Wednesday, September 30, 2015

WIP Wednesday - all the blankets...

There you go - it's official, I've started on the Spice of Life CAL.

So far I'm really enjoying it, and that I'm making it (mainly) from stash is just an added bonus, because what is more satisfying than seeing your stash slowly, slowly shrink, thereby making more room for new yarn purchases?

I'm also enjoying the unapologetic bright colourful nature of this project. Truly anything goes with a crochet blanket. It's not dissimilar to socks in that regard, isn't it? All those colours that you just wouldn't dare use in a jumper or cardigan just sit cheerfully together and have a big ol'party. 

Yesterday the next pattern piece came out, so I'm busy adding the next part to the blanket.

I do have to admit, though, that my blanket love at the moment is ever so slightly over the top. D wisely refrains from commenting, and the boys are only delighted to see more blankets in the making, but really, if I am perfectly honest I have to admit that it's a bit crazy to have three (!!) big blankets on the go at the same time. Together with the Weekender, and Ripple, the Spice of Life is going to keep me busy for some time. 

And that's not my only WIP either. 

There is Black Acer, once again sadly neglected.

There is the Boneyard Shawl, which also hasn't got a look in for well over a week now.

And there is a pair of socks that I started while on holiday, which I haven't even blogged about yet, because I haven't really worked on it ever since we came home from Borkum.

When, you might rightly ask, am I going to start all those Christmas projects that I was planning on making this year? That would be a good question indeed.

In order to battle my guilt about not working on any presents I cast on for a hat this morning. I'm using an ancient HipKnits super-bulky slubby yarn for this that I've had lying around for years, so it's a stash-busting project too, which can never be a bad thing...

As you can no doubt imagine, this is a very quick knit. I'm not even sure what needle size I am using, but I am adding on average 1 inch every two rows. The pattern I'm using is the Holbrook Hat, and it couldn't be simpler:

Cast on 42 stitches
knit in a k1 p1 pattern until you get to 11 inches
k2tog until you can't do so comfortably with a 16' circular needle
bind off

I'm currently at 7 inches and the ball of yarn is getting smaller... I'm hoping I'll get to 11 inches. The bind-off shouldn't take too much yarn I hope.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

FO Friday

It’s been a while since I’ve last done an FO post, not  because I’ve had no FOs but because I’ve never got round to photographing any of them. I normally rely on Boy #1 for this now. His  genuine interest in photography has made him into a fantastic little helper, but this still requires me to actually find the time to model the knitwear.

In the end, this morning, I just decided to take a few shots in front of the mirror instead. Not ideal for photographing cowls in particular, since my hand is sort of hiding half of them, but hey, better than nothing, right? ;)

The first set is the Cosan Cowl that I did as a testknit for Ruth a while ago. The pattern can be downloaded from Ravelry HERE. I’ve shown glimpses of this, but I never took any shots of it for the purpose of showcasing it as an FO.

I really enjoyed knitting this, and I love how lush and rich the colours of the two yarns are together.
I liked it so much, in fact, that when the boys started asking me why I didn’t have a beanie yet I decide to make one to match the cowl.

I’m quite pleased with the results, even if I accidentally knitted this beanie with a smaller set of needles, resulting in a slightly more snug fit for the hat. I’ll see how I go with this. If necessary I can always re-do it in a larger needle size…

The second one is the Alban Eilir Cowl, the most recent testknit I did for Ruth. The pattern is released now and you can purchase it HERE.

Again, I really enjoyed knitting this, although I was more than a little rusty with the colour work. The first few rows on the reverse side are a bit of a mess, but I’m not showing you that bit!

All in all I think this is a good little project for anyone who wants a gentle start into colour work. Just remember to carry those strands of yarn with you rather than cut them, is all I say!! ;)

So there you go – 3 FOs in one post, not too bad, eh?

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

And relax...

The older boys are at school, boy #3 is at pre-school, and I've decided to take a little break.

Sometimes all you need is some tea, toast, and a new yarn project to play with. :) 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WIP Wednesday Project Update

I've joined another CAL.

Yes, I know, I have enough to do as it is, and I'm not even mentioning the 2 (!) partially finished crochet blankets that I am currently working on, but this CAL was just too tempting to pass up.

It's called the Spice of Life CAL and yes, it is another blanket.

What I like about it is that it will work in lines, but with a variety of colours and stitches, so it should be a good stash buster for the selection of acrylic yarns that I bought for the Weekender blanket. The Weekender isn't finished, but because of the amount of colours I doubt that I will use up any of the big 100g and 200g balls that I bought for it and well, I'm unlikely to use acrylic for anything other than hard-wearing family blankets that need to withstand frequent washes. 

Why do I need another blanket, you might ask...

Well, I happen to think that you can never have too many crochet blankets in your life! Seriously, though, our blankets are in constant use. The boys, like us, are blanket fans, and whenever they curl up on the sofa to watch TV or to just sit with us, they will curl up under a cozy blanket. These blankets see a lot of use - they are dragged around the house, they are snuggled up in wherever the boys happen to be, and they even become walls, ceilings and bedding for an infinite number of elaborate dens.

So yes, I do think we can do with yet another blanket! ;)

In other news, I've been steadly working on all projects. A few more rows have been added to Black Acer, but not enough to warrant a photograph. 

Similarly, I've been knitting away on the Boneyard Shawl, but you can't really tell, so again, I'm not  going to bore you with a WIP shot.

I've also re-started work on the Weekender blanket. I've had this on the go for some time, but to be honest, that was always the idea. It's an easy and satisfying project, and one that allows me to take a ball of yarn along with me when I go to the doctor, or take the boys swimming. A little hexie is quickly finished, and once I've collected a few I pull out the blanket and sew them on. It's a long way from finished, but it's reached that critical point when a scrap becomes a blanket, and I've noticed that the boys have started using it as such. ;)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tidy House Tuesday

The Flylady schedule this week has moved on to the master bedroom, but I've had a major clear-out there a while ago so this is one room that isn't bad at all. I may do some of the tasks (dusting is something that always seems to be required in a bedroom...), but I think I might instead divide my attention between the lounge and the utility room/lean-to. The lounge is always in need of attention, because as the room in which the family spends most of their waking hours it's also the most battered of all rooms and can always do with a little tlc.

The lean-to / utility area is probably my least loved room in the entire house. The lean-to is a disaster. It was here when we first moved and it's one of those unredeemingly ugly late additions to a period property that you just wish you could pull down entirely. It's not in keeping with the style of the house, it looks bad, it's too narrow to provide any useful space, it's absolutely freezing in winter, and, to top it all, it now leaks like a sive. 

D has been putting plastic sheeting over the cracked glass panes of the roof for a few years now, because since it is so ugly we have not wanted to throw any money at it, but the rafters are rotten and it's always damp and awful in there. We've not wanted to get rid of it entirely, though, because it does house the washing machine and an extra freezer which otherwise would have no space, and there is also a downstairs toilet to the side of it which, although nearly unusable in winter (can I say FREEZING!) is really useful in the summer months as an outside toilet that the boys in particular use a lot when they are in the garden. 

Over the years we have tried a variety of ways to make this awkward space more usable. We have tried to clear the way to the washing machine at the end, but because it's a utility area / mud room, things end up piling up anyway, we've put shelves / cup boards along the side house all the stuff that accumulates there (which have had the effect of making the gangway to the washing machine even more narrow), we've put hooks up for coats and bike helmets, etc. 

What I'd like to do is pull the whole thing down, knock through the wall between the lean-to and the kitchen and the tiny 5-room corridor that connects the kitchen to the dining room, hall, and the lean-to (the other two doors are the kitchen door and the pantry door), and re-build the lean-to by replacing it with a more generously sized extension with large bi-fold doors to the garden. This way we could let light into the dingy kitchen (since it's one window looks not into the garden but into the lean-to!), and make it into a large L-shaped kitchen-diner/family room. 

There are no such plans, though, so for now we carry on. D has just replaced the plastic sheeting, after a recent downpour revealed that new leaks had appeared...

I'm going to try to bring some order into this space this week, if only so I can push my way to the washing machine without bumping into all sorts of things on the way!

I wonder what progress I can make in this space?!*

What are you organising and tidying this week? I'd love the hear from you so leave a note or share a link to a blog entry if you like - tidying isn't my favourite thing in the world, but it's better with some company. ;)

* I can't believee I'm even showing this disgrace of a utility area to anyone!!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Craft Away Thursday

Since I missed my usual Wednesday WIP update this week I thought I'd post an update on Thursday instead. 

Not that there is an awful lot happening, but it's good to stay in some kind of routine, right? ;)

This past week I've found my way back to a project that I've neglected for quite some time - Black Acer. I find it very difficult to find time to knit on this with the kids around, because you really need to make sure to concentrate on the pattern and I found myself constantly double-checking and re-counting my rows to make sure I didn't miss those with cables. 

It took some time to re-familiarise myself with the pattern because in my infinite wisdom I obviously DIDN'T make a note of which row I was on. In the process I also found a number of real whoppers - proper mistakes that I hadn't noticed at the time. They are mainly at the beginning, those first few rows, when I wasn't really in the swing of things and the pattern was unfamiliar. I also, at the time, tried to work on this quite a bit with the kids around, so there was a lot of picking up and putting down of knitting. As a result I have one cable row where things are just... wrong. 

Guess what, though?

I'm not frogging. I'm leaving it as it is, because even though I can see the mistake I'm pretty confident that the casual passer-by who happens to see me wear Acer is never ever going to spot the mistake. 

Similarly there are a couple of mistakes further on, where I somehow managed to not do a yarn-over and therefore was a stitch short. I noticed a couple of rows further in and just corrected it then. Although if you stretch the fabric apart you can see that there is something not quite right in that section, due to a purl stitch right after the yarn-over there is a natural crease in the knitted fabric that conveniently masks the missing hole from the yarn-over. As far as I'm concerned a mistake that nobody will notice is not an actual problem. ;)

I'm about to start my third ball of yarn for this, so I'm going through the yarn quite quickly. Hope my calculations were right so I won't run out with half a sleeve to go!

I've also been working on the Boneyard Shawl. 

In contrast to Black Acer, this is really a pick up / put down kind of project for me. Right now I still can't tell much of a difference, and of course as the rows get longer, progress gets slower, but I'm persevering. Sooner or later it's going to get done.

And last but not least, look at this:

It's done! I've frogged Cowl! Isn't it funny how many small balls of yarn came out of that sweater? What on earth was I doing?!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tidy Home Tuesday

... on a Wednesday, but never mind that. I was at work yesterday and didn't get round to taking pictures!

The Flylady commands me to work on my bathroom and one other room this week.

The bathroom always needs work, but it rarely gets neglected, because, well, a neglected bathroom is pretty gross, and with three little boys whose... aim... is often less than perfect it would get pretty awful pretty fast if I didn't stay on top of cleaning in that room at the very least. That said, I will make sure to give it some extra tlc this week. ;) 

For my one additional room I've chosen boy #1's  bedroom. This room does see some neglect. It's partly because boy #1 isn't the worst offender when it comes to toy chaos. He doesn't have much in his room and, for play, usually ends up 'visiting' his brothers in their rooms. This means that apart from his engineering/building projects, books, and loombands there isn't that much to go wrong in his own room. The biggest menace in there is definitely the loombands, which spill everywhere. I tend to hoover up hundreds of them every time! I'm not really sure how it happens, to be honest, because he doesn't really play with them much anymore (Mummy! Loombands are SO last year!), but they are All. Over. The. Floor.

His room is also tucked away right at the top of the house, next to my office, and that means that often, by the time I've done the rest of the house, I don't have enough energy (or motivation) left to attend to his room as well. 

All in all it's not a room that is very regularly tidied so it could do with some attention.

The task yesterday was to spend 5 minutes in there, just throwing away all the stuff that should have been thrown out or recycled ages ago. 

5 minutes? I can do that...

But that said, there are limits to what can be achieved in a kids room I think. After all, I am not aiming for magazine-cover-perfect, merely for tidy and clean. And it's his room after all, with his things and his art work, and I kind of like it that way. :)

What are you tidying and organising this week? 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pottery on Sunday #2 - The long-awaited pottery workshop!

You know that wheel that I was talking abou last Sunday? Well, it's found a new home.

Yes, I have a workshop now! Really, it's my old potting shed, but since it was mainly used to store any old rubbish it was a good opportunity to finally tidy it out, throw away some of the 382 plastic pots that I had accumulated in there, and make room for Betty (or rather, Big Betty... ;)

Shifting her wasn't easy because she weighs about a ton, but she is now in place. I'm so over the moon with my little workshop!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

WIP Wednesday - Frog Frog Frogging...

... a-frogging we go!

This is not your typical WIP blog post I guess, but un-knitting is also knitting, right? 

I've been meaning to do this for ages, but it's always kind of heart-breaking to frog something that you've spent time and effort making. 

Bye Bye Cowl

Cowl was one of my earliest large knitting project - not the first, but early nonetheless, and because of that alone there is a certain amount of nostalgia attached to it. Add to that that I actually really like the shape and look of this jumper, and you may ask why I wanted to frog it at all.

Unfortunately this jumper is almost unwearable and in fact I haven't worn it for years. It's not the fit per se - it fits fine - but the fact that it's entirely knitted in garter stitch. 

Have you ever tried wearing a garment made entirely in garter stitch?

Well, if you have you'll know that garter stitch fabric stretches almost into infinity. 

This might be great for certain kinds of project that you want to be stretchy and bouncy, but it's not so great for a jumper in an already quite soft wool yarn. As soon as you pull this jumper over your head it starts to follow gravity and extend in length. The body stretches down and the sleeves get longer and longer until you need to push them up to do anything.

Before you know it you are wearing a fluffy and shapeless bag. 

Not a great look. 

It's such a shame, because if it wasn't garter stitch the pattern would be great. The body of the jumper has subtle shaping, and the cowl is lovely. I gave the sleeves a subtle flare effect that also works well. 

Perhaps I should reknit the whole thing in stockinette? 

Alternatively I am considering Idlewood:

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Tidy Home Tuesday - in the craft room...

I'm a bit under the weather today. 

It started yesterday morning, with a sore throat, and by the evening the thing had evolved into a fully fleded feverish cold, complete with shivers, achey limbs and a blocked nose. Wonderful.

Dosed up with Iboprofen and Paracetamol I've been able to function this morning, and good job too, as it is the boys' first day back at school! Once they were dropped off I was supposed to work, but have you ever tried to write when your head aches and you can hardly keep your eyes open? 

Instead I decided to accept that I wasn't going to achieve any great intellectual feats today and instead concentrated on tidying and organising. The Flylady focusses on the kitchen this week, but as the busiest room in the house I don't find that the kitchen is neglected a lot. I frequently go through cupboards, and well, the cleaning in that one room is pretty much constant, lol! 

I will, at some point this week, go through the larder to look at things that are past their expiry date, but for today I thought I'd focus on my craft room and office instead. 

I normally love this room, but recently it hasn't seen much love and attention. As a result there were a number of things that have been dumped in here, with the usual excuse of 'oh, I'll tidy that away later...'. 

There isn't actually a lot to show for today, because I focussed the majority of my attention on the cupboards under the eaves, and even tidied up they are not exactly a missed photo opportunity! That said, I have also made sure that some of the clutter that has accumulated over the past few months has a home or has been thrown out and I have tidied up some of the stacks of fabric on the shelves so I could fit more in. 

So here is the obligatory 'after' shot of the central seating area:

If you have been tidying or organising recently too and want to share I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment and a link so I can visit - it's always more fun when you don't feel you are the only one! ;) 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Pottery on Sunday #1

Many years ago now I used to go to pottery evening classes.

I loved it. The feel and texture of the clay, the idea of forming vessels from this mallable material, the glazes and the myriad effects that could be achieved. It was both creative and restful, meditative, and calming.

Then we moved up north, and we had three babies, and busy jobs, and a house to restore, and the pottery had to take a backseat for a while. Despite this, spying it in an outbuilding at a place that sold fleeces and spinning supplies, we impulsively bought a potter's wheel, which then also sat, not quite forgotten, but certainly neglected, in D's tool shed. Every so often, when in there, I'd walk over  and stroke over the scratched and marked and dented sides of the wheel, hoping but not quite planning, that one day I might return to pottery.

It seemed a long way off, because there were so many variables, so many ifs and buts, so many problems to sort. Where would I get the clay? Yes, such things can be ordered online, but clay is heavy and it seemed mad to order one bag or a couple of bags and to pay perhaps £30 in postage because of the weight, when the clay alone would perhaps be worth £10. And what about glazes? What would I need? How would I store it safely? How much would it cost? Glazes, if you order more than one (and what's the fun in only having one colour?!), are costly, and, more importanly, they are not safe things have around children. Very often glazes are highly toxic, containing lead and all sorts of other dangerous substances, and they have to be stored and used safely.

Then there is the forbidding expense of a kiln. As a hobby potter I never considered the purchase of a kiln as something that I could justify. These are expensive items, and again, I am not convinced they are a perfect fit with three young children. Where we lived before it was possible, for a small fee, to use the kiln at the local college (where I'd taken the evening classes), but I hadn't really managed to find such a place around here.

Nevertheless, a few months ago I found myself wondering if I could manage another class. I had found one fairly local, at Hull College, and I was just about to enrol when my attention was drawn to another class, much closer, and at a much better time for us. It's been brilliant and all those skills that I thought I'd long forgotten just seem to come back to me.

And the best thing? The ceramics artist who runs it also offers deals that include clay, glazes and firing.

I may have become a little obsessed with clay since...

These are some of the clay experiments from this week, all done at home - I forgot to take pictures of any projects at the studio.

(large platter with inward curving rim and root detail)

(Experiment with coiled vessel construction and pinching of ridges)

(further experimentation with ridges, this time added onto coiled structure)

I've even managed to rope the boys in. ;)

Boy #1's masterpiece

Boy #3's coil pot with 'decorations' :)

Boy #2's 'think big' coil pot plus a star made by boy #1

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Do you fancy a new dress?

Yes, I do!

A little while ago I had an email through from WhiteTree Fabrics. They had an offer on for a pattern and fabric bundle for Tilly and the Button's Coco Dress. I've been coveting this dress for some time, because it's pretty but simple, and it's sewed in a thicker jersey fabric, making it the perfect autumn and winter dress with tights and boots. 

The offer was for 2 metres of jersey in a choice of colours, some matching thread, and the pattern and I just couldn't resist and ordered some bright red jersey.

The parcel with my materials arrived a couple of days ago:

I can't wait to get sewing!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

WIP Wednesday

Nothing major to report this week... 

I've been knitting a bit on my Boneyard Shawl, mainly in the car, while out on daytrips with the kids, but progress is really too minor to bother you (and myself) with a picture.

I've also been adding a few rows here and there to Ripple. It doesn't look much, but since the last picture I took the blanket has actually doubled in size! There is a long way to go of course, but if I only knit one or two rows every few days I should have it done in a year, which is good enough for me!!

Other than that I've been busy with my testknit. I was nearly done with the colourwork, but then spotted a mistake that meant that I had to rip a few rows out. I'm nearly done with the section, though, and after that it should be a breeze. I quite like the way it looks, although you really don't want to see the back of it - suffice to say that it has been a loooong time since I've done any colourwork, and it shows. It took me a while (and quite a few wrong decisions) to remember and figure it out. It's definitely improving now and for the past few rows I've been almost happy with the back, but I just don't have the heart to rip and start again, lol. 

What have I been reading? Mainly books on pottery. I've started doing pottery again after nearly 10 years and I might just have become a teensy bit obsessed... I'll tell you more about it another time. 

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Tidy Home Tuesday - Hallways...

The Flylady tells me that this week I should focus on my hallway and the dining room. Why these two rooms are handled in one go I can't tell, but I suspect that in a lot of households the dining room doesn't see that much action. A lot of families eat in the kitchen and keep the dining room for 'best', right? 

Well, we also eat in the kitchen most days, but because the dining room connects to the lounge with a set of permanently open double doors it's more an extension of the living room. In addition it tends to be the place where most craft projects take place (since it is a fairly large table), and it's lined with bookshelves and therefore functions as a sort of library too. That's a lot of functions for one room, and it does look a bit battered at times...

The hallway also looks a bit battered - most of the time. This is probably the highest traffic area of the house, and I tend to pick up discarded shoes, bags, jumpers and coats several times a day. 

For ages now I've been thinking of hanging some pictures on the wall to make it look a bit more homely, but the truth is, it's not all that wide, and therefore the walls get scuffed quite a bit. Having pictures there is probably not the best idea. 

As it is this isn't a particularly loved space. It's OK, but it is definitely a space to move through rather than to linger in. But then again, unless you have a grand entrance hall that invites you to linger, isn't that usually the case? 

The Flylady asked me to spend 15 minutes in this space today, just picking up and sorting things that are not in their rightful place or things that should be binned. 

I can do this, I thought, and promptly managed to get rid of a few old pairs of shoes that were somehow still in the shoe cabinet even though they had been outgrown. I also sorted through some of the paperwork that littered the shoe cabinet / console table and then placed a little jug of allotment flowers on top. 

There, that wasn't too bad, was it? ;)