Thursday, November 26, 2015

Car boot treasures

I've been meaning to show this car boot find for ages now but never seemed to get around to it, but finally getting the larger pieces washed seemed like a good opportunity to take pictures.

A while ago I discovered a quilted patchwork cushion and a rather ratty looking plastic bag at a stall at our local car boot.

I thought the cushion was quite cute, and the quilting was clearly done by hand, and very skillfully too, so I felt I needed to make the effort to 'rescue' it and asked for the price.

I was half expecting some huge price tag, but instead the stall owner glanced at it briefly and then said, 'well, if you give me £2 for the whole lot you can have it'. She meant the cushion and the plastic bag. 

I bought the lot and only when I arrived at home did I realise what a treasure I had found. The bag was full of quilting fabrics and started projects, including a number of other cushion covers and a large blanket, all of it beautifully stitched together by hand.

There were needles and a magazine from which the hexagons had been cut (from the early 1980s, so that dates start of the project!), and various fabric scraps for the different pieces.

In a way I felt quite sad, because this surely was the work of someone who must have passed away, because otherwise you wouldn't give up a project that advanced - there must be years of work in this - and clearly the people who acquired the project, whether they were family or whether it was part of a house clearance, had no appreciation at all for the skill and love that had gone into this work. 

I'm feeling quite humbled that this is now in my hands, and I am intending to treasure and finish the work that was started all those years ago. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

uh uh...

I didn't really mean to disappear like that.

This time of year is... crazy around here. Three kids birthdays, Halloween, St. Nikolaus Day, Christmas with all the family coming... There is a lot going on, and it's been really hard to keep up with everything, you know?

By now we have two of the three kids birthdays behind us, and Halloween is obviously also done, so I can refocus a bit on getting the remaining birthday and the Christmas festivities organised. 

I'm not complaining, really - it's all been great fun, and I'm also very much looking forward to the remaining family parties, but it can be difficult to find time for anything else this time of year. Every week I am determined to at least post a weekly update but well... it's been a while, hasn't it?

That said, I have been working on things. I'm currently in the process of getting Christmas presents on their way, so a lot of my knitting and crafting has been quite focussed on that. Perhaps I'll manage to snap a few shots of the Christmas knitting tomorrow, but for now, just so I can report on something, here is a little snippet of recent pottery projects:

Little ceramic houses for incense cones or tea lights (although probably best with electric ones, because they can get quite hot). Some of those will be presents, others might end up in the Folksy Shop. There are more of them, but this is a selection anyway. :)

Large platter. I glazed this twice - once with Iron Oxide, and then with a top glaze that was called 'Honey'. I really like the depth of the colours this has created.

Vase, lime green on the inside, glossy white on the outside:

That's enough for today, I have to get on with designing photo calendars as stocking fillers for the family...

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Friday, October 23, 2015

FO Friday

Look, fingerless mitts!

Since I'd never actually made any mitts I thought these deserved their own post. 

I used this simple pattern HERE and it's pretty much perfect. They fit snugly but not too tightly, and I adjusted the length a little because I quite like it when they are a bit longer and go up the arm under your coat or jumper. 

I'm not keeping them, alas, they are a Christmas present for one of my stepsisters. I'm making two more pairs of mitts, but I'm using different patterns for them.

 I've never really given knitted gifts before, so I'm a bit nervous. I hope they like them... 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

WIP update - on a Thursday!

I normally try to update on a Wednesday, but this week is kind of getting away from me. I don't really quite know why, but I feel frazzled and tired and sort of drained. Perhaps I'm coming down with something? Or is it the colder weather that's getting me down? 

On the upside, I do have some progress to report on. I'm still crocheting the Spice of Life, but the fifth pattern piece is a bit of a monster, because it's basically a repeat of all the previous pattern pieces in order to add length to the blanket. Well then... this may take me a while! I'm plodding on with it, but in the meantime I've also been dividing my time between this project and my Christmas present plans, so I've made a pair of fingerless mitts (I'll introduce those tomorrow) and have already cast on for another pair of mitts, this time not fingerless. I am using aran yarn, which makes these projects satisfyingly quick and I'm hoping to crank out this other pair by the end of the week. I'm planning on knitting another pair after that, but I'll stick with these first so I can add them to the 'done' pile and feel good about my progress. :)

The pattern I'm using for these is 'Maize'.

I've also got a whole lot of glazed pottery back this week. Honestly, I had forgotten how much of it there was. I was pleased to see that a lot of it came out looking OK, despite the fact that I'm learning something about myself - I don't enjoy glazing. I find the process kind of tedious but nerve-wrecking at the same time, because you can ruin a perfectly good pot by applying glaze haphazardly. Overall I think I might be more interested in shape than in colour... 

That said, here are a few examples that I felt had turned out well:

And last but not least, the bowls that the boys made and told me to glaze according to their instructions were finished too - they are absolutely thrilled with them. :)

If I continue at this rate I'll run out of room soon, even if I give gifts to family and friends, so my plan is to set up a folksy shop to sell some pieces. 

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A Year of Projects
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Stitch Along Wednesday

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Is it Wednesday already?

Time for another Year of Projects update!

I'm lagging behind a bit with my Spice of Life blanket. Not desperately so, but yesterday a new pattern piece was released and I haven't quite finished the previous one yet... It's not too dramatic, though, I 'm only about 6 rows behind and I'm hoping to catch up tonight.

Autumn always seems to fly by around here. It might have something to do with the three (!) kids birthdays, and Halloween, and Nicholas Day and then of course there is Christmas too. We are hosting it this year, and since we are an English/German household this might well mean not one but two celebrations - one on Christmas Eve, as is the German tradition, and another one on Christmas Day. The boys obviously think it's fantastic...

With Christmas in mind I've turned my attention more firmly to Christmas presents. I'd like to give quite a few handmade gifts this year, in particular for my step sisters, because we have agreed to not get into the habit of spending lots on each other. In previous years this has translated into little gift sets of cupcake forms and recipe book, or mug and hot chocolate mix, but once you've done that you can't really gift the same again, can you? 

This year I decided that instead it's going to be pottery and knitting. I've already introduced the chunky hat that I'm hoping to give to one of my stepsisters, and I've also completed my niece's little flower hat:

Boy #1 thinks it's a 'granny hat'. I'm choosing to take no notice...

Yesterday, while binge-watching the work of a director I'm working on (I love my job...) I managed to get a little production line going and made a number of little houses for tea lights or incense cones:

Cute, aren't they? D thinks they look industrial, like old Victorian factory buildings. I quite like the idea. By glazing them in different colours you could achieve a very different look - black or grey for a slightly sinister Halloween look (Haunted House!), or white, for a more Christmassy feel. I think I'll go with white, since they are supposed to be Christmas gifts.

I'm also contemplating a Tunesian Crochet scarf for my step mom. When I opened my email this morning I found an email from Purl Soho with a free pattern for this scarf:

Isn't it lovely? I'm not sure I'll get away without ordering some yarn, since most of the wool yarn that I have left is a bit too scratchy for a scarf, but you never know... 

My dad will also get a handmade gift this year. About 10 years ago, when I last took part in a pottery class, I made a platter which he liked and he asked me if I could make him a bowl that was large enough for his big dining table. I agreed, and then promptly had three babies and went to pottery class no more. ;)  Since I've now taken it up again I thought I was running out of excuses, so I made this bowl:

I wanted to recreate the ripple effect you get when water drops into a still pool. I'm hoping to glaze it a simple matt white and have already ordered some glaze for it. Unfortunately, when I rang Potclays this morning to enquire why they hadn't sent the glaze yet, they informed me that it's out of stock and only expected back in on 21st October, but since right now the bowl is not even fired yet, this shouldn't hold me up too much. Hopefully it will be ready for Christmas!

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

WIP Wednesday - a Spice of Life update

Since I am still in the firm grip of my current pottery fever, I have not been doing a lot of knitting and crocheting. I've also been fighting a cold, meaning that I 've not been terribly active in the evening, which is my usual time for crafting. 

That said, I have been keeping up with the Spice of Life CAL, and I'm enjoying it immensely. This is such a fun project, and all those colours are making me very happy. :)

Inspired by my recent quick project success with the slubby yarn hat, I've also cast on for a little crochet hat for my neice. I found this yarn at the car boot and got it for £1 for all three balls and I love the scrappy look of it. I judged it to be DK, but looking up (and crocheting with it), it works up as bulky, which is fine by me, as it makes for another very quick project. 

I cast on yesterday, but then seem to have lost the crochet hook - I assume it was in the waiting room at the doctors yesterday, but in any case I can't find it. I've ordered a new one, but it means that this project has now stalled until it arrives.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Pottery mania

I've not posted much about it in recent weeks, but suffice to say that my pottery obsession continues unabated. The only reason I've not posted much about it is that I've been too busy making pottery to take pictures of it. I want to try to be a bit more disciplined about it from now on, because I do like to keep a record of what I am making and when I was making it, and what better place than the blog to do that, after all! I may have to pick a day of the week to share some pottery - the rigidity of having a specific day for a task seems to keep me on track!

I'm quite fascinated by how, as you are pursuing a craft, you quickly, and almost unthinkingly, gravitate towards something that speaks to you. Clay, as such an organic material to work with, seems to encourage that more than other crafts I've worked with, even, and sometimes it feels as if I can start with only a  vague idea in mind of what I'm trying to do, only to find that my hands find a way to form something quite different, something much more specific. 

Of course it doesn't work without technique, so at times I need to stop to think about how I might achieve a certain effect I am after, and I also spend some time making quite utilitarian things that I just think we could do with around the house. So this week I spent some time making a succulents planter for the mantlepiece. 

I like cacti, I always have, really. Their quiet stubbornness appeals to me, clinging on to life where most other plants would give up, and ever since I can remember I've kept cacti on my windowsill. As a little girl I had a wooden shelving unit to perch on the sill, given to me by my grandma, just for that purpose. Later on, as I went to university, a lot of the cacti got neglected because I couldn't take them with me and especially after my mum got ill my dad didn't really spend a lot of time looking after my plants. I don't blame him, he would just always prefer a plastic plant over the real thing, haha. 

In recent years I've come back to my cacti love, and the boys seem to take after me and often ask if they can bring home a cactus if we are dropping in at a garden centre. The thing is, though, all those little pots can be a little unsightly, and with the top-heavy cacti they are prone to falling over too! With that in mind I've decided to repot some of them together into a planter with a matching saucer so they can be displayed in style. 

This is obviously not fired yet, but I think you can get the idea, no? I quite like a non-fussy look, so the squareness appealed to me.

I'm planning a few more of these pots.

Other things I've been making are less functional and more ornamental, and I am finding that with these in particular I seem to gravitate towards organic but also quite simple shapes; curves, folded,  origami shapes, forms that suggest crumpled up paper or fabric. Pods and forms that are inspired by nature, such as this seed pod shape, or the slab-built shapes below:

I have other ideas too, that I can't wait to explore. I'll keep you posted. For now it's all packed to take to the studio tonight for firing.  :) 

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Friday, October 02, 2015

A very quick FO

If only all craft projects were this quick then all my Christmas presents would be already done!

Cast on one morning, finished the same evening, the Holbrook hat was a joy to complete and I am so pleased to have finally found the right project for this big and bulky monster of a yarn. 

Have you ever knitted with super-bulky slubby yarn before? It's a bit of a bear, to be honest. The needles are unwieldy, and the yarn, because of its slubbiness, does not want to pull through your fingers and continues to get stuck. It was pretty good fun for a hat, but I'd be hesitant to do a much bigger project in a yarn like that and by the end of the evening my wrists were hurting from the strain of working with it. 

That said, it's perfect present yarn, because what other project could you complete that quickly? 

I'm half tempted to keep this one for myself because it's just soooo cuddly and cozy, but I'm determined to give it to my step sister, who is studying to become a vet. She also works at a veterinary centre to earn some money and for that she works outside quite a bit so this hat will keep her warm in the winter. 

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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. :)