Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of the Year part two - photography

I set myself three photography challenges at the start of the year. I have successfully completed two of them, but the third has been more difficult.

The easiest challenge to complete was the Four Seasons Challenge. Quite simply, one photo representing each season. I blogged about completing it here, once I'd taken the fourth and final photo for Autumn.

Autumn leaves
The longest challenge was the 52 Photos in 52 Weeks. Obviously, I only finished that yesterday! The full set of 52 photos is here on the blog, but you can also view them in their own set on my Flickr photostream. Quite a few of the photos turned out to be yarn related, as I found myself lacking in time and inspiration quite a bit through the year! 

Tusculum Cowl blocking - week 23

I did use it as an excuse to get out and about though, and managed to see loads of awesome places, like Beale Park, Whipsnade Zoo, London, Oxford and the Elvetham Hotel in Hampshire. I also spent a lot of time playing with all the settings on my camera, and getting to know how to use it better. I was very impressed with the fireworks settings!

Elvetham Hotel - week 14

Giraffe at Whipsnade - week 29

Newbury fireworks - week 45

Looking through the photos now, it seems Mr Fidget and my cooking also feature quite heavily in the weeks where nothing else interesting occurred!

The third and final challenge was actually quite challenging. It was the Object Photo Challenge, which involved taking a list of items and taking photos specifically of them. Some were fairly easy, and I was able to grab a suitable photo while out and about, but others required more forethought and as a result, are still not there! I will carry this over into 2012, and make sure I take the time to find the missing objects.

Review of the Year Part one - knitting and crochet

Back in January I had just started writing this blog. I set myself some goals to meet, and I have to say, looking back on the year, it is nice to say that I have achieved a fair few of them! So much to talk about in 2011, but I thought I would try and sum it up in as few words as possible.

Presenting the first part of my review of 2011 - my knittting and crocheting FOs from the year:

I only really got bitten by the knitting bug once I started on the Year of Projects challenge. Determined to learn more advanced knitting techniques than I already knew, I have tackled lace, cables and knitting in the round and succeeded with everything I've tried. I still have several knitting WIPs on the needles to take me into the new year, plus several more still to do from the list.

My crochet output has been somewhat more prolific. I've crocheted hats, scarves, shawls, baby gifts, toys, charity squares, LRP costumes and socks. I knew I'd done a lot, but until I'd put them all together in one collage I had no idea it was this much!

I hope I am able to produce as much (and of the same quality) next year!

Friday, 30 December 2011

A Christmassy FO

So to round off the year, here is my final FO of 2011 - a last minute Christmas gift for Jamie, who sprung on me the surprise, just two days before Christmas, that instead of not getting any presents for me as we'd agreed he had actually bought me presents! I had to do a mad dash into town on the 23rd to pick up some presents for him, but before doing that I made good use of the hour I was up before him to crochet him a stocking!

Pattern: Bev's Christmas Granny Square Stocking by Beverly A Qualheim
Hook: 4mm
Yarn: Sirdar Bonus DK in red, green and white

I modified the pattern slightly. Instead of four round grannies, I did three, and to avoid lots of end weaving from colour changes, I used the continuous join-as-you-go instructions here for the final contrasting colour round.

For the first side, I did red in the middle surrounded by green, but for the reverse side, it's green in the middle with red outside.

I then used up the last of my white yarn to join the two sides together with a round of single crochet through both layers, doing one stitch in each dc of the clusters, and two in each chain space.

The end result came out extremely cute. I packed it full of chocolates - a Terry's Chocolate Orange in the toe (because all good stockings have an orange in the toe, and I thought a chocolate one would be better received than a couple of sad looking satsumas) and the rest is stuffed with chocolate coins (milk and white, as Jamie is a lover of white chocolate). It was a bit of a tight squeeze, because the opening isn't all that wide or stretchy, but I managed to get it all in!

I then wrapped it up in paper, so he wouldn't have any clue what it was. He even saw me working on it on Friday morning, but didn't realise what I was doing!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

For it is in giving that we receive*

Christmas is a time for giving. One of my favourite ways of spreading the love at this time of year is getting stuck in to a Secret Santa or two, and this year was no exception. I had organised one in the office, but then I got a new job, so had to pull out. In its place, I signed up to a Secret Santa swap organised by the UK Random Acts of Kindness group on Ravelry. It's a great group full of extremely kind hearted and generous people; if I'm honest, I was far more excited about the prospect of buying lovely things for a complete stranger who shares my interests, than for someone I saw every day but shared nothing with apart from a place of work!

There were no real rules to the swap, spend as much or as little as you could afford and no requirements on package contents. The only stipulation was you had to wait until Christmas Day to open your parcel! Since in this house, we open our presents on Christmas Eve (as soon as the clock strikes twelve!), I got to be one of the first to open and post pictures of their present.

I have to say, my Secret Santa absolutely spoiled me. I am over the moon with the contents of my parcel. It arrived only a few days before Christmas, so I didn't have to wait too long with it tempting me from the corner of the room! I don't think I could have lasted more than a few days!

All of this was crammed into a parcel that really
didn't look like it contained this much stuff!

I waited until I'd opened all of my other presents before tearing into my secret parcel. The first thing I saw was the yarn. Four gorgeously squishy balls of Artesano 100% alpaca DK in a lovely shade of red.

It's more red than it looks in this photo. The flash, you see.

Hidden under the yarn was a ton of other amazing goodies. A set of red captive bead stitch markers from Atomic Knitting, a set of 4mm 10" Brittany DPNs, a red tape measure and a Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate reindeer lolly...

I just love dark chocolate. I have been well stalked!

Hiding underneath all that, was a beautiful hand made gift - a warm and snuggly cowl, in a fantastic shade of red which matches the yarn I'm using for my Cherry Wrap!

This isn't a great photo, so you can't really see the pattern detail.
I blame the flash again, taking photos at 1am is never a good idea!

As if that wasn't enough, nestling in the bottom of the parcel I found not one, not two, but five printed patterns! The patterns are for:

I don't know who my Secret Santa is, but I love her! I am overwhelmed with gratitude. It just goes to show what a fabulous community we're all a part of.

Edited to add: I found out who she is! Nikki outed herself after seeing my gushing praise for her parcel in the forum. Which means you can find all the details on my cowl from her project page.

*so said Francis of Assissi

Monday, 26 December 2011

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Today is my first blogiversary! I can't believe it's been a whole year since my first post. I've had so much fun writing the blog and I've discovered so many fabulous people out there in the crafting blog community.

I've written over 200 posts, and had nearly 13,500 pageviews over the last year. My most popular post of the year has been, surprisingly, the post announcing my free crocheted uterus pattern! It will come as no surprise to learn that Ravelry has been the main source of my blog traffic - I love that you can link your projects back to the blog posts they feature in. Second behind Ravelry, and only by a small margin, is the wonderful Tami's Amis and Other Creations, the blog that inspired me to start blogging myself.

I had originally intended to start my blog on the 1st January, but I was too excited about it to wait, so I've ended up with a blogiversary on a very awkward day. I expect a fair number of my usual readers are busy off doing Christmassy things with their families, so I am going to wait until the new year before holding my celebratory giveaway. So come back next week to get all the details for that!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

A Very Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

The advent calendar is full!

I spent ages hunting for string yesterday to get the cards up properly.
Then I realised I had a massive pile of yarn I could use instead!

The tree is filled with presents, and we can't wait to open them! Luckily, in this house we have
a tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve, as soon as it hits midnight.

Home baked croissants for breakfast is another tradition here.

I hope you've all been good, and Santa brings you
everything you wished for!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Not quite the last FO of the year..

Last minute Christmas preparations today almost made me forget about FO Friday! You see, we had decided that we weren't going to do presents this year, so I hadn't done anything about making/buying presents for Jamie. Then, I came home from work last night to discover he'd sneaked two presents into the tree for me! So I had to face the madness of town this afternoon and pick him up some gifts.

I did make use of my hour or so of being awake and up before him this morning to make a little something, but I can't really show you that until he's seen it, so I'll share that next week!

This FO post is for my baby hat, the other half of my present for the Brown baby due next year.

Pattern: Simple Baby Hat by Alison Williams
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
Needles: 4mm DPNs

I reversed the colours for the hat, starting in purple and then switching to red. I could have carried on with the purple for a bit longer, I think, as with all the decrease rounds the red section is almost twice as long! I did suffer a little with laddering between my needles on this project, which I hadn't encountered when using DPNs before. But it didn't affect the overall look by the time I'd finished, so I'm not too worried.

I knit the newborn size, which looks huge compared to the size the booties came out! The second pair of booties are on the needles, so hopefully this gift will be finished before too long.

Head on over to Tami's for more FOs!

Monday, 19 December 2011

In the bleak midwinter...

Six days to go!

I'm starting to get really excited about Christmas now. We're on the final string of the advent calendar, just five more ornaments to come out of the box. I bought the chocolate decorations on Saturday and they are now hanging in their proper place on the tree. Even Fidget is getting into the Christmas spirit.

This is as close to clothing on cats as I will go.

The tree has created its own problems though. I cannot access my stash shelves without serious risk of tree-related injury. I have had to be creative, and find an alternative place to keep all my active WIPs so they remain accessible.

There is a very handy space between the cushions and the wall,
now stuffed full of acrylics for my granny blanket.
There are four WIPs nestled in that space. The granny blanket, obviously, but if you look closer you may also spot Jamie's hat, a second pair of Saartje's booties and my latest cast on - the ribbed lace bolero. Now, when I find myself sat on the sofa in front of the TV, I can just reach up behind me and grab something to keep my hands occupied.

Fidget remains unmoved by the proximity of yarn. This is good.

It's another one from my Year of Projects list, and I've been itching to get started on it ever since I acquired the perfect yarn. You see, a fellow Raveller was having a destash, and one of the items on the list was five balls of Rowan Calmer in black, for a wonderfully cheap price of £15 for the lot, including postage. Mooncalf alerted me to its existence, so I bought it to prevent her from breaking her yarn buying ban. It is lovely yarn! I just hope I've got enough. I'm sure I have, but you never know!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Year of Projects update - December 18th

I can't believe we're nearly half way through this project now! As next Sunday is Christmas Day, I suspect I will be too busy to write an update (and you'll all be too busy to read it), so this is going to be my last Year of Projects update in 2011.

I started out in July with a list of twenty knit or crochet projects that I wanted to make. I modified the list, taking four off and adding five more. In the last six months I have cast on/hooked for 11 projects from my list, which means I've started just over 50% of the list. Of those eleven, I've finished six. 30% complete!

Here's a round up of my finishes:

Sweet Pea Shawl - made for a wedding and now seeing daily use as a scarf
Crochet Lacy Wrap - now part of my LRP costume
Victorian Scarf - haven't worn it yet!
Jane Austen Shawl - worn to a wedding, and a couple of times since
as a scarf to brighten up an outfit
Thinking of You scarf - I have been wearing this
in the current cold weather
Free Rapunzel hat - I wear this a lot!
Maybe I would be further through my list if I hadn't managed to distract myself with so many other projects! According to my Ravelry page, I've completed 12 other projects since July, and have four non-YoP WIPs currently on needles/hooks alongside the five unfinished WIPs from the list!

I'm going to try my best to resist the urge to cast on things which aren't on my list, at least for the first few months of the new year. I may also have to revise the list down a bit, and cut some of the projects that are either going to be too expensive (like the Diamonds Shawl, which will require me to buy a book just for that pattern, and expensive yarn to make it from) or just wont get used/worn (such as the Pineapple Monokini, which was only on the list because it was so silly).

I am also hoping that I can take advantage of all these Christmas Bank Holidays to get some serious knitting time in. I reckon if I focus I should be able to finish the Cherry Wrap and make some very decent headway on the gloves and my latest cast on, the ribbed lace bolero.

Friday, 16 December 2011

FO - Saartje's Booties

I am so proud of these! These booties will go with the hat that's currently on the needles, for a baby which is due in the new year.

Pattern: Saartje's Booties by Saartje de Bruijn (direct link here)
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in red and purple
Needles: 2.5mm DPNs
Mods: The pattern as written is to knit them flat, then seam. I chose to follow the in the round instructions provided here as I wasn't keen on the idea of all that seaming and end weaving.

They've come out pretty small, so I'm worried they won't be of any use. I am reassured by Em who has knit them before that they will be fine, but I think I might make a second pair on larger needles, to make a slightly bigger set and then send them both just to be sure!

They knit up so quickly, and I even learned a new cast on method as you use the cable cast on to get the stitches for the straps. The buttons were ones I had left over from the packs of acrylic buttons I used on my advent calendar. I may have to use different colour buttons on the second pair, as I don't know if I have another 4 white ones! I might also do the colours the other way around.

More FOs over at Tami's!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A quick check in

I'll say one thing for my new job - it's keeping me busy! I didn't quite realise just how much spare time I had on my hands in my previous job, as my interaction with all social media has taken a bit of a nose dive over the last two weeks. For the first time in ages, I have a backlog of unread posts in my Google Reader, and I've been nowhere near as active on Twitter or in the Ravelry forums as I usually am. This has also had the knock on effect of giving me less time to write posts here, which I am not happy about!

Hopefully I will remedy this once I am settled in properly and back to something resembling a normal sleeping pattern.

I have been knitting though, so here's a quick catch up on what's been keeping me busy this week.


Jamie's hat is now back up to where it was before I had to frog it for being too small. It's looking like it will be big enough now, but I've still got another five or so inches to knit before I can start decreasing.

Another hat!

Another hat! Compared to the photo above it looks massive, but it's nowhere near as big as Jamie's. This one is for another baby, due in the new year. I've already made a pair of booties (I'll share them tomorrow) so this is a hat to match. It's Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, which is just as lovely to work as the DK and Chunky weights! Just the Aran weight left, and then I'll have worked with them all. It's definitely my new favourite yarn.

Not a hat!
Ok, so this isn't a knit or crochet project, but this week a friend and I got together to make flavoured gin. We'd picked a fair amount of sloe berries on our walk in Whitchurch, which had been sitting in the freezer ever since we got them home. On Tuesday evening we met up and had a rather fun time squishing the berries into a bottle of gin. We only had enough sloes for one bottle, so since we had two, we dug out some blackberries from the freezer and used them to fill this bottle. The sloe gin is under the care of my friend, while I am responsible for the blackberry. It's such a great colour (which unfortunately, hasn't really shown in the photo), and I am quite enjoying giving it its daily shaking. Shame it's going to be at least three months before we can try them out!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Countdown to Christmas

I finally got around to finishing my advent calendar last night. After much deliberation, I opted for Chrissy's suggestion of a candle.

These two have gone straight in the box for the surprise drawing each morning

The white candle went straight on the wall, to fill the gap we'd left on the 8th
We're being fairly random about how we choose which ornament goes up each day, but as I have 8 different designs, and there are 8 pegs on each string, it seemed logical to have one of each design on each string! So on the 8th we left a gap to fill when I made the final three pieces.

This is how it looked yesterday evening
I really like it now that it's starting to fill up. Such a lovely use of an otherwise wasted space, as the wall on the side of the stairs isn't secure enough to hang a painting from.

Also, I realised I showed you last years video of us putting up the Christmas tree, but haven't shown you the additional decorations which are now traditional (you do something twice, it becomes a tradition, right?).

See how the tree completely blocks access to my stash
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed there are amigurumi peeking out of the branches. As soon as the tree goes up, the various creatures from around the room migrate to the tree and live there throughout the Christmas period.

All of the amis from the shelves are here. The Cyoot Sad Eyed Dragon, and his friend Sir Tiny Knight (not made by me),
both crabs, both lobsters, Yoda, R2D2 and the tiger. Oh, and I've turned some random swatch motifs into ornaments.
And my cuddly Gruffalo and Reindeer come along for the ride too.
Of course, I wouldn't want my snake to feel left out, so we decorate George, the dragon tree, as well. Just tinsel this year, but in previous years he's had baubles and lights too.

It's some sort of tropical Christmas out there.

Friday, 9 December 2011

FO Friday - Rosie's Rosie Rabbit

I can't tell you how happy I am with this FO. It is my one piece of Christmas gift crafting and it is done! I've had the pieces finished for a couple of weeks now, but what it needed was some dedicated time to sit down and weave in ends, trim tails and sew it together. Always my least favourite part of amigurumi construction! But it was worth the effort.

Isn't she adorable?

She is just so darn cute. I want to keep her. But I know she'll be far better appreciated where she is going! I just hope everyone likes her.

Pattern: Rosie Rabbit by Paola Navarro (direct link to Delicious Crochet shop here)
Yarn: Stylecraft Special DK in various colours
Hook: 2.5mm

I made no real modifications to the pattern, all I did was substitute colours. I wanted to make her grey instead of beige, because my favouirite stuffed animal from my childhood was a grey rabbit, and I loved the Little Grey Rabbit book I had when I was a child (I had Little Grey Rabbit's Birthday). I also used a slightly different combination of pink/purple for the clothes. I also used a more beige colour instead of white or ivory for the socks and pants.

The little bob tail is so sweet!
I also omitted the three flowers that are meant to adorn her hat. By the time I was done crocheting the ribbon to go around it, I was fed up of working with the teeny tiny hook and the rather stiff fabric it creates with DK weight yarn.

I have to say, I am very impressed with the pattern. Once I'd got over the odd phrasing of the translated-into-English instructions, I flew through the pieces and was amazed to see how the shaping used creates such perfect features. The head in particular is extremely well designed.

Even if the eyes were a little fiddly!

The hat is removable, but the rest of her outfit is very firmly attached. Hopefully you can see from the photos that her legs and arms are poseable, due to the way they are attached, so she can stand up or sit down, and you can put the arms practically anywhere.

I can't work out if she looks cuter with or without the hat

I will be wrapping her up tonight ready to go in the post tomorrow, with my Christmas swap parcels. I want to make sure she gets to Wales in plenty of time before the big day. It will be Rosie's first Christmas and although she is going to be far too young to really get involved (she's only 3 months old or so) I hope her parents appreciate the gift, and that Rosie gets to love her Rosie Rabbit for as long as I've loved my old grey rabbit.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

WIP Wed... er Thursday

Starting a new job this week has made me so brain dead by the time I get home each night I haven't really had much energy or focus to craft or blog. I still haven't made my final three felt ornaments for the advent calendar, and now it's the 8th already and I don't have an ornament to hang. I think I've finally decided which shape to make, but now all my craft things are hidden behind the Christmas tree, the effort required is currently proving too great. Hopefully I will get time at the weekend to sort that out.

My WIP list is looking a lot healthier these days, after finishing two projects this week. I'm back down to 6 projects listed as WIPs on Ravelry, but that sort of hides the two projects I've relegated to hibernating status as it's been so long since I worked on them (the filet panel, and the forest lace stole).

The one thing I have been working on is another hat. Since I enjoyed knitting Free Rapunzel so much, I cast on another hat shortly before I finished it. This one is for Jamie, and it's a basic ribbed beanie.

This picture was taken a little while ago
The pattern I'm following is the Ribbed Watchman's Hat which is a free pattern developed for a charity knitting project, making hats for Israeli soldiers. The yarn I'm using is Patons Wool Blend Aran, on 4.5mm needles. I thought maybe I would have gauge issues, but didn't bother to swatch.

I wish I had.

This photo was taken today

After I got to about 4 inches of knitting, I tried it on. It was snug on me, so it was never going to fit him! I did measure and count my stitches, and made the executive decision to frog and start over, with an extra 12 stitches. This one should fit! It is a nice easy knit that I can do almost without looking at my hands. Hopefully I will get it finished before the cold weather really hits.

Here is my progress on my granny square blanket. The red line marks the original edge of the bought blanket, so I'm four rows done! I've chosen to go back to the paler colours present in the centre, and work outwards back to the brighter ones. I'm using yarns I have left over from various projects, although you may recognise these first three as coming from Rosie Rabbit. She is finished, and will be unveiled in all her glory tomorrow, before I wrap her up and pop her in the post.
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