Saturday, December 23, 2017

The holidays are here!!

I swear I can't recall another year when schools broke up so close to Christmas. All the schools in Hull broke up on Wednesday and some parts of the country were even earlier than that. It truly was the long slow limp towards Christmas for us - kids, parents, teachers, everyone was exhausted and barely hanging in there, lots of winter bugs were making the rounds, ... For most of this year I've felt that time has been flying, but this last week really made up for it - it felt interminable!

Anyway, it's done now. Yesterday afternoon the boys were collected from school one last time this year, a G&T was poured, Christmas telly was watched, and I'm starting to wind down. I'm so much looking forward to this break, to just spending time with the family, to just BEING.

In knitting-related news, the extra ball of yarn for boy #3's scarf has arrived, and I managed to finish it tonight.

I quite like the squishiness and simplicity of this scarf, I can't remember the last time I knitted something in just garter, in one block of colour. I may even wear it myself sometimes if boy #3 lets me.

I'm also contemplating yet another crochet blanket. After my last few projects I'm left with a whole load of odds and ends of acrylic and a whole rainbow of mismatched colours. I'm thinking of a patchwork sort of style, with little blocks of colour, because I don't want another granny square blanket, and there isn't enough of some of the colours to do long rows. I foresee a lot of cozy sitting on the sofa in the afternoon so I may get started on that over the holidays.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas ornaments and other knits...

... I've been trying to get into the Christmas spirit by making a few tree ornaments. I'm more and more moving away from commerical baubles and towards the more traditional straw stars that I grew up with and homemade knitted and crocheted ornaments. They are more meaningful to me and the boys love them.

A few weeks ago a friend gave me an old magazine pattern for knitted ornaments. There are even instructions to do a whole crib scene so I may attempt that for next year. For this year, with only the few days left until Christmas, I have kept to smaller projects like this little snowman. Isn't he sweet?

The star you can see above is a Bethlehem Star, another quick and fun project. I've crocheted about 6 of them by now but haven't had a chance to take pictures of them all. 

In other news, the scarf that I cast on for to teach boy #3 how to knit is coming on nicely. It's just some left-over Stylecraft acrylic yarn, accented with a bit of leftover Manos, but I think it's going to be nice and warm. 

Boy #3 has long given up on his ambition to learn to knit, but he's being very bossy about me knitting - every time I work on something that isn't his scarf he starts telling he off! He'll have to show a bit of patience, though, because I've run out of yarn now and had to order another ball to get to a decent length. 

I'm not sure if I'm going to get a chance to update before the big day so if I don't I wish you all a lovely and peaceful Christmas, hopefully with your loved ones right around you. xx

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Es weihnachtet sehr...

I can't even translate that. Something like 'it really christmasses'?! 
In any case, that's what's happening. Only two weeks left!! We feel fairly sorted this year and I've even managed to write a few few cards and letters - I haven't sent them off yet, mind, so I should probably not feel too smug.

It's been a year with a lot of ups and downs around here, and my very intermittent blogging is testament to that. You would think that not being at work would mean that I have a bit more time, but it's been busy, so so busy, and my days are physically and emotionally challenging. Not necessarily in a bad way I should say, and we've had many good moments although there have also been difficult times. All in all we are all the better for it I think, and have weathered whatever this year chose to throw at us. Our family is close and with me at home so much, and D trying to take time off for holidays I think we've all enjoyed a sort of reassuring togetherness, taking strength and comfort from each other and supporting each other. But there hasn't been a lot of 'me' time. I've not minded it much, but it's a healthy thing to have, and this coming year I'd like to reclaim some of that.

There's been crafting, of course, but often I've found it difficult to take time to photograph and document makes and I'm hoping to catch up on old FOs over the coming weeks (there've got to be some perks to being 'fairly sorted' for Christmas, right?!).

I've finally finished the Ribbed Sweater by Katrine Hammer. I don't particularly enjoy knitting vast swathes of ribbed fabric, and this was even slower because it was knitted into the row below. I do like the resulting squishy fabric though, and I absolutely LOVE the sweater and have been wearing it nonestop - I've not even given it its first wash, just cast off, sewed the ends in and put it on. 

I'll try to get some better pictures in the next few days (perhaps I can persuade boy #1) but for now these will have to do.

I've also been pottering, off and on, and I'm hoping to  get at least one batch of Christmas ornaments done before the big event. Betty the big kiln has been on 3 times now and each time her temperature was a little off - my biscuit firings seem to be a little low, judging by the pyrometric cones, and my one glaze firing was a little on the high side. Not quite sure what to make of it, but it's not so critical for biscuit firings and if I aim my glaze firing for a mid-way temperature it also shouldn't matter too much if I am 10 degrees over or under since most glazes have a range.

With that in mind I've been painting a bit today. A couple of years ago I did a few ornaments, but only glazed them on one side. They are great for wreaths, but not so good for the tree since you might end up seeing the unglazed side.

I've now constructed a sort of holding mechanism and I'm hoping to glaze the ornaments hanging so I'm painting both sides. Fingers crossed it'll all work out. 

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Glorious golden summer days...

... or at least that's what it's felt like, around here. The weather has been as indifferent as it usually is in the UK, but it hasn't mattered much to us. Because of boy #1's continuing struggle with his CFS we decided that this year we were going to take it easy and stay at home for the summer holidays. He'd had a bad run and really hasn't been in school much this year, which in turn hasn't been easy for him, and his brother had to have a tonsillectomy around Easter this year and has had quite a few struggles of his own, so we felt it was important to re-center on home and family and to support and be there for each other. 

I have to say that it's been one of the best summers we've had as a family. We took Matilda camping twice for a couple of days but apart from that we've been here. Taking away the added stress and pressure of getting ready for a big holiday was just the right thing. We've had day trips when we felt like it, and rather than taking one big block of 2 weeks, D has been taking two separate weeks to mix things up a bit and provide some relief for me as well. Yes, there has been a lot of the dreaded tablet and xbox, but we made a conscious decision not to fret about it. Instead I made a plan to encourage the kids to also think of other things. 

The result was... pretty great, actually! After some initial hick-ups (boy #2's Aspergers doesn't always lend itself to changes and it takes him a while to adjust) all three boys wholeheartedly embraced the list. They've got themselves ready without needing me to nag them, they've done their mini homework tasks (which were set to make them feel less anxious about the year ahead - boy #1 and boy #2 have a lot of catching up to do and it was making them worried. Boy #3 is just delighted to do school work so he wasn't going to complain!!), and they've played. They've been out in the garden, they've started an exciting tree-house project with D that they've worked on (and continue to work on) very hard whenever there was time, they've helped each other, they've gone on bike-rides and when we were looking after a friend's dog for a week while they were away I never had to go on a walk with Luna without at least one lad accompanying me, armed with tennis balls to play fetch. 

Don't get me wrong, there's been hours and hours of computer games, but you know what? It's all good. Boy #1 needs it when he gets too tired with his CFS, and boy #2 uses it to switch off from the world at bit when he gets too over-stimulated, and boy #3? He's just along for the ride and enjoys doing what his brothers do. It's. All. Good.

Me, in the meantime? I've been tinkering. I've done some pottery and Betty the kiln is finally up and running. She's completed her first firing but as it turns out it takes ages for a kiln to cool down from 1000 degrees C - almost 36 hours in fact! Yesterday i was finally able to crack the door open. It looks as if the firing has worked.

There are some problems, though. Do you see the tiny 'animal' up top? That's my pyrometric cones, which should give an indication of the temperature in the kiln. I use a controller to regulate kiln temperature, but thought I'd use cones to double-check that what the controller is telling me is taking place inside the kiln is in fact really taking place.

Well, I'm glad I did, because if you look at this the first cone is just about bending over. These cones bend over at different temperatures, with the middle one indicating the temperature I wanted to reach. So in an ideal firing the first cone should have collapsed completely, the 2nd cone should be half-bent and the third one should be upright as it is.

Hmmm. The kiln is slightly below temperature, me thinks...

This is OK for a basic biscuit firing, but I'm going to have to experiment with what impact this has during a glaze firing.

I've also been crocheting. I finished the Blue Ripple and decided she is really too large and unwieldy or us. My step mom was admiring her last year and was asking me if I could make her a blanket like that so I think I might give her the blanket. 

Almost immediately after I cast off for Blue Ripple I decided to cast on for another ripple to use up all those odds and ends from all the different blankets I've made over the past few years. On a larger hook, and not nearly as wide as Blue Ripple, this blanket grew quickly, and I managed to finish it in record time. 

The blanket is already a firm favourite. :)

I still had yarn left over, though, so like a true procrastinator, instead of focussing on all my other WIPs I started making a bunch of granny squares from some of the remaining yarn. Of course there wasn't enough in the particular colour combination I'd chosen to finish a full blanket, but I was given two HUGE balls of cream acrylic/wool mix a while back by a friend, so I think I'll just do large borders and finish the blanket that way. Gets rid of some of that excess cream acrylic too, which can only be a good thing!

There is only one week left before school starts up again. I can honestly say that I'll be sad that our summer at home is coming to an end. 

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Monday, June 26, 2017

All the WIPs...

... so much to do, so little time.

When I had that year off from crafting (more or less), I neglected a lot of projects, and I've been revisiting them, one by one, with a view to making some room for new projects in my life.

I've already written about the Purple Cashmere Socks, which had been languishing in my WIP pile forever, but that isn't the end of it, not at all.

I recently pulled out a truly ancient project, which was never particularly exciting to me, but which, hopefully, will eventually result in something quite useful.

Ages ago I bought some blue 100% wool yarn on ebay. When the yarn arrived I realised that it was a really dull, undefinable blue, and also not particularly soft. It felt... kind of old and fusty. But it was 100% wool, and that's always useful for felting, right?  I finally settled on a kind of satchel bag, but rather than knitting it up as a pattern and then felting it to size I thought, why not knit this up as a really sturdy rectangle and then just cut it into pieces and sew it together? And that's what I did, or rather, what I started to do. I used 3 strands of yarn together to create a really bulky and strong fabric, and started knitting.

Is there anything less exciting than a stockinette stitch rectangle in a solid colour? Needless to say, I never finished.

That is, until now! I finished the dreaded massive rectangle a couple of weeks ago and stuffed it in the washing machine. It took 3 wash cycles and an extra spin, but it finally reached the desired density. For now the felted rectangle sits on the armrest of our sofa to protect the fabric from Jack the cat, who likes to crouch up there, but I'm planning my satchel bag...

Next eternal WIP - the Blue Ripple Blanket. Again, this was started years ago, probably sometime in 2015, but in a fit of insanity I made this so wide that it would probably cover a double bed. As a result each row takes absolutely ages to crochet, and I also constantly managed to run out of yarn. I've started working on this again a few weeks ago and already had to re-order all the colours. What on earth was I thinking?

I do like this blanket, though, and I reckon if I can just bring myself to knit a few rows each week it should be done in a year or so, and without me actually having to put too much effort and time in on a day-to-day basis. 

The last project I dug out to finish are the Stripey Mitts.

ETA: piccy of the stripey mitts!

This is a project I was sort of making up as I was going along, even though I was nominally following a pattern, and I finished one mitt without writing down any instructions to replicate the pattern for the second (thanks, past self, that was helpful...) so it's going to take a bit of time to find my way back into this project. They are pretty darn cute, though, so I'm determined to wear them next winter!

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A Year of Projects

Saturday, June 17, 2017

All the socks...

I've been on a bit of a sock-knitting binge this past week. 

First I pulled out that gorgeous red Regia sock yarn that I bought a couple of summers ago on Borkum, and finally found a good pattern for it. I wanted something with some texture because I tend to prefer solid colours for those kinds of pattern, but I didn't want it to become too complex because, well, I know myself and the sock knitting... I didn't want this to become another endless WIP.

I finally settled on the Hedgerow socks. The first few rows were, not exactly confusing, because it's not a difficult pattern, but I couldn't quite see how it was coming together. It all just seemed really random and looked chaotic. Now, a few repeats into the pattern I can see my way more clearly and it's coming together rather nicely.

While I've been busy with this project, the other day, while digging around in my office, I also managed to unearth another ancient WIP. It was a sock, knitted in purple cashmere yarn, held double-stranded to make a slightly bulkier sock. I had only knitted slightly more than that cuff of sock one, and had then evidently given up because I couldn't be bothered to figure out how to do the heel. I took it downstairs and after digging around a bit on Ravelry I found a dk sock pattern that seemed close enough to my stitch count to adapt. 

My sock had 44 stitches, while this pattern was for 40 stitches, but the heel worked out fine by substituting the 19 stitches for the heel flap for 21 stitches, and the short rows for K9 rather than the K8 required in the pattern. I pretty much winged it, but it worked!

I finished the first sock yesterday evening, and, to avoid another endless delay, cast on for sock two this morning. I very much hope the yarn will be sufficient because it's obviously not meant to be held double-stranded. To make it go further I had started using some left-over Freedom Sock yarn, but now that is running low and I'm using it double-stranded with some pink cashmere. A stylish project this is not, but this yarn is so soft, I'm sure the socks will get a lot of wear anyway, even if I run out of yarn half-way down the foot and have to finish in a different colour! :D

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A Year of Projects

Friday, June 09, 2017

I've been spinning!

No, not the exercise kind, the fleece kind! 

That's what I always have to clarify when I tell non-crafty friends about spinning. I doubt that anyone reading this blog would have any doubt as to which kind of spinning I'm referring to. :)

Yesterday a local friend who keeps a few sheep dropped round two fleeces. This morning he brought the remaining two. They are Derbyshire Gritstone, and this is only their 2nd shearing. The fleece is lovely and soft and, since he only had to shear these four, he also took care to pick out any particularly soiled parts of the fleece and discard them.

The result is a lovely fluffy, and remarkably clean fleece, so I thought I might try to spin it from the raw fleece rather than wash and process it before spinning. 

I spun a large bobbin of pretty rough and slubby thick-ish yarn this morning just to test it. It's not perfect, and it's pretty over-spun because I was still experimenting with the yarn thickness, the fact that it wasn't carded, and the tension on the wheel, plus boy #2, who is off school due to a bad cold, helped a bit, but despite all this I'm actually pretty pleased with the results.

Spinning the raw fleece was actually really fun, and it's so much quicker than having to process the whole thing beforehand! Since the yarn has far too much twist in places I'll probably ply it to balance it a bit more but I can see a lot of spinning from unprocessed fleeces in my future! 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pottery Workshop update

Look at those happy hens, enjoying the sunshine! These are our current ladies, Davina (white), Fizz (grey) and Pig(widgeon), and I think they are as happy about a bit of warmth as we are. I counted at least 4 new dust baths in their run just now and they seem very contented indeed. 

We've had a somewhat busy week with all sorts of appointments, so things are a bit slow otherwise, but at least I can report that slowly but surely my very own pottery workshop is coming together. 

A few weeks ago I finally got all my courage (and savings) together and drove to the pottery supplier near here. I'd phoned ahead, so they had got my enormous order of raw materials, glazes, and clay together and I initially stashed it all in the workshop. When the weather got a little warmer I took a proper look at it all and set about decanting everything into more suitable containers. Thank goodness for all the empty yogurt and ice cream buckets that I'd kept. Always worth never throwing anything away, right? 

It all felt quite weird, and also a teeny bit scary, standing there with my big dust mask and disposable gloves on. Most of the materials are OK (even though none of them are exactly healthy to breathe in), but there were also a few more toxic glaze ingredients, and the boys were under strict instructions not to come looking for me...

It's all very exciting. I've even started to mix some glazes and my first batch is ready for testing.

Can you see Betty the big kiln on the right? 

She is STILL not connected. You would not believe the obstacles that we've come up against in our plans to connect her up. Things are looking good, though, and with any luck she should be functional within a few weeks. 

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Catching up...

Doesn't this look amazing?

I actually have no reason for posting this, but it made me happy this weekend. The first locally grown strawberries are always a highlight of early summer for me, and these were absolutely delicious. 

Despite this rather misleading start this post is actually not about strawberries but about catching up on all those neglected FOs that I never posted about. It's time I update my Ravelry list, so without further ado I present:

The Boneyard Shawl

The Boneyard Shawl was started almost well over a year ago (heck, make that nearly 2 years ago) when I purchased some gorgeously soft Seidenstrasse yarn at a little wool shop on Borkum in the north of Germany. I cast on for this shawl there and then, and despite slow progress I finished it in September 2016. It's an easy and effective pattern but I still found working it a little boring. Apparently I'm not much of a shawl knitter... 

I do like the finished product, though, and actually wear it fairly regularly, so I'm glad I persevered. 


The second FO is the Bias Knit Sari Silk Scarf

This was a stash-busting project. Do you remember when Sari Silk yarn was all the rage? All those years ago? Yeah, that's when I bought this skein from a little online yarn shop called Hip Knits. I think it closed down years ago but they used to have lovely hand-dyed silk yarns and I used them quite a bit at the time. 

Anyway, since I had this skein of Sari Silk languishing at the bottom of one of my yarn boxes I thought this pattern would make a good stash buster because you basically knit until you run out of yarn and presto, you have a scarf!

This was super quick - I started on 17th Dec and finished on 21st Dec 2015 in the midst of my flurry of xmas knitting at the time, but then I never actually posted about it. 

So there you go, two neglected FOs, finally documented! :) 

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Friday, May 19, 2017

FO - Olive sweater

You know the relief when you finally get an interminable, never-ending will-this-ever-be-done project off your needles? In my case this was Olive.

This sweater, knitted from the Super Birthday Sweater pattern, was starting to be some kind of nemesis. Honestly, I think I started this last September? And it's not by any definition a challenging project - it's a top-down raglan in quite heavy aran or even bulky, on fat needles. It should have taken weeks, not months, to finish, even without putting much effort into it. 

But perhaps that was the problem. It was just not a very interesting project. Not even the yarn was interesting. I was using a non-descript single-ply yarn that I got off ebay about a decade ago. It's OK, but it's a bit over-twisted and it's a little scratchy. I do like the colour, though, and I thought it might work well for a simple raglan.

I finished this jumper on Sunday, during a Eurovision marathon (recorded the night before so the boys could watch it). When I tried it on I realised that I had somehow totally messed up the waist. Obviously, as bored as I was with this project, I had never bothered to try it on. It looked loose and baggy and it was pretty clear that I wouldn't be able to wear it as it was. 

Needless to say, there was zero chance of me unravelling this to re-knit the entire body of the sweater. 

No. Way.

I decided to take the plunge and try my first ever darts. A couple of days ago the jumper was for the chop - I marked the areas to be cut by roughly sewing them together with bright yarn and sewed the sides together about 500 times on my sewing machine. Then I took the scissors to the surplus knit and then zigzag-ed the loose ends together once more.

The result, on the inside, isn't pretty, but on the outside it actually looks OK, even though I still feel that it's a bit over-generous in places...

I'm still a bit paranoid about the cut edges though, so may do some more sewing...