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Handmade

Woodland Blanket, Part 1 {handmade}

26/01/2018

follow Under the Christmas tree one parcel loomed larger than the rest; enticingly squishy, like a cloud dressed up in reindeer wrapping paper.  I had a pretty good idea what it was; after all, it’s hard to disguise 15 balls of yarn neatly tied up in a pretty bag that’s exactly the same size and shape as the big squishy birthday present the childen gave me last summer, and the big squishy Christmas present they gave me a couple of years ago.  Those presents are now part of a blanket and a blanket respectively, and every inch of puritanical work ethic in me had screamed that there should only be one crochet blanket kit on the go at any one time and that I should absolutely definitely finish Hydrangea before I started unsubtly leaving Wool Warehouse pages open on the computer.  There are times when my inner puritan is right, but happily for all of us the colour magpie running through my soul won out.  The page was left open, the family are well trained in the taking of hints when it comes to yarn, and my soft and squishy parcel was the yarn for this year’s Attic 24 Crochet-a-long.

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http://www.transportbudapesta.ro/?kdls=trading-pro&373=32 Lucy of Attic 24 needs no introduction to anyone who has ever encountered the tiniest longing towards making a crochet blanket or immersed themselves in Yarndale; she has a joyfully whimsical colour sense that takes inspiration from the brightest and best of nature all around her, and I’ve yet to see one of her blanket designs that doesn’t just cheer up a morning.  My one finished blanket, the Cottage Ripple, is a firm family favourite, and though I may have temporarily abandoned it in favour of the Christmas knitting, Hydrangea is a walk back into the summers of my childhood where they grow quite enormous in the sandy soil and soft salty air.

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binary options system that works The 2018 CAL theme is Woodland; all the shades of Hembury Woods in the Autumn half term holidays; where greens and golds cling to the trees and every delicious shade of russet orange crunches under foot, and while to open up this yarny paintbox under the shade of the Christmas tree felt a little bit like doing the seasons in reverse, it’s enough that there is not a single colour in this pack that I didn’t love on sight.

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enter site The pattern is a return to the ripple, though not the same gentle ripple as my Cottage blanket, it’s more similar to an old shale or feather and fan knitting pattern, with narrower rows that curve through the pattern like vines up a tree trunk.

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16115f53f2d716dade0d8bf26eac36f6 The CAL started on 5 January and I cleared my evening of all plans to sit down and get stuck into the swatch and the interminable cast on.  I’ll admit when I saw the plans for each week my eyes popped out on stalks a little bit; 18 colours a week (so 36 rows in total) is a lot of crocheting at my speed, and I always knew I’d never keep up with the pace.  I did try, I really really tried, and I finished week 1 on the day after Week 2 was posted, which I thought was pretty good going.

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http://www.frauenverbaende.de/?dedei=avatrade-autotrader-erfahrungen&379=0b My wrist disagreed.  Ever since my left wrist and elbow were jarred in a car crash two summers ago they’ve just not been as strong as they once were.  That initial bout of tendonitis took an age to recover from and I’ve been lucky to avoid more than the occasional flare up since.  If I look after myself I can knit and sew and quilt and write without any problems, and I’d never had problems with crochet before but the issues with my wrist, the way I crochet and a week of marathon crocheting was clearly a perfect storm.

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It took a considerable amount of effort to put down my blanket and walk away for a couple of weeks and I’ve spent the time watching videos of crochet, collecting an array of different and hopefully more ergonomic crochet hooks and trying to rest and strengthen my wrist and I think I’m just about ready to pick it back up again. Slowly. very slowly.

I’m not sure whether that means that I’m still technically joining in the CAL (I’m on week 2, the super speedy crocheters are just starting week 4!); if I’m lucky my Woodland blanket will be finished in the autumn, which is probably just as it should be.

In the meantime if you have any top tips for keeping hands and wrists happy while crocheting, please do let me know.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

 

Family Handmade

Red hats {handmade}

19/01/2018

It started, as the best things often do, with Swallows and Amazons.  All three of my children are audiobookworms and while I’m determined that a good many of my childhood favourites will remain tucked away, ready for the three of them to discover for themselves when they’re older, I wanted to dip their toes into the water, to establish the places and characters as woven tightly into the fabric of their childhoods, just as they were with mine.  Years ago, before even Kitty had arrived, I looked for Swallows and Amazons on Audible but the reader at the time was just so terrible (the only word she emphasised was “and” and the rest of it was delivered in a half asleep monotone) that it wasn’t worth parting with a credit even to re-live fond memories.  But while I will never quite be able to forgive the recent film for over-embellishing a beautiful story with some utterly unnecessary plot changes, it does seem to have renewed enough interest in the (infinitely superior) source material that the books have all been re-recorded, this time read by Gareth Armstrong, who has exactly the sort of grandfatherly tones to make listening to it like snuggling down under your favourite blanket.

We have two of the twelve; Swallows and Amazons and Swallowdale; the next books Kitty has to read for herself and then when she and Elma and Pip have all finished the entire series, we’ll add the rest to our long car journey selection.

For those not in the know, (a) get you to a bookshop at once and (b) when you’ve read it you’ll see why my girls adopted the Amazon Pirates, Nancy and Peggy Blackett as their own personal role models.  For several weeks Kitty took to saying “aye aye” in response to any request and “shiver me timbers” in response to any request that she didn’t like, and she and Elma play extensive “Swallie-Ammy” games, with Pip along as a sort of additional ships’ boy that seems to have stumbled into the story.

When her most recent tooth fell out she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy asking for a red knitted cap just like Nancy, and the tooth fairy, who had not received any notice whatsoever of this request, wrote back to suggest that she ask her Mama to knit her one.  At Yarndale I had my eyes peeled for just the right colour red yarn and found it, I think at Laxations, who were selling off some of their test dyed aran-weight.  Two skeins, at the bargain price of £4 each, was more than enough to knit up three red hats for my three Amazon pirates.

To keep the knitting interesting, and to be able to tell whose was whose amid the Christmas chaos, I decided to knit a different pattern for each and spent several happy lunchtimes browsing Ravelry on my phone and favouriting the nicest hat patterns.  And this is what we came up with:

Kitty’s hat is the Clever Cables by Stitchnerd Designs and it was a joy to knit.  The pattern is very logical and it swoops to a beautiful point at the top where the diamonds all meet so that it looks as good from the top as from the front.  It’s the only one with a fold up brim, but as Kitty is the most prone to extraordinary growth spurts that end up with nothing in the house actually fitting her, I’m hoping that it gives me a little bit more longevity.  It’s a one size fits all adult hat which would just about fit me, but my head is on the larger size of average anyway, and should keep her going for a while.

For Elma I needed something smaller, and chose Magnolia, partly because it’s pretty and partly because the small size turned out to be a perfect fit for my dinky little girl.

And last but by no means least, I knit a Declan’s hat for Pip; it’s a free pattern that’s sized from baby to grown up and basically it’s the same pattern every time, just using more or fewer segments depending on the size of head in question.  Pip has a fairly substantial head, or at least it feels that way when it crashes into you, so a small fits him perfectly even though he’s only three.

The girls knew I had the yarn to make red hats for them, but hats are small enough to be knit stealthily on the train to work and, unlike when I make them jumpers, they hadn’t a clue until we handed them a round of very squishy soft little parcels on Christmas morning.

Because they are 7, 5 and 3 the chances of them all wearing them at the same time are relatively slim, but Kitty has taken hers as her school hat almost every morning this term, and as I write this she’s snuggled up in bed upstairs, hat firmly pulled down around her ears, just to feel that little bit extra snuggly.

And with that, this year’s minimalist Christmas knitting was finished.  I’d love to be able to give them all a Christmas jumper every year but I think I’ve finally (see ages of children) realised that it’s just not going to happen.  They love their hats, I loved knitting them, especially keeping them secret, and even better, because by next Christmas they’ll be 8, 6, and 4 (seriously, how!) they’ll still be abandoning hats in all sorts of strange places, which is the perfect excuse for knitting more.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

Handmade

The Christmas Socks {handmade}

12/01/2018

John picked up the parcel from the top of his bag-pretending-to-be-a-stocking.  The silver wrapping paper twinkled under the lights from the Christmas tree and he looked around at the three tiny faces between us, all of them as much wanting to see what it was, as to have him open it so that they could dip into their own stockings once again.

“It feels squishy,” he said, giving it a careful squeeze, “and it’s a good shape.”  He held it out to the kids; “socks or pants, what do you think?”

“SOCKS!” said the girls. “Um, Mummy, how do you make pants?” asked Pip.

John carefully peeled back the tape to reveal:

A bag of Christmas coffee.  Well if I’m going to go to all the trouble of knitting him a pair of socks for Christmas, I’m not letting Father Christmas take the credit for them – he’s got his own elves for that.

The socks, for socks there were, came later, after church and after breakfast, amid a sea of unwrapping that launched the occasional tidal wave of paper and ribbon from where we had tried to corral it into the corner.  This time he eyed me more suspiciously,

“Is it coffee?”

The yarn is part of my Yarndale haul, and one of only two skeins of sock yarn that I bought that day, despite immense temptation.  I’m not into computer games at all, and never really have been, so many of the puns at Gamer Crafting’s stand were entirely lost on me, but the colours were not.  Brilliantly vibrant and with some awesome contrasts, I was very very tempted by a brilliant blue that edged into turquoise striped through with my favourite orange.  John’s motto when it comes to handknitted socks is “the brighter the better” and that very nearly came home as the most vivid skein I could find in the entire show.  Except that my eye just kept being drawn up and across to a small pile of skeins, soft and cosy, black for the most part but alive with silver sparkle and striped through with a rainbow.  Reverse Rainicorn it was.

As sock knitting goes they are delightful in their ordinariness; they’re the same socks I always knit for John, a 72st cast on, 20 rounds of 2×2 ribbing, heel flap and a wedge toe, but I’ve found in recent years that I need my sock knitting to be nice and plain and simple, it’s something for my fingers to fidget into existence, so that I don’t have to think too much about what I’m doing, but I can read or talk or watch a film, while the yarn soothes my busy soul, and then, almost without my noticing, there’s a sock.  It’s a special kind of magic.

While they hid in the bottom of my knitting basket, venturing out only when John was at hockey matches or I was on the train, a second pair of socks had very much not got the memo.

I thought that the whole point of making a deal with the Christmas Knitting Elves, of getting to a point where your adult self actually looks at what is achievable and seriously reigns it in, without even buying the yarn for the fantastical never-going-to-be-finished project, was that in return, it would behave itself.  No pixies would come to mess up my stitch count in the middle of the night, my yarn would travel obediently from skein to ball without even a hint of a tangle, and there would not, under any possible circumstances, be knots in my yarn.

Two inches into the first of Dad’s socks, I hit a knot.  If it had been a variegated sock yarn I would just have carried on without a care in the world.  If it had been the second sock of a pair of self striping I would have known where to wind to to match the pattern. On the first sock you do the only thing you can do, and knit on, and know that somewhere in the middle of the foot you’re going to work out what the stripe repeat looks like, and you hope against hope that the knot has simply cut a couple of rows out of the stripe sequence and all you’ll need to do is take a couple of lengths out as a loop and carry on.

Did I mention the yarn hadn’t got the memo.  It’s Trekking XXL, which comes with really long self striping repeats, and with a sinking feeling I eyed up my sock and realised that the yarn after the knot had restarted about four rows up.  Almost an entire pattern repeat missing.

And so while these look like any other self striping socks I am actually ridiculously proud of the stripe matching on them.  I have my tried and tested techniques for pattern matching; start the cast on and heel flaps at a colour change even if the latter isn’t technically the end of a round, but this took pattern matching to the next level.

I had to cut in a new section of yarn in the cuff to match the original knot, and then when I ran out of yarn near the toe I used some of the yarn that I’d pulled out to continue the pattern all the way to the end.

It’s a yarn miracle. Perhaps, after all, the knitting fates were smiling.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

Handmade

Ironheart for Elma {handmade}

05/01/2018

At 8.37pm on 11th December, a damp little bundle of wool sat on top of the Aga.  Elma’s birthday jumper, cast off while her Daddy wrapped the final presents, hung the bunting, and tidied away the day’s detritus from the lounge, was finally finished and ready for blocking while our soon to be five year old lay upstairs in her bed and pretended to be asleep.

In October I’d started the Christmas knitting, wanting to make sure that even in some of our busiest days yet there would be time for two pairs of socks, and in November I finished both, remembered to take pictures of both, and even wrapped them up before one squishy holly covered parcel had to be handed over to my Dad on the last weekend before Advent.  I can’t even remember the day when I decided to go for it, I know it was December and I know I was too busy to put any record whatsoever of this project into Ravelry (I’d claim it was because I was being stealth but let’s face it, that’s not a great excuse when the intended recipient is four, can’t read, and isn’t allowed to use the computer).  I weighed up the yarn, the deliciously soft Knit by Numbers DK from John Arbon Textiles that came home with me from Yarndale (you can see their wonderful wall of yarn in my vlog), I downloaded TinCanKnits’ Ironheart pattern from the Heart on Your Sleeve book, I looked at Elma, who despite a ferocious amount of growing in the last year is still rather diminutive, and I went for it.

I even knit a swatch.  Well, I started the sleeve, knit for a few inches, gave it a swish in some warm water and blocked it to dry, but it counts.  Really it counts double because I changed needle size and had to start again.  I know there are some knitters who count swatching as a pleasure, an amuse bouche to get the full flavour of the yarn before they take that first bite of a new project, but I’ll freely admit that I’m never going to be one of them, no matter how much I might want to be.  I think they may also be the sort of knitter that has a very sleek, organised and minimal stash,  who keeps their DPNs in complete sets and not one in the handbag, two in the office desk drawer and two in the car, and who, rather predictably, has sweaters that always fit.

In my defence, I swatched the last time I made a sweater for myself and the first iteration could have got John in there with me so I maintain that they are not infallible.  In this case however, happily the knitting faeries were not conducting war dances around my needles and the newly re-knit sleeve worked up a treat. As did the next one.  It’s a great pattern, even the body (work the ribbing, knit straight for a long time) was the sort of work that make my fingers fly and lurched between secret certainty that it was going to be finished in time, and conversations with Elma in which I tested the waters as to just how upset she’d be if her birthday jumper still had needles in it.

It was no hardship, this yarn is soft and fuzzy, would be perfect for colour work, and even sitting with it on my lap to darn in the ends, I could feel how warm and cozy it is.  If you’re very particular about jumpers not pilling then it would not be the yarn for you; it started to pill the first time Elma wore it, but I loved every stitch.

 

By the eve of her birthday I knew I was in with a chance.  I thought if I could finish the ribbing on the train in to work, and I could darn in the ends on the way home then maybe I could get it blocked and drying overnight so that I could at least show her a finished jumper, even if she couldn’t wear it to school like she’d been planning all week.

The faeries cackled merrily.  It snowed, I had no commute, I had no intention of missing out on playing in the snow with any of my children, and as we finished supper I was still desperately casting off on a neckband that showed no sign of wanting to stretch enough to pass over the wearer’s head.  I gulped at the glass of wine which seemed to have magically appeared in front of me, and John took the children off to get changed for bed as stitch by tiny stitch, I put it all back on the needles.

The second attempt was incredibly stretchy.  It did in fact fit over my own head with some room to spare, but much as I prize the ease of getting jumpers off and on, particularly in wrigglish children, I just couldn’t spend all that time knitting and leave her with a collar that looked like a misshapen vase for the sake of a bit of reuniting.  Tink, tink, tink.

And that’s how I found myself in the kitchen jumping up and down on the towel wrapped bundle of the previous fortnight’s hard work, and wondering how and where I was going to block it before the morning.

In truth I never truly realised the full potential of Aga ownership until we moved into bought a house that came around one.  It makes delicious food don’t get me wrong, but it’s absolutely brilliant for last minute laundry crises.  If I were to tell you the number of times that we’ve done a last minute load of laundry in the evening, hung it all on the pan hooks above the stove, and popped it on nice and warm first thing in the morning I’d loose any chance I ever had of convincing you that I’m secretly Martha Stewart; so I shan’t.  What I can tell you, from first hand experience is that you can make a blocking board by balancing two cold plain shelves (big metal sheets you shove in the oven of an Aga to tweak the temperature) on top of the hobs.  Carefully lay a towel across the top and you have a blocking board that’s just (and only just) big enough for a jumper for a little person.

But this isn’t any blocking board; because the two hobs give off a decent amount of heat, even through the little mats that sit on top, the plain shelves get nice and toasty, the towel warms the knitting from underneath and by the time we went to bed, one little rosy pink jumper was wrapped up and sat at the front of the birthday present pile.

Perfect.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

 

Handmade

The un-moody blues {handmade}

10/11/2017

Part finish, part work in progress, here, in yarn and stitches, is the proof that I’m an eternal optimist.  An un-moody blanket from a glass half full sort of knitter.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Way back when, two whole months ago, in the glorious hustle, bustle and yarn fumes of Yarndale, there was one stand that I just kept gravitating back towards every time I was in the area.  Hopefully she didn’t think I was stalking her, because Jem Weston‘s beautiful, beautiful stand was a haven of some of my most favourite colours, all teals and blues and yellows, with a dash of burnt orange for good measure.

There was not a single thing on that stand that I did not instantly want to start knitting (and her website is full of all the pretties that I worked hard to resist and some that I didn’t), but right at the front sat her Moody Blues blanket, snuggled up in just the perfect spot to be petted and stroked, and longed for.

It was soft and snuggly.  It looked fun to knit but not too taxing on an overworked brain.  It would be the perfect colours for Pip’s room.  It was in one of my favourite yarns (Rooster Almerino – just about the only thing with alpaca in that I can knit and not start scratching).

But I have a blanket underway.  I have Hydrangea, which I adore.  It’s the size of a slightly large scarf right now and I love every row of it.  I didn’t need a new blanket to make, and by the size of the ever bulging Yarndale bag, I wasn’t going to be short of things to knit.

Well we all know how that went.  In my defence I held out until we were almost ready to go home, telling myself that if, despite all the overwhelming yarn fumes, I still really really wanted it, the first five balls and the pattern could come home with me.

It was addictive before I’d finished the first square.  For the last few weeks, every night after I’ve finished work and finished my writing course homework (and yes that’s why there have been very few blog posts around here of late), I sit down and knit a stripe.

Each week runs corner to corner, so Mondays and Sundays are quite tiny and Thursday is a nice big stripe across the centre of the week, and all the colours depend on what sort of day it’s been.

Yellow (custard) is for the very best days, the sort of days that hold memories you’ll treasure, even if they’re only little moments.  There are weekend adventures and a visit home to Devon, visits to us by friends and family, and friends that we hope will become family, the day when John brought the children in to meet me for lunch and the odd day of profesisonal success.

 

Turquoise (beach) is a happy day; fun but not quite so stellar; those tend to be good work days and the rest of the weekends.

Pale duck-egg (glace) is for middle of the road days; the ones that are just normal, and tend to be a large part of my working week.

Teal (ocean) is for the days that are a bit stressful, an annoying day at work or when everyone at home is just plain out of sorts.

Grey (caviar) is for the really stressful days.  There’s only one of those so far and it was the day when Elma went to hospital in an ambulance, which I think is fair enough (she’s absolutely fine now, it was just a virus that gave her symptoms of asthma).

Five balls, one of each, has produced five squares, and just the start of the fifth, and what is abundantly clear is that my days are middle of the road, or happy, or happiest, and I’m convinced the only reason I haven’t run out of quite so much yellow is because the weekends run out to the corner.

The thing is, that however my day has been, when I sit down to think about the stripe, and my hand hovers near a teal or a duck-egg, I start to think about all the little moments that have been special; the children waiting for me on the doorstep when I come home from a really long day; the glowing endorsement from a client that makes all of the work to get that result completley justified; John bringing me home a box of my favourite bath bombs because he’d taken the children for another round of shoes while I stayed home to work and he wanted me to know how much all four of them love me and appreciate the breadwinning.  There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about the things that make me grateful.

These little knitted squares, I love.  The finished blanket, whether I do the snuggle version or the full on blanket, will be gorgeous any which way, and when I finish it, and wrap it around my tiny son as he pretends to go to sleep each night, he’ll be cuddled up in the memories of happy days and I life for which I am truly thankful.