why not publish them at a later date? I, for one, don't want a photo taken of me with drool down my face, a bald patch from hair ripped out of my head, my t-shirt slipped up showing my tummy and belly fat, etc. It's not insecurity, it's just indecent. It's not who I am and it doesn't represent me. It shows me as a victim; a poor, helpless pet.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Statutory Sick Pay (Warning: Rant)

Hello there! Sorry about no post yesterday. I was absolutely shattered after my first day back to work. I was ill all last week and was away from work altogether. I suffered a terrible case of Folliculitis on my groin area (the stupidest infection I've ever heard of!). The pain was absolutely debilitating and I was prescribed antibiotics. I've only been at my new job for a few months and the company doesn't pay Company Sick Pay until an employee has worked with them for at least six months. Obviously Statutory Sick Pay still applies for 4 days or more of sickness.

I work for a Call Centre in Brighton and needless to say, it is full of middle management and power hungry men in ties. I was in constant telephone communication with my supervisor and just before my second doctor's visit, I asked him if he wanted me to get a note. He advised me that I wouldn't need one because it was not more than 7 days of sickness. Upon my return (on the 8th day), I was advised by my manager that I would need a note from the Doctor for Statutory Sick Pay. I agreed to get one and found myself back at the Walk-In Centre where I saw the doctor. I was then informed by the helpful reception that they do not give sick notes to non-registered patients, but more importantly that the law says that employers can't ask for doctor's notes unless the employee has been sick 8 days or more. Hmph. So off I went, absolutely shattered, back home for the day (thus no blog post).

Today was an 8-hour long tiff with my supervisor over my rights, SSP, and Human Resources. The Human Resources department went on about how they need proof that I was sick in case they are audited. I advised them that according to the NHS Health Centre, because it is 7 days or less, I don't need proof. Until about 4:30PM today, when I threatened to call HM Revenues and Customs myself, I finally got somewhere. My supervisor called the Head of Accounts who shamed him and HR "for asking me to get a note for audit/accounts purposes". Then my supervisor Googled my rights as a worker and found out that, indeed, an employer cannot ask for proof of sickness for less than 8 days off sick. So THERE! I can't believe how long it took to come to this resolution. Because I am not registered with a GP in Brighton, they even went so far as to ask me to register with a new GP, ask them to look at my previous notes, and to write me a retrospective note!! Honestly!

Anyway, the point of this is that although I handled the situation in a mature, friendly, and courteous manner; I was absolutely fuming! As workers, you should all know your rights and when to put your foot down. I can't believe this company policy has been in existence for decades without someone standing up to it. My other half, who is English, told me when I got home today that he has noticed a difference between the ethics in the Canadian and British non-skilled workforces. He said that in England, non-skilled workers tend to do as they're told more without asking as many questions. I don't know if his observations are true or not (comment your opinions below!), but if they are, that definitely needs to change!

The company now has to re-write it's absence policy - a policy that has been constantly stressed to me as the strictest of its kind and built on a strong company blah blah blah... Basically, their absence policy was their pride and joy, and I've quashed it! I'm so proud ^_^ The moral of the story? If you believe something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Recession or not, you have your rights and don't be afraid to use them and benefit from them. To accurately, calmly, and rationally explain your feelings is the best way. Mine went something like, "I understand the concerns of the company. I understand that SSP is based on government funds and the company is worried about being audited and is worried about having proof that I was sick in order to justify using that government funding; however, I am not interested in the theoretical worries or preferences of the company. I am interested in the law."

One of the biggest problems, and greatest assets, in call centres is their policy of "hiring from within". It means everyone in higher departments has started from the bottom - which, in theory, is good; but if those people aren't given adequate training and education, you've got a bunch of warranty sales people running the HR department. Not so good! On top of that, there is a strong feeling of a company hierarchy. Middle management "professionals" are constantly trying to milk every ounce of power they can get. I have a feeling that the people in the HR department were just trying to give me a hard time because, after all, what makes me think I can get paid for being sick without proving it? I guess they showed me... oh wait, I showed them.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Snowing in Brighton

Yes, it's snowing again. So far nothing is sticking, but as I peer through our net curtains, I reflect back on last year's debacle.

After living through the last snow storm in Brighton late last year, I have come to realise the brutal truth about the way in which this city operates when faced with the white stuff: stop everything. Shut it down, close the doors, lock up, go home. Okay, I realise that snow is not a regular occurrence in England ... or at least it hasn't been for years. But what I've learned about the way the local government looks at the situation is truly shocking. There is a mentality of negligence to avoid charges of negligence. Does that make sense? I thought not.

Apparently, the city looks the other way when it comes to roads that aren't necessary to salt, grit, and plow. Yes, I've heard that there are the resources and there is the ability, but not the will. Since we live in a sue-each-other society, it is alleged that city councils risk being sued if they clear a walkway and someone slips on it later. That would be "negligence" on the part of the council. So what is their answer? Don't touch it. Move on. Look away. If they don't touch it, they can't be negligent. So negligence solves that problem. Job done!

Buses. Brighton & Hove buses were ordered by the police not to run. The decision was made to reduce traffic. Yeah, that'll work. Now all those bus commuters are in their cars. Just dandy. When the buses do run, they run with all-season tyres without chains or any sort of winter protection. One commuter bus had chains but later put a notice on the website saying, "We have found out they snap on clear roads." First of all, no they don't. Second of all, they do if you're speeding.

Since it looks like this is going to be a regular occurrence in the UK from now on (something to do with climate change and so on), I thought I'd compile a list of 5 helpful tips for surviving heavy snow, even if you can't gain access to a hot Double Double for comfort.

1) If you're a driver, always always always have a set of winter tyres that can be fitted around November. Alternatively, and this is my personal choice, purchase chains that properly fit your car's tyres. It's an investment, but it's so important, and it'll literally dig you out of a mess. Once you get the hang of it, they take about five minutes to put on and about a second to take off. Plus it'll make you feel like you're driving a military tank. Mine cost me $75 in Canada which is about 40 quid.

2) Also for drivers, drive slooooowly. I can't stress it enough. All over the news there are cars being pushed out of the snow with tyres spinning a hundred times per second. Slow is the key. You want to give those tyres some time to get a grip on the stuff. If the speed limit is 30, go 8 or 10. If the speed limit is 70 on a semi-cleared motorway, go 25. Seriously. You can feel when you're pushing it to the limit and when you get to that moment, slow down by taking your foot off the gas pedal. Don't brake. You should have enough room in front of you to just take your foot off the gas pedal, push in the clutch, and your car should stop where it needs to. You might have to just slightly apply the brake to stop completely. If you brake on snow, your tyres will lose traction and your car is likely to go sideways. That is cool when you're in the Batmobile, but not so cool in your Ford Focus.

3) If you're a walker, get some proper footwear. Wellington boots will do, but snow boots are even better because they protect against the cold as well as moisture (none of this Uggs stuff). Alternatively, you could buy some Yaktrax. Chains for your feet! Woo hoo! If you don't have winter footwear, a good old Canadian tip is to put a plastic bag around your feet after your socks are on (several socks). That'll keep the moisture out and your multiple layers of socks will keep you warm.

3) Be a good neighbour! I know we like to go from our little private houses into our little private cars and go on our merry little way, but when something happens that we're not used to, we should be helping each other out! Smile, say hello to people, ask if they need a hand. You'd want them to help you if you needed it, wouldn't you? In Canada, it's actually illegal not to shovel the walkway in front of your property. It's not the city's job at all. If you have an elderly neighbour who can't physically do it themselves, you have to team with your neighbours to shovel their walkway too. If you have the time and the physicality, do you really need a law to tell you? We're not useless, we don't need the city to do it for us. "Gedd'r Done!"

4) Predicting the weather. Big snow flakes means its warmer; small snowflakes means it's colder. If the flakes are small, don't go out. If they're big, it might stop soon... unless of course they get smaller again. ;)

5) Stay inside. Work is really not that important (unless of course you're desperate for that day's pay). Stay home if it's dangerous. Don't get yourself to the train station only to find the trains aren't running and you can't get back home. Have yourself a cup of tea and wait until it's safe. Don't be a hero. Remember the Batmobile? You don't have one!

And finally ... enjoy it! Sit down with your family or friends or neighbours, cosy up in some handmade Folksy stuff, make a cup of hot cocoa (1 tsp cocoa, 1 tsp sugar, a little cold water, mix into paste, pour hot water/milk, stir), have a roast, take some photos of the scenery, make snow angels and igloos, and have fun! It only happens once a year, right?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Finding a niche

Finding a niche is so important in the vast crafting world. It's something I've yet to do, but I recently came across someone who does. Holandricon has a shop on Folksy selling knitted headphone earmuffs. Yes, you read correctly. Headphones and earmuffs built into one. What a fantastic idea! Ever tried to wear ear buds underneath earmuffs? I don't know why I never thought of it before.

One thing I've noticed about the Brits is that even when it's cold out, style never gets thrown out the window. No long johns and down-filled parkas for you lot. I think these headphones are a testament to that!

Now to find my own niche. Knitted snow shoe covers?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

So what is a Double Double?

Delicious, creamy, sweet, and a bit earthy, a Double Double is the Canadian term for a coffee with two creams and two sugars. Specifically, it's a coffee from Tim Horton's. You could say that ol' Timmy's is much like a Greggs ... except with a drive-through window. It's a Canadian fast-food chain established by Tim Horton, a hockey player (I know, could we be any more stereotypical?). There you will find sandwiches made from the softest, sweetest hoagies (a type of bun, cob, roll, bap); scrumptious soups that come in a warmed, edible bread bowl; freshly baked doughnuts and timbits (doughnut holes); a zillion types of bagels with a zillion types of cream cheese; and of course, Tim Horton's coffee and tea. So if you want a good coffee, the Double Double is probably the most popular. Don't want so much sugar? You're looking for a Double Single. Rather have milk than cream? You're looking for a Double Milk Double. You could even go for a Triple Triple but that's just greedy. On my routine, I'd usually ask for a medium double double and a 12-grain bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese. Mmmmm.

So why am I going on about Double Doubles, hoagie buns, and some guy named Tim? Although it's a franchise, Tim Horton's is a born and bred Canadian food company and there isn't one Canadian that you will meet that doesn't know and love it. The lingo used in ordering one's food is almost like a right-of-passage. It's so defining that I thought it would be appropriate to include it in the title of this blog; because there is nothing more soothing than Crafting with a Double Double.

Friday, 5 February 2010

What's it all about?

Hello world! This is my first blog post (hooray!). I'd like to introduce myself, tell you what I'm doing here, and just get started!

My name is Jessie and I have a shop on Folksy called Wool & Wire. In this shop, I sell pieces that I've knit or made with wire. I usually make all kinds of practical accessories but on the odd occasion I will add something a little more frivolous. I've been knitting and making wire jewellery for years but I'm finally starting to take my hobby a little more seriously. Originally from Vancouver Island, Canada, I'm now living with my other half in Brighton, England.

The crafting and artisan community in the UK is absolutely ginormous. I'd really like to get involved and learn about different arts, and I'd like to stay in touch with anyone who is interested. With modern technology, we can all stalk - I mean "follow" - each other at our own convenience. For me, a blog seemed like a good way to start! My aim is to make this an entertaining read about my life in England. There are tonnes of curious and funny things that happen to me on a daily basis as a foreigner in this country. I'll make fun of some things and ask for your help on others. Of course, I'll stick a craft or two in between.

For now, feel free to follow (or stalk, whatever term you prefer) me on Twitter by clicking on the link on the right-hand side of the page. You can e-mail me at if you want to get in touch. Also, feel free to leave comments on this blog - all feedback is much appreciated!