Friday, 30 January 2015

Book Review 'Arm & Finger Knitting' by Laura Strutt


The number of 'non-knitter' friends who recently sent me a viral "arm knitting" video makes me think that this is definitely something which has captured the imagination. I'll admit that it isn't something that had ever called to me, so when publisher CICO invited me to review a copy of the brand new book Arm and Finger Knitting, it seemed the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. Plus I already know a load of people who will be interested to hear about it!

Written by Laura Strutt - blogger, freelance writer and former editor of 'Craft Business' and 'Sew' magazines (and various other books) - this is a quality paperback with 112 pages including plenty of clear photos, and step-by-step instructions. There are 22 arm knitting projects which cover various techniques from casting on and binding off, to increasing, decreasing and cables. Projects are split into homewares and wearables. 
"Arm & Finger Knitting" - by Laura Strutt / CICO books -  review
If you like the 'open' texture of arm-knit fabrics then there is a lot to choose from. As well as the Infinity Scarf, I predict the "Travel Blanket" (with storage pouch) and "Lap Blanket" (featured in issue 49 of Mollie Makes) will be the most popular projects from the arm knitting section. Textured and modern, they both make great statement pieces for the home.

I must confess that I find some of the garments to be... erm... "interesting"... but then it's rare to find a book where *everything* appeals. Perhaps I'm just a bit too old/traditional to appreciate the hat and multi-way button creation pictured below.
"Arm & finger knitting" book review.
On the other hand (!), the finger knitting projects are right up my street - my love of knitted and lucet icords is well documented, but I'd never tried making them with my fingers before.

There are 13 finger-knit projects in the book, including a brooch, headband, necklace and various things for the home. I've pictured my three favourites - all of which I can imagine making with or without 'help' from the kids. They are simple but effective.
'Arm & Finger Knitting' book review.
As well as being potential stash busters, these projects would also work well with DIY Yarn (tutorial here)
What I like most of all is that the designs are easy enough for beginners. The fact that they work up quickly also means that the excitement of finishing something can be yours within a very short time, potentially making this a great 'gateway' craft!

You can buy the book at Deramores*, and Amazon-Arm and Finger Knitting: 35 no-needle knits for the home and to wear* and other  good booksellers. If you'd like to see more reviews and projects made from the book, take a look at Laura's great blog, Made Peachy, or follow her on Twitter where there are links to all the blog tour posts.

(*Affiliate links)
Thursday, 29 January 2015

Knickers... and "The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon"



In just a few weeks (March 13th) Comic Relief will ask people to pick their nose (!) or paint their face to raise money for charitable causes in the UK and abroad. Crafters are also being invited to raise money by hosting a Big Comic Relief Crafternoon (craft fair). To give ideas and inspiration, a selection of well known crafters including Tif Fussell, Lucy from Attic24, Jodie Carleton, Mr X Stitch and my Mum (!) were invited to submit patterns for a very special edition of Mollie Makes.

If you've been a Mollie Makes subscriber from the start (as I have) you'll recognise many of the 50 different patterns which are presented here, along with the brand new contributions which include: knitted beards, crochet red noses, DIY craft themed dinner plates, messenger bags made from vintage pillowcases and wristwarmers and.... my mum's knickers!!
My mum's French knicker pattern, made up in Liberty fabric - image via Silver Pebble / Mollie Makes
Also included is a guide to running your own craft fair  - you can make an entire troupe of felt guinea pigs/nursery full of Spring posy brooches/forest of moustaches and sell them to make more crafty cash for Comic Relief.

The magazine is available from Sainsbury's from today and digital versions can be purchased via iTunes and Google Play. The cover price is £7.99 with a full £5 going directly to the charity. What are you waiting for?!
Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Catharsis... and knowing when to give up

It's been a weekend of catharsis. It all began on Saturday morning when D entered the playroom with a roll of black sacks. A few days later it is continuing with my wardrobe. There's something very liberating about getting rid of the things that no longer serve you or make you happy.
Catharsis (or, my life in coat hangers)
Cleaning out my wardrobe, I realised that it's full of things for a life I no longer lead, or that I never really did lead. I'd go as far as to say my wardrobe suggests I'm a size 10-12 party girl who can wear high heels and spends the summer in the Mediterranean. The reality is a much more cuddly 40 year old mum living in a small village surrounded by farmland! Looking at so much stuff that I can't even wear is quite depressing - so it's all going. Five sacks have been filled already... and it's not finished yet. I'm giving up on the (ridiculous) dream that these things might ever fit me or suit me again.

Giving up on so many useless things feels like a very positive thing and following the advice of Queen Elsa, I'm letting it all go. It's not limited to sorting toys and clothes either - it's spilling over into my knitting. Of course there are many situations where perseverance is important, nay critical. For example, half way through an enormous picot bind-off, on a shawl you've taken months to knit. You may feel you want to give up, but you're close to having a wonderful finished garment so it's important to focus and just get on with the job in hand - with a refreshment break or two thrown in for good measure. In those situations it's vital that you don't give up.

On the other hand, life is way too short to be working on projects that you absolutely hate. And I've found myself in just this situation of late...
About to be frogged!!!!
Do you remember the Entrelac collaboration that Wink and I started a while ago? You may have noticed that the instalments have been getting further apart... and that for the last one I didn't even show the 'actual' project being worked - I used other yarn (soft and lovely to handle Scheepjes Stone Washed) to illustrate the tutorial. The truth is I HATE the yarn we chose for this project. There, I said it! It's scratchy and hard and I just don't want to pick it up. Ever.

After much procrastination I finally confessed to Wink and was relieved that she felt the same way about it. Phew! I still intend to continue with the tutorials and to post a pattern for this project, so at Unravel 2015 (more details to follow later this week) I'll look for something much nicer, and will pick this project up again at a later date. In the meantime, there are various Entrelac resources listed in the earlier posts if you're keen to give it a go.

Lots to show you this week, so I'll see you again tomorrow!
Monday, 26 January 2015

BLTN part 2: Quick Knit Cowl Pattern

Last week I showed you the first of the 'better late than never' projects I finished during the busy festive period, and which didn't make it to the blog for various reasons. Today I have another, and it's not just an FO, but a new pattern which ended up being published (very quietly) in December.

I'd been chatting to someone who wanted to give lace knitting a go, but didn't know where to start. She wanted a simple pattern which was easy to follow and which would knit up quickly but could be made with something that would feel scrumptious - without raiding the bank. My solution was to come up with this Quick Knit Lace Cowl.
Quick-knit Lace Cowl pattern - now available to download, exclusively at Love Knitting.
I used deliciously sparkly Galaxie, by Bergere de France in a festive red "Carmine" (which was intended to be used for something else - whoops!). The yarn is Acrylic/ Wool/ Polyester and feels incredibly soft - perfect for wearing around the face and neck.
Quick-knit Lace Cowl pattern - now available to download, exclusively at Love Knitting.
Quick-knit Lace Cowl pattern - now available to download, exclusively at Love Knitting.
The pattern is suitable for knitters who are able to knit in the round and would like to try something a little more challenging than knits and purls, but which is still quite straightforward. Both written and charted instructions are included and the chart is especially easy to follow - as this design includes only a basic increase (yo) and decrease (sk2p) and the pattern "lines up" which means it's easy to tell whether you're following it properly.

The cowl knits up quickly on 8mm needles and takes just 3 balls (around £10 in total). The PDF is available to purchase exclusively at Love Knitting, and the details are listed in the Ravelry database - I love to see what you  make from my patterns, so please do link your WIP and FO project notes there. 
Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Show & Tell: A bit 'sketchy'

Over the last few weeks, I've spent at least 15-20 minutes a day sketching. After posting some pictures on Instagram and Twitter, various people asked questions about the books and courses I'm using. It's easier to tell you in a single place, so here you go. The post contains some affiliate links.

To get into the habit of drawing every day, I'm working through the ebook version of You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler. This book is a great refresher for me. I learned the 'fundamental laws' of drawing a very long time ago and whilst many are still second-nature, it's good to remember why they work... and to get much needed practice as I haven't drawn since my Art A-level over 20 years ago. If you've never drawn before, I would also recommend this book - it is easy to follow and does not assume any prior skill. Simply work along with each lesson which is a small bite-sized chunk. After a lesson there is a 'bonus' assignment giving you the chance to practice the skills learned so far. You can let your imagination run wild with these, if you have the time and inclination. 
Sketching practice
I can access the book via my Kindle and the Kindle App, which makes it easy to practice whenever I have a few minutes, no matter where I am. You can see from the picture that I'm using a pocket sized Moleskine Soft Cover Dotted Notebook* so that I can keep it in my bag or pocket, and I'm drawing with a standard Bic biro. This is partly to give myself the extra challenge of not being able to erase things, and partly because I'm totally inspired by Andrea Joseph's sketches, like this one....  
Converse Ballpoint Illustration Print. Schooldays Excercise Book revisited by AndreaJoseph on Etsy. Andrea is one of the teachers on Sketchbook Skool, which looks amazing and is on my 'wishlist'. Unfortunately is costs $99 and is therefore beyond my budget. 

As I mentioned before, I've enrolled in Paul Heaston's Sketchbook class on Craftsy which is much more affordable. Unlike the book, this is a proper 'class' with assignments that take longer, so I prefer to work through the lessons at a table when I have good conditions for drawing (although this class can be accessed on-the-go too). This means I'm working through it more slowly, using a bigger sketchbook and art supplies. The course covers various different sketchbook options, how to use different media - from pencils to watercolour and pen and ink - and shows lots of examples from Paul Heaston's own sketchbooks which are fascinating to see. I'll keep you posted with my progress. 
Wreck this journal
As well as these different 'courses' you may have seen pictures from my 'Wreck This Journal' which is a whole load of fun! I won't repeat the details here as I've already written about that - you can find the post here.
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*For my fellow journal addicts, you can see I've put my notebook in a custom notebook cover from Yarn Tree Studio so it's a pleasure to carry everywhere and is well protected.

I think that's covered all the outstanding questions, if not leave me a comment and I'll get back to you. 
Monday, 19 January 2015

BLTN Part 1: Scrappy Colourblock Scarf Ta-dah!

I was looking for some projects I thought I'd posted over Christmas, only to discover I hadn't shown them to you yet. So here, BLTN (better late than never), is the first of them - the scarf made from leftovers of Scheepjes Stone Washed XL from my Cosy Colourblock Shawlmini hot water bottle cover (both free patterns) and the larger version I made to fit a standard sized bottle, which I also haven't shown you yet. You may have spotted a glimpse of it here and a quick introduction (here) when I cast on, but I'm pleased to properly show you the finished object which is now a much loved scarf. 


I love the simplicity of this! It took a total of 212g which was pretty much every last scrap of these six colours, and was knit on 5.5mm needles using a 3x2 rib pattern. 

This was perfect relaxation knitting and I'm really missing the yarn after a few months where I used it for various different projects. I may get some specifically for another scarf. In fact, after seeing my mum's Colourblock Shawl this weekend (it's pictured here) I'm now thinking about getting some in the colours she used, to make a longer wider version... maybe with a couple more colours in the mix too.

Scheepjes Stone Washed XL is available from Deramores, for UK and worldwide delivery (find international delivery costs here).

I'll be back with another BLTN project soon!
Friday, 16 January 2015

Thrifting: DIY Yarn (from old sheets)

Thrifting: old sheet to yarn
This post contains a free ezine, a free ebook, and a reader discount code, via affiliate links

Following on from my Upcycled Festive Candle Holder post, I was invited to join in with the latest Stitch Craft Create blog hop.  Thrifting is the theme for the January edition of the SCC magazine, which includes lots of different upcycling projects (and a pattern from Louise Walker's book which I reviewed here).  The magazine is usually £1.99 but if you visit the Blog Hop page, you can get it free!

I was especially interested in the instructions for knitting a rug from upcycled sheets. I don't need another rug at the moment, but the idea of making some yarn from an old sheet definitely appealed - I love taking things from around the house and turning them into something else. If you'd like to give to a try too, here's how to do it: 
Thrifting: old sheet to yarn
You'll need plenty of space to work and I would also advise getting some music, an audiobook or something to daydream about, as it's a little time consuming. A flat sheet for a single bed took me about 90 minutes to prepare. 
Thrifting: old sheet to yarn
Step 1: If necessary, iron the sheet - it'll be much easier to work with if it's not creased. 
Step 2: Cut off any hems so that only a single layer of fabric remains.
Step 3: The sheet is cut into strips leaving a 5cm (1.5") section uncut at each turn - this results in a single long length of yarn without any joins. 
Step 4: When the entire sheet is finished, wind your yarn into a ball. I made a centre pull ball so it's easier to work with. (If you don't have a nostepinne, a broom handle would work with this enormous yarn!)
Thrifting: old sheet to yarn
It knits up easily with 15mm needles. I'm not sure what I'm going to make with it yet but it was a fun session spent doing something I haven't tried before.

If you're up for trying something new (any new craft you don't usually do), SCC are running a competition on social media with the tag #craftfirsttime - you can find the details here. You will also find lots more thrifty ideas in the magazine, via the other blogs taking part in the hop and by downloading this FREE thrifting ebook which contains 9 different upcycling projects to try at home. 
Stitch Craft Create
If you have any ideas for my yarn, leave a comment below! 
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Downsides, delays and books

Writing a blog can lead to some really nice opportunities. The downside is that you suddenly find yourself busy with things that you can't yet write about/show on said blog. "Secret" projects, if you will. I have a few of these on the go at the moment, which are delaying the planned knitting posts. Couple that with dark days - when it is never really light enough to get any decent indoor pictures - and a son with "something viral" and you end up with a somewhat neglected blog. 

Untitled
But it's Wednesday, and that's traditionally been my day for sharing WIPs and books, so I figured I'd pop in with a quick update. I have some knitting progress on my Scheepjes Striped Shawl 'comfort knitting' (last seen here), although it's not quite up to date - I've worked a few more stripes since this was taken. It's lovely relaxing knitting although Archie keeps trying to sit on it while I knit (imagine slippery metal needles, smooth stitches, two different yarns, claws ...you get the picture) which, frankly, makes it a little less relaxing.

There's nothing else to show you, but the next instalment of my "Back and forth Entrelac" series is in the works and will be along just as soon as I can get it photographed (lightbox, anyone?). Some new yarn for what I shall refer to as 'blog projects' is also on the way, and of course Unravel is a mere FIVE WEEKS away. I'll be writing more about that soon but if you can't wait, here's the link to my previous posts about my favourite annual fibre fest.

So what else have I been up to? Well there has been drawing, reading and reading about drawing and sketching. I've found lots of great books on the latter so I'll do a separate post on those, but there are three books I'm reading at the moment which I would heartily recommend. The first is A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki which I'm reading for book club. Secondly Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge which I just had to download after enjoying the TV series, but which is (naturally) much better. Finally You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler which I'm working through for 20 minutes a day (alongside the Sketchbook class on Craftsy). Wow, that's actually quite a lot! I'll be back on Friday with a thrifty little FO. See you then.
Saturday, 10 January 2015

Continental Knitting, anyone?

This post contains some affiliate links - you can read more about that here
As regular readers will know, I'm a huge fan of Continental Knitting and I've written about it numerous times already. If you missed my previous posts about why I learned to knit this way, and the impact it's had on my speed, comfort and productivity, you might like to read The best (knitting) thing I ever didThings I didn't know about knitting and On ambidexterity

I posted a couple of quick "how I knit" videos on my Facebook and Instagram pages which sparked a lot of comments and questions, so I know many readers are interested in learning this technique too. Being a fan of Continental Knitting and a massive fan of Craftsy (bordering on enrolment addiction), I was thrilled to learn there is a brand new Craftsy Class called "Knit Faster with Continental Knitting" hosted by Lorilee Beltman. Here's what she has to say about it: 
When it comes to Continental Knitting there's only one overarching rule: fewer motions mean more efficiency. During class, learn which motions have the greatest impact on stitch gauge to size knit and purl stitches equally and achieve even tension. You'll give each finger a job, minimizing hand motions so that your knitting will become faster, more comfortable and more efficient! Whether you're new to knitting, or seasoned in English-Style, you'll be happy you took this big step.  
For our first lesson, we'll focus on the knit stitch — Continental style. Learn how to tension and position yarn in your hands to make knit stitches flow effortlessly across your needles, then move on to the purl stitch. I'll show you how to hold your yarn and move it into place so that your needle grabs quickly and easily, and we'll work to keep awkward movements at a minimum, making sure your stitches are correctly oriented on your needles. Depending on your stitches, you might notice that your knitting is too tight or too loose. In our third lesson, I'll show you how this happens and explain how to get those stitches just right. While you've likely gotten an idea of how Continental Knitting increases your efficiency, it's with techniques that require frequent stitch alternation where the value of this style really shines. As we talk about ribbing and seed stitch, you'll see that getting working yarn to the back or front of your knitting is simply a matter of shifting your right hand! Next, we'll walk through basic increases, decreases and other stitch maneuvers as you find out just how easy elaborate patterns become when you're holding your yarn in the left hand. That's why lefties especially will love Continental Knitting! Then, whether your favorite fabric has cables, colorwork or beyond, you'll learn how to tackle each. Just try not to get too excited when you see how much easier linen stitch and colorwork can be — we've still got one lesson to go!  
For our final lesson you'll face an inevitable truth: the way you're holding your yarn might be causing you pain. I'll give you tips to keep in mind so you can avoid pitfalls and pain, and troubleshoot why you may have trouble keeping tension and stitches even. We'll end on an inspiring note, and run over some small, fun projects with which you can put your exciting new skills to use!
This looks like a really great class - if it had been around when I was teaching myself to knit this way, it would have saved a lot of time and problem-solving.

If you haven't used them before, Craftsy classes are easy to use, are available to you forever and can be accessed on any internet-connected device but you can also download them to watch offline. You can ask questions of the teacher and other students, add notes and upload your projects. Best of all, every class is covered by a 100% no-quibble guarantee so you have nothing to lose. At the time of writing the class is on sale for £12.50 (34% off) and you can enrol here. Let me know how you get on!
Friday, 9 January 2015

FO Friday - A Knitted 'Fitbit Chrysalis' Pendant

Thanks for the messages following yesterday's post. It sounds as though a little rash is quite common when chemicals get trapped under metal worn next to the skin, so I'm hoping that it'll all go back to normal soon enough. In the meantime, I've finished v2 (slightly smaller than yesterday's prototype) of the little chrysalis for my Fitbit Flex tracker and am wearing it around my neck. It's made from a tiny leftover yarn scrap which was handspun by a friend. 
Handknit Chrysalis for Fitbit Flex
The steps seem to be tracking fine, so I just need to remember to put it on each morning as I'm no longer tracking sleep.

As these take hardly any time to make, I think I'll knit a few more in different colours, and I'd certainly like to make some in textured yarn or to embellish them with buttons or embroidery. (The back is plain stocking stitch - a little boring in a plain yarn but would look nice with buttons or beads...). It would also work for holding other things such as crystals, and small keepsakes - Little Miss and my sister have both asked for one already.  I know what I'll be doing this weekend!!
Thursday, 8 January 2015

Distractions

There's a lot to do around here. The house is still not back to 'normal' after Christmas, I have to prepare a casserole for tonight's dinner,  there's a huge ironing pile with my name on, and of course there are plenty knitting projects I would prefer to be getting on with. Some brightly coloured hair dye has also just arrived, but more on that another time, because what I am *actually* doing is this... 
Untitled
I have a little rash under my Fitbit - I don't know whether a cleaning product or something got on there and is irritating me, or quite what has happened - I have never had an allergic reaction to it in the last 7 months. Anyway, I think it should probably be off my wrist while it heals... but I can't bear to not have the tracker* on. So I'm "MacGyvering" something with my trusty sticks and string.

A stretched out icord reminds me of a chrysalis and allows the 'progress' lights to show, so I'm trying some small needles. If it all works out, I'll share it with you over the weekend. Wish me luck.
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*By the way, the fitalong is still happening, although we weren't very active over the festive period. There is a 'daily challenge' option on the Fitbit app, so it's even easier to keep one another going. If you fancy joining in, see these posts and the Facebook group!
Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Resolutely not... making any plans

Resolutely not....making any plans
My ever-present Yarn Tree  Studio Journal, Wreck This Journal and Hobonichi Techo... but NO plans! 

If we can just let go and trust that things will work out the way they're supposed to, without trying to control the outcome, then we can begin to enjoy the moment more fully. The joy of the freedom it brings becomes more pleasurable than the experience itself. 
- Goldie Hawn

My annual plans never ever seem to pan out. For instance, 2011 was to be "The Year of Sewing". My Mum bought me a sewing machine for Christmas, a box full of different threads and sharp scissors, and I began collecting sewing books. A week later I started knitting (and soon afterwards, began writing this blog). By the time I'd gotten sufficiently to grips with knitting and had started making yarn on a spindle, it was Christmas 2013 and I was ready to take on a new challenge - a spinning wheel. D bought me the one I really really wanted, but before it was even unwrapped and assembled, I'd published my first 'proper' pattern, and that lead on to numerous other things. Far from being "The Year of Spinning" as planned, 2014 became the year I started designing - I published various patterns on the blog, some others via Ravelry and yet more were written and knitted up for publication elsewhere - I'll be able to tell you more about one of those fairly soon! 

So as 2015 begins, I don't want compose a list of things I'm *planning* to do this year. No doubt there'll be knitting, some new designs, and more doodles and sketches (I've started making a small sketch each day and have enrolled onto Paul Heaston's "Drawing the Everyday" sketchbook class on Craftsy which I'm really enjoying).

I've already shown you my Wreck This Journal and the creative experimental ethos behind it which resonate with the quote above and how I'm feeling at the moment. Who knows where the days will lead and what opportunities and adventures will open up? As I get older I realise that it's less important to plan each step than to look around and enjoy the journey. Whatever you get up to this year, my wish for you all is that you are able to do that too. Thank you for being here to share my journey. Sarah x 
Sunday, 4 January 2015

Wreckage

On Tuesday I mentioned that I was awaiting a delivery of a "Wreck This Journal" by Keri Smith. If you follow my Instagram account you will have already seen this this little book has taken over our lives for the last few days! Here are a few snippets including some WIPs....
Wreck This Journal
1. Little Miss doodles over a page  2. Pencil rubbings of my knitting notions,  3. My doodling over a page (WIP),  
4. Esio Trot on the 'etirw drawkcab' page,  5. A page torn out, washed in the machine and reattached,  6. A ribbon found on the street, used to 'swing' the journal, 7. Reckless scribbling (v hard!),  8. My crumpled bed,  9. A page full of circles (WIP)

When I first saw this book in the bookshop, I thought it wasn't for me - that it was too prescriptive - but after looking at the #wreckthisjournal tag on Instagram, and on Pinterest, decided to give it a go and I am LOVING it! In fact all the women in our family are - three generations of us are now "wrecking" our own journals (my mum and Little Miss have their own, and I've just ordered another for my sister). Surely it's only a matter of time before it catches on with the boys? In the meantime, this page is for sale by auction until January 7th...
Wreck This Journal (this page is for sale)
You can find it, complete with all details, listed on eBay. Huge thanks to those who have made a bid, you really made my day by helping me complete this fun project!

Affiliate links: "Wreck This Journal" is available for £4.25 from Amazon UK and for $8.52 on Amazon.com (it is Prime eligible so there's not much of a delay to your gratification). 
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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.

Hello and welcome. If it's your first visit you may like to start with my most popular tips & tutorials, or the patterns. You can read more about me on the 'Hello' page and you may also like the CftC pages on Ravelry, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Etsy. I hope you enjoy your visit! Sarah
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