Sunday, 29 July 2012

Year of Projects Update #4 - the best week yet

Well it's been a good week for YoP projects - not only were there two little stashbusting crochet FOs on Friday (both from scraps), but I've also started on two of the listed items (apologies to regular readers for some repetition but I know there are a lot of people who visit once a week as part of YoP and won't have seen these projects mentioned before):
CROCHET: Bow Tie & Peter Pan Collar blogged here
TOP RIGHT: Saffron by Elena Nodel made with Wendy Sorrento DK
BOTTOM LEFT: Purl Beret by Purl Soho made with Nimu Yarns sock/4ply yarn

I actually finished the beret a few nights ago but realised there was a considerable difference in the knitting when I switched to DPNs so I need to reknit the last few inches using magic loop - it'll be finished once I bother to sit down with it for an hour, but really, who wants to knit a dark hat in Summer!?! Last night, with the kids in bed and D away at a wedding, I didn't finish it off but I did tick three things on my list when I cast on a short cardigan for Little Miss (check) and chose Saffron, which is a pattern from my library (check) using stash yarn (check). I also managed to watch 'The Help' and some of the Olympics! 

This is a clear and easy-to-use pattern which can be made from 12 months to age 14 either as a "shrug" - I'd call it a bolero - or a full length cardigan. With options for long or 3/4 length sleeves and with some variations for the middle section I think this is excellent value for money at just over £3 alone, or less as part of an ebook.  It looks much nicer in a colourful variegated yarn, but as I wanted to use what I already had, and this is quite neutral for wearing with different outfits, it'll do - although I suspect there will be more of these to come. It should be finished in the next day or so as the ribbed ruffle *yawn* is almost done.  
There are some wonderful things happening as part of the Year of Projects - last week I managed to read many more posts than I could comment on and suspect it will be the same for the next few weeks of summer holidays (it's knit OR comment at the moment), so I wanted to acknowledge all the people who have joined in and have taken the time to visit and leave comments here. To anyone who hasn't joined in but would like to, it's not too late - click here to visit the group (Ravelry membership is required, which is free and absolutely recommended if you knit or crochet). 
Hope you all have a great week xxxxx

Friday, 27 July 2012

More little (finished) crochet things

I was all set to show you my finished beret... until I looked at it in a better light and realised that after switching from metal circulars to wooden DPNs my tension changed considerably, and I'd have to rip out and reknit the last few inches...which I haven't done yet, leaving only these things to show for Finished Object Friday.
YARNS: Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton DK 
HOOK: 3.5mm
MODIFICATIONS: I'd actually made the foundation chain and the first row of htc (the green bit)  to fit Little Miss before finding the pattern - I'd have improvised if I hadn't found this one - so it was coincidence/luck that the number of stitches worked out perfectly. I'd started with a chain of 68 and left long tails at the start and end of the green yarn to make a macrame-eque button hole. Little Miss chose the button herself, next time I'd just make a crochet button without asking her! This is a great free pattern from the blog I mentioned a few days ago, and can be hooked up in the time it takes to drink a mug of tea, plus at 23.4g including the button it is a nice little 'leftover yarn' stashbuster. 
After seeing his sister try on the collar, My Boy asked if he could have one - a "smart boy's one". We compromised on a bow tie and yesterday morning I spent ten minutes making a rectangle and crochet strip to wrap around it, which he has worn all day with a t-shirt! This time, he didn't wear the comedy glasses all day, they were just for the photo (which doesn't really show the bow off very well, but was too cute not to use). 
Apparently he can feel the love in every stitch when he wears it and when it's Mufti Day he's going to wear it to school because it looks so smart. Hmmm - I see a career in politics ahead!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Wednesday's WIPs & books

(Also pictured - yarn sock FO)
After a disappointing lack of hexipuffs in yesterday's post, you can see that I haven't been completely idle over the last week. The beret and collar, both stashbusting projects, are almost done so you'll be able to see them on Friday - both are from great free patterns and would be suitable as a first knitted hat or a first crochet project in my opinion (perfect for when the kids are home). Nuvem is getting big but I can't see quite how big due to the small cable. I've been trying not to knit it as it'll make a perfect holiday project - light, packs up small and isn't too hot on a lap in high temperatures but I may add a couple more rounds and then transfer to an extended cable so I can get a better look at it. 

Last week I finally finished reading Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke by Peter Benson, and I didn't really enjoy it. I kept reading in the hope that it would get better but it felt like it was lacking something - more like a first draft than a finished novel and it left me disappointed that I'd stuck with it until the end. Not so my latest read,  The Earth Hums in B Flat which is much more enjoyable. It's told from the point of view of ingénue Gwenni who is growing up amongst a Welsh village of interesting and well drawn characters. There is an element of mystery (a missing villager who shares some unknown past with her mother) a sense of other-wordliness (Gwenni is convinced she could fly as a baby) and if I had the chance I wouldn't put it down until it's finished. Sadly that's not an option! 

The other book to have arrived from Amazon is for our book club. I haven't read any Allende and am looking forward to getting into 
The Sum of Our Days, however it's not available on Kindle and the paperback I bought (second hand) has really small text and I've managed only a few pages so far - once I've finished the other book I'll set aside an evening for it. 

Well that's it for today. The children and I are going to a friend's garden to enjoy the sunshine and some splashing about in water. It's so nice to finally have some summer - we've waited a long time and endured much rain to get to it. When I get back I'll be visiting the links at Tami's WIP Wednesday and Ginny's Yarn Along to see what everyone is making and reading. Enjoy your day!
Tuesday, 24 July 2012

No knitting, just gorgeous dolls and other good stuff

Oh dear! Just a few weeks in and a combination of a poorly velcro-girl, the Boy's birthday and D working away has severely impacted my crafting over the last week so that I have NO new 'One a Day' hexipuffs *gasp* If you've read my last few posts you'll know I have managed a little knitting, just not on my Beekeeper's Quilt. I hereby vow to make amends.... once I have conquered the laundry mountain and dust that have accrued during the same period. Of course, these are the things I procrastinate about the most, so it may take some time! I'll share all of my WIPs tomorrow but in the meantime, here are some things you may be interested in (apologies to those who follow the facebook page and may have seen some of these).

Juliane Strittmatter (aka Fröken Skicklig) is coming to the UK for a weekend doll-making workshop in September! I've been following Juliane's blog for some time and absolutely love her work (we have a Little Mi hotwater bottle set which she made and it's totally adorable). One of the things on my Bucket List is to have her teach me how to make a doll so I am gutted that I can't make the dates this time (8/9 September), but really hoping there will be sufficient interest to run another class here next year. As an example of what you can expect at the end of the weekend workshop, here are a couple of the dolls made by students last week in Berlin (all images used with permission, and can be found here):

If you'd like to find out more or to sign up, click here for UK booking details. 
You can also find details of international classes and e-courses on the blog.

One of the things I love most about the 'net, is how you can find yourself somewhere wonderful, completely by chance. That happened this morning when I clicked on some links to find this pattern: 
Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

I've been fancying these little collars for some time having seen them in numerous places, and found some on a Danish blog which linked to this English pattern on Lulu Loves. I'm so glad to to have discovered this blog! If you love crochet and great photos of family life I recommend you head over for a browse - there are lots of lovely things there including some super cute free patterns.  

And finally, have you seen the work of artist Jo Hamilton? She makes the most amazing crochet portraits. There is a stop-motion video of this one being made - it's fascinating to watch....although the sight of all those ends has me breaking out in a cold sweat! 
Source: via Sarah on Pinterest
Hope to see you tomorrow for two new projects, an update on Nuvem and some book-y stuff! 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sock it to 'em! (Year of Projects - Update #3)

This morning we met up with some lovely friends for what I'm sure will be the first of many trips to the local bowling alley. It was so much fun, especially when a tiny TWO year old was the overall winner! A great ending to the Boy's birthday celebrations and it marked the real start of the summer holidays. We have a few things planned for the next six weeks, including the girl's first holiday abroad, a couple of overnight stays with friends and lots of local activities. Clearly I'm planning to fit some crafting in there too, but will be sticking with simple, interruptible projects that can be easily picked up and put down several times a sitting, or can be finished in a single evening!

The first of these has been completed this weekend - another stashbusting FO for my Year of Projects. I mentioned the (unfortunately named) pattern last week, and after frogging the original and making this smaller version, am pleased to present my (renamed) Yarn Sock...
MODS: changed needle size & cast on less stitches
YARN: including I-cord, 7.9g of scrap yarn
NEEDLES: 3.25mm circulars 

The pattern is great - a simple 4 row repeat with a slight change on the decrease section. I decided to make this smaller than the pattern as I originally wanted something to hold centre-pull balls when the middle has already been knit and there is a risk of them caving in and getting tangled. (I'm now considering another with yarn held double with shirring elastic.)  This would make a quick cute gift for a yarny friend as well as being a useful way to use small quantities of leftover yarn - plus it was made in the space of a couple of TV shows - in fact the optional I-cord probably took almost as long as the sock itself!

Looking at my YoP list the stashbusting element has been much more exciting for these first few weeks, but it's probably time to start working on the listed items and to cast on a bigger project. Wish me luck! 
(Click to visit the YoP group on Ravelry)
Edited: Whoops, for those visiting from the group, I forgot to mention the other YoP FO which I blogged on Friday
Friday, 20 July 2012

End of term

There's something quite special about the end of the school year - helped today by a rare glimpse of sunshine. There was a discernable lightness of mood on the walk to school this morning - the children were more energetic and noisy than usual and even the parents looked happier. It seems impossible that the Boy has completed two years at school (he was only 6 yesterday!) but there it is - he absolutely loves it, has loads of friends and is doing really well. As a thank you to his Teacher and Teaching Assistant for the last year, we put together a little gift bag for each of them, including this week's 'Finished Objects' - some crochet mug cosies which I made at the weekend. 
PATTERN: Improvised
YARN: Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton DK
HOOK: 4mm
The yarn and wooden buttons were from my stash, so these qualify as Year of Projects 'Stashbusting' items - I'm delighted that since the start of the month I've made various little FOs  - and therefore felt quite productive - without needing to buy yarn. 

As Little Miss hasn't been well, not much else has been accomplished this week even though there's an "almost-FO" on the needles, but I have grand plans and high hopes and all sorts of other clichés for next week! (If you were  hoping to see some more impressive finishes, check out Tami's FO Friday links.)
Thursday, 19 July 2012

Most of the time I try not to think about the details of this day six years ago when my long-awaited baby was eventually delivered alive and seemingly well... and then a few hours later turned blue and was taken to SCBU (NICU) for a week. I try not to dwell on those long tear-filled days and how I yearned to hold my baby without wires, tubes and bossy nurses in the way. How each attempt at feeding him, and the hungry screams that followed, broke my heart just a little bit more. How he didn't feel like 'my' baby until I "stole" him one day during a fire at the hospital and snuck him back to my room for a few hours. I have never felt so completely exhausted and emotional (hormones!) and alone as I did during those days. I'll admit that even after all this time, I get upset when people reminisce about that day. Of course, for the other 364 days a year I completely forget about all that and just see the amazing person that came into my life on 19th July 2006. 

My Boy has grown into a cheeky, bright, funny, energetic, creative, boisterous six year old. He's awesome. I can't imagine how our lives would be without him, even though he frustrates the heck out of me on a daily basis (when will he start to LISTEN?!?!). Being at the receiving end of his smile is one of the best things in the world and you know what? For him, I'd go through it all again in a heartbeat, a billion times over. Happy Birthday, beautiful Boy. xxxxxxxx
Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tuesday Tally and some thoughts on Hexipuffs

TALLY: 160 Hexipuffs
YARNS: Various sock/4 ply yarns including lots of semi-solid Knitting Goddess Mini-skeins
NEEDLES: 3.25mm circular or 3 x DPNs

There is something very addictive about hexipuffs. I'm not quite sure what it is? Maybe it's the short amount of time it takes to make something that feels like a little finished object in it's own right, or the chance to use so many lovely and varied colours? Or perhaps it's knowing that there are little bits of other projects (my own and others') in there? I'm not sure. Regardless, I've found myself looking forward to making at least one each day. You can see some of this week's additions in the bottom left of the collage. I didn't pull them into shape before photographing them, and you can see some have been squished either by project bag, or by little hands that find them so irresistible. A reader asked for a picture showing all of them, and as I tipped them onto the Cwtch sofa, I noticed that the cheaper 4 ply yarn (such as the solid coloured puffs in the bottom right picture, from Patons Fairytale Dreamtime 4 ply) has kept its shape really well, despite being some of the first puffs I'd made. A squish-comparison test also confirmed that these feel quite a bit more sturdy. I think I'll make some more using these plainer yarns to give the finished quilt a bit more body - plus I think the mix of solids, semis and variegated actually looks nice when they are all together.

Since starting this project last summer, I've changed my mind on it's final location many times, but seeing them on that sofa I think I'll have a hard time putting them anywhere else.

I'm writing this post on Monday due to a school trip, so I'll come back later with the proper links - but you should be able to find details of the other One a Day projects here.
Sunday, 15 July 2012

Year of Projects Update #2 - Slowly but surely busting that stash

It's been another productive week of stash busting here, albeit in small quantities. I'm so glad that I put as much emphasis on using up various bags of yarn as I did on making particular items, because it's had a very motivating effect. I've continued to make a minimum of one hexipuff a day for the Beekeeper's Quilt, crocheted some end of term gifts (to be revealed next week), and made the iPhone earbud cover I blogged on Friday - all from "leftovers" and alongside my bigger knitting project. Very satisfying.

Last night I came up with a list of possible items that could be made from small quantities of 4 ply/fingering weight as that's what I have most of, and also a few ideas for new designs I'd like to try out so I'll be adding those to the tag "beyond the hexipuff" over coming weeks. The first I'd like to try is this pattern by Jennifer Sugarman, although I'll be calling it a 'Yarn Sock' for fear of attracting the wrong type of blog traffic!! 

We are going to a birthday party this morning so I'd better say farewell get myself ready. I hope you all have a lovely Sunday and will look forward to reading the other YoP updates later tonight. (There are still people joining the group, so if you're tempted, pop over and take a look!) 
(Click for more info)
Friday, 13 July 2012

Beyond the Hexipuff: iPhone iCord yarnbombing!

For some time I've been earmarking projects that would use up small amounts of sock yarn/ fingering/4 ply. As I'm already making the Beekeeper's Quilt I have quite a lot of tiny quantities of different colours/yarns and was keen to find other things that could be made from the same stash. On my Instagram feed this week, I've started posting pictures including yarn weight (I just got a little tiny scale like this one, that fits in my knitting bag) and I'm hoping the 'Beyond the Hexipuff' projects I feature, including the amounts of yarn required, might help maximise others' sock yarn scraps. The first of these projects is one of the most fun knits I've made  and as it's a stashbuster, also counts as a YoP project. I just love these. Check out the 'matchy-matchy'!

PATTERN: Based on Boogie Earbuds by Bonnie Pruitt 
NEEDLES/ HOOK: 2 x 2.25m DPNs & a 3mm hook
Also pictured: From the same skein - Hitchhiker and some hexipuffs (there will be more), 
From eBay - leather bucket bag 

There is a great tutorial that accompanies the pattern which I'd watched many months ago so I just improvised the number of stitches and made the addition of a crochet section over the remote button. If you want the particulars, check out my Ravelry notes.  

As usual I'm linking in with Tami's FO Friday where you can find lots of other "finished objects".
Have a great weekend! 
Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Cwtch-speak lesson 1: Dry toast

I'm sure that your family must have it's own language. Well maybe not an entire language, but certain words or phrases that you use and all "get", but may not mean the same thing to others. This is definitely the case in our household. I'm not feeling too great today (a combination of hayfever, hayfever-induced-asthma, a sore throat - still! - and the effects of various travel vaccinations yesterday) and in our house, that's a bad case of 'Dry Toast'. 

So no WIPs and books from me today, but if you're on the lookout for some lovely crafting, photography and baking, an incredibly talented Polish friend has just started an English language blog - I'm the solo follower at the moment, but I have a feeling there's going to be some terrific stuff on there in no time. If you have a minute to spare you might like to pop over for a taster, and say hello.
Tuesday, 10 July 2012

One a Day is back!

If you've been around the Cwtch for a while, you may remember I joined Carole's One a Day Group last July. My chosen project was the Beekeeper's Quilt and the aim was to make at least one "hexipuff" for it per day. It was going ok until I took a break before Christmas to get on with some other projects and after that it didn't really going again. By the time I'd been into hospital in February the group had all but stopped and so had my hexipuffing. My last OaD post in late January tells me my tally was 135 (I had donated some to charity and some went missing at the hands of a 2 year old). 

A couple of weeks ago I saw that the group had started up again and as I have a lot of other projects planned, didn't intend to join..... BUT..... as I mentioned in Sunday's post, I picked up my 'puff kit over the weekend (a toiletries case filled with mini skeins, scraps and filling) and found the time taken to make each one has shrunk from 45-60 mins to 30 mins. A combination of knitting in the Continental style and using a different cast on method, and probably having a further year's experience. I've made TWELVE in two days alongside other knitting. Of course I don't expect to keep up this momentum, but I'm sure one a day will be manageable, so I'm pleased to say I'm back in! 
YARNS: These have all been made from scraps - some from this and the others from a friend
NEEDLES: 3.25mm Addi Lace fixed circulars (pattern uses 3.5mm DPNs)
TALLY: 147... although I haven't checked for any escapees!
 (Wondering what the FO will look like? There's  a lovely finished quilt here.)

If you have a bigger project you'd like to tackle by making one small element at a time (a square a day for a cushion, a row a day on a ripple blanket etc...) then pop along to the Ravelry page to find out more. This is a lovely group with some great projects on the go.  

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on my other knitting progress, 
in the meantime hope you have a fabulous day xxx
Sunday, 8 July 2012

Year of Projects - Update #1: Off to a good start

The first week of this second Year of Projects has been productive, despite mainly working on Nuvem which is not included in my YoP list. As you may recall, my list is split into 2 parts - Projects and Stashbusting.

I completed my first project, a Scrappy Noro Cushion at the start of the week. (Ta-dah post is here.) After procrastinating for a whole year and carrying it forward to this year's list, this was finished in just one evening!  Made entirely from scraps, it gets a big thumbs up which leads me onto the other progress made this week...

Yes, hexipuffs are back on the needles!!!! (If you are not familiar with the Beekeeper's Quilt and don't know anything about this project, you may like to take a look at these posts.) I started this long-term project last summer using DPNs and 'throwing' the yarn in the English style -  in fact, it was my first attempt at using DPNs. With another year's experience, I'm now using a long circular needle to make them using Judy's Magic Cast on, the magic loop method and knitting in the Continental style - they are so much quicker this time around. I used to average one every 45-60 minutes, but the latest additions have taken about 30 mins each, so I've caved in and decided to join in once more with Carole's resurrected One a Day group. The plan is to make at least one of these a day to use up the yarns I've stashed for this quilt and I'll update on my progress in more detail on Tuesday. The most pleasing thing about 'puffs I made over the last couple of days is they are entirely made from scraps of my own projects or leftovers from a blogger friend who kindly donated them. 

Despite the rain, we've had a lovely weekend. Here are some of the highlights:
Spiderman trying his hand at archery 
A crazy swinging husband
Nanna's facepainting stall at the School Fun Day
Heading out for a 'grown up' night with some old friends

How about you? 
Friday, 6 July 2012

Finished Object Friday

So last Friday I wrote about yarn storage and the lack of space in my Cwtch. A few hours later I found myself trawling the local charity/thrift shops to see what they may have to store yarn in and I ....erm... came home with a wooden chair!!!! So now I have even less space in the Cwtch but it gave the perfect excuse to complete the first item of my Year of Projects - a very simple crochet cushion cover.  
It's made entirely from scraps - Noro Aya from Color Affection #1 for the front, edging from Caponcho and when the Noro scraps ran out the back was supplemented by  the remaining Mille Colori from my Stitch Sampler Shawl, so it also put a big tick in the stashbusting box. Considering how easy it was to make (2 flat circles of htr) and how little time it took (one evening) I am ridiculously pleased with how it turned out. 

You can't beat crochet for a quick fix of colour and creativity alongside bigger knitting projects, and as Nuvem is going to take forever (well, a few more weeks at least) suspect there may be a few more little crochet FOs coming up. In the meantime, head over to Tami's to see what others have completed this week. 
Wishing you all a very lovely weekend, and some sun (PLEASE, some sun!!!) 
Thursday, 5 July 2012

An introduction to Blocking

Click to enlarge
If you read the posts here with any regularity, you'll have seen mention of "blocking" on numerous occasions. A few people have recently asked what this is or how to do it, so I figured it may be worth a post of it's own - after all, my Mum has been knitting for 40 years but she only just learned how to block, so it's obviously something that not all knitters are familiar with.

The basic idea is simple, you wash your item and then stretch it out - a little or a lot depending on the desired effect - to accentuate the shape or pattern. For a little effort, blocking can completely transform a hand knit (or crocheted) item's appearance and make your Finished Objects look much more 'finished' and professional, even if you're a beginner. Not all yarns react the same and the higher the natural fibre content, the better your results are likely to be, so do bear that in mind.

This simple one skein 'feather and fan' scarfette was made some time ago and in it's natural state I named it The Poodle - it has been sitting in my knitting bag since then waiting to be blocked. I thought it would be a good one to show you as it looks quite different before and after.

  • No-rinse wool wash (I like Eucalan)
  • A large flat surface which you can stick pins into (I use the kids' interlocking foam play mats similar to these.... but this type look better)
  • Blocking wires and T pins (such as this Basic Kit or this Deluxe Kit). Before investing in wires I made do with bazillions of pins and it was better than not blocking at all but didn't get the same results.
  • Tape measure
  • Patience!
STEP 1: Put your item to soak according to the instructions on your wool wash, taking care not to agitate it - Wool + agitation = felt. This will usually involve soaking for a little while in tepid or lukewarm water.

STEP 2: After removing your knitting from the water, gently squeeze out the excess water but NO wringing, you don't want it to shrink or felt! A good way to do this is to place it between clean dry towels and roll it all up, pressing as you roll so that the towels absorb as much of the water as possible.
STEP 3: You should be left with a damp item which you can then lay on your surface and start to spread out into the correct shape. N.B. It's worth thinking about the location of your mats before you start this as a thick/large item that takes a day or more to dry may be in the way if it's right across your sitting room floor and is too big to be easily moved (don't ask how I know about that one!) When you have done this, start threading the wires through the stitches along each edge, as evenly as possible. If you are making something with points, it's important to thread the centre of each point to get them  even and as sharp as you want them. For long/wide projects such shawls and blankets, it will be necessary to use more than one wire along each edge - I do this by overlapping the wires by a few inches which you can see in the second picture below.

STEP 4: Using the T pins to secure the wires in place, stretch the item out as little or as much as you need in order to achieve the desired size/result. Where necessary, use the tape measure to check the blocking is even and symmetrical. Depending on your yarn and it's composition, you may need to exercise caution - I use a lot of Noro and the weak points can split if pulled too hard, so I am always careful to block it gently. On the other hand, hardy sock yarns with some nylon content can withstand more rigorous blocking. If in doubt, test a swatch!
STEP 5: Leave the item to COMPLETELY dry before removing the wires and pins. This is harder than you might think, especially if it's a large item and you really really want to try it on/see how it looks. Don't give in to the temptation! It WILL be worth waiting, so cast on something else and try to forget about it until it's dry. 

Before: 123 cm x 20.5 cm After: 152 cm x 30 cm

So that's how I do it. Do you use another method? If so, or you have any tips you'd like to share, please leave a comment. If you'd like to learn more about this topic, you might like this online class from Craftsy: Blocking Handknits with Kate Atherley.
Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Wednesday's WIPs and books

Before I show you my knitting progress I have to thank everyone for commenting last Wednesday when I really wasn't sure if I should continue with this yarn/pattern combination. To all those who said "knit on",  I salute you! The photo isn't great due to poor light (July?! Pah!) and a short needle, but you can see how much progress I've made...
YARN: Drops Lace in Light Grey Green
NEEDLES: 100cm circular needle - 3.5mm
READING: Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke by Peter Benson
The move to a single circular needle (the pattern uses two circulars) has made a tremendous difference, there is no more laddering and knitting is much much quicker and easier. I'm even getting used to the look of the (too-big-for-the-yarn) stitches because I can now see that they WILL even out when they are blocked. In fact I am enjoying knitting this so much I'm already looking at yarns for another - ideally something semi-solid and pretty. A solid pale shade isn't stimulating my colour-senses and I had to turn to some bright crochet earlier in the week... but more on that in my Ta-dah post on Friday. 

If you're looking for some holiday/travel knitting this summer, I would recommend this pattern - it's just knit stitches apart from a few increases on each alternate row and with such a lot of yarn for such light weight and a circular needle or two, it'll fit into a tiny space - a huge lace weight shawl seems to be the perfect summer project. Don't take my word for it, Elizabeth Zimmermann says this in the Knitter's Almanac (p71):
When you set out on the annual family trip naturally you have to take your knitting; something has to keep you sane in the face of the possibly quite ferocious situations you will be up against in the next two weeks. Try a shawl. Do not scoff; it is the perfect travel-knitting.
Our holiday isn't for another month, but I don't think this will be finished before then. If it is, then I may well cast on another before we go.

And so onto books. On Sunday, amidst numerous mascara-streaked tissues, I finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - for those who haven't read it, I'll share the blurb:
HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall. SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION - THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH It’s a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery. ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW - DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
Tonight we get to discuss it at our book club, and I still haven't formulated my feelings about it into words, other than to say it's a book that will stay with me for some time. I loved the way the characters were written - there is much humour despite the subject matter. Set on the outskirts of Munich during the height of WWII, I found the tale particularly hard-hitting in the week that the RAF Bomber Command was given a memorial. D's grandfather was a Pathfinder and over coffee one Saturday morning - before old age and ill health stole the last of his memory, and his life (he didn't live to see this recognition given to his fallen colleagues) - we heard a chilling first-hand account of the air-raids that are a part of the novel. It was quite unexpected because he was never known to talk about those terrible days as a very young man. It made reading the latter chapters quite emotional for me, and incredibly thought-provoking, but I'm so glad I did. I would definitely rate this book 5/5. After finishing the book, I needed some light relief so I've just started reading Two Cows and a Vanful of Smoke by Peter Benson which I'm enjoying after the first few chapters.

How about you? If you'd like to share this week's knitting (or crochet) and reading, please leave a comment, or join me in linking up with Tami's WIP Wednesday and Ginny's Yarn Along.
Monday, 2 July 2012

Picking up dropped stitches... and dropping them on purpose

For some time now, but especially since knitting Nuvem (silky laceweight yarn on slippery 3.5mm metal needles) I have come to enjoy picking up dropped stitches. I don't drop very many, but sometimes, especially if I'm watching a movie and knitting quickly, there are a few casualties. Christine and I were talking about this and she thought a post might be helpful to any new knitters who are following, so if you do indeed find this helpful, it's thanks to Christine.

If it's just stocking stitch or garter stitch it's usually a very quick job to fix the dropped stitch...
If there is a more complex pattern (so the stitches are not all the same), tiny stitches, or if there is more than one dropped stitch, I find it reassuring to insert a lifeline (as in this post) so I can fix one stitch at a time without worrying that the others will unravel any further.

I had the foresight to take some pictures the last time this happened: 
(Here's the link to the mini crochet hook pictured, very handy for this situation!)

The exact same principles apply if you spot a mistake further down your work. Once you've identified the rogue stitch, it's easy to unravel back to the error, fix it, and then pick the stitches back up to the needle. Again, a lifeline might reassure you the first time you do this, as the stitches can't unravel any further back once that's in.

If you have any other tips to share on this, please leave a comment :) 
Sunday, 1 July 2012

My second Year of Projects starts here!

When I signed up for the first Year of Projects I had a really clear idea of the things I intended to make over the 12 month period. There would be a mixture of knitting and crochet, some more challenging items to help develop new skills, and a whole host of random patterns from my Ravelry favourites. Half way through the year I had a major cull, removing things that I no longer needed or which no longer inspired, but I still didn't make everything on the revised list. For this reason, I'm keeping this year's list more flexible and for the majority, rather than listing specific patterns, will commit only to making certain types of items and using up certain yarns without specifying the patterns. Where possible I'll use patterns from my library, but certainly don't want to be restricted to only using these.

2nd YoP Inspiration Board
  • Knitted cardigan or jacket for Little Miss. I have all the Spice Girls patterns by Elena Nodel and also like My Honey.
  • An item of clothing for My Boy - not sure what yet...?
  • At least one toy each for my children - possibly something from my Book of Knitted Monsters - Little Miss likes this one
  • Something for D. This will be tricky. He says he'd like a big baggy jumper but he's very tall and broad and I'd be knitting ALL YEAR to make him a jumper, not to mention needing several sheep's worth of wool... and then it'd accidentally end up in the hot wash or the tumble dryer. (D, if you see this post FORGET IT, it'll be something smaller than a jumper but that doesn't mean I don't love you!) 
  • Cardigan for myself - I have lots of cardi patterns but never seem to find a yarn that's inexpensive in large quantities yet nice enough to make something special (it's got to be something nice to be worth all the knitting involved). Finding suitable yarn will be the first mission. I may go for something "matchy matchy" with Little Miss from Elena Nodel as I think she'd love that, or I could just pick something from the already extensive list in my queue/favourites like Caramel or Carlyle.  
  • Hat for myself, possibly a quick crochet version (because I'm fed up of everyone asking if I made my hat and having to say no, when I've made hats for everyone else!) 
  • Crochet cushion cover (carried over from last year's list)
  • Complete the Crochet Circles Throw I started last year
  • Tea cosy (carried over from last year's list)

Ideally I'd like to use the yarn from my "stash" before buying more but in particular I'd like to use:
  • 150g/600m  Kauni Effektgarn EQ (rainbow) which was purchased to make a Whippoorwill like this one ... or maybe I should buy more and use it for a Nuvem like this one...?
  • 100g/400m superwash wool/nylon 4 ply in greens and yellow from Dye Spin Knit - an impulse purchase
  • 100g/400m merino 4 ply 'Spectrum' from the Yarn Yard which I bought after seeing a sock FO made from this yarn and knew I had to have some... but have no plans yet on what to make with it. 
  • 300g of 'Armonia Multi' from Little Knitting Co was a gift from my sister in law and I haven't found the right pattern for it...yet!
  • 1+ skeins of Ruth & Belinda "Thick Wool" left over from my Bella Wrap 
  • 2 x 50g of Regia sock wool in bright 'kid' colours
  • Wendy Sorrento DK 50g - 3 x blue, 3 x pink, 1 x cream
  • King Cole Merino Blend DK - 3 x 50g in various shades of green, 1 x 50g in purple
  • LOTS of mini-skeins which were bought for the Beekeeper's Quilt (far more than pictured). They need to be made into hexipuffs or something else that is suitable for lots of small quantities of 4ply/ sock yarn (I have a few ideas for this and am still contemplating)
  • 2 different 100g/400m skeins of Superwash BFL from Juno Fibre Arts
So there you have it! If last year was anything to go by, there will be lots of other 'off-list' projects over the next 12 months, but I'm planning to get through as many of these as I can. As I'm not working exclusively from this list, I'll post Sunday updates when there is something to report and will be checking out the other posts too. If you haven't already signed up to the 2nd Year of Projects but think you'd like to, pop along to the Ravelry group for lots of information and a weekly thread to you can share your blog link. I can't wait to see what everyone else is planning!
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