Sunday, 29 January 2012

A drastic decision

This morning a made a big decision. My very first project from the list, that I first cast on way back in the summer when we started this Year of Projects, has been frogged.

Easy Lace Stole by Arlene's World of Lace

It's a great beginner's lace pattern. I learned a lot from it, when I first started knitting it. But my God, it was dull to work on. I had no idea what I would use the finished project for. I don't need more scarves!

Then we had the drama of the yarn snapping on me mid row.

My worst nightmare

The first time wasn't too disastrous. With the help of friends, we got the yarn rejoined and the stitches picked up and me back on track. When it snapped again a couple of rows later, I put the project on the naughty step and hadn't looked at it since.

This morning I realised it was never coming out of hibernation, so I made the decision to frog it and use the yarn for something else.

So with Jamie's help, we ripped out the knitting and wound the yarn back into a hank on my swift. Because it had already snapped, this single skein of yarn is now in two pieces. One is still neatly sitting in the centre pull cake I had wound the skein into, and the yarn we've unknit is now a separate hank, ready for a soak to relax the kinks.

I am not sure what I'm going to do with the yarn now. I may give Ishbel a go. Mostly, I am unsure that I like knitting with laceweight yarn. I didn't so much mind crocheting with it, so if I don't get on so well with Ishbel I may abandon all plans to knit it and do something crocheted instead.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Comfort knitting

With all the stress of the weekend, I really wanted some relaxing, comforting knitting time. None of my current projects fitted the bill; cherry wrap is getting dull, and I didn't want to wrestle with dpns so the gloves were out too. I happened to glance up at my stash, and spotted my ball of Rowan Big Wool in a gorgeous shade of purple. I know I said I wasn't going to cast on any more year of projects things until I'd finished the existing wips, but I couldn't resist.

It's 198yds of heaven. My first triangle shawl! Just complicated enough to keep my brain occupied, the yarn is so soft and lovely to work with. I'm almost at the end of the first repeat of the body; as the rows are still quite short it is going quite quickly. I'm sure it will slow right up as the stitch count increases! - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Afternoon stroll through the Englefield Estate

For our first countryside tromp of the year we chose a short 4 mile circular walk around Theale. Because of yesterday's burglary, I was forced to rely on my iPhone camera and I have to say, I don't think it let me down. I did miss having a zoom function though!

The walk mostly took us through the Englefield Estate.

Old fashioned farming machines
There were a bunch of old agricultural machines and carriages
just sitting in a barn in the middle of the village

Secret garden
I spotted this wonderful garden entrance behind the garden centre

St Marks church, Englefield
St Mark's Church, which dates back to 1190. It wasn't open,
so we couldn't go in and have a look inside.

Englefield Estate
The main house, as seen from the churchyard. The gardens
weren't open so I couldn't get a closer look.

The main gate at the entrance. The driveway was very long indeed!
This dates back to the 1860s.

Holy Trinity, Theale
Holy Trinity church in Theale. I had no idea this was there!

Holy Trinity, Theale
It wasn't open either. I would love to see inside.

Holy Trinity, Theale
The bell tower is even taller than the main church.

Holy Trinity, Theale
I got lucky with the blue skies and sunshine for these shots.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Karma's a bitch

Just a public service announcement really. We were burgled last night, and my laptop, camera and kindle have been stolen (along with some other bits and bobs). Everyone is okay, just a bit shaken up is all.

Fortunately Jamie's laptop wasn't taken, so I still have the ability to read and blog, but without decent photos I may not be posting frequently. Once I get a replacement camera, we'll be back to normal.

I have new toys

I would have had a finished project to share yesterday, had I been a bit more focused in the morning. As it is, I only had one out of two gloves done, despite having something close to six hours on Friday morning where I did nothing but wait for a workman to arrive at the house. I could have knit. I could have easily finished the second Rapunzel mitt in that time. But I didn't. I played computer games instead.

Eventually though, the workman arrived, my window was fixed (well, not fixed, as there was nothing wrong with it apart from the glass wasn't toughened, which is apparently a requirement in rented properties for windows that close to the floor) and I was free to leave the house and go about my day.

A day which included a trip to the sorting office to pick up a parcel of yarn!

10 brightly coloured skeins added to the stash.

The yarn is Rico Creative Cotton and I have bought it for the express purpose of maintaining a stash of dishcloth cotton; should the desire to knit another dishcloth arise, I will have the yarn to satisfy it! I particularly wanted the striking blue shade to do some Doctor Who Tardis themed cloths.

I then made a couple of very exciting purchases, made possible by an unexpected tax rebate.

My current read - The Count of Monte Cristo

First up, an Amazon Kindle for myself. Luckily, they sell them in Tesco, so rather than ordering one online and having to wait, I was able to pop to the supermarket and pick one up with my groceries!

The screensavers are so pretty!

I have transferred all of my knitting pattern PDFs onto it. All I need to do now is knit a cover. I have one queued, I just need to choose the right yarn.

Yes, Jamie was resting the iPad on the cat on his lap. No, the cat doesn't mind.

We finally replaced our tired old netbook with the iPad 2. We've been wanting one for a while now, and the tax rebate gave us an excuse to actually buy one! Technically it belongs to Jamie, but I expect I will use it almost as much as he does, at least until I get my own.

I'll be honest, the main attraction for me is this:

It's the best game in the world! You have to divide shapes into equally sized pieces using limited numbers of cuts. It's actually quite challenging. For the last six months or so, whenever we've been in a shop with iPads I have made a beeline for this application. Setting up the pad last night, it was one of the first apps Jamie downloaded, just for me.

I wonder how long the novelty value will last for our new gadgets.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

For once, lots of progress to report...

I had a lot more time for my crafting this week. Not only have our Thursday night roleplay sessions resumed after the Christmas break, but we spent all day on Saturday playing in a different game, which effectively meant I had 12 hours of practically uninterrupted crafting time (interruptions mainly in the form of eating snacks and pizza, and occasionally having to roll some dice).

I'll start with the existing WIPs first. I am oh so close to finishing the crocheting part of the Cherry Wrap. No new photo since last week, but I have finished the first sleeve and started the second. Soon will come the trials of blocking each piece to the same measurements, and crocheting all the seams.

I cast on for my second leafy fingerless glove on Thursday. Progress was swift, far quicker than the first glove! I guess all that practice on DPNs is really paying off.

I promise this is actually glove two, not a rehashed
photo of glove one at a similar stage.
You can tell its the other glove, as the leaf pattern is the mirror of the glove I've already done.

I think gloves might be my new obsession. I really wanted to knit glove yesterday, but didn't want to deal with complicated patterns so didn't reach for the leafy gloves. Instead, I cast something else on.

Yes, I know, I said I would finish my outstanding YoP Projects before starting anything new, but these aren't on the list so they don't count. Plus, it's using up stash.

Version one, knocked up last night
The yarn is the Cashmerino Chunky I used for my free rapunzel hat. The pattern is a free Ravelry download - easy half mitt. The above photo shows my first attempt. I followed the instructions to the letter and wound up with a lovely glove that was too short for my hand. So it got frogged, and I got out my pencil and paper to work out how to adapt the pattern to fit.

Then I had a crazy idea, and stayed up later than I should have done scribbling.

The modified pattern, and the start of version two.

It occurred to me, that as I am using the same yarn, I could match these gloves to my hat by including the cabled braid pattern from the brim of the hat. So I raided the pattern for the cable chart, and worked out how to fit it onto the back of the plain mitt. I think I've got it right, I just need to knit it up and find out if it works. They're pretty quick to knit up, so even with these modifications I don't think they will take long.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Giveaway winner!

Well, it's been two weeks since I posted my fabulous blogiversary giveaway to win a skein of Candy Skein Yummy lace or fingering, and I have to say, I have been overwhelmed by the response. Thee were sixty entries in total, more than I ever imagined I would get. So thank you to everyone for entering!

Sadly, there can be only one winner. Using the ever popular random number generator at I have selected....

A Little Bit Sheepish!!!

Congratulations!!! Please drop me a PM with your postal address and I will get the yarn out to you as soon as it arrives from the US.

Candy Skein Yummy Fingering in Midnight Mousse

Now all I have to do is decide which colours I want to buy, so I can place the order!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Keeping ahead of myself

There is a theme developing among my fellow bloggers, in their goals for the new year. Everyone is talking about taking control of their yarn stash, making wild promises to only knit from stash, or to ensure that even with yarn purchases, total stash decreases in a frenzy of knitting.

Up until now, I've always been very careful when it comes to yarn buying. I haven't bought yarn without a specific project in mind, so even though I now have 15km of yarn sitting on the shelves (thanks, Ravelry, and your fabulous export to excel feature on the stash page), only 2km of that isn't assigned to a specific project. Which makes me feel a little better about having it, when I see others with twice as much yarn as my total, and nothing assigned to any project at all!

The danger now, though, is that I am starting to receive yarn as presents. Christmas came, and with it three separate yarny gifts.

King Cole Bamboo Cotton in purple

First came the UK Swap Group Falling into Winter swap parcel, and the ball of King Cole Bamboo Cotton that was included in that. I still have 70 yards of black left over from my Sweet Pea Shawl, so I'm thinking I will make something that uses both. Gloves, perhaps with a black cuff? Or a small shawlette?

Then came Christmas itself, and on the day there were two yarny surprises waiting for me. I've mentioned the first before; the UK RAK Secret Santa swap parcel I received contained four balls of Artesano 100% Alpaca DK.

It is not as pink as this photo makes it look.

I think I may end up doing some sort of matching set with this. Hat, cowl, gloves, not sure what patterns to use. In total I have 430 yards.

My final yarny gift is going to be the hardest to choose a pattern for, because the colour I've been given is insane! Beautiful, but insane.

Skein Queen Squash in "Baubles"

It's Skein Queen Squash, 100% Merino fingering weight. 430 yards in the skein. Will this be my first pair of socks? Or can I find something else where the bright colours won't look out of place.

Outside of these gifts, I only have two yarns I've bought with no pattern in mind.

Wollmeise Sockenwolle 80/20 Twin in Sonne

5 balls of Rowan Calmer in black

But Wollmeise doesn't count, you're allowed to buy that on a whim. It will become a gorgeous shawl one day!

If you have any suggestions at all for what I can use these yarns for, I would appreciate it!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday quickie

Friday means showing off finished projects, and this week I have some dishcloths I knit earlier on in the week.

Forgive my not so great instagram photo, but it was late

I had about 40g of Lily Sugar'n'Cream left over from my earlier attempts at dishcloths, so decided to use it up making two more basic cloths. These are the same size as the first one I knit, but more pink. I still need to weave the ends in, though, before I start using them!

I am surprised at how much use I've been getting out of my knit dishcloths. I will definitely be ordering more cotton soon! Although I think a cheaper option than this American cotton is to get Rico Creative Cotton in bulk from eBay - plain colours, but then I can experiment more with dishcloth patterns. I've got my eye on a few Doctor Who themed ones!

Last reminder - my blogiversary giveaway entry closes at midnight this Sunday, winner to be announced on Monday! I can't believe how popular it has been - over 60 entries - and I can't wait to find out who has won.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Wednesday sure comes around quickly!

I think I'm still struggling to get my head around a normal five day working week, after all the disruption of Christmas bank holidays! It seems like it's been less than a week since it was Wednesday...

You'd think my WIP progress this week would be all excitement over my second glove. It's not. I haven't even cast on yet! What I have done is knit some more dishcloths (come back on Friday, I might have woven my ends in by then) and get out my crochet hook again.

Sticking to my plan to finish my Year of Projects WIPs, I dug out the Cherry Wrap from its semi-hibernation and got hooking.

Not the greatest photo, but it's late and I'm tired, so it's the best I've got!
I've finished the three main panels (back, left front and right front) and all I have left are two sleeves. I've started the first already. All I need to do now is not run out of yarn before I'm finished! Each panel took about two and a half skeins, and I've got 4 left after I finish the part skein I'm working with now. So I should have enough, with enough spare to do all the seaming.

Oddly enough, it's not the seaming that's got me worried, it's the blocking. I'm going to have to block all the pieces before I seam them together, and I've never blocked anything this big in one go before.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Cook from a Cookbook(ish) - Bread

So, it's been a while since I did a Cookbook challenge. Christmas kind of got in the way! There was nothing particularly new or exciting about our Christmas cooking (lets face it, the traditional dinner is just Sunday roast with extras), although I could claim the boiled and baked ham as a new recipe. We combined two different recipes found online (the boiling instructions from here and the glaze from here) to create an incredibly tasty joint of meat. It was so successful, we did it twice.

Gratuitous shot of the Christmas buffet preparations - 80 pigs in blankets
and a boiled but not yet glazed 3lb ham joint

But I am not here to talk about roasted pig product. No, I have a more exciting cooking experiment to regale you with. You see, every year we buy those part baked bread rolls to have in the house over Christmas (you know, because the shops are shut for *gasp* an entire day, so you have to stock up, in case you run out of something absolutely vital). This year, we were wandering round Tesco and somehow ended up in the home baking aisle. I stopped in front of the packets of bread mix on the shelf, and we both had a mini eureka moment. We picked up one plain white mix, and one fancy cheese and onion flavour.

We baked the white loaf on Boxing Day. I followed the instructions to the letter (pretty much add water, mix into dough, knead, leave to rise, bake) and ended up with a rather tasty, if overly large loaf of bread.

When it rose, it rose somewhat more on one side than the other.

We ate it with the left over ham, and it was delicious.

Just this weekend past, we re-discovered the other bread mix and gave that a go.

It smelled really cheese and oniony, right from the start

This one rose in a far more sensible fashion than the other loaf.

Look! Proper bread!

Arty farty shot of the slices, before I slathered them in Clover and pate.

So, not technically a cook book recipe, but our success has paved the way for some more experimentation using the recipes in my Good Housekeeping Baking Book!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Year of Projects update January 8th

I am very pleased to report this week that my plan to clear out the existing YoP WIPs before starting anything else is going well! Of the four WIPs I listed last Sunday, one is gone (to the frog pond, sadly) and I have made sterling progress on another!

Please ignore my un-woven-in ends. I will do them when the other glove is complete.
I have focused almost entirely on the fingerless gloves this week, and to my eternal delight, have finished the right glove.

Thanks to your wonderful advice last week, I forged ahead using safety pins and scrap yarn as stitch holders while I negotiated the tricky task of knitting each little finger tube.

I am so pleased with how this glove has turned out! It's gorgeous, and it fits, well, like a glove. Now to avoid  the trap that is Second Sock Syndrome, and remember that I have to knit another one before I can call this project done. Glove one has taken me just over two months... I don't actually need them till Easter, so I have plenty of time to get the second one finished. More pleasingly, I have just weighed the remaining yarn from the ball, and I still have 28g left, which means I won't need to break into the second ball I bought in case it was needed. Hmmmm, will need to find another project for that....

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A New Year Adventure

I've been so caught up in the post-Christmas madness that is taking down decorations and going back to work, that I haven't had time to tell you about my New Years Day adventure!

After a leisurely breakfast following our New Year festivities (a quiet night in with friends) we jumped in the car and drove into London to visit Kew Gardens. Jamie and I hadn't been before, so it was all new and exciting for us.

Big tree
Friends included for scale! Some of the trees are absolutely enormous.

It was a rather grey, blustery day, but there was still plenty to see and do. Three enormous glass houses filled with a wondrous variety of plant life.

Carnivorous plant 4
We loved the carnivorous plant display in the Princess of Wales glass house.

After walking through the first glass house and the surrounding gardens, we headed over to Palm House, one of the two huge Victorian structures in the centre of the park.

Heraldic Yale
There's a fantastic range of heraldic statues outside the Palm House. This one is a Yale.
The Yale is a mythical beast that could swivel its horns independently!

Inside the glass houses there are so many plants. It being the middle of winter didn't really bother them, as they were all warm and cosy in the rather humid air. You can climb up beautiful wrought iron spiral stairs and walk along a balcony at canopy height.

Glasshouse spiral stairs
It's actually quite high, once you get up there!

Glasshouse roof
The glass houses are very old, and have clearly seen better days!

We adjourned to the cafe for a spot of tea and cake, and I was shocked to discover they didn't sell Coke! Caffeine is essential to my hangover recovery plans, so I had to make do with coffee cake. While we were in the cafe, it started to rain. Proper, heavy, serious rain. We spent a bit of time browsing in the shop (where we determined our plan for the year was to collect a fridge magnet from every place we visited in 2012), but the rain didn't let up. We decided we were quite hardy folks, so a bit of rain shouldn't get in our way; however the rain was so severe we were forced to purchase a Kew Gardens branded umbrella, for the princely sum of £25!! It is, I will concede, a very good umbrella - a huge golfing umbrella with a button you press to open it up.

Thus protected from the worst of the weather, we walked over to the Temperate House, the largest of the glass houses, and spent some time wandering inside.

Oldest Pot Plant in the World
This is the oldest pot plant in the world. The timeline below shows all the major
world events that have occurred since it was planted. France still had a monarchy
when this plant was born!

There was one other thing we were determined to see, in spite of the weather. The tree top walkway! 18 metres above the ground takes you through the canopy of lime, sweet chestnut and oak trees. Of course, it being winter, you could see quite a long way out across the park.

Treetop walkway 1
Yes, it really is as terrifying as it looks. With only four of us walking on it,
it wobbled alarmingly. And the floor is see through.

View of the Temperate House
The view is quite nice though.

We had a great time, and will definitely be going back when the weather is better, as there is so much we haven't seen! I'm particularly keen to get a closer look at the Japanese pagoda, as we saw it rising up out of the trees but didn't want to slosh across the grass pathways to get to it.
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