Thursday, 31 January 2013

Next Step Sock Knitalong - Day 8

If you saw yesterday's blog post or visited the Ravelry group recently, you'll probably have guessed that my socks from last week have been ripped out ("frogged") for being too big. Having determined not to continue with the pattern I was using (Tuscany by Melissa Morgan-Oakes), I'm not sure what to replace it with. I'd like something a little more interesting but not too fancy - plain-ish socks are my preference. So I'm compiling a shortlist - there are several contenders - and will cast on again with the lovely Stash Addict yarn at the weekend. 

NSSkal day 8 update: All change
In the meantime, I've started another pair with the tried and trusted Gusset Heel Basic Socks by Wendy Johnson. Two-at-a-time on a circular needle again, but with a new ChiaoGoo and some Regia/Kaffe Fasset RANDOM STRIPING yarn!!!!!! Those who have known me for some time will appreciate this is quite a departure - I'm a massive fan of "matchy matchy" and went to some lengths to ensure that my first socks striped identically. So far there are similar black stripes at certain points so they don't seem totally random - each time there is a matching stripe I breathe a huge sigh of relief. The ChiaoGoo needle was purchased to compare with the Addi Lace I usually use for hexipuffs/sock type projects so there'll be a post on that soon too. 

Despite my own lack of progress, other participants are making beautiful socks and helping one another out with pattern issues, technique tips and providing general support on the Ravelry group and Instagram. It's lovely to be part of such a kind and helpful group and I'm delighted to see that there are still more people joining us - if you're still thinking about it you can find the details here. You can also view updates on Twitter and Instagram using the tag #NSSkal.

If you're a blogger and you'd like to add a link to your progress update, feel free to use the Linky below and please link back to this post for your readers to visit the other participants too.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

WIPs & Books: Misgivings

Since Friday I've been trying to ignore the feeling in my gut that I'd have to rip out the socks I started for the Next Step Sock Knitalong. I'm making Tuscany in the bigger of the two sizes which (according to the measurement of my foot and the gauge I'm knitting at) should have been the right one. They are enormous. I think there is only one realistic option, which I'm still trying to deny..... come back tomorrow for my weekly KAL update - I'll let you know what happens. 

As for reading, I finished 'Fremont' by Elizabeth Reeder last Wednesday evening and it was good. Beautifully written, lots of wonderful imagery and interesting characters/ interplay - but after taking so long to get through it, I admit to rushing the end. It probably deserves a second chance at some point and as a result I don't feel I can do it justice in a few sentences. 

The plan was to move onto A Song of Ice and Fire series - A Dance With Dragons (book 5) but that's a mammoth two-in-one tome so it seemed a good idea to slot a quick read in first, and I started The Woodcutter by Kate DanleySo far so good - the characters are familiar from the fairytales of my childhood but this is a tale of murder and mystery - which the Woodcutter of the title (a peacekeeper of sorts) must solve. The short suspenseful chapters no doubt make this a really quick novel... if only I'd had chance to read it. 

On that note I must fly - there is much to do between hitting the 'Publish' key and the mad dash towards 3pm! Hope to see you tomorrow when you can catch up with all the other people's wonderful sock progress, and perhaps offer some sympathies for mine...
Links for today are: WIP Wednesday and Yarn Along.  
Tuesday, 29 January 2013

5 of the Best: Handmade Valentine Projects

Despite being quite partial to a cute heart motif or two I will admit to not being a huge lover of Valentine's Day. It's one of those "holidays" which is too commercialised for my taste. Having said that, I've seen so many cute 'heart' and 'love' themed things online recently I just couldn't resist compiling this list of some of my favourites. They can all be made at home, the patterns/tutes are all free and they would be suitable for any time of year, but would make especially nice gifts for February 14th, if that's your thing.

The Pinterest links have broken, but until I come back to fix them, you can follow the links
1. Equation fingerprint art tutorial from Manmade DIY
4. Free hairclip / brooch pattern and tutorial download by Kim Layton on Everything Etsy
5. Gorgeous handmade socks - the pattern is free from Devon Clement on Ravelry - this comes in adult and child sizes and can be worked cuff-down or toe-up.

I'll be back tomorrow with my WIPs and Books update, but before I go a quick reminder that there are just a few days left to enter the Unravel ticket prize draw - you can find all the details here. Good luck!   
Monday, 28 January 2013

Snippets: Getting organised

Sunshine on Saturday. Body Balance followed by an afternoon of fun with the kids, a very funny (raucous) Japanese meal with friends. Sunday morning and a houseful of ladies looking at lovely jewellery, and then a family lunch that spilled into early evening. These are the weekends we look forward to, and that pass in a blur leaving behind unfinished unstarted chores and a long To-do list. But that's ok.

At the end of last week I discovered the Midori Traveler's Notebook. Have you seen these? It comes as a leather cover and basic notepad, to which you add your own configuration of further notebooks, pockets, planner/diary inserts and other bits and pieces using the elastic bindings. This ticks so many boxes for me - it's a really simple Japanese design, customisable, made of lovely leather which is just going to look better the more it's used, it's refillable, plus it looks like Indiana Jones might use it... what's not to love?!
There's still not much inside my notebook, which arrived on Saturday. I've started customising it (with a huge button, some crochet, a few beads) but I'm already planning my blog schedule for the next few months and prioritising my ever expanding project wish list. I feel more organised just looking at it and have some pretty stickers and highlighters on the way too. Expect pictures in another post when there is more daylight. (There is a Traveler's Notebook Flickr group - if you like stationery, washi tape, 'art' journals and nice photography you might enjoy some of the images.)


I moved just a couple of things around the Cwtch last week and now, instead of my laptop being next to the armchair, there is a wooden bowl filled with scrumptious little balls of colour. The difference this minor relocation has made is quite unbelievable. Not only am I spending less of my evening aimlessly looking at the laptop screen, but the colours and textures in the yarn make me feel really rather happy and creative, even during these grey wet days of winter, so I am wondering what else could be improved.... Do you have any tips for de-cluttering your creative space? Have you made any simple changes that had a big impact? I'd love to know.
Friday, 25 January 2013

FO Friday: Silly Little Things

Little Miss is constantly 'making tea' and loves her mini china teaset. Browsing some of my favourite blogs this week, I spotted a gorgeous toy teacosy which gave me the idea for these silly little things. Of course, being on a "granny chic in 4 ply" binge, I had my own take on it using a 2.5mm hook and some scrap Rowan and Patons yarns. As you can tell, it took no time at all to hook up this morning, and knowing she liked the pink yarn when it was spotted earlier, I'm pretty sure she's going to enjoy playing with it when she gets home. 


This weekend I shall be trying to fit in sock-knitting, some more crochet circles, much-needed exercise, a houseful of women and jewellery, a night out with friends and of course all the usual family stuff - who said weekends were for relaxing?! Hope you have a great one. x

Links for today are FO Friday & Creative Friday where you'll find far more sophisticated work! 
Thursday, 24 January 2013

Next Step Sock Knitalong - Day 1

It's funny how things work out. I was worried I wouldn't have time to knit today and that perhaps I'd been foolish to designate a busy Thursday as the first day of the Knitalong. So I got up early and cast on... and then discovered My Boy isn't well. As he is off school , the majority of our plans had to be cancelled and I've managed to make a start on the toes.

As I mentioned previously, I'm knitting 2 at a time toe-up on a single circular needle. I'm loving the yarn and am very pleased that my chosen pattern includes a stockinette foot and a slightly patterned leg which I think will suit it well. 

NEEDLES: An Addi Lace circular needle - size 2.5mm (100 cm long)
YARN: A Stash Addict Sock yarn (Fantasy collection)
PATTERN: Tuscany by Melissa Morgan-Oakes
IN NEED OF: some decent hand cream!

I'm delighted to have so many knitters joining in this time around - huge thanks to everyone who has been spreading the word. On the Ravelry group and Instagram there are participants from both sides of the Atlantic, Northern Europe and beyond, all taking the next step in sock-knitting at the same time.  It's not too late to take part - if you missed the original details, or need a reminder visit the Knitalong page for all the relevant info and links. This is a knitalong for anyone, no matter what your existing sock-knitting experience. It's all about taking the next (or first!) step and expanding your skills. 

You can follow many of the other knitalongers on Instagram and Twitter with the tag #NSSkal and on the  "Knitalong with Crafts from the Cwtch" Ravelry Group and also on the new Flickr group (I'm the only one to have posted there at the time of writing, please come and join me!). Bloggers may also like to link to their NSSkal posts here, if so please link back to this page so your readers can find the other posts too. Feel free to save and use either of these images on your blogposts if you would like to. 

KAL details now on the blog!!! 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

WIPs & Books: A pop of colour

A pop of colour

The items which interest and inspire me the most at the moment have a few things in common (a) they are colourful, (b) they have a 'scrappy' quality to them - think "granny chic" - and (c) they are made up of smaller elements. After pinning lots of lovely crochet things (inc. Sophie Digard creations) and also wondering what to do with the little scraps of 4 ply/sock I've been hoarding (some weighing less than 1g), it didn't take long to put the two ideas together and you may have spotted the little teaser on Monday.

That evening I didn't stop until there were enough to try out some possible formations (please excuse the dark photos!) and joining methods. At first they were crocheted together so that the joins were more-or-less invisible, but that wasn't quite what I was looking for. Instead I've opted for visible sewn stitches in a contrasting colour. 
When there are a bazillion more, it'll be a cushion cover - I'll keep you posted.

I haven't dared to cast on anything else since finishing My Boy's "Sample Socks" as the Knitalong begins tomorrow. (I'll be using some really pretty yarn from A Stash Addict and knitting Tuscany by Melissa Morgan-Oakes.)

I have just 2% of the novel 'Fremont' by Elizabeth Reeder  remaining - it would have been finished last night but I made the STUPID mistake of downloading and then trying to play Angry Birds Rio which sucked up the entire evening and proved my determination to generally avoid simplistic-totally-addictive games to be the correct one. What a waste of an evening.

Today's links: WIP Wednesday and Yarn Along. Hope to see you back tomorrow for the KAL! :) 
Tuesday, 22 January 2013

5 of the Best: Yarn Cake & Some Colour

You may have noticed some little changes on the blog over the last week, including some early 'Spring' cleaning: reformatting of posts, fixing broken links and a few other things. That doesn't mean I've been neglecting new posts and there's plenty coming your way this week including:
- WIPs & Books, including a new crochet project (Wednesday)
- the official start of the Next Step Sock Knitalong (Thursday)
- maybe even a little finished something (Friday)

As usual, I've also been scouring the web for inspiring things which I think you might like too - here are "5 of the best". Enjoy!

1. When your circular needle is too long try this tip from Earth Heart Designs

2. Bloomin' Daisies free pattern by Natalie Gowen on Ravelry - I can think of many uses for these.
Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

3. Fabric covered lantern (tutorial) from Swedish Blog Rebecca's DIY

4. Colour block handwarmers - simple yet beautiful free pattern from Purl Bee
Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

5. The awesome Black Forest Cake animation from Marion Ber on Vimeo

(If you like these, you might like to follow my Pinterest boards.)

Don't forget there is still time to enter the Unravel ticket giveaway and also to get 10% off your sock yarn for the Knitalong!
Monday, 21 January 2013

Snippets (of life): Snow

Despite it snowing at the end of last week, Saturday's mild weather meant a lot of it melted. Luckily,  after Sunday lunch there was still just enough snow and daylight to do a bit of this.... 
Snow day

Snow day

Snow day

Snow day

Today it's back to 'business as usual', but with ice and slush underfoot. The schools have re-opened, I have a mountain of ironing, and D is stuck on a train somewhere between here and Central London. Ho hum. If I hurry with my chores, I might just have time to pick this up later today...

What I'd like to be doing now. #crochet

Sunday, 20 January 2013

YOP Update #19: Socks for My Boy

PATTERN: Sample Socks from Toe-Up 2-At-A-Time Socks
YARN: Patons Colourful Twist 

One more item has been crossed off my Year of Projects list this week - the 'sample socks' turned out to be "something for My Boy". The yarn is pretty but not really suitable for socks - it just seemed sensible to use larger needles and thicker yarn to make them useable - they make good bed socks or welly warmers. It's been really cold this weekend so they turned out to be perfectly timed.

Making a small and simple sample before the Next Step Sock Knitalong was very worthwhile - it's the first time I've made socks this way and it's given me the confidence to tackle a more interesting pattern now the "2 at a time" element has been de-mystified. And so begins the process of deciding which pattern to use for the KAL which starts on Thursday - there are 16 patterns to choose from  in this book and all look great. I already have sock yarn so the knitalong will also double up as a YoP stashbuster project - I love multi-tasking! There are some lovely 'YoPers' in the Knitalong Ravelry Group already, if anyone else fancies joining in it would be great to have you. 
(Click the image to visit the Year of Projects Ravelry group)

Friday, 18 January 2013

FO Friday: Crochet Headband (Belt!)

You know, I have almost 600 'pins' on my Crochet board and some of my favourite finished objects are crocheted, yet I rarely pick up a hook. Strange. This week I decided it was time to put that straight and to have the first crochet ta-dah of the year... no matter how small.  

This started life as a belt, but when she saw the ribbon I used, Little Miss wanted to wear it as a headband. Now I need to make a(nother) belt. Maybe it'll give me a chance to practice sewing in a straight line - something I find almost impossible, as evidenced in the final picture (which is also blurry as she doesn't keep still). 
If you have a little person who might like one, this is a really quick and simple 'make' - even if you don't usually crochet. It's rare for me to write up any crochet 'recipes', but I do regularly get asked for stitch counts etc when I've forgotten the specifics, so here's what I did:

  • approx 1 - 2 m of ribbon in chosen colour  (I used 1m so it can be tied in a bow)
  • scrap yarn in a co-ordinating shade (I used less than 13g of cotton DK )
  • crochet hook suitable for the yarn used (I used 4mm)
  • sewing machine or needle and thread
Method: (UK Terminology is used.) 
  1. Measure around the head (or waist) and crochet a foundation chain which is slightly shorter than you need to go around, leaving 5-6 cm for a belt and 3-4 cm for a headband. For me this was ch 70 for the belt (60 would have been better for a headband)
  2. Turn and work a half-treble (htc) into the 2nd chain from hook,  then continue to make a htc into each stitch.
  3. Work 3 htc into the final chain stitch to continue working around the "corner" and along the other side. 
  4. Repeat at the other end (increasing the number of htc until you have a neat rounded end) and continue to work until you have something like the picture below when you will be ready to finish off and sew in the ends. 
Headband 'recipe' post

Pin one end of the ribbon in place so that there is enough left at both ends to tie a bow of the desired size (we went for a big bow!) and then sew it on, remembering not to stretch the crochet while stitching as this will cause kinks in the ribbon. I reinforced each end with some extra stitching (see top picture). That's it! It really doesn't get much easier than that. Of course there is no need to stop at ribbon, you can embellish as you wish. I'm fancying another one with buttons. 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend - if you're in the UK and under a severe weather warning, please stay safe. Don't forget you can still get 10% off sock yarn if you're participating in the Next Step Sock  knitalong from A Stash Addict - the code is CCKAL13.  The discount code has now ended. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Next Step Sock KAL: One week to go!

With just a week until the official start of the Next Step Sock Knitalong, I'm getting prepared, and excited! (Note: there are various links within this text which I hope you'll find useful, you may need to hover to see them clearly - I'm having formatting issues today!) 

My aim for the KAL is to knit a nice pair of two-at-a-time toe-up socks (I've experienced multiple cases of Second Sock Syndrome) so after reading some rave reviews, I bought this book by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Last night I started reading it and spotted that there were some child-sized 'sample socks' which the author advises making before moving onto the different patterns so I decided to give them a go and .... it was so easy! Maybe it's because I use Judy's Magic Cast On (for hexipuffs) and am used to magic loop on circular needles, but seriously, this was not at all difficult. If you fancy trying this method but are concerned that it looks complicated, I would recommend you give it a go. (You may like to check out this great tutorial to get you started if you don't have the book.) 


Once they are finished I'll decide on a pattern from the book, having only knit plain socks before I hope to find something which will be more of a challenge for my addled brain. (There were a number of single plain socks scattered around the house in various project bags, so they have been measured for gauge and then ripped out. Let's be honest, it's the best thing for them.)

I have only tried toe-up socks because I really don't see the logic behind cuff-down socks. With toe-up it's possible to try them on and get a perfect fit, and you can knit until you run out of yarn rather than worrying about it. If you're a new sock knitter and would like to try individual toe-up socks, I'd recommend Wendy Johnson's book Socks from the Toe Up - it's very easy to follow and has some great patterns. Wendy also has lots of downloadable sock patterns - many of which are free and can be found here. (This one is very detailed and perfect for beginners.)

Talking of which, some lovely patterns are already being chosen on the Ravelry Group  (have you joined yet?) - and there is a Handy Hints thread which already contains some great links so I won't repeat them again here. Please come on over to see them and feel free to add your own, or to discuss any questions you may have - there are some experienced sock-knitters in the group who are happy to help anyone with questions. The group is for everyone in the knitalong, so please don't be shy.  It's wonderful to see so many people taking up the challenge and to think that knitters from so many countries will all be working on their sock-skills at the same time.

For a summary of the KAL details and how to link up on the different social networks, see this page. I look forward to seeing your cast-on socks next Thursday!!!!
Wednesday, 16 January 2013

WIPs & Books: Discombobulated

I'm not really back into the swing of things after the holidays, the house is in chaos now that we are out so much of the day and I haven't done any knitting since finishing Nuvem - the 'Ta-dah' post is here if you missed it. Is anyone else still feeling discombobulated, or is it just me?  Maybe it's the sleep deprivation (they have managed to stay in bed until 6 for the last two mornings, so things are a little better today - yippee!) or perhaps it's because there are so many ideas swimming around my head at the moment. I'm not sure.

Regardless, there is a new kind of project in the works today... 
A new crochet project
It's nearly done so I'll show you more on Friday.

On my Kindle this week is Fremont by Elizabeth Reeder, a very interesting and almost magical literary novel which touches on infidelity, prejudice and family life using the most evocative prose. I'm about half way through and quite fascinated by the characters so there'll be more to follow on that next week, provided I can stay awake long enough to finish it.

I'll be back tomorrow with some handy links for the Next Step Sock Knitalong which officially starts next Thursday (there are over 50 people on the Ravelry group so far, and most are knitting along) and don't forget the Unravel giveaway which runs until the 1st February.

Today's links are: WIP Wednesday and Yarn Along. Have a great day x
Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Winding up to Unravel* Festival of Knitting (& another giveaway!)

Mid-January. It means something different to each of us - for some it's a miserable time of short dark days and broken resolutions, but for me, mid-January is really very exciting because Unravel Festival of Knitting is only a matter of weeks away.

This will be the fifth Unravel, and it has already become one of the leading independent events for knitting and crochet enthusiasts from around the UK and beyond. Last year 2,500 people attended over the two day weekend.

The event is sponsored by Selvedge textile magazine and supported by Farnham's Interknit Cafe (the yarnbombed onsite coffeeshop is very cute) and there are numerous demonstrations and workshops which can be pre-booked online. The chance to visit the independent yarn producers and dyers as well as some of my favourite designers is what makes this such a special event for me. How many times have you looked at websites like Nimu, Natural Dye Studio, Skein Queen or Easy Knits and wanted to smoosh the yarn before buying? At Unravel I've had the chance to, and I can't wait to see the list of 2013 exhibitors when it's released later this week.

Add a few rows to The Maltings Scarf while you have a coffee break
Unravel 2011 was just a few weeks after I started knitting and my first real blog post was about my trip there. Last year I got to meet up in real life with some 'virtual' friends, so this annual event has taken on additional meaning for me - another year of knitting, blogging and friendship. It feels a bit like an anniversary party. I'm so excited to be going again next month and hope to meet some friends - old and new - as well as spending several hours browsing beautiful yarn, saying hello to some of my favourite vendors and generally enjoying the wonderful atmosphere where it's perfectly normal to 'squee' over a hank of yarn or some beautiful buttons.

If you can get to Farnham during the weekend of 23rd & 24th February, this is a really great two-day event (pre-book discounted tickets are £7 for one day or £10 for the weekend, and there are limited numbers of tickets at the door). What's more, thanks to the kind folk at Unravel I have a couple of weekend tickets to giveaway!!!!!!!

If you'd like to be in with a chance to win a ticket - which gives you entry on either (or both) day(s) - simply leave a comment on this post telling me why you'd like to win. I'll randomly select TWO winners on Friday 1st February. Good luck!  Entry is now closed and the winners selected. Congratulations to Dandelion and Tickety-Boo! 

* I know, I know - the post titles are getting worse, but sometimes they just write themselves.
Monday, 14 January 2013

Snippets (of life): Exhaustion

Untitled - noun
1. the act or process of exhausting
2. the state of being exhausted
3. extreme weakness or fatigue
4. the total consumption of something

It's reasonable to say that this is a house of complete exhaustion. After many weeks of 5 am wakings, the children are so exhausted that being with them is exhausting and all reserves of patience have now been exhausted. I am fatigued, they are tetchy and D is working long hours. It's a potentially explosive mix and when I could most use the meditative benefits of knitting, I am just too tired to concentrate. It might be time to start 'hexipuffing' again. And I need a workable plan for the kids. 

I think I'll try an alarm clock for My Boy - a digital one - not to wake him (I wish!) but so he can tell the time more easily - he currently has a gro-clock which changes from moon to sun, which was good when he was younger, but is becoming frustrating as he can't work out how much longer he should sleep - the dark mornings give no indication, so he gets up to ask. I'm not sure what will help Little Miss but I do need to get D on side with any plans for her as she makes a huge fuss (aka tantrum) until he succumbs to her charms and does whatever she wants. The kids agree to one thing when he's not here, and then they persuade him to do something different when he's getting up for work and I'm desperately trying to get more sleep - 5:30 is not a reasonable time for everyone to be up! I have to keep reminding myself that this too will pass.

This parenting lark really isn't easy. 
Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Nuvem Ta-dah

Nuvem FOPATTERN: Nuvem by Martina Behm - Ravelry notes: here
YARN: Garnstudio Drops Lace (70% Alpaca/ 30% Silk) #7120, light grey green
TOOLS: 3.5mm circular needles with longest cable available & 7mm crochet hook

This post has been a very long time coming. The project began (with some uncertainty) back in June, and I have to tell you there were many times I almost gave up on it, but I'm SO glad I didn't because it is absolutely the most versatile and scrumptious thing - big enough to wear as a wrap, sufficiently compact to fold over as a scarf.

This is a great pattern, especially considering it produces a ginormous stocking stitch shawl with no purling... but it did become quite monotonous. Whilst I was very very glad to get it off the needles, it's nice enough that I'm already considering another, so it can't have been that bad. Here are a few of my observations which I hope will be useful for anyone planning to make it.

Drops Lace is considerably thinner than the Wollemeise Lacegarn used in the pattern. To make another of these I'd certainly use 4ply which should be easier to work with and quicker to knit. These stitches were really small and prone to splitting on my very sharp needles which meant that I needed to pay more attention than one might imagine on a knit of this type. Having said that, the result is a finished object with lots of drape and movement and which feels amazingly soft.
The pattern uses two circular needles, and that really wasn't good for me on this project, causing horrible ladders between the needles. This may have been at least partially due to the weight of the needles against this extra-fine yarn. Once I switched to a single circular needle, there was no problem, so in future I'd knit with just the one long needle. I used my two longest KnitPro cables (100cm) and joined them to make one super-sized cable, but even so the stitches were crammed around it for much of the project - this is itself was time consuming as I had to stop-start each time I needed to move stitches around the cable. It would also have been better with wooden tips - I didn't have a pair of tips in the right size - as this yarn was incredibly slippery on metal. Combined with the massive stitch count this was a disaster waiting to happen and a number of times, several stitches had to be rescued with the aid of my trusty miniature crochet hook.

After starting a standard cast off and it taking FOR-EVER to do a small section, I switched to a crochet bind off which had it finished on Friday evening.

The yarn is lovely if you can get past it's tendency to split. You'll notice the colour looks different from photo to photo which is an accurate representation - the colourway is 'light grey green' and changes from silver to green to blue depending on the light and the angle you look at it. It's a perfect mix of silk and alpaca, soft and squishy but not too silky.
Nuvem - unblocked, straight from needles
Straight from the needles in poor artificial light (from unflattering, low angle!!!)
It still needs washing and blocking, but not until after it's been worn tonight - we are going out to celebrate D's birthday, and it's ever so chilly - a lightweight snuggly thing will be just perfect, don't you think?
Thursday, 10 January 2013

The 'Next Step' Sock KAL

After reading your feedback, it's clear that the first Knitalong of the year should be all about socks. I had emails, comments and messages from various readers interested in a sock KAL. Some want to try making their first pair, others have made some basic socks already but want to try something more challenging, there are some (like me) who are cursed with 'Second Sock Syndrome' and fancy trying two-at-a-time... and so on. The one thing all the feedback shares is a desire to develop sock knitting skills, to take the 'next step'. So this is going to be a KAL with a difference. 

Our previous knitalongs have been pattern-based, but this time there is no fixed pattern. Instead, participants are encouraged to take the next 2 weeks to (finish your other WIPs and) find a pattern which will develop your existing sock knitting skills - whatever they may be. If you've never tried sock knitting, this is the perfect time to start. Or maybe you've made lots of socks already but are stuck in a rut and always use the same techniques or patterns. It's a great opportunity to try something new.  

The official start date will be Thursday 24th January and I'll post my own updates weekly on the blog on Thursdays - next week I'll post some useful links for beginners. There is a BRAND NEW Ravelry group so we have a place to discuss patterns and yarn choices, and so we can share experience or ask for help - it would be great if you come and join in by introducing yourself and telling us what you're planning to make. I'll also set up a Flickr group, and a #tag for Twitter/Instagram. EDIT: The Flickr group is here and for Twitter/Instagram, please use the tag #NSSkal

If you'd love to join in but don't have any suitable sock yarn, never fear - Danielle from A Stash Addict Yarn is offering participants a 10% discount on sock yarn using the code "CCKAL13".

The last two knitalongs were really good fun - I do hope that you will join us. What do you think? 
Wednesday, 9 January 2013

WIPS & Books: Almost eventually done-ish

Those who have followed the blog for a while will know that I have two never-ending projects. One is the Beekeeper's Quilt which was started almost 18 months ago (gulp) and the other is Martina Behm's  Nuvem which progressed well until our holiday last summer and which subsequently vanished into the depths of a project bag for being unwieldy and too monotonous. 

After starting the year with the first tinglings of Startitis, I made an uncharacteristic decision to finish Nuvem before casting on anything else... and would you believe it.... it's now less than 3 rounds from binding off!!!! Sadly each round is somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 stitches (far too many to count) and it's almost an hour for each round which you might think equates to just 3 hours knitting plus another hour or two for finishing off, but it doesn't quite work like that around here. I've totally given up on knitting when the children are awake and I'm very tired in the evenings at the moment. I am *hoping* to get it done this week so no photo today but do keep an eye out for the ta-dah. It's really not that far away. 

Last week I mentioned the book 'When God Was a Rabbit' by Sarah Winman which is now finished. Starting in 1968 and touching on major world events from the death of Martin Luther King to the aftermath of 911 this is the tale of Elly Maud Portman, her brother Joe and best friend Jenny Penny. A well written novel rich with interesting characters (who may appear far-fetched in any other book, but are totally fitting in this slightly eccentric story) including a 'talking' rabbit and a Shirley Bassey impersonator. The main themes of the book are love - in it's various forms - and loss, and I must admit to shedding a few tears at one point. I don't want to say any more to spoil it for anyone who may go on to read it. This will certainly be added to my "read again" list - I didn't want to put it down, but also didn't want it to end, which seems to be the most telling sign of a good book. 

Thanks to everyone who emailed/ tweeted/ left comments on my post about the first Knitalong of 2013. I'll be back tomorrow with the details and a special offer for participants. In the meantime, you may like to visit WIP Wednesday and the Yarn Along for more WIPs and books (although I'm posting earlier than the hosts today so you may need to wait a little while). 
Monday, 7 January 2013

Mermaid Hair: Get the look!

My fondness for addiction to Pinterest has been responsible for all sorts of things, including a chalk-board wall and Ikea spice rack 'hack' in the playroom,  dreadlock extensionssock buns, my rose tattoo and a fascination with silk headscarves. There are also a few things that didn't work out so well, such as getting my hair coloured a few months ago.

After seeing lots of beautiful dip-dye pictures, I'd decided it was something I wanted to try but five hours (FIVE HOURS!) in the salon and much money later, I was left bitterly disappointed and looking like someone whose bleach had grown out. Needless to say, there are no pictures! Having now over-dyed at home with a semi permanent gloss, I'd given up on the idea of pretty coloured hair until Sharne from Funky Rapunzels mentioned a way to achieve this look in three different ways, all with minimal risk as they are temporary. Here's what she said...

"You don't have to bleach your hair to achieve this look, here are a few ways to get on trend without colouring or bleaching your hair.

1) Clip In Extensions - these can be custom made, or ready-to-wear (for more information, visit Funky Rapunzels)
2) DIY with Hair Shadow from Colour Mania - they make a range of 10 great colours. Just like your eye shadows but designed especially for hair and under £6 for a 0.4g pot.
3) DIY with Artist Chalks  (yes really!) which are available from all good art shops. This is the cheapest option and with so many colours to choose from, you can let your imagination run wild.

You will need: 
  • Protective clothing and rubber gloves
  • Water spray
  • Artists Chalks in chosen colours
  • Heat source (e.g hair straightener/curling iron)
Instructions: Wearing gloves and protective clothing, spray your hair with a little water first - this will achieve a greater intensity of colour. For light base shades, the chalk can be applied to dry hair. 

Choose the colour chalk you want. Use your imagination... deeper colours on the mid lengths fading to lighter ends creates a VERY cool result. Once the hair is completely dry seal the colour in with a curling iron, straighteners, or hold hair momentarily in the diffuser cup of your hairdryer. That's it!"

I am absolutely going to give this a try when my chalks arrive - I wish I'd thought to speak to Sharne before I wasted so much money in a salon. If you would like more hair inspiration, check out my new dedicated board on Pinterest where there are lots more dip-dye and 'mermaid' images and links. (I also have a Dreads board, if that's more your thing.) 

If you decide to give it a go, I'd love to see the results.  
Saturday, 5 January 2013

Anyone fancy another knitalong?

It's a bit quiet around here lately, isn't it? I've been busy adding a couple of pages to the blog (here and here), and playing around with a few new knit and crochet ideas... but nothing I'm ready to show you yet. As it's the weekend, here's a little (unrelated) visual feast anyway...

So what should I make with 50g of the most delicious @fyberspates ethereal cashmere/silk 4ply ....?

It's Fyberspates Ethereal Cashmere Silk 4ply which came from the '£5 tangled hank' Lucky Dip and I do indeed feel lucky - it's lovely! (It was accompanied by an actually tangled hank of Faery Lace which at 1200m is more useful, although not half as pretty.) So now I'm wondering what to make with it - it's 50g which should be about 200m, so enough for "a little something". 

It's time to think about the next Knitalong - a few people have asked what/when etc, so I'm 'putting the feelers out'. I'm currently torn between socks (I'd like to try two-at-a-time-toe-up socks) or another shawl... what do YOU think? There'll be a Flickr group this time - so those not on Instagram can post their pics too. If you're likely to join in, please leave a comment below and let me know what you fancy making, and anything else you'd like to say about it. Thanks. 
Wednesday, 2 January 2013

WIPs & Books: New things for a new year

January has brought with it a rush of enthusiasm and ideas... and the indecision of which to do first! The result is that I feel another bout of Startitis coming on. If you follow my Pinterest boards you will have seen a lot of activity over the last few days and this is usually the first symptom. The next is making a complete mess in the Cwtch while I search for the right yarn/ fabric/ glue etc, quickly followed by casting on / cutting out numerous things that will probably never get finished. Like Metalouse.  

WIPs and Books 3rd Jan 2013
I started this attractive pattern by Stephen West just before Christmas. Then it vanished behind a table when D "tidied up". Four days later I eventually found it and in a session that involved picking-it-up-putting-it-down numerous times, started the second section before realising there are too many stitches. It needs ripping back, but I have lost interest when there are so many other NEW things to start.

The jar is the basis of something you may have seen on my Facebook page. It's a way of recording a snippet of each day this year - either a memory to treasure, something funny that's happened or something to be grateful for. The idea is to open it on December 31st to look back on good things from the year. Come back on Friday for the ta-dah.  Edit: my glue has dried up so it'll be next week :( 

My new Kindle has been in daily use. Since Friday's post I've read The Half-Life Of Hannah by Nick Alexander and am 53% through When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman. I felt so strongly about  the hours wasted on The Half-Life Of Hannah I submitted an Amazon review:
There is a line in this book which says that a conversation was like something out of a dodgy script and that perfectly summarises this book for me. After all the rave reviews on Amazon I downloaded it and by the time I got to 25% through the book I really wanted to stop but felt I would miss whatever it was that made for such great feedback. The same happened at 50%. I really should have stopped then... What a waste of time.
The book consists almost entirely of inane dialogue from a cast of complete caricatures - the wild sister, her promiscuous gay best friend etc... - there are less than a handful of "profound" statements which I can see have been highlighted numerous times. I'm guessing those must be the parts others have found so enlightening. A fortune cookie might have provided more insight but saved several hours.
Thankfully When God Was a Rabbit is much better. I'm really enjoying it so far and will tell you more when it's finished. 

My final WIP is the blog itself. After the recent re-design (thank you for such lovely feedback) there are still a few things to do such as rewriting the pages that were removed, including the Useful/Tips links. Hopefully they will be ready next week... if I can just stop reading! 

Today's links: WIP Wednesday and the Yarn Along
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DISCLAIMER: Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.

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