Wednesday, 29 February 2012

My guilty project

I seem to recall reading recently about the antics of the publisher of a certain group of UK craft magazines, and how there is a whole list of publications I ought to be avoiding from now on (this post here is a good example, actually). I also seem to recall reading about the ongoing debate as to whether Debbie Bliss Cashmerino actually contains any cashmere at all, or if we're all being duped. So with a slight sense of guilt, I present my latest WIP:

It's the Fern Cowl by Claire Montgomerie, published in Inside Crochet magazine (although I got my hands on it through their Crochet Collection publication which I bought last year). The yarn is, you guessed it, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. Now, I don't care if there is some sort of controversy over it's fibre content, because it's a lovely yarn. This is the first time I've crocheted with it, an I have to say it's fantastic for it.

The stitch definitiion is great, and it slides beautifully over my wonderful new bamboo 4.5mm hook. I don't think this will stay a WIP for long, because it's crocheting up so quickly!

More WIPs over at Tami's!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Blog Hub Swap Day 2

I was so busy in work today that I forgot all about the box of presents waiting for me at home. It was very hard for me to concentrate on doing all the useful things, like the washing up, before being able to choose a present and open it.

This one had both soft squishy parts, and a strange square bit.

Another gorgeous ribbon bow, although I failed to slide this one off without untying it. When I opened the parcel, I realised straight away it was my hand knit gift today, as I recognised the yarn colours from a post of Paula's a couple of weeks ago.

Exfoliate! dishcloth.

Summer in Ashville dishcloth
Two gorgeous dishcloths, both in Knit Picks Dishie cotton. The colours aren't great in my photos, the dark red is far more red than that, and the Dalek cloth is a lovely pale pink. I can't really get Dishie in this country (Great British Yarns stock it, but it's twice the price of the Rico cotton I can get on eBay) so I'm really pleased that Paula has sent me these.

As for the strange square shape inside the package... nestled underneath the dishcloths was a bar of locally made soap, in a pomegranate 'flavour'.

It smells amazing, and I can't wait to try it out.

Unravel 2012

A little while ago, I saw someone mention Unravel and thought I might fancy going along. After all, Farnham is only down the road from us here, so it seemed rude not to go along! I convinced two of my friends to go along with me, so I wasn't going by myself. None of us really knew what to expect.

After frantically finishing my fingerless gloves on the Saturday morning so I could wear them along (after all, it is important to show of your own hand knits at places like this, right?), Sunday was actually a really lovely warm day; too hot for gloves! I compromised, putting them in my pockets "just in case" it was cooler there than it was at home and instead relying on my Jane Austen shawl (worn as a scarf) to demonstrate to my fellow show-goers that I was a serious crafter. Of course, it being too warm for a coat, I then undid all of that pretentiousness by wearing a black cardigan from Primark.

Knitted balloons!

The local knit groups had been on a bit of a yarn bombing drive in the previous week, so Farnham was covered in yarny treats, particularly in the direct vicinity of the venue.

Look! Crocheted yarn bomb!

As expected, I spent a lot of time ooohing and aaahing over beautiful displays of yarn in a wonderful rainbow of colour.

Fyberspates. I may have stood here for a while, wondering if I should
buy anything or if it was too expensive for my tastes.

Easy Knits. I just love the green in the top right corner.

This wonderful display is Knit by Numbers by Fibre Harvest
I was incredibly tempted by almost everything that I saw, and spent almost as much time trying to get Ravelry pages to load on my phone as I did fondling skeins of yarn! As you all know, I am not a fan of buying yarn without a Plan for it. After much consideration, I only bought one ball of yarn. This one:

My very own Zauberball
After seeing Chrissy's latest FO on Friday, I decided I wanted to follow her lead, and knit the same shawl. Looking through the many projects on Ravelry, it became clear that Zauberball was a great yarn choice for the pattern, so when I spotted a basketful on a stall I knew I was going to walk away with some if they had the right colour. I'm sure you would have all expected me to plump for a purple or pink selection, but I just love this blue/black combination and think it will really work in that shawl.

Of course, we found time for cake!

The other highlight of the day, besides all the wonderful yarn, was meeting Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch! Sarah was rocking her newly finished Hitchhiker and I have to say, it looks just as fab in the flesh as it does in her blog photos.

I think the main thing I have taken away from my trip to Unravel is now I know which of the "posh" yarns I read so much about are worth my time! I know which ones feel nice, which ones have the best colours... I also developed a new appreciation for natural colours, as the display from Toft Alpaca was wonderful (and I want to fill my house with their alpaca pom poms). I can see myself making purchases from them and from Nude Ewe in the future!

Olympia is too soon after this one to warrant the additional expense of travelling into London, but I'm going to try and make space in my calendar to go to Alexandra Palace in October.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Blog Hub Swap Day One

It's all happening this week! First I got excited about finishing my fingerless gloves. Then I got excited about going to Unravel. Today, I've come home from work to discover my Blog Hub Swap parcel has finally arrived! After a few weeks of seeing everyone else opening their presents, I think it's about time I got to have a turn :)

The customs label on the box got me very excited - it's come all the way from America! No wonder I had to wait for it. The label also gave away my swap partner - Paula over at Knit and Seek. It's weird, but I had a feeling last week that Paula was going to be responsible for my box. Spooky.

I thought I would just open up the box and have a look inside, before waiting for Jamie to come home and help me choose a parcel to open. But it looked so fantastic I couldn't help myself, and soon had them all out of the box.

Don't they look wonderful? I knew as soon as I opened the card that the presents contained within were going to be awesome.

I managed to hold off opening anything until Jamie came home, as I wanted him to share my excitement and see everything as it was straight out of the box. We had a quick squish of everything, then chose a parcel to open (as Paula has very kindly left the order of opening up to me).

What a lovely first gift! This one is for Fidget! It's a little Mousie (by Ysolda Teague), complete with catnip stuffing, and a packet of treats, chosen for the awesome flavour name "chicka chicka boom boom". Paula's note says she won't be disappointed if I keep the mouse for myself instead of giving him to the cat, because he's so cute.

She's right, he's adorable, and I would have kept him to myself, except that by the time I'd lined them up for the photograph, Fidget had already caught the scent of fresh catnip and was on the prowl!

The mouse is most defnintely his now.

I wonder which present I will open tomorrow. I can't wait! Thanks for a great first gift, Paula!

Leafy Fingerless Gloves Ta-Da!

It's been a long time coming, but as I said yesterday in my Year of Projects update, I have finally finished my leafy fingerless gloves!

As it turned out, the weather was far too nice to wear them all day at Unravel, so I didn't need to rush to get them finished in time after all!

Project: Thal's Winter Gloves
Pattern: Leafy Fingerless Gloves by Laura Peveler
Yarn: Knit Picks Palette in Ivy (less than one ball!)
Needles: 2.25mm DPNs

I started these gloves back in October, thinking that I'd get them finished in time to wear them to a LRP event in mid-November. As this was my first attempt at knitting anything on DPNs, never mind on such tiny needles, I think I was being slightly optimistic!

I struggled with the needles at first (my project page says it took me an entire evening just to cast on and knit the first round) and partway through the first repeat of the pattern for the cuff, I gave up on them and put them to one side. The event in November came and went, and the barely-started gloves just sat there.

In the mean time, I used DPNs on a variety of projects. The Free Rapunzel hat used chunky 9mm needles, and it was while knitting on that, that I finally got DPNs. I used smaller ones for my baby booties and hat, so when I finally came back to these gloves I was a lot more comfortable and confident with the unwieldy 2.25mm needles.

The first glove flew by after that, and shortly after Christmas, I finished it. Getting to grips with the fingers was a whole new challenge! I'd not done the whole putting stitches on waste yarn to use later before, but I quickly got the hang of it.

I think I did well not to get trapped by Second Glove Syndrome, and soon had glove two on the go. It's been stalled a couple of times, particularly in the last few weeks, and overall it seems to have taken almost as long to knit as the first one!

A quick note on the pattern itself. It is brilliant. For a free pattern, it is written very well with clear and precise instructions. I had no trouble at all keeping track of where I was, especially when it came to the thumb gusset increases.  I can heartily recommend it. One thing I would note, is that on the Ravelry pattern page it says there are two sizes available, however when I read through the pattern there are only instructions for one size. My hands are 8" in circumference, and they are a snug fit on me.

As for the yarn, I love Knit Picks Palette! The colour I used was chosen by you, my lovely readers, and I have to say I think you made a fantastic choice.

I chose to make the version with longer cuffs, so I did two full repeats of the 24 row pattern, before starting the thumb gusset increases. I love the travelling vine leaf pattern, so now my brain is busy thinking of ways to incorporate these leaves into other bits of my costume!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Year of Projects update - 26th February

I might be off to Unravel today, but I'm not going to leave you without an update! First up the exciting news - I finished my leafy fingerless gloves! I picked them back up again on Thursday at roleplay night, and finally got to the fingers. It suddenly occurred to me that with a bit of effort on Friday and yesterday, I could finish them in time to wear today (I feel a bit like I ought to be showcasing some of my best wearables at Unravel). I got all bar the index finger and thumb done on Friday evening, and as I was up ridiculously early on Saturday morning, I managed to sneak in the last of the knitting before I had to do anything useful. Weaving in the ends didn't take as long as I thought either! Will post some decent pics etc tomorrow.

Meanwhile, remember this?

My 198yds of heaven came off the needles last week a tiny, crumpled mess. I despaired at it ever being big enough to be useful. You see, I had to finish it before finishing the pattern, as I ran out of yarn. My Rowan Pure Wool Aran only had 186 yards in it, and when I got to the end of row 10 of the 16 row border I realised I didn't have enough yarn left to cast off. I had to unknit two entire rows, then work the cast off!

I'm still learning about different cast off methods, so this was the first time I'd used the k1, k1, k those 2 tog cast off. It is very neat, and stretchy, but it took forever. Well, alright, it felt like it took forever. In reality it was about an evening and a half of interrupted knitting time.

I gave it a good old soak and got to pinning it out on Friday last week.

I am both ashamed of the mess in my house, and proud of
my attempts to photograph myself using the tripod and timer

It grew so much! I didn't measure it beforehand (my bad) but fully stretched it is 39" by 18". I left it pinned out until Sunday evening, and when I took the pins out it didn't shrink one bit.

The colour here is almost perfect

I took advantage of a bright sunny moment before leaving for work earlier in the week to take a few snaps in the natural light. It is just big enough to wear around my neck, but it is far warmer than I anticipated, given its small size. If I knit this again, and I probably will, I will knit more repeats and make a bigger version. It's such a simple pattern to follow. A really good project for a first ever go at a triangle shawl.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Immediate satisfaction

It has to be said, a lot of my projects have been pretty long haul. Always a danger when you've got so many things on the needles at once, that nothing ever gets finished. So I was quite surprised to discover I was capable of knitting a pair of gloves in just a few hours.

Photographing black knits is difficult!

Pattern: Easy Half Mitten 106 by Michelle Porter
Yarn: Wendy Mode Chunky in black
Needle: 5mm DPNs

Clearly, the most obvious modification here is that I've added partial fingers. These gloves are for Jamie to wear while LRPing so he needs to be able to manipulate things with his hands, while having toasty warm fingers. Knit in a serviceable black, 50% merino/50% acrylic yarn for warmth, durability and (most importantly) machine washability. They're going to get covered in fake blood and mud, so I wanted to be able to throw them in with the rest of the kit to get clean! I used just over half a ball, so they cost a grand total of £1.70 for the pair. I'm not sure what I'll do with the remaining almost-half, probably knit a matching pair for me!

I started these on Saturday afternoon. The first glove took a little while, because I had to keep stopping to try them on Jamie's hand for fit, and to write down exactly what I was doing so I could replicate it for the other glove. No fancy pattern means they are both identical. The partial fingers are a bit fiddly, with all the attaching yarn and picking up stitiches, so they took longer. The second glove I knit in the car on the drive to Swansea on Sunday morning; I cast on in the house before we left (didn't fancy negotiating transferring stitches from one DPN to another while being jostled about in the car), and knit the entire glove during the three hour journey. It was a close run thing, though. We were getting very close to our destination and I still had a finger and the thumb to knit! A proper race against time in the end, which did make us laugh.

I managed to weave in the ends on one glove during our visit, then did the other one in the car on the way home, before taking over the driving duties. This has to be my quickest knit to date. Definitely going to knit more gloves if they all go this smoothly :)

More FOs on display over at Tami's!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A new project and a new book.

I just can't resist casting on new projects! I seem to have developed a slight obsession with knitting gloves. It started with the leafy fingerless gloves, which are still in a state of needing-to-be-finished.

Ok, so they haven't changed in two weeks. My bad.

I was finding them a bit of a struggle (and, knit as they are from fingering weight yarn on teeny DPNs, kind of reinforced my lack of desire to knit socks) but once I'd finished the first glove and tried it on, I was overwhelmed with the amazing-ness of having made a glove that fitted perfectly.

I quickly found myself casting on and knitting a second pair of gloves, this time in chunky yarn. My Free Rapunzel gloves were a really quick project, and I loved knitting them.

Now I have a new camera I should take a better photo of these.

So much so, in fact, that I used the same basic pattern to knit a pair of gloves for Jamie last weekend (without the cables - I don't think he'd want cables on his gloves).

Now I am on pair number four. Shortly after I finished my Rapunzel gloves, a friend was complaining her hands were cold and she had no decent gloves. I tweeted that my hands were cosy and warm in my new hand-knit gloves, and suggested I could make her a pair.

Colour totally not accurate. Still not down with the whole photoshop thing.
I decided to use Cashmerino again, because that's what my gloves are made from and I love it. I let her choose the colour and the pattern. She's chosen Natalya and I'll be doing the partial finger version.

Even this colour isn't right. But it's better than the first one.
Not having any issues with these cables so far. I've got a proper cable needle so I'm not having to make do with a spare DPN. I'm 2.5" into the 6.5" long cuff, after only an evening or so of knitting, so I think these are going to be pretty quick to knit up.

As for my book; I finished Monte Cristo the other day. I really enjoyed it. I loved that I was still being surprised by it right up to the final pages. It's very well written. Now I've read that, I am looking forward to reading The Three Musketeers, as that's the same author so should be written in a similar style.

I didn't want to dive right into that, though, so I've started reading another book from my list of classics I really ought to have read by now - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This one somehow remained under my radar when I was younger, and it was only after it featured in an episode of Friends (the one where Joey is made to read it while Rachel has to read The Shining, and they end up having to put Little Women in the freezer because it makes Joey cry) that I realised it was a book I might want to read. I'm not that far into it yet, but am enjoying it so far.

Head over to Tami's for more yarny progress, and to Ginny's to see what folks are reading as well as knitting.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Year of Projects update - 19th February

I know, last week I said (in good faith, I might add) that if I really focused on them this week, I'd finish my fingerless gloves. Well, I didn't. I haven't knit on them all week. I'm that rubbish.

What I have done is finish 198yds of heaven!

Fresh off the needles

I got it soaked and pinned out on the blocking board on Friday evening. However, as I am spending my Sunday driving down to Wales and back, you'll have to wait for the big reveal!

One more project knocked off the list though, so I can turn my thoughts to what I should cast on next. These are the remaining unstarted projects on the list:

Ribbed Lace Bolero - I did start this, and really wasn't feeling it. I may cut this from the list, because I am just not inspired to try again with a different yarn. I have other plans for my Rowan Calmer now!

Eleonora - I still want to knit this. I think I need to buy the pattern and read through it before choosing my yarn though. Probably going to be the last thing I start.

Sojourn Falls Scarf - I'll be honest, I'm falling out of love with this. I'm having such fun with my fingerless gloves in Knit Picks Palette that I'm halfway to convincing myself to abandon this scarf and use the red Palette I've already bought to make more gloves. Or, buy another colour of Palette and try my hand at colourwork for the first time.

Alasse Miriel Hooded Cowl - I have the yarn and required needles, I just need to download the pattern and I can get started on this. I've got a new deadline for getting my costume knits finished, as the LRP season kicks off in earnest at Easter. A month and a half to finish my gloves and knit this hood!

Persimmon Pullover - Another pattern that was a good idea, but now I'm reconsidering. I may pull this from the list too. I just don't think I'd wear it.

Fern Cowl - I have everything I need to start this now, after picking up a 4.5mm crochet hook yesterday.

Pond Friend Stacking Toy - I still want to make this! Maybe I will get around to it in time for a Christening present for our niece.

So if we eliminate all the iffy ones, I've only got four projects left that I haven't already completed or started. This whole list thing is working out quite well!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Swaptastic FO

Bit of an unusual FO to share this week. My plans laid on Sunday, to concentrate on my leafy fingerless gloves this week and get them finished... well that didn't happen. They haven't moved on a single stitch.

What I have done, is finish 198yds of heaven! My first triangle shawl is off the needles. No pictures, because it's currently a sad looking, crumpled mess. When it's been prettified through the magic of blocking I will share it with you.

Instead, I'm going to point you elsewhere to see my latest FO being revealed one step at a time. Last month I signed up to a swap in The Blog Hub group on Ravelry, and I sent out my parcel last weekend. I was over the moon when the draw for the swap was done, as my allocated recipient was none other than my alter ego, Natalie over at Misadventures in Craft. We had to send 7 individual gifts, intended to be opened and blogged on a different day over a week. Nat's on day three now, so head on over to her blog to see what I put in her parcel!

If you head over to Tami's, you'll hopefully see some more traditional FOs on display!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The return of WIP Wednesday and the Yarn Along

It's been a few weeks since I've been organised enough to post a WIP Wednesday/Yarn Along actually on a Wednesday!

I'm on a bit of a dishcloth craze at the moment (hardly surprising, given I recently took delivery of a large bag of Rico cotton in wonderfully bright colours). This is the Angels Have The Blue Box pattern, which obviously I am doing in blue.

The enlargening of my square granny blanket is progressing slowly. I am on the tenth round of my adding, and am now starting to scratch my head over which colours to use next. Whoever made the original blanket had quite an eclectic selection so I'm sure whatever I use won't look out of place!

As for the reading part - I'm loving my new kindle so much! It makes reading and eating at the same time so much easier. I'm over halfway through The Count of Monte Cristo now, and enjoying it very much. Although, I have to say, I am starting to get a bit confused over who everyone is, how they are connected to each other and exactly how Monte Cristo's revenge is going to pan out. I have to finish it soon though, as the film is currently available on Sky Anytime and Jamie is desperate for us to watch it!

Reading this is forming part of my not-yet-publicised reading challenge for the year. I realised there are a lot of classic novels I haven't read, so am determined to read as many of them as I can. I've made a list, and have downloaded quite a few of them to the kindle already. The good thing about classics is a lot of them are in the public domain now, so the e-books are free! Come find me on Goodreads to see what I've already read this year.

Head over to Tami's for more works in progress, and to Ginny's for more yarn along posts.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Blackberry Gin

You may recall back in December, my mentioning that a friend and I were experimenting with flavoured gins, having found a glut of sloe berries while out on a walk. The fruits of our labours were a bottle of sloe gin, and a bottle of blackberry gin, as we ran out of sloes before we ran out of gin to flavour. I was charged with the care of the blackberry gin, and when I brought it home it looked like this:

After several weeks of shaking and peering through the glass to see what colour it was now, we decided it was time to test the gins. Both had developed a really lovely dark red colour. So last Friday evening we got together, strained the sloe gin and had a taste of them both.

Sloe gin straining is a messy business. We had
very purple hands by the time we were done!
Blackberry gin
The blackberry gin we didn't strain, we just poured straight from the bottle and considered it a bonus if you got a berry in your glass along with your gin. I tell you what, those berries were lethal!

The sloe gin was lovely; we drank it with tonic water and it went down very easily. But the blackberry was the hands down winner of the evening. It is gorgeous! Tastes so delicious and you don't really notice that you're drinking gin neat, so it's pretty dangerous. Before we knew it, we'd drunk most of the bottle and were more than a little tipsy.

I'm quite looking forward to finishing the gin off and rescuing all those berries. I plan to make some sort of dessert out of them, maybe put them in an apple crumble or something. And we'll definitely be making blackberry gin again!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Year of Projects update - 12th February

It was with great excitement that I went into town yesterday morning. I picked up a lovely parcel of yarn from the sorting office, including one new yarn for a yet-to-be-cast-on YoP project. I posted my giveaway prize yarn, and my Blog Hub swap parcel. Most exciting of all, I bought my Sony Cybershot camera!

It all worked out rather well, in the end. There was a better version of the camera I had chosen on display, which was on special offer. It was the same price! So I didn't spend any extra money, but got a lot more camera. It's the W570 model, which has a couple of really exciting features. The HD movie recording records into mp4 format, and it has a panoramic sweep function, where you press the button and gently sweep the camera round from left to right, creating a fantastic 180° view.

Thames panorama 1
Click through to Flickr to see it bigger

I took the above this morning when we went to Tesco; the River Thames flows right behind the superstore so we popped out onto the riverside to test the camera out. More shots on Flickr!

On to yarny things then. I am finally free of the rubbish iPhone photos and can take decent shots of my projects again! So here's a look at the YoP projects that are currently getting all the attention.

I think this is the first time I've snapped both gloves together

Just to prove I really am working on the second leafy fingerless glove, here is a shot of the two together. I've just put the thumb stitches on holders, and am working the last couple of rounds up to the base of the fingers. If I focus on these this week, I think I'll get them finished.

Gratuitous close up to show off my camera's macro abilities

Hypernova came out of hibernation
I've been working on Hypernova some more this past week or two. It's now about 27 inches long, and I'm not even halfway through the skein yet. I've still got something like 84g of yarn to go, and I don't start the increasing fan section at the end until I'm at about 25g remaining.

My newest YoP project has grown considerably in a very short space of time, but I am not surprised because it's a triangular shawl in aran weight yarn on 5.5mm needles. It's the 198yds of heaven shawl I started as a comfort knit after the burglary.

I'm almost through the second repeat of the body section, so I have maybe 15 rows of body section left, followed by 16 rows of lace border and the bind off. I'm hoping I don't run out of yarn, as I only have 186 yards of this gorgeous Rowan Big Wool.

I mentioned at the start of this post, that I've ordered more yarn for another project on my list. It's for the Alasse Miriel Hooded Cowl which I will be knitting for LRP costume. I've opted for Stylecraft Special Aran with Wool in a gorgeous charcoal grey (colour chosen by Jamie).

I may have enough yarn here to knit two of them, which would be great as my friend is joining my group this year and we're trying to coordinate our costumes. I will see how much I have left after I've finished the first one, as the balls are so large, I don't really want to be buying another one for the sake of an extra few yards of yarn!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Sneaky peek

I haven't really been working on any of my projects this week. Mainly because I've been focusing on knitting and crocheting for my Blog Hub swap partner. I wanted to get the parcel in the post this weekend, so had to have everything finished by this evening.

Instagram can only do so much to crap iPhone snaps!

I have, only moments ago, woven in the ends on the last piece. Now all that is left is to print off some patterns, write the notes to accompany each of the seven separate gifts in the box and find a box or envelope to put it all in. I'm pretty sure I've got a huge padded envelope I can use, because I always keep them when I receive them on the grounds that they'll come in handy.

Because I rather like the effect, here's a close up of the basket weave crochet

Things are slowly getting back to normal now, following the burglary. I have my new kindle and Xbox, and tomorrow I will be getting the first of my two replacement cameras. I'm using the theft of my camera as in incentive to upgrade, so when the insurance money comes I will be getting a shiny Canon DSLR camera, which I will then have to learn how to use. In the mean time, I am picking up a much cheaper and far more cheerful Sony Cybershot which I will use to take far better photos for the blog than my phone is managing.

I can't wait any longer, I am getting really frustrated with the lack of decent photos! I got so used to having my camera with me all the time last year, forcing myself to take photos of everything just so I'd have a choice for my photo of the week. It feels really strange now, to be out and about seeing things I want to photograph, only to realise the best I can manage is this:

You may not have noticed, but it snowed in the UK this week,

There are far more exciting finished projects on display over at Tami's. You should go check them out.
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