More socks!

Another pair off the needles:)
The unknowing recipient of these socks will be my brother who lives in London. I’m sure as winter is approaching there will be times when a cosy pair of socks will be appreciated- I hope!

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So who will be my next ‘victim’! Sadly, my stash is dwindling to the choice of 3.

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Living in Saudi Arabia and especially in the town of Tabuk means I have to either bring back my sock wool or order it and run the gauntlet of the mail and customs. So which colour combination will I choose for my sister-in-law who I’ve decided will be next for my socks. Well at least that was what I had intended until last night when I received a message from my niece who was ‘pretty pleasing’ for a pair after she’d seen the pair I’d knitted for her cousin!
2 of the yarns are Regia which I have so far used for all my socks but the other is the hand-dyed yarn I bought in Harris this summer. It feels so cosy being made from merino and bamboo that I’m just dying to see how it knits up. Decisions, decisions! Who will get what?

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Harris Artisans

Many years ago, when I first visited the Outer Hebrides there was very little in the way of art and craft items for sale. Possibly, there just wasn’t the tourist trade and anything made was very much for personal use and most people made their own knitwear and tweed items. Since then there has been a growing community of art and crafts in the islands and especially on Harris. Many of these talented people have settled there from mainland UK and have very much embraced the local way of life. Visiting in the summer when the days are long and the sun is shining it seems a very desirable option, but knowing how long and dark the winter months can be when the Atlantic gales are battering all in its way I’m not so sure I would last very long.
This summer, I visited a few new (to me) artisans and enjoyed some lovely chats about their work and general life in a remote area of UK. A shed definitely seems to be an essential addition and a great asset for a personal place to work. 3 sheds I fell in love with were-
The Scalpay Linen shed which smelt so good with all the wool that was being worked as well as the linen.

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The weaving loom.

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Hand spun art wool.
The food shed at Northton where you can be tempted by home baked bread, scones, cakes as well as fresh caught shellfish.

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All the purchases here are made on trust- loved the box which asks you to roll pound notes up tight to feed into the hole on the top!

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And thirdly this cheekily called ‘Northton Trading Co’ shed with an eclectic mix of items. Again, trust is an essential part of its success as you are asked to ring the bell if you want to buy anything!

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Handbags for sale.

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An inside view.
How heartening it was to think that there are still areas where people can live in harmony without taking advantage of each other so readily and that they extend this trust to us,the visitors, who come from very different backgrounds.
And how do they survive? I’m not too sure. I know that for some the Internet is a vital link for selling their goods, and perhaps for others, who have partners with regular paid jobs, the financial reward isn’t the ultimate goal. Whatever, I know I met some very happy, contented people living on the Island of Harris this summer and hope when I return next time they will still be there …and their sheds of course!

Socks for my Dad:)

Well They’re finished!:)

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My Dad’s new socks.
The last thing I knitted for my Dad was a scarf, about 50 years ago, when I first learnt to knit. It was a long colourful thing in whatever wool scraps my mum had so it widened and narrowed depending on the thickness of the wool. Despite sounding pleased he never wore it so the next time my uncle came home from the Merchant Navy the scarf was recycled to him! I doubt he wore it but as he was away at sea for months on end my feelings didn’t get hurt in the same way! So 50 years later I wonder if my socks will be appreciated? If not maybe I’ll be doing the prince in Cinderella thing and trying to find someone with size 9 feet!

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I used Regia 4ply wool for my Dad’s socks and loved the way the pattern evolved all by itself. I am now hooked on knitting socks and just have to decide who the next lucky recipient will be before I cast on the stitches.
I’ve also been checking out some other sock patterns on the Internet. Very inspiring and some will need a lot more concentration than this last pair but definitely a challenge I’m very keen to try:)

Abayas, Gahwa and dates.

This morning was craft morning. So I got myself organised quickly, grabbed the new sock on my knitting needles and wandered across to ‘Bunnies’ to see who was there. It was busy!
One of the ladies had completed a beautiful handmade quilt and had brought it to show. It was her first ever quilt and it was certainly a quilt to be proud of. It made me determined to get one of my long term quilt projects out of the cupboard soon and restart the process as I really love this craft.

20130408-231500.jpgGahwa pots and old Gahwa cup.

We were all having a chat and catching up with people who had just come back off holiday when Kate mentioned that an American woman who is married to a local Saudi was coming to join us. She did not come alone but brought some Gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates to share:) so lovely. I think she finds it a bit lonely at times and although she loves her husband dearly, craves some ordinary chat with other English speaking women. She is pregnant with their first child so will be travelling back to U.S for the birth next month. I certainly didn’t expect that as I would have thought that she would have been obliged to have the baby here.
She also brought 4 abayas with decoration to sell. I got the idea that some of the others had been expressing difficulty in getting ‘nice’ abayas. She certainly came through for 2 of the women as they quickly ‘snapped up’ a couple of the abayas for 300 SR each. I heard a while back that many Saudi women were getting hassle for wearing abayas with adornment on them by the matouaya (religious police) down in Riyadh, so it will be interesting if any of the ladies have any problems here.
All in all, although I came home again without knitting a stitch, I had a very enjoyable couple of hours and a very interesting time meeting another ‘western’ woman who lives in Tabuk under very different circumstances to us other ex-pats.

Enterprising community!

Living on a compound in the north of Saudi Arabia means that I don’t have access to any of the facilities that might be available in bigger cities like Jeddah or Riyadh. Only a few wives have work visas as nursing and teaching tend to be the occupations that women can be employed to do. Other women who have talents that can be utilised by the community set up small private businesses and thank goodness as without them the community would be a poorer place to live.
Yesterday I enjoyed a very relaxing facial from one of the Thai wives, the day before a British woman pampered my feet with a pedicure and next week I will have a neck and back massage from a Philippina woman and my hair cut by a British woman. And then there is the food providers- 2 Thai ladies cook Thai and Chinese type meals, a Lebanese woman offers Arabic food, a Brit cooks chips and burgers at the weekend and many women bake cakes and savouries or make jams and pickles for sale in the compound shop.
Various talented arty women make handmade cards, take commissions for paintings and stained-glass and create stitched and knitted items for sale.
So, yes our community has much to be grateful to these women who make our lives a bit more like living in a small village than a soulless compound with few facilities:)

20130402-235113.jpgyummy spring rolls and delicious Thai curry for sale.

20130402-235400.jpggarden grown oranges that get turned into marmalade!

20130402-235501.jpggreen tomato chutney coming soon in the shop using home grown tomatoes.

Finally ….a sock!

Monday is craft morning here on the compound and as I was on holiday I could go and meet up with some of the other crafters on the compound. Dilemma though- what token craft project to take to look like I was serious and not just there to drink coffee and chat! Searching around in a couple of cupboards I found the sock I had started nearly 2 years ago -or was it even longer! – As a preent for my sister-in-law. A couple of hours later, after a coffee and a lot of chat I returned home without even knitting a stitch!
Later in the afternoon I decided it was time to ‘put this sock to bed’ and got those needles ‘click- clacking’! Eh voila after a couple of hours I was finished!

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… And now for the other one…..hopefully it won’t take 2 years to complete and my sister-in-law may get her socks before next winter:)