Day 4: Wildcard - Embellish the story

So it's day 4 of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011 and as a new knitter the topic "where are they now?" doesn't really apply to anything I've made yet, so I'm using the Wildcard topic today: Blog about an embellishment, be it a zipper, amigurumi eyes or appliqué patch which you are either saving to use or have in the past used to decorate a project with. 

I can't write on this topic without taking this opportunity to make a confession (this is the second secret I've shared on my blog this week!) ........... *drumroll* ............
I've always loved buttons - my Nanna had a huge button tin (the huge type that come filled with enough chocolates for the whole family at Christmas) bursting with wonderful colourful buttons in all different shapes and sizes - wooden, plastic, horn, you name it - and I spent hours playing with them as a child. I liked the sounds they made when the tin was shaken (I did this a lot) and adored the way they felt when I pushed my little hand in and wiggled my fingers. In fact, I'm sitting here wondering what happened to that tin of buttons when she died - I must ask my mum... perhaps they are lurking in a cupboard somewhere waiting to be re-discovered...?

Now I'm off to see what everyone else has written today - theirs will be tagged as 2KCBWDAY4 so you should be able to find them using your favourite search engine. Hope you have a lovely Thursday!
Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Day Three: 30th March. Tidy mind, tidy stitches.

Thanks so much to all the people who took the time to read my blog over the last few days. I've had some lovely comments and lots of "hits" and some new followers on Twitter too - so to all of you, a big HELLO! *waves*

I'm really enjoying participating in the Knitting & Crochet Blog Week - it's nice to have  structure to my own posts, which are otherwise random musings, and to see how different people interpret each topic and reply. The photos are my favourite bit and I'm especially looking forward to photos of today's topic which is:  
How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised?

Contents of the stash box
In physical terms, I don't have much yarn to organise as I tend not to buy in advance. I enjoy browsing patterns and fear buying too far in advance will limit me, so buying as I go lets me change my mind frequently before casting on any queued project.  As the nearest LYS with nice wool is a 40 minute drive I tend to buy for a few projects on each trip - although I have also had to order some things online too. This means my yarn "stash" is confined to one small box in the Cwtch. I also have a bag in the bottom of my cupboard which contains any leftover yarns.

My needles and cables are organised in a needle roll from Katie Fleck. (Actually, I wish it had a couple of poppers on the bottom of the flap so that's on my To Do list - I have a few little jobs like that I need to do.) I keep my stitch markers, ruler/needle gauge and a long tape measure in a project bag with my current WIP.

My first pattern is the only one that wasn't from Ravelry and my method of organising them is really simple - I save them all into Evernote so I can access them on my iPhone, iPad, laptop or any computer with internet access - NO chance at all of losing them. (I added the first/paper pattern by taking a picture of the text and importing it to Evernote that way.) It also means it's really easy to search the text. I save the Ravelry link too for ease of reference. I actually use Ravelry quite extensively and update my project notes every day, although my queue is more a general "wishlist" than a real statement of intent as I change my mind so often. So that's pretty much it! Very straight forward.

I am REALLY looking forward to read what everyone else has to say on this topic and I am expecting some drool-worthy yarn stashes, so I'm off to google 2KCBWDAY3 - you might like to do the same!

I dusted off the sewing machine...

...but only for a few hems!

Our beautiful MamAmor doll really needs some more clothes and accessories so I *finally* got the sewing machine out and made her a new rebozo from an offcut from a Didymos Jan wrap.
Using the full width of the wrap scrap, it's only just about long enough to tie but she seems happy with it and spent the afternoon enjoying the Spring sun while breastfeeding her baby (at DD's insistence).
I'm planning a sunny little cardigan for her next...
Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Day Two: What a difference a year makes

Good morning! It's day two of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week! I had a lovely day discovering other blogs yesterday - my iPad Flipboard App is now full of different feeds to read and re-read at leisure, it's like my own bespoke crafting magazine. The pictures are amazing and reading about all those different yarns has given me a shortlist (maybe a long list) of things to seek out and try. I am really looking forward to sitting with a cuppa for an hour later to read the day two offerings.
So onto today's topic: "Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year."

This is very easy for me as a year ago knitting was a distant memory - something I hadn't done for many years as a child (and that does feel like MANY years ago now). So what changed things? A natural parenting forum I belong to has a Craft board with lots of pictures from crafty mamas who make wonderful things - there are knitters, crocheters, spinners, quilters, doll-makers you name it....  I found LOTS of inspiration on this board and as a bit of a frustrated artist I wanted to do something creative that would also have a practical application. So for Christmas 2010 I asked for a basic sewing machine to make some doll clothes for the presents I'd bought the children - I had a huge pile of their old clothes I wanted to reuse and this seemed like a nice thing to go with them ...
....and of course, once I started sewing they also needed knitwear so I got a set of knitting needles as the requests started coming in. The first thing I made was a pair of leggings...
Would have been better on smaller needles and in the round!
...and then "Sammy" wanted a hat and socks!

The socks are just tubes (in the round!) with decreases at the end
And then I just carried on knitting! After the doll things, my next project - my first 'real' project - was the Noro cowl I mentioned yesterday...

Before I finished the cowl my obsessive Ravelry-browsing began and I suddenly had a long list of "favourites" and a queue of things waiting to be made. I love knitting! I am still slightly fascinated that I can turn one long piece of yarn into a garment. I like watching the stitches and patterns develop, it's still so new that I'm slightly fascinated by it. I also love that I recently went shopping for my little lady and bought her summer clothes and some co-ordinating yarn to make her cardigans myself.

I have learned so much in the last few months and blogged my 10 week observations here a few days ago so I won't repeat myself, but looking back at those leggings and Sammy's hat this morning, I also realised how much my knitting has improved 

(And incidentally, the sewing machine hasn't been very used much at all since I started knitting!)

Day One: A Tale of Two Yarns

Welcome to Knitting and Crochet Blog week! Today's subject is something close to all knitters' and crocheters' hearts - Yarn! 

My other hobby is babywearing and I LOVE trying woven wraps in different fabric blends and assessing their different qualities - their feel, how they drape, how the supportiveness differs, how they look in different lighting conditions, how large the knot is etc. I know a few knitters and crocheters in person and online and after seeing some of their work, a huge motivating factor in me asking for a set of KnitPros for Christmas was to get to use some of the different yarns I'd seen - I suppose it appealed to my inner fabric geek.

The yarn I bought for my first 'proper' knitting project was Noro Sekku. I'd never used anything as lightweight before, mostly just inexpensive acrylic DK for dolls' clothes and a wool/acrylic blend aran that actually hurt my fingers to knit! The Noro was a bit of a revelation although I remember feeling a little crestfallen that the first 65 stitches I cast on fitted into a couple of inches on my needles. The things I loved most about it were the uneven slubby quality and the way the colours changed.

Noro Sekku Cowl - 50% Cotton, 16% Silk. 17% Wool, 17% Polyamide
Over the last few months and trying a variety of different yarns, I have a couple of favourites. I have already blogged about the Nimu Torva I finished recently and overall it's probably the nicest yarn that I've knitted to date. It's so soft, drapes beautifully and has such wonderfully subtle colours. The shawl I made from it had lots of stocking stitch which I find quite tedious (I really don't love knitting long rows of purl) but I didn't mind too much as I was enjoying watching the colours change - it's a little hypnotic.

Nimu Torva - 75% Superwash Merino 20% Cashmere 5% Nylon.
I've realised that finding a pattern and yarn that compliment each other is something that takes some experience and skill - at the moment I don't have either so it's something I need to develop (and quickly to avoid making potentially expensive mistakes). I mentioned previously that I was disappointed  with my Lipstick cowl for this reason - it should have been fantastic - I like the pattern and used some beautiful handspun yarn but it just didn't really work. I'm now thinking of changing the buttons for something more dramatic to see if I like it more and if not, recycling the yarn into something else - maybe some mittens which I think would be a better option.

Felt Studio UK Hand-Dyed Hand-Spun Falkland Wool 100% Merino

Sublime Yarns 
75% Merino, 20% Silk, 5% Cashmere

COLOUR is really important to me and the things I've made have generally been pretty colourful - certainly those I like the most are the most interesting colours. In contrast, the Nellie cardigan I'm knitting today for my little lady is an uninspiring colour, but perfect for the item I'm making, so while I'm finishing it up I'm really looking forward to knitting up my next skeins.... of Noro Kochoran
Noro Kochoran - 50% Wool, 30% Angora, 20% Silk

You can find more of today's Knitting and Crochet Blog Week posts from bloggers around the world by searching Google for 2KCBWDAY1- there will be more posts tomorrow and for the rest of the week - happy reading!
Sunday, 27 March 2011

How exciting!

This week you'll find a series of posts here as part of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011. Look out for the posts marked with a banner or follow along on Twitter with hashtag #2kcbw

If you are interested in taking part or finding out more, then take a look here for full details. (And my thanks to the lovely Naomi for putting me onto this - it sounds like a lot of fun!)
Saturday, 26 March 2011

A little secret....

Each night, with everyone else in bed, I sit downstairs Alone
(two small children and a husband, I don't get much Alone - it's very precious).

And I knit.

And while I am knitting, I sit quietly with no other sounds and watch the yarn
going over the needle and the needle going in and out of the stitches.

And I breathe.

It's usually the only time of day when I am not somewhere other than where I actually am.

So when my friend asked me recently if I meditate - I said yes,
every day for an hour, and I recommended knitting.
Thursday, 24 March 2011


After yesterday's success, it's a big thumbs down so far today *sigh*

Following a whole evening deciding what to make, I cast on the toddler sized Kina using the gorgeously soft "Sublime" cashmere merino silk I bought at the weekend (this one) . Unfortunately the smallest size is HUUUUUGE.  I tried it on my almost-5 year old and it would have been the right size for him!

So.... it's being frogged in favour of Nellie which I'm hoping will make a more interesting knit in this plain yarn. Pants!


(Edited to add: I notice  I couldn't even be bothered to turn this the right side to take the pic!!!!! :-D )
Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Observations after 10 weeks of knitting

I realised that it's about 10 weeks since I started my first "proper" knitting project with a pattern  (I am not including the dolls clothes and bit'n'pieces I made up before!). In that time, I can truly say I've been bitten by the knitting bug and have had something on the needles constantly since then. The realisation got me thinking about the different things I've made and the things I have learned in that time. So here are ten random observations I thought I'd share:
  • Ravelry rocks! Without Ravelry, I wouldn't have known where to start with my pattern searches and I just love seeing how other people's projects have knitted up using the same pattern and different yarns - browsing the patterns is actually a hobby in itself... and if I didn't do it as much, I'd have made twice as many things!
  • The yarn is (almost) everything. Less than perfect knitting with fab wool can still look great - which is good news for a new imperfect knitter who likes yarn shopping! Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a 'wool snob' and have so far used cheaper yarn / acrylic blends on a few of my favourite items and I certainly prefer machine washable for my littlies, but choosing a good yarn for the pattern really does make a difference to how the stitches are defined and on the overall look of the finished item. An example of a great yarn/pattern combo (NOT my choice btw - I copied from the pattern) is the Stitch Sampler Shawl made in Lang Yarns Mille Colori (left) and another that didn't work so well was a fab pattern and fab yarn that were not so well suited due to lack of drape (below right) Lipstick handspun knitted into Lai's Cowl.
  • Interchangeable circular needles are the best things ever invented (with the exception of the iPhone) - I don't think I'd have been half as enthusiastic about knitting if I had to knit in pieces  and sew everything up - as it is, almost everything has been knit in one piece with no- or minimal-sewing (but more on sewing below), I can try it on the recipient as I'm going along and it's really helped make sense of knitting patterns while I'm still learning the lingo. 
  • There are lots of gorgeous accessories to buy!!!! SO much shopping opportunity - it is going to be an expensive hobby! (Although my other hobby is collecting limited edition Babywearing wraps so this isn't THAT expensive!) Just unrolling my Katie Fleck needle roll and looking at mKnitpros makes me feel inspired to make something pretty!
  • If you are less than 100% attentive, stitch markers can be as much of a curse as a blessing. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be without them, but I've realised that almost every mistake I've made has involved yarn getting caught around a stitch marker. Now you're probably shouting "User Error" and you are no doubt right, but in my case it's still an accurate observation.
  • Mattress Stitch is amazing and really is almost invisible - I discovered this only last night by watching this tutorial... 
  • No matter how amazing Mattress Stitch is, it's not a patch on knitting in the round! THERE IS STILL A SEAM INSIDE! And if you're knitting in multi-coloured yarn it's still really obvious that there is a seam, even if you can't see it! My Confection shrug is always going to be a little disappointing for this reason. 
  •  The simple things really are sometimes the best. Of the nine items I have made for myself, the thing I love to wear the most and so wear the most.....? The simple rectangle 'shawl' I made from Lang Yarns Mille Fiamme. I love the way the bottom and top edges roll in to show the texture of the reverse and the way it has a heavy drape and that it's perfect for use with a chunky shawl pin. It's wonderfully warm and snuggly and goes with so much of my wardrobe. Wearing it actually makes me feel happy!
  •  I was wondering how many hours I have spent knitting (instead of doing housework!!) and how many THOUSANDS of stitches I must have knit already in just ten weeks - I don't have an answer but next time I can't sleep I might try a guesstimation.
  • And my final observation is that in the time it's taken me to write this post I could have cast on my next thing and knitted at least a few rows so that's it for now!
Monday, 21 March 2011

Woo hoo!

It's finished! It's finished! Last night I bound off the 500+ stitches of my Mizzle shawl. 
Looking a bit sad straight from the needles :-(
Today, armed with with some advice from some experienced knitters, two pots full of new pins, a towel and the interlocking playmats I bought for the children at the weekend, I 'kind of 'blocked it. I mean, I did block it, but as with everything about this project (from the cast on to the pattern) it was my version of blocking and there was room for improvement!
As it was a beautifully warm sunny day it was dry in no time and I managed to get some pictures of it in the natural light which I think shows this beautiful yarn off so much better. I am really really happy with it... and now I need a nice little silver shawl pin to use on it! 

I made a few amendments to the pattern as I went along - these are detailed in my project notes. This has probably given me more satisfaction than any of the other projects I've completed as it was hard going along those reeeeeaallly long rows towards the end when it looked like I was running out of yarn (I had a little bit left over - phew!) and even my DH said "Did YOU make that??!?!" when he saw it - which is about the best praise I can expect from him where knitting is concerned.

For my next item I fancy something small, quick, and instantly gratifying :-)
Saturday, 19 March 2011

Profoundly in love with Pandora

Last weekend I started knitting a Mizzle shawlette using the gorgeous Nimu Yarns Torva I'd been stroking for a few weeks. WOW! I love this yarn - it's so soft and beautiful to work with and the colours are just lovely - subtle, pretty and much more green than I thought it would be before I started knitting it up when it looked more blue than green to me. 
Progress has been a bit slow - I managed to make a couple of small but annoying mistakes when the rows got to over 500 stitches and as I only have a couple of hours a day to knit (when the kids are in bed and I'm already T I R E D and mistake-prone) this was a little set-back. 

Then as I was getting towards the end of the shawlette, I decided the yarn was too nice and I'd have to make it bigger  only to knit another 20-something rows and the single ball of yarn was starting to look seriously a bit of  pattern-bodging later and it's now going to be a mid-length shawl!

I am REALLY trying to finish every project before getting started on another and will admit patience is not a strong point... so my mind has been wandering a little this week - another reason for the lack of knitting has been the obsessive Ravelry browsing to plan my next project(s).

With this in mind, I went to Guildford today to visit my favourite crafty supply shop - Pandora. Just walking in this lovely shop makes me feel completely inspired - the place is a riot of colour and there are just far too many things begging me to spend all of my money and more! They stock some stunning fabrics, patterns, buttons, various crafting supplies and  of course some great yarns - but I'll save that for another post!

After an initial browse and then pausing for a 'time out' coffee, I was (unusually) sensible and came away with "only" a couple of bags of yarn specifically for some summer cardigans for DD, and a couple of shawl patterns I've been fancying. (The online store from Pandora can be found here by the way!)

Oh and I also picked up an interlocking playmat for the children.... which can double up for blocking my shawl once it's finished! They were delighted with it. 

All in all a great day. Now to get on with that shawl before bed!

Night night x

Monday, 14 March 2011


This afternoon there was rugby on TV to occupy DH and the kids were busy playing in the garden..... so I finished my "Lipstick Cowl" after all!

I'd hoped to make it longer but my single skein of this yarn was running out so it turned out as a snug cowl and I'm hoping there is enough left for a little crochet brooch (*when* I learn to crochet!) I actually like it a lot more than I thought I would and plan to come back to this pattern with something soft and drapey, and more of it. And after finishing this, I cast on something BLUE! So I still have nothing red to wear!!!!!!!!!
Sunday, 13 March 2011

Oh, and another thing...

I started this scarf by Emma Fassio  a couple of days ago with my Felt Studio UK Lipstick wool, but haven't done much of it as I'm still not too sure I won't frog it - I think maybe this pattern would be nicer in a more drapey yarn...

 .... and after seeing photos from yesterday's day out, I have decided I urgently need to knit a scarf or something RED to wear with my Didymos Garnet Pfau wrap and matchy handbag from Easton

So this morning I'll be off to browse Ravelry. Am I the only person that seems to spend more time browsing for patterns than actually knitting???

Something is in the air...

...and I think it's SPRING!!!!

We spent a wonderful day at Winkworth Arboretum today so that DS could visit his favourite tree.

There is something very peaceful about the place that seems to recharge all our spirits, and certainly helped to centre and calm me personally after feeling quite upset about the pictures from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. It's strangely reassuring to just 'be' with a tree that is a few hundred years old. And at it's base, the skeletons of last years leaves and new green shoots promising a carpet of bluebells in a few weeks.

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Most SIMPLE Shawl! (For Michele)

I made this very simple but effective rectangular shawl to showcase the beautiful Lang Yarns Mille Fiamme  and wooden scarf pin I bought at Unravel. It took about 6 hours in total and would make a great knit for a beginner as it's just stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl the next) with the top and bottom edges allowed to roll to show the texture of the "wrong" side. Gauge/tension isn't really important for this one. 

  • 4 skeins of Mille Fiamme in colour 0053/Rose
  • 8mm circular needle 100cm or longer - this is knit flat (not in the round) but you'll be able to try it on as you go to get the length you like with a long circular needle
  • A shawl pin

Instructions for size Medium :
Cast on 110 stitches
Row 1: knit
Row 2: knit 2, purl until last 2 stitches, knit 2
Then: repeat row 1 and 2 until it reaches the desired width - I used about 3.5 skeins
Finally: Bind off & weave in any ends.

It can be worn in lots of different ways - as a shawl, cowl, poncho etc  so just wrap it around you and stick the pin in to hold it closed. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Learn with me: Stick Weaving - Part 1

After yesterday's brooch,  a few friends have asked me how to go about stick weaving. I should make it clear that I was only shown how to do this at the weekend by a weaver from Fire & Fibre at Unravel so I really don't know any more than that, but it's very straightforward and if you want to give it a try and have no one to demo it for you, here is what I was shown.

It's probably easier to start with two sticks to get the feel for it (I made yesterday's brooch using two sticks), but for this project I'd like a wider weaving, so I'm using all 5 sticks - the method is entirely the same however many sticks you use. 

- A set of weaving sticks appropriate for the width of the piece you'd like to weave. I have this set.
- Yarn or string for the warp - this should be strong enough for the intended item - eg if making a belt or bag handles, it will need to be more sturdy than if making a decorative item that will not be weight-bearing.
- A "threader" to get the warp through the small holes (mine came with the sticks).
- Something to weave with - I am using left-over yarn but you can use strips of fabric or anything else that you can wind between the sticks.
- Anything (tapestry needle, buttons etc) you will need to make the weaving into something else when finished.

Getting Started:
Cut yarn for the warps - the length will depend on the size of your planned project and should be at least double the length you need - I'm using about a metre for this example. Thread them through the holes in the sticks using the threading tool....

....and tie them together at the bottom.

Hold the sticks in your left hand and the weft yarn in your right if right-handed (reverse if left-handed), leave a tail and start weaving around the sticks in a figure of eight.

Weave the tail into the first few rows, then continue weaving in and out.......

.....when the sticks are almost full, gently wiggle each stick up so that part of it is on the warp and part still on the sticks and continue this process until the weaving is the desired length.

 Light is fading fast here, so I'll carry on weaving and will post part two another day.
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