Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's Wednesday again!

Seriously, where do the weeks go? When I posted my update last Wednesday I thought, 'well, perhaps I get another post out before the weekend...'. Clearly I've been too optimistic!

Right now, we are all enjoying spring - how did it arrive so quickly?




So many flowers! And where flowers are not already out or about to burst open, there are plenty more in waiting...





Can you believe that the bluebells are already almost out?!?

The chicken ladies are enjoying the warmer weather too - dustbaths seem to be the way to celebrate when you are a chicken... ;)



Otherwise, life continues much as it has the previous weeks - busy, busy, busy. Boys #1 and #2 are back at school of course, and I do try to at least keep one day a week free to spend some time with boy #3, but apart from that it's pretty much been all work and no play. I do try to do a bit of knitting in the evening - if I am not catching up on more work, that is - but even that has been slow. Progress is made, but it's so gradual it almost doesn't seem worth reporting. 

I've tried to bring spring into the house whereever I can. A few days ago the boys came back from a bike ride and brought me this flower:



Isn't it lovely. Such bright colours!

I've placed it on the mantelpiece of the now unusable fireplace - a pair of crows have decided to raise their numerous offspring on top of our chimney, so warm weather or not, the season for cozy open fires is officially over...

I also got more of these lovely yellow blooms from a shrub at the back of the garden:



Looking at the photographs earlier I realised that I've subconsciously replicated the colours of the flowers and spring decorations and the colours of my knitting. Look at this:



OK, so ignore the mess, but look at the yellow/orange of Liesl, and the pale green of the Eyelet Yoke Sweater, and also the greens and yellows and purples of the mystery blanket in the background and compare them to the flowers? See what I mean?

Clearly I have spring on the brain!

In actual knitting news, I've done some work on Liesl - I've been trying this on as I've been going along, to see if I'm happy with the length and I think another 2-3 pattern repeats and the  body will be done. This has been such a joyful and quick knit - big needles, cheerful yarn, interesting but easy-to-remember lace pattern... What's not to like?


I have the sleeves to go of course. I'm planning on mid-length sleeves that end somewhere below the elbow.

I've also done more work on the Eyelet Yoke Sweater. I love knitting with this yarn, it's so soft. I've completed the yoke now and have separated the sleeves off. Right now I've done one of the required body decreases. I've tried it on too, and it seems to fit OK... Hopefully this will continue - will have to try it on again once I reach the end of the decreases I think.

Here it is, amidst all the chaos of our coffee table. :)


Close up of the neckline and eyelet pattern:



I've also slowly worked away at the weekender blanket, but I have no picture this week. I've pretty much given up on the add-as-you-go-along approach because swapping between different yarns all the time was so fiddly. Instead I've gone back to my trusted method of crocheting a few patches in each colour to add together later. This means that there is nothing much to show for, but I have actually finished quite a few hexies. I might try and add a few rows to the blanket this week so I can show some progress for the next update.

With Totoro such as success in our house (he gets a different bed to sleep in most nights), and with little desire to crochet another 2 large Totoros straight away, I've been looking around for other interesting patterns to try out. I've come across the Roly Poly Pill Bug pattern, which looks great. I've shown it to my oldest and he is already requesting one... I'm thinking this might finally be the project that will rid me of my Noro Silk Garden. This has been lying around for years and there isn't enough for a jumper. Plus, I'm not actually that keen on the colours but the different shades of brown and purple would be perfect for Roly! 

Anyway, watch this space... ;)


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WIP Wednesday - more new beginnings...

Handspun Liesl is progressing nicely. 


It's fun, knitting with yarn that you've spun yourself, and it's been a long time since I've last done a big project with handspun. I don't often get the time for spinning now, so even though I have two fleeces currently waiting to be processed and spun, it could be a long time before I get around to it and before I have spun enough yarn for another big garment. Because of this it's a particular pleasure that I have finally found the right project for this yarn. 


Because I'm not already up to my eyeballs in work, and because the house is clearly not nearly chaotic and untidy enough, and because I can still see the washing machine over the pile of laundry waiting to be processed... I've cast on for yet another project.

It's the Eyelet Yoke Sweater


I've fancied the look of this sweater ever since I spotted it on Ravelry, and yesterday evening, while catching up on House of Cards on Netflix, I cast on with some sage Rowan Calmer that I still had lying around. I got gauge on the first try, with the suggested needle size, so I'm taking this as a good omen. ;)

The instructions for this sweater are somewhat vague - there are instructions only for the smallest size, which wouldn't fit me, and because of the lack of detailed information about sizing the pattern is indicated as for 'experienced knitters'. I'm not sure I'd class myself as 'experienced', but with my typical 'oh, I'm sure it'll work out' attitude I've cast on anyway. The gauge is 4 stitches / 5 rows for 1 inch, so I've cast on 8 more stitches to add another 2 inches to the bust and waist. Hopefully this will work, otherwise I have some frogging to do!!


I've not done any more work on my black Acer, which is such a shame, as the weather is getting warm enough that I would probably wear this a lot. Apparently I really REALLY don't like knitting with black. I suppose that's something to remember... 

I'll try to make some time this week to progress with this cardi because much as I don't want to knit it, I do want to wear it!  ;) 

And what am I reading this week?

Well, I've not had much time for reading, so my book hasn't changed. BUT I treated myself to an ebay purchase the other day: it's a back copy of Sew, with a little dress pattern that I'm hoping to make, so that's what I'm hoping to look through tonight. :)  

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Year of Projects - culling and tidying up... and a few new beginnings too!

I've had a look through my Rav queue these past few days, because it was really getting quite out of hand. Truth be told, I can hardly remember what I said my projects for this year were, because I seem to change my plans all the time. This wouldn't be so bad, at least not in itself, but these things are often symptomatic of other chaos and confusion. In the spirit of this year's motto, 'plan and do' I felt that a tidy-up was in order.

The list is still long, but at least it's now full of projects I really want to knit (and crochet) rather than full of things that I, at some point or other, considered but that I have long since moved away from.

This is it:
  1. Ease (Alicia Plummer) or Eased (bulky version)
  2. Briquette (Alicia Plummer)
  3. Hitofude Cardigan
  4. Christmas Bird (Ginny Sturdy) (c)
  5. Color Affection
  6. Shalom Cardigan
  7. Ripple Blanket (c)
  8. Campus Jacket (Amy Christoffers)
  9. Bottoms Up (Alice Bell)
  10. New Pea coat (Teva Durham)
  11. Thuja (Bobby Ziegler)
  12. Tailored Jacket (Debbie Bliss)
  13. Raglan from the Top Down (less a project and more a general guide)
  14. Salina (Kim Hargreaves)
  15. Seamless Hybrid (Elizabeth Zimmermann) 
  16. Linda K's Yummy Mummy wristwamers (Alexandra Brinck)
  17. Sideways Grande Cloche (Laura Irwin)
  18. Mermaid gloves
  19. Audrey In Unst (Gudrun Johnston)
  20. Liesl (Ysolda Teague)
  21. Harvest Pullover (Kristen Hipsky)
  22. Slouchy Cardigan (Helene Roux)
  23. Dietrich (Marnie MacLean)
  24. Marian (Jane Richmond)
  25. 1 Hour Herringbone Cowl (Stefanie Japel)
  26. Bressay dress (Gudrun Johnston)
  27. Autumnal Cardigan (Hannah Fettig) 
  28. Simple Skyp Socks 
  29. Breaking Waves Socks
  30. Elegance Socks
  31. Attic 24 Mandala  (c)
  32. Birdie Decorations (Attic 24)  (c)
  33. Flat Circle pillow (Attic 24)  (c)
  34. Crochet bag (Attic 24)
  35. Keynote (Wencke Lucas)
  36. The Ultimate Crochet Cowl (c)
  37. Knitted Knot Bracelet 
  38. Knitted cushions
  39. Prolix Mitts (Laura Nelkin)
  40. Playful Stripes Cardigan (Alana Dakos)
  41. February Lady Sweater
  42. Klokkeblomst / Bellflower (Liselotte Weller) (c)
  43. Balls Up! (x-mas deco)
  44. Boyfriend Hoodie (Mari Lynn Patrick)
  45. Little Red Riding Hood Hooded Scarf
  46. Tulip Yoke Baby Cardigan (Jennifer Little)
  47. Yoga pants for big boys (For the Big Kids - Allison Lawler pattern)
  48. Quay (Veera Valimaki)
  49. Bear (Veera Valimaki)
  50. Honey Cardigan (Veera Valimaki)
  51. Idlewood (Cecily glowik MacDonald)
  52. Chandail (Triona Murphy)
  53. Some knee-high socks (such as Cosy Beginner's Socks by Fiona Ras OR Funky Granpa Socks (Mindy Abodeely) OR Little Cable Knee Highs (Purl Soho)
  54. Cozipeds (socks on 2 circs) (Shiri Mor) OR Warm and Cozy Socks (Linden Down) OR Cozy Socks (Veronica Van)
  55. A Grey Loop (Helen G)
  56. Raw Honey fingerless mitts (Alicia Plummer)
  57. Abate jumper (Alicia Plummer)
  58. Eyelet Yoke Sweater (Courtney Spainhower)
  59. Clayoquot (tincanknits)
  60. Braided Cable Hug (Jami Brynildson)
  61. Boneyard Shawl (Stephen West)
  62. Joey Infinity Scarf (Andee Fagan)
That's quite enough projects, don't you think??

I'm obviously not planning on knitting through all of those this year. Or next year. Or in the next 5 years, to be perfectly honest. I'm sure a lot of these projects will never see the light of day, but it's nice to have some choice when I'm planning my next big project. 

For this current Year of Projects (which, if I remember right, ends in July or at the beginning of August?! Will have to check that...), I'm still hoping to start and finish:
1) Liesl
2) Eyelet Yoke Sweater
3) another Totoro (or two...)
4) some cozy slouchy sweater or cardi, in the sage green Shetland that I still have lying around. Possibly Ease, or Briquette, Idlewood, or the Campus Jacket...
5) Perhaps the Honey Cardigan, or Audrey in Unst, if I can find the right yarn for it.

Everything else, at this point, is optional - if I get it done, then great, if not, not a problem either.

Undoubtedly that list will change a few times before the summer, but for now this is it!

And to show willing I have finally cast on for Liesl:


As planned, I'm using my orange handspun for this one. I was a bit concerned if there would be enough, but so far it's looking like there is more of it than I thought there was, so I shouldn't run into problems. 

The yarn isn't the recommended thickness, but I hit gauge with big 8 mm needles, which means that it's coming out all fluffy and loose, like an orange cloud of sorts. ;)   And the bonus - on needles that large this knits up in no time. I'm already past the armholes... 

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

WIP Wednesday - Meet Totoro!

After last week's big project update with the woven rug, this week's update is quite a bit smaller, because the Easter weekend didn't leave a lot of time for knitting, or crafting, or doing much of anything other than having fun with the family.

But oh, what fun we've had!

I'll try to do an update about all the things we got up to in the next few days, but for today I want to introduce you to the newest member of our family...

Meet Totoro!




Isn't he cute? 

He's actually absolutely huge. I don't quite know if it was the yarn (actually, it probably was - I think it was supposed to be DK but I used aran...), but he's LARGE. 

I stuffed him with everything I had available. I had a tiny bit of toy stuffing left over, and that went in first. You couldn't even tell. Next went in some shredded left-over batting from my last quilt. Totoro absorbed all of that too, without looking the least bit chubby. Seriously, by that point I thought I must have accidentally constructed a Tardis (bigger on the inside, and all that...). 

I then went through my basket with sewing leftovers and I am so glad that I'm such a pathological hoarder, because I found a whole bunch of off-cuts that anyone in their right mind would have thrown out because they were too small to even make the tiniest of quilting patches, but which I'd kept on the off-chance that I'd need them to stuff something. Like a huge Totoro shell for example. 

I crammed a whole lot of sewing off-cuts into the main body and finally the chubby Totoro shape started to emerge. Little bits of fabric also went into the arms, ears and tail, and then I assembled it all and stitched his little face on. Tadah! 


The boys LOVE him. 

(I also sewed the sofa cover - that was a little project that DID get done. There are two chair-beds under there and they kept sliding apart. It drove me insane! The cover isn't quite finished yet, though -  I have to hem the bottom edge all around)

It's quite funny to see for me, because they are not normally the stuffed toy type and even when they were little didn't pay much attention to Teddy Bears and other soft toys at all. Clearly it makes a difference if it's something made for them and they were able to observe the whole process, start to finish. 

I had meant to make this one for boy#3 but it looks like boy#1 has claimed it instead. Orders have been received for more Totoros. I may be crocheting Totoros for the foreseeable future... 


Also, for Yarn Along - I'm currently reading The Long Song, by Andrea Levy, which is a harrowing but also utterly riveting read. This is what it says on the inside cover:

"You do not know me yet, but I am the narrator of this work. My son Thomas, who is printing this book, tells me it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed.

July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale. She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831 and she was present when slavery was declared no more. My son says I must convey how the story tells also of July's mama Kitty, of the negroes that worked the plantation land, of Caroline Mortimer the white woman who owned the plantation and many more persons besides - far too many for me to list here. But what befalls them all is carefully chronicled upon these pages for you to peruse. 

Perhaps, my son suggests, I might write that it is a thrilling journey through that time in the company of people who lived it. All this he wishes me to pen so the reader can decide if this is a novel they might care to consider. Cha, I tell my son, what fuss-fuss. Come, let them just read it for themselves."

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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

WIP Wednesday update



Things have been a bit slow this week. I was exhausted at the end of last week - some bad nights, busy days, plus an all-day conference with a 5 am start and a late conference dinner on Friday meant that by Saturday morning I was feeling ill with exhaustion. As if the boys sensed that I desperately needed some rest, when we got back from their swimming lessons around lunchtime they all went upstairs and played happily for about an hour while I rested on the sofa. I even had a little nap! When I got up I felt marginally better and was able to admire the beautiful den they built together. :)

Still, being so busy all week and so exhausted at the weekend meant that I didn't get a lot done this week. There has been some gentle crocheting on the weekender blanket and I've made some progress on Totoro. Boy #3 was delighted when he realised what I was making and all three of them wanted to watch My Neighbour Totoro again on Sunday. I'm quite looking forward to finishing the little fella myself now!


I do have an almost-FO to show for though - the pegloom rug is off the loom! It's not quite finished because I have a bit of sewing in to do and I need to tidy up its overall appearance a bit. There are quite a few bits of fabric sticking out, plus all those loose threads, and I also need to trim the tassles, but otherwise it's all done. It weighs a ton!




As you can see, it's already been put to good use!


I've braided the ends to keep them neat, but it makes the fabric strips 'bulge' a bit in-between. I may sew them in to make the ends neater.






The boys really want to keep it in the living room, but I'm not sure yet. They like to sit there and play or watch TV and have a snack or they carry drinks through when I'm not looking, and unless they change their habits I really don't think they are ready for a rug - the last one we had was trashed after about a year!! Of course this one should be washeable, but that doesn't mean that it would easily wash. It's too big to fit into a washing machine, so I would have to bring it to the drycleaners.

I'm still pretty busy this week, but it's the Easter break now so there won't be any teaching, which is already a relief - just to have the chance to catch up a bit and work ahead to get things sorted for the remaining teaching weeks after the Easter break makes me feel a bit better. Still, it's been a hard term, this one...

I'm still feeling very tired, but hopefully I'll get round to some more crafting this week. I'm looking forward to it. For now, have some Easter craft to admire:

 Boy #2 made this card at school:


I've found a few minutes here and there to bring a bit of Easter spirit into the house too:



Some twigs from the garden - hopefully the flower buds will open. I have no idea what that shrub is called (we didn't plant it) but it has beautiful yellow blooms around Easter time). The picture of the flower (with written descriptions of the individual parts) was done by boy #1 at school.

Some Easter chicks - they don't look half as nice as in the magazine where I saw them, but I didn't have any round safety eyes to complete the look. Still, they are cute enough I suppose...







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Monday, March 30, 2015

Allotmenting - End of March


It's time for another allotment update. It's the end of March, and the season is slowly creaking into gear. I few days ago I spent a bit of time on the plot - not long, because it's still cold and it was a windy and rainy kind of day - and spread a bit more compost (all from our chickens and home composting this year!!) and planted a few more seeds.


 I also had a look for any signs of life. 

At first glance it still looks very gloomy and wintery, but if you look closer you can find all the tell-tale signs that nature is waking up...





Thursday, March 26, 2015

That muddy-brown raglan: An 'Ugly Duckling' kind of a tale...

I've got another FO to show you! It's the Easy Raglan V-Neck by Stefanie Japel, knitted in my not-so-loved brown GGH Savanna.

I didn't have particularly high hopes for this project, mainly because I didn't love the yarn. It seemed drab and, with its mottled brown colour, kind of ... messy-looking? Since it is a soft yarn, though, I thought that perhaps with the adorable Stefanie Japel v-neck pattern it might make a good home / allotment jumper that would keep me warm and cozy, even if it was never going to look very stylish. 

Half-way through I started to panic that I wouldn't have enough yarn, so I decided to add some orange half-sleeves to make sure I didn't run out. To create a more coherent overall look I added the stripes at the bottom of the body and reversed them at the bottom of the sleeves. I initially just added a thin crochet border to the v-neck edge, but because my gauge had been slightly off the neck came out a bit large and the thin orange band didn't look right so I ripped it out and added a ribbed edge.

You know, I'm actually really really pleased with how this jumper has turned out:


In fact, I think I kind of love it!


It fits so well, and it's so very comfy and you know what - I think, if you squint a bit, it's downright stylish! Who knew the drab brown GGH Savanna had such untapped potential!


Since I said I would, and also because it's so snuggly and warm and it was a cold day, I did wear it to the allotment last weekend, and I have also been wearing it quite a bit at home because it keeps me warm when I'm working in my office, but I'm planning to wear this jumper A LOT, and I'm so happy with how it's turned out, I don't think I'll have any qualms about wearing it 'in public'. 



My photographer, as has been so often the case recently, is boy#1 (aka The Bean). He's actually started to direct me on where he wants me to stand and how he wants me to pose and look. Clearly he is taking his new job very seriously! ;)

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WIP Wednesday - general crafting update

Life got busy again and I've not been able to update. It's funny how that works, because I still manage to knit, but somehow when it gets that busy I just don't feel like dragging the camera out to photograph anything that I'm working on. Knitting, and crochet, and weaving... well, that happens in the little spaces in-between the busy periods, but somehow photography and blog writing requires more brain space and more dedicated time, and hence get pushed to the side.

In any case, I am back (for now) and since I'm now in the much-needed and awaited teaching-free period around Easter updating should become much more regular again.

I haven't really done a proper update for ages, so I've spent some time in the past few days trying to find the right light to photograph what I've been up to.

First of all, there is the peg-loom rug:


After the initial mad dash I slowed down quite a bit, but the project is now truly approaching completion. I anticipate another two or three lots to thread on, and then I'll call it finished. Tidying up, of course, may take a while longer, because there are loose ends to weave in, little bits of fabric and thread sticking up, etc., and I've also not quite decided if I want tassels or if a clean edge might be preferable, in which case I need to thread the warp through to hide it.

Doesn't it look fabulous, though? It's HUGE!

Next on the list - the Weekender blanket.



This is progressing quite nicely. I only work on it when I'm sitting down in the living room because adding pieces as you go along makes this a pretty non-portable project, not only because of the bulkiness of the blanket as it grows, but also because of all those balls of yarn.

Talking about balls of yarn... we have a problem:


There have been complaints (from D), and the boys have been playing football with the yarn, which led to more complaints (from me).

I also have a confession to make... That's not all stash yarn...  I've been buying yarn. Yes, I hang my head in shame, but it was unavoidable (or so I tell myself...).

I initially wanted to make the  blanket completely from stash, but quickly realised that unlike with the granny square blanket, where I was able to mix yarns from sock-weight to aran quite freely, with hexies you can't really do that. This means that I don't have enough yarn with the same or similar weight to complete an entire blanket. I am still using bits of stash, and I intend to use up as much of the mountain of cheap acrylic that I've acquired as I can, but I tell myself that since it will be a big family blanket and the acrylic was very very cheap it wasn't too bad a purchase, even if I broke my own rules about stash enhancement...  


It's funny about the acrylic, though. I really used to loath the stuff, and even now I don't think I'd want to knit any garment from it, but for blankets it's great, because it wears and washes well and it's not scratchy or tickly. Plus, it's so cheap. I bought most of those huge 200g balls for £1,20 each! 

Anyway, enough self-justification, moving on to the next project - the Acer cardi. 


This is very slow-going. I really think I'm going to love the finished cardi, and I love how the yarn knits up, but I don't love knitting with it. It's splitty and it's black, making it almost impossible to knit in the evening or when I can't give it my full attention. In our household that means almost never! Then my old (and cheap) cable needle broke and I had to go out to get a new one. 


I splashed out a  bit on that one, but they didn't have the cable length I wanted in any of the cheaper versions so I ended up with an interchangeable cable needle. Oh well, at least I can add to it whenever I need another cable needle and it does look quite pretty!

Last but not least, I've started a little Amigurumi pattern. Do any of you know the Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro? It's a Japanese anime film and the boys love it (and so do I), and this little fellow is Totoro, who is a kind of forest spirit. I think boy#2 and boy #3 in particular will like this one. :) 


I am truly crocheting this one from stash - the blue/grey is a bunch of Rowan All-Seasons Cotton that i still had lying around from a project years ago, and I have some off-white recycled yarn that I am using as the accent colour. 

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