Love yarn. Love the idea of knitting. I have in my possession a collection of thirty to fifty sets of knitting needles (I haven't ever been bored enough to count them) and other knitting accoutrements: stitch counter doo dads and bits and bobs whose precise use I'm not sure of. All passed down to me by The Grannies.
Another reason I love all things wool and cashmere may be that I grew up living in an old, draughty house where there was a strict rule about the thermostat being kept under 15 degrees and heating was something you used between November and January, whatever the weather.
So having always needed to "put another jumper on" I do love knitwear, which I even studied at one point. It was more the industrial machine type of knitting using (eugh) acrylic yarns with which we made mostly hideous test samples. I only ever completed one piece of clothing: a metallic silver camisole which I still have. We also had a ferociously scary knitting teacher, the type who thought she should have been a famous knitwear designer - come to think of it it's a wonder I don't break out in hives at the thought of yarn, with all this past trauma - but I'll get to the point in a minute.
I have this idea that I'll go to Loop, I'll go to Weardowney, but then I keep reading about how trendy knitting is now and it puts me off. I want to re-learn because it's a precious part of my past that's lost. It's not just for the sake of a passing fad. I wish I still knew someone who could guide me through it again, but um, they're all dead so I think I'll have to bite the bullet and pay for those classes.
When I went to Cockpit Arts the studio that fascinated me the most and induced a pang of wanting to pull up a chair and stay, was that of knitwear designer Jennifer Lang. Her sculptural pieces hung limp on a rail (you have to see them on a body to fully appreciate them) with alarming price tags and the Stella McCartney s/s 07 show (in which I can see no knitwear!) played on a big screen. Jennifer sat in a chair in the corner, calmly knitting away with knitting needles the size of snooker cues and thick, chunky yarn, as her studio swarmed with important fashiony looking Japanese people who all had Marc Jacobs bags. One of them even contained a miniature pooch whose head protruded from the bag which I found impressive and memorable for some reason.
But the person whose incredible work I really wanted to shout out about is knitwear genius Sandra Backlund from Sweden. Just look at those pieces! Power knitting fit for a warrior queen. Wow. Remember her name, I know we'll be hearing a lot more of it.
Well, well, well. So these are the kind of shenanigans the sky gets up to when I'm still tucked up in bed.
By the time I wake up the sky usually has a uniformly grey pallor, spitting drizzle as if slightly annoyed. Now I know, it's just got a hangover after all that early morning partying.
The only reason I was up at that ungodly hour of sunrise was because of my own partying. I awoke to discover my boots on the floor beside me, still with jeans and socks inside. I had cat scratches all down one arm which I have no recollection of receiving.
My cream tunic/dress thingy was covered in day glo pink splatters which could only have been achieved by pouring a particularly sickly sweet cocktail down one's own frontage.
And so I was up at 7am washing my tunic/dress thingy. My earlybird wishes granted just this once.
As the day kicked in, the sky went back to normal. Red sky and shepherds...
So I went back to bed.
It's that strange time of year - in betweeny. Nothing is as it usually is, there are people everywhere displaced from their usual routines, happy to have some time off to spend sitting in traffic jams on their way to and from retail parks. It could all get quite depressing.
I was going to ignore the sales but...oh!
It may look like a school cardigan but therein lies its 100% cashmere charm.
I need it.
A.P.C's online sale hasn't started yet so I'll have to brave the shops.
I may be some time...
I'd already noticed that newsreaders had stopped saying the word Christmas, but last night on the tube the announcer detailing the myriad cancellations over the next few days referred to it as "The Festive Period."
I was on my way to see The Pipettes play at The Roundhouse in Camden, which is oh, so, SO much nicer since it's been renovated. The audience ranged from little girls dolled up as Pipette-ettes with beehived hair and brightly coloured mini dresses, to senior citizens in leopard skin - damn, I should have taken my camera. I guess their 60s harmonising appeals to all ages, everyone was swaying and clapping along. It felt kind of intrepid going out last night; woolly hat, gloves, big overcoat, thick tights and flat boots covering a lace shift dress - my one concession to it being a night out on the tiles.
Today is a day of wrapping presents, ready for the family get together tomorrow.
All this talk in the newspapers of British folk not having any traditions left falls flat on it's face when confronted with our Christmas day. There are usually about twenty of us and there's an order to proceedings which is rarely altered, not enforced in any way but it just always goes like this:
12 noon: Arrive bearing gifts, admire big tree with sea of presents around the base to which you add yours. Greet everybody, merry Christmas, merry Christmas, kisses, say hi to dogs, suppress pang of missing Lola.
Champagne, squares of smoked salmon on wholemeal bread with lemon and black pepper passed round. Loud nattering ensues (largely female family).
2.30 - 3pm, lunch: Turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets (sausage and bacon rolls), sweet red cabbage, roast parsnips and potatoes, Brussel sprouts and chestnuts, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, red wine, oh I know I've forgotten something...all made from scratch (obviously) by either of my superwoman aunts with Agas.
A pause between courses to pull crackers, tell the jokes, put on the hats and clear up a bit.
Lights dimmed for Christmas pudding alight, brandy butter, a couple of other desserts - pavlova, maybe a fruit crumble, mince pies.
Cheeses, including stilton of course; celery, grapes.
Retire to open presents. Someone is designated to pass them round; it used to be the smallest cousin dressed as Santa, in fact it's still usually the youngest. Then follows a frenzy of unwrapping, thanking etc. Clearing up and making a wobbly pile of all your presents.
At this point without fail everyone falls asleep. When we were younger my cousins and I would giggle at all the grown ups snoring with their mouths open, and would take photos up their noses. Now guess who's lying in a heap of arms and legs?
Tea is served. More mince pies, Christmas cake.
The controversial walk. It's lovely to gather the dogs, put your wellies on, wrap up warm and go out in the pitch black, where (out in the countryside) you can see the stars blanketing the sky. Sometimes carols are sung reedily and tunelessly.
Often, people can't be bothered to go for a walk and by people I mean me. This is something I always regret. The walk is the most important thing I'm beginning to think.
More drinks and general lounging. Charades!
Then later on my very favourite: The turkey sandwich (with cranberry sauce, mayonnaise and stuffing) and other leftovers.
Say goodnight and dozily stumble towards bed for the night.
And that my friends, is Christmas day. And I wouldn't miss it for the world.
Arrrrr, there be a heavy fog descending o'er t'moor this morning. Mark my words, strange things are afoot.
I woke up in the middle of the night. Or so I thought. It turned out to be 8am. It's so, so quiet, maybe it's because there are no planes. I live on (under?) a flight path, which I never notice. Sometimes I'm on the phone and the person on the other end goes "Oh my God, what the hell is that deafening noise, are you ok?" And I'm going, "What noise?" But nope, no planes, no distant sound of traffic, no upstairs neighbour thundering down the stairs and slamming the door on his way to work to wake me up. All is completely still.
The other morning sunshine still existed.
Cheery uppy red roses...
And here we have a WIP of what is keeping my little hands busy. The old Bernina sewing machine has been hauled out of storage, and it has been making some pretty, pretty things out of all these bits and pieces (if I do say so myself). Which I can't exactly show you yet. I really enjoy doing fiddly bits of hand sewing for some reason; it's so satisfying. I'm having such a lovely time, sewing and choosing which thing goes where; I'd far rather be at home making presents than battling it out on the streets of shoppers.
Only the blokes are left now anyway, staggering around the shops going 'Oh my God I've got to buy ONE present, this is so fucking stressful, I hate Christmas, why are there so many people around? - "Oh, alright mate, yeah me too, bloody Christmas shopping"...ah, a deep fat fryer - perfect! Romantic AND useful.'
In other exciting news: I realised this morning with a start that I somehow forgot to eat my advent calendar chocolate on the 18th so I had two today.
I do apologise if anyone has stopped by here expecting any kind of shopping insights or caustic remarks about Parisians. Normal coverage will be resumed just as soon as I'm over Christmas...
I'm here, I'm here, she says scrambling to the laptop at ten to twelve still in pyjamas (Princesse Tam Tam stripy if you're interested). Ooops I did say I'd post every other day didn't I? Why can't I do anything with rules except break them, even when they're self imposed?
Somebody has been dreaming contentedly, emitting little sighs and half snores on top of constant purring. Could there be a love story brewing? Ginger Tom, next door, very handsome. That's all I'm saying.
It was all very well going down the hand made route, visiting artists in their ateliers to buy Christmas presents; but when it came to actually making things and festive decorating chez Lola, I was unable to locate any cute Christmas tree light boutiques or young up and coming artisan purveyors of fleece, felt, pom poms and pipe cleaners. So Homebase and John Lewis it was. The HELL of pre-Christmas John Lewis where they don't have any white felt, their selection of rick rack is pitiful and Entree des Fournisseurs seems like a sweet and distant dream I once had and might as well be. And I'm blaming Martha for the John Lewis bit. Martha Stewart Holiday Handmade Gifts - AMAZING.
I never buy Martha Stewart Living, though I do like Martha's Blueprint magazine (not to be confused with long running U.K architecture mag Blueprint. Only Martha is so powerful (feared?) that she can get away with starting a magazine with the same name as another.)
ANYWAY this holiday handmade gift thingy basically shows you how to make all the Christmassy things you want to make but don't know how to, and some you didn't even know you wanted to make until you picked up the Holiday Gift doo dah. (Can I just ask any American readers what the deal is with saying "holiday" and "the holidays"? I quite like it actually, being agnostic, but is it absolutely not done to mention the C word (as in Christmas!) in the states now?)
ANYHOO there are so many gorgeous things to make: what do you think about the ankle strap felt baby booties? In an adult size of course - perfect for lounging! Oh, but they make it all look so beautiful. They could photograph a piece of tinsel draped over a plastic snowman and it would look simple, chic and timeless for goodness sake. How do they do it? I know my efforts will come out looking a bit wonky and grubby compared to the pristine, "I said do it four thousand more times until you get it perfect" projects shown in the magazine, but they do give good template. And for that I am thankful.
They even give you basic knitting and crochet tutorials which are perfect if, like me, your sweet Granny taught you to knit twenty years ago and your recent attempts have only led you to realise it's not quite like riding a bike; however you have no sweet Granny left to ask.
I have the best of intentions towards my crafty endeavours. I'm brimming with ideas but my fabric and trims still stay stuffed in the carrier bag so I can dream of how beautiful it will turn out a while longer. I just love it at the beginning of a project when my vision of what I'm going to make is unsullied by the reality of my slapdash corner cutting and short attention span.
But too many of my ideas have fallen by the wayside because I think they won't turn out absolutely perfect enough. I have never had a business card for this very reason. I have to remind myself of that old chestnut: If it's worth doing, it's worth doing badly.
Yesterday I made it to the much anticipated Orla Kiely sample sale in Brick Lane. There was masses and masses of stuff (the sale is still on today and tomorrow if you're around there.) The prices were still a bit high for me though - bags I expected to be marked down to £50 were more like £150. Sample sales used to be more of a secret affair and because of that or not, the prices were much, much lower in ye olden days. Now I find things more at ordinary sale price, not cost price. In any case the Orla Kiely sale was not really samples but excess stock from past seasons and as always I found a few little bargains: a mohair top (£40), a wallet (£12) and a silly sunhat with my favourite print (£10).
Not bad, actually. I love Orla's prints and I'm not the only one judging by the number of die hard Orla fans decked out in her clothes, already carrying one of her distinctive bags who were literally stockpiling stuff that I thought was way too expensive. And no sighting of my most wanted satin shift dress.
I have a hunch they might lower the prices again before the sale ends because there's so much stock, so if you're feeling lucky get down there tomorrow afternoon.
After a cup of tea at Story, Z and I checked out another sample sale just around the corner. Should have known, should have known. Claiming an impressive roster of designers from Marc Jacobs to Miu Miu to every bold face fashion brand you can think of, the penny should have dropped the moment we were asked for £1 to get in. We saw one pair of Marc Jacobs shoes amongst the dregs. But they did have loads of the lovely Mont St Michel knitwear (still too pricey) and my heart lifted when I saw a whopping great rail of Eley Kishimoto prints smiling at me. I was sure I'd get something but only the difficult to sell wacky and unwearable bits and pieces had found their way there, which obviously is what sample sales are for but sometimes a girl gets lucky. In fact they did also have recent Camilla Staerk samples at proper sample sale prices (like £25).
But the real reason we were hanging around Brick Lane yesterday evening was the Cheshire Street and Friends Late Christmas Shopping Evening. Quel bon idee!
Give me a mince pie and some mulled wine and my purse mysteriously empties itself of all that cumbersome cash. I do love Cheshire Street but usually when I'm over that way most of the shops are shut. (Some of them are only open on Friday and Saturday afternoons.) But last night store of Scandi goodness Mar Mar Co, utility chic Labour and Wait, Comfort Station and all the other wonderful little shops down there opened their doors until 9pm and fed and watered everyone from their big vats of mulled wine or hot cider and trays of home made mince pies.
I bought a lovely pair of earrings by Louise Kragh in Mar Mar Co and Z fell in love with this sugar shaker. At Shelf I bought some Christmas paper cut outs and the letter I for my collection. Yes I now own the letter I, kind of in a 'Happy Birthday' way so if you ever want to use it again please speak to my lawyers...
Also at Shelf there was a blog life and real life collision as we admired in person Camilla Engman's 'Listen' print and her calendar. Such a talented girl.
See, painless shopping and not an in-store Santa, tuneless carol singers or a packaged "The Ultimate Best Ever" anything in sight.
Tra la la.
Last December I hardly posted at all, which is kind of annoying since I have a memory like a sieve. I'm pretty sure stuff happened in the gaps between posts that was really quite interesting, it's just I didn't have time to record it. It's the little in between-y nuggets I savour when I look back, and when I read other people's posts. Yes, I care what you had for lunch.
I'm always envious of (and grateful to) those who find time to post every day. And those early birds who have time to post before the day begins? I am plain jealous. I wish to be an earlybird more than anything; alas I am forever a nightowl.
I have no idea what I did last year at this time other than attempt to complete a macrobiotic cookery homework assignment whilst in Paris. (By the way do not attempt anything involving brown rice, healthfood or macrobiotics in Paris ever. You will be shamed, defeated and possibly deported.)
Anyway apart from that I don't know what else happened - I was possibly too busy caught up in the fray of soul destroying mindless consumerism (see previous post below) to check in here, or was too knackered from said mindless consumerism and did nothing but vegetate in front of the TV grazing on mini mince pies. But who knows, it might have been fabulous.
So I have a not very cunning plan. I shall try my best to post at least every other day until the end of the month/year. As with last year's macrobiotic winter vegetable stew containing daikon and hokkaido pumpkin I may fail and end up with a sludgy brown mess, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.
I hate the whole hamster in a wheel merry-go-round of Christmas shopping, though I do, I'm starting to remember, love the season itself. But for the past fifteen years or so (give or take a year when my mum did it) I have been assigned the role of family Christmas shopper. With between twenty five and thirty presents to get for my extended family depending on births, deaths and marriages, there was nothing to do but sharpen my elbows and wade into the eye of the high street storm for what I call an extended bulk shop.
My ideal gift giving situation would be to float around, going to open studios and buying handmade, browsing the artists I love on etsy or even (am I dreaming here?) making a few things as well.
Unfortunately because I was so consumed (literally) with buying presents for my relatives, friends often got the short straw, culminating in my handing over a 'fun, stupid book' from Colette to one of my best friends last year and receiving an Ipod in return. Oh, and Christmas cards? No, not enough time, sorry. Everyone kind of knew the deal and knew not to expect much, more expressing shock at the insane amount of presents I was stockpiling, I mean thoughtfully choosing for each and every relative I hardly ever see. Actually I don't know if that's a lot - everyone I know seems to have six to eight presents to get, but maybe there are others out there (apart from those related to me who by random fluke are reading this - in which case I hope they don't take this as a diss). If anyone else has a big family I'd love to know if everyone gets a separate present or how they work it - I always thought secret Santa would be a bit more fair. I'd be more than happy to not even get a present as long as we could all get together and share a meal.
The main thing I've really missed is thinking of the person you're giving to and finding the perfect thing for them. Buying loads of presents (and here I give away my wealth of experience) I often end up putting people into categories so I'll start with Auntie type stuff, then do Uncley stuff etc etc and just hope it all turns out ok. My mum used to go through and comment on what I'd got and usually ended up wrapping most of it. But for the past few years I've done the shopping alone, wrapped everything up and posted the ten or so that need to be posted and brought all the ones to exchange in person on my own.
This year, I felt the strange sensation of putting my foot down, more to make a point than anything. After all it's easy enough to not see what all the fuss is about when it's all done for you and you just magically receive thank you letters for things you didn't know you'd given. So this year's Christmas shopping will get done, how and by whom I couldn't really say.
I have so far stuck to the handmade only rule for the ten or so presents I need to get and my goodness, what a lovely time I'm having. Seriously, ten presents? Pah! AND I have sent real, actual physical cards to people I haven't sent them to for years.
I went to Cockpit Arts last week and found some beautiful things (which I can't share just yet for obvious spoiler reasons), I am having a petite soiree, and I may even make mince pies. My outdoor fairy lights are up and my flat is slowly becoming more festive. Christmas is lovely; funny I never noticed.
And of course Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Frank on the old gramophone singing: