Monday, 30 January 2012

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Manchester

Happy New Year to all those who celebrated it last week! We decided to take the short trip into Manchester yesterday to see what was on offer in terms of celebration. Unfortunately we missed most of the events as we turned up late evening but I understand there were some amazing performances in Albert Square.

We however ventured into Chinatown and were hit swarm of madness -fairground rides, stalls, burger vans... not exactly of Chinese tradition! To be fair (but I could be wrong) Manchester Events & Planning doesn't actually organise Chinese New Year and so you take what you get around this time of year. Moving closer towards the main square however things became more traditional. Buildings and lampposts were decorated with lanterns and strings of lights. The Chinese bakeries and restaurants had remained open for the occasion, spilling their delicious smelling food out onto the streets by way of temporary stalls. Of course, every gift, toy and food shop was open too, although I didn't fancy competing with the rush of visitors inside the small overstocked shops. (Apologies for the blurry pics but I had to make do with my phone as I had left my camera at home.)

Lovely shot of the rubbish piling in the street, on top of an over-flowing bin.

 We were lucky enough to encounter the Chinese Dragons (something I missed a few years ago during my last visit) as they disappeared in and out of every doorway, making it's way around all the shops, restaurants, massage parlours and even lap dancing bars in Chinatown. I hope the patrons were prepared for that invasion! I'm sure the dragons must have knocked over a few chairs and tables as they danced around, those costumes weren't made for being graceful.

The Chinese Dragons exiting from a Thai Restaurant after visiting the Lap Dancing Bar next door.

 The Chinese Dragons were accompanied by an small entourage of four people with plastic black poles who moved the crowd out of the way as they erratically made their way through Chinatown, cris-crossing over the street so much that nobody knew where to stand to avoid being in the way - a logistical nightmare for those with prams and small children. The whole thing was very confusing especially when the road came to a sudden end...

We still don't know why this road was closed. Nothing was happening and the crowd continued to build behind us, unaware that we had been prevented from going any further. After a patient (and very British) wait of 5 minutes someone eventually asked a security guard what was going on. His response? "I don't know, we were just asked to stand here. I don't know why anybody is gathering round here anyway, the fireworks are on the other side of this building, you won't see them from here." After spreading the word, the crowd behind us dispersed in enough time for us to get round to the front of the fireworks display next to the Chinatown Gate.

The fireworks, like the whole celebration, wasn't co-ordinated very well but it was nice to watch, and to the organiser's credit, the fireworks did last for a full 15 minutes which I would say is pretty damn good for a free event.
I recorded a few videos but unfortunately our view was obscured by some trees and people in large fluffy hats (it was sooo cold last night, my feet were actually numb!) Below is the fireworks finale, I'm not sure why this video has turned out so small but it does feature a lovely goodbye from our host - "I wish you all the best and make a safe home journey".

I will upload some more videos later when Firefox stops being daft.

It was freezing cold so the crowd quickly disbanded and we sat in The Bank to warm up and have a drink or two before making our way home.

Friday, 20 January 2012

My Finished Scarf + Pom Pom Tutorial

It's time for a non-Filofax post I think...
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had finished knitting my scarf. This was my first ever attempt at knitting something I was actually interested in start-to-finish. Up until the scarf I had been knitting little squares to eventually sew into a patchwork blanket. I loved creating the little sqaures at first but it got very boring very fast. So when I went home to visit my mum for her birthday she suggested to me that I take up a new piece of knitting to keep myself interested. I decided to make a scarf and learnt a new stitch to do this, taught to me very patiently by my mother (who always been a relaible sourse of knowledge for anything creative; thank you mum!) I really got into knitting this and before I knew it the scarf was finished within a week. Here is my masterpiece!

The flash on the camera makes the colours look more garish
than they actually are.

Wrapped around twice!

The yarn is 30% wool King Cole Chunky Riot in Moors colouring ordered from Demores (unfortunately that spefic dye isn't available on the site at the moment). I just love the muted tones and I'm quite impressed at the subtle stripy gradient. The scarf is already a little fluffy as I haven't had the thing off my neck! I made it extra long so I can wrap it around my neck twice and snuggle up in it. This super length, including pom poms, took 3 balls of wool in total.

The pom pom making was another craft my mum (re-)taught me. I used to know how to do this in my childhood but I had completely forgotten how to do it. I had made a few searches online for my mum's particular method but couldn't find it so I thought I would share the knowledge and make a little tutorial on how to make pom poms with a circular template.

Here we go!

Step 1: Gather your materials:

You will need:
  • Wool (I'm using double knitting for this one but chunky wool would take less time)
  • A ruler
  • A compass if you need one. You could always use 2 objects to draw around.
  • A pencil or pen
  • Some Blu-Tak (optional)
  • Some thin card. Frozen food boxes are ideal for this.

Step 2: Make Your Circular Templates

Cut open the box and make sure the card is clean enough for use.

Now decide how big you would like your pom poms and draw out the templates on the card. You will need two templates. I am going to go for a diameter of 8cm with a centre hole of 2cm. The larger the centre hole, the more wool you will use and the thicker your pom pom will be. My pom pom will be relatively think and should be 8cm tall when I'm finished.

Cut out the templates. You might want to stick some Blu-Tak onto the back of the card and stab through with a pencil to make the centre easier to cut out. It's when I see photographs like this I remember that my thumbs bend in the wrong direction when I grip!

You should now have two templates! Don't worry about making these perfect circles - wool doesn't care about that!

Step 3: Make Your Pom Pom

Cut a length of wool that will be mangaeable (in the background) I usually use something around 1.5 metres long. Now place the two templates back to back.

Keeping the templates gripped together (more weird thumb bending from me) and, starting at one end of the wool, place the wool behind the templates. Keep this in place with your index or middle finger. Make sure you allow 2cm or so of wool to stick up above the template.

Now pull the rest of the wool towards you through the circle and fold it back up on itself. Grip this with your thumb.

Keep doing this - winding the wool by threading it through the circle and looping back over - until you come to the end of the wool. When you do come to the end, allow the loose end to stick out of the top, just like you did at the beginning. It just so happens my wool finished at the front, your could finish at the back depending on how long your wool is.

Start a new piece of wool like you did before. You will need to line up the new length at the same point where the last length finished, only this time on the opposite side. This means you can overlap the last loop of the last length, trapping it under your new length, making it less likely to unwind and slip off the template as you work on new lengths. Try to grip as much of the circle in your hand as you can while you work on new lengths.

Keep doing this and eventually you will end up completing the circle. Woo hoo! Now you just need to keep going, this time working over the layer you have just done. Keep doing this over and over again until you physically can't get any more wool through the centre. You may want to use a pencil or a crochet hook to poke the wool through the centre as it gets smaller.

When you are finished the pom pom should look like this. That was the boring bit done - now we just need to finish it off.

Step 4: Free Your Pom Pom!

Carefully part the wool to reveal the cardborad underneath.

Take your scrissors and slip them inbetween the two cardboard circles. Cut round the entire circle.

You will see your pom pom taking shape as you cut.

Once you have cut all the way around, part the cardboard with your fingers

Take another length of wool and loop it around pom pom inbetween the two card circles. Tie a knot, then double-knot it. I like to loop the wool around twice and tie a knot with each loop.

Now that the wool is secure you can cut away the cardborad templates. Make sure you don't cut any wool as you do so.

It's free! Now you are left with a very messy pom pom. Tidy it up by trimming back all the loose ends to the correct length. Remember to leave the wool you tied the knots with! Don't cut this, you will need this to attach the pom pom to whatever it is you are using it for.

And that's it!
This pom pom turned out quite nicely but if I was to do it again I would increase the the centre hole to 2.5 or 3cm to make it a little thicker.
You could even make pom poms out of glittery wool and use them as Christmas decorations!

Go on, give it a try, you might enjoy it :)

Happy pom pomming!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Filofax For Sale Alert!

Hello (and a very belated Happy New Year) to my fellow Bloggers.
As the title suggests, I'm letting you know that I have a Filofax to sell!
I received my Purple Imperial Finchely a few weeks ago (pics will come soon!) and I was so thrilled with it that I immediately went looking for the Vintage Rose Finchely on eBay. Well, I did find one to bid on and lucky me, I won the auction!
The Personal Vintage Rose Finchely arrived a few days ago, and, well... I just don't like it. I think my problem is that I went for the deliciously rich purple first and somehow I just don't think the Finchley suits this dusky pink colour. Perhaps it's just me, there is certainly nothing wrong with it (although it did arrive with a musky odour which I have tried to air out) and I did like the vintage colours when viewing it online. I have just changed my mind.

And so in light of my unwanted purchase, I am putting this Filofax up for Sale on eBay as of today. It will be up there for a standard 7 day auction with no reserve or Buy It Now price. Starting price is only £5!
Inserts are limited but they include:
A black Today marker
Cotton Cream dividers
Cotton Cream Address dividers
A few Cotton Cream Address pages
A few Cotton Cream To Do pages

If you do decide to go for it - happy bidding!

*edit: the colour of this Filo is more of a dusky pink that these photos suggest. Link to eBay item is here.

***Update: This pretty Filo has now been sold to a very happy buyer. Smiles all round!