Monthly Archives

October 2008

Surprise Surprise


Cue cheesy theme music.

What is this?
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That my friends is a sky carefully empty of any promise of anything exciting happening in the weather today. The forecast was for sleet which was exciting enough to have this little snow bunny hopping up and down (and telling everyone within reach about it).

And then, just after lunch the rain started to thicken and swirl and we moved quickly through the sleety stage to full on snow with massive flakes whipping down the alley by my window, tossing and turning on a blustery storm. I’m too high up to see the ground so we had no idea whether it was settling or not, all we could do was press our noses to the glass while it lasted and enjoy.

Coming home most of the snow has turned to slush or ice so this one was for looking not for touching, but I’ve never seen snow in October before and I love it – roll on the winter!

ETA -This is the same scene this morning (Wednesday)
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My second, equally wonderful surprise of the day was a little package waiting for me when I got home. My friend Caroline, who I was lucky enough to meet in person at the IKnit Day, has been following my high dive into the world of spinning with a myriad of useful tips and suggestions which has been wonderful. She sent me an e-mail a little while ago asking if I would like to borrow her Autumn copy of Spin Off. As I subscribed just after the last shipping I said yes please and today there was a little envelope containing this:

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Beautiful, soft, squishy, lustrous roving in the wonderful colours of autumn leaves, and instructions to practice Navajo plying. I feel totally spoiled and very lucky – thank you very much Caroline. I’ve been spinning up more of the firelight roving to try to get the spindle free to play with the new roving!


Sundays are for Spinning and Spiders


To be honest, every day at the moment is embroidery day as I continue with my push to get my SIL’s embroidery finished in time to be framed for her birthday at the end of November. The plan has only been slightly complicated by H inviting her to visit the weekend after next but I think that I’m on track. The current plan is to finish the basic cross stitch in the next few days which I think will take me another 8 hours of stitching time, then I need to put it on the big frame and go over the whole piece with metallic thread and the beads and then I need to go over it all again to put in the backstitch.

Lulla arrives 9am on a Friday morning, I’ve taken that day off work so there’s a very real possibility that I will be up into the wee small hours on Thursday to get it finished. Then H is taking it to his parents to get it framed and they will drive it to Scotland for the party which avoids us having any hassle taking it up on the plane – phew, if that all works it’ll be a miracle.

Anyway, Diane has decreed a Sunday Spin-In – the Ravelry Group is here and the chat site is here. It hasn’t been very active today, at least, not whenever I dropped in, but I went with the inspiration and broke out a new braid of BFL which I bought at the IKnit day. Some of the Christmas knitting is going to involve handspun and I wanted to try a 3-ply before I started spinning that so I’ve divided the braid into three (pretty much along the lines that it was plaited on) and I’m going to spin each bump individually and then ply the three together. This is how it looked while it was still daylight
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and from the purpley-pink on the spindle I’ve added grey, orange, more pink and burnt brown.

I’m spinning it by breaking the roving into relatively short strips lengthways but not dividing it at all, just pre-drafting it out and out and out with the idea being that I’ll get relatively long colour repeats in the finished yarn so that it barberpoles with the other two strands and doesn’t just turn into muted sludge. It certainly is beautifully easy to spin and I may have to hide it away until the embroidering is all finished. On the other hand, you can play scrabble and spin and you can’t say the same for embroidery.

With Halloween coming up at the end of this week I’ve been doing a little cake rehearsal. I have an amazing cake tin that is supposed to imprint Jack o lantern faces on the little cakes but my efforts today only produced little chocolate cakey-bites; swiftly demolished but not really what I was aiming for, so I deviated into these:

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Chocolate sponge cakes with plain icing, Milky Way Magic Stars (carefully selected for the best faces) and some black writing icing – simple but effective, particularly with the orange cases I found in my cake stash. I think we have a winner on the fairy cake front, I might try American style cookies in the baking tray and see if that helps.

The area where we live seems to have an unwritten rule that if you put a pumpkin outside then the kids are welcome to call, if not then you’re off limits so we’ll probably put our candle pumpkin outside early in the evening to welcome the little neighbours (who are all under 10 and very cute in fancy dress). My office is having a Halloween charity day too – £1 to be in fancy dress or £2 to wear normal clothes. As I’m going to be travelling back from a client on Friday morning I’m trying to work out a plan to concoct some sort of costume in the back of the car – I’m thinking black paper and gold sticky stars, although having said that, maybe a lawyer is scary enough without adornment.


Saturdays are for Quilting


It may not have escaped your notice that although there is plenty of patchwork contained within this pages, there has been little, well almost no, actual quilting. The last time I tried actual quilting was a cushion cover which did not respond well to being quilted with an ordinary sewing foot. There are lumps (although the final cushion is very comfy and much snuggled).

Given the amount of time which I spent on the Stars Quilt, and the time I am spending on the new quilt (temporarily paused while I wait for more fabric) I don’t want to muck it up with the quilting, so I signed up for a day course run at The Quilters’ Den in Warwick, ‘Take One Flower’, taught by Edwina Mackinnon.

We started with a little piece of flower fabric, about the size of a postcard, and we added a border and a background, and then we wove magic spells above the surface of the fabric and when we had finished it looked like this:

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OK so it wasn’t magic exactly but it was the first time that I have done proper machine embroider/quilting using a hopper foot and a big fat quilt sandwich.

We did some practice flowers first on a spare quilt sandwich, now obscured by swirls and swirls of practicing, and then moved on to step 1 – the flower:

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My flower’s petals were chopped off so I got to draw them back into the border to make up a whole flower again.

The rest of the fabric is filled with whatever takes your fancy – in my case flowers:

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And more flowers!

All went well to begin with but I think that my sewing machine may have been operating a little bit beyond its comfort zone because it started throwing up thread all over the back of the quilt, with no discernible difference to the front, until I turned it over and saw the delightful shagpile carpet effect! I did it once by forgetting to put the presser foot down but the rest remains a mystery. I do wonder whether it could be a dodgy bobbin because I only had problems with the green. When I pieced it all together to start with it was fine, when I was practicing with black thread it was fine and to start with on the green it was fine but when I was finishing things off last night I could not get the green to set right, no matter how many times I re-threaded. I changed over to the multicolour for the background quilting and it worked straight away. Does that sound like a possible explanation?

Whatever caused it it took over an hour to pick it out the best we could – NOT an experience which I want to repeat!

The background quilting is magic multicoloured pastel thread and the pattern I tried is an attempt at leaves on a string. In some places they look like leaves, sometimes they look like coffee beans, and some times they’re just loop the loop.

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If I learned anything on the course it’s that the quilting does not have to be perfect for the quilt to look really good – which has given me confidence to try to quilt some of my other projects waiting in the wings.

I’m made a deal with myself – when I’ve finished the embroidery and the Christmas presents I can go and buy the wadding and the backing for the Star Quilt and give it a whirl on the machine.

I’ve just one last picture for today – well I know that the first thing any crafty-minded person does is turn things over:

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The back of the quilt is one of my favourite flowers – it seemed only appropriate!

A diet of Fibre


Way , way back, when there was daylight, there was this:

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A teeny bump of Corridale, dyed blue and red and combed? carded? together to make the pretty mixture in the picture. After I finished spinning the strawberries and cream pink merino I started on the bits from the Socktopus class sampler that don’t need any more prep work before spinning, and this was the first to hit the twist.

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It spun easily and finely (that’s a penny in the picture) and I have a tiny number of yarns of two ply at the lower end of fingering weight. It sat in the handspun basket for a while until I finished some other yarn (more on that later) and I decided that I needed a break from endless cross stitch to deadline. I’ve always been told that you don’t really ‘get’ handspun until you knit with it, but I need to take the time to figure out a pattern for the merino and “My First Handspun” so they’re still in the basket, but the Corridale looks like this:

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Knit up over 30sts on 3.25mm needles and a gorgeous mulled wine colour that is incredible hard to photograph. The picture above is pretty accurate but that’s more than can be said for many of the pictures.

This was my first swatch of the evening and I think H missed the part of my brain process that stayed silent because I was terribly keen to show it to him and wave it around and explain that it was knitting that it was only half way through the evening that he suddenly turned to me and exclaimed: “You spun this?”. Penny, meet a long drop. He confessed that he thought that it was real yarn and was then terribly impressed. As he should be because it’s great.

The second swatch du jour used very newly spun grey alpaca. It started life as a mini-batt:

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And after some careful study of Maggie Casey’s book, Start Spinning (a book I would thoroughly recommend) I tried to spin this by long draw (I think). I mean the method where the twist is between your two pinch points, rather than always to the right of both hands.

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Alpaca has a very different feel to wool as well, whether combed top or batts or roving, although how much of that was the yarn and how much was the ‘grease’ it’s hard to tell. I know this much was in there originally:

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And the water was pretty cloudy when I rinsed the final yarn.

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From the penny shot you can see that it is much thicker than the Corridale, on the heavy end of a DK weight.

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Knitted up it has a rough, crunchy texture which I rather like. This is also 30sts, this time over 4mm needles, and as before I knit until I ran out of yarn. I’m going to try to give it a dip in Eucalan over the weekend to see what happens.

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You can see by this close up the halo on the alpaca – partly the work of the alpaca and partly the work of me 🙂

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Playing compare and contrast you can see that the stitch definition is much sharper in the Corridale than in the Alpaca, but not half so fuzzy, and despite the ‘crunchy’ feeling in the alpaca it is the softer option.

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I’m sure many of you are wondering why I, who is known for a little swatch avoidance, could take so much trouble to knit what are in essence, unusable swatches but fear not, I have a plan. It’s called re designation. (Governments are very good at that sort of thing).

The Corridale, after much experimentation, has discovered a new role here:

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Well you wouldn’t want the tyres getting cold before an F1 race would you? Even if it is only around the Scalextric!

We tried the Alpaca against a number of small toy cars before identifying an ideal knitwear/victim combination

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A Pumpkin Cozy!




What level of has knitting obsession reached in your life? Find out with our handy one-part test.

Scenario: H’s cousin has glandular fever (poor girl) and is going to be held off school for a while. Your father-in-law calls to chat and mentions that she’s feeling a little down in the dumps as she has nothing to do but sit and rest, and could she perhaps acquire some funky stripy socks to cheer her up.

Do you:

(A) Make vague references to his daughter’s 30th birthday present (still very WIP), the state of the Christmas knitting (not yet started), the fine weather we have enjoyed recently, and say that you will send her a card and a box of chocs and call her.

(B) Delightedly comply with his request, proceed at once to the stash cupboard, peruse all of the sock yarn (without revealing to your husband the true extent of the stash), declare that none of it is the right pink, and head off to the shops excited by the prospect of new knitting.

(C) Recall that Aunt M is a knitter herself, weigh up the chances that Cousin H has been taught to knit at some point, and realise that what is really needed is something not too taxing to occupy little H while she recuperates, something that she can do tucked up on a sofa watching bad daytime tv. In short, she needs not the socks, but the raw materials, and here in your hand you have the perfect crook to bring another lamb into the fold. You choose a selection of appropriately pink self-striping yarn and Anna’s fantastic Sock Starter Kit, and send little H a card with your phone number in it.

If you answered:

(A) – you either have a LOT of Christmas knitting, or knitting is for you a pleasant hobby with useful results, a pastime that you could give up if we ran out of sheep tomorrow. The woolly fire burns not within your soul.

(B) – you have a very well insulated home. The fleece is strong with you my friend. You may also be extremely organised with the Christmas knitting/ delusional, and generous to a fault.

(C) – oh wise one! You suspect that demand creates supply and know the power of the woolly sock knitting as well as the power of the woolly sock. You also have a well insulated home.

My answer? See for yourself:

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