Saturday, 30 August 2014

It's a wrap. A giant Noro Pompom wrap!

A few months ago, my prize for being the Black Sheep Wools Blogger of the Month was some gorgeous Noro Kama (in colourway 10). I've been looking for something suitably snuggly to use it for and started to crochet an adult version of this shrug a while back, but didn't like the way the stripes were working up.

Over the last few weeks I've noticed lots of oversized scarves with pompoms in the Autumn/Winter collections of my favourite shops (like this and this) and you know that I do love a pompom or two. So when we arrived back from our lovely (but very wet) holiday in the New Forest, and it was feeling chilly and autumnal, I decided to put my feet up and make this instead of unpacking:
Noro Pompom Wrap
The yarn was held double and I used 12mm needles, and just 20 stitches. I changed one of the yarns over before the first two balls had run out, for smoother colour transitions, and simply knitted until I was almost out of all my yarn (five balls in total), leaving just enough for the pompoms when mixed with some pink scraps I had from another project. The weight of the scarf means it has grown since coming off the needles and it's long enough for me too - if I don't wrap it around my neck, it comes to the same place on me, and I suspect it may grow further with wear.

It took just a few hours to knit the scarf and make the pompoms / sew in the ends. Just when I thought I was finished, I remembered a similar scarf I'd seen in Knitting with Giant Needles* which included big snuggly stocking stitch pockets. The remaining scraps were just long enough for small pockets which aren't really big enough but were the best I could manage with the leftovers. (They were made using 8mm needles and 15 stitches, and were knit two-at-a-time until the yarn ran out and then sewn on.)
Noro Pompom scarf
I love the way the colours worked out, and the different textures of the pompoms, garter and stocking stitches. I wish I'd thought about pockets before using up all the yarn, so I may need to make another one! In the meantime, I have to figure out a way to share it with Little Miss.
* The book contains both knitting and crochet projects made with chunky yarn and big hooks/needles. The designs are simple and modern and would be perfect for a teen or 'trendy' knitter who likes the style of Wool and The Gang etc. If you like this wrap, there is a pattern for an absolutely enormous adult-sized scarf (15mm circular needles) with very large pockets, in the book. There are lots of other fun projects which would suit a similar taste too. 
Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Chronology of (my) Knitting

Looking back on my Ravelry projects page it's clear I was a more prolific knitter when there was at least one pre-school child at home. Last September, our youngest child started school (where I was suddenly able to help out more frequently), and we got a dog. I had thought these were the main reasons for my reduced knitting, but over the last few weeks of the school holiday - the first time I've had both children back with me almost all the time, for an extended period - I've reconsidered this position. You see, I've been desperately itching to knit despite doing more with the children, and still taking care of the dog. 

The last year seems to have erased the memory of the extent to which a "full-time" parent's day is made up of seemingly endless repetitive tasks, with only a fleetingly visible benefit*. Here's a typical school-holiday-weekday as an example. Note that it is logistical, rather than covering all the ad hoc things like adjudicating sibling squabbles, soothing pains, giving encouragement, etc:
- get up (too early), 
- empty the dishwasher, 
- feed the kids, 
- feed the dog, 
- clear up (reload the dishwasher), 
- walk the dog,
- time for a snack, 
- do something or go somewhere,
- lunch, 
- clear up again, 
- walk the dog again, 
- do something or go somewhere, which will no doubt include an afternoon snack, 
- time to cook dinner, 
- fill the dishwasher again, 
- tidy up, 
- hoover, 
- walk the dog for the final time,
- bath/shower time for the kids,
- put them to bed/ story/ chat etc. 
- At some point amidst all that, the laundry needs to be done - the joy of washing, drying and ironing clothes that will be back in the dirty linen pile before the end of the week. At the end of the day, with the kids safely tucked up in bed and a minute of silence, my husband (who has be working hard all day and had a long commute) comes home hungry and ready for his dinner. He looks around at the (inevitable) mess and asks what I've been doing all day, maybe not in words, but in the unconscious twitch of an eyebrow. 
- A few (too few) hours later it all begins again. 

Thinking about it I'm pretty sure this is why I was knitting a lot more when the children were younger and this ceaseless monotony was my all day every day**. Almost everything else I did was fleeting - the kids got hungry again, there was more mess to clear away, always more laundry to do, nothing I did seemed to last. Except for the knitting. That was something tangible. Something to show for the passage of time, another day gone but some progress to show for it - maybe a few rows, another pattern repeat or a sleeve finished. Knitting became a way of validating the time that had passed.

Thinking about all this, I remembered a knitting clock - google told me it was Siren Elise Wilhelmsen's clock which was in the news a few years ago, so I looked it up again.  I can totally relate to what Siren says in this video about the knitting and yarn showing the time that has been, and the time that is yet to come... 

Can you relate to this too? 

*I'm not talking about the long-term benefit of spending time with my children, or cooking nutritious food etc for them. I'm talking about all the logistical stuff which comes with running the house while the kids are in it. 

**Lest you think I'm having a whinge, please be assured that I love being with my kids - they are funny and (to me) very cute. I also know this time is finite and I'm also really grateful to be able to do all this without having to work outside the home too... but it's still much more enjoyable for a six-week block than when it was my whole life.

Postscript: After writing and scheduling this post I came across an archive article from Glennon Melton which I just loved and could completely relate to - she talks about Chronos and Kairos time in relation to raising her kids. If you can relate to all this, you might like to give it a read.
Friday, 22 August 2014

My Boy's FO (and the difference between Mums and Dads)

For some time My Boy has been wanting to make a video to upload onto YouTube - I blame Stampylongnose. Being the filmmaker in the family, helping with this was definitely 'a Daddy job'. Had it been 'a Mummy job', the room would have been tidied, the kids changed out of their pyjamas and a stray piece of popcorn moved from the very centre of the action. (My mantra this summer has been "it is what it is" for precisely these kinds of reasons.) 

Anyway, here it is, messy bedroom, PJs and all. I think they did a great job. I hope you think so too as your comments would mean the world to a very proud little eight year old who spent ages planning it. (Massive thanks to everyone who already commented and 'liked' it when posted to my Facebook page.)

Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, 20 August 2014

WIPs and Books

As anticipated, the 'summer holidays' have involved very little knitting. I'm currently working on a few new design ideas, some of which you'll see over the coming months when the children are back at school and the weather is more suited to snuggling up with some yarn and a nice cup of tea.

In fact, aside from knitting up a few swatches, the most creative things are all happening inside my Notebook (capital N). I've been playing with some watercolours and watercolour pencils - mostly just to illustrate my regular everyday doodles and add colour to the blank pages - but it seems inevitable that pencils and sketchbooks will make an appearance at some point. I loved to draw and paint when I was younger but just don't have the time to do everything!

The one thing I've made time for is Donna Tartt's The Secret History. If like me you've missed it until now, its reputation as a modern classic seems well deserved. I'm half way through and it's been a really good read so far. It begins with the murder of one of a close group of friends, and then goes back in time to reveal why it was committed - it's a 'why-dunnit' (you can find out more about it, including spoilers, here).  It's a book I've been aware of since it was first in the best seller charts but never bought, so I'm pleased it was selected as the summer read for our book club. Being in the 'club' has certainly broadened my reading - I haven't enjoyed everything we've read, but several of my favourite books from the last few years have been as a result of our monthly gatherings at the local pub. It's very informal and quite a small gathering so aside from the books, we've become good friends too.

We'll be heading off on our UK dog-friendly holiday this week and there are a few scheduled posts which *should* be published while we are away, but if the blog (and social media) are quiet over the next week or so you know why. Hope you all enjoy the rest of the month.
Tuesday, 19 August 2014

What the others have been doing

Last week I gave you a peek at one of the projects my mum and kids have been working on. Today I wanted to give them the opportunity to show you more. Here's what Mum had to say.... 

As a child I didn't particularly like soft toys or rag dolls, and since then I have never understood people's attraction to them. When Sarah got a lovely rag-doll pattern book to review just before her 40th birthday - she loves dolls - I was a little hesitant to make her one, but I liked the look of the outfits and thought I'd give it a go. 'Sally' was made in secret and I actually enjoyed working on her - especially when Sarah loved her! 
Of course my grandchildren saw their mother's doll and wanted one... each! I'd bought a metre of calico for Sarah's doll (I didn't have an old sheet as in the book) and there was enough left for a few more so the plan was that we'd make them together.... 
They started off well, helping me with the machine sewing and stuffing the arms and legs (using the fat end of a knitting needle). Alas, their interest waned after this and I was left to finish the dolls myself, under strict instructions that the girl was to have pink and lilac hair and the boy must have a smiley face and freckles.
The boy's hair was a bit of a challenge as I wasn't sure how to achieve the look I wanted. The problem was solved by making lots of small wigs and sewing each onto the head, then cutting all the 'hair' short and separating each strand of yarn to get the look right.
Finished dolls
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed making them - so much I'm thinking about making my own doll pattern to refine some of the things I don't like about rag dolls - like the flat face, the hands, and the (clubbed) feet. The plans may never come to fruition but I'm already making more outfits for these and who knows... I might even make a doll for myself!  Lynda x

If you're not sick of seeing her on the GBSB re-runs and would like to see more of mum's projects, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.  If you'd like to try making some dolls but don't have much sewing experience or skill, I have another doll-making book review coming up soon which you might be interested in, so stay tuned!
Monday, 18 August 2014

Blast from the past: AKA 'From toddler tunic to hippy t-shirt!'

In July 2011, only a few months after I started knitting, I improvised a tunic for my then-toddler. Here's the FO picture I posted, which frankly, has always made me feel nauseous. 
As I wrote at the time, I didn't really like it - the yarn was horrible to work with, and I didn't like the way the colours pooled at the bottom - like static on an old analogue TV. Regardless, my Ravelry notes from six months later show that the two year old Little Miss still loved it and was wearing it all the time. Imagine my surprise when she walked into my bedroom like this the other day: 
Three years after knitting a "toddler tunic", it became a hippy t-shirt for a tall 5 year old!!!
It still makes my eyes hurt, but after finding it in a bag of old clothes, she thinks it's wonderful and is wearing it again. She is only five but tall for her age and wears age 6-7 in shop-bought clothes - so it's not a tunic anymore - it's a t-shirt. If I'd known it would last so long I would have used a different yarn!

My reason for not knitting many children's clothes is that they grow too quickly for it to be worth the time and effort, but I'm thinking of making a bigger one of these.... in a nicer colour, of course. Do you have any garments that were made a long time ago and keep turning up? Or something you really didn't like but it loved by someone else?  
Friday, 15 August 2014

Remembering Robin Williams

Friday evenings as a young child, sitting in front of a (real) fire at my grandparents' house watching Mork and Mindy and repeating "Na-nu na-nu" for days afterwards. Teenage 'dates' at the local cinema, waiting for that catchphrase - "Gooooooood Morrrrrning Vietnaaaaaaam". Sitting in the lounge of my first 'proper' flat after graduation, with the Aladdin soundtrack on repeat. Seeing my little sister laughing (over and over) at Mrs Doubtfire. A VHS copy of Dead Poets Society that never failed to leave me sobbing... until it eventually snapped from being played and rewound so many times. These are just a small number of many memories which are linked with Robin Williams. 

I knew nothing of the man's personal life and struggles, but when I paused to think about why I'd felt so upset at the news of his death, realised that his incredible work was always there in the background. From my childhood in the late 70s right up to the present day. 

The family have been quoted as saying he'd want us to recall the good times, and not the way it all ended, so I'm sharing my favourite Robin Williams picture in which he appears (as Mork, which is how I mostly remember him) to be knitting. 
Image: Source

I wouldn't mind re-watching Mork and Mindy, as it happens. How about you? 
Wednesday, 13 August 2014

WIPs & Books: Summer Knitting

In accordance with my Strategies for Summer Knitting, I have cast on a perfect summer project. Lightweight cotton/linen yarn, not too many stitches and very little to think about. It's something that's been a sketch in my notebook for many months so it's nice to see it finally coming together. There'll be more on that in another post. 
WIPs and books
It's been a little while since any book updates: Following recommendations on CftC Facebook page, I recently finished listening to Wool by Hugh Howey. Contrary to the title, it's nothing to do with wool - although there are a few knitting analogies. Having enjoyed it so much, I immediately downloaded the rest of the trilogy and have just finished the second book - Shift - which was also fantastic.

You can find reviews and more information about the story online, but if you've already enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent books, my advice would be to just read it without knowing anything about it. The small pink gadget in the photo is a pocket photo printer so you'll see why this make me laugh! 
She had this outmoded obsession with printing the pictures from her computer and stuffing them in books. Said they became more real once they were displayed like that.
- Hugh Howey, Shift, loc. 8752
I'm still listening to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - although it's enjoyable, it seems to have been going on FOR. EVER. Only another 9 hours left!!!!!

The dog is waiting for his walk so that's it from me here, but you can read my guest post at Not So Granny where I've written my first poem - about knitting! (Please be kind if you leave a comment!) 
Monday, 11 August 2014

Blast from the past: Doll cardigan pattern

There has been some 'making' go on around here, and not all of it mine! Mum and Little Miss are busily working on a few sewing projects, of which there will be more details soon, but here's a peek...
Little Miss is making again!
So Mum was looking for doll clothes patterns and I reminded her of one of my very first designs - a cardigan for our MamAmor doll. I hadn't been blogging (or knitting) for long so not many people will have seen the original details, and I'm sharing it again today. At the time, I used the yarn I'd been practicing my crochet with - I'd certainly choose something softer than DK cotton now, but I still like the pattern.
The cardi is very straightforward and really doesn't take long to knit up - it's easy to alter to fit (you can see some lovely customised versions on the Ravelry page). If you know someone with a doll in need of a make-over this summer, you can find the free pattern on the original post here. Happy Knitting!
Friday, 8 August 2014

FO Friday: Pebble Beach Shawlette

FO Friday - Pebble Beach Shawlette

After starting this project the day of Unwind Brighton (the pattern was in the programme, but is now available separately) it seemed like it would never be finished, but it took just one uninterrupted Saturday, when D took the children out, to get it done. And it worked up really quickly! 

It's a lovely design - easy enough to be a first lace project - although I struggled with complacency and had to undo part of it. I know a couple of other experienced knitters who have also lost concentration (it's a very relaxing knit) and made mistakes! The pattern is really nicely written - very clear and easy to follow - and I'll be making more from Helen Stewart / Curious Handmade after this.

I also love the yarn which I got at Unwind. It's Rhodri Sock from Triskelion Yarn in shade 'Beowa' - which I think might be an Anglo-saxon word for Barley. As I was knitting it, I wondered if I should have chosen something softer than sock yarn but it's such a lovely colour and has a much nicer feel after a soak and block. 

There are a few things that I would do differently if I could turn back time:
Pebble Beach Shawlette

Pebble Beach cast onI usually prefer a garter tab cast on for this type of project and I'm not sure whether it's my knitting or the pattern, but I don't really like the look of the cast on section. Browsing Ravelry, I found some other knitters had changed the first few rows for the same reason. If you plan to knit it, you might like to take a look here and on other FOs.

There was a knot in my yarn. I knew about it from winding it into a ball, and as I expected the shawlette to use the whole skein I used that end of the yarn anyway. As it turns out, I have almost 22g left so I should have used the other end of the ball and the knot probably wouldn't have been used. If only I'd checked!

As much as I love the look of a picot edge, it's time-consuming and I put it down part-way through. While blocking I noticed that I'd missed one of the points - I think it was when I picked it up again as it's roughly half way - yep, right in the middle. I've tried to fudge it with the blocking wires as I really couldn't face undoing it. I think it'll do, and if not it may be a case of sewing a little bump on.

Despite these little niggles, I'm really pleased with the shawl and it'll always be a nice reminder of our day out. 
Wednesday, 6 August 2014

So much to tell you....

I really want to tell you more about the world record attempt which The Handmade Fair is making for the deaf/blind charity Sense (close to my heart as I have a lovely cousin who is a mum of young children and has Usher syndrome) and the wonderful new book I'm taking lots of inspiration from. My pocket-sized photo printer has also arrived, and that's definitely post-worthy!

Alas, it's the summer holidays and between cooking four times a day (three for the kids plus a late one for the workaholic), walking the dog, keeping the house/laundry/shopping in some kind of order, and achieving my 10,000 steps a day, there has not been time. I'll definitely be back on Friday, as there is a (lovely) finished object to share. Apart from that, I'm not sure when I'll see you but I hope you're having a great summer, full of friends and fun things too! 
Friday, 1 August 2014

One Month On (Bullet Journaling Update)

At the beginning of July I wrote about Bullet Journaling and my plans to try it. From various comments, emails and tweets, I know I'm not the only one who did so (thanks for contacting/tagging me with your updates!). For those who missed the previous post, bullet journaling is essentially an analogue note-taking method which combines to-do lists, reminders and any other notes in one single place, entered daily and referenced in an index. You can read more about it on the official website. I've been using my Midori Traveler's Notebooks (or handmade variants known as 'fauxdoris') for some time to plan my blog posts and make pattern / design notes, so it wasn't a massive leap but there are a few things I've noted this month.
Bullet Journal update
- Having all tasks and lists in one place (personal, household, school, blog, design ideas etc) simply means there is less chance to forget to check - my phone/diary/calendar/list - and miss something. I've been known to make lists and forget to take them out/ look at them (in fact I'm a repeat-offender) so this method works really well for me.
- A blank notebook can be quite intimidating when you like things to be just so, and with a Midori notebook you can't really pull out the pages that didn't turn out as nice/neat as you might like. I had to let go of this idea pretty early on in the month. As a reminder, my front page reads "a done something is better than a perfect nothing"- in other words, just get on with it!
- I've learned that there aren't many 'mistakes' that can't be hidden by some stickers, washi tape or glue. In fact the spontaneously messy entries, complete with inconsistent penmanship, add to the journal. My new charm (from Baum Kuchen) reads "it is what it is". This relates as much to the book as to the life it is organising and documenting.
- I've started doodling with watercolours - mostly little design ideas, so they are not yet ready to share but I'm really enjoying it - I haven't used paints since my Art A-level. Plus the more ideas are noted, the more I seem to have.
- As well as the lists and reminders, some pages act as a scrapbook. When we go out we're keeping tickets and interesting things to stick in, and after getting some Instagram photos printed onto sticker paper (via I've added images too. I'm expecting a pocket photo printer to arrive from Korea in the next week or so, then it will be possible to print out the photos and journal immediately. It's great having a phone that can take loads of digital pics on the go, but even nicer "release" the moments into print. 
- Typically I write the list for the following day before going to sleep. It's a nice way of finishing the day and clearing my mind. After one month it's already become something of a habit, and it feels like a good one.- The children have started journalling. We're keeping their finished books in a special box to look back on.
Bullet Journaling update!
With the benefit of hindsight, there are a few things that I'll do differently in August. For starters, after using a whole refill in July, I've added another insert to act as a Commonplace Book - this will outlive the bullet journal and mean I don't have to carry any completed bullet journal inserts for reference, which I'm having to do now. Which brings me on to the contents of my Midori. 

The rest of this post is really aimed at those I fondly think of as the 'Detail Junkies' amongst you, because I often get emails asking for more information: 
Here's what I'm using - pictured from top to bottom:
- Midori Traveler's Notebook (MTN) - regular sized in brown. Mine is from UK stockist TJS but Baum Kuchen (USA) and Amazon also stock them. 
- MTN zip wallet  insert  No. 008 (not clearly visible from pic)
- No 002 (this is the completed book from July, for reference, and is stuffed full!) 
- Lightweight paper refill - No 013 (new Bullet Journal for August) 
- Blank notebook refill - No 003 (new Commonplace Insert)
- Monthly planner refill - No 017 (blog planner) 
- Waterproof UniPen size 03

There are various handmade versions of the notebook cover and inserts available, and I'm collating some of my favourite Etsy finds on this page - which includes washi tape, stickers, charms and all sorts. 

You might also like:
- Ray Blake's blog 'My life all in one place' which has loads of print outs, tips and a great video on how to make your own 'fauxdori'. He also makes them for others -  I have a Raydori which is the lovely green one in the pompom bookmark pic above. 
- *enabling alert* The MTN Resources facebook group has EVERYTHING you might ever want to know, but may be extremely bad for your wallet - it's where I found out about the pocket printer and lots of other things I didn't know I 'needed'! 
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