Friday, February 27, 2015

Enforced Intermission...

As you might have noticed, I'm taking a few weeks off from blog writing. This is not really because I don't want to post, and it won't be for long either, but right now work is so busy that I'm finding it very difficult to juggle all the things that I have to get done. Since blogging, for me, is a non-profit activity, and not a family activity, but purely my personal pleasure, when things get that busy it tends to be the aspect of my life that suffers first. I have been knitting and crafting when I've had a minute, though, so I'm very much looking forward to showing you what I've been up to. Soon, soon...

Now, if I can just get through the next week or so it should get a (teensy) bit easier after that and I may even find a minute for a proper update here AND catch up on all the things you've undoubtedly been up to. I can hardly wait! :)

For now, farewell, and hope to see you all again very soon.

xx

Monday, February 09, 2015

I have a confession...

... I want to start yet another jumper...

*takes cover to avoid rotten eggs*  

The other day I was reading Savannahchik's blog and she posted that she is joining Plum Dandi's new Sweater KAL on ravelry. I sort of decided that I don't have the time right now for another KAL, but  had a look at the patterns  anyway, and they looked so nice! 

Just look at these:


This is Briquette. I really fancy knitting a hoodie, but the yarn the pattern asks for is DK and I really DON'T fancy another long DK knit right now (after all, I've barely started The Black One, aka the Acer Cardigan, which is likely going to take me ages anyway.

That said, a hoodie would be nice, no?

Alternatively of course there is Ease or even Eased, the bulky version of the pattern:


But they both don't have a hood... Can a drawstring collar be made into a hood? Is that difficult to do? I've never knitted a hoodie before, so the construction isn't entirely clear to me... 

On ther other hand, I have some lovely soft and snuggly Rowan Calmer that is just begging to become a hoodie, so perhaps I should go with Briquette after all? 

Clearly what I really ought to do is get on with all the work that I'm supposed to get on with today rather than fret about future WIPs to add to my existing WIPs! 

Over and out. 




Wednesday, February 04, 2015

WIP Wednesday Update...

... and boy do I have WIPs! I've gone a bit WIP-crazy over here, starting new projects, knitting a bit, then reverting back to older WIPs, then flitting back to the newer ones. Occasionally I finish something, like the handspun hat for boy#3, but mostly I'm starting things. At this rate it'll be months before any of them are finished because that would require me to, you know, not start new projects but actually stick with what I've got for a while. 

That said, it's fun, this Starteritis, and since all the yarn is coming from stash it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction - all those different wooly treasures are finally finding projects that suit them!


My needles for Owls arrived the other day, so I'm back on track. I am a little worried about the thickness of the yarn. The first ball of yarn seems, to me, to have a different thickness to the rest of the pack, meaning that what initially looked like something between aran and bulky now looks much more like a normal aran-weight yarn... Since this project calls for bulky to achieve the density of fabric that will make the owls look good this is obviously not such a good development. I'm continuing on for now, but I am a bit concerned... :/

The brown v-neck raglan on the other hand has been an unexpected delight.



Look how far I've come! (sorry about the Skylander who snuck into the picture. He was on the table when I took the pictures but since he matches the orange yarn so well he was permitted to stay).



I've really enjoyed knitting with this yarn - it's as soft as it is indifferent in looks, lol. Since all of you seemed to agree that I should go with orange for the contrasting yarn that's exactly what I did. I've finished the body and have started the first sleeve.


I've also done a swatch for yet another cardigan. It's Amy Christoffer's Acer Cardigan.



I'm knitting it with Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere in black. I cast on for the swatch yesterday, using 4 mm needles, and hit gauge immediately. OK, the swatch is perhaps 2 mm out, but I'll take that! ;)  It feels curious to knit with the cotton cashmere - it behaves so differently to the wool that I normally knit with, but I like the evenness and drape of the fabric and I think the cables of the cardigan will add some interest to the plain black, while the black will give this project quite a classic, classy look. I'm hoping that keeping it neutral will ensure that it'll be versatile - the kind of cardigan you can wear with a dress or a skirt, to work, or with a pair of jeans when taking the kids to the park. 

And finally, what am I reading right now - D and I finished The Luminaries a few days ago, and rooting around for a new book to tackle I became intrigued with a very different kind of novel. It's To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. It's so unlike The Luminaries that when we started reading it it took us a while to leave the world of the 19th century New Zealand gold rush behind and shift our attention to 21st century New York! The two novels are so unlike that in fact, the only thing they appear to have in common is that they were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which isn't entirely incidental - every year D gives me the Booker Prize shortlist for Christmas. :)


This is the blurb from Amazon:

"Paul O'Rourke - dentist extraordinaire, reluctant New Yorker, avowed atheist, disaffected Red Sox fan, and a connoisseur of the afternoon mochaccino - is a man out of touch with modern life. While his dental practice occupies his days, his nights are filled with darker thoughts, as he alternately marvels at and rails against the optimism of the rest of humanity.
So it goes, until someone begins to impersonate Paul online. What began as an outrageous violation of privacy soon becomes something far more soul-frightening: the possibility that the virtual 'Paul' might be a better version of the man in the flesh . . ."

The reviews on Amazon are pretty mixed. I only skimmed them because I don't want to spoil the plot, but I can see where both sides are coming from. It's such an unusual read, it could go either way... 


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Monday, February 02, 2015

Mini-FO!


I made a hat for boy#3!

Actually, it was meant to be a hat for boy#1. A while ago he 'helped' me spin a leftover bit of orange fleece I had lying around and he was so proud of the resulting yarn that I decided there and then that I'd knit something for him with it. Last Friday I cast on, but it became quickly apparent that there just wasn't enough of it to make a hat for him. Boy#1 generously suggested that boy#3 could have his yarn, so I cast on again for a smaller hat. 


As it turned out there STILL wouldn't have been enough yarn, but I found a tiny leftover bit of white handspun which was very similar in thickness. It worked perfectly and I think actually makes the hat look so much more cute than a uniform orange hat would have looked!


Pattern moderations:

I roughly followed the pattern for Jason's Tweed Hat but altered it to suit my requirements.

With a 6mm cable needle, I cast on 42 stitches with the German cast-on (I love this cast-on method because it's so stretchy and gives a lovely edge). I knitted k3 p3 to about 4-5 inches from cast-on edge, and then followed the decreasing instructions from the pattern. 


This was such a quick knit - I cast on Friday afternoon, and Friday evening it was finished. Boy#3 loves his hat - he spent most of Saturday running around the house, wearing it. :) 


Ravelry page for the hat is HERE.

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Seaside in February


We felt the need to get out of the house today, so despite the bad weather we all got in the car and drove to Hornsea, a little seaside place close to us, for some fossil hunting.

As soon as we got there it started to rain, so we had a picnic in the car, closely observed by a growing flock of gulls.



It was pretty grim out there - cold, wet and windy.


The boys didn't mind much! ;) 



Friday, January 30, 2015

Plan and Do


How quickly the beginning of this year has whizzed by! January is nearly at its end and I am only now  getting round to contemplating the upcoming months.

I've thought long and hard about what my word for the year ought to be. So many came to mind, and reading about other people's thoughts and their chosen words proved inspiring yet in many ways not helpful (so many worthy and inspiring thoughts!!). 

But looking at the year ahead (and all those things I am aiming to achieve this year!!) and my particular disposition I think it ought to have been obvious what I need my word to be - it's plan, or rather, plan and do, because I think the two of them need to go together to actually lead to anything. 

I'm not naturally an organised person and I'm prone to a fair bit of procrastination too. I have got better since having children, because with children, if you don't get your organisation skills on to some extent, things will come unstuck very quickly, but there are days when it's a real struggle, and it's led to a string of last-minute-panics, missed appointments, and no end of rushing around. These are not good things in anyone's life. 

I have a lot of things to achieve this year, and I'd like to approach them in a mindful and organised manner rather than rushing into them in a headless way. I'll feel better for it, and so will my family.

With that in mind, a few things I'd like to start doing more:
1) pay bills when they come in
2) plan the week in advance (this includes work, childcare, playdates, but also weekday meals for example)
3) pack lunch for work (so much better and also cheaper than the cafeteria)
4) bake and freeze breakfast muffins. I'm thinking of these:
Breakfast Muffins
Raisin Bran Muffins
Banana Oatmeal Muffins
French Toast Muffins
Healthy Happy Banana Muffins
or possibly these:
Breakfast Balls

And for lunch...
I love cornbread, but perhaps I might also try these:
Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins

How did this plan and do post turn into a muffin post? Although if you squint a little I suppose the two are related...

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Creative Friday

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WIP Wednesday and A Year of Projects Update...

It's time for another WIP update - how quickly time passes. So much to do, so little time!

I've been busy this week. Term is about to start and everyone is trying to squeeze one last meeting in before teaching starts. Add to that the usual prep work that precedes teaching and there's just not been enough time in the day! 

That said, I have been knitting. Although I've toted my knitting everywhere it's usually been an evening activity, but even so I have managed to make inroads into both Owls and the V-neck. I'm kind of enjoying them both - what one project has in looks (I love the way Owls knits up) the other has in softness (that GGH might not look like much but it's buttery soft - the oatmeal wool I'm using for Owls isn't!). 


Owls is a very quick knit - if you want to finish a project quickly then 6 mm needles really are the way forward. I've managed to damage my needles, though - they weren't very good quality to start with, and the plastic of the cable is cracking where it's joint to the bamboo of the needles. I'll have to buy some new ones - that'll slow me down a bit...

Good thing then that I have the V-Neck Raglan to knit while I'm waiting for my needle replacement. I love the top-down raglan construction, so clever, and you can even try it on as you go along. Good job I did too, because that way I realised that I needed a bit more room under the arms and was able to make three more stitches as I joined the sides to start knitting in the round. It fits much more comfortably now. 



I think I might be a tad short on wool though because I suspect that some of those balls of GGH weren't complete. I'm planning on 2-coloured sleeves to make sure. I'll knit brown until about t-shirt length (from the top), then continue on in an accent colour. To tie it in more I'll add a row of that colour around the neck and possibly also do a couple of thin stripes at the bottom of the jumper... That ways I won't have to worry all the time that I might run out of yarn, and it might also break up the unrelenting brown-ness of this jumper a bit. I'm thinking of either some orange or some muted turquoise from stash... What do you think?

I think I'm at about the same stage with both projects, even though one is from the bottom up and the other from the top down - both are at around waist-height right now. :)

As for reading - not much time for that this week I'm afraid. I'm currently finishing up The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, though, which D and I have been reading together at night. 

This is the blurb from Amazon: 
"It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky. The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament."

It's a strange kind of novel, beautifully written, and observant, with lovely character portrayals and capturing that strange frontier feel of the New Zealand goldfields in a way that brings it alive,  but also at times quite convoluted and ponderous. I have enjoyed it but it's not as gripping as many other books I've read. We have around 50 pages left, so things are now coming to a head and many of the  backstories are revealed, and we are picking up our pace a bit as we become more curious if all those mysteries will be explained or not. 

And last but not least, I thought it was time I consulted my A Year of Projects list once more. This is how things look at the moment:

On the needles:

On the List: 
Shalom cardi (Yarn: Olive wool/cashmere blend)
Liesl (Yarn: orange and yellow handspun)
Dietrich (Yarn: sock-weight feltable yarn from stash)
Sideways Grande Cloche (Yarn: Single skein purple Cascade)

Finished Projects



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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekending...







Another weekend draws to a close. Boy #3 had his first ever swimming lesson on Saturday. The boys were ridiculously excited and wound him up no end. Of course, after all that excitement, the reality didn't quite deliver. He went into the pool just fine, but lost his nerve half-way through and started crying for Mummy... I went to sit by the pool, which I am not sure, retrospectively, was such a bright idea because it really didn't help him pull himself together, but in the end he did manage to stay with the lesson until it was almost finished. 

He got cuddles and praise afterwards, which immediately cheered him up, as did the fact that the was wrapped in a warm towel - he hasn't quite understood the link between staying active and staying warm in the water yet, but his brothers made sure to explain to him that he needs to 'keep bouncing and kicking to keep warm'. :)   We'll see how the next lesson goes - that evening boy #3 was sure to point out to me that he is 'still little' (as opposed to being a 'big boy', which is how he usually perceives himself!) and that he has now learnt to swim anyway, thereby eradicating the need for a repeat visit to the pool.  I've promised him some cool new goggles for the next lesson... 

Upon arriving back home I felt the rare need to bake, so I made some shortbread, which was received with some enthusiasm by the family. D played his banjo, and that's how we spent the rest of our Saturday - playing, knitting, eating shortbread, and listening to D play. Good times. :) 

Sunday we had one of our 'grandma days' - after a leisurely breakfast and some much-needed haircuts for the boys (I wonder when they'll start objecting to me cutting their hair...) they went to grandma for a fun-filled day while D and I got some time to ourselves to recharge. D went into the shed to build another banjo and I divided my time between some weeding and onion-planting at the allotment  (so peaceful and calm this time of year - I really enjoy being out and spending time there getting the plot ready) and painting. My 'red canvas' is morphing into something quite different to what I'd initially intended it to be, but isn't part of what makes painting fun to go with the flow and let yourself be surprised by the results? 

Hope you all had a relaxing weekend too! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

FO Friday - Green Ink Flare


Yes, two FOs in a week! First the Lombard Street Socks, and now Ink Flare

Ink Flare, after being a really quick and straight-forward knit, actually caused quite a bit of high drama at the end. I finished the body and the sleeves very quickly - all in all it can't have taken much more than a week - and I was equally quick to assemble the jumper and sew the sleeves on. I then grabbed my crochet hook and set to crocheting the hem, and that's when all the trouble started.

I'd decided to forego the garter hems at the sleeves. The plan was to hem with a crochet chain instead.. Having done it I realised that the end result was... odd-looking. The yarn is so stretchy that the crochet border, even when done very loosely, kind of drew the knitted fabric together in a way that didn't suit the jumper at all. 

So the crochet border was unpicked. Now the sleeves rolled up slightly - much better.

I then went on to crochet the neckline. This turned out to be much more of a problem than the sleeves. Even without the crochet border I'd already had the suspicion that perhaps the neckline is too high / narrow for this type of jumper. I don't mean that there is a flaw with the pattern - it worked just fine for my purple Ink Flare for example - but that for this type of yarn, and this type of open, airy fabric, the neckline needs to be particularly open and slouchy to pull the project together. See, even while I got the correct gauge, the open fabric stretches quite a bit and makes this a very casual knit, wide in the body and the sleeves, and the neckline, I think, needs to reflect that slouchy look. As it was, the neck looked like the only fitted thing on the jumper, making the whole lot appear like it was oversized with only the neckline done to the correct sizing - not a great look! 

So I unpicked the crochet, then tried it on again. While this was better, the neck was still too tight. This is where it got messy. Being the lazy thing I am, I didn't then, like a good girl, decided to de-assemble the jumper to carefully unpick the tops of all the pieces. Nooooo, not me! Instead I decided to do it while it was all still hanging together. 

Yeah.

You can imagine how that went... 

It didn't help that a) the yarn had sort of tangled and didn't particularly wanted to be ripped (it is mohair, after all) and b) that I had already sewn some of the ends in, meaning that I had to unpick as a I went along... 

Great idea, that was... 

I undid what I think was about three rows, then crocheted that border on again, using the leftover yarn from the unpicking (that was another bad choice because there was never enough of it so I had several joins). I cast off, then tried it on. 

Nope, the cast-off, despite  being very loose, was still too tight and bunched the fabric up. More ripping, followed by another, ultra-loose cast-off. Then I crocheted a very very loose crochet chain to finish the now rather messy-looking neckline off more neatly. Tried it on again.

Nope, still not right - the crochet border, once again, pulled the fabric together in a way that made it bunch up. This was quite amazing to me because you can't imagine how loosely I did the crochet border - the loops were HUGE!

So the crochet was ripped once again. Assessing the situation I then decided that I was going to have to go with the flow and just leave that slightly unsightly unfinished border as it was, because at least it meant that the neckline sizing was right. 

I tidied up the sewing where the sleeves attach to the body of the jumper - this looked pretty messy by now but not much I could do about it, and then stuck the whole project in the wash in the hope of levelling out the neckline a little by blocking it. 

Some blocking was required, and it's still not perfect, but hey, the rolling hems do help to hide the unsightly bits!! 

But you know what? I love it.

It's been some journey, this last bit of knitting Ink Flare, but I love the end result. Yes, to the discerning knitter the problems around the neckline and the messy sewing which resulted from the repeated ripping are fairly obvious, but the jumper is cuddly and so so soft, and I do actually quite like how it fits now. The boys like it too - boy #2 has already announced that he wants me to knit a jumper for him now. I'm only too happy to oblige! :) 







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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WIP Wednesday update

I'm on a roll, people, I'm on a roll!

I finally finished my Lombard Street Socks a few days ago. It took some effort to think myself back into that pattern, and as a consequence I think one of my heel flaps is a little too long and also has one error in it - the pattern alternates rows of s1k1 and k1s1 to create the effect of not ribbing but a kind of checkered, textured fabric. Just as I was picking the project up again I must have got it wrong once, because there is definitely a row of ribbing in there. I don't really care, though, because the socks are comfy and I love the muted grey, which makes them so very wearable, even to work. 




Pattern
The pattern was lovely - easy to memorise lace pattern and clear instructions.

Pattern alterations
I knit my socks on a circular needle and altered the pattern to that effect. This means that I got a bit confused when the instructions asked for needle 2 or 4 and picked up the lace pattern at a different place after turning the heel. I realise that this was to make sure that the lace pattern sits at a particular place on the foot, but I decided to follow my own instinct and just continued the lace pattern on as was, using the starting point at the cuff as the beginning of my row. I also did the toe without really consulting the pattern. 

I'm so thrilled to have finally finished these and with these and, all the socks from Godi, I have some very very happy feet this winter!


Up and on to WIPs...


I've started another jumper. It's on my list for the year, and it's from stash, so it's all good. It's Owls, which is such a pretty pattern. I'm using some of my no-name wool/cashmere blend. It's an odd sort of yarn - I bought it as Aran weight but it's closer to bulky, which makes it ideal for this project, and it's spun as a slightly uneven single. It's supposedly a cashmere blend but so far it's not at all soft. It's definitely wool, because you can feel (and smell) the lanolin in it - there is a lot of that still in there, so I imagine that after washing this yarn will fluff up quite a bit. I'm kind of curious how it's going to turn out to be honest, because this yarn is such a mystery. I do like the colour though, and I think it's going to be perfect for Owls. 

I'm also finally working up the courage to pick up the Easy V-Neck again. I've moaned about this yarn before - it's that sub-standard mottled brown GGH Savanna yarn that I picked up ages ago and never managed to find a project for. I'm not having high hopes for this jumper because I just can't imagine that the yarn is going to suddenly turn into anything stunning once it's knitted up, but I'm envisioning a warm and cuddly winter walk / allotment / cold day at the office kind of jumper, which, after all, is nothing to sneer at either! :)