Thursday, December 04, 2014

Christmas preparations...


I realise that I've been more than a little bit rubbish with keeping y'all updated on my knitting and crochet progress these past couple of weeks, but Christmas-time is busy-time, you know? Will you believe me when I say that I have been crocheting? And knitting? I just haven't had time to take good pictures and prepare a blog post. Every time I think of it, or have some time, it's evening and I so dislike taking photographs of knitting in anything other than daylight... 

Anyway, please believe me when I say that I will do a BIG progress update next week - either Sunday or Wednesday, depending on how I survive this weekend, because I'm hosting a Christmas party for my work colleagues and their families on Saturday and well, it's crept up on me a bit. I spent this morning while boy #3 was at preschool frantically preparing potato salad and pumpkin soup. I even started on a batch of Christmas cookies because hosting a do and not having a single homebaked cookie in the house? That's just lame. ;-)

Anyway, I got the dough prepared, and then, this evening, the three little terrors helped me cut out shapes and we baked a few batches. 




They turned out really well, which was something that wasn't exactly lost on the boys, and they managed to eat dozens of them when I wasn't looking, but I think if I hide most of them away tonight there will still be enough for the do on Saturday. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Es weihnachtet sehr...


... one of those untranslatable things... It christmasses a lot?!   ;)


In any case, that's what it's doing at our house. We will be in Germany over Christmas this year, so we thought we'd start a little early. The boys love all the decorations, and all that 'getting ready', so we've had a fun afternoon decorating our rather rickety old tree. 



We inherited this tree years ago from MIL, who in turn had inherited it from someone else in D's family, so by now this Christmas tree is rather a senior citizen, and it does show. Every year there are less needles and it looks a bit more wobbly, and every year I think about finally going back to a real tree (we stopped having them when we had the boys), but this year, with not even being here for the main event, it seems a bit nonsensical, and the boys love the fake tree anyway and protested loudly last year when I raised the idea that we might buy a real fir tree. 

Every year I feel as if I won't be able to get into the Christmas spirit at all - this time of year is so busy for all of us and every time I feel I could have done with a few extra weeks - but then, when those decorations come out, and the smell of cinnamon and spices permeates the house, it just happens. 

And that glass of mulled wine that D pressed into my hands earlier might have helped a bit too. ;)


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another WIP Wednesday...

... and I'm finally catching up!

Let me present - this week's crochet square. Yes, you heard that right, this is actually this week's pattern piece.





I haven't done them all, obviously, but I finished last week's pattern piece on Sunday, meaning that I started on this week's pattern only a few days late and crucially, BEFORE the next piece of the pattern is released on Friday. I've finally done it, I've caught up with the CAL!!

Here is the pattern from the previous week. It was probably my favourite so far - all that delicate lace work in the centre - and it was quite quick to do as well (hence enabling me to catch up). 

The pattern this week is quite fun too, but not quite as much so as last week. I did enjoy doing the little stars in the centre, though, and since you need to break the yarn to continue anyway I decided to just do all the stars first. Cute, no?  :)


Anyway, I'm thrilled with my progress this week, not only because I now actually have a chance to finish the CAL before Christmas but also because it means that I will, occasionally, have time to work on my other projects again. Garter Yoke Cardi here I come!!



Initially I did a single-colour square, just to get used to the pattern, and then I had the seemingly grandiose idea of using two colours, not to do rows but instead to pick out parts of the wheel pattern. It worked - kind of:



I'm not actually too happy with it. Sure, it sort of worked, but the work was immense. Can you imagine all those ends to sew in? Awful! I tried to carry some of them on so I'd have less to sew, but that made the purple bits a bit larger than the yellow, which, again, wasn't that great. This square needed a lot of blocking and shaping to come out the right size... Needless to say, I decided that this pattern piece wanted to be in a single colour (I didn't think different coloured rows would work too well, because they distract from the pattern) and did the rest of them in yellow, purple and green.

Another thing I wanted to show this week is this:



It's that Cheviot fleece I washed the other week. It spins up really nicely and I did this bit at my monthly spinning group a couple of weeks ago. I've been meaning to show my progress ever since, but had the wheel packed away. This morning, though, I had a couple of friends here for coffee. They wanted to learn how to spin, so I dug the wheel and the drop spindles out to show them. So ta-dah, the beginnings of a bobbin of Cheviot yarn. :)

Now tell me, what do you think this is?



Any idea?

No?

I don't blame you! ;)  It's my big 'Red Canvas'. I occasionally paint - usually acrylics, although I've done some oils too. This is not for anyone but myself, so please don't think that I fancy myself an artist, but I enjoy painting and when I have time I occasionally work on a canvas. This one is fairly abstract, The idea came from a photograph, taken while D and I were on honeymoon in New England. I took a picture of my red silk skirt, fluttering in the wind while at the beach. It's this one:


This was years ago, mind, but I really like the picture and the abstract quality of it, and ever since I've been meaning to do something with it. It finally occurred to me that it might be a starting point for a fairly abstract painting. This is a big canvas, and I've only just done 2 layers, outlining the colours and the rough shape, so this is a long way off being finished, but we'll see how things go over the coming months...

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIP Wednesday - still in the middle of a crocheting frenzy...


This Scheepjes Mystery CAL, it's taking over my life! Seriously, I've not got round to any of my other projects because this is literally taking up all the free time I can muster. I've been crocheting during my lunch breaks, and when the kids are watching telly, when I'm waiting in the car or at the doctor's, when I need five minutes of peace, and every single evening. My poor Garter Yoke Cardi is languishing in its bag on top of the sofa, untouched. There is only one sleeve left to do so I should really push ahead with it, but this CAL, it's far too addictive.

I've finally finished the fourth pattern piece. See the little flowers in the middle? Aren't they adorable?



Because I missed last week I also didn't get round to showing off the pattern pieces for week three:


I actually think I found the week three pattern the most enjoyable so far. They were quick, and fun, and I did them in only a few days, which enabled me to catch up a little.

I'm still two weeks behind, though. Tonight I'm going to start on Week 5, but the pattern for Week 6 came out last Friday, so aaaaaahhhh, please stop the bus, I want to get off!! 

There is nothing for it, I will have to persevere!

Here are the pieces so far, in all their glory. :) 


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Monday, November 10, 2014

You know what is one of the most gratifying things for a knitter and crafter?


To see others develop an interest in fibres, and knitting, in crocheting, in creating things. Especially when those others are your children. 

These past few weeks boy #1, aka 'oldest', has been watching me crochet my Scheepjes CAL mystery blanket. Every time I start a new square he's commented, has made colour suggestions, has asked me to tell him about it, has asked me to teach him, has asked me to let him have a go. 

And I have taught him, and I have let him have a go. Admittedly, often I unravelled what he'd done as soon as he was out of the room, but most of the time it's not (anymore) because it's totally wrong but because it always shows in the stitch consistency if someone else picks up and continues your work. Plus, he still pulls quite a bit, which makes for massive loops. ;)


He is getting the hang of it, though, and a few days ago he even came up with his own pattern. I had taught him crochet chains and doubles and trebles, and he was up in his room in the evening, experimenting with that before bedtime. In the morning he came down and presented me with a necklace.


Apparently he'd been meaning to make a wrist band but ended up crocheting into the same stitch over and over. Maybe a slightly unorthodox way of creating a pattern, but a pattern it is, because he then set out to teach me how do make what he calls a 'Donut Necklace'. They really are quite pretty, aren't they? :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Happy Bonfire Night...


Hope you are enjoying the fireworks somewhere. :)

I've been hopeless in updating the blog these past few weeks. Work has been mad, just completely mad. It should get better after this week is over, so I'm looking forward to having a bit more time to dedicate to blogging (and knitting! And crocheting! And spinning! And reading! You get the picture...) 

I'd been planning to update with some knitting and crochet progress, but it'll have to wait. Sorry! :( xx

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday catch-up...


I can't believe it's been a week since I've last updated. These past couple of weeks have been sooo busy! And the changing of the clocks doesn't help much either. Nobody tells little children about daylight saving time! All the people we know who have no kids, or bigger kids rejoice about an hour longer in bed, while us, and everybody else with little ones, just has to make do with an hour less sleep every night, because of course you immediately adjust the time you go to bed to an hour later, but your kids will still be up at their usual time, which now isn't 6am but 5am. Oh, the joy!

Despite all the work and the lack of sleep, I've been knitting, though. And crocheting. Mainly the latter, actually. I'm still 2 pattern pieces behind. Actually, it's a bit more than that now, actually, so things are not exactly moving in the right direction! Still, I've nearly completed all the pieces for pattern piece 2 and the weird popcorn stitch. 




Once it's done it's not quite so bad, but it's still not my favourite pattern. I'm looking forward to pattern piece 4, which has a lovely flower in the middle of each square. Very cute. :)  

Other than that I've slowly making headway with the Garter Yoke cardi. I'm basically at the end of the first sleeve now, with just the cuff to go. I'm kind of bored with this now - while it makes great mindless knitting it's also quite dull to just knit stockinette in the round... Can't wait for it to be finished.

No progress at all on the Lombard Street Socks, mainly because I've forgotten it at work for the past week. That said, right now the crochet squares have replaced it as my small portable project. I'm determined to get this done before Christmas though! 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WIP Wednesday

Look what arrived last week:







It's the yarn for my Scheepjes Mystery CAL blanket!! I'm so excited!

Needless to say, I've been a little preoccupied. I only wish I wasn't so busy at work or I'd have crocheted far more. As it is I have at least completed the first part of the pattern - 6 squares. They are quite large, about 20cm x 20cm, so it took a while. I'm still very much behind (about 2 or 3 pattern pieces) because my yarn arrived so late. Hopefully I'll still manage to catch up, but if not there is an alternative November start date that I could join. 








This is the start of pattern piece 2. Popcorn stitches... So far I'm not entirely sold on this, but I'm sure it'll be fine when combined with the rest of the pattern pieces. 



In all the excitement I haven't quite forgotten about my Garter Yoke Cardi. It's coming on nicely - managed to do a few inches during Downton Abbey on Sunday night, so sleeve #1 is nearly done! :) 



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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Washing fleeces...

I had an unexpectedly productive Saturday last weekend, which was all the more surprising because I had a really rubbish night's sleep the night before. Since the weather got warmer again , our old heating system has no idea what it's supposed to do, and it's been boiling in our bedroom. While I don't particularly like to have arctic temperatures in the room I sleep in I nevertheless prefer it to be cool and I was tossing and turning all night, trying to get comfortable.

Still, when you've had three babies you know that one night of pretty mediocre sleeping isn't anything too dramatic and I immediately set to counteracting the creeping influence of tiredness with strong coffee. :) Sure, there was that one moment when both D and I nearly caved and almost fell asleep in boy #3's bedroom while he was talking to us about his assorted Spiderman action figures.

After narrowly avoiding that happening I threw myself into GETTING STUFF DONE. Doing landry, working at the allotment, getting the garden ready for winter... that kind of thing. And when that was done I felt I wanted to do something fun just for the sake of it, and I thought of my fleeces.

A few weeks ago I purchased a Ryeland fleece from a fellow Ravelry-member. It arrived, a huge box full of fleecy goodness, and it's been sitting in in the lean-to on top of the washing machine ever since. Being unwashed it's a bit too... pungent, to keep in the house, and there just hasn't been time to go through it and clean it. 

About a week ago that was joined another fleece, this time a Cheviot. We had visited friends of ours who have a farm in the Peak District, and they breed these sheep (along with some other breeds) there. Our friend C kindly put aside one of the fleeces for me. 

With all that sitting on top of the washing machine the situation had become kind of dire and I thought it might be time for a little test-wash. Since clearly I have nothing better to do I thought I'd document the process - also so I can refer to it when, in a few years time, I've totally forgotten again how to do this! ;) 

So there we go, the dark fleece is Ryeland, the white one is Cheviot:


This is really best done outside, but I decided to just use the kitchen sink - I don't actually recommend this because a) it really smells pretty sheepy, and b) the lanolin that comes off the fleece can block your pipes if you are not careful! But anyway, take a washing up bowl: 


And some wool wash:


Boil a kettle of water (no, there is no picture of the kettle, sorry!) and pour it into the bowl. Add some really hot water from the tap if there isn't enough. Then add the wool wash (don't add it earlier because you'll get a lot of foam that way, which is pretty annoying because you can't see your fleece properly. Then drop the fleece on top and gently submerge it. 


There you go, all submerged:


Take a wooden stick or spoon or something like that and gently move the fleece. Don't rub it or move it excessively because it will felt. Then carefully drain the water away. It should be pretty disgusting and brown. You can see it better with the white fleece:


Once you've drained it you are left with a slightly foamy clump which looks a lot like something your cat might cough up. :)


Now boil another kettle and fill the bowl again with hot water (the hotter the better). No wool wash this time, you are rinsing the fleece. When you fill the bowl, make sure you don't run the water over the fleece as that might felt it. Keep the fleece out of the way. Also make sure that the water you use throughout this process (washing and rinsing) is always approximately the same temperature - so don't suddenly use cold water to rinse for example - it will immediately felt your fleece!).


Repeat this as often as necessary (you'll be boiling a few kettles!) and gently check the fleece for any really matted bits that you can just pull off and discard. Once you've finished, make sure you pour at least one kettle of boiling water down your sink to dissolve and flush out any remaining lanolin!

Gently squeeze the water out of the fleece and spread it out to dry:


And there you go! Please note that this process will not get you a 100% clean fleece. There will be bits of vegetable matter still in it, and you will also pick it over to remove any particularly dirty or matted areas that did not wash out. The vegetable matter should drop out in the spinning process. There should also be a small amount of lanolin left in the fleece, which is good for spinning.