Monday, January 30, 2012

Wedding: Knitting II

I'd decided, after making my gloves, that everything intended for the wedding should be made in Alice Starmore's yarn. I'm pretty sure I made this decision during our stay in Scotland, because when you're surrounded by that landscape it seems purely logical to fill your life with it. The depth of colour in Alice Starmore's yarn is vertigo inducing and  the colours really are of that landscape. We'd wistfully toyed with the idea of having our wedding in Balnakeil when we got engaged, but logistically it wasn't possible - organisation wise or guest transportation wise. It takes days to get there and back. And as much as we'd have liked a party on the beach, it could easily have been storms, gales and deeply unpleasant at any time of year. Using Alice Starmore's yarn at least made me feel like I was bringing a bit of Scotland's landscape south (we did literally bring Scotland south too - more of which later).

The next projects I trained my knitting laser focus on were for 'The Next Generation' - the kids of my brother and sister. My eldest niece is six and wanted to be a bridesmaid beyond anything (she described the day later as the best day of her life - really). My youngest niece was too young for her matching shawl and didn't want to wear it, which was a shame but predictable. My nephew was angelic and looked smashing in his owl jumper, he has a thing for owls so he even liked it.

The two shawls were another Ysolda pattern - this time Ishbel. Scottish yarn + Scottish (in name at least) pattern = much better match for Ishbel than the Debbie Bliss "Pure Silk" I originally made this pattern in for myself, back in 2009. I used Hebridean 2 ply in colour "Strabhann" - turquoise blue that results "when a clear, unpolluted sea comes in over such a pure, pale beach". The jumper is of course owlet, designed by Kate Davies. This time knitted in the Aran weight Bainin in colour Suilven. This is what Starmore has to say about the colour Suilven:
From where I live, on a clear day I can see the whole north-west coast of Scotland from Cape Wrath down to the Isle of Skye. This coastline takes the form of a magic mountain range, seen sometimes in silhouette and sometimes in glorious snowy detail when the weather is cold. SUILVEN is directly opposite me across forty miles of sea: a teal-blue spike of Torridonian Sandstone pointing straight into the sky.
I think we took roughly a bajillion pictures of Suilven in the snow during that Christmas.

Getting dressed. Photo by Laura Babb

Walking down the aisle. Photo by Laura Babb

Failing to convince niece #2 to wear her Ishbel. Photo by Laura Babb

Photo by Laura Babb

One of favourite pictures, just because. Photo by Laura Babb 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wedding: Knitting I

Having introduced our lovely photographer I get to finally blog all the knitting I did for our wedding. Woop! When we wrote the first draft of the words for the RocknRoll Bride submission I included far too much knitting information - why I chose the yarn, what the patterns were etc etc. It took a few gentle hints from Dan to make me realise no one but knitters likes that stuff. Now I will indulge myself in all the knitting goodness, because the knitting part of the wedding and knitting in general is important to me for lots of reasons. Firstly, it calms and relaxes me - the repetitive motions are very soothing (I won't dwell too much on what that means for my autistic spectrum tendencies). Secondly, it's a creative release and I've always loved making things. Finally, there's a big emotional factor too.

I love knitting for the people in my life. You've thought about that person for every stitch you've made. I know I'm supposed to be a scientist, but when I hand over something like that - where I've thought about and loved that person for thousands of stitches - I feel like the knitting carries the love and somehow that person should be kept safer for having the knitted thing. The wedding needed knitting, because it needed to be loved. There's no logic in that, but weddings in general aren't logical.

Photo by Laura Babb

The first bit of knitting was my gloves (rav link). The pattern is Ysolda's Veyla. As soon as we booked a November wedding I wanted gloves, and Veyla is so pretty and refined it wasn't even a decision. I knitted most of them during our stay at Balnakiel in April 2011, with wool I'd already stashed carefully away for something special. Dan bought me the wool - Hebridean 2 ply in Pebble Beach - not long after this post by knitting idol Kate Davies was published, extolling the virtues of Alice Starmore's colours. Pebble Beach is as beautiful in person as Kate made it sound and the wool spent a long time in pride of place on the stash shelves, ready to be fondled and gazed at as I walked past it. This moment was also the time I became slightly obsessed by grey as a colour. Because I love colour and grey seemed to have the ability to be all colours at once and yet shift and change through many different shades through the course of a day. I wanted a grey wedding dress. Close friends looked horrified when I told them this. I made those gloves long before I had an idea what my dress would be like, because if the dress didn't go with the gloves, I didn't want it.

Photo by Laura Babb

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wedding: Photographs

In last years relentless march to emigration, I just plain forgot to take any decent pictures of the wedding knitting. Half of it now lives in a different country, so the only images I have are from our wedding day itself. Thus, before I can talk about the knitting or any of the other decoration bits and pieces, I have to introduce the absolutely wonderful Laura Babb

I've mentioned before that we won Laura's services through RocknRoll Bride. For that we had to describe our wedding, why we were doing things a certain way, and put together a mood board. The mood board bit was a lot of fun: trying to write about really personal things without sounding like cringe-inducing-hyperbole-spouting bride-to-be was less so (so I'm not repeating it here!). The bulk of the board was done in a hotel room in Philly whilst we were flat hunting in October. It was so close to our wedding day that it wasn't so much a mood board as a "this is what's happening" board. Laura specifically asked for the images used to be credited properly so she could publish the board, which is obviously very sensible. I don't think she was quite anticipating the scientist's take on that - a full on graphical key. You don't need to tell a scientist about referencing...

The image references:
  1. The Owl Service Plate, from Griselda Greaves’s drawings
  2. The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
  3. Print by Graham Sutherland
  4. Original water colour and ink artwork of an ‘assembled’ owl, by myself
  5. Plant skeleton photograph we took on a Boxing Day walk
  6. Leaf bunting and snowflake lights from our mantle in Autumn 2010
  7. Psychedelic Deer digital art, by TEVR
  8. Original water colour by Ola Liola 
  9. Monster drawing on a Post-it by John Kenn 
  10. Original illustration by Sandra Diekmann
  11. Wild Catalope illustration by Sarah Barrett
  12. Original water colour by Ola Liola
  13. The MacMillan Hunting Ancient tartan from Lochcarron of Scotland
  14. A man in a kilt, seen on (photographs by Elemental Photography)
  15. Our save the date card
  16. Our invitation
  17. A Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell
  18. Woodland table spread, seen on
  19. Autumnal wedding cake, Andies Specialty Sweets
  20. Lichen covered twig centre pieces, StudioChoo for
  21. Our wedding rings from Precious Jewelry Design
  22. Album cover for “A Garland of Song” by The Owl Service
  23. Album cover for “Too Long in this Condition” by Alasdair Roberts & Friends
  24. The Green Man from the Green Man Festival 2010
  25. My wedding dress, from BHLDN
  26. The Owl and the Pussycat, original mixed media illustration by myself
Laura and her partner Pete were brilliant on the day and before. We were so, so lucky to have them there. We had this idea of what we wanted the wedding to look and feel like for everyone and despite having no time we put a lot of effort into trying to make it happen. Somehow - and I have no idea how - Laura managed to capture the atmosphere we were trying to create in her photos. For heavens sake - there's even pictures of us wearing antlers with halos! I had not anticipated the mood board coming to life in quite such a literal way and, sat as we are thousands of miles from the event, the photos are a precious record of a transient moment.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wedding Stationary: Part III

The final paper wedding project was the order of service. For the most part it was made of repurposed invitation and 'save the date' artwork - for visual continuity as much as anything else. The front cover got printed onto brown kraft paper and that came out much better than anticipated.

The first page was a result of inspiration from The Natural Wedding Company blog. A thank you to everyone who was there to witness the service. Our wedding day wasn't just about us. A big part of our motivation was thanking everyone who'd given us so much support through the years. We've been together a long time and we've relied heavily on family and friends to prop us up even when they didn't realise they were doing it, especially during the PhD years. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun finding their names too.

order of service
Front cover

order of service
'Thank You' page and 'The Owl and the Pussycat' (Edward Lear) - read brilliantly on the day by my sister and my niece.

order of service
The second reading was 'The Marriage of Psyche' by Kathleen Raine - although pulled by us from  the 'Ring of Bright Water' by Gavin Maxwell, where the otter sketches also come from.

order of service
A snuggled up Killer and Vince illustrated 'Reading the Banns' by Simon Armitage. We made a playlist for before the ceremony and had tracks for signing the register and leaving the hall - we listed them all on the back page. 

order of service
A detail of 'The Owl and the Pussycat' illustration - this was an adjusted scan of a mixed media style Valentine's Day card I made for Dan in... 2010? I think?

order of service
All the text was backed by a grey falling leaf pattern I originally made for the save the date card to stop the page looking so flat. It helped give the pages a more delicate and refined finish that I was quite pleased with.

order of service
Vincey Cat hides among the reeds...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wedding Stationary: Part II

Dan gave me 'The Owl Service' by Alan Garner for my birthday in 2011. The story is about a girl named Ali who becomes possessed by a mad owl/flower/women spirit. It's a sixties folk horror classic about... well I'm not sure what it's about to be honest, but we loved it. The Owl Service became the nexus for planning our wedding.

Part of the reason we wanted to send out real invitations (apart from the fact we just like them) was to get people excited and give them an idea of what they might expect. The invitations went out as a little packet in brown paper envelopes - I think we both had in mind those Don't Panic envelopes we used to pick up on nights out as students, which were always full of intriguing bits of paper and card. Our packet included the invite itself, the RSVP card to post back and a mysterious line drawing of a decorated plate printed on tracing paper (the owl service itself).

If I've piqued anyone's curiosity, both the book and the original bonkers/unsettling TV series are available. I also just discovered this amazing knitting pattern whilst hunting for my original sources - I know I'll be casting that on as soon as is humanly possible. The folk band aren't bad either!

scan of the original water colour I made for the invite

the finished invitation

original water colour and ink Owl illustration based on The Owl Service

the finished RSVP postcard

The Owl Service plate from Griselda Greaves's drawings

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wedding Stationary: Part I

With the insane tangle of life changing events that 2011 will always be remembered for in our house, planning our wedding was usually the bottom of the heap on the never-ending-list-of-things-to-do (a bit like The Never Ending Story but more stressful and without the cool flying dragons and 80s wardrobe). Probably it was a good thing - it kept the wedding monster inside me in perspective - and meant the process was a happy distraction most of the time. 

However little the time and money there seemed to be, we still wanted to create a handmade moment to start our new lives. It started with "The stationary". I was morally against paying anyone to do it for us. This, if anything, was the moment my creatively obsessed kid-self had been waiting for her entire life. The invitations meant more to me than the dress - I knew I had no hope of making my own dress on any kind of meaningful time scale.

It started with a save the date card. A sketch of our two cats hiding in leaves. In between sending the cards to the printer and their arrival on our doorstop ready to post, we lost cat number one. A horrid tweak of fate that got repeated later in the year. I try not to dwell on that too much in case I jinxed both our kitties by drawing them.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

That was the year that was: Killer and Vince

For better or worse our grand scheme of moving to America included carting our kitties with us. Sadly (very, very, very sadly) for us it was not to be. We were (and continue to be) devastated by the sudden death of Killer-Cat and the subsequent rapid fade of Mr Vince. Our home, in any country, feels sad and quiet without the pitter patter of little paws and the sound track of Killer's constant commentary. It was probably for the best that we weren't given time to dwell on it too much last year. We made them a secret part of our wedding - hopefully the kind of secret that will bind us together.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

chocolate covered pretzels


We've been living in America for over a month now. It was a slow start, what with not having social security numbers and all that jazz - but we're climbing slowly! We now have WiFi at home, a bank account, an account with the electric company - all the good stuff. We don't have any furniture yet and the apartment is a little sad since the Christmas tree had to go, but it's pay day soon so hopefully a sofa isn't too far away. A course summary of first impressions:

  • maple syrup
  • chocolate covered pretzels
  • sparrows
  • scrapple
  • jerky
  • ice hockey (go Flyers!)
  • the ever changing colours of Philly's skyline (and)
  • the view from our apartment
  • blood oranges in bulk
  • social security numbers
  • bonkers licensing laws
  • banks
  • the lack of supermarket online shopping and home delivery options
  • calling the main course an entree
  • the price of butter, tea bags and marmite
  • our neighbours
Things I miss about home (without mentioning our nearest and dearest)
  • rain
  • humid air
  • the dim slanting light of winter
  • the smell of the undergrowth
  • furniture
  • blackbirds and robins
  • our garden (trying not to think about that one too much)
  • heating that works
  • everything!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

a geek moment

Full of the Joys of a new project and faced with a blank, drab and dreary new desk, I made a graphic CMYK codon usage wheel to stick on my wall and brighten the place up a bit. The letters in the middle are the RNA nucleotides: uracil, cytosine, adenine and guanine. Working from the middle out gives you the first, second and third nucleotide in the codon. The letters around the outside are the single letter code for the amino acid that codon encodes. For example: Cyan, Yellow, Cyan = CGC = R = Arginine. 

I was going to make it in a nice tasteful blue configuration, but I was listening to Neon Indian at the time and well.... you see the result!

CMYK codon wheel

Click on the image to download and print - offered free to scientists everywhere looking for something jolly for their work environment. Absolutely not to be used for profit of any kind.

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Years Breakfast

Before heading out to our inaugural Philadelphia New Years Day Mummers Parade we needed a hearty breakfast. When we gazed into the cavern of our ginourmas American Fridge we didn't come up with much, but we had the essentials of eggs and bacon (really good smoked Amish bacon too). Eggy bread? Boiled eggs and soldiers? Straight bacon and eggs with toast? When we pulled the bread out it had the beginnings of mould. Dan suggesting cutting off the the mouldy bits. For the purposes of this particular story you should now imagine a light bulb going off over my head....


One of my presents from Santa this year was "North Pole Animal" cookie cutters. Stale bread was now wolves, polar bears, sea lions, whales and penguins.... We'll ignore the fact that the manufacturers of these fine cutters didn't know the basic zoological fact that penguins don't live at the North Pole. The Wolf cutter makes up for that. 


Step 1: Cut our your animals and soak them in beaten egg


Step 2: Fry gently...


... on both sides


Step 3: Serve with a fine dusting of cinnamon, a decent glug of maple syrup, and fried bacon... mmMMMmm