Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Year of Projects 4: 24 February update

I wasn't sure I was going to be able to rustle up another FO for this week's update, especially after the success of a pair of socks in a week last week. With the socks off the needles, the only YoP projects I had on the go were all long term affairs. Pogona is progressing well, but hasn't changed enough to be worthy of having more photos taken. My test knit of my Star Trek charts for my nerdy sofa cushions hasn't got to an interesting stage yet, consisting mostly of a large rectangle of black stocking stitch, so there's no pictures of that either. And Chunari is still hibernating, although I did briefly get it out and look at it the other day. I really do need to be in the right mood for laceweight knitting!

The other night, however, I decided to cast on something else from my queue, something which would hopefully be a nice quick knit. The Jayne Cobb hat. Unfortunately, I didn't have a circular needle of the right length, so I had to cast on with DPNs, which made for a very awkward knitting process and rather slow progress.

However, I went to Unravel at the weekend (where I spent a lovely couple of hours wandering about the place with Sarah from Crafts from the Cwtch and Wink of A Creative Being). I only made a few purchases (which completely blew my budget out of the water).

Among all the yarn pretties, you will have noticed a new cable for my interchangeable needles. I now have a 16" cable, which means knitting hats of any size just became a whole lot easier! As soon as I got home, I fixed up the cable with my 7mm needles, and transferred the stitches across. Needless to say, the hat got knit a whole lot quicker after that!

More on the hat in a moment while I digress slightly to talk about the yarns I purchased. Despite not having yet knit a single stitch on the three Easyknits skeins I already own, I picked up two more. The first was definitely on my list of things to buy, a sushi sock roll to knit Jon's Orbit shawl with. I bought the pattern at Unravel last year, and have been holding off knitting it until I had the perfect gradiated skein of yarn to use. I spent a long time debating colours, but settled on Killer Queen, which is a gorgeous combination of electric blue, purple and pink. Of course, I spent so long at Jon's stand that I couldn't help myself, and another skein of Deeply Wicked sort of fell into my hands as well. Another electric blue, as I've grown fond of the colour since knitting my Arctic socks last week!

The third skein I picked up is something I've been wanting to get my hands on for a while. Indigodragonfly yarns have been on my want list for many years, and it's all Keri's fault. I've been reading about all the indigodragonfly yarns she uses for years, and long lamented its lack of availability in this country. But at Unravel last year I discovered that Aragon Yarns are the only UK stockist of this gorgeous yarn, so when I saw their name on the exhibitor list again this year I decided I was definitely going to walk away from the show with something. Not only is the yarn gorgeously soft (it's merino/cashmere/nylon - way too nice for socks if you ask me, I shall be using it for a shawl) and dyed in fantastic colours, it's the names of the colourways which really makes this yarn stand out. Each colour is named after a fabulously geeky quote. The colour I chose is My name is Indigo Montoya, which is a play on words on a quote from The Princess Bride. I'm not adding any of these yarns to my list this year, but I guarantee you that when July rolls around this year, this skein will be top of my list!

Anyhoo, back to my FO for the week. Once I'd switched to the circulars, I flew through the rest of the hat and finished it on Sunday morning.

I made a few modifications to the pattern as written, because I was working with a chunkier yarn and Jamie has a big head. I cast on 64 stitches, did 2x2 rib instead of 1x1 (mainly because I hate doing 1x1), and made the whole thing longer. It's got about 4 inches of orange after the inch of rib, and then 4 inches of yellow before the very sharp decreases. I also added a couple of rows of icord on the ear flaps before casting off.

Jamie claimed it didn't need a pom pom, but I wanted to stay true to the original hat as seen in Firefly. So he got a red and orange pom pom, but it's not particularly bulky. I'm pleased with the finished hat, and he loves it too. And more importantly, I can cross another FO off my list!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Project bags

As mentioned previously I have been doing a lot of sewing lately. One of the things I have been making is project bags for my knitting and crochet projects. I usually have so many WIPs on the go, and they tend to be chucked in baskets or left lying around on the sofa, to become comfy beds for the cat. So making sure each one has a home when I'm not working on it is important.

It started out rather innocently, to be fair. I found a pattern, bought a couple of fat quarters on eBay because I liked the patterns, and chose lining fabric from my leftovers of coloured cotton from the shield banner I'd made earlier in the year.

The pattern is the No Guts Boxie Pouch and it is so simple and quick to make. I didn't use interfacing in my first attempt, as the fabric is a fairly sturdy cotton to begin with. I just love the cats and yarn print!

The second fat quarter was owls. I think, on reflection, these owls are a little too big for this size of project, but what I love about this one is the bright blue fabric I used for the lining. Sadly, I don't appear to have taken a picture of it! But it matches the very bright blue you can see in the owls.

It kind of set me off on a road, though, as I found myself buying fat quarter bundles in Fabric Land and Hobbycraft, and a selection of contrasting zips from eBay...

I now have nine more bags I can make! I am going to experiment with some other patterns, and not make 9 more identical bags. But most of them will be of a similar style I think. I found a set of fat quarters featuring slightly smaller owls so hopefully they will look more sensible on a small project like these bags.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Great Ideas, Cunning Plans

It's no secret that I love stationery. My husband knows this well, and so every Christmas I get something interesting in my stocking. This year was no exception, as I got the Happy Jackson notebook you see above, as well as quite possibly the coolest gadget I have ever owned - an electric pencil sharpener! I spent a good portion of Christmas Day/Boxing Day sat cross legged on my living room floor, merrily sharpening all of my coloured pencils.

I decided straight away that I would indeed use this notebook to keep track of my ideas and plans, so it has become my place for noting down ideas for patterns, new ways to organise my craft spaces etc. I've been going a bit crazy on Pinterest of late, particularly my Sewing board. I was looking for a pattern for a DPN roll, and an interchangeable needle roll, and nothing I found was quite right. So, I picked tutorials which were roughly what I was after, and got out my notebook and pencil to sketch out my cunning plans.

I started with the DPN roll, as that seemed the more straightforward of the two. I had picked up a gorgeous set of fat quarters while shopping for fabric for costumes, and decided straight away that this was the project to use it in.

I have three different height pockets, so there is space for the longest, shortest and inbetweenist needles in my collection.

The only thing I forgot to do was add the ribbon to tie it shut before I did my side seam! I'm not too bothered, as the weight of the needles inside holds it shut when it's rolled up and sitting on the shelf with the rest of my needles. This roll has more space in it than the one I was using previously, which had been a free gift in a magazine, and is now being used to house my straight needles.

The interchangeable needle case was a little trickier. I looked at tutorial after tutorial, and in the end decided I would just have to decide exactly what I needed my roll to be, and figure it out myself. And that is exactly what I did.

The new and exciting technique used for this project was piping. I'd never done piping before, but happened to have a load of left over black bias binding and some old string kicking about from previous projects. I found a tutorial on Pinterest and just cracked on with it. The end result is, I am pleased to say, not that bad. The bit where the piping crosses over itself and dives into the seam is hidden by the ribbon when the roll is done up.

Inside, there are pockets for each pair of needles I got with my set of Knit Pro interchangeable needles, three pockets for the three different lengths of cable and a closeable pocked which houses the tightening keys and cable ends. So much nicer than the clear plastic case that came with the set!

I have to say, now that I have the space to sew, I am remembering how much I love doing it! And all of the non-clothing projects I have done so far have been so quick and easy, with brilliant results. I am also already developing something of a fat quarter habit, which is dangerous!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Year of Projects 4: 16th February update

A day late with an update this week, but I couldn't not stop by and share my sock progress! Last week I shared a photo of my red and white stripey socks, and I am pleased to report that I actually finished them later on that day.

Buoyed by my socky success, I immediately wound another skein of sock yarn and cast on another pair of socks. This time using a skein of Candy Skein yarn I bought back in January 2012. It's the sock club colourway from that month, Arctic Mint. If memory serves, this was one of the earliest sock club colours that Tami did.

I took the above picture yesterday morning, in preparation for writing a post then about how amazed I was that I'd knit a sock and a half in a week. However, the rugby kicked off before I managed to get the photos onto the computer, and by the time the game was over...

I knit a pair of socks in a week! I'm so pleased with myself. The pattern is Bandwagon Socks by Phreadde Davis, which is more of a recipe for the socks than a pattern per se, as most of the elements for the pattern come from other patterns. So I didn't feel so bad about making my own modifications.

First up, I have tried and failed on numerous occasions to get to grips with Judy's magic cast on, and therefore replaced the toe with my now standard short row toe. Second, I looked at the instructions in the pattern for the toe up gusseted heel, but didn't feel confident enough about them to try to follow them. So I stuck with what I know, and substituted a short row heel as well.

The rest then became second nature, as I know exactly how many rows I need to knit for the foot to fit me, when I've got fingering weight yarn, 2.5mm needles and have cast on for 64 stitches! The only other modification I made was to adjust where in the chart I started when I got to the second sock, as I wanted them to be matching. So I started the chart halfway through on foot 2, so that when I wore the socks the zig zag of the yarn overs would be mirror opposites.

I'm incredibly pleased with these socks, and the surprising realisation that it was actually quicker to knit patterned socks than it was to knit plain ones! I plan to wear them to Unravel on Saturday, if I make it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Summer of Sewing

Earlier on in the year, I rediscovered my love of sewing. I hadn't really got my machine out at all since moving into this house almost two years ago, but over the summer I have been churning out all manner of things for LARP.

It started with the sashes I made, although the sewing was really a necessity there for me to have something to experiment with screen printing on. Once I was done with those, I started thinking about other things I could make ahead of the main LARP event on August bank holiday weekend. I don't have photos of all of the things I made, which is a shame as I did spend a week almost production lining pantaloons (more of the same as I made before), in various bright colours. My character now has eight pairs of pantaloons, which is almost enough to wear a different pair every day across all of the events I go to in a year!

What I can show you, however, is everything else I made.

I made a lot of bunting. More bunting than I think we will ever need! I could have been lazy, and used pinking shears to cut out triangles, but as I don't have any pinking shears and I wanted my triangles to be different colours on each side, I actually cut out twice as many triangles as needed and spent three days sewing them together, trimming seams, turning them around and ironing them. Three days! Then, it took me and a friend a whole afternoon to sit and pin the triangles to the bias binding. There were a lot of pins. Worth it though, as the finished bunting looked amazing strung across the back of the pavilion we built for our tourney ground.

As part of the tourney, we also decided that the Ladies of Court would hand out favours to our chosen knights. To supply the group with favours, I picked up a cheap pack of handkerchiefs on eBay and hand embroidered the initials of each of the ladies' character names into the corner. All perfectly colour matched to our groups, of course! The opposite corner of the hankie had a butterfly embellishment already included so they looked really sweet once the embroidery was done, and it had the desired effect in character when we all stood and handed them out (even if none of our chosen knights ended up winning anything).

Finally, I decided to make a banner to hang in the main command tent. As the fictional land of Albion is split into ten kingdoms, each of the kingdoms has its own heraldic shield. However, they aren't used all that widely in the game by the current group of players, so I decided to try and raise their profiles by making a banner of them.

Apologies for the terrible photo, but it's the only one I have!

I left off the heraldic devices as I was in no mood to try and sew animals and so forth. It actually made for quite a fun guessing game in character, trying to see who knew which shields were which. Each shield was cut out and sewn individually with colour matched thread (those curved hems were a nightmare!) and then sewn in place onto the banner (made from an old tablecloth I found) with black thread to highlight the outlines. The gap in the middle was filled with a tribal lion, which I screen printed onto a separate piece of fabric before sewing on.

I had to cut the stencil into 8 parts because the fabric rectangle I was using is roughly the size of an A3 sheet of paper. Which meant it took a while to print as I had to wait for each section to dry before moving on to the next. I'm quite sad that I don't have a photo of the complete finished article, but I forgot to take one before I packed up for the event and now the banner lives in the box with the rest of the faction banners. I'll try and get one at the next event in March.

The last thing I made for LARP this year is the thing I am most proud of. The most complicated sewing pattern I have used to date. A medieval doublet for my husband to wear to our winter banquet. As the NPC (non player character) he plays for us is a King, he needed a suitably posh outfit. Again, apologies for the poor quality iPhone photos, but my camera went walkies so I couldn't take decent ones at the time.

I learned so much about making things from patterns doing this outfit. It is the first thing I have made that really needed to fit properly, and since the pattern sizing doesn't exactly match my husband's measurements, I had to improvise a bit to get the waist to fit. It actually turned out rather well, so I am very pleased. I also learned a lot about things my sewing machine can do, as I needed to make buttonholes in the shirt cuffs, so had to dig out the buttonhole foot and learn how the buttonhole settings worked.

All together, the shirt, doublet and sash took about two weeks from opening the pattern and cutting the pieces out, to having a finished outfit. It was finished on the morning of the banquet, so I was really working right up to the deadline.

My next major clothing sewing challenge is going to be making a new coat for my character. I've found a pattern I love, I just need to find a fabric I want to use for it and then I can get cracking.

I'll be making the coat on the right

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Year of Projects 4: 8th February update

Another month has passed, and I have singularly failed to update on my progress. There has been progress, but I've also been fairly busy and haven't had time to do things like take decent photos, or sit down and write a post. I'm hopeful this will change going forward, as I have a new laptop which will make writing posts a lot less of a hassle, and I've just found this tutorial on Pinterest for making a light box, which will make taking photos in the dark winter evenings a lot easier. I even have a cardboard box lying around in my kitchen which will be perfect for it!

There is one thing which may interrupt a regular posting schedule again, though, as we were told last week that our landlords want to sell the house, so we are being forced to move house again. We have to be out by 8th April, so I may be a little distracted over the next few months. Luckily, the two main projects I have on the go right now don't require a lot of concentration, and can easily be picked up and put down again after only having worked a few stitches here and there.

My stripey socks are coming along well. While it has taken me longer than my target ten days to finish, that's mostly down to the fact that I put them away and then ignored them for a couple of weeks! Since taking this photo yesterday I have finished the foot, turned the heel and made a solid start on the ankle. I'm about 40 rows away from the cuff, which means about 50 rows from completion. There's probably enough yarn left in the ball to make a second pair, but I have other plans for it. Plans which involve food colouring!

Last time I updated I said Pogona would probably be the next shawl I cast on, and it turns out I was right. I started this earlier this week, as a way of soothing myself following the bad news about the house. I'm using Wollmeise Twin in Mouseballet, but it's a We're Different skein so the colours aren't perfect. The colours are striping and pooling in odd ways, as the colour changes are so short, and I'm interested to see how it looks once the shawl gets bigger. So far, I'm enjoying this pattern as it's so simple. Now I've done my final set of marker placements, all I have to do is knit the same two rows over and over again until it's big enough. And since I have a whole 150g of yarn to play with, it might end up a bit bigger than it's supposed to!

As I'm likely to finish the socks this week, I've already thought about what I want to cast on next - the Bandwagon Socks that have been sat at the top of my Ravelry queue for quite a while now. If I get through those as quickly as the plain socks then I think I'll be on track for finishing at least 4 pairs of socks in this Year of Projects.

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