Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Enjoying the simple things

Since finishing a number of projects in recent weeks, I'd been finding it hard to get back into the groove of some of my older, long term projects. Nothing was really exciting me. What I really wanted to do, of course, is to buy more yarn and cast on for Eleonora, but as I mentioned on Sunday, that's not allowed until the start of May.

Surprisingly, it took a rather horrendous cold/flu type illness to get me going again. I have felt so terrible since Thursday that I've simply not had the energy to do (or concentrate on) anything more complicated than the real basics. It was time to resurrect the poncho! Small, mindless motifs are the perfect antidote to feeling ill but wanting to do something. Before I knew it, I'd crocheted up another twenty or so!

My motif-making kit, all stored next to my sofa in a handy bag.

I last mentioned the Poncho in November, when I was up to 54 motifs. I need 120, so I still had a way to go. Progress had stalled because I was running out of the pale brown yarn, but I managed to get my hands on some more a little while ago, when I was ordering the yarn for the hooded cowl and Sophie's gloves. Given the choice of paying for postage, or grabbing another ball of yarn that I needed... well, there isn't really a choice, is there!

I am still ignoring the mammoth task that will be
weaving in all of those ends
I did a quick count last night, I had reached 91. Only 29 to go! That'll be two more evenings, and then the real work begins. As all the notes I had made about this project were on the laptop-that-was-stolen and not backed up anywhere, I need to re-re-engineer the joining technique I devised.

Luckily, I'd tested it out on the first three motifs, so it shouldn't be too difficult to figure it out again.

I haven't had as much time for reading of late as I'd like; a combination of being ill and being busy in work. I had just finished reading Little Women, and started on Cranford, the last time I joined the yarn along. Well, Cranford didn't take me long at all! I much preferred the TV series to the book, but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless. After Cranford I took a break from the serious classics, and read some of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Mostly because we are now watching the TV series Grimm and rather enjoying it!

Once I was done with the children's tales, I decided I should crack on with another of the classics on my list. I got a few chapters into Uncle Tom's Cabin before I abandoned it. I just didn't get on with the way it is written. I will give it another go at some point.

So what am I reading now? Well, the smart among you will already know, because you will see the Goodreads widget in my sidebar! I've gone back to Alexandre Dumas, and am reading The Three Musketeers. Another classic I really feel I ought to have read long ago! I've seen so many adaptations of the story in film and on TV, but none of them are particularly true to the story. But it was a recent watching of an adaptation of another Dumas tale that made me want to read it. You may recall me reading and loving The Count of Monte Cristo recently. While I was reading it, Sky put the most recent film adaptation of it on Anytime. Every time we were looking for something to watch, Jamie would say "lets watch that!" and I'd have to say no, because I wanted to finish the book first. We finally watched it last week, and I loved it as much as I'd loved reading the book! Perfectly cast, perfectly adapted. Although I still maintain it would make a great full length TV series, in the way that Pride and Prejudice works far better in 6 hours instead of 2. Anyway, it reminded me how much I enjoyed reading Dumas, so The Three Musketeers it had to be! I'm about a fifth of the way through, and loving it. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Year of Projects update 25th March

Can you believe it, this is the last Sunday in March? That means we are three quarters of the way through the Year of Projects! The big question is of course, are we all three quarters of the way through our lists?

Once I discount the many projects I removed from the list because I either fell out of love with them, or realised I wouldn't have the time for, my progress chart looks pretty healthy! Only two projects on the list unstarted, only two projects still sitting as WIPs (I am counting the two projects still in need of blocking as finished for the purposes of this chart). Almost 75% complete, which is exactly where I should be!

I am a few steps closer to starting the final major project on the list as well. I purchased and downloaded the pattern for Eleonora earlier in the week, and after browsing the selection of yarns available in John Lewis have decided to use Rowan Wool Cotton. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to buy the yarn until we've moved house, as there isn't room for it here and I won't have time to start knitting on it yet anyway. So this one will probably get cast on in May, and will be my rush to the finish line project!

In the mean time, I guess I'd better get on with finishing the Cherry Wrap and Hypernova!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Green(ish) fingers

In the seven years we've lived in this house we've not had much success with gardening. Our yard faces north and is very sheltered, so gets very little sun. Every last inch of it is full of weeds as well, so any attempt to grow real plants fails almost instantly.

One of the things we've always enjoyed, though, is the sycamore that grows in the garden next to ours.

Sycamore buds

Every year we watch the bare branches burst into life, and I marvel at how quickly the flowers bloom, leaves spread out and seeds appear.

Sycamore seeds

While we don't always appreciate the amount of shade the tree provides (we get little enough sun in the garden as it is!), I do love the fact it screens the garden from our neighbours windows. Every year we say to each other that when the seeds are ready to fall, we'll collect some and try to grow our own. Unfortunately we always forget!

This last autumn it was even more important, because we kind of had a feeling we'd be moving house this year and I really wanted to take a piece of the garden with us. But once again, we failed to collect any seeds.

I was out in the garden this morning, hanging out laundry and enjoying the sunshine, when I noticed some odd seedlings growing in an old plant tub that's been sat under the sycamore for years. It's full of rain water, leaf litter and general garden detritus. So I was quite surprised to see eight little green seedlings poking through the brown gunk.

A quick Google told me what I wanted to know. They were sycamore seedlings! They must have fallen from the tree straight into the tub, and germinated in the last week or so. I immediately set about gathering plant pots and hunting through the shed for my half empty bags of compost.

I rescued eight seedlings from the horror bucket. Hopefully at least one or two will survive and grow, and we will be able to take a part of this house with us when we move next month.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Spring is Here!

Spring's first flowers
The first flowers in my garden this year

Daffodils on the river side


Spring flowers
I have no idea what flowers these are, but the tree is So Pretty.

I can't walk down the river and not take photos of the swans, they are gorgeous

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Year of Projects update - March 18th

I wasn't going to post today, as we were meant to be taking a day trip down to South Wales to visit family. Unfortunately, Jamie has a rather unpleasant cold and wasn't up to the drive (besides, we didn't really want to inflict his cold on everyone down there too) so we stayed at home and had a lazy day to ourselves instead. Of course, this does mean Rainbow Kitty will be late getting to his new home, but that can't be helped.

It has been a while since we had a Sunday to ourselves to just kick back and relax. We had waffles and ice cream for breakfast then settled in for a day of crafting. I picked up my hooded cowl, while Jamie got on with sculpting some Chaos Space Marines. Almost a whole season of Friends later, and some real progress had been made.

The pattern gives you the option to use either Kitchener stitch or the 3 needle bind off to finish the hood. As both techniques were new to me, I looked them both up on the internet and decided that the 3 needle bind off looked to be the less intimidating choice! So I knit one final purl row, then split my stitches evenly across the two ends of my needle.

I followed the instructions from Knitty, and dug out a 6mm needle to do the bind off.

I was surprised at how easy it was. I only had a few difficulties, getting the stitches to slide up my cheap bamboo needles without pulling the live stitches off with them. The seam is really neat!

Now all I have to do is work out how to block the damn thing! As the yarn is 80% acrylic, it's going to need a steam block, so I need to work out how to properly pin it out and steam it to get the right hood shape. For now, I will chuck it on the pile of "irritatingly shaped projects in need of blocking", alongside the Fern Cowl.

I may not cast on anything new from my list for a few weeks. I've got some non-YoP things to work on, plus I really ought to finish that Cherry Wrap!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Emergency gift

Crochet is great for emergency presents. On Wednesday, when we realised that we were actually going to be in Wales for Mothers Day, I decided we needed to bring more than a card, as we don't see each other that often. Crochet to the rescue!

I have a fairly large selection of colours in acrylic DK. I knew a small amigurumi would be the ideal quick project to get done, so I searched through the Ravelry database for a free pattern. After putting together a shortlist, I gave Jamie the final choice (after all, it is his mother I was making this for!) and he picked Caity Cat. While I love the colour scheme originally used in the pattern, I didn't have all the colours to hand. What I did have, was all seven colours of the rainbow.

We deliberated for a while over which shade of pink (of three) would be best used for the violet stripe, but I let Jamie make the final decision. It was really quick to make; I did all of the crocheting on Wednesday evening, and all the sewing together on Thursday.

I waited until this morning to take the photos, expecting to be able to go out into the garden to take cute photos in the sunshine. But it rained.

I made very few modifications, other than colour scheme. The main change was to crochet my green chains directly onto the body, rather than crocheting a chain then sewing it on. The leaves were sewn using the ends of the green yarn from the chain stitches.

One thing I loved about the pattern was the flower on the back. A cleverly placed chain of green hides all my wonky colour changes!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

WIP Wednesday

I thought I'd share with you an update on the fate of one of my Blog Hub Swap gifts. On Day One of the swap, my package contained an extremely cute Mousie for Mr Fidget. Paula posted some more photos of the mouse before it made the epic journey across the ocean last Friday, in which she says "it's rumoured that the cat was pretty pleased, as well".

Fidget really lives up to his name when he's had a bit of catnip

I think it is safe to say that he is more than just pretty pleased! That mouse moves around the living room floor a lot, for an inanimate object!

I take my life in my hands every time I try to steal that mousie away!

Still, it keeps him away from my giant ball of yarn that I'm using to knit my Hooded cowl, so that is another point in its favour! Speaking of which, I have defeated the magic loop demons, and reached the part of the cowl where I have enough distance between the collar and my needles to be able to knit completely flat.

According to the pattern, I only have about 20 rows to go before I start decreasing to turn my flat sheet of fabric into a hood. I'm not convinced it will be big enough at that point, but it's very hard to tell while it's on the needles, and I'm not sure I want to go to all the hassle of slipping all those stitches onto waste yarn just to see! I think I'll put a lifeline in when I get to the decreases, so I can always rip back if I decide to make it bigger.

I tried to get a decent shot of the patterned border, but it's grey yarn
and it's not exactly light in here, so this is all you get

I'm really enjoying this project, actually. The large part of the hood is just plain stocking stitch, but the cute lace and seed stitch border makes each row interesting enough to not want to put it down. As a result, it's grown really quickly.

Progress is going much slower on my latest work in progress - packing up the house before we move in April. It will be no surprise to you all to learn that my house is simply bursting at the seams with stuff, as all of our hobbies and interests seem to involve owning a multitude of things. We decided to start early, and get as much packing as we could done in a leisurely fashion over the next few weeks.

15 boxes packed so far

All we've done is books. 15 boxes of books. There's still two bookcases to go! It's a good job I've got my Kindle, or I'd have nothing to read at all for the next few months!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Fame at last?

I was pottering about on the internet the other day, checking Facebook, reading blogs, when I read a rather interesting post over at Crochet with Cris about a rapidly growing politically motivated knitting campaign that had started (I think) earlier that day. Her post is here. It's all to do with the ludicrous notion currently gaining ground in America that women shouldn't have access to contraception. An idea was sparked to knit or crochet female reproductive parts and post them to the various Congressmen in favour of it, in an attempt to demonstrate how strongly the idea is opposed by American women.

Curious, I wandered over to the Ravelry group to see what was going on, and was pleasantly surprised to see a link to my Crocheted Uterus pattern in the forum, in the list of suggested patterns to use. I didn't think much more of it until yesterday evening.

A friend of a friend posted a link on Facebook to an article on, clearly just thinking that it was a pretty cool thing people were doing and that others on her friends list would be interested. My friend commented on how small a world it was, as she knew one of the pattern designers in the article. Sure enough, when I followed the link and read the article and there it was. A link to my blog (the post featuring the pattern being released) in the list of suggested patterns to use!

I was understandably surprised, but at the same time feel quite honoured to be even slightly involved in such an important campaign. I've already spotted two new projects using the pattern on Ravelry, and hopefully more will follow.

On a more selfish note, it was pleasing to see my blog stats quadruple in the last few days, and a massive spike in the number of downloads of the pattern from Ravelry.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

It's all such a sequence of continuous delights*

After finishing a number of projects last week, I felt it was time to cast on something new. With lots of new yarn and patterns in the cupboard, I was a little spoiled for choice! But I decided to be good, and start something from my Year of Projects list.

I've had this Stylecraft Special Aran for a few weeks, all lined up ready to go for the Alasse Miriel Hooded Cowl. All I was missing was the pattern, but as it is only a few quid to download that wasn't really an obstacle! I very quickly got bored with the start of the pattern - a seemingly endless parade of 2x2 rib. I swear, the next thing I knit isn't going to have ribbing at all!

Yesterday evening I reached the interesting part, where you switch from knitting in the round to knitting back and forth. Switching from my DPNs to my ridiculously long cable needle was easy enough, but now I am faced with a new challenge - magic loop.

Somewhere between the yellow and white markers is the end of the row
Because I'm still quite close to the tube of ribbing, knitting back and forth is proving very awkward indeed, as the stitches are all determined to stay so close to each other and in a circle. Having never knit using a magic loop method before, I am finding it extremely slow and fiddly, constantly shifting my stitches up and down the cables to keep the needles free for the next few stitches! I can see that it will get easier as I progress up the hood, but for now each row is taking forever. I will persevere though, as I need to get this finished in time for the start of the LRP season at Easter.

I had hoped to have finished my friend's gloves by now, but after not quite concentrating enough while knitting them at roleplay night last week, I think I've made a mistake. Currently they are hiding in my knitting bag, while I pretend they don't exist so I don't have to figure out where I went wrong. I'll get over myself in a few days, and pull them back out to fix. I think I've messed up keeping track of my thumb increases, so will have to undo a few rows and recount.

As I'm going to link up with Ginny's Yarn Along today, I guess I should also talk about my recent reads. When I last mentioned it, I had just started Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I can't believe I never read it when I was younger! I loved every word of it, even if it does get a little religiously preachy at times. Reading it in work, I had to try very hard not to cry over Beth. I did struggle to keep that episode of Friends out of my head though, when Joey gets so sad about Beth dying that he has to put the book in the freezer.

I've moved on to another classic, as we couldn't find the trashy sci-fi novel I wanted to read anywhere in the house. I'm reading Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, mainly because I loved the BBC adaptation of it. The book is very different indeed! But it's a really easy read, with plenty of talk of knitting and crochet in it, and I'm flying through it at quite a rate. I shall be done in a few days. I think, even though at the moment I can only snatch half an hour or so at lunch to relax with the Kindle.

*Quote from the Cranford TV series

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Blog Hub Swap Day Seven

I'm quite sad that my week of opening presents is over. I've had so much fun doing this swap, from shopping for Natalie, eagerly awaiting her parcel to arrive in the post, watching her week of present opening unfold and seeing all the lovely comments everyone made on the gifts I had bought, through to the long wait for my own box of surprises to arrive, and the last week of opening a new present each day and knowing Paula has put as much love and effort into my parcel as I did for Natalie.

So what did day seven bring? Another flat, paper/booklet shaped parcel:

I asked Jamie what he thought might be in it and he jokingly suggested there was another pattern inside! I figured Paula was more inventive than that, so it would be something a little bit different, and probably not even yarn/knitting related at all. I guessed correctly!

It's a set of decorated sticky notes! Turns out we're all a teensy bit obsessed with stationery. I guess it appeals to the same part of our brain that loves yarn and crafts. These notes are going to come in very useful, especially over the next few months as we are moving house and will need to write ourselves lots of to do lists and reminders.

A massive THANK YOU to Paula for putting together such a fantastic, generous and thoughtful package for me. I have really enjoyed opening everything, nibbling on my posh American "candies", using my new soap and wash cloths and look forward to working with the patterns and yarn you have sent me. Mr Fidget also says thanks for his mousie (he loves it!) and the treats (almost all gone!).

And of course, a second massive thanks to Vivianne over at Kismet's Companion for organising the swap, and the rest of the guys over in the Blog Hub group for taking part. I've really enjoyed reading all the posts as the parcels have arrived, it looks like everyone's had a great time. Roll on the next swap! Actually, roll on Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, because that's the next big Blog Hub thing in the calendar!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Blog Hub Swap Day Six

I really did try to leave the yarn till last, but I couldn't help myself...

I had a feeling Paula had sent me more than the minimum 100g requirement, because the parcel was so big. As my parcel came from America, I was sure the yarn would be something new and exciting, as a lot of the staple yarns you Americans use are not available in this country without extortionate shipping fees.

150g of Knit Picks Capretta, a new merino/cashmere/nylon blend in fingering weight. Paula has clearly done her homework here, because everything about this yarn is perfect for me! I have used Knit Picks before, as we can get hold of some of them from Great British Yarns. It took her a while to get her hands on Chroma for her shop, so I suspect it will be months before she is even able to consider stocking Capretta.

As has been recently admitted, I have a bit of a love affair with merino/cashmere blends, so this is again perfect. It is so beautifully soft, it will be an absolute joy to knit. The colour is wonderful, a deep pink which isn't actually too far off how it looks in the photo.

And even better than that, as you can see from Paula's note above, the name of the colourway is "Fairy Tale". 

I suspect this will become a shawl of some kind. The two I've got nearest the top of my "want" list at the moment are Ishbel (gifted to me recently by a fellow Raveller) and Semele (which was in my parcel yesterday!) and I think either would look wonderful in this yarn. Unless you have any other suggestions..?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Year of Projects Update 4th March


I'm really starting to feel like I'm going to actually do everything on my list by the end of June! With 198yds of heaven and the leafy fingerless gloves finished last week, I wanted a quick crochet fix before I embarked on my next big knit from the list. I posted some early shots of it on Wednesday but it was such a quick project I actually finished it on Wednesday evening!

It's my Fern Cowl, not yet blocked so a little scrunchy in places. I will try and get it blocked this week, and take some better photos for next Sunday.

Meanwhile, today is day five of my seven day Blog Hub swap parcel! I let Jamie choose the next present to open, and he selected this flat, A4 sized one:

I wasn't sure if the inclusion of the pattern book meant the requirement for sending a pattern was fulfilled, so it was fantastic to see that not only had Paula stalked my Amazon wishlist to find the book, she'd stalked my Ravelry wishlist and picked out a beautiful shawl pattern for me.

The pattern is Semele by Asa Tricosa, and Paula has very kindly printed out both the written and charted instructions for me. There are so many beautiful versions of this shawl on Ravelry, I can't wait to knit it myself.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Blog Hub Swap Day Four

As I was out on Thursday night, I didn't get to open another parcel from my package until yesterday. Unfortunately, Jamie needed to borrow the laptop last night before we went out, and for some reason you can't access the Picasa web albums when writing a post on the iPad, so I've had to wait till this morning to show you what was in parcel number four!

I was quite in need of a sugary pick-me-up, so I decided to open the present that most screamed "I contain chocolate" at me.

I was quite curious to see what manner of local food delicacy I would get sent, since my parcel had come all the way from America. I've not had much opportunity to try much in the way of American sweets, having never visited the country myself, or really known anyone who has (or if they have, no-one who has been recently and brought me back chocolates!), so I was really excited when I opened the box to find this:

Jamie laughed at the box, and said it was "so American" and he's right. Paula's note said these were her favourite chocolates in the world, and they come from her home state of California. She did her homework well, because the box contains all dark chocolate and no nuts :)

I was surprised to find there was no little card inside to tell you what each chocolate is, and the See's website wasn't particularly helpful in that regard, as I was only able to identify the ones with the sprinkles on (Dark Bordeaux, I believe). That was the first one I tried, and I guessed at some kind of fudge filling. The description on the website is "brown sugar cream center" which again made us laugh for being so American.

The chocolate however was very tasty, and I look forward to snacking on the rest over the weekend.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Blog Hub Swap Day Three

Of the five parcels I have left to open, one is quite suspiciously yarn shaped and one is quite suspiciously "local food delicacy" shaped. The other three are all booky, papery shapes, flat and square. The rules of the swap said we had to include a pattern, so clearly one of these was going to be that. But what about the other two?

There was nothing else for it, I'd just have to open one of them and find out.

This one was particularly weighty and had a definite Bookish feel to it... and I was right!

Paula had been checking out my Amazon wishlist and spotted this book of Jane Austen inspired crochet patterns in amongst the craft books. What an amazing, thoughtful gift! Thank you Paula! You can see the patterns in the book on the book's Ravelry page here.

I can't wait to get my hooks out and get working on these!
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