Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The quiet after (and before) the storm...

I've been quiet this past week because... well, it's been busy around here last week. Boy #3 was christened, and in honor of the occasion the German and English parts of the family all turned out in (nearly) full force. The only person who couldn't be there was my dad's partner, something that was regretted by all. We had my dad, my step-sister and her partner staying with us, and D's mum was also putting up various people. Everything went well, the christening was fine, the party after was great fun (the family cherishes the few occasions we get to get together), including even a spontaneous jam session with D on his banjo, his brother on the guitar, and other family members joining in with spoons and drums. A few days after that it was boy #1's birthday so we had yet another party! We've had quite an exciting week!

It was nice having people stay over. Our guests made themselves at home, helped out, played with the boys, who were delighted that we had people staying over who were such fun (aren't kids always all about 'the more the merrier'?!). We had good food and good conversation, and I even got some knitting done (yes, I did! I just didn't get round to blogging about it!).

All that said, the night after we'd waved the last of our guests good bye, and after we'd brought the kids up to bed, D and I sat down on the sofa and stretched out legs. It was quiet in the house. I picked up the knitting and D picked up his banjo and we just sat, not talking, just reclaiming our home. It was lovely having guests, but it was also exhausting, and it's often only once they've left that you realise quite how exhausting it can be, even if those guests are the nicest of people, even if they help out and carry out the dishes, even if they play with the children, and even if they don't insist on partying well into the early hours every night. 

Well, after all that was done we had a few quiet days and then, yesterday, it was the start of the university term, so that's it with peace and quiet for the next 12 weeks!! I'm still knitting, and I will still blog, but it might not be quite as frequent as it often was over the summer. 

Anyway, I might as well show you what I have been up to:

Yes, this is indeed the Garter Yoke Cardi! We've reconnected, that cardi and I, and with all that sitting and chatting in the evening I'm managed to do a good deal of work on it. I'm past the decrease and the increase sections, so it's just plain old stockinette until I get to the right length now. I've quite enjoyed knitting it, although I had a couple of near-misses with those button holes. So many button holes! So two of them were 18 rather than 16 rows apart. I don't think it'll show in the end. 

I've also done a bit of work on the Lombard Street sock - not much, but whenever just a bit, here and there. I'm about 2 or 3 repeats of the pattern away from doing the heel. 

There is no rush with these socks. I'm enjoying them, but it's OK if they take a month longer, in particular as G, the lovely auntie who came all the way from Germany for boy#3s Christening and brought two pairs of socks for all three boys (she knitted 6 pairs of socks in about 4 weeks!!!) is determined to now knit for D and I. I gave her some of my huge stash of sock yarn to take back with her but she clearly thought my huge sock yarn mountain wasn't sufficient because I heard her muttering to herself that she might buy some more once she is back home to make sure that we definitely won't go without sufficient knitted socks this winter. I can't tell you how delighted I am about this development. The boys love their knitted socks and have been wearing them lots at the weekend (school days mean black socks I'm afraid...). 

In other news - do you see this:

Interesting, isn't it? In the throws of yet another bout of knitting insanity I decided to wind some cream coloured yarn I had from frogging a jumper up into a ball so I could use it to knit a pillow. i was envisioning a thick cable pattern...  Not possessing a nostepinne I decided to wind the whole thing around a pen so I could make it into a centre-pulling ball. It worked really well - until I decided to take the pen out. It won't come out. Believe me, I have tried. AND TRIED. It's stuck for good. Brilliant. Don't you just love a job well done? 

But anyway, that pillow. I had it all planned out. I know, I know, I really should focus on the 358 projects that I have already started and I haven't actually started it, but it would look so nice on the sofa... 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Well, I've gone and done it now...

I've signed up for the Scheepjes CAL 2014.


This is a mystery crochet blanket CAL and it will start on 3rd October - just in time for the new teaching term! What on earth was I thinking?!? The end date is just before Christmas, on 19th December. It's all pretty terrible timing, but the idea that I'd manage to end up with a new blanket in such a short space of time was too much to resist.

And to be honest, I think it was also the vibrant colours that tempted me - so pretty! You can see them better HERE. The link goes to the kit that Deramores sells for the CAL (yes, it has it's own kit!).

In order to stick with my plan for this year of NO SPENDING on yarn I even planned this one. I sold a number of things that I'd been meaning to sell for ages, and waited until I had the funds together to buy the kit. See how I'm tricking myself into thinking that I haven't actually spent any money on this? See?

I almost convinced myself too!

In any case, there you are - more starteritis. I'd better finish some of these WIPs before the beginning of October now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Progress update... and another quick FO

Progress this week is less spectacular as last week (after all, I'm not finishing a whole blanket every week!), but it's been steady. With the granny square blanket finished and the sock still stuck in my office at work (I've been working from home a lot this week) I've reconnected with the Garter Yoke Cardi.

I have to say that now that the garter section is finished I'm enjoying it a lot more. I don't really like knitting garter stitch for too long. It's odd really - shouldn't it be easier and quicker than stockinette? I think I just enjoy seeing that smooth stockinette stitch fabric grow as I knit. 

Here is the cardi as it looks now:

Gratuitous close up of the increase:

I've finished the increase section and I'm about to separate the sleeves from the body. They are supposed to go on waste yarn, which is why I stopped knitting - I was at D's mum's house and I didn't have any waste yarn with me. 

This is obviously not even nearly finished, so it's going to stay with me for a while, but a lot of the more concentration-heavy stuff is done (as long as I can keep track of all those button holes. So many button holes!!) so it should be quite good mindless knitting while the house is full of family for boy #3's Christening. 

I do have one little FO to share, though - here is the little granny square pillow I was knitting with the spare granny squares last week:

It's just the one side - once it was done I carefully sewed it to the existing cushion cover. I'm really happy with it. The construction was easy - 9 granny squares, then 2 rows of double crochet around each square. I then crocheted all the squares together and started double crochet rows around and around the set of squares until it was nearly the right size. Right towards the end I added one row of the same pattern that I used for the squares (triple crochet, 3 into one stitch, then a gap of 2 stitches, etc) followed by 1 row of chain stitch. At the moment the pillow is on the sofa but I think eventually it may live in Matilda the caravan. 

More of Matilda and my plans for her to come later in the week! :) 

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

All the To-Dos...

Just look at that pile of bedding...

It's been a bit hectic in our house these past few days. A lot of tidying, cleaning, sorting going is going on.

The reason? Well, it's the start of term soon, and that's always the time in our house to get organised, to start thinking about how to optimise things around here to keep the (not so) well oiled machine of our chaotic household ticking over when my work timetable is less flexible than it is over the summer. Oh, I work a lot over the summer, but it's my work, my writing. With term starting it becomes less about that and more about following a set teaching timetable. It's not bad per se, in fact in some ways it's helpful, but it does mean that we have to become a bit more organised as a family because there is just less slack in the system.

The main reason for the increase of activity these past few days is boy #3's impending Christening. We've been meaning to do this for ages and had, in fact, fixed on a date a few times, but there were always good reasons to postpone - illness, a recent loss in the family, another big family do, ... - and before we knew it boy #3 was 2 1/2 years old. After coming back from our holiday this summer we decided to just get. it. done. We told the families and a few friends, and we let everyone know that while we'd love it if they could join us, we were aware that it was short notice and we were not planning a big do, so nobody would be upset or sulking if for one reason or another things didn't work out and people couldn't make it. 

Well, it turns out that most people actually could make it, meaning that the house will be rather full for the next week or so. I've been tidying and cleaning, and getting out extra bedding, and I'm wondering what we might cook to feed them all. I'm looking forward to it all, though, even while I'm also trying to snatch a few minutes here and there of quiet time - a stroll through the garden, a little chat with the chicken ladies, a cup of tea while gazing at my sewing and knitting utensils in the craft room, which is shortly to be handed over to our guests. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Allotmenting in September

Today I was working from home, mainly because I'm off to Leeds for the evening later on, and since we have no kids at home today and the weather is beautiful, D and I took ourselves off to the allotment for our lunch break. 

While D was cutting the grass I went around and harvested. This space continues to amaze me. This is only our first proper year of allotment gardening, and we are still learning, but this space truly keeps on giving. Even without any fertilizing, and with a constant battle against encroaching weeds, we've harvested so much here this summer.

This was my vegetable basket today:

So many courgettes, and cucumbers, and beans (the beans have been amazing - we've had buckets of them). There are even a few patty pan pumpkins in there. We've not been so lucky with the carrots - despite the netting there is some damage from carrot fly, and they are also somewhat woody and dry. I will have to read up on how to improve conditions for them.

Once I'd done the vegetable harvesting I went around my Dahlias and cosmos to cut flowers for the house. I love flowers in the house and my aim this year was to grow enough cut flowers that I wouldn't have to buy any for the summer months. The cosmos was slow to start with (lots and lots of greenery and no flowers), although it is starting to pick up speed now, but the Dahlias have been truly amazing. The more I cut for the house, the more seem to appear. When we got there today it was a riot of colour:

I cut most of them because as I said - the more I cut the more the plants produce - and we always find room in the house for a jug of flowers. This was the trough at the end of our short visit:

When we got home I immediately arranged them into various jugs:

Pretty, no? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WIP Wednesday update!

Well, it's been a productive week. 

I finished the granny square blanket... I'm still a bit in shock, I think. I've had this on the go for so long I don't think I really believe that it would ever be finished. 

The blanket was done a few days ago, actually, and we've had it on the sofa ever since. It's quite heavy, but in a good way, and very cuddly and warm. The boys love it, although I've had to scold them a few times for digging their little toes into the granny squares. I guess it's quite tempting... 

I'm so so happy with it!

In fact, I'm so happy with it, I decided that with the remaining 9 squares (they were the first ones and the gauge was just totally different because I was still learning) I was going to make a little cushion cover for the new stylish Matilda the Caravan. I edged these with blue so they'd match her new shiny outside paint. This is not finished, but I'm planning to crochet around the edge until it's the right size to cover that side of the pillow. I'll then hand-sew the crochet onto the cream pillow itself and tadaa! new cushion cover made out of an old (and rather worn) one!

In between all this I've obviously completed my handspun mobius cowl. I've actually been wearing this on and off - it's great to wear. How did I know know how comfortable cowls are? 

I've also continued to make progress with the Lombard Street sock #2. I've had a couple of hospital appointments this week and as I'm sure we all know, that always entails a lot of waiting around. All good for sock knitting, though, so to be honest I quite enjoyed the quiet time to sit down and work on this .I can't show you a picture though, because, guess what - I've forgotten it at work.

I've also been digging around for some yarn that might be suitable for Steph's Hitofude KAL and I managed to find this:

This is a HUGE cone of some sort of burgundy wool. I think it's lace-weight, so a little thin for Hitofude. May do a swatch, though.

Then I found this:

Honestly, I'm a little bit horrified. There are two cones of 4-ply, one of them superwash. There are also two hanks of Knitpicks yarn, one of them lace-weight, the other 4-ply. Seriously, I had no idea I had all this stuff!! The problem is that I'd have to dye it. Perhaps some Koolaid dying might do the trick? 

I'm also looking forward to starting Liesl. Here is all the yarn - should be enough, no? 

There is still no progress on the Garter Yoke Cardi, but it's next on my list. What with the crochet obsession I've just not found a moment to think myself back into this project (what row was I on anyway??). I'm looking forward to reconnecting with it in the coming week, though.

Oh, and last but not least, D's auntie gifted the boys with this:

Boy #3 calls him 'Ratty Bear'. Isn't he adorable? 

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Spinning... and a super-quick FO

I went to my monthly spinning group, Beretun Spinners, yesterday. They meet up on the first Saturday of each month for a whole day of spinning and fiber goodness. I don't often get to go, what with the busy job and the even more busy family life, but when I do go it's always lovely. The spinners in the group are amazing - so many so very talented people, and they are always friendly and happy to share advice and help. 

Look at those gorgeous rolags - sadly they were not mine. 

I don't get to spin much these days. Boy #1 is OK with the wheel now, but both boy #2 and #3 would play with the wheel and the fiber endlessly if I left it out. The wheel is usually locked up in D's office and I'm just too plain lazy to drag it out in the evening only to lock it back up at the end of the night. So spinning tends to happen at the group only. That said, over the months I have made inroads into my huge (it's a theme with my hobbies...) fiber stash. My plan is to get rid of all the beautiful but often small amounts of dyed fiber in order to make room for one or two big fleeces with enough yarn to knit larger garments. 

Look what I finished this time:

This is merino/silk (the dark blue), plied with some merino (the light blue). It's only one skein, but it should be around 100g, so definitely enough for a hat.

The second skein is the last of a number of skeins I spun a few years back. I had some of the fiber left over and decided to spin it up quickly so I would have some more. I'm thinking of making Liesl with the yarn - if I skip the sleeves I may just have enough... 

Last time I was at the group I also finally spun up some delicious looking merino/silk mix I had lying around for years. The colours were so vibrant!

There were actually three skeins of this, but it only occurred to me to take a picture when I'd already used two of them! I spun this deliberately slubby, which was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Sure it should be easy to spin up something really messily? Turns out that spinning neatly is much much easier!

This time I brought some big circular needles and cast on for Haley Waxberg's Bulky Mobius Cowl. 

Such a fun and quick project! I knitted for about an hour yesterday and then another hour today and tadaa, it's done! The yarn is so soft, so it won't be irritating on the skin to wear it. I think I'll get a lot of wear out of this.

This was such a fun little thing to knit, I don't think this is the only cowl project in my future...

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

WIP Wednesdays - on Thursday!

OK, so this WIP post is a day late, but never mind that - there's been some actual progress this week!

My obsession with the granny square blanket has continued unabated, so I'm pretty much done with it by now. In fact, if I hadn't decided last night to add one or two more rows to it so it would drape more nicely across the sofa I'd be finished by now. I've crocheted all the squares together and have even sewn in most of the ends. The only thing left is to crochet once around the whole thing, but obviously I have to wait with that until I've made more squares for another row or two... Hopefully it'll be done by Friday so I can do a proper FO post for it. It also needs to be washed and blocked properly, but I think that'll have to wait - I want to admire it on the sofa for a few days before I wash it and can't use it for days until it's dry!

 I've also made progress on my Lombard Street Socks. I've finished sock #1!! In the end I kind of made up my own pattern, lol, because the instructions were confusing because I wasn't knitting on dpns. It all worked out perfectly, though, so no harm done. Today I briefly went into work to look in on a colleague's conference, but because it's normally my day off I decided that I would use the half hour before to cast on for sock #2. I've only done a few rows on it but I've done the piquot edging , meaning that I can start with the lace and cable pattern now. I'm really pleased with this pattern - it's fun to knit, and the sock fits perfectly.

I'm taking a couple of days off now, which I am very excited about. D and I have plans to finally paint our old caravan. I bought Matilda (yes, all our vehicles have names...) on ebay last year. It was a bit of a spur of the moment purchase and she is very old and hasn't in fact been anywhere since we've bought her. Her tires need looking at and really, my idea was that she'd mainly be a summer house that we could, very occasionally, take with us when we go camping. I'd like to re-do the interior (take out the nasty-looking little bathroom and the wardrobe to make some room, paint the lot, make covers for the seats, etc.

With all those grand plans, though, not much has happened since she came home to stay with us. After her first winter here she looked decidedly run down and overall pretty green and slimy. We were not enamored. All five of us, armed with sponges and brushes and lots of soapy water, were able to restore her to her slightly shabby previous self, but I think the time has come for her to get her make-over, so this morning we armored ourselves with paint brushes and a tub of Dulux Weathershield and got to work:

Isn't this better? She's not finished, of course - she'll get a coat of white around the middle tomorrow, and we are contemplating whether to paint the roof white or blue... 

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The last days of summer...

We've had a surprisingly nice last few days - surprising not because of the time of year, but because of the performance record of the August weather so far. The boys went back to school this morning, with boy#3 having his first pre-school morning ever, and I'm taking a bit of time off here and there this week to catch up on things and re-charge my batteries before my own work load picks up again at the start of the university year.

We spent these last few days before the start of school enjoying all the little things we like - boy #1 went to his best friend's birthday party and came back full of Mac Donalds junk food (my stomach turns just a little bit but he LOVED it), and all three boys enjoyed time with their little cousin. We dug and weeded at the allotment and brought home more spuds and carrots and late-summer salads as well as more beans (these beans, they just keep on coming!). 

Boy #1 and #2 spent quite a bit of time with D in the shed. They love shed time and both of them worked hard on their little projects.

As for knitting and hooking progress - I'm planning on finishing the granny square blanket in the next few days - hopefully there will be a FO post this Friday. If I can get all the critters and boys off the half-finished blanket that is - it seems to be some kind of kids and animal magnet (that's not even our dog - it belongs to BIL).