Saturday, 30 July 2011

A New Craft

As if I didn't have enough on my plate, between my Year of Projects list, the War on WIPs and several crazy ideas I've had for Rugby World Cup themed crocheting... I've thrown another craft into the mix and am having a play with jewellery making! Well, not actual jewellery, but the principles are the same.

You remember my Sweet Pea Shawl? I had decided to forgoe the tassles in favour of beaded dangly things. Having ordered my supplies from various eBay bead and jewellery supplies shops, I left it all to one side, reasoning that I had plenty of time until the shawl was needed, and I'd much rather get on with knitting and crocheting projects from my list. I had a bit of a panicky realisation the other day, when I looked at the calendar and discovered that July was almost over, and the wedding I plan to wear the shawl to is in a week's time! So away has gone the knitting and the crochet, out has come the jewellery making supplies, and I've been zipping through my dangly beady things. 

My supplies! Millefiori beads in two different sizes, plain silver beads,
silver headpins and silver lobster clasps.

Colour matching

Two finished beady dangly things

And an arty shot of them attached to the shawl

I need 50 in total, so far I've made 14. I'm rapidly running out of the same colours between my big and small beads, so I think I will have a fair few with sort-of colour matches. I'm sure it will look ok, if I spread them out inbetween the ones with complete colour matches. I've also successfully broken one small bead (the hole was too small for my pin, and as I tried to put it on, the bead split in half) so there is one too few small beads now as well (I only had 100 to start with).

I had bought some clear glass beads as well, which I was going to use as a spacer inbetween the large and small coloured beads, but they don't fit on my headpins!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Lack of Progress Wednesday

I have made very little progress this week. And what little I have done isn't exactly all that exciting for reporting on. The trouble with knitting, especially things like my Easy Lace Stole, is that you work on it for ages, and it doesn't actually look all that different. I know it's got longer, but when you compare how it looks now, to how it looked last time I took a photo, there's barely any noticeable change.

I did, in the spirit of my new War on WIPs, actually get out my poncho and work a few more motifs. Having re-wound my acrylic balls into lovely fat centre pull cakes, working on these motifs is a lot less irritating! That said, I still only managed to make a few more! I'm working on making a big pile of the middle bits, then joining them together with the green in a big joining up session.

I've done a few rows here and a few rows there on my other projects, as you can see by the creeping of the progress bars on the right. But nowhere near as much progress as I'd have liked to be getting on with. I'd like to claim that there is a wonderful excuse for my lack of knitting/crocheting; that I've been working each night in a soup kitchen feeding the homeless, out rescuing abandoned kittens or similar. Sadly, the actual reason is far less impressive. I have a new computer game.

Evenings that would normally consist of collapsing in front of the TV while knitting are now taken up with hacking, slashing and looting. We've been waiting to get our hands on this game for quite a while, since we first heard it was coming out. Proper hack-and-slash RPGs with good 2 player co-op modes are hard to come by, and so far, this one is living up to expectations. What I really love is that the game is a little bit steampunky, so my character doesn't have swords etc, she has guns. Three big guns. It's awesome.

I have no idea how far through the game we are. But I can't see us opting for watching boring old TV when this is still an option for the evening's entertainment. So knitting may take a back seat for yet another week while we fight our way through to the end of the game.

I don't even have any particularly portable projects either, so I can't even knit on the train. Mind you, I'm so engrossed in re-reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire I don't think I'd want to relinquish my reading time to knitting at the moment!

If you head on over to Tami's, you'll find far more exciting knitting/crocheting progress from my fellow WIP Wednesday bloggers.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Year of Projects update - July 24

Another week, another project finished! Admittedly, a rather short crochet project using very bulky yarn and a large hook, so it only took a couple of days of not-solid effort.

I really wasn't sure about my yarn colour choice, but as it worked up it turned into something lovely. It still needs blocking, because it doesn't drape as nicely as it could, but I haven't done that yet, as I will need clear floor space which we don't really have right now.

You may recall my complaints last week over how squeaky the yarn was. Well, it did get better and the fabric created is oh so soft, so I'm definitely not going to let the squeakiness put me off using James C Brett Marble again. In fact, the left over yarn I've got from this project goes really well with my other bulky weight acrylic yarn in my stash, which is bright green, so I think some sort of green-and-brown amigurumi will be happening in the future!

So, of course I still have my Easy Lace Stole on the go. I had intended to work the knit projects one after the other, but this stole is going to take so long to finish, I decided to start the next one as well. The lace stole will be my roleplay night project, so will get worked on Thursday evenings.

The next knit project on the list is the Thinking of You scarf, but after buying and downloading the pattern, I realised that the Victorian scarf is an easier knit, so I've cast on that instead!

Much quicker than the lace stole! It's only 21 stitches wide, and as it's DK weight yarn, it's knitting up really quickly. It's a relatively simple 8 row pattern, with 18 repeats in total. I'm exactly halfway through. The yarn - Sirdar Simply Recycled - is lovely. Soft and silky, a little bit splitty, in the same way the bamboo cotton was, so I'm expecting that's because this is also 50% cotton.

I haven't abandoned my crochet hooks though, in favour of the knit side of my list. I started the Jane Austen shawl a few days ago as well.

I'm on the 4th row out of 32. But each row is incredibly long! Crocheting with laceweight yarn is hard going. You'd think I'd be used to it, what with my ongoing filet crochet project, but no. Luckily, I am not planning to wear this till October, so I've got plenty of time!

This is probably the closest I've got in getting the colours right in the photos on this yarn as well. Previous pictures of it have made it look very purple, but it's actually quite pink. I chose this yarn (an alpaca/silk blend) because I so loved working with the Debbie Bliss Andes I was given for my birthday, but in a lace weight it isn't as noticeably smooth in my hands. I'm certain the finished shawl will be wonderfully soft, but it's not as luxurious to work on as I expected it to be.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The War on WIPs

Ok, so I might not be as crazy as Keri (who, along with the Year of Projects, is now also planning to knit 26 pairs of socks in the same timeframe and has joined in another KAL on top of that), but I did discover another blog-a-long challenge that I am adding to the list for the forseeable future.

Over at Revelations of a Delusional Knitter, War has been declared on all those projects languishing in boxes, bags, drawers and otherwise hidden from view.

Now, unlike earlier in the year, when I had up to 10 WIPs on the go at once, things aren't quite so bad as they seem round here at the moment. I've got 5 active projects on Ravelry, of which three belong to the Year of Projects, so they don't really count for this. This is for old projects that have been abandoned.

Well, I have two of those. Regular readers will recognise them, and I'm sure will be keen to see them finished, given all the lovely comments they've received in past posts! There's also one other WIP, not a knitting or crochet one, which I'm going to add to the list because it's about bloody time it got finished.

First, it's Wand'ring Lonely, my poetry inspired filet crochet panel which I originally started thanks to the Craft-a-Poem challenge started by Lazy Knits and Purls. I've been working on this since the middle of March, and I'm only a third of the way through. I want this finished so I can frame it and put it up on the wall!

My other longstanding WIP is the Poncho Resurrection, which has looked like this for the last month, completely untouched following the making of the first three motifs. Out of 120. So there's a long way to go yet!

The final WIP I'm going to try and get finished is this cross stitch kit which I've been working on for an absolute age. I think it was meant to be a Christmas present, at least two Christmasses ago! All of the colour is done, what is taking the time is I decided to do the entire background as well, in white, and fill it out enough to frame it.

As you can see, I've still got a lot of white to do! It will definately need a good clean when it's finished, as you can also no doubt see, Jamie has spilled coffee on it at some point.

While my list of WIPs is not never-ending, I am hoping that having this obligation to make progress to report on will prevent these projects from being totally overwhelmed by my Year of Projects list! I believe the progress reporting day for the War on WIPs is Thursdays, but I may not stick to any sort of schedule on this, and just post updates as and when I have updates to make.

Friday, 22 July 2011

FO Friday - another secret project sees the light of day

Hooray! Another birthday has been and gone, and I can now reveal yet another secret project I've been sitting on for weeks.

This time, it was for my Dad. You may remember the Secret Birthday Shawl I made for my Mum's 60th earlier this year. Well, this week it was Dad's turn to reach that particular milestone, so a little while ago I put my thinking cap on and tried to find a project for him that would be just as awesome.

My first thought would be a nice hat/gloves combo he could wear to rugby games in the winter, when the rain is lashing down and the winds are howling, a nice hand-knit woolly hat and gloves would keep him lovely and warm. Sadly, my knitting fu is still weak, so that will have to wait. Also, who wants to receive a big woolly hat and gloves as a present in July? Maybe he can have those for Christmas. Next year. If he's lucky*.

So I thought I'd do something a little sillier, and hopefully put a smile on his face.

Pattern: Amigurumi Basic Doll by Beth Ann Webber
Yarn: Sirdar Bonus DK
Hook: 3.5mm

Quite clearly, I've made a fair few adjustments to the basic pattern. I modelled my design on a photograph of one of Wales's most hardworking rugby players - Colin Charvis.

I did the shoes and socks by replacing the skin colour with black and white respectively, crocheting into the back loops only when I reached the top of the socks to try and create a ridge at the top of the sock, to make it look like they were on the outside. I think it worked.

The shorts and top I improvised, worked flat then sewn together around the body. The shorts are sewn to the body, but the shirt is not. I was foolish, and attached the head before doing the shirt - if I did this again, I would make the shirt in the round first, put it on the doll like you would dress a person, then attach the head.

The hair is made by crocheting the first half of the head pattern in the hair colour to make a wig cap. I used the loop stitch to create the effect of Colin's curly hair. The eyes are just small rounds of white with a small black safety eye in the centre.

The three feathers would have been a bit tricky to embroider, so I improvised with three white lines on his left breast.

This is a proper sized rugby ball, for size comparison.
Yes, it's signed by the 2005 Grand Slam winning Wales team.

Dad had the cheek to ask me why he didn't have a number or name on his back, or any advertising on the front of his shirt!

You know the drill, more FOs over at Tami's!

*That sounds really uncharitable, but in my family we do have a tradition of not giving each other gifts; I'm only making the exception for birthdays this year because they're all hitting milestones. Both parents turned 60, and my brother is turning 30 in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

I have a stash!

Since I started down this knitting/crocheting road, I've had to listen to a lot of people talking about their yarn stash. While I was filling my shelves with cheap acrylic to make blankets, baby gifts and cute little amigurumi, I secretly yearned after these mythical stashes filled to the rafters with soft squishy hanks of truly expensive yarns.

Being a practical sort, though, I didn't see much point in buying yarn simply because it was pretty. I need to know what it's going to become. I'd hate to think of buying a gorgeous skein of handpainted whatever, only to find, when I come to use it years down the line, that I actually need two, and now it's discontinued and impossible to get hold of in the right colour. Plus, y'know, I'm not made of money.

So I've planned my projects carefully, bought yarn only when needed, and in the exact quantities required. Of course, I've had to do a lot of yarn substitution as most of the patterns I've used have been American, which has led to accidental stashing of too much yarn. (See my massive over-estimation of yarn required for the Avalon Top, which allowed me to also make the Aurora Vest!)

But one thing the Year of Projects is allowing me to do is to plan ahead with my projects, and order the yarn in sensible batches to make the most of voucher codes and free delivery savings. So, after my last lovely parcel from Deramores arrived today, I think I can now claim to have a stash of my own!

This is my stash of acrylics, mostly DK weight with a little bit of bulky
on the side. There's also a ball of sock yarn hiding in there somewhere.

This is my Year of Projects shelf. All the yarn in here is assigned to
a project from my list, and will be used at some point this year.

The new additions to the stash today are a cardigan's worth of Wendy Merino Bliss DK in a lovely deep burgundy red, some beautiful slate grey Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran for a cowl, and a scarf's worth of Cashmerino DK.

As you can probably see from the acrylic shelf, I have a new toy as well. A great eBay find - my own ball winder!

I've been re-winding my acrylics to get them to fit better on the shelf. It's so much fun! I've still got a fair few balls to re-wind, but by the time I'm done, my shelf will have a lot more space for even more colours. Mostly, though, it's because I've discovered the joy of working from centre-pull cakes of yarn.

Knit Picks Shimmer, wound and ready to go for my Jane Austen Shawl

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Whipsnade Zoo

On Saturday, Jamie and I went on an adventure to Whipsnade Zoo. Whipsnade is run by ZSL, the same company that runs London Zoo. If you read my Z is for Zoos post, you'll know that sometimes I get a bit upset with zoos; seeing all the beautiful wild creatures caged up in too small, unenriched enclosures. But I am very pleased to be able to say that Whipsnade is not like that at all. They have so much space, so every enclosure is more than big enough, and filled with interesting and exciting things for the animals to do.

The park is also very well organised. It's huge, so they run a free bus service around the zoo, to save you from walking all the way around. Or, if you want to pay the extra £17 (!) you can bring your car into the zoo, and park in designated parking areas around the zoo. There are numerous timed events, such as animal feeding, the birds of the world show and the sealion splash.

Unfortunately for us, it was hammering down with rain all morning, so some of the shows were cancelled. The walk-through lemur enclosure, where they feed the lemurs around you and you get to have them climb on you... was completely empty. All the lemurs were in their little house, refusing to go outside!

We did get to feed the wild boar, and their 11 stripey little piglets. And the Eurasian bears were out, waiting patiently for their breakfast as well.
Eurasian Brown Bear

We got to feed the bears. It was pretty awesome.

I was very excited to see wolverines. I don't think I'd seen them before, as not many zoos keep them.

Wolverine 2

How cute are they? Apparently one wolverine can bring down a reindeer by itself. They don't look that scary!

Because it was so horribly wet, we legged it over to the "Discovery Centre", which is basically a big indoor exhibit with loads of reptiles, insects, fish and small mammals. It was lovely and warm and dry, so we were quite happy to stay inside for a while. Fortunately, it was also amazing.

Dwarf mongoose
Dwarf Mongoose
 It had different themed areas, for the different climates. Desert, underwater, tropical rainforest... you get the idea. There were some really cool looking insects and snakes and lizards.

An iguana, possibly?

The most awesome part though was in the tropical rainforesty bit. They have a huge colony of leaf cutter ants, and the way the tank is set up, the nest runs for a very long distance, through tubes that cross over the walkway and into various different tanks. There's even an branch bit where they come out into the open, in the crocodile room. You can see the fungus they cultivate, the larvae and pupae they are caring for, and everywhere there are worker ants cutting and carrying bits of leaf.

Leaf cutter ant
Seriously, how awesome is that? So close I could have reached out and touched it.
The rain did ease off somewhat after lunch, and we were able to do a full tour of the rest of the zoo and see most of the animals they have on display. Because of the weather, we felt like we were the only people in the zoo!

Tiger drinking 1
She sat there for ages, drinking, while we were just a stone's throw away.

Asian elephant calves at play
These baby Asian elephants were playfighting in the mud. They were trying to
push each other over in it, I think. Very cute indeed.

Nursing deer
These miniature deer were free-roaming all over the zoo. This one had several
babies with her, and we had to be very careful not to disturb her as we went past.

Cheetahs!!! How exciting! They are incredibly beautiful.

These lions were right next to the glass. I had my face right next to a snarling male African lion!
It was incredible. Sadly, the glass was really dirty, so it was hard to get a decent photo of him.

The happiest giraffes I've seen outside of Longleat Safari Park.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Year of Projects update - July 17

So I've finally caught up on my lost sleep from last weekend, and have found the time to photograph my WIPs and put together an update for you all!

It's already becoming very clear to me that I will race through the crochet part of my list, and the knitting side will be left behind. Good job I've got a year to finish it all. Having finished my Sweet Pea Shawl last week, I had initially planned to keep focused on my Easy Lace Stole.

Don't get me wrong, it's going fairly well. Considering how little time I've devoted to it, I think I'm making good progress! But the ball of yarn doesn't look like it's got any smaller, and I feel like this will go on for EVER. I am tempted to order the yarn and cast on my second knitting project, as it's much smaller so will be a lot quicker. I do have some discount vouchers for Deramores which run out on 31st July, so I ought to do another order soon anyway.

I'm sure you've noticed, I have funky new knitting stitch markers too. I was getting fed up with using scraps of pink and purple sock yarn, so bit the bullet and ordered a load of markers from eBay. I found someone having a clearance sale, and got 8 random bags of 5 markers for £4.

With nothing interesting on the hook (aside from my two long-standing non-YoP WIPs) I decided to go ahead and start working on my second crochet project from the list.

It's the Crochet Lacy Wrap by Moda Dea. I am using James C Brett Marble Chunky in a rather strange brown-orange-green colourway.

I started it on Friday evening, and instantly hit a snag. The yarn is incredibly soft and squishy, but in order to work it I had to use my plastic 10mm hook. Now I know why so many of the anti-acrylic brigade complain about squeakiness. It's not so bad now I'm past the first row, working into the foundation chain, but even so.

I was also rather dubious about my colour choice when I first started, but now I'm over halfway through I can see how it is coming together.

It's difficult to get the colour to look right in the photo, it is slightly more orange than this. But if I use the flash, it comes out looking ORANGE which isn't right either!

I'm almost done with it, it's such a quick project. That'll be the bulky yarn and massive crochet hook then!

Click on the banner at the top of this post to go to the current Ravelry thread for this week's posts.

Friday, 15 July 2011

FO Friday! And I've got one!

It's Friday, I have a finished object to share. And what is more, it's my first finish for the Year of Projects!

Pattern: Sweet Pea Shawl by Amie Hirtes
Yarn: King Cole Bamboo Cotton in black, 2.7 skeins in total
Hook: 5mm

So the pattern calls for aran weight yarn, I've used DK. To make sure it was still big enough, I increased the starting chain by 50 to give me an extra five shells in the first row. So my shawl is 25 shell rows long, not 20. It's the perfect size.

I don't think I'm going to attempt to block it - the weight of the yarn will keep the shell stitches open and looking pretty. The pattern suggests adding tassles, one to each point on each edge shell. But I don't think tassles are the look I'm after (I will be wearing this to a wedding, after all). When I was starting out, I used my stitch markers to keep count, and they looked so pretty dangling from the yarn, I've decided to make some special dangly beady things to clip on in place of tassles. That way I can dress it up and dress it down, depending on the occasion. I will likely add this shawl to my LARP kit when I'm done wearing it to weddings!

And the obligatory stretched-out-over-a-window shot:

For more FOs, click on Tami's banner at the top of my post.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

More Pictures

The lovely, lovely Iain from the Crimson Moon tavern has come through once more, and took several photos of me during the weekend. He can always be relied upon to seek me out and photograph me!

He took this great shot while I was having a brief pause at the arena, after having run round like a blue-arsed fly trying to ensure we had a team in the tug of war contest.

Not my hat, but I wore it all weekend anyway.

He also snapped this lovely shot of me chatting with one of my friends (both in- and out-of-character!), who is playing a beast-man.

Who'd be stupid enough to wear all that fur and foam in this heat?

I promise at Renewal I will carry my camera in my pocket, and take many photos of the game in general to share with you all!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I have no progress

Busy week means little crafting time, so no WIP Wednesday update for me this week. But, patience has paid out a little, and I have discovered some photos of me from the event!

Well, one photo that's any good, so far, from last weekend.

Look! I'm wearing my snood!

This was from when we were taking part in one of the arena games. Despite my best efforts to avoid entering the arena for any sort of combat competition, I ended up taking part in the combined skills group contest. Essentially, it was teams of five, each with a different weapon skill. I was the archer for our team. We didn't win.

And an added bonus, I spotted this shot of me on Facebook from an event last August.

Not sure what I'm looking so serious about

There should be some more pics up later on in the week, once Iain has sorted himself out.

With thanks to The Flasher and Scott Wickenden for sharing their photos.

Monday, 11 July 2011

More Photography fail

You'd think a campsite full of people in silly costumes would be an ideal place to get a photo of the week for my 52 week long photo challenge. Unfortunately, I am utterly useless, and didn't take a single photograph all weekend. Too busy getting stuck in and having a whale of a time! If and when photos of me in kit appear on Facebook, I will share them with you!

Now the event is over, I can share pictures of the prop I was helping Jamie to make. You'll remember the dragon I painted onto a piece of wood? Here is the finished item it was painted for:

We varnished over the painting, which adorns the top of this wooden cage. The box is supposed to contain a baby mountain lion, but rather than go for a stuffed toy inside (which would look a bit rubbish), we put thin crepe paper around the inside of the box, and inserted a black cardboard silhouette shaped like a baby mountain lion. When light shines through the box, you see the shadow of the cub inside.

 I had a small happy moment when I saw the item in play, but I didn't get a chance to ask anyone about it while I was in character, which is a shame, as I don't know how well it was received. Jamie assures me it was all very cool, anyway, so I guess it worked as expected!

So, no crazy LARPing photo for my photo of the week this week. I will have to think of something before Friday! Pictures for last week were also thin on the ground, as prep for the event sort of took over. Luckily, I had taken a couple of shots of the sweet pea that takes over the front yard each year once the nettles die back, so I do still have a photo for the first week of July.

Sweet Pea flowers

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Year of Projects Update - July 10th

So, the Year of Projects has been underway for just over a week, and hopefully today will see the start of a flood of update posts as everyone involved starts sharing their progress! Head on over to the thread in our Ravelry forum to see the links as they go up for this week's updates.

Somewhat unbelievably, some people (Sue, I'm looking at you here!) have already started posting finished objects! Insanely quick. But, for the most part, these immediate finishes are all relatively small projects.

My first projects on the list are not so small. I always intended to work one knit and one crochet project side by side, but most of this first week has been taken up with my first knit, the Easy Lace Stole.

Ok, I've made more progress than that. But I don't have a more recent photo, as things have been quite hectic here this week. It's about six inches long now.

I've cast on more stitches than specified by the pattern, as it reckoned blocked width would be 10" and I wanted something a bit wider. I am aware that when I block it, it will get narrower as it gets longer, so I've gone for two extra width repeats, which will hopefully give me a couple of extra inches of width when it's blocked.

So far, I'm not having too many troubles. I've got the hang of the simple lace pattern, there are only 4 different stitches to master (knit, purl, yarn over and the most complicated, sl1-k2tog-psso); I am having no difficulties whatsover with the circular needles, in fact I have far more problems with my straights! And after crocheting with crochet thread, the laceweight yarn is causing me no problems at all.

My main worry with this project is that it's going to take for ever. And I'm really excited about starting my other knitting projects, but am meant to be doing them in the correct order, for skills progression.

My first crochet project is under time pressure. The Sweet Pea Shawl is intended to be part of my outfit for a friend's wedding on August 6th. The pattern is in the Happy Hooker book as well as directly downloadable from the pattern website here, for $6.50.

I've chosen to use King Cole Bamboo Cotton, which is a dk weight yarn. As the pattern is written for an aran weight yarn, I've had to make some adjustments, increasing the length of the starting chain to ensure my shawl is wide enough to wrap around me.

I also had some trouble finding the pattern, as I lent my Happy Hooker book to a colleague, and am not sure where it is at present. Either she gave it back to me and I've lost it at home, or she still has it. I couldn't wait any longer to start, so when we popped to Hobbycraft last weekend to pick up some spray paint for Jamie, I went to the craft book section and surrepticiously photographed the relevant sections of the pattern in the copy on the shelf. As I already own the book, I don't think that was particularly naughty of me! I just needed to get started ASAP.

The pattern itself is easy enough to memorise, it's only two rows. My main problems so far are stemming from the fact that it's black, so the stitches are hard to see once the daylight goes, and the yarn is quite splitty, which is rather irritating. It's a shame, because otherwise the yarn is beautifully soft and silky, and I just know when I finish it, the shawl is going to look awesome.

I have special plans to finish this project off; I'm not going to put tassles on it as I have something far more creative in mind. I shall tell you all about it when I've figured out how to do it and got it to work!
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