Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Not one, but two Finished Objects!!

This post has been a bit longer coming than I originally anticipated, but I had a couple of WIPs getting close to the finishing line so have hung on until they were done and dusted.  So now I have two finished objects to blog about.

First up is my Berries Snuggle.  This is a three row basket weave throw with a garter stitch border knit from James C Brett Marble Chunky in the MC14 "Berries" colour way.  I started this on 16 April 2017, casting on 105 stitches - 99 stitches for the central section and 3 stitches either side for the garter stitch border.  This was intended to be a stash busting piece - I had two balls of the Marble Chunky, which I bought back in August 2015 when I had been knitting for slightly more than a year.  And then I thought that perhaps it needed to be longer than two balls worth, so when I got to the end of the first ball, I went out and bought a third ball, which I used for the middle section of the throw because it was a different dye lot.

My original plan was to knit the Snuggle for one of my nieces and then knit another one (this time in the "Petrol" colour way) for the other niece.  I have now changed my mind - this one took just over five months to complete, and I really don't fancy starting in on another one straight away.  So I am going to keep this one for me to snuggle under as it gets colder and darker.

My second finished object is my Seaspray Jumper, which I have just finish finished today.  This is a V-neck jumper, knit in pieces, using the King Cole pattern no. 3933 and King Cole Panache DK yarn in the 2071 "Seaspray" colour way.  I started this on 22 October 2016, so it has taken me just under a month short of a year to complete.

This is the second garment I have knit and it was a completely different method of construction from my "On the Beach", which I finished in June last year.  "On the Beach" was a top down raglan - "Seaspray" was knit in four pieces, back, front and sleeves, before being seamed together and then a neckband being added.  I knit the back first and then the sleeves to make sure that I would have enough yarn.  I knit the sleeves in the round on two circulars instead of flat in order to save myself some seaming at the end.  Doing this meant that I did all the seaming before picking up for the neckband, which I then knit in the round instead of flat.  It is done and it fits, and I am really pleased with how it looks.  It hasn't been blocked yet, but I will do that at the weekend.

This leaves me with four WIPs on the needles, but I am only going to show you the one where I have made real progress recently.  These are my Marie Curie socks, knit using limited edition West Yorkshire Spinners Signature sock yarn in the Marie Curie colour way.  These are vanilla socks with the slightly modified garter border eye of partridge heel taken from Hermione's Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder (a free pattern on Ravelry).  This morning I turned the heel on the second sock, so it only remains for me to pick up for the gusset and knit the foot.

As you will appreciate, finishing projects leads on to thinking about new projects and yarn for said new projects.  I have five new projects in mind, and as of this morning's post, I have the yarn for all of them.  In no particular order, the new projects are as follows:

Striped Study Shawl by Veera Valimaki - to be knit in sparkly black (Unbelievawool) and shocking pink (Truly Hooked) sock yarn
Morning Glory by Drops Designs - to be knit in Drops Karisma in the "Bleu Jeans" colourway
Peano No. 1 by Nathan Taylor (Sockmatician) - to be knit in Fyberspates Vivacious DK (blue and grey)
Selbu Mittens by Skeindeer Knits - to be knit in Rauma 3ply Strikkegarn (black and white)
Samwise Socks by Claire Ellen - to be knit in KingBecky Yarn in the "Emerald City" colourway

The Selbu Mittens are a colourwork pattern - part of a mittens pattern club that Elli of Skeindeer Knits is doing - and I bought the Rauma yarn from Ysolda Teague's on-line shop based in Edinburgh.  It is non-superwash and somewhat crunchy to the touch, but it is one of the recommended yarns for the pattern and I understand that it will soften up with knitting, wearing and washing.  Now I just have to learn the Old Norwegian cast-on before I can get started.

In other news, I am enjoying a week off work, which is one reason why I have finished objects to show you.  The thing that I am most enjoying is the peace and quiet.  The office that I work in backs onto a multi-storey car park.  They were doing some repairs to the car park over the summer, which was noisy enough, but then a few weeks back, the outer wall of the level above the entrance collapsed.  Fortunately this happened early on a Saturday morning and no-one was hurt, but it has meant that the noise level has gone up dramatically as they work on fixing it so that it can be put back into use.  Unfortunately in the meantime my colleagues are now having to park in another car park, which is frequented by drunks and druggies, right next to a hotel which rents its rooms by the hour!!

What else?  Well, I have got my 1.5 stone award so am currently 11 stone 10.5lb.  I have moved my target weight down to 11 stone 4lb, which will make a total loss of 2 stone, so have 5.5lb left to lose.  This may well take some time, but if I can do it before Christmas, that would be really good.  Mentally, I am doing reasonably well at the moment, but the clocks haven't gone back yet so it is still light when I leave for work and when I get home again.  When I get back to work, I am going to chase up HR about this year's flu jab as staying healthy physically will probably help with staying healthy mentally.

I also have some things to look forward to in the near future - a day trip to Lincoln, a meal out with my best friend (who just got engaged), the yarn festival at Bakewell etc - so am aiming to remain positive.  In desperate need of a cup of tea, so will finish here and go put the kettle on.

All the best to you and yours, and may the frog steer well clear of your crafting.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A new knitting adventure

It's very bad behaviour, I know, to say that I'm going to post more regularly and then leave it nearly a whole month. My only excuse is that I had a new knitting adventure coming up and I kept putting off posting until I could write about it. Now it is over, I have no more excuses.

What did I do? Well, on Saturday 2 September, I drove 130 miles to Purlescence at Leckhampstead in Berkshire, just outside Newbury, to do a knitting workshop. This was an early birthday present from my parents which I had been looking forward to since the end of July. The workshop was on double knitting and the teacher was Nathan Taylor aka Sockmatician! I have been watching Nathan's podcast for some time now and had become very interested in his preferred knitting technique of double knitting. This was encouraged by the fact that one of my knitting friends is currently knitting a blanket of double knitting squares from the Geek-A-Long.

My only concern was that the joining instructions talked about the long tail cast on, which is one of my least favourite cast ons - I'm generally a cable cast on knitter. So I packed up my DK yarn, my 4mm interchangeable tips and 2 different cables (having spent at least 20 minutes looking for my 4mm fixed circulars, only to realise that they were already being used on the project in my handbag!) and set out on the 2 hour plus drive. It was a smooth enough journey and I got there just after 1pm (for a 2pm start) with enough time to eat my lunch and chat with another attendee, Jo from Bristol.

Then we went inside. Purlescence is based in a unit on a farm, so one room is the workshop space with yarn round the walls and the other room has a sitting area, a shop section for books, needles and patterns and a place for making tea and coffee. I was definitely ready for a cup of tea at that point and there was also homemade cake - I had a brownie later on.

While waiting for other attendees to turn up, I looked at yarn and chatted with Nathan and the attendees who had already arrived.  And then the workshop started.

I am not going to tell you everything about it because that wouldn't be right, but I had a really great time.  Nathan is a lovely guy and a really good teacher, and he explained the theory and process of double knitting very clearly.  He also showed us lots of his own works to whet our appetites.  The long tail cast on element was different for double knitting and much easier than I had anticipated once I got to grips with it.  The workshop was a three hour session and it definitely required concentration, although Nathan was right on hand if you got stuck or made a mistake.  There was a lot of laughter and some bad language as we worked our way through the charted pattern, and I think that we all had fun.

I managed to finish my sample piece, although the workshop did overrun slightly, but as it was the end of the day, it didn't matter too much.  And here it is!

It isn't perfect, but I think that I've got the hang of it now.  And so afterwards, I bought yarn to knit one of Nathan's patterns (when I've cleared a couple of WIPs off my needles!).  The pattern I have chosen is one that he showed us at the workshop - Peano No.1  It is a scarf pattern based on a fractal, and being double sided, will be very warm.  The yarn I bought was Fyberspates Vivacious DK, and my scarf is going to be quite subtle, rather than in your face.

So on one side, it will be grey with a blue pattern, and on the other, it will be blue with a grey pattern.

Nathan's self-proclaimed goal is world domination by double knitting knitters and to that end there are still places on his workshops at Nottingham Yarn Expo (11 and 12 November 2017).  And if you are at the Yarn Expo on Saturday 11th, you may well see me there!

And to finish up, after the workshop, I drove to the nearby Travelodge where I stayed overnight - they have very firm mattresses in Travelodges - before driving 130 miles home on Sunday morning.  And yes, I do have more knitting to talk about, but will leave that for the next post, which I hope will arrive in a more timely manner than this one.  Oh, and I am signed up for a brioche workshop in December, but that will be at my LYS.

All the best to you and yours, and may the frogs steer well clear of your WIPs.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

End of radio silence

Firstly, my apologies - I hadn't realised quite how long it had been since I last posted.  Every so often I would think "I must write a blog post.  I'll do it on Xday." and Xday would come and something would happen, and the blog post didn't get written.

But I am back now.  I had my week off at the end of June, and spent it mainly knitting and pottering.  Since then I have been back at work, and done knitting and pottering and playing a lot of Gardenscapes when not at work.  The knitting has had results in the form of finished objects.  On the other hand, playing Gardenscapes is not very productive.  And the pottering - well, the results of that vary from day to day.

So, finished objects.  First up is my second RAK project.  It is another hat and is actually a pattern that I have knitted before.  And I used up the yarn left over from the first hat, which was part of the point of the whole RAK exercise.

This is a second Knit Night Hat, a free pattern by Judy Marples, knit in King Cole Riot DK in the Dude colourway.  I have enjoyed knitting it both times.  It is quite straightforward, starting with a nice purl and slip stitch brim and then just stocking stitch to the end. 

My second finished objects are my Petty Harbour socks.  This is a free pattern by Rayna Curtis, which I knit in Opal 20 Jahre sock yarn in the "Wir sagen Danke" colourway.  Again an enjoyable knit.  This was my first pair of socks knit on 2.5mm needles, having dropped down from 2.75mm needles because my tension appears to have finally loosened up.

Now a quick diversion to stash enhancement.  At the end of July, I went to Fibre East, which is a yarn festival held in Bedfordshire.  I did have a budget, but I also took one of the best/worst enablers I know with me.  So this is what I bought:

From left to right, the first three skeins are Charisma by The Knitting Swede, a 55% wool 45% silk fingering weight yarn - the grey is Greystone and the blues are Nautilus.  These are destined to become a shawl from a pattern by the dyer.  Next up is three skeins of Ariel by Wrigglefingers, which is a 80% Blue faced Leicester 20% Firestar (sparkly nylon) fingering weight yarn in a one of a kind colourway.  I was only going to buy one skein (for socks) but my enabler friend was with me, so now I have enough for a garment!

Then comes the odd one out - this is totally out of my comfort zone and yet was the first thing I bought!  The dyer is Siobhans Crafts and it is a sparkly DK yarn in the Unicorn colourway.  I have no idea what I am going to do with this.  Next up is a 70% superwash merino 30% silk fingering weight yarn from Bellica Yarns in the Wolf colourway - again no plans for this as yet.  Then comes a skein of Pulsar by Sparkleduck, a 55% superwash Blue faced Leicester 45% silk fingering weight yarn in the Sea-quine colourway.  There is a sad story behind this yarn.  Heather, the dyer behind Sparkleduck, died unexpectedly and far too young earlier this year, so when her husband decided to exhibit at Fibre East with some of what she had been dyeing, I was not the only one who felt the need to buy one last skein.

My final purchase is already on the needles.  If you watch the Brooklyn Knitfolk podcast on YouTube (and you should!), you will know that Jaclyn is running the Hipster KAL.  This is a reaction against the multitude of Faded this, that and the other which have been all over the knitting world recently.  The KAL runs from 1 August to 31 October 2017 and whatever you knit must be over 50g and must have had less than 30 projects listed on Ravelry at the time you chose to knit it.  My choice of pattern was the Windshield hat by Niina Talikka and I am knitting it in Triskelion Heulwen DK in the Upstream colourway.  Heulwen DK is a gorgeous yarn - 70% alpaca, 20% silk and 10% cashmere.  I haven't a picture yet to show you as it is a top down pattern and trying to wrangle 5mm dpns for a 6 stitch cast on followed by increases done with knitfrontback has been interesting!  I will put in a photo next time.

I am still knitting on my Seaspray jumper (working the neck and armhole decreases), my Berries Snuggle (about halfway through ball 3) and my Ring O'Roses sock (just turned the heel on sock 1).  I am also working on my third RAK, which is the Honey Cowl, a free pattern from MadeleineTosh, which I am knitting in James C Brett Marble Chunky.  Finally I also have a new cast on from this morning.  I want to knit all the socks so this morning I cast on a vanilla sock using my West Yorkshire Spinners limited edition Marie Curie sock yarn using a ChiaGoo red cable 9 inch circular, which is a new brand of needle to me.

In other news, I got my Club 10 the other week at Slimming World.  This means that I have lost 10% of my starting weight and am now down to 11 stone 13lb.  I am now in two minds about my target - originally I opted for 11 stone 7lb, but am now thinking that if I go down to 11 stone 4lb, I will have lost 2 stone exactly.  Decisions, decisions.

What else?  Eldest niece will be moving to big school in September, so her year put on "Bugsy Malone" as a final hurrah.  She played the part of Louella, the wife of Dandy Dan, a gang boss.  She looked really good, did a very fine job and we were very proud of her.  Performing in the Gang Show earlier this year has done wonders for her self-confidence.

And my knitting horizons are going to be expanded.  At the beginning of September, I am going on a double knitting workshop run by Nathan Taylor, who has the Sockmatician podcast, which I am really looking forward to.  And then in December, my local yarn shop is running a brioche workshop which I have signed up for.  So by the end of the year, I will have stranded colourwork (Ring O'Roses socks), double knitting and brioche all under my belt as well as the techniques I had already picked up.

I will finish here and go and do a bit of knitting before bed.  So, all the best to you and yours, and I will try to post more regularly from now on in.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Moving Forward

Hi, it's been a couple of weeks since I last posted but part of that time it was too hot to think, let alone post, and then I was busy at work getting ready to take a week off. Yes, I'm having a whole week off! I haven't had this much time off in one go for about 9 months so I am good and ready for it. I'm not going away - just chilling at home, knitting, reading and so on. As today is Monday and my first official day off, I decided to update my blog.

And I do have some knitting progress to show you this time. First up is my Seaspray Jumper - I cast off the second sleeve yesterday, which means that I have done the back and both sleeves so am well over halfway. I plan to cast on the front either later today or tomorrow.

Next up is my Petty Harbour sock - I turned the heel a couple of days after I last blogged and am working my way down the foot.

The last work in progress that I am going to show you is my Ring O'Roses sock. This is a slow burn on the basis that it is my first colourwork project and I only knit on it when I'm at home, things are quiet and I can focus. I have finished the first three charts, although you can't see No. 3 very clearly because the fabric is rolling on the needle. The next stage is going to be more complicated because there are three charts on the front of the leg and a fourth on the back of the leg, so it might be some time before you see this again.

And I also have a finish! This is part of a new project that I have started since I last posted. I had been thinking about it and then I had a chat with a knitting friend and then I buckled down to it. I am calling it my Random Act of Kindness knitting, and basically I am now using my commuting time and some of my older stash to work on items for a local charity which supports the homeless. So my first RAK project was "Barley" by Tin Can Knits - a free pattern from their "Simple Collection" on Ravelry. I used Cygnet Aran in the "Sage" colourway which I had left over from a finishing workshop that I took a couple of years ago. This is the Adult Large size and I am hoping it will grow when blocked as it currently fits me and I'm not sure that I have a 23 inch head.

I also have some new stash to share with you. From left to right, I have a ball of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in their limited edition "Marie Curie" colourway, which you can only get from City Knits, and £2 of the purchase price goes to Marie Curie, a charity which supports people with terminal illnesses and their families. The other two skeins are from Jo.Knit.Sew and are on a merino/nylon/sparkle base (400m per 100g) and the colourways are "Green Speckles" and "Blue Speckles" respectively.   The "Green Speckles" is actually more of an apple green in colour - it just hasn't photographed very well.

In other news, my weight loss continues. I have now lost 1 stone 2lb in total and can see a pale glimmer at the end of the tunnel, which is why I am sitting here munching on celery! Mum has had her hospital appointments and the upshot is that yes, she has mild osteoarthritis in her right hip, but apparently that is "satisfactory" (??), and the cardiologist says that the situation with her heart hasn't changed and that her GP has done everything he would have done. He also said that she should carry on doing the Race for Life and using it as a marker - i.e. if she is still getting round each year in about the same time, then she needn't worry. So she is feeling better in herself and is all psyched up to have the house redecorated.

I am going to finish here and go and get myself some lunch. Hopefully my next blog won't be so long in coming. All the very best to you and yours.

Friday, 9 June 2017

A new rabbit hole to fall down and general waffle

Well, its been nearly two weeks since I last posted because I have been somewhat busy.  Plus the weather has been up and down, hot then cold, wet and windy, which always has an impact on my mindset.

Anyway, two days after I last posted, I found a new rabbit hole to fall down.  At the previous Saturday Knit Group, one of my fellow knitters had been knitting a project using some glorious colours of yarn, and on being asked where she got it, had replied that she had dyed it herself and followed up by offering to teach me.  That night when I got home, I was straight on the Internet buying undyed yarn and acid dyes!

So on Tuesday 30 May I drove to her house and learned how to dye my own yarn.  I was there about 3 hours, first of all learning how to dye the yarn, then how to overdye it and then how to do the speckles - #specklesaresohotrightnow!  I had ordered four skeins of undyed 10% superwash merino single ply in fingering weight and I also had a skein of undyed yarn that had been given me as a Christmas present year before last along with some KoolAid.  By the end of the session, I had five very different coloured yarns to take home and finish drying over the bath.  And what did they look like, you will ask.  Well, here goes:

The green is more yellowy than it shows here, but otherwise the photo is not too bad colourwise.  From left to right, purple with black speckles, turquoise with pink and black speckles, pink with turquoise and black speckles, green with black speckles and teal with black speckles.  The teal is the Christmas yarn and the others are the singles.  Now, if I remember rightly, the pink, the turquoise and the teal are single dyes and the purple and green were overdyed, starting off teal and then with red added to make purple and yellow to make the green (I may be wrong, but probably not by much).  And then the speckles are added by flicking dry dye onto the wet yarn, wrapping it up in clingfilm and steaming it.  I'm really pleased with them, although I have no idea what I am going to knit with them, and that leads to the next problem.

Do I want to dye more yarn for myself?  It would be fun, but the main problem is that of space for the kit required.  I have a one bedroom flat with limited storage space, most of which is already taken up with yarn, books, cross stitch supplies and family history papers.  One option would be to keep the dyeing pans in the garage, but then would it be out of sight, out of mind?  But it would feel so fabulous to be able to put on a new jumper and say "Oh yes, I dyed the yarn myself!"  I have time in hand though, the yarn suppliers are having a sale in September which gives me a couple of months to think things through.  I'll let you know what I decide.

In other news, Mum and I did the Race for Life on Sunday - 5km in aid of Cancer Research UK.  The route was nearly all on the flat and the weather was nice enough - not too hot and a bit of a breeze.  We got round in just under an hour - which included a brief stop to buy icecream - a couple of minutes longer than last year.  The problem this year is that Mum started to flag just before the halfway point.  We generally work on the basis that while she is still talking to me, things are fine.  This time it came down to me having to do the talking to keep her going, which was a bit worrying.  She went in for an X-ray this morning on her other hip - the one which hasn't been replaced - and she also has an appointment later this month to see her cardiologist to find out why she is becoming more breathless.

And on the weight loss front, I have a major Happy Dance to report!!  I went to get weighed last night and got my 1 stone award.  For those of you who are metric, 1 stone is about equivalent to 6.35 kilos.  I had lost 1.5lb at the weigh in after my last post and then another 2.5lb this week, which takes me to 1 stone 0.5lb.  This means that I am over halfway to my target weight.  I was so pleased with this week's weight loss, especially now that I can treat myself for getting my award.  Now what to get?

I'm not going to talk about the General Election, save to say that the result was better than anticipated but not as good as I would have liked.

And because there has been no real crafting and lots of words in this post, here is the next finished item in my What I did on my Holidays roundup.

Cross stitch rather than knitting, but I hope you won't mind too much.  This is a birth present for my cousin's little boy - as often happens with these things, it got finished after his first birthday.  The chart is Baby Express Birth Record from Dimensions (#73428), stitched on 14 count white aida.  It was a kit which I started on 5 January 2015 and finished on 18 March 2016.  I took it to my framer the following day, picked it up on 26 March and posted it off on 2 April 2016.  It now hangs in his bedroom - his older sister was a bit jealous, but calmed down when her Mum pointed out to her that she has a whale on hers, which he doesn't.

None of my current knitting projects are at a stage which is worth showing, but I do have a week off coming up at the end of the month, during which I intend to relax, chill out and knit.

All the best to you and yours, and I hope to be back with you soon.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

A Finish, a Start and some Fun

Apologies for the delay in coming back to you.  I did hope to be more on top of my blogging now I've restarted, but it hasn't quite gone to plan.  However I am here now.

And in accordance with the title of this post, I have a Finished Object.  I finished my Fireworks Hitchhiker on 22 May, washed it and blocked it, and have given it to my Mum, but strictly on the proviso that she gives it me back to be washed!

It is not a full Hitchhiker in that it only has 40 points - I had just over 3g (about 13m) left when I had finished the bind off.  The light is a bit off - the green is actually more yellow than you see here, but photography is not one of my talents.

Having finished one project and having received the needles for my next project, I then cast on for a new pair of socks.  But not just any pair of socks - this is my first colourwork project.  It is a Drops pattern, so free, and it is number 126-4.  I am calling them my Ring O'Roses socks - a slight variation on what Drops are calling the pattern.

Again, not a brilliant photo but at least you get some idea of how it is developing.  The main colour is Drops Fabel in the 400 Black colourway and the contrast colour is Drops Delight in the 6 Pink/Purple Mix colourway - the yarns used in the actual pattern.  I am enjoying knitting this so far, but it is definitely a at home alone in the quiet project - not one for Knit Group.

My other three WIPs have all made progress, but none of them have reached a point worth showing off.  Besides I wanted to tell you about my little jaunt last Sunday.

My oldest friend in all the world (we have known each other for over 40 years) and I have been discussing going for a walk in the Peak District of Derbyshire for some time.  The stars all aligned last Sunday and I drove out to her house, getting there about 9am.  She then drove us to Ambergate Station where we parked up before walking a short distance to the Cromford Canal.  I then got to choose between a 7.5 mile circular walk taking in the town of Crich mainly uphill through woods and probably muddy due to all the rain we had had in the previous few days, or a 10 mile return trip along the canal path to Cromford and back on the flat.  I am not a great one for excessive exercise so I chose the flat route.

We had a really good time.  The weather was just right - not too hot, not too cold.  The path was nice and dry.  We saw lots of interesting, fun things - a pike, swans nesting, a canal boat, a dinosaur, lots of baby ducklings, coots and moorhens.  The scenery was lovely.  We did lots of chatting and catching up.  On the way, we stopped at the place where the High Peaks trail crosses the Cromford Canal for a comfort break - and a dog's head appeared under the partition much to my surprise.  And when we got to Cromford, we ate our pack-up at a picnic bench and then decided to go across the road and take a look at Cromford Mill.  This was built by Richard Arkwright and is part of the 15 mile long Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Before we got to the road, we passed a building where we could see crafty stuff going on so we went in.  It turned out that the Arkwright Spinsters hold a demonstration on the 3rd Sunday of each month and we had struck lucky.  There was handspun yarn for sale and I came away with this:

100g and 198 yards of handspun Bluefaced Leicester.  No plans for this as yet, but I couldn't resist.

After having a look round the exterior of the Mill, we turned our feet back towards Ambergate, the car and my friend's house for tea.  By the time we reached the car, my right leg had put in a mild complaint at the unusual amount of exercise it had been subjected to and my left leg had thrown a major tantrum and was demanding to speak to the management!  Fortunately it had calmed down a bit by the time tea was over and I was ready to drive home, and getting up and pacing the hall several times later that evening meant that the following morning I was experiencing only very mild discomfort on my way to the bus stop.  But we had a really good time and are ready to repeat the experience.  We are also in discussions about going on holiday together next year, which would be fabulous.

In other news, I have lost another 2lb since I last posted, bringing me to 10.5lb lost in total.  According to my Mum and my sister, you can see that I've lost weight which is encouraging as I still have just over a stone to go.

I'm going to love you and leave you with some photos of my walk - what I really need to learn is how to stick them together into one montage, rather than have several separate ones - if you have any ideas on how to do this, please let me know.  Anyway, until my next post, may all be well with you and yours.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Stash, more Stash and a new Start

Ok, so there has been stash and lots of it.  There has also been a busy weekend and a new start.

I will begin at the beginning and go on until I get to the end.  In the beginning, I missed Love Your Local Yarn Shop Day as I said in my last post, so last Tuesday (9 May) I rushed out in my lunch hour to see what new yarns had arrived for LYLYS Day at my local yarn shop.  I had some gift cards that my family gave me at Christmas which I had been keeping for the occasion, and I came away with these:


The pair of skeins on the left is Eleanor of Knit Nottingham's own hand dyed 4ply yarn (80/20 merino/bamboo) in "The Deep", and my current plan is to make Helen Stewart's Talisman Shawl out of it.  The skein on the right is Fyberspates Scrumptious Lace (45% silk 55% merino) in the "Teal" colourway, which I bought because I love the colour.

In my last post, I also mentioned a project which I couldn't cast on until I had the right needles.  I ordered the needles on Friday night (12 May) and there may have been a few balls of sock yarn which also fell into the basket.

These are all Drops sock yarns bought in the on-going Drops sale at 35% off.  Top left is Drops Fabel Uni Colour in "Turquoise", top right is Drops Fabel Print in "Blue Lagoon", bottom left is Drops Fabel Print in "Berry Dreams" and bottom right is Drops Delight Print in "Pink/Purple".  There would have been more, but the colours I wanted were out of stock at the time of ordering.  This little lot arrived in the post yesterday, along with my new needles.

Then after ordering needles and yarn on Friday night, I went hunting through my stash of patterns and yarn to find a suitable sock pattern to cast on.  Having cast off my last pair of socks nearly a month previously, I was starting to get withdrawal symptoms.  I have plans for my first pair of colourwork socks but those had to wait for the needles that were on order.  I needed something that came between vanilla and complicated, something that I could knit on the bus.  In the end, I plumped for the Petty Harbour pattern by Rayna Curtis, which is a free pattern on Ravelry.  I am knitting them in Opal 20 Jahre yarn in the "Wir Sagen Danke" colourway.  

I cast the first sock on on Saturday morning - 64 stitches on 2.5mm needles.  I have gone down a needle size because I think that my tension has loosened up - I have been a very tight knitter and all my earlier socks have been on 2.75mm needles.  Apart from sock withdrawal symptoms, I cast these socks on because I was about to have a very busy weekend and wanted something relatively straightforward and portable to knit on.  

For the last eight years my Mum has organised an annual Open Gardens weekend on the street that I grew up on and this was the ninth and final year.  It may continue on a bi-annual basis but Mum won't be organising it.  Every year the event has raised money for a different charity and this year it was in aid of the local branch of Parkinson's UK.  There were 10 gardens open to the public, two cafes, a pop-up book stall, a plant stall, patchwork quilts for sale, performances by a local choir, folk singers and a storyteller and a Parkinson's UK stall.  

My role on these occasions has been to run the tombola (see the UK explanation).  The event is open from 2pm to 6pm on both the Saturday and the Sunday, and I spend those eight hours being polite and charming and persuading people that they want to pay 50p a ticket in the hope that they will win a prize.  The prizes are generally quite good as they tend to be unwanted Christmas and birthday presents donated by people in what is considered to be a "nice" area, so smellies, knicknacks, vouchers from the local garden centre and so on.

So for me, there is the setting up - we had about 300 prizes this year, the "selling" for four hours without a break, and the taking down.  The "selling" is the hardest part - I am not at all fond of people en masse, and after a while the "polite and charming" bit doesn't come as easily.  And this year there was the added bonus that one of the neighbours had organised a collection and presentation for Mum on Sunday night, and I had to somehow get her there without her knowing what it was for.

It was however a great success.  We raised over £3,700 for the local branch of Parkinson's UK, which they were very happy about, and hopefully I will never have to run the tombola again!

Also on a positive note, despite the non-Slimming World buffet at the seminar, I managed to lose another pound last week so have now lost 8.5lbs in total.  After all the weekend palaver, which included cake at the presentation, I am just hoping for any kind of loss this week.

Wishing you and yours all the best until my next.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

What am I knitting?

I thought that today I would show you my current works in progress rather than finished objects or stash. There is actually no new stash to show, but only because of a scheduling issue :-)

I have three projects on the go at the moment and one that I will cast on as soon as I have bought the right needles for it.

My oldest work in progress is my Seaspray Rib Jumper which I cast on 22 October 2016. It is a King Cole pattern No. 3933 for a ribbed V-neck jumper/sweater. The accompanying pattern is for a jacket in the same rib. I am knitting it in King Cole Panache, a 50/50 wool/nylon blend, in the Seaspray (2071) colourway. It is designed to be knit flat in pieces, which is completely different from my first jumper, which was a top down raglan. As you will see, I have knit the back flat, but am knitting the sleeves in the round to save on seaming. I finished the first sleeve this morning and have cast on the second sleeve this afternoon. I hope to get this finished before the cold weather comes back (if it ever goes away and lets us have a summer!).  The orange yarn is a lifeline which I put in before starting the decreases.

My next oldest work in progress is my Fireworks Hitchhiker.  I cast this on Christmas Eve 2016 to be my sanity knitting over the holidays.  I am using Peak District Yarns 75/25 4ply Sock Yarn in her "Fireworks over Tideswell" colourway, which I bought at Bakewell Wool Gathering last year.  When I showed Mum my purchases at the time, she said how much she liked this yarn and the other yarn that I had bought from Peak District Yarns which was in purples and black.  However I've been thinking - I can't remember the last time I wore my first Hitchhiker - it spends its life over a hanger in the airing cupboard - so how often am I going to wear this one.  So this may just go to Mum when it is finished, on the strict proviso that she gives it back to me when it needs washing, to prevent any unfortunate accidents.  I am currently up to 39 points - this is a 425m skein so I don't think that I'm going to manage a full 42 point Hitchhiker.  I'm not even sure that I will definitely get a 40th point out of what I have left, but will do my best.  This may be a finished object next time I post.  The colours are not quite right - it is more of a yellowy green than this.

My final work in progress is my Berries Snuggle.  I've written about this in a previous post, so will just say that I am still working my way through the first 200g ball of Marble Chunky.  Once I get to the end of it, I will look at it and decide how much longer I want it to be and whether I am going to buy a third 200g ball for that purpose.  If I do, that will be going against the stash busting objective of this project, but there is no point in creating an item which is not big enough to do what you want it to do.  I have put a pen on it to give you a better idea of actual length.

The project that I want to cast on next is this one - Drops Ring of Roses Socks.  I just need to get organised and order the proper needles.

And in other news, I said earlier that there was no stash enhancement due to a scheduling issue.  Basically I missed out on Love Your Local Yarn Shop Day yesterday because I had pre-booked myself onto a Guild of One Names Studies seminar in darkest Lincolnshire and was driving a friend there.  Despite the lack of yarn, we had a great time.  Neither of us had been to a Guild event for some time and the people we knew were very pleased to see us, and us to see them.  The topic of the seminar was Occupations and the sources you can use to find out about the occupations of the people in your one name study.  There were five really good speakers, but by far and away my favourite was the first one.  This was Paul Ellis who is the stone carver at Lincoln Cathedral.  He talked to us about his job and showed us some wonderful photographs of his work on the Cathedral.  My friend and I are now thinking of going on a road trip to check it out in real life.  Despite the crappy weather while driving there and back, it was a day well spent and I came home and cracked on with some research into an individual in my study, who appears to have had three wives and 27 criminal convictions!

On the weight loss front, I lost another 1lb this week which brings me to 7.5lb in total and which meant that I got my half stone (7lb) award.  Very happy with that - the only drawback being that the lunch at yesterday's seminar was not exactly slimming friendly, so I will just have to try harder this week.

It's getting a bit late and unfortunately I have to go to work in the morning, so I will leave you here.  Wishing all the best to you and yours.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Going on a Yarn Hunt

Well, here I am again and so much for not buying any more yarn until Fibre East!  In my defence, however, I discovered that I had booked myself on a family history seminar on 6 May, which here in the UK is Love Your Local Yarn Shop Day.  This counts as a party day at my local yarn shop - customers bring along food and drink and Eleanor buys in new yarn to tempt us with.  So, as I was going to miss the party and the new yarn, I decided I needed another opportunity to buy yarn.  And lo and behold, the indie dyer with whose yarn I am currently knitting a Hitchhiker shawl announced on Facebook that she was going to be at the Tideswell Food Festival.

Tideswell is a village in the Peak District of Derbyshire, the neighbouring county to mine.  It is about 1 hour 20 minutes drive away, so not too far for a jaunt.  So on Saturday last, I came out of my chiropodist appointment, went and put petrol in the car and drove off to Tideswell.  It was a nice enough drive and when I got there, there was free parking in a field just outside the village.  The only drawback to that became obvious when I opened the car door and found a relatively fresh deposit of sheep dung just where I was about to get out.

Once I had negotiated my way out of the field around the various deposits, it was a gentle walk along the road into the village.  The Food Festival appeared to be very popular as the parking field was just about full and the streets were full of people, often families, wandering between stalls.  The houses tend to be stone built and the deeper you go into the village, the closer they are to the road.  The stalls displayed all sorts of food from cheese to crepes to Thai to burgers to chicken tikka to olives to fresh bread and so on and so forth.

However my main interest was in the church.  Advertised as Craft in the Chancel, there were four stalls in the chancel of the church just before the altar rail selling jewellery, felted cushions, prints and yarn.  And this is what I bought:

This is Peak District Yarns - she can also be found on Facebook.  The colours of the skeins are actually brighter than this, and her prices are very reasonable for hand dyed yarn.

So what did I buy?  The two skeins on the left are her 4ply high twist 80/20 merino/nylon.  The greeny-bluey one is called Damflask, which is the name of a reservoir in the Peak District, and the purpley one is called Win Hill Witches, a reference to a hill also in the Peak District.

The next skein is her 4ply high twist 80/20 merino silk in the Siobhan's Silk colourway.  It is based on a photograph taken by the dyer's friend, Siobhan.  The last skein is in her 4ply 50/50 silk/merino base in the Silver Surfers colourway.

Next question - what am I going to do with them?  Well, the first two will probably become socks, lovely vibrant hand knit socks.  The third one is going to become an Ebb and Flow scarf, a drop stitch pattern from Peak District Yarns which I got free for buying three skeins of her yarn.  And the last one?  I haven't decided yet - it is so nice and squishy that I might just keep it to squish for the time being.

And if that was not enough yarn, what about this?

One of my colleagues has been away on holiday in South Africa for two weeks.  He came back in the office yesterday and presented me with yarn!  What you see there is 62g of natural hand spun South African yarn.  I have no idea what weight it is or how long it is.  Apparently there should have been a label, but it has become unattached.  The rest of the team got sweeties and I got yarn!!!  Guess who is currently my favourite colleague?  I have no plans for it at the moment - just so happy that someone really gets me!

In other news, I got weighed a day early last week and lost 0.5lb.  This was a tad disappointing because if I had lost a whole 1lb, then I would have got my half stone award.  I had to weigh-in early because we were going out for a team meal on my normal weigh-in night.  We went to a posh burger place but I managed fairly well.  I had a vegetarian burger (red kidney beans and beetroot) without the bun and I had the side salad instead of fries.

Tomorrow is weigh-in night and also I need to make the time to vote in the local elections.  This is for our borough council, which deals with council tax, planning, rubbish etc.  Then we have the build-up to the General Election which has been sprung on us.  I won't get onto politics as it will probably give me indigestion.

I think that I will leave this here for now.  My next post really ought to be about what I am currently knitting, just as a change from the projects that I finished while I was not posting.

All the best to you and yours, and I will be back soon.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Stash Enhancement and What I did on my Holidays Part 2

Hello and hope you are all well!

In this post I am going to combine a quick stash update with a few more of my FOs from my hiatus.  I was going to try and hold off on yarn purchases until the end of July when I will be going to Fibre East in Bedfordshire, but yesterday morning I felt like a little jaunt.  So off I drove to a yarn shop which I knew of but had never visited before.  They had quite a bit of yarn which I don't find in my usual yarn shop and some of it was on sale!  I therefore came away with a little more yarn to add to the already ridiculous amounts of yarn in my stash.

And this is what I bought! From left to right, there is a skein of Rowan Fine Art sock yarn in the Kingfisher colourway, a ball of Noro Silk Garden Sock in the S8 colourway and a ball of Katia Socks Darling 4 in colourway 60.  The Rowan and the Noro were on sale as either the yarn or the colourway are being discontinued.  These are all new to me sock yarns and it will be interesting to see what they turn into eventually.  Nothing is likely to happen to them just yet as I feel that I should be working more from deep stash, rather than casting on the new goodies.

All of my current projects are at that uninteresting to look at stage where, although you have made progress on them, it is either not immediately apparent or they haven't quite reached a point where you can say that you have hit a particular milestone.  So I am going to show you the next few of my finished objects from my long hiatus.

Moving on from my Hitchhiker, the next two FOs were both Christmas presents - the first got finished in time and the second being slightly delayed.

Every year I make Christmas ornaments for my two nieces and up until Christmas 2015, these had always been done in cross stitch.  2015 saw my first knitted Christmas ornaments going on the tree.  The pattern for these came from the "Keepsake Collection" and free yarn kit from Issue 86 of "Let's Knit" magazine.  They were knit flat on 3.5mm needles and the letters are done in duplicate stitch.  The first stocking was cast on on 31 August 2015 (forward planning!) and the second stocking was cast off on 2 October 2015.  However, due to my tendency to procrastinate, they weren't actually sewn up and finished until 22 December 2015.  That was the same day as I cast on the second Christmas project, the one that didn't get finished in time, mainly because I thought of it late and then had to order the yarn.

This is my third pair of Cabled Handwarmers designed by Pat Strong for Issue 38 of "Knit Now" magazine.  I called them "Going Postal" as they were a Christmas present for my oldest friend who is a postwoman.  They were knit flat in King Cole Baby Alpaca in colourway 502 (Grey) on 4mm needles.  The idea was that they would keep her hands warm but still enable her to make deliveries easily, and the colour wouldn't show the dirt much or attract unwanted attention.  Having cast on on 22 December 2015, the first handwarmer was cast off on New Year's Eve with the second one being cast on immediately and then cast off on 9 January 2016.  They were blocked and sewn up before being handed over on 18 January 2016.

The third and final FO for this post was something for me.  Back in July 2014, I went to my first yarn festival, Fibre East in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, which was a completely new experience for me, being more used to quilt shows.  The first skein of yarn I bought was sparkly sock yarn by Fleabubs by Lala in her "Where the Wild Roses Grow" colourway.  This then sat in my stash for the best part of 18 months until I decided that it was far too colourful to use for socks and that it deserved to be turned into something that would be seen.  So I cast on Kelly McClure's "Sockhead Slouch Hat", which is a free pattern on Ravelry.

This photo was taken while it was still a work in progress but the only photos I have of it as a FO are rubbish, taken indoors in the winter in very bad light, and I wanted you to get some idea of the actual colour of the yarn.  This was taken before I started the decreases, but basically you end up with a long slouchy hat with a rolled up brim.  You can see the finished hat here.

There are still a couple more "holiday" posts to come, but I don't want to make these posts too long and picture heavy.  So, moving on to what's happening in Real Life, my most recent trip to Slimming World revealed that, despite having had a very nice family Easter meal, I have lost another 1.5lb, bringing me to a total of 6lb in three weeks.  What is more, having managed to restrain myself from eating any Easter eggs, I was also Slimmer of the Week, which was a nice surprise.  The aim for this coming week is to get my half stone (7lb) award - this works out as about 3.2 kilos for people who work in metric.

In general, I am feeling quite positive and as if I am moving forward, instead of still being stuck in a rut.  I have plans for the next few weekends and will report back as I tick these off.  It's getting late now and I have to work tomorrow, so wishing all the best to you and yours!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Good Friday bind off, Easter Sunday cast on!

I have a FO!  Yes, I have finished my third project for 2017.  On the morning of Good Friday, I settled down with my knitting determined to finish my Socks on a Plane and be able to wear them for Easter.  So here they are:

This is a free pattern on Ravelry from Laura Linneman and is knit toe up on two needles.  This was a new technique to me but I enjoyed it so much I am now knitting sweater sleeves the same way.  The yarn is Sara's Texture Crafts in her Standard Socks - Odd Sox - Line Art base in the Watermelon Neon colourway.  I bought it at Fibre East a couple of years ago specifically for this pattern - it has just taken longer to get it knitted up than I anticipated.  Sock 1 was cast on on 17 December 2016 and cast off on 25 February 2017.  Sock 2 was cast on the same day and cast off on 14 April 2017.

Of course, the first comment from everyone who has seen them is that they are odd socks, and I have had to explain that that is what the pattern was written for.  The cables go down the outside of the foot so the pink sock is the right sock and the green sock is the left sock.  I like them very much and may well go hunting for yarn to make another pair.

Having finished my socks, I needed a new project.  I have got another sock pattern lined up but I need to buy the right needles.  It will be my first colourwork pattern, so I am not expecting it to progress very quickly once I finally get started.  In the meantime, however, I have cast on what I am calling my "Berries Snuggle".  As I am not sure what size it is going to end up, whether it is a blanket or a throw or whatever remains to be seen.  This is something of a stash busting exercise, using deep stash which I bought a few months after I started knitting.  I'm using James C Brett Marble Chunky in the Berries colourway and I have two 200g balls amounting to 624 metres.  It is a 3 row rib pattern with a garter border, and currently looks like this:

Only time will tell what it ends up looking like, but it is simple straightforward knitting which I can take to Knit Group and will use up my stash.  If it works out OK, then I have the same amount in two more colourways which could go the same way.

In other news, I had a great day off with eldest niece.  We bought clothes and books, we ate toasted teacake and later on pizza, we got her feet measured (at her Mum's request), we chatted and walked what felt like miles round town.  The one big fail was the new phone cover we were supposed to be looking for - we just couldn't find anything she really liked.  My sister finally texted to ask if she was coming home at all that day so we headed for the bus and icecreams.  I'm counting it as a great success on the Auntie front, and we still need to find a phone cover :-)

I also went to Slimming World that evening and found I had lost another 2lb, so 4.5lb in two weeks!  I had hedged my bets at lunchtime by having a veggie flatbread in Pizza Hut instead of pizza, but there was garlic bread.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and as well as casting on a new project, I went to my parents' house for tea.  We had an Easter egg hunt in the back garden, which means I now have chocolate bunnies in my fridge.  We were also "entertained" by my nieces, who put on a Easter Bunny playlet with Harry Potter references - sometimes being a good Auntie can be a real strain.

Tonight I have Knit Group and tomorrow is unfortunately back to work.  I hope that all of you had a good Easter (if you celebrate it) or a nice break (if you don't).

Wishing all the best to you and yours.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What I did on my holidays - Part 1

Hello again.  I want to start by thanking Cathy and Leonore for their kind comments, which made me feel it was worth posting again after all this time.

This is intended to be the first of a number of catch-up posts to show you what I got up to during my mental health break from the blog.  As my last post before then is dated 25 October 2015, there are nearly 18 months to cover so I am not going to put everything in one post because it would take forever and be very picture heavy.  Projects will therefore be shown in chronological order of finishing to make things a bit easier.

The first project that I finished after things got bad were my Twilight Cabled Handwarmers, which I made for my Mum's 70th birthday.

These used a pattern which I had previously used to make handwarmers for myself, designed by Pat Strong and featured in Issue 38 of "Knit Now" magazine.  This pair were knit in a hand dyed superwash merino DK from Truly Hooked in her "Twilight" colourway on 4mm needles.  They were cast on on 23 October 2015, bound off on 9 November 2015 and sewn up on 13 November 2015.  Mum liked them very much, but they don't look quite like the photo anymore as the colours ran when she first hand washed them, so they are now black, purple and grey instead of black, purple and white.

My second finish was my Hitchhiker shawlette.

This is a design by Martina Behm, which I cast on on 21 June 2015 and bound off on 23 November 2015.  The pattern is called Hitchhiker because it is supposed to have 42 points a la "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".  I knit mine in a heavy lace weight yarn from Fivemoons - their "Nanna Not Sock" base in the "Shepherd's Delight" colourway.  Instead of 42 points, mine has 50 points because there was 600 metres of yarn and I knit as many points as I could get out of it.

My third project, and the last one for this post, was a cross stitch piece, again for my Mum's 70th birthday.  This was done as part of a collective gift by the other members of Mum's patchwork group.  We all made a 12 inch block with a sleeve on the back which Mum could display on a decorative hanger.  The theme was Gothic, steampunk and skeletons.

This design is "Stitch Night at the Crypt Club" by Prairie Moon, stitched on 32 count Zweigart Murano evenweave in the vintage marbled grey colourway using DMC threads.  I started it on 31 August 2015 and finished the stitching on 6 December 2015.  It was made up as above on 9 December 2015 and handed over to Mum at the patchwork group meeting on 10 December 2015.

One of the reasons that this took relatively long, despite being quite a simple pattern, was that I struggled with the stitch count and found that I had to use a magnifier in order to work on it.  This, combined with other adaptions I found myself making, such as taking my glasses off to read, finally meant that I switched to wearing varifocals the following May (2016) and have been very happy with them ever since.

As you can tell, Mum's 70th birthday was a big event at this time and we, the family, organised a party to celebrate.  Lots of people came, friends and family, and a great time was had by all.  My sister and I spent most of our time in the kitchen dealing with the food etc, but it paid off and Mum really enjoyed herself.

At about the same time, I got two new jobs - one full-time and one part-time.  The full-time job I still have, but the part-time one as administrator for the flats I live in, which was strenuous while it lasted, has fortunately passed to another flat owner who is retired and has more time to give it.  However, I did manage to pay off my car using the extra money, which was a positive thing.

I'm going to finish here as I have tomorrow off to spend with my eldest niece who turned 11 last month.  I don't know where the years have gone.  It seems just yesterday that she started school and now she will be going to secondary school in September.

Wishing all the best to you and yours.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Honey, I'm home!

Hi, I'm back.  Yes, I know it's been a long time, the world has turned and things have changed.  Things have changed for me too.

I stopped posting for a number of reasons, but probably the main underlying reason was my mental health.  At the time I was in a very deep rut with my job, had just failed to get a new job and was heading into the depths of Winter, which always has a bad effect on me.  I had also become far more involved with knitting than with cross-stitch, and perhaps felt that people weren't as interested in the new direction I had taken.  So I was falling into the Slough of Despond and it has taken me quite a while to get myself to a point where I can hopefully see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Anyway, what has changed?  Well, the job I hadn't got when I last posted came back on the market.  It was a job that an ex-colleague had suggested to me, working for her new firm.  It turned out that the person who did get the job only lasted 1 day!  My ex-colleague got in touch to ask if I was still interested, so I went to see her and her boss, had a brief chat, and was offered the job.  I started the new job on 4 January 2016 and let's put it this way - when my ex-colleague handed in her notice this February, the general response of the rest of the team was one of concern - "Mountain Ash isn't going as well, is she?".

What else?  I took the plunge and went back to Slimming World last week - it was bad, worse than ever before.  I am perhaps still not in the right place mentally for losing weight, but my reasoning was that if I went back and stayed to group, then maybe that would get me moving.  I went back this week and found I had lost 2.5lb without putting too much effort into it.  So this is good and positive, and I will keep trying to move forward on this.

The knitting is still playing a major role in my life - it forms the majority of my social life as I am a member of two organised groups and one informal group.  I go to Knit Groups every Monday evening and every Saturday afternoon.  So, rather than make this post into War and Peace, I will show you a photo of my most recent finish and then do some catch-up posts to show you what I have been working on since I was last here.

This is Attune - it is a shawl pattern by Siew Clark.  I knit it in Cygnet Boho Spirit, which is a 100% acrylic DK yarn, in colourway 6461.  It took 6.63 balls of yarn which was 1591.4 metres.  I cast it on on 20 May 2016 and wove the ends in on 27 March 2017.  It has generally been known as "The Monster" because it is so big.  It is a circular shawl in 8 segments and each segment is larger than the previous one, so the first segment is quite short and the last segment is very long.  I am 5 foot 8 inches tall and this is what it looks like on me:

As you can imagine, I was very glad to reach the finishing line with this one.

So, apologies once again for the considerable hiatus between posts and I do have every intention of getting back on track.  Spring has sprung in the UK and things are definitely looking up round here.

All the very best to you and yours.
Mountain Ash